FATHER’S PRESENCE MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE!
Why is my Birthplace divided and occupied?
What did my father do for me? Where was he when I needed him? How did he shape my life? Why did my mother and us siblings named him the “DEVIL”?
Life in the village came to real life for us kids once summer arrived and school was closed for three long months. There was time to play, to run, to chase birds, to hunt birds and trap birds. There was plenty of time to socialise with the friends from the village and organise our war games, our card playing games, our secret missions to steal a piece of fruit here and there, to ride our bikes and attempt to go to Nicosia some ten miles away. But……
Come 5.00 pm, no matter what was happening at that time, we had to run home, clean ourselves and hide somewhere in the house when my dad came from the city of Nicosia. Hide my mother advised us, ” The devil is coming”
Then the tall, dark figure of my dad entered and his first question to my mother was: Where are they? What did they do today? My mum always the mother, would never utter a word to make him insult us or hit us, which I must admit was rare compared to what other fathers did to their sons. We were lucky to escape punishment for anything minute but looking back I was lucky, all the kids of the village were lucky to have a father concerned and looking after them even in that manner.
Old Nicosia, Chrysaliniotissa Church in Saint Kassianos, 200 metres from the Hani
Growing up in the village had its advantages but there were huge disavantages as well. Summer was long, summer was hot, summer was a test of character as it offered the time to do something positive or get into trouble even in the village. The fact that the small community was like a large family, the fact that we were all related one way or another assisted us all in growing up in a loving environment where care was extended to nearly all of us by all.
Eleven years old and my dad has connections in Nicosia. He told me in a threatening , ordering way: I will take you to Nicosia to work in the small cafe of my friend Kokis. It was an order but I liked the idea because I would make a small wage, I would be in Nicosia daily and I would eat things that we did not have in village. It was a new experience and the anticipation was immense.
Do you know what an Ottoman “Hani” is? It is an 18th -19th century INN that played a major role during the years of the Ottoman Empire in Cyprus. An arched entrance into a square area with shops at the bottom and rooms to rent at the top in those days, now in 1950s with rooms already rented by locals and girls of repute. The space inside was used as a parking space for the buses which came from the various villages of Cyprus. That is why my dad had a connection with Kokis the coffee-shop owner and also a small office for the bus drivers of the village.
I grew up listening to this uncle from the village who run a small carpenters shop in the Hani. A funny character, short and fat but full of jokes that make you burst into laughter. Who else was there to talk about? An ironmonger I will come to him further down and a small workshop where they made the body on Bedford buses. My dad had one made there too in 1956-57.
My life was wake up early, go on the bus to Nicosia with my dad and return home in the afternoon with dad plus every Saturday my wage which was ten shillings in those days. It was plenty for a young kid who wasted his time in the village under normal circumstances. Was I happy? Bet I was. I had drinks, I had sweets like baklava and also met interesting characters. I felt grown up and important. I was making a wage!!!
Naive as Always
Cannot remember the day and date but I remember vividly the event. I took a coffee to the iron monger and later I went to collect the tray and the cup and glass to wash. That was really my job. Carry the coffee and drinks to clients inside the INN=HANI and outside and collect it again, bring it back and wash it.
Young man said the ironmonger, bring me a sweet when you have time. Which one I asked as we had about five different ones and then he said:
BRING ME THE WHOLE TRAY!!!
I was eleven, I was naive and so I went back to the shop, I picked the huge tray up and started walking to the ironmonger’s shop, a distance of about fifty metres. I was half way there when Kokis the owner of the coffee-shop saw me. What are you doing he asked me in a joking manner. I explained to him the order and then he laughed and said:
Take the tray back to the shop, go to the ironmonger and asked him which sweet he wants and it is ok. I wont forget the way this kind man treated me and how stupid I felt doing that. That I did and the ironmonger was all heart and laughter. That was life for a kid among characters that made up Cyprus of those days.
Thus my life as a kid was shaped working in the summers in a Hani in Nicosia and getting the social education I needed to grow up. Alas, I cannot even see this place any more, it lies in ruins on the Green Line of Nicosia diving two communities that used to live and work together. That seems to be justice these days after such long occupation periods of Cyprus by various masters be those Europeans or Turks!
Dum Spiro Spero