Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Fiddling about with little black boxes ...

Our lifeline, as we tend to spend much more time indoors at this time of year, is our Android box which enables us to access live television, films, TV series and much more. The world of XBMC is very addictive, with so many plugins and addons (all promising so much and often delivering so little). As I installed and uninstalled these plugins and addons I became aware that the system was slowing down, and becoming less reliable.

So off to the forums to see what advice was on offer. The end result was to consider the nuclear option of deleting all data, and restoring the device to factory settings. But, and it was a big BUT, what would I be left with at the end of the procedure? I dillied and I dallied, and sent emails and private messages around the internet, and the advice was ... get on with it. I contacted Brian of Computer SOS in Chlorakas, where I had bought the box in the first place, and he confirmed I was taking the right course of action. He did even offer to hold my hand over the telephone if I needed it.

So ... this morning ... with a cast of thousands (Honey and Jaz, looking very disinterested) I pressed the button. Strange messages came and went, and then the tv screen went grey ... and then restarted. I managed to download the latest version of XBMC and reinstalled the plugins and addons one by one. Boy! It was so simple that I could not believe it. At the end, I have a box which is flying and all is working, without all those annoying freezes and glitches that were becoming apparent.

The world of XBMC plugins and addons is indeed strange. You feel like a child in a toy shop the day before Christmas, and all the staff and customers have left. You grab this and that, even things you never think you will use, and your little black box becomes confused. And so, to Boxing Day, when things are put away in cupboards and in the attic - perhaps never to see the light of day again.

I was strong after this and resolutely decided against installing anything new, although there is a Plugin called Phoenix which is very tempting. Perhaps tomorrow or the next day. Perhaps ...

Monday, 24 November 2014

Postage to Cyprus ...

Our electric blanket died recently and so we thought it would be a simple matter to have one delivered to us in Cyprus. Wrong. Unfortunately our usual supplier, Amazon, do not sell them directly and their resellers either will not post to Cyprus or are asking silly money. One reseller wanted £33.00 to post a package weighing 2.5 Kg, in addition to charging a substantial premium on the RRP of the electric blanket we wanted.

So cold toes in bed are the order of the day. I know it's warm at night compared to the UK but we are now in our third year here and we do feel the change in temperature quite markedly. I suppose it is one of the downsides of living here that many items are not available (or are available at quite ridiculous prices) and increasingly it is more and more difficult to get firms to post here. We understood this before moving here but it is frustrating nevertheless. On the other hand it is gloriously sunny today on 24th November, and would we really want to be anywhere else?

STOP PRESS ... Becky swam in our pool for about fifteen minutes today. It took about ten minutes to get her shoulders under the water but she did it. What a way to recover from 'flu. Go Becky Go ...

Saturday, 22 November 2014

I just do not understand some people.

Well I really don't. I cannot understand the attitude of some British people living locally. Despite the laudable aim of raising money for those struggling during the recession in Cyprus (and specifically those in need in Argaka), our Bingo & Quiz evening is criticised from left and right. Last night we cancelled the quiz and just went ahead with the Bingo and the Play Your Cards Right game.

Why? The Fly Again was literally deserted and the word is that certain sectors of the community are not happy because we are raising money for the "Cyps" - a derogatory term for our hosts here, the Greek Cypriots. I detest this attitude and the whole, superficial attitude of some expats here. If immigrants in the UK showed that attitude to the British, they would be very quickly told where to go. "If you don't like it here, then **** off back to where you came from."

In any event a lovely lady, Carole, who was at The Fly Again with her husband, won €200,00 by playing her cards right. David took her photograph and it will be published on the pub website (with her permission). A great evening for her.

Ann and I have some serious decisions to make in the next few days. We have raised over €400,00 in the last few weeks and that's great. But we feel like we are bashing our heads against a brick wall of expat indifference and that's not why we started this endeavour. We have committed to next Friday, and will see what happens then.

Enough of negativity although this reinforces why we are very selective when it comes to making friends. Pam and Dave have shown us such kindness and consideration (even if Dave can be a pain in the backside sometimes ...), Pete and Sylvi are great fun, even though we do not see them as often as we would like, John and Jill are the salt of the earth, and David and Letitia have proven staunch friends in the time since we first met them in September. And that circle of friends is wider than the circle of friends we had in the UK. As you get older, the quality of friendship is far more important than "having lots of friends".

Friday, 21 November 2014

That's Life, I think

All sorts of things going on at the moment and this is supposed to be the quiet time of the year, when we all withdraw inside the house, follow hobbies and catch-up on all the films and TV we said we were never going to watch.

The Bingo & Quiz evenings have become much quieter, partly because it's dark and "cold" which means people are much more likely to stay in than go out. There's also a suggestion that part of the expat community may be boycotting these fund-raising events for reasons best known to themselves. Another local bar is a hotbed of gossip, and they also run a quiz evening. Who knows? Perhaps it is time for us to unveil our Bingo secret weapon, a professional caller from years gone by. You know who you are, so be prepared.

Ann's daughter Becky is gradually adjusting to the frenetic pace of life in Argaka, and we are delighted she is living with us. When you need unconditional support, then there is nothing like family. It looks as if this might be an extended stay, although one can never tell. All we can hope is that she enjoys her time here and her time with us.

Christmas gallops towards us, and I just love the snow-covered scenes in Paps - decorations, Christmas trees, and all the paraphernalia of a Dickensian Christmas. It will probably be warm enough to have a bbq on Christmas Day, although we hope to have lunch out with our friends David and Letitia, and with Becky, in one of the restaurants in Latchi. A first for us but that's what comes of emigrating in your 60s. Onwards and upwards.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Hospitals and Friends ...

Friends - love them or hate them - are friends and a friend in need ... Friends of ours called yesterday and asked for my help. John has been suffering pains in his "stomach" for a couple of weeks and, despite numerous blood tests at the local hospital, he was nowhere near to resolving the problem. So off to Paphos he was sent for an ultrasound scan. He wasn't feeling up to driving and he hates being driven by his lovely wife of forty years, Jill. So a telephone call on Monday night asking if I could help.

I was happy to drive them to Paphos and told her so. "Are you sure?" she asked. I told her I was sure but she was not convinced. We met this morning in Polis, and she wanted to be reassured it was okay. I told her again, and she responded "Well, if you're sure." Friends ...

In any event I took them to the Iasos Hospital in Paphos, a private hospital a world away from the hurly burly of Paphos General. Ultrasound scan completed, consultation with the doctor who told him that he needed to have his gall bladder removed. When he was asked if it was possible to arrange something, we were whisked in to see the surgeon (who consulted with the cardiologist) and he then spent about forty minutes talking to us and explaining the options. The end result was that John returns next Tuesday for tests and a consultation with the cardiologist, the anaesthetist and the surgeon. The operation would then take place (all being well) a few days' later. And, by the way, we'll repair the hernia you have at the same time.

When we returned to Polis Hospital ... that's a story for another day ... but that's what friends are for.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Finding time to blog?

One of life's ironies is that you don't always have time to blog when life is busy - which is just the time you need to blog.

Life has been very busy in the last week, since Becky arrived to stay. Within forty-eight hours we were at A & E at Polis Hospital, as she was suffering from a nasty ear infection. She told us that something "popped" en route (not just the normal depressurisation "pop") and this then lead to a red rash, followed by blisters, on her neck. To cut a long story short, we went to the pharmacist in Polis and bought some antibiotics over the counter (the hospital could not treat her as she did not have her EHIC), and this seemed to be doing the trick.

But on Sunday she started to feel hot and clammy, and later exhibited all the symptoms of .... 'flu. Would you believe it? In any event to bed with hot water bottle, paracetamol and lots of fluids. Today she is sleeping and that's probably the best thing for her.

I am a firm believer that, when life has not been too kind, your body needs to get rid of the unhappiness and anger and irritation and all the other bad things that you have experienced. And the way this is often displayed is through ill-health. No doubt in a couple of weeks we will all be laughing about it, but - for now - all a girl needs is her mum.

Much hospitality has been enjoyed at Gracie Towers, and I think Ann and Becky enjoyed "dog-sitting" on Saturday for Bonnie. When I arrived to watch the England v South Africa game, there was the contented sound of doggie snoring from Bonnie's basket - a sure sign of relaxation. I am happy to report the snoring did not interfere with our viewing of the rugby.

Here we are in mid-November, with the sun shining over a very blue Mediterranean Sea, and talking about where we are going to go for Christmas lunch. In all the years Ann and I have been together we have never ventured forth on Christmas Day, but this year we shall. It is surreal, and this will be our third Christmas on Cyprus, to be talking about Christmas (and seeing Christmas trees and decorations in the shops) whilst debating whether to wear shorts or "grown-up trousers".

Life has never been so good.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Easyjet 5453 is on its way ...

After all the social excitement of the last week, real life intrudes - but in a pleasant way. Becky S. is, unless she missed the plane or got on the wrong one, en route to Cyprus and should be arriving at about 13.45 at Paphos. Needless to say we are going to be there well before that time, and are really looking forward to her arrival. Although Ann has been back to the UK twice to see her, I have not seen Becky since October 2012. Far too long.

Hours in front of televisions and computers at Gracie Towers yesterday, helping David sort out internet-tv and XBMC and OTTV and lots of other addons with mysterious initials. Mostly successful but we ran out of juice and decided to finish off later in the week. A lovely supper and a couple of glasses of the hard stuff restored us all, and as long as everything is up and running before 16.30 on Saturday (England v South Africa at Twickenham) then we shall all be happy.

Talking about Twickenham, I was intrigued by a posting on Facebook by Wendy (my best friend's wife) which located her in the Royal Box at Twickenham during the England v All Blacks game. Where were my tickets, then?

Too excited to blog any more but no doubt loads of stuff to come ...

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

November ... Stamina required

My goodness, with November in full swing, stamina is required. I don't quite know how this has happened but life has suddenly become very busy.

Take this week for example. Today is, blessedly, a day to reflect and to blog, and to work on my ebook. Those snakes are taking some writing about! But then, on Wednesday, our dear friends Becky and Pam return from their short break in Limassol. So tomorrow night they are taking us out for dinner. Nothing unusual about that. But on Thursday, we are all invited to Gracie Towers for the evening. David is cooking and I am looking forward to that very much. But the sting in the tail was the kind suggestion that we could all stay the night. Stamina ... and on Friday Becky and Ann are cooking one of Becky's special curries at lunchtime as it is Bingo and Quiz night at The Fly Again.

Wow ... but there is more wow. I was checking in my diary for the time of the England v All Blacks games on Saturday afternoon, and I believe David might be dropping in to watch that with me. Something to look forward to and ... unbelievably ... in the diary was Miki's Nameday Celebration on Saturday evening.

For those of you who do not live in Cyprus the Nameday Celebration to many Cypriots is the most important day of the year. We have been invited to his Nameday for the last two years and it is something else. Wall-to-wall food and drink at Miki's Restaurant for his invited guests, much fun and laughter and John and Jill, our friends from Pomos, and we have been the only non-Cypriot guests there. We feel so privileged to be asked. We did not attend the first one and only realised later what a faux pas that was. It was almost as great a faux pas as leaving some money for drinks after Antonia's birthday earlier this year. We were invited and our friends Mike and Wendy, and Guy and Hattie, were staying in Polis. I asked Miki whether it was possible for them to come with us (and offered to pay for them). Miki, as generous as ever, said we should invite them as his guests.

At the end of the evening of sumptuous food, and lots of drink, Mike suggested we leave a contribution for the drinks we had had. We left €40,00 under the ashtray. Oh boy! Was that a mistake? The next time we went there Miki came over and slammed the money down on the table. But worse was to come. Antonia came over and painstakingly explained that the restaurant was her home and we were guests, and we had left money on the table. She was insulted and we will never make that mistake again.

I suppose we find it difficult to accept such hospitality and generosity in that diffident way the English have. But one thing is for certain and that is my wallet will stay in my pocket this Saturday. And phones are off this Sunday as it will truly be a day of rest.