Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Living in Greece

March 2013

Late again, but with an excellent excuse, of which more later.

February has been a variable month. It is always difficult, in many ways the worst month of the Greek year: my eldest son used to call it ‘suicide month.’ The clouds block the mountains off completely quite often, and rain buckets down on more days than I care to think about. One February long ago, my youngest son was just three months old when it rained almost non-stop for the whole four weeks. We had only a wood stove, and Alexander was probably the last baby in Greece to be clad exclusively in cloth nappies. I say no more, but my father said plenty at the time. My parents had come for a holiday, and to see their new grandson. Whatever happened to sunny Greece? So my father asked with monotonous regularity.

It has to be admitted that there were some fine, even balmy, days this past month, and the wildflowers have started to appear: to my very great relief, as I always feel better when I can see red poppies and the carpets of yellow, purple, and white spreading throughout the olive groves. But there were also very dire periods, and Athens suffered severe floods some days ago. Several Metro stations were closed for hours on end, and in a dreadful irony one poor girl died of heart failure after being rescued from the car in which she had been trapped.

Then there was the general strike. Well, almost a general strike, as Greeks can never quite manage to close everything down. The town of Kalamata was en fete : children were free from school, and the coffee shops were full. Demonstrators marched noisily but peacefully up and down the main street; they bore assorted banners, one of which was made out of pairs of white knickers, for reasons very much beyond my ken. The highlight of the entertaining day was the sight of at least a hundred and fifty tractors rolling down the main street: the village farmers had decided to make their protest in the way most familiar to them. When I emailed a Scottish friend recently returned to her native land after two and a half years in Greece, she sighed in cyberspace. ‘How I miss the Greek crazies,’ she wrote, and I know what she meant.

As I write it is now March the 1st, and my eldest grandson, aged 6, has come home from school wearing a red and white woven bracelet on his left wrist. This is a long established custom: the bracelets, home-made, are donned on this day, and taken off when the wearer first sights a swallow: it is nearly time for the annual immigration. The idea is that the bracelet is then hung on a branch of a tree, so that the swallow has some building material handy.

Drama at the end of the month, and I do mean drama. My third grandson was born in Athens a week early, and, like his father before him, weighed in at a hefty 4 kilograms. The minute I heard of the labour, I organised my bus ticket. Orestes, for such is his name, was apparently healthy at birth, but almost immediately it was discovered that he had a malformed oesophagus. Tests were done, a little time passed, and then he was transferred to St Sophia’s Children’s Hospital. I knew nothing about this hospital a week ago, but it turns out that it is among the biggest and the best in Europe. For which much thanks, for when he was barely 19 hours old, Orestes had to undergo a corrective operation lasting two and a half hours. The surgeon said he came through it well.

There is no experience quite like waiting for someone to emerge from an operating theatre, and the thought of such a small creature enduring so much is one that no parent or grandparent wants to think. So far that is the only sight ( a mere glimpse) I have had of Orestes: he was trundled into the theatre and in the fullness of time trundled out again. And no parent or grandparent wants to see a bandaged baby sprouting tubes.

On the other hand, we have to applaud the wonders of advanced medical science. As recently as eighty years ago, nothing could have been done for Orestes, but in March 2013 he is doing well, and is soon to emerge from the Intensive Care Unit.     

Gillian Bouras


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Gillian Bouras 2018