29 JULY 1989, Page 41

High life

Thieves to the last


ast weekend I boarded my father's beautiful blue cruiser and sailed, flag at half-mast, down towards the island of Spetsai and its environs. Originally I had Planned to drop in on friends like Philip Niarchos and his uncle George Livanos, but finally I stayed on the boat in the Company of my nephew and two karate buddies.

Spetsai is an island full of night-clubs, and as Greek Orthodox tradition requires 40 days of mourning, I decided — like Caesar's wife — to show some propriety and stay away from my natural habitat. Mind you, I had not the slightest desire to do otherwise.

My father had ordered the boat to be named Eros when he bought her, which needs no translation, but the shipyard that was outfitting her mixed things up and the brave ship was named Love. Being super- stitious in maritime matters, my father let it Stand. It was an awful name, corny and a bit nouveau, so during the best part of the trip I tried to figure out a way to change it without countermanding his wishes. I final- ly decided J. T's Love was the most appropriate. I guess this is the type of Problem one occupies one's mind with When one is trying not to think.

This may be a sad time for me, but not for Greece and the majority of the Greeks. The change of government seems to have done wonders for the people in general, and the traffic in particular. For one thing, they don't block off streets for every wife of a minister who comes down from the northern suburbs to Athens to shop. For another, the 'Green Guards', the thugs Who accompanied government officials and acted like Mediterranean-style Ton-Ton Macoutes, are no longer around. Well, at least not everywhere, as they used to be. They still managed to send a 58-year-old man to hospital with grave injuries when the unfortunate soul happened to approach Ali Babandreou to ask him for an auto- graph, while the ex-premier was honey- mooning in an expensive resort. What is certain is that it will take time to evaluate the real cost of seven and a half Years of 'socialist' rule. At the moment, What the new cabinet has inherited from its predecessors is very unclear, because the government's executive offices look as if a retreating foreign occupation army has gone through them.

No documents were found in any minis-

try, and in several instances basic office equipment was taken away. In Ali Baban- dreou's office, even the telefax machines disappeared. Amazing as this may sound to English people, it is nevertheless true, and the 'socialists' who ruled my country for almost eight years abandoned their minis- tries like common thieves.

Needless to say, like good things, bad things too come to an end, and Ali's days in politics are numbered. At the acme of his reign, he did manage to capture the Greeks' imagination with his virulent anti- Americanism and anti-West rhetoric. His shifting, darting executioner's eyes were irresistable to a people long pushed around by Turks, Germans and eventually Amer- icans. He knew how to play the populace far better than Segovia knew how to handle his guitar. But a crook is a crook, and now the chickens have come home to roost. Or at least I sincerely hope so.