Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Writer
Living in Greece

February 2015

Once again I am doing a fair imitation of Alice’s White Rabbit in being late for a very important date. But my excuse this time may well beat all the others, for I have been ailing for much of January. I was apparently walking around with pneumonia for quite some time, and that wasn’t the whole story by any means. But I seem to be hale and hearty enough now, and have returned from the bosom of the family to my own abode after having received lots of TLC from my sons and their wives.

I wasn’t much good as a Granny/Yiayia in the early stages of illness, but once energy started to return, I found myself entertained by my three grandsons: I was very intrigued, for example, by the tin can robot that the eldest had made from his godfather’s present of a kit. And I took my turn at (I hope) being entertaining. Picture the evening scene in the sitting room as ageing Aussie does her best to instruct Nikitas, aged 8, and Maximus, aged 6, in the rudiments of that mighty game: Australian Rules Football. (There was a time, now very misty, when my torpedo punt was pretty good; but now I hear said kick has disappeared from the game as it is played today. Ah well, all things are passing.) All this with a ball made out of strong paper and held together with sticky tape. I also did my best with ancient lore: And the big men fly for a Herbert Adams pie! And Up there, Cazaly, in there to win. Etc.

Then it was the turn of cousin Orestes, who turns two towards the end of the month. O had a very rocky start in life, but (touch wood, fingers crossed, and candles lit) for the last

several months he has kept well. This month may, however, be the acid test, as February weather can be very severe. So here’s hoping. In the meantime, Orestes is babbling away,

and practising his one word in English: duck. (He has a collection of five plastic ones.) He is also in a fair way to be music mad: he bangs away on a little electronic keyboard, and la-las his way through his favourite song. The words may be lacking, but the tune is very clear.

So now I’m back, and thinking of them all. But there is a charm in solitude, I find. Most Greeks, however, would disagree, as anybody who has ever heard shepherds calling to each other over quite long distances will understand. I am like my father before me, a gregarious loner.

Not much chance of being alone in an Athenian street market. Twice a week, in many areas of Greece, stalls are set up in designated streets, and here market gardeners and purveyors of clothing, laundry and kitchen equipment and the like do a brisk trade. My daughters-in-law do much of their shopping at these places, knowing that the fresh produce could not be any fresher or cheaper. The fruit and vegetables seem to me to be of top quality, but last week there was one sad exception: what purported to be Brussels sprouts bore little resemblance to the real thing, having leaves that were too long, and no heart, so to speak, at all. Some information surfaced from somewhere, and I recalled that an old Scot expat once discouraged my attempts to grow said vegetable. ‘I’ve tried,’ he said, ‘but they never come to anything much. They need a run of hard frosts, say ten days, and when does that ever happen here?’

I managed one trip into central Athens. The weather was kind, and so I strolled about and observed the passing parade. Buskers were, well, busking, and business appeared to be brisk. The mood, as far as I could tell, seemed to be optimistic: the Greek public, on the whole, feels that change had to happen, that the krisi could not be allowed to go on forever. But I, for one, am holding my breath over the fate of the new government and of Greece itself. Those in power in Europe are tough eggs: 20-minute jobs for the most part.

As usual, I trotted off to the Cathedral. It turned out to be in a worse state than it had been in a few months ago, as renovations continue. I hope the end result proves to be worth all this time and upheaval. Some people did not even bother to go in to observe an empty interior, but simply crossed themselves at the entrance of the building, or in the large forecourt.

I continued up the street in order to visit a minute church that is tucked in under a multi-storey building. Once I saw an archimandrite’s car parked outside. It was a black VW Beetle; from the bonnet fluttered a little Greek flag and another that bore the double-headed eagle of Byzantium. Quite made my day, that sight did. The church is the church of the Holy Strength. A good place to visit, especially under the circumstances. And I am now much stronger. I don’t know about holier., though.

Gillian Bouras

 

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