Ejo #94 – Drunk In….. Lisbon

Sometimes the inspiration to write a “Drunk In…..” post hits me long after the fact, when it dawns on me that I’ve got heaps of photos of us being drunken fools in some foreign city.  Other times I just know that a city is going to be excellent “Drunk In…..” material before we even set foot in it.  Lisboans are renowned for their love of eating, drinking and staying up way past their bedtimes.  As you know kids, that’s my kinda town.

 

TIME OUT MARKET (a.k.a. MERCADO DA RIBEIRA) 

So, we got to town, dropped off our bags and hit the street.  No point dilly dallying.  We were staying right around the corner from the Mercado da Ribeira (officially known as the Time Out Market…. blech!).  The market is known as a world-class food hall but we had a fancy dinner booked that night and didn’t want to ruin our appetites.  We were, however, looking for a drink (natch!) and we also just wanted to scope the place.  It was buzzing on a Monday afternoon which is always a good sign.  We grabbed a couple of large glasses of white sangria to ease into the spirit of things and figure out our next move.

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A food hall is a great way to eat a quick bite of really good food.  Time Out Market only includes vendors that rate four or five in their reviews, ensuring the quality stays high.

 

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White sangria is the shizzle!!  Delicious and refreshing and alcoholic.

INFO:
481 Av. 24 de Julho
Sun-Wed: 1000-0000
Thurs-Sat: 1000-0200
CLICK FOR MAP

 

MANTEIGARIA

Unsurprisingly, our next move was a quick recon to find the best pastéis de nata in our ‘hood, Cais do Sodré.  You might recognise these little delights as Portuguese tarts, but don’t you dare call them that in Portugal.  You call them pastéis de nata or you just go home right now.  I have a feeling that some of you might think you know what these things taste like.  I’mma stop you right there.  You don’t know, you just think you know.  Don’t worry about it, we thought we knew, and we didn’t know.  That first bite totally blew our minds.  How on earth could something taste so good?  I’m talking next level.  I won’t tell you how many of these we had during our four days in Lisbon.  Not because I’m embarrassed.  I just lost count.  Let’s say a ludicrously large number.

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Look for this sign to enter pastry heaven.

 

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LOOK AT THEM!!!  THEY’RE STILL WARM!!!!!

 

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O.  M.  F.  G.

INFO:
Rua do Loreto 2,
0800-0000
+351 21 347 1492
CLICK FOR MAP

 

PENSÃO AMOR

Pensão Amor was one of those perfectly serendipitous discoveries that totally begets a “Drunk In…..” post.  We’d been walking around for hours and were in need of a refreshing libation (and also a toilet), when lo and behold there it was, in all its quirky glory.  A lot of cocktail bars don’t open until evening, but the great thing about Pensão Amor is that they appreciate the merits of daytime drinking and, thoughtfully, fling open their doors at 2pm. David ordered cocktails while I went in search of the loo, which ended up being a very small, candle-lit, graffiti-splattered cubicle with a very curious, but delightful, display of Barbie dolls doing unspeakable things to each other to entertain you while you do your business (I did say quirky, right?).

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David’s Pisco Punch (kinda like a Hawaiian Pisco sour – which actually really works) and my Hemingway (yeah, sometimes I can be a classy bitch).

 

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The bar has several rooms – this one is the Wild West saloon style room with a projector showing silent black and white movies of circus freak shows from the 1920s.   Quirky. 

INFO:
Rua Alecrim 19
Sun-Wed: 1400-0300
Thur-Sat: 1400-0400
+351 21 314 3399
CLICK FOR MAP

 

A CEVICHERIA

A Cevicheria is a very fashionable, very well-reviewed ceviche restaurant that doesn’t take reservations (booooo!).  What makes this place so great is that, since they’re making people wait on the street, they’ve opened up a little window on the side from which they serve delicious Pisco sours.  Yay, Pisco sours!!  And you don’t even need to be waiting for a table to get them.  You just roll on up and drink them in the street before carrying on with your business.  Have you ever heard of anything so civilised????

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The shop front, with the Pisco Bar on the right hand side. 

 

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Gotta have limes if you’re making Pisco Sours. 

 

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We’re drinking Piscos, and you’re not. 

INFO:
R. Dom Pedro V 129
1200-0000
+351 21 803 8815
CLICK FOR MAP

 

FADO

Fado is a style of Portuguese music expressive of all the melancholy and malaise the Portuguese have experienced since… well, forever.  The country may now be enjoying an upswing in fortunes and, paradoxically, so is the popularity of this mournful music.  It’s definitely a must-do if you visit Lisbon, and the best place to see it is Alfama.  This neighbourhood is all small, narrow streets and cobblestoned, winding alleys.  Ramshackle houses, cracked and peeling, tumbling onto each other, but somehow still standing.  It’s historic, it’s sorrowful and it’s beautiful.  Just like fado itself.

We’d been told by a local that we “had to go” to Clube de Fado but sadly we arrived too late on a Saturday night (and without a reservation – rookie mistake).  We walked around looking for another reputable fado joint, but they were all full.  Determined, we followed the strains of soulful crooning emanating from an outdoor tasca and made a beeline for it, scoring a table for dinner.  Unlike Clube de Fado, where only professional singers perform, tascas are more an open-mic affair, and during the course of dinner we heard two great performances and one average one.  Next time we’re in Lisbon we’ll make a point of booking a table at Clube de Fado.

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Despite missing out on a professional fado performance, we were all smiles.  Lisbon can do that to you.  Also… wine. 

 

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Even average seafood in Lisbon is good seafood.  But it wasn’t good enough to rave about.  This “Drunk In…..” gig isn’t all unicorns and rainbows, friends.  Sometimes it’s a little hit and miss, but we put in the hard yards – just for you.  You’re welcome.

INFO:
CLICK FOR MAP

 

FABRICA COFFEE ROASTERS

Good coffee is an absolute necessity for “Drunk In…..” shenanigans.  It’s always such a pleasure when we find the perfect coffee place on our travels.  And in Lisbon, that place was Fabrica.  Consistently great coffee with always friendly, smiling service.  Exactly what you need when you’re recovering from a night of revelry.

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Absolutely perfect flat whites – every time. 

INFO:
Rua das Flores 63
0900-1800
+351 21 139 29 48
CLICK FOR MAP

 

TILES BAR

There was one reservation that we’d made in Lisbon that I absolutely didn’t want to miss, and being such eager beavers we turned up half an hour before they even opened.  What to do???  Tsk tsk, if you don’t know by now, you’ll never know.  Obviously we went in search of refreshments, and found them across the street at Tiles Bar in the form of our favourite Portuguese drink, white sangria.  Unfortunately it took them 25 minutes to serve, but they did make it from scratch, and it was yummy, so we couldn’t get too mad.

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The sangria you have when you’re thirty minutes early for your lunch reservation.

INFO:
R. Palma 312
Mon-Thur: 0900-0000
Fri: 0900-0200
Sat: 1100-0200
Sun: 1100-0000
+351 21 138 4724
CLICK FOR MAP

 

CERVEJARIA RAMIRO

After knocking back our sangria, we walked across the road to Cervejaria Ramiro, which by now had a throng of people waiting outside.  We were unsure if we should wait in line or push our way to the front, so we pushed our way to the front and hailed down a waiter to tell him we had a reservation.  Thanks to google we already knew which dishes we just had to have.  Clams Bulhão Pato, tiger prawns, lobster and red river shrimp.  We also knew to leave room for their specialty dessert of prego, otherwise known as a steak sandwich.  Yup, I said steak sandwich for dessert.  Do you see now, why we had to eat here.

During the course of the meal, we became progressively drunker and fell progressively more in love with our wonderful waiter who was everything a waiter should be.  Should I ever find myself in the predicament of having to order a “final meal”, I’d ask for a long, boozy lunch at Cervejaria Ramiro with João serving me seafood until it runs out.

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This is what they bring to the table right after you sit down.  DO NOT EAT THE BREAD!!!  It’s a trap!!!!  Save it for soaking up all the crustacean juices later on.  Trust me. 

 

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Why not beer AND wine?

 

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Clams, glorious clams.  This particular style is called Bulhão Pato, after the 19th century Portuguese poet António de Bulhão Pato who was particularly fond of his shellfish cooked in garlic, white wine and coriander.  I also, am particularly fond of my shellfish cooked that way.  These are exceptionally tasty and my mouth is watering just thinking about them!!!!

 

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Drooooooooool. 

 

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We asked for more lemon.  We got a large, hot serving dish of magnificent bubbling oil, chilli, lemon and garlic.  HOW DID THEY KNOW?????!!!!

 

 

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A steak sandwich?  For dessert??  Oh hell, yes!!!!

 

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When you both fall in love with your waiter, it’s only polite to ask what his name is.  His name was João.

 

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Marry us João!!  

INFO:
Av. Almirante Reis nº1 – H
1200-0030 (Closed on Mondays)
+351 21 885 1024
CLICK FOR MAP

 

A GINJINHA

After such a phenomenal meal, it only makes sense to wrap things up with a wee digestif.  And what better digestif than local delicacy ginjinha, a very tasty liqueur made from Morello cherries, brandy, sugar and cinnamon.  And what better place to get it than the iconic A Ginjinha, which has been serving this liquid deliciousness from a hole in the wall since 1840.  I am in no way ashamed to say we came here for some fortifying ginja several times a day during our visit.  Let me tell you, there’s nothing like joining all the old dudes in flat caps supping cherry liqueur in the middle of the street at 9 o’clock in the morning to make you feel like a local.  There’s usually a bit of a line but they serve very quickly and the only thing you need to tell them is whether you want it with or without the soused cherries.  Hint: get the cherries.

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Look for this sign.  Also, be prepared to wait as there is usually a line.  Luckily for you they pour pretty, pretty, pretty damn quickly – as you can see from the video below.  

 

 

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Cheers!  Oh, and you MUST get it with the cherries.  They pack an extra little punch, if you know what I mean.  

 

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We walked 1km carrying two little cups of ginjinha to the pastry shop just so we could see how good they tasted together.  Surprise, surprise!  If ever there was a more perfect combination than Pastéis de Nata and Ginjinha, I am yet to discover it.  

INFO:
Largo São Domingos 8
0900-2200
+351 21 814 5374
CLICK FOR MAP

 

SOL E PESCA

Did you know that food in a tin is a thing now?  I’m talking about tinned seafood in particular.  Oh, it’s a thing.  Look it up.  No longer the domain of camping cuisine, seafood in a can has been elevated to gourmet status.  Naturally, the hipster restaurants followed.  And so we went to the nautically themed Sol e Pesca to check out for ourselves exactly how this new wave of preserved seafood might differ from what John West has been offering for years.  The answer is: completely different league.  The menu is brought to you attached to a fishing rod (I mentioned the hipsters, right?) and is broken up into different sections: octopus, sardines, tuna, cavala (mackerel – yum!!!), herring etc.  And then within those sections you have all the different available flavours.  Pick the ones you want (with a bit of help from the gorgeous staff, as there is no English menu) and order a jug of white sangria to pass the time while the waiter opens up your cans and presents everything nicely on a plate.  Salut!

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The menu.  

 

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The white sangria. 

 

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The tins. 

 

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The octopus (with lemon and parsley). 

 

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The sardines (with garlic and oregano).

 

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The mackerel (with chilli and thyme). 

INFO:
R. Nova do Carvalho 44
Mon-Wed: 1200-0200
Thur-Sat: 1200-0400
(Closed on Sundays)
+351 21 346 7203
CLICK FOR MAP

 

RESTAURANTE PONTO FINAL

Across the Tagus River in Cacilhas, a little known area of Lisbon, lie a number of abandoned buildings, home to numerous cats and probably a fair share of squatters.  Also in Cacilhas is the wonderfully simple, but excellent restaurant Ponto Final.  This place serves good, honest, home-style cooking.  The menu consists of mostly seafood, as you’d expect, and that’s what we came for.  We were not disappointed.  Make a reservation, or come early like we did and grab a table with a view of the water and of the city of Lisbon shimmering on the other side.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a sunny afternoon.

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The view of Lisbon from Cacilhas.

 

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When you’re offered an aperitif in Portugal, you’d better get Madeira.

 

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A feast for the eyes, the stomach and the soul.  For real.   The simplicity of this food is actually nurturing, comforting.  The wine is pretty nurturing too.

INFO:
R. do Ginjal 72, Almada
1200-2300 (Closed on Tuesdays)
+351 21 276 0743
CLICK FOR MAP

 

Ejo #93 – My Wallet

In 1995, my boyfriend gave me a beautiful men’s wallet for my 24th birthday. I fucking loved it. It was unique, functional, I’m pretty sure it was expensive, and it was a giant middle finger to the kind of birthday present girls were “supposed” to like. I still love that wallet, and now, because I’ve had it for over 22 years, I am also sentimentally attached to it. I love it because after all these years together we’ve become so close we finish each other’s sentences.  I love it because it’s always been there. It’s travelled with me to dozens of countries and endured four crappy jobs before finally settling in to the right one. It’s witnessed four other boyfriends come and go, and one amazing husband stick around. I love it because it’s seen me broke and it’s seen me flush. It’s held deposit cheques for my first car and my first house. Money that my Dad left me when he died. Money to buy food for handouts here in Dubai. Maxed out credit cards that have kept me awake at night and banknotes in eleven different currencies. You know, as mementos

Someone recently asked me what all the crap in my wallet was, referring to my large collection of car wash vouchers. Eight vouchers used to score you a free car wash – in 2001 – but I never actually got around to using them and over the years my poor wallet has stretched out to accommodate their bulk. When I finally decided to get rid of them, about ten years ago, I realised that my wallet had ballooned so much that my cash had no chance of staying put and just kept slipping out. So the vouchers resumed their position, filling the cavernous space they had created. We’ve all accepted that this will be their final resting place.  My wallet can no longer function without them, and thus neither can I.

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Need somewhere to write a list?

My wallet has contained love notes and phone numbers from fascinating strangers. It’s held receipts, IOUs, shopping lists and lists of things to do. It safeguards passport photos and photos of dead people, photos of people I love. It keeps my Australian sim securely hidden away when I’m in Dubai, and my UAE sim safe when I’m travelling. And, because I’m a hoarder, it still hangs onto every single driver’s license I’ve ever had. It holds my organ donor card, my Blood Bank donor card, and my most recent acquisition, my first aid license. My life is essentially contained within the smooth, dark brown, leather pockets of this wallet.

 

But let’s be real. The thing is over 22 years old. I don’t know how old that is in wallet years. Ancient. The stitches are falling apart at the seams and the Oroton label has all but completely worn away. The zipper on the coin pocket broke about fifteen years ago, and the whole goddamn thing is so distended by filler crap that I can’t even actually button it closed anymore. Let’s face it, this wallet is an old, ugly, worthless piece of shit. And I really, really should just throw it away and get a new one.

But I think we all know, I never will.

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‘Til death do us part.

 

 

 

Ejo #92 – My Name Is Chrysoula Stathopoulos

My name is Chrysoula Stathopoulos. Since 1933, I’ve lived in Lechaion, a small seaside town in Greece. But I was born in a tiny village in the Peloponnese mountains in 1916. I am 101 years old.

My name is Chrysoula Stathopoulos. I’ve lived in Dubai since 2008. But I was born in Adelaide, Australia in 1971 and raised in Melbourne. I am 46 years old.

As the firstborn, I was named after my Dad’s mother, which is how the Greeks do. I hated my name growing up because nobody could ever pronounce it, and a lot of kids gave me shit for it. On the first day of Grade 2, my teacher actually accused me of making it up. I casually dropped the “oula” part of my name when I was 12, and made it official when I was 14. Over the years I’ve grown to love my full name again. It’s unique, and it’s who I am. It’s also something that connects me to my grandmother, my yiayia, whom I love dearly.

My twin sister Fotoula and I were the apples of our father’s eye. We had two older brothers, but we were the favourites and everyone knew it, including Mum. She scolded us once for making too much noise while we were playing and Dad looked at her very seriously and said, “Whatever you do, don’t ever talk to my girls like that again”. And she never did. Times were tough growing up because of the war, and we didn’t have a lot, but our house was filled with love and I always tried my best to make my Dad proud of me when he was home. He was gone for most of my childhood, working in America so that he could send money home for us. Every time he came home was a big deal and my favourite memory was of being bounced on his knees – me on one leg, and Fotoula on the other, the three of us laughing and laughing.

Even though Greek families usually covet a son, my parents had three daughters and I think that, secretly, my father loved being surrounded by women. My Dad drove trucks for a living in the early seventies, and he was gone for long stretches at a time. My earliest memory is of our flat in Elwood. I was wearing a nappy and crawling to the front door because Mum had told me that Dad was coming home. I remember bursting with joy when he appeared at the flyscreen door.

In 1924 my family moved down from the mountains so that we could attend school near Korinth. Some of the teachers were very strict, which I didn’t like very much. I certainly wasn’t used to being smacked, but the teachers had no problem hitting us if they got mad. I always studied hard, and tried to be the best student so that they would never have any reason to hit me. On 22nd April 1928 a big earthquake shook Korinth. Twenty people died, and nearly 15,000 people were left homeless. Even though our home was damaged, we were lucky that it wasn’t one of the 3000 that were destroyed, and that we still had somewhere to live. Our school had turned to rubble and, while it was being rebuilt, classes were held outside, on the football field.

Fotoula hated school. She would say, “Chrysoula, I’ve been to school for a week, now it’s your turn”. School wasn’t compulsory back then, so she could get away with it but it’s a shame that she never learned to read or write. I wanted to be a teacher or a mid-wife when I grew up because they earned 500 drachmas (about €2) a month, which was a lot of money for a woman back then. But I was forced to drop out of school in 1929, at age 13.

When we were young,my parents forced me and my sisters to go to Greek school on Saturday mornings. I hated it and faced each weekend with sickening dread. But my parents wanted us to learn how to speak Greek, and to appreciate Greek history and customs. Fair enough, but the teachers at the school we attended were sadistic fucks and what I remember most about those classes was the constant fear. It ended when a teacher pinched my cheek so hard he left a large purple bruise across my face. My crime? Not completing my homework. My parents, horrified that the tales of assault and battery were actually true, allowed me to drop out of Greek school at age 12.

In 1930 my beloved father got sick with double pneumonia. The closest doctor was in Didima, a village 100km away, and every time he came to the house it cost us 500 drachmas. When Dad died, we owed the doctor a small fortune and since we didn’t have the money, it was negotiated that I would go with him back to Didima and work as his housekeeper until the bill was paid. I didn’t want to go, but my older brother got very angry and slapped me across the face and told me I was going and that was the end of it. After that I was happy to leave, just to get away from him. My Dad would never have allowed anyone to strike me like that. But now he was gone, and I had no choice but to enter into servitude for nearly three years in a village where I didn’t know anyone and where they didn’t even speak Greek. During my time in Didima, I slowly learned some Albanian so that I could communicate with people, but I was happy when the debt was finally paid off, and I could return to my family, who had moved to Lechaion.

In late 2002 my beloved father was diagnosed with lung cancer. My parents tried to be upbeat and hopeful about the prognosis but as you can imagine, it was a total shock for all of us. My father was the healthiest and most robust man I’d ever known. He was invincible to me, a rock. In denial, I didn’t even believe that he was actually sick until he started showing symptoms a couple of months later. And after that, the decline in his health was rapid. Lung cancer is a truly horrible disease and over a ten month period I watched my father deteriorate from a tower of strength into an emaciated skeleton coughing up tar-black mucus onto my birthday cake, a month before he died. Shit like that stays with you, man. When we told yiayia that her firstborn had passed away, she cried. But because of the Alzheimer’s she sometimes forgets. Sometimes she doesn’t even remember who he was.

In 1933 I started working in the fields with my sister, picking fruit to support our family. We earned just 25 drachmas a day, which wasn’t much, but our lack of education didn’t leave us many options. A lot of people were in the same boat and there was a great deal of competition for these field jobs, so we weren’t always gainfully employed. In 1936 I met a man at work called Panagiotis, who was a real go-getter. He would schmooze around the taverns at night, networking for jobs, and his circle of friends always had paid work, thanks to him. He seemed like a nice guy, and he must have taken a liking to me because he started getting regular work for me too. Working side by side we started developing feelings for each other, and after a year we were engaged. We couldn’t afford to get married right away but I did move in with him which was illegal back then, so we pretended that I was his housekeeper and everyone fell for it! Haha! Suckers! We lived in sin for two years before we got married on New Year’s Eve, 1939. Ten months later we had our first child, Konstantinos, and then after that I gave birth every two years, with Roula, Chris, Toula, Sofia and our baby Stavros.

 

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In the fields.  Kon, Chris, Toula, Sofia, Stavros, Roula, Panagiotis and Chrysoula.  And a small kid.

 

I met my husband David at work in 2005. It was love at first sight, for me anyway. We worked together for a year, exchanging flirty glances across the tower console before we actually started going out. Two days later I moved in, and four months after that we were married. Most people at work thought it wouldn’t last but, after eleven years together, we’re still nuts about each other. We decided not to have children, which we sometimes lament, but usually not.

Over the years all my children except Stavros emigrated to Australia. Roula went first because she hated working in the fields and wanted a chance to start a new life. Kon joined her a year later, and then the others followed. I wanted them to be happy and to have a better life than I did so I didn’t mind them leaving, but my god I missed them so much. My children are my life and they have always made me so happy and so proud, even now. In 1976 I went to Australia for a visit and I had such a wonderful time, mostly because I got to see all my children and grandchildren. Little Chrysoula was, of course, my favourite*. She was such a delightful child, and she taught me how to count to ten in English, and even though my memory isn’t what it used to be, I’ve never forgotten: onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnineten! See!! I do have trouble remembering some things, but those old days are crystal clear. I loved Australia so much I went back for another visit in 1988 and I wish I could go again, but, even though I’m as fit as a fiddle, let’s face it, at my age it’s probably not going to happen. There is always someone here, one of my kids, looking after me, and I appreciate that. But I wish my grandchildren would visit more often.

I met my yiayia for the first time when I was five years old. She came to visit us from Greece and stayed with us for a few months. It was nice having her around because she was always smiling and laughing and hugging us and telling stories and crocheting beautiful things. Her skin was wrinkly, but soft, like well-worn leather. And you could tell that my Dad just LOVED having her around. They glowed around each other, overflowing with mutual adoration and respect. My grandmother was such a loving person and she taught my Dad to be honest and hard-working and to be proud of his achievements. In turn, he taught me the same.

I’ve been thinking about my yiayia a lot lately. I am writing this ejo to celebrate her, while she’s still alive. I don’t know if I will ever see her again. But I want to. The last time was five years ago. She recognised me, which was wonderful, but she is very locked up in her mind most of the time. Locked in the past. And the people around her, even loved ones, are very much in the periphery of her consciousness. But every time we are together, even though my Greek is shit and she can’t speak English, there is always a deep and loving connection between us. A circle of life and love that cannot be broken by distance or years apart.

We are Chrysoula Stathopoulos.

 

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* Some creative license MAY have been used in the writing of this ejo.