Τρίτη, 25 Ιανουαρίου 2011


As some of you may have seen in one of my previous posts, Unusual happenings in Corfu there have indeed been some, and now there have been some more! I'll dispense with the "mystikopatheia" (another wonderful greek word meaning something like a love of secrecy or secretive) and get down to the details.

On December the 19th some people who had had enough of the rubbish situation in Corfu, decided to try and do something about it. It was to be a symbolic gesture of cleaning up a small part of town. Facebook was used to invite volunteers. Interestingly, out of  2108(!) invitations, 1898 did not respond, 143 said they couldn't make it, 46 said they might, 21 said they would definitely come and 7 actually turned up. It could have been 8 but she had to babysit for 2 of the others...haha! I was one of them!

a great time was had by all and we went home feeling happy that we had actually tried to do something rather than sit and whine about the situation at the kafeneio or online...

A few days later we got back together again and decided to try and do more. The idea came from the Atenistas group in Athens. A group of non-party afilliated individuals with a set of common goals. To try and make everyday life in the city a little better by organising various dos, happenings and efforts to tidy up, neaten up, enliven, help the needy, point wrongdoers in the right direction, anything really that can put a smile on someone's face... and make life better! This is how the Kantounistas were born. Over the Xmas period we got together again and again, created a Kantounistas facebook group, a blog (kantounistas.blogspot.com) and started to plan our first official "action".

This happened last Sunday in Corfu town. The idea was to set up a small "roadblock" at the places were cars and motorbikes illegally enter the pedestrianised (20 years ago)  roads of Corfu. There were leaflets explaining the idea, traffic cones, a Kantounistas-at-work sign and two handmade pedestrian-footpath signs.

The first stop was by the Kofineta at the palace end of the Esplanade. Here there is a small square where there were at least 10 cars illegally parked while the municipal parking round the cricket pitch remained mostly empty... For just over an hour no cars entered from there except a couple of emergencies, like an old man getting a lift home from hospital. Most drivers looked on in amazement or despair, and moved on. There were no altercations... There was one funny reaction when a couple of workers in a truck, exiting the town informed us kantounistas, that the pedestrian roads are actually illegal! we pointed out the roadsigns. They said they were illegal too!

 We then moved on and set up our roadblock outside the National Bank of Greece, and finally at the Pentofanaro.
Three and a half hours after we started, we left, feeling satisfied that we got the message through to a fair number of people. Possibly we will be doing this kind of "action" again, in order to keep up the pressure on the average corfiot driver to do the right thing and use his legs sometimes as well! We all use the town both for work or recreation and we often do so with our kids. Why should we always have to keep our eyes open for cars or bikes where no cars or bikes should be?

This was our first action. Soon there will be more. The Facebook group membership numbers already over 150 people. Last Sunday 150 said they would attend, but only 15 did. We are happy , we were enough, but the more, the merrier.

Membership is free, voluntary, and there is only one obligation. Not to forget to bring your smile when you join us!

So if you get an invitation from a friend on Facebook to join a bunch of loonies who think they can change Corfu and the Corfiots and who are calling themselves Kantounistas (after the famous kantounia of the old town) don't worry! It's not a joke...

See you in the Kantounia!!

Last minute update. There are now similar groups in Crete (Minoistas), Ioannina (Paguristas) Patras (Patrinistas, PolisPatra) Thessalonika (Thessalonistas) Pireas (PireActive) The wind of change? We can only hope...

Δευτέρα, 3 Ιανουαρίου 2011

Wherever I travel, Greece hurts me...

George Seferis, one of the great Greek poets of the 20th century, wrote that line. It has grown in the Greek psyche and come to be used on many occasions. You see it in the papers, and it is often mentioned in everyday life...

Almost a month ago I met some of Corfu's recent flood victims (plimmiropathis in Greek). They are a small family of three. Mum was away in UK. Dad and son woke up at 4.30 in the morning from the sound of water. Their bed was almost afloat... They couldn't open the doors to get out, which may have been just as well as they probably would have been swept away. As it was they managed to climb into the attic and wait out the flood, hoping the water would go no higher. It topped out at 2 feet of water in the house.

Almost all of their belongings were destroyed. Modern furniture is not made to withstand the rigours of a river flowing through the house.Personal stuff, mementoes, photos and pieces of their lives, all gone. Not to mention a car and a cherished motorbike... However, the kitchen table and some chairs survived, so we sat down to a cup of coffee and a chat.

He is Greek, she is English. They lived in the UK for 16 years. Corfu was the summer retreat. They decided to come back for good, some years ago. The main reason was their wish to see their boy brought up in a "healthier" place. As I drank my coffee and he his tea (in 16 years you can pick up habits easily!) he told me that they left the UK to escape the problems of the 21st century and found themselves facing the problems of the 17th! That phrase stuck in my mind, because it so eloquently describes how many of us living here, feel.

Floods and fires, storms and earthquakes happen everywhere. In every country of the world. It would be wrong to say that Greece has more, or does not handle these situations as well as other countries. When nature decides to move, few can stand in her way...

According to another friend who suffered from the floods, the local Nomarchis, Mr Poulimenos, visited the area the next day after the floods. When asked what will be done about the blocked waterways and partially destroyed roads, he said that things were difficult, and it might be an idea if they all got together and chipped in for some cement and asphalt...

Is there a difference? Well, i may have not spent much time abroad, but I think there is. Back in 1989, on one of my rare visits to the UK, I saw some roadworks on the M25. They were in the morning, they were there at night when we came back, (working under floodlights) but they were gone the next morning and thejob was done. I am sure there are exceptions but here it seems to be the rule...

I don't know what you think but I get this sense that almost nobody cares. The government doesn't care, nd the people doing the work don't care. Most of them got the job through "meson" and are not really that keen on working. Just on getting paid...

The last months as most of you know, all hell has broken loose in Greece. Scandals are being discovered and then, often, are swept under the proverbial rug, almst on a daily basis.

About a month ago, there was a lot o talk about the various benefits and bonuses that many public workers get. most of them are being cut.As some of you may know wages n Greece have always been much lower than in Europe. The oversized Greek public sector, found a way round that though. Over the years many, job and situation specific, bonuses and benefits have been worked into the system. In fact it is not uncommon for the annual total of bonuses and benefits to exceed the actual annual wage, sometimes by much more than double!!

I've put together a list of the more interesting ones. They have all been crosschecked and referenced...

Standardization benefit.This is apparently some sort of levelling out of wages for certain categories.
Position of responsibility benefit. An extra for all those in managerial positions.
Timely arrival to work bonus! Apparently bus drivers used to get it.
Transport of envelope benefit!
Use of foreign language bonus!
Use of computer benefit
Graduate of Public management school benefit
Special empolyment benefit
Registrar's benefit
Presidential benefit (for those working for the president I presume...)
Special benefit for those working in "border" or "difficult" areas.
Special extra benefit for non-teaching work (given to teachers...)
Musical instrument replacement benefit
Special bonus for those working for MP or party offices
Teacher's preparation benefit
Technological research bonus
Having to abroad and use foreign languages benefit
Committee participation bonus
hospital and food benefit
Teachers working in Education ministry benefit
Translators and Interpreters benefit (actually interpreters are worth it, it is a very difficult job...)
Archaeiological digs bonus
Prison and rehabilitation personell benefit
Special bonus for those workingon the island of Delos
Special bonus for those working in Aliens Police dept.
Transportation benefit for municipal workers
Special incentive bonus
Abolition of special accounts benefit

Special benefit for those working in financial management
Bonus for faster and more effective transactions

Hand Washing bonus
Bus engine warm up bonus

Of course I don't mention fairly normal benefits such as marriage, child, study benefits.

I won't go on any more... I get frustrated just writing about it!!

However there is one last thing I want to point out. The main problem with the greek public sector is not the amounts that everyone was being paid, but rather the fact that the majority were getting too much for doing nothing. And what have they done to correct this? Cut everybody's wages. so now everyone is upset and even the conscientious ones are not too keen on working...

Aaaahhhhrrrggggg!!! Greece!!!!

Wherever I go, you  hurt me...

yet interestingly watch this video. it could be talking about Greece... and it's not!

check this out too.