House, home, apartment, flat, condo, residence, lodge; so many English terms to describe what in Greek can be summed up in a single word: spiti.
Maybe that is because until recently, before the appearance of realtors and short-term leasing, the country’s financial state allowed for nothing more than “a roof over our heads”, a humble, functional and safe shelter to protect us from the vicissitudes of the weather and prying eyes.
Or maybe it is because social conditions necessitated the existence of a hearth – a space for family gatherings, a place to accommodate our joys and sorrows, Sunday dinners and holiday celebrations, providing a sense of privacy when necessary, and almost always spreading out to a small courtyard or the street in front of the house, where children would play and adults would sit discussing everyday affairs over cups of coffee.
And then came economic growth and development; the bare walls became potential assets and investment opportunities, land turned into a speculative bubble, and the old houses began to be demolished one by one, being replaced by “luxurious units with a fireplace, parking and storage space”. Meanwhile, immediately after the wrecking ball, but before the laying of the formwork for the concreting, their innards would be exposed just like on a mortuary table.
- Look, there is a mark on the parting wall where the staircase used to be. The kids were always running up and down there, playing, and grandma cursed at every step, because her knees were killing her.
- I remember that tan floral pattern wallpaper; it was in my parents’ bedroom. It was damp and peeled in one corner.
- The light blue tile with the soap dish – that’s where our bathroom was. And the mirror – I can still remember the look on my face the first time I shaved there.
- Look at the cabinets on that wall; it is as if the bulldozer left them unscathed out of respect. And the shirts are still hanging in the cupboard.
Not all demolished properties would have the same fate:
In many instances the ghost of the razed house would remain in plain view for two or three weeks, before being gradually covered by a new structure and ultimately forgotten.
Some would linger at that condition for a longer time, mainly due to miscommunication or lack of funds.
Others would languish in neglect for years, until they would be overtaken by grass and weeds.
Few would be turned into makeshift parking spaces.
And every last one, without exception, would become a canvas for aspiring graffiti artists.
All in all, one thing is for certain: Mr. Mimis doesn’t live here anymore!
Slideshow music by: Antonis Livieratos,
from the album Registry of Inadequate Self-healing Attempts,
released in 2021 on Same Difference Music
Thank you for trusting me with your wonderful music!
English translation by Panos Tomaras