How would our regular day in Galatas look like? Well, I would meet him at the ouzerie at around noon, then come home by boat, I would cook some Greek food, no meat though as George wasn’t a big meat eater. We would eat a lot of pastas, soups like fasolada [hearty bean soup], eggs of all sorts. Breakfast we didn’t have at all, black coffee only – the traditional Greek breakfast! In the evenings we would read a lot and listen to music on our ancient gramophone. We didn’t have TV nor telephone.
I must say, if I could live on an island in Greece I wouldn’t do it. You are totally dependent on the weather and can be cut off anytime. I love the Peloponnese. Take for instance the Ancient Epidaurus Theatre, which is so close by. I have been going every single year to see plays there since 1958. So many spectacular productions. There was once an international production, “Richard the III”, performed and directed by Kevin Spacey, all in Shakespearean English, with subtitles of course. That was spectacular! Imagine sitting on 2 500 old stone seats, with no back, for 3 and a half hours, no break and he managed to keep that audience.
I remember one time just before Christmas, on 17th December, I was in Athens, walking on the street and I suddenly fell into a pot hole and broke my ankle. A great crowd appeared, the police came, the ambulance came. When George did not see me coming back with the ferry boat that day he thought: “Oh she just missed the boat, as usual”. Then suddenly there was the knock on our door and the police came to say: “your wife had an accident, she is not dead.” Needless to say, he didn’t sleep much that night. He took the first boat to Athens next morning, hurried to the hospital where I was. When he finally got there he said: “Ginni I have a bit of a problem. You see, they arrived with a live turkey last night and I had no idea what to do with it!”. George didn’t know anything about animals, except for cats maybe. He said he had tied the turkey with a piece of string by its legs and gave it some crackers! He told me: “I think when you come back home you should give it back to where it came from!” (Virginia laughing).
We lived in this house with George together until he died in 1983. He died in this very room. He suffered with very strong arthritis and therefore general debilitation. George lived a very good life you see, this was probably part of the trouble. I will never forget the time after he died. The village people were absolutely marvellous to me. So since 1983 I have been living here on my own. I did have plenty of visitors though, coming mostly from Australia. I remember this one time a friend of mine visited together with her friend who apparently said: “I don’t know why Virginia stays there, what is there for her to do?!” and my friend replied: “Well she can neither drive, nor play bridge or golf so what is she going to do in Adelaide?!”. The truth is I got very attached to this place and to the village people. They were incredible. And the village life itself, you know, living outside. What do I like most about this place? Lack of monotony. There was no structure that you had to follow. Well, there was somewhat, but I never felt it was oppressive at all. I mean I’ve been through worst times in Greece than I have ever been in my life, but that sort of fades.
I tried to stay away from the local expat community mostly because of George. He had enough of foreigners coming and going all the time from Australia and other places. I had quite a few local Greek friends, most of them are dead now though. I seem to be the only one living still. That’s the trouble with getting old you know, you are sort of left behind. We also took a conscious decision of not having children. One, because of the age difference and two, because George would have spoiled them rotten and I would be picking up the pieces! So between the choice of a husband or children, I’d rather have a husband, thanks. I don’t have any regrets in my life. I was lucky in a way as I never had to take any great decisions in my life. I always went with the flow. And I’ve been lucky the flow has been in my direction. I often thank God I was born “who”, “when” and “where”.
I got involved with the Saronic Chamber Music Festival when my god son Francis came to visit me in Greece. He was 16 at the time and just got his scholarship to Purcell School of Music in London. It was half term when he arrived here and he looked like nothing you’ve ever seen! He had this velvet jacket coming up to here, hair out to there, 29kg of luggage and a viola. He just said: “well I didn’t know what to bring so I just brought everything” (Virginia laughing). It was on one of his later trips when he suddenly said: “I’d like to play here”. I told him that I could probably organise something in the high school of Galatas. And from there the idea was born. This year will be the 8th edition and we hope it will keep going.