Brian has built his house in the hills above Mari, fifteen minutes outside of the resort town of Limassol. Perched near the top of a rocky hillside, the plot covers several acres of parched land with a view to the sea. The nearest property is perhaps half a kilometer away and the nearest village six. He lives there alone and comes down to shop in Nicosia every three or four weeks.
I met Brian for the first time a couple of years ago through my cousin Ritsa. He’s a retired American academic who became aware of Cyprus when teaching at a university in Maryland which had in the 1980’s a high population of Cypriot undergraduates. He visited the island for the first time a few years later, bought a piece of land ten years after that and completed his house in 2008, shortly after I met him for the first time.
Brian is sixty, portly, bespectacled with sandy hair and a florid complexion. He is very friendly and talkative, to the extent that it is difficult to insert many of your own words into any conversation but that is perhaps a bi-product of his social isolation.
All of the furniture, plates, knives, forks etc have been imported from the United States. Brian does not do things by halves. His home is a fairly modest three bedroom, U-shaped structure with a large central, open plan area given over to a kitchen/diningroom/sitting area but he has imported 100 dining plates and cutlery plus a stock of 60 wine glasses. On the shaded terrace he has placed a glass-topped table, surrounded by easy chairs but in his storage container, he has another two sets. they were a bargin, he said! His cupboards are filled with a lifetime supply of aluminium foil and zip-lock plastic bags and so it goes on.
His living area furniture is sumptuous. You sink into the sofas up to your thighs. His chair is one and a half times wider than any I have seen in my life and the glasses we used to drink our beer from heavy as full bottles of wine. Brian cooked beautiful walnut pastries and muffins for us. Not a few but dozens. He said that when he has friends over he usually cooks hundreds. I only hope he freezes what isn’t eaten!
He loves seeds and has many trays of herbs seedlings to plant up his herb garden. Brian is starting to green up his land by planting fruit trees and cultivating a vegetable patch. He plans to plant vines on one of the large terraces below the house and will probably make his own wine. He has olive trees and if he lives long enough, will undoubtedly make his own olive oil from them…
Writing about Brian’s property, makes it sound idyllic but now, in the heat of summer on that very hot, unshaded hillside I’m not so sure. He has a self watering system and soaks everything each night but many of his plants look stressed and wilt. I think he needs to use shade netting if anything is to survive in the long-term.
There are many things that Brian has got right with his rural idyl. His house isn’t too big, the ceilings are high, the house faces the sea, he has a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside but for Sandra and me, it is too isolated, too barren and above all too hot. We love the heat and thought Namibia had a perfect climate with temperatures in summer going up to 35c but here, it sometimes get up to 50c and that is just too much of a good thing! Somehow, the landforms here seem to conspire to make it even hotter here than in Lefkosia.
I raise my hat to Brian, creating his rural idyll in the back of beyond but I feel that our dream lyes somewhere else…