Nothing is moving, not a twig nor a leaf, and I find myself missing the cows, the mountains and the bad weather. The sun has become the enemy, a merciless foe who can be tolerated only when swimming, something I do for close to an hour a day. Nothing very strenuous, mind you, except for an all-out 50-stroke crawl towards the end. For someone who has swum every year since 1940, I’m a lousy swimmer. Not as bad as Tim Hanbury, who swims vertically rather than flat on the water, and who resembles a periscope, but I’m no Johnny Weissmuller, the late great Tarzan of the Forties.
From the verandah of my house I look down on a beautiful bay and a private beach, which is no longer private. I don’t mind that at all, but I do mind that crooks like the Qataris can be allowed to buy the beaches where I played as a child, fill them up with rich scum of the Gulf persuasion and make it verboten for any poor Greek to refresh himself in his own sea. This is what the EU scum has done to us: forced us to sell the few assets nature gave us instead of oil and gas. The oily ones were the first to grab them.
The ultimate touchy-feely accolade of our times — a big sloppy bear hug à la Clinton or Blair — almost made me sick last week, as practised by the Greek Prime Minister when he hugged the grotesque Jean-Claude Juncker. What is it with these phonies? Can’t anyone shake hands any more? And, while I am on the subject, Antonis Samaras, the PM, whom I met only once, about 35 to 40 years ago. He had just returned from Amherst or Harvard and had entered the Greek nationals in tennis. I played him in the first round, saw that he could more or less hit the ball, and beat him 6–0, 6–0. There were no refs in the early rounds. As we shook hands, he asked me if he could change the score to something more respectable. I said sure, I never liked giving anyone two bagels. But it shows the kind of shifty character he is, and he’s known for having bitten every helping hand.
While these two sons of bitches were hugging each other for a photo opportunity, the straitjacket of the euro continues to do its stuff. Unemployment is still at a record 27 per cent, and for those under 25, at a staggering 55 per cent. Our debt is 170 per cent of our GDP, bigger than Italy’s and equal to Japan’s, which goes to show we are good at something after all. At bullshitting the people, that’s for sure. Samaras and that fat slob who has given fatties a truly bad name, his foreign minister and successor to the Papandreou gang, Evangelos Venizelos — he was born Turkoglou and took one of our most revered names as his own, which is par for the course — keep telling the people we’ve turned the corner. Some corner. They have not fired the civil servants whose excesses brought this country to its knees, have not done away with a statute of limitations law against official bribe-taking, but have followed Brussels to the letter when squeezing taxes out of people who no longer have any income. Around here the garbage has been piling up for weeks, so why should a citizen pay the state for not performing? The Greek state has never given quid pro quo. That’s why so many Greeks made it big in places more attuned to the law.
To put pen to paper is to believe one has something of value to impart. To write about something as monumental as what is going on in Iraq in normal language takes arrogance. The pain of others makes for good copy. Amazingly, those responsible for the slaughter still hold their heads up and continue to voice their opinions. The Cheneys, Kagans, Kristols, Blairs and Saudis — all in cahoots with the Netanyahus of this world — shamefully showcase themselves on TV and in the press. Two trillion dollars after Uncle Sam tried nation-building, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dead and millions displaced, the very same people who brought down Saddam and went after Assad are still showboating. Is there no shame left? No divine punishment? How did it come to this? We need to ally ourselves with Iran, distance ourselves from Likud, tell the Saudis who are financing Isis along with the Qataris to cease payments or else, and then we might just see some light at the end of a very black tunnel. We armed the Taleban against the Soviets and then had to fight them 20 years later; we armed the Sunnis against Saddam and Assad and now we have to fight them from the air only. What I’d like to know is how come I knew all this years ago and wrote about it in these here pages, while Hague was out giving speeches against Assad. As Maurice Glasman wrote, ‘We should be pro-Iran, pro-Kurds, and pro-Christian.’ This is a battle for civilisation.
I write this on my birthday, which I will celebrate with a dinner tonight with the Greek royals and other close friends. But it’s with a heavy heart. My oldest friend Aleko Goulandris cannot make it due to illness, and with the rest of the world in such a mess, even Taki cannot drink enough to make reality go away.