Saturday, January 30, 2021


Every day, in order to catch the bus whenever I would stay with my grandmother in Athens, I would have to cross a busy road, the fringes of which were populated by strays. About fifteen or so dogs, of all hues, sizes, breeds, temperaments and degrees of mange, would variously laze or loll about on the footpath, waiting for a pedestrian to approach. Then, abruptly, they would start barking, some of them circling ominously close to one’s ankles, before using the pedestrian as a means of crossing the road safely. For the large part, these dogs were benign and friendly, having previously been household pets. On one particular occasion, I discovered my grandmother’s pampered bichon frise cavorting with wanton abandon with a particularly streetwise German shepherd who then proceeded to mark his territory on the local periptero. On my approach, she merely sniffed the air and turned her back on me with sublime indifference. Upon returning home and informing my grandmother of her pooch’s transgression, she curtly informed me that her beloved Carrie was of an aristocratic, high-minded disposition and would thus never be seen frolicking with the local common hounds. Carrie of course, was comfortable ensconced within my grandmother’s lap, leering at me with her contemptuous deranged eyes, from her throne of immunity. 

To my mind, there is only one noble Hellenic hound that deserves the chief place in the hierarchy of unfettered urban canines, and he is associated with the legendary Benji. In the movie “For the Love of Benji,” when Benji gets lost in downtown Athens, he is befriended by one of the dogs of Plaka, who snoozes away his siestas in the ancient agora. It is this virtuous creature, exhibiting the traits of loyalty and philoxenia that surely must be upheld as the paragon of all Hellenic pooches, and not the depraved Carrie, who finally fell pregnant to some sort of non-descript terrier from a questionable part of the neighbourhood and was last seen slinking along the side of the bus-stop seeking crumbs, and a little love, in the company of an elderly and sagacious golden retriever. 

In English, we refer to such dogs as strays, the connotation being that they have wandered from their appointed places and being lost, are desperately in need of being found. In Greek however, their appellation is much more subversive and dangerous: they are αδέσποτα, literally those who lack despots, that is, masters. Most of them have been cast out of their homes or refuse to return to them. They live their lives on the streets, sustained by the whims of the kind-hearted humans in the vicinity and vulnerable to all sorts of abuse and maltreatment. While this appellation causes one to imagine a horde of liberated Hellenic Hygenhunds taking to the streets, teeth bared and eyes flaring, ready to re-claim their canine kingdom, on the whole, these are dogs of dignity and distinction, whose presence around the neighbourhoods of Athens may be disconcerting, but who are in no way menacing, in their quest for a modus poochendi with the general populace. 

The Greek Democritus Worker’s League of Melbourne’s recent cartoon featuring a group of Greek stray dogs circling a woman clad in traditional garb suggestive of a feminised Greece is thus deeply disquieting. The caption reads: 1821-2021: 200 years of Strays. Each of the stray dogs are named for a particular evil that the artist claims is afflicting Greece: Capitalism, Corruption, Bribery, Tax Evasion, Ecological Degradation, Overabundance of Public Servants, Profligacy and Religious Obscurantism. There can be no doubt that an argument can be made that the country of Greece is beset by most of these problems and a debate as to what exactly there is to be celebrated at this particular juncture in our people’s history is sorely needed. Yet, why cast the long-suffering, down-trodden, exploited mass of proletarian pooches as the harbingers of plague and miasma? Hath Democritus no sympathy for the melancholy mongrels, who are themselves victims of Capitalism, given that they are, reduced to commodities that can be purchased upon a whim and then, when they are no longer cute or subservient to their captors, cast away to fend for themselves? And how does the canine underclass’s propensity to form mutually co-operative groups where decisions are made on a consensual basis and each contributes to the welfare of all, a paradigm of the ultimate communist society, where the state has withered away, come to be considered as something worthy of condemnation?


If one looks closely at the defamed doggies, one can see that though they have circled Greece, none of them are baring their teeth. Indeed, only one of them has been depicted with teeth. The others look as if they are merely nuzzling up to Greece, seeking affection. The stereotypicised figure of Greece, forming the threadbare anti-feminist trope of a vulnerable woman under attack, in need of assistance by the patriarchy however, looks on dispassionately. Rather than register fear or apprehension, she merely looks tired. Democritus’ Greece neither extends her hands in order to ward off the beasts and the danger they apparently represent, nor does she pat them. Instead, in a gesture of ultimate self-absorption, she merely clutches a flag to herself. It is as if she is incapable of or uninteresting in either defending herself, or nurturing those around her. And this, an inverse interpretation of the most obvious manner to read this ingenious and absorbing cartoon, seems to be its central message: Look within. 

When we apportion blame to extraneous factors for our woes, as the cartoon ostensibly does if one does not read it closely, then we overlook the fact that quite often the problem lies within the paradigm itself, not its periphery. Graft, corruption, social and gender inequality (unmentioned as an issue in the cartoon) and a host of other problems have afflicted Greece because the modern Greek state was set up as a colonial enterprise by World Powers that required its complete political and economic subservience. The tacit acceptance of this by those who purport to govern Greece and the dichotomy between the people’s aspirations and reality caused by the propagation of national myths that provide a fantastic impression of the modern state’s might interwoven with past glories, obscure the manner in which the state is actually administered and inscribe deeper fault lines within an already tenuously held together social construct. If anything, all the ills highlighted in the cartoon and placed within the hapless hounds as if they were Gadarene swine that could be cast into the Sea of Galilee, actually exist within the DNA of Greece. 

The challenge therefore, when seeking to gain perspective on the Modern Greek bicentenary, is not to idealistically view Greece as a pure, unadulterated essence befouled by the nefarious stench of infernal creatures but to pity those who for the last two hundred years, have had the misfortune to be reared by a fractious, petulant, dysfunctional, bi-polar mother, one beset by black dogs often of her own making, sometimes brilliant, other times terrifying and most of the time, cruelly indifferent. The estimated seven million diasporan Greeks around the world who love their troubled mother unconditionally, but who choose not to return to her embrace are a living testament of the polyvalency of all that she signifies. 

Alternatively, we can view the cartoon as a depiction of a modern day Hecate, goddess of crossroads, entrance-ways, night, light, magic, witchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, ghosts, necromancy, and sorcery. Just like Greece herself, she is intrinsically ambivalent and polymorphous, straddling conventional boundaries and eluding definition. Dogs were of course closely associated with Hecate in times ancient. Both in literature and art, the goddess was depicted as accompanied by a dog. Her very approach was heralded by the howling of dogs and the hapless hounds were Hecate's regular sacrificial animal, often eaten in solemn sacrificial rites. It is unknown where Democritus stands on pagan puppy immolation.
Whether Democritus’ cartoon is encouraging us to be in awe of the ambivalent goddess, to engage in a deeper analysis of the discourse that gives rise to a beleaguered polity or on a superficial basis, to blame various extraneous pathologies for Greece’s plight, its recently released cartoon is profound and multi-faceted, as all good cartoons should be: a perfect starting point for an extensive discussion of who we, how far we have come and where our future path lies, beyond our current dog days. Cane canem. 


First published in NKEE on Saturday 30 January 2021

Saturday, January 23, 2021


After enduring twelve years of my devoted patronage, my local café is closing its doors, as it is being merged into a conglomeration of a soon to be constructed faceless monument to superseded architectural brutalism. 

This is a source of great grief for me, for its well-appointed blue and white interior colour scheme, and its apparent nautical theme, provide a supportive environment for a tri-weekly perusal of Neos Kosmos. Ordinarily, I purchase said august publication, ensconce myself in my favoured seat under a conglomeration of ropes that seem not to comprehend whether they in fact belong to the wreck of a ship or the Gordion knot. Then, having scanned the death notices, invariable, a quadriad of stunningly adorned, immaculately coiffed ladies arrive and take their seats opposite me. At this point I lower the paper and what for the show to begin. This segment is called: “Real Greek-Australian housewives of [insert aspirational suburb here]. 

On one particular morning, three of the ladies arrived only to find that the fourth member of their party was missing. Lady A, she of the blonde highlights and dazzling teeth picked up her phone. 

- Where are you μωρή; 

- Maybe they matiasied her, Lady B, she of the leather handbag matching her leather pants both in sheen, colour and smoothness, opined. 

I wanted to interject that given that Lady D is wont to wear a multitude of Sue Sensi ottoman blue eyes about her lithe personage, she is sufficiently warded against the ethereal onslaughts of the evil one, but that would blow my cover, so I remained silent. 

- Κάποιοth χιόνιthε, Lady A lisped down the phone. Her interlocutor evidently registering  

mystery as to the exact meaning of her communication, Lady A continued: Isn’t that what you say when you haven’t seen someone for a long time? 

- That’s ένας φούρνος γκρεμίστηκε, μωρή, Lady C, she of the Dolce & Gabbana Vintage Design Rhinestones Purse with Kiss Clasp in Pink (the real one, not that one from Ebay), croaked. 

- What the f… does a φούρνο have to do with it? Lady A exclaimed. Turning to the phone she pronounced into the receiver: 

- “Shut up μωρή, if you had one, I would blow it. Now get your κώλο down here! 

I am in love. 

Patronising a café is difficult for me, for although I generally imbibe little anything else except for Greek coffee, I am, in the quest for optimum Neos Kosmos scouring, compelled to order a latte. Two management changes previously, while in the process of so ordering, I was once slipped a little piece of paper entitled "Cupping Notes." While examining it, I was astounded to discover that the beverage I was consuming, was a generous, almost whimsical, full flavoured Guatemalan single origin bean, with overtones of chocolate and afterthoughts of vanilla. 

All I could taste on the other hand, was the ennui of bitterness and burn. 

"Cupping notes?" I asked the waitress. 

"Yeah I know right?" she responded. "At first I thought it had something to do with bra sizes.” 

By the time I revealed to her that the first person recorded to have brewed coffee in England was an international student named Nathaniel Conopios from Crete, who was studying at Balliol College, Oxford, that his simple act, which happened in May 1637, was recorded by both scholar John Evelyn and historian Anthony Wood and that shortly afterwards Conopios was expelled from college, she had already taken my glass away. 

Reading Neos Kosmos in one’s local café provides an effective means of identifying the Greeks in one’s local area. For example, if it were not for this most distinguished media publication, I would not know that the dapper, blue eyed and placid elderly gentleman smoking a cigar outside every morning, with his son was in fact Greek, if it were not for the fact that seeing me read the paper one day, they both approached me in order to make the following observations: 

Elderly gentleman: Τον Νέο Κόσμο τον διευθύνουν οι Εβραίοι και οι μασώνοι.... 

Son of same: What's Neos Kosmos on Saturdays anyway? A glorified good food guide? 

When I interjected so as to politely point out that Neos Kosmos is the glue that binds our community together, the only means of us known what each other is doing, a unique forum where, a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought content, in the absence of which they would have nothing to complain about the elderly gentleman spat: 

- Είσαι πούστης εβραιομασώνος και θέλεις να διαλύσεις το έθνος μας. 

Unable to regain my lost composure, I dispassionately confided in the two gentlemen that the city of Trogir in Croatia, was known in Byzantine times as «Τετράγγουρον» ie Quadriple Cucumber. Subsequently, I suggested to them the breathtaking possibilities of such an urban conglomeration. 

Inhabiting a café for a protracted period of time, means that on occasion one is privileged, if not to play Cupid, than at least to follow the fate of patrons from their inception, to the early stages of new relationship, and finally to their inevitable conclusion. Resisting one afternoon, to race selflessly to the assistance of a couple whose tongues were more entwined than the knot of Gordion, I overheard the male of the species authoritatively inform the object of his affection that the word εἰσπνεῖν - "to breathe into" was considered first and foremost to be the lover's prerogative in ancient Greece, the moment when the lover would, as Plato held, breathe "intelligence and every other virtue" into the mouth and body of his beloved. Εἴσπνηλος - he who breathes into, was thus another word for lover. 

I felt a sense of smug pride, as I had imparted this particular nugget of knowledge to him the day before and his delivery was even more flawless than when we rehearsed it. Calamitously, it was met with the following riposte: 

“ So you think that you are more intelligent than I?” His lover rose angrily and left him mortified. Feeling responsible, I did what any self-respecting meddler would do. I quoted Aesop to him: Πῦρ γυνὴ καὶ θάλασσα, δυνατὰ τρία, “Fire woman and the sea, these are the three strong things.” 

Looking miserable, he responded in the strains of Oscar Wilde: 

“You make my creed a barren sham, you wake 

foul dreams of sensual life, 

And Atys with his blood-stained knife were 

better than the thing I am. 

False Sphinx! False Sphinx! By reedy Styx 

old Charon, leaning on his oar, 

Waits for my coin. Go thou before, and leave 

me to my crucifix.” 

I did not dare to enquire who was the Sphinx. Years later, I learn the couple are happily married and abiding in Israel, taking, pre-COVID, annual holidays in Greece, from where I receive happy snaps accompanied by such gushing Oscar Wilde quotes from their joint social media account as:  

“To be really mediaeval one should have no body. To be really modern one should have no soul. To be really GREEK ... one should have no clothes.”  

The messages are almost instantaneously deleted. 

I’ve presided over committee meetings of Greek-Australian community organisations in my local café, as I find that the presence of non-Greeks in the premises has the invariable effect of quashing any conflagration of smouldering resentment. At one such meeting, arguing over the form of wording for the Notice of Annual General Meeting that was to be provided to Neos Kosmos, the president propounded the view that Greek-Australian clubs are a unique development of the diaspora and are thus, his in particular, historically significant. 

Sadly, I felt compelled to dampen his exuberance by suggesting that clubs were a big deal for Greeks even in Hellenistic and Roman times, even without maintaining my conviction that the ancient Athenians invented the first frat house. We know of clubs for lovers of jokes (φιλοπαίκτορες), of joy (καλοκάρδιοι) of exuberance (εὐθεράπιοι) and of gladiatorial shows (φίλοπλοι). There was even an actor's guild, the Διονυσιακοί τεχνίται. I concluded by venturing that presidents of Greek-Australian clubs had to wait 2,000 years until the invention of SAE in order to gain a club of their own, and even then, that did not last long, and the current incumbent missed out on a free ticket to Greece, a coveted prize that, according to him, he was denied owing to the machinations of the treasurer (still in office), twenty years ago. 

The days are still long, but shadows of doom loom over my favourite haunt, as its time grows short. I finger the pages of Neos Kosmos lovingly, gaze nostalgically at the hempen entanglement of the décor and emit a long, wistful sigh, as I scan the letters page. Next to me, a bearded latte-sipping hipster dad opines that I would look much more contemporary with a full beard. I spend the next fifteen minutes waxing lyrical about a Bohemian artisan hand nostril trimmer in Ripponlea, whose family has been plying the trade since the Defenestration of Prague. He is so enthused I don't have the heart to tell him I am pulling his leg.  

The conversation takes this turn when he asks me who attends to my grooming needs. Upon discovering that I am an auto-didact, he proceeds to inform me that he gives his beard a daily nourishing bath in turmeric water, whereupon I riposte that I bathe my protruding nostril hairs in an infusion of old Neos Kosmos strips and φλασκούνι. 

I am going to miss that old place. 


First published on NKEE on Saturday, 23 January 2021

Saturday, January 16, 2021


Εὐφραίνεσθε πάντες Αὐστραλοί,
χοῦν χρυσόν ἔχομεν
καί  διἀ τόν ἡμέτερον κάματον, πλοῦτον,
ἡ δε οἱκία ἡμῶν, πόντου περιβάλλεται…

ὅτι ἐλεύθεροι γάρ καί νέοι ἐσμέν,

Superannuated Neos Kosmos writer and culinary doyen Dimitris Tsahuridis was, in the days before his cultural castration, wont to enter supermarkets of his choice, stand before the fruit aisle and launch, in his light, aesthetically pleasing baritone, into the strains of “Australians All Let us Rejoice…” to the mystification of fellow shoppers, since, by coincidence or celestial design, those supermarkets would invariably be patronised by newly arrived fellow citizens possessed of less than a nodding acquaintance with our glorious national anthem. To this day, I cannot enter a Woolworths without being gripped with the irrepressible desire to belt out the second stanza of our national ode: the one no one can ever remember.

Try as they might, and the magnitude of their efforts are, admittedly, questionable, the administrators of this great continent have, ever since the official institution of the ditty as our official anthem by Gough Whitlam in 1974, not been able to engrave the words of our country’s canticle into the hearts of its non-English speaking in origin citizens. Ample proof can be provided at the annual Antipodes Festival, the Independence Day March, or even the Cyprus Rally, where everyone, even fourth generation Greek-Australians exhibit the ability to lisp each and every word of the Greek National Anthem, but no one seems to know the entire words to the Australian one, except perhaps, for Kaiti Georgiou.

Those who blame the orchestration advance a prima facie plausible argument. After all “Advance Australia Fair” was composed in 1878, in the era of the Music Hall and Gilbert and Sullivan, hardly a melodic heritage shared by First Peoples, or post War immigrants to the country. Yet, the equally inane music to the Greek National Anthem, was only composed a decade before, in 1865, by Mantzaros, who specialised in light Italian operas. Shades of Verdi notwithstanding, the strains of the Greek anthem continue to tug at the heartstrings of diasporan Greeks like no other song except maybe, the Υπερμάχω hymn to the Theotokos, the melismata of which  have, before my eyes, reduced tattoo-branded, unshaven, snarling muscular gentlemen of limited spelling skills, into quivering sensitive, genuflecting softies. And that is merely the back-up vocals.

It is for this reason that I have come to realise that my erstwhile exhortation, to the august Dimitris Tsahuridis that perhaps his patriotic skills would receive a better reception among our tribe if the Australian National Anthem were translated into ecclesiastical Greek and chanted as a troparion, or in a plagal of the fourth tone kontakion, in the form proposed above, will do nothing to win the hearts and minds of the Greek-Australian populace, even if it does inculcate within them, superficial sentiments of awe and reverence. For the problem does not appear to lie within the music.

Recently, a close friend opined sagely that the only way that “Advance Australia Fair,” or indeed any other anthem that may replace it in the future can gain the acceptance of and properly move those who do not belong to the dominant cultural group, is if its verses were translated into every single community language, including Modern, as opposed to koine Greek (although my argument, that more Anglo-Australians are conversant with koine, rather than the modern form still stands), and that these translations, be also afforded equal status with the English version, so that each group could feel just as Australian singing the anthem in their own tongue. This would, if it were effected, encapsulate the essence of multiculturalism, in that it would demonstrate that the pathways to the Australian identity can assume many linguistic forms, without excluding or privileging any. It would also occupy the minds of generations of ingenious students, tasked with the pursuit of composing smutty parodies, in their mother tongues.

Neos Kosmos, in an article of 4 January 2021, postulated a plausible modern Greek translation of the anthem, in its recently amended form: «Αυστραλοί, ας ευφρανθούμε όλοι/ Επειδή είμαστε ενωμένοι και ελεύθεροι/ Έχουμε τη χρυσή γη και πλούτο για την εργασία μας…» By rights, this Greek version should cause us to stand ramrod straight, hands over hearts, our chests swelling in pride at our musical inclusion within the broader fold. And it was when reading this translation in my own language, where I was able, like never before, to appreciate and weigh the significance of each and every word, that I finally realised why the Australian National Anthem, has made me feel so uneasy every time I hear it, and so apprehensive, every time, I am compelled to sing it.

The sentiments of this anthem, its aspirations, say nothing of the Native Peoples of this country. They in no way mention the violent occupation of the continent and the assumption by the dominant cultural group of a sovereignty that was never ceded to it, not by its “traditional owners,” according to the platitude we all now have been trained to mouth, but rather, by its rightful owners. We may not be able or willing to turn the clock back, but if we truly empathise with the First Peoples of this country and acknowledge both their suffering and their loss, the least we can do is to encapsulate this in our foundation hymn. By not doing so, and singing this anthem, we, the constituent ethnic groups who arrived in this country at the behest of the usurping dominant cultural group, and who organise ourselves, express and manifest our ethno-cultural heritage in forms mandated and prescribed by that same dominant cultural group, acknowledge as legitimate, their sovereignty over this land and as such, are complicit in the usurpation of the hegemony of Australia’s First Peoples and the effacement of the violent nation of this act, as a continuing process.

Viewed from the perspective, Advance Australia Fair is the mirror image of the Greek National Anthem. Whereas the Greek National Anthem constitutes a re-assumption of sovereignty in the face of violent occupation, the current Australian National Anthem is one that comes after conquest, accepting such violent conquest by not mentioning it, and in its aftermath, inviting all and sundry to rally and espouse the aspirations of the conqueror. These are sentiments that stand in diametric opposition to the Greek people’s understanding of nationhood and to expect us to subscribe to them, is to force upon us, the completely alien dominant cultural ontopathology, one compounded by the fact that this group have, in certain times of our history, also fought for our motherland’s freedom.

The recent amendment to Advance Australia Fair, is thus deeply disquieting. In the previous (more honest) version, the dominant cultural group had no qualms in admitting that they were newcomers to this land, (“for we are young and free”), and chronologically speaking, so were the rest of the migrant groups. The amendment of this verse (“for we are one and free”) assumes or rather demands a unanimity of purpose understanding and participation within the broader social fabric that we cannot all possibly share. It elides the issue of appropriation and asserts a discourse in which all others coalesce around and serve that of the dominant group. Rather than accommodating and respecting our First Peoples, the new wording re-enacts their subjugation and disarms any of their claims for redress, restitution or reconciliation. It silences their history. It obscures and marginalises their own conception of country. In this Anthem, the discourse appears to be conducted in the language of the dominant culture, by segments of the dominant culture, with the terms of reference and values developed and imposed by those segments of dominant culture, for the purposes of the perpetuation of the dominant cultural hegemony, with that dominant culture determining, as always, who will be included or united, whose experiences will be left unmentioned and what form any lip service to those who have been disenfranchised and subjugated will take.

The reason why this is so is mystifying since so much work has been done to  recognise the suffering of the Stolen Generation and to acknowledge Native Title in this country. There is a broad consensus in Australia, that the First Peoples are vitally important and must be recognised as such. Having such vital issues unaddressed in our National Anthem, is therefore an anomaly.  Migrant communities, especially our own, whose modern identity has been framed by regenesis in the wake of violent invasion, conquest and genocide, are placed in an embarrassing position. We cannot be complicit in the obfuscation of history, even if this is undertaken by those who abrogated to themselves the right to allow us to settle here, for we know that this right was illegitimate. In this respect, it is fascinating to consider that the word ἰθαγενής, which we use for “native” or aboriginal literally meant “straight-born,” in ancient Greek. According to Plato, it bore connotations of legitimacy, a fascinating semantic link to the campaign to acknowledge Australian First Peoples in the constitution.

We look forward to a time when our Anthem truly reflects already existing broad societal consensus about  who we are, and the complexity of how far we have come, so that ἐν ἀγαλλιάσει ἄσωμεν: Aὐστραλίς, προάγου περικαλλής.


First published in NKEE on Saturday 16 January 2021

Saturday, January 09, 2021



Joy be to the twelve days of Christmas, that usher in the New Year. While rejoicing in the birth of the Saviour and the imminent demise of the year COVID, I was privy on Christmas morning to the following exchange between two Greek-Australians who appeared to be in their early forties, waiting outside church to collect their mothers, in almost matching tracksuits. 

Χριστός Ανέστη,” quoth the first. 

“What?” asked the second, mystified. 

Χριστός Ανέστη,” the first repeated. 

“You mean Χρόνια πολλά,” the second corrected him, as he adjusted himself. “Xριστός Ανέστη is for Easter.” 

“I don’t know,” the first snorted.  “It’s the same shit. Why can’t they say Merry Christmas like normal people?” 


When, returning to his native Tarsus, ancient Greek philosopher Athenodoros had his front door smeared in excrement by partisans of his rival Boethius, Athenodoros wrote: “One may recognize the city’s illness and disaffection in many ways, and particularly from its excrement.” What we, on the other hand, can recognise from the linguistic excrement of our own philosophic tribe, is purely a matter of digestive conjecture. 


This festive season, I witnessed the advent of a new Christmas greeting, that up until now, has not been widely used within Greek Australia. According to the fashion of the times, the greeter now wishes one: Χριστός ετέχθη, (Christ is Born), whereupon one is compelled to respond Αληθώς ετέχθη (Truly He is Born), proving that my first tracksuited companion was on the right track after all.  

One of my most cherished memories is of a now retired Greek Communist Party MP telling me emphatically when I tried to raise with him, the plight of the native Greeks of Northern Epirus under the unspeakably vile Hoxha regime, that we should all be grateful to Albania because Stalin was Albanian. 

When I then attempted to explain to him that Albania is just a Latin term that means white land, which is why it was applied to Albania, Alba (Scotland) and Caucasian Albania he did not seem to have the capacity to absorb this fact. 

When I also told him that Caucasian Albania was in modern day Azerbaijan he appeared not to want to listen. 

Following up by informing him that  despite the claims of some of his comrades in Melbourne, Stalin was from Georgia and that applying his logic, since in days past Georgia was referred to as Iberia, we should also be grateful to Spain, which was also called Iberia, the comrade in question called me a counter-revolutionary Trotskyite. Nonetheless, it was from him this retired KKE MP that I received the following festive sms this year:  «Χριστός ετέχθη!» Querying by return text his choice of greetings of the season, the tovarisch replied that from an ideological perspective, such greetings were perfectly acceptable, as they are ultimately derived from and are a claque of the Russian: Христос рождается.  

The theological logic is impeccable and consistent. I first met said MP in a kafeneio in Greece many years ago around Christmas time, where moved by the spirit of tsipouro, I launched into a solemn rendition of “God Save the Tsar.” The MP and his friends, believing I was interpreting a Soviet Komsomol Anthem, were moved to tears at the loss of their gods.  

I recall through the fog of alcohol and stale cigarette smoke ,attempting to console him by explaining that according to 1967 Star Trek episode “Who mourns for Adonis,” the gods of Olympus did not die, they merely retreated to Pollux IV, unable to maintain their power without the love of mortals. For all we know, the Politburo, encased in a Sputnik is orbiting Uranus as we speak, looking for that self same love.  

It is for this reason that I refrained from riposting “Truly he is born.” Instead, quoting Russian  poet Anna Akhmatova, I lamented: “If a gag should blind my tortured mouth, through which a hundred million people shout, then let them pray for me, as I do pray for them.” Mercifully, I received no response. 


The greeting Χριστός ετέχθη, either as a fad or a Moscow Patriarchate Trojan Horse, is at least explicable, and I especially love its variant, Χριστός ετέχθην (Christ, I was born!). I take advantage of this platform to proclaim to the men and women of Greek-Australia, that if one can pronounce Feliz Navidad, then surely one can say Καλά Χριστούγεννα, or even Χριστός ετέχθη. Furthermore, the next time a Greek-Australian attempts to wish me Feliz Navidad where the second word rhymes with dad, (a phenomenon which can only be ascribed to shopping centre muzak penetration), I will throw my Italian next door neighbour’s panettone at them, the Juventus themed one, that makes one remember certain soccer chants of the eighties.  



Engaging in giving Greek-Australians attempting to purchase a panettone from my local Greek-Italian fusion deli instead of a Vasilopita, the death stare, is one of my favourite turn of the season rites of passage. One day before New Year’s Eve, I sallied forth to said deli in search of the requisite ingredients for the construction of the Vasilopita and panettone-purchasers to persecute. It was as I waited in the socially distanced queue,  that I heard the unmistakable nasal cadences of a compatriot lisp excitedly: “We are going to make our own home-made gluten-free William-cake this year.” Instantaneously I unravelled the constituent parts of the linguistic sacrilege. Bill is the Australian equivalent of Vasileios, just as Jim is of Dimitrios, and when Greek-Australians seek gravitas, Bill becomes William, just as Jim becomes James and Aristogeiton becomes Trevor. Saint Vasilios is too exalted a personage to be referred to as Bill, so William he must become, and all this linguistic acrobatics from a lady wearing activewear designed by a person who evidently cannot even spell Jagged properly. So perturbed was I, that I swung around and almost took out the eyes of the person behind me with a can of chilli flavoured Palirria Dolmades. 


“Hey! Watch where you are going! Are you blind or something you f….ker?” the formidable lady with the crocodile skin and the triskelion midriff tattoo growled. From an inscription from Silandos in Asia Minor dated 235AD we learn that a certain Theodoros offended the Iranian moon god Mes, who was widely worshipped by the Greeks in the area of the time, by committing fornication. As a result, he was struck blind. His confession went something like this: 

"I have been brought to my senses by the gods, by Zeus and the Great Mes Artemidorou...I had sex with Trophime the slave of Haplokomas, the wife of Eutychis in the praetorium... While I was a slave of the gods of Nonnos, I had sex with the flautist Ariadne...I slept also with Aretousa." 

In the text of the inscription, the hapless Theodoros, who no doubt feels compelled to make a clean breast of things, states that "I had Zeus as my advocate (παράκλητος)”. This is, coincidentally, the same word used in the first epistle of John, where it is stated that: "If anyone does sin, we have an advocate (παράκλητος) with the Father, Jesus, Christ the righteous.” 

With Zeu's advocacy, the council of the gods in a heavenly court entreated Mes, who appears here to be more powerful than the Olympians to forgive Theodoros. Ultimately, Mes thought it good to restore Theodoros' sight. 

Extricating myself from the συμπλοκή, I mused not only at how an effective advocate could seek forgiveness for my negligence by highlighting my righteous anger at the linguistic and culinary blasphemy preceding my collision, but also, how in the mid second century BC, the historian Polybius coined that very term (συμπλοκή) to describe the connectivity throughout the Mediterranean occasioned by the Hellenistic kings and the Roman expansion. Some forms of connectivity, especially those induced by the confluence of panettone and William-cake are best left well alone.  


Moments later, I was self-checking out my groceries at the supermarket and reflecting that self-checkouts are inherently culturally imperialistic, entrenching the dominant monoculture by not offering the menu in the major community languages, when I overheard two ladies, an elderly woman and her daughter conversing next to me. 

-Εδώ άφησαν 5 σέντσια. 

- Πάρ’ τα 

- Λες; 

- Αφού τα αφήσανε; 

- Καλά κι αν μας πιάσει κατάρα; 

- Τι εννοείς; 

- Παίρνεις λεφτά αλλουνού, χάνεις τα δικά σου. 

- Τότε άς᾽ τα. 

- Λες; Κρίμα είναι. 

- Πάρ᾽ τα τότε. 

- Δεν θέλω να βάλω την γκαντεμιά στο κεφάλι μου όμως... 

I couldn’t help myself so I interjected: 

- Στο χωριό μου λένε ότι αν σου έρθουν λεφτά ουρανοκατέβατα και δεν τα πάρεις, μουντζώνεις την τύχη σου και τον ίδιον τον Θεό. 

- Έτσι ε; 

- Ναι. 

- Θα τα πάρω λοιπόν. 

- Πάρ᾽ τα. Όμως, στο διπλανό χωριό λένε ότι όποιος βρει λεφτά τυχαία και τα πάρει μπροστά σε τρίτο πρόσωπο, τα λεφτά θα ρέουν από τον πρώτο στον τρίτο. 

- Φτου φτου! 

She left the coin in the change tray and I, afflicted by a fabricated superstition that suddenly seemed plausible, did the same. 


This year, no one won the coveted Vasilopita coin, or as it is now feculently marketed by Greek-Australian purveyors, the “lucky token.” Just as the pita was cut and the festive company leaned forward to receive their piece, I observed, that in the Scholium to Aristides, it is mentioned that when the goddess Demetra was searching for Persephone, the king of Eleusis, Celeus, pointed her in the direction of Hades. As a reward (μισθός) Demeter gave him the secret of bread and allowed him to possess her body "illicitly." All of a sudden, everyone lost their appetites and I face the prospect of traversing the New Year while being given the silent treatment by my nearest and dearest. Aesthetically unmoved, I console myself by reciting choice verses from Cavafy’s Satrapies, ample consolation for the year to come. 


“What a calamity that you who are made/ for beautiful achievements and renowned,/ should always be, through your hard fate, denied/ occasion and success; that you should always/ be hindered by the mean observances,/ the littlenesses, and indifferences.” 




Dean Kalimniou

First published in NKEE on Saturday 9 January 2021