Monday, January 23

So who turned the lights off?

Was I the only person alive and outside in the snow this week?
I'd decided that a beautiful snow-draped day deserved an outing from me to The Village.
It did snow and it was quite heavy in The Village, but where was everyone?

The Bank was closed (I didn't have money in it to take out, but I would liked to have just stood in a long queue in anticipation of that day arriving again).
The School was closed, again. Because the bad weather stopped building work on the new school (14 years in progress now). So the schoolkids went on strike. (I wish that'd happen in my day!)
The Cafe' was closed. No electricity.
The Tax Office was closed. No arguments, today then, for me!
Even the police normally hiding with their speed guns, in the same obvious layby by the same motorway, had gone absent.

I heard that, by and large, the governments preperations for the bad weather worked well. So what went wrong in my Village?

My Greek teacher had no work for the day, so she did a treble lesson with me, instead.
I believe she's a Sadist. She had time to set me 105 verbs, and order me to decline all of them in all 8 tenses. Sο what started as a good day ended up a real grouchy, moody, pain in my head, wish I hadn't started day.

But I made a high. I spoke to the Directorate for Services (Dept. B) for VPR tax, in Athens, to clarify the argument I'm having with my 4th new accountant of whether my invoices should carry VPR or not. I believe work done outside the EU for citizens or business entities shouldn't carry tax, but he insists otherwise. I had previously visited 2 major tax offices in the City to get clarification, and all I had got were shrugs. The Experts!
The Directorate for Services (Dept B) in Athens confirmed my opinion. I had won. But this small victory of saneness over madness was pyrrhic, as my accountant promptly claimed money for work done to date. No problem with that, until I asked for a reciept and he answered that the charges would be 40% higher if he provided one. VPR and another tax combined. (What other tax?) So I got a post-it-note receipt instead.

And my mood promptly worsened when I found I had no electricity at home, and still haven't, and am working in the dark. Like, it seems, much of the time, here.

Friday, January 20

I have nothing worth saying

I've been back nearly 2 weeks now, but hadn't posted anything. I haven't been in the proper frame of mind, and never wanted this to be a daily journal. But I've had a few emailed comments now, and am starting to feel under some pressure to do something here. All I've got is a few thoughts in my head I may post later next week, and the row I had with my accountant and the taxman this week. It's the usual Greek tax storyline. One of the things I do here is run a (unprofitable) new internet site. And the accounts for 04 confirm the story.

But the taxman doesn't believe. He insists I should be making money. And so he insists I should pay some taxes to reflect the fact I should be making money. He doesn't understand the words 'business model' as that every new interent business model says 'it'll initially lose money', or the words 'risk/reward' as in yes, its risky, losing this money, but the reward may be bigger in the longer term. There's more. He doesn't understand VPR either, and when I tell him the rules change for doing business outside the EU, he disagrees. When I give him the Govt. booklets on same, he refuses to read them. When I show him printouts from the internet research I've done, he disbelieves them.

He's stupid, ignorant, jobsworth, and incompetent. A fool. And probably wants a bribe, but I refuse to give it to him. I'll probably adjust my accounts to reflect a different scenario, one less tax damaging. And of course, in doing so, I'll merely be following what many Greeks already do. Cheat the rules because of incompetence and ignorance and corruption. Which just reinforces the existing culture, just spirals everything further away from the proper objectives, just reduces the overall tax take further. But I'll do it, anyway.

My lemon trees won't grow lemons. It's been 2 years now. I've checked and they are real lemon trees. I bought a book back from London, found the pictures and descriptions and spent a freezing cold early morning checking out each tree against the pictures I had. They're genuine, all right. So they must be protesting, in denial, of something, but what I can't imagine. And I'm not to clear on what to do next. Talk to them and hug them? Kick 'em? Rub a rind on them? I'm told I have to propogate them. Anyone out there a lemon expert?

I returned to find one of my friends had a cancer scare over Xmas (and sweetly didn't tell me in London so not to ruin my break). She had an Xray, and the Doctor reviewing the photo gave her the all - clear just as a mutual friend, another doctor, arrived at the clinic for a seperate appointment. Interested, he checked the pics too, and immediately told her to pack a bag and go to Athens and see a specialist. Right away. That day.
She did, was confirmed with a cancerous growth, had an immediate op, and has now been given a provisional all clear.
And the mistaken Doctor? Turns out she studied in Rumania. It's 'easier' there to qualify, apparently, though it costs a lot of money. Know what I mean?

And another friend finally agreed to start dating a man, someone who had been chasing her for months with invitations on trips, small presents, the ocassional flowers or chocs (he's old fashioned, and old). The sex was great, she reports, the best she's ever had. Until he started beating on her by slapping her face hard and harder. Then he started arriving with a whip.
He tells her all men do this stuff. I tell her to leave him, tell his wife, and tell the police.

Told you I had nothing to say. I'm boring myself, too.

Tuesday, January 3

I chose to live here

I was returning for my first Xmas back in the UK when why top lip split open. Why? I guess I was smiling so much, and the next thing was, blood was all over my luggage and coat.

As I was trying to staunch the flow with my hand, my mobile rang. It was a friend from London. I told him I couldn't talk right then as I was haemmorrhaging.

'Your life is so complicated, so much drama' he sighed.

So much drama? So complicated? I know! I know! Please, it's called Having A Life.

There are 3 types of person in the world.
Alive, Dull and Easy.
Difficult, Dramatic and Intruiging.

I just happen to be the last. A DDI man. And without much effort, really.

So when someone asks me 'How's Greece?' my reply will be 'How long can you talk for?'
When they say 'What's the problem?' I'll reply with a full analysis of it, or ask which problem do they want to hear about. What's the use of a problem if you can't share it?
Sometimes, life can be shitty, and what's the point of pretending otherwise?
Sometimes drama gets in the way, like the ghastly looking mark on the left hand side of my chest, the worry- me - stupid - for - days - thinking - cancer type mark that consequently turned out, in the doctors surgery after I'd plucked up enough courage to go and see him, to merely be a ink stain from my broken fountain pen in my inside jacket pocket.

There's nothing worse than someone who says 'I can't complain'. It just 'aint normal. They aren't normal. Who are these people? Do they hibernate until they meet a friend?
When a doctor tells me I've checked out OK, I'll ask Why? or at least ask him if he's Sure?

So when my friends in England say to me 'You're so lucky to be living in Greece' or 'What's the problem?' or 'You should live my life!' I'll look at them, take an exasperated deep breath, and launch into a dissertation of what's happened and why in the intervening months since I last saw them.

It's not that I want their life. Some hardly move from their house. Or their workplace. Or remove their heads from within their posterior. My dramas and problems are living, breathing, life - type problems that make me rich in experience, rich in personality, rich in interest and rich in intrigue and rich in stress and anchos. And, I chose to live here, and choose to stay.

But what's rich and intriguing to some people can be annoying and dull to others. So I'll probably end up dying alone. And the Greek's intuitively understand and respond to that.

Monday, January 2

The New Me this year

My New Years Resolutions.
1. Be kind to my Brother. Rather than let him think up another way to seperate me from my money, just gift him my cheque book signed with post-dated blank cheques. It's less stressful for both of us, and at least I can plan my finances better this way.
2. Drink more designer cappaccino at the most expensive Greek cafe's I can find.
What would I and everyone else do everyday if they ended up going out of business?
3. Stop playing tennis. Or rather, stop being so competitive when playing tennis. A half-demented - shouting - McEnroe-like - 50- something who never gives up isn't a pretty sight for any spectators and makes my opponent nervous. It's not war.
4. Be less compulsive-obssesive. Accept it's OK to be shouted at by a public servant. It's OK to pay someone for doing hardly anything. It's OK to bribe someone. It's OK when my Albanian gardener continues to decapitate my sprinkler heads with the lawn mower. It's good that my OTE internet connection hasn't failed again. When a Greek says " trust me, we wear trousers", Trust him.
5. Be the real me. When I'm stopped in my car by the Greek police, stop acting the stupid englishman abroad. When I'm called by the english tax authorities, stop acting the half-Greek.
6. Pay more bribes. It's not about the money or the principle, it's about less angst.
7. Remember my new years resolutions.