Our reason for going to Cyprus for a holiday in the late 1970s was simply to give us both a break from the busyness of our everyday working lives, and to expose the children, both under school age, to new experiences and a different culture.
Day four of our two-weeks trip was planned to take in a tour of some of the fruit-growing areas; maybe to pick an orange or a grapefruit from a tree and devour it before it realised it had been separated from its life-source.
We came across Andros, a fuel-tanker driver, when we were stopped on a minor road by the herding across the carriageway of a vast number of goats. The tanker was in front of us, and its driver came back to our car to speak to us. Neither of us had any Greek, so we were hesitant to engage him in conversation, although it was clear to us that he wanted to talk. I wound my window down and looked quizzically toward him.
Andros touched his forelock and asked, “English?”
“Yes, we are English,” I replied. “My name is Julian Jay, and this is my wife Jill. Our children are Juliette and Jeremy.” Quite why I volunteered that information to a total stranger, I shall never know.
“So many J,” he said with a chuckle, “my name Andros. You go where?”
“We want to see a fruit farm,” I said, “oranges, grapefruits and things.”
“I go to one fruit farm now. You follow,” he said with a smile as the goats cleared the roadway, and he trotted back to his cab. He drove off, we followed. A mile or so down the road, he pulled in to a farm entrance through a rickety old gate that fell open when he looked at it sternly. We followed him in and pulled up behind him. We waited while he made his delivery, connecting thick hoses to the ports of an underground tank.
“Come,” he said when he had finished and re-stowed his delivery pipework. “You meet Dimitris and Nikos, work at farm.”
We followed him into the orange grove, where he greeted two older men. Turning to us, he said, “Dimitris and Nikos pick. Is right, pick?” he said.
“Yes, pick,” I replied. Turning to the two older men, I asked, “You pick the oranges here?” The two fruit-pickers looked confused.
“They no English,” Andros explained.
I pointed to them, and then to my camera. The international language of pointing and looking dumb works everywhere. Instantly, the three were in a pose and I snapped the shutter.
Andros spoke with the men, then turned to us. “You look at trees, you pick only one fruit each, no charge. I go now, good luck,” he said, ambled back to his truck and drove off in a cloud of thick, black, acrid diesel fumes. The two pickers wandered of with a smile and a wave, leaving us to our own devices. Jill said she was uncomfortable with the arrangement, while Jez and Julie started arguing. That was always their preferred method of telling us that they were bored. We picked two oranges, returned to the car and drove off, heading into the hills.
We hadn’t been on the road for more than fifteen minutes, when the hired car we were driving started to make what I can only describe as expensive noises. We plodded on for a while, but the little yellow Fiat eventually gave up its valiant struggle, came to a graceless halt and expired. I swear that car was a living thing – how else would it give a distinctive death-rattle before settling into what promised to be an eternal silence?
Remember, this was the 1970s. We were stuck in the middle of nowhere, in a country where the language most commonly spoken was one we didn’t know, and we were a couple of decades too early for mobile phones. We had a simple choice to make, which I outlined to Jill.
“We can either start walking to the nearest town or village where there might be a telephone,” I said, “in the hope that we can call the rental company in Larnaca, where we hired the car; or we can sit around in the hot sun and wait for some kind of rescue.”
“Why not both?” Jill asked.
“Probably because I can’t be in two places at once,” I replied tetchily, “that’s something only mothers can do.” I could feel yet another row coming on. I had hoped we could go a whole holiday without one.
“Don’t be facetious,” she said, “we can wait here for an hour or so, while you, Mister Navigator, Mister I-can-read-maps, do just that; work out where we are, where the nearest place with a phone actually is, and make a bloody plan.” Her face softened, and her voice became sweeter. That always scared me. “Then,” she added, “you can take us there. Okay?”
“Okay,” I said, in a way that would make a sheep look brave, if you get my drift.
So that’s what we did. Jill amused the kids, looking for interesting flowers (yeah; beats me, too) while I studied the map. Once they had gathered some blooms, Jill, Jez and Julie returned to the corpse of what had been our transport, and started talking about them. I’m called boring because I read maps and things, while they talk about flowers and think it somehow not boring – Jeez!
Jill sat the kids on the bonnet of our late vehicle and told them to sit nicely for a photograph. As she pressed the release, both kids looked and pointed to the sky, and Jeremy shouted out, “Look, Mummy, what’s THAT?”
And that was the topic for Kreative Kue 30 – continued here.
I wrote this in response to Kreative Kue 29, issued on this site earlier this week.