Every night, my husband Dimitri and I log on with foreboding to the strike website that has the most reliable information on the next dayâ€™s industrial action. Thatâ€™s right: we have chosen to live in a country where we must consult a website devoted solely to strikes. It is dawning on us that we must be crazy.
Lost Idyll: Amanda and Dmitri with their daughters
Last month, I dropped off my two-year-old daughter Nicci Alise at her nursery during a downpour that lasted barely an hour. But this being Athens, thatâ€™s all it took for many of the shoddily maintained roads to flood. As I navigated the five-minute drive home, stinking bags of uncollected garbage sailed past in the torrents.
It could have been a scene from Slumdog Millionaire, except that I was driving past multi-million-euro mansions with gilded gates and cascading bougainvillea in one of Athensâ€™s most affluent suburbs. The imagery was potent. Greece 2011: a country that has allowed itself to be capsized by its own accumulated waste.
Itâ€™s been barely a fortnight since new prime minister Lucas Papademos was parachuted in, and Greeceâ€™s so-called â€˜national unityâ€™ government has already devolved into a Mexican stand-off over the crucial signing of the eurozone rescue deal. But regardless of any new political scenario, Greeceâ€™s citizens still face years of brutal austerity when, even now, there are so many who havenâ€™t been paid in months.
On that rainy day, the cityâ€™s refuse collectors were on strike, as they had been for the past fortnight, along with a good proportion of Greeceâ€™s labour force. We were in the grip of a 48-hour general strike. Airports, state schools and banks stopped working. They were joined by bakers, doctors, customs officials, taxi and bus drivers and even judges. Clothes shops and tax offices shut down, but the beggars who clog Athensâ€™s road junctions cleaning windscreens were still hard at it.