• Cyprus Adventure Part 53 - Goodbye Mum Part 3 – The Eulogy

    So here it is, the final posting about mum's departure and although this piece concludes the trilogy,  I daresay that references to Nina will continue to materialise in future ramblings of a Cypriot Rose.  There’s a famous quote that says a person dies two deaths, the first when they exhale their final breath and the second when their name is uttered for the last time.  Well mother, thanks to the internet and social networking I think your second death will be a long time coming!  

    I'm writing this from PM Bar on Limassol sea front where I'm sitting drinking an espresso (as they don't serve Cyprus coffee - shock horror - and when I asked them why not they blamed the Troika.  A throw-away remark but such are the feelings of bitterness here - though I'll save that for another post; the coffee was not bitter and I "chased it" with dry white wine!).  Im looking out across the azure Mediterranean sea and it seems appropriate to be writing this from Cyprus as I feel mum's presence very strongly here. Cyprus is a good place for thinking and I guess it's no coincidence that the world's greatest philosophers are from this section of the globe (well, Greece anyway).
    We buried mum on the 23rd December 2012, just 4 days after she’d died.  It had been a hectic 4 days I can tell you, with little enough time for grieving, (though to be honest I think I’d been grieving every day for the past several months as I’d watched mum slowly shutting down).  On the morning of the funeral Liz, Mario, Mark and I went to the Chapel of Rest, at Archangel Funeral Services in Nicosia, to take a peek at mum and say our goodbyes privately, before following the hearse to the church. Wearing her best Marks and Spencer wool suit with an olive green sweater (her favourite colour and the colour of her eyes) mum looked as lovely as she could in the circumstances, with pastel coloured flower petals sprinkled around her.
    The church service was well attended and many friends and relatives had sent flowers - there was even a wreath  from Nicos Anastasiades! (though I doubt that he knew mum).  My sister read out the eulogy which is reproduced here with a few minor additions:-

    Our beloved mother was a remarkable and exceptional lady whom the Lord had gifted with many talents and qualities.  She was generous and welcoming, kind and charitable, an incredible cook and a most talented dressmaker.  Her home was always open house to anyone at any time; she was a wonderful mother, wife and home-maker.  Mum was a woman who made friends wherever she went and she has left her mark on this world in more ways than one.  She will be missed by many people.
    According to her birth certificate, Mum was born on 6th January 1926 in the village of Agia Marina (Skillouras) here in Cyprus and was the second eldest of 6 children born to Marianna and Andonios Frangou.  From an early age Mum began to display some of the qualities that would leave an imprint on her life and the lives of so many people.
    She met our father, John Joseph (a tailor from Kormakitis), at a wedding here in Cyprus and they fell in love and were married.  They spent their early years of marriage in Kormakitis where they had their first two children Elizabeth and Mario.
    Times were hard and, like so many other Cypriots, they moved to London for a more prosperous life.  John was a tailor in the world famous Saville Row and our mother spent days and nights at her sewing machine.  They had their third child Rosanna in London and then moved to Nottingham where they bought a house and had their fourth child, Mark Anthony.
    Sadly Mum was widowed at the young age of 40 when our father died following a tragic road accident.  After this she could not settle and moved with the children to Cyprus.  She loved Cyprus dearly and wanted to be close to her family here. This was before the Turkish invasion of the island and she bought a plot of land near Ayia Marina, intending to build a house here – alas this never happened as "all was lost in the invasion" and as we understand it, she had never been given the deeds to the land.
    From Cyprus Mum moved to Tasmania in Australia where she lived in fairly close proximity to her brother Frangiscos and sister Yianoulla.  However, following surgery in England to rectify a chronic back problem, mum decided to return to Nottingham on a more permanent basis.  Or so she thought at the time because eventually mum returned to Cyprus where she spent the rest of her days -  living alone in a house in Anthoubolis.  

    Around 3 years ago Mum developed Alzheimer’s and dementia and became a permanent resident at St Anthony’s Foundation Care Home in Anthoubolis.  Early in 2012 we discovered that mum had terminal cancer; sadly she suffered a great deal with this terrible illness.  Mum never complained and she bore her illness  with tremendous dignity.  She was very well cared for by the staff and we are grateful in particular to Grace who has cared for her as she would her own mother.  
    Mum had four children, nine grandchildren and six great grandchildren.  Sadly three of her grandchildren have died already and gone before her to our Lord.  Mum was devastated by the deaths of John, Stephen and Alex and never quite recovered from this tragedy.  
    Mum, who was a devout Maronite, used to enjoy listening to Rosanna reading from the bible and two  weeks before mum died Rosanna opened her bible, which fell open by chance at the following passage from the Gospel of John Chapter 14:
    “Do not be worried and upset”, Jesus told them.  “Believe in God and also in me.  There are many rooms in my Father’s house, and I am going to prepare a place for you.  I would not tell you this if it were not so.  And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am.”
    You died mum on the 19th December 2012 and we know where you are.  You are in a good place with our Good Lord.  Goodbye mum, we love you and miss you.  Rest in Peace

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 51 - All that Glisters is not Gold

    Springtime in Cyprus drips pure gold. The island is spectacular in its bejewelled beauty and as I drive along, almost anywhere on the island, the mimosa bushes stretch out or dangle their fingers of bright yellow opals, beckoning and taunting “pick me, pick me” and the yellow dotted gorse bushes scream out “pick me at your peril”. In some areas the roadsides and fields are peppered with hundreds of tall wild plants that sway their golf-ball sized pompoms of delicate saffron coloured flowers (King Solomon in all his glory... and all that). On breezy days the fields of wheat and grasses shimmer with feathery silvery waves, throwing out every shade of green imaginable – emerald gemstones to behold; the carob trees ooze their stalactites of black gold and even the sapphire sea sparkles with sun pennies. It would seem that Cyprus is the jewel of the Mediterranean, or perhaps not.

    My brother’s veranda runs the length of his house and yesterday I was sitting at the east end side sipping my morning tea. It was blissfully peaceful with only the sound of springtime birds to be heard, the hammering overnight rain having abated. But I wasn’t fooled by the apparent peace, neither was the angry white butterfly that flitted and zig-zagged in the distance, nor was the furious humongous dragonfly that found itself trapped in the kitchen, nor the cat that ate, nay stole, approximately 6.75% of our uncooked chicken - evidently a Eurozone fat cat! I sat and watched a pair of swallows as they manoeuvred haphazardly under the veranda’s corrugated canopy and reflected that for me nature is life's metaphor. The tiny birds fluttered around in search of somewhere safe to construct their springtime home and hatch their soon-to-be-laid eggs but they couldn’t make up their minds and flitted from perch to perch chuckling, chattering and chirruping. Then they were gone. Wise move guys, get as far away from Cyprus as you can and don't put your nest-eggs in the banks here because, as it happens, European cuckoos have been laying too, keeping warm and incubating their devious plans to force ALL depositors here to contribute towards footing the bill for a decision Cyprus took back in 2011 to “write-down” Greece’s debts.

    Several years ago my house was burgled and I felt violated and powerless. People had broken into my home. They had not been invited, they stole my possessions and I could do nothing about it. Today I feel that same sense of helplessness and there’s a knot in the pit of my stomach. I cannot quite believe what is happening here. The swallows returned with a couple of their mates and they seemed to be having an almighty row, there were three of them, then four, then five all squabbling over the gaff. Whose gaff is it anyway? Perhaps they too were done over while they slept and found the waking news somewhat hard to swallow.

    By now most of you will have seen the headline news: Cyprus has had a haircut, a No 1 Lionel Blair cut as it happens, and everyone with a bank account in Cyprus is likely to have either 6.75 or 9.9 percent of their money removed from their bank accounts tomorrow morning at the insistence of Eurozone finance ministers – and there’s nothing they can do about it. It’s part of a plan to raise Euro-billions for the government in return for a massive Eurozone bailout “deal”. The slithery officials made sure that the news would break over the bank holiday weekend when banks would be closed for three days. Tuesday is expected to be total mayhem and a run on the banks has been predicted. All on-line transfers are declining, ATMs are out of cash and I just heard on the news that money is set to pour out of the country at an alarming rate. I’ll leave you to ponder what you think will be the most likely economic outcome for Cyprus.

    The so-called “deposit levy” has also been referred to as a “solidarity levy” but it’s hard to see where the solidarity is as Cyprus, having agreed in the past to the rescue packages of other fragile EU countries, is being regarded less sympathetically than its EU compatriots. Cyprus was bullied into accepting the deal with the threat of withdrawal of emergency liquidity assistance from the European Central Bank, which would have almost certainly meant the immediate closure of two of the main Cypriot banks and inevitable bankruptcy. Never before has Europe resorted to stealing the money of citizens and I think this might even be a global first. Not for the first time Cypriots feel they are victims of a neo-colonialism, they feel betrayed, discriminated against, short changed and humiliated. Protests have begun and anti-Troika graffiti has appeared on walls in public places; meanwhile, a chunk of money belonging to the ordinary people of Cyprus has been frozen, pending a special meeting of the House of Representatives and the approval of a new law that will permit the enforcement of the “levy”.

    Suitably depressed, my brother and I went for a walk at Governors’ Beach and stopped off for a coffee at a rustic restaurant that sits on a little cliff top and overlooks the sparkling Mediterranean. “No charge for the coffee today” the owner said “Today we need something to cheer us up”. You might steal their money but you will never steal their spirit.

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 49 – Goodbye Mum Part 1 – You’re gonna go to the place that’s the best

    This might be a long one guys (and you might want to grab a Kleenex). After all it IS about mum and it IS the last one of 2012 and it IS the first one since mum died, and it IS and it IS and it IS… so much so that I think it best to write it in parts.

    Mum died on the morning of Wednesday, 19th December 2012. My mobile rang at 8.30 and it was Grace – an amazing nurse at St Anthony’s Care Home in Nicosia. “Come quickly”. “Is she dying?” “Yes”. It was early and I was still slobbing around in my pyjamas. I’d been on tenterhooks every time the phone rang for the past few weeks and so I went into mini panic mode, rushing around, pulling clothes on top of my pyjamas, looking for my car keys, calling Mario (my brother) to come too and trying to calm the thumping feeling in my chest. I got to the home within 20 minutes of the call but was just too late… mum had gone.

    When I arrived Grace was with mum, along with two nuns who looked for all the world like a couple of sad and droopy owls from of a Disney movie. I shooed them all out and spent a little time alone with mum in her warm room, with the sun streaming in and shining its light on the twinkling Christmas tree and the family photos dotted around. This time her chest was motionless and I recalled the many times I had stared intently to see if the bedclothes were rising and falling. It was peaceful and I said my goodbye to lovely Nina - at rest and out of pain finally.

    Later, on the same day, after the doctor had made his final examination, after mum had been taken to her temporary resting place and after Mario had gone back home, I returned to mum’s room to clear out her things. As I took down the photo of my father I remembered the many times I’d kissed it in front of mum, telling her that “Dad says I have to give you a kiss”. The beaming smile on mum’s face was priceless. A couple of weeks earlier I’d told mum “Dad says he’s bought you a sexy nightie for Christmas and you’ve got to wear it for him” and she’d laughed – one of her better days I think!

    So I took down all the pictures and emptied the drawers and cupboards of the remnants of her life that remained… and the memories came flooding back. The clock that earlier in the year had given up the ghost, refusing to tick any more; the antique mirror that had graced her homes in Duffield, Anthoupolis and finally her home at St Anthony’s and the reproduction furniture that had followed mum from Nottingham to Derbyshire and then to their final resting place here in Cyprus. There were several manky handbags one of which still had dried sandwich remains in it – she used to attend a day centre and was in the habit of wrapping her sandwich in a napkin; I recall regularly tipping out the sandwiches and ants and telling my mum “I’ve run out of food at home mum, can I take the sandwiches please?”

    In one of the drawers I found her crochet hooks and cotton. Mum’s second favourite pastime had left mum with a crooked index finger and her children with the most beautiful crocheted tablecloths and bedspreads. In the same drawer I found a lighter and I unearthed the ashtray from the bottom of a wardrobe - relics of her first favourite pastime. The aroma of mum’s presence was all around me as I folded away the size 6-10 dresses, skirts and tops and her size 3-4 shoes and slippers and I wondered at how such a massive personality could have accommodated such a tiny being… she was like Dr Who’s Tardis I thought

    In the bathroom I found her teeth, still shiny from their unfortunate and accidental hot-wash in the laundrette. She’d not worn them for several weeks as she hadn’t the strength to put them in and out and when we tried to do it for her she’d inadvertently bite us.

    Before I left for home I’d noticed an amazing electric storm of sheet lightening over the mountains in the distance. I beckoned Grace to come and see. “It’s beautiful” said Grace, “What is happening?” she asked. “It’s a party” I replied “They’re having a party in the sky, with fireworks, for my mum.” Later on Mario told me that the music playing in his car while he was driving to the home that morning was “Spirit in the Sky”.

    We know where you are mum.

    To be continued……………

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 48 - Run Rabbit Run - but not to Cyprus!

    Last Wednesday I woke up with a start to the sound of gunshots in the distance and immediately thought I was back home in England. Then I remembered I was still in Nicosia, the victims of gunfire here are of the feathered or fluffy variety and the day was Wednesday. “What is the significance of Wednesday?” I hear you ask. Well it has less to do with pay-as-you-go cinema ticket promotions and oh so much more to do with a licence to kill. The bird hunting season is upon us again.

    Actually bird hunting seems to take place all year round in Cyprus and, according to what I’ve read and have been told, the rules about which species you can kill and when you can kill them are sometimes loosely applied. Perhaps this is because the rules are a tad confusing. For example “migratory corridors are designated as ‘no hunting’ areas during the bird migratory passage across Cyprus”. Which is when… and where exactly? Hunting is permitted “inland” for 3-4 days at the end of August, in certain “coastal” regions in September and anywhere on Wednesdays and Sundays during November, December, January and February. Confused? You should be and just to make it even more complicated you can hunt only woodpigeon and turtle dove in August and September, hare, chukar, partridge, black francolin, thrushes, wood pigeon and woodcock in November and December and in January and February you can kill thrushes, wood pigeon, woodcock, ducks and geese. So what about rabbits and hares then – or have they all skedaddled off?

    I do wonder how many hunters stop and think “Hmm… is this a woodpigeon or a rare and beautiful Osprey aka Pandion haliaetus?” before blasting the critter to Kingdom Come… and how many local hunters have the knowledge, slight of hand, sharpness of vision and physical/mental capacity to make an instant identification of species before riddling said unfortunate specimen with pellets and sending feathers fluttering down in all directions? One website that I visited boasts “There is a lot of hunters on the island it is not a coinsitence that some of the best shooters in the world….. are Cypriots”.

    Incidentally, please don’t assume that the above information is accurate as I’ve discovered several conflicting accounts of the rules, along with further information about daily and seasonal killing quotas and when you are allowed to use hunting dogs (during January and February “dogs is not allowed” was the guidance on the aforementioned site).

    Killing wild animals and birds is a popular pursuit in Cyprus, where the general psyche is definitely hunter-gatherer but before you all scream obscenities and outcries of “barbarians”, be mindful that on the whole the Cypriots kill only what they can eat, unlike those engaged in blood sports the world over (fox hunting, bear baiting, cock fighting, dog fighting, bull fighting to name just a few). Yes, here in Cyprus it seems that everything is driven by the stomach and although I don’t personally condone hunting I sometimes find it hard to know where to draw the line between hypocrisy and being a carnivore. You could probably argue that hunting in Cyprus is not far removed from an organised pheasant shoot in the UK and at least they are (were) happy birds unlike those less fortunate victims of intensive rearing.

    It’s worth mentioning that you can’t go around randomly shooting stuff. Nope! You must purchase an annual licence to kill (costs around 60 Euros I think) and then you can hunt to your heart’s desire provided you adhere to the regulations. There are around 45,000 officially licensed hunters in Cyprus; that’s just over 5% of the population with a lawful licence to kill but in spite of the licence requirement, around 750,000 birds are shot illegally every year (not to mention those killed by illegal bird-trapping, but that’s another story).

    According to one of my neighbours the Cypriots take their hunting very seriously. He told me that it’s an expensive sport requiring protective clothing such as bright orange gear to increase visibility, goggles to protect eyes from pellets and special snake-proof boots (I got all excited when he told me this, until I realised he hadn’t said snakeskin). Different guns and ammo are required for shooting different species and for nocturnal hunting special equipment is used, such as infra-red glasses, reflective clothing and flares (…excited again - then I realised he was talking about the kind that light up the sky like fireworks). I’m not sure how much use all of this night time equipment is as I also read that hunting after dusk is not permitted!

    Animal lovers will probably be gratified to learn that from time to time “nature takes her revenge” and claims numerous casualties, as was the case last month when one hunter was injured by pellets shot from someone else’s firearm, another fell into a ravine and fractured his leg and a third shot his own toe which then had to be amputated. I found another article from 2010 that said the season had commenced with one man dead from a heart attack, 23 injured (one having accidentally shot himself in his abdomen) and dozens of dogs poisoned – apparently because of territorial disputes between hunters.

    Perhaps the rhyme should be run doggy run doggy run run run!

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 47 - John, Chapter 14

    Well, November has drawn to a close, the dark nights are with us again and the cold is setting in. Here I am still - in my usual place. That is to say I’m seated at mum’s bedside in the early evening. It’s dark outside and mum’s bedroom curtains are drawn. The care assistants have put mum to bed early today as she has already had her tea. Tea-time for mum now consists of a liquidised meal and a drink followed or preceded by a good blast on a nebuliser to ease her breathing. I think it helps a little but she’s rasping right now, has developed a troublesome cough and keeps making little noises; she glances at me occasionally and raises her eyes and eyebrows upwards. This is how we communicate, mostly through facial expressions, as mum is much too weak to talk now – though she does manage the occasional word and also rambles quite a bit, usually in Greek. When I arrived I asked her how she was. “Not so good” she managed to say but then started mumbling something in Greek that I couldn’t understand. The air in the room has a nip in it but mum is wrapped up and cosy in her blankets. I keep giving her little sips of a warm fruity drink that she seems to like.

    Remarkably mother is still alive and as life is a gift I guess that’s a good thing though it doesn’t always feel that way. The care assistants say she has a strong heart – well I can certainly testify to that! Mum raised her two youngest children (my younger brother and I) single handed as dad died when we were still very young. I remember how she sewed around the clock, machining garments for a piece-work rate, to make ends meet. Mum was a talented seamstress and in my teenage years I always had the latest fashions. I’d take mum along to a boutique to show her what I wanted. She’d make a mental note then off we’d go to buy fabric, lining, zips, buttons, trimmings etc. I remember almost wearing out the coffee table at home as I stood on it time and again while mum pinned and tucked outfit after outfit… deftly holding several pins in between her teeth. Mum made my wedding dress in exactly this way. I’d spotted the dress I wanted at a designer fashion show and mother copied it, head-dress and all. A genuine designer fake - clearly mum was ahead of her time. My whole wedding outfit cost less than £15!

    Yes, mum has a strong heart. I think mum was about 70 when she took the courageous decision to move back to Cyprus, where she lived alone in an outer suburban area of Nicosia for about 13 years before moving into the care home. And she WAS alone with mainly the TV for company and a few sparse visits from family members. Although mum loved the Cypriot lifestyle and weather, she often wondered if she’d made a mistake moving to Cyprus away from her children…. Hmmmm it just occurred to me that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! (Though I don’t doubt for one moment that my decision has been the right one.)

    A couple of days ago I was sitting with mum in the salon where the care assistants prop her up on a comfy chair with her feet elevated and her body softly supported with pillows and cushions. She was snoozing gently with her head resting on her hand (the one that isn’t paralysed – she had a stroke recently; at least they THINK that’s what caused the paralysis down her left side). She was waking and snoozing and waking and snoozing and managed a smile and one “hello” – quite something in the circumstances. I’d run out of things to say so decided I would read to her from my bible. I opened it quite at random and was astounded to read this:-

    “Do not be worried and upset,” Jesus told them. “…….There are many rooms in my Father’s house, and I am going to prepare a place for you. I would not tell you this if it were not so. And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am going”.

    I could hardly believe that this was the passage it opened at though I don’t think mum heard, or if she did I can’t be sure that she understood. Well I guess mum’s upstairs room isn’t quite ready as she’s still very much with us. Her strong heart keeps pumping and ticking along… perhaps until her room has been made ready and all the cobwebs have been dusted, her bed has been made and a bouquet of roses, as sweet as those she used to grow in Nottingham, has been placed in a crystal vase on the windowsill.

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 45 - Just another day at St Anthony’s Care Home… and another … and another…

    A young attendant at the care home told me recently that I resemble my mother, “especially those deep lines around your mouth” he said. This is worrying, particularly as I bumped into a long lost friend the other day who said something similar. She was serving behind a counter in a supermarket and asked me in Greek “Can I help you?” I didn’t reply but just stood there and looked at her… “Excuse me, can I help you?” she repeated. Then the penny dropped and she ran from behind the counter, threw her arms around me and gave me the biggest of hugs, “Rosanna mou” she cried “I didn’t recognise you. You have become so … old!”

    Talking about old folk, I spend rather a lot of time these days at St Anthony’s Care Home where most of the residents, or should that be customers, or clients, or patients… are elderly. It’s a Quality Street of a home, caring for people with dementia, people in need of medical assistance, some people with learning difficulties, some recovering from surgery (all ages) and some just plain… old. Mum used to say “Look at this lot - all old or mad; I’m glad I’m not like that”. Good job she doesn’t realise that, actually, she very much is!

    The care workers at the home are brilliant… one of them in particular shows tenderness, compassion and kindness even to the most challenging of residents; another remains perpetually cheerful and sometimes puts on a cd to get people clapping and dancing or singing along to the music. When I was there a couple of days ago one elderly gentleman was doing a very impressive criss-cross knees dance… which made mum and I chuckle. The food at the home is fresh and home-cooked and sometimes, if I’m really lucky, I even get fed (hmmm do they think I am one of the residents I wonder? I do spend rather a lot of time there). The other day I had a yummy dish of meat and mushrooms cooked in wine with jiggly potatoes and tender dwarf beans cooked in a fresh tomato salsa.

    Mum is well looked after and the other day she was even given a shave! I’m not sure she enjoyed the experience as she kept referring to the care workers as “kakko kopelas” (bad girls!). Life for mum is a difficult, painful and tiring existence; she’s continually being pulled this way or that as she is washed, dressed, fed, etc and she often says wearily, “evarethiga” (I’m fed up with all of this). The staff provide for most of mum’s needs but the teeth thing is generally reserved for moi (whoop, whoop), which I don’t mind really apart from the slight panic I had a couple of weeks ago when I asked mum to prize her teeth out for a scrub and only the top set were in there. I knew she hadn’t swallowed them (they are too big for sure – eat your heart out chatty man). To cut a long story short they eventually turned up on a shelf in the nurse’s office alongside the books and ornaments; apparently they had found their way into the laundry and so had been hot-washed and tumble dried… they were very shiny!

    When I began writing this posting last week, I was sitting with mum and she had taken her tablet (medical sort…not technological) and so was beginning to doze off. The sleepiness was probably the combined consequence of analgesic, another weary afternoon of sitting with the other residents and generally being unwell. Today was another day and inevitably I found myself sitting, yet again, at mum’s bedside in the early evening as she dipped in and out of sleep. Nowadays I have to crane my neck and peek over a “wall” to see her face, as a safety barrier is strapped to the side of the bed to prevent mum from falling out… again! It’s so weird because, not so long ago mum used to recite a poem about us being on either side of a wall (I suspect it might be part of a poem about Pyramus and Thisbe) … loosely translated it goes “I’m over here and you’re over there and the wall is in the middle; light a candle to Holy Mary for it to deteriorate and fall to pieces” (I know, I know, but if you say it in Greek it does rhyme). I recited it to mum this afternoon but she looked at me “gone out” – there was a time, not too long ago, when it used to bring a smile to her face and some of my readers will have seen a video clip, taken earlier this year and posted on facebook, of mum reciting the poem.

    A couple of weeks ago Mum went through a phase of slight improvement, which I thought at the time was probably a combination of Divine intervention and the nursing staff having “nailed it” in terms of finding the right balance of feeding and drugging. My hopes in her slightly improved condition were ill-founded though as since then, the speed of mum’s deterioration has continued to escalate, with her body seeming to shut down bit by bit… like the lights going out in a building – one by one. A few weeks ago she stopped eating solid food, then she fell out of bed and bumped her face, then she stopped walking so is now in a wheelchair and over the past few days mum has virtually stopped talking altogether… sorry to bear this sad news, the decline has been rapid.

    True to form though, and as if to prove me wrong (and in spite of everything) there are still moments when mum peeps through. .. Like the day before yesterday when a staff member was talking (somewhat patronisingly) to mum. After she had gone mum looked at me, gave a wave of her hand and raised her eyeballs sky-ward as if to say “Does she think I am a child?”
    … and like yesterday when I took my cousins from Australia round to visit her. Mum was lucid for a short while, and was clearly delighted and so pleased to see them. She thanked them for coming… they were moved to tears. Apparently mum’s enlivened condition was partly attributable to increased levels of drugs.

    Well, I didn't stay too long today and I’ll be back there tomorrow. On my way out of mum’s room I noticed that her clock has stopped ticking. It’s a chiming wall clock with a pendulum that was mum’s pride and joy. I wound it up yesterday but it seems to have given up… I must ask the nurse tomorrow for a shot of something strong to liven it up a bit.

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 43 - The Three Faces of Nina

    The Three Faces of Nina

    “Wooooo” said a friend’s 1 year old son (whose dad explains that he’s a Mafia No 1 baby). You ask the baby to make his scary face and he stretches open his eyes as wide as they can possibly go, drops his jaw and sucks in his cheeks then makes a perfect O with his lips and goes “Wooooo!” This is his scary face. As a child I had an aunt who would threaten to “change her face” if we misbehaved. This was a euphemism for getting rather cross with us and putting on her angry face (it worked wonders - we were all terrified of her). When I visited my mum a few days ago she was wearing HER scary/cross face, but just for nano-moments at a time. I’ve not written about mum lately as I’ve been at a loss to find an upbeat way of saying sad things. But it’s timely that I do a posting now as she seems to be going downhill rather quickly and many people have been asking about her.

    Did you ever see the movie The Three Faces of Eve? It’s about a woman who has three personalities; one is the real her but the others are somewhat good cop bad cop. It’s a bit like that with mum… occasionally I glimpse the real Nina, the one who is lucid, witty, intelligent and sometimes a bit mischievous. More often than not it’s the timid Nina, the one cocooned in dementia, lying still and quiet on her bed, seemingly managing her pain with controlled breathing while she fiddles with her wedding ring and stares at the ceiling. Occasionally I get to see the cross and angry Nina – like the one that reared her scary head the other day and grudgingly ate her food, shouted impatiently at the nurses and waved me away saying she’d had enough. I can’t blame her really as she’s very poorly and has to put up with… “These mad old people around me all day long”. “When are we going home?” she says, almost daily. A heart is a wondrous thing is it not? Mine gets broken every afternoon yet, miraculously, with the dawn of each day, it becomes whole.

    There isn’t really a great deal to say about mum other than her health has deteriorated rather quickly, she has become a bit more frail but… still has that magical twinkle in her eye – sometimes… like the other day when I thought she was asleep and she opened her eyes and threw me a cheeky grin. When I sat with her on Sunday afternoon I felt an ironic sense of role reversal as I recalled how mum had spent hours nursing me through childhood asthma, bronchitis, glandular fever and other stuff. When it was my turn to be a mum I did the same for my children. I’m sure any parent has recollections of sitting beside a sick child, or a new baby, not taking your eyes off them, watching and listening to their fragile breath… sometimes even giving them a little prod to make sure they are still alive. Strangely it’s exactly the same feeling with my mum and the love is overwhelming. And so I sat with mum on Sunday observing her breathing through her nose and watching her cheeks puff in and out, like a little balloon. Her eyes were closed and she was listening to some music… tapping along sometimes with her fingers.

    I’ve come to discover that music can have a calming effect on mum so I sometimes take along my laptop and “spin some tunes”. Her favourite is a recording I have of Alex singing. She says it reminds her of her mother singing and that Alex has the same sweet voice - the smile on her face is priceless. Sometimes I’ll put on a salsa tune or some tango and dance around the room - it usually makes mum smile or chuckle and I think she remembers when I used to make her dance salsa with me before she became so frail. She used to say 1, 2, 3… 5, 6, 7 in Greek and collapse in heaps of laughter.

    A few days ago I thought I’d have a day off from visiting, as my brother was popping in to see mum. Half an hour into his visit, he called me to say “Rosanna, can you come as mum is asking for you.” I generally call in every day so I guess mum has got used to my visits. Apparently, she had “been round to Rosanna’s house but she wasn’t there” and she’d “knocked on the door and looked through the window but I couldn’t see her anywhere”. I haven’t seen mum for two whole days now as I’ve been unwell myself but I’ll go tomorrow and await with excited anticipation to discover which Nina will greet me – I think it might be cross Nina and it will be an absolute pleasure.

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 38 - Nina's World

    Cyprus is an extraordinary place. It has a pulse of its own and I feel a perpetual oneness with its rhythm. Right now I'm sitting in mum's room. The clock is ticking and I can hear the Greek chatter of the kitchen assistants down the hall as they prepare today’s lunch. The sliding patio doors in mum’s room are open and there’s a soft breeze wafting the curtains. The heavy scent of lemon blossoms permeates everywhere and from outside I can hear the chirrup-chirrup of sparrows as they bathe furiously in the dust bowl of the “lawn”. In the distance is the hum of the morning rush-hour traffic meandering its way into Nicosia. Rush hour traffic? Traffic is always in a rush in Cyprus – regardless of what hour it is! This always strikes me as odd as most Cypriots are generally laid-back and late for everything.

    I’ve come to see mum early today as I was thinking I’d take her out for a Cyprus adventure! During my previous two visits mum had described in excited detail how she’d been out visiting people – her cheeks were rosy and her eyes twinkled as she told me, with such enthusiasm, that she’d had a lovely time. I doubted the authenticity of her tales as she was still wearing her bedclothes and slippers (at 4 in the afternoon) on one of the days that she’d “been out”. I took this as a sign that mum is now well enough to be taken out again… and would indeed like to go out for a while. Alas, mum’s trip out will not be today.

    It’s a few weeks since I last wrote about mum so I guess it’s time for an update. For those who don’t already know, my mother has Alzheimer’s and her condition has been deteriorating gradually over the past few years. She’s in a care home just outside Nicosia. It’s a good place that is immaculately clean, has lovely home cooked food, cheerful staff and, unlike many care homes in the UK, it does not smell of wee and cabbage! Mum has her own room with her own en suite and is surrounded by family photos and a few personal belongings.

    It’s around 9 in the morning and mum has got back into bed, having been fed, watered and washed. She’s not feeling her best today and is not up for a trip out. Conversation is minimal… I say “conversation” but that’s not really what I mean as talking with mum is generally a one-sided chat these days and reduced, as it is, to questioning and answering sessions – the answers often being of the monosyllabic sort. On the bedside table in front of me is mum's teeth receptacle - I haven't managed to persuade mum to part with her teeth of late and so the plaque is surely cementing itself. I look at mum then gaze out the window at the feral cats chasing the sparrows, then back at mum asleep on her back, mouth gaping open, teeth still inside. Sometimes, mum smiles when she is napping and I often wonder what lovely places she visits in Nina’s world – certainly not the hospital! Mum had a couple of hospital visits earlier in the year for various scans – the prognosis is not so good I’m afraid to say but after years of twenty-plus fags a day it’s hardly surprising!

    Mum shuffles around on the bed trying to get into a more comfortable position. I can hear the chunterings of an elderly resident grumbling and groaning as an assistant berates her (probably trying to get her dressed) “oossoo, oossoo korimou” (loosely translated - pipe down mygirl). Time for me to go I think but before I do I gently wake mum, kiss her goodbye and remind her, again, that she has a special visitor coming soon. “Who, Who?” mum asks excitedly. “See if you can guess”, I reply. “Are you bringing your mother to see me?” Actually, she’s already here mum!

    I probably never told you that my mum, like the Queen, has two birthdays (perhaps save that story for another time). Evidently I now have two mothers!

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 36 - The End of the World As We Know It

    It’s 9.13 am and nothing bad has happened yet!!!! I guess she must be asleep so I’m safe – at least until noon. *Phone rings*… second call of the day; unrecognisable number… is it safe to answer??? Phew!... just a friend inviting me to join her for a walk around Holme Pierrepont right now (that’s two invitations out today – can I trust them?). By now you will have realised the date of this posting – a posting that I had not intended to write until the numbers 01/04/2012 leaped out of the bottom right hand corner of my lap-top and slapped me into consciousness. I say that because I must be alert… I say that because Baby O is an April Fools Day prankster and I have the scars on my memory to prove it.

    Over the years my youngest daughter Alex, has played an array of tricks on me. (Alex is the subject of an earlier post – see Part 9 – though I’ve made mention of her in other postings too). The most embarrassing prank was probably the time she had filled my automatic brolly with paper cuttings from the hole-punch – I was in Market Square in Nottingham when it began to rain… brightly coloured paper circles! (Gosh, if that happened today I’d probably get a ticket or an ASBO). There was also the time when she called down from her bedroom that she’d been sick all over her bedclothes. Alex lived on the top floor of our three-storey house and so I traipsed up two flights of stairs with hot, soapy, disinfected water, rubber gloves and cleaning cloths only for Alex to holler “April Fool” at me as I struggled into her bedroom – thanks Alex.

    *Phone rings AGAIN*… a third invitation and it’s only 9.55 – I’m suspicious now, although they do say that things come in threes! Actually this third call could well have been an April Fools trick as my caller delighted me with stories about her recent holiday. She’s just returned from an idyllic spa and convalescence town somewhere in France where most of the visitors were in various forms of recovery. It sounded surreal with people walking around with arms and legs in splints or with electrodes sticking out of their bandaged heads. My friend giggled helplessly as she told me about one unfortunate chap struggling to eat his lunch with his left arm splinted and sticking out at a perpendicular right angle!

    … I’d like to announce that I have had the most amazing stroke of luck and will be inviting one hundred of my friends to attend an all expenses paid trip to Cyprus to laze around in the sun every day for a week, eating Cypriot delicacies and drinking cocktails… if you believe this then I should tell you also that penguins can fly, that spaghetti grows on trees, that Groupon is offering free tickets to dine with The Queen and that the world will end today!

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 35 - For Mother's Day "Honour thy father and thy mother..."

    This is a Mother’s Day dedication, written and posted a little early as I’ll be travelling from the 17th March and may not have internet access for a few days. I have so many stories to tell about mum that I find it difficult to choose what to say and so this is just a random selection plucked from my memory and in no particular order of priority…

    Mum has always been a great story teller and able to “hold court” (well she IS a queen). Her stories are told with full sound effects, enthusiastic facial expressions, generous amounts of laughter (sometimes tears) and vigorous Mediterranean gesticulations. I have never known an old lady tell such filthy jokes and then laugh raucously at them (jokes so rude that I dare not repeat or print them here). She actually has three jokes in her repertoire and over the years we’ve heard them many times… with the punch lines generally accompanied by table or thigh slapping and tears of laughter. I sigh when I think that mum is a shadow of the woman she used to be – not too many jokes now I’m afraid but her sense of humour still surfaces from time to time…

    … like the time last year when I gave her a tiny toy bear seated on a wicker chair. It’s an ornament that amused her before she moved to the old people’s home and I’d kept it as a memento when Liz and I cleared out her home. It occurred to me that she might like to have it back and although she couldn’t remember it (or who had given it to her) she took a liking to it (again!) and instructed me to place it by the TV (exactly where she had put it before). The novelty of the bear has worn off now but in the beginning she kept talking to it and laughing at it and on one occasion, when a domestic assistant asked mum if she’d like a coffee she replied “Ask the bear!” – to which both mum and the assistant fell about laughing! That was only 5 months ago and since then her humour has buried itself a little deeper in her psyche.

    There’s a large photo of my dad on mum’s wall and mum sometimes talks to it/him. When mum told me recently that she had asked my father if he liked her hair, I was curious to know how he'd responded, so I asked her… “He just laughed” she said, laughing. I think mum was winding me up – further evidence that there are at least a few marbles clanking around in there.

    Mum’s stories are often about her time in Cyprus, before she and my father emigrated to England for a “better life”. One of her favourites was the tale of how she and my father met. Apparently they were both at a wedding; mum saw my father, handsome as he was, dancing and jumping round like a gazelle. He captured her heart and she turned to her friend to ask “Who is that handsome boy dancing there?” To which her friend replied “You mean you don’t know? That’s John the tailor – everyone knows he is the most handsome boy in Kormakiti!” Later on, my mother was dancing with the girls (they do this demure dance waving a handkerchief) and as my father saw her his heart was captivated so he turned to his friend and asked “Hey, best man, who is that beautiful girl dancing there?” To which his friend replied “Hey, best man, you mean you don’t know? That’s Nina, the daughter of Frangos – everyone knows she is the most beautiful girl in Agia Marina!”… The rest, as they say, is history.

    So on this Mother’s Day, mum, I’m sending my best love for you, your memories and your stories – God broke the mould after he created you; you’re definitely one in a million!

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 33 - Super Mario carping on to his cat

    Super Mario (my big bro) lives in Cyprus. He is a world famous bowling coach. A simple Google search of his name, Mario Joseph, accompanied with the word “bowling” will evidence his global renown! What most people don’t know, however, is that Super Mario has many other attributes that far surpass his bowling credentials.

    Mario is a fisherman. If you are one of “Mr Popular’s” 572 friends on Facebook then take a look at his “Secret Lake” photos to witness fish the size of small children – it throws a whole new perspective on the story about “the one that got away”! Mario fishes about once a week here in Cyprus with a couple of his bucolic buddies. His home is like a fishing tackle shop – with bugs in the freezer and a variety of fishing paraphernalia generally scattered around the place (hmmm not the tidiest of geezers I guess).

    Last weekend I was privileged to witness Mario’s fisherman enthusiasm when we went walking at one of the local dams. Very exciting stuff this as it’s been chucking it down for weeks – today it even snowed a blizzard! In fact it’s been raining so much that 2012 is set to be the wettest year on record in over ten years… and so the dams here are already 85% full… and the mountain snow has yet to thaw and add to the rainwater that’s pouring into the dams. Back to the story: we went for a walk around this dam and eventually came to an area which was, I am reliably informed, “big enough for two swims” (and the fisherfolk among you will know what I mean). There were hundreds of fish – common carp apparently – basking in the sun, swimming to the surface to feed, big ones, small ones, medium sized ones – apparently preparing for spawning. It was a lovely sight to behold and although I generally prefer my fish battered and on a plate with chips, mushy peas and salt and vinegar, I have to admit that I was mesmerised. Mario was as happy as a clam (I’d like to say fish but it IS clam actually) and has vowed to go back there sometime for a spot of fishing.

    As well as his love of fish, Mario has recently acquired a love of cats… well one cat actually… called Chip. “Chip” - a somewhat undignified name for a majestic feline that is clearly a cut above the rest. Chip’s regal appearance belies her origins for she is a feral cat and her name, bestowed by Super Mario, is a reference to the triangle of flesh that is missing from her left ear. We thought that she’d been in a vicious scrap but Chip is not ferocious (quite the opposite in fact – although she’s a deft catcher of mice and praying mantis). The missing ear flesh is evidence that she/he (I have not looked but I think she’s a she) has been spayed/neutered. The procedure, known as ear-tipping (or clipping), is apparently a universal sign of a neutered feral cat.

    I was sufficiently interested in the plight of feral cats to find out how many there are in Cyprus. Well, Chip’s in good company because (according to one on-line source) it is estimated that there are around 3000 cats per square mile of populated areas in Cyprus!

    Chip (I wish he’d call her something different) is a beautiful cat with a thick, fluffy coat and she really does have a majestic look about her. She loves to be pampered and purrs quietly when she snuggles up on your lap. She eats with her paws – we think she does this so as not to get her resplendent whiskers soiled. I think Mario has fallen for her feline charms as he talks to her somewhat lovingly – I know peeps, this IS worrying! The other week I heard this little one-sided conversation (and no, Mario does not know that I write shorthand verbatim – guess he does now!):-

    “You’re useless without thumbs”… (Chip keeps eating)… “ooo, there’s a nice piece ooo yeah yum yum… fight for yer breakfast ya little b***er… you’re nothing but a little mercenary… your come here, eat your food then clear off”… cat nonchalantly glances in Mario’s general direction and carries on eating regardless…

    Chip has two (or maybe even several) loving “owners”… I put this in parenthesis because, as Mario says, “Who can claim ownership of a cat?” Anyhow, regardless of her fickle approach to her adopted “owners” she is gradually ruling the roost – or whatever it is that cats do – at Mario’s place. She has learned to open the doors to his home and she sometimes taps on his window with her paws when she wants his attention – perhaps he should call her Catherine!

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 32 - Been Where... Mr Bean?

    The old lady was lying in bed on her side beneath a fleecy light brown over blanket. She wore an olive green sweater and cardigan. Olive green… her colour in her younger days. It used to match her olive green/hazel eyes and reflect the glow of her olive skin against her black hair – but now, in her autumn years, with her salt and pepper hair, the washed out colour made her look sallow and ill. Her salt and pepper hair… now desperately in need of a cut, stood up on one side – the side that she rested on when lying down, which was actually most of the day. It gave her the look of a surprised bird or of wearing a quiff over her left ear rather than the front of her crown. Her crown… not the regal type of course although her regal presence had always been that of a queen. She smiled with excitement when I walked into her room, causing her face to crease up and her moles to disappear beneath the wrinkles. When she smiled like this the warmth of her love radiated out and the room almost lit up. In spite of her years her lips were still a dark pink colour – no doubt as they had been in her youth and although her face had “dropped”, her mouth was still plump and symmetrical. Her eyes glistened as she asked, quizzically, “Is he here – has he come?”

    If Rowan Atkinson had any idea how much my mum loves Mr Bean, or how much pleasure he brings to her, I’m sure he’d be delighted and if I could resurrect Jim I’d get him to “fix it” so that Mr Bean could visit my mum in person. Mum has few pleasures left in her life now: her plants, smoking (much less than she used to), food (sometimes) visits from family members that she can still remember and Mr Bean – the last two being the only ones that don’t get her into trouble. Yesterday mum was a bit confused and thought that Mr Bean was coming to visit her in person and when I reminded her that we watch him on DVDs (showing her the latest copy for our collection) she asked if I had to pay him for it.

    So far we have accumulated three DVDs in our Mr Bean library and “Merry Christmas Mr Bean” is mum’s favourite – probably because she’s watched it several times now. Mum watches the sketches and I watch her - and answer her endless stream of questions… “Is that him?” ... “Yes mum, that’s him”. “Is he feeding it? (she asks as Mr Bean shovels handfuls of stuffing into a giant turkey)…. and so on.

    The DVDs all begin with the standard copyright notice and as one of mum’s inclinations is to read all words put before her she inevitably starts reading what comes up on the screen and, inevitably, gets it wrong… mum starts chuckling. “What are you laughing at mum?” and mum replies, still chuckling, “You have to go and make me a coffee – it’s the coffee message”. I’m not quite sure if this is mum making a joke or if she has simply misread the notice but I dutifully go and make mum a drink – after which she is under strict instructions to keep her cup well away from my laptop (or should I call it my lifeline?).

    At the end of it I say “That’s it for today” and mum replies, grinning broadly, “Where has he been that Mr Bean?” I left mum chuckling to herself and with a smile on her face when she finally nodded off.

    Next time I think I’ll try her with Drop Dead Fred if I can get hold of a copy – though the consequences might be troublesome!

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 31 - Mind Your P's and Queues

    16th February 2012

    I’ve recently been away from Cyprus for around 3 weeks on a “whistle-stop” return trip to England, then to Bangkok via Doha and onwards to Phuket. When my girls heard me use the phrase “whistle-stop trip” they virtually collapsed on the floor in heaps of laughter. I guess they were highly amused at the image of me as an intrepid traveller.

    Travelling is terrific and provides the best opportunities for people watching. “People watching”: probably the single most, self-proclaimed, globally favourite pastime. Everyone I know seems to enjoy people watching and this doubtless means that we people watchers are also the subject of other people’s people watching (I feel a tongue twister coming on).

    Something that particularly struck me on this latest people watching excursion was the behaviour of people when queuing and the desperation with which around 90 per cent of travellers clamber to be first on the plane, first off the plane, first through passport control and first at the baggage claim carousels – only to wait 30 minutes for the luggage to arrive, with every likelihood that their bags will be last out! Speaking of baggage carousels, I once worked with a woman who told me that as she tried to haul her bag off the carousel, the weight of the bag and the crush of people pushing around her caused her to fall on to the belt and travel round for several meters with the bags, legs in the air as she struggled to pull herself off the belt! (I wish that one had been caught on “You’ve Been Framed”).

    What is it about airports and travel that causes people to push, shove or sneakily creep forward in the queue? I witnessed some of the worst behaviour ever on this trip – especially in the queues for the flights into and out of our connecting airport. To wit, as we were queuing for boarding at Heathrow we couldn’t help but notice a man inching his way to the front of the queue. His endeavours were impressive as he circumnavigated several people to get to the front – at which point he argued with a member of the cabin crew before disappearing through the glass partition like a Will-o’-the-wisp.

    We saw the same guy on the next leg of our journey. This time he was trying to queue jump in a line for passport control. The airport in question is impressive; the procedures for transfers worked like a dream and although the behaviour of some of the passengers was a bit of a nightmare, the mannerisms of a few of the travellers were nothing short of hilarious. “My man” was less successful here and had underestimated the resolve of the passenger he was trying to push in front of. It was fascinating to watch him as he inched forwards gradually and very funny to see that the man in front had clocked him and so began inching forwards at the same pace. We were all amused and entertained to witness two fully-grown and presumably mature men “racing” each other in a snail-pace airport queue – both pretending not to notice the other. As for us we placed bets on who would win – great fun as we had ringside seats in the adjacent queue.

    We witnessed the worst behaviour ever at the same connecting airport on our return journey – again it was in the queues for passport control and it happened where two queues seemed to merge into one – creating what you might call a “pinch point” in the trade! It seemed that a man tried to push in front of two women who were travelling with a child. One of the women was having none of it and as she resisted, the man threw her a punch that struck her forcibly on the side of her face. The whole crowd gasped in a collective “Ahhhhh” of shock and disbelief. An argument ensued, with the man’s wife hurling words at the woman who was now angry, crying and pushing back – another man in the party then hit her again – to further gasps of disbelief and shock from the crowd. Where was security??? Security men then came rushing forwards and guess what? They ushered the man and his family through – totally ignoring the poor woman who was then restrained by female security staff. Our queue had inched forwards by that point and as I passed the woman I could see the side of her tear-sodden face already bruising up. I’ve no idea how this all ended but I hope that the bloke got his dues and that the woman was compensated and apologised to by the family in question and the airport authorities – though I suspect not!

    As for my party… well of course we were well behaved throughout the whole journey… almost. There was just a teeny weeny little incident that resulted in a protective and not so little otter glaring at a passenger who was behaving rather badly towards mummy otter – the passenger was, of course, suitably put in her place!

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 30 – “And though your hands are freezing cold, your head is nice and hot!”

    24 and 25 Jan 2012

    I am sitting in my lounge hunched over an oil filled radiator with the air-con angled towards me blowing out semi-hot air. Would you believe me if I told you that the temperature in my bathroom is 7° C, my bedroom is 8° and my lounge is one degree higher? (No Tamla Motown jokes please – Liz H!) In spite of the fact that Cyprus has around 326 days of sunshine a year, I’m finding it a real struggle to keep warm in the winter here. I so miss my UK efficient central heating and that lovely feeling of being warm, cosy and toasty when it’s cold outside.

    It seems such a shame to shatter the illusion that has formed in the minds of my Nottingham compatriots… the idea that I am basking in a perpetual heat wave, sunning myself daily in the Mediterranean rays, slapping on the factor 15 mid-December…. The truth is, guys, it’s bloody cold! It is so cold that I go to bed in thick socks, T-shirt, pyjamas AND a dressing gown. The bed sheets are cold when I get in – even though I try to warm up the bedroom with the air-con before I go to bed. I have to sleep with my head and hands beneath the bedding otherwise I get a headache and my fingers go numb. In the mornings the windows are drenched with condensation and it’s horrible stepping out of bed on to cold floor tiles (socks having come off in the middle of the night when my pinkies finally warm up).

    Earlier this week we had a power cut first thing in the morning. This meant NO heating, NO hot water, NO cup of tea and, of course, NO pump to pump the water and so my cold shower was a cold trickle!

    My feeble attempts to keep my apartment warm include utilising the air-con – with the temperature turned up to 30 and so if I am really lucky I can achieve up to 24 degrees; I have borrowed an oil filled radiator from my sister and I wheel this around the apartment with me – not unlike a life-saving intravenous drip. I also have one of those halogen type heaters that blast out infrared warmth – sending a cosy glow around the apartment. The sun shines outside but inside the Snow Queen has breathed her chilling air… Brrrrrrrr.

    Inevitably I have caught a cold – no surprise really as my back, shoulders, tootsies and other digits are permanently chilled. Typing is difficult as I have lost the sense of feeling in my fingers and the backs of my hands ache. Sometimes I will go out for a walk to warm up or I’ll make myself a hot cuppa so that I can warm my mitts around the mug. My only consolation is that Mario has caught a cold too – though I don’t know why because his place is much warmer than mine.

    In Cyprus we have proper, real weather that’s not for the faint-hearted. I say that because it is now the next day and I am sitting on Mario’s veranda which has a corrugated tin roofing of sorts – so I am outdoors, but kind of indoors at the same time. The rain is battering down and the sound is deafening. Imagine enormous crates of ball-bearings pouring down in a continuous stream on to your brolly – while you’re under it … it would probably sound the same; AMAZING . There are also intermittent flashes of lightening that light up the veranda – it’s actually 8.30 in the morning but almost as black as night because of the rain storm. BASH, there goes another clap of thunder… God moving round his furniture again… and guess what? It’s warm!

    I think when I return to England (later today whoop whoop) I will bring my set of heated curlers back to Cyprus with me – at least that way I know that my head, if nothing else, will be warm.

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 29 - Oh I wish I'd Looked After My Teeth

    1st January 2012

    Regular readers will probably have realised by now that I’m spending a good deal of my time in Nicosia with the sole purpose of being near my mum – who has dementia. Anyone who has ever been close to someone with dementia will know that it can be heartbreakingly sad but sometimes very funny too. Today is New Year's Day and so I have kidnapped mum from the care home to bring her to my apartment, feed her with roast chicken, Yorkshire puddings and trifle, let her watch Mr Bean, drink alcohol and then sleep it all off before taking her back “home” exhausted and somewhat bemused (mum, not me, whew!)

    Today was one of mum’s better days but she still had that far-away look in her eyes (and no – I had not plied her with mind altering substances – though it is entirely possible that the staff at the home may have!). When I arrived to collect her, she was lying in bed sporting a black suit jacket and olive green sweater – both interestingly adorned with what looked like yesterday’s dinner. I rather suspect that she had spat out the liquidised gruel that she is generally force-fed at around tea time. She absolutely hates it when they liquidise her food - which they do sometimes when she refuses to eat. Mum’s chain smoking has the effect of ruining her appetite (mind you, she does manage to pack away a substantial breakfast) and the staff are fearful that she will not get enough nourishment. I think that I will insist they stop doing this as it makes her so miserable and goodness only knows that at 85 years old she should have some choice in the matter. Anyhow, I got her cleaned up and changed, to vociferous complaining and copious amounts of huffing and puffing - It’s true what they say…. Once an adult, twice a child…. Putting mum into an old people’s home was the hardest and saddest thing I ever did in my entire life; I wept a river and it broke my heart but I know that it has saved her life.

    Mum’s been to my apartment several times now but never remembers and so it’s always a new adventure for her. As we pulled up today she said “Who lives in this big house?” (It’s a three-storey apartment block). She stood by the car door, confused and disorientated and so I gently led her through the front door and into the lift/elevator, at which point a little light came on in her head “Ah, I HAVE been here before, I remember this handrail”… and so things went from bad to good, well slightly less bad! Once in the apartment mum felt quite at home as it’s adorned with her beautiful handiwork (crochet and patchwork); she recognised the dinner plates and crystal wine glasses (hers, of course and she’s swigged a fair few drops of Zivania in them I can tell you). The smell of home cooking brought a cheery smile to her face. “Thank you Rosanna for bringing me – can I smoke in here?” …. “course you can mum”. “Did I tell you it’s my birthday soon?” she said (selective memory? I wondered).

    I think mum’s dementia has been coming on gradually over the past ten years but I just didn’t want to admit it (I think that’s called denial). She came over to visit me in Nottingham twice in recent years (I have forgotten exactly when – is my own dementia setting in?) and now that I think back on her visits I realise that things weren’t quite as they should’ve been. There was one time when I took mum shopping and she wanted to buy a hair brush; we were in the kitchen utensils section and she picked up a pan-scrubbing brush and started trying to comb her hair with it… “This hairbrush isn’t very good is it?” she exclaimed. I already mentioned that she likes a cigarette or two (understatement of the year methinks)… mum was under strict instructions NOT to smoke in the bedroom; after she had returned to Cyprus I gave the bedroom a good “going-over” and found several nub-ends stubbed out under the rug in the bedroom. I’m telling you… God was looking out for us I’m sure because goodness only knows how we didn’t all go up in smoke! Then there was the time mum was eating rancid butter, absolutely insisting that it was cheese; she later admitted to my sister that “I think you were right about the butter Elizabethmou”.

    Mum has good days and not-so-good ones. Today mum is confused and has asked me twice already where my husband is (he died several years ago and we’d been divorced for many years before he became ill and passed away!). Mum’s “conversation” is usually limited to reciting amusing poems in Greek but nevertheless I do try to chat with her and so when I was telling her today why I have come to stay in Nicosia she was genuinely surprised that we were in Cyprus. I asked her “Well, where do you think we are then mum?” to which she replied “Well, I just thought that we were here” – there’s logic in the madness I’m sure!

    Anyhow…..Mum had a lovely time but got a bit irritated when her bottom teeth kept popping out mid-meal... and so she did what she generally does when this happens: she took out her bottom set and placed them on the table, prised out the top set too and requested that I go and clean them and bring her some glue to stick them back in again. Mum generally reserves this party-piece for public appearances… like the time, several years ago, when a group of around 12 of us went out to a restaurant to celebrate my daughter Marina’s birthday; mum’s teeth became “unstable” and she popped them out, gave them a wipe on her serviette and then popped them back in again – to the horror, disgust and amusement of all around. I love my dear mum, she's absolutely great and when I grow up I want to be exactly like her!

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 28 – I love you Mister Carr

    5th December 2011

    I am in Nottingham and in bed ……. with Alan Carr, a packet of out-dated nougat bars and some drugs (Ibuprofen and Zapain - which does what it says on the tin, makes me drowsy and light-headed and muddles my thinking – perhaps it should be called Zapbrain!) It is 3.30 in the afternoon – could life possibly get any better? The reason for this prostrate condition is my poorly back, which I somehow managed to strain when I bent down to pick up a stray sock on my bedroom floor - two weeks ago.

    I think I am falling in love with Alan Carr. For those of you non UK readers, Mr Carr is a British comedian of serious acclaim and you can sample his delectable variety of humour on this link I’m reading his story, in “Look who it is! Alan Carr” and it’s been like staring into a cracked mirror, making me realise that even (or perhaps especially) comedy superstars have their ups and downs. Many of Mr Carr’s life experiences resonate with my own: he had big teeth - mine were crooked. Apparently my mouth was too small for my teeth (so all of that “Big Mouth” taunting was totally unfounded) and so I had teeth out and brace in. He had man-boobs as a teenager whilst I had sideburns and a moustache; he got called a girl and I was mistaken for a boy several times - in fact I’d get patted on the head and called “m’lad” (we lived in Nottingham which is somewhat “up-north” I guess).

    We both developed an early passion for reading but for my part, the only books that littered our household were those of my older siblings and so at the age of nine I was reading the smutty Peyton Place and Return to Peyton Place, Arthur C Clark’s Sci-fi stories, Lobsang T Rampa’s Third Eye, and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and tales of Nigel the Gnome (whose name I mistakenly pronounced as Niggle!) – kind of explains a lot about me, don’t you think? We both aspired to careers in performing arts (alas my vocational calling was cut short by the untimely death of my father who had promised to send me to drama school, and so the only boards I got to tread were those of the Colwick Amateur Dramatic Society). Just imagine what a formidable duo we'd make if I played as Eczema Girl alongside his Psoriasis Boy - I know we'd give She Ra and He Man a run for their money. Alan Carr and I both “froze” on stage. Granted Mr Carr WAS performing stand-up at the Manchester Comedy Store whereas meagre me was performing as Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream, in the big hall at Carlton-le-Willows Technical Grammar School. It was the final scene of the play and I forgot the words; I was twelve at the time, my face was painted green and you could see the pale green tear-tracks down my face following my feeble attempts to ad-lib the good Bard’s closing lines to the play!

    I’d like to say more about my affinity with Mr Carr but I’ve been reliably advised that I should keep my postings brief. Someone told me recently that they’re a bit too long resulting in potential loss of interest on the part of the reader. I wonder, was this a kind euphemism for “your posts are boring Rosanna so cut the crap”?

    Anyhow, I’ve not finished reading his book so perhaps I’ll reveal more exposés in a future post; meanwhile, it’s time to pop more pills in the hope that my back will recover in time for my return trip to sunny Nicosia.

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 25 - Mushroom Magic

    13th November 2011

    It’s Sunday 13th November 2011, 0848 hrs precisely pip….. pip…..pip……. I wasn’t planning to write a posting this weekend as I’ve travelled back to Nottingham for Alex’s (aka baby Otter’s) birthday and I knew that being home (mmm what a sweet word) would be hectic. I was right, this is the beginning of my 4th day and so far I have:-

    Had my flu and booster jabs ….. tick
    Had hair cut ….. tick
    Had house guttering cleaned out ….. tick
    Had external windows cleaned ….. tick
    Shopped for, and wrapped, the Otters’ Christmas presents ….. tick
    Opened, sorted, discarded and responded to a mountain of mail ….. tick
    Had bikini wax ….. ouch
    Arranged for B and Q to repair snaggings in my “new” kitchen – less said about this one the better ….. tick
    Had feet done ….. tick
    Made dental appointment ….. tick
    Spoke to and planned to meet numerous friends ….. tick
    Been to Waitrose 4 times, John Lewis 4 times, Boots twice, Wilko’s once ….. !
    Bought lamp shades for Nicosia apartment ….. tick
    Been to tango twice ….. tick
    Suffered significantly with poorly knee – ouch
    Attended wonderful birthday dinner at Jamie O’s, along with 24 other guests – HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALEX ….. tick

    My head’s a spin just reading the list – never mind doing it – I am a Goddess, but I am Greek (well, Cypriot) so I guess that’s not unusual.

    Today I will go on a mushroom foray with a close friend. We are gastronomes and are hopeful of finding edible varieties. Few of you will know that I have a dark and murky secret that actually puts me in the category of “train spotter” or “anorak”: I am an amateur mycologist (web definition – “a botanist who specialises in the study of fungi”). I jest not guys (or should that be funguys? lol) and I take my interest so seriously that in 1996 I founded a fungi study group – it’s called The Nottinghamshire Fungi Group and although I’m no longer involved, it’s still operating to this day. You can find it at

    My long-suffering children had damaged childhoods as a consequence of my socially unacceptable hobby. Our home was littered with the debris of my bucolic passion: dried up specimens in glass jars were our ornaments; newly gathered fungal caps dropped the evidence of their nomenclature (…look it up….) on to scraps of dark and light card, displaying an array of beautiful spore prints; sinister lurkings (probably not a real word!) of fresh specimens could be found in the depths of our fridge. My poor kids! I used to drag them away from the warmth and comfort of the TV and central heating, to take them on autumnal picnics with hot soup, crusty bread, scarves and gloves – oh, and penknife, containers, magnifying glass and identification book. They hated it and were so embarrassed when their mates came round to play as I would enthusiastically bore them all with putrefied bits of my witchery.

    Their young little minds were like sponges and one of Alex’s finest moments happened when we were travelling into town on public transport – she was about 5 at the time, and as the bus trundled past the Forest Recreation Park, Alex remarked in a loud and proud voice “….look mummy that’s where we found that Paxillus Involutus….” (a somewhat unsavoury poisonous species) – was this child abuse I wondered? To be fair, Alex always had a flair for remembering long words. There was another occasion when our GP referred her to a skin clinic to verify some spots that had appeared on her arms. The hospital consultant inspected the spots, turned to his students and asked “Right then, who knows what this is?” Alex thrust an arm in the air and said “It’s Molluscum Contagiosum”, to the obvious delight and mirth of all in attendance…… can’t believe she’s 26 already – where did that time go?

    Back to mushrooms….. apparently it’s been chucking-it-down in Cyprus so in about two weeks’ time there’ll be mushrooms everywhere (I hope) and I shall be fungi foraging in a Mediterranean forest very soon. Meanwhile, I should tell you that last September my foraging friend stumbled across Morels in the centre of Nottingham. For those of you who don’t know about wild mushrooms, Morels are prized and very tasty little ‘shrooms that appear in the spring; so finding them in the autumn is like finding chestnuts or blackberries in May or bluebells in November. We knew that this was a very rare phenomenon and so my friend sent samples and photographs to a distinguished expert at Kew Gardens. He was very impressed and a scholarly article has been produced. I tried to find a link to it but could only find sites that offered the article for sale – it’s entitled “Morels Defying the Vernal Lifestyle” and it’s by James Wearn, Brian Spooner, and/or Alan Gange. Let me know if you manage to track it down ………….

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 24 - Ode to Queenie

    Ode to Queenie - 6th November 2011

    I’ve spent a few days recently senior-person-sitting. My supervision was not necessary, as the senior person in question lives with a capable companion called Queenie - to whom this posting is dedicated. HRH Queenie is a frisky, naughty girl who has four legs, a bushy-swishy tail and two white ears – one of which is mottled with pale orange splodges and is permanently flipped back (allowing ticks and other such foreign bodies free access). In spite of several visits to the vet, HRHQ has blocked tear ducts that cause dark lines to form underneath her eyes – not dissimilar to those of a seasoned off-roader who’s just taken off her goggles. The markings on her under-belly resemble those of a Friesian cow, giving Her Majesty a less-than-regal appearance. And so her owner scrubs at them fortnightly, in vain attempts to purify and match the under-belly fur to the rest of the snowy coat; a coat that’s been randomly chopped into, giving Queenie the look of a Vidal Sassoon or Edward Scissorhands masterpiece.

    Queenie’s favourite pastimes are digging out the soil from her owner’s numerous plant pots; catching baby rats and mice; chewing and regurgitating tissues underneath her owner’s chair; leaving hard crusty poos in selected outdoor areas and shredding her toys - the remnants of which litter the household: one deceased teddy bear, one non-bouncing tennis ball, one giraffe reserved for car trips to the vet and one hard, spiny, squeaky, pretend bone.

    Queenie’s mistress is a doting, tolerant dog lover; so much so that HRHQ ranks number nine in a long line of dogs that has included a Dachshund, a German Shepherd, a Bull Mastiff, one Heinz 57, 3 Labradors, and a Weimaraner German hunting dog. HRHQ is of the Heinz 57 variety herself and stands around 2 hands high (depending on how big your hands are). She has the look of a cross between a West Highland Terrier and a Border Collie and although she is undoubtedly smaller than most of her predecessors, there is no mistaking the size of her personality. It’s clear to see who leads the pack in this household.

    I learned recently that, Queenie’s owner is not necessarily typical of the Cypriot animal owning fraternity. This came as quite a shock to me as there are numerous pet shops here and an array of services for animals; sadly there are also a number of animal shelters struggling to care for the animals that are abandoned and/or mistreated by their owners. I really can’t comment on the scale of the problem as I couldn’t find any hard facts or stats and the people that I know here who own animals are all responsible, loving and caring towards their pets. Unfortunately, the strap line “A dog is not just for Christmas” is as relevant here as it is in the UK and I have read several articles that referred to an annual holiday “pet dump” as pets bought as Christmas gifts are unceremoniously disposed of once the children and/or new owners tire of them.

    Many pets are brought into the island by British Expats and a Thomson Airways newsletter that I unearthed stated that “Paphos in Cyprus was the most popular destination for British pets wanting to bask in the year round sun” .…. it had transported 1,147 dogs and 458 cats. Hopefully that was not in one year as another recent article I found said that some of the abandoned pets had been left behind by Expats returning home because of the economic difficulties. It’s really interesting sniffing around on the internet ….. I also discovered that “the first domestic cats were thought to have lived 8,000 years ago in Cyprus” (BBC Science and Nature 2004) – probably no need to bring any in from abroad then!

    Fortunately for Her Majesty Queenie, she is very well loved indeed and she shows her appreciation by sharing her unusually long tongue with any visitors’ unsuspecting toes.

    Here is my ode to Queenie:-

    Resplendent and undignified
    She prostrates herself on the cooling marble tiles.
    With an air of one most high
    She hides her lascivious inclinations.
    Beware you rats and mice and feet
    For her tongue flicks out for miles.

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 23 - Cypriot Wine Tasting No 1, Vasilikon Dry White

    Cypriot Wine Tasting No 1 Vasilikon Dry White. 28th October 2011

    I have accepted a challenge to sample some Cypriot wines and comment on them. There are currently only five wines on my list but I live in hope that this number will increase (I think the next word should be exponentially). In the interests of living a healthy lifestyle, and in accordance with amended guidance on alcohol consumption (which now recommends an on-going weekly 3-day abstinence) I am obliged to spread my posts over the next few weeks – or be permanently drunk – hic! (spit it out?.... you must be kidding).

    It is incumbent on me to begin with a disclaimer: I AM NO WINE BUFF - so it might be advisable to take my tasting comments with a pinch of salt, and in the case of this first sampling, perhaps take the wine with a pinch of salt too! Although my experience of sampling and commenting on wine is limited, my personal consumption of wine (with friends and family) is not insignificant – *comtemplates…… “I AM qualified to do this”*.

    And so, I have broken my ‘wine commenting teeth’, so to speak, on a Vasilikon dry white wine (2010) that was/is produced in the Paphos area of Cyprus from Xynisteri grapes - a unique indigenous variety. Xynisteri by name and by nature, as the wine certainly has a somewhat xynister quality (lol – sorry!). I say this because although I ended up liking this wine and may even buy it again – it did not start out thus!

    Sadly, the alcohol content is only 12% peeps but on the upside it has recently been awarded a silver medal by the Cyprus Wine Products Council. What does this mean? This means that you give it a second chance if at first you find it to be less than palatable! Perhaps it also means that the Cyprus Wine Products Council has a duty to promote all Cypriot wines. Anyhow I relented of my initial reaction (allergic?) to the wine and reminded myself that I am, after-all, only an NVQ Level One wine buff – and surely an authority as informed as the Cyprus Wine Products Council could not be mistaken.

    Vasilikon dry white wine has a crystal-clear quality to it and the description on the bottle belies its fantastic fresh golden colour which has a slight tinge of lime green. I swirled it around my glass and stuck my nose inside the rim (too much information?) to get a whiff of the bouquet. To my uneducated nose it had a very light, almost indistinct aroma of ….. lager? Hmmm I guess I may have this somewhat wrong …….. *checks label description*….. apparently it smells of apricot and peach…. I took another whiff and wrote in my sampling notes “it smells of pine and tastes of pine”. And so, to summarise and rephrase in a marketable and more diplomatic tone: “the bouquet is somewhat delicate”.

    My first tasting of the wine was on a clean palete (no, I was not prostrate in a warehouse!); I mean to say that I had not eaten – deliberately so – as I didn’t want to distort the taste of the wine. You know how dreadful wine tastes if you brush your teeth before you drink it? Or how a smooth and velvety dry red can seem sour after you’ve eaten a spoonful of Pavlova? – you get my drift….

    I sipped a little (like Jancis Robinson would) and observed the initial flavour and aftertaste. It was a tad fruity on my tongue and had a sharp, lingering aftertaste. Apparently this is a mark of a good wine but I was finding this one hard to savour; the label description refers to a “dominant and long lasting aftertaste” – spot on there then! I persevered but the more of it I drank the less I liked it. “Perhaps this is an acquired taste” I thought, like Retsina – which I have, over the years, become accustomed to. Nevertheless, I struggled with it – and for me that’s saying something – if it had a higher alcohol content then I probably would have dabbed it on my mosquito bites.

    My initial notes were disparaging; I had written “This is an overpowering wine and so not to be drunk (in spite of the label recommendation) with delicate fish flavours – probably ok with kippers, roll mops or anchovies though”. The label description reads “it’s a fresh and balanced taste”. I couldn’t fathom it – was I so wrong? In desperation I took to the internet and discovered the following statement on another Xynesteri wine of the same vintage from the same area:- “I’m not sure if I got a bad bottle, perhaps corked or otherwise, but it sure tasted a bit cork-like with an acrid acid tinge as if you were drinking acidic liquefied wood – I will try it again …. Sometime…” Brave geezer!

    I checked my tasting notes again and saw that I had written “Struggled to drink this on its own; wine from a box would be more palatable; this wine has won awards – is that because all Cypriots smoke and therefore need something with a kick in it to discern any flavour at all? I wouldn’t even cook with it; perhaps it should be drunk with a rich dish or as an accompaniment to local sour pickles and strong-tasting tsakistes or Kalamata olives.” ….

    ………..EPIPHANY MOMENT……….

    I prepared myself a snack of strong tasting food: oak smoked salmon, Kalamata olives, some rice with chilli peppers and, lo and behold, the wine miraculously came into its own; I seemed to be drinking a completely different wine. My taste buds were able to discern the complex flavours – initially fruity on the palate and then with a more delicate but definite dry after taste – hats off to Vasilikon dry white wine 2010 – but don’t drink it on its own!

    I learned an important lesson about wine during this tasting ie things are not always what they seem, and this particular wine turned out to be more complex than I would have guessed on first smelling and tasting it. Furthermore, I sampled it again several hours later - after it had been allowed to “breath” somewhat and this time it was entirely palatable. And so I would recommend that if you buy this wine open the bottle say an hour before consumption – but what do I know? I’m no wine buff really!

    It retails at around six Euros.


  • Cyprus Adventure Part 22 - Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your hair - but make sure you're wearing some garlic . . .

    23rd October 2011

    From what I’ve been told, medical health care in Cyprus seems to be unpredictable to say the least. This week I accompanied a mature lady to hospital to have her “bloods” done; a friend of mine had a medical appointment on the same morning at a different hospital. My friend arrived at hospital at 7 am and finally departed several hours later; my charge and I arrived at “our” hospital at 9.30 am and were back home having a cup of tea by 11 am – both visits were routine.

    On arrival at “our” hospital my charge and I made our way fairly swiftly to the section where the bloods are taken (having by-passed the queues by virtue of a member of the hospital staff who was returning a favour – such is the way in Cyprus. Apparently under-the-table back-handers work wonders too). We were armed with a half-gallon urine sample, collected by my charge during the previous 48 hours and poured into in a gallon container – looking for all the world like a couple of alcoholics ready to take frequent swigs from our vat of Carlsberg lager or White Lightening! None of your namby-pamby, polite and discreet, nil-by-mouth early morning mid-stream samples here!

    Whenever I’ve hade to give a sample in the UK I’ve taken it to the doc’ in a 50ml container – usually under strict instruction as to the method of gathering such sample; so you can understand why I was aghast at the volume and method of collection requested of my charge. (I’ve since learned from a retired nurse that providing a 24 hour sample is not an unusual requirement for patients with certain conditions.) This was not the only shock of the morning…….

    …..the second came when it was may charge’s turn to have her blood taken. We walked into a room that was decorated with various kitsch ornaments including a number of icons, gilt-framed pictures some curious Disney characters and a bunch of scented flowers. We were greeted by a woman that I assumed was non-medical personnel for she was not wearing a white or blue or green or yellow coat, was heavily made up and wore tight black, bling-encrusted jeans. She also had on a turquoise, figure-hugging, low-neck t-shirt and bust-enhancing, lacy bolero (also turquoise) – oh…. and platform wedge shoes. She was very pleasant and had a lovely smile. I think her name could have been Rapunzel as her straw-blond hair (packed out with extensions) hung heavily over her shoulders and rested across her fore-arms, the desk-top and her hands - the finger-ends of which were adorned with artificial nails neatly painted in an array of fluorescent hues.

    This was our phlebotomist and this was her workspace. Her nimble fingers deftly parted her tresses and found their way to the hypodermic syringe. She skilfully extracted five files of blood from my charge and labelled them accordingly with the speed and efficiency of a car component manufacturer – all over and done in about 5 minutes tops. As we were leaving, I bent down to pick up my bag and noticed what appeared to be a clump of weave on the floor, next to a bloods file – empty thank goodness.

    Dracula would love it here – hmmmmm, maybe it’s not fruit bats that frequent THIS particular neighbourhood at sun-down.


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