Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Postscript: Rescue Horse

I called Animal Welfare this morning to see how our patient was doing and if the owner had shown up. The receptionist was brusque: "No, the owner never claimed the horse and the horse had to be euthanised. One of her back legs was broken and she had massive internal injuries.

I was very sad. I had been worried about her breathing and the possibility of internal bleeding, but I hadn't realised that her leg was actually broken, although she had been so reluctant to walk.

Poor Lady. There she had stood, parched and patient for so many hours, and in such pain. And there she would have died if we hadn't taken care of her and called the Rescue Service.

I'm sure that this cycle of tragedy is not finished. It began about six years ago when a man lost either his son or his grandson in a tractor accident. He became depressed, moody, and eventually homicidal and murdered two people at the coffee shop in Choletria. The man whose wife was killed can't bear to live sober now and kills a horse -- so far. If he regularly drives that drunk it won't be long before he kills someone else or himself.

The police know, the family knows. No-one does anything about it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rescue Horse

Zenon’s tenth birthday party was planned for Saturday afternoon. He wanted Best Beloved to do a souvla, he wanted a cake with DragonballZ from Zorba’s, and he wanted a crowd of friends over for games that included water balloon paintball and three-legged races. So we complied, planned, invited his friends and their parents, and prepared for the day.

At about 10, Best Beloved went out to buy the souvla meat, and as soon as he came back I left to collect the cake. As I passed the turning to the dam, just past the end of our road, I noticed a horse standing by the side of the road.

“That poor thing!” I thought to myself. It stood hunched in the blazing sunshine, its head hanging. As I drove down the road I wracked my brains to think whom it belonged to: there are few horses in Cyprus, and I thought I knew most in the neighbourhood. “I’ll take it some water as soon as I get back, and I’ll call Yianni (a friend who keeps racehorses in a nearby village), he must know the owner.”

Resolved, I continued on the cake mission, and a moment later my phone rang. It was Best Beloved: “Did you see the horse?” I told him that I had, and what I had decided to do about it. “Keep Yianni out of it for now,” Best Beloved advised. “It got hit by a car last night and the police are looking for the owners. When you get back, we’ll take it some water together.”

The cake collection was completed in record time, and back at the house Alex and I filled eight four-litre bottles with water, put them and a big bucket into the Land Rover, and headed toward the horse, stopping to pick up Best beloved from the field en route.

Close to, the horse was smaller than I thought – only about 14 hands – and standing awkwardly, tied to a boulder with a rope, chain, and too-large head-collar. She was resting a back leg, a gaping slice carved out of her side midway between hip and shoulder. Blood still trickled down her matted coat, and the flies clustered hungrily.

As Alex and I approached with the bucket and water bottles, she lifted her head and whickered, moving painfully toward us and plunging her nose deep into the bucket. She drained four litres in a gulp, so I gave her some more and more and more. After four bottles, she slowed down and I decided to wait before she had any more in case it made her colic.

She allowed me to stroke her nose and examine her wound: her shoulder was bruised, and her stifle, and I went around the other side to see if I could see any other injuries. There were none visible but a slightly swollen fetlock on her near hind leg. While she had some more water we discussed what to do and Best Beloved filled me in on the story as he knew it.

Billy had been drinking at the Cousin’s Café until late last night, and one of his companions had been the man from Choletria (the next village up) whose wife had been murdered last year by the man who had lost his grandkids and his mind in a tractor accident five years earlier. This man spends his life now in a bottle, and when he left at two in the morning (after Billy had gone home) instead of going up to his house, he inexplicably turned south – and hit the horse broadside. He returned to the Café with a broken windshield and an incomprehensible tale. Then went home.

At some time in the morning the police came, tied (and left) the horse and breathalysed the driver, finding him still well over the alcohol limit. Billy was trying to find the owners of the horse.

We called Yianni who said that he was working thirty miles away but would come with painkillers at about five. We called other people in the village, but nobody knew the horse or the owner, so we finally called Paphiakos Animal Welfare, the only people in the country who do large-animal rescue and who are fortunately just down the road. They said they would be with us in half an hour. Meanwhile the horse downed another twelve litres of water

They were as good as their word. Half an hour later two men pulled up with a trailer. “Still no word on the owner?” they asked. And when we said that the matter was in the hands of Kouklia police, and that we had advised the Boys in Blue that we had called the Rescue Service, the lads went into action. Examining the horse gently, they tried to lead her forward, but she rolled her eyes and refused to move until they put a rope around her hindquarters. They half-lifted her up the ramp into the float, and securing her head-collar set out for the animal surgery in Kato Paphos.

“Well, that’s the drama of the day over with,” I said to Best Beloved as we rolled up to our house.

“The party hasn’t started yet!” was his reply. “Sixteen ten year-olds are descending on us in a couple of hours…”

And so they did – with their parents and their old clothes. And a good time was had by all.

Marcos, the son of our former land-lord, broke the piñata with a brilliantly placed swipe, and showed his practical side and engineering skills in building towers with balloons. The teams drew in the paintball water-balloon war, with Kay’s little Marios switching sides like a demon. And we never got to the three-legged race. The souvla, hoummos, salad and spuds, cake, jelly, and baklava were cleaned up with just enough left-overs for Sunday lunch, and people began to trickle away at around seven-thirty – tired, happy, and full. The way that people should be after a good party.

I will call the Rescue Service next week and see how our Lady is doing. I did think about trying to adopt her if her owner doesn’t show up, but we have no place to keep a horse properly and no time to build one, so I’ll keep that idea in fantasy land and refrain from mentioning it to my children.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Making Flaounes

In the run up to Easter, every self-respecting Cypriot housewife on the island prepares her flaounes, her eggy-cheesy Easter pastries. In this, unlike in most Cypriot traditions, I am no exception.

I hated flaounes when I first tasted them. I found them too hard, too goaty, too salty; I had to lie when I wrote articles for the in-flight magazine about the delights of Cypriot Easter cuisine. ‘Yuck!’ I thought. ‘Who in their right mind could really call these delicious?’ For the first few years of my wedded bliss, I sureptiously dumped my mother-in-law’s offerings and played ‘dumb foreigner’ when asked if I had liked them.

Then, dread day: nine-years ago, Best Beloved asked me to make them. ‘Because my mother always makes them with raisins and I prefer them with hash-seeds!’

(Before you rush for the phone to call the Drug Squad down on me, let me mention that hash seeds are a traditional part of Cypriot cuisine: my father-in-law remembers being fed them as a small child for their soporific effect, and the area of riverbed below the village was given over to hemp production – mostly for the making of rope. These days, the seeds are denatured – adding a crunch to the dish rather than a buzz to the brain.)

I tried to get out of the baking project, but Best Beloved was insistent, and I do love him, so I pulled out The Taste of Cyprus by Gilli Davies, and together with Kay, got to work.

The recipe was surprisingly simple – a basic pizza dough encasing a mixture of special flaouna cheese, halloumi, eggs, mint – and of course the hash seeds – for the filling. Kay’s Cypriot husband likes raisins, so we made two batches.

They were delicious. Soft, un-goaty, just the right balance of salt and egg. They didn’t sit like boulders in my stomach, sending up fumes every quarter of an hour for the rest of the day like all the ones I’d ever eaten before. ‘Not quite the traditional Cypriot taste, Manamou,’ Best Beloved said. ‘But tasty, none the less. And with refrigeration these days, we don’t need ones that will last forever like they did in the old days.’

This year the Little Ones helped me – kneading the pastry, mixing the filling, and rolling out the discs of dough. We made a batch yesterday using flaouna cheese from Best Beloved’s goat-keeping Auntie, and I have another kilo of cheese for a batch next week.

Καλό Πάσχα!