Saturday, April 23, 2022



George is a second generation Thessalian and enjoys a respected position working within the realm of finance while also dabbling in the arcane world of computer programming on the side. We meet once a year, just before Easter, with the sole aim of setting siege to the ideological foundations of each other’s world view, a pre-Pascal tradition that commenced when, a few years ago, he related an anecdote to me whereby: 
Two non-Greek ladies whose partners are Greek get together to make koulouria for Easter. The older sister of one of the Greek partners enters the kitchen and the ladies proudly ask her: "Do we qualify as Greek women now?" To which the older sister responded: “Nah, if you were true blue Greek Australian women, you would get your petheres or mothers to make them.”  

By way of riposte, I tell him about the time the lady at an obscure delicatessen some distance from my place of habitation refused to charge my wife for her Easter purchases because she heard me speaking Greek to our progeny. “See, being Greek opens up doors,” I told her. “Not for you. Only for me,” came her response, in Assyrian. 

George spent years in bank limbo, otherwise known as being a loans officer. I inform him that the first century Greek writer Plutarch was the author of a treatise entitled: «Περὶ τοῦ μὴ δεῖν δανείζεσθαι», that is:  “That we ought not to borrow.”  

In it, he gives the following advice: «ἄξιον, ὅτι ἔχει, πιστεύεσθαι, δέον ἔχοντα μὴ δανείζεσθαι. Τί θεραπεύεις τὸν τραπεζίτην  πραγματευτήν;» (It is fitting to pawn one's goods rather than to borrow. Why do you pay court to the banker or money lender?) 

George wiggles uncomfortably, lamenting the fact that while the employees of the banks hailing from the fair isle of Cyprus used to receive invitations to a multitude of community events, Greek bankers floundering in the mainstream were more or less excluded. I ty to console him by pointing out that Plutarch also experienced exclusion, in his case, from giving evidence at the Royal Commission into Banking, which is kind of ironic when one considers that his name means: “Master of Wealth.” 

 George looks at me disconsolately and types something on his phone. I am convinced he is looking up my credit file and would deny me a loan at the slightest of pretexts. I try to imagine George assuming a smug air while refusing me a loan and I cannot, for George’s facial expression is perpetually one of anxiety. Attempting to conceive of ways of winning him over, I recall how the ancient writer Theopompus describes the manner in which Phillip II of Macedon won over the Thessalians: 

"Phillip, knowing that the Thessalians were licentious and wanton in their mode of life, organised parties for them and tried to amuse them in every way, dancing and rioting and submitting to every kind of licentiousness... and so he won over the Thessalians by parties rather than by presents.” 


Last time I saw George at a party was just after the 2019 “Macedonia Rally.” He arrived at the venue draped in the Sun of Vergina flag and wearing a T-shirt bearing the logo «Εὐχαριστῶ τοῖς θεοῖς ὅτι ἐγεννήθην Ἕλλην» which means "I thank the gods for being Greek.” As the men in the room whooped excitedly and the ladies moved away gingerly, I enquired as to the source of the quote, his bulging biceps a reproach to the flaccidity of my own sedentary torso. He told me that it can be found it in Arrian's Anabasis of Alexander. 


While expressing great admiration as to the convexity of his pectoral muscles, I hastened to infom him that having read the Anabasis in the original (I don’t get invited to too many parties), the purported quote does not exist. Moreover, the Greek used in the quote is anachronistic: εὐγνωμονῶ in Arrian's time meant to think good thought, not to be grateful. Similarly, the terms εὐχαριστῶ and ἐγεννήθην do not belong to the Greek of Arrian's time in that context and they can be found nowhere in his books. 

For good measure, I added that the first time the quote appears, is in an article by Greek teacher Ioannis Kholevas, who cites as his source, a book by the same Ioannis Kholevas, called "Αλέξανδρος ο Μέγιστος, ο Ένας." Scoffing my glass of coke triumphantly and feeling the ensuing sugar buzz, I declared that the quote is in fact, a hoax. There is plenty of evidence to support the fact that the Macedonians belonged to the Greek world without resorting to falsehood and spurious quotes. George has not held a birthday party since. I would have known if he had one, for he would have invited me. 


It is the anniversary of the hanging of Patriarch Gregory the V on 10 April 1821 that invariably prompts George’s annual text, first expressing his profound sorrow at such a heinous crime and second, attempting to arrange a catch up. I am always inordinately moved by George’s sentiments as he is a communist, who believes that religion is the opium of the people and has an autographed photograph of Aris Velouchiotis on his bedroom wall in his parent’s house, which I suspect he has signed himself.  


Despite his proclivities, George expresses great admiration for the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos and especially his stance on ecology. I on the other hand greatly admire our EP’s quirky sense of humour, informing George that when I first met the Patriarch, he spent the first ten minutes doing a particularly plausible imitation of an Australian accent. 

I then told him that his “φήμη" or ceremonial chanting of his title, should be changed to Var-tho-lo-meos, sung to the tune of Guantanamera. Without blinking an eyelid, he confided in me that he ordinarily would refer the matter to the Holy Synod, if it was not for his concern that a future successor with less syllables in his name would play merry hell with the rhythm. For this alone I will revere him to my dying day. 


George, on the other hand, has no sense of rhythm, but he is pretty handy with an app, being of an entrepreneurial bent, owning four investment properties, in his sister’s name, as his mother is adamant that should he ever find a partner, she will leave him and take the properties with her. He shows me an app entitled “Do my tama,” in which one can via direct debit, pay for dedicated personnel in the motherland to visit monasteries that house thaumaturgic icons and light candles before them on one’s behalf. George exhorts me to construct a concept of similar ingenuity that he can transform into an app and a few days later I message him with the fruits of my labours:  

“Want to get a blessing this Easter but still worried about COVID? 

Want to save time waiting in queues and avoid being elbowed by elderly or unwashed parishioners who don’t socially distance?  

Introducing Ev-log the unique app that allows you to get your bishop’s blessing without the risk of falling foul of the Health Department’s directives. 

Easy to install, Ev-log allows you to “log on” and obtain your bishop’s blessing via a personalized digital signature. 

It also logs how many blessings you have received and reminds you when it is time to go to confession. 

Just one touch of your lips on the virtual hand screen and ev-logeite! 

The Ev-log. Now in new incense flavour for extra holiness. 

*Heresies sold separately.” 


I am awaiting confirmation as to the registration of my Intellectual Property rights when I meet up with George, who arrives bearing, a week too soon, koulouria, red dyed eggs and a bent and battered monstrance. “Tenant left this behind in one of my properties, he mutters. “I thought you could give it to one of our churches, or something.” I explain to him that the monstrance, used to contain the consecrated eucharistic host, is a Catholic usage, though I marvel at how much the Sun of Vergina, his particular monstrance resembles. By this stage, George is scrolling through his phone, reading political commentary about the upcoming elections. Launching into an impassioned analysis of electoral boundaries and the preferential voting system, he laments: “the system is flawed. They are failing the people.” 

I explain to him that before Big Brother, the Athenians invented the concept of voting someone off the show. One wrote the desired exile's name on a piece of potsherd (ostrakon) and the person who received the most names would be exiled from Athens for ten years. 

According to legend, one day, a peasant asked the great politician Aristides the Just to write the name "Aristides" on an ostrakon. 

"Why? What has he ever done to you?" Aristides asked. 

"Nothing," the man replied. "I'm just sick of everyone referring to him as "the Just." 

Aristides duly helped him to write his own name and I suggest that this model be adopted not only in our Federal and State systems but also in all of our community organisations. 


By this stage, George is no longer interested. He has discovered the Greek Dating App, and having read glowing reviews on the internet posted by Ibraham Brissardyaong and Lando Benallackooyng, is pondering whether he can make it to and from Chicago in time for mageiritsa at Anastasi. He wishes me a satisfying Pascal Feast and walks away. 



First published in NKEE on Saturday 23 April 2022