Born in Leeds, I spent 11 years in London after university before returning to my Yorkshire roots, yet when I visit Cyprus, I somehow feel I’m home again. In 2010, I flew there solo to meet my folks who were holidaying there, so my father’s Mum, my Yiayia (Grandma), could meet my firstborn Oliver. Here are some of my memories of that time there…
The hot sun hits us the instant we embark, dry heat dancing on our cheeks drying Oliver’s tears from hours on the flight with promises to deepen his olive skin. Chattering crickets far away, under olive groves and beneath almond trees are background music to the dramatic tones of my mother tongue darting over us.
I quickly clamber to the nearest cab. The flight was no means easy.
Both tired, we cannot wait to reach my Grandma’s house in Paphos, to hug her, to eat, to sleep. Cradling my now sleeping boy, I bound towards Yiayia’s home, she awaits us anxiously with rabbit casserole and potatoes cooked in olive oil. So smart, so beautiful even at 93 (not a wrinkle in sight- how?), she the matriach who holds our family together-my namesake Yiayia Vikentia, holds my son, besotted with her first great grandson, the latest in a long line.
We hold each other tightly, she smells of rosewater (her perfume), strokes my hair and a million kisses later, we eat. My darling Yiayia. Dinner is filled with well told stories of courting my Grandfather, a headmaster whom she chose to marry after seeing him through the keyhole of his home, life raising five children (losing two) and memories so clear, I could write a screenplay of her life (one day I must). With sweet baclava come much loved vignettes about my father as a boy (loud, ambitious, loving, naughty) and poetry recitals of an island torn, I could listen to her forever.
Days later, we return to the village of Filousa where my father spent his holidays from boarding school and I relish in the lively banter, the laughter and sheer energy of its Octogenarian inhabitants.
The only cafe in existence in this pretty village stands film set like, as if untouched since 77, the owner brings out coca cola bottles more suited to a museum than a shady seat in this white walled place.
A lone donkey, it’s owner 86, a close friend of Gran’s waves frantically at us from nearby fields, insisting we must eat together tomorrow…as we head back to the house, my father is cooking, the smell of fresh bread baking in al fresco ovens signals lunch is ready followed by Lamb Kleftiko, courgette flowers and Greek salad for us all.
We sit in the open air, against a backdrop of orange, almond and olive trees and eat. I breathe it in. This is my Cyprus. All mine.
Sunset swims in the golden sandy beaches of pretty Paphos and Protaras complete my stay (Oliver splashes wildly, enjoying the gentle waves for the first time) and I promise to return again soon, I must….
Now, with another child, Alexander (Alexandros in Greek), we yearn to visit the homeland again next year. I need Yiayia to meet her second Great grandson. Their resemblance is uncanny, the baby, a missing piece of the Psarias clan. In the meanwhile she kisses his framed picture by her bed.
Both the boys and our wedding photo too. I need to hear bouzouki riffs, Zembekiko songs of lost loves and men who should know better, eat mezze in the moonlight and see all those I deeply love, again. My beating heart belongs to Cyprus and always will. My heritage, my past, my present too. My darling Kypros. A part of who I am.
Have you visited the beautiful island of Cyprus?