The next post will be on or before Sunday July 8th
HAPPINESS FOR EVERMORE
I don’t know about you, but New Year’s Eve is my least favourite festive celebration. There is something about the spectacle of worldwide and flatteringly televised urban partying, washed down with booze and uproarious cheering and endless fireworks, that at best seems innocent wishful thinking and at worst a feckless and alienated denial of unflinching human realities. At the sobering national level, they whoop it up in totalitarian China where you can get jailed or even shot for protesting about flagrant civic corruption, and they also whoop it up in harmless places like Finland where no one gets shot for doing anything and where the prospect of a Happy New Year for any of it citizens is almost, and I stress almost, a working reality. But it is the unconvincing timescale that is the real issue here. The time axis for the hackneyed benediction Happy New Year! is a bloody long one, 12 long months, and in reality, neither you nor me nor all those hooraying kids in NY, Paris and London pie-eyed at the prospect of the coming Shangri La, that mystical and sentimental entity which is the pristine and unsullied year to come, can expect a whole year to be entirely without its hitches, worries, griefs and even tragedies. I am not a pessimist by any means, quite the opposite, but even the best year one has in one’s life, and I have had some great ones, is inevitably marred by the fact that others all over the world are living in a timeless which is to say eternal hell of either poverty or wholesale oppression, in part structurally linked to the fact that you and I are not. So, if you are going to believe in the cheery authenticity of Happy New Year! you might as well believe in Happy New Decade! so that at midnight on 31.12.2009 you should have been bawling in your partying pal’s lughole to that effect, 10 whole years of fun my best beloved! and here’s to you! But why after all stop there? On 31.12.1999 had you thought seriously about your luxurious options, you could have had a 2 in 1, a buy 1 get 1 free wishy-wish-wish, because you could have carolled in the same lughole, Happy New Century! my dear old bosom chum! and while we are it, and at the same time permit me to felicitate you with, A Happy New One Thousand Years ! you hoary old bastard, you!
Which is where we come to Greece and their idea of benedictions, which are both complex and simple and innately intelligent, because, I would argue, of the learned wisdom of mostly oppressive centuries. They celebrate New Year as much as anyone else, and being Greek, their fireworks are louder and more frightening than anywhere else in the universe, and go on for what seems several millennia. The official New Year partying on Kythnos is in the Hora capital, but in 2014 daughter Ione and I stayed in the port here and dined late at the excellent Kandouni grill, the only place open as it stole to midnight, and with about a dozen other quietly chatting customers. When it turned 2015, the shy and affable owner switched the electric light off for one second, and then switched it on again, and that was it. There followed subdued clapping and handshakes and numerous kisses. A man after my heart, I thought, as I knocked back his bakalarios cod fritters with skordalia bread and garlic sauce and his fried courgettes in their eggwhite batter that are surely not made by a man nor woman but by an angel. So yes, the Greeks do like everyone else wish each other a one-year long felicitation, but acknowledging the brevity and sometimes painful uncertainty of life, they also pragmatically work backwards in time, and at the start of every month wish you Kalo Minas! or Happy New Month! Better still every Monday morning (yes you are right a week starts on a Sunday but try telling a Greek that) they wish you Kali vdhomadha! Happy New Week, 7 days of innocent fun and always joyful surprises, let us pray!
But best of all, and I would say it is a truly transcendent and infinitely instructive concept, plus I believe they are probably the only nation in the world to do so, Greeks very often say as they leave you and go on their way, Kali synekhia! There is no straightforward English equivalent of this, as it means literally Happy Continuity! and to give it more logical sense we need to parse it at some length: May Your Day Continue To Go Seamlessly Well! The nearest UK or more likely US version of this, would be Have a Nice Day! which quite rightly has been laughed into touch by those repelled by autopilot fawning from shop assistants, bank managers and all others required to grovel in order to earn their sales and/or commissions. But the reality is the Greeks are only blessing you for the rest of the 24 hours the pair of you are sharing together on this earth….and having spent centuries under the no nonsense Ottomans, plus the various brutal army juntas starting with Metaxas, continuing with the post war Royalist right supported by napalm-flinging Americans and the phlegmatic arms-folded Brits as their Greek allies pursued the leftists into Albania, and carrying on doggedly siga siga 1967-1974 with the mad Athens generals and their heartfelt blessing by heroic Richard Nixon…having suffered all of that and getting no credit for it, internationally speaking, the Greeks know that to get through just today itself is enough of an ambition for starters.