Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Living in Greece

June 2018

More about flowers. The Kalamata flower show and sale has just closed, and seems to have been the usual success. It is held in the city’s main park, which extends from the main square almost to the port. Here local horticulturalists set up their stalls in the shade of towering trees, and provide what my grannies would have called ‘a glorious show.’ This year the jacarandas, the most beautiful towering trees, seem better than ever. I enjoy telling the locals that enthusiasts in Australia can follow the blooming of jacarandas down the east coast of the Great South Land: they start in the north of Queensland as early as September.

By October they are showing their full splendour in New South Wales, where the Grafton Jacaranda Festival, established in 1934 and held between the last weekend in October and the first weekend in November, is drawing bigger crowds every year. I remember jacarandas blooming in Melbourne in November and December: for a while it was fashionable to plant matching agapanthus bushes on suburban nature strips. For a long time I thought the jacaranda was an Australian native, but now I know that it originates in South America, and is, strictly speaking, regarded as an invasive species in many countries. Wherever, whatever, it is a stunning plant.

At the port end of the park there is a small war memorial. Every year a service is held in memory of those Allied soldiers who fell during the Battle of Kalamata in late April, 1941. This battle occurred during the withdrawal from the Greek mainland to Crete, German strength having been too much for the Allied forces further north.  Many soldiers were from Australia and New Zealand, and so the British, Australian and New Zealand flags fly next to the Greek one near the small marble column, which is inscribed in two languages, honouring those who fell, were taken prisoner, or escaped during those dramatic couple of days, now so long ago. It will come as no surprise to learn that I have written at greater length about this episode: interested parties can read further on

The title of the relevant piece is Remembering Palestine from Greece. Life is continually pierced by irony, I think. In this piece I mention the Jewish presence at the service, for there was once a Jewish community in Kalamata. As we were remembering a long-ago battle, the continuing one was flaring up on the Israeli-Gaza border, thanks to President’s Trump’s decision to move the USA’s Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward:the Psalmist got it right. I’m becoming very pessimistic in my old age: will we ever be free of war and violence?

I suspect I know the answer to that question, human nature being what it is. But humans also have a great capacity to remember the good things, and to seek them out. A good happening sought me out recently, when I was invited to say a few words at a meeting of the village association, specifically held to honour a deceased association member who had been a good friend of mine. I’ve done a lot of public speaking, but can’t say I feel exactly relaxed when I have to do it in Greek, not even after all this time. But my son and daughter-in-law vetted what I had decided to say, so that was reassuring. And I managed to get through my few words without too many blunders. The audience was kind and complimentary, and thus I felt my effort was rewarded. And the friend was warmly remembered by many other people who also spoke: it was a good deed we did that afternoon.

And another good thing took place, more or less by proxy, per favour of my Scottish friend. Her son was married recently in St Andrews, Scotland, and she sent me photos. It was a large wedding party, with beautiful bride and handsome groom, with the latter and his attendants all in kilts. In full kilt kit, actually. But the kilts provided some drama, in that I received an email which stated ‘We have a kilt panic!’ Of course I was at a loss to think what this could be, but it turned out that the lads had taken their own measurements, with the result that the kilts didn’t quite fit. However, a solution was somehow found. The other problem was that one of the groomsmen was German, and was quite mystified as to the management of his sporran and actual sitting techniques when wearing a kilt. But he muddled through on what apparently was a perfect day: as all wedding days should be.

The Pentecostal long weekend is now over. It is one of those occasions on which Greeks try to return to their villages. So I got to see my youngest grandchildren again. Orestes and Natalia have now had their first dip in the sea for the season, and are no doubt hoping for many more. I was very admiring of their concentration; when they became too cold (the water has yet to warm up properly) they emerged on to the pebbly beach and gave their buckets and spades full attention. A peaceful and enjoyable interlude.

Gillian Bouras


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Gillian Bouras 2018