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  • Cypriot Rose Part 54 - The Tango is a thief

    Im looking out across Buenos Aires from a 13th floor apartment on the morning of my final day in Argentina and I think that the tango is a thief and has stolen my heart. The city is waking up but the canine community is evidently still asleep - during my 28 day stay here there have been few moments that have not been accompanied by the cacophony of conversing dogs. I have spent my holiday dancing in sparkling new shoes in an array of romantic locations and in the arms of various portenos who have led me around the dance floor in shared bliss. Yesterday, as I embarked on my final visit to Don Julio's for steak and Malbec I wondered if my metatarcles and meniscus (what's left of them) would hold out for a final milonga at Confiteria Ideal - they are still in tact and my fears that tango fatigue had set in were unfounded.

    For those that don't already know, I am approaching the final "leg" of a prolonged visit to Argentina where I have danced the tango every day since arriving in Buenos Aires. Has it all been worth it? you ask... to which I will respond: Is the Pope Catholic? I can say in all honesty that I have experienced the elusive and subliminal tango "je ne sais quoi" many times over so yes, it has been worth it. The subliminal tango? Melting and moulding into the arms of a porteno who holds you in an invisible cocoon, interprets the complexities of the tango and mysteriously transmits the musicality through his embrace to make your legs respond and... dance! Of course it had not all been dancing... I have been splashed in the face by sea spray as a curious and majestic Southern Right whale played with her offspring in the Gulfo Nuevo at Peninsular Valdes in Patagonia, while the pregnant penguins spectated from their basking stronghold ashore.

    It has been an amazing and memorable holiday and I apologise to regular readers that I have not kept a blog about the trip but do not despair because my intrepid travel companion Bob Murray, aka Indiana, has maintained a comprehensive record. His most recent post is about dancing in Buenos Aires and his experience of manoevering the local ladies around the dancefloor. You can read it at www.treboryarrum.blogspot.com along with Bob's take on visits to museums and famous places as well as our venture into the wilds of Patagonia to see the whales and penguins.

    Adios y gracias Argentina.... Until next time.

  • 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 52 - A Trio of Unfortunate Events

    They say that bad things come in threes but what's it called when they arrive in multiples of three? I recently had "one of those" days. My stalwart laptop finally gave up the ghost, preventing me from working on an all-important job application (1.1). A very kind and dear friend offered me the use of her laptop and wireless internet and, as she had given me a spare key just a few days earlier, I'd decided to brave the ice, snow and frost and take the 30 minute walk to her place. In my enthusiasm to submit the application within the deadline I'd neglected to nip to the loo before embarking on my Forest Fields trudge and so, when I was only 15 minutes into my journey, nature tapped me on the shoulder - err, I think I mean prodded me in my bladder (1.2) I tried my usual trick of distraction to give my pelvic floor muscles a break and recited quietly under my breath a long poem I'd memorised several years ago: The Jackdaw of Rheims. It did the trick... until I reached the front gate. What is it about reaching your gate, or taking out your key, or closing the toilet door behind you that triggers your muscle memory into wanting the loo NOW? Is it just me? It happens even when I don't want the loo. So there I was, walking (nay hobbling) cross legged up the steps, fumbling in my bag for the key – breathe, pull in muscles, cross legs even tighter, wrestle with door handle, breathe, turn key, turn key, turn the key darn it, turn the key Rosanna. Oops.... Tena-Lady-moment imminent!

    Well, you’ll be relieved to know that I didn't pee myself but neither did I make it through the door as the key was worn (1.3). Retrieving a pot of Vaseline from my bag I plunged in the key, gave it a good greasing and then tried again but to no avail. Wiping away the remnants of grease from my friend’s front door I did a one-eighty and returned home, accompanied by an impressive rendition of The Jackdaw of Rheims. It takes about ten minutes to recite the poem so by the time I’d arrived at the end of my road I’d done three rounds, at which point the sound of sirens started ringing in my head. No, I had not been burgled for the eleventh time but nature and my muscle-memory were determinedly asserting their dominance… once again I fumbled in my bag for the keys and cursed myself for the thousandth time for not remembering to put them in the same zip pocket. Handbags with too many zip pockets should carry government health warnings; I can never find my keys, tissues, lipstick, biro, USB stick, penknife (penknife??) or anything else I may need – especially if I need it in a hurry. Phew! I'd made it through door number one of chez Fort Knox, two more locks on door number two and I was in and shuffling, penguin-style, to the alarm pad. I punched in the numbers donk donk donk donk, dashed upstairs yanking trousers down en route and finally plonked myself down on the loo seat. Hmm… did I say loo seat? Well modesty caused me to tell a porky – the toilet lid, unnoticed until somewhat too late, was down (2.1) and it occurred to me that the forecast for the rest of the day did not auger well as I was now into my second set of three.

    And so the day continued to spiral downwards as my radio died right in the middle of IPM and just as Eddie Mair, or some other celebrity, was about to read out my sentence of Listeners’ News (2.2). Ahh well, I'd thought, surely things can’t get any worse (how wrong I was). It was time to set to some home beauty treatments and nuke the wax in my microwave (those who have read my earlier post, Cyprus Adventure 11 – Bad Hair Days, will know that facial hair is the bane of my life). Face half-waxed I returned the pot to the microwave for re-melting to enable me to complete the job and, yes, you guessed it, the microwave died (2.3) and my heart sank :-( Never mind, I'd thought, that’s the end of the set of three and I threw some salt over my shoulder for good measure… only to realise that I’d thrown it over my right shoulder. Well, I’m not saying that I’m superstitious but when my bedroom light packed up as I was getting ready to go out (3.1), and I had to relocate to another room I was beginning to wonder if it was Friday the 13th and I'd tried to recall if I’d seen any magpies earlier in the day, or walked under any ladders or opened my brolly indoors.

    I’d allowed myself plenty of time to get ready so the slight set-back of the light failure was not too disconcerting … unlike the troublesome hair-tangling incident that was to ensue, resulting in me having to cut the hairbrush out of my hair with a pair of scissors (3,2). Eventually, with make-up applied and wearing very messy hair, I was ready to go and so called my taxi. “That’ll be £7.50” said the taxi driver on arrival at my destination. I could not pay him as I had mistakenly left my purse in my other handbag. And so that concluded the third set of three.

    The End I'd thought, until I'd realised that drinking banana milkshake on a day when I would be dancing in a close embrace was probably a very bad idea!

  • 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 50 – Goodbye Mum Part 2 – To the Soil You will Return

    “Hurry up, the priest is waiting”… distant urgent words, caught on the wind and wisped away like a willow, along with the pastel coloured flower petals that had adorned mum in her coffin. Mourners had gone ahead of us to the cemetery but we had been delayed outside the church by the familiar and unfamiliar faces of people, from the life of Nina, eager to pay their respects.

    Clutching my bag to my chest, I broke into a staccato of a totter over the mud and cobbles, being especially careful not to create another legacy of the day by gashing the heels of my new boots. People were huddled together on the narrow path, between rows of tombstones, finding familial comfort against the grey and damp sadness of the day and as I pushed my way through, a cold stab of rain-peppered wind caught in my chest and brought me up sharp at the sight of mum in her coffin, lid upended beside her (a Cypriot burial custom). An angry bed sheet slapped across her face and she looked cold, yellow, and a bit waxy and I wished (not for the first time) that I’d had the foresight to pop her teeth back in just after she’d died.

    This was unexpected. I knew they did things a little differently here but was unprepared for the shock of seeing mum lying there. The urge to scoop her up and warm her in the faux fur lining of my winter jacket was hard to contain.

    Before writing this I went to see how mum was getting along in her new home, with its hilly rooftop of barren red earth (*sans flowers which had apparently been filched by some poor soul down on her/his luck and reduced to robbing the dead). The mound of soil was punctured at one end by a wonky wooden cross with crooked writing on it and I assured my obsessive compulsive mother that this was a temporary measure, pending the installation in about a year, of a suitably regal headstone. As I sat there on my ankles chatting to mum we mused that this debt of nature is an odd phenomenon: our awareness of the surety of three score years and ten on this earth (or even longer) does not prevent us from continuing to shroud death in solemnity… and so, I thought, how could I possibly write a light-hearted post about my own mother’s funeral? Quite easily actually as the burial customs here are very different to those in the UK and there had, in fact, been several incidents during mum’s interment, that would not have been out of place in an episode of “In Loving Memory”.

    We stood there in the cold, encased on all sides by contenders for our attention: the priest, the grave and, of course, mother – recumbent, encased and exposed to the elements. I tried my best to focus on the priest but my eyes, if only to spite me, were drawn to the red clay soil that was banked up in steep mounds on each side of the beckoning oblong pit. How would the ushers manage to lower mum into the grave without slipping in themselves? If ever a thought tempted fate, that was surely it. The spirit of my mum shared my concerns as I pictured her hovering in the breeze by a nearby olive-laden tree.

    Pious concentration, strong wrists and experienced hairy hands wrestled with guide ropes and manoeuvred mum’s open coffin up and over the mounds of earth. It tilted precariously as the men jostled to keep their balance on the soft earth, while using their combined strength to lower mum “gently” into the grave. In all honesty I cannot say that the operation went smoothly as the coffin landed with a bit of a thud, (and I saw, in my mind’s eye, the spirit of mum shaking her fist and muttering Cypriot expletives). “From the soil you have come and to the soil you return” recited the priest as shovel loads of earth were chucked on to mum (another Cypriot custom) and I thought I heard the distant and impatient words… “Mind my jacket – that’s my best Marks and Spencer wool jacket!”

    I was just beginning to think they would bury mum without the coffin lid when the men lowered it into the grave and, needless to say, it landed upside down. After several failed attempts to flip it the right way round, by poking and pushing with the shovel, my cousin (regretfully clad in his Sunday best) climbed down into the grave and put the lid on the right way round. “Thank you” I said quietly... the priest exhaled a glance of relief.

    The coffin lid had a little glass window through which you could just about see mum’s slightly soiled face. A bystander then picked up a large pebble (about the size of a baseball) and, as is customary at burials here in Cyprus, pelted it down at the coffin with some force and smashed the window**. There were now chards of glass, a large stone and remnants of soil on mum’s face and I thought that, by now, mum would be thinking of revenge. Finally they shovelled in the rest of the soil while my siblings and I lined up at the cemetery gate where the departing mourners paid us their respects and then partook of the bread, wine, halloumi cheese and olives that we had provided, according to the custom.

    And so it was done and as we retired to St Anthony's for a glass of wine, a cup of coffee and a plateful of olive bread we felt mum's presence with us saying her final goodbyes.

    *The custom here in Cyprus is to keep the funeral flowers on the grave for 40 days after the burial.
    **I have yet to learn the significance of breaking the coffin glass. If anyone has any information about this custom please do let me know.

  • 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 46 - Think Ballerina, Not Boxer

    “This isn’t dancing, it’s standing up sex to music” was a friend’s observation about a video on my facebook page. I’d posted the link in response to a question “What is Kizomba?” It was a demo by renowned Kizomba dancer Iris De Brito with Harville McLeary. Someone else had commented “Rosanna get this off!” Perhaps the protest calls should have been “Get ‘em off” or maybe even “Get it on”. Anyhow I duly complied and removed the raunchy material. (Wonders… “Hmm, how many readers will search this one out and view it?”)

    It would seem that Kizomba is the latest Latin dance craze to hit the salsa scene in most of Europe - but only just beginning here in Cyprus where, according to a well travelled Cypriot friend of mine “Everything seems to happen several years later” (she reckons they are still doing the Running Man and Macarena here). Kizomba is an Angolan dance that’s fused with a hotch-potch of other styles. I probably should have said “hot pot” as it’s quite a sensual dance that’s executed in a close… ahem... very close embrace and once the Cypriots get a grip, it’ll spread through the island like a dose of… something or other. Trust me on this prediction as the sexier the dance the better for these hot-blooded Mediterraneans. No more namby-pamby demure, handkerchief-waving, leg-kicking for them – “oxi!”

    One of the things I love about dancing is its universality, which means you can converse though dance anywhere in the world - including Cyprus. In fact, if Latin dancing’s your thing then Cyprus is a “must” as a holiday destination. It’s so popular here that you’ll hear the music everywhere: piped Latin music in supermarkets, nuevo tango music backing up TV commercials and salsa and bachata tunes blasting out from car stereo systems. There is salsa, tango, zouk and bachata all over the island, with four annual congresses that I know of and just like Anthony Quinn in the movie Zorba the Greek, we Cypriots love to dance (btw did you know that Zorba the Greek was directed by a Cypriot – Michael Cacoyannis? I rest my case.)

    If you go to a salsa party in Cyprus you’ll be able to pick us locals out easily on the dance floor – we’re the ones decked out in spangly, figure-hugging, mini-mini night-club attire and executing flamboyant mega-spinning turn patterns – just don’t get too close if you value your toes. Yes, we like to look good but maybe we’re not as good as we think as an English-Cypriot friend of mine commented: “just a load of show-offs” and I wondered to myself if the lyrics for “I’m too sexy” (Right Said Fred) had been inspired by a Cyprus Latin dance event!

    Actually I say “we” Cypriots but the truth is that, as much as I love tango and salsa, I seldom go out dancing these days. I confess to being a bit of a lightweight compared to my hardcore Cypriot compatriots. What I mean to say is that nothing really gets going here until the witching hour. Well I guess it was Halloween this week but I’m talking all year round. I haven’t quite mastered Cyprus time and am generally ready for the zeds when others are venturing out to dance. Perhaps I am trapped in UK afternoon tea dance mode. Hmmmm, I wonder it that would take off here? Nah… it would clash with our post lunchtime naps!

    One reason for my reluctance to go out dancing in Cyprus is that I seem to have been relegated to spectator status (unless I man-up and invite a chap to dance with me… a total taboo for tango but quite ok for salsa). An unfortunate consequence of this is that my dancing has improved only a little and as I clump around the dance floor I am mindful of a friend of mine who was told by one man to “Think ballerina, not boxer!” Be warned ladies that the Latin dance scene in Cyprus can be quite chauvinistic and in a class a man will think nothing of criticising your dancing, or simply walking off and leaving you standing if he is unimpressed – heaven forbid he should be the one out of step!

    Last week one tango teacher told me that generally speaking the Cypriot men prefer to dance with young, nubile twenty-somethings and are not likely to ask a quinquaginarian for a dance unless he knows her (I guess that’s human nature, or could it be testosterone?). As it happens I did go out salsa dancing this week where, apart from one dance, I did all the asking and was undeterred when one not-so-young man hesitated, looked me up and down and said he was about to ask the “girl” standing next to me. I thought to myself “May the Lord rebuke you” and then dutifully manned-up and said with a beaming smile on my face “Are you afraid to dance with me? Perhaps you don’t like to dance with older women, or maybe you are a beginner and think I am too good for you to dance with.” He relented and we had a very nice dance. Afterwards he asked the “girl” for a dance and she tripped and stumbled through the whole track – hmmm perhaps I won’t involve God next time.

    Tango is more of a challenge for me as I can’t do the asking (it’s a tango tradition thing – the men do the asking). This can be unfortunate as the dances are done in sets of three (another tango tradition thing) which is great if you get invited to dance (unless he treads on your feet, has halitosis or an otherwise bad smell in which case you try and make a sharp exit) but utterly miserable if you are sat there all night waiting to be asked which is exactly what happened to me a few weeks ago.

    I’d gone along to a milonga (tango dance) and, mindful of the need to look my best, I’d fixed my hair, put on my face and perfume, changed and re-changed my dress (ooba short and red with killer heels) and went out at 11pm. I drove to the other side of town, spent ages finding a parking space and then paid my 12 Euros entrance. I found a seat with a group of very personable young women and then waited to be asked to dance… and waited… and waited. By 2am I had been invited to dance only twice while those around me (some non-dancers and some beginners) had been invited to dance ALL NIGHT LONG. One young woman had asked me “Why are you not dancing?” I was conscious that I was beginning to scowl and so made my exit, determined never to go to a milonga again.

    Is it time to retire gracefully from this dancing lark I wondered? I reckoned I could flick my leg in the air with the best of them so the next day I resolved to spend some time each week practising my tango walk at home – at least it doesn’t cost me 12 Euros and I can drink as many properly mixed margaritas as I like!

  • 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 44 - Angry Birds Visit Cyprus

    An unusual phenomenon occurred recently in Cyprus, namely the unexpected arrival of around 2-3 thousand white storks that popped in to catch some rays en route to even hotter climes. Alas fewer departed than had arrived, as several had smacked into the humongous antenna spying installations on the British bases at Akrotiri. I guess they were pretty angry birds - as indeed were many of the local peeps!

    As it happens, another angry bird popped into the island at around the same time, to catch some rays and then return to colder climes, namely Marina - my eldest daughter. This was bad news on three counts: alcohol, calories and patience (hers not mine). For seven days I struggled to stay sober as she plied me with various cocktails, wines and beers in an effort to quench the heat induced thirst: chilled sparkling Mateus Rose and Bellini on a Larnaca beach, Mexican beer with lime wedged into the neck of the bottle, Margaritas, Mojitos, Brandy Sours and of course icy-cold Cyprus KEO beer.

    … and then there was the food (and the inevitable weight gain – half a stone to be precise or 3 kilos in new money). “Could my daughter be a hamster?” I wondered, as she stuffed her jowls with chargrilled yiros, souvlakia and sheftalia all crammed into thick luscious Cypriot pitta bread. Of course I had to join in the feeding frenzies – it would’ve been rude not to.

    …and then there was the cheese; It’s a well known fact (to those of us who love her) that Marina has a passion for cheese (hmmm replace hamster with mouse?) and so, as any doting mother would, I’d stocked up on feta, halloumi, strong English cheddar and a particularly stinky Epoisses; the latter of which caused the inside of my fridge to smell of dead things. Unfortunately Marina didn’t manage to eat it all and the putrid left-overs remained for me to dispose of orally and risk an increased cholesterol count and possible heart failure…. rather than chuck it all in the bin (Oh I just realised where she gets it from).

    … and so to patience and I’m not talking cards here, I’m talking seriously angry bird. Here is a tip: feed them before you take them out! We’d gone to a local supermarket to buy provisions and something tasty for breakfast and as we wandered up and down the lanes, a doddery old man rammed Marina’s ankles with his trolley and then mysteriously skedaddled off… rather quickly. Marina metamorphosed instantly into an angry bird, flapping earnestly in her efforts to track him down and catapult herself at him. Needless to say I dragged her out of the shop quickly; talk about road rage! Hardly surprising I guess as I don’t imagine you expect someone to cut you up with a supermarket trolley…

    …Or perhaps you do because, come to think of it, Marina probably inherited (or learned) her angry bird behaviour from the Eagle that hatched her, as she was by my side many years ago when something very similar occurred. We were in a supermarket on “The Green” when someone rammed MY ankles hard with their trolley and then said “You were in my way you f*!@ing b*@!ch”. How did I react? Well, I responded in the manner of any self-respecting Forest Fields female and… flipped! This was a bad move, as the perpetrator was a heavily built somewhat rough-looking woman who probably could’ve floored a ten-count with her little pinky. Nevertheless I must have looked impressively terrifying, as she backed off at my tirade of expletives. Thank goodness she did, as somehow in my rage I’d gained phenomenal energy and I swear I would have smacked her had she not retreated. Imagine being sent down for a spell of bird for slapping someone down. I can just see the headlines in the Sunday Sport now: “Single mum gets 6 months for GBH and brawling in ASDA”.

    Marina was in awe of me and I scored several notches on the credibility continuum that day as she phoned friend after friend with her “Guess what? My mum’s just had a scrap in Hyson Green”. As for me I was not proud and soon after the incident I sought out and attended a course on anger management (I know I know, it sounds hilarious but it’s all totally true). I learned that the cause of my uncharacteristic outburst was probably prompted by a childhood experience of getting my foot caught in the rear-wheel spokes of a bike while taking a croggy (local slang term for a ride on the back of a two-wheeler while the rider pedals furiously). That’s MY excuse - what’s Marina’s I wonder? … answers on a postcard please.

    Postscript… By the way, a good psychotherapist friend of mine suggests I leave my girls a bundle of cash to pay for their therapy after I have gone!

  • 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 42 - Saint Skinny Day

    Cyprus Adventure Part 42 – Saint Skinny Day

    The good news is I’ve lost weight… the bad news? Well, most of the weight seems to have come off my face - not that my face was particularly fat, you understand. After all it is/was in proportion to the rest of my very slightly rotund body, but now when I glance in the mirror a gaunt strange-looking woman stares back at me. Her eyes are set back in deep hollows that have bluish smudgy bags under them. She looks a bit like an extra from the cast of Thriller – and there is superfluous flesh that has nowhere to go but downwards! Actually, some of the weight has come off my thighs, tummy and various curvy body parts, including my derriere - though that’s harder to be sure of as Mr Time has been harsh. My double D bras now accommodate triple A occupants alongside copious amounts of air. I have been contemplating chicken fillets but in 43 degrees heat and over 70% humidity they’d probably slither out at some inopportune moment. Ah well, at this rate, very soon I won’t have use for a bra.

    My amazing Pilates instructor, Natalia Pushkova (who is also an amazing dancer and teacher of salsa), informs me that I may have lost just a little weight but, more likely, my body has toned and sucked itself in. Natalia makes a slurping, sucking noise to illustrate the point. Hmmm, maybe Natalia but I couldn’t say with any degree of certainty that we have been doing Pilates for the face although, on reflection, the gruelling exercises do make me grimace somewhat. Actually face Pilates would be a marketable concept - imagine being able to tone up your jowls – or MINE to be more precise.

    There are disadvantages to losing weight, the main one being that most of my clothes no longer fit me. Today I am wearing a halter-neck dress that is baggy at the bust-line (what bust?) and hangs down at the back revealing my (floppy) bra-strap! There are advantages to losing weight, the main one being that my clothes no longer fit me. The outgrown designer dresses that I’ve been hoarding in boxes for years, in the vague/vain hope that one day they’ll come back into fashion and I will be able to make a killing by selling them in a car-boot sale or on EBay… now fit me. Well, at least I think they do; alas they are in boxes in England but with my yoyo existence, it won’t be too long before I get to try them on.

    I’ve been travelling back and forth between England and Cyprus for just over a year now and, like an over-ripe watermelon, anniversaries are beginning to repeat on me. I recently celebrated Ayia Marina day with my mum, whose name is Marina; I bought her scented flowers, cake and chocolate – the latter of which she somehow managed to smear all over her bedclothes… to the evident annoyance of some of the care home staff! In Cyprus, Santa Marina Day is on 17th July; let me explain…

    Cyprus is a very religious country and in the Christian communities pretty much every day of the year is marked by the feast of a saint or martyr. Towns, villages, people and even pet budgerigars are named after saints and it’s traditional to mark Saint Day anniversaries with festivities, religious piety and the giving of presents – to those lucky enough to be named after a saint. A saint name day means party party party… a bit like a birthday celebration with sweet, yummy, fatty-bad-for-you, honey-fat-ball goodies (like doughnuts but round and without a hole in the middle and generally soaked in honey, sugar and rosewater)… eat only one loukoumade and you will think that you have died and gone to heaven… eat more than one and you probably will! I bought a bag of loukmades recently from a street vendor in Nicosia; health conscious Baby O was with me at the time and when she tasted one, she spat it out instantly and ordered me to do the same. I stuffed as many as I could into my mouth and ate them hurriedly before she managed to wrestle the bag from me and toss it into the nearest bin.

    Anyhow, if you are lucky enough to be named after a saint then, for a whole day, people will greet you with good wishes for long life and prosperity; you will more than likely get a few cards and probably some gifts too. I was just about to write something amusing about my rotten luck at not being named after a saint when, in a moment of inspiration I decided to “Google” Saint Rosanna and, guess what? Rosanna Negusanti (1226-1310) was canonised on January 27, 1720, by Pope Clement XI - her feast day is celebrated on May 22 (mark it in your diary peeps) and she goes by the name of Saint Humility - not wishing to be irreverent, I must say “hilarious, if only my namesake knew!” “Humility: the quality or condition of being humble… modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.”

    Saint Humility was a nun who lived a very religious, reclusive, hermit-like existence for around 12 years before going on to found a couple of monasteries in Italy. And, the best part of the story EVER is that one of her disciples was a SAINT MARGHERITA woohoo… I knew it. Is this a licence or drink cocktails or what??? I am most definitely a Saint Rosanna and will be celebrating this, next May 22nd with Tequila, Triple Sec, lime juice and bucket loads of crushed ice in a salty-rimmed glass… Salute!

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 41 – Only a Fool Breaks the Two Second Rule…

    … alas, a piece of sound advice probably overlooked by at least three drivers recently.  The first was the driver of a smashed up 4-door saloon vehicle that was upside down in a ditch near Governors Beach - fortunately no blood to be seen; the second had been driving a van which I saw “parked” on top of a crushed bollard which, in turn, sat upon a concrete T-junction verge and the third… well who can say? But the remnants of the incident included shattered glass and bits of mangled motorbike… at the exact same spot where, previously, a car had “overtaken” me (or cut me up!) by driving the wrong way round a mini-roundabout in Nicosia.

    In spite of the above observations, I still feel that driving in Cyprus is a MUST as the scenery is stunning and diverse.  The island is about 140 miles long from end to end and around 60 miles across at its widest point.  Within its three and a half thousand or so square miles it has mountains, flat lands, lush as well as barren land, salt and freshwater lakes, dams, forests, sandy and rocky beaches and numerous sites of historical and archaeological interest – all reachable by road!!!!!  Everyone… absolutely everyone should come to Cyprus for a holiday but maybe adopt an element of caution if planning to drive here.

    On average I see around four accidents a month but in May I saw the three aforementioned incidents within a few days of each other.  The trick here is to drive safely and be alert (remember the two second rule), especially as last year one in thirty people that went to meet their maker, did so as a consequence of a road traffic accident.  Statistically I am more likely to be killed on the roads of Cyprus than drown in my bath or die in a train crash!  Hmmmm…. thinks…. must cut down on my baths, start taking more showers and make better use of public transport… or maybe just stop driving in Cyprus!  

    Apparently the three biggest road killers are drink driving, not wearing seatbelts and jumping the lights… no mention then of tailgating, speeding, pulling out of junctions without looking for oncoming traffic, or death caused by the fright of being honked at aggressively by hooter-happy drivers?  With regard to the latter, the Highway Code stipulates that the vehicle horn should be used to warn other road users of your presence and should NEVER BE USED AGGRESSIVELY – I guess the Highway Code might not have been translated into Greek!  My older brother once coached a guy who owns a car repair business in Egypt where, apparently, the most replaced car part in Cairo is the hooter/horn.  I wonder if it’s the same for Cyprus… though I imagine that brake pads must be a serious contender for most sold vehicle part here.

    You’ve probably already gathered that Cypriots are not shy when it comes to using their car horns; you only have to wind down your window to hear what sounds like a serious battle for first prize in Car Park Catch Phrase.  The challenge for me personally is not to respond aggressively when I’m confronted with the happy hooter brigade…. Like the driver I witnessed yesterday hooting furiously because someone was trying to park and, for a nanosecond, prevented access to the road; or the driver that hooted me because I was stationary at red lights; or the driver that blasted on her horn because I indicated and moved over into a feeder lane (for the life of me I have no idea what the last two were about).  Actually, use of indicators here is mesmerizing… the code seems to be “maneuver then signal (incorrectly or not at all) and, of course, totally ignore looking in the mirror”.  I’ve lost count of the number of times a parked car has indicated (on the nearside) and then pulled out in front of me just as I’m driving past.  I find it helps to keep a ready supply of tranquilizers in the glove compartment, plenty of hair dye in the bathroom cabinet and a note on my dashboard reminding me that…. only a fool breaks the two second rule!

    And so, dark hair colour restored and mood sufficiently calmed, I’ll finish by recounting an incident that happened earlier in the year where a woman (Penelope Pitstop?) was spotted driving the wrong way along one of the highways (for around 12 kilometers).  The Whacky Races incident caused numerous drivers to dodge out of “Penelope’s” way and I heard that until now the police have not managed to find her.  Comments on the news website where I read the article site included:-

    • the criminal mastermind simply vanished into thin air! There were no fingerprints, no DNA, no mobile phone footage – nothing for the police to go on.  We just have to wait in fear for her to strike again – the masked wrong-way highwayman
    • the police were probably all in the coffee shop!
    • She was driving on the correct side of the road – end colonialism in Cyprus!

    Beeeeeeeeeeep!

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 40 - Hot in Greece? Hot in Cyprus!

    My face is leaking - or is it melting? I’m imagining the scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark… you know, the bit where the Nazi opens the ark of the ten commandments and the beautiful seraphims fly out and then turn into demonic spectres; his face melts, his eyeballs fall out then his head dissolves in a river of blood and bones. Perhaps I’m being a little overdramatic but TODAY IT WAS HOT. Yesterday, the temperature in Nicosia was around 38 degrees; today it was more like 40. It’s been pretty hot in Greece too but for altogether different reasons and while it’s been chucking it down in England (last week I had my heating on in Nottingham and there was even talk of a summer fuel allowance) I am melting, melting. I open my windows and doors for a lovely Nicosia breeze and the only winds that greet me are siroccos – well at least my washing dries quickly in this hot air zone.

    I live on the top floor of a concrete constructed apartment block and when the sun batters it for 12 plus hours a day, the air inside becomes heavy and hot – not unlike a sauna. What do we know about warm air? Yes, that’s right, it rises and as I walk up the stairs to my floor I can feel the temperature increasing, floor by floor, until I get to the oven that is my Cypriot home. This afternoon I decided to take a cold bath to cool down; alas the “cold” water was hot and so I took a hot “cold” bath. Also, I’ve been bitten. Yes, the critters are back and I have the evidence on my face, torso, digits and limbs to prove it. I’ve been bitten on the sole of my foot – have you ever tried scratching the sole of your foot? Give it a try and experience first hand the torture I endure. I even have a “pimple” the size of a pea on my bum – which means I cannot wear any thin clothing without sharing with the world my embarrassment (oops – I guess I just did that).

    The heat has brought out the ants too. I think I have discovered a new species that I will name Garra Rufa-ants and perhaps open up an ant manicure salon. I say this because a large black crusty-shelled specimen was munching away at my toes the other night. I felt a nip nip nipping and thought it was just an itch until I discovered with absolute horror the reality of being eaten alive. Somehow I don’t think ant manicure has the same ring to it as fish manicure.

    The last couple of days have brought with them humidity to accompany the heat… a climatic condition usually reserved for the coastal regions and one which plays havoc with the not-so-crowning-glory of a straight haired person living in the body of one with curly hair (namely moi). My normally sleek and straight hair now resembles that of a person who has spent the last month or two sleeping in the wild and not washing. I am in awe of the groomed Cypriot women I see passing by in their perfectly clean cars wearing their perfect sunglasses and sporting perfect hairdo’s and perfect lip gloss - looking oh so oobacool. I have let the side down terribly with my unruly, sweaty, curly mop.

    The heat has been keeping me awake; I’ve tried counting sheep but couldn’t manage to separate them from kleftico (slow-roasted in a clay oven) and so, as I fall into bed shortly I will recall the words of one of my favourite poets, Emily Dickinson:

    ……It was not frost, for on my flesh I felt siroccos crawl, Nor fire, for just my marble feet could keep a chancel cool…..

    Fat chance!

  • Cyprus Adventure Part 39 - Michael Anthony Frangou, aka Uncle Jelas

    My mobile rang early on Saturday morning – it was my Uncle Francis in Tasmania. I was surprised to get the call as we had spoken just a few days previously… as is sometimes the way with unexpected calls, the conversation brought sad news. My dear Uncle Michael (his brother) had died in the night… and so this posting is dedicated to my mum’s brother, my Uncle Michael, who died in the early hours of Saturday, 12th May 2012, aged 83 (just a bit younger than my mum).

    Actually I’ve been meaning to write about my uncle for some time now and he and I discussed this briefly at the end of last year, but as he was about to go for more treatment (he’d been unwell for some time) he suggested we have the “interview” after his return from hospital… when he’d be feeling better. Sadly that time was not to transpire and I am therefore left to my own devices and memories. This grieves me much, as I was looking forward to recalling memories with him before writing them into my laptop. I know that the stories would have brought a proud smile or a mischievous smile or an intelligent smile, to his face.

    I recall with fondness that when I was a child living in Greenwood Road, Nottingham (with my younger brother and my mum), my uncle would come and see us about twice a year and we absolutely delighted in his visits. He’d bring with him Cypriot cheeses, meats and olives and sometimes perfume and chocolates too and he was always slipping us kids the odd ten bob note – or sometimes even a pound or, if we were really lucky, a fiver! He’d take us shopping in Nottingham and would generally buy up Victoria Market – he loved it, and so did we… and so did the market traders! Whenever he came to visit, the fridge would be filled with the best fish, best meat and best fruit and veg. My uncle was so very generous and I remember also that years later, when I used to visit my mum in Cyprus he’d sometimes come to see me, often just before my departure, and laden me down with Cyprus foods to take back to England. I learned recently, from cousins, that this special treatment was not reserved for us alone. Special treatment? Michael Anthony Frangou was a man gifted with the ability of making everyone feel special.

    However, my uncle’s generosity is not what I remember most about him. Uncle Michael was a handsome man and a dapper dresser who always wore a confident, warm smile. I’m not sure that I ever saw him wearing anything other than a suit, with crisp shirt, expensive tie and very expensive leather shoes – regardless of the Cypriot sunshine. I recall that, even as a child, I thought that he smelled good… expensive aftershave too! He was immaculate and his lustrous, thick hair was always cut to perfection. Uncle’s sharp and snappy appearance lent weight to his presence – for presence he certainly had. There was an air of mystique and power about him – the familiar old phrase “je ne sais quoi” could have been coined with Michael Anthony Frangou in mind.

    Uncle Michael (or Jelas as he was known to his close acquaintances) was one of six children born to my grandparents, in the lovely village of Ayia Marina. In those days the villagers were poor – certainly by our modern day standards - and they generally eked out a tough existence mainly from the land. Surviving those early days of hardship doubtless contributed to uncle’s commitment to provide for his family and his community (he constantly took time out of his very busy schedule to preside over family weddings and baptisms). He used to tell a story of being a young boy (perhaps around 7 years old): my grandfather ruled the household with a rod of iron and one day he sent the young Michael to the bakery to collect bread for the family. Uncle’s tummy growled with hunger and, small child that he was, he could not resist the delicious aroma of the freshly baked loaf and broke off and ate a small piece (I guess that’s something we’ve all done when buying fresh bread). My grandfather chastised him severely, reminding him that there were 8 mouths to feed! Uncle ran off crying and shouting “I’ll show you all… one day I will be a rich man… you’ll see”. His prophesy came true but not without a good deal of hard work, determination, risk taking and significant brain power!

    Yesterday I attended my uncle’s funeral; the crowd of people who came to pay their respects was overwhelming and the Maronite church in Nicosia was bursting at the seams. Clearly he was a highly respected, much loved and much admired person who leaves behind a vast chasm where he once was. During the service, a number of people spoke about him and the resounding message was that Michael Anthony Frangou was a good man with a big heart and a generous spirit… and the best friend anyone could hope to have. He was passionate about his community and contributed financially and personally to various Maronite causes – the renovation of the Prophet Elias Monastery in particular was a cause that he held dear.

    Uncle Michael spent most of his working life in the police force here in Cyprus and I think that by the time he retired he held quite a senior position. According to one source though his big heart would sometimes interfere with his ability to carry out his police duties as he would sometimes prefer to let people off minor offences rather than charge them! When he retired from the force he ploughed his energy into his personal business ventures which took a severe knock when he sustained serious losses because of the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus. But “you can’t keep a good man down” and while Cyprus was in the grip of war, my uncle was out and about buying up property on nothing more than a promise and before too long his business empire was rekindled and emerged like a phoenix from the ashes. A few years ago I asked him to share with me the secret of his success and he told me that when you have survived difficult times (he was talking about his childhood days) you are prepared to take risks – you know that you are a survivor; that “a little honey goes a long way” – he explained that he had learned the importance of cultivating friendships, of paying sincere compliments and of making people feel good about themselves; and that when concluding business, always leave the door of opportunity slightly ajar.

    At the post-burial reception I asked one of my cousins to summarise for me the man that uncle Michael was. He replied that uncle was a great family man and a provider; that he always helped anyone who came to him with a problem and that he was hospitable and generous. He went on to say that uncle was intelligent and inquisitive and possessed an intuitive insight in terms of business and politics; he was a glass-half-full man with a positive approach and a great sense of humour. Michael Frangou was totally dedicated to his community – almost to the extreme and apparently, in spite of his early skirmishes with his father, he would often take the old man out for a night on the town together, drinking and dancing and generally making merry.

    Rest in Peace Uncle Michael – I am sure that Cyprus misses you already and will never forget you.

  • 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 37 - Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked in a... Cabbage Pie?

    “For some reason the bus had stopped short of her house today and so, hungry as she was, she found herself traipsing down the very steep hill that was (still is) Douglas Avenue. She could see the cosy house nestled in the elbow of the two roads as it bobbed up and down in tandem with her step. In spite of her impractical (yet incredibly stylish) stilettos, the expectation of her mother’s culinary delights caused her step to quicken. She was still some way off and the ambiance of her mother’s cooking was already threading its way through the summer sounds and smells of Greenwood Road - drawing her closer to home with the tug of some invisible umbilical cord. She was nearer now and the fierce aroma of cracked coriander seeds, seared pork and wine vinegar tormented her appetite, making her stomach grumble with delighted anticipation.”

    On that particular occasion sometime during the late 1970s mum was cooking Aphelia and pilafe (cracked wheat cooked a bit like you’d cook rice) – it could just as easily have been moussaka, or vazania (aubergines cooked with garlic, onions and tomatoes), or bamyias (okra with onions and tomatoes) or dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) or..., or ..., or … I think you get my drift.

    For those of you who believe your mum to be the best cook in the world, you should know that my mum was a previous holder of that particular accolade; my daughter Marina is a serious future contender. Some years ago, a Cypriot visitor to my daughter’s home remarked that she prepared a remarkable “Kormakiti table”, so I guess the skill passes down the line. Let me explain… After my parents got married they lived in Kormakiti (the village of my father’s birth and the subject of an earlier post – see part 21). It’s a well known “fact” that the best Cypriot cooks come from Kormakiti – unless, of course, they happen to come from Agia Marina (my mum’s village, also the subject of earlier postings – see parts 6 and 16).

    Food is probably THE most important part of Cypriot culture (along with family and religion and football and money and hunting – in no particular order of preference) and my fondest memories are mostly related to family gatherings around a splendid Kormakiti or Agia Marina table. However, as a child being raised in the UK in the 50s and 60s (when the English thought that spaghetti came in tins with sugary tomato sauce and that garlic was purely used for warding off Dracula) Greek food at home was sometimes the cause of acute childhood embarrassment. Friends that came to my yard to play would be terrified to discover dead animals on the kitchen slab; sometimes rabbits or chickens or worse still, blackbirds. I am loathed to admit this but my dad never really lost his “hunting” passion and perhaps the less said about this the better other than to add that any curtain twitching in our house was usually my dad with his air pistol aimed towards the apple trees in our garden! I must add that it WAS a very long time ago, and I’d like to think that if he were alive today he’d probably be just as mortified.

    Eventually my mum did learn to do the Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney Pie thing… served absolutely only when English friends came to Tea. It was usually accompanied with mashed potatoes and her piece de resistance…steamed cabbage – which was a sight to behold; presented like an upside down pudding, having been drained of the water, compressed into a bowl and then upturned on to a plate and sectioned like a pie – terrific!

  • 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!

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