“My Old Acquaintance” is a lively and entertaining account of life as it was yesterday in Cyprus, drawn from the experiences and impressions of some of the many men and women who visited the island over the past centuries.
Sometimes these visitors were enroute to the Holy Land, others came as adventurers, travellers, conquerors, or writers. It tells of what they saw and what they left behind, and what they took away.
Through these outsiders’ eyes, and through the author’s own research, we see how towns and villages looked before living memory, how the local Cypriot population lived forgotten “below the castles”, and hear of anchanting scenery often cited by visitors during sometimes highly uncomfortable sojourns round the island in caravans or mule trains.
Through often poignant descriptions, we learn of great poverty, drought, earthquake and ignorance, of heroic efforts to survive, of brighter times, and the importance of the Orthodox church in maintaining the ethnic identity of its followers when stronger powers gripped the island.
Above all, “My Old Acquaintance” is a reflection of the battle for the soul of this “shadow on the sea”, and how its people reacted as empires or raiders crossed each other’s paths here.
We also read of a broken-hearted Berengaria, and of the crusader-king Richard the Lionheart, whom she married at the seacoast town of Limassol enroute to war and the Holy Land; about saints and sinners, grebes and goblins, and about the time a bear cub climbed into the future Lord Kitchener’s Nicosia bathtub.
We learn why Britain occupied the island last century, and the misery of their troops that first sweltering summer. And through the archaeologists we perceive how people lived in ancient Cyprus, who and what they worshipped, and what seemed important to them.
Meanwhile, wrote one visitor, “one cannot walk through a thicket or along a beach withour tangling his feet in legend or history.”
“My Old Acquaintance” was originally published as part of a series in the “Cyprus Weekly” newspaper.