Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Living in Greece

November 2017

And still the autumn shines on. We have had some rain, but of course the farmers say it is not enough. In the meantime the clocks have gone back, and mornings and evenings are distinctly nippy. But some people continue to swim: there’s a hardcore group that swims every day of the year, but I have no wish to join this particular club.

Last month I vented my spleen about education in Britain, and joined Amanda Foreman, academic and writer, in her shock at the fact that students in exclusive schools do not necessarily get to read the great gems of English Literature. I’ve warmed to this theme, and have expanded on it: you can find further words of wisdom/complaint if you check, and look for a piece entitled Bringing the Classics Back to Schools.

OXI Day, the 28th of October, has come and gone. This time my youngest grandson Orestes, who is nearly five, took part in his kindergarten parade, blue and white outfit and Greek flag and all. What he understands about the day in 1940 when the then dictator of Greece, Metaxas, said a firm NO to the Italian Ambassador’s request for Italian troops to enter Greece, I have no idea. But I dare say he’ll learn well before he becomes the stereotypical slouching adolescent in the high school parade.

October was very notable for its number of visitors. I usually pass much of the winter in solitary state, but autumn is a favourite time for many people. I became a Lady Who Lunches, and thoroughly enjoyed every occasion. It was especially good to be reunited with an Australian couple I had not seen for nearly 24 years. They had last seen Alexander, my youngest son, when he was about eight, so were particularly pleased to see him again: we all went to see him play volleyball, and were glad that we’d been there during the winning set. Everything went downhill after we left. It is always a pleasure to be able to show visitors something of the local colour, and they all rave about the glories of the Costume Museum I discussed earlier, and my Australian friends were no exception.

Of course visitors often have adventures, and I am often with them when they do. Such was the case last week, when a friend who comes and goes between the sceptr’d isle and Greece, was driving an ancient car that often behaves quite erratically. We were grinding along when said car stopped. Suddenly, and was disinclined to move any further from the corner it had chosen. The driver spoke severely to it, but to no avail. We sat for a minute or more, discussing options and bemoaning Fate.

Lo and behold, after a very short interval, our Guardian Angel appeared. Heavily disguised he was, in rough working clothes and with a thickish greying beard. His name was Elias, the Greek equivalent of Elijah, and he made predictable if not prophetic noises about a shortage of petrol. But he cajoled the car into starting, and we were grateful to have been rescued, and were impressed by his courtesy: on taking his leave, he shook hands with both of us. Off we set in a staccato kangaroo rhythm, but managed to make it to the nearest service station. And then we breathed again.

It is true to say that I have had to put up with the discomfort of a divided heart for many years. It was always a matter of Australia and Greece vying for space in that unreliable organ, and when my eldest son arrived in Melbourne in 2002, I felt the condition was incurable. I was right. Dimitri is still in Melbourne, and I am still coping with the emotional see-saw. The weight is at the Greek end at present, and has been for quite a while because of the presence of four grandchildren here. Dimitri says he understands this, the more so as my eldest grandsons give me a regular walk down Memory Lane: two little boys, two languages and a bi-lingual household.

But these days I find it hard to recognise Australia, which is certainly not the country I grew up in. How could it be?  Life was simpler and more uniform; then there was no policy of multi-culturalism, and prejudice was often expressed in a lazy, casual and unthinking fashion towards the Displaced Persons and New Australians. But such prejudice wasn’t officially punitive the way it is now. As I write the refugee detention camp on Manus Island is in the process of closing, and most of the administrative staff have already left. But more than 600 people, mostly men, refuse to move. And who can blame them? They have no idea what is to happen to them, but they must know that the Australian Government in its infinite wisdom and mercy (ha!) refuses to resettle them. One of the many things that staggers me about politicians is their general lack of empathy: they seldom seem to remember the idea that ‘there but for the grace of God, go I.’

I’ll climb down off the soap-box and try to concentrate on pleasanter things. Two of my sons have birthdays this month: middle age looms. And it is Orestes’s name-day on the 10th. Never mind that his classical name-sake was a matricide and hence pursued by the Furies; somewhere along the line, all was forgiven, and the original Orestes secured a place in the ecclesiastical calendar. There’s nothing quite like Greek pragmatism and ingenuity.

Gillian Bouras


Eureka Street

Gillian occasionally writes for

Eureka Street

(Type 'Bouras' into their search bar to find all her articles.)

Gillian Bouras 2018