Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Greeks in Melbourne

 Greeks in Melbourne 

Melbourne in Victoria is a Greek cultural center in Australia. And there is more than one area in this city where Greeks congregate.

One is Lonsdale Street in the city centre. This is an area that runs adjacent to Melbourne Chinatown on Little Bourke Street. According to the 2001 Australian census Melbourne has the largest Greek Australian population in Australia and indeed it has the largest population of Greeks of any city in the World - outside of Greece.

The annual Melbourne Antipodes Festival is held on Lonsdale Street one week in March and has been held since 1987. The festival is renowned for its Lonsdale Street "Glendi" (Greek for "party") - a weekend-long event that is held to coincide with the Greek National Day on the 25th March.

An annual Greek Film Festival is also held in Melbourne over two weeks in September, and has been held since 1990.

However recently Greek community life has dispersed from Lonsdale Street to the suburbs and a number of Greek cafes have closed down in this street. To counter this trend recently a Greek entrepreneur built a $15 million, 15-storey beacon of Hellenism on the site of the original three-level headquarters of Melbourne's oldest and biggest Greek community organisation. Papastergiadis said it was important to ‘maintain a central, visible presence as a symbol of a mature, diverse and successful
migrant community that has become part of the city's cultural fabric.’ He added that, ‘During the Lonsdale Street Festival we get 100,000 people through here over two days. The prime minister last year said it was the biggest street festival in Australia, and half the attendees are not Greek.’

Chef  George Colombaris

Also in the city, as poster boy of the Greek community, is Chef George Colombaris. The Press Club and Gazi are two of his restaurants.  He has done a lot to help raise the profile of Greek cuisine in this city. 

Photo: Simon Schluter

Oakleigh is one of those suburbs where Greeks now congregate.
Oakleigh is 15 km southeast of Melbourne's central business district. In the 2011 census Oakleigh had population of 7,535. Once a large independent city, Oakleigh was absorbed into Melbourne as part of the eastward expansion of the metropolis in the 1950s. As a result, it once had its own large historic municipal buildings. The area’s strong Greek cultural influence is largely due to the influx of Greek immigrants to Australia in the mid-20th century. Fourteen per cent of those now living in this suburb speak only Greek at home.
 Evidence of Greek cultural influence can be found in the football club, Oakleigh Cannons, established in 1972 by Greek immigrants. Further evidence of Greek cultural influence can be found in the Greek Orthodox church of Agio Anargyroi

Plus a very strong presence of Greeks from Lemnos!

Thus this area contains many older commercial buildings including banks and retail complexes dating back to the early days of the city. But it is the cafes on Eaton Street, which is a pedestrian mall that most visitors come to visit. The thriving shopping district has an abundance of Greek butchers, bakeries, beauty salons, and specialty shops selling Greek sweets, but more and more there are shops representing other ethnic groups – Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese.
Oakleigh is an important shopping and eating area for Takis and me. We drive there at least once a month to stock up on Mythos, Greek beer, and Greek cheeses. And while there we are sure to have a souvlaki or a coffee and Galtibouriko. We have just now returned from stocking up with Greek goodies prior to Xmas!


Friday, 20 November 2015

A Busy Time of Year

A Busy Time of Year

Writing and Other Projects

One reason I’m taking out time and not doing two blogs a week is that it takes time from my writing schedule. At the moment I’m writing a whodunit about Lemnos. I’m finding this great fun and hopefully it will be finished soon so I’m trying to get most of it finished before Christmas.

Its set in the year just before Syriza was elected, and a time when folk in Greece knew that great changes were ahead but could not guess what they were. But I won’t say anything about these ongoing writing projects, as I feel to talk about them too early is bad luck. (Am I becoming Greek, with a belief about the evil eye?)

Library Talks

Takis also signs the books as the story is as much about him as me.


I’ve mostly done these in the form of an interview, with my Emerald friend and teacher of a writing group asking the questions. She’s read the book and can prompt me, letting me ramble on for a while and then bringing me back to what she thinks the audience would like to know about the book. We cover the main stories of the retirement adventure, the house renovation (including those about mice, hidden fireplaces and discovery of the well.) I included a slide show as folk gather for nibbles and buy books after the talk.

Garden Club Talks

Recently I’ve also done some garden talks (with slides) of the garden in Lemnos, and of the Lemnian natural flora. I’ve really enjoyed this last venture, into talks for garden clubs. They are great folks and very curious about gardening situation overseas, as well as fascinated by tales of other people’s gardens.
Before picture of Pergola
After picture of Pergola

The slides however are the main feature when giving the garden talk. I chat while the slides are showing. I have three slide shows that follow each other. One shows plants seen on walks through the island early and later in the year. Another about the planning and setting out of our garden and the last showing the house and garden today.

I tell folk that I’ve found its not always easy being a gardener in the Mediterranean. As I tried to point out one ‘Med’ place is often very different from another. On Lemnos the problem is not just of the hot dry summers, that can extend for three or even four moths, but the frosts and winter snowfalls, and also the very strong winter winds, which mean a root system is weakened and a plant that looks OK suddenly dies as the weather warms. And I tell folks that the plants I use in Greece are survival plants, found along roadsides, or plants that do well in neighbour’s gardens. Nursery plants I often have to replace year after year.

I tell them …
There were a few trees in the garden when we arrived, olive, almond, bitter orange (naranzi), fig. Most of the almond trees were very old and have since died of old age. The olives and figs survive well. The orange, though old and tough, nearly died one cold winter BUT it may be coming back And as we use bitter oranges to make marmalade I’ve planted another two trees, hoping they survive. 
While island nurseries are limited in their ‘Mediterranean’ offerings I’ve bought pomegranate, pine, box, rose, bougainvillea, citrus, agapanthus, bottlebrush, lantana, gaura, wisteria, yucca, fan palm and agave. Some of these do not survive the winter cold, especially the bougainvillea, though I have one of the hardy purple variety in a very sheltered corner and even if cut back by the cold so far it has regrown.  The lantana too is cut back by the cold but often revives. I’ve had to retry lemons several times!

But that plants from the roadsides do well, like euphorbia, hemlock, daffodil lilies, oleander, obviously they can cope with the summer and winter weather but when put in a garden situation they can take over! However mostly I check out what was doing well in other gardens and asked for cuttings or roots. I got my, honeysuckle, rosemary, bay, Iris, canna lilies, pampas grass, jasmine, basil, pittosporum, Virginia creeper, lilac, pelagonium and grapes in this manner. And then there are plants that I started with seeds, or have just arrived and continue to self-seed. These I happily keep and include, fennel, marigolds, pokeweed, zinnias, nasturtiums, alyssum and chamomile daisies.

And then there is Christmas to Plan!

Another reason, I’m afraid, my blogs are getting put on the back burner is that Christmas is drawing closer. 

In Greece Christmas is not as important as Easter, and in America the importance of Thanksgiving means that some of the business is taken away from Christmas. But here in Australia Christmas is the BIG holiday. It falls at the beginning of the summer holiday. It’s that time when works places close down for the long holiday and everyone has Christmas parties. So Friends meet and exchange present, Families have to decide who’s home will be the one that will be visited this year (often this planning involves going to one family home in the morning and another in the afternoon.)

As I look at my diary I see I have already six Christmas get together parties at our house to plan for.

We have already done preliminary menus and had one early shopping expedition. I’m pleased that Takis loves cooking, and so he’ll make a ham, and a roast lamb, and a couple of fish dishes, for these various occasions. I really love the traditional English Christmas pudding and cake but no one else in the family does. But whether anyone else will eat them it would not be Christmas with out mince pies and a trifle, so I’ll be making them.


Sunday, 15 November 2015

Putting My Book On-Line

Putting My Book On-line
 It’s now done! And if you want to read it 

its now on Kindle  e-books!


Just getting the book written about the project took about three years. Getting it edited and formatted and published another two years and quite a lot of money. Now getting it up on Amazon took more money (for an e-Pub version) and more time (reading all Amazon’s legalize). This e-version has 25 pictures included. I hope it is available in your area as I tried to choose the offer that made the book available in most countries rather than just those that Amazon had a special deal with.


What its About?

My husband and I decided to take up, as a retirement project, the renovation of an old family house in Greece. We were filled with excitement. That was ten years ago, and since then we have been travelling to an old house on the island of Lemnos in the Aegean for six months of every year. And I have written a book about that adventure.


Why take the name Drury-Catton?

I’d always thought that if I write I would use an old family name not my own name as a pen name, though in the end I combined the two. My great grandmother was a Drury, and it was known that this name dates back to the Norman invasion of England when a knight called Guy de Drury came over with William the Conqueror.

In addition a writer from New Zealand called Catton has recently published a book. Eleanor Catton’s book, the Luminaries, won the Man Booker prize. Though obviously not in that league, I thought it could be confusing, if as a writer I used the same name.

Why Self Publish?


I did not approach any publishers, but I did approach 8 agents with my book and none took it up. (I know this is quite modest compared with other would-be-writers and perhaps I should have put more effort into finding a publisher.) However, this activity is largely a retirement hobby, and as I’m an elderly lady (75) and time is short, and I have other things to attend to – house, family and more writing, I did not want to spend more time and effort looking for publishers.

How Have I Distributed up Now?
This has been through word of mouth and a few library and garden club talks. Plus I’ve given a lot of copies to friends and relatives. I did put a few in a couple of bookshops, but these were independent books shops who don’t mind the extra work involved in displaying self-published authors, and negotiating payment for just a few books.

Aims for this book

I had been making notes all the time we were working on the house, and finally I decided to write a book about our renovation adventure.  However I did not to produce a book just about the renovation of a house, or just about living in an exotic location. I did not want a story about blue skies and tavernas, or of strange customs and people, I wanted the situation to ring true to what we had experienced. So, while writing about our unique adventure on an Aegean Island, I tried to weave two familiar ‘retirement’ situations into stories of  a special house and island.


The House Story

While the dream of a house on an Aegean island, with sunshine, warm seas and rural peace, is something many busy, driven, city folk long for it’s not easily achieved. It took a lot of hard work, and it took us ten years of working 6 months every year to complete the job. There is no doubt that Ogden Nash got it right when he wrote that ‘It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home. It takes a heap o’ payin’ too.’


The Lemnos Story

On the island of Lemnos we’ve now lived and laughed, but also cried and sweated, for over ten years. There is no denying that this has been the most marvelous romantic dream-house adventure but I feel that we too experienced the truth of an old  Lemnian saying, that one cries twice when coming to this island. This saying may have originated from the time when the island was a designated place of exile, and folk would cry when they landed, arriving reluctantly. But often they would cry again when they left as by then they’d fallen in love with the island and its people. This was a recurring experience for me.

Takis’ Story

It was Takis’ perseverance over a very long period that enabled us to succeed; first buying the Venetian house from thirty-six cousins, and then renovating all three stories. And as there are only a few shops nearby, and it’s hard to get what you want when you want it , Takis was thrown back onto his own resources but I think this what Takis most enjoyed.


My Story

This project has taken its toll in various ways, emotionally, physically and financially. And, of course, no one can have missed the fact that this decade has been a tumultuous one for Greece, with enormous immigration and fiscal problems. Has this affected me? Of course it has.

But, while there have many been times when I’ve come to the island grudgingly, every time it comes time to leave I walk around my Greek garden very unwilling to depart.

Good Times in our Garden

Good Times on the Island

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

South Australian Connections

South Australian Connections

Visiting South Australia

I have a history with this state. South Australia is where I first flew to as a young ’10 pound Pom’ (this is what we young, assisted, immigrants were once called). As I was a teacher and Australia needed teachers. I arrived on a Friday and was immediately put to work as I was in the classroom teaching on the Monday. What a great beginning compared to the vast number of immigrants today.

South Australia is a ‘free’ state not a convict territory. Folk chose to come and settle, and set up farms here. It is the state that my Grandfather sailed to in clipper ships as a young midshipman. Every time I hear that song, ‘I’m bound for South Australia’, I’m reminded of him.

Not long after arriving I married and set up a house in the Adelaide Hills, a house with 3 hectares of land. This is where my 3 children grew up. It is where I first learnt about gardening in a ‘Mediterranean Climate’.

Bound for South Australia

In South Australia I was born
Heave away, haul away
South Australia round Cape Horn
We're bound for South Australia

Heave away, you rolling king
Heave away, haul away 
Heave away, oh hear me sing
We're bound for South Australia


I still fly to SA at least once a year to visit my children who live there. The distance is about the same as from Athens to Lemnos. (There you have the choice of flying, 1 hour, or ferry, 12 hours.)From Melbourne in the state of Victoria to SA it takes 8 hours by road, or I hour by plane. This particular visit was conveniently time so that I was there to celebrate three birthdays.


Because I spent my first 20 years in Australia in SA I have a lot of friends in this state. I managed to spend a lot of time with an old neigbour who lived in a property behind ours in the hills. And I had coffee with a couple of academic colleagues from the days when I worked at the University of South Australia.

The Mediterranean Garden Society
At present the MGS has members in 38 different countries:
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, UK, United Arab Emirates, USA.

SA Branch of the Mediterranean Garden Society

I was in South Australia not only to meet friends and family but because I had been invited to give a talk to the SA, MGS Branch at their November meeting. This is the largest of the Australian branches as Adelaide is probably the state capital with the most typical Mediterranean climate. In my garden there, because I lived in the Hills I was able to grow some temperate plants, but on the plains where the city is located gardeners need to use more dry-tolerant plants. They were interested in Lemnos and my garden there and so I gave a talk illustrated with slides.
A May Walk in Lemnos
A June Walk in Lemnos

They meet in an old building that it a part of the Adelaide Botanic Garden Administrative Centre. There were about 50 at the meeting, and such a helpful and interesting group. Many of them lived in the Adelaide Hills, as I had all those years ago. My good neighbour-friend accompanied me, and we arrived in good time to set up the slides – well with too good timing it turned out. I had been under the impression that the meeting began at 7 in the evening, and knowing the problems of setting up a slide show we were there quarter past six. But at 7 the door was still locked and not a person in sight! I panicked, was it the wrong day? Was I at the wrong place? But no, my heartbeat settled as folk began to arrive just after 7. Plus the group was super organized and had a excellent facilities and a very proficient technician to set them up. It went like a dream.

 Books and Magazines

The Branch has four excellent newsletters a year, with stories of member’s gardens, garden trips, open gardens, and gardening tips. I came away with copies to browse on my way home to Victoria.

I like the emphasis this group put on Climate Compatible Gardening. It was something I had emphasized in my talk about Gardening in Greece, and something I’ve mentioned in my last two blogs – the fact that Greece does not just have a Mediterranean Climate it has many microclimates.

The Branch president, and well-known garden author, Trevor Nottle quotes Noel Lothian (former Director of the Adelaide Botanic Garden) for the Branch’s newsletter, ‘All gardeners in Australia must realize that their local conditions are quite different from those a few miles away, or in the next state.’ Trevor then goes on to add, ‘It is our happy circumstance as members of the Mediterranean Garden Society to carry forward a strong agenda based on much the same considerations.

This book has just been published by Wakefield Press, South Australia, 2015.
It is a lush celebration of the gardening life in all its forms. It concentrates on collectible objects, but covers much more. It was produced to accompany the opening of a museum of gardening objects at Carrick Hill House and Garden, South Australia.

Endless Pleasure: Exploring and collecting among the byways of gardens and gardening.

By Trevor Nottle

(with contributions from garden experts, garden writers, plant and garden lovers, collectors, food writers, chefs, artists, gallery curators and antiquarians.}

‘Lush’ is right the word to describe this book. The illustrations from the past are absorbing in their detail and oddness. And the pictures of useful objects bring back many gardening memories.
Our Practical and Very Useful Lemnian Garden

Sunday, 1 November 2015

More Trials and Tribulations

More Trials and Tribulations
 Situation Lemnos
I’ve found its not always easy being a gardener on Lemnos not just because of the hot and dry summers that can extend for three or even four moths, and because of the frosts and winter snowfalls, but also because of these winds. However with trial and error I continue to garden, and now love my practical and very beautiful Lemnian garden.

Lemnos is a northern Aegean island and it lies in the same latitude as Rome and Barcelona. Its position is between the coast of Turkey and Greece, not far from the entrance to the Black Sea via the Bosporus. It is not formed as a part of a physical chain or group, but is frequently grouped together Lesvos, Samothrace and Thasos for tourist or administrative purposes.

It is an old volcanic island; in fact there was a remnant still active in the 18C. It is the 8th largest Greek island, and was the first stopover for Jason and the Argonauts. Beside its many sandy beaches it also has some deep bays, one of which was the one used by the Allies just before the landing at Gallipoli while the beaches around this bay were where the injured were first brought, and the setting for the TV series, ANZAC girls.)

The Climate Zone for Lemnos would be called Mediterranean, with hot dry summers (sometimes no rain for 4 months) and wet cold winters. The temperature is typically 2 to 5 degrees Celsius less than in Athens, and Thessaloniki that is it’s nearest large town. The average high in July is 29.0, and the average low in January is 4.2.

But, because of its position, set out in the sea, away from the continents and other islands, the weather can be very windy, hence its nickname "the wind-ridden one" Animoisa (in Greek, Ανεμόεσσα). These winds can be very lovely in the summer when sea breezes cool one during hot summer days, though coming up from the south and Egypt they can occasionally be ladened with sand! In winter the winds come down from Russia and the Black Sea and can keep folk indoors, and bend and stunt the trees.

A Dream Mediterranean Garden in Progress

We now have a beautiful house and garden on the island but in 2002 when our ‘retirement project’ began we were faced with empty block except for one old olive tree and several aging almond trees and in one corner a collapsing three story, 100yr old, stone and tiled house, and in the garden two ruined outbuildings. It had been a dump, a playground, and it was filled with old and dying trees, plus it had been cleared topsoil


Losing plants because of heat especially when I’ve tried to grow something not suited like apple trees, or planted some vegetables too late in the year and they shrivel up when June heats up. And, I’ve lost several citrus trees to frost and snowy winter conditions. Plus there have been sudden unexplained losses, which I’ve put down to unknown beasties in the soil, or to wind shaking and breaking the root system.
My plum tree died unexplainably just after this harvest

Lack of Top Soil

Evidently previous users of the house found that it cost too much to pay someone to weed the property and an easier was to hire a mechanical scooper to take off the topsoil. After doing this for a few years they had cleared block of land, but when we arrived it took a year or two to restore and renovate the soil.

Plant nurseries

There are only two on the island and they have limited stock, full of stuff for ladies balconies, or men’s allotments(azaleas, herbs, vegetable seedlings and olive trees). The tools sold are of poor quality and you have to buy poisons and weed killers are sold elsewhere. But they do have bags of potting mix. We arrived May, too late for seeds, so I have to rely on Anestis to find and plant seedlings.


Takis speaks Greek, but Anestis, my garden helper only speaks Albanian and seeking I only speak English communication gets difficult. Takis is not always around to translate and anyway he does not always convey what I want. But Anestis and I work together using sign language!


We leave in October, too late to prune, so I have to rely on Anestis to do the winter pruning. This sometimes works but in some cases he’ll prune something to death and in other cases, like the roses, he refuses to prune hard enough.

Learning Curves.

Anestis is willing to break with some local custom but on the whole he follows the lead of the local (male) gardeners. This can teach me a thing or two, such as watering down trenches. But he’s learnt a few things from me (though as a male he’s not willing to admit it) such as mulching roots of trees and veggies in the summer, and composting, using weeds, kitchen waste, grass clippings from the park, and seaweed and straw (when we can get it.)


Then there were the weeds. You always have a ‘bane of your life’ in each garden, and convolvulus is the one in Lemnos. But there were others. They say, ‘A weed in one place is a chosen plant in another’ but as Edna Walling put it weeds are plants that tend to multiply too quickly in a particular area. Sometimes you may want this but more often plants that do this can be…

Rampageous, however some are easily ripped out (Nasturtium, Purslane)

Tender and Wild and as they come and go at their own will they are often welcome,  (Capers, Chamomile, Poppies, Vleeta)

Easily Controlled and so I often keep them  (Alyssum, Acanthus, Euphorbia, Pokeweed, Marigolds)

Terrorists and the bane of my gardening life, and I hate them with a vengeance in this garden! (Grasses, Bindweed)


But with lots of work and lots of love, we now have a garden to delight in.