Gillian Bouras
An Australian
Writer
Living in Greece

It's Still Greek to Me!

 

September 2013

Here in the northern hemisphere, or in the Greek part of it, summer seems to linger on: it is still very hot. But leaves are beginning to fall from trees, and spirits are beginning to drop with those same leaves. At least mine are: the melancholy fit tends to strike at the first sign of autumn.

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August 2013

Not so long ago I thought of my two worlds of Australia and Greece continually colliding, or at least grinding against each other. These days I tend to think they have blended and blurred into one another to become something more and much easier than a testing juxtaposition. Today, for example, I spent some time on a beach, a pebbly one. Not very Australian, but then the long line of gum trees was as Aussie as you can get, except that I believe they came to this part of the world from California. Never mind. The sea was like a mill pond, as unlike the Southern Ocean as it can be. The Taygetus Mountains towering over the whole scene would dwarf places like Mt Buffalo, but never mind that, either.

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July 2013

Anthropologists believe that the outsider in society is both dangerous and in danger, and I eventually learned this truth in a small but painful way when I came, very unexpectedly, to live in a traditional Greek village, where I formed an Australian community of one. The outsider is dangerous because in questioning matters s/he does not understand, a threat is perceived and the status quo, which may have existed for centuries, is seen as being threatened, if not undermined. It then follows that the outsider is inevitably in danger, because society, and often small societies are the most vicious and punitive, will usually act to crush him/her as swiftly and as effectively as possible.

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June 2013

The beginning of summer. Summers here pass in a flash, and so it is that Nikos Kazantzakis’s autumnal Peloponnesian journey of so long ago still haunts me. On this matter, I seem to be repeating myself: that’s what happens when increasing age and languishing projects conspire to combine.

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May 2013

Only connect wrote novelist E.M. Forster, giving sound advice that stresses our often-ignored common humanity. This dictum also applies to the ageing brain, and I obeyed it when I recently received a news feature about the Wimmera township of Nhill, where I spent formative years as a small child. It seems incredible to me, making the mental connection over time and space, but Nhill now has a new ethnic community: some 120 of the Karen people from Myanmar have settled there, halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide.

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April 2013

 

A fortunate life is part of five generations, taking up the middle ground between grandparents and parents on the one side and children and grandchildren on the other. Judged by that standard, mine has been and is a fortunate life. I can remember the three grandparents I had with what now seems to be the most astonishing vividness, and even the grandfather I never knew has a misty form, carefully nurtured by his widow and children when I was a child, and by the sight of fading photographs taken nearly a hundred years ago.

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March 2013

Late again, but with an excellent excuse, of which more later.

February has been a variable month. It is always difficult, in many ways the worst month of the Greek year: my eldest son used to call it ‘suicide month.’ The clouds block the mountains off completely quite often, and rain buckets down on more days than I care to think about. One February long ago, my youngest son was just three months old when it rained almost non-stop for the whole four weeks. We had only a wood stove, and Alexander was probably the last baby in Greece to be clad exclusively in cloth nappies. I say no more, but my father said plenty at the time. My parents had come for a holiday, and to see their new grandson. Whatever happened to sunny Greece? So my father asked with monotonous regularity.

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February 2013

The pace of Time’s winged chariot doesn’t bother us much when we are young; in fact, at that stage, we often think of the chariot as being drawn by plodding horses rather than being borne aloft on speeding wings. But there comes a point in life when the wings seem to start flapping away at a furious rate, with the chariot headed towards a destination you do not care to think about. You turn around once or twice and your children are having children, for Heaven’s sake! Where did all those years get to? you ask yourself. Such were my thoughts, yet again, last week. On this occasion they were prompted by the fact of my youngest son’s wedding. No more bachelors to worry about, I told myself. It was a funny feeling, on the whole. But of course it passed.

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January 2013

‘God Bless Us, Everyone,’ as the sainted Tiny Tim, of Dickens’ The Christmas Carol, was wont to say. A good thought this, and a wish most of us are in sore need of, particularly at the start of yet another year. For 2012 has not been the best of years for the world, and that’s putting it mildly: the American satirist Will Durst has referred to 2012 as the Year of Living Stupidly. Wars, shocking atrocities, miscarriages of justice, persecution and exploitation of groups and individuals, abuse of the environment, and man’s inhumanity to man continued in all sorts of awful and often unimaginable computations and permutations. My eldest son has told me that he did not read a single newspaper or view a single newscast for the whole of 2009, and felt much the better for it: one can understand his point of view.

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December 2012

 

I’m late again. This time my excuse is that I’ve been busy seeing as much as I can of the Wide Brown Land before I depart very soon for the Northern Hemisphere and Greece, where winter is setting in, and where people can scarcely remember the word ‘prosperity.’ And where troubles abound. But all that may well be a story for next month.

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November 2012

Anthropologists have a great deal to say on the matter of the differences between sedentary and nomadic populations. So I’m told, anyway. And I know which group I belong to. Forever wandering and junketing about, I am always trying to cope with the tyranny of distance, and regularly thank my lucky stars that I have not suffered the plight of my pioneering ancestors: just imagine posting a letter, knowing that an answer, if any, could take as long as a year to arrive. And just imagine taking months to travel in a vulnerable and ocean-toss’d boat. One of my great-great-grandmothers, according to family legend, gave birth during her voyage to Australia: what a picnic that must have been, I don’t think.

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October 2012

 

Late again; this time the excuses are archaeological. The Hebrew proverb states that God never made anything single, and that certainly seems true of archaeology in Greece, which has a particular way of slowing most things, especially public works, up. Or down, which seems a more appropriate turn of phrase and direction. People complain about the time taken to complete projects, but Greek law insists, quite rightly, that whenever finds surface from underground, then all work must stop until the archaeologists are called in to assess and record the discoveries.

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Gillian Bouras

 

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