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Magic Moment in Mathikoloni Village

I can still do it you know. They say you should never go back. Yes, but it’s not hard for me to conjour up moments in places like this: places that first exercised their magic on me so long ago. In fact, when we first stumbled on Mathikoloni, back in 1987, we thought its ruined structures were unique. Later we were to discover that abandoned villages were everywhere in Cyprus: the original Apsiou, Athrakos, Choletra, Mathikoloni, Vretcha (The Place that brought  Grief): the list is endless. It stretches back through time to the ancient cities, Kourion, Amathus, Kition and Lapithos and Idalion: back again to Choirokitia, Akrotiri and other traces of the Stone Age scattered about the island.

Already we had got to September, 2015. The ruins of Mathikoloni were behind me, the new village out of sight further up the road, though the church still in use, was in view, proudly surveying the ruins at the top of the hill. There are various reasons for the abandonment of so many villages, and indeed larger settlements in Cyprus. They range from land slips to urban drift, to political factors (along the Green line and of course, Varosha). Mathikoloni was abandoned during the particularly severe winter of ….? which exposed the weakness of its foundations. Other villages abandoned, for similar reasons,  at the same time include Evretou and Korfi. The latter actually suffered a land slip that destroyed a few houses. In all cases the situation was so severe that the inhabitants had to take refuge with relatives or even in temporary camps that were set up to  tide people through a winter when snow fell on the Mesaoria. Later government money became available for the relocation of new villages on more stable locations nearby.

So this was Mathikoloni revisited for the umpteenth time. I was sitting on a backside-shaped rock, eating my sandwiches by the side of a rustic road, feeling contemplative, even philosophical – well Okay, drowsy and maybe a bit sentimental. The irritations caused by a few flies couldn’t detract from the warm November sun, or the carob trees framing Kyparisha and the rest of Limassol Forest in front of me. I watched the occasional tiny car far in the distance crawling up the switchback road to Dierona.  In a detached way, I indulged  myself in reliving other moments the details of which were, I dare say, rosily inaccurate. Even so, this sure as hell beat staring at a  computer screen for hours on end.

Yes, the thriving new village of Mathikoloni, is now in commuting distance of Limassol and with that awful winter a one off of the past, the new village encroaches slowly back onto parts of the old site. Caution. New houses have appeared near the forest road up from Akrounda and, guess what, the weather has already got into a concrete enclosing wall built on the unstable marls of Mathikoloni.

I haven’t been there recently, but I wonder if the new house built near Korphi  on similar foundations, continues to list in obedience to the rules of gravity.  September and the clours of autumn were starting to appear in the terraced vineyards, reminding me of that magic moment I experienced a few years ago in Pitsilia.

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Big OakYes, the Royal Oak was bigger. Not all that much bigger, but the spread of its massive boughs, the weight of which eventually tore it apart, was greater. I doubt whether its girth was much more than that of its surviving cousin (8.60m). In any case, understanding how that measurement was done, defeats me, such is the tortured structure that supports this leathery 800 year old leviathan. Leviathan, yes – leviathan hints at the animation that seems to lurk in its elephantine limbs. This massive organism, does have a presence, a kind of benign animal watchfulness. It seems a hoary receptacle for the centuries of wisdom it has accumulated. Fanciful, I know, but try a picnic in the shade of its massive boughs. Take a snapshot, or sketch the wrinkled mass of its trunk. Its magic will reach out to you, reviving the times, the people and the events it has seen. It was a mature tree long before Lala Mustafa Pasha ruthlessly ousted the Venetians from Cyprus in 1571.

When I last paid my respects, someone had removed the sign that used to be on the main Troodos Road, second right after the Laneia Police Station, coming from Limassol.  A few metres up the lane, though, the signpost indicating left onto an even rougher road was still there. This is oak country. High up on the mountain above Laneia is Agia Valana (of the Acorn). Oaks of all ages inhabit field boundaries and, under the giant dris her infant progeny struggle to survive in the shade of her massive crown.

It’s not too difficult to devise a stroll from here to the shaded streets of Laneia, home of artists and good food, just a kilometre away. The lane you turned off to reach the oak, leads directly to the village and alternative routes back to the main road can easily be discovered. The adventurous might even take to exploring the vineyards and farm track surrounding the giant tree, but this is best done after the pruning.

Kyrenia HarbourI seem to have discovered meditation. The transcendental kind? Maybe not, but at least it gets me off to sleep at the drop of a hat.

Not down on Dasoudi today, however. I was having a lazy stroll in late afternoon sunshine (cool day — max 15 degrees and snow on the Troodos) and was tempted by one of the benches facing the setting sun. The sea, both sight and sound, hypnotic and, having counted the ships in the bay, I started to let my mind follow its head (can you say that?) Next thing, ‘The Purple Headed Mountain’ was buzzing through my head like a pop song. Then it was, ‘He made their glowing colours…’ Half forgotten snatches of school assemblies. No, I haven’t got religion, but I did feel good (and maybe a bit philosophical, if not even assailed by feelings of awe. Dasoudi seems to bring this out in me — especially when the Russian goddesses are around. (No. I haven’t got religion!) Today the beach was sparsely populated: the odd jogger (one naked but for bathing trunks) the usual dog-walkers, baby-pushers, power-walkers and old women feeding sleek cats. Oh, and an ancient lady who could only manage two or three shuffling steps at a time, supported by her poor old husband and his oriental helper.

It said a lot; earth and ocean vast, but insignificant in Cosmic terms. Human beings, transient time-worms in the awful eternity of existence. But this one, sitting, sketching on a bench, looking into the setting sun, seems, in some way, able to encompass it all if only in his imagination.  I know, I know…megalomania, but it was a magic moment. I was almost tempted to a small KEO at the beach bar, but the sun was not yet over the yard-arm.

Oh what the hell! If Oscar Wilde was incapable of  saying no, why should I not succumb?

(From “Magic Moments in Cyprus”, coming out soon!)

AA-Gitano-LogoMany thanks to Helen  and Siouxzan @Girlwerks for the republication of Land of Miracles via Gitano. The proof readings led me to revisit in the imagination, all the magical places that I came to know first hand in my researches almost 30 years ago. The logic of the book is along the lines that, in some way, the past lives on in the stones, the buildings and the ancient trees of Cyprus. The research for the book led me at the time to visit all the locations associated with the stories. A fanciful notion perhaps, but for me these places all seemed to resonate with echoes of the past. Was I deluding myself when I felt tangibilities that I like to think linger on around the scenes of ancient battles, miracles and myths? Admittedly, my experiences at places like Choirokitia, Curium, The Royal Oak and the cave ossiary at Archimandrita, were tempered by my earlier reading. Yet, was there not something more intrinsic in the resonances they seemed to project? Go into the Palaeia Enclistra, that cool sacred cave in a valley near Kouklia, and tell me you don’t feel the presence of the anchorite who, devoted years of isolation there before moving on to his final resting place, Melissovouno, near Pafos.

Click here for Cyprus Land of Miracles iBook and here for the Kindle version

Cyprus: Land of Miracles on Kindle

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Perhaps it was fate. Perhaps this project has always existed somewhere in the permanence of Time and Space. All I can say is that my prize-winning entry for a ghost story competition led me into producing a collection of stories, Resonating Stones, set in Cyprus.
At presentations, people would ask me if these tales were authentic Cyprus ghost stories, and I had to admit that they were not. Perhaps they were not even ghost stories, but psychological thrillers, stories of obsession, dealing with the phantasmagoria that spawn in the mind of man. My fate was sealed though; the seed had been planted for Cyprus: Land of Miracles, and my own obsession for the past two years has been to follow the logic of my stories into the real world of an island that has been a nexus of psychic forces from the time man first made landfall, some 12,000 years ago. Ever since then, Cyprus has been the home of  a multitude of gods. It has been the scene of terrifying battles sieges and massacres, and it has seen conflicting faiths come head to head and develop in uneasy coexistence. Surely, if psychic forces are anything more that illusions with which we delude ourselves, there must echo in the land of Cyprus temporal traces of the people who lived through these events.

Be teased here:

Click here to buy on Kindle 

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A second paperback edition to follow soon!

Probably as long as I can remember I have been a keen admirer of pulchritude. So too were the pre-Raphaelites, but if their paintings are any indication, their concept of female beauty was, except in certain aspects, the product of their time. The 21st century man can still appreciate the skin tones of neck and decolletage, the luxurious hair and fullness of thighs pressing through draped fabrics of voluminous gowns depicted in colourful settings; the Cupid’s bow lips, the artificiality of posture and composition, less so.
Well, we all know where beauty lies; and that it so often does. We know that it is ephemeral, but that it may be preserved in paintings, photographs and best of all in poignant images, ‘photo shopped’ by memory’ of past loves; obsessions that can almost amount to worship.
Yes, folks, this is Old Bill talking. Has the fellow taken leave of his senses?
All this is triggered by my recent forays into the world of the Pre-Raphaelites and their muses.
When researching Sandys for ‘The Gypsy Model’, I couldn’t resist following the idea that he was obsessed by models who played their parts so well that they really became for him the seductive witch-like creatures of his masterpieces: Morgan le Fey, Vivien, Helen of Troy, Danae, Judith and Medea. That was one of the themes I developed in the book, along with the professional and romantic relationships between the artist and his models
It wasn’t just Sandys either. There are plenty of indications that others of the artists were prone to similar illusions. Take Burne-Jones for example: besotted by his Greek models, Mary Zambaco and her cousin Maria Stillman, his fascinations gave rise to masterpieces that produced waves of disapproval in Victorian society; besides, there was that explicit letter to him from Mary Zambaco, that his wife Georgie discovered in his pocket.
There are many examples of this strange fascination, but let’s restrict ourselves to Burne-Jones:

Cupid Delivering Psyche. 

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Here Cupid modelled by Marie Spartali embraces Psyche (Mary Zambaco), rescuing her from the Stygian sleep to which Proserpine’s fiendish casket has condemned her.

‘The sexual ambivalence is both lovely and disturbing and must have been more so for Burne-Jones’ contemporaries ‘(Henrietta Garnett).

That Ned Burne-Jones was well able to capture the likeness of his models must have produced a frisson of general disapproval. Victorian morality, remember.

Demophoon and Phyllis

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Our hero rescues his lover from her fate (she was turned into a tree). Ned goes one better in this, picture, using Mary Zamboco as model for the heads of both protagonists, a circumstance that led to trouble, and not only at the Old Water Colour Society for which it was commissioned. Again the faces were recognizable. You can make what you will of the male appendage Ned provided for Mary as Demophoon. Suffice it to say that The OWCSociety didn’t much like it. I leave it to my sharp eyed reader to spot the difference between the painted renditions of our almost naked hero…

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The Beguiling of Merlin

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For me this picture summarizes Ned’s obsession. Nimue (Mary Zambaco) is voluptuous and Merlin’s hopeless expression perhaps mirrors the artist’c hopeless bewitchment.

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Kirkby Lonsdale

Many thanks to the team from Out The Nest for so eloquently capturing my birth town, Kirkby Lonsdale, on film. This beautiful market town has inspired so many artists over the centuries, including me!

 

Kirkby Lonsdale (video by outthenest)

Kirkby Lonsdale is mentioned several times in my book The Gypsy Model (now available on Kindle)

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Readers and locals may also be interested in a family magazine The MacMag which we completed last year for a family reunion in Kirkby Lonsdale. The magazine is a collection of local family history, short stories and recollections about our traveller connections and activities with our beloved trotting horses.

 

I hope you enjoy my journeys down memory lane even if some of them are made up!

#billmacfarlanebooks #thegypsymodel #kirkbylonsdale #cumbria #theMacMag #outthenest #rt

BookJacketSpread copy


My latest book, The Gypsy model, is a piece of faction based on 19C painter Frederick Sandys and his Gypsy Model Keomi Gray.

The Gypsy Model is now available on Kindle at 2.99 Stg. Also available in print through my books section in this blog.

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Keomi Gray as Judith

Family myth has it that Keomi was a relation of my great grandmother Coralina Gray.

Just noticed that Jane Burden gets a mention opposite as one of the ‘stunners’. Here’s a short passage from The Gypsy Model: ‘The tall lady with the long neck and striking eyes (hm, so the paintings don’t lie) must be Jane Morris. She and Rossetti are studiously avoiding each other, but, from time to time they exchange lingering glances across the room. Not, I suppose conventionally beautiful, she is an imposing woman, strikingly intense. Touch of deep brooding class there, in spite of her humble origins. Now she is in the process of becoming Gabriel’s muse, model and (lover?)

When William Morris fell for Miss Jane Burden his family couldn’t find it in themselves to welcome the daughter of a stable hand into their midst. To this day the ladies who talk you round Kelmscote Manor find it hard to give her their approval. That whisper of an affair with Rossetti puts her beyond the pale for the acolytes of Arts and Crafts.

For more see the Post, The Gypsy Model.

A…musing

Hmmm… To see more about me, try Bill Macfarlane’s main website. The links above take you to the same info. A couple of my published works are posted elsewhere. I will renew/add to these these from time to time. Meanwhile, while I hold my breath over the fate of ‘The Artist and the Gypsy Model’

One agent did read the whole text but, didn’t think he could ‘target it.’ The only offer of publication I had came to nothing because of the contract not allowing enough control of design etc. Pressure of mounting years makes me consider publishing in Cyprus under my own Gitano Logo.

Jan. 16 2011 Three proof readings now completed and the cover approved, the buk is on the printing presses and I expect to have copies by early February.

I now have the first copies in my possession. At present they in Kyriakou’s bookshop in Limassol at 15 Euros.* It is also in Limassol Library. Next week it will be in the main Nicosia Bookshops and in some shops in N Cyprus. I Aim to find out how to get it onto Amazon, but suspect that will be beyond my IT. In the meantime, a presentation is in prospect at the Five Fingers Restaurant in Ozankoy (near Kyrenia) and other presentations are planned leading up to the main Presentation at Easter. At this and other presentations, the book will be offered at a discounted price and deals will be on offer for my other books.

* The Gypsy Model and the Hunt for the Hassamboulia are now on Kindle or hard copies can be purchased for 8 Stg, including postage, using the PayPal buttons on my books page. Resonating Stones, a collection of Ghost stories set in Cyprus is being prepared for Kindle and can also be had in hard copy right now.

For more, see the post, The Gypsy Model.

 

MUSINGS or Guiding Principles.

‘Nothing matters much. And most things don’t matter at all.’

‘Excess in all things (except moderation) that’s the secret.’

When God/Man created Man/God in his own image, was it the ultimate case of galactic megalomania? According to Stephen Hawkins, any other megalomaniacs there might be out there, could prove to be a serious threat to our health! This is now the subject of a short story for which I have high hopes.

When somebody tells you in ‘no uncertain terms’ what they think of you, you learn quite a lot about them as well as about yourself. I have just finished a story on that theme. No immediate plans to publish it. It was written to clarify my thoughts and got a load off my shoulders. Title: ‘The Ancient Mariner had a plate of chips on his shoulder.’

My niece, Emma, visited Helen in Austria recently. I suspect her of purveying the following: Two birds sitting on a perch. One says to the other, ‘Can you smell something fishy?’

Statistics. 30% of road accidents involve alcohol consumption. Leaving 70% that involve sobriety (more if you count the probable sober participants in the first category. Should we, then, have a new approach to the breathalyser? Spot checks and on the spot fines should effect an immediate improvement in the statistics. ‘Excuse me sir, but you don’t seem to have had your regulation intake of alcohol today.’

What about this forty year old woman announcing on a chat show that she ‘satisfied’ 40 men on her 40th birthday? Can’t imagine that any of them from number two onwards would be anything less than exponentially puke-making.

Anyone who doesn’t agree with me that women are creatures of habit, just go into the nearest ladies’ clothing department and think again.

I love reading and am fairly ‘omniperusiverous’*. I think I came upon a bit of ‘chic lit’ the other day. Emphasis was added by the use of numbers: ‘a thousand conflicting thoughts came flooding in to my mind’ etc. The conflict revolved round the otherwise decent young husband’s ‘drinking’. The writer seemed to suffer from a split personality. Half of me found this irritating, but the other half found it vaguely intriguing! There was more, but the plot was wildly imaginative and I just HAD to find out what happened (apart from the poor sap giving up the booze).

* bibliophilous or bibliofagous might fit the Bill better.

(i) maybe, reading the above, you might think me not  very serious minded.                

(ii) Where is IT all leading  us? Is IT going to be the end of us? I’ve just sent off a story to this effect, and have high hopes for it. But then, I always do when I wave them goodbye at the Post Office. To date only a single, miserable little short listing has come from the efforts of the past months.

Nothing to do with the story, but still thinking about IT, privacy, and that THEY always know where you are these days, I had a philosophical moment the other day, when walking in the Limassol Forest. Nothing earth-shattering, just how good it was to be communing with nature (light wind in the trees, a few birds and the first flowers, even before the rains have come.) Anyway, I thought that even a paranoid old pillock like me would have to believe that THEY can’t possible know what we are thinking… at least …short of reading this.

(iii) The third thing came out of the Hash. Rememberance Sunday. Why do I feel uneasy about it? Well, for a start the World Wars are now approaching a hundred, and seventy years ago, respectively. Isn’t it time we tried to forget; or do we intend to keep it going for another three hundred and odd years like those who triumphed at Cath na Bionne  (at least, the bowler hats – and rolled umbrellas? – are not much in evidence still)

If we are incapable of forgetting, the idea of the White Poppy to commemorate all war dead (including at  Nagasaki and Hiroshima and at the Battle of Thermopolae if you like) holds more appeal to me, especially as Margaret Thatcher expressed her strong disapproval of it. I also shudder, with the White Poppyists at the militaristic emphasis on many such commemorations. I could quote instances, but will refrain from doing so.

Now it’s Christmas again and with my views on religion, I feel it incumbent on me to do something about it. Trouble is, I don’t like to miss out on a celebration and, with Helen coming to Cyprus about then, ideas of a Pagan Mid-winter Fest are starting to spawn in my head.

How about a party on the 21st Dec? We always celebrated the Solstices and the Equinoxes at the ‘Lakes’. There should be plenty to go on. Holly, mistletoe (available in Cy?) Yule log (not needed and nowhere to burn it, but Yule is a good old Germanic word and could be adapted by us Neopagans). Gold paper streamers and candles (de rigeur pour la belle Helene)

A Vegetarian Mid-winterfest menu – chestnut roast with trimmings and a puddin’ to follow (with plenty of brandy and white sauce. Decor? Red poinsettias, holly and mistletoe, but no bloody christmas tree, thank you very much. Booze, of course, and then all we need is a collection of like-minded people to set up a regular baccha-satur-nalia. Where’s me pencil and paper? Must start a list straight away!

Yeah, I been thinking again, but I find it hard to articulate. Is science ‘beating its head on a wall’ trying to find the start (and maybe the end) of infinity? It’s a contradiction in terms isn’t it? There’s more whirling about in my head – not about why we are here, the purpose of it all – the questions posed by the religious. I think they might be asking the wrong questions. Should the one question we ask, assuming free will,  be, what do we aim to do while we are here? Alternatively, assuming it is all pre-determined, or just a cosmic stasis through which we travel, like time-worms, we might prefer to sit back and observe what it is like in the bit where we find ourselves. Yes, I’m raving.