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?