Sunday, March 5

Small victories and firelighters, please

A busy 10 days with no time to visit here has ended in a minor victory for sanity and a peep into someone's despair.

The minor vistory was over a parking ticket, slapped overnight onto my car windscreen and, to add salt to the wound, having my number plates removed; all in a street that had no “No Parking” signs. After being met with some unsympathetic shrugs from the administrators at the police station, I determined to see the Chief Policeman to protest to his face. No, I mean in his face.
This busy man kept me waiting outside his office for 70 minutes whilst he……..did nothing but kept me waiting; whilst he talked on his mobile, had his second morning coffee, adjusted his uniform a couple of times, picked his nose ferociously, and generally ignored me. An Englishman’s patience is his virtue, because there I waited and waited outside his office door, smiling at every eye contact with him, in an obvious “I won’t go away” ferocious glare.
Finally admitting me into his inner sanctum, but not offering me a seat, I promptly sat down and explained to him the fine was wrong, and I’d like my plates back. He explained to me that tickets are never issued wrongly, and so, no, I can’t have them back before paying the (€70) fine. I persisted, and as his patience began to wear thin, in an act of desperation just to get me out of his office, he suggested we go and visit the street. If I’m wrong the fine would treble to €210; If I’m correct, the fine would be cancelled and my plates returned.
“If I’m correct, and you’re wrong, then you should, personally, re-fix the plates to my car” I suggested, adding, “that’s a proper bet”. And, to my surprise, he agreed. And, to my delight, after travelling through the Big City in a flashing – blue – light – with – loud – siren - blaring police car, complete with several sycophantic waves and shouts to the Chief from other passing drivers and pedestrians (even with flashing lights and sirens you don’t actually go fast anywhere here and can still have a casual conversation whilst travelling) I was right. And, fixed in my memory, I still have the image of him on his knees, in his police car park, re-fixing my plates. From such small acorns of victory do the elms of hope and serving the public grow.

My house is being repainted by a very expensive, local, artisan who described himself to me, quite modestly, as probably once the best painter in the world. And I’m sure he’s never seen a Heineken ad.
Whilst he bought the paint, I bought the cardboard sheeting and plastic sheets for him to cover up my furniture and personal belongings, and I left him to it. And returned, after the first day, to completed bedroom walls in my chosen warm, rust, colours – but also complete with a warm, rust coloured duvet, wardrobe (now very modern – liberally spattered with colour) and TV (difficult to see a picture through the paint drips, though) complete with semi re-coloured floor tiles, and a warm rust covered, somewhat forlorn looking, cat.
At my insistence Georgios, the ‘artisan’ met me that evening in his cafenio, when I liberally, but politely, complained about the quality of the work. No problemo, he said, because he always was to clean going it up afterwards. And on the second day he started doing so, but not before berating me for challenging the quality of his work, daring to question his integrity, and having the cheek to complain about the finished article. Actually, berating is the wrong word, as at one point in his tirade he threw a paint brush at me, in another he called my Mother some names she has probably never heard of and wouldn’t want to, in another he had me by the shoulders shouting in my face for an apology, and, finally, he broke down, cried in despair and then cuddled me.
So that’s how I’ve started redecorating my house; With a broken, cryful, mad old painter who I’m now spending my days looking after whilst chasing around laying plastic sheets and cardboard before him, whilst he feels useful and wanted again.

They’ve announced a change in the laws this week to allow cremations instead of burial. I’m considering applying for AOT (the Greek National Tourist Organisation) to be the first victim. You see, it’s a very simple procedure “that shouldn’t take more than a week or so” to get to the point of actually making the formal application for a license. You see, you need something called a FEK – it applies to your specific application type – to understand how the application has to be made. And there are, um, probably several hundred of them, and so far I’ve been told to use 11 different ones by 9 different AOT personnel. And they can’t give you a copy from their office, you have to either go online to get it, or better still go to your local KEP to take a copy. And they can’t decide if my property is traditional or non traditional, within the urban planning zone or without, subject to a 1998 FEK or its updated 2001 version, a village or city dwelling, to be classified as a hotel, a house, a villa, a residence, apartments, rooms, a B&B (how about a hostel for ancient, worn out and emotional decorators?) and more.
They’ve just announced a new tranche of grants for such property’s, application period from March 15th until sometime May. My gut tells me not this year for me. Or, next, probably. Someone please ready the firelighters, I may need them.

Following the Vodaphone affair ND has dropped off in its support, barely edging PASOK now, but Karamanlis still seems to be the favoured choice of leader. Personally, I’ve high hopes for Dora Bakoyannis taking the leadership at, or just after, the next elections. She seems a formidable woman, and women – and women leaders - seem to have more of the necessary reserve of strength and integrity that men lack when the going gets tough, the politics bumpy, and the voters tetchy. Can’t wait.

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