Wednesday, 7 February 2018

"I see no skip ..."

Despite my blog yesterday, some materials arrived later on in the day and the builder turned up a few minutes ago with his pneumatic drill. And so - and no doubt the arrival of headaches later today - the next stage of the great work begins. Contrary to what the civil engineer said, the tiles are being removed and a magic chemical is to be sprayed, before a membrane is put in place. I can remember him saying that the sand underneath the tiled area would be saturated and would need to be allowed to dry for three or four days. This now appears to be not the case.

A lot of money had been spent in the last couple of years (and not our money I am glad to say) and the work seems to have been done in the wrong order. Surely solving the damp and mould problem (caused by the fact that "damp proof courses" do not appear to exist in Cyprus) should have been the first step. But no ... remove the mould and redecorate inside and out at a considerable expense. Another winter and more mould ... and so decorate the interior of the house with an anti-fungal paint. Six days later the first signs of mould reappear. And so ... a builder is called in but is not appearing to be following the advice of the civil engineer. So "quo vadis?" No doubt the affected areas will be rubbed down and treated again with the anti-fungal paint. And then ... wait to see if the mould reappears.

Some people appear to have more money than sense. But what do I know? You cannot seal the house from rising damp. You must eradicate it and then treat it.

Daisy was not amused at the sound of the pneumatic drill but seems to have settled down now. Mister Sprout is making his feelings felt from the laundry room. Ann and I will no doubt be reaching for the paracetamol if the drilling goes on all day. But the sun is shining, the sky is blue and already there are signs of Spring in the air.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

"Hey, presto!" as Plato might have said.

Plato is reported to have said "As the builders say, the larger stones do not lie well without the lesser". Well he is probably right. And Craig Martin, in more recent days, commented "The first sign builders are on the way is when - hey, presto! - a skip appears outside your house".

Well we would give our eye teeth to see a skip appear outside of the house. A builder appeared, disappeared, and a week later there is no sign of the work starting. I know this is Cyprus, and I know the value of patience, but we have had structural engineers, architects, builders, decorators - experts of all kinds - to advise on the problem of continuing damp. And still the damp appears, and still we wait for it to be sorted. By the time the builder arrives, it will be Spring, the damp will disappear and then we shall only find out next winter whether the work has been successful.

In the depths of winter there is always one series of events that lifts the spirits - the Six Nations' Rugby Championship. Yesterday afternoon, tucked up in front of the fire, Ann and I watched the Welsh humiliate the Scots (who had promised so much last Autumn) and the Irish dispatch the cheating French with a drop goal which almost (but not quite) ranked with the great Jonny Wilkinson effort in the World Cup final in 2003. I hate to see cheating in rugby and the latest scandal about mythical Head Injury Assessments was instigated by the French last year. They got away with it, and almost got away with it yesterday. Roll on today's match when, I trust, England will put Italy to the sword. My forecast is 12 - 40. If I'm right, remember that you read it here first.

My 65th birthday approaches fast, and I have received confirmation of my State Pension. It would appear that "they" have decided that I am eligible to receive this "benefit". Well that's all right then. It would appear that paying National Insurance for every day of my working life was not entirely wasted. BENEFIT, my goodness me. How very gracious of them to allow me to be paid what I had contributed for years and years and years.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

"Live long and prosper"

After three days of open windows and doors, and painting, the first part of the great work is finished. We awoke this morning to the task of putting our house back to the way we want it. It's all a bit strange as all the curtains were taken down and sent for cleaning, and with the blinds down and the net curtains sitting in front of them, the house has an echo with which we are not familiar. Every sound is amplified. Spooky.

The second stage - the installation of the wood burner - will take place at some stage in the near future (when the company who are installing it for us have finished their current jobs), and we look forward to that. We shall rearrange our sitting area as if the wood burner is there, so that there should be no great upheavals when that happens.

Two days of high winds and rain have caused the dogs to be a little twitchy (especially our foster puppy, Mister Sprout). We shall have to start putting appealing photographs and videos on Facebook in the hope that someone can offer him a permanent home. The difficulty will be appraising potential owners, as he has already been abandoned once in his short life. No doubt our chum, Ruby Pearl Evans, will be able to offer valuable advice. It would be heartbreaking if he was cast out again.

Blue skies and sunshine today suggest the storms of the last couple of days are over. But water is in desperately short supply, especially along the southern coastal region. Reservoirs are running very low there and rain, and then more rain, and even more rain, is needed. The thought of our government having to import water by tanker from Greece, as apparently happened in 2008, at great cost is awful to contemplate. And yet, everywhere we go, we see people hosing down their drives without a thought for this year. It would be easy to blame the Greek Cypriots for this profligacy, but I suspect that expat residents are equally thoughtless.

This weekend we are "in the bubble" to recover from the excitement of the last few days, and will raise our heads above the parapet on Monday. Until then, as the Vulcans say, "Live long and prosper."

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

The "Magnum Opus" begins ...

Well it all started at 07.32 this morning when we saw Antreas' multi-coloured van coming up our long drive, followed by one of his guys in his car. We were, of course, up and dressed (surprising to those of you who know us), and organised after a fashion. Antreas told us that the work would take four days, and that tomorrow there would be a greater number of workers here.

We had chosen to have our bedroom done first, so that we had a secure base for the week. Daisy was in her "house" and behaved brilliantly for the whole day. Sprout was in various locations but survived the day with some dignity. Honey and Jaz pottered around, coming in and out at will, but we're not as distracted as we feared.

Work proceeded apace and Savvas and his Vietnamese girl arrived to remove the big curtains for cleaning, as they had been affected by the mould. He also sorted out a problem with "back washing" the pool, which saved calling out the pool man.

A phone call announced that our local log burner firm would be able to fit our log burner in the next few days. So, fingers crossed, all systems are go. We are taking the opportunity to rearrange furniture and have a clean in those parts which are not normally cleaned. The day was fine, although with all the windows open, and the kitchen door being opened and closed, it was quite brisk. By the close of play, when our guy left, we had to rapidly heat the house and take some alcohol on board.

We will find tomorrow more demanding as the forecast is a bit grim, and the guys will be working in our living area. We may decide to retire to bed, with the electric blanket on, and dogs and cats lurking  with us. But the end is nigh ... I trust.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

"Action this day"

Winston Churchill's famous comment on communication when he wanted something to happen urgently always strikes a chord when I hear it, and it is so apposite to those of us living in the land of "slowly ... slowly". A friend whose mother lives in Spain used to recount the story of "MaƱana" which translated literally means "tomorrow". She explained that it didn't mean that in Spain. It meant "Not today", which gave no promise to do something soon.

Well we have action on our damp, condensation and mould problems - which have worsened this year (despite the fact that we have had hardly any rain). A succession of experts have been up to the house, a civil engineer, the architect who "designed" the house, a builder, a decorator - in fact everyone except Uncle Tom Cobley. An absolute flurry. The end result is that we are getting action this week. The decorators are arriving tomorrow, to clean the mould and are then painting the whole of the interior with an anti-fungal paint. Demotronics, although at a date to be confirmed, are coming to clean and service the air conditioning system (this apparently can cause problems). And then the icing on the cake is that a local firm will come up and install a wood burning stove (a convector stove) which will give a dry heat and thus cause less condensation than our gas fire.

It is ironic in such a country with a warm climate that these problems should arise for three months of every year. Many times it is warmer outside than inside, and so the wood burning stove will be a real boon. It is being fitted into our fireplace which should look good as well. As I barrow the logs from the drive to our storage area I shall be singing "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay". Perhaps a rugged checked shirt might be necessary.

"What price salvation now?" as George Bernard Shaw wrote years ago. Well the cry might as well go up "What price a damp course?" as they seem to be almost unknown here. We are told that this should resolve the problem. If it doesn't, the next step is proper double glazing. It's like setting fire to a vast pile of Euros. And that might keep us warm ...

Friday, 29 December 2017

Christmas time ...

Well here we are heading towards our sixth Christmas in Cyprus. We shall be glad to get there as the last week or two have been very busy, and occasionally frustrating. It all started when I realised I had to apply for my State Pension, which according to the UK government, is described as a benefit. What! I could rant on for hours about having to apply for a benefit which I started to contribute towards in 1969.

Our motto for 2018, which sounds uncharitable, is to mirror what Peter O'Toole cried aloud in Lawrence of Arabia "No Prisoners". We are utterly sick of being taken advantage of, and used, by those who home in on Ann's kindness. My lovely wife is one of the kindest souls on this planet, and people have taken advantage of her since we have moved here. She is "Such a good listener" they say, and then bombard her with their concerns.

Well no more. If you have a problem then consult a psychiatrist. Don't bring your problems to us. I get heartily sick of people using and abusing Ann's good offices and she does not need any of that stuff.

So be warned ... cross our threshold and we will bite back ... and sort your own problems out.

Monday, 18 December 2017

A nasty experience ...

As I do every morning, and some afternoons, I took Daisy for a longer walk in the wooded hills above Argaka. Occasionally we meet other dogs and dog owners, and our particular favourite is an elderly red setter and his owner. The dogs chat and the owners chat, and then we proceed on our way.

This morning was different. I noticed another car parked near where I normally park, and so expected to see either dogs or joggers somewhere on the track. Fifteen minutes' later three dogs came bounding up towards us, with a fat woman behind them calling "They're friendly." Well that was far from the truth. Two of the dogs leapt at Daisy snapping and barking and trying to bite her. I shouted at the woman to get her dogs under control to no avail. My heavy walking boot, with my fourteen stones behind it, came to the rescue as the largest dog was booted into the undergrowth. The other dogs made their way back to their owner.

There was a firm and frank exchange of views, and I told her that her dogs (being in a public place) should be on a lead and under control. She told me, without shame or apology, that she would do what she wanted and that we were in the forest. And off she went. Fortunately Daisy, although shaken, was unharmed. I was, and am, absolutely livid.

I noticed, whilst I was parking, that she was driving a small red hatchback (registration number EAB???) and I posted on Facebook to see if anyone knew who she was. As yet, there have been no concrete answers although one or two people have suggested a house in the village. 

The end result is that I shall carry a heavy stick on dog walks in future, and heaven help any dog not on a lead who approaches aggressively. And heaven help their owner as well. I have an easy-going approach to life, a long fuse ... but anyone or anything who threatens me or mine had better watch out. If you light that fuse, it will take some extinguishing.

As for the fat woman and her nasty dogs ... keep well out of my way.