The older I get, the more I return to my Greek heritage to help me deal with life’s great dilemmas and problems.
In far-flung Australia, I find myself constantly consulting the ancient and modern Greeks to make sense of the world.
Here are some recent examples.
I feel unwell so I go to my GP. The doctor examines me and gives me a pathology request form. I take it to a pathology clinic. I take a number.
The collection nurse calls out my number and shows me to the room. I hand her the pathology request form.
She turns the request around and then upside down, but she still can’t understand the doctor’s handwriting.
She takes out volumes I and II of E.A. Wallis Budge’s “An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary” from her top draw. Neither volume helps: she still cannot read the doctor’s writing. She starts to perspire.
I remind her the father of medicine is the ancient Greek, Hippocrates. I tell her that as a Greek-born Australian citizen, I know how to help her decipher the pathology script.
I take out the Rosetta Stone from my handbag. I work backwards reading and translating from the stone’s bottom which is in Greek. The same message is repeated in the middle section in Demotic, the popular language of Egypt at the time. By now, I can read the stone’s first inscription which is in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. I tell her the hieroglyphics message is a decree by Egyptian priests to commemorate the crowning of Ptolemy V Epiphanes, king of Egypt from 203 to 181BC and the text has similar character to what my doctor has written on the pathology request form. I concentrate.
Within minutes I decipher my doctor’s pathology request. I need a lipid studies and urine test. I tell the nurse.
The nurse takes my blood. I put the Rosetta Stone in my handbag and take it with me to the toilet. When I’m finished, I give the nurse my specimen bottle.
She takes it, thanks me and asks for the Rosetta Stone. I refuse.
“Please, I beg you,” she says.
“So much of my time is taken up reading doctor’s scribble. Their unintelligible writing is killing my stats.”
I don’t budge. I tell her ebay currently has a special on Rosetta Stone authentic replicas and she should buy one.
In the meantime, if she wants to action real change and make doctors’s writing intelligible, she should join our group, “Hippocrates’ Hellenic Helpers Against Horrendous Handwriting” or HHHAHH for short. I tell her to sign our online petition demanding doctors write medicine scripts and pathology requests in boxes, preferably with a blue pen. The nurse says she’ll consider my suggestion.
I go home and open my letterbox.
I have an electricity bill. I am billed every 90 days. I try and understand how the company came to the billed amount via usage per kilowatt hour(kWh). I am confused.
I ring the provider. There is a delay and then I hear a noisy call centre.
“Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, sir or madam. How can I help you today?” the man says.
I have a hunch I’m speaking to a citizen from the subcontinent part of the Commonwealth.
Mike attempts to explain my bill. I am none the wiser.
I know my “indicative greenhouse gas emissions” per tonne because the graph and dots on my bill tell me so.
I also know my kWh usage this year compared with the same time last year, because I see a picture of a small house with a chimney and a larger house with a chimney.
I am grateful for the dots and pictures, but I can’t rest. I need to know how my electricity usage is calculated. I decide this is a job for the ancient Greeks.
It is believed that Greeks developed the world’s first analogue computer, the Antikythera Mechanism. Remnants of the 2100-year-old bronze mechanism were first discovered off the waters of Antikythera Island, more than 100 years ago.
An astronomical calculator, it is considered a masterpiece of mechanical engineering.
Since its discovery, great strides have been made to understand how the mathematical device may have worked, including last week by the University College London (UCL).
So, I visit Manoli, who lives at unit 2, in my block of flats in the Melbourne inner-city suburb of Richmond.
He opens the door. He is in his work clothes. He is a sponge diver. He is wearing Greek standard diving equipment or “σκάφανδρο”. He takes off his helmet.
He then takes out all 82 fragments of the Antikythera Mechanism he found in the deep sea, in 1901. He shakes off the water from the Aegean Sea and uses SpongeBob
SquarePants to wipe away the algae.
He keys in all the figures on my bill. We wait. He cracks the formula. The method used to calculate my usage per kWh is revealed.
“I have broken Da(correct) Electricity Bill Code!” Manoli exclaims.
I ask him to explain the mystery, but he hasn’t got time. He tells me his discovery is vital information of world significance. He flies to Canberra to meet the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
Manoli gets his visa. He first flies to England to tell the UCL Antikythera Research Team of his discovery in the hope that it will aid their research in creating a working model of the mechanism using ancient techniques. He then takes the Antikythera Mechanism’s 82 fragments to the National Archaeological Museum, in Athens. He waits at Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport for a return flight to Melbourne.
COVID-19, overseas travel and the future.
Even though I solve some of the modern world’s great mysteries by deciphering my GP’s handwriting and my electricity bill, my heart is still heavy.
I toss and turn at night. What will the future hold?
I decide to call my older, wiser cousin in Greece who is in lockdown. He tells me he has secured a permit and has travelled to Mount Parnassus, in central Greece.
I ask him why he has risked contracting COVID-19 by leaving his idyllic beach-side resort village of Nea Vrasna, in the Greek province of Thessaloniki, to travel to a mountain.”Have you driven all that way for work?” I ask.
“No, cousin. I am troubled,” he says.
“I am anxious about life and my future. I need answers.
“So, I’ve come to The Oracle of Delphi.
“Wait a minute. Here comes the priest who will interpret messages sent by Apollo.
“Have you got any questions you want me to ask the oracle Pythia, cousin?”
I tell him to ask the oracle when will coronavirus be eliminated and when will we be able to travel overseas and to the Greek islands. I ask him to ask Pythia if the Hellenic Republic will reintroduce the abolished Greek grammar diacritic punctuation marks that look like half moons, the “ψιλη” and “δασεια”, for the bicentennial?
My cousin asks the oracle all my questions. The priest comes back with the answers.
“The priest says that COVID-19 will be eradicated in…”
But my cousin stops mid-sentence. He has another call and puts me on hold.
I hear the telecommunication company’s recorded message.
The female recorded voice says: “Η κλήση σας είναι σε αναμονή. Παρακαλούμε περιμένετε” and “Your call has been been placed on hold. Please hold the line.”
The oracle has spoken.