I’m an easy person to please. Give me stationery and a good book with your personalized message and I’m a happy camper. As I’m writing this, I have four journals waiting to be used, all of them presents from friends; I’m looking at a fresh letter set along with a patterned sticky tape set waiting to be put to use; I’ve got a set of sharpened pencils waiting to spoil pages with my thoughtless rumbling.

And yet something has changed. I like all of these things, but feel disconnected from them. And I have had a lifetime of absolute fidelity to writing, reading, recording this or that insignificant detail. I have my thoughts on paper from the age of 8 — a shelf full of journals that pin down my  naive childhood, my tempered adolescence, my youthful adultness. I have successfully made it here, to almost 30 so that I can come to an unforeseeable halt?

And it’s not just the writing, it’s the reading too. After a lukewarm start to the New Year, I’ve managed to read about four books that have neither excited nor inspired me. I’ve even resorted to audiobooks, which only occurred to me as a feasible idea after reading this somewhat inspiring, if not impossibly ambitious, article.  I’m currently reading Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth, which I’m finding atrociously boring, two-dimensional and stale. I also own in audiobook (don’t ask why), and have been trudging my way through it for the past three weeks despite reading at home and listening to it on my way to and from work. If nothing else, at least I’ve discovered that I’m definitely not an audiobook person.

So recently, in the hopes of regaining some form of inspiration to jumpstart my imagination, I have began transcribing my diary entries, from that very first journal. It dates back to January 1992 and I could not feel more far removed from myself as I do now. I have decided to share the first entry with you (translated from Greek):

6 January 1992, Monday

Tomorrow we’re going back to school. Oh! What bad luck. And we are so used to sleeping at midnight whereas now we will have to sleep at 9 p.m. Unfortunately we have to go to school. But then again, I will see my friends. 

xx

Maybe this will get me out of the rut. Oh and this blog, which I hope to revive slowly. Your encouragement is a welcome delight.

I told you I was easy to please.

 

 

Commentary

On summer

Rants

Hello summer,

We’ve been waiting for you. We’ve quantified you to the certainty of 30 degrees Celsius and we monitor the weather forecast like hungry wolves. Clouds tomorrow? Saharan dust? Let that not come in the way of your arrival, we beg. But the tell-tale sign arrives overnight, and we don’t even need to check our thermometers to confirm your entrance. Suddenly, hair frizzes up, furniture is coated with a thick film of moisture and we are scooped up in a dense cloud of opaqueness. Humidity heralds your arrival. And instead of a warm welcome, we’re thinking, how could we forget about what you do to us every year?

We get carried away with romantic notions of the Ss: sun, salty sea, seashells, sand. As we slap on our sunscreen with SPF 1,000 under the scorching sun, we soon realize that it’s about time we bought our own beach umbrella because there’s very little hope we’ll ever manage to get the few sunbeds that offer it as option. As we enter the water, we yelp silently, trying to look good as we enter a liquid version of our freezer. Of course it’s refreshing, we fib. “Look at me, I’m diving in, ha ha,” and our heart comes to an abrupt halt before resuming again when we break the surface. “God that felt good!” we say through clenched teeth. Around us, a few hundred others do the same, and we try to ignore the persistent question, as we hit a warm spot while we’re swimming. It’s the currents, we convince ourselves, though we know as we eye the crowd that it’s plain human nature. Oh yes, gross, summer, gross.

Then come plans for traveling and discovering and getting away from worries and people (though the latter, few of us would admit). We make grand plans for escape, and monitor prices closely before booking on the day when unexpectedly, prices rise, dammit. We buy travel guides and optimistically keep them on the coffee table, hoping that we’ll pick them up before the trip. We make our budget so that we never keep it, and come back with empty pockets and ticket stubs that we’re not sure whether to keep as souvenirs or throw out. As for our peace of mind? No room for that, surely, with the stress of seeing all the sights, avoiding all the touristy places and getting our value for money. Going back to work no longer seems like a bad idea, actually.

And when we start to take at least three showers a day, we remember why it is that you stink summer. We are gullible people, we like to live life in postcards that say “Wish you were here!” or go to work dancing to summer beats, sipping on mojitos. But when you arrive, you bring with you the unbearable heat, those long long days, that need filling. So we venture out to coffeeshops more, we go out at nights, because we wear denial on our sleeves, and by the end of it, we come out of August broke and in despair. We wait for the first rain eagerly, and monitor thermometers for temperature fluctuations. We are people of routine and we work in this cycle.

For now, in early June, all I have to say is “Welcome back.” By the end of it, we’ll hate you, that’s a promise.

plain bananas x

Ode to Muffin

Odes

In memory of our dearest dog, Muffin.

You woofed your way

into our plebeian hearts

and left a blondish trail

wherever your nose led you.

Mr Carrot had it in for you

for biting his head off;

Mr Ant was afraid

after you shut him up.

And now, you lay hushed

below trees that you played with;

and house corners wait patiently,

– in futile –

for your bouncing company.

I cling onto your long sigh of goodbye,

your soft exit.

No flowers for dead muffins, no remembrances.

Doggy sticks would do you just fine.

You always liked to plead and whine for them,

and we loved it.

And we loved you.

And we do.

Keeping the balance

Commentary

Photo by poca-traça

I’d like to say that as I ride my bicycle past manic drivers and clouds of CO2 everything blurs as I become one with my vehicle. In reality the only thing that keeps me focused is my inner mantra: Keep your balance, don’t topple over. A quick pause is enough to start me thinking of the small tyre width, the slight swerve that might send me flying into the windscreen of the speeding car jetting down the other lane. No, the fears of the modern cyclist cannot easily be assuaged — they keep the adrenaline at an all-time high.

I only recently bought a bicycle and it’s true that you never forget how to ride one even if it’s been decades since you’ve been on an uncomfortable saddle. As I started cycling again I realized that I am invisible! Owning a bike has its burdens and this is perhaps its heaviest one. Yes, I can cycle close to the curb but sometimes it seems I might as well be riding on it. I could, but pedestrians have an even bigger problem recognizing that cyclists have their own pavement rights too. Cycling lanes? A luxury for Cyprus that is simply non-existent. Why create a new lane when we’re only just starting to fix up our roads? It feels like cycling through a mine field avoiding those crater-like potholes.

I know the solution is simple; I can protect my brain and other body partsby wearing protective gear. This has its advantages. For starters, I know I look like the biggest dork on the planet and immediately think that there’s no way anyone could avoid spotting this knight in plastic armor on the road. It’s my saving grace — I look like such an idiot, it’s began to feel reassuring.

Riding the streets of Larnaca is a dangerous enough feat as it is, and add to that my natural gift of clumsiness and you have a recipe for a potentially serious disaster. But I combat this with carefully planned routes; I consider the quieter streets, I wear my brightest clothes and as a car brushes by I hold my breath for good luck and good measure. As I cycle vehemently through streets with no name to meet friends for coffee I know that by the time I arrive I’ll be sticky with sweat and my knee might be scraped, if not bleeding. I know I’ll lock my bike against a tree I can see while I’m sitting, and then make my bruised way towards the table waiting for my disheveled company impatiently.

It’s always nice to make an entrance, at least.

I’m an L

Commentary

Photo from Di's Eyes

I wouldn’t call myself a wine expert because I’m not one. If I could put a label to my relationship with wine it would be a capital L for learner. My textbook is the supermarket aisle that stores such a range of wines I’m left baffled and a little thirsty. My tastebuds take note of the different textures, but recall what is good not why. In all honesty, I’m the worst kind of student – the kind that listens while it’s interesting but zones out when we get to the nitty-gritty.

I never fooled myself that I was of the budding connoisseur caliber. My next-to-nothing knowledge has not limited my ability to enjoy good wine, and it is why I feel it my obligation to share my secrets with you fellow Ls and other wannabes. Let us begin the crash course into the world of wine tasting and selecting.

Stare. This is my first and most important piece of advice. I would strongly advise you spend a good part of your grocery time in the wine aisle staring intently at the great range of bottles. Feel a little dizzy? Take it by section! Start with the reds or the whites or the smaller, more manageable category of rosé. Once you start feeling comfortable, you will lose the initial signs of confusion and will soon realize that there is nothing wrong with choosing at random, if you’ve given the shelf its fair share of staring. It works wonders.

Try. This is of course the most important aspect for every learner. Branch out, try different wines and make a mental note of your likes and dislikes. Take a winery tour, if possible, and listen to guide explain how wine is produced, have a look at the big barrels in the basement, feel the chills running up your back from excitement but also because it’s damn cold down there. Wine tasting at a winery is the best way to learn what you like because you drink a little bit of everything. Avoid being the driver for the day and swallow every single drop of wine you’re given and focus on what tingles your tastebuds. Is it cabernet sauvignon? Do you prefer dry or semi-sweet? Find your category and you’ve already restricted the section of the supermarket you should be staring at. After the wine tasting, I would strongly encourage you to buy as much wine as you can; it’s straight from the source, it’s cheap and it will make for a great story while you enjoy it on a later date — especially if you rode there on your bicycle and actually took my advice to drink every wine to the last sip!

Avoid. Know what wines are considered too commercial and cheap. A good indication of this could be the price, but generally avoid brands such as Yellowtail. If you like Yellowtail and I have just burst your bubble of wine heaven, ignore this point and drink your way to a poor hangover. I have a bottle in the cupboard too, which I bought before I was given this very advice. Now all I have to do is give it as a present who someone who doesn’t read my blog — an easy feat.

Fellow learners, the rules are simple. If you want to read on, do so but if you want the easy way to good wine, follow my S-T-A method. It may make people look at you strangely as you spend 10 minutes staring at labels and selecting randomly while on your grocery run, but hey, you gotta start somewhere. Drink away, be merry and wear you’re L label with style. Some wineries are thankful we exist. It’s Ls like us that will try just about anything, even that god-awful stuff no one warned us about. Damn that misleading label…

On 26

Commentary

Dear 26-year-old self,

To be clear, this is a letter of goodbye. You and I are being held together by nothing more than a cobweb string of a hours that separate us from the new and cool 27. You see, it’s still OK to look forward to the next self, there are no drops of perspiration as I extend my hand to meet my new older persona. We need to part, and I’m ready for it.

I’m sure going to miss you though, fool. Remember that time you decided to get a new piercing on the wrong side of your face? You kept walking around trying to convince yourself that it looked like the kind of thing you would do — the kind of thing you had expected even! Until your sister pointed out that there’s too much metal on the left side of you face, so you took the earring out just like that.

You were always a restless one though. You considered staying too long in one place the way to rot your brain and curiosity. It’s no wonder that you moved locations 3 times without blinking about it. And you loved the packing, the unpacking — the excitement of possibility. You moved fluidly between borders, you travelled mentally and literally and there was never a dull minute with you holding my hand. Remember Paris? Remember Berlin? I would have never gone ahead if it weren’t for your impulsiveness, your endless drilling. Let’s face it – you would never stop until you got your way. It worked to my advantage. Most times.

It’s normal, I guess, to have ups and downs, but your ups and downs were intense roller coaster rides. You went from deliriously happy to grimly morose in the flash of a second. I had to choose my words carefully when I talked about life, about love, about what it means to be free. This issue really kept you sleepless. You wanted to choose wisely, surely, independently. You wanted to be free but would talk endlessly about your fear that love cripples your freedom. And it pained you to place these two ideals as polar opposites, to force yourself to choose between such lofty ideals. You let love win every time, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it was a defeat you secretly welcomed gladly. You were a true contradiction, as such.

And then my dear old 26-year-old self, you had a bright idea. You needed some direction, even though you didn’t even know it then. You were a little lost but you had convinced yourself you were right on track, as always. It came in the form of a small box with an air balloon on it. Inside there was a bag of beads, and you were confused. Until you started to toy with the idea of using them. And overnight, awoke a new streak of creativity that lay dormant just below your fingertips. And then, you gave the act of creating, a name, and attached a blog to it. For that I thank you old self. Because of you I am here now and I am writing to tell the rest of the world what happens next.

I will miss you,

plain bananas x

The WRITE picture

The WRITE picture

The idea is simple: One picture, approximately 1000 words telling its story. Or at least the story in my head. Get inspired by clicking on the photo and discovering more through the photographer’s lens.

Photo by Zitaaa

Harry knew he’d be late. He knew it the moment he got up at 6.53, a fat 12 minutes later than his usual time. As he waited over the toaster, armed with bread knife and butter, he pondered over what to wear. He was a black-and-white type of man, but today was a different occasion. The day called for a tone of grey.

On his way out the door, he checked himself in the mirror. There was a moment of deliberation as he stared blankly, confused. He produced a practiced smile, the corners of his lips extending sideways, his tired lips reduced to faint lines.

Who am I kidding? he mumbled. But there was no time to change into his comfortable persona before he walked out the door. He was already 12 minutes behind his usual schedule. Keys in hand, he walked out the door and into his black Fiat Punto. He made a mental note to get it washed before his date later in the evening as he brushed his arm against the door accidentally. Good thing I’m wearing grey, he thought as he geared the car into the lane and the uncertain threat of oncoming traffic.

Harry enjoyed taking shortcuts on normal occasions, but today felt like a day for the main streets. The result of this decision nearly had disastrous effects because without realizing, his heart started racing. And then, like diamonds, the first drops of sweat started forming on his crown. It was only a matter of minutes before the wet stickiness spread like a tsunami across his entire body. Afraid that he would arrive to work smelling like leftovers from last night, he rolled down his window and took in a deep breath of carbon dioxide.

Of course everything’s bloody wrong today, he complained childishly. He loosened his tie and switched to the lane with moving cars. In a matter of seconds, however, everyone was immobilized.

He glanced in the rearview mirror and for the second time that day, looked at himself. His eyes were angry, yet helpless. They asked, Who do you think you are, you sorry sod? And Harry knew the meaning of that glare; he had asked himself that question a little less than a week ago as he took a pen out of his briefcase to circle something in the newspaper. It was Sunday morning and quite unlike him, he took his coffee in bed and read the newspaper under the covers, though fully dressed. Harry had suddenly felt overwhelmed by a feeling of idleness and had done nothing to fight it. It was with considerable effort that he rose later, already decided upon finding a writing utensil. By that time, he had lost complete control of his self-composure so that the Harry circling the Sunday personal ad with ferocious resolve in no way resembled the diminutive sweaty man trapped in a caterpillar of cars this morning.

Normally, Harry would have looked over his shoulder as soon as he even turned to that disgraceful page in the paper. He thought it embarrassing for a man his age to even read a word of that laconic nonsense of people coding loneliness. But he heard what his colleagues said behind his back.

He’s got no life.

Who would want to even sleep with that uptight son of a bitch?

I bet you he’s forgot what his dick is for.

He often paid no mind to such petty talk. But below his austere black suit lay a flaccid sexual organ, nothing obscene, really. And it was not often that he felt that there was a void in his life he could not fill with post-its of to-do lists and early nights in. But on Sunday, he felt like a barren field stretching out for acres and acres and in that feeling of misery, he mustered the courage to call the number on the ad he liked the most:  woman, 39, looks for adventure. Loves color and looks to balance her life’s vibrancy.

The conversation didn’t last more than 5 minutes. A courteous introduction and then a question that may have been impossible to utter, given different circumstances: Want to go out to dinner on Wednesday? And then Harry heard a yes thunder down the line and as he hang up the phone he got up, made the bed and threw up.

By the time the cars in front of him started moving, Harry was feeling dizzy. In a moment of panic and impulse he swerved into the next right without indicating and accelerated the car as he went down the narrow side road. Once he realized he was no longer close to the main street he slowed down and gradually came to a halt. He looked around and tried to figure out his geographical location. He got out of the car and stared into the open. His eyes focused on a bouquet of color that had mushroomed on the side of the road. Harry watched the yellow flowers dance in the breeze and thought, Flowers. I must remember to take her colorful flowers.

He fixed his tie, got in the car and drove off.