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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 24 February 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 24 FEBRUARY 2018 25 OPINION members of the club, most of whom had never celebrated Apokriés before, either in Greece or Australia, ignored that last injunction, which is why I found myself, clad in full authentic Bedouin garb, standing out among a long line of dinner suited and skirted members, waiting to pay at the door. As I waited, I could hear them whisper in full patois: - Τι γυρεύ αυτός ιδώ; Δε ξέρου. Τι είνι; Κανένας αράψ πρέπ να᾽ναι. - Κι τι γυρέυ ένας κωλοαράψ ιδουνά; - Μήπους χάθκι; - Για δεν τουν αρουτάς; - Σώπα μη μας βάλ κι καμιά βόμπα αβδά κι μας ανατινάξ ολνούς . . . - Μήπους ήρθι άπ᾽τν Αραπιά να αγουράσ᾽ του κτήριου; Screwing up her courage, an old lady turned to me and asked: "You spik Grik?" Καμιά φουρά, I responded, in her dialect. Shocked, she replied: "You very good spik Grik. Where you learn et?" - Απ´τουν μπαμπά᾽μ, I an- swered. Frowning, she persisted: "And where you baba learn et thi Grik?" - Απ᾽τουν παππού᾽μ, I informed her. Puzzled, she shuffled away. For the rest of the night, I had to endure dark and concerned looks by disturbed revellers. On the flip side, as rumours sped up and down the hall that I was an Arab sheikh looking to purchase the club building for a ridiculously overpriced sum, causing heated debates among the more socially active members as to how the profits would be expended, or rather, by whom they would be pocketed, the committee members acting as waiters, were extraordinarily solicitous. In breach of club protocol, our table was served even before that of the president, and the treasurer himself appeared in person to enquire as to whether the food served to me was halal. - Μόνο η μπύρα είναι, I responded, αλλά χαλάλι σου. As drinks flowed, and mirth increasingly abounded, I was accosted by a particularly corpulent lady who, though she insisted that she was not wearing fancy dress, was eerily dressed like Carmen Miranda. "Get onto the dance floor and show us how to do a proper tsifteteli," she whooped, her arms heaving. I tried to explain to her that in my culture, only dedicated belly dancers were permitted to sway to the syncopated beats of the tsifteteli while drinking coffee under indigo tents in certain parts of The Nefud, but she was having none of it. Pulling me by the keffiyeh, she propelled me into the middle of the dance floor and proceeded to shake, rattle and roll, in front, behind and around my personage as I affected a look which I hoped conveyed lofty, rolling-in-money, sheikhic disdain. Unsurprisingly, I did not win the ‘best dancer’ prize but to my utter indignation, I did not win the ‘best costume’ prize either, even though I was the only one in costume, simply, because the committee believed that the garb in question, was my everyday dress. When it was announced that no prize would be given owing to lack of participation, I abruptly rose and strode across the hall to the exit, two concerned committee members running behind me to ascertain what was wrong and to save a possibly endangered property deal. Curtly, I informed them that my helicopter was waiting. It was at that point that they finally got it. While we are possibly not socially evolved enough to re-enact the traditional phallus parades (phallika) of Tyrnavos, in which giant, gaudily painted effigies of phalli are paraded around town, (although several of my female friends argue convincingly that most committee meetings of Greek Australian clubs serve exactly the same purpose), we have, as a community, managed to revive and in some cases, create new and exciting apokriatic traditions of our own. As a result, our communal life has become invariably the richer for it. Cavafy, in his seminal poem The Poseidonians may have mused that: "The only thing surviving from [our] ancestors was a Greek festival, with beautiful rites . . . and so their festival always had a melancholy ending/ because they remembered that they too were Greeks . . . and how low they'd fallen now . . . living and speaking like barbarians, cut off so disastrously from the Greek way of life." Our pre-Lenten apokriatic festivals in contrast, are vibrant, complex, and ultimately triumphantly exuberant interpretations of a unique Greek Australian way of life. Καλή Σαρακοστή. John Poulos The poet of Arcadia PROFESSOR ANASTASIOS M TAMIS Fewer literary figures elected to give to their creation a style of satirical criticism of human conduct. Although filled with personal experiences, in reality they portray the society in which they lived. Using allegories and metaphors they now scorn the misbehaviour and misconduct of the leaders; then, they applaud others for their tenacity of passion in promoting Hellenism. Outranking many other Greek writers, and taking an assumed place among creative authors, is Arcadian Ioannis Giannakopoulos (John Poulos), who consumed his settlement in Australia in Brisbane and Sydney. He was born in Tripoli on 24 July 1926 to parents Demetrios and Polyxeni Stavropoulos. His paternal grandmother was from Kapareli, Tegea and his grandfather from the neighbouring Alea, Tegea. His maternal grandfather, Nick Stavropoulos was an immigrant himself in America, spending in Chicago a number of years. When he returned to his native land, having amassed a significant wealth, he purchased substantial land properties and married Vassiliki Kantarou, raising six children, the youngest of whom was Polyxeni. Unfortunately Polyxeni died at the young age of 35 leaving behind Ioannis as an orphan. His paternal father was a carpenter in Tripoli and Ioannis used to spend his early childhood years working in his grandfather's workshop as an apprentice joiner and woodworker. Later, he opened his own carpentry there, until he was conscripted into the Hellenic Army (1947-1952). In 1954 he married Demetra Brakas from Hotousa, and decided to migrate to Australia, following an invitation from Demetra's brother, Apostolos Brakas, the owner of a large banana plantation in a township close to Lismore. One year later Ioannis and Demetra moved to Brisbane, where he was engaged in building maintenance work as a skilled and charismatic carpenter. He also opened his own workshop manufacturing cottages. It was in Brisbane that their two children Dimitrios and Polyxeni were born, prior to moving to Sydney where Ioannis joined the Theo Morris business working and supervising the maintenance work of his properties. In 2014, John Poulos published his book Stis Aperantosynis ta Makri (At the Length of Vastness), a collection of 56 poems and 67 prose narratives depicting his view of the society and the world in which he lived, and his contemporaries, enjoying or detesting their activities. With allegorical tales, extensive ironic comments, sharp remarks and self-abuse, he views the world, without love and solidarity, well fallen from the original righteousness of the past; he sees the society of his day divided into ranks and classes, fortunate and unhappy, with many wrongs such as unwarranted egotism, greed, violence and all manner of injustice without love. Treating himself and signing as a poet committing many spelling mistakes (anorthographos), Poulos develops his ideas in a sad but firm and effective manner, ridiculing wealth, arrogance and greed and condemning those who pursue them as "useless" and "brainless" beings, lost in confusion and vanity. Although filled with biographical facts and personal experiences, it is in reality a mirror of his contemporary world. "Our life is an allusion; close your eyes not to see the shame of the world, the ugliness, pretend that you are a monkey, an ignorant, a blind and if they ask you, reply 'I have not seen anything'". His style is direct, simple and truthful.
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