Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Living in Greece

September 2017

The Greek summer seems to go by very rapidly, and the beginning of September means, at least for most people, a picking up of the threads of reality. There is a general return to places of work after a month of being away at the beach, and children go back to school. The latter can hardly complain, as Greek schools have the longest summer holidays in Europe. In any case, autumn is a beautiful season, but all too short. Change is in the air even as I write, as it has been a grey day, and we have actually had good falls of rain. So I presume the farmers will be happy.

There is often controversy about education in general and the state education system in particular. At the beginning of the school year it is usually the curriculum that is the subject of debate, but the current Minister of Education (in the Leftish government) is keen to abolish the practice of saying prayers and singing the national anthem at the start of the school day. Predictably, the old guard and the devout are up in arms, and said Minister has received hate mail, and is fielding threats of violence. We will have to wait and see…

Kalamata has caught up with the rest of the world in holding a White Night on the last Saturday in August. Streets are temporarily turned into pedestrian areas, and most shops stay open all night. Entertainment in the form of loud amplified music is laid on, and people flock, as can be imagined. This year there was an added attraction in the form of an attempt to hold a record-breaking dance. The Kalamatianos is a handkerchief and chain dance. That is to say, the lead and second dancers hold a handkerchief between them, and the dancers that follow hold hands, and perform set steps: the lead dancer can go in for variations, high leaps and twists, should the spirit move him or her. In the case of leaping, it is usually him. On this occasion the chain wound around the whole and very large square; in the middle was a daring female who would never see 60 again, but was gallantly pretending she was 25 at the most, and good luck to her.

My family and I left at the early hour of about half-past ten. I describe myself on occasion as a gregarious loner, and so blanched at the thought of a predicted 20,000 people gathering in the city square later in the night. The noise levels were already incredible, but shop-keepers were happy. A great many bargains were to be had, and the public was eager to take advantage of most offers.

Next day was the long-awaited occasion of my granddaughter’s christening. I confess I did not look forward to the ceremony. For the uninitiated, Orthodox baptisms last about an hour, and the focal point is the triple immersion of the infant in a suitably large font. Needless to say, most babies regard the procedure as a dreadful shock, as well as a deathly and frightening insult, and the screams and wails are simply awful to endure. Especially for doting grandmothers who are delighted to have a female in the family after three sons and three grandsons. ‘She’s a doll,’ announced a Greek-American friend, and of course I agree.

So now Natalia is in full possession of her name which, at the age of only 13 months, she is able to pronounce very clearly. In fact, she has a very impressive vocabulary already, and seems to need to hear a word only once before she has, as Professor Higgins would say, ‘got it.’ She has two godfathers, friends of her parents, who recited and promised as required by the priest, a distant relative. She was dressed in a cute cotton frock at the start of the ceremony, but ritual decrees a new outfit as symbolising a new life in Christ.  Greek culture is riven with contradictions, however, and so new garments are often very worldly. Not to mention tizzy. Natalia’s was no exception, being an extravaganza, a mad confection involving many layers of some filmy material in beige; it also featured a crocheted bodice and a pink rosette decorated with fake pearls. This creation was, of course, wildly impractical, but she did look very fetching for the comparatively short time that she wore it.

The party afterwards was a great success, aided in part by a clown, again a friend of the family. I envied this young man his vitality, as it seemed he kept the children entertained with no effort at all. In fact the children were well catered for, as the venue was set in expansive lawns with the majestic mountains towering overhead, so childish steam could be let off very easily. A good time was had by all, and it goes without saying that there was a lot of food. Far too much, in fact. As usual.

Gillian Bouras


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Gillian Bouras 2018