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Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Ken looking at the BBQ thinking "Tucky is that you?!"

Ken looking at the BBQ thinking “Tucky is that you?!”

There’s never been any doubt in my mind that my family is a little bit country.

Easter Sunday was spent chasing the chickens away from the BBQ hoping they wouldn’t make the connection between themselves and their not so distant herb covered cousins.

Some cultures dye their Easter eggs red, others mould them out of chocolate but my family decided all that was far too main stream. We weren’t having any of it, we were going back to basics and making our eggs from scratch.

In the incubator at a tropical 37.5°c - tempted to get in there myself!

In the incubator at a tropical 37.5°c – tempted to get in there myself!

I’m not talking Nigella Lawson here, I mean straight up Old MacDonald type stuff; 18 fertilized eggs, 1 incubator and a 22 day wait. I can safely say it is by far the longest I’ve ever had to wait for eggs. I am only left to hope that it is culturally acceptable to give live chicks to people for Easter because 18 children is somewhat more than I planned on having.

The first beak came through while I was at work and apparently “I’m about to be a mum” wasn’t enough to get me out of work for the afternoon. I should have definitely used the “surrogate” excuse as opposed to the “one of my eggs have cracked” explanation I went with.

The first beak.

The first beak.

It turns out it wasn’t an issue, these babies brought a whole new meaning to the term ‘slow cooked chicken’; they weren’t ready to come out and so they didn’t.

I even tried to Google how long it takes for a chick to hatch (incidentally the number 1 suggested search when I started typing was “how long does it usually take for chicks to text back” reminding me that the days of rearing your own chickens at home are well and truly coming to an end).

As for the birth of my first chick. Well I missed it.

You know those men whose wives are in labour for hours? They sit next to a heavily breathing woman for what seems like forever, then the poor sods pop out for 3 minutes to get a sandwich and end up missing the entire birth. Well today I reach out to poorly timed men the world over and express my understanding. From this day forth “but I got hungry” will be accepted as an excuse for being absent at the birth, because missing that final moment… apparently is not that hard to do!

Tweet tweet

Tweet tweet

My first chick

My first chick

That being said of course I did have 17 more chicks to follow.

As for this one, well he needed a name that proclaimed ‘first born’ and so I named him Adam. A stroke of genius on my (the internet’s) behalf.

Ruined only by the fact there’s still a 50% chance it turns out to be a girl.

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I’ve lived in London my whole life. I was born over here so I suppose that makes me, if not English, then British at least. So what separates me from all my English friends? Because despite the fact we all went to the same school, watched the same cartoons growing up and all now live within about a 2mile radius of each other, there is a definite difference.

It’s our families, and while my classmates were all bought up with some level of normalcy, I was raised by a man who herded sheep as a child and the woman who chose to marry him. On face value we might seem the same as every other Londoner, but once you know how to read the signs, you’ll notice that you can actually spot us as mile off…

1. You know you’re dealing with someone who has foreign parents when it takes them 10 minutes to explain to the Fed Ex guy how to spell their surname. “No… an.. as..iou… iou… no just one iou… here let me just write if for you!” Because apparently even spell-check can’t help you out with Athanasiou.

2. It doesn’t matter if she’s 26, while she’s living at home, if you’re picking her up for a date, the chances are you’re going to have to wait around the corner.

3. Also, once they do move out, it’s of no consequence how many years they’ve been living away from home, if they’re going to visit their parents, they will be coming back with a clean basket of laundry and 6 assorted Sainsbury’s carrier bags. This is has nothing to do with being spoilt, this is just how our mothers show us love.

Quiet Sunday Dinner...

4. Cooking for Sunday dinner doesn’t involve a quiet meal for 4. No, it involves peeling potatoes until your arm goes numb; after all it’s rude to cook and not invite the whole family over. And even if the whole family isn’t coming, it’s best to cook for them anyway… just in case. Don’t worry this isn’t wasteful, what doesn’t get eaten today will be re-heated four times and eaten every night next week.

5. If while cooking together you pass them the wooden spoon and they duck, I promise this is completely normal. It’s a reflex deeply ingrained in them from the age of about 10 when they brought home their first bad report card and in turn got their first beating. Other such painful memory triggers include: slippers, brooms and their mums hand.

6. This one may be Cypriot specific but, we don’t say turn ‘on the lights’, we say ‘open the lights’. And no, despite being corrected several million times, we still don’t care that it doesn’t make any sense.

7. We have all at some point in our lives received a lecture which is a variation on the classic: “I came to this country with only two pounds in my pocket and I worked hard to build all this for you so you and your sister could have everything…” This may have something to do with the fact our parents believe we don’t recognise hard work due to the fact we have never ploughed a field.

8. “I’m going on holiday to see my family” tends to mean “see you in 5 weeks. I may have a twinge to my accent upon return and if all goes to plan I will be almost black”.

9. Despite being born over here, and having cultivated just about every British tradition going,  we still refer to everyone else as: “English People“.

Souvla Sunday...

10. Again, this may be a Cypriot specific adaptation, derived from the days where public transport was called Laki The Donkey, or perhaps it’s a result of our families missing the village days where everything you ever needed was a 3 minute walk away. Either way we all live pretty much down the same road, or at a push a couple of roads over. This essentially saves money on phone calls because you don’t need to call everyone to invite them to a Sunday BBQ, you just put the meat on and wait for them to smell it.

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Me & My Welsh Garden

There are sheep in Wales. Lots and lots of sheep. What’s a girl to do with all these sheep? Short of skinning them and making myself a cute little jumper, I’m lost for thought.

Usually my idea of a vacation involves sex on the beach (the drink not the act) and a tan, not fields and a growing addiction to Daim bars. But my family had booked a cottage for eight, and I’d be damned if I was staying at home to eat McDonalds-for-one on Easter Sunday.

I changed my mind when I saw the sign “Welcome to Wales”, or as it read: ” Chroesawa at Cymru”. Yes they have their own Language. Yes I’d forgotten about it. Yes it looks a lot like those late night indecipherable messages you get from your drunk friends.

Not that I needed a sign to tell me we’d left London anyway. The air smells different you know. I felt as though my nostrals were taking a wander through a fresh garden salad. Appealing to some I’m sure, but as a born and bred London girl, I prefer my air with a hint of pollution.

Not that I can’t appreciate a bit of greenary, and Pembroke was certainly that. Sitting in the garden of our cottage, making my way through my third bag of chicken crisps (because you can’t enjoy a beautiful view without snacks) I decided, this country-side malarkey wasn’t half bad. Plus, I’m convinced I’d live about 20 years longer if I lived out there; chances of getting eaten by wild goat aside, it all seems pretty safe to me. Not to mention stress free. At the time I was bewildered by the lack of elderly people over there, but looking back I must consider the possibility that life in Wales is probably just wrinkle free.

What? So We Got A Bit Excited By The Beach

And there was a beach. That combined with my weight gain of 4 pounds pretty much gives my trip to Wales all the makings of a real holiday. Though be warned, if you do choose to forgo Malia and make your way over to sheep-ville instead, leave your stilettos at home. Take it from me, the only site they’ll be seeing is the inside of your suitcase. It turns out these heels were not made for walking. Well, not country hills anyway.

As for the sheep. They wern’t half bad, but three hours of slow barbecuing… made them a lot better.

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Image by Miranda Athanasiou 2010

My parents came back from Cyprus yesterday with two suitcases full of food. They seem to think you can’t buy limes and halloumi cheese in England.

It’s all part of being Cypriot you see. Sainsbury’s: culture at your doorstep, so you’d think… but no no, why buy olives when you can take a mere four hour flight to the Cypriot mountains and pick them fresh from your own trees.

Then of course comes the olive oil. With that many olives, you can’t not make olive oil.

And then once you make the olive oil you convince yourself if goes with everything. The other day my dad made me a chicken sandwich, only instead of butter he used olive oil. “Really, are we doing this now?”

He looked so proud “you can really taste the olives can’t you”. Well you would hope so George. Two days ago they were still hanging merrily on a tree.

And lets not forget the pitta bread now. Not one or two packets, but twenty. Twenty packets of pitta bread somehow stuffed into their hand luggage and flown over because this particular brand isn’t sold in the UK. And what’s better about this brand? The pitta’s are about three times the size of the ones sold over here, and heaven forbid we eat less, when we have the possibility of eating more.

I’ll give them this, when it comes to Mediterranean eccentricities, my family are top notch. Like having a son- kind of a big deal, to most men I’d assume, but to Cypriot men in particular.

While my dad has always claimed having two daughters is more than enough to deal with, the fact he calls my dog his “son” makes he feel he’s not being entirely honest with us.

My Brother. Image: Athanasiou 2010

So fair enough, he lavishes a little attention on the dog; he treats him like an addition to the family. He makes him eat salad with his barbequed chicken so he stays a ‘healthy boy’; it doesn’t bother me. And I’ll give it to him, Patchy is the better behaved of his three children.

Though I did feel using my £40 shampoo and conditioners to bath my four-legged brother was a step too far. What can I say; nothing is too good for a Cypriot man’s son.

Of course this is all just the tip of the very Greek iceberg.

We talk about seven times louder than other people. Not because we have a problem with our hearing but because we like to talk over each other. Why wait your turn to talk when you can just go right ahead and speak over the person who’s already talking? That’s just wasting valuable eating time.

Don’t get me wrong, I think being Cypriot is kind of fun. It’s helped me master the art of competitive eating (when Sunday lunch consists of 30 people you eat fast or you don’t eat at all). Not to mention the money I’ve managed to con out of my uncles who are always up for a bet: “if I eat these 5 hot chilli’s you give me £40 each”.

Fine so I had my tongue on ice for the rest of that week, but baby I was rich.

Marriage is another biggie. I think my grandma is trying to set me up with a cousin; a second or third cousin, but a cousin all the same. Getting married, having Greek babies, learning to make little filo-pastry pies: all very important on a Cypriot girl’s agenda.

I hope it doesn’t break their hearts when I announce the idea of marriage before I’m 30 (pretty damn scary) and as for babies, we’ll I’ve never been a fan.

Perhaps I should break it to them over a nice spinach and olive pie. You know, to ease the blow.


My Big Fat Greek Wedding: another insight into Cypriot culture.

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