Da-how: a new/old perspective on the Euro

September 20, 2011

I’ve been betwixt and between the last few weeks, but I did one smart thing recently, which was to put my paltry earnings into my pension fund.

I have been alarmed to see that the value is up and down like, as they say in the part of the world I left decades ago, a w***e’s drawers. The problem seems to be that the Greeks have no money, mainly because they pay no tax – and even more of them live in New York or Finsbury Park or Melbourne, if you read recent novels – and the Germans are getting fed up paying for them.

It seems, if you ask the right German, that in fact, this risk of default which has scuppered my pension, at least for now, is peanuts compared to what the Germans didn’t have to pay for making a mess of the world in the 1940s.

And that takes me back to a moment in the late 70s, when I was on holiday in Crete with my Greek buddy (no, dear, not in that way) George.

We were staying with his parents in a seaside villa somewhere near Hania. His dad was a big shot lawyer, long gone now, but in those days, way before the Eurozone, the sort of chap you would wheel into a leftie government to keep a bit of respectability.

We were sitting like lads, the three of us, George’s dad, George and me, waiting for his mum, a famous actress, at least in Athens, though she had had a walk-on part in Zorba the Greek, to dish up lunch. George was fluent in English, and his dad definitely wasn’t, and my Greek was ‘endaksi’ and ‘dos cervezas, pot favor’ which raised eyebrows in Piraeus, but still earned me two beers.

My eye wanbderd to a photo baove the kiutchen door. It showed a well-set up chap, with the same sort of rugged chin as George and his dad, dressed in an army uniform, black and white and with the sort of slightly muddy background that portrait photos used in the 40s.

George’s dad caught my eyeline, and said something very slowly in Greek, in the way we would speak slowly in English to foreigners who spoke not a syllable of the Queen’s English. He realised i had understood none of it, then said with a tear in his eye, ‘Da-how’. I smiled, and possibly giggled unforgivably, as I do when I am at a great big loss.

George studied this complex web of incomprehension and panic for a moment, then took a long pull of his Marlboro Red, and explained the photo was of his grandfather, his father’s father, who had led the resistance to the Germans when they invaded Crete in 1941, with some late and rather lukewarm support from the British, including a furious Evelyn Waugh.

The grandfather died in Dachau, the Nazi death camp, a year or so later.

And that, children, is why the Euro is f****d.

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