Friday, 29 January 2010

What dreams may come…

I had such a weird dream yesterday… One of these dreams that you fully remember the next day, that wakes you up stressed and disoriented.

I was in my hometown, in my old house where I grew up (now sold). I was having a very vivid discussion with my brother. I was telling him about my plans. I wanted to have an engagement party of my own, in my hometown to make the gossip stop. I wanted to find a nice little girl to get engaged to and let everyone know about it. I was planning where the big party will take place and who to invite. I spend days trying to find the perfect location and decoration. Then, the day of the engagement arrived. I was very excited and happy about the preparations, but then it hit me:
‘Who will be the bride?’
I spent so much time preparing the whole thing, but I didn’t plan who the bride-to-be will be! It was already the morning of the big day and I had to find a solution, call somebody. I figured out that my very best friend ‘A’ will not say no to me. Even in such a short notice, she will agree to get engaged to me. However, she couldn’t do it like that. She might need to go to a hair dresser, find the proper dress, and inform her parents. Her mother would like to get prepared as well! I don’t want mothers-in-law do to get prepared, but she might need a manicure or something… Could I have the party without her parents? Will we find dresses in time? Will the hair dresser be available?
All these questions were going through my head, when I woke up… ‘JJ’ was sleeping next to me. At least I didn’t wake him up…


The first thing that went through my mind was why on Earth would I want to get engaged like that? This is so not me. I don’t have issues with being gay and I certainly wouldn’t do something just because people gossip and criticize me about it. Am I homophobic on my subconscious?


Then, I remembered the TV show we were watching earlier that evening called: ‘Transvestite wives’. It was a documentary following straight couples (can I use that term?) where the husband was a cross dresser. So, in a way, there was a third person in the couple called Deanne, Betty or Sue. These couples were living in areas like Nottingham or Aberdeen which are not very popular as being accepting and understanding to different lifestyles. Unfortunately, these people when dressed in drag, even when accompanied by their wives, would run into not so polite people and were sometimes verbally abused… It was interesting to see how their wives were so protective over them.
Anyway, I hope that was the reason of the weird dream…

By the way, I cooked for JJ amazing cannelloni with spinach and feta cheese yesterday. OK, not because I made it, but it was very good. I don’t like using ricotta. I prefer adding feta and a little bit of cheddar cheese instead. Too much feta will make it too salty but adding a little bit gives food a really nice taste…

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Being British…

In general I like having people coming to stay over. I always try to tell my Greek friends how nice London is and that they should visit. They shouldn’t miss the fact that they can crash in my place and I can be their personal tour guide (I truly really like showing people around). I’m still in the process of learning to say ‘no’ to some people that obviously and crudely try to come over, but my friends are always welcome. I have one of my closest friends coming in beginning of March with her younger sister. For the sister is the first time going abroad and I’m trying to set something really nice for them.

I am definitely taking them to see a theatrical play. I know their English are very good and they wouldn’t have a problem following it. What I am definitely not taking them though to see is a standup comedian. I really do like British standup comedy, I was watching one yesterday. In most of the cases, it’s very witty but you need to know the people, the situations or the sayings discussed. I had to learn these things while spending many evenings at the pub with my colleagues.


I still remember the first times I was spending with them in the pub, talking about the various British regional jokes that apparently everyone knew (apart from me). For those outside the ‘Islands’ who might not know, British people LOVE to chat about the different regions of UK (and not only them). They have sayings about every different region or even country (but the regional jokes are much better). For example, because of their accent the call the people coming from Liverpool ‘scousers’, the people from Birmingham ‘Brummies’ or that people from East London talk in ‘cockney’.

Apart from making fun of the accents, try to lure a British into a conversation about which is the worst area of England. For example go to him and say something in the lines of ‘Isn’t Bolton a shithole?’, role your eyes and laugh. He’ll definitely agree with you but comment how ‘Brent is not far behind, I once went there’…


That’s not the end of it though. They have worse stories to share and jokes to tell about almost every area as well. There are jokes about people from ‘Essex’ (I mentioned it in the past), especially girls. I give you an example that I found online:
Q: What does an Essex girl say after sex?
A: "Do you really all play for the same football team?"
or
Q: What does an Essex girl do with her asshole after sex?
A: She takes him down the pub.
For people from Aberdeen (or from Wales) they say they are sheep-shaggers (classy) and for people from Hartlepool that they are monkey-hangers.
(The latter saying for Hartlepool is based on a tale that they hanged a monkey found in a shipwreck, wearing a French uniform, because they believed him to be a French spy since he couldn’t answer their questions.)


Anyway, I can go on and on for ages regarding these stories. The very funny bit is that everybody knows them (that is British). Using these stories is a common ground for small talk and a good ice breaker to start a conversation. You just ask a person where he’s from…

Monday, 25 January 2010

Blue Monday…

So, today is the most depressing day of the year (last Monday of January). It’s true… If Wikipedia confirms, who can say otherwise?
Today is also known as ‘Pull a sickie day’, however I’d think it would be obvious to do that today. My suggestion would be to pull a sickie next week, after you’re paid at the end of the month…

In order to make you feel slightly better I want to introduce to you a website called xkcd: http://xkcd.com/
I think I ran into it at someone else’s blog. Here’s an example of what you can find there:





Apart from that, I strongly suggest Juz. Take a look at his work… It’s hilarious.

Juz and El watched Avatar. Poor Aliens:


Shopping for basics:


Finally, I’m presenting to you the one and only Garfield!!!!



If all that, didn’t put a smile on your face, I don’t know what else to do… Sorry…

Kreativ Blogger Award

1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.

Thanks a lot to Dyl. It really made my day yesterday, when I received his message. Dyl’s blog was one of the very first ones I started following and reading a few months ago. I was stuck by the post he had regarding his latest tattoo which was the image of the Phoenix (Rachel Summers, not Jean Grey) from Excalibur. That image, if I remember correctly, was in the back of one of the first Excalibur issues that features a version of the London werewolves. I’m sorry to say I’ve lost that copy of Excalibur when I was moving houses a decade ago…

2. Copy the award logo and place it on your blog.


3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.

Please go visit take a look at Dyl’s stories in Gecko Echo.


4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.

a. While being a teenager, I was quite popular at school. I tried to hide the fact that I was gay and being in denial I had quite a few relationships with girls. The longest one of these relationships lasted for 3 years. I still haven’t managed to have such a long term relationship with a guy

b. I’m trying to raise awareness and funds regarding Cancer and help support Cancer Research UK. That’s my second run I’m doing for them. I know it’s not much but I plan to keep on going. Cancer is something so unpredictable and has affected people close to me. I fear that with our current living lifestyle…

c. JJ, the guy I am dating now is so not my normal ‘type’. I’m usually going for darker, hairy, slightly big build kind of men. JJ, being South African, is more light skinned, brown hair, blue eyes, skinny guy. I really don’t mind though…

d. I cannot be very competitive. I don’t like confrontations and I generally take things lightly. You are better at me at ‘this’ or ‘that’? Good for you. I’m not going to get frustrated, angry of sad much. I’ll try to play along and make fun arguing with you, but really, I’m not bothered…

e. I so much enjoy lazy Sunday mornings when Monday still seems far away. I do enjoy just getting one of these massive Sunday papers, going to a nice coffee place (preferably not a chain, which is so difficult to find) and having a nice breakfast reading…

f. I don’t think I have an expertise on something. I have stuff I can talk about for ages, regarding things I found interesting like maps, books, running, computers or comics. However, I don’t think I am particularly an connoisseur on any of them. I would love to learn more though…

g. On a very different matter, I am very (very) hairy (even for Greek standards) which has been quite a blessing and a curse for me. To give you an idea, ‘L’ used to call me Chewbacca. Some people do like it but in a warm country like Greece, it’s been a pain trying to wax my back every month during summer. I had a laser treatment once and I should go for the rest of the sessions at some point (when I get the money).

5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers and post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.

I follow quite a few blogs and I have even more bookmarked that I read and occasionally comment. I will pick some that come first to my mind, get regularly updated and not that broadly followed for you to take a look.

Wozzel in South Africa, from ‘The life of a wozzel’. His blog is fairly new, but I do enjoy the way he writes. He’s very funny and very good with words.

Ryan from 'One Fine Gay'. I so much enjoy reading Ry’s stories. He seems a very interesting, established person. He just recently moved in with his bf and apparently having a blast

Mike in London from ‘Mike’s blog’. Mike’s been recently promoted and found happiness in the arms of his other half. He’s gone a long way in the past couple of years that you can read through his blog.

Vilges Suola from ‘Lathophobic Aphasia’. He’s been an English teacher for many years, some of which he spent in Greece. His sense of humour is great, he’s very well educated and displays an affection for my country that I adore. You should ask him to tell you about the real Greece from a point of view from a person that knows her very well.

Bigislandjeepguy in Hawaii from ‘adventures of big island jeep guy’. Life in Hawaii must be amazing. The pictures displayed on that blog are simply fantastic (BIJG is a photographer). I am most hooked though due to ‘Jeep’, a gorgeous Dalmatian dog…

Gauss Jordan from ‘Augmente Identity’. also known as the gay engineer. I think that I have quite a few in common with GJ. He recently came out to his parents and is trying to get to know the gay world. He is also into running, although he’s doing better times than me…

Suf and Steve from ‘Ancora Imparo’. SS is a charming couple with a lovely child, recently moved back to Malaysia. With their very interesting and funny latest Gay finances posts, you might even learn something…

6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate

I did a small research to find rule number 6. It had been lost between blogs.
I already did post the links.

7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

I am about to… Don’t worry…

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Things you learn...

What I’ve learnt today (from yesterday most likely) is not to have sex with a sick person.
No matter if he says it’s OK, he’s not feeling that bad etc, do not succumb. JJ did not seem to be that sick and he was the one to start the whole thing and I did try to stop him (but I am only human). So, today I am feeling feverish / tired and cranky… And of course I blame him and his South African germs… I’ll find a way to make him pay for that (with a huge grin on my face)… That reminds me of the episode that Monika is sick, but doesn’t want to admit it and tries to have sex with Chandler in Friends:


On a very different matter, I’m quite annoyed with one of my colleagues (another reason that I’m cranky). I’ve been working (a lot) on a project to create a new extension for one of our software packages. I had a small data sample and I was happily working on it.
When, I finally thought that it was working OK, I thought of giving it a try and test it on a whole client’s dataset. The software kept crashing without an explanation. That really got me worried (/annoyed), so I tried to find the error. I spent a whole afternoon and the following morning trying to use debug messages and compiling the code over and over again to see where it might be going wrong.


After many attempts, I realized that the code was crashing when work was done on a very big table (I’m not going to go too much into detail) and I saw that the server I was working on had only 3MB free space! My (quite thick) colleague had the idea of copying 10GB of files on that server the day before, after my line manager specifically told him not to copy these files there. He actually copied the same data in two different servers! And it’s not the first time he’s doing something similar.
That cost me a whole day of frustration when I have a deadline coming…

Is it justified if I go and sneeze over his shoulder?

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

OK, we live in a weird world…

Apparently, the recent cold weather disturbed some people in the UK. Not only there were extra traffic congestions, trains not working, plains not flying, but their hotel beds were cold as well
(oh, no, we don’t want that).
A simple hot water bottle is not enough and it is very ordinary / boring / obsolete / dépassé.

So, the brand new idea is:
‘Human Bed Warming’
Yes, you read correctly. In Holiday Inn, you can order your own human to warm your bed. As stated:
“If requested, a willing member of hotel staff will jump in your bed, dressed head to foot in an all-in-one sleeper suit, until your nightly chamber warms up.”

The following picture is with real bed warmers in Surrey:


I wonder if they have a catalog where I can chosse my bed warmer from... If it is random selection, with my luck, my bed warmer could be the 65 year old cleaning lady

Avenue

So, yesterday was theatre day. I went with JJ to see AvenueQ and I loved it. I found it brilliant, very well written, witty and fun. I don’t know why I didn’t see it before. I should have seen it ages ago… I recommend to anyone wanting a fun night out.
Here are the lyrics of one of the songs. Apart from the song called 'Internet is for Porn', I found the lyrics of this one exquisite:

There's a fine, fine line between a lover and a friend;
There's a fine, fine line between reality and pretend;
And you never know 'til you reach the top if it was worth the uphill climb.

There's a fine, fine line between love
And a waste of time.

There's a fine, fine line between a fairy tale and a lie;
And there's a fine, fine line between "You're wonderful" and "Goodbye."
I guess if someone doesn't love you back it isn't such a crime,
But there's a fine, fine line between love
And a waste of your time.

And I don't have the time to waste on you anymore.
I don't think that you even know what you're looking for.
For my own sanity, I've got to close the door
And walk away...
Oh...

There's a fine, fine line between together and not
And there's a fine, fine line between what you wanted and what you got.
You gotta go after the things you want while you're still in your prime...

There's a fine, fine line between love
And a waste of time.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Get in touch with my geek side (part 3)…

I have mentioned in the past that I am a huge comic book fan. I’ve been reading X-Men since I was a younger geek and now that I’ve grown to a fully licensed geek, I just couldn’t stop, could I?
So, I wanted to comment on the recent developments. I don’t know if you received the newsletter but they’re bringing back Kitty Pryde (a.k.a. Sprite or Shadowcat) in Uncanny X-Men #522. She died a few months ago, saving Earth from a bullet fired from Breakworld.


To be honest, it’s not something not to be expected. In the recent past Colossus (Shadowcat's other half) died while releasing the antidote of the Legacy virus into the atmosphere (very bad disease, worse than the swine flu, killed many people included his sister). Then, Kitty Pryde went through the whole process of mourning him, taking a leave of absence and scattering his ashes in Russia. Of course, later on, he was found to be alive in an underground laboratory where he was kept for experiments. It was only fair that she would die, leaving him to go through the same process of mourning. He even got a tattoo on his check that spelled ‘Katya’ (sucker). Now, she’s about to be brought back to life and from my experience with comics, it wouldn’t come as a surprised if she came back as a villain (at least for a short while) to avenge for her death…

I’m not going to bitch about how they keep on bringing back dead people, most of the times with some lame excuse. We’ve seen it so many times in the past. It got me thinking though, about which character died most of the times. I’m between Xavier and Jean Grey. Xavier was the very first X-Man believed to be dead, only to find out that it was Changeling that died in his place (making Changeling the real first casualty). I don’t count how many times Wolverine appears dead, because he just gets better after a while. I think Psylocke is another good candidate...


The only character that I believed never to be resurrected is the first Warpath (so far), John Proudstar, although they did make a character out of his brother, James Proudstar, very similar to him, bearing the same codename and powers.
I’m not taking under consideration the latest ‘Necrosha’ story line, which to be honest looks good (so far).


On a similar issue, I came across and read 2 graphic novels based on X-Men that I really liked and recommend to anyone who might be interested that hasn’t read them.

The first is the Marvel Secret Wars:


The second is the ‘X-Men VS Avengers’:


That’s enough for today... I can leave my geek side for now to rest... May the force be with you...

Thursday, 14 January 2010

What’s wrong with me?

I was relaxed, enjoying my lunch, watching to some music videos on the TV. Then, all of a sudden, a blonde girl appears. She’s waking up from what appeared to be a very bad hangover in her bathtub. She must have slept there drunk. She just takes a sip of whisky while singing:
“Wake up in the morning feeling like P Diddy”
“Put my glasses on, I’m out the door - I’m gonna hit this city”
“Before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack”
“Cause when I leave for the night, I ain’t coming back”
I know this song. I’ve heard it before but I’ve never seen the video. How old this girl is, I wonder. She looks amazingly young to be having a Jack Daniels for breakfast. (I don’t think there is a proper age for that, but anyway). My mind starts thinking about what are the teenagers today watching on the TV. Would I want my daughter of let’s say 10 or 11 idolise a girl like that (if I had one) and dress / behave like that? The whole song is about booze, partying until morning and being a rebel, just for the sake of it.
And then it really hit me: “What’s wrong with me and I’ve started thinking like my grandmother?”



Since when did I reach the age to wonder about what the next generation is watching on the telly? That didn’t seem to bother me before! Should I now become a conservative? Should I start a facebook group to help protect the young age of taking the wrong path in life?

After a few minutes of panicking the song ended. The next one was from Pussycat Dolls called ‘Don’t cha’. That song relaxed me… It was about a girl telling a guy to cheat on his girlfriend with her, because she’s better…
Ah, romance…
What a nice song… It really calmed me… There was hope for the new generation after all…

By the way, the mentioned song was from Kesha and is called: Tick Tock
(I’ve tried to embed it but youtube doesn’t allow me too)

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Back to reality…

I thought of taking a break of the military stories, take off the uniform and leave the gloominess of this time behind… I only covered the first four weeks of it in 4 different posts. It’ll take me ages to cover the whole year… Yeah, I know… The beginning is always most interesting than the rest. After a while you do get into a routine and not many interesting things happen…

Back to the real world, all is well in a snowy cold London. It’s been like that for almost a month now but I do enjoy it. OK, it wasn’t that fun when I got stuck in a train for three hours on Friday but it’s really fun playing with the snow, walking around… Am I the only one loving the sound of stepping into fresh snow? I really do love it…

The only major disadvantage that I find in the current climate conditions is related to running. How can you go running outside when there is snow / ice on the pavements and the temperatures are a little bit below zero? Having my ankle twisted or even broken is not my idea of fun… I am able to get up early and go to the gym before work, but I find running on a treadmill way too boring for me. I’m sorry, I don’t know how other people are doing it. I can see the same people day in, day out, putting a small towel on the treadmill to hide the time display and they can run for hours… I’ve tried it for a couple of times, but it really is a struggle. Unfortunately, my half marathon run for Cancer Research UK is in less than 2 months and I’m getting very stressed about it. I have a Google counter on my Homepage that counts the ‘Days Since…’. The ‘Days Since’ I did a proper outside run are almost 30! The counter now is in red color… I don’t think it can get any redder than that…


On the other hand, all things look good with JJ. We’ve established a schedule of meeting almost every other day. Yesterday I went to his for a very nice dinner but I didn’t stay over, because he was working today really early in the morning. He made me some pea soup for starter, boiled carrots, potato salad with pancetta, normal green salad and lamb with oven baked potatoes for main and ice cream for dessert! That man can really speak to my stomach (I mean heart)… I loved it…

Two things I want to mention.
First, JJ left his toothbrush in my place. Don’t laugh. That might mean nothing to people with long stable relationships or for those living with their other half. However, for me, that was the first. It’s the first time I’ve let someone leave something personal like that in my own space.
Do, I now have to make him some room in one of my drawers? I feel dizzy just by thinking about it… OK, I’m only kidding, but I catch myself sometimes looking at his toothbrush a little bit more… I’m in an actual relationship…


The second thing I want to mention is that he gave me one of his paintings. He likes to paint from time to time and occasionally he sells some of his works in galleries. So, at some point I was telling him about one of my favorite painters and one of his portraits that I love. So, I really don’t know how many hours he spent, but he actually made that painting for me, in his own unique way and style. I was speechless when he showed it to me. It’s brilliant… He’s actually making two and he will give to me the second one when finished…

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

My military service Part 4

My days off after my ‘graduation’ that meant the end of my very basic training were like heaven. My hometown seemed so beautiful. I was so happy to see smiling people around, including women, wearing clothes with normal colours on them (just for a change). I had only 3 days off, that seemed to pass amazingly quickly, but made a huge difference to my psychology. I starting thinking that week by week, I’d get through this. I just needed to be patient…

Thankfully, after we got back from that leave (all privates that joined the army as I did, had the same days off after taking the oath), we were treated better. Now, most of the officers weren’t as strict as before. The morning inspections lasted less time and less people were punished in the morning gatherings for trivial things like wearing dirty boots or not having the perfectly made bed. It was obvious that they only wanted to make us more disciplined and break our spirit the first weeks and that period had ended. Also, they knew now that our new duties (I’ll explain below) were more complicated and more frustrating, so they didn’t bother us as much.


When, someone becomes a soldier, meaning that he pledges his own life to country / nation / flag (whatever you want to call it), as long as he is healthy enough to do so, is allocated and trained in a specialty and also equipped with a rifle to guard a post. Our next couple of weeks in the military training base was about learning how to use a rifle. After that we would be sent to a proper military base to be trained in our own specialty.

So, the day we got back from the leave, I was given a rifle (a G3A3) to be locked with everyone else’s in our room, in special lockers. I had to remember which one it was (not such an easy task for everyone – believe me), keep it clean and ready to be used. Having guns in our room also meant that someone had to be there 24/7 to guard them. So, a new duty was created, that of the “room guardian” (θαλαμοφύλακας). There were 4 different people that would be doing that every day, which was divided in shifts of two hours. So, I had to serve as the guardian for 6 hours from time to time that of course included a night shift that was either 00:00 – 02:00, 02:00 – 04:00 or 04:00 – 06:00. The last one was the easier one, since we were waking up at 6:00 anyway. That meant that your sleep wouldn’t be disturbed. The first one was ok-ish, since you slept from 22:30 to 23:45 and then did your swift to sleep for 4 hours after that. The hardest one was the 02:00 to 04:00 since you had to sleep in two parts of around 2.5 hours.

However, guarding the rooms was one of the easiest duties you could have. You were indoors (warm and dry), most likely with other guardians to keep you company and not easily surprised by the officer in night shift or the patrols. The irritating part of being a room guardian was the fact that you had to wake people up in time for their duties. You had to wake all outdoor guards to be ready and dressed in time to leave to go to their post and the room guardian that will replace you. Almost everybody was willing to get up without a problem, but in each room you’d have some prick not willing to comply but create a fuss. If a guard was not in place in the right time, it was the room guardian’s fault for not having waked him up.

While, that was going on inside the buildings, the rest of us where out for training. We were being taught the rules of marching / saluting while holding a rifle (there are of course specific rules on that). We were also been taught how to guard a post. While guarding an outdoors post there is a specific way of holding the gun and accepting a patrol or the officer in charge that come to check on you. No one is allowed to come close to a guarding post without knowing the passwords of the day

The most important of all though, was the training in firing with the guns. Being a guard, even fully equipped, would mean that you’d never have to fire (we haven’t been in war in ages so it’s amazingly rare for an incident to occur that would involve a private firing at someone). So in order for us to learn how to use our rifles, special training days in firing grounds were arranged. We would get up early in the morning, be packed in old military vehicles (Steyr Trucks) and be driven to the training firing grounds far from any habitable area.


There, we would be given good rifles (properly cleaned and maintained, not the ones we kept in our lockers) to use. I remember my first training in firing very well. I was really stressed / excited about it. There were making groups of ten and we were given earplugs as well for the noise. The rifle did make lots of noise and also kicked quite hard. We had magazines of 10 bullets each time (I hope its called magazine – I googled it) and our targets were in 400m on a hill side. Since, it was our first time, it could quite a while to show us how’s it’s done, so we only got to use one magazine. I remember that only one of my bullets hit the target (not a very good score). Of course, when I say hit, I don’t mean the small circle in the center of the target, I mean the target in general (we weren’t keeping points). Of course I wasn’t that troubled about the scores. However, the privates that got 10 out of 10 I remember being given an extra day off…

So, after a couple of days in weaponry training (theoretical and practical), we started properly guarding outside posts. Again the day was divided in two hours swifts. However, some posts were quite remote and it took you up to 45 minutes to go there from the main buildings where we were sleeping. So, there was a patrol led by a corporal that was accompanying all changing guards and distributing them in the different posts. While being there, you had to stand in the special guardian position and look around for suspicious movements. To be frank, what you only had to worry about was the patrol and the officer in charge. There were some officers trying to find ways to surprise you and scare you. Specially, during that period while being in training, guard checks were very frequent and strict.


The two hours of the night swift were the worse. I remember being half sleep waiting for the two longest ever hours to pass (each time), checking my watch every 3 minutes. Fortunately, sometimes, friends of mine were in nearby posts, so we used to text each other about a coming patrol. What I was doing to let time pass was create ‘Top 10’ lists of things. I’d select a subject (not an easy one to complete quickly) and spend some time wondering about it. For example, how many bold politicians do you know? What is the best love story taking place in space in the movies? Who was the best on screen vampire…

So, guarding posts and similar training was what we were doing for the next three weeks before being transferred to a proper military base. In the meantime I was informed that my specialty had to do with driving a truck and keeping the logistics of a military warehouse (loosely translated from “Τεχνικός Αποθηκάριος Γραφέας και Οδηγός Αυτοκινήτου”). I was also to be trained as a sergeant which meant I’d be back to the same military training base to welcome the next group of soldiers in three months time.

Monday, 11 January 2010

My military service Part 3

The first couple of days in the military training base were tough because everything was new and I didn’t have a clue of what was going on or was expected of me. I remember being yelled at a lot. Because they were trying to make everyone more compliant and disciplined, all officers were ordered to be meaner and stricter about everything.

The first couple of days, I was feeling totally lost. The sergeant in training that was allocated to my platoon, called ‘Fanis’, wasn’t the best we could have. He was supposed to familiarize us with the procedures and how to do things, but he was amazingly indifferent, not knowing them himself. In the army there is a procedure for everything. You have to know how to behave. From saluting your higher officers to make your bed or wear your uniform, it’s been all written down and done in a very certain way.

Also, everything is being called differently in the army. Codes and regulations are written in more formal, older Greek with words not being used any more. These and all the procedures were what they were trying to teach us the first weeks of our training. I still have a small notepad I used to keep with all names of different ranks, guns, objects etc…

In general, I used to wake up around 6ish. The morning inspection was right before the morning gathering of the regiments that took place at 7:30 (since it was in winter time). For the inspection I had to look good (boots, uniforms, shaved etc) and have the perfectly made bed. Everything in the room had to look good and tidy. The captain of the regiment was passing in front of everybody (we were waiting in attention in front of our bed). If he would stop in front of your bed, you had to take a step forward, present yourself in the proper way and wait. In most cases if he stopped in front of your bed, it would not end well. Since we weren’t formally soldiers yet (before the oath) the punishments imposed involved mainly cleaning (toilets, shower rooms, kitchen, helping at garbage gathering etc) or helping prepare dinner in the kitchens. I’ve cleaned the toilets and also followed the garbage truck and helped with the garbage bins more than once. (We used to call the garbage truck the ‘Love Boat’).

During the morning gathering of the regiments, we were mostly being told about the day’s errands. What was also included (that I totally dreaded) was the fact that the people being punished for any reason would leave their line and gather elsewhere, in front of the officers, separated from the rest of the group. They had to formally present themselves and state the reason for being there in front of everybody that stood in total silence, listening to you (hundreds of people). If the reason was grave and the punishment imposed was not the proper one, the captain in charge on that day could change it (only for the worse). Just being there in that line was a reason enough to be extra careful and try to do everything as expected.


After the morning gathering, each regiment had to leave these grounds to perform their mentioned tasks. In most cases, what we did was train in proper marching, saluting, rehearsing for the ‘graduation’ ceremony and exercising. You’d expect that exercising to make us fitter would be the first in their priorities, but you’d be wrong. Recently, (the last decade I think) a new regulation was imposed that no private would do / perform an exercise without having someone of a higher rank doing it as well with him. That rule was made to protect soldiers from being ordered to do crazy stuff (doing a hundred laps around the base in the rain, etc.) from the type of officers who want to punish people physically. However, there weren’t many officers that motivated to take a bunch of soldiers of very different fit backgrounds and spend all this time training them. Since the regiment had to follow the pace of the slower / less capable member, it wasn’t really that easy to keep us going.

Around 13:00 to 13:30 we’d stop to eat, rest a bit, do another regiments gathering and some more training until later in the evening when we’d stop for dinner. Lights were automatically turned off I think around 22:00 or 22:30 in summer. That was our schedule for the first three weeks before the ceremony that would mean the first time we could take some days off and head home for a couple of days and relax. I don’t know how many hours I spent standing in attention, motionless, to train for that day and rehearse yelling the words that we would say to take the oath that day.

After a couple of days I was getting the hand of the schedule and feeling more relaxed and confident. I started making some really good friends and I learnt who to avoid (troublemakers that wanted to drag you along in whatever they were doing) or the strict officers that really took joy in yelling at people. I also had the opportunity to socialize and meet people from very different background than mine that proved quite an educative experience. You get a very good perspective and knowledge of yourself when meeting people living so differently than you…

I also learnt the most valuable lesson ever, which was never to attract attention. If for any reason, you were spotted, it wasn’t for good. The best policy was to keep a low profile to avoid being ordered around to do stuff. Even if you were overweight, wearing glasses or had a distinctive surname, you’d be the first to be called for duties preferably avoided: ‘Hey you fatso / with the glasses / ‘Papadopoule’ (very common Greek surname) come here for a while that I need you…’

The day that the ceremony took place was a very happy day. We rehearsed for it so many times, that it was a pleasure knowing that we wouldn’t have to do it again. It was supposed to last for a couple of hours where we marched up and down in perfect unison inside the military base and also took the oath of always being obedient and willing to die for our country in case of need, in front of political, religious and military officials. All went well and my very-proud-that-I-became-a-man (sad I know, but so true) parents were waiting for me to drive me home where I’d stay for 3 nights away from this madness!
When I’d get back, I would be trained in guarding a post (most common duty of a private) and other very serious stuff including weaponry…

Friday, 8 January 2010

My military service (Part 2)


So, I walked through the gate of my first military base, where I would be trained to be a proper (yeah right) soldier. First, a sergeant around my age took me to a small room next to the gate where they would go through my stuff to see if I’d try to smuggle in the base something illegal. A soldier took my bag, opened it and went through it fast and not very thoroughly. I could have taken anything I wanted with me without it being noticed. Probably the soldier was amazingly bored and was not bothered to do a proper job. I had hidden though a small (for that time) mp3 player and a mobile phone in the back of my bag.

There were other ‘civilians’ with me in the same small room. You could easily spot them (the ones with normal clothes). We weren’t talking to each other though. We didn’t know if we were allowed to (better to be safe than sorry) and we weren’t in a very happy mood anyway. When a considerable amount of us was gathered, another sergeant took us to the main building were we would spent the rest of the day in queues waiting for things to happen.

So, there was a queue to declare your personal information, a queue to give your personal ID card (a new military ID would be given to us for that year), a queue to give your chest x-ray to a military doctor (it was asked beforehand), a queue to take your height and weight measurement etc. You get the picture. There were so many queues that after a while the whole procedure became a blur to me. I was doing as asked without a second thought.

In a nutshell, we went through all bureaucratic information they had to have for their records, we applied for a new military ID (had photos taken), given blood to check for our blood type and diseases, took 4 different shots (that the guy giving them to me didn’t tell me what they were that really pissed me off but there was nothing I could do) and were given clothes / boots / shocks / military bags and equipment required for my stay (even toilet paper – everyone had their own) and were allocated in different regiments.


At some point, we had a break and were taken for food. First day meal was ‘pastitsio’ which is considered to be a very good delicacy in Greece (they were probably trying to impress us). Food like that was not commonly provided as we would find out. By that time, we (the old civilians, now soldiers wannabe) felt more relaxed and started talking to each other. The people I was sitting with to eat were not people from my regiment, but people that were with me in the queue changing extravaganza so I tried to be friendly, but I knew that I would probably not see them or talk to them again. There were so many people joining the base that day, it was crazy.

Regarding the stories I had heard of the naked / gay tests (I mentioned in my last post) they were found to be untrue (of course). No one checked to see if my anus was bigger than normal or made me see other naked men to see if I’d get an erection. The only thing that happened that could be put in that same category was a check of my most private parts. At some point, a dozen of us were taken to a room (very cold room I might add) and were asked to take position between the specially arranged curtains so that we could not see each other. After we were there, we were asked to take our pants and underwear down and wait. I was getting a bit nervous about the whole thing but of course getting an erection was out of the question. I couldn’t get an erection at that moment, even if my life depended on it. After a while, a doctor appeared in front of me (the way I was standing I was just looking at the wall in front of me) sitting on a chair, looking at my naked bits. He told me to pull my foreskin up to check for infections and then to take a look at my balls to see if something was wrong. All the checks were performed by me and the doctor didn’t touch me at all (probably he wasn’t allowed to - thankfully). That doctor was the second guy and took a so close look at me naked (locker rooms don’t count). The first one was ‘A’. It’s quite funny thinking of it like that now…

I later found out that they also want to find the people with just one ball. One-testicle men aren’t allowed to join the army (seriously). There is always the danger of losing one of your balls in an accident (apparently) and they wouldn’t allow you to be totally barren. I really don’t know what the guy who made that rule was thinking but that is a fact! Maybe, in the past it was quite common for this kind of accidents to happen and they didn’t want the population of the country to be jeopardized. Maybe, they thought that men with only one testicle were not men enough to serve the country (who knows?)… There are many regulations like that that stayed for generations without being changed.

Anyway, my first day in the army was really busy. I was able to get to my regiment and find a bed late in the evening. We were 42 men in the same room. My platoon was the 3.1 (3rd regiment, 1st class). I was advised (by people that recently finished their service) to get a bed close to the window (to get some fresh air and avoid the stink of all these people in the same room) but not too close to avoid the draft. I was also advised to get one of the lower beds of a bunk, because it is not that easy to be inspected. We also had in the same room a sergeant in training to keep us in control and guide us for the first days of our training.

I met the people in the adjacent beds and made some small talk. They were people from totally different backgrounds. The guy next to me was called Costas and was a professional fisherman never to leave his island. The guy on the same bulk bed as me was from Athens and abandoned his mechanical studies for a year to get his military service over with. The guy on the other bed was a geographer graduate who I had many things in common with, regarding our studies background. It was a very good and encouraging thing to discover that these people was in the exact same place as I was, worried about what would happen. It was very reassuring to see that.

However, I do remember not sleeping very well that night. I was very worried about the following months and felt very uncomfortable in that strange and hostile environment. The noise of all the other people snoring was not very helpful either.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Military Service (Part 1 of probably many)

I’ve been asked to talk about my military service and of course I couldn’t refuse…

Greece is one of the last remaining countries where it’s mandatory to join the army if you’re a boy over the age of 18 (lucky for us). Don’t get me started on why this is happening because there are so many reasons, political and financial. It’s also funny because Greece (not a very wealthy nation anyway) is being charged by the EU every year for discriminating between the sexes, since only the boys serve (on top of the rest of the money being spent).


Anyway…
Since I was young, I could hear stories regarding someone’s horrible experience during their service. Almost everybody has some weird story to tell, most of which were horrifying and sickening. It’s like the fishermen and the size of the fish they manage to catch. The scarier the story, the more times it’s being told.


The simple ones were about breakups, very bad weather, the lack of running water, food poisoning and the bad ones were about people being shot in shooting practice, traffic accidents with military vehicles or how homosexuals were being tortured by their supervisors / colleagues. Especially the latter category was like an all time classic. I could hear them everywhere. I’ve heard so many stories about gay people in the army that used to make my skin crawl.

I remember spending some sleepless nights worrying about it while growing up. I was horrified about the whole thing. I had heard that during the medical exams they do the first day you join, there is a specific test to check whether you’re gay or not (I was a bit gullible when very young). The funny bit is that these stories were hugely repeated and I heard them from various different people. I was told for example that the doctor checks the size of your anus (big anus = you’re gay in case you were wondering). Or since they make you strip naked in from of other men, they could check whether you’d be aroused by it or not. The bottom line of these stories was that, in case you’re gay, you’d be definitely found out and being taught a very good lesson about your ‘flaw’…


Anyway (I’m being carried away again)…
When I was 15 or 16 I was called to register with the rest of my generation. I had to present myself to the local military registration office to declare that I’m more than happy (yeah, right) to serve my country and that I’m healthy as far as I knew to do so. Back then (almost 15 years ago), you were able to say whether you wanted to serve in the air force, navy, ground force or the special forces. It was considered between the boys at school to be extra cool to say you wanted to serve in the special forces but I was not fooled (of course). I wanted to get it done as painless and quickly as possible. I knew that the air forces probably were the easiest option, but I couldn’t face to serve six months more than I had to, so I registered for the normal troops.

I don’t know if it is for the best or not, but you’re allowed to finish your studies before doing your service, so I first finished my first degree and then joined the army. I was 24 then. Sometimes, I think that it would be better for everyone if they forced you to join the army before university (like they do in Cyprus). When you finish your studies, you’re already a grown man, used to live by your own rules and ready to start your career. It’s not easy going back to the army, having your liberties restrained and being told to do things that you know do not make any sense or have any significance. I had people with me, much older than I was, with PhDs and PostDocs being treated like scum by uneducated offices half their age for no apparent reason…

So, beginning January 2005 I received the document declaring that I had to present myself early February in the training grounds of a specific military base in South Greece. I wasn’t allowed to have with me a list of things like a camera, mobile phone, medicines (unless prescribed), left winged books / newspapers, electronic equipment etc. I was just informed that I would be released with my first days off after I would be officially sworn as a proper soldier three weeks later.

I remember perfectly well my last day as a citizen. I was very worried and took some friends out to celebrate my last day of freedom (I just didn’t want to stay home, just waiting for time to pass). I had already bought everything that I thought I would need like padlocks for the lockers, bags and boots (you had to lock them together to find them the next day), underwear, crosswords, books, small music player, an old mobile phone (so that it wouldn’t be stolen) etc. I knew it was forbidden to have mobile phones with you, but I also knew that everybody would have them (some rules are meant to be broken).

So, the next day my parents drove me to my military base. We left my hometown before sunrise to be on time and I remember that it was snowing halfway there. I was worried about the barracks not having central heating or hot running water. I was worried about being discovered as being gay and if I’d survive the experience. I was worried about the type of people I would meet. I was worried about the length of my hair.

I was practically worried about everything.
I remember thinking that I had 364 more days until the end of what I thought would be an endless nightmare…

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

January

January is not a very good month, in general:
  • Holiday season is over
  • Next bank holiday is in April
  • Your bank balance is down
  • You’ve been paid before Christmas and spent everything before New Year
  • You credit card debt has skyrocketed
  • Energy bills / taxes / transportation expenses / VAT went up
  • You’ve gained weight
  • Almost everybody’s grumpy (and complaining to you)
  • It’s ‘sales’ season (and the only thing you can do is window shop)
  • Etc
Mostly it’s about the “Money” (and the lack of it, at the moment)

However, when I turn my head and watch the snow falling outside I cannot but smile.
It’s so beautiful outside…


Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Growing up…

For New Year’s Eve in 2000 I was in Zurich, Switzerland, with my parents celebrating the millennium extravaganza. In general, I was
  • 19 years old
  • In my second year in Polytechnic School trying to become a topographer / land surveyor / cartographer
  • I had a girlfriend called ‘Maria’ of already 3 months (we lasted 6 – don’t ask me how)
  • A frightened closeted gay (I couldn’t even speak to my closest and dearest friends)
  • Between partying and school, I remember worrying about my professional future and how I’d cope with my military service (the stories that were being repeated from the army were dreadful)
  • Quite insecure, not feeling good in my own skin and worried about what others thought of me
  • Not very close to my brother
OK, not everything was bad. I had a great time studying. It was the first time not living with my parents since I was studying in a different city and I liked the subjects I picked. That included staying up late watching the sunrise chatting with mates, partying until morning hours, going to gigs etc.

For New Years Eve in 2010 I was in my parent’s house (not that impressive) with friends and family.
I am
  • 29 years old
  • Having started a career in traffic engineering / software development
  • I (think I) have a boyfriend of (slightly over) a month
  • I am out to my parents, brother, colleagues and most of my friends. The rest that do not know, are people I don’t really care about
  • I am not that worried about the future and I know I survived the experience of being in the army
  • More secure and stable. I still care about what people think of me as long as these people are close friends or my brother
  • After my brother’s divorce and me coming out to him, we have a very good relationship that I know will last

I have some very nice things planned for 2010. After having successfully finished two 10k runs this autumn, I’ve already registered for a half marathon for charity in March. I am not training for it as much as I’d like (its freezing cold outside) but I hope that I’ll successfully finish it. I hope to be able to register this autumn for a whole marathon in London for spring 2011.

I also want to acquire an extra certificate to improve my software development skills before the end of summer and start looking for a job if things stay the same where I am now. I was promised in a way, some serious training and some improvement to my job title but I do not know if these will be delivered. We’ll see… The last training organized by my company was about ‘time management’. Yes, it was as ridiculous as it sounds…

Anyway, I’ve also recently done a review of the people I’ve slept with, cried for (not always literally) and spent many hours with in 2009. I don’t know if you are / were single that year, but it is quite fun doing a list like that. I am going to be amazingly honest with you and admit that I’ve ‘known’ eleven men this year including all one night stands I’ve had. I’m not really the type of person that will regularly go to a club / bar to hook up with men and I don’t sleep with people on a first date (that doesn’t always happen). I don’t know if that number is too big or too small (and I don’t care that much to be honest – it’s just a fact). On average is a little less than one guy per month which doesn’t sound that many, especially according to some gay standards. Some of these men are actually the same as 2008 (I always end up things in a civil way leaving a door of communication open). Thankfully, I remember all of their names and some background information on them. So, what’s your magic number? (please don’t make me sound like a slut)

Monday, 4 January 2010

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!


I’ve started writing this post on Saturday when I had a pile of clothes on my bed, waiting to be packed. I was still thinking of how I’d pack, since more than half my clothes stink of nicotine! Greeks do smoke a lot and I’m not used to it anymore (fortunately). I’ll probably wash everything when I get back (including the clean probably now smelly clothes) and leave my luguage open outside.

My Christmas holiday has been really nice. I was away for 10 days and tried to keep clear from all things related to technology. OK, not all things, but it was an honest effort. I didn’t log in to facebook, msn or twitter to contact people and I kept my accessing to the blogs I follow to minimum. Now, I have a lot of catching up to do…

I spent Christmas with family. My brother visited us for that weekend with his new girlfriend. It was kind of fun when my father called her with my brother’s ex wife’s name, during the massive meal, in front of everybody! I don’t know how funny she found it, but I did. Suddenly, all went quiet, not knowing what to do or react (hilarious)!

I spent New Year’s Eve with friends and family. I don’t know what the rest of the world does on that eve, but in Greece we have some traditions to follow. In theory, what you do at the change of the year is what you will be doing for the whole year. That is why you should be well fed, well clothed, happy with family and friends! We exchange presents right after the change of the year, for that same reason. You see, we don’t have Santa Claus coming in Christmas, but a variation of him on New Year’s Eve. He looks exactly the same (influences from the western civilisation aka Coca Cola) but he’s called differently (Saint Vassilys). We also traditionally cut a cake in his name that was made with a lucky charm inside. Whoever gets the piece with that charm will be lucky for the whole year (I didn’t get it this year)…

Another tradition is that after the change of the year you either go out (clubbing, to bars etc) or stay in with friends and family. You are also supposed to gamble a bit and challenge your luck by playing blackjack or similar games. Around 12:30am to 2am there’s the worst traffic jam in most Greek cities. I wasn’t an exception and I did the same. After the change of the year, around 1:30am I went to a friend’s place in the city. She had around 20 guests and it was very fun. One of the guests had a bouzouki (Greek musical instrument) with him and we sang and danced until around 4:00 when we started playing cards. I went home around 8:30 in the morning. Needless to say I spent the rest of January the 1st sleeping…

On a very different tone, I didn’t get my ‘revenge’ on ‘A’. He called me at some point saying that he was free for a coffee at that exact moment (he lives some kilometers away from the city but he didn’t tell me that he was coming to town beforehand) but it happened that I wasn’t free at that moment . He used to do that a lot in the past. Without any prior notice, he used to call me saying that he was in the city. Back then, though, I used to get very upset trying to modify my schedule according to his to see him. That is not happening any more. I couldn’t be bothered and cancel seeing some of my real friends to rush and see him. So, my revenge will have to wait…

I was in constant contact with JJ. He spent his Christmas holidays mostly working and we chatted during these days and exchanged many (many) text messages. I was very happy to see him yesterday. Coming back to a very cold (freezing actually compared to the sunny much warmer Greek climate) London was nothing since I had JJ to warm me up…

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

May 2010 bring you everything you wish for!