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The matter of trust

  • 19 August 2021
My son’s Athenian flat was burgled last month. I had been visiting Athens for the first time in more than a year, and so was with the family when they arrived back, after a fairly brief evening absence, to sheer chaos. Anybody who has had this experience will be able to picture the scene: every drawer and cupboard had been opened, with the contents spilled and strewn everywhere. Even the loft had been checked.

The thieves knew precisely what they wanted: gold and cash, and they found small amounts of both in the shape of my daughter-in-law’s few good pieces, my son’s wedding ring, and my grandson’s presents of money from his doting grandfathers. The gravest loss was that of the children’s crosses, as every Orthodox child receives this very valuable present at his or her baptism. The crosses are always gold, for gold is the symbol of eternity.

The worst part of this episode was the children’s terror. Baby Margarita naturally carried on regardless, but George (8) and Julia (5) were deeply shocked at this first betrayal of their assumed security, for entry had been gained via their bedroom door, a sliding glass one, much of which now lay in smithereens on the floor. It took fairly sustained efforts and quite some time to calm them.

It was interesting to note, however, the reaction when the police arrived after about an hour. Julia, in particular, was very reassured. It seems she has learned to trust the police. ‘They’re here for us,’ she said, a statement that led me to ponder briefly the effects of time and change. When I was five in that long-ago Australia, policemen wandered about in their navy-blue uniforms and directed traffic. We had a vague idea they had truncheons in specially designed long pockets at the side of their trousers, but we never actually saw one. The three Athenian enforcers of law and order were very different. Dressed in deep black with matching masks, they were armed to the teeth, a fact I did not find reassuring at all. Nor was I comforted by the fact that they all looked about 18. But they were courteous and efficient, took particulars, gave instructions about not touching anything before another visit next day, and left.

During the boring and protracted business of cleaning up, I began to ponder the matter of trust. When I first came to Greece and began living