Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Living in Greece

April 2018

Easter seems to have come very quickly this year, with Orthodox Easter scheduled for a mere week after Catholic Easter, which is what the Greeks always call Western Easter. Amid all the usual preparations, people are fervently hoping that the weather improves. I’m always going on about the weather, and have concluded that I suffer from a mild form of SAD: Seasonally Affected Depression. I never take to my bed, as I’m so afraid I might miss something, but I certainly want to quite often: like my mother, I think I was a bear in a previous life, and have a strong desire to  hibernate.

Greece is sometimes threatened by an unpleasant wind called the sirocco, which blows from the south, and brings leaden skies and then rain with it. In the run-up to the rain, the sun burns ineffectually behind layers of cloud. But the worst feature of this meteorological phenomenon is what my father always called ‘Gadaffi dust,’ as it blows straight from Libya. Cars and most surfaces are coated with red dust, and we’ve been putting up with this for most of two weeks. Well, at present I’m glad I do not live on Crete, where the problem is so much worse. But it has to be said that through these trials the wild flowers bloom on regardless: thank goodness. And the Judas trees have blossomed: that beautiful purple for Lent.

I’ve just heard that in parts of northern Europe the dust has led to a peculiar happening called orange snow!

Independence Day has come and gone: March 25 commemorates the day on which the Greeks began their decisive battle for freedom from the Ottoman Turks. The day was deliberately chosen: Lady Day, the Feast of the Annunciation, and on this day every person called Evangelia or Evangelos (the good news) celebrates. And the day is commemorated throughout the land with military parades and people, especially the young, dressed in traditional garb. A friend and I sat bemused while a bevy of young people, all beautifully dressed in the manner of their ancestors, piled into a bus. Such an anachronism, really: I feel the same way whenever I see an Orthodox priest driving a car, using a mobile phone, or carrying a plastic bag.

I found myself very upset over the matter of the Australian cricket team tampering with the ball during a test match in South Africa. Fairly predictably, I wrote about it: see, but have also felt reproved because various people have pointed out that Australia has let the side down in all sorts of ways, most notably in its outrageous policies towards asylum seekers. Well, I’ve written about that topic, too, more than once, and have felt for a long time that the Australia I grew up in and remember has long gone.

But I do think sport can be regarded as a symbol and a metaphor. Thomas Keneally tells a sweet story about his father, who died at the age of 92. Having been told, shortly before his death, that 92 was a good innings, the old man replied with asperity:

‘It isn’t a bloody good innings if you are 92, and about to be caught out in slips.’ Not much to be said in answer to that.

The world continues to teeter on the brink. President Trump is surrounding himself with people who have the most extreme hawkish tendencies (see John Bolton) and is generally continuing with his favourite sport of setting most reasonable people on their ear, or at any rate keeping them guessing. I think a kind of weariness has settled on Americans, and actions that would have caused outrage and disgrace in any other administration, seem to be accepted with resignation: this is the way Trump is, seems to be the general feeling.

And there seem to be various other madmen in power throughout the world: Kim Jong-un, Putin, Duerte, Erdogan. Do they think they’re going to live forever? They seem to be able to ensure that their enemies cherish no such hope: for example, the Russian ex-spy and his daughter are still critically ill in a Salisbury hospital after their exposure to a nerve agent three or more weeks ago, and there is not much hope of their recovery.

It doesn’t do to dwell on such matters, so once again I am about to practise the Noble Art of Distraction. I am going to Athens tomorrow to see Australian friends who are visiting, and of course to see my grandchildren, who never fail to entertain me. Orestes is now 5, and recently asked his mother, ‘When is Granny going to have a baby?’ Nina explained that I’d been there, done that three times, and made sure he understood about my three sons. ‘But Granny hasn’t got a daughter!’ Now there’s a boy who will go far.

Gillian Bouras


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Gillian Bouras 2018