Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Living in Greece

March 2017

I’m sure I have a lot of mates who will join me in bidding a glad farewell to the trying month of February: I know this refrain sounds monotonous, and it is, but there you have it. Eventually, of course, we will be glad of the amount of rain that has fallen. In the meantime, however, we are all convinced that T.S. Eliot got it wrong: April is not the cruellest month, as that dubious honour goes to February.

Still, good things happened during the month. Part of the family has been in the area for the long weekend: Clean Monday is the start of Lent, and always a public holiday in Greece. So on the 25th I saw my youngest grandson, Orestes, whose fourth birthday it was. (Where has all that time gone?) There was a magnificent cake supplied by his parents; while we all tucked into the delicious confection, O’s baby sister, Natalia, partook of some evil-looking pureed goo with great alacrity. It looked so awful that I didn’t even bother to enquire as to the ingredients. Natalia is still apparently unable to decide whether she will be a future Sumo wrestler or a half-Cretan Warrior Princess: she is a big, strapping girl. At seven months she is now able to sit up by herself, so another round of child-proofing houses will be upon us quite soon.

And on the very day of Orestes’s little party, I received news of an Australian great-niece. My brother’s daughter had her first child, a daughter to be called Clara (to rhyme with Lara) in Sydney on February the 25th. To me it’s a nice thought that the second cousins, separated by so great a distance, can at least share the day.

And, speaking of sharing days, Western and Eastern Easters coincide this year, an event that occurs only every four years. I think I’ve remarked before that I’ve had the reasons for this explained to me, but the facts have not lingered in my mind: I put this down to my mind becoming rather full at this stage of quite a long game. The dates have something to do with the moon. I knew that, anyway. The calculations are different, obviously.

Clean Monday is a celebration, a kind of final nosh-up before the austerity of Lent sets in, with deprivation progressing inexorably by weekly degrees. Last Thursday was Tsiknopempti: Char or Grill Thursday, in which meat is (supposedly) eaten for the last time until Easter Day. The air was alive with the aroma of grilled meat, with the beach becoming a popular spot for impromptu and very casual barbecues. The scene was much the same on Clean Monday, except that this time it was prawns that were on the menu.

But there was an omission in the celebrations this year. Usually Clean Monday is the day for kite-flying, but I fear the gypsy kite-vendor who had set up a temporary camp on the beach road was sadly disappointed, for the weather remained annoyingly windless and still. A pity, for it is a lovely sight, that of the sky quite full of kites of all different shapes and sizes, with fathers and their children enjoying themselves hugely. I remember my own Dad. He knew nothing of Clean Monday, but was a dab hand at assembling a box kite.

And along the waterfront the wattles are all ready to bloom. It comes as no surprise to learn that it was the redoubtable Joseph Banks who brought wattle seeds home with him on his return from Captain Cook’s famous first voyage. At some stage Napoleon’s Josephine received some seeds as a present: she had success with them, and the wattle now does so well in various parts of the Mediterranean that it is regarded as something of a pest.

Greece’s trials continue, as the European Powers That Be apparently persist in believing that stones, if squeezed hard enough, will somehow yield blood. The burden grows ever heavier, even though some headlines parade the notion that Greece’s is the forgotten crisis. The people coping with the daily realities of making ends meet have not forgotten it at all.  And people sleeping rough on the streets of Greece’s big cities and those forced to dwell under canvas in refugee camps will also be glad to see the end of February. But when will the crisis end? Who knows?

A kind of PS: I’m persevering with Twitter, although I could, I suppose, be more enthusiastic. (@GillianBouras) The thing is, I still prefer reading and, dinosaur that I am, I still write a number of letters snail mail.

Gillian Bouras


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Gillian Bouras 2018