Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Living in Greece

July 2012

I am currently being Granny to Nikitas (6) and Maximus (4), who live with their parents in Megara, a town of 30,000 people situated between Corinth and Athens. The island of Salamis is opposite, and it is possible to visit the spot where it is claimed Persian King Xerxes sat and watched the tide of his fortunes turn very much against him: the Persians were unexpectedly but decisively beaten by the Greeks in the naval battle of 480 BC.

Megara was once a very powerful and wealthy place, able to colonise parts of Sicily, and has been inhabited for a very long time: round about 1000 BC the original inhabitants were either forced to flee or were extirpated by the Dorians, one of many peoples to invade Greece throughout the centuries of its history. In the local museum there is a faint list, inscribed on marble, of those who fell during the Peloponnesian Wars between Athens and Sparta: Megara helped precipitate this conflict, which started in 431 BC, by wanting out of the Peloponnesian League.


My son Niko is here because he is in the Special Forces of the Greek Army---and if anybody had told me 25 years ago that being a commando would be his future I would have thought that person mad. Last Christmas the family visited Kalamata, and we had occasion to enter a shop in which there was a low round table. The little boys immediately flung themselves on their tummies on this surface and started flailing about.

‘You know what they’re doing, don’t you?’ Niko asked me.

‘Haven’t a clue.’

‘They’re practising their free falling.’

‘Oh, ‘I said, weakly.

On another occasion I was taught by Nikitas, who, on hearing a helicopter, said knowledgeably, ‘That’s a Chinook.’ Each type of helicopter has a different sound, he informed me: he was 5 at the time.

Last night my grandsons, daughter-in-law and I sat on the balcony and watched the Army planes go over. Their father was about to parachute out of one of them. And so we watched as the shapes drifted through the air: 24 of them. One of them was a son, a husband and a father, and probably most of them were. The little boys, of course, thought this was a thrilling event. Their mother and grandmother were not nearly as convinced.

Being Granny means that the Australian propaganda goes on whenever I am around. My son is always willing to help, so much so that when I sang Waltzing Matilda to Nikitas on one occasion, he turned to his mother and said Dad! Yes, she said, Dad sings that song. Nikitas was 20 months old at the time. Now Click Goes the Shears is a favourite. Helpful friends in Australia send stories like The Lamington Man. Both boys know a lot about Australian native animals, and this time next year they hope to make a Down Under trip long planned by their parents. I wish I could be with them to see their first reactions to the Wide Brown Land.

I suppose I teach Nikitas and Maximus a few things, and it turns out to be a two-way street. Max told his mother recently that he was not going to marry Lina, a little girl in his kindergarten group. His mother enquired as to his choice.

‘I’m going to marry Leonidas.’ While Katerina was debating how to reply to this suggestion of early gay marriage, big brother piped up. ‘You can’t do that here in Greece, Max. You and Leonidas will have to go to Germany.’ The precocious young!

Getting older is an inevitable and not always enjoyable process. But one advantage is the perspective on time that it gives you. I am neatly sandwiched between two generations on either side of me: my grandparents and parents on one side, my children and grandchildren on the other. I remember my own grandparents and the lessons they taught me with quite startling clarity, and I can even remember my maternal grandmother telling me about her grandparents, by whom she was raised. That takes me back, in a sense, to the end of the nineteenth century.

My grandmother Harriet Ward, was born in Casterton, Victoria in 1886. Her great-great-grandsons Nikitas and Maximus were born in Sigmaringen, Germany in 2006 and Chania, Crete in 2008.

Time, place and distance….


Gillian Bouras


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Gillian Bouras 2018