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I’m holding out for a hero

02 August 2013

"WE ARE like the Jews," he declared, seemingly not concerned with who heard him. "The Greeks are like the Jews. They destroy each other until there is a war, and then they are together - and how they are together, then. But when there is no war . . ."

We ate in his restaurant every night when on holiday in Greece, after a bear-hug welcome: "Simon, you come back!" We knew Andreas from last year, and the year before that, and, as is the way with trust, each year he speaks a little more freely in his trips from the kitchen to our table.

When there isn't an order to prepare, he likes to talk; and this year, there are not so many orders. It is not just the recession: it is Greek against Greek in this town, and Andreas doesn't like it. He wants restaurateurs here to work together; but the preferred model, he says is "rats in a bag. We fight like rats in a bag."

Andreas has a great sense of national heritage, perhaps because he has come to it late; there is no one so convinced as a convert. His father was from the island of Rhodes, but Andreas grew up in Morocco and France, and only came to the island when he was 22, and even then did not stay long. He left for London, where he ran a successful restaurant in Covent Garden for a number of years, before returning to his roots. "I had to go home," he says, "I always knew Rhodes was my home."

But now he is not happy at home. His view is that Greeks are destroying his island. "They want to make it like Faliraki," he says, and this is not a compliment. Faliraki is a town on the east coast where 20-something Britons go to drink, party, and vomit.

But it is not just commercial rivals who feel the lash of his despair. It is the politicians. "Where are the heroes today? Leonidas, Achilles - where have our great people gone?" It is probably a question asked by every generation the world over. Heroes tend to have lived two centuries ago, and everyone has forgotten how irritating they were. It is quite possible that his contemporaries were not quite so enamoured with Achilles as history is: they knew him in between the heroics.

But I was haunted by the question, as it took me back to a radio interview I did shortly before going away. We were talking about Spitting Image as a moral guardian of the nation. My interviewer, Nick Battle, then asked: "Who are our moral guardians now?" And I was concerned by the fact that, after some fumbling around, I wasn't sure. "I don't know," I said, which is not great radio - or column- writing.


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