Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Writer
Living in Greece

December 2016

Post early for Christmas, they say. Well, I’ll try to do so with this section of Diary. I can’t promise about cards, however: every year I make resolutions about being organised and early, but guess what? Well, the answer to that question is very predictable. The best-laid plans etc: my attempts to clear the decks before decking the halls, so to speak, usually end in ignominious failure.

What a month November was, and still is as I write. November the 8th would have been my sister’s 70th birthday. Jacqui is long gone, and it is now easier to remember her at 7 and at 17 than to try to imagine what she would have been like at 70. It behoves us always to remember the good times, and I tried to do that on that day. In any case there was much to distract me from possibly sad and gloomy thoughts.

The gloomy thoughts came later, as a result of Donald Trump’s victory in the weirdest U.S. election that I, and a great many others, can recall. (And Jacqui would have had plenty to say about the whole business, I know.) During the protracted period of watching and listening, difficult and suspenseful of course because of the gap in time, mild disbelief was eventually followed by absolute incredulity. At an Australian dinner party I attended when I was in the Wide Brown Land last year, the host asserted that Trump had a good chance. If we hadn’t been guests, we would have howled him down. As it was, politeness prevailed, and we merely begged to differ. And now look at how mistaken we were! We were not alone: media greats have been forced to admit that they largely got it wrong, and that Trump’s modus operandi of tapping into fear, anger and general feelings of insecurity among so-called ordinary people was very efficacious.

It seemed to me that the Democrats shot themselves in the foot (or both feet) when they sabotaged Bernie Sanders’ wonderful efforts to gain the nomination. Many party bigwigs seemed to have the odd notion that it was ‘Hillary’s turn.’ And I’ve been told that Sanders would never have been elected, but there is quite a body of opinion to suggest that he would have been.

I recently heard an American academic describe the United States’ electoral system as ‘bizarre.’ No arguments from me on that score: a very apt adjective in my view. I’ve already banged on at some length about compulsory voting, so I won’t continue in that vein. But gerrymandering seems to go on: of course this practice is not confined to North America, alas. Then there’s the Electoral College set-up: I sorely need instruction as to how and why that works, and my guess is that I am not alone.

As luck would have it, I was in Athens at the time of Obama’s recent two-day visit. Putting politics temporarily aside, as I can sometimes manage to do, I was predictably struck by the contrast between the two men. My mother always said that comparisons are odious; sorry, Mum, but we just have to bear with odium on this occasion. Obama has that rare and indefinable thing, charisma, while Trump has none. Obama is an orator; Trump most demonstrably is not. Obama projects civility; Trump is indisputably a vulgarian. This list could be expanded very considerably: each person probably has his or her own variations.

Of course I cannot understand why anyone would want to be President. Are the sacrifices worth it? All right, Obama had his own tour of the Acropolis and the Museum, with officials, interpreters and bodyguards in attendance, but he’s stuck with the bodyguards for the rest of his life. And the sheer tedium of official dinners must be very trying: I predict he’ll still have a fair number of dinners and functions to attend, and he’ll be forced to go, even if he would often prefer to stay at home and have a salad sandwich.

I had fun in Athens. Apart from catching up with the grandchildren, who are endlessly entertaining, the more so as I know I don’t have to get up to them at night, I had my first ever formal photographic session. This was a mixture of racked nerves and fun, if you get my drift. Alexander’s wife, Nina, is a hairdresser and beautician, and so gave me the works, after which effort I could hardly recognise myself. The photographer was both clever and charming, and made his job look easy. Although I’m sure it isn’t.

This effort is because I need a professional photo for the cover of my new book, which is due out very soon. The book is not all that new, actually, but is a revised and updated version of Seeing and Believing, the original of which has been on the website for quite some time. All information from Gialos Books. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Gillian Bouras

 

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