Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Fuses ...

Enjoying the Spring sunshine this morning, my daydreams were rudely interrupted by Ann coming out to tell me that our freezer was no longer working. Fortunately it was nowhere near full so the "disaster" was not as bad as it might have been. We emptied the freezer, and moved stuff to our fridge.

Now my friend Savvas always makes fun of me as he says I am not a practical man. There is, I admit, an element of truth to this so I set out to find the fault. The incentive of not having to go out and buy a new freezer was a spur indeed. I checked the socket it was plugged into and that was fine. We moved the freezer out from the wall and had a look at the plug. It was one of those "sealed for life" ones but ... the fuse was visible, and with a small amount of persuasion I was able to remove it. On inspection it was fine but we replaced it and our freezer sprang into life. GCE "O" level physics has never been so valuable. For someone who has always telephoned a man to come and sort things out in his UK existence, this was a first and a triumph. Happy days ...

And, my goodness, don't we need some happy days with the lunatics running UK Plc deciding to trigger Article 50. I see that the people of Cornwall have finally woken up and smelled the coffee. Having voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU, the people have realised that this will mean an end to the grants and general agricultural funding on which the county relies. The Welsh have also seen the light dawn, and many of  "the people have spoken", "move on" and "suck it up" brigade will increasingly rue the day they decided to destroy the UK's financial future, and possibly cause the breakup of our country.

However the clocks go forward this weekend, and the weather is set fair. The Six Nations' Rugby Championship is over (and what a disappointing weekend that was) but the Grand Prix season is about to begin. I wonder how long it will be before we are able to swim in the pool?

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Coptic Storms?

I suppose people are equally divided when it comes to whether Coptic Storms, and thus the Coptic Calendar, are a reality or are coincidental here in Cyprus. Thursday saw the arrival of El Hossum, the equinox gale which is apparently meant to last for eight days. Clouds of dust we very apparent on Thurdsay and Friday, and this morning we woke up to what (according to Ann) looked like the set for a zombie apocalypse.

Garden furniture everywhere, masses of debris in and around the pool and out heavy-duty car port tarpaulin in shreds ... all that was missing were the walking dead. Thunder and lightning, and seeming inches of rain, and the believability of the Coptic Storm Calendar was becoming more and more real. We remember back to our first year here, when we had been told about the Coptic Storms. One afternoon, I think it must have been in November, and the temperature literally shot up by seven or eight degrees within a few minutes, the skies darkened and the wind swirled from every conceivable direction. We watched the live weather feed from the Argaka weather station, and the wind changing direction every few seconds and gusting to 90 kph. The only thing we could do was shut the curtains and drink some wine.

On a more parochial note we have been enjoying the Six Nations' Championship on television. Side-bets on the outcome of each weekend's matches were going in my direction until Emgland played against Italy and the infamous "ruckgate" controversy. I had England to win by at least sixty points, whilst Ann was much more measured and had England to win by a much more conservative amount. Well, and it hurts to say this, she was right and I was wrong. If I ever hear the end of that ...

Our friend Jill has been quite ill with cellulitis, and it is nothing to do with having excess cellulose. We went to see her on Thursday in hospital in Paphos, and she was not in a good way. She had been taken from the private clinic in Polis by ambulance immediately she was examined and has been on intravenous antibiotics since. Her leg was badly swollen and discoloured and we felt very sorry for her. When she is released from hospital she will be out of action for some time, which will give John the opportunity to learn how the oven, microwave and washing machine work. Time will tell how well he copes ...

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

I'm a lumberjack ...

Exciting times here at home when I put on my check short, my boots and entered the world of the lumberjack. We have two large palm trees in the back garden and this is the time of year when they need cutting back. They are both very different and the one I decided to tackle has great swirling fronds. The general idea is to cut back the ones that dip down to the ground and leave the ones at the top of the tree to point upwards.

Grasping my trusty saw I advanced gingerly - not knowing whether the serrated edge of the blade would cut through the tough fronds. Ann advised, and what a good piece of advice it was, that I should wear thick gardening gloves as the spikes on the fronds are sharp and potentially lethal. The saw was up to the job and twenty minutes' later the offending fronds were stacked in the back garden, ready to be transported to the garden waste over the fence.

The other tree is too tall for me to attempt and I shall need to get some help in for that. Our friend Savvas was here the other day and he burned all three garden rubbish piles, which was a great help. We are reluctant to set our own fires, even at this time of the year, as we have seen the havoc our neighbour Demetrious reeked on the land behind his houses.

Through an Internet contact (all related to IPTV) we met, completely by chance, a couple who are moving from Malta to Argaka. David, my contact, was in one of the local bars with his wife and another couple and there was something familiar about him. My phone searched Facebook and there was David's photograph so I went up and introduced myself. The other couple have since been in touch and will make contact before their move in mid-March.

I remember all the help and advice my late friend Dave Travis gave to us over our first months on Cyprus. It is comforting to have people who are able to tell you how things are done and where places are when you first come to a new country. The couple from Malta are experienced expats but, as people never tire of saying, "This is Cyprus".

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

A couple of days of sunshine ...

It's amazing what a couple of days of sunshine does to the system. We moved outside immediately and bask in those precious rays, and the temperature outside is much warmer than inside. It is a peculiarity of the way many houses are built on Cyprus that there is little or no insulation. So, in winter, the heat dissipates quickly and, in summer, the houses get very hot. Surely the opposite should be the case but it is not.

It also doesn't take much for us to start thinking about the garden. Local farmers are ploughing and planting at the moment and that again stirs memories of previous years and the planting we have done. Our friend Savvas says that you take sunshine, add water and anything will grow. Not quite true as I think we overwatered our Aloe Vera plant, and it seemed not very well at all. But Ann decided to move it to "sick bay" over the winter and it has made a miraculous recovery. The other moot point is how far to cut back plants. Conflicting advice abounds and we are slowly learning to make our own decisions.

I am looking forward to the next few weeks as the Six Nations' Rugby Championship is due to start on February 4th, and that always cheers up the bleak midwinter. Apparently this weekend is due to be very chilly (in Cypriot terms) and so we shall batten down the hatches and keep warm and dry. If necessary I shall follow my grandmother's advice and "throw another servant on the fire".

And then, in the blink of an eye, it will be Spring (one of our favourite times of the year) and pottering around in shorts and t-shirts (whilst keeping trousers and a sweater to hand for when the sun goes in). 

News from the UK becomes more depressing by the minute. I have never seen such a collection of intellectually-challenged dimwits in government, led by the "I'm not really a wannabe dictator" PM. The rule of law may well have won the day in the Supreme Court yesterday, but the Tory threat to flood the House of Lords with hundreds of new peers to ensure the Brexit debacle is kept on track is undemocratic in the extreme. The House of Lords may not be perfect but it is a damn sight better than  a dictator in Downing Street.

Roll on October when we are entitled to apply for permanent residence here. I, for one, am ashamed at the direction my country is heading and cannot see me ever returning.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Here and there ...

What a strange month January is turning out to be ... submerged by rain, with local dams now overflowing and then the promise of sunshine. Out we go into the garden to tidy up, clean the pool and generally think about Spring and then "All change".

It is hard not to feel despondent about 2017 and what is happening to the world. The insanity that is Brexit and the utter madness that led to the Americans electing such an obviously unstable man as Trump leaves me breathless. Of immediate concern is that complete lack of intelligence and forethought, and a situation exacerbated by that buffoon Boris Johnson, that the UK establishment is showing in its dealing with the EU.

No one wishes to see the UK kowtowing to Brussels, but there is a sense of unreality in the way that the intellectually-challenged Theresa May thinks she can dictate to the EU. It may have passed her by that the UK is a small island off the coast of mainland Europe and it is the other twenty-seven countries that will dictate what happens. Listening to the bluster and bluff coming out of Westminster you could almost sense that this was in the heyday of the British Empire. "Wake up and smell the coffee."

On a brighter note we are both well and enjoying life, although I yearn for the time when sweaters, socks and long trousers can be banished to the wardrobe. There is something profoundly depressing when you have to reach for a coat (and gloves) when you decide to go out. The cats still have their winter coats and Honey looks as if she has been inflated with a bicycle pump.

Argaka looks deserted with most of the bars and restuarants closed for a Winter break. But the weather will change and people will slowly creep out of hibernation, and smile at the sunshine. My 64th birthday is approaching with almost indecent haste and we must decide how to celebrate it. I suspect good food may well be on the cards. It's just a shame I wasn't born in May or September as the weather is perfect for dining outdoors. I suppose if the Queen can have two birthdays ...

Monday, 2 January 2017

2017 ... fit to drop ... or fit

Ann and I enjoyed a lovely lunch at the Turtle Tavern in Argaka yesterday, completely by chance. For the first time in days it was not pouring with rain, and so we decided to go fo a walk. We parked our car on the seafront and set off along the new pavement. I suppose we walked just over a mile and a half, and then decided that we still had to get back to the car ... another mile and a half. We have both been pretty sedentary since the weather changed and by the time we got to the car, I certainly felt as if we had walked far enough.

The original intention had been to walk to the Turtle Tavern, have a drink and walk back. So, as a compromise, we drove to the Turtle Tavern and were pleased to find it open. It was lovely and warm inside, thanks to the log burner, and it was only when Ann, the landlady, was explaining the options for Sunday lunch that we realised it was Sunday, and that we were peckish. So roast beef ordered and a couple of pints of Old Speckled Hen to hand, we enjoyed a lovely lunch and decided on our priorities for the year.

Moving gas cylinders around, as you do at this time of year, I have found them quite heavy - certainly heavier than four years ago. So I have been looking for a gym to join, as I really did enjoy my almost daily visits to the gym in Bexhill. But gyms over here, as I have discovered, have an alarming tendency to close down at short notice (having insisted on money upfront) or are very overpriced. However in conversation with Stuart, who works at Santa Barbara in Argaka, he told me he has joined the gym in Ayia Marina (a few miles up the road) and that it is €90 for three months. That's more like the £60 for three months I was paying in Bexhill.

So, I must get up there and check it out. Those gas cylinders will seem lighter and it will be good to get back in shape again. Otherwise there will be no option to sample Old Speckled Hen again.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Christmas in the kitchen ...

What a start to the day ... Eggs' Benedict, which we have often enjoyed but never cooked. It was a joint effort and the making of the Hollandaise Sauce provided a moment of worry. It just would not thicken but, an inspired web page later, and we had added a teaspoonful of lemon juice and away we went. Lovely smooth Hollandaise Sauce and Eggs' Benedict to do for. And we did find muffins in Cyprus.

The leg of lamb is just about to go into the oven, and Ann's Cyprus-style roast potatoes will be epic. What a lovely change from just roast potatoes. But, and it almost goes without saying, the last minute arrival of the Brussels sprouts (just like the US Cavalry) will make the day special.

Our plan to start with duck pâté will just enable us to resist temptation, until all is well. The house is warm, the weather a little wet and windy, and we have just decided to have a glass of wine. There are all sorts of plans for later in the day but, like most years, we will run out of steam and the cheese will remain until another day.

Boxing Day P.S.- what a fabulous day. Gentle and without pressure and we ate well, were remarkably sensible with our alcohol intake and never got round to watching the film we had sorted for the evening. The lamb, from Kolios in Paphos, was superb and the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and thyme marinade was a delight. Ann's roast potatoes were even better on this second experimental occasion, and the Brussels sprouts ... there is nothing to say.

Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special appeared and that was fun, and then my energy levels began to drop. Ann was watching a programme about a zoo, where the 23 foot long python needed medical attention. I managed to stay awake long enough in bed for Ann to join me with the good news. It would have been a disturbed night if the python had not recovered.

Coming into the living area this morning to make coffee, it was like discovering a garlic factory. A gentle day ahead, with cold lamb and pickles, and even possibly a walk - although rain is forecast for later. I hope all the readers of my blog had a super Christmas Day and that you feel as content with life this morning as we do.