I tripped over a syringe yesterday as I walked past a shopping trolley which was half-full of empty cans; recycling other peoples rubbish is a good way of making money in a financial crisis – I flashback to my meetings with the hordes of homeless in Japan – but this shopping trolley is padlocked to a post so precious is it and its contents. Nearby two ‘homeless’ guys sleep slumped together awkwardly. As I make my way home I become aware of an eerie silence permeating the streets and the boarded-up shops.
The silence is broken here and there by moments of quiet action as I pass small groups of people sitting outside still open cafes. Is this the new face of Europe I ask myself as the crisis steamrolls onwards unabated uncontrolled towards an end that no-one really knows.
Here in Athens people still like to live life as much as possible – with a strong emphasis on eating and drinking – it takes ones mind off the bleak harsh reality of life.
Tonight, In the anarchist run square where I am staying a live band entertains a massive happy crowd into the early hours of the morning until a loud boom is heard, and suddenly people start to move. There is a strong stench in air and my eyes quickly become weary and irritated – “It is tear-gas!” someone announces, and the crowd pushes out of the square, groups of once happy party people are forced to cover their faces with handkerchiefs as they head off in the direction of the police who (although they remain outside the quarter) have made it clear that the party has gone on long enough, that now it must end. I decide to return to my room.
As I enter the hotel I joke with the hotel manager that check-in should include a gas mask, he laughs but I am kind of serious. This is nuts. A country at war with itself in a doomsday international economic crisis never seen before in history – but the manager laughs and tells me to wait for tomorrow night “You will get used to it soon” he says bidding me goodnight as I head upstairs to watch the night from my balcony.