Tales from a Greek Island
The Pandemic
Bravo for the Frogs
A Lovely Review for American Ikaros
Long legged buzzard. Achordeia. Picture by Keith
Bonelli's eagle. Achordeia. Taken by Keith
Passing Birds
An Actress in the Village
Avlona on a Cold day
Minas Prearis died January 2013 RIP
Minas Prearis
Selection from Reviews of More Tales from a Greek Island
More Tales from a Greek Island
More Tales from a Greek Island
Elections May 2012
Where to buy
Three Days of birds
Notable Birds of North Karpathos and Saria
Living on less
The Crisis
A poem for Kevin by Ruth Padel
More birds
Birds around the village
The new cover
Kevin Andrews-An Appraisal
Tales in German
Roy Chapman Andrews
Ellinoamerica Review
The Flight of Ikaros
Bonelli's Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus)
Eleanora's Falcons
American Ikaros The search for Kevin Andrews
Spring Opening
Its not all Fun and Games
Scholar Gipsy? The Search for Kevin Andrews
Sometimes Things Work Out
Africa in Diafani
The Search for Kevin Andrews
We get E-mails
Going to the Doctors
Music in the Village

The Crisis Part 2

Living on less

September 2011
The village is connected to mainland Greece by a ferry. Years ago, when I first came to the island, there were three ferries a week in each direction.

Now there is one, but the cabins are clean, the food is good and the 18-hour journey gives the opportunity to meet fellow travellers and renew acquaintances with fellow villagers.

Except for August, the ship is sparsely occupied and when I came out in late September I was soon talking to Dimitris, a port policeman coming back from leave in Athens.

Public servants are much abused these days and often blamed for the crisis in Europe. There are five port police in my village and it is easy to caricature them as expensive and unnecessary.

However, we are close to Turkey, a major route for drug- and people-smuggling. There is the ferry boat to oversee, and even if they are nearly empty, the daily tourist boats that come from the south of the island have to be attended to.

Dimitris's wife and children live in Athens and he tries to get to see them every six weeks for a long weekend, but the irregular ferry schedule makes this difficult.

Working-class Greeks are happy to talk about their finances and Dimitris told me he had been earning 1,500 euros a month (£1,300, $2,000). I asked about the "had been", and he told me the government had cut the salary of all public servants.

His pay, he said, had been reduced by 230 euros a month and from October this would be reduced by a further 70 euros.

I wondered what would happen in Britain or Germany if the police had their pay arbitrarily cut by close to £300 a month.

And I wonder how much tax take the government lost by cutting public-sector salaries and how much the shops have lost as money is taken from the pockets of the population.

Families are under an ever-tightening squeeze in Greece
Greece applies a strict supply-and-demand model to higher education and there is much competition for the few university places.

In return for a college education, schoolteachers and doctors agree to spend their first year in remote rural places and in the islands.

Of course, the doctors are extraordinarily young and so were the teachers, but that is changing.

There are no jobs on the mainland for last year's teachers and so they have to spend another year in the village teaching the children of shepherds and fishermen, labourers and stonemasons.

Another year away from friends and family, another year before marriage and children.

The state of limbo is unlikely to nurture a feeling of gratitude towards the government of the day as it struggles to alleviate the effects of corruption and mismanagement by its predecessors.

A further blow is a sudden emergency property tax, based on size, and householders in the village have received one-off bills for 400 euros and more.

A cruel twist is that the government is collecting this tax via the state-controlled electricity company. The threat is: If you do not pay, your electricity will be cut off.

The electricity company does not like tax collecting, nor do its employees, and the villagers are saying they will not pay.

If they really do join protesters who refuse to pay motorway tolls this tax strike could drag Greece into an unstructured default and nobody knows where that would lead.

If a government cannot gather taxes, it cannot govern.

Life is not cheap in Greece. I recently paid 42 euros for 18 litres of petrol for my small boat, which makes it expensive to go fishing.

A 250-gram packet of butter costs in excess of five euros at the nearest shop though it is cheaper at the supermarket some 40km (25 miles) away.

The sudden hike in the price of milk and butter will lead to more goats in the village and a return to eating drilla, the thick sour cream extracted from goat's milk.

Life is not all doom and gloom. With care, I can still have an evening meal and drink a small bottle of retsina in a local taverna for less than 15 euros.

But we do not buy fish in restaurants anymore. Instead, we take our own to be cooked and shared with whomever is around.

The Greek newspapers say this is a bumper year for tourism, but there were spare beds in the village even in August and in September the place is empty - there are more tavernas than tourists.

We still have day trippers from the south but they are on the lower end of the social scale and have little money to spend. Some bring their own sandwiches.

Earlier in the year, the fishermen from Kalymnos were ordered to stop fishing as there was no market in Rhodes for the catch.

The large hotels import squid from Thailand and undersized red mullet from Morocco and the smaller restaurants could not attract enough customers.

We still get the super-rich in their gin palaces. They buy bread from the little shop, drink an ouzo or two, and head back to their bunks to sleep it off.

They are welcome, of course, but there is little evidence of any trickle-down effect.

European newspapers like to blame the Greeks for the crisis but when the man in the taverna, or the woman queuing for vegetables, say they did not cause the problem, it is hard to disagree.

(this article first appeared on the BBC website September 28th 2011 as Greek economic crisis: Living on less)