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Coming and going in Greece and Australia

  • 28 March 2019


That leaden weight in my chest is back. My self-diagnosis is heartache, and once upon a time I thought I'd get to the stage at which this heaviness would leave me for good, but I know now that this is never going to happen, at least not as long as I am engaged in my back-and-forth movements between Greece and Australia.

I have been in Melbourne and parts of Victoria for eight weeks, and now I am about to leave. The weight returns when I allow myself to remember writer Paul Scott's thoughts about departure, and his closely-connected fear that even the simplest goodbye may turn out to be forever, and leave you with a feeling of remorse for the big and little things you left unsaid. Then there are also the things that have not been done, the people you have been unable to see.

Remorse, regret. It's complicated territory, my heart, marked by divisions and borders, because I have a brother and a son in Victoria, while two more sons and four grandchildren live in Greece. A friend considers that 'the littlies win every time,' and she seems to be right, in that I am looking forward to a reunion with said littlies and their parents. But this anticipation does not stop me feeling an acute sense of loss as I say my goodbyes to the Australian connections.

But of course my view of Australia itself has changed. All those decades ago I left a familiar country for a foreign one. I thought I was to have six months' holiday in Greece, but have now spent more than half my life there, so I no longer have the same sense of dislocation during my comings and goings.

The sense of dislocation these days comes from the painful knowledge that I am now not exiled so much from a familiar home, but from my young self. (But perhaps they are much the same thing?) This estrangement would have happened anyway, as it happens to us all, but seeing changed scenes of youth only at long intervals has a more jarring effect: no gradual adjustment is possible. And the absence of important people is a pain made new.

Then there's the matter of landscape, the flora and fauna, the sheer number of physical differences between Australia and Greece. The sunburned plains and gaunt pink-skinned gum trees I have been viewing recently are such a contrast