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Mezze is widely served in the Greek and Middle eastern world. An assortment of little dishes and tasters which accompany a nice ouzo or a glass of wine. So when you read mezze moments you will have tasty snippets of life as I live it, India for four years and now Brisbane Australia, all served up with some Greek fervour and passion.

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Sunday, 17 June 2018

Troodos mountain tales

There was no real destination today but it was a journey, a perambulation, through the mountains of the Troodos range, starting off with a stop at one of the best bakeries for a piping hot " halloumoti" a small crusty bread full of warm oozing halloumi and plenty of mint. We skipped breakfast on purpose and then proceeded to demolish most of it in one sitting.

Our first stop was Kalopanagiotis a mountain village which lies in the Marathasa valley where in the olden days people would go for the ambient climate and lovely spring waters which emanate from the river which flows through all the valley. 

The village has been carefully restored with some funding from the EU and the result is reason enough for us to want to be in this blessed organisation and not, like some others, arguing their way out of it. Beautifully restored village homes,  cobbled streets, vines which spread like carpets over the courtyards and small gardens bursting with hydrangeas and lavender. There is a tasteful development called Casale Panayiotis http://casalepanayiotis.com/hotel-overview.html where you find fine restaurants and spas and lovely walled gardens, while other houses in the village have been turned into sensitive agro tourism.

The area is famous for its old painted Byzantine churches - ten of them have World Culture Heritage status and we visited one of the better known ones called St John Lampadistis whose origins are thought to be from the 11th Century. Over the years and to the north of this church two further churches were added dating from the 15th and the 18th century. The frescoes are vibrant and depict the history of the times as well as the sensitivities, the last being considered a Latin church to cater for the Catholics on the island. 

We were warmly greeted by a Romanian priest and a Cypriot, who took time to tell us about the history of the church and the monastery which surrounds it exchanging news with Anna on the details.  I shall post a video of the church music separately as blogger doesn't seem to cope with them very well. We lit candles and went on our way. 

Onto Moutoullas a village famous for its sparking water - the first bottled water in Cyprus. A tiny church here, the Church of the Virgin or Panayia can be dated exactly to 1280 from an inscription in the narthex of the church. The frescoes were paid for by Ioannis Moutoullas and his wife and so it is very likely this was a private chapel. Notice the beautiful saints of St George and St Christopher. 

Aren't his strippey socks exquisite ?

In a small by street a notice for the sale of a property - Holiday home for sale. " Pain in the Arse"
Wondering how many offers he will get.

Onto Pedhoulas another mountain village where we headed to the top of the village to visit the little church of Archeangel Michael- to witness what is perhaps the only knitting Virgin Mary in History. Here she is. Wonder what the pattern was ? Was it for Jesus or Joseph ? We will never know.

The door caught my eye

The dip, if there was such a moment in the day, came when we saw the various grand hotels which had been so much part of our youth closed and derelict. The famous Berengaria (named after a Queen) now a shell of thick walls desecrated with graffiti. The beautiful Pinewood Forest in a valley, the pool empty, the windows open and flapping in the wind and last but by no means least, Forest Park Hotel. The silver lining here, if there is one, is that they say this one has been closed for renovation. We shall see. 

Descending the mountain range we follow the wine trail heading towards Limassol, so a quick visit to Trooditissa the monastery where our sister Niki was baptised. There was a rather odd statement on the door of the monastery saying tourists were not welcome, but there were many Russians in the grounds paying their respects. The village of Foini is famous for its kilns and its waterfalls and Vouni a little further for its beautiful restored houses, quaint coffee shops and wine. We stopped for cold water and the famous glyko- we chose cherries and walnuts in syrup. Yum.

We drove like Cypriots in the olden days - windows down,arms dangling out, the wind in our hair, stopping to help ourselves to plums and ripe cherries from the orchards and gardens.

We returned to Nicosia  early evening, to tomatoes in olive oil and oregano, black olives, village bread and a cold Keo.
Cheers everyone !

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Tender is the night.

Our eldest son, George married his gorgeous girlfriend of several years, Melissa Morris in a very beautiful ceremony in Masseria Borgo Mortella, near Lecce in Puglia, Italy on the 2nd of June 2018. It was an unforgettable weekend with much love, many friends and a lot of good cheer. There will be many photos and countless memories but I will only post one today which to me is the most romantic and beautiful of the two of them, taken by a good friend of the bride's Sharleen Hill. 

To the two of them, health and happiness, love and understanding, caring and sharing, and the  everlasting tenderness of those fingers that touch and intertwine now and forever more. 

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Gnarled beauty

I promised a blog on them and apologies for being late with it but a fabulous wedding intervened of our eldest George to the lovely Melissa in Masseria Borgo Mortella in Puglia. If there is one overwhelming emotion that pervaded the three days of celebrations it was joy and lots of love from friends and family who came to share the moments with us. We were surrounded by the most beautiful olive groves and it is about these ancient trees that I come to speak about today which will endure long after we are gone. 

The fields we walked in, the roadsides, and as far as the eye could see, were planted with them. By the looks of some of them, I suspect they are hundreds of years old. We know the oldest is approximately 2000- 3000 years old which makes us seem like saplings without too much of a future in front of us, by comparison. So I walked in amongst them and took shots of some. Each one different and more exceptional then the one next to it. The more gnarled, the older, the more beautiful, an interesting analogy for us humans, which I think we could apply wholeheartedly to our own perception of beauty.  

Olives take some years to bear fruit, and how welcome and wholesome that is for all of us in every form we come across it. The oldest reported one is nearly 3000 years old near Chania, in Crete where I celebrated a mere 60 years on this earth. Way to go. 

Sunday, 27 May 2018

The Heel - usually best avoided but this is a good one.

We arrived as the sun was setting and the queues by Avis grew long. But the wait was fine, the car is brand new and Google Maps is the app to have, so with some trepidation and lots of excitement we set off on the right side. 

The roads mercifully empty as we adjusted to the changed traffic signals and the very abrupt lanes which lead into motorways but our trusted maps told us we were on the right track and after a small adventure in an olive grove we met Antonella, Francesco and Jianni who welcomed us not only to our home for the next week but to a plate of parmigiana, polenta and yellow pepper, and a local white. 

We looked around with cats eyes but had to reserve the best for the morning after. Waking early to the bird calls (endless fun for a certain man) to the warmth of the sun and that piercing perfection of the morning light. 

You come in through this magnificent gate. 

The houses, the farms, are all built in beautiful sandstone, some with the characteristic troulli which are so much part of the architecture of southern Italy. The stone is cool and warming at the same time and so reminiscent of the Greek world. These worlds grew side by side and there are still villages in this part of Italy which speak an ancient dialect called Grecko. 

Equally wonderful is the courtyard or garden. Hedges of rosemary and lavender that you brush past and leave a trail of wonderful scents, strawberry plants low on the ground ripening in the sun and pomegranate trees laden with flowering fecundity.  

And then the tranquil setting of the pool surrounded by the olives - and on these magnificent age old trees another blog just for them. 

Monday, 7 May 2018

A walk with a twist

Today's walk took the usual path down Ithaka Creek. Ibises scavenging, top knot pigeons cooeing and  a couple of ducks in the creek. Dougall was hell bent on having a ball. We ran down the hill to the path at such a pace, he was definitely walking me. He is my neighbour's pup, a boxer full of wonderful energy and enthusiasm. We have a great system. I borrow him when I want to take him for a walk and then give him back. Perfect.

I decided to let him off the leash and he bounded about. There was happiness in each of his jaunts, never too far, running through the long grass and the low lying branches as if playing hide and seek on his very own and delighting when he found me again.

It was an unusually quiet day and we saw no one, which was just as well, as I had him off the leash, until a couple appeared in the distance. I screwed my eyes a bit because I could see there was something on the ground and to my surprise I realised it was a cat. A cat out on a walk ?? That is unusual. So I rushed forward to put Dougall on the lead and as I approached the couple, she said "This is not my cat, but she has been following us. I was just taking my pet snake out for a walk". The snake was draped around her neck and the cat was now in her arms and she feared one might eat the other as we made our way past them with maximum enthusiasm.  

Well I did not want to risk carnage, so I hurried along with him and then looked back - was that for real? Yes it was, the snake, the cat, the tats and all of that ! 

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

What is the best thing about taking to the skies ?

Landing of course ! 

So that accounts for most of us out there. There is a small percentage who would still be up there...

What do you give the woman or man who has everything ?
A lot of us these days have most things, though we know many, many others who don't. A very first world problem for sure, but we are only here once, so I guess we are all looking for what may give us maximum pleasure and enjoyment in our short time on this planet. 

I got a bunch of barnacles for Xmas and how much pleasure or enjoyment I get out of those I am still weighing up. A more exciting Birthday present came from a dear friend who consulted hubby and came up with a Helicopter Ride over Brisbane. I took that as a hint that he would like to do this too, so it was a belated Birthday one for me and an advance Birthday one for him, when we took to the skies on a gorgeous autumn day. 

The helicopter could have been a toy. Raven is tiny, glassy, and my favourite colour, a dark blue. Does that count for attraction to the attraction and had it been yellow would it have been a no no ? We clambered in and put our safety belts on, " just like in a car" the pilot said, though I thought the distance you travel, fall, crash, may be vastly different. The engine was turned on and there was an undoubted tractor noise about it, chug chug chug, the rotary blades started up and behind us we could feel the engine warming up. Lets hope it doesn't get cold for it up there. We put on our head phones and talked into our mikes. A little nervously, but also hopefully. And then suddenly we were literally lifting straight off the launch pad and floating at an angle down the tarmac. An odd sensation and it almost felt like what fairies do in stories swooping in with their wands to spread their magic.Gradually we lifted to the 1000 ft that we would be cruising at and headed straight for the CBD. We looked down, where else, to see a well organised city, gridded and neat with homes and pools, roads and parks and the river snaking in and out. 

Then in we flew to the skyscrapers around the CBD and we literally circled them which was quite a thrill and admired the city as never before. Over to the western suburbs where C spotted the Medical School and our home not much further away, hovering over the Gabba Stadium and seeing how it dominated that landscape, before doing a south eastern turn to head back to the airfield. Methi, our trusted pilot brought the helicopter in to land exactly where we had taken off, a gentle setting down, unlike anything you experience on a plane, where you have the sensation of being forced back in your seat and brakes making unmistaken contact with the earth. Almost imperceptibly as if on a cushion, we were on the ground  and we waited for the rotary blades to come to a stop talking about the cityscapes and what we had enjoyed.  

Suddenly I was ravenous and wanted nothing more than a big brunch. All that nervous energy churning round inside not unlike those blades. Feeling alive and hungry.  A great Birthday pressie. 

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Are you as happy as this ?

And if not why not ? 

Last night I had the opportunity to go to a concert which was unlike any other I had been to. It was a collaboration of creative minds and Buddhist sentiments and it worked beautifully. On stage was Tenzin Choegyal, Tibetan singer and musician with a number of other talented musicians, an amazing tabla player Shen Flindell, a guitarist with a lovely Italian name, a talented songwriter and singer, Marcello Milani, a violinist Richard Grantham  and a brass pot and gong player, Michael Askill.

The other guest on stage was Michael Leunig, Australia's celebrated cartoonist, http://www.leunig.com.au/about/biography with his shock of white hair and his paintbrush. The story begins some fifteen years ago when Tenzin met Leunig busking in Melbourne. They have been firm friends ever since and last night was a coming together of their friendship and creativity in aid of Tibet.

Music and song accompanied Leunig's doodles and drawings.The Theme was "Nurturing the Earth" and it was a feast for the senses and the soul. In the course of the concert he created five canvases of his familiar and much loved happy humans who dance with light and laughter, love and lightness. His strokes were assured and his explanations humble, this is what he knows how to do, and he has been doing it for years, and people respond to them, and appreciate the sentiments expressed in each one. 

At the end of the night two of these canvases were auctioned off to support the Australian Tibet Council and the Tibetan Children's Village. I was floored by people's generosity of spirit and can tell you that one canvas fetched $7,500 and the other a whopping $9000. That is amazing for the cause. I was sitting next to a woman who was a passionate fan of Leunig and his work and bid loudly and hopefully for both. She was out bidded by a little in each auction but I am happy to say that she felt so strongly about it that she went to meet him and secured one of the canvases where the funds once more will support the cause. 

We live here with freedoms that are fundamental to our happiness and creativity so it is hugely important not only to remember those places in the world which do not  have these freedoms but to actively participate where we can to make sure each day they are one step closer to achieving them.