Putting Down Roots

 

Having decided that Dhoros was going to be our village and become an integral part of  our lives, the next move was to find a suitable place to put down roots. We were staying in a small village house belonging to friends of ours. A small walled courtyard with a very large pitharia led to the front doors.

 

These opened into a small windowless vestibule with a fairly spacious living room beyond, which in turn led to a small kitchen and an adjoining bathroom. Upstairs was one large bedroom with a good sized balcony that looked over adjoining village roofs with their beautiful Lemasos red tiles.

Balcony steps lead back down to the front courtyard whilst sliding doors from the kitchen lead to a rear enclosed courtyard. By village standards this was a fairly large house, as people would spend most of their days outside in the summer months, only sleeping indoors, whilst children would share their parents’ bedroom, or sleep downstairs on bed settees.

However, if we looked at it as a starting point for a future home we felt that with a boy and girl there really wasn’t enough room to expand as the children grew; wanting a little more privacy or their friends to stay. Further this was our first visit to a hot country in the middle of summer with two small children, and as temperatures soared into the high 30s we found it difficult to adjust to the searing heat. The only place we found some respite was on the balcony where a slight breeze wafted through the balcony doors to the window on the other side of the bedroom.

This made us more mindful; and we began to look at the village houses with new eyes. Any future home would have to have a fairly large upstairs balcony to catch the light breeze; which tended to spring up in the afternoons and a fairly large courtyard to afford plenty of outdoor living space, with plenty of shade being another requirement!

The Gods were obviously in favour of our decision to put down roots in Dhoros as fortunately we then met the family staying in the next but one house to us. They were teachers from Ealing with two young children.  The wife however turned out to be a Greek Cypriot, whose father had been born in the village.  Like so many Greeks and Cypriots beforehim: he had moved to other lands to find his fortune

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On hearing of our wish to find a house in Dhoros, she kindly offered to introduce us to her uncle; Philipos. Philipos had lived in the village all his life and she promised us that if there were any houses for sale in the village her uncle would know. This seemed fairly simple as there seemed to be many empty and in some case derelict houses in the village.  The old stone house between us seemed fairly derelict, with chickens roosting in the house. I had already drawn up a plan on what we could do with it; as it had a fair piece of land to its rear. So saying we all trooped down the road to meet Philipos. And so began a friendship that has lasted these last twenty years, more amazingly because Philipos spoke no English and we spoke no Greek.

He was and is an incredible old man; who with his wife and four children; had farmed and managed the smallholding they owned; living off its produce. However, as with most families in the villages; the children had grown up and moved to bigger cities for brighter lights and a promise of a work and a better living.  Weekends however, saw at least one or two of the children returning to the village of their birth with their own children,  to once again become villagers; helping their ageing parents in any way they could; in the kitchen or on the land, but predominantly to share the welcome and company of their family, sitting outside under the huge grapevine; which was more like a tree, sipping Cypriot coffee, and sharing their news.

Despite tha lack of a communal language Philipos thought it a great adventure to find us a house and almost immediately took us walking around the village looking at empty and derelict houses. Despite seeing many empty lovely old village houses, it became apparent that communications were somewhat restricted and his niece was returning to England later that day.

However not to be outdone we were ushered back to his courtyard, settled under the huge vine with a village coffee; Kaloo his wife called it Cypriot coffee, but Philipos laughed and said it was Turkish coffee, its just that no one wanted to mention their one  great sadness. So Greek or Cypriot coffee it had become. We sat on a mixture of old rickety wooden village chairs, aluminium camp seats and white plastic picnic chairs. (We soon found that nothing in the village was wasted.) Leaving us with Kaloo he was of again and returned a few minutes later with a very elegant English lady whom he introduced as Miriam.

Now I could tell you Miriam’s story and maybe I will later, but if I keep on diverging from my story it will never get told, so for now suffice to say, she had helped her husband build a boat in their front garden in England  many years previously, knocked down their garden wall to move the boat to the sea, sold their house and set about roaming the seas for a good many years. They finally ended up in Larnaca marina, sold their boat,  bought a village house in Dhoros from the proceeds, and intended to spend the rest of their lives in Dhoros. Many an evening we sat on their balcony; listening to stories of far flung places and people they had met on their journeys. A nicer couple you could not wish to find, totally devoted to each other.

When I look back to those early days I often wonder how we survived and managed to end up with the beautiful home we have today, and I truly believe that without Philipos’ and Miriam’s help we wouldn’t have done. Nowadays you have TV programmes and books telling you what you need to know in a foreign country if you intend to buy property or even live there. We were young and naive and when you hear some of the horror stories that have befallen unsuspecting sun seekers in the Mediterranean, I really can’t believe how lucky we were and still are, despite all the ups and downs we have faced on our journey to the Old Olive Mill. We were truly blessed with two wonderful people who helped us through the many pitfalls and bureaucracy of living in Cyprus pre its entry into the  EU. One elderly Cypriot  farmer who in his youth had fought the British from mountain hideaways  in their fight for independence, and one English lady who had seen the world, but like us had decided that Dhoros was the village that they wanted to belong to.

So thank you Miriam and Philipos, we couldn’t have done it without you. But with their help we did do it, and my next post will tell you how we finally became land owners in Dhoros. (literally) tbc…

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