By Ismail Veli…….
Many people go through life working hard, trying to enjoy themselves and save up for a comfortable retirement.
Nothing wrong with that, BUT and it’s a big BUT, sadly once the pension age knocks on their door many find that with so much time on their hands they simply start getting bored, don’t know what to do and often return to work just to pass the time. The reason is that all through their life the idea of having a real hobby to concentrate their time and relax simply did not exist. So why is having hobbies so important? Firstly a hobby is only acquired out of a love to create and doing what one really enjoys and free from the stress of real life. It can be time consuming but unlike work it’s something that an individual enjoys doing. I consider myself lucky that having come to the UK from Cyprus in 1962 as a 6 year old, the value of creative and fun hobbies was impressed upon children long before the advent of computers and other electronic games which though good in themselves can hold back the ability to be creative on different levels.
I never forget when my parents brought home packs of cereals which we had never seen in the Lurucina of 1962. To my delight out popped small packets of miniature 72ml figures of cowboys and Indians. Though I wasn’t particularly keen on this new found breakfast alternative to the Cypriot Olives and bread, I lost no time in eating as much cereals as possible in order to expand my collection of figures. It wasn’t long before I watched Western films (Rawhide was the craze in those days) to learn what I could and the Library was only 10 minutes walk away for some amazing books. I soon realised that if I collected matchboxes, plastacene, pebbles and larger boxes I could create a small diorama with wagons, small hills and rockery. This caused me to spend hours in my bedroom simply creating and experimenting with whatever I could. Books were a fantastic addition as it gave me a great insight into the past way of life.
When I was 11 years old I was interviewed by a local secondary school ‘Highbury Boy’s School’, the interview went badly as I was immensely shy. I was accepted to Islington Green (or Tudor Rose as it was formerly called) which was about 2 miles away. It was one of the best things that happened in my life. I made a friend named Gary Deemer who lived around the corner in Duncan Terrace and the street was full of air-fix model shops, lead figures, paints, brushes and scenery for the figures. I had found my paradise. At the time I was given 2 shillings (10p in today’s money) a day school money. half a shilling each way and one shilling for my school dinner. Nothing left to buy a box of 40-50 figures which if I remember correctly cost 2 and a half shillings. I was not about to give up. I decided that walking to and back the 4 mile round trip from school was actually fun and most afternoons the local chip shop only cost half a shilling for a portion of chips which I loved anyway. That gave me a whole 75% of my pocket money to invest in my hobby.
I soon diversified into Napoleonic’s, US Marines, Japanese, British Commandos, Paratroopers, Desert Rats (the 8th Army) Germans, Russians, US Cavalry, Indians and my favourites Ancient Romans and Celts. No sooner was I home from school then I would rush to the library for my quota of 4 books (which was the limit in those days) in order to study all aspects of the history of these historic people. Frankly I think my parents were a little worried, not that they allowed me to run out and play in the streets which I had little interest for, but for the fact that I was alone in my room for hours until it was bedtime. My food had to be brought to my bedroom and only when relatives came for a visit did I venture out so as not to be rude. It was not until I grew up and started work when many adults started to take the micky that I was still playing with ‘toy soldiers’, sadly many Cypriots in those days considered this as childish. This forced me to go a bit discreet. But I more than made up for this by reading, jigsaw puzzles, drawing and whatever I could find to pass my time. In fact adults in the family thought I was so quiet that I would never meet anyone to marry (another obsession with Cypriots was that if you weren’t married at 20 there was something wrong). That was until July 1974 when I was due to visit my grandparents around the 22-24 July .
With the war in Cyprus the travel agent asked if I wanted an alternative booking. I picked up a brochure for California but knew my father would oppose that. At 18 and the USA so far away he simply thought I would run into trouble. My uncle was ill in bed at the time but he stepped in and told my father off, ”Let the young man go, it may open his eyes a bit or your stuck with him”. This turned things around for me. Sadly My uncle died on 10 September 1974 due to a brain tumour at the tender age of only 29. It was a traumatic experience which taught me the value of life even further. I did actually go to Los Angeles, California and then onto Las Vegas in Nevada. It was three weeks that completely changed my life. I became much more chatty with adults, and my newfound skills and experience gave me confidence in debating world issues.
When I married in 1977 my first priority was to buy a house and have a family. The economic turmoil of the late 1970s and 1980s were tough but when my wife and I had 2 lovely boys in 1981 and 1983 I was determined to help encourage them to have hobbies and always took them to the library. Like most children they enjoyed puzzles and Legos which I spent lots of time helping them with. In 1989 we decided to take a well earned holiday of 3 weeks to Hawaii. The boys were 8 & 6 respectively. On our visit to the Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbour we naturally visited the gift shop in order to buy something for the lads. They both wanted model ships of the USS Arizona and USS Missouri, plus a book each. My wife and I both agreed to give them a little extra treat and buy them figures of US Marines and Japanese soldiers to add to their little reward. Coming back to the UK I was very happy that they both relished the idea of building the models. As usual dad was asked to help. I soon added paints, brushes and scenic material to add to their enthusiasm. It brought back fantastic memories of where I left of in 1971-2. I decided ‘sod what people thought’ and began to buy figures and start my life’s favourite hobby yet again. Emptying my garage and fixing the walls with good clean melamine boards, I then began to build benches all round. My enthusiasm and pent up frustration at lost years meant that I began to paint figures in droves. initially they were plastic Airfix, but a friend introduced me to a lead figure moulder who after I requested certain types of Republican Romans, Carthaginians, Celts, Spanish and Roman Latin allies he said he was just starting off and to make so many moulds would be costly as he was not certain if he could sell at least 1000 figures. I smiled, I responded ”Mr Sean Pereira if I order 2000 now and another 2000 for 3 months would you be interested”.
His jaw dropped and we shook hands. He offered me a 20% discount and within a year these figures became his best sellers even packing figures off to Italy to other enthusiasts who loved the quality and variety of his figures. His business took off and becoming good friends he began to offer me 25% discounts. Building the dioramas is another fantastic form of relaxation. Gravel, pebbles, sand, match sticks, mini nails, dustsheets, Balsa wood, old rugs for dry bushes. lacquer to preserve some mini plants as trees, PVA glue for rivers, thin MDF for basing the figures, Thick 6×4 MDFs for building the scenic bases and even grape stems to build vineyards and trees were not spared. to reduce the cost of hundreds of different paints and brushes, cleaners, thinners etc I contacted The Revel Model company, opened an account on my business and simply bought them all at wholesale price.
To avoid ignoring time with my family I simply bought large work trays, organised the figures or whatever I was doing and placed them on the tray. So while the boys and I were all spending time in our sitting room I would just get on with my hobby talking and exchanging ideas and even watching our favourite films together. We all took turns in picking what each wanted to watch so we could instil in our children a sense of fairness. Strangely we all seemed to enjoy the same subjects and interest. My wife was never left out. In the summer months I would be the first to wake up, which meant that I could go into the garage and spend time arranging what I had prepared before everyone woke up.
After 25 years and 40.000 figures later my garage is now absolutely packed with many in storage. In the meantime my collection of books and other bi-product hobbies have kept me busy. In the last 3-4 years with no more space I turned my attention to collecting illustrated books on old photos from the mid 1850s to the 1960s. Cyprus, rural England, Cyprus and old postcards became my passion. In the meantime 8 years ago my wife and I became grandparents which again changed my outlook on life.
Having come to the UK in 1962 and a great lover of my adopted country the UK, I still always had a passion to learn of my roots. Our grandson became the inspiration. If I did not start while my ageing parents were still of sound mind it may be too late to begin a solid foundation. The information from other Cypriots was that no archive materials were worth searching for in Cyprus, which made me all the more determined to start recording everything my parents told me. I then decided to travel all over London visiting old relatives to learn of their families. Within 2 years I managed to record about 2000 people over 6-7 generations which actually encompassed the extended family trees of my village of Lurucina. It was early in 2011 when another breakthrough came. a distant relative Alper Mehmet who happened to be the first ethnic ambassador for the UK Government to Iceland approached me after interviewing his family who showed great support for my project. It turned out that his family had records of an old tax collector Ibrahim Tahsildar (born 1898) from Lurucina who just happened to have records of many 1st 2nd and 3rd generations of our roots in Lurucina. He offered me the hand written information on condition that I would return it when finished. I was absolutely over the moon. My first aim was to buy a copier machine and copy every single page ASAP.
My aim was to get the documents back to Alper in quick time so as to honour my promise. after going through every single name I found that some of the writing was hard to read but going over and over I soon began to recognise the more scribbly names and the pattern of reading became easier. Typing them was of course a priority. I began to consider setting up a website in order to share my findings while making constant announcements for people to come forward and share any information at their disposal. The cost of setting up a website (I was not the most savvy of computer users) and having someone download the information was astronomical, in addition how would a stranger know how to arrange all the 4-5 thousand names now on my list. It became a dilemma, until In July 2011 a good friend Ersu Ekrem asked if I wanted his son Ekrem who was studying Computer IT in University to help and advise. They came to visit me on a Sunday and within 5-6 hours after listening and experimenting the young Ekrem came up with a website from Moonfruit that seemed to fit my needs, and user friendly. He taught me how to create pages, photo galleries etc etc. After a couple of short meetings I was finally beginning to download the information in a manner that suited my limited computer skills, and Ekrem and Ersu refused to accept any money for the time and effort they put into helping me. Though not from Lurucina they considered the project as important and fully supported my efforts. I launched the site on 14th August 2011 and the call out for help on Facebook, telephones, emails to every Lurucinali I could find met with an enthusiastic support that I had not even dreamed of. Soon more names, dates, village stories were pouring in.
Finally In November 2013 I decided to travel to Cyprus and search for any existing Ottoman archives. Many had told me not to waste my time but I had to try. It turned out to be the icing on the cake. I visited the national archives and research institute Milli Arşiv and asked if there was anything available on Lurucina. After calling for the Ottoman Translator Mrs Esin Fatma Dogac and explaining what I wanted she came back within ten minutes and gave me the records of the 1879-82 census which had people registered from 1796-1882. On my return to The UK Esin hanim translated the Ottoman script into modern Turkish, the details on age, year of marriage, female names which were missing on the first 3 generations, ownership of land, animals, tax paid, army service were all included, in addition for the first time all the Greek Orthodox population was now added to all the Turkish Muslim family trees. To date I believe there are at least 8.000 people of 11 generations on the website. In addition, historic, folk lore, 400 family nicknames, thousands of family photos, poems, Tsiattista Biimada (these are Greek poems or limericks for want of a better word) which the people of Lurucina excelled in) plus many other features have now been added. all this would not have been possible without the generous and massive support of the people of Lurucina and many friends who are not even from the village. I and my family are forever in their debt.
In the final analysis going back to hobbies and interests I believe it’s important for people to have a variety of interests that can occupy them. With so much fun and education in life retirement should be about enjoying every minute in doing what one enjoys. Life is far too precious to be bored. I refuse to allow a single second for negative boredom. Ultimately we may not be responsible on when we die, but we are responsible on how we live. My work life has been long and hard but I have learned to channel my energy into making the most of my life outside my work. Many people ask how do I find so much time? My simple response is we all have 24 hours in a day, it’s how we use those hours that really counts. Frankly I live every second of it which helps me to remain focused, contented, and need I say I still feel younger then my 58 years. I really cannot wait to retire. I still have a lot of fun ahead. With a lovely supporting wife, children, grandchildren and family I consider myself to be a very fortunate individual. That’s really as rich as one can get.
To visit my website Families of Lurucina please click here