Tuesday, 30 December 2014

2015, Everything Old is New Again

January 1

2015, Everything Old is New Again


Experiencing January 1 Again.

One day we are in 2014 the next in 2015. It does not feel so very different, except that perhaps last night we went to a party, and last week newspapers kept looking at the last year’s events, and telling us what was the best and the worst, in film, in the media, in politics etc.

Next week they will start telling us what to expect in 2015, in film, in the media, in politics etc. They may be right, but from past experience we know we are also set for some unexpected events!

Thus the year ahead will be much like last year though not an exact replica. It will probably be just as ordinary, but also just as unexpected as last year.

Home From Greece

Australian Boomarangs

Like so many Diaspora Greeks, Takis found a problem settling back into Greece, but then also another one when bringing his Greekness back home to Australia. From here in Australia we now look at Greek news (at the moment the ferry disaster, the possible change of government) and feel a different kind of involvement, an involvement from a distance.

 In his poem Going Back Home from Greece Cavafy, the Greek poet who lived in Alexandria Egypt considers this problem. The speakers in his poem are Egyptian and Syrian Greeks, and though Greeks Greece is no longer home. His tone is ironic as he says that Greeks in Greece might think some of their attitudes not properly Greek, but what he points out is that even those with ‘Asiatic affections and feelings’ are Greeks too.

Going Back Home from Greece  

by C.P. Cavafy

‘Well, we’re nearly there, Hermippos.
Day after tomorrow, it seems—that’s what the captain said.
At least we’re sailing our seas,
the waters of Cyprus, Syria, and Egypt,
the beloved waters of our home countries.
Why so silent? Ask your heart:
didn’t you too feel happier
the farther we got from Greece?
What’s the point of fooling ourselves?
That would hardly be properly Greek. 
It’s time we admitted the truth:
we are Greeks also—what else are we?—
but with Asiatic affections and feelings,
affections and feelings
sometimes alien to Hellenism…’ 

Ways of Re-entering a Year

The New Year can open up new experiences. When I accompanied Takis to Greece in January 2003 I had no idea of all the new experiences that were going to open up for us. But now looking back I can see that in fact what happened was that we began a project in which we set out to make everything new again.

An Old House Renovated

Some Re-words that describe our project in Greece.

It was a…


We were…


New Year resolutions have a bad press. So my suggestion is not to make a New Year Resolutions, rather to contemplate ways to freshen up some old ones. And perhaps like us in our project you could plan to do some reclaiming, or replanting etc.

 New/Old Experiences and New/Old Projects
Yep, one day we are in 2014 the next in 2015. But it is just the start of another week and it may not feel very different from any other Thursday. However, to borrow from my experience of re-entering Greece, or re-entering Australia, I’ve found there are ways of doing this, none better than another. 

Entering the New Year might also offer these same possibilities.

We can let ourselves slip easily into the old ways, and love the return.

We can maintain an ironic distance comparing and applying knowledge gained to what we are about to re-experience?

Or we can take a more long-term perspective, noting past knowledge but aware that this year may require adapted and different answers.

Two in this group are also in our 2014 picture 

Time passes

The New Year can open up new experiences. This is not a suggestion to make a New Year Resolution, rather it is a suggestion to contemplate some old projects in new ways.

 Happy  2015!


Friday, 26 December 2014

Agapanthus Christmas

Agapanthus Christmas
Hydrangea heads and Clematis flowers
The Agapanthus here in our part of Australia were all in bloom in time for Christmas this year.
Their blue and white flowers are lining driveways, popping up along roadways, and giving colour under trees all around our home. So I decided to decorate our barbeque area with buckets of these flowers, plus some of the other beauties that are in full bloom in our garden right now – purple buddleia and and pink and blue hydrangea flowers.

The seeds heads of the Agapanthus are also quite beautiful and last autumn I collected some, and this year used them to make my own Christmas wreath.

I’d found some whippy twigs when pruning two months ago, made the circle to form the base and let it dry. Then just before Christmas I stuck on the Agapanthus seed heads and some small pinecones (using a hot glue gun), and then I sprayed the whole with silver paint. It looked just perfect on our front door.

Agapanthus Plants

This fleshy green leafy clumping plant comes from South Africa. The name is derived from two Greek words, agape (love) and anthos (flower), but sometimes they are also called Lily-of-the-Nile.
The Agapanthus species are hardy plants, and easily grown. Although tolerant of drought and poor soil, both flower and foliage production improves with moisture and feeding. They perform best in a position in full sun or part-shade in any well-drained soil. Routine removal of spent flowers will encourage further flowering. If growing in pots, do not use overly large containers as they do better when the roots are somewhat congested and keep well watered.

Propagate by division in winter or from seed. The 10 species in this southern African genus belong to the onion (Alliaceae) family but do not produce true bulbs, though their thickened fleshy roots perform much the same function. Although the various species seem quite distinct, some botanists now believe them to be just one very variable species.

In Australia

The plants in this genus are ideal for borders due to their narrow upright shape, and dwarf forms are superb in rockeries or containers. However Agapanthus is a weed in Victoria as it is beginning to be a threat to native flora. In the Dandenong Mountains of Victoria and in New South Wales Blue Mountains the plants hardiness and drought resistance together with the plenty of rain and mild winters means this plant finds just the right conditions to grow and spread.

What most of us gardeners do however, loving the colour and drama of this plant in our gardens, is to remove the seed heads after flowering to do what we can to prevent its spread.

Most Agapanthus grow to one meter though there are some smaller varieties and some taller varieties. In Australia I  use the smaller variety to line a path. And, as Agapanthus likes a confined position, I keep a few of a tall dark purple (almost black) variety in Australia in pots on the terrace. This variety, beside having this dramatic hight and colour, does not have the same seeding problems.

In Greece

Two years running I have bought pots of Agapanthus from a local nursery on Lemnos. Here in Greece Agapanthus is a sought after plant it is certainly not a weed because it is frost tender and needs more water than it will get on the island.

The first pot I bought I discovered they were white. I kept them in a pot for a while before planting them out - divided into three clumps. They are a plant that adds interest all year round, their strong fleshy leaves all year round, and then in June with their tall globular flower heads. Last year I bought a flowering blue plant that sits in a pot on the terrace.

Christmas in Australia

Our Garden in the Hills 

And the reason we need to keep returning to our home in Melbourne, Australia - to enjoy this garden and to be once again with all our family in this country!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas in Australia

 Christmas in Australia

Well the launch is now over, now we can begin to think about Christmas. This year Takis’ family will be coming to spend the day with us: children, grandchildren, partners and extended family members. They will each ‘bring a plate’ which will help as there will be about 24 in all. This group has become the settled xmas-group, but always includes some new faces each year along with the old.

Even though some of us live about an hour’s drive from each other they are making there way here as we have enough space for this group to gather in a typical Australian outdoor setting.


The invitation has been sent out and was a guide to times and what to bring. The suggestion to ‘bring a plate’ is very Australian. This means bring a dish of food that will be shared. Because of this there is a certain element of uncertainty about what will turn up on the table! I did not want to be too specific, but in the end agree that a bit of guidance helps.

With Takis and Julia
Starters 12.00pm

Bring along presents for the children, and that special dish that you are famous for to share with us all, be it salad, lasagna or chocolate cake.
Check with us if you think there will be too many chocolate cakes!

Savouries 1.00pm   

 At 2.30 pm gifts will be given.                              

Sweets 3.00pm

I’m sure that as usual the food will be a mix of Greek, English and Australian traditional dishes. Takis is making a gammon, a very traditional European joint of pork cooked with a marmalade covering. But there will also be a cold chicken terrine, and some Greek meatballs.

Sweets will include an Australian traditional ‘pav’ (pavlova, made with egg whites cream and fruit) plus mince pies and trifle. These last two are for my benefit, as the Greeks in the crowd really don’t appreciate all those dried fruit concoctions the English love, the plum pudding, the mince pies and Christmas cake with marzipan.                                                                                                                                    

Christmas is the big family get together time in Australia. It is the time gifts are exchanged and families join together for lunch, often a barbeque outside in the garden, on the beach or beside a river.

In Greece Easter is a bigger festival and I’ve heard that in America Christmas can be a much smaller ‘family only’ event compared to the much bigger Thanksgiving Lunch, for which folk travel from far and wide to join in with the extended family.

On the whole I’ve found that in Greece the host does all the cooking, though it did happen once that we all ‘took a plate’ to a birthday party for an expat. However I’ve only attended New Year or Easter events, not a Christmas in Greece, so maybe things are a little different then.

So right now Takis and I are now in the planning mode, making lists, doing our first shop, and hoping that Melbourne’s weather will be a little warmer and drier than we’ve had most of this month, then we can eat outside in the BBQ shelter.

On the day the children will have opened up their first presents at home, usually found in a stocking at the end of their bed. Our group though has another time when presents are given out – half way through the afternoon. Often one of the men dresses up as Santa Claus and distributes the gifts. We used to all give to each other, but nowadays this has given way to only bringing gifts for the children.

Gifts are always tricky to negotiate. Do you try to act thrilled when it’s something you don’t like? Do you pass on to someone else the gift given last year that you did not use? Do you let someone know what you want?

Takis and I are not huge on surprises for Xmas, but he’ll have some bottles of marmalade and I’ve already received my present, and tried it out – a leaf blower to help in the garden!

A unisex knit uniting images of people of all faiths. Political correctness gone mad? Or a really new and fun Christmas pullover?
I’m sure as readers of this blog you all have your own traditions, of gathering, of eating, and of giving. May you each one enjoy the day and don’t get too upset if it does not quite match up with that stored up memory of the perfect childhood Christmas. Each year it will be a little different however much we try to keep it the same. Traditions like Christmas paper can be stored, reused, or even thrown away to make room for something else.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

The Process of Returning: again and again

The Process of Returning: again and again

Greener on the other side?

It’s the dream of many to live on a Greek island. You imagine you’ll be lying on a beach, forgetting home problems and doing nothing as you soak up the sun. And, after reading too much about Australia politics you might even believe the Australian Greek Diaspora leave for Greece in order to leave Australian politics behind!

Grass (and lifestyles) need water to stay lively

As a couple of returnees my husband and I left Australia with different expectations. Takis decided he’d explore the question that dogs so many of the Greek Diaspora, ‘Will I feel more ‘at home’ living in Greece?’, while I went with him, looking forward to travel and adventure. What Takis found was that Greece, like the rest of the world, had changed, while I found that we were not ‘adventuring’ but committed to one old house in one village.

However when our retirement adventure draws to a close, as it probably will soon, we will not regret this experience. After nearly fifteen years Takis and I have got used to living between cultures and we will be sad when we have to give it up. Each year, as we unlock the red door of our ‘retirement’ home in Lemnos and unpack our cases, we know we will once again be re-engaging with the local Greek lifestyle and traditions. As James Clifford writes in his latest book Returns ‘coming home’ is always a process of ‘re-immersion’. And, for those of us who return ‘home’ to a couple of times each year, 'returning home' becomes a continuous process.

Re-turning to Australia: a large and growing country

It is now nearly winter in Lemnos and nearly summer in Australia and last month as we once again climbed the steps to the door of our mock-colonial home in the Victorian Dandenongs. And once again we unpack our cases, and we begin 'again' the process of re-familiarising ourselves with our Australian home (where do we store the salt shaker here?), with our Australian garden (where should we first begin weeding and cutting back?) and with the Australian cultural (what is the government here up to now?). 

Here too we have a life we enjoy, though it takes a little while to ‘re-familiarise’. And, though it is challenging to re-immerse ourselves in Australian culture, this switch finds us making some comparisons and learning again what it is we value about each place.

Australian Immigration Statistics   2012-2013

(The Age, 6.12.2014)
From India 40,100
From China 27,300
From UK 21,700
Working holiday visas 258,250
International student visas 259,300
Illegally living in Aus. 62,700
Number granted citzenship 123,400

Melbourne in the State of Victoria

Melbourne’s Vital Statistics (published  by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation.)
Greater Melbourne has more than 4 million residents
In Melbourne more than 200 languages are spoken
13% of people over 65
69% of people aged over 55 have internet access
14% of the population is aged 15-24
1 in 4 young people aged 15-24 were born overseas
12% of young people are unemployed
1 in 6 people are obese
More than 18,500 people estimated to be homeless
1 in 5 households spend more that 30% on housing
People are concerned about recycling and the environment

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Launching my Book

 Book Launch

Planning Stresses

Publishing my own book is a very new experience for me. While it’s obviously not the way to make money I like writing and I just felt I should take the process to its end result. I’ve ordered 100 books and if I can sell some of them it will help to cover some of the expenses of editing and printing. 

I had a few problems and on the night I was a bit stressed, though I kept telling myself that it’s no big deal. I had made the mistake of booking a room in a library and then getting flyers printed but then I found that the library was not available on the night I wanted, and really only for 2 hours on any other night!  However, in the end, we found another venue in a nearby Uniting Church hall, which turned out to be perfect for our needs, plus the folk there were so helpful.

I’d also been worrying about the turnout. It was a free event with no bookings and as no one had booked we had no idea of the numbers and if it was a rainy night that would put some folk off driving out for an evening appointment. Plus it was very close to Christmas and many who had said they would come then found they had to attend Christmas event that evening.

The Evening

But it all turned out so well. About forty turned up and it was so good to see so many of our friends, family and associates meeting each other and enjoying the get-together

Before and after the program there was a slide show about the house and garden renovation. There is a lot in the book about the renovation of this old family house and garden but in fact the book includes a lot more. It tells about the friends we made on the island, and about the joys and the difficulties of travelling to and living on an island in the Aegean.


Maria Millers, the teacher at my writing class, and former publisher, was Master of Ceremonies. After welcoming everyone she engaged Takis and I in conversation about the renovation of the house asking us questions like, “Why does the book have that title?”

Then Malcolm Faul who is the president of the Melbourne branch of the Mediterranean Garden society talked a little about the society and asked me some questions about our garden in Lemnos. The MGS is a worldwide society that promotes water-wise gardening.
Visiting a MGS garden with the group

And finally Maria closed and launched the book.

Eating and Signing

Takis and I had done the catering - mostly finger food – and as we were not sure of numbers we guessed that we would get 40 max, and we made 40 of everything. Lucky guesswork, as that is about the number that arrived!
The book was on sale for $24 and while everyone was tucking in to savouries and cakes, tea and coffee, Takis and I signed books. We both did this as though I had written the book the project definitely was a joint effort in so many ways.

The Future?

I’ll place the book in a couple of local bookshops, and after Christmas I hope to post the book on iTunes as I believe you can embed a photo slide show with the book and that might interest some folk. Also, here in the Melbourne area, I’ll be doing one or two book talks at libraries.

Its all been an interesting exercise, the writing and the publishing. Having just gone through this last aspect I have been made very aware that writers do not just sit at their desks composing (a process I find very enjoyable) but they also need to be salespeople, as they are composing something that will then go on sale (a process that I don’t really appreciate). However, if this launch is anything to go by, even this part of a writer’s work can turn out to be very enjoyable!