Are you a collector? I’m not, but if I was it would have to be jugs. I’m going to be a little careful writing about ‘jugs’ as it could easily be misunderstood. When I mention ‘my favourite jugs’ or ‘the things I love about jugs’…I am talking about the pottery kind that are used for pouring and not anything else that might spring to mind, whatever you are thinking!
Jugs are the best things to collect, not just because they are good to look at, but they’re also useful. When we moved here I had to pack away some of my favourites in boxes, but I am slowly re-accumulating a few worthy specimens. The latest arrived as a surprise gift from the Troodos Mountains and has its own hat! It’s a kind of magic jug because it’s terracotta, and therefore porous, which means it leaks a bit. This may not sound good for a jug, but in fact the clever (tall) person who bought it for me explained how it is a traditional Cypriot water jug, designed to keep the water cool without it being in the fridge.
First step, we had to fill it with water and leave it to soak in for 24 hours. Then once the jug had absorbed all the cool water into its skin, we filled it with water and sat it in the shade on the window sill, topped off with its traditional shell hat to keep off the flies…And it works. With temperatures in the low 30s we’ve still found the water cool and fresh.
There’s so many beautiful terracotta pots out here which we could never get back to the UK in one piece, so I have stopped myself even looking at them. Instead I’m trying to be practical with my shopping trips.
Nicosia is still my favourite shopping destination on the island. The other week we decided to approach it from the north, which put a whole new perspective on the place. Driving into the old walled part of the city and parking up on rough ground between scruffy, crumbling stone and painted houses, we could see the ancient mosque, formerly a cathedral, towering above us. Around the first corner there was an amazing black and white eaved house, which turned out to be a kind of museum. Stepping inside we could see a group of men chatting around a table drinking tea in the inner courtyard. They fell silent for a moment, wondering what we were up to, before ignoring us completely and resuming their conversation. Around another corner was another architectural gem, a 15th century Venetian building, complete with coats of arms, carvings and half destroyed columns. An amazing arched stone window, edged with intricate stone carvings framed the view onto another inner courtyard. It was all breathtakingly old and unspoilt, almost as if we had stumbled upon a forgotten city. Everywhere seemed deserted.
But back to shopping – partly the purpose of the trip. After sipping cold beer in our favourite haunt – a former prison, now craft centre, that was a staging post for traders in the 1500s – I was determined to seek out my friend the ‘button man’. That isn’t his name, but he has a shop filled with thousands of buttons, baskets and ribbons. He is one of the friendliest shopkeepers I’ve come across and also ‘very reasonably priced’ (spot the film quote). So he will forever be the ‘button man’ in this house. He greeted us with a smile, but was less happy that this time I was accompanied by two burly men, rather than my sweetly smiling daughter. Still, we chose various ribbons and lace and he measured it out generously, offering us the same incredible prices. But there was no time to hover over the buttons or simply browse through the jumble of exciting haberdashery layered around the shop…many on shelves too high for me to reach. As I was leaving and taking a reluctant backward glance at the baskets and buttons, trying to ignore the two men beckoning and tapping their watches impatiently outside, it did occur to me that both baskets and buttons would also be good collector’s items. Buttons are small enough to be packed away and could have all kinds of uses, while baskets always come in handy – a bit like handbags. Next time I will go alone.
For now I have to content myself with the current new addition to my jug collection. The only trouble is, I keep forgetting about it and using water from the fridge instead. Still, it’s doing what a good jug should. It’s looking pretty and being useful at the same time, if only I can remember to use it. Baskets and buttons will have to wait.