Farting Through a Silk Kaftan

Some days events conspire to mock you.

Australia/Invasion/Citizen/Fuck Off We’re Full Day 2015 was one of those days.

Demis Roussos died, Prince Philip was to be knighted and a Socialist Government, led by Alexis Tsipras won power in Greece.

I had the misfortune of being born in the same clinic on the same island, Corfu, as Phil the Greek. My paternal grandparents insisted I be named Philip (I added another L to disassociate myself from the connection early in primary school)

Mum wanted to call me Arthur, after her uncle, who lived in Florida USA and used to send money to mum and her family during the depression and wars that mum experienced in the first 20 years of her life. Uncle Arthur died rich and childless, but nothing was left for us in the will. His Scottish wife and her nephews and nieces got their hands on the kitty.

My dad Tom rejected an invitation to go to the States and work for uncle Arthur in real estate. Mum was keen, but Tom was too proud. He wanted to do things his way.

After working at GMH for 10 years in Melbourne, sweeping the factory floor and oiling parts, an opportunity arose in 1963 to run a mixed business in Queenstown, Tasmania. He took mum and my two siblings Julie and Tim, then aged 7 and 5 and began his foray as a proud shop keeper.

Queenstown was a copper mining town in the main, but the shop was a goldmine for my family. Dad decided to change our surname to Demis because he didn’t want to stand out as a wog in a town full of anglos.

Demis was my surname until I got married. Me and my brother decided to go back to the original Dimitriadis around 1997.

The damage, however, had been done. My childhood was filled with jibes and asinine questions about being related to the Kaftan clad Demis Roussos.

“My surname isn’t Roussos for fuck’s sake!”

I would protest in exasperation. The sniggering continued into high school as Demis Roussos’ star in Australia shined through multiple appearances on The Don Lane Show. When Bert Newton began to parody Demis I couldn’t escape the taunts.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if things went as planned after dad sold the shop in Queenstown.

You see, the plan was for us to live in Corfu as wealthy land owners. I was born in 1969 when my parents went back for good. My brother hated it in Greece. He took his woolen Collingwood jumper, a footy and a copy of Jack Dyer’s The Wild Men of Football to comfort him as he got ribbed for being a ‘kangaroo’ by the local kids. My sister didn’t fare much better.

The ideal was for the kids from Queenstown and Collingwood to have a life farting through silk in Corfu.

Tom was a fine shop keeper, but a terrible businessman. He bit off more than he could chew by pouring all our money into a clinic that to this day is a thorn in the Dimitriadis’ family’s side. Within the year we were back in Melbourne and living above a milk bar in Victoria street Richmond. When I started primary school we were bankrupt and living in a flat in Nicholson Street, Collingwood. Dad took a job in a factory that made jeans in Wellington Street.

The only moments of joy in our family were when Collingwood won. In 1975 me,my dad and Tim used to walk to the last quarters of games as entry was free. My first footy memory is seeing a white-booted Phil Carman take Hawthorn to the cleaners while sitting on Tim’s shoulders in the outer at Vic Park.

By 1976 Colingwood and the Demis family had reached a nadir. Back to Queenstown for another shot at financial security, This time it was me, mum and dad. Julie married young and Tim got into uni. They stayed in Melbourne.

Dad sold half his share in the clinic in Greece, did okay in Queenstown and by early 1979 we were at least able to afford a home in less than cosmopolitan Preston.

Demis Roussos was at the height of his fame, much to my chagrin.

Tom hated Communists. They’d taken his land from his family in Albania in 1944. For some reason he voted labor in Australia and loved Whitlam because he was the first PM to encourage people to bring and share rather than eschew their cultural capital.At the same time he supported the Junta in Greece because they helped him with the business. Tom was a man of contradictions. A self-loathing Greek in Australia and a patriot in Greece, despite often being mocked as an Albanian by so-called true Greeks.

Tom wouldn’t be happy with the election result in Greece. It was a win for the ‘barefooted’ as he’d like to call them. I don’t know if it will make much difference to the country, but I hope that the young leftie, Tsipras, can win the trust of the people and help forge a more positive environment for Greeks in Greece and those in the diaspora. We have been a nation and a culture divided against ourselves for too long.

On the back of the Tom Wills piece, which I wrote a few weeks back, John Harms and myself made a pilgrimage to Heidelberg to visit the grave. I showed John my dad’s grave and tried to translate the Greek writing on the stone. My dad’s favoutite phrase was “Meriaste Na Diavo” which means: “Make way, I’m coming through.”

Like the events of Australia Day 2015, it made me laugh and cringe.

About Phillip Dimitriadis

Carer/Teacher/Writer. Author of Fandemic: Travels in Footy Mythology. World view influenced by Johnny Cash, Krishnamurti, Larry David, Toni Morrison and Billy Picken.


  1. Very interesting, thanks. Perhaps the Phil knighted yesterday should have been Carman. Also makes me think about how different My Family and Other Animals might have been if set in Queenstown…

  2. Your next book is coming along beautifully Phil.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Hey Phil, did you or yours ever get to grace the gravel at Queenstown?

  4. Condolences to you and your family on the passing of Uncle Demis.
    Any chance he left you something in the will?
    “Farting through silk” and “my friend the wind” – same thing really.
    Top stuff Phil – keep ’em coming.

  5. Like Carman was in 1975 and 1977, Dimitriadis is in brilliant form in 2015.

    Dave, it’s Dimitriadis who we now should be addressing as, “Sir Phil”.

    Great stuff, Phil!

  6. Peter Fuller says

    Fascinating story, Philip. Certainly agree with T-Bone, Peter B and Gigs about your fine current form, although I suspect that you will consider Gigs’ proposed knighthood an affront to your democratic sensibilities.
    I reckon all our Dads are a mass of contradictions, and that’s a talent we then replicate in our parent status.

  7. If the PM bestowing a knighthood on Phil the Greek is a reflection of 2015 Australia, we remain a very servile and ingnorant mob. Thank goodness for events like the Share the Spirit concert held yesterday in the Treasuary Gardens.. Performers like Kucha Edwards, and Monica Weightman, reflect so much more of what/where/who we should be than an Anglophone PM making us a global laughing stock.


  8. Very interesting upbringing you had Phill (two l’s remember everyone) and a complicated family background. I’m glad you changed your name back to Dimitriadis. I wonder if many people these days feel the need to do the same to help them fit in? Or are we beyong that now?

    Like the others, loving your rich vein of form in 2015.

  9. Scratch an Aussie and you’ll find a Pom.

    All you have to do to appreciate that the compliment is not reciprocated is to land at Heathrow and watch all the Germans and Italians walk in through the “” Us” entrance while Australian Passport holders enter as foreigners.

  10. Great reflection Mr Lord Bogan. Guess you know all the words to I’ve Been Everywhere. It was a big day for Greeks wasn’t it. I trust the young socialist Tsipras can step up for Greece. They deserve the chance he is offering.

  11. A wonderful recount Phillip. Yours is a rich story. A few years back a Greek bloke I worked with told me of how hard the austerity measures had hit Greece with schools unable to buy books for the kids. Let’s hope it begins to turn around. Keep the yarns coming!

  12. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Thanks for the comments and reflections gents. I’m starting to feel concerned that no women comment on my stories. Is there an unconscious misogyny in my tales? I mean I’m surrounded by women at home, apart from a neutered cat, which doesn’t really count.
    Dave, Queenstown was cold, isolated and safe. A great place for a kid to roam free and play without fear.
    T-Bone, If I reach Prince Philip’s age I might put out another book. Won’t be going down that road for a while. Too bloody expensive!
    Swish, spent many days taking the skin off my knees and the footy at the gravel ground. Wasn’t a bad comp in those days with City and Lyell Gormanston the main rivals.
    Peter B, I might just make a claim for ‘Uncle Demis’s’ estate. You never know when karma might be kind to you.
    Gigs, always appreciate your support and know that your counsel at the Royal Oak that night was crucial in getting me back to writing about what I love/hate/feel indifferent to. I feel like the old bloke from Monty Python’s Life of Brian who had his vow of silence interrupted and now I can’t shut up!
    Peter F, sage reflection. I think Anastasia is seeing me in the way I saw my old man at the moment. Getting hard to pull the wool over her eyes now.
    Glen, Love the ‘Share the Spirit’ idea. Should be more of it. Every man made ideology should be contestable.
    DJ, I think people are more comfortable with their original names these days, Greeks anyway. Was much more pressure to assimilate for those that lived in the 60s and 70s.
    Mulcaster, same thing happened to me at ‘Eleftherios Venizelos Airport’ in Athens in 2010. I feel more acutely Australian when I’m overseas. Wonder why that is so?
    Rick, Tsipras has a son named Che, refused to wear a tie at his inauguration and did not want the church present either. A promising start!
    Mickey, too many especially young people and migrants have borne the brunt of the austerity measures. Let’s hope they can turn things around.

    Dad was an eccentric old bugger. When he ran his Milk Bars he was happy. He was like the Captain of his own ship and customers were passengers he’d love to serve and banter with about sport, politics, religion and the vagaries of daily life. It gave him an identity, a purpose. The work was hard and the commitment meant spending little time with his wife and children. I think he kind of liked that arrangement.
    Dad had a habit of mangling the English language, but had barely finished primary school and his ability to carry on a legible conversation was quite advanced compared to many of his peers. Working the shop forced him to learn to communicate. He actually spoke four languages: Greek, Albanian, Italian and English. He grew up in Northern Epirus and attended a bilingual school, where the kids learned Greek and Albanian. The Italian influence was also pervasive as the region was geographically and politically linked to Italy through much of its history.
    Dad was also an anglophile. He’d regularly quote English adages, admired Churchill ,but was benevolent towards Whitlam. He admired what Whitlam did for free education and the promotion of migrants. I was with him when we both shook Whitlam’s hand in Queenstown during the ill-fated 1977 election campaign. “Get Australia Working” was the slogan. It didn’t work. That was the last we would see of Gough in Australian politics. Dad had a deep mistrust of communists because he and his family had to flee Northern Epirus to escape the tyranny of Enver Hoxha in 1944. Some of the members of mums family were pretty staunch communist sympathizers and dad was often wary when they’d come around sprouting propaganda about how great Stalin and the Eastern Bloc was for fighting against the capitalist and royalist scourge. He’d tell us not to listen and warn us: “They are commons!” By this he meant ‘commies’, but I also think that at some level he really believed that they were ‘common’ in a pejorative sense.
    Dad grew up on a dairy farm in a village called Gardikaki, just outside of Delvino, in what is now Southern Albania. Being landowners and making a pretty good living out of exporting milk and cheese to Bulgaria and Russia, it was not surprising that the family was targeted by the Hoxha regime. He felt that he belonged to one of the privileged families in the area. They were big fish in a small pond, but when you know little of the outside world, that status can give you a real sense of entitlement.

    All the stuff about Greece, Prince Philip, Australia Day, Demis Roussos really brings to the surface question of what identity and ideology means and how and what can make it shift over time. More than anything else, these events made me realise just how much I miss him not being around. This song by The Fureys sums it up as well as anything:

  13. Phil (and Dina and Anastasia), It was a brilliant couple of hours sitting with you on Sunday evening Phil. I always enjoy our conversations – always something interesting and stimulating (and encouraging) about sitting with you. I always leave your company feeling you’ve provided me with a Bex for my soul and a Whizz-Fizz for my mind.

  14. DBalassone says

    Really great stuff Phil. Loving how you are using the prisms of sport, politics and culture to tell one helluva of an autobiography. Looking forward to future posts!

  15. G’day Phil,
    Reading your Tom Wills and now this leaves me feeling privileged and wonder-struck. Together they’re like an inner search and questioning written in an uncommonly creative and illuminating way.
    Who knows where this search will take you? Regardless, I reckon it’s a powerful thing to be doing. Hope the journey itself lights a path.

  16. Michele Davis says

    Hi Phill,
    Loved your story, oh the indignity of being called Demis during the glory days of the other Demis !
    I feel for you! So glad you changed back to the original. Shall be looking for more of your stories as I’m a (shamefully) infrequent reader of the almanac.
    Beautiful and funny read. Hope you’re happy with a womans comment!

  17. ” I feel more acutely Australian when I’m overseas” … absolutely, It is not unique to us. I had a lecturer in American History who was from New York. He said he loved Australia because in America he was either a Italian American, a New Yorker or a whop. in Australia he was just “another fucking Yank”…

  18. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    JTH, always enjoy our chats. The less formal the better. It’s good to just talk and see where it goes sometimes. Serious about the Almanac Manila night. Could be fun.

    Damian, It was a treat catching up with you last night. Everything from wrestling to, watching the Socceroos to questioning the nature and reason for existence, not to mention reliving the magic of Daicos!

    Michele, appreciate the support and the sympathy. I need all I can get!

    Mulcaster, terrific example. Poor Yanks do cop it abroad. Almost everytime I’ve walked into a shop or cafe in Greece the owners/staff speak English to me thinking/knowing I’m a tourist. When I start to speak Greek at first they are shocked, but quickly follow up with: “You’re not from here though, are you?”

    ER, I love reading your pieces as they get me to think of ways that I could be a better, dare I say more decent human being. Just reading your comment got me scurrying to find an old James Joyce quote from Dubliners. Kinda captures where I’m at on this journey. Hope you like it:
    “The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself which these dead had one time reared and lived in was dissolving and dwindling.” (The Dead)

  19. Wonderful piece Phil. Everyone has a story. Yours is rich and varied and very interesting. Thanks for writing it.
    I find Australia Day all very contrived. I know the idea is good but the execution is very try-hard. It’s the day you have when you have no revolution or civil war to commemorate.
    The communist in Greece has enormous problems to deal with. He is young and brash but will need more than that. Communism has never provided the solution in the past. Let’s see if lessons have been learned.
    Really enjoyed reading this.

  20. Gregor Lewis says

    Heartfelt, evocative, resonant reminiscences Phil.
    The patchwork identity unique to the Balkans creates a powerfully difficult path to walk in life.
    Credit to your father for never shirking the burden of defining his way through it.
    Powerful writing Phil and a richly worthwhile read.

  21. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Thanks Dips,
    Everyone indeed has a story that is rich, varied and interesting if one chooses to see it that way. We have come a long way since the 2008 ABC Unleashed days. Were you the first to be published on footyalmanac.com.au back in 2009? Don’t think the Troika will allow communism to flourish in Greece, Dips. Young Tsipras has a lot of negotiating ahead of him.

    Gregor, appreciate the comment. I guess the term ‘Balkanisation’ had to come from somewhere. So many were displaced in those years culturally and geographically.
    Learning to trust again must have been a huge challenge for that generation.

    What you wrote the other day about your mum also got me thinking about my dad’s last years as dementia made him ‘belligerent’ as the people at the nursing home liked to call him. He certainly made them earn their money for a few years.

  22. Luke Reynolds says

    Wonderful writing Phil. These are the types of stories that need to be told on Australia Day.
    Dimitriadis is a far better sounding name than Demis. Did your father ever change back?

  23. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Cheers Luke,
    Great question. He couldn’t be bothered with all the paperwork, so he didn’t change it back. Then he got crook with dementia so he couldn’t remember his name anyway.

    My mum still gets the occasional letter or bill addressed to Mr Tom Demis. She changed her details back to Dimitriadis after he passed away. We’re self-loathing Greeks in spirit only now, thankfully.

  24. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Loved it Phil your openness and honesty is always fascinating to read , a incredible story , some fantastic comments above ditto , Dips re Australia day , keep em coming , Phil !

  25. Stan the Man says

    Love your work Phill. My father came to Australia just after the WW2. The day he got off the boat he landed a job for a construction company as a bricky, When asked to register his name for his first pay packet he replied Dimitrios Phillipos Gia……..The site foreman said to him what sort of a f…name is that !! He told him Dimitrios = Jim and Phillipos = Phillip. Forget the surname wouldn’t even attempt that one. So for the next 15 years working for this company he was known as Jim Phillips !!!!! My son asked me one day why he was not name James, Jim or even Jamie ??? I told him this story then told him to listen to an old Jonny Cash song about a man named Sue. Loved Phil’s white boots we had him a Norwood for a few years and was the reason the Parade would “fill” with people coming to see him to his stuff. All the best Meygalle

  26. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Thanks Malcolm, my family took it in the right spirit, which is good.
    Stan, ‘Jim Phillips? Sounds more Scottish than Greek. Great story. I must have gone to school with at least half a dozen ‘Pappas’s’ who had their names shortened. The longest I’ve come across is Papahatziharalambopoulos. Imagine getting off the boat with that one?

  27. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    You’d think he might have left this for me in his will: http://greece.greekreporter.com/2015/02/10/demis-roussos-greek-villa-on-sale-for-2m-euros/

Leave a Comment