The Stansted bureau was offering 1.22 Euros to the pound. Same as yesterday and the day before. So much for the pundit’s Euro meltdown. The seller had no idea what I was talking about.
Having recently quit fags I noticed my boarding pass indicated a no smoking seat. Which I pointed out as surprising to a possibly Greek looking fella as an opening gambit. Another lad, long orange shorts and an odour of airport breakfast, lent in and told us “that’s cause in Germany, Africa and South America you can smoke on planes. Some countries are still fucking free”. A sentiment that would pass as a political opener in my local The Hole In The Wall. But right now I wanted to hear what the Greeks are saying about this resounding OKI. So I quickly said “what’s with this referendum then?” The actually Greek fella said “well we do have our responsibilities but they cooked the books. Yes they did. They all knew. The Greek government. The EU. Goldman Sachs. The German banks, the French banks. They need to come to an arrangement. We need to get to a sensible settlement “. He works in London as a senior manager for a high street supermarket.
The Aegean plane was empty. Unusually so according to a young steward. The flights in the other direction are still full. “What’s with this referendum then?” I asked. The steward, not a hair out of place, lips ruby red, sat next to me. “I voted no obviously” she said “everyone voted no except the people scared by the television. The referendum doesn’t matter. It’s to keep the people happy. The EU will do what they want anyway. All governments are pro capital. Syriza say good things but what matters are the results. We will see. The young people didn’t vote. My friends went swimming because the Government doesn’t listen to the people. They will do what they want. The EU is not for workers. Not for you and me. But still I voted no. It’s a, what’s the word, an illusion.”
Bloody hell, the plane hasn’t even taken off. I ask her age. 23. “I hope my English is clear” she said and then excused herself to demonstrate the lifejackets.
I briefly spoke with a Turk studying business studies in London. He was going to Greece to buy a house from which he anticipated a handsome profit once “things get right”. He is also a rock musician. Was rock ever not cock sucking consumerism. Just as I dozed off the Captain said “we are comfortably cruising over Germany South East of Stuttgart. The weather in Athens is sunny with a pleasant breeze.”
The metro ticket hall was deserted. Except for dozens of us tourists trying to fathom electronic maps asking each other how any of it worked. All attempts to feed money into the cash only ticket machines were spat out. Eventually someone appeared with the news that all travel is free today. He didn’t know why. Next metro to Athens this way.
On the metro I asked a woman about my stop. She would let me know when we arrive. “What about this referendum?” I asked. She replied “They have destroyed our lives. 7 years and no end in sight. No light at the end of the tunnel. You don’t understand. Capitalism. You understand? It’s no life to count coins. My only son, a good engineer, has gone to Denmark. There’s nothing here. No building. Only 500 Euros a month for a master engineer. He emigrated. And I am alone. No one ever asked us. Join the EU, the Euro. I am neraly 80 and the Government never asked us before. Of course I said no.”
A middle aged woman joined in “I am ok my work is international but this is no way to run a world. Children fainting at school through hunger. Having to pay for medicine, for education. Homes threatened for non payment when some can barely eat. Who wants to live in such a world?”.
At which point a man in a noticeably bright shirt stepped in. “It’s what you put into the mix that counts. It’s like cooking”. The engineer’s mother exchanged a few sentences in Greek and then turned her back on him, saying to me, “there are those who do alright. Not just the very rich who buy property in Berlin and London. There are those who have a second home to rent to foreigners. The money is paid abroad and never pays any tax. These people are class traitors” the two women where physically closing out the man. “We need a revolution. If not now, when? This is your stop”.
It’s very hot and I jump in a cab for the last leg of my journey. The roads are more pothole on potholes. The female taxi driver needs little prompting “the only people who voted no were scared of loosing their money. Old people. My father is 80 and voted yes. 20, 40, 60, no money, no problem. No.”
After the celebrations last night, Syntagma Square tonight seemed to be only dozens of media satellite trucks, tourists and some kids on skateboards. Media stellite truck after media satellite truck. All sat pointing cameras at the square where there were only tourists. I aksed one crew, sat in deckchairs drinking coffee why they were all huddled together in a place where nothing is going on. One shrugged and carried on talking to his colleagues.
I spoke to a street corn on the cob vendor. Another no voter. He too thought the result unimportant but seemed to say he voted no as a protest. His English was not too good. My Greek still non-existent.
I took a still free metro ride to Ampelokipoi and had a late night salad in a bar. No Visa or Mastercard accepted. Cash only. The bar was sparse, the few people there, mostly couples, sipping slowly.