Thursday, 12 July 2018

Cost of living ...

There are often enquiries from people living in the UK about the relative cost of living in Cyprus, especially from those who are planning to follow in our footsteps. There is no doubt we enjoy a much higher standard of living here than we would have done if we had remained on the Sussex coast.

Housing is one of the key issues. The Cyprus property market is, and has been for years, a dark place where you must be on your guard against the mafia of dodgy property dealers and their tame lawyers. Many, many people have bought property and found, when trying to get their title deeds, that the developer has remortgaged their land to fund his next building project. Property prices have fallen dramatically since 2008, and we have met a considerable number of people who are trying to sell (at a loss) and then move into rental property.

It is calculated there are 50,000 empty properties in Cyprus and more are being built every year. On the other hand rental properties are plentiful and incredibly good value. We rent a two-bedroomed bungalow, with a large garden and a pool, for under £500 a month. Astonishing. If you are planning to buy, rent first for at least a year. Many people we know are on their second or third rental. They find noisy dogs, nosey neighbours or dreadful landlords. And then, on the second or third attempt, they hit the jackpot.

Everyday items are either very expensive or ridiculously cheap. Fresh fruit and vegetables are literally given away, alcohol and tobacco are at least half the price of those in the UK, eating out is very cheap and your money stretches a lot further. The equivalent of Council Tax here is a fraction of what we paid in the UK. Water is about €7,00 a month. Electricity is expensive although bottled gas is a quarter of the UK price. If you buy British goods, rather than their Cypriot equivalent, you will pay a substantial premium.

Roads are almost empty, although driving standards are haphazard. Petrol is cheaper, as is diesel, although second-hand cars cost a lot more than you would expect. But cars do not rust. Public transport is cheap (buses charge €1,50 a journey) and I wouldn’t get inside a Cypriot taxi if I had a choice. There are no trains.

All in all we find that our money goes so much further, and the quality of life is superb. Despite the criticisms of the public hospitals, our care has been excellent. Do factor into your costs that, if you are not in receipt of a State Pension, you must have private health insurance and that is not cheap.

Come on in ... the water is lovely.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

The sun has got his hat on ...

Flaming June has given way to “Yellow Alert” July and it has been pretty hot for the last few days. The published temperature charts always give the temperature in the shade and you have to add on another 5°C to get an idea of what it is like when you are out and about. If you are thinking of following in our footsteps, the received wisdom is that July and August are the price you pay for living here. Even our Cypriot friends are wary of the heat.

Another factor to consider, when you are trying to see whether your budget will enable you to live here comfortably, is to understand that air conditioning is expensive to run and - unless you have a superhuman constitution - you will need it for three months of the year. It is absolutely essential at night to enable you to sleep comfortably, and on the hottest days you will find many people shut their blinds and heavy curtains, shut the doors and windows and switch on their air conditioning.

Living near the coast often means that there is a welcome breeze off the sea to cool things down. But if the breeze is off the land, it is anything but refreshing. Do not consider buying or renting any property that does not have full air conditioning. It is expensive to install as well. I suppose most people would not live in a house without central heating in the UK (if they had a choice) and the same should apply here in Cyprus. Keeping cool is something of an art form.

Ann needs a referral before making an appointment with the neurosurgeon in Nicosia, and so we are off to secure a tame doctor at Polis tomorrow. We are hoping against hope that the waiting list for her operation is not as long as was quoted, and - if there is any way to circumvent the queue - we shall take it. I suspect that the waiting time in the UK would be as long or even longer.

Our latest excuse to switch the air conditioning on during the day is that it will benefit our pets. Both cats and our dog are Cypriot but are finding the heat very demanding. Of course if we need to sit in the cool with them, then we shall just have to put up with that.

I suspect the government are rejoicing ... not about Brexit but the fact that England are diverting the attention of the public from the absolute shambles they are making of the negotiations with the EU. How Boris Johnson has not been put up against a wall and shot is, and will remain, a mystery. Talk about saboteurs and traitors. The Euroseptics in the Tory party will not be happy until the economy is in pieces. “Cut a deal with the EU to benefit the UK” ... absolutely no chance.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Never mind the Terminator ...

We were shown a new tool for Daisy the dog some months ago, that removes the dead hair underneath her top coat and helps her both to keep cool and stop shedding hair everywhere. It is called the FURminator. What a priceless name. Eat your heart out Arnie ...

It is amazing how time passes but we have at last ordered one from Amazon. We saw one on display at a rather expensive vet’s surgery in Paphos the other day. It was priced at a cool €48,00 which is a tad expensive. Amazon sell the same thing at half the price.

We always try to shop locally on the premise that if we don’t use local shops then they will disappear. But double the price is not really on. Many expats here moan about the price of the kiosks (the little corner shops) but we have found that many items cost less than the big supermarkets, and so we support them. Polis has only one large supermarket (since Orphanides closed) and so, without competition, they charge what they feel the market will pay.

Ann’s knee is finally undressed, which means she can now shower. There are signs of great rejoicing from the other residents at Andronikis Gardens. In actual fact, not showering because of a dressing in this weather, is awful. Still the water should be hot. It is one of life’s great ironies that we get free hot water from our solar panels for nine or even ten months of the year, but in winter we have to use the immersion heater. Showers in the summer tend to be like warm, cool or even cold.

The announcement in the press that England had lost a football match in the World Cup has been covered in such depth that one could be forgiven for thinking the queen had died. But it has kept Brexit off the front pages for a day or two. So we should all be thankful for small mercies.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Let’s hope ...

Let us hope that bad things happen in threes and that is as far as that goes. Whilst having a lovely time with Ann’s sister and her husband, Ann did her best to be the centre of attention. Firstly we all went out for lunch in Latchi, and Ann had one spoonful of her avocado shrimps and was very sick indeed. Obviously a dodgy shrimp. The following day we all went to Steni Market where Ann felt unwell (probably as a result of her previous day’s shenanigans). To cap it all on the very next day she had a fall in the garden (in the same place as I fell a couple of months ago) and was somewhat battered and bruised.

I’m happy to report that she is much better and she bore her injuries with stoicism. But, as I have told her, “Enough is enough” and I have threatened her with a stiffly-worded memorandum if she transgresses again.

We had a lovely evening out a couple of days ago, and were invited round to a bbq. The house was lovely, the company more than acceptable and the atmosphere was fun. But the food was bloody awful. T-bone and rump steaks, and ribs, were barbecued. They were tough and gristly, and we had to struggle through them with smiles on our faces. The highlight of the evening came after I felt that every insect in Polis had been invited to a party on my legs. I was suffering and our host and his other guests suggested “tiger balm”. It was produced and I was told to rub it where I had been bitten. It comes in a little jar about an inch tall and smells of Vick’s Vapour Rub (and can be rubbed into the chest as well).

Well, after five minutes, I was not impressed despite everyone telling me how marvellous the stuff was. And then, miraculously, the itching stopped and I was then very impressed indeed. Apparently it is on sale in Paphos and, when we visit this week, it will be high on our shopping list. It can, apparently, be used for pain relief as well ...

In any event, enough of this doom and gloom. The weather is set fair and that is always a great feeling. At the end of last week I used the UK government’s beta software to apply for my passport online. Ann took my photograph with my iPad and in a few minutes all was completed. The photograph was cropped to the correct dimensions in front of my eyes, and the whole things took about ten minutes and that was mainly because I had to unearth my old passport and then my bank card to pay. Very impressive and it may suggest that the UK may be about to enter the 21st Century.

The soccer World Cup has proved a distraction to the country, and a welcome one at that. Although we are not in the least bit interested in soccer it is fun to see the glee and excitement of people after all the months of doom and gloom caused by Brexit. I still cannot believe the sheer amateurism and lack of competence showed by politicians across the whole spectrum of government. Can they really be jockeying for position - and to hell with the people - at such a time? I fear so and I despair.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

“Phew! What a scorcher!”

I loved the very predictable banner headlines in various UK tabloid newspapers when the temperature  was set to rise above 21°C. The same photographs from Brighton beach, and the same aspiring models clad in bikinis, adorned the front page.

It all seems such a long time ago as we are sitting out a heatwave here with temperature nudging 40°C. Thank heavens for the swimming pool and air conditioning. We try not to use the air conditioning during the early afternoon but, yesterday, both of us and our pets were struggling, and the air conditioning was switched on. It’s a strange thing that you try to be economical with electricity (and prices have risen substantially in 2018) but most modern houses have air conditioning for a purpose and that is to make the hottest days more comfortable. For those following in our footsteps at some stage in the future, air conditioning in living areas and bedrooms is an absolute must. You will live to regret it if you believe the estate agent who extols the virtue of open windows and fans.

We are both waiting for the arrival of Sue and Davy on Wednesday, who are coming for a week’s holiday. They are staying at a lovely hotel five minutes away from us (as they did last November) but they will undoubtedly find it warmer this June. Whether they opt for an all-action time or a lazy, slow motion time, will depend on how they feel once they arrive. We shall fit in with them.

Bad news this week when I heard from my best friend, Mike. His lovely wife, Wendy, went to see her  doctor with pain that he thought was probably appendicitis. Into hospital to find out she had developed bowel cancer. It was operated on and the tumour was removed. The prognosis is good as they caught the cancer early. Our hopes and prayers are with them both, and I trust she makes a full recovery soon.

It is a cliché and a truism that we are advised to live each day as if it is our last. Nothing could be closer to the truth. 

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Poor Ann ...

We visited the orthopaedic surgeon today as Ann has been suffering with a painful back, after she tried to move one of our old sofas prior to the delivery of our new sofas a few weeks ago. The end result is she has fractured a vertebra in her back and will have to wear a back brace and, hopefully, the fracture will mend. As I told her today “Your sofa-moving days are over” and she has agreed.

But she has been remarkably cheerful and upbeat, and I hold her in great admiration. We have now sorted out a fabulous woman to come and clean the house, and iron our clothes, on a weekly basis. And we have also found a lovely young woman to come and do the heavy work in the garden, which we no longer want to do. What is amazing about both of these women is that they work so hard, and so cheerfully. Our next job is to sort out a “pool man” to regularly clean our swimming pool. As someone we know said, “I don’t want to clean the pool. I want to jump in and use it.”

Summer has arrived with a vengeance but we are benefitting from “Ann’s Breeze”, which drifts in from the bay and cools us off on those hot afternoons. Sheer perfection at times.

We are waiting for Ann’s sister and her husband to arrive for another visit in three weeks. Their last holiday last November was a great success. Ann and her sister needed time together and it was great to be told “Why don’t you two go down to the pub for a couple of hours?” Did any man ever need an invitation like that?

Life here is good, despite all the curved balls that come in our direction. For those thinking of following in our footsteps, do your research and jump right in. The water’s lovely.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Up the creek without ...

So Amber Rudd has fallen on her sword and the newspapers are full of sound and fury (and most of it signifying nothing). Politicians seem to have had a collective I.Q. transplant or bypass in recent years and I yearn for a man or woman of intellect to come forward because they genuinely want to serve the public.

In my younger days, when I developed an interest in politics, intellectual giants bestrode the House of Commons - on both sides of the political divide. Some were intellectuals and some had a low cunning that enabled them to survive in the pressure cooker. Harold Wilson, a man I never admired or supported, was one of those who often managed to surprise us all with his machiavellian ways and kept his party under control and the country in thrall. I remember many others - men and women of honour and integrity - Sir Alec Douglas Home springs to mind - whom one could admire and honestly believe they were doing what was right for the country.

Politicians and journalists have slid down the slippery slope, and there appears nothing will slow their inevitable descent. I, if we lived in the UK, would not be able to read a newspaper and actually believe what was being written. The era of fake news and incredible bias in newspapers has left all who value honesty and truth to despair. Journalists copy and paste from various sources without seeming to be bothered to verify their veracity, and their professionalism withers on the vine.

To live in a democracy, and to value free speech, is a marvellous privilege and one not to be taken lightly. Living a couple of thousand miles away from the UK does not lessen the pain. Prime Ministers authorise the bombing of Syria without consulting Parliament on the grounds of security. What a load of bollocks! If you believe that the Americans and French and British did not give advance warning to the Syrians, and especially the Russians, to minimise the risk of World War Three starting, then you have been listening to the BBC for too long.

People fought and died to maintain the democratic freedoms that we enjoy, and which our political “masters” are rushing to obliterate at a frightening speed. I despair for the western world, and I despair for the country in which I was born. Quo vadis!