Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Today I'll talk about our work Christmas party last week, oddly enough it is of great stitching interest, as it was a visit to the village of Lefkara.

Firstly, it wasn't really a Christmas party, we had all decided not to have a "Christmas party", for various reasons, including people not being Christians or not wanting to sit down and make merry with our project director - also known as the Evil Dwarf. But one of our number had the bright idea of having an excursion with a lunch as farewell to one of our lovely colleagues who was returning to her own country. This was an acceptable compromise to all, and when we offered Sara the choice of destinations for the excursion, she chose Lefkara. Just what I would have chosen myself, and with the added bonus that the Evil Dwarf thinks things like embroidery are a complete waste of time.

We set out about midday - we had to work in the morning, a small matter of a presentation we had to give to a group of 50 managers and their hangers on from our client here. It went very well, in fact the best I've ever had, it was in a little theatre that they use for press conferences, so we were sitting on a raised platform with the computer screen projected onto a big screen behind us. It wasn't a problem looking at the audience while I was explaining stuff, as I didn't feel I had to look at the big screen, as I usually do when presenting in a meeting room. No walking around either, so I didn't trip over any cables, which is a frequent occurrence. There were two of us doing the main parts of the presentation, about 45 minutes each, and it was amazing, people actually shut up and listened to us intently for the whole time.

After that, we all piled into one car, leaving the Evil Dwarf to drive alone in his own car, to Lefkara. It's less than one hour's drive from Nicosia, but another world completely. Once we were off the autoroute, climbing up into the mountains, we forgot about Nicosia, its modern buildings and the enormous cars clogging every street. We managed to find Lefkara after being slightly misdirected by a signpost that was pointing in not quite the right direction. It was nothing to do with my navigation or David's driving - both of which have previously caused the most unfounded and uncharitable comments from other colleagues.

Even on the way into the village, you begin to see embroidery shops, these are the more commercial ones, there seems to be some sort of organisation running several of these. We walked down into the villeage, and were getting to depair of finding any open restaurants, except for one which had what I can only describe as very English food. Not wanting baked beans for lunch, we pressed on and, when we saw some ladies sitting on their terrace, Nicky, our only Greek speaker asked them if there were any restaurants open. Go straight up there, they said. I understood this bit, but didn't let on to my other colleagues about the "up" bit, because it did seem to me that "up" may be the operative word, as so often in Cypriot villages. Actually it wasn't too bad, we scrambled after Nicky up some cobblestoned alleys and across a few courtyards, eventually arriving at the main street of Lefkara.

Now this was heaven, a street with alternate restaurants and embroidery shops. We selected a restaurant with a terrace looking over the valley, across to the next mountains, and proceeded to eat our way through a large selection of mezedes, washed down with a few jugs of Cypriot wine.

Fortified by all of this, we hit the embroidery shops. As it is winter here, we were the only tourists in Lefkara that afternoon, so they were all competing for our attention. One old lady was begging Alec, my extremely tall and imposing colleague, to bring "the English lady" (me) and "the young ladies" (two colleagues from Singapore) into her shop, so I did go there. The shops are a mixture of Lefkara work, which is handmade, and the usual sort of machine embroidered tablecloths and linen that is cheaply made in Asia. I suppose it would take centuries to stock a whole shop with Lefkara work, because it takes ages, several weeks for a table centre, according to one lady I saw embroidering in her shop.

The old lady did have a good selection of the real thing, and I bought a table centre for £40, also a wooden tray with an insert in the famous Leonardo da Vinci pattern. We looked at a few other shops, and had to rescue David from one shop where the woman was physically preventing him from leaving. We had not realised he was so totally irresistable and desirable! He said she was actually desperate for him to buy a tablecloth.

After that, we scrambled back to the car again, strangely enough this was also uphill, I don't quite understand why. Of course we'd lost the Evil Dwarf when we were exploring embroidery shops, so we had to phone him and guide him by phone through the by now dark alleys of Lefkara. This was very public-spirited of us, there are those who think we should have left him there.

In fact, this is a place where I shall return. I have to see the Museum, which wasn't open when we were there, being the winter. And it's also such a nice place, it would be great in the summer, all those little lanes with flowers, and I guess the village cats would be out in force in summer as well.

Of course it has inspired me to do Lefkara embroidery.......... I asked Nicky about this, he doesn't know anything about it, of course, but he is a Cypriot and has female relatives. It appears there may be a course at the end of January, so I'm working hard on my Greek in anticipation!

This one is the sun setting over Lefkara, as we left the village....
posted by Ally at 9:15 am ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
I'm completely new at this, and don't have any nice pictures or anything like that to post here yet..... so I'll just say a little bit about where I am and what I'm doing.

I'm in Nicosia at the moment, until Thursday, when I fly back to Paris for Christmas. I've got to work today and tomorrow, then it's practically holidays. OK, I have to go to the office in Paris, but that's really to do administrative things, rather than work - although those things are actually worse than work, especially when this time they consist of replacing everything that was in my wallet that got stolen in Debenhams at the weekend. I also have to go to the medicin de travail and get certified to be fit for another year of work, such fun.

Having your wallet stolen is not fun at all, at least I'm lucky the guys I work with have been able to lend me cash to be going on with, as my new cards can't be sent here in the time before I go back to Paris, I have to collect them there. Thank goodness for these guys, I don't know what I would do without them, a special thanks to my lovely Cypriot colleague who helped me cancel my cards and lent me all his spare cash.

The past few days, since the theft, have not been fun at all, so I'm hoping that when I get to Paris, things will improve. There should be a few presents waiting, presents from myself, of course, there's no-one else really to give them to me......... I ordered a heap of stuff from Amazon, also a few things from Traditional Stitch in Canada, and just for fun, some flowers and a scented candle from Au Nom de la Rose. So I can sit in my tiny little apartment in Paris on Christmas Day and stitch to the scent of roses.

I also arranged tickets for a couple of exhibitions, Melancolie at the Grand Palais on 23rd December and the Phillips Collection at Luxembourg on 25 December, so that is something to look forward to.

Then I'm going up to Copenhagen just for two days next week, do a little bit of shopping and looking around, practise my Danish for once - which I don't really get a chance to do these days. I don't know that there will be a huge amount of stitching interest there, although I like to go to Sommerfugl and see if they have anything new. I usually buy a heap of magazines and books, eat some nice Danish food, and just walk around town for a couple of days. It's relaxing, and I'm staying overnight at the Airport Hilton, which is lovely - swimming pool, huge rooms with B&O television, and just a little train ride from the centre.

Should get on to the main subject of this blog, which is embroidery and the stitching I do. At the moment, I haven't done a lot of recent work.......... since I started this job, about a year ago, I've been working so hard, often at nights and weekends too, that it went by the board for weeks at a time. But now I'm here in Nicosia most of the time, I can do more than I have been. I didn't bring much with me, just grabbed a few small kits and put them in my suitcase, it turned out to be some Just Nan filagree fancies and a couple of Shepherds Bush needle rolls which I've had for ages. But now I am getting through these, so I'd better bring some more stuff back from Paris with me in the New Year.

I may even bring back the incredibly long Emie Bishop bellpull I started so long ago, that has been half-finished for a shamefuly long time. And the hardanger table centre that has all the klosters stitched, just waiting for the bars to be cut and woven. But I need some new hardanger scissors to do this properly, I have no idea where mine actually are.

It's funny living in two places, I have this tiny little apartment in Paris, 29 square meters, then I have the two bedroom place in Nicosia, so much larger. The little place in Paris is crammed with stuff, including all my embroidery supplies, magazines etc, while I have virtually nothing in Nicosia, except my summer clothes (mostly, although I do now have a few jackets and scarves for the colder weather) and a few books. I never cook in Nicosia, although I have a huge kitchen, whereas I cook quite a lot in Paris in my tiny kitchen. But Paris is my real home now, while Nicosia is just a temporary measure for this project.

How long will I be in Nicosia? Estimates vary, from another two months to another six months. I'd quite like to stay as long as possible, given the great climate, the great food, and some other nice things that I will talk more about in due course.
posted by Ally at 12:38 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments