The Greek crisis has drifted in and out of the headlines for months, it seems, and would appear to be no nearer a lasting solution than it was throughout the whole of 2011.
EU bailouts, austerity packages, a possible return of the drachma, inconclusive elections; all tell their own stories – but there’s a wider element of heartbreak and despair at the heart of this 21st century Greek tragedy.
A return after a two-year absence to a small village in the north of Crete brought that human aspect into 20-20 vision – and it wasn’t a pretty sight.
Greek financial politics are played out daily in newspapers and on TV screens worldwide, but far away from the glare of the media spotlight, tens of thousands of lives are being turned upside down within the borders of the cradle of democracy.
A Crete bar-owner recounted a string of desperately sad stories; of women taking their children to state welfare officials in despair at being unable to provide food for them, of public sector salaries halved at a stroke, of expats leaving partners behind to return home in search of paid employment.
Many bars in the village were deserted, some had put up the shutters for good. Restaurant owners spoke of a long struggle against vanishing custom. The fear for future prospects was as striking as the rays of the piercing Mediterranean springtime sun.
Austerity measures to cut the deficit have led to an unemployment rate of 22 per cent. In four years, the Greek economy has shrunk by 20 per cent. That sort of eye-watering statistic puts the UK’s double-dip recession, however alarming, into perspective.
Some commentators have painted an Armageddon-style picture, of Kalashinikov-toting vigilante groups taking the law into their own hands on the streets of Athens.
At this juncture, it’s difficult to forecast in which direction the Greek crisis is liable to veer. If Greece leaves the euro, as seems increasingly likely, a domino effect is predicted, with the likes of Spain, Portugal and Italy following suit, with seismic after-shocks far beyond the sunny Med.
Meanwhile, over here in the UK, thousands of exporters to the financial basket cases of the Mediterranean await the fate of the region with increasing trepidation.
David Cameron wasn’t referring to Greece when he said we were all in it together. But that was the prevailing mood of the silent majority on the dusty streets of Northern Crete these last few days.