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.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Ann saves the day ...

Christmas comes and goes - and we have had a different celebration every year since arriving in Cyprus. But one thing never changes and that is - to make our day - that Brussels sprouts must be part of the food on offer.

Imagine our disappointment when we did the rounds of supermarkets, kiosks and fruiteria to find that no-one had sprouts for sale. But "Mr Beer", so called because that's where we buy our Keo by the case, told Ann that he would be going out early on Christmas Eve morning to try and find some. And so, Ann decided that she would get up early and go into Polis in search of these elusive sprouts. My alarm went at 06.30 and, as good as her word, Ann got dressed, had some coffee, and off she went in the bleak midwinter.

She returned triumphantly an hour later with sprouts aplenty. Mr Beer told her that Cypriots had never really discovered the humble sprout, and so they were not always easy to source. But he saved the day as did Ann with her determination to get what we wanted.

Not long ago this blog racked up more than twenty thousand visits since I started writing it. That's some number. And so I wish all the readers of this blog a very Merry Christmas and wish sincerely that 2017 turns out to be a better year than this one has been. Some of our friends have suffered, as have we, so here's hoping 2017 is a real belter.

A final thought: we were watching a tv programme the other day and, in the background, was a sign that said, "Life's too short. BREAK SOME RULES." That's our resolution for 2017. So  you had all better watch out ...

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Unbelievable ...

We often read of expats who are dissatisfied with the service in shops, bars and restaurants here in Cyprus. It somehow goes with the general whinging and moaning from those who would undoubtedly whinge and moan wherever they lived.

However, and especially for those who are planning to relocate here, this has not been the case in our experience. As we enter our fifth year here the number of times we have been unhappy with service could be counted on one hand. A useful tip, when dealing with Cypriots in all sorts of places, is to smile and offer a cheerful greeting (ideally in your best Greek). The reaction tends to be enormously positive ... it is almost as if the moribund expression on the face of the person serving you has miraculously been switched off.

Of course we have encountered poor service - none more so than in the Cyta shop in Polis. Ann and I went in there a few years ago to arrange for the Internet to be connected. A dour, unsmiling Greek Cypriot kept blocking our every request and was generally unhelpful. To make matters worse he completely ignored Ann, and directed all his comments at me (being the man). We sorted matters out by asking a Cypriot friend to help and he and I went down to the shop, there was a rapid-fire exchange of views in Greek, and three days later we were online. Now when we go into the shop, if he comes forward to "serve" us, we just wave him away and wait for the lovely and helpful girl to be free, or our favourite Leonides (who is so friendly and helpful, you cannot quite believe it).

Normally, on the rare occasions we are not welcomed in bars and restaurants, the business does not get a second chance and we vote with our wallets. But this is so rare, and we find a warmth from so many people. The girls in the supermarket are fantastic, apart from the little fat woman on the deli counter. We now just ignore her and wait for one of the others to serve us.

The whole point of this morning's blog is to highlight the unbelievably good service we have encountered from a British business. Over three years ago we bought an Android TV box from a shop in Paphos. My late friend Dave took me down there and introduced me to Brian who runs the business. In the last three years I have bought the occasional bit of kit from there and emailed him for advice about computers, iPads and the like. He found us a "new" iMac when ours died and it was a fabulous deal.

But on Sunday our TV box just would not cooperate at all. Fearing the worst I emailed Brian and he tried to help via email, but to no avail. In torrential rain I drove to Chlorakas, and went in to see him. Welcoming as ever, we went to his bench and he tried all he knew to get our box to work. After an hour and a half, we were still no further forward. And then, as if by magic, Brian (with the help of a paper clip) managed to get some life. The Android icon (a little green robot) was lying on its side and looking poorly.

We agreed that he would completely wipe the box and start from scratch. This he did and he was about to start downloading the various addons I had had on there. This was something I could happily do at home, and so (having switched the box off and on a couple of times to check all was okay) the box went back into its bag. Reaching for my wallet, I asked him what I owed him. "Free of charge" was his reply. I insisted that I pay him something but he was adamant.

Incredible and generous service and I have no hesitation in recommending him for computers, tablets, TV boxes and the like. If you are coming to live in the Paphos region, he is - or should be - your first port of call. You will find him Here