Paphos Diary 2015

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.

Picture of VRWG members in Paphos

Bob, Carol, Liz, Steph, Joan, Bill

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.

We already covered Monday thru Wednesday in a previous post which was very unfair on Liz Sandbach.  (But we thought it was funny at the time.) 

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.

Paphos Nov 2015 (4)

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.)

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Bob explains the finer points of crime scene investigation to a fascinated audience…

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.

Swimmers at Paphos Harbour

Swimmers at Paphos Harbour

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.  IMG_20151107_113537

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!

Liz, Joan, and Steph at Latchi on the last day

Liz, Joan, and Steph at Latchi on the last day

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!


Bill Webster



I could have been in Paphos

I could have been lounging poolside, my eyeballs floating in cheap gin and maybe writing a little bit. As it is though, I’m in Chorley instead. Not comparable in any way as far as I can see, except maybe the temperature. The heating here is cranked all the way up to eleven and my skin is drying out after only a few days. And while I think I’d get away with slathering myself with cream at poolside, here, it will cause many a head to twitch up and down in bemusement in the meerkat world of the cubicle farm.

I’m closer to a window than I was in my previous job. There, I remember the fire officer once pointed to a pile of paper stacked on a desk near the window. She insisted it had to be dealt with because it posed a fire risk. I pointed out that if it were to ever spontaneously combust, then the rain pouring down the inside of the window would likely quench the flames.
The window here opens to about 5 mm, which in the summer I imagine will be perfect for midges to slip in and bite everyone – or more likely, just me. They love me, and although I appreciate their affectionate attitude towards me, it’s a one-sided love that will never be returned. I wonder if the Cypriot midges would have survived my gin quenched blood. Well I’m not likely to find out this year.

Every hour or-so a train goes past about 75 feet away and almost at eye level with me on the first floor. Even on a despondently weathered day like today, the faces of the passengers – artistically disguised behind the grit and grime streaked across the train windows – appear to be less gloomy than I am in my greenhouse of isolation.
I could have been in Paphos, up to my eyeballs in cheap gin, up to my knees in a swimming pool and perhaps up to no good. But I’m in Chorley. I’ve thought about this many times throughout the day. Only once did I think I’d made the right choice and it was five minutes to five. Then again, it did rain all the way home … maybe next year. Save some gin for me Liz

What to do with Liz Sandbach?

Liz Sandbach has been a problem for us in Paphos since finding out she could buy a bottle of gin for under £5.

Liz's ruin

Liz’s ruin

Everything started well on Monday morning.  We all woke up in time. We got to Manchester airport ok. We even managed to work the Easyjet automated baggage check-in.  The flight was uneventful and we landed in Paphos to be greeted by our illustrious chairman Bob Barker and our lovely landlady Nikki.

A short ride later and Nikki was dropping us off outside the local taverna where we began to get a hint of the trouble to come when we paid 7 euros for a litre carafe of wine.  But we were good and were in bed betimes.  Two of us even ran the mile from our accommodation into the local village, Polemi… but it was hot – even early in the morning.  The runners walked back.

After a delicious breakfast and the unsightly sight of the runners throwing themselves into the somewhat chilly pool our illustrious etc etc chairman picked us up and took us into his local stamping ground of Paphos to see the sights and pick up a hire car.

Well, the car was rented in Bill’s name as the primary driver, but when Steph found it was the same as her beloved Mazda 3 Bill found himself elbowed out of the way.  (And as at the time of writing has not even been allowed to touch the steering wheel.)

It's mine. Get your own.

It’s mine. Get your own.

Following some sightseeing with Bob and Carol and a very pleasant lunch on the Paphos waterfront we hit the supermarket for some essentials.

Hats are necessary in Paphos

Hats are necessary in Paphos

That is when Liz discovered ‘Deluxe Best Seller Gin’ for the equivalent of about 4 quid a bottle.

And now the nature of our visit has changed from cultural exchange to potential cultural disaster.

Despite the wise counsel of Joan, Liz insisted on making two gin and tonics for anyone who would drink them (Bill) ahead of our dinner date with Bob and Carol at one of their favourite tavernas.

It was an excellent meal but it may be some time before Bob and Carol can return.

All was well by Wednesday morning and following coffee and cake at Carol and Bob’s we set off along the coast towards Limassol to see Aphrodite’s Rock and the archaeological excavations at Kourion.  We were able to compare pictures which Joan had brought from several years ago with the present-day site and were all impressed by the ingenuity and scale of the theatre and the baths – especially the mosaic floors.

The magic of mosaic

The magic of mosaic

Tomorrow we meet with our compatriots in the Paphos Writers’ Group and we are beginning to wish that some of our real writers had been able to come.

Liz and Joan are working on masterpieces to read out at the meeting.  Steph is planning how to prevent Bill getting a shot of driving ‘her’ car.  Bill is writing this blog in the hope that Steph will add some pics and someone will edit out his mistakes before publication.

Tomorrow is another day in Cyprus.  But what to do with Liz Sandbach and her bottle of cheap gin?

Wish us luck.  We’ll need it.