Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Writer
Living in Greece

It's Still Greek to Me!

 

July 2016

At the end of June, the world is in a mess. I suppose it always is, but in my lifetime I have seen it get steadily messier: I have to remind myself we have made progress in some areas. I also have to remind myself as to what they are. I think, for example, we are more conscious of the planet’s frailty, which does not mean to say that the majority of the population takes heed of this frailty and acts accordingly. But on this very day of writing, the BBC news service has informed its audience that there is evidence of the hole in the ozone layer actually shrinking. This hole, as most people know, is situated over Antarctica, and has been a source of concern for a long time. And the shrinkage/healing is a slow process. But at least it is progress.

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June 2016

Summer has got off to a slow start, but it is here now, and two days ago I had my first swim of the season. Greeks count their swims; it took me years to get used to this habit, but now I count my plunges and paddles, too. The old belief was that the more swims you had, the better off you’d be during the following winter. Sand baths were also considered very efficacious in the battle against arthritis and rheumatism, but so far I haven’t had to worry about these problems. Touch wood. I’ve a lot to catch up on in the swimming department, as this time last year I was readying myself for a winter in Melbourne, which turned out to be the coldest for 26 years: just my luck.

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May 2016

Slightly late, but then as I write it is Orthodox Easter, and also May Day.

Excuses, excuses.

I have been to Athens again recently. One of my friends says I’m always bustling hither and yon, and I remember phoning an editor during a long ago visit to Melbourne. ‘Where are you?’ she asked. ‘I’m in a tram,’ I replied. ‘You’re always going somewhere,’ she remarked. On that occasion I was merely heading into the city, but I suppose she had a point. I also suppose my junketings and ‘going somewhere’ is a defence mechanism, and a distraction. ‘When in doubt buy a ticket,’ says a similarly inclined friend.

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April 2016

Proper spring weather has arrived at last. (I seem to be obsessed with the subject of weather: perhaps it is because of my history of living in rural communities.) And here the wild flowers continue to riot.  Lent also continues, (although naturally it’s not meant to be riotous) as Western Easter and Orthodox Easter are four weeks apart this year. For complicated reasons that have to do with the phases of the moon. I have had the whole calculation explained to me, but it has not lingered in the mind. Fleeting passages through brain and memory cells seem to be a common occurrence these days.

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March 2016

Here we are in March, after a most peculiar February: I can’t remember another one like it. The tourists are probably very appreciative of what can be considered an early spring, but the reality is a winter drought in what is usually the wettest month of the Peloponnesian year. As an unreconstructed Aussie sheila, even after all these years away, I become worried about drought. Very worried, in fact. Childhood memories come rushing back: my father banging the rungs of the water tanks, and saying, ‘A rotten state of affairs for November,’ and the watching and hoping as clouds built up. All too often they simply disappeared, and much the same thing has been happening here.

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February 2016

Well, January went quickly, mainly because of generally mild winter weather. We may not be so lucky this month: the first visit my parents paid to the village house took place in February. A memorable time, and now so long ago. My youngest son, Alexander, was a baby, we had to cope with the usual quota of cloth nappies that were generally to be found airing near the wood stove, and it rained solidly for four weeks. And with none of your Melbourne/London drizzle. (My father moaned monotonously about the loss of sunny Greece.) Need I say more? Except that this rain is often the February pattern: so good for the olive trees, say the farmers.

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January 2016

HAPPY NEW YEAR! But of course. And have the Greek wish Chronia Polla as well: literally Many Years, but more logically Many Happy Returns of the Day.

In the benighted bad old days, children used to be asked to write a composition on the subject of What I Did in the Holidays. And indeed the gifted English writer and playwright Alan Bennett still keeps a diary along the same lines: the London Review of Books has just published excerpts from his work What I Did in 2015.

What I Myself Did in These Recent Holidays consisted of a thousand kilometre road trip. My middle son has just acquired a new car after driving his old and trusty vehicle for 15 years, and so was anxious to take it, as he said, ‘for a spin.’ Some spin. Off we set, two days before Christmas, on our journey into what I always think of as ‘the other Greece.’ My life here has been led in the Peloponnese, which began its ultimately successful struggle against the Turks in 1821.In contrast, Thessaly was not liberated until 1881, and Epirus could not be considered free until 1913. Mosques still dot the landscape in these areas.

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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.

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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.

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October 2015

Here we are at the start of another month, and here I am back in Greece again. I’ve often thought that while I am not a bag lady, I am a suitcase lady, and it is a fact that I have spent a great deal of my life saying either hullo or goodbye,  and of course I know which word and ritual I prefer. It is often difficult to think of more arrivals when one is departing, and the difficulty is compounded by the fact of a divided life. I said goodbye to one son in Melbourne, and have now greeted two others (and three grandsons) in Greece.

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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.

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August 2015

Here I am back in Marvellous Melbourne, and feeling the cold, I must admit. It was 36 degrees the day I left Greece. But never mind: the temperature has crept up from the 7 my brother reported all too recently to a bearable 14. And some of my foreign friends in Greece rather envy me the cold. I would rather swelter than shiver, but not everybody shares my tastes.

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Gillian Bouras

 

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