Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Living in Greece

September 2016

My granddaughter is here! She is now a month old, and I will go to Athens to see her again shortly. She’s a big girl, in training to be some kind of Cretan-Peloponnesian warrior princess, I think, as she was more than 4kg at birth. And 54 cm long. Yet her mother took only five hours to deliver her: copy-book stuff, apparently. It’s a pity more of us females can’t manage this trick, or do not know the secret of it. In Greece babies are supposed to be named after the father’s parents, but I let all my children off that particular hook a long time ago. So my granddaughter is to be called Natalia, which means ‘birthday of the Lord.’ As you might imagine, she has a good head of dark hair: I am not used to bald babies!

As I explained last month, it was my job to mind my grandson Orestes while his little (or not so little) sister was coming into the world. I was quite apprehensive, but he was very good, only becoming a little tearful and asking for his parents when it was clearly time for his afternoon nap. He wasn’t greatly pleased to see me still there when he woke up, but was easily distracted: I sang old Australian songs to him. I do this regularly, as the Oz propaganda that I started with his father and uncles simply has to go on.

By the time Natalia and mother Nina came out of hospital I had returned to the Pelops, but Orestes has apparently adjusted very well to the presence of the baby, while occasionally showing some disapproval of the new situation to his parents: how could they make this decision without consulting him?

Before all this excitement, my other grandsons experienced a thrill of quite a different sort. They were staying with me in quite a dramatic spot located between the sea and the Basket, the local name for this part of the mighty Taygetus Mountains. They went outside before breakfast one morning and came running back in, calling excitedly about a flag. Sure enough, a Greek flag was somehow laid flat on the mountainside, and had apparently been put there overnight, or in twilight or at dawn: nobody had noticed, at any rate.

We were all mystified, but of course Dr Google enlightened us. Kalamata has declared itself a candidate in the competition for Cultural City of Europe in 2021, and the flag is part of a publicity drive. Thirty people, all from Kalamata, were involved in the project, and the flag is apparently going to be listed in the Guinness Book of Records. The material used weighed 280kg and the flag itself has an area of 1500 square metres. It is visible from the other side of Messenian Bay, but still looks quite small when viewed against the mountain.

Some time after the boys had left, there was an afternoon and evening of stormy weather. I feared for the flag, and I was right to do so, for in the morning it looked as if it had been cut roughly in half. But I needn’t have worried; by the next day it had been restored to its proper shape; once again, this happened without people really noticing. I wonder whether it will remain there until 2021.

Summer is drawing to an end, and children are preparing for the start of the school year. Although the summer period is a long one for parents, the latter are in the usual state of worried suspense as they wonder what financially-induced crises will have to be faced in schools during the next couple of weeks. My eldest grandson, Nikitas, who is ten, is supposed to start French lessons at school this year, but we will believe this when it actually happens. Still, things have moved on from the days when my children had to take firewood to school in the winter; their father was in classes in which paper was a luxury and pencils were cut in half. And of course in large parts of the world children are getting no schooling at all.

There is something melancholy about the end of summer: soon all the beach bars and restaurants will shut, and the waterfront will take on a semi-deserted look. But the tranquillity is compensation. Then there are the chrysanthemums and the cyclamens to look forward to. Not to mention a whole lot of reading to catch up on. I am trying to exercise some control over the number of books in this household, but I swear they reproduce under cover of darkness: at present I dare not even to try to count them.

Gillian Bouras


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Gillian Bouras 2018