Well that’s it. Despite positively dangerous levels of gin, wine, food, sunshine (and of course sympathy for Les) the Vale Royal Writers’ Group cultural exchange team has returned from its pioneering mission to inflict its attempts at literature on an unsuspecting Paphos Writers’ Group.
This initiative was the brainchild of our esteemed chairman Mr Bob Barker who has a foot in both camps as he is also an active member of the Paphos group, jetting between meetings in Cheshire and Cyprus so as to maximise his writing time. When he first suggested a joint meeting featuring writing exercises and readings and such-like writerly things there was a polite but lukewarm response. In order to humour him some of the kinder members feigned interest by asking about other aspects of the proposed trip. A certain element within the group then latched onto some important facts….
- November daytime temperatures in the high 20’s centigrade
- Wall-to-wall sunshine (not a feature of Cheshire in November… or anytime)
- Gin at about £4/bottle (supposedly safe for short stays)
- Cocktails around the pool in our accommodation
- Swimming and snorkelling in seas still warm from the summer sun
- Super food and wine at very reasonable prices
- Lunch and a social event after the writerly stuff
And the rest is history. The members who rushed off to book their flights to Paphos with Mr Easyjet may not all have been the creme-d-la-creme of the group’s writerly talent but they all knew they fancied a break from a grey Cheshire winter in the sun-soaked wine-fuelled idyll of Cyprus.
It now falls to me to record this event for posterity. Unfortunately the wine-fuelled aspect of the trip coupled with an aging brain means that not all the recollections will necessarily be complete or accurate. Or even true, for that matter. But I’ll do my best.
It was on Thursday that things got serious with the joint meeting with the Paphos group. The day started nervously. Over breakfast we discussed how we could possibly convince all these real writers that we were worthy of the name. Why hadn’t we brought Tonia with us? Or Debbie Bennett? Or just about anyone else rather than us? Why had Les chosen to work in Chorley instead of allowing us to bask in the reflected glory of his brilliance? There was a lot of concern that we were going to let Bob down, and that he would be expelled from the Paphos group.
Various strategies were considered to avoid attending the meeting, but before we had managed to agree on one we were being hustled out to the vehicles by our hostess Nikki and the die was cast.
We shouldn’t have worried of course. Our hosts were lovely people and very welcoming. The standard of readings was universally high except for yours truly who deliberately read his worst material in order to make everyone else feel good about themselves. A highlight of the meeting was hearing about the fascinating research being undertaken by Paphos member Jordi Guri into the ancient history of Cyprus.
Following the meeting we enjoyed an excellent convivial lunch with our hosts and retired exhausted but relieved to The Roost. We dined sparingly that night on supermarket fare, and not a drop of gin dropped our lips.
Friday dawned clear and sunny and hot. Our group chilled out in their own various ways, everyone steeling themselves for the social event being hosted by Nikki in our honour in the afternoon. The writing had gone well, but could we survive this next challenge without letting Bob down?
There was wine. There was a lot of wine. It seems that writers worldwide believe the myth that alcohol fuels creativity, which is probably why so few of us actually manage to create anything of lasting value… but have great fun along the way. And there was delicious Thai food prepared by Saranya from the Paphos group. We all had a great time, and I don’t think anyone disgraced themselves. (Well not too much anyway.)
The next morning we met up with Bob and Carol (the lady married to Bob) to join them for their ritual Saturday morning swim at Paphos harbour. I confessed to Bob that I had a bit of a hangover. He said that was a funny coincidence because he seemed to have one too. Then I donned mask, snorkel, and fins and stumbled into the water. I lay on the surface looking down at the bottom below, and tried to calculate the odds of surfacing alive from a dive in my present state. And then I discovered that once you are about 4 metres under the surface of the Mediterranean your hangover vanishes. I think this must be to do with the partial pressure of oxygen in the brain at this depth. The only trouble of course is that eventually you need to breathe again and shortly after getting back to the surface the hangover returns.
So after the swim and a hearty English breakfast at Tea for Two I repaired to a waterfront bar for a restorative beer while the rest went shopping. Being a cultural envoy can be bloody hard work at times.
By evening I had recovered and I may even have risked one of Liz’s gins. There was general agreement that we should not be stay-at-homes on a Saturday night so we set off to Kathikas in search of a highly recommended restaurant… only to find that it was closed for the season. We ended up eating at the Traditional Tavern in Kathikas where we had a super time and Steph had her best vegetarian meal of the trip. (Although vegetarian options don’t always feature on the standard menus, everywhere we went was happy to prepare vegetarian meals and Steph was delighted with all of them.)
Everyone had enjoyed the swim and the buzz around the harbour so much that we returned there on the Sunday morning before heading back to Kathikas with Bob and Carol for yet another fantasic ‘English meal’ – this time Sunday lunch at the Petradaki Taverna.
And then suddenly it was Monday and we were packing our cases for the return journey. But our evening flight allowed us to make good use of our last day by visiting Latchi where we had our final Cyprus lunch in a restaurant on the beach. Bob and Carol accompanied us to the airport via Kouklia where we ate yet another magnificent meal!
As the plane struggled off the runway I reflected on the absurdity of Easyjet weighing our hold luggage when all the weight must actually be in our stomachs.
So that was Paphos 2015.
Roll on 2016!