Greek mum (aka ‘Ellinida Mana’)

Our office could have served as a poster for the City of Westminster ‘Some things you only do when you’re drunk‘ campaign yesterday as several people turned up wearing the same outfits as the day before. I had (sadly) missed out on all the fun (I was spared the hangover though) so I felt the need to share my bananas and the toiletries samples that were handed out on the tube the other day to boost the morale.  Helena had also just returned from holidays in Greece bringing lots of sweet treats for the crowd (that was originally not that enthused – chocolate does not fare well in a stomach recovering from a hangover, bananas are not ideal either).

As one of the co-workers made references to mothers and our attempts to take care of people, he asked ‘Is it a Greek thing?’ To answer to that I would have to open the big book of concepts to the big, massive chapter that is called ‘Greek mums’. A chapter as complicated as organic chemistry and as simple as the alphabet’s A-Z. If Oxford University’s All Souls College had decided to make its historic and now axed one-word entrance essay about Greek mums (yes, I realise that that is two words but in Greek it would have simply been mums; it’s English that makes it all more complicated), my essay would be somewhat like this:

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Sunday afternoon on the island of Great Britain

Ingredients for a good Sunday:

– summer sun

– gentle summer breeze

– Spitalfields market (any other London market will do)

– a mix of lovely people

-teddy bears.

Instructions:

1. Enjoy your lie-in until noon. Get out of bed and take your time to get ready.

2. Forget about the tube. Take the bus through the empty streets of the City.

3. Wander through the market and find your friends who are browsing through the stalls. Greet them with a big hug and a big smile.

4. Order brunch and a mug of coffee and chat while waiting for the food to get ready. Talk about holiday plans and munch on your food while you gossip about what you’ve been up to lately.

5. Comment on the quirky outfits of the people who frequent East London in Greek so no-one will know what you’re talking about.

6. Say goodbye with a big hug and a big smile.

7. Listen to bossa nova on the bus ride home. Make plans to visit Festival Brazil which you missed again this week.

8. Wonder why every person who is getting on the bus has a big smile on their face, even grown men. Turn your head to see the giant teddy bear sitting on the bus seat behind you. Get off the bus smiling.

Not suitable for freezing. Consume within the same day.

A moveable feast – no, it’s not Paris.

The blanket is back in the closet along with homesickness this week. The sun is out again and so are we, happy Londoners in sandals and tank tops sporting sunglasses, maxi dresses and fake tans (I stand out in my glorious paleness).

Londoners that were born and raised here, Londoners that have only been here for a while, Londoners now, New Yorkers and Parisians tomorrow, this city is made of its people. It’s a city where you get your morning croissant (the buttery pastry with a French name), from Eatalia (an Italian deli) where people greet you with a ‘Buenos Dias’ (good-morning in Spanish).

London is a city full of moments like that. You’re having lunch at the park on the Riverside where a Spanish festival is taking place. You queue to grab a spicy chorizo bap with Rodopi whose name is the same as a sierra in Greece. Then it’s time to fill up the glass with Emmanuelle who comes from Bretagne and wouldn’t want to live in Paris. You wonder if that paella is good with Italian Ornella who lived in New York last year and thinks that Greek men are the most passionate. You share your churros with Kieran who was born in England to Irish parents and who plans to be in Brazil for the next World Cup with his Brazilian girlfriend. You make way for James to sit who is English/Australian and has a last name that could land him a career in porn. (Then of course you’ve exceeded your lunch break by half an hour and have to come back to a backlog of emails from a demanding French and an even more demanding Aussie.)

London is the place where you meet your Colombian friends for a quiet drink after work and end up downing aguardiente shots from a pedicab driver outside the Palace theatre while the GS man from Tuam complains that the empanadas are not good. It’s also the place where you find sand and beach balls in the club that’s hosting a Greek party where a 50 year old man with an at least 30 year old tan is licking the pole while dancing to Madonna’s Holiday.

Now this might be a weird mix for some. For me?

In the words of Joey: I like it! What’s not to like? Custard? Good. Jam? Good. Meat? Gooooooooooood.

It’s not a place you can get to by a boat or a train…

I’ll be honest with you. I’m not one of those Greeks who goes on complaining about English weather all the time. I actually don’t mind not having to bear the heatwaves when you get to work and you’re dripping with sweat and your boss (who is a cheap bastard) doesn’t turn the air-con on because he says it affects the electrical circuit (?! – what he really means is that he doesn’t want to pay the bill).

I do miss the food though. I can be found describing several dishes to my friends and I feel that I can almost taste the tastes in my mouth. Stuffed peppers and tomatoes with bulgur wheat that my mum makes with a huge chunk of nice salty feta. And bread. Bread that comes from the baker where they bake it in the morning from a batch they made there and didn’t just get out of the freezer. Bread that doesn’t crumble into a thousand pieces when you try to cut it with the knife and has a nice thick crust and a good solid centre.

When people usually ask me if I miss home (they tend to ask that especially on a crappy, rainy day), I usually say not that much. And I am honest. There’s many things I don’t miss about home. And I’m pretty content where I am and I don’t mind carrying an umbrella with me because, yes, England IS the only place in the world where you can experience all 4 seasons in one day.

But yesterday night, after a day out with beloved Greek friends who make me laugh even when the skies are grey, I came home shivering and I wrapped myself in my pink blanket. I turned on the TV and My Big Fat Greek Wedding was playing. My face lit up inexplicably.  I had just missed my favourite scene where the groom’s family brings over a bundt cake which causes great confusion to the Greek mothers and grandmothers. (You can watch the scene here.)

Continue reading It’s not a place you can get to by a boat or a train…

Let’s talk about Sex (and the City)

I wanted to write about the newest addition to the Sex and the City franchise before watching the movie in order to make a different point about the several negative comments and not so much to write an actual review of the film. Alas, I’m no movie critic.

As summer graced us with its presence in London this never happened so this post is actually written a day after I watched the film – both the Sex and the City films actually. We spent the better part of our day in a lovely Notting Hill cinema (sitting a few rows away from Adele) with Cosmos, finger food and goody bags. Yes, I dressed up (a bit) and I did fork out a generous amount for all this. And yes, I absolutely enjoyed it.

I enjoyed spending several hours with a good friend, chatting away in person and not on Skype as we frequently do. I enjoyed the lovely cocktails and the goody bag that was waiting for me on my seat. I enjoyed watching the films – both of them, even though I distinctly remember disliking the first when it came out. I wanted to watch the second one even before the trailers came out.

Why – you may ask?

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Summer in London (yes, it does happen!)

My previous attempt to blog was a failed attempt to declare my love for the beautiful city I live in. In the meantime I got hit by partial unemployment (that’s how I felt about working part-time), serious lack of money and confidence (related to the partial unemployment mentioned before). Thoughts of updating the blog with stories of all the good things that were happening in London were put aside and more practical writing had to be done (namely cover letters).

Several months later and now (temporarily) in full-time employment, the previously recurring angst of enjoying myself when I should really be worried about getting a job has vanished (for now). And it’s perfect timing I have to say. It has coincided with the arrival of summer after a very looooong winter.

London summer tags:

Lunch in the park, sunglasses, awkward tank top tan lines, pink foreheads, strawberries, ice lollies handed out by co-workers, long walks, scarves for the evening chill, raspberry ice creams, jumpsuits and pyjama-looking harem pants, extremely hot tube carriages, post-work pub drinks, holiday plans.

To be continued…

Substitution therapy in Greece: A troubled story

I wrote this piece a while ago to go on the Talking Drugs website and the Methadone Facebook Page.  You can read it here: http://www.talkingdrugs.org/methadone-treatment-in-greece

The time I spent volunteering for the drug charity Release was absolutely brilliant as I met so many people from allover the world and I started learning more about drugs and drug use. I believe that Release’s campaign ‘Nice People Take Drugs’ is remarkable for the way it emphasises how quick we are to judge and label drug users into all sorts of categories with the aim of excluding and washing our hands clean of them.

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A tale of a dysfunctional family

I watched Dogtooth today. I first read about it in October when it was playing during the London Film Festival. Unfortunately I couldn’t get tickets back then as it was sold out. Presumably because it was so hyped – the reviews were excellent and every critic was urging you to go watch it.

I do admit I’m a sucker for good reviews but the fact that it was a Greek movie made it impossible for me to resist seeing it. It was kind of weird when the film started and Greek words filled the dark room. It got even weirder when the subtitles appeared on screen – for a moment there I started reading them, unsure why.

Anyway, not because I’m Greek and all, but it’s really worth watching it. It’s not an easy film and it can be quite disturbing but it’s very smart and poignant at the same time. Re-reading the different reviews tonight, I do realise that it is indeed a film open to interpretations.

Does the house simply reflect the familial life in a close-d circle or is it a projection of society in general where power imposes the norms and everyone out of the circle is an outsider? Is it an allegory of the nanny state that consorts to violence to maintain the much treasured social order?

If you go watch it, you’ll probably have your own ideas about it.

For me (being Greek and all) certain things had a particular resonance. I think it’s the sort of cultural territory I’m so familiar with that I can tap into it in a different way than a non-Greek that might have been watching the movie at the same time as me.

Continue reading A tale of a dysfunctional family

Howdy!

So why a sticky note?

Because there is no limit to the different things you can write on a sticky note. From the list of groceries, to reminders for the next day and ideas for your essays. So each note will probably have a different, err, tone although I cannot promise that it’s going to be as short as something that could fit on a little square piece of sticky paper.

Please, do share your comments and why not propose a theme for a sticky note to come?

Cheers

Eleni

Laconic ain't my thing