Diatribe: Summer Peninsula Malaise – Neos Kosmos

The Twelve Days of Christmas are well and truly over, although yet another year their denouement has not been marked by a mass migration to Princess Pier, for the ritual blessing of the waters and the consumption of souvlaki. The Christmas goblins, the kallikantzaroi, are now safe again beneath the bowels of the earth and have once again begun to hack into the tree that holds the world together, while we, acting in concert, do all we can to poison its surface. That’s how we know the holidays are over.

Just before Christmas, a friend’s son asked how the terms goblin and elf are expressed in Greek. While goblin can be likened to a kallikantzaro, on its own, it is actually a Greek loanword. Its origins resemble the kobalos (Κόβαλος,) an ancient Greek imp, a mischievous creature who likes to trick and frighten mortals, even going so far as to rob Heracles.

Greek myths depict kobaloi as cocky, cheeky, and fun-loving elves of a phallic nature and depictions of them are common in ancient Greek art. Having spread in Europe with various spellings, including “goblin” and “hobgoblin”, and later taking root in and deriving from Germanic mythology, they have survived into modern times in German and English folklore. Interestingly, the name of the element cobalt comes from the name of the creature, as medieval miners blamed the sprite for the poisonous and troublesome nature of the arsenical ores of this metal which polluted other mined elements.

“Why are you telling me this?” asked the father, furious, because he is one of those people who believe that Christmas is over on December 26 and who spend the day after Christmas putting down the Christmas tree under the eyes of his children who cry in silence, not so much for the Christmas tree that because invariably the next day they will be forced to stay at their grandparents holiday home in Blairgowrie for the next three weeks, after which they will be dragged to every latte dispensing establishment in the Mornington peninsula, because pappou and yiayia are addicted to Greek satellite television and no longer show any interest in playing with little Demetra-Sienna and Charles-Kanelos.

Doron, my Jewish friend married into a Greek family, also dreads the annual pilgrimage to his in-laws’ vacation home. It’s more of a weather phobia. “When the weather gets bad, as always in Melbourne, spare a thought for us poor buggers buried in the holiday homes of our in-laws with no possibility of escape,” he pleads. During our last conversation, Darren communicated his plan for catching COVID so that, if necessary, he could be left alone in splendid isolation. I remind him that the Hebrew term “to assimilate”, lehityaven, literally means “to become Greek”. Resistance is futile.

Mary, who is from Doncaster and religiously attends her parents’ holiday home in Rye for two weeks in the summer each year, is planning to break tradition this year. The reason for this bout of iconoclasm is that she increasingly came to lament the amount of waxing preparation needed before she deemed herself fit to appear on the sand in a bathing suit. The reasoning behind his claim is detailed and graphic, so I feel quite comfortable informing him that on Thasos in ancient times, around 480 BC as the statues attest, it was de rigueur that pubic hair be tightly cut in a horizontal bar shape, or a diamond shape.

Around 450 BC. AD, these artificial patterns began to be abandoned in favor of unstyled natural growth. Before the Brazilian, therefore, there was the Thasian.

Curiously, I don’t get an invitation to visit him in Rye this year.

Katya, originally from Ivanhoé and whose relations do not own vacation homes on the peninsula, is an expert in the art of finding free accommodation via the extraction of polite and vague invitations from friends to stay at their homes. in-laws, which she immediately accepts with eagerness. She has saved thousands of people over the years in this way, but she will not accept any invitation to stay with anyone on the Bellarine Peninsula, as that is the domain of lesser Greek. I savor every year inviting him to stay at my non-existent holiday home in St Leonards. Declining this year as always, she utters as an excuse that she has taken up portraiture and that the light necessary for her art can only be found in abundance between Dromana and Tootgarook.

I inform him that according to Pliny, the portrait began with the fear of lost love. In book 35 of his Natural History, he tells the story of Kora, the daughter of Butades of Sicyon. In love with a young man from Corinth, she drew on the wall the outline of her shadow by the light of a candle, and on this outline her father modeled a face of the object of his affection in clay, which he cooks with the terracotta tiles. he was in the business of manufacturing. Now the girl could forever keep the image of her beloved, inventing the portrait and the ρουφιάνο, all in one fell swoop. The object of Katya’s ardor is a married gentleman, a decade her senior, who keeps promising to leave his wife when the time comes. We think together if she could draw the outline of her belly by candlelight, and how much wall would be needed. She promises to snatch an invitation from me as soon as she gets hers.

Adonis, whose real name was Yianni before he changed it, has an impressive establishment on Mount Martha and never fails to invite me over every summer. A part-time competitive fighter and athlete in his prime, he’s toned and sleek and perpetually on the prowl, boasting of his many summer conquests along the peninsula pubs, which are his favorite hunting ground. Invariably, I refuse, not so much so as not to encroach on his nocturnal activities, but mainly because of the periodic appearances of his mother who suddenly shows up without warning, brandishing a mop and a bucket to clean up his various messes, while urging him to to rethink his celibacy and his shady way of life while shouting: “Τέρμα! Τέρμα! »

The first time I heard the exasperated lady, it reminded me that one of the most common expressions for female climax in ancient Greece was “Aphrodite’s arrival post” (Ἀφροδίτης τέρμα ). I conveyed this important fact to Adonis, giving an example of how the term was used in the Hellenistic novel by Achille Tatios: “Leucippus and Clitophon” where Clitophon says:

«Πρὸς Δὲ τὸ τέρμα ύἀτὸ τῆς γφροδίτης ἀἀνὴ γενομένη έέέέέέκκκκΔοὸὸέκκκώώδους ἡδονῆς …”.

“And as the woman reaches Aphrodite’s finishing station, she gasps with blazing delight…”

Today, of course, the word τέρμα is commonly used in sport in Modern Greek to mean a goal, something Adonis greatly appreciates, but neither Adonis nor I can keep a straight face when his mother shouts “Τέρμα!” Τέρμα! while cleaning the toilets so I have to stay away.

Always, in summer, I am drawn to Dromana, where my father’s people have all retired. In their heyday, those summers were all about following the smell of barbecue from garden to garden. There, huddled under the fig, peach and apricot trees, the elders cooked chops, argued over the size of their tomatoes, engaged in long disputes over the relative merits or defects of the president of the Regional Brotherhood they belonged to. all of them, while concocting intricate plots to bring him down, all of whom were forgotten after their post-prandial nap. As a young boy, I dreamed of being like Philip of Pergamon, whom we only know from an inscription on the base of his statue. In this inscription, he provided the ideology informing his writing of history – highlighting the horror of the conflict and how easily it can arise, a manifesto which should inform any potential historian of Melbourne’s Greek clubs:

“With my pious hand I delivered to the Greeks the historical account of the most recent facts: all kinds of suffering and a continual mutual slaughter having taken place in our days…. I did this, so that they too could learn through us, how many evils are brought about by the wooing of the mob, the love of profit, civil strife and the breaking of trust, and so, by observing the sufferings of others, they can live their lives. the right way.

Nowadays these plotters are largely lying in their own plots, or are in extreme old age, isolated for their own health and to me, Dromana is no more than a necropolis of childhood memories that linger without being able to find true rest. Moreover, to be taken seriously as a historian of Greek clubs, you must have mastered the art of convincing said clubs that they need to part with tens of thousands of dollars before they can persuade the world that they are in any way historically significant, and I would rather go fishing instead. I eat at the overpriced spin-off restaurant that pretends to be Greek, providing straight-out-of-the-tub dips, just the way we like them, listening to my compatriots on the other tables complain about their loved ones in the vacation homes they’re staying at. Passing the brick-veneer sepulchral buildings all built at the same time with the same enthusiastic aesthetic, I make my way to the pier, to take a stroll.

Right in front of me, a college-aged girl with large plastic-rimmed glasses and a distinctive Oakleigh accent remarks to her friend:

– I don’t know anything about classical music but I don’t like it. It’s roughly titled Dead White Guys.

Unable to help myself, I intervene:

– Have you heard of Tchaikovsky?

– No, what is it?

– He was a Russian composer. He struggled with poverty and his sexuality and committed suicide by deliberately contracting cholera so as not to be portrayed as gay.

“As I said, she shrugs. A dead white guy.

– In what way is he more or less entitled than Jay Z or Snoop Dogg? I ask.

– Who is Snoop Dogg? she asks.

Suddenly I feel old. Winter is coming….