Greek Island Books is pleased to welcome John Mole, author of It’s All Greek To Me! and The Sultan’s Organ – a four hundred years old travel blog.
GIB: When did you first fall in love with Greece?
JM: I first fell in love with the stories when I was quite young. One of my nicknames at school was Jonicles – like Pericles – because I preferred Greeks and Trojans to Cowboys and Indians. When I first went to Greece I fell in love all over again, this time with lunch – baby squid, suckling pig, fried eggplant, retsina. The two passions, the stories and the food, have stayed with me ever since.
GIB: How did you start writing?
JM: I can’t remember. It’s one of those things that has always been with me. I first got paid for writing reviews for the Times Literary Supplement after University. I specialised in the French novel and SF. These two have finally come together in a story I wrote in French that’s coming out in Solaris, the French Canadian SF magazine.
GIB: Have you written any other books?
JM: Many. Some have even been published. Three comic novels set in London, a couple of books about European business and organisational culture, and I Was A Potato Oligarch, the true story of how I tried to set up a jacket potato restaurant in Moscow in the Yeltsin years. A disaster but good material. They’re all on Kindle.
GIB: How do you feel about Greece’s current plight? What do you think the outcome will be?
JM: I feel very very sad and upset on behalf of all the Greeks I know, in villages and in Athens, who are decent, hard-working people. They have been betrayed by a corrupt and ineffective political class, of whom many are nothing short of criminal. A lack of political vision and will to reform and create a modern state out of the wreckage of the Junta dictatorship combined with self-interest and embezzlement have created a situation that will take at least a generation to fix. And it is the young generation who must do it. Where to start? The educational system fails the children. Greeks spend more on private education than almost any other nation in Europe. The Universities are ante-deluvian and strike ridden so that ambitious students are driven abroad to study. Bureaucracy and petty corruption stifles entrepreneurship. The legal system…Sorry I could go on and on. Most Greeks are patriotic, resilient, long-suffering, intelligent and resourceful so eventually something good will come out of the mess. But they have to find their own solutions and not those imposed from foreign bureaucrats and bankers.
GIB: What’s the funniest experience you ever had in Greece?
JM: There have been so many. We tend to think foreigners are odd or funny but when we live among them it is we who are the clowns. For example telling a builder in my bad Greek that I wanted a traditional roof made of onions and squid, when I meant to say tiles and reeds. Do you want a roof or an appetizer? he said. They still haven’t forgotten this in the village after thirty years. There are plenty more examples in my books.
GIB: What are the best and worst meals you’ve ever had there?
JM: The best have been the simplest. A lamb roasted on an improvised spit by its shepherd under an olive tree. An octopus bashed on a rock, hung up to dry for a couple of days and thrown on the charcoal. A Greek salad with cheese made by a neighbour and vegetables picked fresh from his garden. The worst have been those cooked by myself. Shepherd’s pie and rhubarb crumble just doesn’t seem to work in Greece.
GIB: What’s your single most cherished memory of Greece?
JM: Lying outside at night with wife and children after a taverna meal watching shooting stars zip through Orion and Cassiopea and Pegasus and all those other wonderful stories.