Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Writer
Living in Greece

December 2015

Look at this! I’m so organised as to be early! Well, I’m writing early, so it is to be hoped that I can at least be on time with the posting. The reason for this surge of energy is that I am going to Athens again tomorrow (this junketing about has got to stop, but not yet) in order to see the grandchildren (again) and to do a few things of a cultural nature as well. Youngest grandchild Orestes, otherwise known as O, is battling bronchi this and bronchi that, as he does at various intervals. My grannies would have called him a chesty child. Whatever: it doesn’t bode well for the Greek winter, which is fairly short but often tryingly harsh. Of course there’s a conspiracy of silence about this, as tourism depends so much on sea and sun.

As predicted, the truly brilliant autumn ended not with a whimper, but with an almighty bang. Spectacular storms have raged off and on for the last three days, and today I got soaked to the skin. My own fault, as usual, for persisting in walking while trying to convince myself that the torrential rain was in fact easing off. My so-called waterproof coat proved to be nothing of the kind. Also as usual when the Greek elements are unleashed.

It is often considered that the subject of weather is a boring one. Not to farmers, it isn’t. Here it is olive-harvest time, and the locals will be lamenting the number of olives lost or at least damaged. And such weather means a serious delay in the progress of the harvest, which any sane person wants to get over and done with as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

While on the subject of weather, it is worth mentioning that I have just read a review of a book called Weatherland, by one Alexandra Harris. And very interesting it sounds. The reviewer points out that it is often considered that talking about the weather is a way of not talking, which is why the British so often do it: it fits their stereotypical stiff upper lip attitude to life. Well, that’s the theory. I recall that when I first lived in London, I regularly moaned about the weather. An English friend said I had to revise my attitude. ‘Think of weather as drama,’ he instructed. I replied somewhat tartly that I’d had had quite enough of that sort of drama in Melbourne, thank you very much. (I’ve just heard that two days ago the temperature there reached 34, but then it plunged to 17. Just as I remember…)

Great minds have been preoccupied with weather. Shakespeare has Hamlet waxing eloquent about clouds, and then there’s Macbeth, the witches, and the blasted heath. I cannot say with any certainty, but it strikes me as being more than possible that many a thesis has been written about weather in Shakespeare’s sonnets: From you have I been absent in the spring etc. The artist Constable kept a notebook all about clouds, Chaucer had a thing about spring, while Turner liked both sun and rain. Much later, Lowry, not unnaturally, was interested in painting smog.

The sun was still shining when I paid my most recent visit to the small museum in Megara, once a very important city and trading centre. I think I have written about it briefly before: it was then that I felt a distinct frisson while reading an inscription that listed the names of the men who had fallen in the Second Peloponnesian War. That is a conflict that is almost lost in the mists of time, as it took place over three phases during the 27 years between 431 and 404 BC. Yet reading that list brings the conflict much closer.

I was all alone in the museum: this often happens in the provinces, and it’s a wonder that such unlauded repositories of treasure are able to keep going. The Kalamata Museum is another such: a friend and I visited very recently, and had the place to ourselves. This is a wonderful experience for the visitor, but where does the money for maintenance come from? The entry fee in both cases was a mere two euros.

This time in Megara I was enchanted by two exhibits in particular. One was of a collection of glass bottles. ‘Bottles?’ queried my son, who so far has not visited the museum. ‘Oh, but you should see them, ‘I burbled. ‘The delicacy, the shapes, the pale colours.’ ‘Yeah,’ he said.

The other object of interest was a small and delicate statue of the goddess Cybele. I knew nothing about her, and so had to look her up. It turns out that she was a very ancient mother goddess who reached Greece by way of Asia Minor. By the time she got to Rome she was known as the Magna Mater: the Great Mother, so it is not hard to guess at her evolutionary progress.

The little statue is seated and framed and is tinted with a pale terracotta. Cybele, I eventually read, was a goddess who liked a good time: she favoured wild music and enjoyed a drink. She is associated with mountains, town and city walls, and nature in the form of wild animals, especially lions. Sure enough, in this presentation she is holding a tambourine, and has a small lion lying across her knees. I stood there for minutes, wondering why some objets have more appeal than others.

I tried to take photos of Cybele and of the bottles, but neither came out. Never mind. I have a good excuse for another visit. Not that I need an excuse.

 

 

 

 

Gillian Bouras

 

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