On Sunday I made a trip to Steni, a well placed village that claws its way up the hillside on the road from Polis Chrysochous to Lysos and beyond to Stavros tis Psokas. The countryside up here is breathtaking, the village is pretty large with a good sized population. Recently the village centre has had some money spent on it like many others in Cyprus since the joining of the EU, with newly made and repaired stone walls and a new village centre with a large communal open square where a brand new museum also stands. I was very impressed by this small museum because of the variety of artefacts on display and how well laid out it is. I suppose because it is new it also lacked that dusty unkempt look that many small museums seem to convey. I have a sneaky feeling that some of the wooden items have been cleaned up and sanded down( sharp intake of breath) but hey I guess that is how they would have looked when new, right? They seemed to have lost a bit of patina in the process ‘though.
The main appeal for me was that they had really good examples of traditional hand woven textiles. The beautiful example of sheeting used for the hangings on the bed, reminded me of the sheets my Aunt used to weave on her loom in the village of Yerolakkos. These looked like they had silk woven in to them, very common back then as most villagers kept their own silk worms. On display was a huge cross section of implements used in every day domestic life as well as farming. Well worth a visit if you are in the area and it’s totally free. The mayor Elias Lambidis was very helpful and has taken some of my books to put on sale, so if you haven’t already got a copy here is a chance to get your hands on one. There is a list of other outlets where you can get a copy in Cyprus, on the page About the book.
Author’s lunch at Orexi garden
Pano Akourdalia herb Garden Farmer’s Market
Elena WITH THE LAST OF HER GOODIES FOR SALE, THEY GO LIKE HOT CAKES….
Caroline collecting olive leaves
Well I am returned and have had to throw myself into the garden with force and grit as soon as I was able, as everything has grown to jungle proportions in my absence. I’ve hacked and chopped, cut and pulled and I think I can relax a bit now to catch my breath before I have to start again down at the community garden where my patch there also needs attention. Then it will be back to a bit of house maintenance, ahh I wish I were back in Cyprus already!!
In Cyprus also gardens of a different variety featured quite often. As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the few I managed to write while away, I was in for a few lunches al fresco. The weather was little strange for this time of year in Cyprus, usually by late May June the weather has settled into a steady pattern with the temperature rising steadily. Instead it was a little cooler than usual with some strong warm winds and more cloud than is normal. The winter has been drier as well and rain is badly needed as the reservoirs are only 75% full at the moment.
My author’s lunch at Elena’s Orexi garden was a delightful experience and I met some new people. A friend of mine was able to come with her husband as well as two friends and we spent a pleasant time together. Unnervingly Elena asked me to talk a little about the book after I had circulated to introduce myself. It was brief as I hadn’t really prepared anything but I sold eight books so that wasn’t bad out of 20 people. They all loved it as well which was encouraging. Hopefully we can do a bigger better event next time and I’ll come better prepared.
The lunch in Peyia was not so much fun for me. There was a crooner of sorts singing along to backing tracks of oldies, the food, mostly the usual English fare you get at parties, pork pies, Scotch eggs etc. and drink were offered free, very generously I thought. Sadly for me and the shop owners, that is all the audience was interested in as I had no enquiries or interest shown. I did however get introduced to a very lovely lady Yve Brookes and we had a really good chat which passed the time beautifully. Originally from Oxford she has been a traveller all her life living a few years here and there until she gets the seven year itch and then moves on. She has been in Cyprus seven years now and the familiar urge has descended again. She has eventually come to live in a house in Argaka which she now calls home and has made her mark restoring the surrounding area to one of calmness and order after it was neglected for ten years by the owners. The house has an intriguing story; the original owner built the house himself and a few months after he finally moved in after all his labours, he died and the family who inherited it closed it up and left it. After many attempts to rent it out the grandson, who now owns it, was resigned to it not being suitable for anyone until Yve took a liking to it and feels it only right to honour the man who built the house by caring for it and the surrounding land. I would love to see the work she has done here but I just could not find the time this trip.
The following day it was the Farmer’s market at the Pano Akoudalia herb garden run by the very talented herbalist Caroline Evans http://www.heavenonearthherbals.com/. On my way to the garden I passed many cars lining the approach roads, it turned out to be a very popular event as well as celebrating its first anniversary. There were crafters as well as food producers there this month. Another delightful spot and I passed several hours chatting to people, making new friends and enjoying a delicious slice of raw carrot cake and herb tea. A truly relaxing atmosphere and one I was sad to leave but I departed with a bag of goodies bought from Elena which I took great pleasure in eating for my meal later. The olive bread was to die for.
I came back from my trip this time with a yearning to stay a lot longer. Over my last few trips I have made friends and uncovered rare delights that tug at my heart and call to me to return.
This week I was lucky enough to receive my copy of ‘Treis Elies A journey in Spring’ by Ethan Hubbard. Ethan Hubbard who lives in Vermont is a writer and photographer who for more than thirty years has been visiting remote parts of the world to observe the daily lives of indigenous people. By observing the inhabitants as they go about their daily lives , he learns about himself. The subject of his thirteenth and latest book is Treis Elies where he arrived during his search for “European peasants” whose way of life would not have changed much for centuries. He wasn’t hopeful, after travelling all over Northern Cyprus and then exploring Troodos he feared there would be no vestige of such a life left in existence until he happened upon this remote village tucked up in the West corner of Troodos.
As I started to read about the various villagers he meets and over his many weeks stay gets to know as friends, I realised that a third of these people no longer live in the village, as the numbers have decreased from nearly 60 souls to just over twenty. It is a community of old people on the whole, although many visitors come at weekends to visit their family homes and since Androula has been living there, renovating them.
I live in a village in West Sussex and by contrast, today I have just attended a meeting about the future of our village. The concerns here are that due to government directives our village could double in size in a few years as there is a plan to build 1,000 more homes here. This will put an enormous strain on our infrastructure and is in danger of swallowing up surrounding fields and green spaces leaving us with an urban jungle. The Parish council is being pro-active by getting the community involved in developing a plan whereby we lay out what shape we want the village to be, what facilities we believe we need to have in place for the village to work as a community, making it a desirable place to live not just a jumble of houses plopped down in various pockets of land with no overall consideration as to how it all works or looks. We at the moment have two food shops a church and a petrol station together with a health centre, village hall and a school. This plan, If put together correctly and goes through the correct channels and is approved could turn out to be a blueprint for further development and showing that the community is behind it.
It is a sad state of affairs that so many remote mountain villages are gradually shrinking to virtual non-existence and one the Cypriot government has tried to address by getting regeneration schemes off the ground. Who knows what the future may hold for this particular community, what I find extraordinary is that this tiny village has inspired not only two people to write about it but many more to visit through Androula’s efforts to promote the attractions that can be found in this beautiful and tranquil spot.http://www.spitiko3elies.com/
Reading Ethan’s book prompted me to re-visit my photos of Treis Elies and I have posted a small selection above. I hope you enjoy them.
Here is a bit of information about the history of the village. http://www.thevillagexpress.com/cyprusvillage/profile/253
I’m sorry to introduce the big C word at the beginning of December but marketing tactics demand that I think well ahead about these things. Marketing isn’t one of my favourite things and I find myself procrastinating rather than getting stuck in. Everywhere you look there are craft fairs and markets and I feel a bit like Cinderella. I have been half -heartedly planning an advert on Facebook but find the details a bit daunting (if not downright boring).
On a more enjoyable side I have been reflecting on some of the contacts I made when I was in Cyprus to do my promotion in April.These have turned out to be good outlets for the book and interestingly they all are related to food but I suppose not surprisingly. One is a caterer and supplier of home made preserves etc. another is a baker and a couple are cafes. The book seems to sell well in these environs. I find myself wishing I could be there in person to attend various craft markets and do my own selling, far more enjoyable than working out an online strategy. The most fun thing was playing around with images to give them a personal appeal like Santa’s sleigh above. Also Santa’s little helper below.
Tomorrow 10th August sees a special event in Treis Elies. For those of you who are not familiar with Treis Elies it is where it all started for ‘Androula’s Kitchen” indeed it started in Androula’s kitchen if that’s not too confusing! Androula Christou is a cousin of mine, she lives in To Spitiko tou Archonta; translated it means “the house of the gentleman”; now run as a guest house it sits on the higher levels of this small remote village in the Troodos mountains. I first visited in late 2009 and it was this visit that inspired me to write the book. Androula had lived most of her life in the city but after a series of synchronicities led her to Treis Elies she immediately felt this was where she wanted to be, she craved the cooler air as the heat had always disagreed with her. After the renovations had been completed she was thrilled to finally be living there.
The original part of the house where Androula lives has a timeless feeling of authenticity, eclectically furnished with both contemporary and antique it exudes a feeling of solidity and calm. One of the previous tenants had been a healer and it is interesting that Androula too has these qualities; she gathers herbs to make various teas to suit how she feels and uses essential oils to combat ailments. In a 21st century world she continues to live in many ways as villagers have always lived. All the villagers own a plot of land on the edge of the village which is used to grow vegetables and fruit which is abundant in this area, yielding walnuts, cherries, strawberries and oranges to name a few. Androula is a one woman band so she spreads herself thin on many occasions when too many things demand her attention.
The Guest house over the years has attracted a varied and interesting selection of guests from all over the world, indeed when I stayed there last, a Japanese couple had booked for a couple of nights. In 2007 one of Androula’s early guests was an American author and photographer Ethan Hubbard, he was quite unusual in as much as he stayed for several months at a time as he was studying the inhabitants of Treis Elies for a book. Ethan had already spent thirty years travelling to more than 40 countries to study indigenous peoples in remote communities, when he finally landed in Treis Elies. How he chose this destination I’m uncertain but the resulting book is the reason for the special event taking place tomorrow. Ethan Hubbard studied how the villagers spent their time and lived, taking photographs and writing in lyrical prose descriptions of the minutiae of daily village life. The resulting book is beautiful with evocative black and white photos and a joy to those who view it, it has been translated into Greek for this first edition. A special presentation of the book is to be held at 7.15pm at the school at Treis Elies after which there will be a theatrical performance and all are invited to share in this unique occasion. I wish I could be there but alas I’m unable
On reflection, there must be something quite special about this slowly dwindling village to have inspired two people to write books about it, maybe it is the fact that it is so tucked away and in the midst of such lush surroundings. Many of these villages flourished when the islanders fled the coast and the marauding Turks in the Middle ages, you could survive undetected by casual traveller up in the windy looming mountains of Troodos.
Ethan Hubbard’s book is called A journey in Spring.
Nan Mackenzie has written a terrific review of ‘Androula’s Kitchen’ for the Cyprus Mail and you can view it online here.http://cyprus-mail.com/cyprus-on-a-plate/
Something to look forward to.
wine babes (Photo credit: brendaj)
The day has finally arrived when my books arrived from the printer on Monday. It was a close thing because I nearly ended up with a palette full of wine! I realised just in time that, no this wasn’t a complimentary box of wine – shame on them- it was in fact a whole palette full of boxes of wine and not books. I took delivery of my precious cargo and there it was my book in print.
Anyone who has worked on a project for a long time will know that completing the project and seeing the finished thing does not always fill you with a feeling of triumph that most people think it should, in fact in can feel a bit of an anti-climax!
Don’t get me wrong it looks good but when I look at it, I think about whether I made the right choices and how I could have improved it. I have been restoring and painting furniture for more years than I care to state, particularly today on my birthday- where do the years go? The one thing I was surprised to realise is that it doesn’t matter what the project is I am working on, be it writing a book or painting a piece of furniture, the same instincts and feelings work within me. My job required me to scrutinise everything minutely, to find the flaws and rectify them, particularly on restoration of furniture. I would be constantly scanning the job to find the damage and make it good. I had to be hyper-critical of my work and push myself to absolute limits of my ability, always looking for any mistakes or faulty work and so it is with the book.But I am trying to change my ways a bit and let go of that hypercritical side. I’m trying to allow myself to relax and know that my hard work and scrutiny has led to a great little book that people will love once they see it. I’m loving the fact that all that enjoyment and passion has materialised into an attractive book with great photos,interesting snipets of information on all sorts of topics I’TS NOT A COOKERY BOOK it is a book on Arts crafts and Food .
http://cyprusonaplate.blogspot.co.uk/ to buy it.
What do you think of the cover?
Well the week has arrived and I must pack up my old kit bag and get myself to the city, forsooth! It is the week of the London Book Fair and I’m visiting on Tuesday and Wednesday along with thousands of others no doubt.
I have been to Earl’s Court quite a few times, both as an exhibitor and visitor, not at the Book Fair I hasten to add, this is a first. It is huge and not a particularly pleasant environment. As an exhibitor I seem to remember the air conditioning plays havoc with your skin and sinuses! Quite often you are too cold and the sea of faces and constant movement of people is very tiring so I don’t envy the participants. As a visitor a comfy pair of shoes is definitely a must and a lot of water to drink.
I have bought an iPad on eBay especially so I can show the pages of Androula’s Kitchen to prospective publishers. Such is my optimism that they will even have time to speak to a mere author! ha! The book designer, Andrew has been doing a great job of revamping my amateurish first attempts and the pages he has finished (about three quarters of the book) are loaded in PDF format. I will have it fully charged and ready to flash at the least opportunity.Excuse me madam, you can’t do that in here. I now have to work up my charisma levels and project myself. (Oh Dear! do I have to?)
I will look on it as another new experience and just relax as much as possible because by relaxing I will be in a more receptive state for those nudges of intuition that help us throughout life in making the right choices…should we choose to listen!