Monday 27 October 2008

My family and other animals

In a break from recent tradition, I've not used a song title to head this post...but then what could be better than a bit of Gerald Durrell - a favourite read when I was knee high to a grass hopper, and also enjoyed by the boy too.

Cyprus is an interesting place for us to visit. On the one hand completely familiar as we're visiting family, but on the other a place which is absolutely foreign in landscape, architecture and culture. We had a fabulous seven days soaking up the sun in temperatures near 30 degrees, and given my avowed dislike of 'beach holidays', I sheepishly have to admit to spending every day on one beach or another.

Going home to mummy, it's a strange feeling to go from being from being Dad head of house to being young son again, even just for a week...I'm not sure the boy noticed I'd turned back to being fifteen, but I certainly appreciated not having to be too grown up for a few days.

Almost as soon as we arrived on a balmy Saturday evening, I realised that my quest for the week was to be to see as many new creatures as possible in this semi-exotic land. On the fence chez Grandma inCyprus was a praying mantis. Clearly, he was praying for me to go away, as my snapping away with camera led him to vacate the premises the next morning, having been in residence for the previous fortnight. Other creatures at the house included a glorious Green Frog, about the size of a match box, which had been eyeing up a tasty (small) mantis for its supper. Unfortunately, we came along and rather disturbed the balance of nature, causing Kermit to leap a couple of meters onto the boy's chest before disappearing over the car and into the bushes. A pair of gorgeous deep red dragon flies spent the week sunbathing by the pool, only flying off to chase away any other trying to challenge their territory. Couldn't think why they spent their time by the's not as if there was anything in the chlorine-treated water for them to feast on...but each to their own.

Down in the sea, I lost count of the number of brilliantly coloured fish darting in and out of the rocks. We had great fun snorkling around and occasionally throwing some stale bread for them to was an amazing sight to see them swim at a rate of knots to get a nibble. I nearly got knocked down in the rush. My favourites, were - an octopus that spent a couple of days curled up semi-coverd in a hole in a rock before deciding it was time to flee the nest. Amazing how they blend in, and look so ungainly perched on rock, but are so elegant when swimming. Cuttlefish...again amazingly elegant and graceful until they decide you're too close and then turn on the jet propulsion to escape our noseyness. And finally, my sheer joy and glee to be swimming off the beach at the ghost city of Famagusta and to be overtaken by a turtle...sheer magic. I was like a wide-eyed boy in Hamleys the night before Christmas.

Flamingos standing in the lakes near the airport naturally brought to mind the ancient joke of "Why do flamingos stand on one leg? Because if they lifted the other one up, they'd fall over." Well it still made me laugh.

The only creatures I wasn't so keen on were the mosquitoes who came out to legs were a veritable feast they had saved themselves for. Also perhaps the jelly fish which I accidently stroked didn't seem to react, so that took the sting out of the situation....

I was saddened, and reminded of my father, one day to be lying on the beach and to have a man with Parkinsons walk past. He had the same far away look on his face, still smiling, but with his arm shaking badly. His companion walked some 25 yards behind him, watching attentively. He spent a long time in the sea, but at one stage he was oblivious to the fact that his swimming trunks had descended to his knees. It worried me that he would follow the same patten as Dad...not a happy journey for anyone to have to face.

The boy overcame his first experience of snorkling last year...without thinking he put on the snorkel and dived down, not realising he would get a gallon on salty water to choke on. This time, he got the benefit of being able to spend loads of time surveying the sea bed for creatures and was rewarded with the sight of some monstrous fish 'leaping' off the sea bed and gobbling up an innocent passer by. mmmm delicious. In fact his joy of being able to swim in such clear, warm waters was such that he took his mobile into the water with him. It was forgotten in his swimming shorts, and fifteen seconds after he dived in, he was shouting "oh no, oh no, oh God no" I thought there was was some nasty trying to get him, and was ready to dive in and fend it off as he stood up and 'fished' the soggy phone out of his pocket. He was distruaght...and I was relieved to the extent that I couldn't help making a joke of it...and reminding him of an occasion on holiday with his mum in Greece five years ago when he'd dived into a swimming pool with Game Boy in the same pocket. The phone is now an 'ex-parrot' as John Cleese might say. Phew that'll save on the bills.

We found some sunken treasure - One Euro which had been lying at the bottom of the sea for long enough for it to be well and truly weathered...

The boy also got on the back of Grandma's scooter with me again...the first time he'd done so since we'd come off my Vespa three and a half years ago..he ended up with a broken foot (I can't spell metatarsal) whilst I walked away unscathed. Still it did make me nervous buzzing around in nothing more than our shorts and T-shirts (and skid lids), when in England we'd never go out in anything less than full body-armout. But hey, that's holidays for you.

Unfortunately we didn't manage the day out on the power boat...a rather unseasonal and definitely uncharitable thunderstorm in the morning, kept us in dock...but sometimes, for whatever reason, these things are not to be. Still the absence of the day trip meant the boy got to spend a few hours jamming on his guitar with neighbour Phil and step-grandad Joe. I've a sneaking suspicion it was the highlight of his week. We also survived an earthquake, evidently, but as I was snoozing at the time I guess I can't say that the earth moved for me.

So now back to the daily routine...brrr it sure is chilly here in Blighty!


  1. It sounds like you had a lovely time and the return to boyhood and a mother's love for you will have done you the power of good. Loved the pictures. That praying mantis looks fat!!

  2. I have a collection of mosquito bites on my shoulder !!

    Can you belive it was snowing today ? Surely that's not allowed when we still have suntans ?!

  3. The underwater mobile story is a classic.....I'm sure a modern day Gerald Durrell would have included it in his books!

  4. Hands down my favourite book as a teenager, whether it was all the lovely descriptions of tottering scones and the brown bread and orange diet (Margot), or the though of that idillic life I don't know. But I do know I'm off to order it on Amazon thanks to you! Cheers! MH


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