Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Writer
Living in Greece

February 2013

The pace of Time’s winged chariot doesn’t bother us much when we are young; in fact, at that stage, we often think of the chariot as being drawn by plodding horses rather than being borne aloft on speeding wings. But there comes a point in life when the wings seem to start flapping away at a furious rate, with the chariot headed towards a destination you do not care to think about. You turn around once or twice and your children are having children, for Heaven’s sake! Where did all those years get to? you ask yourself. Such were my thoughts, yet again, last week. On this occasion they were prompted by the fact of my youngest son’s wedding. No more bachelors to worry about, I told myself. It was a funny feeling, on the whole. But of course it passed.

 

Alexander and Nina chose a civil wedding, an impossibility at the time that I married: the only marriage recognised by the Greek state was one solemnised in the Greek Orthodox church. And in the Australia of the time, you had to choose your church carefully. Because of a bitter schism, one lot of churches was not considered to be in the Orthodox fold. Not at all. So that if you were married in that lot, your marriage was not considered legal in Greece. Even though civil marriage was voted into law a good thirty years ago, many people in Greece still do not consider a civil wedding a ‘proper’ one. Alexander and Nina of course had no qualms, and they can always be married in church later on if they wish.

The Greek winter can often be rather bleak, but on the day, the weather was kind. The sun shone, if weakly, and there was no sign of the wind that often seems to blow directly from Siberia. There were even some tinted leaves left on the plane trees. So we were happy with the weather; we were even happy with the Athenian traffic, which seemed somewhat less murderous than usual.

As one who likes a bit of fuss, pomp and ceremony, I’m rather inclined to think of civil weddings as being non-events, but this one proved to be the exception to my rule. We got ourselves, the small wedding party, to a Town Hall near Alexander’s place of work, a fire station not far from Athens Airport. We were early, and were standing about making small talk when three fire engines roared up. Several firemen leaped out, and were in safety pyjamas and exuberant spirits. Eventually they clattered up the stairs and so were present when the Deputy Mayor of Koropi district did his pleasant duty, which took all of five minutes. (Nina and Alexander later claimed they could not remember a thing he or they had said. ‘That’s quite normal,’ I remarked. It’s a mother’s job to reassure, after all.)

Then the firemen clattered down the stairs again, in time to sound the engine sirens just as the newlyweds were stepping out into the pale winter sunshine. I was in a mild panic by then, having promised to buy lunch for the wedding party, but not having bargained for X number of doubtless hungry firemen. ‘Don’t worry,’ said Alexander, ‘They’re having their own little party at the station.’ So naturally we went to the station.

By the time we arrived, the souvlakia were on the grill; the men who hadn’t been to the wedding were doing the cooking, and one produced wine and two glasses, so that Nina and Alexander were able to drink the traditional toast to each other. A short time later, the station’s captain brought out a bottle of tsipouro, Cretan fire-water, which was presumably to honour Cretan Nina. I was amused to see a blue bow on the bottle: every Greek wants a son, and in the past I have seen little boys plonked on bridal beds among the traditional rice and rose petals.

As we dragged ourselves away to a charming restaurant, I was thinking how gratifying it was to see my son so well-liked by his workmates. But I confess to being relieved that they were making their own lunch. 

Gillian Bouras

 

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