It’s #worldpoetryday

A poem from my cousin Gina to her father’s memory reminds me that I tried my hand at a few verses about the old time travellers

a bit ambitious for someone who never really did ‘get in to’ poetry, but here goes!

Feathered spats, flowing mane, tail a flicking
Clip-clop, snort, fart, whinney, the patient grai
Trundles my painted vardo
On the one-way road to Destiny.
For life is not a carousel.

Shining metal monster comes on puffed up with pride
It smells of coal, sour steam and oil.
Struts steaming on the road.
Its whistle blows. ‘Out of my way.’
Its mighty pistons menace

But naught can spook my vanner.
He’s earned himself some rest;
Crops grasses at the roadside,
As, chugging self-importance,
The thing goes huffing past.
Or as a sort of haiku moment:
Steam-belching Behemoth
Blocks pinto-powered vardo.
And my vanner calmly g(r)azes.

Having managed the above, I stumbled on the idea of trying to adapt John Masefields poem, Sea Fever, to Gypsy life at the end of the 19C. This might have been how Keomi might have expressed it, soon after she left Sandys and returned to the Romany life. I know it’s sort of cheating (like my version of Blake’s Tyger)
Tyger Tyger’s burning plight … Is thy mortal end in sight? ….. Will our human hand and eye…. See thee in the cimetrie?

but this is what I came up with:

On The Road
I must take to the road again, to the eternal whims of Fate,
And all I ask is my bow-top, and my patient vanner’s gait,
And the wheel’s kick and the bird song and the harnesses a shakin’,
And a chill mist on the barley, and a cool pink dawn a breakin’.

I must take to the road again, for the wanderlust of the Roma
Is a wild call and a clear call that never will be over.
And all I ask is a new day to bring its random treasures,
The pinto’s might, and the blown dust, and morning’s early pleasures.

I must take to the road again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the raven’s way and the pilgrim’s way, far from worldly strife.
And all I ask is a sweet song from my loving fellow-rover,
And a quiet sleep, and a sweet dream, when my final day is over.

With apologies to John Masefield.


More of my writings on bill-macfarlane.co.uk

#GypsyModel #Romany #BillMacfarlaneBooks #PoetsDay#PreRaphaelites



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.

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


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 


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. 

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


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…


The Beguiling of Merlin

MERLIN burne-jones_
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.


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)


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

TheJacketsmlResonating Stones by Bill Macfarlane.

The narrator, art critic for a Cypriot magazine, interviews an Irish sculptress who expresses the power of stone to store and re-transmit resonances of emotionally charged events. He sneers at this but, at the ensuing exhibition of the woman’s work, he and his partner experience unsettling effects. Soon after he is plunged into a serial nightmare about sinister events in his own past that he is obliged to record in the form of stories that become progressively more disturbing. These stories are linked by a thread that tells of growing obsession, and of a paranoia that threatens his sanity, and the safety of his partner. Originally published in paper back in 2000, Resonating Stones now appears under a new cover designed by Ngaio Macfarlane.

Resonating Stones is a collection of ghost stories, that mines the rich vein of Cyprus history and folk-lore. Places, such as the Venetian Bridges, the Royal Oak and the Brengaria at Prodromos exist, but the events are invention. Old Churches, caves dating back to antiquity, and especially the mysterious Tripimenes Petres (pierced monoliths) are authentic. You can still experience the tangibility of their ‘presence’ in the Cyprus countryside.

These stories are not part of traditional Cyprus lore, though. For that, you must wait for the re-publication of Cyprus Land of Miracles by the same author, which is currently in progress.

Walking yesterday with friends in Limassol Forest, which is not so different from in the days of the Hassamboulia, We looked across at the abandoned village of Mathikoloni and, I remembered that, beyond the skyline, one of the Hassamboulias’ most callous murders took place just a few kilometers away on the road to Fasoula. This was well out of their usual territory, and they ran unto  trouble on their way back to home ground, in the form a of a gang of burly Greeks, and had to resort to gunplay to extricate themselves

Yes it’s now on Kindle and under the new cover by Ngaio. Already it has had a favorable review, not this time by the author! What follows is the blurb that accompanies it for Amazon:



The Kindle version of the ‘Hunt for the Hassamboulia’ appears under a new cover designed by Ngaio Macfarlane. On it three of the gang appear on the faded copy of an old map of the Great Valleys of Western Cyprus: the ‘Wild West’ that the outlaws ranged over, ‘ free as birds’. The shadow cast by the taller of the three is the yatagan (knife) that appeared on the original cover. That yatagan was the weapon used in the murder that brought the younger brothers into the story.

The map fades into a skyline of mountainous terrain that still exists today. This is the country that sheltered Dighenis (Col Grivas) in the late 1950s against all the best efforts of a modern army. Is it surprising that the recently arrived British should have had such difficulty in bringing the Hassamboulia to justice in the late 19C?

The Hassamboulia were Turkish Cypriots. Three brothers of contrasting character, fated to embark on a career of crime, over what should have been an insignificant local quarrel. Their exploits became progressively more and more outrageous, so that they became living legends. The story of the Hassamboulia still resonates in the folk lore of the region. When the print version of the book was published in 2007, copies sold like hot cakes, especially in Northern Cyprus.

This version of their exploits is based on a police report from the 1930s, forty years after they were finally caught. Their crimes, form the backdrop to a fictionalized account of their career, their personalities, their relationships and motivations.

As the new cover demonstrates, the geography still exists in which these legendary outlaws have been hunted down three times already: by the Brits, by the old policeman who wrote the 1930s report, and by the author. If you decide to join the Hunt for the Hassamboulia, the reward is to be enjoyed in savouring the places that echo with their history. Financial rewards? Sorry! The hundred pounds on offer for the Hassamboulia, was shared long ago between three informers. Grivas, with Stg 10,000 on his head, managed to evade capture in hiding, not in the mountains, but in Limassol. His EOKA organisation could not have survived, however, without their hideouts, some of which can still be visited in the mountains.


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