When in doubt, add a Greek column

What is it about humans and the “exotic” – how we give everything a theme, a flavour of somewhere else? The other day I went for a long walk with a friend exploring the streets of my local suburbs. Lots of new houses were shooting up – many of them a little bit “pseudo-Spanish-villa” or “pseudo-Swiss-chalet”. Some actually did look inviting, others shouted “I am not in Tuscany but I wish I was so badly that I’ll put this curly wrought iron fence on the balcony whether it matches or not”.

The houses that were the most adorable (I say that because I’m trying to be the glass-half-full girl – secretly I wish someone would blow them up) are the brick boxes built in the 80s. They could be houses, they could be apartment buildings, or they could be a governmental test of my mental ability to endure poor aesthetics. “Let’s see how much ugliness she can survive before she snaps and vandalises – at which point we move in quickly and slap her with a monstrous fine”. Sorry, I don’t really think of the government in that manipulating way, but I caught a glimpse of Big Brother on TV last night and 1984 has been dredged up from my subconscious.

These buildings I speak of are the rectangular prisms which look as though, if you ate them, they’d taste like cheap rye crackers. They have no shape and the bricks are the colour of, um, clay. But not just any clay. Clay that is the colour of cheap biscuits! But it doesn’t stop there. It’s as though, on completion, the builders have realised that these boxy structures are lacking a little “something”, and have tried to remedy the situation by cementing Grecian columns-as-railings on the balconies.

If President Obama were to see this, he’d call it “putting lipstick on a pig”. Then he’d slow-jam the news.

Despite my put-downs, I do think it’s quite sweet. And let’s face it, a Greek column is better than no Greek column. But what is it about these other cultures that appeal to us so much? Are we that unhappy with our culture in Australia that we’ll do anything to brainwash ourselves into thinking we’re actually in the Greek Isles?

Perhaps this need for escapism is universal. Are there retired couples in Athens building Queenslander-esque wooden houses on stilts? Are Swiss farmers training their cows to squawk like cockatoos? (The “moo” is just so…ordinary).

And don’t get me started on the names people give their houses. One clay-coloured property had the words “Las Palmeras” glued to the front fence. But it wasn’t an exotic manor in the heart of Spain filled with the smell of tapas and the sounds of Flamenco. It was a small residential property with three palm trees out the front.

Truth be told, I actually do like these little tributes to the Mediterranean. Sure it may be putting lipstick on a pig – but everyone loves Miss Piggy!


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