Photo 1960, My mum the second lady on the left!

The village is small. It is only half a mile north to south and east to west. The houses pre 1950s are built in earth bricks in clan enclosures and stretches. It is patriarchal but it is reasonable to be so. Next to father’s house come the sons and daughters houses and their off-springs too. When disaster hit one of them, it virtually takes them all in one go. Alas that happened to my birthplace home, taking with our home, my grandparents home and assisting buildings. All gone but the memories stick out and are as vivid as the 1950s.


Poor, With Minds Working to Satisfy Our Body and Mental Demands

The summers in Cyprus are long and hot. You are up early, you have siestas, you roam about, you play everything and anything you know of and there is still plenty of time to waste and plot events amongst your age group. At the back of your mind is always lack of food, lack of fruit, lack of sweets and drinks. No money, no games.

Grown up and with the knowledge I have acquired over the years, I came to the conclusion that my elders, the people of my village were as good as gold at heart but had little knowledge of how to make our lives a little better and provide a few more nests of food and happiness. One fig tree, I can remember. Why? Fig trees can be reproduced so easily and their fruit is so nutritious and tasty. A couple of places of cactus that can be replanted and reproduced so easily everywhere. Yet, no such things occupied the minds of our elders but to have a piece of bread, the main sustenance item, a few olives and a piece of cheese if lucky to have some.

Thus to my story of 1956-57 and what I and my few friends were up to to satisfy our hunger, our greed perhaps and have some adventure in a small community, where everybody knew everybody and were close relatives.


August 1956-57

Hot summer and the son is up already and burning stones. No thermometres in those days but say it was easily 36 -40 degrees Celsius. We were used to that and such temperature was no issue for us. We needed no hats, no bottles of water with us and no shoes. Just a pair of shorts and no tops. That was freedom and that was our life.

Not too many things to do but we had to do something. We played football in the burning son, we played cards and marbles and then… we got hungry too but where was food? Breakfast? What was that?

Ten in the morning. Chris and I had made our plan. We will go to eat some “zizifa”, kind of date that you could find on a tree similar to an olive tree that liked water. There were three of them in the west of the village and they belonged to Barnaby, a kind man but a very protective of his fruit like any  person in the village, really. He guarded his trees and their product like the apple of his eyes. Nobody could touch them. Mind you, if anyone had melons in his fields, they were guarded, an orchard with citrus trees they were guarded. Nothing unusual, as you can imagine in a village where everything was nearly absent and more so food and fruit.

Met Chris near his house which was just about 300 yards away from the trees with the fruit. Barbaby’s home was about 200 hundred yards away from his treasured trio of zizifa trees. I used to play war games with Chris, he left Cyprus at sixteen for Australia where he still lives, and we were daredevils to say the least. All innocent , all boyish stuff but I suppose it kept us happy and contented.

We went through the fields and round the trees like a small army approaching unit enemy lines. We knew that Barnaby kept an eye on his treasure and the plan was to climb on the trees, eat as much as we could and if he saw us run for our lives. We were young and fast like lightening. Eating for a few minutes, two or three ,and then we both shouted at the same time.

“He is coming!”

Barbaby on his bike was rushing to catch the thieves but we were too quick and too clever to be caught. We disappeared in the fields as we went and no harm there. However, we knew that he saw us and perhaps recognised us and that was a concern. It was not us, ok, we agreed and split up.

In a few minutes I was home. My mother was weaving as usual at the back of the house and immediately I told her about what I did. Dont worry, she assured me.

Go and lie down to rest and if he comes, I will sort him out. I trusted my mum to do the right thing and so one cool blanket on the floor and I was pretending to be asleep but .. really, I was expecting Barnaby at the door and …….

Oh Lord, five minutes, ten minutes later the knock on the door froze me. Will he beat me? No issue in those days to walk into somebody else’s house and make justice. My mother was at the door.

Oh, Barnaby, what is the problem, my mother inquired.

Is Petri home, he asked in an angry voice. Yes, he is been asleep for some time now, mum answered.
Oh, I thought I saw him on my trees eating my “zizifa”.

Oh, no Barnaby, it must have been somebody else, my mum assured him and the event was over in about a minute.

Oof, what an adventure and what a happy memory.

I reminded my uncle Barnaby of the event many years later in London but he could not remember the event. He was in his seventies by then. Sweet memories of events and friends never die easily especially those of the childhood, those of the birthplace that was taken away and lost for the time being.

Peter Constant

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