Big, fat, Greek families in the UK

When most people hear the words Greek family they immediately conjure up a world bursting with well-meaning aunties sticking their oar in, parents demanding that their offspring bring home a nice Greek girl or boy, and the entire clan sitting around a table every Sunday eating Souvlaki or Moussaka, maybe even breaking a plate or two once they’ve necked enough Retsina to do the Zorba on the kitchen tiles. In fact, the Greek stereotypical family sounds as if they’re having one big, fat, party, 365 days of the year. But is this true to life?

In my debut novel, The Magic Touch, updated and relaunched with a new cover on 7th February 2019, I had to slip into 39-year-old divorcee Emma King’s shoes and explore what it’s like to be in a relationship with an Anglo-Greek Cypriot partner. Having first-hand knowledge of Greek family life in the UK, writing about Emma’s partner Harry Georgiades and his clan was a fun and pleasurable experience. So, without further ado, here’s my insight into Greek family life in the UK:

Food: Let’s start with food. Food is the equivalent to a cup of tea. Bad day at the office? A nice plate of dolmades will sort that out. A family crisis? Chuck a couple of red mullets into the frying pan. A celebration? Let’s get the barbecue out. If you’re ever invited into a Greek home, you will undoubtedly be accosted with a plate of something savoury or sweet, along with twenty questions – ‘Have you eaten?’ ‘Are you hungry?’ ‘Oh, you have. Have something small, then.’ And don’t dare refuse it. It’s the essence of their lives, a comfort, a blanket, it brings family and friends together, and Greek food is incredibly delicious.

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Family: While family values are still very strong within the Greek community in the UK, things have changed, moved on, particularly where marriage is concerned. Although some Greek parents would still prefer their children to marry a Greek, it’s very common and acceptable to marry outside of the Greek spectrum.

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Marriage: So, will a Greek family welcome a non-Greek with open arms? Well, yes, of course, why not? However, because of their strong sense of family ethics and morals, marrying a Greek comes with a set of conditions. In The Magic Touch, Harry’s parents, an older Greek couple, have welcomed their sons’ partners with open arms. But because Harry and his older brother Mas have been instilled with the Greek culture, an ethos that spans generations, Emma and Caroline are expected to accommodate some Greek traditions, which, fortunately, they quite like.

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Religion: Religion is a very significant part of family living, and you will find that if you want to marry a Greek, the family will expect you to marry in a Greek Orthodox Church and children to be christened likewise, or at least request it. Profusely. Of course, this isn’t compulsory but you’ll have very disgruntled in-laws if you refuse.

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Children: Traditionally, children are named after their grandparents, which does make picking names a bit easier. But then they could end up with long names that they may not like. So, while many British Greeks still hold onto this tradition, they may alter the name slightly; Mas instead of Marios, Harry instead of Haritos, Demi instead of Demetria etc., but increasingly couples are choosing names of their preference, so you will often hear English first names with Greek surnames.

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Gringlish (or Grenglish): In a nutshell, it’s a language the older generation created back in the day and which their offspring believed to be Greek until they were old enough to discover the truth! It’s an amalgamation, a fusion of Greek and English words. The Magic Touch has several episodes of Gringlish entwined in the story. Harry’s mum and dad, born and bred in Cyprus, are both in their late seventies and, although they have a fairly good command of the English language, they do have heavy Greek accents. Gringlish for them is second nature.

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Here are some examples of Gringlish:

English: Ambulance

Greek: Asthenofóro

Gringlish: Amboula

 

English: Bank

Greek: Trapeza

Gringlish: Bangah

 

English: Insurance

Greek: Asfalia

Gringlish: Inshourianz

 

English: Kettle

Greek: Vrastíras

Gringlish: Kettlon

 

English: Please

Greek: Se parakalo

Gringlish: Bleeze

Okay, you’re probably smiling right now and thinking that Gringlish is just Greek Cypriot folk speaking with an accent, but you’re wrong. It’s much deeper than that. Greek Cypriots use Gringlish when conversing with each other, too; and even British born Cypriots find themselves using it whenever they’re in the company of family and friends.

Gringlish is a language invented entirely by British Greek Cypriots. It is both endearing and charming, and I do hope that it continues to exist for generations to come.

So, that concludes my take on Greek Cypriot life in the UK. If you read The Magic Touch, I really hope you enjoy it. Yiamas!

New Cover

The Magic Touch is available on Kindle and Paperback.

Author Interview – Beverley Harvey

bev_harvToday I have the lovely and incredibly talented Beverley Harvey on my blog, talking about her debut Seeking Eden and her writing in general. So, sit back with a cuppa and enjoy.

Hi Beverley. Thank you so much for being here today. Firstly, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

Wow, what a lovely intro, thank you, Kelly – my pleasure. I’m a late bloomer as I began writing fiction in my fifties. Along with my gorgeous partner, Mark, I recently moved to West Sussex, but I think of Kent as home. I’m dog, music and book mad, and I’m trying to forge a career as a novelist.

Your debut, Seeking Eden, was released last year. Can you tell us about it?

Seeking Eden is set in home counties’ suburbia and centres on four very different characters and how their lives intertwine. It’s about the lure of materialism and getting to a certain age and thinking ‘is this it?’ It’s very true to life and relatable; readers tell me they are giggling one minute and holding back tears the next.

Did you have a target audience in mind when you wrote it, do you think it’ll appeal to both men and women?

Anyone who enjoys family drama and modern-day dilemmas will get Seeking Eden – but if Bronte and Austin are your bag…not so much. Regards the gender split, one of my favourite reviews was written by a man; he says ‘(the author) is as comfortable writing as a man or a woman’, which was a big deal for me as I wanted my two male characters to be convincing.

What inspired you to write Seeking Eden?

Ten years ago, I left London for suburban Kent. It was a massive culture shock – one I grew to love, but it gave me the idea for Seeking Eden.

Have you always been a writer?

I was in Public Relations for many years which involves a lot of writing; press releases, business to business news and features, etc. But Seeking Eden was my first foray into fiction.

Tell us about your journey to publication

When I finished Seeking Eden, I wrote to dozens of literary agents. I got a handful of polite rejections, but most of them totally ignored me and the silence was deafening. Urbane Publications tweeted something that caught my eye and I emailed its owner, Matthew Smith. It was so refreshing to get a positive response and to be given a face to face meeting. Being offered a contract to publish was a dream come true.

What’s a writer’s life like, pros and cons?

The pleasure and satisfaction of knowing someone has read and loved your novel easily outweighs the uncertainty and isolation of writing. The freedom is great; the need to be constantly promoting your work, not so much.

Do you have any tips or advice for new writers?

Be true to yourself and write what you want to. A very highly regarded editor told me that Seeking Eden didn’t work because the cast are all too old; I pressed on anyway – I think people of all ages face dilemmas and dramas. We don’t only fall in love and have adventures in our twenties and thirties, so my work reflects that.

If you weren’t a writer, what other career would you have chosen?

If I had my time again, I’d either work with dogs or join the police force; hey, maybe I could be a police dog handler!

Do you ever write outside your comfort zone or do you stick to what you know?

So far I’ve written about my own world but I’m currently working on a thriller. It’s very challenging but I’m enjoying the different mindset.

Are you a planner or a panster?

Seeking Eden was character led; once I knew and understood everyone, I let them steer the action, which felt voyeuristic at times.

You’ve got a great mix of characters in Seeking Eden. If it were to be made into a film, who would be your dream cast?

Oh, I love this game! Keely Hawes would play Kate, Tina Hobley would make a great Lisa, Steven Mackintosh would be Martin and Ben would need to be somebody larger than life and very cheeky; perhaps Dexter Fletcher? Like Ben, his hair has its own postcode.

I can imagine that cast working really well.  And who would play you in a film of your life?

Ha! Not for me to say – my partner answered Rene Russo, which is hugely flattering.

Do you have a favourite author?

Not now. When I was younger, I devoured everything by Anita Brookner – I adored her understated style. For drama, it was Fay Weldon, and for raw emotion Paul Theroux.  Now I read thrillers – a broad church of writers that includes Gillian Flynn, Cara Hunter and Paula Hawkins. I’ve actually read two of your books, ‘No Way Back’ and ‘Her Secret’ and enjoyed both immensely.

Thank you, Beverley. I’m really pleased you enjoyed them. What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve almost finished Cara Hunter’s in The Dark, a chilling whodunnit.

I’ve read Seeking Eden, loved it and can’t wait for the sequel, Eden Interrupted, which is now available for pre-order. Can you tell us a little about it?

Thank you, Kelly – good to know! We return to Eden Hill, where there are several familiar faces but some new ones, too. This time, there’s a rotten apple in the barrel and life takes a darker turn for one family.

What’s coming next?

Hopefully, I’ll finish the thriller I’m working on, but I’ve got lots of other ideas, too, so watch this space.

And just for fun – who’d be your 6 dream dinner party guests?

Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Prince are all consistent heroes…I’d be a jelly in their collective presence. I’d invite Audrey Hepburn for her grace and beauty, Mike Leigh to write a play about it afterwards and Mario Testino to photograph us all looking divine.

Thank you so much for popping by today, Beverley. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you, and good luck with Eden Interrupted.

Thanks so much, Kelly – it was great fun.

SEEKING EDEN by Beverley Harvey is available from Amazon

Kindle

Paperback

Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite!

’50 is the new 30 – haven’t you heard?’ Or so says Ben Wilde’s record producer on the eve of his comeback. If only Ben could win back ex-girlfriend, Kate, he’d be a happy man. But married Kate has moved on, and moved out – to Eden Hill, a quiet housing estate in the suburbs. Lonely and homesick for London, can Kate resist ego-maniac Ben’s advances and save her own flagging marriage? Streets away, Kate’s new friend Lisa, a Chihuahua toting ex-WAG, is primed for a fresh start – until her footballer ex-husband is found dead and she is vilified in the gutter press. But Kate, Lisa and Ben aren’t the only ones having a midlife crisis; local shop owner Martin dreams of escaping his dutiful marriage and develops an unhealthy obsession with Lisa and her friends in Eden Hill. Alongside a colourful cast of friends and family, Kate, Lisa, Ben and Martin are living proof that older does not always mean wiser because, in Eden Hill, there’s temptation around every corner.

You can find out more about Beverley Harvey on her website at www.beverleyharvey.co.uk

Or join her on Twitter: @BevHarvey_

Is Mrs B in?

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The doorbell rang. ‘I’ll get it,’ I said, wiping my hands hurriedly on a tea towel. An elderly lady stood before me at the door in a red coat and a beret. She asked me if Mrs B was in, and I told her that I didn’t know a Mrs B, we were the new owners.

‘Oh.’ She looked stunned. ‘Have they moved?’ Her eyes flitted towards the window, and then she said. ‘Their curtains are still up, so I thought……’ She trailed off, looked at her feet, and I felt a bit sorry for her. ‘Well, they might’ve told me they were moving. She IS my sister,’ she complained, adjusting her black crossover bag and pursing her lips. I shook my head, agreed, apologised for her disappointment. How could her sister jut take off without telling her? Perhaps they’d fallen out, I thought. Sibling rivalry is common, but to actually move and not tell your sister. I told her the curtains were only temporary. We were decorating, hadn’t moved in yet, and she thanked me, apologised for disturbing me and went on her way.

Half an hour later there was another knock at the door. I saw her red coat and mop of white hair sprouting beneath her beret through the obscure glass. ‘Hello, is Mrs B in?’

Two years later, the doorbell rang. Mary asked me if her sister was in, even though we’d changed the curtains. We talked about her sister selling up and moving, even though I knew her sister had died 20 years ago.

‘Do you want me to walk you home, Mary?’

‘Yes, please,’ she smiled, a little embarrassed. ‘I’ve forgotten where I Iive.’

And I walked her to her house up the road, told her to stay in, said it was getting dark now, cold, and she promised that she would.

I walked her home about two or three times a week. Then one day she stopped coming. But I still think of her whenever I walk past her house and smile.

You can find out more about Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia, including ways of how you can help, by visitng Alzheimer’s Society

 

My Writing Style

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When I got my book deal, I immediately texted my husband to tell him the good news. Naturally, he was over the moon for me. Messages flew between us with the final one, from him, saying he’d bought me a gift to celebrate. His words made my heart melt. How lovely of him to be so considerate and supportive. I waited anxiously for him to come home, wondering what it could be. I’d been eyeing a Michael Kors wristwatch in the shop window for quite some time. But no, that was too expensive. Maybe it’s a perfume, I thought, or a lovely bottle of something sparkling for us to celebrate with. When he finally walked through the door with a huge whiteboard under his arm, I must admit, I was a little underwhelmed. Hmm…I thought, not quite romantic. But I was wrong to think this because it was a very romantic gesture. It proved that he listens to me and cares about my craft. Why? Because I’m a planner, not a panster.

I envy authors who start with a blank page and go on to write brilliant novels without any sort of preparation because I can’t get excited about a story until I know the ending. I’ve always been like this, even with my short stories. Once I know what’s happening, created my cast and worked out the plot, then, and only then, will the words flow. Admittedly, the novel does often change as the story unfolds, but I generally stick to the original plan, editing as I go along.

I usually finish a book in three drafts. But while I used to scribble everything down in notebooks, on post-its and on scraps of paper, I now use my whiteboard, and everything is in one neat place. How amazing is that? I still use notepads and scraps of paper because it’s just a writer thing, but my main story is drafted on the whiteboard, chapter by chapter, scene by scene, which includes dates and times. It rests against the wall behind my desk.  So whenever I’m unsure about anything, instead of rummaging through draws looking for sheets of paper etc., I simply spin round on my chair and voila, the information I need is right there in front of me. I used it religiously as I penned my second novel, No Way Back, published on 21st September 2017 by Urbane Publications.  I then wiped it clean and used it again to draft the sequel. And I hope to get lots more use out of it in the future!

Monday Blues

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A Bit of Monday Motivation!

‘People keep slagging me off,’ said Monday.

‘Why?’ asked Tuesday, rousing from sleep.

‘Do you really need to ask?’ smirked Wednesday, ‘You’re no better.’

‘Oh, shut up, Wednesday,’ hissed Thursday, ‘people usually have the hump with you.’

‘None taken,’ hit back Wednesday, ‘Unlike some, at least I’m balanced.’

‘If only you could inject yourselves with a bit of me,’ boasted Friday, ‘and give them all that amazing feeling.’

‘Oh, get lost, Friday,’ barked Saturday, ‘you’ve got no stamina. At least Monday has a few Bank Holidays.’

‘Days, days,’ soothed Sunday. ‘You’re all awesome and full of possibilities and adventure.’

‘I didn’t think of that,’ chirped Monday. ‘Sunday, you’re a genius. Let’s go and get hammered.’