Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Living in Greece

April 2017

Time seems to be speeding away, and having visited all my grandchildren very recently, I could wish that matters such as their growth could be slowed down just a little. The Big Boys (Nikitas and Maximus) turn 11 and 9 next week, a fact I find hard to believe, and are in current need of bricks on their heads. Before they turn into yards of pump water: both these expressions per courtesy of my late mother, who was always very interested in words in general and colourful expressions and parody in particular.

I was in Megara again for the Independence Day parade and watched Nikitas being dressed in his fustanella and then being twirled into his lengthy cummerbund beforehand. He marched proudly with his schoolmates; Maximus gets his turn next year. March the 25th, Lady Day, is the anniversary of the Greek uprising against the Ottoman Turks, which started in 1821, and dragged on for at least seven long years: there had already been many abortive attempts at revolution. Unlike last year, the sun shone this time, and the highlight of the march was the sight of young people wearing costumes from almost every region of Greece; the scene was a veritable riot of colour and richness. Traditional dresses are usually heavily embroidered, mostly with gold thread, and can cost as much as 5000 Euros, as all the work is done by hand.

I’d come on to Megara from Athens, in a fair way to be gasping from relief at getting through a presentation of my new book (Seeing and Believing) without losing my voice or having a coughing fit, these problems having plagued me for a good three weeks. (My theory is that all sorts of bugs get reactivated during the spring, having had a good rest during winter.) My knees didn’t knock too loudly during the whole business, and the interested and appreciative audience said nice things afterwards. So all that was more than satisfactory.

Speaking of books: well, I often am, in one way or another. During a long-ago visit to Australia I was invited to visit a new house. It was large, luxurious and simply beautiful, the type of dwelling any lifestyle magazine editor would have been pleased to feature. But I experienced no pangs of envy, because a grave omission was immediately obvious: there were no books anywhere, not so much as a magazine, even. I couldn’t believe it then, but have finally been forced to accept that during the last thirty years print has been replaced by image. Apparently this rot started to set in during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan: such is the power of a B-movie star President. And the current incumbent of the exalted office hardly reads at all; indeed there seems to be quite some doubt about his general reading ability, with more than a few people alleging that it struggles to make American high-school level.

The world is in a sorry state, and people can talk for hours when trying to decide whether it has ever been worse. Of course humans have always lived with fear: woolly mammoths and their ilk, (although I don’t know exactly if people and mammoths were roaming around at the same time, but you get my drift), cross-bows, longbows, gunpowder, poison gas, the Bomb, a long list. And it is a rare politician who improves matters: so few of them seem to understand that they must be like Caesar’s wife and thus above and beyond reproach in matters financial and personal, while many seem to be addicted to war. Then there’s Trump, who is surely aptly named. His other names could be the Lord of Misrule and the Abbot of Unreason, for he quite simply seems to thrive on the business of creating chaos: I’ve just read an article that warns we should be more afraid of anarchy than of the threat of fascism: perhaps it’s a bit of a toss-up between very bad and awful.

Small wonder then that the dystopian novel as a genre is thriving. The jury is still out, but many an expert opinion has it that Gulliver’s Travels was the first dystopian novel to be written in English. Thousands have been written since 1726, and most seem to combine dire warnings with the odd gleam of hope. Me, I tend to succumb to the dire warnings and struggle to remember the gleams of hope: I seldom read in this genre, and never read such novels at bedtime. I go for the intelligent comfort of writers like the brilliant Alan Bennett, for example: he always seems to ensure a good night’s repose, although I often become frustrated when I can stay awake no longer.

As for the matter of hope, I suggest you give the opening line of Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities your attention: nothing much has changed since this mighty book was published in 1859.



Gillian Bouras


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Gillian Bouras 2018