You’ve been warned.

I’m writing this on the ferryboat from Crete back to Piraeus. After 5 months in Athens, spending my evenings either studying for my 1st semester of linguistics or guiltily perusing all sorts of mmmmaybe-linguistics-related internets filled with attractive links just begging for a click, mood a bit emptier and more tired every dragging week of winter, I finally, to the self-professed end of finishing (and beginning to be awfully honest) the writing of the undemanding 6-page essay for my linguistics class, took a week off (which is all I was entitled to), and spent it at my friend Eva’s place in Chania. The assiduous, bilingual and hypermnesic reader will have noticed that she has moved away from Irakleio since we last met, and that’s great, because while Crete is a bloody paradise all over, Chania is a smaller and many times cuter town. In fact it’s possibly the cutest town I know in all the Western hemisphere? And of course I still don’t have a camera… but Google will do the job.

The old town is a mess of twistey tight little streetlets radiating steeply away from the fancy old harbour with its odd (and very cute) little mosque, its long sea wall sheltering the sailboats (some of them cute) from the mediterranean breakers (which are probably too cute waves to be called breakers anyway). The quirky old houses (some frankly crumbling) are all merrily painted and a-blossom with almost tropical flowers, cacti, herbs, shrubs. There’s a wonderful squat, the Rosa Nera, in its 10th year of occupation right above the harbour with a ridiculously cute view, and plenty of friendly little bars and clubs where, more often than not, you get live rebetiko with your heartwarming homemade rakomelo (and I’ll stop there because I’m beginning to sound just like the Lonely Planet).

On a little walk down the coast to the east, the seafront is occupied by old abandonned leather workshops right by the sea, and with all the saddening thoughts these might bring up, I couldn’t help but love them. Perhaps because I just love abandonned factories in general?

And anyway, it’s Crete, and in Crete the air just makes you happy, cuz it’s warm and salty and clean (well, I do live in bloody Athens), and the people might pretend to be grumpy but they are actually super generous and funny and their deadpan attitude is just for pulling your leg, and the oranges and avocados and wild salad and cactus pears are to melt for, you can (and I did) go for a swim without catching your death, the snowy peaks of Lefka Ori mesmerize you, a T-shirt is not an absurd thing to wear in early January… OK, are you getting a bit tired of this?

I don’t have a camera, but hey! Turns out Eva has one!

So yep, I did have work to do. The one compulsory essay I had to send was actually not an essay at all, I was only supposed to choose a topic having whatever I wanted (just not nothing) to do with linguistics, and find 5 scientific documents about that topic, and write a summary of each, along with an explanation of why I chose them. Being unceasingly fascinated with the history of the modern Greek language, I decided to focus on the funny situation they had here until 1976 and which is colloquially referred to as “the language question”: when what was then Greece (less than half of today’s territory) won its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1832, it adopted for official purposes an artificial, supposedly nation-building language, its lexicon cleared of its foreign (chiefly Turkish) loanwords and its grammar heavily modelled on Ancient Greek. It was called Katharevousa: the “purified” language. The everyday language wasn’t dignified with a name until its proponents and zealous grammarians decided to call it Dhimotiki (“public” language), and it was never recognized officially until 1964 when for a short time it became the language of primary education, before the Colonels’ dictatorship reverted the reform 3 years later. Only when the Colonels fell in 1974, thanks to the combination of a very active students’ and workers’ Left and a military fiasco in Cyprus, was the Katharevousa officially buried.

I enjoyed my research a lot, found some fascinating articles through the university library’s online platform, and writing the summary was only as difficult as it was meant to be (“argz 10 pages!!? surely I can’t summarize any MORE than THAT??!”). And in the calm of Eva’s flat – she works most days from 8 to 4 – the conditions were tip top.

Cool things I did besides reading and writing included eating. Oh boy oh boy. I have mentioned the fruits and veggies, but there was also a lovely organic tavern high on the slopes of Lefka Ori in a village called Drakonas (the drive there was just as tasty as the food). Stelios the blinking cook insisted we visit his kitchen, and we went home with enough leftovers for another two days packed in aluminium foil. And a Stanbuli restaurant in the old town called Tamam (which i’m pretty sure means “OK” in Turkish?) where we had an Iranian pilaf, unbelievably tasty broad beans from the oven, grilled pleurotus, and one of those fantastic Cretan wild salads called stamnagathi, the whole thing vegan as far as we (and the waiter) could tell. It all sounds pretty fancy but we barely pulled out 20E each time.

OK we did spend one pretty miserable hour and a half – when, in cinema-going mood, we decided we could do worse than Scorsese’s latest, “The Wolf of Wall Street”, about the real-life rise and fall of a trader in the 90’s (based on said sociopath’s memoirs, who thus took his cut in royalties). Oh the film is 3 hours long, we just didn’t feel like exposing ourselves to the full brainfuck of it, once we’d caught the gist. Di Caprio is pointlessly mean, the directing is a shabby splatter of complacency and voyeurism, the script carefully picks out and lines up the most well-trodden clichés, and OK we can guess he gets caught by the FBI for the amazing amount of money he illegally removed from credulous pockets, but does this moralistic ending (meh) justify the endless drag of mindless conspicuous spending? The testosterone- and cocaine-fuelled stroboscopic pageant of the young and beautiful 0,0001%? And hey, um, where are the victims? Oh, perhaps we see them at the trial… the aggrieved LAW-ABIDING stock trading firms, those who destroy the world wholesale WITHOUT insider trading, and who declare the gross monstrosity of their lootings to the IRS? well OK, yes, I didn’t watch till the end, I am giving my opinion on half a movie. If the strategy was to sicken us with a strict diet of luxury yachts, women objectification, real estate porn and obscene sequences of drug-crazed “leadership” and nihilistic “team spirit”, before the real-life damages of finance are somehow alluded to, OK, my bad for not getting it. It’s kind of an expensive strategy though, and perhaps a bit mmmmmm perverted???

an inspiration to us all

Anyway, we snuck into another movie and watched the last hour of Mikra Anglia. It’s a story of undying love thwarted by family and destiny in the small, sea-battered island of Andros in the first half of last century. The men all spent their lives at sea, and the women all spent their lives waiting and praying. It’s sensitive, sad, the cinematography is beautiful and the acting delicate. It did wonders to our mood :)

Eva took that one too! It’s, um, unrelated, but I think, it should make you happy? which is always good?

And that’s it for tonight! The captain said the sea would be rough but really so far it’s been on its best behaviour, and it seems warm enough that I can sleep here on the top deck, which has a roof but is open at one end. This week of holidays was pure honey, and I hope you will excuse the thick sirupy taste of this note, but I am feeling very much revived and smoothed-out and ready for the last few months in Athens before I pedal home, so I will be leaving you now to go and smile quietly at the sea.



  1. Thanks Matthieu for this “cute” one; it can’t be bad once in a while to let oneself be lulled by the simple waves of paradise… So I read about the last few months in Athens, and pedaling back home…? You’ll have to keep us informed. We might set up a Chappe telegraph line from Southern France!

    • Hey hey! Yes, I know what you mean I think :) we know I have a certain grain against unapologetic “cuteness”, and I feel obliged to pepper it with irony for balance. I remember you once (long ago) told me you thought that happy stories were the most difficult to write… but that’s because you need to let your guard down. It’s far easier to write ironically by exaggerating the “cheesiness” and placing clear signposts that I’m not 100% sincere (and actually the exact percentage is impossible to determine, that’s the whole point) than to try to let the truth of the feelings flow out naturally! (that’s true of negative feelings too. self-derision protects you both ways.)
      thank you for reminding me of this!
      this being said… this is a very public place :) Perhaps I can’t be fully open… in the open. (or perhaps I could??)

      as for my future plans, haha! i’ll develop soon.
      (and what’s a Chappe telegraph line anyway?)

  2. héhé, we Millous are all responding to you ! thanks for the news, and now i really want to go to Crete !! lot’s of bisous ! i kiff you !!

    • aaaaah tous ces bisous aaaah c’est trop aaaaaah
      and me i surkiff you too much! you are the very cool person and now i really want to go to the Rouen to give you the big hug of the love!!

      • ouiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii viens a Rouen !!! enfin bon quand tu peux ! par aillleurs, je suis maintenant très intriguée et veux voir ce film (téléchargé don’t worry) parce que bah toutes ces disscussions à ce sujet me donnent envie de me faire une opinion, mais 3h bah c’est long ! voila, je retourne à mes révisions, mais on se parle bientôt? (j’ai une super box trop bien qui n’attend que un fixe et après j’aurais illimité vers un fixe grec… t’aurais pas ça par hasard?! ou sinon il y a toujours skype et la cest quand tu veux ! )
        pleins de bisous Millou !

        • aaaaaaaaaaaa! ui! on a un fixe, on y répond jamais! mais bon quand t’es fixée aussi on se fixe une date et on se fixe droit dans les oreilles! c’est une très bonne idée, une véritable idée fixe

  3. – Tamam = ok indeed in Turkish (and Arabic, tamem, but I guess you knew that).
    – Speaking of surprising language public policies, I learnt here that before the nineteen-twenties-or-thirties-something Turkish was written in Arabic script. And the same dude who decided that they had to beat the shit out of Greece, retake some territory but rename the whole Ottoman Empire “Turkish Republic” also decided that it was time to write Turkish in the latin alphabet. Which worked, apparently. As a German aquaintance was commenting yesterday, it’s astounding that he managed to pull it off whereas the mild German reform ended up in angry mobs shouting “S-Zet, S-Zet, S-Zet !” (non-certified anecdote).
    – Same experience with the Scorsese, except it did manage to make me laugh and I stayed to the end.

    Of course, (gros gros) bisous from Istanbul !

    • Yo squaddle throg bolobb person! you in Istanbul! waah! i haven’t been yet! waaaa lucky you enjoy (i am told by approx everybody who’s been that it’s a wonderful sort of place?)

      the dude was called Kemal Ataturk, i’m not sure if you were pretending not to know! he’s still quite a superstar in Turkey, so i am told anyway. the difference between him and Schroeder (or whoever decided to turn FuB into Fuss) was that Ataturk was surfing on a humongous nationalist wave! the Ottomans had been losing territory and wars for a while and they badly wanted to be a nation too like every one else had started doing 100 years before and were bragging so much about! they WANTED change, a lot of.

      btw Kurdish is still written in Arabic in 3 countries, and in Latin in Turkey!

      and did you know that the Turkish past tense has a grammatical distinction when reporting a story, for whether you’ve heard it from someone else or whether you’ve actually seen it? I think that’s wonderful!

      I’ve downloaded and watched the whole Wolf. Curiosity, I guess, albeit a rather sick one. Also, OK, I felt bad bashing it so vigorously without checking for redeeming value… The experience of watching that second half was truly disheartening. I now know the director and Di Caprio (who has been in pains to defend the movie, but ends up sounding like he has exactly no political consciousness, oops) are a part of the problem, not of the solution… and certainly not of an “apolitical” entertainment industry. I mean, 5 years into the crisis, how can a film about Wall Street traders NOT be political?! it just IS. you can’t not choose sides. Actually I went to see this movie unprepared because I was so sure Scorsese (but whence came the notion he was a good guy?) could not take the side of criminals against humankind and that it would be somewhat critical at the least…

      frig, I’m getting worked up again. i don’t care, i’m giving in. here’s a quote from Di Caprio:

      “I mean ultimately I think if anyone watches this movie, at the end of “Wolf of Wall Street,” they’re going to see that we’re not at all condoning this behavior. In fact we’re saying that this is something that is in our very culture and it needs to be looked at and it needs to be talked about.”

      OH COME ON. you are Leonardo “King of the world” Di Caprio. The whole movie is narrated in your voice, it is centred on you, and your “manhood” (ambition, sex-appeal, pugnacity, cynicism etc) is never questioned. Yep, the overt reaction of every audience member will be something like “wow, this guy is amoral”. but not in the “what a sickening fucking loser” sense, in the “shame I don’t have as much guts as him” sense.

      did nobody ever give this actor and producer a basic lesson in cultural studies?

      and the fact that the original Belfort, the inspiration for the movie, gets paid each time someone buys a ticket to see that movie? I wish I had done some research before going to support it. How can you not condone his lifestyle when you are literally feeding the bastard?

      Oh I can’t resist it, here’s the Mirror’s (trashy right-wing tabloid) hagiography of Jordan Belfort. Read at your own risk. I found it physically nauseating.

  4. Demonstration…”we want cheese-we want cheese”, ”cheesy cheeeese NOW”.
    ’cause cheese tastes good and who doesn’t like indulgence in this world? xxx

Ne Vous Laissez Pas Abattre: Réagissez!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s