A Frisson of Excitement

That is what I get when something captures my imagination and I see an idea that has captured someone elses’. When events push us and the chips are down, all is gloom and doom around us, it’s great to see those daring souls who follow their star believing anything is possible. I visited Cyprus this year at a very stressful and confusing time when the banks and the Cyprus economy looked as if they were in meltdown. But the thing is even if the news spells disaster life goes on, it has to. People have jobs to do and standing still wringing your hands is not going to achieve anything.

What delighted me the most was the people I met who were following their passion. They had set up small businesses based on a lot of hard graft and love, the universal principle among them seems to be to support each other, not compete. offering a product /service  of value. Because of this they have high chance of thriving in the present climate.

I learned of two herb gardens, one in Larnaka Cyherbia http://www.cyherbia.com and one in Pano Akourdalia, Heaven on Earth Herbals http://www.heavenonearthherbals.com that I found truly inspiring. Although on different scales they are both working with nature and both get involved in passing on the knowledge of herbs to children. The conditions in Cyprus are  ideal for growing top quality herbs, the lack of water produces a very high concentration of volatile oil up to 33%. These are then used either dried in teas or distilled to use as balms and tinctures. Pano Akourdalia herb garden, Chrysoeleousa, is indeed heaven on earth, sitting in the garden I felt a huge sense of peace and the scenery is truly stunning in this part of Cyprus. I had paid a visit to this garden a few years ago when researching for my book and was disappointed to find it deserted but this visit I was delighted to discover it fully functioning.

The setting up of the garden was originally funded by the Laona Project which was conceived by the Cyprus Friends of the Earth. To quote”to demonstrate the feasibility of ecologically sound development in an area of outstanding natural beauty, the Akamas Peninsula and the nearby Laona Plateau. It ran from 1989 to 1994.   Securing the interests of the local people has been vital to the successful protection of this unique and beautiful region, so the Laona Project sought to revitalise the declining economies of nearby villages by introducing sustainable development.” The garden is based around the old schoolhouse which was restored and now serves as the main work area for sorting and distilling the herbs, as well as an organic and healthy cafe selling gluten-free cakes. I enjoyed a chat with Caroline and a refreshing and delicious cup of verbena tea along with a slice of gluten-free yummy cake. Harvested, dried, herbs were being picked over and the shelves were packed with jars of all manner of herbs. Caroline has clearly found an ideal spot to carry out her profession of master herbalist and naturopath and has a thriving practise.

Another very different garden is one set up by the Utopia group of young like- minded people who started a collective shop and cafe in Utopia collectiva Lefkosia.  Wanting to live in a healthy and sustainable way they also started a community garden on an old disused railway track in Kaimakli where they are starting to grow their own food http://collectivebahce.wordpress.com  This has produced a cohesion of community as well as getting them in touch with the soil and learning how to grow and cultivate; something very close to my heart as regular readers of this blog will know. My brother when he lived in Cyprus used to say you can just throw seeds on the ground and they start to grow without any encouragement, a fertile land indeed.

A different kind of community is being nurtured on Facebook by Heart Cyprus, another group of young people whose motivation was to draw Cypriots and Cyprofiles together in unity and support. This has now developed further and a new website has been set up with a more substantial idea of showcasing the best that Cyprus has to offer by collaborating with businesses to promote Cyprus as a quality destination. http://www.heartcyprus.com/. These may seem small ideas to some but small projects can grow and encourage others to start their own ventures which in turn generate not only income but  quality of life.

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Book Signing Event 9th April at Inga’s

My  trip to Cyprus is fast approaching and in the last few days I have now added a book signing event to my itinerary!

As soon as I’d published Androula’s Kitchen people would ask me if I was doing any book signing events. For authors with agents and publishers behind them this is all part of the marketing machine but  I couldn’t think how I was going to organise it on my own a complete unknown with no connections or any idea how you go about such a thing. It would involve advertising and a venue and payment of some kind surely?

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When I had decided to make the trip to Cyprus I thought this might present an opportunity to organise something; what I needed  was a place where I could sit and have a coffee and a chat while I wait for punters to ask for a book and a signature. Preferably it needed to be somewhere with a relevance to the book. I mention a fabulous vegetarian cafe called Inga’s Veggie Heaven that is in the Chrysaloniotissa area of Lefkosia, an area that has seen a lot of regeneration in recent years. Many of the interesting old houses are being lovingly restored and this is turning into an area that is truly a delight to wander through and which  has attracted a lot of artists. I’d happened on it almost by chance on my first visit to this district, it’s the corner building of a craft centre where several artists and craftsmen have workshops set around  a courtyard with a  small garden in the middle. The owner Inga Hadjipanayi is from Iceland married to a Cypriot. She makes her own bread every day and  her food is a truly delicious vegetarian mixture of combined cuisines.

When I returned a couple of years ago for a coffee she remembered me from my previous trip, which I have to say I was truly surprised by as I’d only been there once; we had a nice chat as she was having a lull after the lunchtime rush. My cousin Androula had taken some copies of Androula’s Kitchen there on a sale or return basis so it was a gradual thought process that led me to think this might be the perfect place to have an informal book signing event. Thankfully Inga likes the idea and with a bit of combined networking maybe we can do some good for both of us. I’ll certainly spread the word as much as I can.

In these difficult times where the structure of establishment seems to be crumbling around us it is good to keep planning ahead and focusing on making good things happen together. If you’re in Lefkosia on the 9th April  why not come and say hello and have a coffee and a bite at Inga’s 2 Dimonaktos St. Chrysaliniotissa Craft Center, 1017 Nicosia, Cyprus. The signing will take place between 2 – 4 pm

Doors of Character

Here are just a few lovely old doorways in Cyprus. There are so many different types you could make a photo book on them. Maybe my next project.