Who do you call when the lights go out?

Thoughts and prayers.

A great new discovery to share! When the power fails — summer, Friday midnight, central Athens– your immediate response is to call the power company, right? Or rather, you call the number for faults on the power bill you receive (by mail still, because if it were online how would you find the number, eh?).

That is what we did. Then we called the other number the recording told us to. And then … well, it told us the service for faults was only available from 7 to 7 weekdays. And that was it. No other option. Line cuts out.

We called directory — and they directed us to that number. On the off chance that we were at fault — we live in Greece, of course we’re at fault — we called again. Same message.

There was a breeze last night so it wasn’t a complete and total emergency because, boy!, wouldn’t that be a bummer? No power in a heatwave. And if you were elderly maybe, or sick, or just alone and a bit scared, too bad, human!  We sat on the balcony sharing light coming from neighbouring buildings that were lucky enough to have power.

We checked in with the neighbours and they too said they’d called the power company and noone was picking up. We used the dregs of power in our mobile phones to check the web to see if there were online options to find someone. No.

We lit some candles. We waited. We realised how helpless we were — there was absolutely noone to call, nothing could be done.  And that, my friends, are the choices you have in this country – 21st century capital city in Europe. Thumbs up sign.

Took a couple of hours before the power came back. Just switched on as suddenly as it had gone. It’s always fun to realise how much you rely on an organization like the Greek Public Power Co., related entities and the Greek state.


Wanted: People willing to live on a beautiful, remote Greek island

widescreen of port

A small, windswept island off the coast of Greece has ample beauty, an ancient shipwreck and flocks of migratory birds. What it lacks is people.

What’s happening on Antikythera is a microcosm of what’s going on in the entire country as Greece continues to deal with a demographic malaise exacerbated by the departure of young professionals of child-bearing years. My story in the LA Times. http://ow.ly/GgPu50uym2a


Rent a riot

53607146_625491167912622_1976335922878218240_nFor nearly a decade Athens’s Syntagma Square was the country’s theater of war, where Greeks angry at wage and pension cuts protested outside Parliament in a hail of stones and tear gas.

But on Sunday, it was just a theater. Actors replaced anarchists. Extras stood in for riot cops. Everything rang mostly true: roars as protestors charged the police, smoke swirling from fake tear gas, a fire burning in a skip, debris.

It’s so ironic that Greece is trying to make its archaeological sites and pristine beaches the drawcard for film and TV productions when in fact it’s its more recent history as the epicentre of the European financial crisis that is more attractive to film-makers.

Investment is key now to support a recovery after Greece received what the government vowed would be its last bailout loan in August 2018. So fencing off the city’s central square on a sunny long weekend is a small price to pay for the business and publicity a big movie could bring after the bruising austerity of recent years. One of the mock protest banners at the film-shoot read:  “Greece – not for sale”. Ok, but maybe now open for business.


Goodbye Yoda

575619_3787373919907_218040913_nA friend died this weekend. He was a difficult, accomplished man, whose innate compassion came with a bluster that often scared people. It scared me when I first met him.

Yannis Behrakis was a friend. I feel lucky I could call him that. We weren’t incredibly close but I knew I could rely on him if I ever needed to. He was smart and incisive in a way few people are. He had an abruptness that I shared so I had a lot of patience for him when sometimes people would get annoyed. I privately called him “Yoda”. He hated that.

He could be incredibly kind. He found incredible satisfaction in being a father and a husband and a son. He was funny. At my wedding, while I was, pregnant, dancing, he told me to be careful, otherwise my child “would turn into frappe”. You have to be Greek to appreciate that joke.

Most of all, he had this amazing gift to see things through a camera lens few other people can. Everyone recognised that, which is why he won awards and a Pulitzer. So often I had marveled at a photo and then looked down at the caption to see Reuters/Yannis Behrakis.

I did that the other day, before Yanni died, telling an editor about an amazing photo that she should use, without knowing or remembering it was Yanni’s. It’s the one above – it says so much about the country he loved that not one of us, his print colleagues, could ever get down on paper or screen, in all the billions of words we’ve used over the years to describe what happened in this country. It was humbling.

A lot will be written about Yanni in the next few days and his pictures will be rightly republished, reminding us of incredibly difficult work he did over the years in hellish places. It’s the best tribute we could give him – remembering.




If I ran this country …. II

not only would the trains run on time but passengers could actually buy tickets for them.

Time stamp: 9:30 p.m. Place: Syntagma Sq. Metro Station

QUEUES. Everywhere. Queues to top-up or buy tickets at the 4 machines (one not working). Queue at the only staffed ticket window. Queues are at least 5 to 6 deep. We gave up waiting and walked home.

But wait – there’s more. On the way into town Damon went to buy a ticket – we had no change, just a 20 euro bill and there was no staff on at the ticket window. So we tried buying it through the automated ticket machine. Won’t accept 20s. We tried to get the 20  changed in the station. No go. We had to walk out of the station and try two establishments to get change, then go back and buy the ticket.

That was 7 p.m. at the Acropolis metro station. Not exactly the quietest of stations on a summer evening. Why is there no one on duty?

Dear Metro and Government. Above is testimony to the fact we’re trying. It’s time you did your bit too.

Another Fail.