20 April 2014

A Tribute to Gabriel Garcia Marquez

"It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love." 

This is one of my most favourite first lines, from one of my most favourite novels: Love in the Time of Cholera by the awe inspiring Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who died a few days ago, aged 87.
I remember being completely blown away by his magic realism approach to story telling. Perhaps I could see parallels between my Greek childhood, which was also filled with dreams, curses and ancient feuds, and his Colombian heritage. He has had, without a doubt, a huge influence on many, many writers—including myself.
Not very long ago I reread Love in the Time of Cholera. Rereading novels is not something I often do. I've probably only reread a small handful of books. I remembered how obsessed I was with this novel when I first read it in the late 80s. I remember leaving it behind somewhere, possibly at home, and sitting on the tram, contemplating buying another copy. I didn't want to have to wait to continue reading it.

I have five of his books, though I do not own his most famous work One Hundred Years of Solitude. I believe the time has come for me to finally read it.

19 April 2014

A Personal Book Review

I didn't think I could add much to the many excellent reviews already on Amazon and Goodreads for "Not Even My Name" by Thea Halo. The official publisher's blurb too, describes the book well. But what I can contribute, I have decided, is a personal response.
I chose to read "Not Even My Name" because like Sano, the main "character", my grandparents fled Asia Minor to escape slaughter by the Turks. Where she went to America, my grandparents (from both my mother and father's sides) went to Greece. I cannot say "back" to Greece, since my ancestors, the Pontic Greeks, had been living on the shores of the Black Sea since ancient times. Family folk lore and legend has it, that we are descended from Jason and the Argonauts.

In the very next generation, my parents fled poverty and political oppression, and came to Australia. Three successive generations of my family have been born on different continents. 
I turned 50 a few years ago and perhaps because of this, I began to take an interest in my family's past. I have discovered that genealogical research is somewhat difficult when your ancestors are displaced people! So I have begun reading books about the Greek, Assyrian and Armenian genocide (c1914-1923) to get a feel for the times that my grandparents lived through. 
Unlike Thea Halo, the author of "Not Even My Name", my parents did not have access to my grandparents' first hand accounts of the "Asia Minor Catastrophe". My father was orphaned at the age of 3 or 4, and my mother lost her father when she was 10 or so. Her mother was a remote figure, working away from home from Monday to Saturday to support 6 children. By the time Mum might have thought to question Yiayia about her life, she was living on the other side of the world.
Although I don't think any of my grandparents went on a death march, I am grateful to Thea Halo for documenting her mother's amazing story, and giving me an insight into that time. I particularly liked the way the book was structured, and the ratio of historic detail to "story". It's an excellent (though often heartbreaking) read. There was one part in particular where I had to stop and grab a handful of tissue - I was crying that much. I'm also grateful that the story of the genocide of "my" people, the Pontic Greeks, is being told, despite fervent denial - to this day - by the Turkish government.

If you're interested in your Greek Family Tree, I can thoroughly recommend Gregory Kontos, a Greek genealogist, who has helped me in my search. For those of us born outside of Greece, it's great to have the assistance of a native speaker (and reader) who is also fluent in English. Gregory is passionate about what he does, he is professional, reliable and a joy to work with. 

Tomorrow I will post another picture of my paternal grandparents.

02 March 2014

Hello Everyone!

It's now almost two months since we moved house, and we are enjoying exploring our new surroundings. So far we are very happy with the change. We are much closer to the grungy yet cool and foodie part of Melbourne: the inner north, yet we are still in the leafy suburbs with room to breathe. Where we once drove for half an hour to get coffee (an obsession of my husband's), we now drive for less than 5 minutes.
Last night we had a quick and early dinner at Jimmy Grants, just off Smith Street in Collingwood. I actually lived around here when I was two, and the neighbourhood then (admittedly a long time ago) was anything but trendy - it was full of poor, working class immigrants (Jimmy Grants is rhyming slang. Get it?). I had the Patris Souvlaki: prawns with attiki honey, mayo, cucumber, mint and coriander - beyond delicious; and shared a bowl of crispy chips sprinkled with feta cheese and oregano - mmm!
Today we went for a walk along the Yarra River, near the Studley Park Boat House, and felt like we were in the bush, miles from civilisation. Then we hopped in the car and went for coffee at a place we've driven past and thought looked cool: Jr. Morse. We sat on milk crates cushioned with fake grass - what a great idea!  The coffee here is superb.
Around the corner is Victoria Park the old home of the Collingwood Football Club. My husband Craig has childhood memories of coming here with his brother and dad. I love how they've restored the old entrance way and left it as is, but the perimeter fence that once held out  potential non paying spectators, has been removed. It's a vibrant public space now.
Loving our new lifestyle, though it's sad to be further away from my parents, my sister and some good friends. Still, we're not that far away!

29 January 2014

The greatest day of my life

Today my daughter starts high school. The clich├ęs are all true: it does go quickly. She looks very grown up in her uniform, including stylish blazer and hat. She is nervous and wishes she wasn't so short, or "cute". She wants no patronising, no misty eyed looks or attention from us, or anyone else. She is her own person.

Driving home after her first day of primary school, seven years ago, I remember her saying, "This has been the greatest day of my life." I hope today is equally wonderful for her. She is funny and bright and so much fun to be with; and without a doubt, the very best thing in my life.

Here's to the next, exciting (and no doubt challenging) six years of high school.

11 December 2013

A Time of Giving

Is it stress or hormones? I am feeling angry with the world right now, after a casual remark by my daughter on the way to school this morning. "Some girls are getting their nails done for the graduation."
She is not finishing university or even high school; she is twelve and finishing grade 6. A new dress I can understand but God help me I cannot fathom the reason women (let alone girls) sit in front of other women to have their nails painted. Is it a difficult thing to do for one's self? Does it save time? Have we completely run out of things to spend money on? What the hell is this obsession women have with their nails! "I may be fat and ugly but at least my cuticles are trim"?
OK it provides work for immigrant women but is there any other value? Wouldn't that money be better spent donated to a homeless shelter - particularly at this time of the year? To provide food for children who sleep in cars with their battered mothers?
I am on the verge of moving into a very nice home in a well-to-do suburb; so hey, I am in some way part of the problem and not the solution, but I see every fault in our consumer driven society in that remark by my daughter.
I do not make a big show of how much money my family donates to charity because I have always felt it could be a type of "showing off". And what do I know, perhaps where I buy a book for myself and donate an equal amount to Amnesty International, another person forgoes books, gets her nails painted and donates to Greenpeace.
I don't want to make others feel bad about their choices; but I am so angry right now, because I suspect that most people do not give enough thought to those who have a lot less than they do.
So here for the record is a list of charities that I support. I urge you to skip a manicure or a coffee and cake or a book (even mine!) and donate to a worthy cause this Christmas.

25 August 2013

Good-bye - for now

It's been a great three years, blogging here and getting to know a lot of great people, many of who I now consider friends (you know who you are). But I must admit my enthusiasm is now lagging, and more importantly I need to focus on writing my novel.
It's been a year since All Windows Open my novella and short story collection, was published, and what a year it's been. Although it isn't exactly flying off the shelves, I have had some great feedback and received support from many unexpected places. Thank you firstly to everyone who bought a copy. Really: Thank you!!! And to everyone who has mentioned my book on their Facebook page or blog, or written a review - you are ACE!!
Being short listed for the NSW Premier'sLiterary Award was HUGE, and getting a review in a national paper was FAB. But now I want to take the next step and write a full length work. I have been fortunate to work with a terrific mentor Maria Tumarkin who has been talking to me and skilfully guiding me toward what I really want to write about. Now that I am on my way, I want to give it my full attention. When I am done, or if anything very exciting happens: I will be back!
Meanwhile I will still be updating my Facebook page, so please find me there and keep in touch!

If you would like a copy of my book, it really is available everywhere: Amazon, Booktopia, InfiBeam, Book Depository etc. The eBook is ridiculously cheap: about $2 or $3.

Stay safe, happy and healthy everyone!

Hariklia x

12 August 2013

The last time I saw the Cure

My Backstage Pass
Lazily reblogging again. My poor little blog is like an untendered garden, the weeds are growing vigorously. I dedicate this post to everyone who missed it the first time!

12 August 2007
47 years old
Robert (of course)

Me and Simon

The band on stage