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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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Thursday, 29 July 2010

Cyprus and what it means to me

Its a funny place, ever so small and ever so precious. Parts have been horribly taken over by concrete jungles and indiscriminate building and people can be thoughtless ( parking on pavements ) and superficial ( great market for all the brands ) but the place I go to is a part of Cyprus that is the least adulterated by all this and what I might call a little corner of heaven on earth. It is the place where the bread man says dont buy the bread today - it is not fresh- disarming honesty- where the lady in the small grocery shop wakes up early in the morning to collect courgette flowers for my sister and I to stuff and refuses any payment.Where, when I went in to ask for a soothing cream for a friend badly sunburnt she went into her garden and cut off a couple of branches of aloe vera which was the best balm to burnt skin anyone could recommend. Where around a kitchen table meals of disarming simplicity are concocted with laughter and collaboration and then devoured with appreciative sounds all round.

This is where I choose to go in the summer when I return to see friends and family and to have lazy afternoons on the veranda as the sea breeze cools us or mad days wake boarding or snorkelling. Swims are never less than a couple of hours long and the joy of food after them is indescribable.

I always leave with a sense of loss and sadness but as I pack my bags with goodies that the family provides I know that it will be there for me the next year, a little changed but just as welcoming and that this is where my roots were dug and planted and however little they are watered they thrive through the balm of the family fold.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Aphrodite's Birthplace and mine

You see the connection surely both sublime goddesses etc etc.....
Joking apart this is where I come from and she has her origins here too. Aphrodite's Birthplace, the Goddess of Love who is said to have come out of the foam of the sea on this idyllic coastline of the island of Cyprus.
Just a few words about the island as it is SO small it is quite understandable that you may not know a lot about it. After all the entire island fits into one of the smaller states in India and its population is wait for it - under one million - not even the number of a good Delhi suburb.
So what is so special about this little place found in the eastern mediterranean ?
Well is has a history that goes back just under 10,000 years, and evidence of its richness is found all over the island with ancient paleolithic sites, beautiful frescoes, Crusader castles and wonderful churches. Cyprus got its name from the fact that it has always had large cooper deposits which is one of the reasons it was an attractive and lucrative trading post. It was rich and it was desired and that is one reason why over the years it was invaded and taken over by many conquerors like the Romans, Greeks, Franks, Turks and the British. Its varied history makes it culturally and linguistically fascinating and to this day it is a thriving and industrious nation with rapid development and a highly educated population. It is an independent, sovereign state though it was invaded by Turkey in 1974 and some of its land is still under the occupying Turkish army.Negotiations to solve the Cyprus problem have been ongoing for years. Obviously this is a potted version of its long and busy history.There is a famous street in Delhi named after Cyprus's first president after Independence in 1960 called Archbishop Makarios Marg. I would have loved a house in that street but my lakh rupees were sadly not enough !

Back to the Goddess of Love now and you may be interested to know that one genealogy gives her parents as Zeus, King of the Gods, and Dione, an early earth/mother goddess. More commonly, she was believed to be born of the foam in the sea which bubbled around the severed member of Ouranos when Kronos slew him.More like blood and guts if you ask me rather than foam but legends are made of frothy things. She was quite a woman and she is said is said to have married Hephaestus, the lame smith-god. The suggestion was that in the true Indian style it was an arranged marriage. Dont know if it was a fiery marriage or one made in heaven but rumour had it she had lots and lots of lovers, (Adonis was just one of the better known ones,) which adds a little spice to the island's history that is for sure. They also say that her child was Eros, a Cupid-like figure.

The bay with its beautiful white cliffs

A lovely couple enjoying the view
Adonises in abundance only these two came from Geneva.

My own Adonis looking for his muse.
It is worth a visit if only for the promise of eternal beauty and youth that you get if you bathe in the waters there and that is much cheaper than any botox or liposuction treatment these days !

Saturday, 17 July 2010

The quintessential summer garden

It seems so effortless and yet they are all beavering away, those keen gardeners,  early morning and late afternoon. Those long summer evenings when the long shadows fall and the smell of wet grass and honeysuckle rise up to greet you. I love this time of year, it seems such a short time in the Indian calender so being back in Europe for a while it is an opportunity to absorb it and be lost in it. I have chosen some of the quintessential garden beauties that I have come across in my travels including some pictures of the one I left behind in Switzerland.
Quintesentially Anglais ?

My Cherry tree
The resident couple walking on our lawn

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Ely Cathedral

I am not one to spend lots of time in places of worship but this one was quite special. Outside Cambridge in a small town, is the splendid Ely Cathedral. This must have been a town of differing numbers and population then, to what it is today, because its proportions and grandness talks of an erstwhile significance.
It was founded as a monastery in 637 by St Etheldreda.A wonderful name for a saxon princess.
It was refounded as a benedictine community in 907 and it became a Cathedral, the seat of a Bishop in 1109.
It continues as a cathedral to this day and if ever you are in the area you should definitely mark it down as a sight worth seeing. It has the only stained glass museum in the UK and it houses a wonderful collection of stained glass from monasteries, churches and buildings all over the country.

The entrance to the cathedral is impressive with its big wooden doors that lead to a 12th century hall and then to the uninterrupted view of the Nave one of the most inspiring in England.
The ceiling was painted in Victorian times and shows the ancestry of Jesus from Adam. It is the most magnificent sight and a mirror placed in the middle of the Cathedral not only enlarges the paintings when you look into it but also gives you a total view of it.

The massive doors                                                                                                   

A detail from the paintings

Ely has the largest collection in Europe of medieval monastic buildings which are still in domestic use and we spent some time wandering around the almonry, the infirmary, and the Bishop's house which are historic buildings in their own right.
In 1322 the Norman central tower collapsed and in its place this octagonal lantern was built which was a wonder of medieval engineering. You cannot help but admire and be aware of the greatness of the persons whose faith and commitment created the various parts of this impressive Cathedral.

Friday, 2 July 2010

The Chronophage

Wandering down King's Parade, on the corner of Trumpington street and in a stunning setting lies the Chronophage- the Time Eater a monstrous but wonderful grasshopper who literally eats time !
The creator John C Taylor is an old student of Corpus Christi College and he decided to build this magnificent clock at a cost of £1 million. Dr Taylor, 72, designed the timepiece as a tribute to English clockmaker John Harrison who solved the problem of longitude in the 18th century.

It was unveiled in 2008 by Dr Stephen Hawkings " A Brief History of Time"who lives in Cambridge and who incidentally we saw twice in our brief time there. It is a 24 carat gold plated stainless steel disc with no hands nor numbers to the clock face but three discs with LED displays which light up to tell you the exact time. The clock is accurate once ever five minutes, the rest of the time it seems to stop momentarily or catch and according to the creator this reflects "life's irregularities".

The most stunning part of this display is the grasshopper which rides over the disc eating the seconds. It moves its mouth  literally eating up time hence "Chronophagos" from the greek time and to eat.
The Corpus Clock is wound up by an electric motor which will last for the next 25 years. It took a team of eight engineers and craftsman five years to mould the 24-carat gold-plated face.
Dr Taylor made his fortune developing the kettle thermostat.

Frighteningly beautiful and strikingly remindful of  our life's short passage on this earth.