Emily and Phoebe

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Carnival 2012

Phoebe is making plans for next year's carnival.

"George and I want to do something together, so I was thinking that we could dress up as those two men."

"Which two men, darling?"

"You know, the one with the moustache" (she holds two fingers up to her top lip) "and the hair like that" (she flattens her fringe down onto her forehead) "and the other one with the hair like that" (she musses it up on top) "and the hat."

I pause. "Um, Hitler and Stalin?"

"I don't know their names. One of them's very fat and the other's very thin and they're funny. They were in some old films together."

"Ah, not Hitler and Stalin, then. Good. Laurel and Hardy is probably a much better idea..."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lost and found

Me: [Wandering around looking into corners] "Now, let's see. Where are my shoes?"

Phoebe: [Pointing] "They're there, under the bed."

Me: "Oh, well done! Clever girl!"

Phoebe: [Matter-of-factly] "I'm not clever, Dad, I'm just short."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Meddling kids

Why, who's that in the Mystery Machine?

Friday, September 16, 2011


Here is the latest on the schoolbooks saga from Kathimerini. Meanwhile, rumours abound that the lack of books is a deliberate ploy to save money by (a) forcing parents to buy them or (b) getting rid of them altogether and making all material available online or (c) ultimately doing away with free state education as we currently know it.

In other news, Emily says she did fine in her English test :-)

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Emily's class is doing an English test this morning to determine which pupils will go into the Beginners class and which into the Advanced class. E is a bit stressed because she's afraid that she'll be asked to write out verb tables (which she's never learnt), fail the test and end up in the beginners class (which would be embarrassing, to say the least, as she's a native speaker). I assured her that there was no chance of her being asked to conjugate a verb or anything like that (though actually it's not completely beyond the bounds of possibility) and that if by some freak chance she doesn't get into the top group I'll go along to the school and talk to her teacher.

"Noooooo! Then I'll be completely humiliated..."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


In the end there were so many kids whose names began with alpha that Emily ended up in class 2 rather than the class 1 she'd been hoping for. She took it very well though (having prepared herself for the worst) and knows a few of the kids she's with, so it's not as if she's all alone with no one to talk to. Now she's actually looking forward to starting lessons, whereas before she was just worrying about which class she'd be in. (When lessons will actually begin, however, is anyone's guess. School apparently ends at 11.15 every day this week and as there are only a small number of books it might be a while before there's any actual studying to be done.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


The first day back at school (yesterday) only lasted half an hour or so - long enough for a priest to bestow his blessing and messages from the great and the good to be read out. There were other announcements as well, but I was shuttling the 200 yards between primary school and gymnasio, so I missed quite a lot of what was going on. I was pleased to see, though, that loud booing greeted mention of the minister of education's name.

On to more important matters. There are a number of primary schools that feed into Emily's gymnasio, which means that she will know a minority of the kids in her year. As there are five classes, divided alphabetically, Emily is hoping that she (as an E) will fall into group 1, where she will be with two of her best friends, rather than group two, where she will know a few kids but is not particularly friendly with any of them. Fingers crossed...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bags and books

One of the first things we did when we got back to Athens was to buy the girls new bags for school. Phoebe needed a slightly bigger one, as she will have more lessons now she is in fourth grade, while Emily wanted a slightly smaller one because at gymnasio she will have fewer (though I'm assuming longer) lessons each day.

Now this is what is known as being prepared. School begins on September 12th, and so children up and down the country have been equipping themselves with bags, pencil cases, pens, pencils and goodness knows what else. However, not everyone, it seems, is quite so organised.

There was upheaval [...] Monday at the primary and secondary education level as it emerged that most state schools have yet to receive the necessary text books for the next academic year, which begins next week.

The Greek Publishing Organization of Educational Books, known by its acronym OEDB, issued a statement Monday, pledging that 70 percent of the books will have been delivered by the second half of October. In the meantime, teachers and pupils will have to make do with photocopied sections of the relevant textbooks and DVDs containing course material. According to some estimates, each school will have to produce around 7,000 photocopied pages per day to meet course demands.

Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou Monday apologized for the “inconvenience,” blaming a bureaucratic holdup, and said that all possible action was being taken to get the books to schools as quickly as possible.

(From kathimerini's online English edition.)

Why are there no books? A "bureaucratic holdup" according to the minister. Well, perhaps. We've had those often enough in the past, after all: some teachers don't arrive in their posts until mid-October, and we're all used to that; books are often a bit late arriving (though by a week or two, not nearly two months, and my recollection last year is that all the books were ready from day one). While it's true that there has been some kind of reoganisation of local education offices going on, which might account for a few glitches in the actual distribution of books, a delay of this magnitude obviously means that they haven't even been printed yet.

I will try and find out what the story is behind this. For the time being, all I want to comment on is the fantastical idea that schools will be able to provide photocopies of the necessary pages. Now even assuming that each school has got a roomful of state-of-the-art photocopiers (foreign readers may not realise what an utterly ridiculous assumption this is, but let's just say they do, for the sake of argument), how will schools that lacked the funds even to pay for heating oil last year even be able to afford the paper and toner for all these photocopies?

Saturday, September 10, 2011


When Phoebe saw me choking on my food yesterday lunchtime did she
a) leap into action by performing the Heimlich manouevre on me?
b) leap into action by capering about in front of me with an oven glove on her head, pretending to be a Smurf?
c) announce "I'm so happy, Dad! Pappous says that when you and Mum die, this house will belong to Emily and me!"?

The answer of course is (b), because what could be of more help to someone who is fighting for breath than to make them laugh uncontrollably? Anyone who answered (a) does not know my daughter very well. The thing about the house she did actually say, just not in response to seeing me deprived of oxygen. So that's comforting.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Thurday night at the movies

Now that they are off to big school, Emily and her friends have decided that they are old enough to go to the cinema by themselves, so yesterday they took themselves off to our local mini-multiplex (do five screens at the top of a miniscule neighbourhood shopping mall count as a multiplex? I don't know) to buy tickets for the latest 3D offering. Rather sweetly, and despite their collective grown-up-edness, the film they have chosen to watch (and have been looking forward to for weeks, by all accounts) is The Smurfs ("So that none of us get scared, Dad.")

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The big biscuit

What happens when a small person (Phoebe) gets an idea in their head that they are going to make a BIG BISCUIT and keeps nagging to be allowed to make a BIG BISCUIT, until finally you give in and say "Oh good grief, go and make your blasted BIG BISCUIT - but make sure you clear everything up when you've finished" and the small person announces airily that she does not need to follow a recipe for her BIG BISCUIT because she has seen people making BIG BISCUITS before and then decides that she needs eggs for her BIG BISCUIT and trots off to the corner shop and buys four eggs all by herself ("Because I'm sure that four is the right number, Daddy") and then there is ominous SILENCE for about 20 minutes until she announces that the BIG BISCUIT is ready to go in the oven and then you go into the kitchen and see a bowl of brown sludge in which she proudly points out some floating bits of butter {"I thought butter would be a good idea Daddy")?

Well, the only thing you can really do then is to grease a tin, pour the sludge in, shove it in the oven and hope.

And what came out was, quite remarkably, a fair approximation of a chocolate cake. Unfortunately, having been made with Hemo (chocolate flavoured malted milk powder) rather than chocolate, and with not enough sugar, it may have been just on the wrong side of edible, but I'm not sure most eight-year-olds let loose in the kitchen could have produced something that looks like this:

(Though how Phoebe thought she might end up with a BIG BISCUIT is anyone's guess...)

Sunday, September 04, 2011

TV or not TV

According to Phoebe, Emily was so excited about being back in Athens (and thus being able to watch Star's weekend reruns of Friends again after six weeks away on Tinos), that when her eyes popped open yesterday morning she exclaimed "It's Saturday!" and did a happy dance without getting out of bed. That's what you get when you don't have a TV in your summer home.

Why no TV? Well, I suppose I could try and pretend it's for the kids: all part of a back to basics plan encouraging them to make their own entertainment during the summer. That would be grossly hypocritical, though, given the sterling babysitting role that TV has performed for us over the years (allowing me to enjoy an afternoon nap each day without being woken up by squabbles, hair-pulling or other disturbances) and also given the kiddie hardware we cart around with us every holiday (DVD players, Gameboys, etc) precisely so that our offspring will be able to keep themselves occupied (and, crucially, not pester the grownups).

So if we allow DVDs and video games during the summer, why don't we have TV too? Well actually, it's a combination of factors, all of them pretty mundane. Firstly, the house is quite small, so a TV would get in the way; secondly, reception is dodgy (and we don't even have a outdoor aerial) so we'd probably only get a handful of channels; and thirdly, TV in Greece is even more awful in the summer than it is in winter, so what's the point anyway?

Obviously, this is not a view shared by Emily and Phoebe themselves, and in the past we have had to put up with a fair amount of criticism and unfavourable comparisons to those enlightened parents who do have TV in their summer homes. But now, mercifully, the village has internet, the kids can use my laptop to watch clips of TV shows on youtube (including quick fixes of Friends to keep Emily happy) and I can get some quality postprandial snooze-time without constant complaints of "Emily's annoying me" and "Phoebe's hitting me".

Result! (Though it surely can't be long now before they both argue that they really need their own laptops so that they can watch different things online...)