P1000374Tomorrow 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.


Little fish in the Ocean


Ελληνικά: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seems to me that there are two ways of going about writing books. One is when you have something inside you that makes you want to write; it could be about experiences or ideas or a story that just pops into your head fully formed. I’ve heard this method of instigation is a common one for many writers and composers. Often the most brilliant stories and pieces of music and even ideas for paintings, have come to the artist in the night when they have had the sense to keep a piece of paper by their bedside on which to write down these nocturnal inspirations.

The second way is when the author is approached by an editor or publisher to write a book. Which, for the author, on the one hand must be a comfort to know that there is an advance to spur them on and on the other if no inspiration is forthcoming, a curse.

The idea for “Androula’s Kitchen” was not a nocturnal inspiration but did come to me out of the blue.

I was musing upon my recent holiday with my cousin Androula, who I had met again for the first time in more than twenty years when visiting her home in the Troodos Mountains. She had spent sometime restoring a traditional house which now offers guests a secluded, restful environment from which to explore the surrounding countryside and the many beautiful monasteries in the vicinity. She has a love of the antique and articles produced by the artisan. This combination of surroundings, a traditional house and the eclectic mix of objects within triggered in me a curiosity to investigate and explore the crafts of Cyprus both old and new. I am a crafts-person myself and have spent many years practising my craft in the seclusion of my workshop and I took a great deal of pleasure visiting craftsmen in Cyprus and discovering a side of Cyprus that I don’t usually get the opportunity to see.

Of course once I got thinking, I had to include information about the food! Cyprus is an island that revolves around food. They say an army marches on its stomach and the same could be said of Cyprus.

There were many foodstuffs and recipes I had wanted to know about and this was an ideal opportunity for me to discover how the food was prepared and my favourite foods were cooked.

Now after spending a couple of years compiling, writing and re-writing the text and taking and organising photographs I want to see it in print. I have had discussions with a couple of publishers in Cyprus but nothing has come of these. It is the London Book Fair in April and I have bought my ticket. I feel like a minute piece of plankton about to float into the ocean. It is an overwhelming prospect and I will be feeling very out of my comfort zone. But needs must…….

Oh Publisher, Publisher wherefore art thou………

This blogsite is all about my journey from writing ‘Androula’s Kitchen’ my first  effort, to getting published. It is a journey so many have done before me and so many are doing as I write. The easy part is writing and putting together the whole package of presentation, a really fun part, but then the path ahead becomes a little hazy and confusing. There are so many hopeful writers out there  and so many paths to choose from once you have written. Do you get an agent or dive straight in and find a publisher? I started looking for a publisher in Cyprus for two reasons really, one,  I thought they would be more sympathetic to the material of the book and two I thought this might be simpler as there is much less choice. Indeed as far as I am aware there is only one publishing house functioning in the manner that we would expect in the U.K. the norm is more on a self publishing basis. It is a very small country  the market is much smaller and so therefore are the profits I guess.

I was  hopeful, as very early on the one publisher showed a keen interest in ‘Androula’s Kitchen’ and I couldn’t believe my luck, they were negotiating a book distribution deal in the UK at the time of me approaching them, a vital part of the deal for both of us. Sadly a few months further down the line this deal fell through and they were unable to secure another. So this left me with the rather more difficult task of wading in and finding an agent in the U.K. Or should that be a publisher??? For better or worse I’ve started with a search for an agent purely because there are fewer of them to choose from. The list of publishers and their requirements is a daunting one which I might yet have to work my way through. At the moment I have taken advice from a writer’s web site and started with a list of 10 agents to whom, a few at a time, I’m sending an enquiry with link. It will be a slow process as they all get many submissions a week and have a respond time of between 6 and 8 weeks, but it’s better than doing nothing and sticking all that work in the metaphorical drawer and forgetting about it so I can move on to the next project. I’ll just have to grit my teeth and get on with it however long it takes.

It is a task though, I have to admit ,I find every excuse to avoid, and time seems to march on inexorably. As I look out of the window the daffodils are nodding and the sun is out beckoning but my head must be forced to bend over the keyboard and plough on. Ahh publisher, publisher, wherefore art thou…..?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Now there’s a question. I have just been listening to an interview between Tony Hancock, one of the UK’s best-loved comedians, and John Freeman for a T.V. programme called ‘Face to Face’ many years ago. In answer to Freeman’s question “Why did you become a comedian?” Hancock replied “I’ve wanted to be a comedian for as long as I can remember”. This set me thinking and remembering when I was a little girl, I wanted to be an archaeologist, digging up old things that have been buried a long time. Interestingly, although I didn’t realise that exact wish, I did end up in a job that involved me resurrecting and revealing the decoration on furniture that had been neglected and covered in grime, sometimes even paint, and restoring it to its former  beauty.

I don’t know where this idea came from. Many children aspire to have  a career in the same field as their parents , so a child who wants to be a lawyer, judge or doctor might have parents who follow these career paths. I have a friend whose father was a G.P. her mother was a nurse, she became a nurse, one brother an aneasthetist another a G.P. and her sister a nurse. Her sister married a doctor and her son is studying medicine. fairly consistent aspirations in that family I think you’ll agree.

I’ve always had an interest in history and art so ending up as a decorated furniture restorer covers both interests you could say. My father was a tailor , his earlier aspiration was to be an engineer and the war disrupted his studies. To construct sartorial elegance, a certain amount of engineering is required. After a client has been measured for a suit, those measurements have to be translated into a pattern that will, when used to cut the cloth, be turned into a suit which will fit that person like the proverbial glove.

My sister, interestingly, became an architect which requires engineering knowledge. My brother, after studying furniture design at art college, became a kitchen designer, also requiring an ability to turn many measurements into an aesthetically pleasing structure.

Of course the manner by which your parents earn a living does not necessarily  represent the whole of their talents or interests and my father loved to read and indeed later in life took up creative writing which he enjoyed enormously. Maybe when I wrote Androula’s Kitchen I was reflecting this aspiration of his?

What did you want to be when you grew up and did you?