Springtime in Cyprus

It has been an exceptionally wet winter here in Cyprus this year from December up till the beginning of March we have had some extremely noisy  thunderstorms and heavy rain which has filled the dams to overflowing; a novelty here where water shortages are the norm. It is always a subject under discussion in winter as to how full or not the dams are depending on rainfall, last year some dams barely reached 50%  others much less than that by the end of the winter. Flooding has been a problem in some towns and villages and the fields around Paphos were water-logged ruining some crops. Looking from the shoreline at the sea, brown patches were visible where the run-off from the fields had flowed into the sea via watercourses giving the fish some extra nutrients.In some areas heavy hail has damaged delicate fruit trees.


The positive side to this is that now in early March we have the huge pleasure of seeing this beautiful island of ours covered in green where green is rarely seen. Where in summer the ground is parched and dusty and the hills and mountainsides looking like a barren moonscapes all is now verdant and lush.The trees have received a good soaking right down to their root tips giving them a good start into the run up to  a scorching summer.



a field of wild anemones on the Akamas

Wild flowers are in profusion, wild anemones and rare orchids, birds and wild life can only thrive in such circumstances.The sheep and goats are certainly enjoying a feast and we in turn will benefit when we buy our locally produced halloumi and yoghurt.

Yesterday I took a short trip to one of my favourite spots near Droushia, the ruined monastery of Ayios Nikoxilitis. Here the grove of almond blossom is just about to burst into flower and a variety of  broom is in its full yellow flowered glory lending a delicate scent to the air. The scene was sublimely peaceful.




I’m not sure who the chair is for~?


Present Past Times



It has been a long gap since my last post, the longest I think, since I started this blog.Since my return from my  long stay in Cyprus I have spent much time lately in reflection. Being back after six months, I realised how much I loved my home and the area in which I live. Strange that while I was away I gave it hardly any thought and didn’t really miss it? A puzzle I can’t quite explain- except that  it is best to focus all your awareness on the present moment and not regret or anticipate too much of past or future, this way the present is more fully experienced and appreciated. While away I was contemplating how it would be to live permanently in Cyprus, an idea I had always eschewed. So much has changed there recently, the thing that most appeals is that the artistic,cultural side of Cyprus is blossoming at a rapid rate which I find very exciting. I came back to the UK and committed myself to the idea by telling all my friends that I would certainly like to try living there for a trial period of two years at least and see how I felt after that. As the days have passed and I have settled back into my UK life, visiting friends and family, I am thinking more about the reality of giving up my life here. I have lived in my present house for 25 years, that is a long time, the house and garden bear testament to the energy and commitment I have given to it. But maybe now is the time to make a change onto the next chapter of my life. I am working my way through all the permutations of possibilities and   perception of my glass veers from half empty to half full on a daily basis.

I have set the wheels in motion towards some change as I have been sifting and sorting and clearing my way through,cupboards, garage, shed and loft.Trips to the tip, charity shops and much time spent on eBay with the rest have been a pattern over the past few weeks. Naturally during this process I have re-visited my past through the  papers and things I have been sorting, with memories particularly of the many years I worked in my workshop wielding paintbrush and paint, coming to the fore. I have still many brushes and minor tools and materials of my trade which  still occasionally come in handy for the odd job here and there. But also there are many things I have acquired over the years which still have use in them and need careful thought as how to dispose of them.It all takes a lot of time but I am in no hurry.

My reflections have also been dwelling on this blog as I feel it has come to a point where maybe I have written most of what I want to say about Cyprus at present. The blog was initially a way of advertising the book of the same name and to present a varied selection of information on maybe some obscure subjects connected with Cyprus. The information of course remains here but I may move over to my sister blog to continue musing.  It was started at the same time but I haven’t contributed anything to it.Its title, Present Past Times is very apt to my state of mind at the moment and it only seems fitting that I use it now to ponder things past present and future. So please check it out in a few weeks if you want to follow my progress and thank you for following me so far, if you have been.presentpasttimes.wordpress.com/

Riding into the Sunset

riding into the sunset

Photo courtesy of Ride in Cyprus

As I sit here writing this in Tangmere Sussex it is a grey and rainy day outside with occasional thunder and lightning but thankfully it isn’t cold. This is summer 2015 in the UK, changeable and with unusually low temperatures whereas the summer in Cyprus I hear has had unusual rain in July?

The week before I returned to the UK I paid a visit along with my friend Elena, to see Caroline Penman in Lysos. Unlike today in Sussex, It was a blistering day but thankfully Lysos is fairly high up a hill on the edge of the Paphos forest and is marginally cooler than on the coastal plain. I had met Caroline originally at one of Elena’s famous supper club events and then subsequently on several occasions during my stay in Cyprus I kept bumping into her at various locations and events. Caroline owns and runs Ride in Cyprus where she offers a riding experience in the exceptionally beautiful surroundings around Lysos. This experience can be just a one hour trek or a full-blown 7 day experience or even used as a team building exercise for small group bookings. This time of year she also offers a brandy sour sundowner saunter which sounds idyllic as the sunsets can be spectacular. Ride in Cyprus is now in its eighth year and is ever evolving, voted no 1 in Cyprus on Trip advisor for 3 years is certainly an achievement and something to be proud of.

My visit was arranged by Elena so I could hear Caroline’s story, as with all the people I meet who have chosen Cyprus as their home after many years out in the world, there is always a story and I love hearing them. Many British people come to settle in Cyprus after having their first acquaintance with the island through serving with the British Forces when stationed there and this is how Caroline first arrived, stationed at Dhekelia where her husband was Garrison Commander in 2002-2005.

As we sat there with a gentle cooling breeze flowing over us in her living room, the story unfolded. As with many stories it included a lot of extraneous information and veered off course here and there, that’s what makes it all the more interesting.  The core essence though, it seemed to me, was that the riding stables happened almost casually you might say out of a challenge laid down by the Commander Med. who was a neighbour at that time, also a keen rider. He knew the area around the Venetian Bridges well and with a keen desire to ride there, sent Caroline a grid reference of the area to work out a route and organise a trek. At that time the Venetian bridges weren’t  widely advertised or sought out as an attraction and not many people were aware of them. Caroline’s task was not just to trace a route between the bridges but organise the horses and transportation as well as accommodation en route and to top it all some of the group would only be doing a few days and would need to have transportation to take them back to base. Caroline stepped up to the mark and carried it off triumphantly.The trek involved 8 horses and 22 riders spanning a period of six days, This request involved a year of research and preparation. In Caroline’s own words – “We started at the CBF’s house (Commander British Forces) in Troodos and rode through Foini to Tries Elies bridge then up the prettiest valley to Milikouri below Kykkos where we stayed in the old school house with the horses in the yard.  Then we rode through the forest to Kelefos Bridge, Pera Vasa and on to Vretsia and Roudios Bridge – a day ride around the almond blossomed valleys and ancient water mills and back through the forest to Troodos!” That sounds like quite a once in a lifetime experience for all those participating.

Often it seems to me, our lives are changed forever by what seems at the time, as an incidental occurrence or  a pleasant distraction which later turns into the ground work for a new way of life. So it was with Caroline. So began the search for a permanent base to set up stables and start the business which has become  very successful over its eight years, Ride in Cyprus.

Caroline took us to see the stables and the beautiful horses looking very sleek and healthy, one a magnificent shire horse of 18 hands.  My Mum had a particular liking for shire horses when she was alive and her Uncle used to breed them in the Retford area. Recently Caroline has added an extra attraction as she has bought two fabulous yurts. These are set up in fields nearby surrounded by olive and carob trees and offer all sorts of opportunities for future events and happenings. One beautifully decorated yurt is kitted out as a bridal suite and in connection with the nearby Paradisos Hills hotel  can cater for the bride and groom’s wedding night after the main event at the hotel. The couple will ride on horseback down the short way from the hotel to the yurt, their way lined with candles and torches, doesn’t that sound fabulously romantic? The yurt looks very cosy and luxurious and will come with its own toilet facilities. The second yurt can offer a space for yoga sessions or story-telling, another great idea is to build a fire pit outside and this would be a fantastic setting for story telling under the stars, I’d certainly be up for that. Many years ago I attended a storytelling evening under the stars in a very ancient Yew forest near where I live. It was magical, sitting around the fire listening to the tales, families came and the children were sitting up in the low branches of the trees,The image of these immense contorted shapes of the yew trees silhouetted against the sky with children sitting amongst the branches was unforgettable.Caroline’s dream is to eventually set the area up as a retreat and what an ideal place to have one, hence the logo ‘Healthy in Tents’. This week Ride in Cyprus has been host to some of the volunteers from the World Wide Village Project https://www.facebook.com/worldwidevillageproject/ who have been helping to lay down the paths around the tents so it may not be that long before the dream will be a reality.

I would be very tempted to even have a go at the sundowner ride but unlike Caroline, who is a rider of many years experience, my few experiences of pony trekking in the past always found me flat on my backside. I seem to have an uncanny knack of falling off things, bikes both pedal and motor, ladders and horses. I was thrown several times from a horse on Exmoor. On our first evening the owner of the stables thought as  I was the only one who had been on a horse before ,I could handle a rather nervous and frisky horse!!! She shied at mounting a very shallow verge and threw me unceremoniously on the tarmac leaving me bent double the next day. But I persevered and went out every day. One day there were just four of us on a trek across the moor led by our guide, when the same  horse promptly threw the experienced rider leader who managed to get concussion and  couldn’t remember where we were. Luckily another member of the party was also experienced and remembered how to get back. As we approached a lovely open bit the horses took off at a gallop and bang down I went again. Who knows though with a few handy hints and a docile horse I could manage an hour surely!

Amendments have been made to the original text. 15.8.2015.

Camera Lights Action


I have been back in the UK now for a week after my long stay in Cyprus, February until Late July, it has been a bit of a shock climate wise as the temperature is virtually half it was in Cyprus when I left and it feels like Autumn if not quite Winter. At 39 degrees centigrade in Cyprus when I left it was uncomfortable for me but now back in the UK I feel like getting my boots and scarf out and turning the heating on at 17 degrees…in July? and it’s raining!

There has been a fairly long gap between posts here as I did not have the time to write the last few weeks before I left and since I have been back my priority was catching up. I now have a bit of a backlog of topics to blog about but that is good as it will keep me from focusing on the weather hopefully.

Before I left I was invited to the theatre, I am a theatre fan and in the UK live near the Chichester Festival Theatre, in fact when I returned I was invited to accompany some friends to see Mack and Mabel there which made a very nice homecoming. The theatre excursion in Cyprus was very different as firstly it was outside and secondly the play was performed in an ancient amphitheater The Odeon at Paphos, and no it’s nothing like the one on the High Street. The only similarity to Chichester Festival Theatre is the seating design as  it too has an apron stage with seating rising on five sides. Arriving in Paphos, the backdrop was pretty spectacular as the sky was alight with a glorious sunset of purples and pinks with the silhouette of the lighthouse in front. We crossed the open  stage covered in loo paper and with a toilet placed centrally on the stage, to reach our seats which were the stone steps,I had duly taken a cushion.

Every year for the past eighteen years in July the Festival of Ancient Greek Drama takes place and performances are given at three venues Curium, The Odeon and a new amphitheatre in Lefkosia, The Skali, We went to see a play called Peace by Aristophanes and performed by the  Cypriot company Yiolanta Christodoulou Theatre Group. Presented in contemporary dress with subtitles displayed on a screen above the stage, this play is a comedy that had much that was visually funny even if you couldn’t follow the fast dialogue. In true theatrical tradition some male parts were played by women and the female parts by men .Lea Maleni ,who played the lead role of Trygaeus was superb, conveying with her body language the portrait of a man even though she was a small framed woman. She very much resembled Charlie Chaplin with a small moustache attached to her upper lip. Many years ago I remember seeing Macbeth performed by an English company at Curium, a fantastic experience as the setting is so atmospheric. If you get the chance do try and see at least one production as even today these ancient plays resonate with present day situations.

In a different setting but with the same gorgeous sunset as backdrop, I visited The Anassa hotel at Latchi on my last evening in Cyprus. There was much controversy when the hotel was first built as the owners managed to get permission to build on the precious Akamas, the wilderness that is supposed to be protected from development. I went with a friend to enjoy the music of a young Greek pianist  Vaya Nassi who accompanies a Greek singer Anthi. The setting was truly spectacular as the sun set lazily behind the hills in Polis bay, the sky turning from the soft mauve and peach to a fiery red as it sank into the sea, We also had the privilege of watching a sliver of moon aligned with Venus and Jupiter as that too sank behind the hills. We lounged on the sofas and chairs on the terrace enjoying our cocktails and the great musical accompaniment to the show that nature provided.

New for Old

Another busy week it seems has passed and now I find myself looking ahead as the time is getting closer when I will have to leave this lovely island. I am trying to fit in a trip to Larnaca area and join up all the other little trips I need to do before I go. So I will probably be on a round road trip stopping at Kalavassos for a few nights then on to Nicosia for a final visit with relatives and then coming across to visit Androula in Treis Elies for a few days before returning back to Polis for my final week. It doesn’t seem possible that the time has gone so quickly.

On Sunday my cousin Androula celebrated her 60th birthday by organising a wonderful get together at Platania picnic site in the Troodos forest. It is fairly close to Nicosia taking about 45 minutes to drive. For us coming from Polis it was a longer journey of two hours. I went with my cousin Nicos and some friends followed us. We all took something to eat and drink and Androula organised the meat for the souvlakia. At these designated picnic areas there are tables and an area for cooking the souvlakia which of course is the men’s domain. Nicos took a big crate of his home grown cucumbers and a basket of lemons from his tree as well as kieftedhes,-little pork rissoles. Cherries were brought from Treis Elies as now is the season. A huge water melon also in season of course was another essential for any summer party, was supplied my cousin Michael. Koupebia were brought and another friend brought a huge dish of Pastichia the Cypriot version of Lasagna. This is my favourite and sadly as I was so busy talking and taking photos, I missed out on this. Cakes and puddings of various descriptions were brought and the tables were positively laden with delicious food of all descriptions. family and friends were all invited and we all had a very enjoyable couple of hours in true Cypriot tradition. Bravo Androula!!

On Wednesday I had a different day out with a friend who wanted to revisit some old haunts of hers in the Ayia Marina area close to Polis. If you take the road out of Polis travelling towards Pomos the road runs along the coastline and eventually you will hit Pyrgos  where the Turkish occupied area checkpoint is . Here the shore is very rocky with only a few areas where you can find a spot to lay on the beach or swim. In the past there were mines along here for copper. On the land side the Paphos forest rises up the mountain so it is avery dramatic coastline in parts. It is also an area of agriculture and is dotted with farms and orchards. Pomos has a lovely small harbour where the fishing boats are safely gathered in, right on the promontory of this spot is situated, of course, a large restaurant that specialises in fish where we had a delicious leisurely lunch. What a vista to eat lunch by.

After lunch on our way back we saw a sign to a village called Nea Dimata where we decided to explore and came across avery curious arrangement of brick built houses. In Cyprus you very rarely see houses built of brick, they are usually stone or nowadays many are made with concrete, unless you travel to Troodos particularly around the Platres area you may see some. These are usually left over from colonial times when the British were on the island and I guessed that the houses in Nea Dimmata must have been built by the British as even the style of house looked different and they all had chimneys which is another feature you don’t often see on houses here. Indeed bricks are not readily available here and these bricks look like they were hand made as they were smaller than usual and a bit irregular. The houses have  suffered quite a lot with water damage on ground level probably as they didn’t have any damp proofing or air bricks. A few we noticed had been built with a stone foundation layer and these had air bricks, so maybe a later version. Even a brand new house had been built with bricks so as to blend in we assumed. The roof tiles were even unusual as they looked like a flower pot cut in half. After a bit of research I found that indeed this whole village was built by the British when the villagers were moved out of their original houses in the old village, I’m not quite sure why they were moved but I may find out later. There is always something unusual to look at around the corner. This whole area has so much to explore and if you are a keen walker there are many lovely trails.

Tonight I’m off to a falafel fest as today is International falafel day.

The priest at Inia

Words and Pictures

It seems like ages ago but it was only last Friday 29th May that I gave my talk at Droushia Heights hotel about the making and publishing of Androula’s Kitchen – Cyprus on a Plate.. To say I was nervous would be an understatement but in fact I was very happy with the presentation once it was over and felt a great relief that it was no longer hanging over me. Like all these things it may seem very simple, the talk only lasted 45 minutes but it took several hours of preparation. There were 475 photos being played on the screen as I delivered my five and half thousand word talk, thereabouts. Another experience under my belt.

We had another holiday here in Cyprus this last weekend as well, it was Kataklysmos. Now this has several  connections. Like many religious festivals it is tacked onto an existing celebration that dates way back in the mists of time. In the Orthodox calendar it marks 50 days after Easter as well as marking the time of the Great Food in the Bible. So this day is celebrated by all things water related; going to the beach and possibly taking your picnic,swimming or generally playing games with water and this includes for children of course, water pistols. But this festival also relates way back to the celebration of Venus who it was said rose from the foam at Petra Tou Romiou near Limassol, the worship of Aphrodite on Cyprus was  a major cult and was an important centre with many large temples dedicated to her. Whatever the origins everyone embraces the holiday and it certainly was a very busy time around the area where I am staying which is close to the sea and saw a large influx of families and  people taking advantage of the long weekend. I myself enjoyed a very relaxing time with family and of course this involved a lot of eating as with all holidays here but definitely no water pistols!!!

This week I am doing an intensive photography course with Andrea Christofi a professional photographer who lives close by. We are covering all the basics of photography taking me back to the days when I used an analogue camera, we are learning how to get the most out of our digital cameras using many of the same techniques plus the advantages of a digital camera. The digital camera makes it very easy to be lazy and just use the auto setting which generally produces a good photo but you can get so much more out of your camera if you take a bit of trouble to use the many other options available which can help you produce more interesting photos as well as getting some more fun out of photography. Andrea also has a regular photography session with a small group of people every Wednesday when they venture out and about taking photos with a specific theme and then later looking at the pictures they have taken and discussing them. This Wednesday we went to an abandoned village nearby called Theletra. This has some lovely old houses now sadly in ruins except for one or two that have recently been renovated and lived in. The village was abandoned after an earthquake when there was a lot of movement of the surrounding rock face creating a very unstable environment. The residents moved up to the top of the hill where there is now a relatively modern village although the church in the old part has now been restored and is in use. Some of the houses still contain clothing and the whole place has quite an eerie feel to it with some great photo opportunities. I can’t wait to go back though and use some of my new learned techniques and compare the photos.

Last week we went down to the beach and played around with using a large aperture and slow shutter speed to get some interesting effects when shaking the camera about. I am now finding out the limitations of my ‘bridge’ camera compared to a proper SLR. The other participants all have much more sophisticated and in there read ‘expensive’ equipment, with extra lenses, tripods and so on so were able to get some extraordinary results that were works of art in themselves. They also were able to produce a double exposure effect which is taking two different photos on one picture so that one image is superimposed onto another, which I didn’t think was possible with digital cameras. In the days of manual or analogue cameras this was all too possible and could cause some interesting results – usually by accident.Tomorrow is our last morning and we are putting it all into practice and playing about with composition which should be fun.

Birds and Banter

Courtesy of Cyprus Traveller website

Courtesy of Cyprus Traveller website

Well I am of a few days back in the driving seat as it were. I’ve enjoyed my break but shopping was a bit inconvenient. I’m looking forward to a trouble free stay now and want to  make the most of my time here.

During my stay so far I have been very aware of all the birds around although there are many I don’t recognise. Cyprus is a ‘birders’ heaven as there are a huge number of migratory birds come here from Europe and Africa, there are over four hundred species  either resident or passing through.  I have a family of swallows next door that have been resident since I arrived and the babies have hatched and are at the moment practising their swoops and dives, some of them very close. It has  been a real pleasure to watch their aviatory skills – and if there isn’t such a word there should be!!

My favourite bird ‘though is a permanent resident in Cyprus, the Scops owl. I heard it every night regular as clockwork as soon as it was dusk, until the warmer weather arrived. It has a rather melancholy hoot, Scops owls are not easy to  see in the day as they sit very still in tree hollows or empty buildings and are well camouflaged.  There is a belief in Cyprus apparently that the Scops owl is the oldest bird in existence, there is reference to them in a mediaeval folk song suggesting they were there at the dawn of creation. There is a story attached to this birds haunting hoot,of course there is, in Cyprus almost everything and everyone eventually gets a story to explain their existence. Cypriots love to weave tales a bit like the Irish. According to legend a man after realising that his brother was dead after sending him out on a dangerous mission, asked Artemis the goddess of hunting and the forest, to release him of his torment so she turned him into an owl to wander forever calling ‘Ghionis’ his brother’s name. A nice tale.

I plan to pootle around locally for a couple of weeks while planning a long trip over Larnaca way, where I will explore the East side of the island a bit more. and not venture too far afield as I realised I have only skimmed the surface on my own doorstep. There are many small villages with interesting features that I haven’t captured with my camera, so lots of photo opportunities and fabulous views.

On Saturday I’m going to  take part in  photomarathon as it is called, in Paphos. Organised by the Cyprus Photographic Society, we are given four themes and we have to go off and find relevant subjects to take photos of and then the best photo wins a Leica camera, sounds good to me. It will be a great opportunity to wander around Paphos and poke about in parts I haven’t seen before. I’m going with a professional photographer so there will be no hope for me winning but something like this certainly sharpens your observational skills.

Talking of which I have noticed a few things lately as I have been wandering around; why do young men with nice cars presumably with air conditioning, have the window wound down and the right arm hanging limply outside in the air? It’s an attitude thing right, driving with one hand and sometimes talking on the phone at the same time while going around a corner! Talking on the phone while driving is illegal here, but someone has to catch them first and so many young women drive holding their phone to their ears and blithely taking a right turn across busy traffic. There are many bendy roads out here in fact the only straight ones are the motorways and you invariably see Cypriots just cut off the bends and drive a straight line, does this save time, energy, clearly it’s easier than turning the steering wheel? Driving in Cyprus certainly keeps you on your toes.

Techno Challenge



I’m off to sunny Cyprus on Sunday and in preparation I have been trying to get co-ordinated technology wise. I usually take my trusty mac with me so I can load and edit photos and write my blog etc. This in itself ‘though can be a bit of a challenge if travelling on Easy Jet, as now only one piece of hand luggage is allowed either handbag or lap top case what is a girl to do? I solved this knotty problem last year by buying a soft canvas back pack which my mac just slotted into nicely with pockets and room to spare. The only problem is Easy Jet’s landing bay is on the very edge of the airport, it feels like you are actually walking half way to Cyprus before you arrive at the gate. The bag gets heavier with each step particularly on the return journey when it’s late and you are tired after a long day travelling.

This year I don’t have such a problem as I’m using BA for a change and 2 pieces of hand luggage are  allowed as well as a shorter walk to the gate ( I hope). My dilemma this year is do I take the lap top or not? My generous brother-in-law has lent me a superfluous ; to him; iPad for holiday use, I can catch up with emails and blog and it weighs very little, neat in fact. Last year while waiting in the departure lounge every one seemed to be using an iPad or similar even the children. What happened to books? “So where’s the dilemma?” you ask.Call me ungrateful but it isn’t so easy to type on an iPad  and I can’t load and view my photos without getting an extra gismo. Having my lap-top is like carrying my filing cabinet with me and I can do so much more.

I recently bought a new phone and decided on an android smart phone, a little Samsung which I am just getting to grips with. This also allows me to use wi fi and get emails etc on a much smaller screen but again very neat. All this is wonderful of course gosh I’m connected on all fronts. But am I?  Everything depends on you getting a wi fi connection and where I’m staying doesn’t have broadband so last time I went to an internet cafe. Because I have a smart phone and use O2 BT let you sign up for a free app that shows you the nearest hot spots for wifi which is an advantage. So I spent another couple of hours working out how and where to get this for the phone and then had to go on iTunes to get the app for the iPad. Of course I now realise I only needed the one app to find out as where I go my phone goes. Hey Ho.

I spent several hours over the past few days working out what I need to load on the iPad  and signing up and signing in and downloading. It all takes up too much time I have a good mind to just switch off and zone out.

I do have a nice thick book to take with me as well as my sketch pad and paints. I plan to chill and just sit, let my mind go blank for a bit , so if you don’t hear from me for a few weeks you’ll know I’m in another zone, literally!!!



In the UK we have a lot of favourite board games that we play at home and some like darts and dominoes that are often played by the locals in pubs but we have nothing that compares to the ubiquitously played game of tavli in Cyprus.

‘Tavli‘ in Greek just means table, I learnt today, so relates to games played on a table and the familiar tavli board is used to play three games, ‘plakoto’, ‘portes’ ( backgammon) and a game of Turkish origin called ‘fevga’ http://www.bkgm.com/variants/Tavli.html.  On finding this information yesterday, it neatly answered a small query of mine; on recently starting to read a book called ‘The Venetian” by Lina Ellina partly set in the Cyprus of 1456, it mentioned a game called ‘plakoto’  which could be played for high stakes, the Cypriots love a gamble. The history of the games date back thousands of years as far back as ancient Egypt and has been played in variant forms all over the world. It  is played  with two participants each have chequers and the throw of the dice determines their moves around a board which consists of two halves. In Cyprus it verges on a national pastime and there are very few kafeneions that don’t sport a couple of men deep in concentration playing the game. I’m sure children learn to play the game at their fathers’ knee; I say father although women must play the game in Cyprus, it’s just that kafeneions are the public places where it is visible and those are the sole territory of the man commonly.

My father was no exception to this phenomenon and relished playing a usually lively game with my uncles when they visited. He would throw the dice energetically and bang down the chequers on the board to emphasise his decisive move, accompanied by loud exclamations whether winning or losing. He took up marquetry for a few years after retirement and one of the objects that he applied it to was a backgammon board. Sadly I didn’t learn how to play this absorbing game and I might find the time to learn, if I can find someone to practise with!

The board game of my choice at the moment is scrabble and a couple of friends and I enjoy an entertainingly convivial evening whenever we play. All these games ultimately are strategic if they are played in their fullest form, my two friends are extremely competitive. I don’t match up to their zeal and tactics in blocking trebles to win at all costs although I have learnt a lot from playing with them. I am a lazy player and I play mostly to enjoy the play with words , I would rather get a really good word down even though it might not get a brilliant score; I find it endlessly fascinating way the board pans out. I would rather open the board up and keep the game moving than agonise over strategy and ultimately winning; this doesn’t make me a challenging partner. Interestingly, on occasions when I tried to adopt the same tactics as my friends, we would just get stalemated as no one would move except say at a letter a time. My laissez-faire  attitude causes a wee bit of friction with my partners on occasion, as depending on who is on my left gets the advantage of my generous gift of a treble opening and consequently the points. I have also noted that even by opening up the treble my partners have not necessarily always been in the position to take advantage of it so when it came round to my turn again I could! This is a sort of gamble you could say, both ways I win as the game keeps flowing. I would say a good thirty percent if not more of the game is down to luck, depending on what letters you pick up and what letters are on the board; the skill is making the most of what you’ve got. Even so there has been the odd occasion I’ve won.

A backgammon board from Lebanon.

A backgammon board from Lebanon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)