Susie Rushton: Greek crisis? What crisis?

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The Independent Online

Where is the crisis in Greece? Perhaps the sun and sea and sheer beauty of the country refracts the gloom out of sight, but to the leisurely visitor like myself, just back from three weeks there, it's not visible. Certainly not on the islands, where three euros for a cola on the waterfront doesn't prevent the prettier cafés from packing out, even into late-season September.

The customers aren't all foreign tourists. On Hydra, a chic getaway two hours from Piraeus, the visitors are mostly Greek. "Athens is burning, but we're fine here," says a well-dressed audience member at a classical recital one evening. Down a sidestreet in Syros, the former shipping capital of Greece where the roads are newly paved with expensive (and utterly impractical) marble, we got talking to a former civil servant who threw up his hands indulgently at talk of the mounting economic storm. "Nothing will change here," he said of the efforts to tighten up a dysfunctional tax system. In Britain gloom is already infectious – and we're not even technically in recession – but in Greece everybody thinks it's somebody else's job to worry about the nation's financial future.

Neither was there much sign of meltdown in Athens itself, where crowds of British businessmen toasted themselves at the Galaxy Bar, atop the Hilton overlooking the Acropolis, and down in the streets the ancient marvels were crowded with tourists as usual. Of the recent protests the only scar was a cracked windowpane in the a bank near Syntagma Square. Athens newspapers talked of the visiting "troika" of international financial bodies, and of the increasing numbers of Greeks leaving for Australia, and businesses transferring over the border into Bulgaria.

But even in the city that supposedly "burned" with anger, the visitor, at any rate, can't perceive much disquiet. A planned taxi strike simplydidn't happen, and industrial action by air traffic controllers only caused minor delays. "We don't like to strike on a Sunday," reassured the hotel manager with a smile. In the meantime the public transportation system was a paragon of timeliness and efficiency, so those subsidies must be doing something right.

Perhaps the Greeks are simply so practised at hospitality towards tourists that they don't let us see the fear underneath. But I don't think so. Nature has blessed them, and so will the Germans, so what's to worry about? The only outward sign of anxiety is the rap-tap-tap of the strings of glass worrybeads that men of all ages snap between their fingers, a sound more likely to signal desire for another cigarette than fear that the notorious default will affect their lives much at all.





Liz and Shane – a love story for our time



It is a love story to melt the stoniest heart. She is the 45-year-old it-girl/actress/dried meat producer with a fabulous body and a rotten romantic record. He is the 42-year-old chubby ex-cricketer who has traded his all-Aussie blond highlights and beery reputation for a new, metrosexual grooming regime.

Liz Hurley and Shane Warne are a romance for our time. None of this reality-star rubbish, or the coupling of a famous singer with backing dancer, or sporting hero with a 21-year-old dolly bird. Celebrity divorcees Liz and Shane are the ultimate second-chancers.

Twitter has been the medium through which the rest of the world has learnt of their growing commitment to each other, culminating in the congratulations Hurley has been receiving since agreeing to Warnie's proposal at a pro-am golfing dinner at St Andrews on Saturday. It's a measure of just how ridiculous many people find this love match that William Hill are offering 3-1 on the couple never actually making it up the aisle, largely because she's a posh bird (admittedly, it is hard to imagine her declaring "I take you, Shane Keith...") and he's trying to be something that he's not.

But they are no throwaway romance, no disposable commitment like those barely enjoyed by Katie Price. Everything about their union suggests a commendable effort. Hurley and Warne are a symbol of a generation that has an unshakeable faith in both physical self-improvement and perpetual romantic reinvention, enjoying the trappings of young love into their forties and beyond. And if love doesn't work out, it's nothing that another session with the personal trainer/botox therapist/spray tan artist can't fix.





Over-engineered, overweight and over here



I'd always thought "Chelsea tractor" was a term of derision. A joke to describe the overblown consumption of using a vehicle engineered for extreme off-road conditions to tackle nothing more demanding than a school run to the Oratory and back. Now Range Rover are flogging their latest model, the hideously named Evoque, in Harvey Nichols, squarely targeting the urban female customer.

The pretence that these excessively large Darth Vader masks-on-wheels are designed to drive up mountains is thrown on the scrapheap. Some versions of the Evoque won't even have four-wheel drive. "We don't talk about off-road capability," says John Edwards, the brand's global brand director. Of the 27,000 Evoques that have been pre-sold (at £28,000-£50,000 a go), a third will be driven by women.

I can see how the new SUVs, which apparently now feel much sportier to drive than their clunky predecessors, appeal to drivers looking for confidence and safety, if they really must indulge a craving to gas-guzzle. But the popularity of these rottweilers of the road is making driving harder for the rest of us.

Who hasn't tried, and failed, to see past a looming Freelander on the right-hand side at a junction? Or felt vulnerable when blinded in the rearview mirror by a chunky Porsche Cayenne? An extra tax on these monsters in urban areas could be an answer – particularly as the typical SUV owner seems to be happy to pay anything for the right to drive tall.

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