On turning on the computer in Greece, a window pops up with all the names of the Saints whose holy day it is. They are also displayed on screens in the Metro in Athens. Often the saints are so obscure, I have never met anyone with that name. It’s a litany of K names, or A names, it can be poetic and surprising, like everything in Modern Greece. The old and the new live side by side. The people who lived in these same places make their presence felt all the time. There is a wall at Syntagma Square Metro Station where five thousand years of plumbing mark the spot behind glass. Everywhere you dig, it’s an archaeological site. People have been here for a long time. Athens, the city of my birth, has been sacked and raised to the ground many times. When I walk outside, there is a silent protest on the square from displaced Syrians. Tell us where to go, say the banners. I was told they were moved away for Christmas. Austerity be damned, people were shopping for Christmas, an imported custom. They didn’t want to be reminded of people facing worse nightmares than them.
At any time, whenever my uniqueness, call it eccentricity, is pointed out to me, I am acutely aware that only Greece could form me. They say you have to go away to find what you left behind. I’m constantly looking for meaning in everything. What makes me uniquely me? Food, yes. Memories growing up in an empty city full of promise? Endless summers, hot skies, lazy holidays at a time when very little felt like plenty? We are a small nation but boy, do we make a lot of noise. It’s a fascinating, yet rather exasperating place. Poetry has helped me make sense of it, poetry is always present. When I was growing up, songs on the radio were written by many of the great poets living in Athens at the time. The radio was playing and we would swoon. We still sing those songs, even the young people, even though we have our own rap. Recently, we had a flash mob enacting the Ancient Greek comedy “Froggs”at the metro station. It was posted on social media as it happened. Sitting at my laptop in London, I was there.