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.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Swordfish Supreme

For reasons we cannot understand, we have always used meat on the Barbecue and never fish. As Ann is a great lover of fish, and has enjoyed swordfish regularly here, we decided to bite the bullet and have a go. Using a lemon pepper and dill weed marinade, we proceeded with some slight apprehension. Turning every couple of minutes, the swordfish did not burn and the barbecue did not flare. After about twenty minutes, the flesh was flaky and so off to the table. Accompanied by a potato salad and a green salad, and some lovely, earthy beetroot, we enjoyed a fabulous meal. Looking out over Polis Chrysochus Bay, it was another magical moment. Coupled with the arrival of the bee-eaters earlier in the day, it was a day to remember.

It's a strange postscript from our lives in the UK that we still consider the weekends as special. "Let's have some people over for lunch?" When? The weekend of course. As one Cypriot said to me, "When you are retired, every day is Sunday."

As each day grows warmer, the pool becomes ever more inviting. We sat bathing our feet by the Roman steps yesterday and I can see the full body experience happening in the next couple of weeks. After that, there is the time when it is a bit chilly to immerse yourself, and then a perfect time when the water is cool enough to be refreshing, and then - once summer temperatures take hold - when it is like walking into a warm bath. But dipping after dark at that time of the year is very special.

After the great promise we made yesterday about going to Steni Market, we failed to set out. Oh well ... next month is only four weeks away.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Onwards and upwards

Well having survived the zombies early on Wednesday morning, I saw my consultant in the early afternoon with the results of my blood tests. I had been concerned in the run-up to this consultation, but afterwards ... I felt a hundred times' better. After an examination there was no sign of the fluid on the lungs that had been apparent a week previously, and the enlarged heart was back to its proper size and function. There had been a question about my being prescribed diuretics but, and she had consulted the cardiologist in Paphos, this would not be necessary. My blood test results were excellent, and the strange spike in my blood sugar levels when I had been on the wards was nowhere to be found. In fact there was no trace of diabetes, which had been the case for nearly three years, when I lost four and a half stones in weight.

My heart rate was down markedly, helped by the new medication and this - hopefully - is temporary until my cardioversion next month. After that, all other things being equal, should ensure normal service is resumed.

All sorts of people, and people we would consider acquaintances rather than close friends, have been gently chastising us for not letting them know that I was ill and in hospital. This is not the reaction we would have expected in the UK, but this is Cyprus. It doesn't make it any easier but we are beginning to realise it is the way here. Ann is still coughing and finding it difficult to throw off the last remnants of the infection, but is so much better than last week.

The earthquake (5.6 on the Richter Scale) was a surprise but a lot of people we know we're quite frightened by it. Our cats were outraged and Ann did suggest I move away from the bookcase. But we suffered no damage and were grateful for that.

Today we are experimenting with barbecuing swordfish, which will be a first for us. Ann is busy creating lemon pepper (no shortage of lemons or peppercorns) which is an important part of the recipe we plan to adapt. Tomorrow, despite planning and failing to get there for a couple of months, we hope to go to Steni Market, and see what is what. Our friends David and Letitia say it is great, and so off we shall go.

Early summer in Cyprus is delightful and pottering about in 23°C sunshine is ideal. Life is good.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Road to Recovery ...

Thanks for all for the emails and messages wishing me well. I am happy to report that I am feeling 95% better, and that was before going up to Polis Hospital for blood tests this morning, where it was as if there had been a zombie outbreak. But, remaining calm, all passed off peacefully.

Ann and I have both been touched by the way people have offered to help, collecting prescriptions, shopping or lifts to the hospital. We don't accept help easily, but that's just the way it is. Our friend Savvas was very cross (in a kindly way) that we had not told he and his wife what was happening. "You must tell us in future. I know everybody in Polis and can cut corners."

Ann is still suffering from a chesty cough and her sinuses are blocked, but she feels she is on the road to recovery as well. A visit to the hairdresser will no doubt make her feel better.

In any event, life goes on and the sun shines on us each day. I know people criticise the medical care in Cyprus, and my friend Pete tells me that when it goes well (as it has with us) then everything is great, but when it doesn't ...

Good to see my friend Dave in Peristerona on the road to recovery. He has been really unwell and - like us - won't pick up the telephone to ask for help. Stubborn old so-and-so that he is. Perhaps there is a lesson for both of us there.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Medical Postscript

One of the things we did not do when we left the UK was to bring our medical records with us, especially as my GP wanted a ridiculous amount of money to have them printed out, so I settled for a summary. Mistake!

On a number of occasions I was struggling to remember when I had been treated for various conditions in the past, and all the doctors would have benfited from seeking past ECGs to compare with the ones I had taken this week.

So my advice for all who will follow in our footsteps is to swallow the cost and bring full copies of your medical records with you. They will be invaluable if you fall ill.

And to those who read the forums where the Cypriot health service is so often criticised (It's not like it is at "home"), I can say that Ann's treatment two years ago could not have been better, and you will know what my experiences have been. Of course they are desperately short of money, as the country is pretty close to bankruptcy. Of course things are done differently here. Some of the hospitals are in dire need of refurbishment. But the care and professionalism of the doctors and nurses is absolutely brilliant. And when people moan that the hospital public areas are tatty, they should bear in mind that I almost died in the UK six years ago with MRSA - picked up at the Royal Sussex in Brighton. If memory serves MRSA in Cyprus does not occur. So put up with the grubby paintwork and embrace what your new home has to offer.

I think we'd like you to stay the night ...

Quite a week and some drama. Ann and I had both picked up this heavy, chesty cough that seems to be affecting people around here. Her hairdresser has been suffering for three weeks and, when she had consulted her doctor, had been advised she needed antibiotics. So, on Wednesday morning, off to Polis Hospital we went. A new doctor saw us together. Ann was prescribed antibiotics and syrups. But, when it came to me, she told me that my condition was worse than Ann's. I was sent off to get an X-ray, which involved walking across the car park, and just being X-rayed on the spot. Back to the doctor, who was not too happy with the result.

She went to consult a colleague, and asked me to wait outside her colleague's office. Ann went off to have her prescriptions filled at the hospital pharmacy. The doctor then popped out from her colleague's office, and said I would be called for in a few minutes but she thought she ought to have me admitted for observation. I then went into see her colleague, a lovely Greek Cypriot doctor (now a consultant) we had met a year ago and was just back from maternity leave.

Ten minutes' later Ann and I went with her across to the men's ward, where I was admitted. Ann went home to pick up stuff for my stay, and then another doctor came to examine me. He told me that there was some fluid on my lungs and this had been cause by the bronchitis. He also told me that he had detected cardiac arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat. I had had this about five years' ago and it had been treated by cardioversion, where the heart is shocked back to its regular rhythm.

Treatment started and various pills and potion were taken, and I was injected in the stomach with an anti-coagulant. Blessed relief from my sore throat occurred when I was given a syringe to drink, which was cortisone. Now there's a drug. And then it was ECG and blood pressure, and intravenous antibiotics. But the best part of all was the fact that for the first time in eight days I was able to sleep.

The next morning a group of doctors came to examine me again. A visit to the cardiologist was needed (and the Polis cardiologist was on leave for the week). So into an ambulance down to Paphos Hospital, straight up to cardiology where the cardiologist came and performed an ultrascan. He explained what the cardioversion would involve, and when I told him it had happened five years' previously he was then happy to arrange another. Notes written up, back in the ambulance to Polis, and another examination.

So warfarin for a few weeks until my INR is stable and then cardioversion at Paphos in the middle of May. The consultant at Polis wants me to return on Wednesday for a blood test, and then she will take me to see the cardiologist. A medication review will take place, something that never seemed to happen in the UK, and a full diabetic examination as well (as my blood sugar levels were awry, as was my blood pressure - which is normally very consistent).

Not the best of news, but I must say that the doctors were incredibly thorough. One thing led to another, and there was no way they were not going to treat things properly. A nasty cough has been treated and arrhythmia discovered (I certainly had not noticed it). I was discharged and Ann took me home with a bag of medication and anticoagulant injections. I hate needles and was worried about injecting myself. But the needle is tiny (and you stick it into your stomach) and you don't even "feel a little prick".

Being in a small ward on Polis Hospital was rather like living in a soap opera. There were two other patients and the constant comings and goings of family and friends was intriguing. Not long after arriving I was sitting in the chair beside my bed, when the daughter of one of the other patients noticed my coughing. She brought over one of the small bottles of water she had brought in for her father, and gave it to me. Later that evening, when the family was gathered around the bed (all there to watch the TV), a pastry was being cut up into slices and the old man's granddaughter was sent over to shyly offer me a piece.

So my first experience of medical care in Cyprus ... and Ann and I were both very impressed by the professionalism and care we were given.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

A week later ...

Nearly a week later and still this bug lingers. In fact I feel worse today than I did when I retired to my bed. Sadly Ann has also caught whatever it is, and we were both very sick last night. According to Ann's hairdresser there is a virus going round (she has felt like I do for three weeks now) and - when she went to see the doctor - she was prescribed antibiotics. It looks as if we shall have to see the doctor, but there is no way Ann is fit enough to be driven to Polis today. The worst of it is that, the moment I lie down, I start coughing which means I have had no proper sleep for five nights now, and that is exhausting.

Our friend Jill from Pomos sent some Lemsip Max round, which she brings back from the UK, so I'll try that later. Until then, I shall put this blog on the back burner.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Hors de combat

My throaty cough of the last few days has progressed to rather an unpleasant cold (man 'flu possibly) and so I have taken to my bed.