After twenty-odd years of Greek island life, I’ve finally had my eureka moment. But, unlike local mythology, my insight didn’t happen in the bath. It happened in the road…

Now, before you imagine me streaking naked down Makarios Avenue, blissed out by sudden revelation, let me set the scene: I was in the car (as decently clothed as the unseasonably warm October weather would allow) and turning into my street. Or attempting to because, as anyone who lives near the Aretaieio Hospital knows, parking in the area is a bit of a free-for-all. So, with the inevitable approach of three other cars, I did the only decent thing: I reversed to let them pass.

Which is where The Revelation comes in…

One, two, three drivers all passed by without the slightest semblance of gratitude. No smile, no nod, and certainly no wave of thanks. Then, just at the point when I was preparing to express my disgust via the medium of colourful Anglo Saxon (sorry mum), I realised something. These people weren’t discourteous. They weren’t ignorant. And – hopefully – they weren’t blind.

What they were, is law-abiding.

It’s taken me two decades (and the odd flirtation with Tourette’s) to decipher why Cyprus lacks anything approaching automotive civility. Clearly, I live in a nation which so reveres the rules of the road that not even the most thoughtful of gestures can be dignified with an inclination of the head, much less – gasp! – a lift of the hand from the wheel. Not one was willing to corrupt their principles for even a second.

I applaud them. I really do. I can’t think how I missed – for years – the fact that I live in the most law-abiding nation on the planet. To think I believed all those stories about bribery and corruption – shame on the media for painting such a depraved picture of this wonderful country! Of course, now I know the truth, should there ever come a time when a fellow driver is compelled by gratitude to lift a finger from the ten-to-two position, I shall immediately report them to the authorities. Who, as we all know, are the most upstanding citizens on this honest island.

Now, please excuse me. I’ve outlined my thoughts in a letter to my MP, and will be sending it to him forthwith. Does anyone know the address of the prison?

Driving in Cyprus, waving your thanks? Please let me know I’m not the only one risking life and limb in automotive gratitude…


WHEELS IN MOTION? On the road in Cyprus

Auto rescue services. Sure, we have them, but we don’t really need them. Because when you’ve just broken down on 20150310_120247 (2)a mountain road, been blocked into your parking space or embedded your wheels in the beach – all of which have happened to me, thankfully not on the same day – someone always pops up to help you out.

Driving home on the highway one evening, the electrics in both my car and my phone gave up the ghost at the same time. In any other country, I would have locked the doors and sat tight till dawn. But this is Cyprus: the first passer by pulled over, offered the use of his mobile and stayed with me till my more mechanically-minded partner arrived, half an hour later. And this is hardly the first time I’ve been rescued from a driving dilemma: blocked into a parking space in old Nicosia, I was saved by a gang of jovial gentlemen who poured from the nearby cafenion and proceeded – with much good natured laughter – to bump the offending vehicle out of my way.  And I can’t count the number of times I’ve been overly optimistic about the beach-going capabilities of my four wheel drive – and subsequently been freed by locals carrying a length of stout rope and a couple of planks purely – it would seem – for the purpose of rescuing silly girls from the sand! (click here for ‘All At Sea’)

images (3)The answer, of course, may be to be more realistic in my vehicular expectations. But do I really need to? On this island, there’s always someone who will help get the wheels back in motion.

ANCIENT KINGDOMS: Cyprus, an island with a past

images (2)Today I visited the past. In any other country, that might have meant going back a hundred, possibly even a thousand years. In visiting Ancient Idalion, I went back over five thousand.

Oh yes, while my ancestral countrymen were probably still wondering if they could eat stones, civilisation was flourishing in Cyprus. And nowhere more so than in the city kingdom of Idalion. For over two millennia, what is now Dali hosted a huge, peaceful civilisation, based on the copper trade. These people were smart – they had beautiful houses, glorious palaces, paved streets and stunning temples; they smelted copper, pressed olives, worked cloth and fired huge pithario on an industrial scale; there were accomplished tradesmen, blacksmiths, stonemasons and even doctors. And they were peaceful: even managing to withstand the might of the foreign armies – there’s a bronze tablet in the local museum (visit museum site here) that dates back to 480 BC with an inscription that awards land to “Dr Onasilios for services to the wounded in the unsuccessful siege by the Persians and Phoenicians of Kition, from the King and people of Idalion”. As part of the burgeoning of civilisation in the fertile crescent, they traded with the near East and the Aegean, Anatolia and Egypt.

In the ancient world, Cyprus was the idyllic island where East met West in peace. Isn’t that still the case? What do you think?


Pensacola_Beach_1957_White_SandThe other day, I lost my keys at the beach. If you’re used to a seaside seething with people both in and out of the surf, this may not seem like a big deal. But Cyprus has a lot of coastline to choose from (countries ranked by coastline length), and I was on a stretch of sand the length of several football fields – with not a soul in sight. Not one person to point out where I’d buried my keys under my towel before heading in for a dip. And where exactly I’d placed that towel before the wind blew it half way down the beach…

I’m forever doing things like this when I’m near the water – which, living on an island, gives me an excellent excuse for my inanities 90 per cent of the time. There was the time I tried to windsurf as far as I could, forgetting that I hadn’t yet learnt to turn around, and had to hitch a lift back from a friendly coastguard. The day I lost a contact lens after an especially vigorous wakeboard session and had to drive home with one eye closed like a flirtatious vamp. And then there’s the snorkelling incident when I happily played Count The Starfish for over an hour, before emerging from the waves beautifully tanned on the back and blindingly white on the front!

But, despite my frequent misadventures, I’m still always down at the beach, whenever I can get there (click here for the link to breaking down in Cyprus). It’s the getting back that’s usually the problem… if anyone finds a set of keys buried in the sand near Napa, let me know!3041590472_69bb8e8ba9_b