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A minute with… Graham Gamble, Headmaster of the English School, Nicosia
Where do you live?
I live in Nicosia and, given my job, it doesn’t usually take long for people to work out where.
Most frequented restaurant and absolute favourite dish?
Depends where I am: in Britain or anywhere British-influenced, Pizza Express. In a city large enough to have a Brazilian influence, Fogo de Chao (Brazilian barbecue), in Nicosia – Souxou Mouxou Mantelakia in the old town. Absolute favourite dish – Cornish pasty (you might not understand, it’s an English thing…).
What food would you really turn your nose up to?
The following dishes would be placed in an aerodynamic receptacle and hefted skywards with a mighty kick from my size 9 brogues – rice pudding, cold custard and any other milk-based muck that used to be part of English school dinners.
What did you have for breakfast?
A microscopically small portion of muesli that tasted so boring it must be good for you. And a banana.
Would you class yourself as a day or night person? What’s your idea of the perfect night/day out?
Day. I like early mornings. This may be a sign of age. Perfect night out: a cosy meal with the family. Either that or Glyndebourne.
Best book ever read…
A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor. PLF is my all-time hero – a Renaissance man: a writer, soldier, romantic, aesthete. He fought with the Cretan andartes during World War II and managed to capture a German general. This is his account of a walk (yes, walk) he did across Europe, from Rotterdam to Istanbul after being thrown out of his expensive public school in England in the years before the Second World War. He meanders from one aristocratic household to another, eating and drinking as decadently as you can imagine, pausing only to pass exquisite judgment on works of art, architecture, history etc. This book is a one-off.
Favourite film of all time?
The Third Man. Like the book above, this film is clever, romantic, cynical, stylish, witty. All the things I’d like to be.
Best holiday ever taken? What’s your dream trip?
Best holiday: five days in a “jungle lodge” in the middle of the Amazon rain forest: fishing for piranhas (then eating them later – they don’t taste so good), hunting for crocodiles at midnight in a tiny flat-bottomed boat (we must have been mad), swimming with pink river dolphins, sunrise over the Rio Negre. Complete magic. Dream trip? Probably a return to the Barrier Reef (if allowed now) and a dive there.
What music are you listening to in the car at the moment?
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. It’s 40 years since this album was released and it still sounds amazing.
What is always in your fridge?
Cheese and wide open spaces.
Dream house: rural retreat or urban dwelling? Where would it be, what would it be like?
A flat as close as possible to the centre of an amazing city: London, Paris, Madrid, Rome. It doesn’t need to be big – just large enough for my wife and me, and for the boys to come and stay. I’d need a reasonable, well-equipped kitchen in which to make delicious things and enough space for all the books. Richard Burton said that: “home is where the books are”.
If you could pick anyone at all (alive or dead) to go out for the evening with, who would it be?
Oscar Wilde. His conversation would, of course, be scintillating. But he also had a wise, compassionate soul and would probably choose a good restaurant…
If the world is ending in 24 hours what would you do?
Gather my loved ones as close as possible to me, find some decent wine and cigars, talk about all the fun we had and read some Shakespeare.
What is your greatest fear?
Tell me a joke…
OK, this is the sort of stupid word play I like. You have to say it out loud for it to have a chance of working. You probably also need to know what happened to all the bunnies in Australia: anyway, a rabbit walks into a bar – orders a pint of beer and a cheese toastie. Drinks beer, eats snack, leaves. Next day, almost the same time, same rabbit walks into same bar and orders pint of beer and ham toastie. Snack is rapidly consumed, beverage drunk and floppy-eared one soon on his way. On the third day, the ghost (yes!) of the same rabbit appears at the same hostelry. On approaching the counter to place his order, the barman, horrified, asks: “Crikey! What happened to you?” Rabbit, very pale and transparent, sighs and says: “I died, didn’t I!” Barman, really quick on the uptake, agrees, “Well, yes, I can see that but, I mean, what, you know, caused it?” Rabbit puts both front paws on the counter, looks barman square in the eye and says: “Mixing-my-toasties”.