Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Living in Greece

July 2018

Another month, with summer speeding by. Although it has to be said that summer seemed very far away last week. Even climate change deniers would have been hard pressed then: I’ve never known four days of copious rain and continual thunderstorms in June before. Everybody I knew was starting to suffer from cabin fever before the usual weather re-emerged in the nick of time. One day during this spell I could have not have gone anywhere even if I’d wanted to: the street outside was a veritable river.

People here believe there is such a thing as earthquake weather, and they recently had a point. On a close and humid morning before the rain started I was seated peacefully at computer and desk when the shaking started. Time stretches and contorts itself during such happenings, but later reports suggested that the seismologists had been concerned about the length of the shake. Unnecessarily, as it turned out: no injuries or significant damage were reported. The tremor measured 5.4 on the Richter scale, and the epicentre was in the Ionian Sea about 60km from Kalamata. It’s not just the measured strength of the tremor that is important, though, as much depends on the nature of the site: underground river caves are bad news, for instance.

My youngest grandchildren were here for a couple of days before the rain started. Orestes always asks me how old I am, as though there is a rapid escalation in age in the space of a few weeks. I’m happy to keep him informed, while remembering that my maternal grandmother would always answer the same question with ‘I’m as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth.’ She was active and energetic until she was well into her late eighties, and did not relish the prospect of being categorised and labelled a little old lady before what she considered was the right time.

Natalia will have her second birthday at the end of the month, but seems to us all to be quite advanced in wisdom and in speech. We were at the beach when three Anglophones walked past. Natalia doesn’t miss a trick, and informed her mother that ‘those people said okay!’ She and O are very good at playing, and spent ages with their buckets, spades, sieves and other impedimenta. And then at home: well, you’ve heard about the time-honoured practice of mucking about in boats. Natalia was mucking about with my small watering-cans, when she suddenly looked up, beamed, and said ‘I’m happy!’ When a great deal of the world’s news has a completely depressing effect, this sort of vignette and memory is a great antidote to negative feelings.

President Trump is the cause of many of my negative feelings, and I know I’m not alone. I conduct my own little boycott, for what that’s worth. I find the sight and sound of him so repellent that I simply turn away from the television set: of course I can catch up with his antics by other means. The man is a classic case of someone with a narcissistic personality disorder: one of his recent statements is that he is smarter than anybody. The trouble is he believes this. Several of my friends think he is brainless and/or stupid. I don’t think this is the case: he has been far from stupid in manipulating his base, which seems to consist largely of what we might cruelly call the lowest common denominator. Those who rank above this level are deeply frustrated by the failure of the so-called American dream, and still cherish the fantasy of a national identity. I think the latter was also a motive for those who voted for Brexit. And what a mess that movement has turned out to be.

Wherever you look there is mess. I’m finding it difficult to be an expat Australian at present, as much opprobrium is directed, quite rightly, at Australia’s draconian asylum-seeker policy. I wish a few Australian politicians would come over here and take a more than cursory look at what Greece has to contend with when it comes to the matter of new arrivals. America and the world have Trump; Australia has Peter Dutton. Owner of six properties and graduate of an Anglican school, he has apparently recently asserted that acts of compassion get in the way of immigration policy. If I were writing a Popeye comic or similar that sentence would be followed by a row of asterisks, stars and like symbols of strong language. So much for Dutton’s Christian training: it clearly didn’t take. And he is a father. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is a father, grandfather and Roman Catholic: none of this adds up, in my view. 

I intend switching off from all this for a while soon: in August we are all bidden to an enormous Cretan wedding near Heraklion. Natalia is to be a flower girl, and already has her dress. I fully expect her to be happy on the occasion. And to say so. The rest of us will doubtless echo her.

Gillian Bouras


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Gillian Bouras 2018