Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Writer
Living in Greece

November 2015

Here it is November already, a most beautiful autumn has ended, and I’m still picking up threads left dangling when I went to Melbournein July. The price one pays for the divided life. Of course such a life has many benefits and blessings, it must be said: variety is one. But at present I’m trying to catch up with mundane tasks: my snail mail correspondence, the cleaning of cupboards (UGH), and the general readying of self and establishment for the onset of winter. The rest of this small world is doing the same: the hills are alive with the sound of chainsaws, and neatly stacked wood heaps are growing in size. Much airing of winter-weight clothing is going on, as well as much hoeing and tending of gardens.

And together with the migratory birds, the foreign summer visitors are leaving, returning to their homes, which are usually in Britain or Germany. Nobody ever says very much about the Greek winter, but it can be quite severe, and definitely very damp, with still not much allowance made for comfort during the three or four months, so the summer visitors are doing the sensible thing. I once spent a winter in Northumberland, and was deluged with sympathetic letters from Australia, as people were wondering how I was coping with the cold in ‘the brutal North.’ They didn’t believe me when I wrote back to say I was having the most comfortable winter in about fifteen years.

The end of autumn is also signalled by the closing of the beach bars. Cluttered with drifts of leaves, and with vulnerable parts boarded up against possible intruders, these places are not a cheering sight. Where once was all bubbling and pulsating sound, there is only the gentle swish of the waves to be heard. But now, more than ever, business people have to go where the work is, and this means going north to where the skiers are. And summer will come again, after all.

It is hard to believe that my youngest grandson, Orestes, will be three in February, but such is the passage of time, which seems to speed up tremendously when one is older. So he’s started at a play group, and just the getting there is exciting, as he has to make a brief journey on the Athens Metro, and then come back again. This being the age of father participation, Alexander accompanied Nina and Orestes to the first session. Of course I had to have a full description of the proceedings: the play session with appropriate toys, the story session, the consumption of fruit half-way through the morning, and so on. It was all a bit much for the proud father: ‘I was exhausted by the time I got home!’

Well, the world gets no better. I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned this before, but in the middle of all this death, disaster and general chaos, I often think of the old Nonconformist hymn for children: Jesus bids us shine. I often sing this to Orestes, who likes the tune; perhaps he may one day understand the instruction to shine like a little candle burning in the night.

In this world is darkness,

So let us shine,

You in your small corner,

And I in mine.

In fact, I think of these lines, with their typical Nonconformist emphasis on individual responsibility, more and more frequently.

For, let’s face it, life is full of disappointments. And in this moment I am thinking of politicians. I suppose they are bound to disappoint, really, and those of us not part of their world cannot hope to understand their realities and the pressures they are subject to. Tony Blair (now there was a disappointment, if ever there was one) has made an apology related to his involvement in the whole debacle of Iraq. Sort of an apology, it would seem, and one that is not nearly good enough for many people. And it is alleged in some quarters that he is simply getting ahead of the Chilcot report on the Iraq Inquiry, due in next year, and very likely to be damning. The inquiry was started in 2009, and will be about 2 million words in length.

Then there’s President Obama, and his decision to send fewer than fifty U.S. Special Forces men to Syria. I cannot imagine what he thinks this is going to achieve. I must ask my middle son, who is in the Greek Special Forces, for his view of the matter.

Then, closer to home,there are the rumours swirling about Yanis Varoufakis, formerly Greece’s Finance Minister. The swash-buckling Yanis, who never wore a tie, and always rode a motor-bike (channelling his inner Che Guevara?) was, and apparently still is, an avowed Marxist. But now he has joined the so-called speakers’ circuit, and is now managed by the London Speaker Bureau: his asking prices are about $60,000 a lecture. As the Greeks have it: Ti na poume? What can we say?  Plenty, I should think. That money is certainly worthy of comments such as: Better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick.

Gillian Bouras

 

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