Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My Papou

Papou means 'granddad' in Greek. This is a pretty emotional post for me and I guess I'm writing it just so I can express just how I feel about him, even if he won't read it. Papou is technically my step-granddad. My mum's dad died when she was at university so I never met him. My parents moved to Kaduna after they got married and that's where I was born. My Yaya (grandmother) spent a lot of time in Nigeria because that's where her daughter and granddaughter were and it was around this time my dad introduced her to Spyros (Papou), a Greek Cypriot who had spent most of his adult life in Nigeria. They hit it off and have been together ever since.

Papou came from a good family in Cyprus but in those days, only children that demonstrated great academic potential were sent to university and in his family, that person was his brother. Long story short, unsure of what to do with his future, he accepted a job to go and work in Nigeria. I think he was about 18. And he stayed there for the next 35 or so years. I wish I had listened more closely when he would tell us all about his experiences but I guess I just thought we would always be able to hear them again. Now he doesn't remember.

He has always says he spent the best years of his life in Nigeria and reminisces about the hunting, and the parties, the women and the friends. We have so many amazing memories with him and Yaya. They probably feature in all our defining childhood memories because we spent most of our holidays with them and any child will tell you that the school holidays are the absolute best times of childhood. I love Zaria because they lived there, and I love fishing because Papou would take us fishing, I love Xilocastro (where my grandmum has her beach home in Greece) because it's where I go walking with Papou and where I accompany them to the Laiki Agora (the market) to buy the fruit and veg for the week. It is where he swims really far out to sea that I start to follow and then get scared and swim furiously back out while trying to figure out how I'll save him if a shark appears. Our garden in Kaduna looked forward to his visits because he'd plant entire crops that I'd never heard of - Radishes for example - and tend to the crop he'd planted on his last visit. He was such an avid gardener. In fact, when he 'retired' in Nigeria, he became the manager of a huge farm halfway between Kaduna and Zaria where we'd go and visit him in his office and spend the day wandering around the farm, exploring the dams and playing around in his Range Rover; you know, one of the old fashioned ones where the back was open and only covered by a canvas sheet. I used to love riding in the back of that truck.

About four years ago, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and after the initial rapid deterioration of his memory, it has more or less stabilised now but he still forgets so much. For a week up until Kitty's wedding, whenever anyone mentioned the wedding, he would ask, 'Wedding, what wedding? Who is getting married?' And my mother, who believes that it is better to make him use his memory rather than give him the answers, would reply, 'you tell us, who is getting married?’ Funnily, he would always say Gavin's name first and only after more prodding would he remember that Gavin was marrying our Kitty. Then he'd complain that no one had told him about the wedding and no one tells him anything anymore. A week after the wedding, he had forgotten all about it and again the questions started 'what wedding?' It's been really sad to see the change in him, because where he was once a vibrant, very outdoorsy man who loved to read, he is now content to sit quietly and listen to what is going on around him.

But the changes haven't been all bad. He has really mellowed and is just the sweetest man you could ever have the opportunity to meet. He's always eager to please everyone and make everyone feel at home. He is simply amazing! And our relationship hasn't changed. I have a well documented sweet tooth which Yaya has always been very happy to cater to it. Papou also has a sweet tooth and has spent a lifetime teasing me. Yaya makes the best ice cream in the world (I'm not lying, Ben & Jerry's has nothing on her!) and she would make it whenever we came to visit her as children. Papou would tell me that when we went to bed, he would wake up and eat all the ice cream. With a furrowed brow and worry written all over my face, I'd go and confide in Yaya and ask her to please keep an eye on him in the night. Whenever we see each other or talk now, I say that my Yaya has made me Pasta Flora (a Greek pastry and his favourite) but that I'm not sharing it with him. And he'll counter by saying that since his wife made it, it belonged to him and he definitely wouldn’t be giving me any. Back and forth we go like that until one of us says 'Ori o da'. I have no idea how you spell it and even exactly what it means, I just know it's a Yoruba insult. Then the other will reply 'Ori o fo' and so we'll make our way through the 'Ori o' insults and end with 'Oloshi' then we'll laugh and one of us will report the other to my mum or Yaya. I love that even though he's forgotten so much, he still remembers our banter.

I really miss who he used to be but I love who he has become even more.

Monday, May 14, 2007

My Best Friend's Wedding Update

The wedding was amazing ... My lovely cousins Suby and Sinem were there with their cameras snapping away and here are some of their photos on

I'll post a couple of mine at some point but they're not half as good as Suby and Sin's!

Just like I predicted, I cried at the registry on Friday - they got married in a castle in Shrewsbury and because they do not attend the local church, they couldn't legally get married there, they could only have a blessing. My relatives from Greece, my immediate family and a couple of her friends were at the registry and when we were all asked to stand up as they walked in, I welled up a bit but I managed to get a grip on myself. They said their vows and it was pretty funny at times because they all had to say my sisters name about three times during the ceremony; she has a Greek middle name, and a Nigerian middle name and surname and it is a bit of a mouthful and Gavin struggled with it every time so we all laughed. Then at the end, they started playing that song that they play at a lot of weddings when the bride walks down the aisle; the classical track that Coolio sampled on 'C U when you get there'. If anyone knows what it is called please tell me because I can't remember for the life of me what it is called. Anyway, that just got me started again and I was discreetly dabbing the tears from my eyes when my aunt seating next to me started sniffing too. Then Kitty's friends sitting in front of me heard us sniffing, looked round, and then went 'awww, are you okay?'. That got the tears flowing even more and everyone turned around to look at us ... Gavity (my celeb moniker for them as a couple) even laughed at me. Then the next morning, I was telling Kitty about my dad's friend who was coming up from London. He had decided to leave London at 6:30 and he was telling us that he kept waking up during the night so that he wouldn't oversleep. I was telling her just so she would know how much it meant to a lot of people that they were invited to be a part of her day and the thought of how far people had come overwhelmed me and I started tearing up again to cries of 'Not again Vickii!' from Kitty and the other bridesmaids.

I was fine on the saturday though. But then after all her make up and hair, as we walked down the stairs to go to the church, Kitty suddenly welled up and she was waving her hand in front of her eyes so that she wouldn't cry. You'll all be glad to know that I saved the moment though by saying 'boo boo boo' (don't ask, I just wanted her to stop crying so she would get to the church on time)!

It was such a beautiful ceremony and such a fun day! Honestly I've never seen all my aunts and uncles dance like they did in the night, some of them have some moves! And Gavity had an amazing time and were very happy by how it all turned out ... it was a beautiful wedding!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

My Best Friend's Wedding

My gorgeous younger sister is getting married this Saturday! (Don't you dare tell her I called her gorgeous ... I'll deny it!). On the day of their wedding, her and Gavin would have been together for 2 years and she turns 24 a couple of weeks after the day. People always mention how young she is to be getting married but Kitty has always wanted to get married young. We want a lot of the same things in life; to travel, a career we love, but while I've always wanted to do certain things before I settle down, she has always maintained that she wants to share all the most important and exciting events in her life with someone else. So to me, she isn't too young, she has been ready for a while. And Gavin is amazing! My sister can be stubborn and challenging at times, and years ago I had predicted that she would (or should) end up with someone just like Gavin and I honestly can't think of anyone I would rather marry my sister than him.

Her name is actually Christiana but when we were children, we couldn't pronounce each other's names so my parents shortened them to Vickii and Kitty. Over the following years, she was called everything from Kitty Kitty bang bang (because she always seemed to be breaking something or getting into trouble) or Kitty Kat Copy Cat (because she liked to do everything I did). Our relationship has evolved rather interestingly over the years. When we were younger and we both used to live at home, we were always arguing, then I went away to university and we got along much better because we didn't live together. She came to the same university as me and that was great because we lived near each other but not together, so we would hang out a lot, go out together on Friday nights and generally enjoy each other's company but not annoy each other. I'd say it's more or less the same now, we get along really well but when we go on holiday together, it only takes a few days before we argue about something. I think it's her but she'd probably say it was my fault! I can have more fun with her than anyone else and we're very similar in a lot of ways but she can wind me up like no one else can in literally a matter of seconds, I think she's got it down to an art by now. Those times, I wonder how we're related because all I can see is the differences between us. However Kitty can be so generous, it’s actually unbelievable. She’ll give away something of great value if she thinks you need it without so much as batting an eye. And she will insist you take it. She can be a much better woman than me.

We always laugh about the fact that people can't seem to tell us apart. People that know us both will tell you we look nothing like each other, we have completely different features and apart from the colour of our skin, I can't think of much that we have in common physically. But the number of times people have asked if we are twins is unbelievable. At school, people would sing the theme tune from the TV show 'Sister Sister' when we were walking together and at university, someone would come up to one of us and start having an in depth conversation while we'd be racking our brains trying to figure out on which alcohol fuelled night we'd met them. Then the person would say 'our name' and then we'd realise that they thought I was Christiana or that she was me. And this has happened several times! Honestly, we really don't look alike! She threatens to cut my hair off in the middle of the night because it's always been longer than hers and I've always begrudged her amazing figure, and I don't begrudge it because its amazing but because my sister eats more than anyone you will ever meet (She lived with four boys and they used to call her 'serves four' because she could out-eat all of them) and does little exercise and yet she looks like she should be modelling lingerie.

I'm so excited about the wedding in the way that you can only be when someone that means the world to you gets married. I cried when she told me she was engaged and I guarantee I'll shed a few tears all over my pretty bridesmaid dress at the wedding. I don't know if she'll ever read this but Kitty I love you so much and I can't tell you how happy I am that you've found someone so perfect for you to spend the rest of your life with. I pray you'll be truly happy! I can't wait for the wedding and you really need to re-think that 5 year hiatus before giving me nieces and nephews.

Have a great weekend everyone because I will, and if you guys are really good, I might post up a couple of pictures
from the wedding.