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High life

Once upon a time I was very proud to be Greek. But no more

Varoufakis is a third-rate academic posing as Mussonlini — and I apologise to il Duce’s memory

28 February 2015

9:00 AM

28 February 2015

9:00 AM


A naked, very good-looking young man skied down the mountain evoking shrieks of laughter and admiration from the hundred or so skiers lining the slopes. He turned out to be J.T., my son, and it was an act of protest against the mind-numbing conversation about titles among some at the Eagle club. A friend had skied ahead and was waiting for him at the bottom with a blanket. Needless to say, it became the subject du jour, and someone even filmed young women cheering the streaking skier as he shussed his way down at record speed.

His naked run to glory succeeded in getting the subject changed up at the club. Talk about titles is a no-no, and should be left to NOCDs (not our class, dear). J.T.’s action spoke loud and clear — unlike the ghastly Stephen Fry, who uses foul language in place of talent or wit. Once upon a time Fry was considered funny. No longer. He talks only about himself and his same-sex partner — or wife or whatever — and appends the F-word to everything. He should be gently put out to pasture.

Otherwise everything’s hunky-dory up in the Alps. I saw lots of a wonderful man Wafic Saïd and his wife Rosemary, and we laughed about how things have changed. When he was very young he applied for a loan from his London banker and when asked what collateral he had, he said his collateral was his word. He got the loan. That’s how it was back in my day too. (I’m older than Wafic.) But if I were a banker today, I wouldn’t take that line.

Last week my daughter tapped on someone’s car window and asked if they would move forward as they had blocked the whole street. Some ghastly Brit emerged and screamed not to fucking touch my car, you bitch. Alas I was somewhere else — you’re never there when I need you, daddy — but it could have been interesting. A 78-year-old teaching a horrible yob nouveau millionaire a lesson, or, conversely, being given one. Anyway, it would have been fun to send a newly rich pig to the dressing station for bullying my little girl, or take my lumps and the de rigueur visit to the dentist. I guess we won’t know until next time. If there is one — which I’m sure there will be, as manners are becoming extinct among the new rich. Oh, for the days when the worst offence was asking the wife of a foreign diplomat if she ‘Likey Soupy?’ as the great Sir Denis Thatcher once did. Now it’s straight to the F-word and threats of physical violence from the heavy next to the newly rich pig. (And I apologise to our porcine friends, who would be appalled by the comparison if they could read.)

But as I’ve said time and again, such are the joys of living in resorts visited by such people. Many of us remember the time when care, courtesy and respect were part of everyday life. Now the culture is one motivated by spite, envy, greed and gloating, not to mention bragging and showing off muscle (mostly of others you pay to come to your rescue). Not that the state does not interfere. The omnipotent state has replaced the ethos of the landed aristocracy and that of the Church with one that ensures that no one’s self-esteem ever takes a dive. It has codified behaviour and how we speak and think, and we have to think in terms of the lowest common denominator. Back in the cities everyone’s into care and therapy, but up here in the Alps they’re into hedge funds and other such gadgets.

Mind you, I’ve been taking a few lumps about Greece, a country my family has served loyally for generations, but one I’ve given up on until a political party like Golden Dawn is elected. The trouble with Greeks is that they’re so predictable. The clown that had his picture all over the newspapers and on television for ten days, Yanis Varoufakis, was all show no substance. As is Tsipras, Fidel without the beard. Wearing an untucked shirt and one’s collar up might impress the cheap women in Syntagma Square, but it does not secure relief from the hated bailout conditions. Sure, the French and Germans and the Brits smiled politely when the Greek show-off arrived dressed like Marlon Brando in The Wild One (instead of telling him that the dignity of their office required him to dress appropriately). But where did his sartorial defiance get him? NOWHERE. All he got was permission to change the shape of Greece’s obligations, not reduce them. Varoufakis is a third-rate academic posing as Mussolini, and I apologise to il Duce’s memory. The Greek government had not a leg to stand on, had its day in the sun showing off like peacocks, then bowed to the German wishes as the great economist Taki predicted three weeks ago it would. So what else is new?

Election promises in general, and in Greece’s case in particular, are like swearing eternal love to a woman you met in a low-life nightclub after you’ve had much too much firewater. A run on Greek banks was gathering pace and capital controls were needed unless Syriza gave in, and they caved quicker than the Lebanese army does whenever it is called on to fight. Once upon a time I was very proud to be Greek. That was long ago.

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