Memories made in Cyprus
When I was going on nine years of age I had to leave behind my two best friends Jessica and Katie. That was hard but harder still was the new life which I was headed for. We were returning to the United Kingdom. My family and I were leaving behind blues skies and butterflies, meadows rich in flora and fauna, Cypress trees and gorgeous unspoilt seas for central London. We had moved out to Cyprus from the wooded unspoilt town of Bovington in Dorset when I had just turned five. Nothing could have prepaired me for a more stark environment.
Returning was a huge culture shock to say the least. Life had been good on Cyprus, the people were friendly and the sea was on our doorstep. As a child I saw only what I wanted to see I suppose. This was before the troubles, this was 1967 and we were to live on that gorgeous island until 1970. Three years before all hell let loose and people had to face chaos and confusion,death and disaster. Their lives cut short at worst and scared beyond recognition for most.
There was such freedom growing up in Dhekelia. School was from early in the morning until about 1pm. The school coaches collected us from this British Forces School and dropped us safely back to our 'housing estate' of a type, 'Blenheim Village'. We played in the valley beyond our verandas. We walked out in sunshine and ran and played games in the orchards and lush meadows that bordered a track road beside our homes. The fragrant scent of orange blossom in the air. We had the most wonderful landscape to ourselves it seemed, as children we were in paradise.
It was not until I returned to Cyprus for a visit in 2012 that I fully appreciated how protected and guarded our domain had been. Obviously the landscape had changed considerably over the war years. War had engulfed this tiny island and changed its history beyond repair.
I remember meeting a girl at my school in Edinburgh in 1974 she had lived in Cyprus in the years preceding the war and her family had returned home because of it. I remember being shocked beyond words with this new knowledge I had aquired of what had occured on Cyprus . I had been oblivious to it being younger than twelve at the time.
I now thought about family friends that had been much like family to me at my tender age. Nitza, I had been one of her bridesmaids at her wedding. She had worked for my father and became a good friend to our family. 'Poli' a lovely elderly gentleman also had worked in the offices where my father had worked. I remember us all going to his home in Larnaca having meals there and feeling happy in the company of him and his wife.
Dad had rescued a small Scots Owl which had lived on my parent's bedroom veranda.
One day I remember coming home from school to discover someone had brought us a box of very small fluffy yellow chicks. The realisation that the chicks had been intended to feed the owl live food was abhorrent to me. Thankfully my Dad did not intend to do this so he gave the chicks to Poli and later we would be brought fresh eggs on a regular basis as Poli had let then grow and thrive in his backyard.
Then there was Lula, she had cleaned our home and was there several days a week. Once again we got to know her well and were invited to her village just outside Dhekelia on several occasions. The most memorable of these was her eldest daughters wedding. It was a lovely experience and a strange one too thinking back we had been immersed in their culture, a snapshot in time, I can still bring to mind elements of that day with clarity. The wedding dance where the relatives and all guests are expected to pin money to the brides wedding gown will remain with me as will the taste of the sweet pastry typical of Cypriot weddings and better than any cake that I knew, apart from Baklava. It melted in your mouth like the smoothest shortbread and was filled with a minced nut and honey filling.
I have a lot of special memories from growing up in Cyprus. My early brush with nature on our doorstep was to spark my love of butterflies and dragonflies where Canvasbutterfly has its roots. Ones informative years play such a part in who we become. The way we experience life as a child echoes still into our present.