Vassliki used to greet mornings and me with Milo and kourabeides; while still in bed, propped up on one elbow, I'd chomp into the diabetics delight. Sometimes it was Salada biscuits with vegemite spread so thick which I daintily nibbled the corners of and left the rest, and she'd make gallons of hand-squeezed orange juice. We woulda woked up the boys otherwise, screeching down the still-dark Victorian corridor, barefoot with nighties and oversized cardigans. The garden was so quiet even though the city loomed large just beyond it, faint tram rattle just audible. The tomatoes grew to the size of Phar Lap's heart it seemed and there was that earthy smell of compost and sunshine-warmed loam. Vassiliki would water the garden dutifully and we would twist and fall and pirouette and fall, soiling our borrowed nighties as best we could.
V couldn't speak English very well, in fact I recall her miming and whispering peasant Greek only but somehow she managed to relate to us her childhood in Thessaloniki and living at a monastery and there being a prince there and having to walk 5 miles to fetch water for the nuns and embroidering. Her hands were stiff; I wondered how she managed to squeeze the orange juice and she had Type 2 diabetes. Sometimes I'd ask her to also test my blood sugar with a Sleeping Beauty-esque prick to the finger and a perfect blood dot squeezed out onto a disposable cardboard strip.
I learnt how to read Greek menus and newspapers not that I understood much. We were always taken home before the clouds of words set down patterns and meanings. We learnt just enough, "Asto!!" stop it! and something like "thelo na kimetho" - I wanna go to sleeeeeep!!!!
My sister, always pushing the boundries once ripped out "tros skata" to the dad when he attempted to affectionately wake her one morning. Always the tyrant with his own children, here some pseudo grandchild tells him to eat shit and all he can do is turn his face like he was slapped. After being at the Greek's house, ours seemed so small and bright, no 100 year old newspapers in the roof cavity, no breakfasts in bed- we looked after the little ones and went to boring shit Aussie school where the sandpit had toads in it and the kids didn't own perfumes and lipsticks like our Greek girls.