Hi all, hope you are staying safe and staying home. A little something to make you smile. A short story that is included in my second "Only in Cyprus" book. You have time so have a chuckle.
Second only to the ‘Body Building Brigade’, Jini is the most macho thing a man can do in Cyprus….apparently. I must be a sissy because I do neither! Body building is a no no since my heart stopped me lifting even a cup of tea, and to kill animals for sport is just not my thing. I know it’s not my thing because I have tried it….twice! Why it’s deemed macho to walk around fields and valleys shooting at defenseless birds and rabbits is beyond me. Maybe it’s because they get to hold a GUN!? I will share with you my two Jini experiences and I think you will agree that I am right to leave it to the macho men.
Whilst having a cup of coffee with my neighbor Philipos, he said, “ELA NA BAME JINI AVRIO” (Come hunting tomorrow). I explained that I had never been before and besides I didn’t own a gun. “THEN BIRAZI EXO THIO EGO” (Doesn’t matter I have two), he exclaimed. He was most insistent and badgered me until I accepted his invitation. This is when I was to discover that there were two 3 o’clocks in a day! I was instructed to come to his house at this unearthly hour in the morning. He told me we would be driving up into the mountains where he knew of some great hunting grounds and that nobody else knew about them.
Three in the morning and I gently tapped on Philipos door so as not to wake the whole household. Philipos slowly opened the door and he was in full battle dress! That is to say, starting from his head to his toes; On his head was one of those stupid looking hats with the floppy bits coming down over his ears, I think they are called ‘Deerstalkers’, but under that he wore a Green Balaclava! He wore a three quarter length jacket with a special belt for hanging your dead animals on, and on top of that, a waistcoat that had hundreds of little pockets for putting your cartridges in. Then there were those baggy trousers, ‘Combats’ I believe, and all finished off with a pair of fur lined willies! ALL this attire was in the customary camouflage colors of Green and Brown. I would have to keep a very close eye on him or he would just become invisible amongst all the foliage. Me? Well I was wearing my Levi Jeans and a light Grey jumper! He insisted that I wear one of his jackets because I would frighten off all the wildlife…seriously? He gave me a crash course on how to open, load and close the gun and we jumped into the pickup and set off for the mountains and the secret hunting grounds.
We had been driving for about 30mins. Which equates to a fair distance in Cyprus considering you could drive from one end of the Island to the other in about 4 hours. Suddenly, Philipos made a sharp turn Left taking us off the main road and onto a dusty track. We drove a further 5mins through Woods and Vales and there in the middle of nowhere was a building…..it was a Taverna!
“BROYEVMA” (Breakfast), he said.
WHAT! at this hour? I rarely eat breakfast, well maybe a couple of slices of toast about 10am when I’m fully awake, but at 4am? Philipos explained that it was a traditional thing to do, it was part of the ‘Hunting trip experience’. We parked and went into the Taverna. I couldn’t help but point out that it was surprisingly busy considering nobody knew the place we were going to.
“THEN EFTASAME AGOMA!” (We haven’t got there yet!) , he retorted.
I asked him where the menu was, which sent him into fits of laughter.
“No menu”, he answered, beaming from ear to ear because he had answered in English.
I looked around me at the surrounding tables and noticed they were all eating the same thing…SOUP!
“Soup for breakfast?” I said.
“NE, SOUPA TRAXANA! IS GOOD FOR YOU ENE KIP YOU HOT!”
I think he meant it warms you up. Anyway, ‘TRAXANA’ is made with Wheat and Yoghurt. It is mixed together and then rolled out into strands and then put out into the Sun where it is left to dry until it is rock hard. When you want to make TRAXANA, you add water and boil it and voila soup! Sometimes they cut up little cubes of Halloumi cheese and drop it into the mix like you would croutons.
Now, I am ok with Wheat and I love Halloumi, but if there is anything that turns my stomach it’s Yoghurt! Put all these ingredients together and you have, in my opinion, a plate full of baby PUKE! No really, it looks like puke and it smells like puke and it tastes like two day old puke! I would rather bang a blunt rusty nail into the end of my knob than eat it! …….Sorry, I had to make my point J I explained that I wasn’t hungry and that I was going outside for a fag, I smoked then.
Philipos eventually finished his pu … sorry breakfast, and came out so we could continue our journey. We drove for a further 30mins but we were going upwards now over some very rough terrain. There were lots of mountains, well little hills. The pickup was almost at 90 degrees it was so steep, then suddenly it leveled out and we were on top of the hill on a plateau which is where Philipos parked. I have to admit that it was stunning up there. The scenery was amazing. I wished that I had a camera and not a gun. I looked around and realized that there were four other pickup trucks there! I quickly pointed this out.
‘THEN BIRAZI’ (Doesn’t matter), said Philipos. So much for his ‘secret’ place!
Philipos handed me a side by side double barreled shotgun and six cartridges. He instructed me to keep the gun loaded but open whilst we walked.
‘ELA BERBATOUME’ (Come let’s walk).
I dutifully followed Philipos. Now, considering this was a secret place, the wide dusty track we were following looked like the Chinese Army had marched through on one of their field exercises! It was trodden flat and clear of all undergrowth.
Suddenly, Philipos turned to face me with his finger to his lips gesturing for me to be quiet, he had seen something! He slowly lay down flat onto his stomach and had me follow suit. I lay by his side. He then slowly crawled up the track Commando style, so I followed his lead. He stopped and did that gesture they do in war films and pointed directly in front of us. I looked and yes indeed I saw in the distance a pair of Rabbit ears twitching like they do. It was sat in the middle of the track and was a sitting Duck….well Rabbit. I watched as Philipos took careful aim and BANG he fired. The dust settled and the Rabbit was still there!
‘GAMMO TA!!’ (Fuck it!) said Philipos irritated as he fired his second cartridge. I couldn’t believe it the Rabbit was STILL there! Philipos bashed me on the back.
‘BEXE TON GAMMO SHISTI!’ (Shoot the f***ing ***t).
I took aim as if I had done this a hundred times before and pulled the trigger but….being a novice at this, I had pulled the trigger all the way back instead of one click! This resulted in both cartridges firing at once! Not only that, but as I didn’t have the butt of the gun pressed tightly against my shoulder as instructed, the gun shot backwards and landed on my back. Philipos just looked at me in disbelief and disgust at my pitiful efforts. We got to our feet and would you believe it, the Rabbit was still there! We walked toward the invincible one and as we got closer I started to laugh. We had been shooting at two long blades of wild grass that had grown in the middle of the track having survived the Chinese army and now us. Should have gone to Specsavers!
After some aimless wandering about without seeing a living thing, we were heading back to the truck. There on the Plateau were at least six other men smoking, drinking Tzivania and chatting. I looked around again at the beautiful location. Opposite us was another hill and on that plateau there were a few men milling about. Separating us was a deep valley. As we all stood around exchanging stories about the ones that got away, a huge flock of birds were spotted and they were flying towards us. You have never seen so many men load their weapons so quickly. The guys on the other side of the valley had spotted them too. The birds got closer and closer swooping down into the valley between the hills. All the shotgun barrels went up at once like some sort of synchronized event, and the firing began with a vengeance, they needed a kill!! I stood back and two things crossed my mind. If by some slim chance any of these crazed so called marksmen should actually hit anything, it would just drop deep down into the valley where they had next to zero chance of retrieving it! The second and most scary thought was that there were two sets of trigger happy men on either side of a valley firing guns across it in each other’s direction! Many deaths are recorded during hunting season and I didn’t want to be a statistic so I went and sat in the pickup. ‘Health and Safety’ what’s that?
My second experience of Jini just a few weeks later wasn’t nearly as eventful, but nonetheless it was the deciding factor that hunting was not for me.
Again, over a cup of Cypriot coffee with another neighbor, Georgios, having heard that our mutual neighbor Philipos had taken me hunting, decided that he was not to be outdone and that he was going to take this ‘Charlie’, that’s me, hunting also. I protested the fact that I hadn’t enjoyed my first outing but Georgios was insistent. The thing that tipped the scales was the fact that we wouldn’t be going miles away. The hunting grounds were quite local just about five miles away. Also we wouldn’t be leaving at 3am in the morning but at 5pm in the evening. It wasn’t going to be so much a hunting trip but a life’s lesson for his two little boys one was 11 years old and the other just 9 years old! They start them young over here.
So that evening we all piled into Georgios pickup and set off for ‘TROULI’. We drove for about five minutes up the ‘B’ road that joined us to the neighboring village and then turned off into some fields and the wilderness. Georgios parked in an Olive grove and opposite the grove grew some very tall Bamboos. This is where we were going to loiter as apparently a certain type of bird nests in the Bamboo.
Georgios took his super duper €2000 up and under double barreled shotgun out of its case. It was gleaming and it was his ‘Baby’, nobody but nobody was allowed to touch it! Banikos, the eldest son, had a high powered air rifle with telescopic sights, he was ordered to share it with me. The youngest son, Matheos, had the job of picking up the mass of birds we were going to massacre. His other job was to go into the Bamboo growth and disturb it so the birds would fly out and to their deaths!
We stood at the edge of the Bamboo growth as Matheos disappeared into it. After just a few minutes the birds came charging out….all ONE of them! I’m sure it waved as it flew past us. Georgios fired at it twice and missed followed by Banikos who also missed.
Banikos handed me the air rifle, it was my turn to have a go at the next opportune moment. We stood around rolling fags and chatting for what seemed like hours and there was not a bird in sight. I was enjoying the tranquility of the country side when suddenly a bird came into sight heading directly for us.
‘GRIGORA BEXE TO!’ (Quickly shoot it!).
I looked down the telescopic sight and took careful aim just in front of it as I was instructed. I fired! With a swerve and a fluttering of wings the bird plummeted earthwards and came crashing down about a hundred yards ahead of us. Two emotions went through my mind at that moment;
“Wow I hit it!” and “Oh no, I hit it!”
The two boys went running toward it so I joined them. I looked down at the most beautiful bird I had ever seen close up, it was a ‘Kingfisher’ I was told. The poor thing was writhing and fluttering in agony! I was overcome with sadness, what had I done?
‘EN SONTANO AGOMA’ (It’s still alive), exclaimed Georgios.
No shit Sherlock! I thought, almost in tears. I gave the gun to Banikos and got down on my knees next to the poor bird. I don’t know what I expected to do because this bird was way past mouth to mouth and before I could do anything ‘SMASH’ Banikos had brought the butt of the gun crashing down on the defenseless birds head! That was it, no more bird and no more hunting for me!
Well hope you enjoyed that, and all being well, see you next month.
Well you know I'm an Author, so you keep reading, and I will keep writing :)