Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Living in Greece

July 2017

A mixed month, the one just past, to say the least. Which is one reason this month’s entry may well be posted late. Other reasons include those of natural sloth and unnatural heat: 45 is supposed to be today’s maximum temperature, and I’m not really interested enough to check. My rare excursions outside tell me it is HOT, and that’s all I need to know.

The irritation, major, of the month was the hacking of my email account. I’ve had my account hacked before, but this effort surpasses all others. It was surprising to note the number of people who really believed I was stranded and penniless in the Ukraine. Of all places, this one has never been high on my travel list. And I can’t see that it will figure in the future. Why choose it for a family holiday, anyway? Needless to say, I have lost an awful lot of stuff, although writings I consider vital were all backed up. The other infuriating feature of the whole business is the time and money spent setting things to rights. And they are still not right, actually, as many emails do not seem to be reaching me, and answers to the ones I do receive never reach their destination. Moan, moan. All I can do is remind myself that my problems are as nought when considered in relation to a suffering world.

This is the period of the great outdoors in the Peloponnesian summer. Kittens frolic in the garden morning and evening, when the air is blessedly cool. These kittens, five of them, pretty in various shades and combinations of black, white, and grey, are not mine, so I have all the advantages without any of the responsibilities. Blackbirds swoop into that same garden, and pick and peck in various spots. So far the kittens are not interested, and the birds are bigger than they are. But of course things will change. And a first! I have often seen tortoises lumbering about like perambulating soup bowls, but they are notoriously shy creatures and pull their heads in and try to look like rocks whenever a two-legged or four-legged threat is near. But the tortoise recently in my garden was bold in the extreme: there he was, calmly munching away on my morning glory plants! I could hardly believe it, but remembered that these plants, or the seeds thereof, contain a hallucinogen, so perhaps the tortoise saw me as something else, or didn’t see me at all. In any case, he remained undeterred for quite some time.

It goes without saying that the waterfront is buzzing with life. My information is that tourism in Greece is up 7% on this time last year, which is good: we need some improvement on the economic front, Heaven only knows. ‘They’re all too scared to go to Turkey,’ a taxi-driver told me, and I’m sure he’s pretty right. I’m too scared to go to Turkey, too, even though I long to see Constantinople again. Anyway, as I pass the posh waterfront hotels these mornings I note the breakfast areas are jam-packed with holiday-makers fortifying themselves against a demanding day at the beach.

Then there are the boats. I like looking at boats, but was never one for messing about in them, even though I know it is a popular pastime. I think I was rather put off by a yachting enthusiast who once told me that every hour spent on the water needs four hours of solid work either in port or in dry dock: maintenance and so on. Well, I’ve never been able to afford a boat, anyway. But I stood at my window yesterday and watched a sleek white yacht make its smooth way along the wide expanse of Messenian Bay. Earlier I’d admired a very large and graceful three-masted schooner that had just moored. Flying the Maltese flag, it was. Further along is a simply colossal vessel, all graceful lines and over the top luxury: it apparently belongs to a Russian oligarch who lives in splendour on shore as well, as he owns a veritable palace on the other side of the Bay.

My old Dad was one for boats, and in his youth he even built a couple. He was 89, and suffering from what the experts call mixed dementia, when one Sunday my brother and I took him to look at the boats moored along the Mordialloc Creek on Port Phillip Bay, Victoria. This little excursion was my brother’s idea, and a stroke of genius, for Dad had a wonderful time talking to boat-owners and admiring the vessels. And despite the fact that his memory by that time resembled nothing so much as a slice of Swiss cheese, some things remained, things we knew nothing about. He looked at one particular yacht and nodded. ‘Ah yes,’ he said, ‘rigged for a jib.’

I have just learned about a generous travel fund being set up for Australian writers. It is called the Neilma Sidney Literary Travel Fund: the Myer Foundation will release $300, 000 to the Fund over the next three years. Great rejoicing in certain circles, naturally. And it is interesting to discover that Sidney herself wrote eight books, penning a number of them while she travelled on cargo ships!  

Gillian Bouras


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Gillian Bouras 2018