I can’t believe that nearly a week has gone by since my last post. To borrow a phrase from a well known Christmas song “The weather outside is frightful” and we have had everything this week from dramatic thunderstorms to buckets full of hail and even snow here and there. The sun, thank goodness came out on Thursday and this afternoon just to show us that it is still there, so hopefully things can only get better. The countryside is looking tremendous at the moment with very green lush fields, the trees foliage is all very fresh in their greys and greens with the dramatic contrast of huge wet ochre coloured boulders of rock striated with black thrusting out up the hillside road.
Even though to me it seems like Easter is a long way off the preparations are beginning now with the run up to Lent and Green Monday when everyone starts the 50 day fast, celebrations and frivolity pave the way. Starting with tzuknopempti which roughly translated means ‘Thursday when the air is filled with the smell of meat cooking over charcoal’. I was lucky enough to be invited to a big extended family gathering where the sheftelies and souvlakia were cooked in abundance by the men, local mushrooms which grow at this wet time of year were picked and cooked with onions by the women and bowls of salad, laid out together with lountza a smoked loin of pork. Pittas were toasted on the charcoal along with some local halloumi and a truly delicious meal was followed by sweet pastries and cakes. Brandy, beer and wine were drunk along with the usual Coke for the children. Much animated discussion took place during the course of the meal, the focus being politics as Cypriots have been following closely the Greek elections and post election discussions concerning the European Union.
Then it was time for the singing, at the head of the table was the patriarch, father and grandfather of the family who was looking very smart and well groomed for the occasion. He started off the proceedings with renditions of what sounded like very melancholy songs that could have dated back hundreds of years. There is also a tradition unique to Cyprus I am told, whereby two people sing a two line verse they make up as they go and the second person answers it with another two line verse, a bit like a rapping duo I guess. The mother and father gave a grand rendition of this art and were greatly appreciated by the gathering and even though I may not have understood the sentiments I too appreciated the performance. Then it was the turn of the daughters to sing some traditional Laiko songs with everyone clapping along in that off beat rhythm that is so distinctive. Next of course it was the turn of the children and a young girl produced her guitar and music stand and gave us a touchingly beautiful rendition of a traditional song, her brother followed suit in a brave attempt to match his sister. Finally they turned their attention to some pop songs of the moment including ‘Wrecking Ball’ the hit of Miley Cyrus which seemed to go on forever but was very funny to watch how much they enjoyed themselves particularly with the chorus when they could let rip.