Written in stone?

A winter spike in cases and the consequent lockdown aside, Greece has handled the pandemic better than much of the world. Less so the incursion of coronavirus-related foreign terminology, which, one esteemed Greek linguist feels, is being transmitted among the Hellenes at an alarming rate. Georgios Babiniotis, a former education minister and the author of Dictionary of Modern Greek, worries that “Greeks have had to get their heads, and tongues, around words such as ‘lockdown’, ‘delivery’, ‘click away’, ‘click-and-collect’ and ‘curfew,’” reports The Guardian. “The emergence of ‘Greenglish’—Greek written with English letters—as an unofficial e-language since the arrival of the internet has also sparked alarm.”

On the other hand, Greece did give the world the word of the past year—“pandemic”—and the Greek language, some three and a half millennia on, remains the country’s greatest export, keeping the globe well stocked in polysyllabic tongue twisters that can nevertheless be satisfyingly pulled apart and understood. And even though English-language imports such as “weekend” long ago infiltrated Greece (and most of the world), it doesn’t mean the Greeks have completely abandoned, for instance, their word for weekend—savvatokyriako—which, like so many Greek words, just rolls off the tongue. And keeps rolling. (The accent, by the way, is on the 4th—or is it the 14th?—syllable.)

Word that French authorities had broken up and arrested a nefarious Birkin-and-Kelly-bag-purchasing ring spread through certain segments of the population before you could say “luxury resale.” Yes, a criminal purchasing ring—this case doesn’t involve stealing, or counterfeiting. “Detectives say the gang recruited women on the internet and from acting schools to pose as wealthy clients and buy luxury handbags in Hermès shops for about €8,000 [$9,500] each. The gang is alleged to have made a million euros a month by buying half the company’s supply and selling the bags for three times their retail price,” reported The Times of London. Birkin and Kelly bags are typically sold only by appointment to regular clients and international notables, and the newspaper made clear that, even though Hermès’s less exclusive bags can in theory be bought at its shops by the rabble, they really tend to be available only to “clients judged likely to enhance [the brand’s] reputation.”

Over at the PurseForum Web site, reaction to news of the resale ring was swift. “They should probably stop offering bags to walk-ins/no purchase history,” wrote one commenter, to posted murmurs of agreement. Although another B-and-K fan observed that “we are talking about handbags here, not pistols. Hermès is not going to issue a permit to buy one nor should it.”

The tiny island of Procida, in the Bay of Naples, has been named Italy’s “Capital of Culture 2022.” Tiny but not entirely unfamiliar, at least to film buffs: Corricella, Procida’s colorful 17th-century port city, is where much of both Il Postino and The Talented Mr. Ripley was shot. “It’s a good thing for the island and important for the generation who will come after us,” one local fisherman told The Guardian, regarding the cultural designation. “But we need to be cautious. Tourism is OK but if it becomes too frenetic, like Capri or Ischia, we risk losing our traditions.”

Any concerns about too much tourism are not likely to be shared some 2,500 miles due north of Procida on the even tinier island of Pater Noster, just off the coast of Sweden. There, this week, one solitary moviegoer has been attending 2021’s digital-only iteration of the Göteberg Film Festival. The winner, a nurse, was chosen from among 12,000 applicants. “If you are selected,” the competition rules read, “you commit to living in isolation on the island … completely without contact with the outside world, for a week.... You will not be allowed to bring your phone, computer, books or similar items with you. There will be pen and paper if you want to take notes or draw. But otherwise, the films of the Göteborg Film Festival are your only company.” No one, in short, to pass the popcorn to.

A lawyer in central Peru is facing possible disbarment because of the way he, um, acquitted himself during a Zoom court hearing for the trial of a local gang. “Apparently unaware that his camera was on [he] could be seen stripping off and then having sex with an unidentified woman, believed to have been his client, who was allegedly connected to the gang,” The Times of London reported. The newspaper added that the judge “called a halt to the proceedings,” though it’s not clear precisely which proceedings.

Eurostar, the speedy rail service that connects the U.K. to France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, has lost 95 percent of its passengers since March, and now operates only two round trips a day. But because France’s state-run S.N.C.F. owns 55 percent of Eurostar, there’s little enthusiasm in England to help save the company. “British taxpayers lost out on £700m [close to $1 billion] of dividends and preference shares when the Tory government sold its Eurostar stake in 2015,” noted a recent opinion piece in the Financial Times. “Now the high-speed rail link, shuttling just 300 or so tenacious passengers a day to and from the continent, wants UK bailout funds. The response should be a resounding non.

Closer to Brexit-embracing home, however, the idea of spending more than $1 billion on an Oxford-Cambridge rail link—well, that appeals. “The Department for Transport said it would commit to reopening 20 miles of the old Varsity line between the university cities,” reported The Times of London. “It represents a big step towards the full reopening of the 70-mile route which was shut in 1967 after more than 100 years of service because of a decline in passenger numbers.” Zuleika Dobson, anyway, would approve.

George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL