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The world we knew The world we knew
by Nikos Laios
2020-05-22 09:52:56
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I feel as though we have lost some of our innocence in these Coronavirus times, the world that we knew before has gone and disappeared, and some behaviours and cultural values have lost their meaning. A Friday night in a packed bar, a spontaneous trip into town on the subway for a rendezvous with friends or a hot date at a restaurant, Saturday lunch at the harbour or a visit to the art gallery for the latest exhibition; that’s all gone now.

I’m fortunate that I have lived in and straddle two cultures - Greece and Australia - lived in Greece as a child and I go back home every year, and now in my home at Sydney harbour. I know the culture and the souls of both Europe and Australia, and this virus has wrought desolation on both societies in various ways. The 9 to 5 commute and work in an office in a bustling metropolis, bustling trains and buses, busy shops and city streets, the free movement of people, that’s also gone now.

worl001_400One of the comforts to me is my relationship with nature, for whether I am in Greece or in Australia, a relationship with the outdoors and nature is extremely important to me. Now that gymnasiums are temporarily shut down, I go for daily runs around the lower north shore of Sydney harbour, and there are some extraordinarily beautiful nature spots tucked away that only the locals know and visit. I finish my jogging - usually a few kilometres- then sit under a tree on the harbour foreshore finishing off with some meditation and taking in the view. Taking in the orange sunsets washing over the horizon, the aroma of eucalyptus leaves and the cool Autumn breeze, and the sunlight glinting off steel and glass towers on the opposite side of the shore. I sit there in deep thought reflecting on existence, on my feelings about the world; on my awareness of being in the moment and not missing out on any moment lived.

My apartment is located in North Sydney which is one of the busy business districts in Sydney, with the view of the harbour bridge and the opera house looming between office towers, and in summer when the harbour traffic is busy, one can hear the sound of departing ships and smell the aroma of the sea. It is such a vivid place, alive and new as it is with young cultures. There’s always a buzz in the air, a feeling of something exciting about to happen; but with this pandemic, that has all evaporated.

There’s a sadness in the air, a sort of mourning for a way of life that’s gone, and it is palpable.

I go for runs on the weekends from my place across the harbour bridge to down town Sydney and I feel the emptiness of the streets, squares and boulevards. The bustling cafes and street performers are all gone, the beautiful perfumed ladies and suited-up young men are gone, the wafting aromas floating out of hundreds of restaurants vying with each other have vanished. It’s as though the city has been emptied of its soul, of its life. One of my interests is architecture, and wherever I travel to or happen to be, I walk the streets and quaint alleyways at nights to become familiar with the city, to get to know it better, and the one fundamental truth that I have learned about architecture and cities is that they are nothing without people, nothing without the vibration of human warmth to give them some life and meaning.

I love to travel and being both a European and Australian citizen, I travel regularly back home to Greece annually to replenish my soul. I need this as much as I do breathing, to step off that plane onto my native Greek soil, the ancient land of my ancestors, to release my mind and let it gallop freely and unfettered across my imagination, and to speak in my native Greek tongue is such a liberating feeling that I cannot explain. To free my passions, feelings and imagination with a gusto and warmth that only Greeks know how; for when I’m in Australia, I do temper my Mediterranean soul; my free and passionate heart is held in check by the colder English nature of Australian society. I love living in Australia, but it is in a way a prison of the heart, mind and soul for a passionate and philosophical Greek man - especially one who is both a poet and an artist as well. Yes, it is a madness, a Greek poet and an artist exiled in a foreign land, but what a beautiful madness!

So what will I do this year? What will become of my annual trip back home?

Australia has died a little due to the virus, as has Greece and many other European countries. Nations across the world have reaped a social and economic devastation that has yet to be accounted for due to China’s carelessness, and a vacation in this environment at this stage feels both petty and selfish.

One of the main reasons for travel and vacation is freedom, the undertaking of a journey with spontaneity and freedom that nourishes the soul and the mind on many levels. Yet the restrictions in place at the moment stifles any inclination to freedom of travel: the social distancing rules and regulations in place for bars, restaurants, beaches, galleries, archaeological sites, air travel, trains, buses and ferries. To actually travel overseas - even if one is allowed - is a tiresome burden in itself.

The new health and distancing protocols make flying so much more difficult, cumbersome and unappealing at the moment. Then imagine arriving at one’s destination and attempting to enter freely into a beach bar, a club, a restaurant, a group yachting cruise, free movement to sites.

The food and hospitality industry will not be the same until a vaccine to this terrible virus is found, until a cure is found and people achieve an immunity. The world that we knew is now gone, for we work from home now instead of commuting to the office, shun catching trains or buses in one’s own town, and avoid air travel. Many businesses that have hitherto been reliant on people and freedom of movement, alas will fail.

That brings me to my final point that the home is now the new centre of life, cities and towns at nights and on the weekends will be a little more sad and vacant of people, and the will to free and spontaneous travel is dead for the moment, as I cannot see people taking the risk to live their former lives in this current environment and possibly catch the Coronavirus and potentially die. The home life and the online business world will thrive, and the rest will be left far behind.

That I am a poet and artist, solitude is a good friend and vital for poets and artists and the creative process. I have my pen and my brushes and a packed private book collection, a vivid imagination, my jazz and Greek music, and this will sustain me. But I do miss bars, I do miss dance clubs, I do miss the babble of voices from smiling faces, I do miss the anticipation of sitting in a packed restaurant as mouth-watering vivid flavours float out of the kitchen mingling with music, I do miss beautiful women, and I do miss being part of humanity. I feel like a jilted lover nursing a wounded heart and mourning what was, yet filled with hope for what is yet to be.


Check Nikos Laios' EBOOK
Ida & Her Magic Camera
is online now and you can download for FREE HERE!


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