Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Champagne cocktails ...

Many moons ago, when we decided to run a pub after I retired from teaching, our friends Keith and Roz (landlord and landlady of The Unicorn in Marden, where we first lived) bought us "The Cocktail Book". I don't know what caused us to have a look at it the other day but Ann came across the "Classic Champage Cocktail" and so - purely in the interests of research - we decided to give it a go.

The only thing we needed to buy was Angostura Bitters and some sugar cubes. Papantoniou's could not come up with Angostura Bitters but suggested a substitute brewed in Limassol (so not too far away from its South American heritage). We had bought some champagne which was, and still is, on special offer and so away we went.

Put the sugar lump into a chilled cocktail glass or champagne glass and saturate with the bitters. Add the brandy, then fill the glass with Champagne. Decorate with the slice of orange.

1 sugar lump
1-2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 measure brandy
4 measures chilled Champagne
slice of orange to decorate

Well the first one slid down smoothly , but the second one was outstanding. Definitely a holiday drink but, seeing as we have been on holiday for over three years, that's not a problem.

We were told, on good authority, that after about fifteen months reality would set in and that romantic holiday indulgences would become a thing of the past. Hmm! I'm not sure we would agree with that. Roll on tomorrow ...

Monday, 21 December 2015

Christmas Greetings ...

A lot of our friends have returned to the UK, or more exotic parts, for Christmas and we are busy preparing for our celebrations. In many ways this has been a fairly bruising year (as regular readers of this blog will understand) but we are looking forward to 2016 with unquenchable optimism.

Christmas shopping was just about finalised on Sunday when we, with tales of queues and lack of shopping trolleys in the back of our mind, drove down to Paphos. Lidl's managed to provide us with a number of items on our list and then our first visit to Kolios Butchers. What a lovely shop and we were delighted with the welcome we received and the quality of what we bought. So many of our friends have recommended this shop but we never got round to dropping in. I am afraid Pambos, in Polis, shot themselves in the foot by being so vague about the availability of meat we wanted to order and buy just before Christmas.

When Ann and I first got together and moved to a small village in Kent, I used to drive back to Hawkhurst to Wood's - a real butcher - for our meat. Yes, of course, it cost more but the quality was tangible. Having visited Kolios, we realised what we had been missing.

In any event, we are just about to retire "into the bubble" to enjoy our festive season. We shall see all our missing friends in the early part of the New Year, and hopefully Becky S. as well, but will take this opportunity to wish you all a marvellous Christmas and a truly memorable 2016.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Wet or dry?

For years I have had sensitive skin and shaving has always been something of a pain - sometimes quite literally. My Philips shaver had a built-in attachment to dispense Nivea moisturiser on the skin before shaving and this seemed for a long time to alleviate the rash or burn I used to feel when I shaved.

The Philips shaver was on its last legs, and the difficulty in getting any supplier to send the moisturiser to Cyprus - Amazon categorised the moisturiser as a biohazard for goodness' sake - meant that a new shaver was needed. To replace the Philips shaver was going to cost over £150 and that is silly money for a shaver in my opinion. Much research was done and the answer for sensitive skin seemed to be an electric wet and dry shaver.

After many hours reading reviews, the Braun Series 3 (3080) seemed to offer what I wanted but the price was still high. Amazon was offering them at £119.99 and that's still quite a hefty price tag. But "Black Friday" was approaching and I stalked the Amazon site relentlessly. It was reduced in the run-up to "Black Friday" to about £62, and then it featured in their "lightning sales" section - but you could only find out the price if you logged on at 22.00. So I waited and waited and logged on. £38 was the price and I snaffled one at that price.

Something of a delay with delivery, as I blogged the other day, but delivery was achieved on Monday of this week. On Tuesday I tried a dry shave, without discomfort, and achieved a very satisfactory result. I then bought some Nivea shaving gel (0% alcohol, as recommended) yesterday and - looking like Father Christmas with his white beard - I stepped into the bathroom. A few minutes' later, I had finished. It was the closest shave I have ever achieved with an electric shaver, and almost as good as the wet shave I had in Goa. Silky smooth and no rash, no sensitivity and just great.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

All things change ...

Our long warm autumn seems to have finally given way to winter, even though it is still lovely and warm during the day. But once the sun goes down, it is socks and sweaters and some heating to keep us warm. It's been a busy week, with lots of tasks needing to be completed. Cyprus being Cyprus, it is easy to put things off and off ... but eventually you have to get round to things.

Various friends heading off to the UK for Christmas and we shall miss not seeing them. Our Christmas will be very different from last year, especially with no Becky S. to keep us all on our toes. Hopefully she will visit us in January, work permitting, and then we can have a second Christmas. It is eleven months since she was here and it seems much longer than that.

I had reason to contact Amazon recently as my new shaver had been stuck at a distribution centre in Gemany for about eleven days. They told me that, despite an estimated delivery date of December 9th, I should wait for 48 hours after January 6th before becoming concerned and contacting them again. Somewhat coincidentally my shaver arrived in Cyprus the next day, and I am now waiting (but not with bated breath) for it to wend its way through the Cypriot postal service.

All that being said, we shall have to start organising ourselves for Christmas next week. Shopping list in hand, we shall have a brief excursion to Paphos to buy the things that we cannot obtain in Polis. But we shall buy in Polis wherever Polis, even if it is slightly more expensive, on the principle of "Use it or lose it."

Monday, 7 December 2015

Winter Sunshine

We are currently blessed with blue skies and unbroken sunshine in our corner of Cyprus, although it is a little chilly after the sun goes down. My shorts have been placed at the back of the wardrobe - only to be unearthed for especially hot days. But one week into "winter" and all is warm and well.

Checking the stats on my blog I see that I am just a handful of views away from 10, 000 page visits and that is something I never dreamed of back when I started on this project. 

Ann is off to play Mahjong this afternoon with another couple of members of Polis Book Club and this may well prove an interest for the winter.

If only there was a slot car club here. I think the only one on Cyprus is at least 100 km away. Oh well, that's the price of living in paradise ...

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Harman Kardon Soundsticks

Many years ago, when I met Ann, I bought her an iPod for her commuting and that opened a whole new world of mobile music for us. At our first Christmas, I think, I bought her a set of Harman Kardon Soundsticks so that we could enjoy the digital music at its best.

Over the years we have bought new kit and more modern iPods and iPhones, and the Soundsticks were relegated to the cupboard. When we left our pub, when we had bought out large HDMI TV, we took that with us. Great picture but, as with many LCD TVs, poor sound. Recently I set up an Android TV box at a friend's house and appreciated the sound through her external speakers.

So, on a cool day, I unearthed the Soundsticks but couldn't see how to connect them to our TV. But, after fiddling around, and with Ann's help, we linked up our system to the TV. The result ... ok but not brilliant. However Ann suggested that we plug our Soundsticks into a headphone port and ... BINGO.

Putting the TV on mute, and switching on the Soundsticks, the irritating hum disappeared and then ... brilliant cinema sound. Bass coursing through the the building, great stereo and a whole new experience of watching TV and movies and streaming music. Brilliant ...

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Gosh ... What a week.

Gosh ... What a week. The western world, as my Scottish friend used to say, "Dithering and Swithering" as to whether the UK should bomb Syria. Armchair generals and keyboard warriors giving their advice and getting it wrong. Politicians and those who wish to be heard giving their advice and the whole country at loggerheads over the issue. Bedlam.

We are battening down for winter with lively sunny days and chilly (relatively) nights. I've been investigating better sound for our TV system, and this was because I set up a system for our friend, Pam. So, with a lovely set of Harmon Kardon speakers and sub-woofer (which I bought many years ago), we played about with wires and so on. Result ... Ann's patience was rewarded and we have a lovely cinema-sound system, with moutanins of bass, for our music, and TV, and movies. It's so unimportant in the scheme of things but ...

And the bass, watching Jurassic World ... absolutely stunning ...

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Amidst all the gloom and doom ...

Some domestic good news amidst all the terrible events happening in the world at the moment. This morning I woke up and thought that my iPad was a little faster than usual. Checking the Internet speed, I found that our ISP (Cyta) had doubled our speed overnight. It had been announced that this would happen before the end of December and the local word was that it would happen, according to a little birdie, on December 1st.

But - lo and behold - our speed was doubled and it has transformed my Android TV box - as well as our browsing and streaming of music.

And then, as I am in the market for a new electric razor for Christmas, the Amazon Black Friday deals has come up trumps. I decided a wet and dry electric razor was what I wanted and Braun was my preferred make. The model I had chosen had been cut in price from £119.00 to £62.00, which was a more realistic price. My pension comes in tomorrow and that seems a good day to buy. But this afternoon, I found that Amazon was putting this model of razor in their Lightning Deals from 22.30 this evening. So, alarm set, I shall purchase when the Lightning Deal appears and hopefully save some money.

Both of these issues are totally unimportant but will bring a smile to our faces. Tomorrow we meet our friend Pam, and our friends Pete and Sylvi, for fish and chips at the Turtle Tavern in Argaka. It will be good to catch up with them all. On Sunday we travel to Pomos for a pre-Christmas celebration with our friends John and Jill. And then, it's just a matter of waiting for Amazon ...

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Peace in our time?

The events of the last few days, and weeks and months for that matter, are an uncomfortable reminder how fragile peace is. From Paris to the Turkish border, never mind the awful events around that slip off the front pages of the newspapers, 2015 is a year that will be remembered for a long time for all the wrong reasons.

Our link with the world comes from the BBC news, various online forums and newspapers, and does not give a very balanced view of current affairs. The keyboard warriors and armchair generals all seem to feel this is some sort of game. I am reminded of an animated scene in the brilliant 1968 film "The Charge of the Light Brigade" YouTube link when the masses decide that "War, War, War" is what is wanted. And it seems that certain sectors of society are talking and writing their way towards even more killing.

No one who has served in the military, especially those who have seen active service, would want the world to go down that route. But the opinion formers and politicians seem isolated from the realities of war, and talk and write of this and that as if it is inevitable.

So let us hope that sanity prevails and that "To jaw-jaw is better than to war-war", as attributed to Winston Churchill in 1954 at a White House luncheon. I, for one, will be keeping all my fingers and toes crossed.

Friday, 20 November 2015

A week is a long time ...

It's been a week, just about, since the terrible events in Paris. A fundamental shift in world security and all the horrible consequences that may follow. It has been depressing to see and hear all the comments online from the armchair strategists and the keyboard generals. If you really want to see some depressing comments, just have a look at The Daily Mail online and read any article published in the aftermath of the Paris massacres. The comments' column is full of febrile and aggressive comments, including the sensible suggestion that the West should "Nuke Mecca" to teach these Muslims a lesson.

We feel isolated here in Cyprus, although we are aware that terrorism is possible anywhere. What will happen in the coming weeks and months throughout the world God alone knows, but I hope that sanity breaks out and the awful circle of reprisals and threats and actions is somehow broken.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Shopping online with Amazon

One of the irritants about living here is the fact that not everyone will deliver goods to Cyprus, and Amazon is one of the companies that are increasingly saying that they will not deliver here. I, for years, used to buy a Nivea moisturiser for my electric shaver. Every three months they would dispatch my order until - only a few months ago - my order did not arrive. When I queried this, I eventually found out that this was because my moisturiser was considered "hazardous material". I could not really believe this but it turned out to be true.

Time and time again, when we are considering buying something - or just checking the price with them online - the indication is that this item cannot be delivered to Cyprus. This applies to Amazon itself, and an increasingly large number of their resellers. In the end I got my Nivea moisturiser on eBay (in Germany) where the reseller was quite happy to send this hazardous material to Cyprus.

I am now in the market to buy a new electric shaver and find that my preferred brand, Braun, is available on Amazon and at a good price. But some models are not available to send to Cyprus and some are, and these are all from Amazon itself. Mystifying. Do they think that some electric shavers might double up as ground-to-air missile launchers?

Other sellers charge the most outrageous P & P to deliver here. It is almost as if they would not prefer to send their stuff to Cyprus. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many packages never arrive and replacements need to be sent. I once bought some printer cartridges from Amazon, which did not arrive, and so I contacted them. They immediately sent out a replacement, which arrived just shortly after the original item had - weeks and weeks late - been delivered. Being the honest chap that I am, I contacted them and they asked me to return it - AT MY OWN EXPENSE. I told them to go forth and multiply and they, very indignantly, sent me an email telling me that I could keep the originals as well.

So we shall wait, with bated breath, to see whether they deliver my electric shaver ...

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Cyprus Rugby ... Oh Dear ...

We had a very enjoyable trip down to Paphos yesterday to watch Cyprus play Latvia. But the performance of the Cyprus team was absolutely dire. Two years' ago I watched my first international rugby match here and was impressed with the performance of the team, their hunger to succeed and their enthusiasm.

Yesterday we watched a team desperately short of match fitness and enthusiasm, with two of the most overweight props I have ever seen at any level of rugby. The end result of picking such players meant that Cyprus was down to thirteen men (effectively) within the first ten minutes of the match, as these men walked from breakdown to breakdown. By the second half they were almost invisible.

Having played rugby at a good level in the UK for many years I know the importance of being prepared for a match, and when your legs and lungs refuse to cooperate, you may as well not be there. By the last twenty minutes of the game, it was embarrassing and tackling was fast becoming an optional extra. The crowd was disenchanted and quite a few were leaving early.

I know the national team is desperately short of money but fitness can be achieved by the players' determination and dedication to improve. Training on Keo and Souvla will never be the answer. Lovely weather but, and here is a tip if you have not been to the Paphos stadium, those seats were very, very hard. Those in the know had their own cushions. If there is to be a next time for us, cushions will be top of the list of things to take.

Friday, 6 November 2015

24 hours later ...

This time yesterday I was settling down with Ann to have a glass of wine and watch some early evening TV when I noticed that the sight from my left eye was not as it should be. My vision was blurred in the left quarter of my sight. It was quite disconcerting. I mentioned it to Ann and she said that my left eye had been quite bloodshot for a couple of days.

The sight from my eye got slightly worse over the next ten minutes and was very blurred. To be honest it was quite frightening. Thoughts of visiting an "eye doctor" the next day (we could not quite work out which version of "opti....." it should be) were made.

Ann suggested using cotton pads and hot water and just wiping once across the bottom of the eye. After wiping once the pad should be disposed of, and a fresh one used. So the bathroom and some gentle wiping undertaken. I came back into the sitting room and, a couple of minutes later, admitted that the blurring had gone and all was back to normal.

For the next couple of hours I was surreptitiously checking my sight but all was well. This morning it was all a bad memory. Tonight, twenty-four hours later, all is well and cotton pads have been elevated to very important items to always have in the house.

Rugby tomorrow, which we are looking forward to. Cyta, our ISP, announced that they were doubling internet speeds for all their customers by the end of December, for the same price. Now there's a result and an early Christmas present.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Le Weekend

Ann and I are looking forward to going to see Cyprus play Latvia in Paphos on Saturday. International rugby for €10,00 a ticket, with free parking, is so unlike our Twickenham experiences. Let's just hope the Cypriots are fitter than they were the last time I went to watch them. One or two of their forwards were so overweight and unfit I assume they must have been on a Keo and Souvla diet. This windy weather is forecast to improve for the weekend, and a lovely sunny day is in prospect.

A Cypriot acquaintance of ours once said that "When you are retired, every day is Sunday." I'm not sure about that as it can be quite difficult to remember what day it is. You arise, make coffee and sit on the terrace in lovely warm weather and then have to pinch yourself that it is halfway through November and the temperature is still 24°C.

Making long-term plans for the garden has been fun recently and - in our wildest dreams - think what it would be like if Savvas ever manages to sort out irrigation water for the whole of our land. Apparently he has been promising to do this, according to his wife, for about ten years. As Del Boy used to say, "This time next year, Rodney, we'll be millionaires."

So this time next year ... answers on a postcard please.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Polis Book Club, 2015

It's always great when an idea takes off. Ann decided to start a book club, and advertised it locally and on Facebook. Her friend, Pam, was interested and the first meeting took place in Saddle's in Polis with a whole three members in attendance. But ... as Helen, the owner of Saddle's pointed out ... these things take time. They held a meeting the following week and a couple of other people turned up. A book was chosen and a meeting agreed for the following month.

Lo and behold the numbers started to mount and, when they met last week, there were seven members present (including their first man). An enjoyable meeting was held and a second book was chosen. It was felt that more than ten members would make the meetings unwieldy and it may be that a waiting list will have to be created.

Saddle's in Polis is a lovely venue, and Helen is so welcoming. After some coffee, free muffins were the order of the day. Once the temperature drops, it will be inside and warm and cosy it will be. Anybody visiting Polis is advised to visit Saddle's, especially at lunchtime. Their crispy bacon rolls are to die for ...

Saturday, 17 October 2015

"Anything for the weekend, sir?"

It could only happen in Cyprus. Yesterday I was sitting in Miki's Tavern, enjoying a fresh orange juice, whilst Ann was at the hairdresser. She came across the square, and her hair looked great, and said she had been offered some British back bacon by her hairdresser. Maria also own King's Café a couple of doors down from her salon, and imports her bacon form the UK.

So, in addition to a super haircut, we now have a couple of month's supply of the most delicious bacon. I know it's delicious because Ann made bacon sandwiches this morning, and served them to me in bed with my morning coffee.

Today we belatedly celebrate our 3rd anniversary in Cyprus. There is a shoulder of pork in the oven, vegetables are prepared, I am watching the England test match against Pakistan on the TV (with the sound off) and Classic FM is on the radio. All that is needed is a glass of something cold but we have to stay up to watch the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals tonight and that means a late night. So it's all in the timing but I could murder a cold Keo right now. 

Life here can be so hard ...

Friday, 16 October 2015

Getting things done ...

This has been a busy few days and lots of things achieved. Life in Cyprus seems to come in waves for us. One of the joys of living here is that we do, by and large, what we want and when we want. There are obvious exceptions, like watering the garden. Fail to do that too often, and you end up with lots of dead plants.

With medical matters resolved, we have been focussing on the future. Long term plans for the house and garden (especially the garden as we live outside as far as possible), and ensuring we do things we should have done but haven't.

Making a new will, with the appropriate clauses - given the recent changes in the law in the EU - is high on the list of "must do soon", as is finally registering for tax in Cyprus. That will sever any financial ties with the UK, and which should result in a tax rebate of some size. My friend David, from Gracie Towers, is leading the way and his accountant is sorting his tax matters out for a very reasonable fee, and I think we shall follow in his footsteps. A pair of new front tyres is needed for the car and will happen in the next few days, once I motivate myself to drive down to Paphos. I can always comfort myself that, once there, the car goes into autopilot and ends up in Lidl's car park, where a few cases of Perlenbacher will be the just reward for venturing into the "big city".

This weekend will see the postponed 3rd anniversary celebration of our arrival here. A meal at home, cooked by me, will need to be carefully timed to fit in with the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals. Such excitement we could never have imagined in the old days. Cooler nights bring with them their own reward, although the days are full of sunshine and seasonal warmth. Perhaps we will toast that day in August 2012 when Ann and I finally pressed the "BUY" button to purchase one-way tickets from Gatwick to Paphos, which was one of those key moments we shall never forget.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

In praise of Paphos Hospital ...

Home Sweet Home and all is well. Treatment was 100% successful and the whole hospital experience (apart from the food) was first class. I did have to spend a night there so that I could be monitored and monitored I was, which was initially disappointing, but it seems this is very much part of the "belt and braces" approach there.

The hospital is often denigrated (underfunded, and overwhelmed by demand), and one of my friends here did have a very poor experience some time ago. But I have to say that I found the staff very professional, the I.C.U. ward was constantly being cleaned and sanitised (although that may not be the case everywhere in the hospital) and - apart from the food (Did I mention the food?) - there was nothing to complain about in the slightest.

A random thought, however. I wonder what the criteria are for student doctors there. When the consultant cardiologist made his rounds, he had a retinue of students in his wake. The students looked as if they had just come from central casting - almost all young women and absolutely stunning. It made my day ...

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Nothing to worry about ...

Tomorrow I head off to Paphos General for my cardioversion, which - hopefully - will correct an irregular heartbeat that has become evident recently. I last had this done in 2009 and all seemed painless enough.

The lovely Dr Agamemnon, the cardiologist at Polis Hospital, was advising me about the procedure the other day. "They send you to sleep, then PZZT, and that's that. When you wake up, all should be fine. If it is not okay, you probably won't wake up at all."

What gallows humour ...

So a few days to recover, but far longer to recover from England's dismal showing in the Rugby World Cup. Four years was a long time to wait for a World Cup, and a further four years will seem like an eternity.

Becky S. has somewhere to live, a new job and things are finally looking up for her. About time too as it has shown the Welfare State in Hastings at its worst this last twelve months. I seethe with rage at the way the government finds money to help asylum seekers and refugees and cannot fulfil its legal obligations to its own citizens. Charity begins at home, doesn't it?

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Panic in the ranks ...

Watching England v Wales last night and it was sad to see England players running around like headless chickens, committing the same offence at the tackle (and being penalised over and over again by the referee) and that was what led to their ultimate demise. The England forwards seemed to lack energy and drive, and seemed lethargic. By having two defensive and heavyweight centres on the field meant that the trump cards in their back line (Brown, Watson and May) never received the sort of ball they needed.

So "Quo Vadis?" ... an early exit from their own World Cup seems more than likely unless Wales implode against Australia. But how many times over the years have the England soccer team needed to rely on the results of other teams, rather than their own endeavours? It looks like another tense Saturday evening next week.

We spent a delightful evening in Polis on Friday, enjoying the entertainment and stall that the municipality laid on - although the buffet at €5,00 a person was a little steep. Well done them. It was good to see so many people participating. There must have been nearly two thousand people sitting down to eat and wandering around the various stalls. We ended the evening at Miki's and enjoyed a cool glass of something to relax us after the earlier excitement.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Who's a clever girl then?

We have had our two rescue cats, Honey and Jaz, for two and a half years now. They are meant to be sisters but we have a sneaking suspicion that they are mother and daughter. Certainly Honey treats her "sister" like a child and their interaction is priceless. About six months after Honey learns how to do something then Jaz manages the same. Honey found the way onto the roof of our bungalow shortly after we arrived, and it took Jaz months and months to manage the same thing. When Jaz comes back from her night's entertainment, Honey almost always cuffs her across the head as if to say "Where have you been?"

Last night we were sitting out on the terrace in the blessedly cooler weather when Honey appeared beside us. The windows and doors were all open but the fly screens were pulled across. Honey obviously wanted to get into the house (probably for even more food) and we could not be bothered to get up and open the fly screen. So, in full view of an appreciative audience, she opened the fly screen herself and in she went. We were astonished and delighted in equal measure. I closed the fly screen and ten minutes' later she reappeared at the door and gazed at us in a quizzical fashion. We watched as she opened the fly screen from the inside and promenaded in front of us.

So I suspect that by next Spring Jaz will have caught on and the fly screens will never be the same again. But can they learn how to shut the screens? I somehow doubt that and so that will be one more job for us ...

Monday, 21 September 2015

Whether the weather is promising or not?

You can't help loving the British and their ardent interest in the weather. Yesterday in Argaka we had terrific thunder and lightning and inches of rain. I know it was inches as the pool was literally overflowing. What did we do? We sat on the terrace, with very little on, and laughed and enjoyed the rain. Quite mad and I seem to remember doing the same thing last year.

We had switched all our electrical devices off, and so missed the second half of the Singapore Grand Prix. Does it matter? In the grand scheme of things I don't think so, but I shan't be as laid back and forgiving if I miss a second of England v Wales (or Japan v Scotland, come to think of it). We like to think we have our priorities right.

The news from mainland Europe and the unending stream of migrants and refugees fills every news broadcast, and the governments of the EU plan to have emergency meetings. Now? No in a couple of weeks time. Fences are going up and borders are being closed and, unfortunately, the open door of the Germans, and to a lesser extent the Swedes, is acting like a magnet drawing those iron filings faster and faster, in greater and greater numbers, towards a safe haven.

Of course the Germans have an ulterior motive with their ageing population and - reportedly - six hundred thousand job vacancies. Compassion and a desire to do what they consider right is also a factor, but I wonder whether these countries will start categorising these migrants into useful and not so useful. Who knows? What I do know is that the present torrent of migrants and refugees cannot continue, especially in the way it is formulating at the moment. Answers on a postcard to ...

Thursday, 17 September 2015

My Heart Bleeds ...

What a tragedy is being played out across Europe and we hate every second of it. Refugees, migrants, possible terrorist infiltrators and fences going up across Europe. And I cannot believe that the scenes on the Hungarian border will be the last we see. Fortress Europe may well become a reality.

What the decent and caring people of the wealthier parts of Europe feel will conflict with the demands of security and self-interest that many people will feel. There is no obvious answer and there is only desolation and sadness for the displaced millions who tramp northwards.

And we, in our own little bubble of sadness, look outwards and feel that it is too much to contemplate. But, we must look outwards, and continue to be a part of the western world's response to a tragedy of global dimensions.

Ironically we ignore all the tragedies occuring in other parts of the world, focussing on what is foisted  upon us by the BBC and others. So much for independent thought.

On a lighter note, we both look forward to the Rugby World Cup and England's first match against Fiji tomorrow night. What a change of focus! We worry about the future of the world, we mourn for our friend Dave, and we look forward to a rugby match. We are confused ...

Monday, 14 September 2015

Air Conditioning ...

Today was, we hope, when summer's fierce heat dissipated somewhat and we were able to venture forth in the afternoon, sit in the gentle breeze and enjoy a cold glass or two. Our Cypriot friends tells us that this summer was not a really hot one, but much more humid. And so, do we use air conditioning or not?  The simple answer is ... use it when you need.

We have used air conditioning in our bedroom for the last six weeks and would not have slept comfortably without it. But we have also found, as our house faces South-west, that - to avoid hot, sweaty times - that air conditioning is vital in the late afternoon and early evening. As someone said, there's not much point in having the system unless you use it when you need it.

We are gradually coping with the sense of loss following our friend Dave's untimely death, but it is affecting us more than we realised. We see his widow, Pam, regularly, and enjoyed a lovely lunch with her and other friends on Saturday. But, my goodness, life is hard.

Tomorrow I collect Pam from Paphos, as her twin-cab was crunched  by some cretinous expat in Paphos who decided to ask whether they could settle the matter without bothering the insurance companies. Was she insured? Was she hell?

Tough times ahead but I did hear that my long-awaited Cardioversion would take place on 7th October. The lovely Doctor Agamemnon rang and confirmed my appointment at Paphos Hospital. And our friend, Pam, immediately offered to take us down. What price friendship?

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Polis Book Club

Ann has decided to start a book club in Polis. The inaugural meeting will take place at 15.00 at King's Café in Polis Square on Wednesay 23rd September.

All bibliophiles are welcome and please contact Ann for further details of the club and the first book to be discussed at anndouglas2@mac.com

Friday, 28 August 2015

13 years and counting ...

Yesterday was our ninth wedding anniversary, and our thirteenth year together. And they said it wouldn't last till Easter.

A happy day, but still tinged with sadness after the recent death of our friend Dave Travis. Today we lunched with his widow, Pam, and it was good to see her again.

Tomorrow is yet to dawn and the sun will shine and life has to go on, but this is a real struggle for us.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

If you want to gossip, prepare to take the consequences ...

Since my friend Dave's death, I have been working on a post entitled "In Memoriam ... Dave Travis" and I have been finding it pretty difficult. I am never at a loss for words but sometimes words fail me.

The expat community in this corner of Cyprus has been working overtime to come up with theories, gossip, and generally unpleasant comments about the death of our friend. We have both heard such ridiculous details and suggestions that I am literally speechless as to how uncaring and uncouth some people can be.

Ann and I have been "in the bubble" for the last couple of weeks as we really don't want to go out and hear the absolute load of bollocks that are being spread by people who neither knew or cared for Dave. I have lost count of the number of times people we know and even people we consider as friends who have said he was speeding or drunk as a lord or whatever. Sadly the only people who know the truth are Dave and perhaps the tractor driver with whom he was in collision.

So fair warning to all and sundry ... just stop the gossip and the rumour-mongering because it is upsetting us and God alone knows what effect it will have on Pam and her daughters. If you wish to continue then let this be a warning to you. If I hear any more malicious gossip then I may just be tempted to knock your teeth down your throat.

Just let our dear friend Rest In Peace.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

The Untimely Passing of a Good Friend ...

Regular readers of my blog will have seen a number of references to my good friend Dave from Peristerona. Ann and I attended his 65th birthday party at the beginning of last week and I met him at Gracie Towers a few days ago for a couple of beers with David. We were shocked and appalled to read this morning that he was killed in an accident on his way home last night, when he was apparently in collision with a tractor.

After visiting the Police Station at Polis to confirm that it was indeed our friend who had died, we learned that the police had not been able to trace his wife, Pam, who was visiting the UK. We took the difficult decision to telephone her to break the tragic news, reasoning that it was better to hear the news from friends rather than the police.

Pam and her daughters return on Friday evening on the first flight they could get, and I am picking them up from the airport. Not sure I shall blog much in the near future as Ann and I are both devastated.

R.I.P. my friend

Monday, 3 August 2015

Ann to the rescue ...

When I went onto the terrace for my morning cup of coffee, I spotted an intruder in our swimming pool. Occasionally we get dead mice or spiders but this intruder was alive. It was a large, black and white pigeon floating towards the deep end. Ann came out to see what was going on and we first of all decided to get it back to dry land.

Of course there is always a problem and it became obvious a few seconds later. Honey and Jaz, our lovely cats, were in residence and might well have wanted to "help". So doors and windows shut we took the pigeon, still in the pool net, and laid it down out of sight of the windows and hoped against hope it might dry out from its waterlogged state. I had to drive into Polis but Ann stayed on guard.

After I returned we noticed the pigeon had left the net and was wandering slowly around, spreading its feathers. More in hope than expectation we left it to its manoeuvres. Honey had somehow escaped and Ann had to fire a warning shot across her bows with the hose. And then, obviously a pigeon with Special Needs, it wandered back into the garden, not once but twice. On each occasion Ann persuaded it to return from whence it came.

And then, to all round astonishment, Ann saw a black and white shape cross her line of vision ... in the air ... and the pigeon was away and free. As long as he escapes Dick Dastardly and his crew, all should be well.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Grass Widowers ...

With their wives enjoying the less than balmy conditions in the UK it was good to meet my good friends Dave from Peristerona and David from Gracie Towers, at Gracie Towers - and bottles of Perlenbacher disappeared at an alarming rate. Actually that's a slight exaggeration ... three blokes putting the world to rights and enjoying a few beers. Thoroughly enjoyable.

My goodness the humidity is as high as I can ever remember in Cyprus and we have just decided to go with air conditioning from mid-afternoon until an hour before we go to bed to make life comfortable. Air conditioning in the bedroom is essential. But, we reasoned, what is the point of having air conditioning and not using it when we need to? It will cost more but that's just life. Thankfully electricity has come down in price here over the last eighteen months and if the bill is high, we shall eat bread and dripping for a month.

Much useful advice from our friends Pete and Sylvi, and from Veronica, about the effect the high temperature may have on our pool. We have adjusted our pump accordingly and things are looking good. Testing the water quality on a regular basis should ensure trouble-free bathing, but it is always good to hear from those who have looked after pools for far longer than we have.

Polis Hospital was almost deserted yesterday when I went for a blood test, and even quieter when Ann and I went back to see the cardiologist. My INR is at the right level, blood pressure excellent and  he will ring Paphos Hospital on Monday to arrange for my cardioversion. So, with luck, my slightly erratic heart beat will be back in rhythm and I can stop taking that bloody Warfarin. Normal service should be resumed soon.

Out tonight to the Half-way House to meet John and Jill for a meal, and to catch up with their news. Great place to eat and only a few minutes' drive for us. This time next week we have invited David from Gracie Towers to come for dinner, and to settle down with us for the first of England's warm-up matches. A kick-off at 22.00 and against the team we all love to beat ... France. He has been instructed to bring Bonnie, their lovely dog, and a toothbrush. Looks as if a trip to Lidl's is in order to stock up on Perlenbacher could be in order.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The day after ...

Tuesday morning has arrived after a very good Monday. A couple of hours sleep in the afternoon left Ann and I raring to go, and off to Peristerona for Dave's birthday party. I was surprised to see balloons and streamers indicating that it was his 65th birthday, as I thought that milestone was years ago. Just kidding, Dave.

In any event a lovely, lovely evening. Dave and Pam's younger daughter, Anne, was there and an old friend of theirs, Neil (inexplicably referred to as Wayne by my dear wife) was visiting. Pete and Sylvi, and David and Letitia, were already there and the bar had been opened. All sorts of excitement as the gas barbecue did not want to fire up, and the last arrivals Alan and Alison were put on standby to fetch fish and chips for twelve if all else failed. A change of regulator and the barbecue was into action.

It is always interesting meeting people for the first time (unless of course you find you can't stand them) but Alan and Alison were great fun, and added greatly to the evening's entertainment. It seems they have the outlook which will make them successful residents, bearing in mind that they only arrived last Thursday. It was fortunate that Dave and Pam had stocked the bar so well, as Alan was always there when I went to replenish my drink. Oh ... I suppose that means that I was a frequent visitor to the bar as well.

At about midnight the party broke up, and the time seemed to have flown by. I trust we didn't disturb the neighbours as we meandered off to our various homes. No we didn't as Dave and Pam, like us, do not have any neighbours to disturb. Neighbours can be very overrated. So with both Dave and David being grass widowers for the next four weeks, who knows what high jinks will happen?

Monday, 27 July 2015

That Monday Morning feeling ...

Monday mornings, when I used to work, were never the highlight of the week as the weekend might have been quite lively and fun. Whereas I loved my job, there are better things to do than work. Now, in retirement, Monday morning is the same as Tuesday, Wednesday et al.

This morning I had a refresher driving lesson with Mike, from ROADAR, and that was fun but exhausting. It took me forty-five minutes to drive to his house, a two-hour drive with him, and another forty-five minutes to get home. In this heat it is somewhat exhausting. So exhausting, in fact, that I switched on the car's air conditioning on the return journey. Pure luxury. The windows have to stay open during the driving lesson as there are aural clues to be gleaned as you drive.

The good news is that my driving was up to scratch and apparently I had not forgotten what I had been taught. So one more refresher next Monday and then a decision on a test date. Advanced Driving is addictive but, being the competitor I am, only a gold medal will do. My chum Dave was awarded a silver and ...

Talking of Dave it is his birthday today and we have been invited to a barbecue in Peristerona to celebrate. Our friends Pete and Sylvi will be there, and our friends David and Letitia will make a guest appearance from Gracie Towers as David is taking Letitia to the airport as she is spending most of August in the UK. No doubt David and I will leave the planning of the wild parties until Letitia is in the air.

By general consent July has been very hot, and we await August with trepidation. But then, in a few short weeks, we will have the delights of September and October (and possibly November) as warm days and cooler nights beckon. Not wishing my life away, but we were told that July and August are the price you pay for living in Cyprus. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Panacalty ... a taste of the past

Our cook at home used to make panacalty as a special treat when I came back from school for the holidays. She was born and raised in Sunderland, the home of panacalty.  You can imagine my delight when I came across a recipe for it, which was for the slow cooker. Cooking in this weather, especially using the oven, is murder and so anything which allows the kitchen to be just hot rather than boiling hot, is a bonus.

In any event I popped the ingredients into the slow cooker and off it went on its merry way, whilst we enjoyed a swim in the relative cool of the evening. Half way through cooking, you add a pint of gravy (from granules) and let it carry on for another hour. The result ... absolutely delicious. A real journey back in time. I suspect that I have not eaten panacalty for about fifty years.

We generally stay inside the house between midday and about five o'clock and then venture into the pool again. If you plan to follow in our footsteps, and are wondering whether the expense (nowhere near as expensive as we thought) and the time maintaining and cleaning it (twenty minutes every three days) is worth it, then believe me it is worth every second and every Euro. For us a private pool is little short of heaven on earth.

And, of course, Ann is now swimming quite confidently and gradually building up her stamina. I am so proud of her, and she is pretty pleased with herself.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Polis Hospital ... Chinese Whispers ...

All sorts of rumours circulating that Polis Hospital was going to be closed and that there would be a protest meeting at 09.00 this morning. Obviously concerned, we duly turned up to see what was happening.

Greek Cypriots and British ex-pats sat around drinking coffee until the TV cameras arrived, and then the debate began. I have never seen Cypriot democracy in action but the principle seemed to be that he who spoke loudest and longest, and disregarded the opinions of others, would carry the day. We spoke to Antonio, who was the youngest member of the government committee who decides these things. He explained what was happening.

Two doctors were either leaving or resigning from the hospital, which was putting the other doctors and the system under pressure. The system to appoint doctors is similar to the system to appoint new teachers ... there is a list and when you reach the top, you are offered a job. Money is not the issue but prospective doctors have three or four days to decide if they want the job. Politics comes into this, and it would seem that the hospital may be understaffed for a couple of months. There is also a shortage of ambulance drivers.

The mayor and deputy mayor of Polis were there and strong arguments were put forward with the parliamentary chairman of the committee giving as good as he got. So Polis Hospital will not be being closed, there is money available and the system is stopping instant action. Chinese whispers rule but all should be sorted in time.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

A shocking couple of days ...

Yesterday my friend Dave Travis telephoned to suggest meeting for a drink. He has been really quite unwell for some months and it was great to hear from him. But he told me that Tatiana, a young Russian woman who had brought out some vacuum cleaner bags from the UK for us, had been killed in a motor cycle crash. She, and her Dutch husband Martijn, had been in touch with us through one of the expat forums to ask if they could help in our search for Miele vacuum cleaner bags. When they arrived in Cyprus, we drove down to Paphos to collect the bags and she refused to accept any payment.

Dave subsequently went to work for them, and they became very good friends of his. And so the tragic news hit him hard. Despite never having met Martijn face to face, we feel so sorry for him. Both he and Tatiana were members of RoADAR, as Dave and I are.

Further bad news today ... we had not heard from our good friend Savvas for some weeks and had not been able to contact him by telephone. I had popped down to his furniture shop in Polis on a number of occasions but it was all closed up. I went up to the house in Argaka, and all the vehicles were neatly parked outside but the house was unoccupied. In any event his wife telephoned me this morning. Savvas had had a heart attack on June 24th and has ended up in Nicosia Hospital, where he underwent an operation I am familiar with - a triple heart bypass. I went down to see her, to offer our help and just to be supportive. He is in intensive care and, although the bypass went well, is being treated for high temperature and a lung infection. Consequently he requires help with his breathing.

Savvas' son is a general surgeon in Limassol and visits frequently, and his daughter stay over in Nicosia for days at a time. His other son, who works in Athens, flies over to see his father as well. Androniki is bearing up remarkably well. She hopes the lung infection will be resolved and he will be home in two to three weeks. She was cheered when I told her how my triple bypass had changed my life for the better.

And so we are a little shell-shocked with this news. Ann's toe is getting better by the day but I think the last forty-eight hours has knocked the stuffing out of us. Let's hope for a better tomorrow.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Community Values ...

I have been appalled by the latest "outcomes" of the Greek tragedy, with the sense of community in the EU totally absent. The Greeks, who must share a great deal of the blame for their current predicament, are on their knees and many of the EU states seems more concerned to show their virility than to suggest an outcome.

Greece will never pay back what it owes, and the enormous debt will just grow and grow. In a very few years this situation will return to haunt all of Europe, and Greek debt will again be the focus of this "community". When you look at the figures involved, the new bailout will - in the main - be used to pay interest on the loans already made. Self-serving financial institutions seem to rule the roost and damn the ordinary people who will suffer the yoke for generations to come. Eventually Greece will leave the Euro, and the EU (and the debt will be written off) and probably sink into the abyss of a third world state.

On a more positive note it was good to see my friend David over a couple of bottles of Keo on Saturday, and put the world's problems to rights. It was not good to see beggars in and around Polis, who came up to me in the Royal Café to ask for money. It always makes me uncomfortable to be asked for money, but I will not submit to their requests. As I was leaving I mentioned the beggars to one of the lovely girls who worked there, but she said if she told them to leave there would be a fight. On my way back to the car I saw the girl who had asked for money, with two others, being ushered into the back of a van to - undoubtedly - try their luck elsewhere.

Ann's toe is showing some improvement and that is a relief. Yesterday's very hot weather (it measured 36°C in the shade) makes it difficult for all and she is reluctant to get in the pool because of having to rebandage the toes. Roll on Sunday when she should be able to remove the bandages and live life normally. Tonight we have been invited to celebrate Antonia's birthday at Miki's Tavern. It is two years to the day when we celebrated her 50th birthday and happened to meet John and Jill from Pomos, who have become very good friends. We feel privileged to be asked as the four of us will probably be the only English people there, as we are when we go to celebrate Miki's Name Day.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Public or Private Health Care?

We are fortunate to be covered, thanks to Ann being in receipt of an UK State Retirement Pension, by the Cypriot health care arrangements and even more fortunate to live close to Polis Hospital. We find the care there to be exemplary, hamstrung as they are by staff shortages and financial need. But, sometimes, we need to have alternatives.

About ten days ago Ann had an altercation with a supermarket trolley and the trolley won. She has been in pain ever since and finally agreed to go to the hospital. A GP had a look, and decided to send her for an X-Ray. There was a consultation with another doctor and they thought the toe was dislocated. Pathos General Orthapedic Department beckoned and Ann and I were not keen to enter that scrum. David from Gracie Towers wrote graphically about their experience there and so we decided to make alternative arrangements.

We paid a visit to Polis Medical Centre, a private clinic, and we were told the Orthapedic surgeon would be there in half an hour or so. We returned and Ann went in immediately for a consultation. The end result was an immediate procedure under local anaesthetic, and immobilisation of the offending toe. Charming and very competent surgeon, trained in Germany, whose confidence went a long way to ensuring Ann was calm and pain-free.

My goodness we were so glad to have made that decision. For a grand total of €80,00 Ann's toe was sorted with the minimum of hassle. He gave us his mobile number in case we needed to ask his advice. I was shown how to immobilise the toe, when the dressing needed changing. We have no private medical insurance and this showed how the system can work in tandem with the Cypriot health care. My consultant at Polis Hospital fully understood why we were going privately, especially as they do not use an anaesthetic at Paphos for this procedure. But, as she said, if you go privately all these things are available.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

With bated breath ...

What a week and what dreadful events have been happening around the world. The focus is on Greece and its referendum, but other situations are crowding in from all sides. The nuclear talks in Iran, the Ukranian crisis, the murders of innocent tourists and others by terrorists, and myriad other problems emerging, Syria and Iraq, the invasion of the Mediterranean by those who are trying to reach Europe by any means ... it goes on and on, and will certainly make 2015 a year to remember for all the wrong reasons.

One approach to all of this would be to adopt the approach of the Stoics, particularly apt for the Greeks sadly. Stoicism is an Ancient Greek school of philosophy, and one of its main tenets is not to worry about things you cannot alter. We, sitting on the island of Cyprus, cannot influence world events and so Stoicism would suggest that we should not worry about them. This does not mean we do not care but we have to accept the status quo. I am aware of Edmund Burke's writing and "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." But I suspect that such universal truths do not always encompass such worldly evil.

Strangely, in my youth, I played cricket for a touring club called The Stoics, and one certainly needed to subscribe to that philosophy when trying to play an off-drive with the mother of all hangovers. At least that was what I was told by my hard-drinking team mates.

Fabulous barbecue and picnic at the Neo Chorio picnic site with our friends Pete and Sylvi. It was good to see them, and catch up with all their news. However I have never heard such a noise from cicadas in Cyprus but I suppose it all added to the local colour. We were sitting chatting when we heard bells and before we knew it there were goats everywhere dropping in for a drink. One little goat couldn't seem to get to the water source, because all the bigger goats were shoving in. Stoical to the last, he waited until they had all gone and drank his fill. Perhaps he subscribes to my blog?

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

It's all Greek to me ...

Having enjoyed many happy holidays on various Greek Islands, and having always been made to feel most welcome by the people there, I have been appalled by the latest events in what is fast becoming a Greek tragedy. The macro-economic situation is an absurdity ... whoever heard of creditors lending money so that the interest on the loans already made could be paid off. The billions of Euros lent to Greece have just as quickly left to pay off the German and other banks to save their shareholders from having to shoulder the burden of the ill-advised loans that were made in the first place.

And, as with all other situations, it is the poorest and the oldest who will suffer the most. And it was not they who borrowed the money. Greece, before very long, will suffer the pain of returning to the Third World and the shiny cars and mobile phones will be a long-distant memory for most of the population. The solution ... God alone knows.

Friends left and right have been popping out of the woodwork and it will be good to have a few days in the bubble. We travel to meet our friends Pete and Sylvi for a barbecue at a picnic site on Friday. The last time we did that I ended up with heat stroke, which is not very funny at all. Shade and plenty of water will be the order of the day. Interestingly their email to suggest this was entitled "Our Friends in the North", which was a drama series in the 1970s and a great favourite of mine. Through the magic of the little black box I was able to find the entire series to stream, and look forward to enjoying that again. The shady goings-on in the North-East of England, of John Poulson and T. Dan Smith et al, were part of my teen years and my late father was always getting telephone calls from Majorca from some shady character or other to discuss "finance".

Just typing this sitting in the shade outside Saddles in Polis, whilst Ann is at her hairdresser's, with a cool beer. Well, it would have been rude not to, wouldn't it?

Friday, 26 June 2015

Tempus fugit

As Virgil wrote, time does indeed fly and it seems to fly faster here in Cyprus than anywhere else I have been. That, of course, could be a matter of age but I don't think so. Perhaps what is most peculiar is that, to us, it really doesn't matter what day of the week it is. Of course if it is Wednesday many businesses shut and (if we forget) we have to return on another day. Such hardship.

"Le Weekend", as the French describe it, still has an allure, presumably a throwback to the time when we both went out to work. When we are thinking of inviting people for lunch it is always "Why not come over on Sunday?" When you are retired, as we were once told, every day is Sunday. But old habits die hard.

It was good to hear from our friends Pete and Sylvi the other day, who suggested meeting for a barbecue at a picnic site a few kilometres away. Miraculously neither of us suggested Sunday. It will be good to catch up with them, and share gossip and news. It is so easy to sit back and let others contact you, when - and I have to give myself a stern look in the mirror from time to time - we should be more proactive, as should our friends be.

The weather is now just about perfect for us, with lovely sunny days which are not yet too hot. We know that over July and August we shall be less active because of the heat, and that there will come that time when we have to use air con to get a decent night's sleep. And then will come the relief of September, when we can sleep with the windows open and it is so beautifully cool. At what stage Ann will want the electric blanket on the bed, only time will tell? And that is why time really does fly.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

News from the garden ...

Ann's hard work in our back garden has started to pay real dividends. We picked the first of our peppers a week or so ago, and they were delicious. We found out how to freeze them in halves, and so the call is now for a bigger freezer. Then yesterday, after having been to pick tomatoes which we do regularly, we noticed that our chillies had turned red (or most of them). It was necessary to check out the relative hotness of them and they have some kick. The plan is for us to pick and string both red and green chillies and allow them to dry out.

Photos of this bounty are on my Facebook page. As our friend Savvas says, add water and sunshine and they will grow - and they did. We religiously water our vegetables each evening, which can be a little onerous as that is in the middle of the cocktail hour - but sacrifices need to be made. Next year we plan to grow spring onions and onions as well. Perhaps this year we got the balance wrong and planted too many peppers but, just yesterday, we noticed some of our peppers turning red. So they really were red and green pepper plants we bought. I was beginning to doubt my memory but Marinos, our lovely man at the garden centre in Agia Marina, always sees us right.

So after all this excitement it is time to get on with the rest of the day. Last night we watched The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and it was a real treat. Poignant and funny at the same time. Well worth a couple of hours of anybody's time. Guest star Richard Gere being given an acting lesson by Maggie Smith, Judy Dench and Bill Nighy (et al) was priceless.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

A Golden Age?

Just considering our life here in Cyprus, and knowing we have friends in the UK who might well follow in our footsteps, I was wondering in years to come whether this will be seen as a golden age. A golden age of what, you might ask? The answer ... pensions, of course.

We, and many others in their 60s and older, have (in many cases) final salary pensions which are both relatively generous and index-linked. In addition the State Retirement Pension adds a welcome bonus to our income, even though I have to wait another thirty-one months to receive mine. Not that I am counting the days but it will be nice ...

And yet, when we look at the UK's working population, the final salary pension scheme has all but been withdrawn, and public service pensions are being savaged by the government for the simple reason that there is the most enormous black hole staring them in the face with an ageing population. I never countenanced going on strike in my entire working life, but tens of thousands of teachers are now faced with the prospect of paying more for their pensions, receiving less and having to work longer than they thought. As a former teacher I understand where the anger is coming from.

Before people start coming out with all the old clichés about long holidays and short working days (oh if only that had been true), we should remember that it was compulsory for teachers to be part of the teachers' pension scheme. The terms of the contract between the government and the teachers were what you had to sign up to, and now the government are unilaterally changing the conditions of the contract. In any other situation, people would be reaching for their lawyers.

It is the same for many other public sector employees, with compulsory pension enrolment, and the anger and possible industrial action will cost the country dear.

But back to the golden age ... I cannot see the State Retirement Pension existing in decades to come and for people in their 20s and 30s they will have to fund their retirement privately. The possibility that some people may have to work until they drop is truly frightening. And so, we who are comfortably provided for, can sit by the swimming pool wondering whether to have another gin and tonic. And this is truly a golden age but in ten or twenty or thirty years I wonder how many people will be able to fund a life in the sun.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Racism - alive and well

A gorgeous evening with friends in Pomos was completely ruined by the attitude of their other guest, who just happened to be the lifelong friend of our host. Sitting and relaxing after dinner, this "lady" (obviously educated and successful, so no excuse there) announced that the flat above hers in the UK had been sold recently to a black man. She was concerned in case he played his bongo drums all night and would have loud music playing, and wild parties as "these people like to do".

At first I thought it was a wind-up, and that it was the beginning of some awful joke. But no ... and she then waxed lyrical about her dislike of black people in general, that there were far too many of them in the UK, and on and on. Taking the reasonable view and suggesting that she was a racist did not stop her. Yes ... she was a racist and did not want these people living anywhere near her.

Apart from the fact that the apartment she lived in was probably worth a small fortune, she was prepared to move out if his noise disturbed her. The argument that white, black, yellow and goodness knows what other colour of people might be noisy, have wild parties and play the bongo drums did not move her one jot.

Our host's husband told her that her views were racist and still that had no effect on her. The good news is that she only comes to visit once a year and returns to her white compound next Thursday. The bad news is that our host has her birthday on Saturday and we have accepted an invitation to join them for a meal in Polis. Jockeying for seats will be an art form.

We shall go and be excellent guests and will not do or say anything to rock the boat, as the priority on Saturday will be to ensure that our friend has a birthday to remember for all the right reasons. We have been asked not to let the words "Title Deeds" pass our lips as another couple of guests have had and are still having horrific problems with the Land Registry. My only hope is that England beat New Zealand on Saturday so that John and I can have something to chat about. Ann, whose love of cricket is well-known, may well wish to join this meaningful conversation. Happy Days.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Loyalty and Friendship ...

My good friend, Amanda Morton-King, back in the UK shared this thought on her Facebook page and it just hit the spot.


We both value loyalty and give our loyalty to our friends and expect loyalty from our friends. What we value even more is that our friends are constant - they don't blow hot and cold. Additionally we value honesty.

We have made some good friends in our time in Cyprus, and they have proved loyal to us in the way we hope we have been loyal to them.

Acquaintances come and go but friendship means something to us, and we hope it means something to you. This all explains why we are selective in our choice of friends.

Food for thought, we think.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

As Jane Austen wrote ...

"To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment."

With the temperature rising quickly now, it is apparent that shade is absolutely vital. Forget going on a fortnight's holiday and sitting in the sun at every conceivable moment so that you return with a tan. Living in this climate we never sit in the sun from June until the middle of October, and we are still nut brown. Bars and restaurants will know the mantra "No trade without shade".

We still giggle occasionally when we remember asking, when being shown round a property, whether the garden was South-facing. The agent did not even smirk, she must have heard that so often. The reality of life in Cyprus is that shade is vital, as there is no point in coming to live here and then spending all the time indoors. Sitting in the shade and enjoying the lovely cool breeze that so often comes across Polis Chrysochous bay, with a cool beer to hand, is as close to perfection as you can get. Ironically the cost of gazebo and awnings, and garden furniture in general, is very expensive because - I suppose - everybody needs it.

Ann had a first the other day when she cooked dolmades from scratch. They were absolutely delicious, and apart from being fiddly when you have to wrap your vine leaves around your filling (at least I found it fiddly), this latest foray into Cypriot cooking was straightforward. And, as we underestimated how filling they would be, I had some cold for lunch the next day. Warm or cold, a fabulous dish.

Time for a dip in the pool and who knows what else ... life here can be okay.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Good News and ...

Jaz appears to have made a full recovery from her snake bite yesterday and that is a relief to both of us. Whether she has learned her lesson and leaves those pesky creatures alone from now on, only time will tell.

The poisoning scandal is on all the forums now, and everyone is waiting to see what happens to the alleged perpetrator. I, for one, would be appalled if this was swept under the carpet. It is a sad fact of life here that animal welfare is so poor. We knew about it before making our decision to live here, and  the same lack of concern for animals seems to be prevalent across the Mediterranean region.

The argument about the teachings of the Greek Orthodox Church (and I am grateful to my friend David from Gracie Towers for his comments) may well be something of an urban myth. I have read in many places that it is part of historical church teaching that animals have no soul, and whether this has contributed to the disregard of animal welfare exhibited by many, but not all, Greek Cypriots I do not know.

At the time of the scandal regarding the dog thrown into the crusher at an hotel, and also at the time of the Cypriot man who was arrested for dragging his dog behind his car, the newspapers were highly critical about the church here and its teachings. It may be a thing of the past but the allegation keeps rearing its head. Urban myth or not, we both love animals and we have Cypriot friends who love their animals even more than us, if that is possible.

So where does this island go from here? It is reported in some circles that there may be 170,000 stray dogs on Cyprus and an uncountable number of cats. The animal charities have closed their doors to strays as they are stretched to the limit. It has been written that the municipalities are responsible for these poor animals and some dogs have been taken in. But this just leads to euthanasia.

The problem seems insoluble given the numbers involved and the parlous financial state of the island.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The Dark Side of Cyprus ...

Two things today have impinged on our life in Cyprus. The first is that our young cat, Jaz, was again bitten by a snake. We drove very quickly to Polis to see our lovely local vet, Yiannis, who injected her with anti-venom and another pain-killer (all for the princely sum of €20,00). This is the second and, hopefully, the last time this happens.

But another disturbing story was of a taverna owner near Paphos Airport who has been poisoning local animals with Lanate, a banned substance. I shall post a link to the Facebook page tomorrow, and I hope the bastard rots in hell.

 Be aware that Cyprus has a dark side, through ignorance and possibly the teachings of the Greek Orthodox Church, regarding animal welfare. Do not come to live here unless you understand it.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

It's all happening in Argaka ...

Having seen our closest bar close (Santa Barbara) amid rumours of an "investment opportunity", it was with some interest we saw the outside area being cleaned up - followed by a blackboard notice "Opening Soon". What on earth was happening?

All was revealed when we popped into The Fly Again and spoke to the owner, Yiannis. He and his wife, Lucy, were very active and there were at least three new members of staff there. But of George, the manager of the last two years, there was no sign. The conversation turned to Santa Barbara and Yiannis revealed that when he returned from his holiday in the Czech Republic, George had informed him of "bad news". This was that he had acquired the keys of the Santa Barbara bar. He left immediately.

Our waitress, Gabriella, one of the three new members of staff, hails from the Czech Republic as do the others. Yiannis' wife, Lucy, also comes from that country. Gabriella was having difficulty with understanding our order, as her English is not yet up to speed. I tried Greek (always ready to practise my Greek when I get the chance) but she does not speak Greek. Argh ... but we managed in the end. Good luck to them all in their new lives in Cyprus.

Interestingly our next closest restaurant, The Half Way House, has a new member of staff. Daniel, you will not be surprised to hear, hails from the Czech Republic.

In any event, back to Santa Barbara. In our view it is a great shame that George is going to run Santa Barbara. He is ever-so-slightly oleaginous and irritated me greatly a few weeks ago by insisting that Greece was in a better financial state than the UK, and that - on a separate issue - the Greek navy would blow the Royal Navy out of the water. Not the best strategy to encourage the British, who make up the overwhelming majority of customers at The Fly Again and, historically, at Santa Barbara.

We shall watch unfolding events with interest but from afar. Customers we will not be.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Use them or lose them ...

Ann called into our local butchers today in Polis, as there is an important public holiday on Monday. She was chatting there and it became apparent that business was not good and they were hoping for a surge of business today and tomorrow. The assistant intimated that business was not good enough and they needed more trade to survive. The thought of our local supermarket being the only outlet for meat is not comforting.

Whenever there is a monopoly, and this became apparent when the other supermarket in Polis closed, prices rise and rise. Anecdotal evidence is that the supermarket charges about 15% more than they do in Paphos, where there is competition.

So, as we found in Bexhill, if you don't use your local shops - they will close. Our butcher only sells meat from Cyprus, and so the French "beef" that is sold elsewhere is not an issue. Those of you in the area, I hope, will support your local butcher because if you don't ...

The weekend approaches fast, with England giving New Zealand a pasting at Headingly, and - as long as we do not suffer from tomorrow's promised thunderstorms - an interesting day ahead. Sunday will be the day of the pork, with crackling (thanks to a fabulous tip from Gracie Towers) and roast potatoes and ...

Those following in our footsteps will be interested in our chapter on TV, and what you can and can't do in Cyprus. And all for €0,50 a day.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Hard Times

It will come as no surprise to people who know Cyprus that it is a very hard country. Every surface in the home is hard and dropping things will have only one result - CRASH, BANG, WALLOP. Equally the land and the villages and towns are equally hard. Slip or trip and your landing will be very hard and painful.

Of course we take care but this does not stop breakages. We have recently been aware what would happen if we broke a wine glass next to the pool. It would involve draining the entire pool to clear up the glass and then refilling the pool, with all the attendant chemical balance to achieve. So plastic glasses have to be the order of the day.

A trip to Paphos for shopping was fun, and Lidl's was incredibly quiet. Of course we forgot the tinned tomatoes, which were on the list, but that's life.

The tiny flies which are driving many people to distraction appear to breed in the wheat, which is due for harvest. So, with bated breath, this irritant will be removed from our outdoor life. We cannot remember these little pests in the last two years, but they are everywhere. Savvas, our good friend, was using a pressure hose to clear up after cutting back weeds from a path and found his ears and mouth and nose to be filled with these little beasts. Enraged he turned the hose on them, and was incredulous to find them unmoved by the jet. "They just came back. Bloody Hell."

In any event we await their disappearance so that life outdoors can go on as normal. This week we go into Polis for "Dancing in the Streets" with our friends John and Jill. Only time will tell whether we actually dance in the streets.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The Irony that is Cyprus

We've got to the stage when we have boiling hot water from the solar panels and we are turning down the temperature in the shower because it is getting hotter. Within the month we shall be complaining that cold showers (which we need five or six times a day) are too warm, but when we get to December we shall be moaning that the solar panels are not producing enough hot water until mid-afternoon.

Sadder is the case that a local supermarket (P**********s) is putting pressure on a Cypriot brewer to stop selling to a local shop at their previously agreed price. We have been buying 12 x 63cl bottles of Keo for a few months at €11,75 a case, but recently they have had no stock. I had a chat with the owner and he explained that the supermarket had been pressurising Keo to force them to sell their Keo at €14,50 a case (the same price as the supermarket). To hell with competition.

Rather sad ... but a snapshot of an island which does not encourage competition. I shall buy my Keo from the local shop, and would rather walk over hot coals than buy from P**********s.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

À chacun son goût ...

A lovely day ahead for Ann's birthday ... I have left her pottering in the garden, with her new SHARP secateurs, whilst I come into Polis to make final arrangements for this evening. We are dining at Finikas tonight and I popped into to see Yiannis to ensure the right table had been booked. As ever, it was. Then it was off to see Maria, who has made a unique present for Ann, which I shall collect when Ann is seated with a gin and tonic at the restaurant. And I must buy a bottle of champagne, hide it when I get home and not forget to put it in the fridge before we go out.

We have been together getting on thirteen years (we met on August 4th) and it struck me the other day that, if you intend to retire to Cyprus (or anywhere else for that matter), it will only work if your relationship is solid. Being together for much of every day (especially if one or both of you have been working full-time until retirement) is quite a shock to the system, and I believe that a fresh start in a new country will only paper over the cracks in a flawed relationship. I see expats all the time, sitting in restaurants and bars, and not saying a word to each other. Either they are using a mobile phone or an iPad, or reading a book, and never a word is passed between them.

À chacun son goût, as the French would say, but not our way at all. I read much about preparing for retirement before we arrived in Cyprus, and it has been more difficult for Ann as I had retired a number of years before we left the UK. As the Beatles sang:

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?

You'll be older too
And if you say the word
I could stay with you

I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight
If it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck & Dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?

My dearest love to my dearest love ... Happy Birthday.

Monday, 11 May 2015

"Some people think it's all over ... it is now!"

Well after the excitement of the General Election, life seems to have returned to normal. The Pound is making ground against the Euro, and goodness knows what would have happened if there had been a Labour/SNP coalition (formal or decisions being made in smoke-filled rooms). I can't help feeling sorry for UKIP (much as I despise their policies) - and that would be the case for any minor or new party - who managed to have about four million people voting for them and that gave them one seat in Parliament. Something, somewhere, is wrong here and needs to be looked at once the dust has settled.

Here in Argaka the news that our nearest bar/restaurant appears to have been sold is sad. Santa Barbara had the most stunning setting and a cool glass or two there as the sun set was never to be forgotten. Local rumour has it that the site has been bought for "development" by a group of local doctors. A sign of the times perhaps?

Ann's birthday tomorrow and she received some beautiful coloured solar lights for the garden from our friends John and Jill. Of course she opened them at the end of last week and they now sit in pride of place in the garden. With new hanging baskets, and some lovely plants for pots, the garden is enormously satisfying to sit in. Tomatoes are coming on apace and peppers and chillies are showing signs of life.

Each day the pool is getting warmer and warmer and I am well into my stride with my swimming. Ann braves the Roman steps each day and even she said last night that the water was distinctly warmer yesterday evening. I reckon by the end of the week that our pool will be open. Jaz and Honey come and inspect the pool regularly, and Jaz loves it when the pump comes on. She seems as fascinated by it now as she has done for the last two years.

For those following in our footsteps, we still believe it is the best decision we have made for years. We agreed that, at any time in the first twelve months, either of us could turn around and say that this was not the right decision. After eighteen months, Ann reminded me that we had never had that discussion. It literally never crossed our minds. στην υγειά σας.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The real reason to live in Cyprus

6th May and I have just remembered why we came to live here two and a half years ago. After a very, very busy social weekend, we caught up with all the jobs we should have done and decided to just live "in the bubble" today. I was pottering in the garden, with clear blue skies above and a benevolent sun shining down, and the pool was looking just that little bit too inviting.

And then, I was in and swimming ... perfection. The water cool, the sun warm, and the breeze just apparent. And to think, for the next five to six months we can do the same. The slightly tedious matter of keeping the pool clean and not being able to use it, the expense of the chemicals - all fade into distant memory. We thought long and hard about whether to have a private pool, and the more we thought about it, the more we realised it was part of our dream. And we have never regretted it for a minute.

Heaven alone knows what will happen tomorrow in the UK General Election but if that poisonous puppet of Alex Salmond is able to influence the government, we are all doomed.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

International Rugby in Cyprus

Just heading off to Paphos with my chum, David, to watch Cyprus v. Lithuania. So different to going to Twickenham as we park (free parking) just outside of the main gate, wander up and pay €5,00 or €6,00 and sit where we want. As Cyprus holds the world record for the greatest number of consecutive victories in international rugby (I believe some team called the All Blacks are second), we await the onslaught with excitement.

There is a breeze here in Argaka and, as the temperature in the shade is about 24°C, I trust the players in Paphos enjoy the same conditions.

Yesterday a fabulous lunch and very relaxed afternoon at Gracie Towers, and tomorrow we are at Pomos to have lunch with John and Jill. I never realised doing nothing could be so exhausting.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Banking matters

I had an interesting conversation with a British friend yesterday. He used to work in the City and offered some insight into the banks - especially the news that John Hourican had just resigned from the Bank of Cyprus. His view was that the asset strippers would soon be on the march, with the support of the troika and that only one Cypriot bank would survive. This view focussed the mind.

Which bank would survive? Well his view was that the Co-op Bank, which is in the process of restructuring, would just about survive but that the others (including our Hellenic Bank) would go to the wall, with the burden of NPLs proving too great.

We keep an account with an UK bank, and transfer money - when needed - across to the Hellenic. Sometimes we are a bit tardy about withdrawing that money immediately from the Hellenic, but this conversation was a kick in the pants and we shall be much more proactive. As with many expats in Cyprus, the memory of the "haircut" is very recent, although we were fortunately not affected financially.

At some stage in the near future we shall investigate opening an account with the Co-op Bank here - a sort of belt and braces strategy. In the fullness of time this will feature in my ebook guide to Retirement in a chapter on Finance. But, as with all these matters, I would hate to give an opinion based on other peoples' views, rather than my own personal experience.