It’s 1973 and mum & dad (kyriacos & Ellou) decided to go in to business, was it Double Glazing? A Cab firm? A Painting & Decorating Service? No…..don’t be daft, it was a ‘FISHATIKO’ That is the ‘Greeklish’ term for a Fish & Chip Shop. Ours was in Northampton, a town off jct15 of the M1, with a Cypriot community of less than 500.
Now at that time, this was still the first generation that came over in the early 60s and before the large influx in to London after the 1974 invasion. So as you can imagine, they had all the Cypriot ‘traits’ customs, behaviour and accents that were for all intents and purposes ‘fresh from the motherland’
“Ti tha pi O kos slap) mos” (What will people say) Yeap…..that one! Good God I really dislike that expression, as in my case, it was normally followed by a Patso (slap)
So this was my childhood, sold out for a few pieces of Fish, I was approaching 7 years old at the time, these were the days of Tiswas, the Saturday Multi-Coloured Swap Shop and so on, but did I get to watch any of this on a Saturday morning after a hard week of being a horrible little bastard in school? Nope!
I had to help in the “F***** Fishatiko”
Now my job, was to bring the baskets of chips from out the back, every time dad poured one in to the fryer, I had to go and get another, dipping my hands in to that freezing cold water, or maybe having to tip potatoes in the chipper, depending what was needed.
As an extra special treat, I had to run out the back to get slices of Spam, when ordered for Span Fritters, or my absolute favourite, ‘Cod Roe’ REALLY? How can anyone eat that crap, it’s like wet sawdust stuck together!
Now back then, most Fish & Chip shops closed around 7.30/8.00, but once they got in to the hands of Cypriots, they were open till late, as we were. This was before the mass Fast-Food chains arrived, so there was a lot of money to be made. I remember days when the queue ran all the way round the shop, out the door and about another 20 feet in to the street! You don’t really see that today.
So my shifts were Friday evening, and Saturday lunchtime, more in the school holidays, I got paid in chips and if I raised any objections, I was soon put in my place with a healthy portion of guilt!
“You should be grateful we are doing this for you!”
That was interesting, because they were not “doing it for me” when I wanted a Raleigh Racer, no….I got some unbranded thing from Cash & Carry, in fact, nearly everything came from the Cash & Carry!
I remember in that period, there were nearly a dozen chippy’s in Northampton owned by Cypriots and dad had a nickname for all of them, in fact……dad gave everyone a nickname and they were NOT flattering!
We had PITTOKKELOS, MAKROKKELOS, BOUBOUKSHIOS, KIKLOPAS, PITSILLOS and MANDTRAHALLOS to name a few, but this was nothing compared to the famous ‘Phone Directory’
This was not a little book, with A-Z that pops up if you remember them, not even a notebook, no…this was a folded wrapping paper, sellotaped to the wall where the phone was and I so wish I had a copy of it. I think that it was one of the funniest examples of ‘Greeklish’ I have ever seen.
It comprised long, made-up words which may have included a variant of the person’s name, a description or maybe the company and often a nickname or even an insult thrown in…
And many, many more…………..it was hilarious. Apart from the fact, that I was just a kid, I picked up this stuff and repeated it, but guess what happened when I did? Yeap, I got slapped!
I got more slaps than a Nymphomaniac’s arse…………really!!!!
There were so many incidents in that shop, I could talk about it forever, but some of the funniest, were not so funny at the time. Duncan was married to my aunt Sue, he used to do the potatoes for a while. The shop was basically 3 rooms next to each other, the shop, the kitchen and then the potato storage and preparation area. One day he was stood in the middle room, which was basically the kitchen and you had to pass through here, via a pair of swinging louvre doors that looked like they came out of a John Wayne movie, to get out the back to get chips. I was stood talking to Duncan, and dad walked through with two empty buckets and bumped in to me, he put them down, slapped me, picked them up and carried on. After being slapped, I moved further along out of the way and mum was taking the pressure cooker off the gas to put it in the sink and turn the cold tap on, she stepped back holding this hot pot, and backed in to me, she put the pot back on the gas and slapped me, on THE OTHER CHEEK! I had one hand on each cheek, Duncan stood there laughing……..BASTARD!
It was 1976, the famous heatwave, it hardly rained for months and months. Over a period of a few weeks, potatoes went from less than £1.00 a sack, (a sack was 56lb or 25kg) to over £14.00!
Dad used to hire a transit van, I remember it was a Blue one, that looked like it had made an appearance in an episode of ‘The Sweeney’ Every Sunday, we would head off the The Fens looking for cheap Potaotes, the area around Wisbech was a potato farming heartland. The van was always overloaded, we had to drive back at 20MPH, I got bored, I played up, I got smacked…….What a fucking joke, I was supposed to be grateful for spending the whole of Sunday squashed in a van, because…..
”We do all this for you re, watsamatta, why you not grateful?”
“Grateful. REALLY? Yes of course, I totally forgot that it’s my lucky day to be son of Cypriot”
One day, this man walked in the shop and said he had a whole warehouse full of potatoes at a very special price. I still remember the look on dad’s face when the man told him the price, I think it was around £5 a sack, but this was in 1976, so I’m not completely certain, but one thing I do remember, was dad trying to hide his elation at ‘CHEAP PATATES’ (potatoes)
Now dad has a habit of biting his tongue when he’s excited, and at that moment he shoved so much of it to the side of his mouth to have a good chew that he had a lump in his cheek! Anyway, dad had a look at a random sack of potatoes and they looked fine, so the next thing he got on the predecessor to the ‘information highway’ yes…the ‘Tilefono’ (phone)
Dad ordered two or three tons, ( I think there was about 40 sacks to an imperial ton at that time) as did all the other Cyps in Northampton, this was a time to get the Brandy out and celebrate.
They all had their ‘Super Value Potatoes’ delivered within a few days and went back to the task of making lots of money because it was all for me.
”I thought great, now that we’re loaded I might as well knick a tenner out of the till, it will won’t hurt”
Well I thought wrong didn’t I?
Mind you, what was about to come was infinitely worse! When I was bored, I used to like standing out in the back and throwing knives at the potato sacks, every now and then I would get the same one too many times and when Duncan went to pick it up to pour them in the peeler, the sack would fall apart and all the potatoes rolled around the floor, which I thought was hilarious, sometimes, I’d manage to run out the back before I got slapped, sometimes I didn't.
On this occasion, thing were about to get much worse, I’d been knife-throwing for ages and one of the sacks actually split, while it was stacked up, these were all the cheap potatoes dad had bought the week before, they were like Organic Sex, because they were going to make dad a good profit……..or so he thought.
As this sack split, a few other sacks fell down too as they were stacked so high, to fit, I saw mum coming with the shoe, I legged it out the back door and just at that moment, it was uncle Mamas…..yeah, we all have that one uncle who is always in the wrong place at the wrong time, well that was him and this was the time.
As I ran out the back door, my mum shouted in this Pigeon English….”STOP HIM”
Yeah, Mamas was just at the right place at the right time and being so skinny, he was fast, his boney little fingers just caught my sleeve and it was like a cartoon, my legs took off and were running in the air. I got dragged back in and got a shoe across my face, but then………..CATASTROPHE!
Mum said, “What’s that smell, EKLASSSES ANTONAKI(did you fart Antony)?” It was like raw sewage, obviously they all gave me a quick sniff first, because as far as they were concerned, if anything goes wrong it is my fault, but I was actually fucking innocent this time!
“OH YEAH!” It was not me…………it was the SMELLY SPUDS!
They had not started on those cheap potatoes yet, until they finished off the stock they had, but the sack that split due to my knife-throwing was one of them and it STUNK!! I could not describe the look on mum and dad’s faces as they thought the worst…..they quickly opened another sack, that stunk too, and another and another.
Dad quickly got on the phone to ‘MAKROKKELOS” he had just discovered the same thing, one by one, they all called each other and they all found out that they had been the victims of a sting! The irony is, dad was almost relieved to hear that the others had been done too, otherwise there would have been suspicion of a ‘FIX’
Good God, can you imagine the HUMILIATION?
Mum kicked off with ‘APANAYIAMOU” (My dear Virgin Mary) but then she left the pages of the good book and started cursing,
……and so on. Naturally I laughed and got another slap for my cheek, but it was worth it! I have to admit I was still pissed off about being slapped for taking that tenner, so I thought to myself, “It’s not for me anyway so bollocks!”
This guy had sold 30 or 40 tons of potatoes that were unfit to eat, they were rotten, I must admit, I did think about taking notes for the future, that was a good hit!
So much drama and this is only 1976, I was still just 10 years old……wait till I tell you about some of the other crap that has happened………..back soon!
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…………………..
It's August 1989 and I decided to move to Cyprus....yey! This was a Cypriot pilgrimage, I went out and bought a silver Mercendez(Mercedes for those of you not paying attention) I bought lots of ghastly loud shirts and I headed for Dover. I took the Ferry to Calais, then drove down through Reims, Nancy, Stuttgart, Munich, Graz, Belgrade, Skopje, I crossed in to Greece at Evzoni, then drove to Athens and then on to Pireas.
Even though I left the UK in August, it was not very warm and I left wearing a Leather jacket and warm clothing, this continued all the way through Europe, until I crossed over the Alps and descended in to the former Yugoslavia, then it began to get warmer and I began to slowly strip off, finally arriving in Pireas wearing shorts. However, there was something I did not remember to do, I had put my watch forward one hour on the Ferry to Calais, but when I crossed Yugoslavia, I should have put it forward another hour, but I didn't realise, being totally consumed by the excitement of this amazing journey (which is whole story on its own) until I got to Pieras, then the time difference did make a difference.
At that time, there was a Ferry from Pireas, to Limassol on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 19.30, it stopped off in Rhodes for the day, then arrived in Limassol the following day, then it went on to Haifa. The last leg of the journey did make embarkation a nightmare as there was always Israeli security checking out everyone, which was annoying.
After driving around Athens for a few hours and looking around, I arrived at the port for 18.45 (or so I thought) and went to buy a ticket to get on the Ferry, to which I was told........."To Karavi efige" (the Ferry has left) Yeap, that awful moment that I looked at my watch and realised that it was not 18.45, it was in fact 19.45 and I was now stuck in Athens till the following Tuesday!
I called home and did what Cypriots do...........
"mum, what family do we have in Athens?"
She said, "You have your cousin Androulla, your cousin Niko, and there is always a Maria, EVERY family has a Maria! Excellent, I thought, but the problem was they did not have a phone, so I would have to call them at work the next morning, leaving me stuck in Athens overnight. I stumbled on a 24 hour kiosk with a nice lady working there and ended up parked there talking to her and different customers all night long, it actually turned out to be a wonderful experience.
I called my cousin in the morning and she came and found me, so I spent the next few days with her until Tuesday when I could leave. The first thing I needed was some sleep, then I got up and went for a drive, but this was the first time I had gone to bed and woken up in Athens, I had driven on Motorways all the way from Calais, so it was natural to stick to driving on the right (or wrong side for us Brits) so you can imagine what happened next, I drove down the road, saw an oncoming car flashing me, more and more, it screeched to a stop next to me and this Greek shouted....."Sta deksia........na MALAKA!" (to the right, you W*ANKER)
So, Tuesday the 22nd of August 1989, I finally got on to the Ferry to Cyprus, my journey was nearly at an end, but the real adventures were yet to start. The Ferry left at 19.30 ( yeah I know) and arrived the following morning in Rhodes, where I was able to get off and spend the day looking around, then it left Rhodes that evening and arrived in Limassol the following morning..............let the games begin!
"You're not Cypriot and you're not English either!"
I rolled off the Ferry in the port in Limassol where I was immediately directed to park up and go in to a nearby office. You should have seen this place, it was like 'Revenge of the FAT SLOBS' these land Whales with Moustaches looked like they were lowered in to their chair in the morning by a crane, that returned at the end of the day to take them away.
At the first desk, slob number 1 demanded CY£10.00 from me, (I have no idea why) for which I received an aggressively stamped piece of paper, then I was instructed to move to the next desk, where slob number 2 demanded CY£20.00 from me, this was for insurance, this went on for about 5 slobs who had taken a total of CY£80.00 from me, then I was instructed to take a customs officer to my car.
These people really have a stick up their arse, talk about getting above themselves, he opened my cases and questioned me as to why my clothes were new! I told him that I had brought my best clothes along with a lot of new items as I had come to stay, but I was immediately told that I had to pay duty on them (yes, even on my bag of new briefs that I had bought from the 'Cash & Carry) !
I did ask him why I was not allowed my personal effects duty free, as I was a re-patriot, to which he responding by yelling at me, "you were not born here, you are NOT Cypriot, so you ARE NOT a re-patriot!"
"Oh really? English people are allowed their personal effects duty free aren't they?"
"You are not English!"
Fair enough, I got the picture, they were determined to get money out of me and there was nothing that I could do, I paid up, (over CY£300.00) and left. I drove out of the port in to Limassol, I was in Cyprus.....WOOHOO! I made my way to Larnaca and headed out for my first Souvlaki.
My next port of call was the Customs regarding my car, now I was under the impression that being a re-patriot (which I now realised I was not) that I would be entitled to a duty free car, like everyone else who moves back to Cyprus, (duty on cars at that time was as much as 150%) well I was wrong. Yet another slob squashed in a chair that didn't really fit took great pleasure in telling me the same thing that I was told at the port, I WAS NOT Cypriot and I WAS NOT English, they told me I would have to pay CY£9,000.00 in duty on my car (a fiver year old Mercedes!) I was pretty pissed off with this bunch of thieving slobs by this point, but then I thought to myself, if I'm not considered Cypriot, at least I won't have to do national service (obligatory 26 months for locals but those moving back from abroad could do 6 months)..............WRONG!
I went to the ministry of defence where I was told that I had to do national service, when I asked why, guess what this bastard said? Yeap,........"because you are Cypriot!" Can you imagine my shock? When I replied by stating that the others did not regard me as Cypriot, he actually had the nerve to say, "they work it out differently, if your grandfather is Cypriot, then YOU are Cypriot!"
That's when I lost it and said, "Why don't you tell that fat slob in the customs to let me off paying duty for my fucking car then?" but I was wasting my time, this was 'welcome to Cyprus' these three events should have opened my eyes to the way everything worked and there was nothing that I could do about it, so despite being insulted about my nationality (only where it suited them of course) I still had to do my national service, but I had other ideas. I was not going to take this lying down and go along with it, NO WAY, the Cypriot army was about to induct it's worst soldier in history, I was going to mess them about so much that they would cheer when I walked out of the gate, this was when I came out with my new nickname for them......"Smiling Assassins"
I'll tell you about my adventures in the Cypriot Army another time.
Looking back as I grow older, being of Cypriot decent and growing up in the UK must be one of the most interesting, educational, emotionally and socially challenging experiences you could possibly imagine. So here we go, I've got so much crap to tell you, that you it will literally send SHIVERS down the spines of an entire community!
Uncle Andreas, or Kostas or someone called something like that (the type who offers to drive you to the Marina in his 'MERCENDEZ' (the Greeklish nickname for a Mercedes) then take you round the island on his brother's boat....got the picture? Well, I can tell you a few stories about flash upstarts like him, on reading this the wife who would probably file for divorce, well she would do if keeping up appearances were not more important than principle, his family will probably be in a screaming conference over a cup of muddy coffee, oops, I meant to say Turkish Coffee' OMG.........did I say Turkish Coffee? Shame on me, I meant CYPRIOT COFFEE, yes, that's it (isn't that stuff horrid, I'll tell you what, Starbucks need not worry)
The fallout from a Cypriot family humiliation is hard to articulate in any comprehensible manner that you 'non Cypriots' could possibly decipher, we are talking self-sacrifice and skulduggery to the extreme, just to preserve reputation.......as you will soon find out.
"Son, you are not just a fool, your are fool complete!"
So here we are, ready to hear some really interesting Cypriot tales, oh....and if any of you think that some of these tales are about perfect little me, then all I can say is, NOT TELLING YOU! Well that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
There is a saying that rings in the ears of EVERY Cypriot like a bad case of Tinnitus, Cypriots live and die by this saying, they might live on fresh air and drive a flash car, beat the kids, beat the wife or even beat themselves, and that my friends is the saying "Ti Tha Pi O Kosmos" (what will people say) just writing those words has put my blood pressure up because I heard those words many times throughout my life, but as a child, they were either preceded by, or followed by a "Patso" (to you my non-Cypriot friends, that means a slap!)
"Antonki, come held the ladder so I don't fell down!"
That sums it up for this part really, but I have so much more to say, so many different stories, most of them funny, some of them sad and a few are even tragic, but in the end, they will define this Island race that is the Cypriots. You may at this point be completely oblivious to the social politics of being Cypriot of course, if you are a 'ksenos' (foreigner) but if you are Cypriot, then I would expect you to be reading with a tentative apprehension and trepidation at the very thought of what I may say, who I may mention, what naughty little antics will I share with the world, and whether or not you are going to make a 'guest appearance' in one of my tales? Who knows, you'll just have to wait and see!
Please feel free to share, like, comment or even message me with your own 'Confessions of a Cypriot'