Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Living in Greece

September 2015

The month has passed very rapidly. The next three weeks will do the same, and then I will be back at the airport, and headed for Greece. Again. Before I left in July the confused, confusing, and ill-fated referendum had taken place, and on my return the result of yet another election will be known. What it all means, greater minds than mine have been puzzling over for quite some time. And who really knows what will happen? All I know is that I fear for my grandchildren.

But there has been one interesting development: the interim Prime Minister is a woman! For the first time ever, and who would have thought this could happen in such a bastion of male chauvinism? But the announcement has been made: the Supreme Court President Vassiliki Thanou is the woman of the hour. I wish her all the luck in the world, because she is certainly going to need it.

In the meantime I have continued my daily and reasonably long walks. But I have also become a lady who lunches. And also one who dines out occasionally. I’ve eaten my first-ever vegetarian moussaka, and very good it was, too, but in general I eat Asian when in Melbourne. So I’ve sampled Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese so far, and I’m even getting used to chopsticks again. But the pattern is always the same: I practise when here, and then lose the knack later, chopsticks not being exactly thick upon taverna tables in Greece.

But of course the main thing is the reunion with friends and relatives. Somehow the years slip away, and we take up where we left off. I am blessed with entertaining friends, and so lunch and laughter generally go together. One friend has a very winning way with an anecdote, and my favourite this trip has ( appropriately enough ) classical overtones.

I’ll call him Colin. He was once travelling with a woman I’ll call Julia. Julia was an academic who lectured on the subjects of classical Greek and the plays that that glorious era produced. The friends went hither and yon in the ancient world, and eventually found themselves on the windy plains of Troy. And said plains were a disappointment, being not at all what they expected, but rather like a stretch of scrubland with walls. (I have never been to Troy.) Colin and Julia were coping with their sense of anticlimax when an American woman came up to them.

‘I’ll bet she set you right,’ I said.

‘Indeed she did,’ replied Colin, assuming a very creditable American accent.

‘Can’t you just see it?’ she demanded to know, ‘Can’t you just see Helen of Troy riding along there on her wooden horse?’

I shrieked at the lunch table in a most unladylike fashion, while Colin added that Julia nearly expired on the spot. ‘It was touch and go.’

No lunch out today; instead I went along to one of the sessions at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. (I noticed in shocked passing that the apostrophe has been dropped from all notices and advertisements.) Time was when the Festival was held at the rather cosy Malthouse venue in the vicinity of South Melbourne. But the Malthouse became too small for the ever-growing and very popular Festival, which now holds most of its sessions in Federation Square, a development that was originally controversial, but now seems to be accepted both by Melburnians and visitors.

So off I went to the packed theatre known as Deakin Edge in order to hear Professor Antony Beevor hold forth about his latest book, Ardennes 1944: Hitler’s Last Gamble. This promises to be just as riveting and well-researched as his previous works such as Stalingrad and D-Day. I read the latter during the Greek winter, and could not put it down. The sheer horror of it, and yet the courage…war is such a complex mystery. At least it is to women, or so I have always thought.

After Beevor’s session with its account of death and destruction, I went into the National Gallery of Victoria. Just for a brief viewing of its treasures. There are so many greats there: the paintings by McCubbin, Streeton and Roberts are so familiar, but I also enjoyed works I hadn’t seen for a long while, or never before. By Nolan, Williams, Blackman and Brack. And I came away pondering the complicated nature of humankind, with its drives towards both destruction and creativity. Yet another mystery. Virginia Woolf got the matter pretty right, I think, when she asserted that the human heart is more intricate than any forest. 

Gillian Bouras


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Gillian Bouras 2018