It’s May 1987 and young Andy from Bedford is under increasing pressure from mum and dad to get engaged, he’s not even 21 yet, but they are petrified of him not marrying a ‘nice Greek girl’ (I thought we were Cypriot) anyway, you really have to be born in to this nonsense to understand the degree of pressure that is put on second generation Cypriots by parents with heads stuck in the 50s.
Imagine this, you are born in the UK, you grow up in the UK, you go to an English school, you integrate very well (as Cypriots do) and you love living in the UK as a British person, but you are actively prevented from taking the natural course that all your friends take (by most, but not all parents) instead, you are pressured, badgered, bribed or even bullied to marry someone you do not know, do not have anything in common with, or maybe can’t stand the sight of!
So Andy had been dragged around the country in the preceding few months, on a mission to ‘find him a good girl’ but to no avail. You may not be aware, but up until not that long ago, many Cypriots in the UK were still paired up this way. A call from one parent to another, an invite to dinner, they look at he, he looks at she and she looks at he. This would naturally involve a healthy serving of who owns what, where it is and what it’s worth, dear God above I feel like doing a runner and I’m only telling the story, can you imagine what Andy was thinking to himself, the poor bastard!
Now Andy was a bit podgy round the middle, probably because he had to do one too many shifts in daddy’s ‘Fishatiko’ (Fish & Chip shop) but his mum, Androulla didn’t care, because he was ‘Golden Balls’ no girl was good enough for her perfect boy, (who could not fend for himself, had no clue what the definition of chauvinism is and probably thought that foreplay was the Manchester United team kicking a ball around before a game with Spurs!
You would think mother, (being a woman of sorts) would consider it of paramount importance to treat her son to respect women, to value them and to know that a good woman is like treasure? Nope……the source of much of the issues with women actually come from the most important woman in a Kypreo’s life………….Manoulla (mummy)
Something that will resonate with most Cypriot men raised in the UK, would be the hostile words of a mother noticing an unacceptable girl anywhere near ‘ton giokkan tis’ (her little boy) because these naughty little harlots would invariably find Andy’s hairy belly so irresistible that they would spontaneously rip their panties off and molest the poor innocent little fellow!
“Ksapolla tin gie mou, j’en na sou kollisi” (let her go son, you’ll be stuck with her)
I would imagine that Andy’s ‘lady friends’ had the same lifespan as mine, 2/3 weeks, then the frowns begin, followed by grunts, followed by ‘advice’ followed by grief! In fact in my case, I got thrown out over a girl, so I went to my godparents, then they threw me out over a girl, which meant I had to move in with ‘the girl’ who turned out to be a ‘Bi-Polar’ nightmare who went for me with a knife! Of all the rotten luck, all I wanted was a bit of slap and tickle and a Cheeseburger!
Anyway, pay attention because at my age, I quickly forget where the fuck I’m up to!
So then………….there was a Greek wedding! Now these weddings are all too often the starting point for yet another ‘Meze Matrimony’ because the WHOLE FAMILY are in one place and they can gang up on you. Now in these situations, each side has an agenda, the bride’s family(well she will be a bride if they manage to tighten that noose round Andy’s neck) want the girl married off as soon as possible, because they have serious concerns that someone may have his wicked way with their seemingly puritanical little darling, although mum knows different but she’s not going to tell anyone, she fixed it by changing the subject and cooking Lamb!
At the same time, the Groom’s family want their boy married as soon as possible, before he gets too involved with Jane, that nasty girl who lives in the next street and looks like she wants sex, because the instant there is the slightest possibility that Andy will get engaged, poor Jane will be subjected with more contempt than a Bacon sandwich in a Synagogue!
Now Andy couldn’t keep his eyes off one of the girls at the wedding, she was quite nice actually, lovely legs and Andy even licked his lips, but he was spotted by Pappa(dad) Kypros, who quickly gave him a stern look and firmly told him, she is not for you, she is working with that girl Maria (for God’s sake, ANOTHER Maria, I can’t keep up, can you?) and she’s English, you not gonna marry her, she won’t make Avkolemoni(Egg & Lemon Soup) for you when you are poorly, she just give you a Sausage roll and go out, enne? (If you insist on reading all this stuff about Cypriots, you really need to learn Greeklish lark, enne is a morphing of the term isn’t it to innit to enne, got that?)
Now Andy wasn’t actually thinking about getting in to Maria’s friend’s panties, he was actually thinking about getting in to them AS WELL! I can tell you this, many a Cypriot boy has ideas about cornering a girl (or two) out the back of the Chip shop on the sacks of potatoes…..unless that was just me of course!
Now back to the wedding ‘espasses mas re koumbare’ (will you f*cking get on with it) yeah, yeah, I get a little side-tracked at times, especially when you mention sacks of potatoes…..memories! HA! HA! So the first blow is about to be struck…..
(uncle Giannis in front of the family)
“Re Andy, thelis na hartothis?” (“oi Andy, do you want to get engaged?”)
The chatting stops, everyone looked at Andy, he couldn’t run away, his mum look at him with that ‘who knows how long I will be around face’ yiayia(nan) considers it a done deal already and just to add insult to injury, everyone joins in with that look of agreement as his mum yells out, “PLEASE Giannis, get him engaged, he needs a girl!” (little does manoulla know that last night Andy was getting jiggy with Jane……..and her mate! Lol
Suddenly, a young girl is thrust in to the equation, Eleni, OMG….she didn’t shave (just kidding) back then and we’re only talking 20/30 years ago, they would assume this ‘Vestal Virgin’ look, you know, like they have never discovered their clitoris, which was so unfair to the poor girls, because she probably didn’t fancy Andy, the spoilt little fat bastard who drove an old Mercedes with big wheels, but it didn’t look like she was going to have much choice and god forbid she embarrass the family, she would be in DEEP SHIT!
“Ti that pi o kosmos?” (remember that one?)
So dinner what set, next Sunday at aunt Gerogina’s in Leicester, this was going to be interesting! Andy could feel the impending course of events and through the week, his mum wouldn’t let him eat any Battered Sausages so he could slim down and look good for Eleni.
Before he knew it, Sunday was upon him, like death & taxes, he was in his suit, sat in the front of his dad’s Mercendez (280E the flash git) heading for Leicester. When they arrived, aunt Georgina had the table laid out ready, dips, starters, a bottle of Johnny Walker all laid out on a table cloth that could all to easily be the root cause of a schizoid episode! There was uncle Gianni and aunt Georgina, who had instigated the ‘Proksenia’ (arranged marriage) and Eleni’s parents, Hristakis and Frosoulla, who were already there waiting for their guests to arrive. At this point, Eleni was forced to run backwards and forwards to the kitchen with food, to display her incredible domestic skills, because Andy was obviously in dire need of feeding!
After a little while, plate after plate of food was served, all approved by the British Heart Foundation, but this did not matter now, this was about impressing, the men were busy talking about the price of Cod, because it had just broken twenty pounds a stone, the ladies were talking about the crème that goes on top of the Patichio(pasta bake with mince and a rich cream on the top) politely inferring that their recipe was the best. Then it was crunch time, uncle Giannis turned to Andy and said,
“why don’t you two go in the other room and talk?”
In a few uneasy steps, they found themselves sat on the floral velvet sofa in the front room, with their eyes slowly working their way round aunt Gerogina’s ghastly ornaments, sat on horrid lace mats, wondering what the hell to say to each other.
After fifteen or twenty uneasy minutes where they established that they both liked Eastenders and supported Spurs, they returned to the dining table where everyone turned around and looked. No, this was not a glance, this was a look of expectation, which was rapidly followed by the most uncomfortable word you can think of from uncle Giannis……..”Well?”
Imagine this for one moment if you will, Andy got a glimpse of this girl at the wedding, the next thing he knows he’s been dragged to her aunt’s house, stuffed with food, hurled in to a very awkward first conversation with her for AT LEAST 20 minutes and now these people want him to agree to marry her!
Andy shrugged his shoulders and said, “well, she seems a nice girl, but I don’t know her” to which uncle Giannis replies, “what you want to know re? She comes from a good family, she cook for you, she clean for you, she very young and you can make her be like you want!”
Then before you know it, they arranged to meet at the girl’s home in London the following Sunday, that was going too be D-Day and Andy knew it. The only thing that Andy was thinking, apart from running away, was that he should maybe have another couple of rounds with Jane before next Sunday, because after that, making Souvla(Cypriot BBQ) will be more interesting than sex (hey do you think that’s why it’s so popular in Cyprus?)
After a very emotional week, with mum and dad working on him, Andy was a little defeated by the Sunday, Aunt Georgina was calling mum every day to check how it is going, so she could report back to Frosoulla and Eleni was secretly being coached on ‘performing her duties’ she knew already but she wasn’t about to admit that to anyone.
It’s Sunday, the day of the pilgrimage to London, Streatham Vale, where the WHOLE FAMILY were there waiting, I really do mean the whole family, people visiting and just blatantly asking “is this the boy who is going to marry our Eleni?” Yiayia and Pappou were there, they wanted it all signed up before they left for Cyprus the following Wednesday, there was yet another table laid out on a tablecloth that looked like a printout of a Pub carpet and most importantly of all, the ‘English Rose’ China was out. That said it all, nobody gets that crap out unless there’s a wedding victim about to be signed up! Personally, I think the only place for English Rose China is the actual wedding………..where it can be SMASHED!
Once the formalities of face-stuffing were over, the young victims were once again told to go and have a chat, this time they actually discovered that they liked Wham, Lethal Weapon and Agia Napa…………..nice! In the meantime the ‘sympetheri’ (in-laws) were about to declare eternal union as a family, the men were playing Tavli(Backgammon) while the women were still talking about fucking food, I would have liked to ram it down their throat to the beat of Zorba the Greek, but then I am rather intolerant!
The victims….sorry the couple to be, returned to the lounge-diner with yet another Floral Velvet sofa, to which they were greeted with silence and that word once again………..”well?”
“Andy shrugged and said, maybe we could meet again and get to know each other!”
This did not go down well, they wanted to ‘make it official’ so uncle Giannis said, “what for, she is a good girl, you are good boy, she come from a good family and I want to play Tavli with your dad again….besides, her yiayia and pappou go back to Cyprus on Wednesday, say yes, so they can go back happy!”
You may find this hard to believe, but this shit is TRUE, I kid you not!
Andy buckled under the pressure and said, ok…..to which they all got up and cheered, they began kissing each other, the word ‘Sympethero’ was said about 500 times and Eleni put her arms around Andy, he was in deep shit now, he was now her possession!
Mum and dad had tears in their eyes, uncle Giannis demanded to be best man, aunt Georgina was going to make coffee, yiayia made the sign of the cross and said this happened because she asked saint somebody to make it happen that morning and she did not allow pappou to have sex while was in Church. (there’s no Goats in Streatham Vale anyway)
The celebrations had hardly subsided, when they all began to arrange the engagement party! It was going to be on the 4th of July which was in two weeks’ time, because after that, most of them were heading off to Cyprus on their holidays. They were discussing who to invite and who they would not invite, because they would be ‘jealous’ that they did not get Andy for their daughter (jealousy, remember that word) talk about running away with themselves. They decided that they were going to have it at aunt Georgina’s house in Leicester, because there was more room, a bigger garden and Georgina wanted to show it off, as well as her collection of that disgusting crockery!
They began to invite everyone, the potato man, the Fish supplier, the neighbours, cousins (who were told, “come, you might meet a nice boy like our son”) get the picture?
It was the 4th of July, what a symbolic date, the USA was celebrating independence while Andy was about to be enslaved! It was the usual affair, too much food, too much prodding people with food, (just in case they thought there was not enough food, “ti tha pi o kosmos?” remember?
Before you knew it, the day was over and Andy was now part of the family. This is the bit, where they begin to tell you who is jealous of who, who did what to who, which one stole the land in Cyprus that belonged to yiayia and so on……..it’s nearly always the same story.
Andy felt a terrible weight, sadness, a loss of all that he could have enjoyed in life, before it had even begun. He was now expected to behave like he were part of a loving couple with a girl who he did not know, had nothing in common with and actually, watching her through the day, now that she felt comfortable to start opening her gob, she really got on his nerves!
The following four weeks were a round of meeting her family, Andy was noticing Eleni almost rubbing it in to her single cousin’s faces that she had got engaged and they were single and so on and so on, as time went by, he was not liking what he was seeing, until one night a few weeks later when he couldn’t keep quiet any more, he was having chai me kanella (Tea with Cinamon) with his mum when Andy just had to blurt it out….
“Mum, you know Eleni? I fucking hate her!”
To be continued…………………..