Journalism, Reviews, Interviews, Opinion, Travel, Culinary, Creative Fiction, Short Stories & Poetry

I am a Writer, Artist, Musician and Philosopher who believes the reason to be alive is to learn, experience, grow, influence and if you're lucky, inspire.

I've created this blog to introduce my own literature to the rest of the world in the hope that it will - and I will - in some way, make a difference.

There is a quote by a Greek philosopher, Epictetus, which I love: First Learn the Meaning of What You Say and then Speak. I believe in making life as meaningful as possible, and that is why everything you find here was created with meaning which I believe, in turn, gives it the power to inspire.

I hope you will enjoy reading my writing and be sure to check out my website at for samples of my artwork, photography and music.

From Inspiration to Creation...


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Tuesday, 1 September 2009

TRAVEL - Corfu

Coastal coves and scenic mountains create a dramatic backdrop to island village life
by Nathalie Kyrou

Corfu, or Kerkyra, is an island steeped in history, the most northern of the Ionian isles on the western coast of Greece. Mythology says it was named after the nymph ‘Korkyra’, but the name ‘Corfu’ is actually an Italian corruption derived from the Greek ‘Koryphai’, meaning ‘crests’ or ‘peaks’. Indeed, Corfu is full of mountainous peaks from where one can take in the plethora of stunning views this island has to offer.

My first impression of Corfu is that it is the greenest Greek island I have ever visited. Cypress and pine trees, and naturally grown grass, create an interesting backdrop to the little villages which emerge like beige spots on a rich dark-green canvas. Everywhere I turn I am faced with a dramatic amalgam of contrasting scenery: from cliffs and hills to valleys and the sea.

A bus journey takes me through the charming villages of Liapades and Gardelades, which, with their old village homes cradled in hanging grape vines, are truly characteristic of the island. As we near our destination, on the north-western side of the island, I notice majestic slopes draped in lush greenery looming to my right, dotted with large Italian-style villas with terracotta tiled roofs and staccato yellow-washed and peach-stained walls, while to the left lies the intensely blue horizon of the vast and brilliant Ionian Sea. Sailboats peacefully graze the horizon while Greek flags flutter in the breeze.

Upon reaching Paleokastritsa (old castle place), I discover an array of small tranquil bays of aquamarine water, speckled with sailboats, and sprinkled with golden sand. I climb the road up to the monastery of Panagia-Theotokou from where the view is supreme. At the top of the hill I spot the sea caves in the distant coast below, which, like the more isolated sandy coves, are only reachable by boat. I click away with my camera, spoilt for choice by the scenery. Every angle presents me with a different - yet equally stimulating – viewpoint, each fascinating landscape more breathtaking than the last.

The monastery, located on the mountaintop, was founded in the 13th century. With its spilt-level courtyard intricately decorated with a variety of flowers and shrubbery, it too makes a model subject for endless photography. Arches are adorned with brilliant-coloured bougainvilleas, striking against the white-washed stone walls. You can visit the church which lies under a magnificent mural, or take a stroll through the leafy gardens with their stone-paved paths, through antique doors onto balconies which hang daringly over long drops and offer panoramic vistas of the sea beyond. Alternatively, you can visit the relics of a tiny museum or take a peek at the old oil-mill which is now surrounded by souvenirs and bottles of Kumquat liqueur (a divine concoction made from the small, citrusy-sweet, orange-like fruit which apparently only grow naturally in Corfu and China).

About 3 km further up the road we reach the village of Krini, from where you can ascent to Angelokastro, (Angelo’s or Angel’s castle), one of the most important Byzantine castles in all of Greece. The engineering of its construction at such a remote and forbidding location is remarkable. Perched on the peak of a precipitous rock it was built in the 13th century by priest Michael Angelo. The impregnable fortress played a pivotal role during the Great Siege of Corfu in 1571 when the Turkish attackers were successfully defended by the castle.

A great way to replenish your energy after an excursion in Corfu is to order a fish meze at a local taverna. I indulge in delicious, fried marides (tiny fish) and fresh sardines, as well as calamari so tender that it practically melts in my mouth. Avgotaraho, an island delicacy (which I wish I could get a life-time supply of), is a type of caviar-like fish roe, packed into a sausage shape and preserved in a wrapping of wax. The dancers at the restaurant dazzle me as they perform amongst flames, while the owner stands proudly beside them squirting lighter fluid onto the blaze and throwing metal plates onto the floor (obviously a modern and less messy version of the Greek plate-smashing tradition).

My next trip is to Corfu’s capital, Kerkyra. Officially declared a Kastropolis (castle city) by the Greek Government, the city's old town was also added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2007. Under Venetian rule from 1401 until 1797, the capital, as a result, has acquired a unique look influenced by Italianate architecture, and epitomised by the Venetian-Roman style City Hall. Unlike many other touristic city centres, the old pedestriansed part of Kerkyra is not jarred by modern souvenir shops. Crumbling houses stand remarkably steady in their fresh coats of peach, yellow or pink paint, with their original wooden shutters and tiny iron balconies upon which sit Corfiot women, drinking their afternoon kafĂ© as they peer down at the masses of foreigners wandering around the narrow, 13th century granite streets below.

If you can tackle the maze of roads in town, there is a plentitude of historical attractions worth visiting, namely Kerkyra’s churches. Ayios Eleftherios and Ayia Anna are fascinating chapels, their detailed ceiling murals inspiring silent admiration. Considered the city’s most important church, Ayios Thavmatourvos Spiridonas is named after the patron saint of Corfu, Cypriot-born Saint Spyridon ‘Keeper of the City’, who was revered for his miracles, especially that of expelling the plague from Corfu.

The most captivating site from the town’s central square is of the old Venetian fortress at the tip of Garista Bay. The ‘Palaio Frourio’ (old fortress) is the most famous and important castle in Corfu. Built on a rocky islet, with fortifications surrounding its entire perimeter, the citadel is connected to the mainland by a bridge which lies across a pseudo half-moat. The lighthouse which stands at the peak of the fortress, as well as the temple of Apollo and the restored ancient buildings, are enchanting.

The next morning, I set off to tour the north-eastern part of the island. Dassia’s pebbly beaches are too touristic to muster any of my interest, but as I pass by the coastal towns of Barbati and Nissaki, tall peaks rise to my left and the open sea falls to my right, and it is hard not to get carried away by the splendour of it all as the narrow lane wraps itself like a twisted rope around bends, weaving in and out of tiny villages which are perched precariously on the cliff-side.

My next stop is the picturesque village of Kalami, one of the most famous spots on the island, mainly thanks to the Bristish Durrell brothers, Gerald and Lawrence, who found a writing haven here back in the 1930s. Corfu, with its vegetation and weather is the perfect breeding ground for all sorts of creatures: fish, lizards, stray dogs, birds, and lots of insects. All of this was certainly an inspiration to Gerald Durrell, author of best-selling novel, ‘My Family and Other Animals’, which was written here in the brothers’ house, which has now been converted into a tavern called The White House - a popular place for tourists to visit or lodge. (Brother Lawrence is best known for his novel ‘The Bitter Lemons of Cyprus’ also written here in Corfu.)

I follow the route towards the most north-eastern point of the island, diverting at Ayios Stefanos to catch a glimpse of the Albanian mountains on the horizon. At Kassiopi, on the bottom edge of Aspraou Bay, I am appalled to find village life bombarded by tourism. Only the sandy beach further along Aspraou Bay is worth stopping at for a swim. On the other side of the clean, shallow waters, runs a footpath (one of the many hiking trails which exist in Corfu), which leads from the main road through the tall grasses to one of the few lakes that exist in Corfu: Limni Antiniotissa.

As I approach Acharavi and continue to Roda, the bland effects of the tourist invasion once again suck all the character out of each town. Thankfully, the drive further along the coast to the famous beach at Sidari is worth the journey up here. The natural rock formations are spectacular: at the entrance of the bay there is a natural tunnel in the rock - this sea channel gave the beach its name: canal d'amour (French for ‘channel of love’).

On my way back, I turn inland onto a side road which leads to the mountains through Episkepsi (a lovely name which means ‘visit’), a village known for being untouched by the ugly hands of tourism. I continue along the winding roads framed by never-ending fields of olive trees (of which there are more than 3 million on the island!). I am flabbergasted by their ancient barks, all twisted and filled with holes, cracks and protrusions, like something out of a fairy-tale.

At Sgourades I take a sharp turn left and start the steep climb uphill. From any point, if you are high enough, you will be rewarded with a “bella vista”. Finally I reach the highest point on Mount Pantokratoras, which looms above its rocky peers at a towering height of 906m. At its peak (the highest point on the island), I have a dazzling view of Corfu’s entire coastline.

At Strinilas, a village close to the summit, I stop for a bite to eat. To my amazement, I discover that the square opposite the tavern is called none other than Platea M.Karaolis & A.Dimitriou, named after two Cypriot war heroes who, to my disbelief, actually originate from my village in Cyprus! I enjoy my Greek salad and spanahopittes (spinach pies) under the shade of the old elm tree, then later walk through the little streets behind the tavern as the scent of burning olive wood lingers in the air, and the odd elderly woman tackles steep, rocky steps with the aid of nothing but her wooden cane.

In the region of Gastouri to the south of the capital, I visit one of Corfu’s main attractions: the Achilleion. Built by Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria, this grand summer palace, a monument to platonic romanticism as well as escapism, is adorned with neoclassical statues and paintings depicting scenes from the Trojan War. The Imperial gardens, where the marble statue of the mortally wounded Achilles is erected, provide a captivating view of the surrounding hill crests, valleys and sea. Another place of interest to be found just south of the capital is the island known as Pontikonisi (mouse island). Filled with trees, this miniature isle is home to the monastery of Pantokrator. It is the white stone staircase that when viewed from afar gives the impression of a mouse’s tail which lent the island its name.

My time in Corfu seems to end much too swiftly. As my plane rises up into the dusky sky, seeming for a few moments to glide along Lake Korissou beneath it, I can just make out the dusty, pale outline of the island. As the dramatic cliffs recede into the distance, a fleeting image of a villa, nestled amongst tall cypress trees by a cosy harbour, imprints one final and lasting memory of Corfu’s contrasting and glorious landscape in my mind.

Copyright Nathalie Kyrou © 2009

Thursday, 30 July 2009

TRAVEL - New England

The Spirit of America by Nathalie Kyrou

For a taste of New England, take a road trip down the Coast of Massachusetts and a walking tour of Boston

One evening, over bottle of wine (and don’t most good travel ideas begin in just this way?), my friends and I pull out a map of North America, excited at the thought of seeing its beautiful north-eastern coast, most commonly known as New England. Many of America’s pivotal events have been played out against the backdrop of Massachusetts, which has always been New England’s industrial and intellectual hub. It is here, in its capital city, Boston, where the seeds of democracy were first planted, where colonial leaders signed the Declaration of Independence, where the strongest roots of the American Revolution took place, blossoming into the birth of a nation, something which has forever altered the course of world history.


My first impression of Boston is that this city is, to say the least, incredibly photogenic. The distinctly Bostonesque red brick buildings, gleaming cobblestone streets, parks, ponds and abundant greenery are all crying out to be captured on film and frozen in time. I am captivated by the view from the balcony of the 24th floor of the Radisson Hotel: a spectacular panorama of Boston’s skyscrapers standing out boldly against a blue sky.

A walk later down the renown Boylston Road takes us past the famous Trinity Church to the hip and fashionable area of Newbury Street. This trendy road, surrounded by trees which will later be lit up with fairy lights, is similar to a boutique adorned neighbourhood of some fancy European city. In fact, American as it may be, Boston, with its river and old buildings, draws many similarities to the typical large European city - perhaps one of the reasons why it is so popular with tourists. We dine at ‘Stephanie’s on Newbury’, devouring our enormous burgers with appetite, washing them down with decent tasting local beer.

Much to my delight, the terrible weather predictions for the next few days prove false, and the next morning greets us with more sunshine and warm temperatures, making it the perfect day for a road trip down to Cape Cod. The two hour drive south is picturesque as we leisurely pass by New England homes which seem to have stepped right out of a story book. Framed by spring blossoms, the painted wooden houses - proudly bearing the American flag – colourfully decorate the leafy tree-lined roads along the coast.

We stop in Plymouth, a sea-side town known for the ship, The Mayflower, which brought the first Pilgrims here from the U.K. in 1620. When it set anchor here, their colony became the first permanent English settlement in North America and thus was created ‘The New World’, coining the term ‘New England’. Plymouth is a lovely town, both quaint and residential, yet with an endless crowd of tourists. The Mayflower II, a replica of the original boat, travelled here in 1957 from the U.K., and is now permanently docked by Plymouth Rock. The traditionally costumed guides give us a detailed description of life aboard the ship in that era. This type of historical lifestyle immersion is common in Massachusetts, where one can find numerous museums in the form of period villages set back in time, such as The Plymouth Plantation. These outdoor replicas of 18th century villages are great attractions for visitors to the area wishing to immerse themselves in history and tradition.

We resume our drive southward and reach Cape Cod. We leave the car and take the ferry from Woods Hole to the famous Martha’s Vineyard. This island, situated off the south coast of the Cape, is much larger than we had expected. I discover that the best way to tour it if you are in a hurry and have not brought your car over is by bus. Although the bus routes are not extensive, the day pass allows you to easily explore the island’s scenery, which contrasts sharply from region to region: inhabited towns, rugged shorelines, deserted beaches, picturesque ports and dense inland forests.

A forty five minute ferry ride brings us back to Cape Cod, but by the time we set off in the car to its northern shore, it is already dusk. At this time of the evening we are unable to see any of the beautiful scenery or take advantage of some of the area’s greatest beaches. The drive along the unlit streets of the peninsula seems never ending, and apart from the occasional rotating beam of light from a nearby lighthouse, the darkness is monotonous. We finally arrive at the tip of the peninsula called Province Town, which is now eerily deserted. The streets, with their trendy shops, art galleries and restaurants, are all already closed for the day.


Boston is lively in springtime and the streets are filled with people. The place is bustling with youth since it is graduation time and Boston is home to several universities. The most renown of these is Harvard, the oldest and most prestigious college in the nation. We decide to take the T - the Boston subway - to Harvard, which is in the town of Cambridge on the north-west side of Charles River. Harvard Square welcomes us with its crowds of students and their visiting parents, families with children, local artists and musicians. I stroll leisurely around the university grounds, pausing in Harvard Yard to take in the scenery: lush green gardens, beautiful monuments and grand architecture.

At the shop on Brattle Street, I buy souvenirs. The ‘Au Bon Pain’ chain of sandwich shops, popular in Boston, can also be found at the corner of Harvard Square. Outside, on the patio, sit numerous old homeless-looking men who nevertheless are enjoying themselves immensely as they play chess for money, with expertise. This memorable scene reminds me of the coffee shops in Cypriot villages, where elderly men play backgammon all day long. Later, I take a short rest by the roadside, surrounded by flower shops and street entertainers while music drifts to me from every direction. I decide that Cambridge is indeed magical and seems to me the ideal place to spend the summer.

Upon our return to Boston, we get out at Park Street and walk up Boston Common, the largest park in the city centre. The Public Gardens, with its weeping willows framing a rippling pond of glimmering waters, offer a tranquil place to rest one’s weary feet. We proceed onwards to the Massachusetts State House, its domed roof staring down at us in glittering gold. We turn right into the Government Centre, also the financial district as well as the heart of the Old City. Historical buildings, predating American Independence, are prevalent amongst the more recent skyscrapers, offering glimpses of a colonial past.

The Boston Globe Shop, one of the oldest stores in the U.S., is named after the city’s local newspaper, and is not to be missed. Inside, you will find a variety of books specialising in the city’s history, authentic dated journals displaying historical news, and striking pictures of New England taken by local photographers. After touring the historical venues, we walk all the way to Faneuil Hall and, another famous Bostonian landmark, Quincy Marketplace. The market is alive and brimming with people, colours and intoxicating smells. Seafood is advertised everywhere and our stomachs are beginning to grumble. But the powerful positive vibe spreading through the streets douses us in good spirits, and nothing - not even hunger - can spoil our enjoyment of what is apparently the city’s first day of spring.

The waterfront beckons us at the North End of Boston. We pause at the end of Long Wharf from where the view of the city is supreme. To our dismay, there are no restaurants along the water, so we continue south along the sea-front searching for an ideal spot for lunch. Boston, and New England in general, have always had excellent harbours that centuries ago gave the area access to the West Indies, Europe and farther afield, aiding to develop a maritime trade with the spices and teas of the Far East. Nearby, at Griffin’s Wharf, is located a vessel resembling the original Boston Tea Party ship. It was here that a protest occurred in 1773 involving patriots tossing bales of tea overboard. Today, on this vessel, one can take part in a re-enactment of this event.

Further along, we stop briefly at the historic Boston Harbour Hotel, one of the oldest buildings in the city. The place is adorned with intricate models of ships, ancient sea and navigation maps, as well as battle plans. As I exit, I notice that there is a strong feeling of patriotism all around us, as American flags border every building, ship and monument. Boston’s importance in American history has left it with a unique legacy of old buildings, and religious structures, unsurpassed in beauty, of which there seem to be too many to keep track of! With its wealth of sites, I become more and more aware how fascinating a city this is to explore.

Boston is impregnated with early American architectural styles, from Colonial to Greek Revival, all of which have influenced buildings across New England for many centuries. Moreover, in this delightful city, there are always surprises waiting for you around the corner. For example, as we stroll down King’s Chapel and Burial Ground to the Old State House, we suddenly find ourselves at the spot where the Declaration of Independence was first read out after its signing in 1776, which eventually led to the American Revolution. I stand there entranced with haunting images of The Boston Massacre, which also took place in this site.

For a change of scenery, a few minutes walk across Atlantic Avenue will lead you to the waterfront. We pass by the Aquarium, and though it is one of Boston’s main attractions, we are now driven by a greater force than that of curiosity: that of insatiable hunger. Luckily, when we cross Northern Ave Bridge, we find the Barking Crab Shack, where we finally settle for our long awaited lunch. Finding a seat by the water, we bask in the sunshine, absorbing the energy around us while cheerful crowds gather on long wooden benches. The smell of seafood is intense. I indulge in tasty fried clams - a dish that this region is known for - and replenish my energy by devouring an entire fresh lobster (the best I have ever tasted), served to me in a paper plate with only a rock (to smash the shell open),a tub of melted butter and lemon wedges.

That evening, most of us are still full from our late lunch, so instead of dining we decide to walk up Beacon Hill, where we discover one of the most beautiful areas of Boston. Charles Street is the shopping area, home to wine and cheese shops, delicatessens, unique boutiques and antique dealers – a neighbourhood, reminiscent of a time long gone. The old but well preserved town “mansions” line the narrow cobblestoned streets, forming an elite and nostalgic village scene. Unforgettable are the ivy covered walls; the expensively furnished and warmly lit interiors; the cosy, romantic restaurants whose cellars pose as dining rooms, their private courtyards immersed in inviting candlelight, luring visitors in with mellow music.

At the bottom of the hill we walk west along Beacon Street to the original Bull and Finch pub which inspired the sitcom series ‘Cheers’. Then, in the mood for dessert, we make our way to a patisserie called ‘Finale’. Here, the chefs are performers who display their pastry skills to the public as they work on sweet creative delicacies which are minuscule but rich and delicately decorated. The place is both elegant and busy, and we have to wait a while for a table, but the expensive and decadent culinary experience is worth the wait.

The next morning, the subway from Arlington takes us on the Green Line all the way to Haymarket, where the streets, wet and glistening from the rain, remind me of some old parts of London, England. In the centre of this area is located the outdoor Holocaust museum, which consists of a single walkway along which have been erected several glass towers on which are engraved the prisoner numbers of all the Holocaust victims. The tall transparent towers, each representing a concentration camp, are etched with tiny figures indicating the millions of prisoners. As the numbered dead loom up and fade into the grey sky, the breathtakingly horrific scene is mesmerizingly tragic.

Nearby lies Boston’s ‘Little Italy’. It is hard to decide which place to lunch at since there are so many little restaurants, clay-oven pizzerias and cafes to choose from along Salem and Hanover Streets. This part of Boston is famous for several reasons, one of which is Paul Revere, an American hero who made a memorable ride on horseback from the city to the countryside in order to warn the locals that the British were on their way to attack. Paul lived in what is now considered the oldest house in Boston. Behind his statue on horseback (which can be found in the nearby Paul Revere Mall), one can see the spire of the Old North Church - second oldest in the city - with its pristine white interior and traditional box pews.

It is this site which separates the two halves of the Freedom Trail, a walking route that weaves its way through the city, one of the highlights of Boston and more directly linked to the American Revolution than anything else in the country. This discovery trail takes you on a journey through all the important landmarks and sites relating to the Revolution and other freedoms gained by Bostonians. Running for miles from south to north, marked by red lines painted on the pavement, it is a tour of the past in a city that established among its many attributes: literacy, ingenuity, religion, politics and more importantly, freedom. In this birthplace of influential heroes and powerful minds, there are marks of genius all over the place, as well as an indescribable spirit of courage lingering in the air. I find my heart swells with tremendous emotion in these surroundings, and I suddenly fully understand why the licence plates of this state declare Massachusetts as the ‘Spirit of America’.

We ride the subway all the way back to Copley Square, where can be found the famous Boston Public Library; apart from the great works of literature housed there, its inspiring interior and captivating exterior are majestic works of art, worth viewing alone. We take refuge from the incessant rain at Copley Mall, which is filled with designer shops targeted to an artistic, wealthy market.


Although our trip to New England is over too soon, the enticing image of Boston in the springtime is still fresh in my mind. What I have seen of this city and its surrounding coast-line, I have loved. It is not an exaggeration to say that I am inspired. Boston, quintessential birthplace of America, and home to intellectuals, writers and poets for centuries, is a haven for artists who continue to take inspiration for their most incredible works from these equally fascinating surroundings. Surpassing all of this is the feeling that wherever you come from and whatever your tastes may be, once you have visited Massachusetts, New England, you will feel a sense of belonging, and once you leave - if you do - the impact of this place will leave you changed forever.


Copyright © Nathalie Kyrou 2009

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

LIVING - Flush your troubles down the page

by Nathalie Kyrou

Have you heard of the Morning Pages?

It’s what I’d like to call ‘The Yoga of the Mind’. Whether you practice yoga or not, by starting your own morning ritual of writing down your thoughts you can stretch the inner muscles of your being, those of the mind, while at the same time, flushing your problems down the page and getting to know yourself better in the process.

The Morning Pages are recommended for any age, any gender and any state of mind. Every single morning, for an indefinite period of time (it is essential that it is first thing in the morning, as soon as you awaken and before other distractions pull you away) it is suggested that you write 3 pages by hand - not more, not less. The aim is to get your worries down on paper and rid your mind of the endless chatter and nagging thoughts that haunt it before your day begins.

At first I thought it sounded too simple. I mean, how could just pouring one’s thoughts into 3 pages a day really help? But the more I read stories about people who swear it has changed their lives, the more I decided that it was definitely something worth trying. The book where I discovered the Morning Pages states that this form of unedited writing also brings out the creativity in you. Speaking of self-help books, if you are going through a stressful period in your life, you may realize that they can become somewhat of an addiction, albeit a healthy one. But reading is one thing. Actually following advice given in such books is another. However, as it seemed straight-forward enough, and it would be an excellent way, not only to start a form of mental catharsis, but to also hook me into a daily routine of writing (which I hoped would in the long run help get that novel I’m working on completed), after a few days of psyching myself up, I made a commitment to start my own Morning Pages and see where it would lead me.

Now the rules about the Morning Pages are strict, especially about the fact that one must write by hand on paper, as opposed to typing words into a computer. I pondered this for a moment, remembering the joys of jotting down poetry or scribbling ideas onto paper once upon a long-forgotten time ago when technological gadgets did not dominate my everyday existence. I felt strangely apprehensive at the task ahead of me, yet enthusiastic to purchase a new notebook and find a pen that felt comfortable.

Day One: I find myself scribbling away slowly at first, then I pick up speed as the strangeness of what I am doing wears off. By the end of the third page I want to write more, but rules are rules, so I put my pen down, disappointed that the time has passed by so fast.

Day Two: I am reminded of when I used to keep a diary as a teenager. Having felt much better after yesterday’s writing session, I realise that I actually wish my notebook was larger in size, and the pages bigger, so that I could write more. Must be the writer in me.

Day Four: I cannot believe that I’m only a few days into this project and I already skipped a day! Yesterday, I was just too ravenous to wait until I had finished my Pages to have breakfast (and you are supposed to do the writing as soon as you wake up). Of course by the time I had finished eating it was too late – I was otherwise distracted. Nevertheless, determined not to let another day slide by, I pick up my notebook this morning and write down the first thoughts which pop into my mind, which inevitably end up being about how terrible I feel about skipping yesterday.

Day Five: This is the hardest day for me by far. It’s supposed to be a routine by now, so why do I feel so guilty about spending twenty minutes or so writing before my day begins? I start feeling skeptical about the whole thing. As if this simple writing exercise is really going to help me…this is just a waste of time! Although the whole point of this exercise is to just write thoughtlessly, without reflection and without pause, I rebel and analyze my thoughts, only to find myself feeling exasperated. Apparently, this is normal and expected (as the book assures me when I refer to it for guidance), as is the case with any sort of therapy: a period of denial, followed by anger, before one can see the light.

Day Six: Wow…where are these feelings coming from? I am a mean writing machine this morning! My pen has a mind of its own, and I’m surprising myself with the words that are pouring out. The book is right – things can get emotional if you write knowing no-one is going to read any of it. Immediately, I am aware of my state of mind. Don’t they say that consciousness is everything?

Day Seven: Hooray! I’ve managed to complete a week’s worth of Morning Pages (well almost). I think I am actually starting to see the light! I’m proud of myself that I have resisted the urge to read back what I have written – the rule is that one is not supposed to do that until at least 3 months into the project... Did they say 3 months?

The Morning Pages are supposed to be a life-long commitment, a daily routine which, like yoga or meditation, if you stick to, promises you a life free of stress. Sounds like a miracle cure to me, and it probably is, if you can only stick to doing them. I wonder why it is so hard. After all, what is more important than mental health in this day and age? It is not enough to simply exercise the body. One must delve deep into the recesses of one’s mind in order to discover who they truly are, and what makes them happy. By introducing the Morning Pages into your routine, you can now be doctor of your own brain, master of your own psyche. It worked for me. After only a week, I felt I was truly in touch with my inner self: I was my own psychologist. I knew what was troubling me as soon as I awoke each morning, and by writing it down I was able to relieve my mind from worrying about it for the rest of the day.

So, will I continue to flush my mind empty it of its clutter every morning? I believe I will – well, at least for another week – as it helps discipline me, and calms me down. There is also a sense of accomplishment in doing the Morning Pages. And yet, as I guiltily flick through the pages I wrote this past week, a tiny part of me can’t help but think, “if only I had been working on my novel instead, I would have finished an entire chapter!”

Copyright © Nathalie Kyrou 2009

Friday, 29 May 2009

LIVING - Confessions of a Recovering Facebook Addict...

“The site that took the world by storm” by Nathalie Kyrou

It has infected millions of people worldwide, spreading uncontrollably through nations faster than the latest pop hit, lasting longer than any seasonal fad. It has the power to bring people together, but also to threaten or destroy. To most of those who have experienced it, life has changed completely and will never be the same again. No, it is not a disease – it’s Facebook.

Facebook (FB) is not just a website; you could consider it a marriage of sorts, because once you’ve signed up, you are indeed committing yourself to a serious long-term relationship. Like wedlock, once you’ve joined, you are offering yourself up for better or worse. FB, like matrimony, can reunite long-lost lovers and bring people from all sorts of backgrounds and places together. Just like a wedding, it is a celebration of friends and family, a place where they can all get together to communicate.

FB is one of the fastest-growing and best-known sites on the internet today: a giant, virtual system of networking, with over 200 million active members today. This unique, cyber universe was launched in 2004 by Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg, initially set up to cater exclusively to Harvard students. It was a huge hit within weeks, and soon all high school and college students were demanding access. Zuckerberg immediately recruited his friends to help build FB as we know it, and within four months, the site added 30 more college networks. Finally in September 2006, FB opened to anyone with an email address, taking the world by storm.

For those of you have not yet submitted yourselves to this ever-consuming site (if you exist), here is a brief summary of what it entails. Like other social networks, the site allows its users to create a profile page and forge online links with friends and acquaintances. You acquire friends by searching for, then adding them. Joining a network allows you to see what is going on in that location or group, and if you wish you can post up your status at any time to inform your friends of what you are up to. There is even a mini feed which automatically posts up the details of your activities. You can join groups of interest where you can mix and mingle with other non-friends, and you can also use FB to post up your own notes, posts, links and events. You also have the option to select a myriad of applications to add to your profile, each of which offers something different. And if you really want to waste time, Mob Wars seems to be a game played through FB which will do the trick (but that is where I draw the line). Finally, there is even a chat engine on the site which allows you to communicate live with other online users.

When I heard about FB for the first time, I had only just signed up with MySpace, and I was still a cyberspace novice trying to get the hang of the whole concept of presenting myself, all summed up neatly, on one page on the internet. After endless hours of trying to get my page personalised, I simply couldn’t face joining another site and going through it all over again. So, I resisted joining the online masses on FB. When I moved country, however, I finally – upon a lot of friends’ pleas – decided perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to give it a closer look. I was pleasantly surprised to find FB much simpler and more user friendly than MySpace. Because it did finally seem like a good way to stay in touch with my friends abroad, I gave in and joined. I never expected to get so hooked, so fast.

I am not the only one who found FB addictive. Laura, 21, from the U.K. who is currently working and living in Cyprus agrees. “I can’t get enough of it,” she tells me. “I use it to stay in touch with my friends back home, and to catch up with everyone else. It rules!” Riyaz, 29, who hails from Perth Australia but grew up in Cyprus, joined FB last year and is still an active member. “FB has stepped up the 'game' from its rival competitors, and has allowed me to communicate with so many people that I never expected to find again. It is also a great way to liaise with many of my close mates for going out, and I love the sharing of photos!” Nick, 34, from Nicosia, is also a FB fan. “I use it as a second email,” he says. In fact, many other people I spoke to over the summer on the island, admitted to checking their FB wall posts and messages even more often than their regular email accounts.

With people buying Blackberries and iphones like there is no tomorrow, and with wireless internet available these days for free from most coffee shops and venues, access to FB online is extremely easy. People that access it on their mobile devices are almost 50% more active on FB than non-mobile users. Needless to say, as a result, things can get borderline ridiculous at times with people checking what others are doing every second of the day, and changing their status with every action they take or place they go. In fact, more than 20 million users update their statuses at least once each day! It is an understatement to say that there is little privacy left. But is this such a bad thing, if people are aware of it and yet still choose to be part of it?

There has been enough hype about FB so far that people in general must surely be aware of its potential threat as an invasion of privacy. I myself have concerns about this issue, and have therefore added all sorts of limited restrictions to my profile, allowing only close friends full privileges. In case you are not aware, this kind of flexibility is available, as well as many other privacy options – all it takes is some patience to figure it all out. I am not one of those people who believe that FB is an undercover conspiracy by the FBI to gather info about the world’s population and compile an international database which will be used to our detriment, but I nevertheless have opted not to have my surname, date of birth or my phone number listed! And usually when I post up photos, I make sure not to tick the box that allows everyone to see the album...only friends (and sometimes, only certain friends). Putting people on ‘limited’ profile might be considered a form of discrimination, but it is a small price to pay for security and peace of mind.

In general, if you are on FB with good intentions, and you take care, you should be safe enough. Nevertheless, with something so phenomenally popular, it is natural that there would be some FB related crimes. Fraud experts say that the willingness of the younger generation to disclose personal data over the internet is a worrying trend. With millions of members allowing strangers access to their information, they are making themselves vulnerable to identity theft, giving cybercriminals all they need to create spoof identities, gain access to online accounts or infiltrate employers’ computer networks. On the other hand, the site itself can help stop crime too. For example, back in September 2007, using a FB profile, police arrested a suspect in an attack on the Georgetown University campus.

Although there are many ways to personalise and adapt FB to your liking, I was surprised by the number of people I’ve met who are still deterred by the whole experience. Jennifer, 29, from Limassol, has resisted joining so far. She is a little paranoid about the whole thing, but also feels a little left out because she is not in the system. “I think that I probably would get hooked on it if I joined, but as I have limited time due to my career, so I just cannot afford to take the chance of wasting my time on it.” Caroline, 32, a Lebanese living on the island, is currently considering canceling her membership with the site. “There is no more privacy left. If I don’t post up photos, someone else will, and I don’t like that. I also don’t go on the site as often as I did when I first joined last year.” Nita, 34, from Larnaca, found the whole FB experience so tiresome that she actually not only decided to officially leave FB, but also set up a group online, asking other like-minded people to join, so they can all leave FB at the same time – a sort of mass exodus. Angela, 31 is a lawyer who works in Nicosia, who has never been tempted to join. “I am quite a private person, so the idea of laying my life out there for everyone to see is not appealing. Nonetheless, the drawback of not being a member is that you miss being in the loop and knowing what’s going on in the social circuit.”
It seems that there is definitely a distinction between FB-lovers and FB-haters. FB virgins have no idea what they are missing or what they’d be getting themselves into if they joined, while current users cannot understand how one can live without it. Many others have a love-hate relationship with the site, but just cannot give it up.

For those who use it as a networking site, or to organise social events or catch up with friends and share photos, it can be a fun and useful online tool. But, if you overdo it within the first few weeks of joining, or expect too much from it (online dating comes to mind), or conversely, if you’re not curious enough and never make the effort to investigate what the site can offer, then you may just get bored sooner or later. On the other hand, the ‘collection’ of friends can end up being, for some, a little obsessive, and your addiction can grow. It is, after all, for many, one huge popularity contest. This one guy I know has over a thousand friends (is it even possible to know so many people?), and on the other extreme, I have discovered people who have less than twenty (perhaps they just joined out of curiosity, or maybe they are simply being realistic). Nevertheless, the average user has 120 friends on the site (source: facebook – press room statistics).

No matter how many friends one has, however, FB users’ passion - or addiction - to the site is unparalleled. More than 3.5 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day (worldwide). FB currently ranks 4th on the top site listed on and has also taken the lead in the top photo sharing market worldwide, even above Flickr. It continues to grow in popularity internationally, making major headlines across the world. Its growth in 2007 was staggering: over 1 million new users signed up every week – that is 200,000 daily, with the site receiving 40 billion page views a month! FB is not limited to youth either; long gone are the days of using it as a social network for college students. The fastest growing demographic now is those aged 35 years old and older.

Cypriots, nationwide, have recently caught on and are now joining the rest of the world in this FB frenzy. It’s not hard to get hooked - no matter where you hail from, nor what language you speak - as FB is a simple enough idea: basically your face on a page. With each page belonging to a different friend, the site is like an endless book, which can be read and re-read. It is the overall simplicity of it all, as well as the fact that FB has distinguished itself from rivals like the larger MySpace by imposing a spartan design ethos and limiting how users can change the appearance of their profile pages, that makes FB so easy to remember, as well as user-friendly for all races and ages.

With all this hype surrounding it, could it be that FB has already reached its peak and that people will soon move on to something new? FB creators already thought of this, when they introduced the ‘New Facebook’, but perhaps an even newer version is just round the corner. And now, with onsite advertising, FB is being used as a marketing tool more often. In fact, it was reported that MI6, the U.K’s Secret Intelligence Service, was using the social networking site to recruit the next generation of spies! Also, there was a mention last year of plans for FB, the movie. And if you ever go out, you would know that the most common chat-up line still remains: “Are you on FB?”

So, has FB had its day? Eh...I’ll let you know in a minute – I just have to update my status.

Nathalie Kyrou © 2009. All rights reserved to the author.

FOOD - Easter Mysteries . . . Eggs-plained

Easter Mysteries…Eggs-plained

Where did the Easter Bunny come from and what does it really have to do with Easter?

As Christian religion was blended with pagan religion to convert people more easily, the timing of the pagan festival of Eastre/Eostre coincided with the timing of the resurrection of Christ. Eastre, was the goddess of fertility, (the word ‘eastre’ meaning 'spring'). She was represented symbolically by the form of the hare or rabbit being an extremely fertile animal.

What about Easter Eggs?

Eggs are traditionally connected with rebirth, rejuvenation and immortality. The Greeks and Romans buried eggs in their tombs. Jews still present mourners on their return from the funeral of a relative with a dish of eggs as their first meal. Christianity took this ancient sign of rejoicing at rebirth and applied it to the Resurrection of Jesus.

Eggs were forbidden during Lent, making them extremely popular afterwards at Easter. In Slavic countries, baskets of food including eggs are traditionally taken to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday or before the Easter midnight Mass, then taken home for part of Easter breakfast.

Other European countries such as Poland and the Ukraine have a long tradition of decorating Easter eggs with intricate designs. The Russians are most famous for this. During the reign of the tsars, they celebrated Easter much more elaborately than Christmas, with quantities of decorated eggs given as gifts. The Russian royal family carried the custom to great lengths, giving exquisitely detailed jeweled eggs made by goldsmith Carl Faberge (1880's -1917).

In Germany and other countries of central Europe, eggs that are use to make Easter foods are not broken, but emptied out. The empty shells are then painted and decorated with bits of lace, cloth or ribbon, then hung with ribbons on an evergreen or small leafless tree. In fact the decorated tree is popular in other cultures: on the third Sunday before Easter, Moravian village girls used to carry a tree decorated with eggshells and flowers from house to house for good luck. The eggshell tree is also one of several Easter Traditions carried to America by German settlers especially those who became known as Pennsylvania Dutch. They also brought the fable that the Easter bunny delivered coloured eggs for good children.

Eggs-tremely Interesting facts about Easter:

Each year witnesses the making of nearly 90 million chocolate bunnies.

When it comes to eating of chocolate bunnies, it is the ears that are preferred to be eaten first by as many as 76% of people.

By tradition, it was obligatory (or at least lucky) for churchgoers to wear some bright new piece of clothing - at least an Easter bonnet, if not a complete new outfit.

The painting of eggs is traditionally called Pysanka by the Ukranians.

In medieval times a festival of egg-throwing was held in church, during which the priest would throw a hard-boiled egg to one of the choir boys. It was then tossed from one choir boy to the next and whoever held the egg when the clock struck 12 was the winner and retained the egg.

In Cyprus people play an Easter egg game in which each person takes a hard boiled, coloured egg and tap the ends of their eggs together. If your egg breaks you leave the game for the next person to try. The player left with an unbroken egg is the winner.

Americans consume 15 million jellybeans at Easter, many of them hidden in baskets. If all the Easter jellybeans were lined end to end, they would circle the globe nearly three times.

In Greece, people paint hard-boiled eggs red and bake them into sweet bread loaves on the Thursday before Easter. The red colour stands for the blood of Christ.

Reading detective novels and crime thrillers has become a popular Easter occurrence in Norway. Paaskekrim (Easter crime) refers to the new crime novels available at Easter. Professors at the University of Oslo believe the growing tradition of reading about crime at Easter stems from the violent nature of Christ's death.

Children in Guatemala go out onto the streets on Good Friday to remember Jesus' journey to the cross. People bang drums and let off fireworks. This starts at 5am and goes on until after midnight. Some people also dress as Roman soldiers and at 3pm, which was the time Jesus was put on the cross, everyone changes into black clothing.

Easter was called Pesach by early Christians. It is a Hebrew name for Passover. Today, the name for Easter in many cultures in Europe are similar to the word Pesah such as Paques in France, Pascha in Greece, Pask in Sweden and Pasqua in Italian.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest Easter egg ever was just over 25-ft high and made of chocolate and marshmallow. The egg weighed 8,968 lbs. and was supported by an internal steel frame.

Nathalie Kyrou © 2009. All rights reserved to the author.

FOOD UNCOVERED - The Power of Festive Food

The Power of Festive Food

With Christmas having just visited us, and the New Year on our doorstep, there is no better time than now for discovering and enjoying traditional Cypriot festive food. Almost every country has at least one special food that is eaten on New Year’s Eve, or in the first days after, that is supposed to bring luck, wealth or success in the coming year. The Cypriots follow the Greek tradition of eating “Vasilopitta” (a cake baked with a coin inside).

The story behind this is that the cake originated from the famously high taxes that the Ottoman Empire imposed on the Greek people during their long reign. It is believed that a Bishop of Greece, through some miracle, managed to recover a large portion of the Greek people's riches from the Ottoman's grasp. When he attempted to return the riches to their respective owners, however, fighting amongst the Greeks broke out! Saint Basil (the English name for Vassilis) asked the women to bake a large cake with the valuables inside – this way, when he sliced the cake, the valuables miraculously found their way back to their rightful owners!

Today, a cake is baked in honor of this miracle with one coin hidden inside it. Traditionally cut by the head of the family on New Year's Day, one slice of the cake is supposed to be for Jesus Christ, one for the house and one for absent family members. The person who bites into the piece of cake with the coin in it will be blessed with good luck for the coming year. Did you know that the Cypriot Santa is not Saint Nicholas, as the English know it, but Ayios (Saint) Vassilis? In Cyprus, Father Christmas visits people on New Years Day instead of Christmas Day, therefore it is tradition that presents are given and received on this day, which is also Ayios Vassilis’ Day.

One of the main concerns for the Greek Cypriot household is preparing bread for important religious and festive occasions. Throughout history, housewives used their skill and imagination to make different types of bread, baking each one with a symbolic meaning incorporated into it. The various perceptions, myths, prejudices and superstitions of their faith ended up in their breads, often to call good spirits and send evil ones away.

This Cypriot belief in evil spirits is also associated with the celebration of Epiphany on the 6th January, aka the “Feast of Light” (called “ta Phota” in Greek). It is on this day Christ was baptised in the River Jordan, symbolising the spiritual rebirth of man. On the eve of Epiphany, known as “kalanda”, people fast and then gather in church for the blessing of the waters, which are supposed to have held evil spirits for the past twelve days. After Mass, the priest visits all houses to cleanse them from the spirits or demons (known as “kalikandjiari”, they appear on Christmas Day and play evil tricks on people afterwards). On Epiphany Day, a celebration takes place at all seaside towns, where the Archbishop leads a procession down to the sea where a ceremonial baptism is performed. During the ceremony the leading priest throws the holy cross into the sea, and young men dive into the water to retrieve the cross, and return it to him. Now that is enough to work up a hunger!

For most Greek Cypriots faith plays an important role in their lives. The Greek Orthodox faith observes several fasts during the year, which means abstinence from foods derived from animals containing red blood, from dairy products, and at times even from olive oil, and wine. Foods that are allowed to be consumed during fast periods are called “nistisima”. With the Christmas Fast, which lasted from November 15th to December 24th, recently over, and the Great Lent Fast, which begins seven weeks before Easter, looming up ahead, now is the time to indulge in all those delicious Cypriot delicacies!

Why not dig in to leftover “christopsoma” (Christmas bread), “gennopittes”, Christmas “paximadia”, and “koulouria” (seasonal cookies), all of which are made across the island in various shapes and names according to local village tradition. In fact “koulouria” can be made in various forms: “vortakouthkia” meaning frogs, (which expresses the wish for rain to help farmers), “athropouthkia” which means little people (the Greek Cypriot tradition links them to dead peoples’ souls), and “zembilouthkia”, meaning baskets (an expression of the wish for the blessing of crops). In some villages, the “stavrokouloura” (koulouria in the shape of the cross) are hung on the walls during religious occasions. They form part of the festive decoration as well as a protecting force, as since ancient times, Greeks believed that wheat and wheat-related products would protect people from evil. Now there’s a great reason to get baking!

Nathalie Kyrou © 2009. All rights reserved to the author.