Thursday, 20 October 2016

Customer Service in Cyprus ...

Lots of positive and negative comments about customer service in Cyprus are appearing on the various forums at the moment. Just to state that, by and large, in our corner here we have fabulous customer service from cheerful and happy staff, from small shops to supermarkets, bars, tavernas and restaurants, garages and all the other people we visit.

Of course there are exceptions. There is a little, fat woman in Papantonious in Polis who works behind the "deli" counter there. She has taken a dislike to us, for whatever reason, and is brusque and offhand. That's okay, until the day I am not feeling charitable and then she may well find the manager there breathing down her neck. It's the same wherever we spend our Euros. If you are offhand, or provide poor service, we shall go elsewhere.

Of course, when you are spending money, people tend to be obliging and friendly. One thing we have learned is that a friendly greeting in Greek will often break the ice and you will be greeted with a lovely smile. Who would have thought it?

We are having a gentle week after Becky S. and Jason returned to the UK, although this did not stop us singing "I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay" as we went about pruning trees this morning. The weather is just lovely at the moment - about 27°C during the day and cool in the evening. We just love it here. Can't you tell?

Friday, 14 October 2016

A Mexican Standoff?

Well here we are in the middle of what is a Mexican Standoff and everyone is watching to see who will blink first. "Who are you talking about?" you may well ask.

Well I thought it would be obvious but it is the politicians in the UK and the EU, both posturing and making veiled threats and believing that life in Cloud Cuckoo Land is reality. As the UK gets poorer and poorer by the minute, although people in the UK have not yet been hit by higher prices and probably won't until after the New Year, the politicians on both sides of the divide stare into the mirror and look at the dire consequences of what they have unleashed. Will they step back from the brink? Not a chance. The economic consequences of leaving the EU will haunt the UK for generations to come, and I suspect the government know this. Brave words from the unthinking Boris Johnson and the other two clowns supposedly in charge of negotiations with the EU disappear into the ether, which is where all hot air ends up.

And so I try to work out why these people will not admit they are wrong, and change course. There could be a second referendum (and wouldn't that be a bloody affair), or the UK Parliament should do what an elected democratic institution should do and debate and vote on the matter. Or they could call a General Election and people could decide what they wanted their government to do. Will they? Not a chance in hell. And, I hear you cry, "WHY NOT?" And the answer is simple. Government is about politics and economics, and the advancement of self, and to admit they have got it wrong is to lose political face.

And the mad dash to poverty and irrelevance will continue because these nose-in-the-trough politicians will do what they think is best. Not for the country and its people, but for themselves. And so, in the dark hours before dawn, they may get up and look in the mirror. What do they see? The truth and they will ignore it. If they can't get back to sleep, what better thing to do than fill in a few expense claims to ensure that the rising costs in the country do not affect them. After all, what is a decent chap to do?

Friday, 7 October 2016

Old age is ...

After a long search I found that a dear friend, Paul Noon, with whom I lost contact in 2011, (damn ex-directory numbers), died later that year. I have been trying to contact him for years but could never  find out what the situation was.

Paul was one of my two best friends, and we had met in 1976, and been firm friends for years and years. I am the godfather of his son, John-Paul Noon, and was a great friend with his former wife, Viv. When he married Gill, I was there and she became a great friend as well. She died of cancer in the early years of this century at a tragically young age, and Ann and I took Paul back to stay with us after the funeral.

I know that shit happens, but his life over the succeeding years was sad. Always a great visitor to the local pub, he was told by his doctors that drink would kill him and he became something of a recluse. Ann and I moved away from the area, and I could not contact him. When we emigrated to Cyprus, we could not get in touch.

A moment of inspiration led me to the Thanet District Council crematorium service, who offer a free service to find those who have been buried or cremated in Thanet. Today I finally heard that my dear friend had died seven years ago. What a desperate situation. I suspect he gave up on life after the death of his wife, Gill, and ...

Life can be bloody awful sometimes and this is one of those times ...

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Terracotta Paint and "New Magnolia" ...

The repair and repainting of the outside of our house continues apace. The hoped-for deadline at the end of the week is apparently still on track as Becky S. and Jason arrive for a holiday on Saturday. Sunday sees the fourth anniversary of our arrival in Cyprus and, my goodness, doesn't time fly? It seems only yesterday that we moved into his house, whereas it is over three years ago.

We are all geared up for the arrival of Becky S. and Jason on Saturday and I think my previous posts on this blog will have alerted local followers that Argaka and Polis will definitely be the place to be for the next week.

The pound continues to fall and it is just about at the level that it was when we arrived in Cyprus. Everyone is feeling the pinch and thinking back to the halcyon days when the exchange rate reached the hallowed level of £1.00 >€1.42 a few months ago. As this is all outside of our control there is little point in worrying about it, although we do have a moan about it from time to time. The UK's decision to leave the EU reminds me of a scene in a comedy western years and years ago when the gunfighter drew both of his pistols and managed to shoot himself in both feet at the same time.

We have not seen many expats recently to hear what they have to say about this parlous state of affairs but it is something that people hoping to follow in our footsteps should bear in mind. Forget about the exchange rate as it was, is, or might be, and just work out your cost of living as if the pound was the same as the euro. If the exchange rate is better than that, you can celebrate with the rest of us. If it ever falls below parity, then we are all doomed.

The chasm that the UK is looking into is ghastly in the extreme, and if the economy does indeed crash ... well we all know who to blame. What is galling is the fact that it is self-inflicted. My own forecast about the whole mess is that the government will end up having to call a General Election in the next twelve months and the battleground will be whether to finally leave the EU or not. Of course if Article 50 is invoked, then the EU will have us by the gonads and negotiation will be more like a surrender. You read it here first.

Someone we were discussing life in Cyprus with did point that out that it is better to be poor in Cyprus than poor, wet and cold in the the UK. But our glass is always half-full and Monty Python's "Always look on the bright side of life" springs to mind, although we should remember that the people singing that were in the middle of being crucified ...

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Autumnal blues ...

Autumnal blues ... I don't think so. With the searing heat of this summer behind us, we are in that blissful state of living in what - in our life in the UK - would have been a perfect summer day. Blue skies, light winds and sunny with temperatures about 27°C - warm enough to potter around in shorts and t-shirts without having to seek shade wherever we go. In the Spring and Autumn there comes a time in Cyprus when you want/need to sit in the sun as sitting in the shade is slightly too cool. At night, the windows are open and the air conditioning is off, although last night we put a crocheted blanket on the bed just to snuggle under. Bliss.

With the imminent landing of Becky S. and Jason in nine days, thoughts are of preparations that may need to be made. Plentiful supplies of beer and wine spring to mind (inevitably) but also buying food to barbecue. Traditional Cypriot dishes may also be on the menu, and the ingredients needed will have to be on a shopping list in the next week.

Mixed news on the Cypriot economy trickles out now and again. Tourist numbers are up, although this benefits the economy less than in previous times due to the sheer number of All Inclusive holidays being purchased. These AI holidays are a boon for tourists on a limited budget but they do mean that local businesses do not benefit in the way they once did. People, apparently, do not investigate local bars and restuarants but stay within the hotel grounds as they have paid upfront for their sustenance. Rather like Pandora's Box, once the AI holidays are established there is no going back to the good old days.

This boom in tourism has been caused, I suspect, because the island is perceived as a safe destination for holidaymakers. Terrorism in Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey and other popular destinations has decimated their tourist industries and so Cyprus booms. It is a golden opportunity which it appears is unlikely to be grasped. Much of Cyprus is scruffy and dirty (and there are no signs that this is likely to change soon) and many tourist areas are expensive and perhaps not great value. Fly tipping, litter and a general lack of pride in public areas does not enhance the tourists' perception as a destination to return to over and over again.

Of course, for those of us who live here, we take all the above with a pinch of salt. We do not frequent tourist areas, and so will be unlikely to be ripped off as many report. I knew that many Mediterranean islands tend to be scruffy but it has a sort of "shabby chic" charm (almost). If I had a magic wand I would wish to change none of the above but would consign many of the taxi drivers to "reeducation centres", as used to happen in the old USSR, so they consider the error of their ways. If anything is guaranteed to discourage tourists from returning, these licensed bandits take first prize.

I wonder how many shopping days to Christmas? No I don't really ...

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Is Argaka ready for this?

We were delighted to hear that Becky S. and the new man in her life, Jason (all 6'10" of him), are coming to stay with us for a week from October 8th. It has been nearly two years since she stayed with us for ten weeks, and this time it is a holiday. The weather is set fair as far as I can see, with temperatures being 31°C in the couple of days before their arrival. Let's hope the local expats can be slightly less nosey than they were last time. On one priceless occasion we were having lunch at The Watermill in Steni, with our friends John and Jill, when a local Argaka expat marched over and demanded to know whether Ann and Becky were "associated". It was just as well that we were with friends as I suspect that Ann might have read her fortune for her. Is it the sun that causes people to act and speak like that?

We celebrate the fourth anniversary of our arrival in Cyprus the day after they arrive and a small celebration may well have to take place. It will involve good, simple food and possibly small amounts of alcohol ... for toasting purposes only. In all events it promises to be a great day and the start of a good week.

The world, meanwhile, seems to be in turmoil and everywhere you look there are dark clouds gathering. It is impossible not to be affected by all of this, no matter how much we try to ignore things. The UK, of course, is still in post-Brexit euphoria and to see the half-wits Johnson and Fox blundering about in Europe and around the world, with hardly a brain cell engaged, would be laughable if it was not so sad. I read the other day that one of the new government departments set up to deal with Brexit do not have offices yet which are fit for purpose, and so they convene meetings in the local Starbucks. Amateur City anyone?

Cyprus remains an enigma, especially in the way it deals with the outside world. The reunification of the island seems as far away as ever, and only the distant dream of gas and oil wealth may cause the two sides to compromise. But it may not be in our lifetime, as entrenched hostilities are apparent around every corner. Any deal must be approved by Turkey and that regime seems as unstable as any in the world. But of course I may have to review my opinion if the USA elects Trump. If that happens then the world's problems may go up in smoke anyway.

Happy Days ...

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Life's too short ...

When you think what is important in life, and what is not, you never really consider the implications of the great issues facing us all. We had - just about - fallen out with friends whom we have known for three years. It all came about because they were celebrating her birthday at a restaurant we will not go to, and we made our apologies and explained why we would not be joining them. Things went from bad to worse, after a very truncated phone call on her birthday ... and that seemed to be that. But we met them by chance the other day and the end result was smiles all round and we are going there for dinner on Sunday. As Ann said, "Life's too short."

This was brought into sharp relief this morning. A week or so ago friends of ours heard that their son had had a brain haemorrhage and was in intensive care in Dubai. They flew out and have been waiting beside his bed, as he was placed in an artificially-induced coma. We heard this morning that he had been pronounced clinically dead but, under Sharia law, the life-support machine could not be switched off until his heart stopped. What an awful situation.

It is news like this that brings what is and is not important in life. To hell with silly arguments and imagined slights. Because, even though we intend to live forever, life is too short to worry about matters that are completely unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

On a lighter note Becky S. skyped Ann last night and we are hopeful that she and Jason, her new man, will be coming out to stay for a week in October. That will raise spirits and it could be an exhausting and enjoyable time. October is a lovely month to visit Cyprus, and their visit is something we are both looking forward to enormously.