Happy New Year to all of you and I hope it will bring unity and peace to the world.
With so much strife in the world and the resulting overwhelming number of refugees and economic migrants forced to flee and find a more peaceful place where they can live, my thoughts have been very much on my own place in the world. My Dad came to England in 1932 to seek a better life, well not strictly speaking to seek it in the UK but in the good old US of A. Having got sidetracked he ended up staying in England; he didn’t come as a refugee and he wasn’t fleeing conflict happily. He had a British passport as Cyprus was under sovereign rule at that time; regardless, I am the daughter of an immigrant. I have never thought of myself as anything but British with maybe an added foreign element; when I visit Cyprus I increasingly feel myself to be part of that country as well. People have asked me in the past whether I feel British or Cypriot, in my eyes a strange question as I feel like me which is to say I am a mixture. I have always been proud to be both and I love the land of my birth, Britain. With so much talk in Parliament and on the news about immigrants, mostly about how to keep them out, I have felt more and more of the foreigner and yes a little bit alienated.
The British Isles has a history of invasion by many cultures and countries, before them all were the original Britons of Celtic origins; my mother was of Scottish decent; her maiden name was Anderson which in turn is also of course Scandinavian in origin. First came the: Romans; Normans who were themselves originally Vikings; Saxons and Angles both from parts of Germany and the Danes. More recently we have had settlers from every country under the sun and it has made for a rich and varied culture. For a country with so many cultures and religions on such a small island we all rub along surprisingly peaceably on the whole. But with the ever prominent Islamic fundamentalists causing mayhem around the globe it has caused tensions.
I have always been proud of my surname and whenever the need arose to give my name on the phone the response has always been one of interest and amiable conversation.Recently however it had a very different effect, one of suspicion. This was a conversation with employees within the Work and Pensions department; in this instance it instigated a batch of questions asking me to prove my British nationality. Although I understand perfectly why this occurred it didn’t alter the feeling it created in me of us and them. I somehow felt myself to be on different ‘side’ to the person on the other end of the phone instead of feeling part of the British Isles, I felt for the first time in my life a foreigner in my homeland. It was slightly unnerving. I have had a taste in a very very small degree of how it must feel for say a British Asian or a British born Jamaican or African. Our present government has a lot to answer for not least for giving the general impression that ‘we’ are pulling up the drawbridge and going into siege mode. Maybe the next step might be to throw a few of us overboard…who knows?
Every day presents new challenges and today it was to stretch the poor abused body of mine into extended yoga poses that, at times, I wondered “why am I doing this?”
I haven’t treated my body well over the years, not because Iv’e enjoyed a hedonistic lifestyle or had fun in the process, maybe I would derive some satisfaction from that, at least have a few pleasant memories to look back on. No, I have worked it into a ruin. Admittedly I have had more than my fair share of accidents along the way , breaking bones and twisting parts that shouldn’t be twisted in ways that didn’t do them any favours. But to add insult to injury I always carried on working, not giving myself time to pause.
I didn’t have a job where I was sitting down in a nice warm office either,oh no, I was doing hard physical work involving, bending and stretching and rubbing and painting, always on my feet and without any breaks. Who was this taskmaster who was so cruel as to make me work in such a way without any respite?….why myself of course. I have been self employed for over 35 years and my experience of all self-employed people is that they are their own slave drivers. It goes with the territory. Many self employed people feel obliged to work every hour there is otherwise they feel guilty. But a better way would be to achieve a balance between work and pleasure. Because without the pleasure and a break from the work, we loose perspective and consequently our work suffers. Even when we are working at something we enjoy and gives us pleasure, we need a change of scene now and then to remind us there are other things in life.
In the end my body told me it had had enough and it coincided with my work drying up, quite neat really, forcing me to pause and reflect. I spent many years trying to unravel all the knots I’d tied myself into and now today I’ve been trying a different type of twisting and stretching to get those muscles to enjoy the pain.
I’ve ventured into the blogosphere, I never thought I’d see the day and today it arrived. Now it’s come, it will take me a time to gather my thoughts and try and make some sense of them…always a bit tricky but practice makes perfect and that’s the idea of starting the blog.
I’ve just completed my first book, and like anyone who has given birth, I’m glowing with pride at my creation. But I’ll have to contain my enthusiasm for a while longer while the process of getting published progresses….. however that manifests. The blog is a way of getting rid of my frustration at the slow progress or so it seems to me, as well as a narrative of my journey up to this point. I’m a Sagittarian and we like to gallop along and feel the wind in our hair, at the moment I’m sort of grazing , that’s good as well of course, have to get the nourishment to be able to gallop.
Most people at some time or another in their lives say they would like to write a book, it wasn’t one of my ambitions in life. And yet here I am having written one. It came about because the opportunity presented itself, and I, without hesitation, took it. I was on holiday in Cyprus, visiting a cousin who lives in the mountains in a traditional house which she has restored. Surrounded by the traditional artefacts with which her house was furnished and hearing about the traditions of the village way of life, I started to wonder how these traditions are holding their own in the 21st century. From these musings I started to think it would be a good idea to record some of the food traditions in some way and the idea then came to me, I could do that and investigate how the traditional crafts of basket making, weaving and pottery have evolved. This took me on a journey and the book was the result photos and all. To be honest I had as much fun doing the layout on Blurb as I did writing and researching it, the whole thing was a blast. I got a huge amount of satisfaction from the whole process because through it I strengthened the connections with my dad’s family as they were involved in the project, I got to satisfy my curiosity about some of the crafts and met some of the modern day craftsmen , I got to record some of my favourite recipes and all this gave me a far greater feeling of connection with the island and my dad, who is now long gone.
I have had many holidays in Cyprus in the past but the ones I remember most clearly and with most affection were the early ones before the Turkish invasion. In those days my dad’s family still lived in their village on the outskirts of Lefkosia, when you visited everybody knew and as you were within walking distance of nearly all of them it was easy for people to drop by. Now with the family scattered across the sprawling city of Lefkosia, it takes more effort and involves car journeys along busy main roads, a bit like London with a lot more dust and heat. I lost that sense of connection with the authentic Cyprus ,through writing the book I found it again.