Monday, 26 December 2016

Christmas in the kitchen ...

What a start to the day ... Eggs' Benedict, which we have often enjoyed but never cooked. It was a joint effort and the making of the Hollandaise Sauce provided a moment of worry. It just would not thicken but, an inspired web page later, and we had added a teaspoonful of lemon juice and away we went. Lovely smooth Hollandaise Sauce and Eggs' Benedict to do for. And we did find muffins in Cyprus.

The leg of lamb is just about to go into the oven, and Ann's Cyprus-style roast potatoes will be epic. What a lovely change from just roast potatoes. But, and it almost goes without saying, the last minute arrival of the Brussels sprouts (just like the US Cavalry) will make the day special.

Our plan to start with duck pâté will just enable us to resist temptation, until all is well. The house is warm, the weather a little wet and windy, and we have just decided to have a glass of wine. There are all sorts of plans for later in the day but, like most years, we will run out of steam and the cheese will remain until another day.

Boxing Day P.S.- what a fabulous day. Gentle and without pressure and we ate well, were remarkably sensible with our alcohol intake and never got round to watching the film we had sorted for the evening. The lamb, from Kolios in Paphos, was superb and the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and thyme marinade was a delight. Ann's roast potatoes were even better on this second experimental occasion, and the Brussels sprouts ... there is nothing to say.

Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special appeared and that was fun, and then my energy levels began to drop. Ann was watching a programme about a zoo, where the 23 foot long python needed medical attention. I managed to stay awake long enough in bed for Ann to join me with the good news. It would have been a disturbed night if the python had not recovered.

Coming into the living area this morning to make coffee, it was like discovering a garlic factory. A gentle day ahead, with cold lamb and pickles, and even possibly a walk - although rain is forecast for later. I hope all the readers of my blog had a super Christmas Day and that you feel as content with life this morning as we do.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Ann saves the day ...

Christmas comes and goes - and we have had a different celebration every year since arriving in Cyprus. But one thing never changes and that is - to make our day - that Brussels sprouts must be part of the food on offer.

Imagine our disappointment when we did the rounds of supermarkets, kiosks and fruiteria to find that no-one had sprouts for sale. But "Mr Beer", so called because that's where we buy our Keo by the case, told Ann that he would be going out early on Christmas Eve morning to try and find some. And so, Ann decided that she would get up early and go into Polis in search of these elusive sprouts. My alarm went at 06.30 and, as good as her word, Ann got dressed, had some coffee, and off she went in the bleak midwinter.

She returned triumphantly an hour later with sprouts aplenty. Mr Beer told her that Cypriots had never really discovered the humble sprout, and so they were not always easy to source. But he saved the day as did Ann with her determination to get what we wanted.

Not long ago this blog racked up more than twenty thousand visits since I started writing it. That's some number. And so I wish all the readers of this blog a very Merry Christmas and wish sincerely that 2017 turns out to be a better year than this one has been. Some of our friends have suffered, as have we, so here's hoping 2017 is a real belter.

A final thought: we were watching a tv programme the other day and, in the background, was a sign that said, "Life's too short. BREAK SOME RULES." That's our resolution for 2017. So  you had all better watch out ...

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Unbelievable ...

We often read of expats who are dissatisfied with the service in shops, bars and restaurants here in Cyprus. It somehow goes with the general whinging and moaning from those who would undoubtedly whinge and moan wherever they lived.

However, and especially for those who are planning to relocate here, this has not been the case in our experience. As we enter our fifth year here the number of times we have been unhappy with service could be counted on one hand. A useful tip, when dealing with Cypriots in all sorts of places, is to smile and offer a cheerful greeting (ideally in your best Greek). The reaction tends to be enormously positive ... it is almost as if the moribund expression on the face of the person serving you has miraculously been switched off.

Of course we have encountered poor service - none more so than in the Cyta shop in Polis. Ann and I went in there a few years ago to arrange for the Internet to be connected. A dour, unsmiling Greek Cypriot kept blocking our every request and was generally unhelpful. To make matters worse he completely ignored Ann, and directed all his comments at me (being the man). We sorted matters out by asking a Cypriot friend to help and he and I went down to the shop, there was a rapid-fire exchange of views in Greek, and three days later we were online. Now when we go into the shop, if he comes forward to "serve" us, we just wave him away and wait for the lovely and helpful girl to be free, or our favourite Leonides (who is so friendly and helpful, you cannot quite believe it).

Normally, on the rare occasions we are not welcomed in bars and restaurants, the business does not get a second chance and we vote with our wallets. But this is so rare, and we find a warmth from so many people. The girls in the supermarket are fantastic, apart from the little fat woman on the deli counter. We now just ignore her and wait for one of the others to serve us.

The whole point of this morning's blog is to highlight the unbelievably good service we have encountered from a British business. Over three years ago we bought an Android TV box from a shop in Paphos. My late friend Dave took me down there and introduced me to Brian who runs the business. In the last three years I have bought the occasional bit of kit from there and emailed him for advice about computers, iPads and the like. He found us a "new" iMac when ours died and it was a fabulous deal.

But on Sunday our TV box just would not cooperate at all. Fearing the worst I emailed Brian and he tried to help via email, but to no avail. In torrential rain I drove to Chlorakas, and went in to see him. Welcoming as ever, we went to his bench and he tried all he knew to get our box to work. After an hour and a half, we were still no further forward. And then, as if by magic, Brian (with the help of a paper clip) managed to get some life. The Android icon (a little green robot) was lying on its side and looking poorly.

We agreed that he would completely wipe the box and start from scratch. This he did and he was about to start downloading the various addons I had had on there. This was something I could happily do at home, and so (having switched the box off and on a couple of times to check all was okay) the box went back into its bag. Reaching for my wallet, I asked him what I owed him. "Free of charge" was his reply. I insisted that I pay him something but he was adamant.

Incredible and generous service and I have no hesitation in recommending him for computers, tablets, TV boxes and the like. If you are coming to live in the Paphos region, he is - or should be - your first port of call. You will find him Here

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Christmas ... the time to be merry.

Once again Christmas has sneaked up on us, and we find ourselves having to put thinking caps on. Simple this year as we have decided to stay at home - despite the kind invitation we had to stay over with friends in Pomos - and do our own thing. So we shall head for Paphos this coming weekend with a list of "essentials" we cannot source in this area. Last year we were surprised how relatively empty the shops were on the Sunday before Christmas, as we had visions of massive queues.

The weather is becoming a little more seasonal although odds on a White Christmas are as low as ever. So, unless we fancy a trip up to the Troodos, it looks as if Santa will have to leave his sleigh at home. I'm finding that I enjoy Christmas as much as ever, even if there is no religious significance to our celebrations.

Whether people across the world will be able to celebrate is a moot point. The ongoing tragedy in Syria breaks my heart, and I cannot imagine what it must be like for the people caught up in Aleppo. I wonder whether in years to come people will look back at this in the same way as we do with the slaughter and massacres which took place in Bosnia. The Western "powers" all seem unwilling to do anything about the killing which is taking place in front of their eyes. I wonder what is the point of spending billions of pounds on weapons and the armed forces, if they are not to be used when needed. Boris Johnson is the answer, of course. But what was the question?

I was reading a series of posts about The Grand Tour last week, and the lack of impact that this new series was having. Boris Johnson (that man again) was mentioned as he had been proposed as a replacement for Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear. And then some wag suggested that Boris Johnson could replace Jeremy Clarkson on The Grand Tour and that would free Clarkson to become the new Foreign Secretary. He certainly couldn't do any worse than Boris.

Readers of this blog will know the disdain I have for venal politicians and their ability to do what they consider is best. Best for whom or what, you may ask? Best for the country ... not a chance. Best for themselves ... of course. When I see Hammond, Davis, Johnson and Fox circling, one thing comes to mind. They can all see that Brexit is likely to be the political death of Theresa May, and they are positioning themselves to be her replacement. They are like vultures, circling a corpse. Let's hope they all remember that Michael Gove is there in the shadows, sharpening his knives and ready to plunge the blade into their backs.

Jeremy Clarkson for PM anyone ...

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Glorious, glorious, glorious ...

What a day ... Cyrpus in all its winter glory. The sun shone, the sky was cloudless and the air was crystal clear.

What more could we want? Well there is a list and this is our wish for 2017. We are fed up with people who blow hot and cold, and especially those who use Ann as a sounding board because "She is such a good listener." We even had one "friend" who suggested she was better than her usual psychiatrist. This will stop, as will those who challenge Ann over the way she runs "her" book club. If you don't like it, then go forth and multiply. We live here, hopefully in peace and tranquility, and in the middle of a field. Why? Because we wish to live without neighbours and we wish to live without stress, and because that is what we want to do.

So many people want to take and not to give, and that to our way of thinking is unacceptable. Take us for what we are and, if you can't, then go away. I told Ann this afternoon that, as she suspected, I have a very low tolerance of stupid people. And, my goodness me, we know some people who are very stupid. Not everybody can have had the advantages I have had, but that's not my fault. So, that's the bottom line for 2017.

In any event, I am approaching twenty thousand visits to my blog, so I hope there are people out there who are listening to what we have to say. I love Christmas, and Ann puts up with it, but we shall offer the season's greetings to all we know. And, as far as I am concerned, this is our fifth Cypriot Christmas, and I can only hope it goes as well as all the others.

Monday, 28 November 2016

I can see the finishing line ...

I'm not sure we thought we would get to the finishing line but the end of the month beckons. There have been times when, through force of habit more than anything else, a drink would have been good. But good sense prevailed and our month is up on Wednesday. That is because we began this dry month on 30th October.

At times like this you consider your habits, and drinking alcohol is certainly a habit and a pleasurable one at that. You feel relaxed and at ease with your fellow man (well, most of them anyway) and a warm glow is always welcome. Part of this is the "holiday mode" that many of us feel when living in Cyprus, which - despite warnings to the contrary - we are still in after four years or so. In the warmer months, a cold beer or a glass or two of wine seems almost as much of outdoor living as wearing shorts and t-shirts.

In any event, we are there and feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. Perhaps the most irritating time of the last month came with the radio advertisement on ClassicFM about drinking whisky. This self-satisfied and arrogant prat was extolling the virtues of some whisky or other, and when and where to drink it. Was it beside the fire, or at the club, or ... but it was irritating nevertheless. If he had been on television that would have been another reason to put a boot through the screen.

We are promised rain tomorrow and for the next two or three days, and that will make a pleasant change. In our time here we have always experienced heavy rain in October and November, as well as sunny days. But this year, and after a searingly hot summer, we have had one downpour and that lasted a couple of hours in the middle of the night. So an unusual year for us, and I am sure the garden and the dams will welcome whatever rainfall we have.

The farce that is the current government continues apace and there is no greater figure of fun and foolishness than Boris Johnson. The damage this buffoon is doing to Britain's reputation abroad is beyond belief. I stare and stare into my crystal ball and still cannot believe that the country will go over the cliff edge (the Prime Minister's expression) of Brexit. One of my cats has just climbed onto the sofa and has been reading this blog. She is slowly shaking her head ... and if she is doing that, what are the people with half a brain cell doing?

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Who would have thought it?

There are times when events take place and you look back and just cannot believe they have happened. Stoicism is sometimes not enough and you lie back and think of the consequences, which are still outside of your control.

Events around the world beggar belief, whether it is what is happening in Aleppo to the poor civilians there, to political posturing in the USA, Europe, Russia and myriad other countries too numerous to mention. The self-inflicted wound that is Brexit has still not dawned on the unthinking masses in the UK, and the other 27 nations in Europe harden their attitude towards the British as they ponder how to stop any other countries planning to leave the EU.

Life in Cyprus, and the matters reported in the press, seem less important even though they directly affect us. The Cypriot President and the Turks continue to dance around the main issues which may - and only may - lead to a resolution of the Cyprus problem. Too many vested interests, too many stuffed mattresses, too many with too much to lose, all militate against a solution being found. The Cypriot economy continues to teeter on the verge of bankruptcy and the amateurish musings of the politicians have to be seen to be believed.

Of course we could - self-indulgently - smile and say "This is Cyprus" but I am less inclined to do so as we enter our fifth year here. We both want our new country, where we have our home, to flourish and prosper. And I would love to see the democratic process mature and for those in government to consider the people rather than themselves. But, there again, you could say that for many other countries as well. The UK, for example, is the prime example of a democracy served by politicians whose main priority is "me, myself and I". So where does that leave us now? The sun is shining and I may well go and sit by the pool and think about it ...

Monday, 14 November 2016

Day 16 and counting ...

Well here we are - it's the second half of the match - and we have managed well so far. So I think, barring an absolute disaster, we shall get through our "dry month". There have been one or two times when it was a little difficult - none more so when I was sitting down to watch England v South Africa and Ann said "Do you fancy a beer?" All in good fun but it shows that habit is a real bitch sometime.

As we have observed life in the last couple of weeks, and seen the disturbed Trump elected by the American people, it has given us pause for thought. You can cut yourself off from life here in Cyprus, and thus from the rest of the world, but it will intrude from time to time. Whether Trump is the absolute nightmare his opponents suggest he will be will only become apparent in the next year. Certainly if you live in the USA and come from certain minority groups, then you will have many a sleepless night in the future. That cretin Farage has been sticking his nose in. There was a fabulous cartoon in The Times this morning showing Trump with a puppet Farage on his knee. The puppet was shouting "Don't want to get back in the box!" Priceless.

Late summer continues here in Cyprus and it is gloriously warm during the day. Certainly warm enough to potter about in shorts and t-shirts. One warning sign is the fact that Honey and Jaz have the thickest winter coats ever and have had for a few weeks now. Do they know something we don't? If we had holly bushes to check, then I'd be counting the berries on them.

Friends come and go, and it's intriguing that one couple who came to Ann's birthday lunch on May 12th have not been in touch since. Life is too short to worry about these things but it does make you think. What price true friends?

Since we have been in Cyprus, we have had Christmas at home, we have had a family Christmas at home when Becky S. was staying, we have been out to lunch on Christmas Day with people and this year we have been invited to spend Christmas Day (and stay over) by friends. Whether we shall accept their kind offer, I am not sure. Now if only it would snow ...

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Mine's a pint ...

Well we have bitten the bullet and decided to go dry for November, which must be better than trying to grow a moustache. It is easy to slip into the "It's six o'clock in the world somewhere" and you decide to have a cold beer or a glass of wine. Living in the sunshine, for the most part, and being in holiday mode as well (even after four years), can give rise to all sorts of things. And so, at least for the moment, we have decided to eschew alcohol until December. We may, or may not, change our minds but it will be interesting to see how we get on.

The world continues to chew at its own entrails, and the news from almost everywhere can be somewhat depressing. The pound continues its inexorable fall and the British Government seems to have not the faintest idea of how to proceed. When the boss of Nissan knows more about the UK's negotiating position than either the House of Commons or the British people, then something somewhere is very wrong.

Something to be cheerful about last night was the thunder and lightning, and RAIN. I cannot remember when it last rained here but it was, I suspect, in April. It needs to rain for the next couple of months before Cyprus can stop holding its collective breath, as the dams are at an all-time low. The dismantling of the Paphos desalination plant (because of licensing issues) is almost as unbelievable as the way the British Government is handling negotiations with the EU.

It's enough to drive a man, and woman, to drink. Only another twenty-eight days to go ...

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Customer Service in Cyprus ...

Lots of positive and negative comments about customer service in Cyprus are appearing on the various forums at the moment. Just to state that, by and large, in our corner here we have fabulous customer service from cheerful and happy staff, from small shops to supermarkets, bars, tavernas and restaurants, garages and all the other people we visit.

Of course there are exceptions. There is a little, fat woman in Papantonious in Polis who works behind the "deli" counter there. She has taken a dislike to us, for whatever reason, and is brusque and offhand. That's okay, until the day I am not feeling charitable and then she may well find the manager there breathing down her neck. It's the same wherever we spend our Euros. If you are offhand, or provide poor service, we shall go elsewhere.

Of course, when you are spending money, people tend to be obliging and friendly. One thing we have learned is that a friendly greeting in Greek will often break the ice and you will be greeted with a lovely smile. Who would have thought it?

We are having a gentle week after Becky S. and Jason returned to the UK, although this did not stop us singing "I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay" as we went about pruning trees this morning. The weather is just lovely at the moment - about 27°C during the day and cool in the evening. We just love it here. Can't you tell?

Friday, 14 October 2016

A Mexican Standoff?

Well here we are in the middle of what is a Mexican Standoff and everyone is watching to see who will blink first. "Who are you talking about?" you may well ask.

Well I thought it would be obvious but it is the politicians in the UK and the EU, both posturing and making veiled threats and believing that life in Cloud Cuckoo Land is reality. As the UK gets poorer and poorer by the minute, although people in the UK have not yet been hit by higher prices and probably won't until after the New Year, the politicians on both sides of the divide stare into the mirror and look at the dire consequences of what they have unleashed. Will they step back from the brink? Not a chance. The economic consequences of leaving the EU will haunt the UK for generations to come, and I suspect the government know this. Brave words from the unthinking Boris Johnson and the other two clowns supposedly in charge of negotiations with the EU disappear into the ether, which is where all hot air ends up.

And so I try to work out why these people will not admit they are wrong, and change course. There could be a second referendum (and wouldn't that be a bloody affair), or the UK Parliament should do what an elected democratic institution should do and debate and vote on the matter. Or they could call a General Election and people could decide what they wanted their government to do. Will they? Not a chance in hell. And, I hear you cry, "WHY NOT?" And the answer is simple. Government is about politics and economics, and the advancement of self, and to admit they have got it wrong is to lose political face.

And the mad dash to poverty and irrelevance will continue because these nose-in-the-trough politicians will do what they think is best. Not for the country and its people, but for themselves. And so, in the dark hours before dawn, they may get up and look in the mirror. What do they see? The truth and they will ignore it. If they can't get back to sleep, what better thing to do than fill in a few expense claims to ensure that the rising costs in the country do not affect them. After all, what is a decent chap to do?

Friday, 7 October 2016

Old age is ...

After a long search I found that a dear friend, Paul Noon, with whom I lost contact in 2011, (damn ex-directory numbers), died later that year. I have been trying to contact him for years but could never  find out what the situation was.

Paul was one of my two best friends, and we had met in 1976, and been firm friends for years and years. I am the godfather of his son, John-Paul Noon, and was a great friend with his former wife, Viv. When he married Gill, I was there and she became a great friend as well. She died of cancer in the early years of this century at a tragically young age, and Ann and I took Paul back to stay with us after the funeral.

I know that shit happens, but his life over the succeeding years was sad. Always a great visitor to the local pub, he was told by his doctors that drink would kill him and he became something of a recluse. Ann and I moved away from the area, and I could not contact him. When we emigrated to Cyprus, we could not get in touch.

A moment of inspiration led me to the Thanet District Council crematorium service, who offer a free service to find those who have been buried or cremated in Thanet. Today I finally heard that my dear friend had died seven years ago. What a desperate situation. I suspect he gave up on life after the death of his wife, Gill, and ...

Life can be bloody awful sometimes and this is one of those times ...

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Terracotta Paint and "New Magnolia" ...

The repair and repainting of the outside of our house continues apace. The hoped-for deadline at the end of the week is apparently still on track as Becky S. and Jason arrive for a holiday on Saturday. Sunday sees the fourth anniversary of our arrival in Cyprus and, my goodness, doesn't time fly? It seems only yesterday that we moved into his house, whereas it is over three years ago.

We are all geared up for the arrival of Becky S. and Jason on Saturday and I think my previous posts on this blog will have alerted local followers that Argaka and Polis will definitely be the place to be for the next week.

The pound continues to fall and it is just about at the level that it was when we arrived in Cyprus. Everyone is feeling the pinch and thinking back to the halcyon days when the exchange rate reached the hallowed level of £1.00 >€1.42 a few months ago. As this is all outside of our control there is little point in worrying about it, although we do have a moan about it from time to time. The UK's decision to leave the EU reminds me of a scene in a comedy western years and years ago when the gunfighter drew both of his pistols and managed to shoot himself in both feet at the same time.

We have not seen many expats recently to hear what they have to say about this parlous state of affairs but it is something that people hoping to follow in our footsteps should bear in mind. Forget about the exchange rate as it was, is, or might be, and just work out your cost of living as if the pound was the same as the euro. If the exchange rate is better than that, you can celebrate with the rest of us. If it ever falls below parity, then we are all doomed.

The chasm that the UK is looking into is ghastly in the extreme, and if the economy does indeed crash ... well we all know who to blame. What is galling is the fact that it is self-inflicted. My own forecast about the whole mess is that the government will end up having to call a General Election in the next twelve months and the battleground will be whether to finally leave the EU or not. Of course if Article 50 is invoked, then the EU will have us by the gonads and negotiation will be more like a surrender. You read it here first.

Someone we were discussing life in Cyprus with did point that out that it is better to be poor in Cyprus than poor, wet and cold in the the UK. But our glass is always half-full and Monty Python's "Always look on the bright side of life" springs to mind, although we should remember that the people singing that were in the middle of being crucified ...

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Autumnal blues ...

Autumnal blues ... I don't think so. With the searing heat of this summer behind us, we are in that blissful state of living in what - in our life in the UK - would have been a perfect summer day. Blue skies, light winds and sunny with temperatures about 27°C - warm enough to potter around in shorts and t-shirts without having to seek shade wherever we go. In the Spring and Autumn there comes a time in Cyprus when you want/need to sit in the sun as sitting in the shade is slightly too cool. At night, the windows are open and the air conditioning is off, although last night we put a crocheted blanket on the bed just to snuggle under. Bliss.

With the imminent landing of Becky S. and Jason in nine days, thoughts are of preparations that may need to be made. Plentiful supplies of beer and wine spring to mind (inevitably) but also buying food to barbecue. Traditional Cypriot dishes may also be on the menu, and the ingredients needed will have to be on a shopping list in the next week.

Mixed news on the Cypriot economy trickles out now and again. Tourist numbers are up, although this benefits the economy less than in previous times due to the sheer number of All Inclusive holidays being purchased. These AI holidays are a boon for tourists on a limited budget but they do mean that local businesses do not benefit in the way they once did. People, apparently, do not investigate local bars and restuarants but stay within the hotel grounds as they have paid upfront for their sustenance. Rather like Pandora's Box, once the AI holidays are established there is no going back to the good old days.

This boom in tourism has been caused, I suspect, because the island is perceived as a safe destination for holidaymakers. Terrorism in Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey and other popular destinations has decimated their tourist industries and so Cyprus booms. It is a golden opportunity which it appears is unlikely to be grasped. Much of Cyprus is scruffy and dirty (and there are no signs that this is likely to change soon) and many tourist areas are expensive and perhaps not great value. Fly tipping, litter and a general lack of pride in public areas does not enhance the tourists' perception as a destination to return to over and over again.

Of course, for those of us who live here, we take all the above with a pinch of salt. We do not frequent tourist areas, and so will be unlikely to be ripped off as many report. I knew that many Mediterranean islands tend to be scruffy but it has a sort of "shabby chic" charm (almost). If I had a magic wand I would wish to change none of the above but would consign many of the taxi drivers to "reeducation centres", as used to happen in the old USSR, so they consider the error of their ways. If anything is guaranteed to discourage tourists from returning, these licensed bandits take first prize.

I wonder how many shopping days to Christmas? No I don't really ...

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Is Argaka ready for this?

We were delighted to hear that Becky S. and the new man in her life, Jason (all 6'10" of him), are coming to stay with us for a week from October 8th. It has been nearly two years since she stayed with us for ten weeks, and this time it is a holiday. The weather is set fair as far as I can see, with temperatures being 31°C in the couple of days before their arrival. Let's hope the local expats can be slightly less nosey than they were last time. On one priceless occasion we were having lunch at The Watermill in Steni, with our friends John and Jill, when a local Argaka expat marched over and demanded to know whether Ann and Becky were "associated". It was just as well that we were with friends as I suspect that Ann might have read her fortune for her. Is it the sun that causes people to act and speak like that?

We celebrate the fourth anniversary of our arrival in Cyprus the day after they arrive and a small celebration may well have to take place. It will involve good, simple food and possibly small amounts of alcohol ... for toasting purposes only. In all events it promises to be a great day and the start of a good week.

The world, meanwhile, seems to be in turmoil and everywhere you look there are dark clouds gathering. It is impossible not to be affected by all of this, no matter how much we try to ignore things. The UK, of course, is still in post-Brexit euphoria and to see the half-wits Johnson and Fox blundering about in Europe and around the world, with hardly a brain cell engaged, would be laughable if it was not so sad. I read the other day that one of the new government departments set up to deal with Brexit do not have offices yet which are fit for purpose, and so they convene meetings in the local Starbucks. Amateur City anyone?

Cyprus remains an enigma, especially in the way it deals with the outside world. The reunification of the island seems as far away as ever, and only the distant dream of gas and oil wealth may cause the two sides to compromise. But it may not be in our lifetime, as entrenched hostilities are apparent around every corner. Any deal must be approved by Turkey and that regime seems as unstable as any in the world. But of course I may have to review my opinion if the USA elects Trump. If that happens then the world's problems may go up in smoke anyway.

Happy Days ...

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Life's too short ...

When you think what is important in life, and what is not, you never really consider the implications of the great issues facing us all. We had - just about - fallen out with friends whom we have known for three years. It all came about because they were celebrating her birthday at a restaurant we will not go to, and we made our apologies and explained why we would not be joining them. Things went from bad to worse, after a very truncated phone call on her birthday ... and that seemed to be that. But we met them by chance the other day and the end result was smiles all round and we are going there for dinner on Sunday. As Ann said, "Life's too short."

This was brought into sharp relief this morning. A week or so ago friends of ours heard that their son had had a brain haemorrhage and was in intensive care in Dubai. They flew out and have been waiting beside his bed, as he was placed in an artificially-induced coma. We heard this morning that he had been pronounced clinically dead but, under Sharia law, the life-support machine could not be switched off until his heart stopped. What an awful situation.

It is news like this that brings what is and is not important in life. To hell with silly arguments and imagined slights. Because, even though we intend to live forever, life is too short to worry about matters that are completely unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

On a lighter note Becky S. skyped Ann last night and we are hopeful that she and Jason, her new man, will be coming out to stay for a week in October. That will raise spirits and it could be an exhausting and enjoyable time. October is a lovely month to visit Cyprus, and their visit is something we are both looking forward to enormously.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Mates' Rates?

You could have knocked me down with a feather today. We had asked someone we considered a friend, whom we have supported for the last year or so, whether Ann's daughter and her boyfriend could stay in her empty apartment if they come over for a week at the end of September. This was the apartment we stayed in when we first arrived in Cyprus and were charged €350,00 a month and it has been empty ever since.

Well my flabber was well and truly ghasted when she emailed Ann this morning, and said she would want €250,00 for a week. In your dreams ... this was someone I have taken back and forth from the airport a couple of times and also taken her daughters backwards and forwards as well. Not a euro was asked for and not a euro was offered. This was someone I spent hours helping set up her Android tv box, and then restoring it when she somehow messed it up. I went on a number of occasions to her house to help, which is midway between here and Paphos.

So lesson learned I think. If the boot had been on the other foot, and she had asked if her daughter could stay then the answer would have been "Yes, of course. Perhaps you could make sure she cleaned the apartment properly when she leaves and leaves €10/20 (or whatever) to cover electricity costs." No ifs, not buts ...

So Becky S. will not be staying there and could stay at a small hotel in Polis for half the cost. And, just in case you're wondering, when she next contacts Ann for a favour or for my help, the answer will be "Óchi. Don't take me for a mug because I will get royally pissed off if you do."

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The Three Degrees ...

What a difference three degrees make. Until the end of August we were feeling hot and sticky and the air conditioning came on in the living area about four o'clock in the afternoon until bedtime, and then it was on overnight in the bedroom. Lovely as it is to be cool inside when everywhere else is sweltering, I am not a great fan of air conditioning. Even in the car, when we are driving in comfort, we know that the moment we reach our destination and have to leave the vehicle ...

And so two or three days ago the temperature dropped from about 33°C to 30°C. What a difference. Windows open during the day to catch the breeze and - best by far - windows open in the bedroom at night to sleep in coolish air. Until you have lived here (or in another country with a warm climate) I doubt whether you can appreciate how much difference three degrees makes.

We are also pottering about outside during the day, and Ann is making inroads into the gardening. We are planning for Autumn planting, and have great plans for next Spring as well. I think we now appreciate that July and August are just too hot for most of the plants we have and so a clean-out in the Autumn will be called for.

The sad state of British politics is ever more apparent, with the Government blundering about. It is like watching someone at a children's party trying to pin the tail on the donkey whilst blindfolded. There appears to be a phoney war going on, with the UK Government incredibly seeming to believe that they will dictate terms to the rest of the EU and the rest of the world. I am dumbfounded by this naivety and by the blind faith of those still supporting BREXIT that it will be alright on the night. Even the dire warnings of the Japanese are cast aside by the knuckle-dragging racists who beat their chests and say that Britain will be great again.

As Winston Churchill is reported to have said "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter". Never were truer words spoken I feel, and if you want evidence of that view just drop in on one of the many tabloid newspaper online columns and read through the the contributions of their "readers". The columns are filled with xenophobic rubbish spouted by the semi-educated. The 1870 Education Act, which brought widespread access to education to the people of this country, was widely praised throughout the civilised world. Nearly one hundred and fifty years later and this is the best that can be achieved.

I increasingly believe that if BREXIT happens, and that is a big IF, it will take years and years and years to achieve. It will involve some cobbled together agreement that allows immigration of one form or another and then people will ask what the referendum achieved after all.

Friday, 2 September 2016

"August, die she must ..."

Well here we are at the beginning of Autumn ... not that you would know it from looking outside. You might just guess it from the fact that we have turned the air conditioning down a notch or two in the bedroom and we talk wistfully about the times (at least until now) when we can sleep with the windows open in September.

This has been the toughest August we have known with temperatures expectedly high but humidity has gone through the roof. How typical of Britons retiring to live in a warm climate and complaining about the weather, you might think. But 2016 has been a dry, warm, and then extremely hot and humid year so far and we look forward to the rains and thunderstorms of October. On 10th October, 2012, we met friends in Polis for a drink and were "trapped" in a bar for nine hours by torrential rain, the like of which we have only ever seen in American films. What a start to our life here.

People are returning from trips to the UK now and the expat community is slowly showing itself during the day. During August it must be like being a vampire and not being able to walk in direct sunlight without disappearing in a cloud of dust. We are now coming to one of my favourite times of the year and that is the long, sunny autumn. During the day it is like being in England on a sunny day, comfortable in shorts and t-shirts and then that delicious cooling period as the sun goes down, and those long evenings sitting by the pool.

For those who are planning to come to Cyprus, as we did, perhaps the best time of year to arrive is October. The fierce summer heat has dissipated but the weather (to British eyes) is delightful. As the weeks go by the temperature drops until, whilst still being t-shirt weather, you put a light sweater in the back of the car for those cooler evenings. By December it is long trousers in the evening and perhaps, horror of horrors, you might have to wear a pair of socks (that is if you can remember which wardrobe you threw them into). Winter comes (and in your first year you will not really feel the considerable drop of temperature) and you will still parade around in shorts (and look at those of us who have been here a few years as we are wearing sweaters, long trousers, and possibly a jacket) and then Spring and early summer when the temperature begins to climb. This is the easiest introduction to Cyprus as your body gets uses to the climate.

All bets are off in your second and subsequent years here. Whether the old wives' tales of your blood thinning in this climate are true or not, you will feel colder in winter. In January and February the electric blanket becomes your best friend, your use of gas for the gas fires goes up and is switched on earlier and earlier in the day, and you discover that your aircon units can be used to provide additional heat as well. As each day (of the admittedly short winter) goes on, then thoughts of spending a couple of thousand euros on a good log-burning stove seem less preposterous and may be "a good investment". You dream of summer sunshine and then complain about the heat.

And yet, we wouldn't change a thing. Bon Voyage.

Friday, 26 August 2016

The Joy of Cyprus ...

Tomorrow is our tenth wedding anniversary and we shall, officially, be "in the bubble". Phones, iPads, computers, and TVs off. This is what we want and that's what we shall be doing. In an emergency, send a postcard.

Whilst preparing for tomorrow I drove down to Paphos to buy some meat from Kolios' butchers. The shop was busy but the service was, as ever, excellent. I was wandering around when the electronic doors slid open and stayed open. The sound of air conditioning in the shop went into overdrive. Why had the doors stayed open ... you can probably guess. A white 4x4 had parked on the pavement and had come to rest within six inches of the door. The sensor opened the door and kept it open. The elderly Cypriot climbed out and went to buy his meat. I was trying so hard not to laugh, but I failed.

As I was paying for my meat, the girl at the till started laughing as well and then the girl packing the bags. One of the butchers started to laugh and there were smirks on all sides. I asked whether there was an official parking space where the white 4x4 had been abandoned and she gave me the classic "Cypiot Shrug", and then burst out laughing again. That is a taste of the real Cyprus.

So shopping done, I headed for home. Ann had been making a special pudding for tomorrow (it's a secret and I am not going to tell you all what it is) but you might guess when I tell you we head to go out and buy "squirty" cream today. So all ingredients to hand, the required champagne, gin, good wine and some beer (in case we become dehydrated) stored away and we look forward to tomorrow.

I met Ann on 4th August and we moved in together on 29th August, and four years' later we got married. Ups and downs there have been, but this has been the happiest time of my life. Long may it continue as I intend to live forever, and Ann should be alongside as we go ...

Friday, 19 August 2016

You just never know ...

Spitting feathers and muffling curses are not things that immediately spring to mind when I think of myself, but yesterday was an exception. Ann and I popped into Polis to do some shopping and went to a café/bar where a friend of ours works. We met another couple of friends there, by chance, and settled down for an hour. You can imagine my astonishment when I asked the owner's husband whether there was a problem with the free wifi, and received a verbal barrage of abuse.

Our friend, who works there, explained that there were problems with the wifi (which is provided for customers) and people were being kicked out intermittently. My friendly enquiry was just that ... a friendly enquiry. The volley of abuse, the tirade of "It's not my problem ... I'm just the barman" and "Ask the telecoms company" and "It works fine on my iPhone" was totally uncalled for. Obviously my expensive Samsung Galaxy phone was at fault.

What a prat and what a mistake ... I shall never, ever go there again when he is working. It's a strange thing that when his wife is working there (it's her business) the place is packed and she is just delightful. And then, the customers evaporate at about three o'clock when he starts to work. There is a moral here.

To make matters worse the guy seems unhinged, and angry, and obviously hates Cyprus. Well perhaps he should sod off back to South Africa. Oh he can't because, in his words, the "blicks" have taken over. What a sad situation and what an absolute loser ... I am not often lost for words, but this is a time when I am.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Colours for curtain hanging ...

Something of a first for me as we decided to rehang the net curtains and the proper curtains, after the painters rehung the blinds. I was chosen to rehang the first lot of curtains and, my goodness, how hot it is near the ceiling. But what a team! In no time at all the lovely regency curtains in our former dining area/current office area were rehung and today Ann rehung the golden curtains in our living area. The last one was a triumph and we sat down, in a slight sweat, to admire the work we had done. More photographs tomorrow on my Facebook page to show the end result.

It is like living in a new house, and once the outside plastering and painting is completed - then it will be like living in a new house. This has been a marvellous opportunity to throw out junk and to reorganise. I went for a siesta today, and missed the surrender of the English cricket team to Pakistan, and awoke to find that Ann had rejigged the dresser and what a difference that makes. I hope, by the end of Tuesday, that we shall be set fair. Both bedrooms and bathrooms are sorted, and a few adjustments to our living area should see the job done.

Lovely news that Becky S. and "Jas" might arrive next month for a visit. Apparently he is very tall and looks like Worzel Gummidge. It would be lovely to see her and I am sure Worzel and I can enjoy a few beers to enable Ann to spend time with her daughter.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Our "Magnum Opus" begins

At 08.03 this morning Andreas and his team arrived and the great work has begun. Apparently it will take between five and six days to repair the plasterwork and repaint the inside of the house, and then another six or seven days to replaster and paint the outside of the house. They are nice guys and certainly seem to know what they are doing. So, living in something of a shambles for the next week, and then watching them outside the house, will be worth it.

We have lived here for getting on for three years and, as I suspect with all properties in Cyprus, regular maintenance needs to be done and not put off. The architect and the builder both came up to see where the problems were and I don't believe they agreed. Much of this could have been prevented if a damp proof course had been installed when the house was built about twelve years ago. But you could also argue the house would be warmer in winter and cooler in summer if more attention had been paid to insulation.

Despite all of this we are delighted to live here, and taking coffee looking over Polis Chrysochous bay is a daily joy. It's our view of course. What makes the whole experience of living here even more special is the fact that our closest neighbours live a hundred and fifty metres away, and we never hear them. We knew before we moved that the expat gated communities were not for us, but the sense of freedom that we have is worth its weight in gold. Something to consider for those following us out here is that living cheek by jowl with other people is not necessary and is affordable. The trick is finding the right property.

Cooler days are nowhere in sight yet and, if last September is anything to go by, we shall be sweltering for some weeks to come. But what on earth would the British have to moan about if there wasn't the weather to discuss? So much of the year is similar to a hot British Summer, where you can potter about in shorts and t-shirts ... and not worry about getting burnt. We sit outside on many days in January and February, and only retire indoors when the sun goes down. In fact, for months on end, it is just a matter of sitting in the sun or in the shade. There seems to be a cut-off point when you suddenly realise that shade is vital. Decisions ... decisions ... decisions

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Fresh paint ...

Antreas, who is coming to sort out the plaster and paintwork inside and outside the house, will arrive at eight o'clock on Monday. It was to have been 07.30 but that would have been a step too far. We will have to get used to not wandering around the house nearly naked for the time he is going to be here. However, despite the potential for disruption, it will be a terrific improvement and make our dream home even dreamier.

This is very much a fresh start for us, after the last year. We have put that sadness behind us and, as the cricketers would say, we are "taking fresh guard". Our life out here is normally so relaxed that even the smallest thing can send shockwaves through the system. It reminds me of the mill pond and the throwing of a pebble into it ... such a small item can cause so many waves.

The Rio Olympics will leave us totally unmoved and I suspect that the television set will get quite a rest for the next couple of weeks. There is something about athletes, with their total focus on nothing and nobody but themselves, that is slightly nauseating. I've always been a follower of team sports (rugby and cricket, and that peculiar team sport of Grand Prix Racing) where people rely on the performance of others, and have to work together for success. But, strangely, there are some people who do not follow my interests.

A welcome break for and from politics and politicians, although the sight of David Cameron and Boris Johnson in their swimming trunks rather spoils the lazy breakfast in the morning. The BREXIT row rumbles on and on and on, and UK Plc gets poorer and poorer by the second. All those who supported this madness come out with "The people have spoken", "Get over it" and "Move on" - perhaps this is atypical of their brain function, and why they were persuaded to vote for impoverishing their country.

What so many people on newspaper websites and Internet forums are saying seems to have very little relationship with reality. I envisage legions of bare-chested xenophobes, with Union Flag underpants, dragging their knuckles along the ground and, with many a clenched fist, claiming that housing will now be available, the NHS will recover overnight and that, suddenly, unemployment will become a thing of the past. Some newspaper columns are awash with hatred of immigrants, foreigners - call them what you will. "Send them all back NOW" is the Daily Mail mantra ... I know, I know, I shouldn't read such garbage. It's akin to self-flagellation. But seriously it does make me ashamed to be British at the moment.

I dropped into Polis Hospital yesterday to pick up my repeat prescriptions. It was pretty deserted, there were three doctors on duty and I was in and out within fifteen minutes. I asked the lovely Chrissou at registration whether the cardiologist was still at the hospital. Dr Agamemnon is a man I respect and it was good to hear that he will be there until the end of August. I asked her what would happen then. She said another cardiologist had been appointed. She then smiled a beaming smile and said "We shall see ..." What was less good was the doctor I saw had not more than a couple of words of English. We communicated almost by sign language. That's okay as far as repeat prescriptions are concerned but not when you are describing symptoms of an illness you might have. That is indeed a case of "We shall see ..."

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

A sad anniversary ...

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the death of our good friend, Dave Travis, who was killed in an accident on the road between Polis and Steni. Sad times and we shall hope that the succeeding year/s will not affect us so deeply.

Last night, on a brighter note, we went to our friend Steve's 65th birthday party at Platea Meze House in Polis. They were over forty of us present and it was a jolly and fun occasion. The food was delicious although the meze was too much for even the most robust eaters. We sat with people we knew and it was a very pleasant evening. Except that, the service was amateurish and slow ... you would not believe how difficult it was to get a drink. This is a relatively new enterprise but I fear for their future. Our meals were paid for by our hosts and we were responsible for our drinks.

At the end of the evening the waiter, eventually, brought a bill but it was a bill for the whole table - and two of those couples had paid and left. He wanted €69,00 from us for a bill that was eventually calculated at €18,00. It was suggested that we had had nine bottles of Keo - yes that was me comatose on the floor. What a bloody farce ... we shall not be returning.

On the bright side Paula and Steve had a lovely evening, and we met a lovely Cypriot/American couple, who were just not what they seemed. Brilliant fun and something to be repeated at another venue.

The guy who is going to sort out the inside and outside plaster work is on his way, and his decorating skills will be challenged. But it will be great to get our home back to its pristine state. What the cats will think of this invasion remains to be seen?

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The price of living in Cyprus ...

After a pretty steamy and hot July, we have reached the month of August and it is hot, hot, hot. Someone once told us that July and August are the price you pay for living in Cyprus. By common consent the summer of 2016 has been the hottest since we arrived here in 2012. Ann met someone outside a kiosk months ago who told her that, according to NASA, the eastern Mediterranean was going to be very hot this year. Thanks NASA.

It may seem ironic that we, who emigrated to live in a warm climate, are complaining about the heat. But our Cypriot friends are suffering just as much as us, and everyone is looking forward to September and that wonderful time when you can sleep with the windows open (fly screens closed) in a gentle breeze, without air conditioning. Most of the year is perfect as far as I am concerned but a hot summer is to be endured, not enjoyed. Last night we went for a late swim in the pool, and that was just great.

How to endure this weather took us some time to work out. The first thing to realise is that, if you have your windows open, that just lets the hot air in. We always have windows closed, blinds and curtains closed on the sunny side of the house, to control the environment. A couple of fans are always on during the day to circulate the air, but there comes a time when the temperature in the house is in the low thirties. Last year and this year we learned pretty quickly just to switch the air conditioning on, and keep it on until we went to bed. Air conditioning in the bedroom is a must and we switch this on about three quarters of an hour before we go to bed. Another thing learned is that if you switch the air conditioning off, the room heats up much more quickly than it cools down.

Of course electricity has fallen in price quite considerably since we arrived and this keeps the cost down. But, as one of my friends said, there is absolutely no point in coming to live here and being uncomfortably hot in the process. Two things to remember for those following us out here to live. The first is that fly screens are an absolute must. In spring and autumn, open windows are the way to go and you don't want to have all those flying things invading your space. The second is that air conditioning is essential. Just remember those cheap Mediterranean holidays when your hotel room was sweltering and you couldn't sleep. And imagine that for months on end. Air conditioning in your living space is almost as important, as you may find that you retire indoors in the middle of the morning and don't venture outside until late afternoon. Be cool and enjoy your retirement.

If your electricity bill is too high, then have your air conditioning units serviced. Ours have been much more effective this year. When the guys came to service them, the gunk, and dust, and dirt they removed was quite something. And then, if your electricity bill is still too high, eat baked beans on toast until your next pension payment comes through. As we have found, eating in this weather is something we can often do without. Drinking, on the other hand, is a different matter altogether.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Surprising stuff ...

Well this blog post was about to be about the recent discovery of Harpies in Polis Chrysochous, as evinced by the Facebook postings regarding my opinion of the current state of play at Polis Hospital. As I said on Facebook, I have an inbuilt distrust of politicians (coming from the UK that is hardly surprising) but the pure vitriol of the opinions expressed by these "ladies" was quite unbelievable.

And so I decided to leave them to it and I was wondering what to write about, when I discovered something quite astonishing. There have been a lot of visitors to this blog in the last week. As expected there were lots of visits from Cyprus and the UK, but they were dwarfed by the number of visitors from ... Russia. Hundreds and hundreds of visits. Now this means that I am either being spied on by the Kremlin, or that Russians have a genuine interest in what is happening in Cyprus at the moment - and perhaps in this region of Cyprus in particular. In any event to people of all nationalities, thank you for reading my blog. You are all welcome, unless of course you are a lover of Harpies.

Free speech is important to all of us who have been brought up in the western democracies, and long may it continue. But there must be a line between free speech, and online insult and bullying. And this is where I take issue with all the trolls on the Internet, the keyboard warriors (especially those who hide behind the cloak of anonymity) and the Harpies of Polis. If you don't like what I write, and this was what I considered to be in the public interest, then don't read it. Facebook is, of course, an open forum and I suppose you are entitled to your opinion (reasonably put, of course). Whereas my blog is mine and I will write what I want, when I want and without fear or favour. And if you Harpies visit, and don't like what I am writing, then "go forth and multiply".

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Update to Polis Hospital story ...

Articles in English language online newspapers report that the Health Minister will make an announcement today or tomorrow on his plans to resolve the crisis at Polis and Paphos hospitals. It is reported that the wards will reopen at Polis with new GPs and a cardiologist, and that a review of the work of the radiology and laboratory departments will take place.

Of course all sorts of things appear in newspapers, in countries all around the world, which are patched together by lazy journalists from rumours and half-truths. If it is true that the situation can be resolved to the benefit of residents in this area, that will be great news. The two demonstrations were each attended by a couple of hundred people, and I wished there had been a couple of thousand there.

Protests do appear to work, and the government has backed down on any number of proposals when the unions (and everybody in Cyprus appears to have their own union) stand up for their members' rights. Perhaps the expat community should have their own union, and threaten to boycott Keo if they do not get their own way. Boycott Keo ... now that's possibly a step too far.

A reaction or an over-reaction?

Polis Hospital

Where on earth do I start? I promised my wife I would not post anything on Facebook until today, which is probably a good thing. In fact I was so angry after the meeting that I don't think my fingers would have worked.

We arrived for 08.30 as asked, and found a spot in the shade. The crowd grew and I estimated that there were perhaps half as many people again as had come to the last protest meeting. What was noticeable was that many, many people were demonstrably expats and that the number of Cypriots was far less. In fact if you took away the local politicians and mukhtars, the bar owners and other business people (who know that a closure of the hospital will be disastrous for the area) there were very few "ordinary" Cypriots present. So the power of Facebook, and other social media, meant that English-speaking users were "in the know". Interestingly there were people arriving as the Minister disappeared into A & E.

I had hopes that there might have been a public address system, and possibly a temporary platform (even a soapbox), but no such forethought. At least there was going to be a translator - well, if there was, I couldn't hear or see one. As last week there were Greek speakers helping those of us who couldn't understand.

The Minister was surrounded by the more politically active demonstrators, and there were some robust exchanges. After the meeting I talked to Mikis (from Miki's Tavern) who was apoplectic with rage. He had been told that there weren't really any problems at the hospital. Never backward in coming forward, he then listed the current understaffing at the hospital, the closure of wards and other issues, and was told by the Minister that he was not aware of such issues. He was ready to burst.

My friend Savvas told me that he had heard the Minister say that he hoped these problems could be resolved. A couple of British ladies challenged the Minister, but I could not hear clearly what was said.

Afterwards the rumour mill was in full flow. Over coffee, we heard that there was sufficient money to operate the hospital until October, after which time decisions would have to be made. It was also stated as a "fact" that Paphos doctors received €100 an hour, whist their Polis equivalents earned €25 an hour - which might explain the current recruitment problems. But I have no way of verifying these claims.

And so, having (with lots of others) urged people to attend, I find myself angry at what was a missed opportunity. I may as well have sent a cardboard cutout of myself to the meeting for all I learned. What was apparent was the number of local expats who told me they would have to review where they lived if the hospital closed. And I suspect none of us want to live closer to Paphos.

Quo Vadis? As with all politics, getting to the heart of the matter, in any country, is impossible. No doubt the Minister, as he swished off in his taxpayer-funded limousine - one of a new fleet the government has just taken delivery of - will mull over this farce of a meeting. Or perhaps not ...

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Taking myself seriously ... Oops ...

This weekend I have been in danger of taking myself too seriously and I have had to give myself a good talking to in the mirror. Fortunately my lovely wife Ann is here to ground me and to stop this becoming a regular occurrence.

Social media was the problem as I got annoyed with some woman on Facebook, who accused me of things I did not do. In more enlightened and relaxed times (that's almost all of the time in Cyprus), I should have smiled, laughed and let it go. But not yesterday. I bit ... once ... twice ... hard. It is easy to coruscate people of very little brain, and so I did. Buoyed by public opinion, rather like the gladiator in the arena, I ploughed on and only this morning did I sit back and think it was all rather silly.

On a serious note, life in Cyprus is not for those who take things too seriously. We smile at some drivers and their predictable faux pas on the roads, we burst out laughing when we have made a special journey somewhere to find that everything is shut, we look indulgently at the antics of others (Cypriots and expats) and think "This is Cyprus". And long may that attitude continue.

The world is of course enduring serious times. The terrorist outrages, the thought of that maniac Trump in the White House, Syria, the possibility of civil war in Turkey, France, Germany, the economic disaster that may be around the corner because of BREXIT ... the list goes on. It is all outside of our control and, whatever we do or think, we cannot influence events. Stoicism is the answer and, the combination of this Greek philosophy together with the beauty of life here in Cyprus, will carry us through.

And so a relaxed Sunday it is. We were up very early to do a month's shopping in the local supermarket, and for those not yet living in Cyprus the reality of shopping in August when all the Nicosians invade this corner of the island will soon hit home. A useful tip is to take a cool box with you as your meat may well be off by the time you unpack at home, and frozen goods ... surprisingly they are no longer frozen. Of course there is the added bonus of the chiller aisles and the air conditioning - until you walk into the great outdoors and wonder why you chose to retire to the sun.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Possible closure of Polis Hospital ...

Just a share of what I have posted on Facebook and also on the expat forums I belong to. Please feel free to copy, share or publicise this to anyone who might be interested or affected by this.

STOP PRESS: the minister is now expected to be at Polis Hospital at 08.45 and not 09.00

Polis Hospital 25th July @ 09.00

Well I hope you are all planning to attend this vital meeting/protest. Don't think that it won't matter if you don't turn up because it will. Remind your friends and especially your Cypriot friends. I suspect the more Cypriot protesters who attend, the more the Minister will take notice. After all, they have the vote and we expats don't.

In the four years we have been in Cyprus there have been many decisions overturned because of public opinion, whether unions are involved or not. Whether it is because of a lack of moral fibre on the government's part is debatable. Every single person who attends will add weight to our argument that the hospital is vital to all those of us who live here.

If everybody who is planning to attend can persuade/bully/nag two or three others to come along, then the demonstration will really take off. Of course it's going to be hot on Monday, but it will be a jolly sight hotter driving to Paphos every eight weeks to collect repeat prescriptions. And it will be even hotter if you have to drive like a lunatic to Paphos to attend A & E.

It does not matter, in my opinion, whether the meeting is held in Cypriot Greek or not. There are always people who can explain or translate to those of us who struggle to understand Greek. The Minister is bound to be an educated man, and will undoubtedly be able to speak and understand English. Perhaps someone will even ask him whether he uses public hospitals or private hospitals. I suspect I know the answer as he probably gets private healthcare alongside his substantial remuneration.

I hope to see you all there , with your friends and neighbours, on Monday. You never know, if you are lucky, you might end up in one of my photographs ... your protest immortalised on social media. And don't even think of making the excuse that you are at work. Take an hour off, or face taking the day off to use Paphos Hospital.

Till Monday ...

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Polis Hospital and the future ...

A lovely morning at Polis Hospital with about two hundred people gathering to listen to local MPs and mukhtars, and the mayor and deputy mayor of Polis, and the televison and radio cameras and microphones rolling.

So much information and misinformation doing the rounds, with the "doom and gloom" merchants amongst the British expats in the area to the fore, but little factual information apparent.

As far as we could understand, and we had our friend Savvas explaining the arguments as our Greek could not keep up, it is either about money and a lack of doctors or it is a plot by the government to,save money and leave the people of this area dangerously exposed as far as healthcare is concerned.

The lovely Dr Z resigned (giving a week's notice, as required by her contract) and this was the death knell for the two wards at the hospital. It is rumoured that the other doctors are to be transferred to Paphos Hospital (possible), that their salary has been cut by 50% (unlikely in this country dominated by unions), or that it is difficult to attract doctors to this remote area of the island (very possible, as one of the current doctors travels from Limassol). 

The situation is unclear and the Minister of Health is due at 09.00 on Monday 25th July at the hospital to make a statement and answer questions. I would urge all readers of this blog to try and bring another expat and perhaps two Cypriot neighbours next Monday to the hospital. The more Cypriots there (who vote for MPs and Ministers) the better.

I find it difficult to believe that the hospital will be closed, as the area it serves is very large. If it does close, we will survive but we will be inconvenienced. But the elderly Cypriots, whose children have emigrated to work, will be isolated and in a dangerous situation. With the government cancelling IPT, and bailing out the CYTA pension schem to the tune of millions of euros, it is apparent they have their priorities wrong. We shall see what we shall see.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Rumours and unfounded allegations ...

We woke up this morning to find someone asking, via Facebook, for all residents in this area to protest at Polis Hospital on Tuesday morning. Apparently the hospital is to be closed down, or at least the two wards there for patients, and "doctors will be reallocated". There was a similar scare a couple of years ago, which turned out to be a storm in the proverbial teacup. Other contributors then outlined the scenario that we would all have to go down to the "awful" Paphos General and wait for five hours to see a doctor, for repeat prescriptions. That was the green light for the rumour mill to go into overdrive.

I posted, asking what the source of this "information" was, but - to date - no reply to this question was forthcoming. Whether the rumour mill is accelerated in hot weather, where people spend more time indoors or out of the sun, is debatable. But it can be ever so slightly destabilising. Panic sets in and over-reaction is everywhere.

It is a similar story when discussion talks about the UK leaving the EU. Whether you are a glass half-full or a glass half-empty sort of person, the comments that fly around on the Internet are risible and depressing. Nobody knows what the result of the negotiations will be, and until they do, there is no point in worrying. Expats around Europe will no doubt be concerned about their right to live in the country of their choice but they can only wait and see. We are coming to the end of our fourth year here, and the UK will undoubtedly not leave the EU until the end of 2018 at the earliest. If push comes to shove, which I doubt (given the number of Cypriots who live in the UK), then we would apply for Cypriot citizenship. 

The only concern on the horizon would be access to healthcare but I suspect that common sense would enable a reciprocal arrangement would be put in place, much like the one between the UK and Cyprus before Cyprus joined the EU. Other than that the only thing to remember is that it is always approaching six o'clock somewhere in the world, and a cold drink always calms the fevered forehead.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

I believe ...

I believe that life is happy and death is sad.I believe my mum was married to my dad.I believe that things that aren't good tend to be bad.I believe...Yes, I believe.I'm prepared to believe that Nixon wasn't a crook.I'm prepared to believe Love Story is a readable book.I believe that "The Dirty Dozen" weren't really dirty.I believe that Lucille Ball is still under 30.I believe Gerald Ford is clever!That Bob Hope will live forever.And that lever [lee-ver] is pronounced leh-ver.And the best film ever made is "Saturday Night Feh-ver!"I am prepared to say Col. Sanders can fry!And that pigs and even DC-10s can fly!I'm prepared to believe that things go better with Coke.And that the Ayatollah tells a darn good knock-knock joke.I believe that some folks can hear what Bugs Bunny is saying.And that Salt Lake City is a real nice place to stay in.I believe that J.R. really loves Sue Ellen!I believe that things sound better when you're yelling!And I believe that the devil is ready to repent!But I can't believe Boris Johnson is in the government!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

"May" the force be with you ...

Life becomes more interesting by the day here with the coronation of a new PM, elected without reference to the electorate. One could argue that the last thing the UK needs is a general election but I remember the cries from the Tories when Tony Blair handed on the baton to Gordon Brown, and there was no mandate as he was not chosen by the electorate.

STOP PRESS: the BBC has announced there will be a parliamentary debate on a second referendum on September 5th as a result of the petition signed, allegedly, by four million people. Quo Vadis?

Mike and Wendy have departed after their surprise visit. What a lovely surprise that was but a shock to the system. If any other friends are planning to surprise us, just be aware that we are easily shocked.

Our Cypriot friends are telling us that they are suffering from the heat, but we are surviving with a combination of air conditioning, the pool (especially after the sun has gone down) and cold Keo. Long live the Cyprus dream ... We are loving it.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Flabbergasted ...

I had arranged a Skype call with my best friend, Mike, at 17.00 on Monday afternoon. He sent me an email during the day saying he suspected I would be at a bar at that time, so just to spite him ... Ann and I went down to Santa Barbara for a drink. The plan was to swing the phone round so that he could see the bar and the blue Mediterranean in the background. At the appointed time Skype beeped and we began to chat.

My shot of the Mediterranean was responded to with a shot of blue skies and sunshine, and the announcement that he and Wendy were about 6 km away in Polis for a week's holiday. The absolute swine and worse, when he told me that they had booked their holiday six weeks previously and kept it a secret. Beer and wine flowed when they arrived ... what an absolutely marvellous surprise.

Later this afternoon we are all going ten pin bowling. And if you think I am competitive, then you haven't met Mike. Ultra, ultra competitive and he has always been since I met him twenty-two years ago when he moved into the house next door in Kent. We played cricket together for some years but Mike's competitive edge was dulled at that time (probably because he couldn't bat to save his life), although when he gave me his bat (which was identical to mine) I was able to score freely. That's what talent is all about, I suppose.

Will he be able to bowl this afternoon? Will the light in his eyes have that old gleam? Only time will tell.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

No honour among thieves ...

The well-known saying "No honour among thieves" never surprised me one bit. Perhaps, moving forward, one could substitute the word politicians for thieves and be equally correct. And it is not just politicians in Cyprus, or the UK, but around the world. Self-serving and mendacious, I am constantly outraged by the fact that men and women of honour seem to have disappeared from the political scene.

UK politicians are in the news now, because of the pre-BREXIT and post-BREXIT shenanigans, and their EU counterparts are not far behind. The leadership campaigns and manoeverings have just begun, and the knives are being sharpened ... ready to plunge into the back of those they have pledged to support. Michael Gove immediately springs to mind, as do the majority of the parliamentary Labour Party. How many more backstabbings will there be?

The ill-judged referendum will be regretted for years to come, and mainly by our children and their children. Nigel Farage has twisted the knife by his unbelievable comments to the EU parliament and this may have an effect on future negotiations with them. And everywhere one looks there is racial tension and fear, with the flames fanned by the use of social media. I have lost count of the Facebook groups and comments that have sprung up to make the situation far worse, so much so that Ann has asked me not to read them anymore.

I suspect that some almighty fudge will be agreed, probably behind closed doors, which will gain the UK the fabled access to the European market, but this will come at the cost of free movement of people and capital. The economic costs to both Europe and the UK are too enormous to contemplate for there not to be a deal, whilst the political realities dictate that both sides must save face. Never have economics and politics been such important bedfellows. But what is important is the effect this will have on the people. Political commentators tend to focus on the so-called Westminster Village, and its increasingly out-of-touch inhabitants (which, of course, includes all the journalists and commentators), whereas the people are more concerned about what will happen to them and the communities in which they live.

Many people on both sides of the divide are probably regretting their vote, or the fact that they did not vote, or the fact that they did not think about the possible consequences of what they had done. "Too late" is the cry from those who are celebrating (at least for the time being) the result, and they are democratically correct. But the end result is months and years away and I suspect that some deal cobbled together will ameliorate the worst of the possible effects.

The poor old Labour Party may, in the words of Private Fraser from Dad's Army, indeed be doomed. Corbyn will not go, as he has the support of the Labour Party activists in the country (not to mention the union barons), and he has lost the confidence of the vast majority of his MPs. A rerun of the leadership contest will probably lead to the same situation. It must be about this time that the Conservatives are regretting having proposed a fixed-term parliament. Otherwise they would hold a snap General Election, with the probability that they would win a massive majority and UKIP would come second - Labour would disappear off the map for generations. In fact the party that espoused remaining in the EU (but not the Liberal Democrats) would carry the day. And as for Sturgeon, words fail me ...

Monday, 27 June 2016

Thanks to

A big thank you to for including this blog in their list of blogs meant to help people who intend to settle in Cyprus. It may be pure coincidence that my blog is the first one in their list, but I recommend that you have a look at the others there.

I only came across their website when I noticed that it was a major link to this blog and so I followed the link back to its origin. As there have been nearly 15,000 visits to this blog since I started writing it, it's good to know where the recommendations come from.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The day after the party ...

The party is over and the citizens of the United Kingdom are slowly awakening to a new dawn - a grey dawn to many - and I suspect many are reaching for the paracetamol. The great cliché "The People Have Spoken" reverberates around the nation and supporters of both sides are striking out in different directions.

The tabloid press, and unsurprisingly Sky News, are full of doom and gloom. The EU, depending to whom one listens to, are suggesting that our exit should either be quick and painful, or not (according to Frau Merkel). And there are millions of words being spewed out (just like this blog) in support of or against the result of the referendum.

The future is unknown, and should not (in my opinion) be unduly influenced by the profiteering of the speculators and traders who are driving stocks and shares down, and causing the pound to tumble. The markets, always known for their altruism, will settle down in time and whether they settle down at a much lower level will depend on many factors outside our control. When the press talk about billions being "wiped off" the stock market, they are not telling the full story. A currency, or a stock or share, moves up and down for many reasons and the gamblers in the city and around the world cause this to happen. A share in a bank may fall by 30% one day but unless you wish to sell it at that price, you do not lose anything at that time. If shares rise by 30% and you decide to sell, that is where a profit is made. Gambling ... pure and simple.

It is interesting to note that a record-breaking petition to hold another referendum has attracted nearly three million signatures at the time of writing. If this petition is debated in Parliament, with 80% of its members in the remain camp, the result may well make the United Kingdom the laughing stock of the world. With Scotland champing at the bit to break up the UK (whatever one thinks of Nicola Sturgeon, she is one hell of an opportunist), and Sinn Fein making noises across the water, these are indeed troubling times.

There have been many opinions put forward that the young voted overwhelmingly to remain in the UK and that this was a decision of the older people to leave. Well this older person supports and still supports remain, but I suspect the die is cast and nothing can prevent the descent into chaos now.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

I cannot believe it ...

I suspect that, in years to come, people will ask you where you were when this referendum result was announced in the same way that people ask you what you were doing when JFK was assassinated. We went to bed on Thursday night convinced that it would be a close result but that the UK would vote to remain in the EU. But we were wrong and I cannot believe what the people have done.

Putting my prejudices aside for one minute, I was appalled by the reasons people gave for leaving. It was just as if they believed, and understood, the fallacious arguments in the tabloid press. When Bill Clinton announced that "It's the economy, stupid" he was never more right. Without a stable economy  there is no money to do what needs to be done, and in the end it is all down to money.

Social class and the envy it evokes played a big part in this referendum and the working classes cut off their noses to spite their faces in order to cock a snook at the metropolitan elite. In getting their own back (as they would see it) they cut their own throats. Areas where billions of euros have been invested by the EU, which in post-industrial Britain has enabled them to survive, voted to leave. Why? Well "it's immigration, innit" was on everyone's lips, and of course it's not possible to get an appointment to see the doctor or to get their children into the school of their choice. Why? It must be the EU's fault. Keep telling the unthinking the same thing over and over again and they will eventually believe it.

The agricultural areas, where the infamous Common Agricultural Policy enables British farmers to keep their heads above water, voted leave. Unbelievable. The poor will get poorer, and the divide in British society will get wider and wider. I can remember talking at a conference years ago about the growing educational underclass. These poor souls had been let down by schools and trendy teaching methods and comprehensive education in equal measure, and left school with no regard for the enormous benefits that education can provide. No, a few years later, they were having families of their own. And, you will not be surprised, their children had even less regard for education than their parents. This underclass has been spreading, and has been let down by successive governments of whichever party. The result is similar to dropping a jar of molasses on a hard floor. It's impossible to clear up, and just spreads and spreads.

When Pandora opened the box, that was that. Once open it was not possible to put back what had emerged. And so, in modern Britain, the genie is out of the bottle and cannot be forced to return. Having been away from Britain for nearly four years I had forgotten how inarticulate and thoughtless so many of my fellow countrymen and women are. They did not understand the issues, they did not think the issues through and were led by the nose by the media moguls who have an altogether different agenda.

Reading this, it may come across as elitist and snobbish. Of course I am influenced by my background and education, and the years spent teaching the advantaged in any number of fee-paying schools. But I despair and worry for the future of my country nevertheless. Quo Vadis?

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Thursday and the big decision

Well the day has just about arrived and the same tired clichés are being regurgitated by both sides. I cannot but agree that the standard of both debate and reporting in the media has been dire, and the bias on both television broadcasts and newspapers is so apparent as to be beyond belief. Readers of this blog will know the long-standing irritation I feel about the BBC and this last couple of months has exacerbated that.

What has concerned me is the seeming inability of the man in the street to be able to rise above the inanity of the arguments and think for himself. Interviews on television seem to focus on people in dire northern towns, who all seem to support the idea of brexit, coming out with the same line as The Daily Mail and saying "It's all about immigration, innit." like pre-programmed monkeys. I do not take this point of view because their views are at variance with mine. It's almost as if they believe every word printed on the front pages of the tabloids, without pausing for thought.

Research allegedly shows that "better-educated" people favour Remain and that the so-called "working classes" favour brexit. Research ... this was an extract from The Times (that bastion of impartiality), whose readership no doubt consider themselves "better-educated". And so the brainwashing continues, the lies and half-truths from the politicians (if repeated often enough) will - they hope - be believed. And the fate of a nation hangs in the balance.

Here in Cyprus the expat forums reflect the debate in the UK, and I despair in equal measure. As an immigrant I can understand the concern people have about immigration. Cyprus is very reliant on immigrants, and "welcomes" them for the financial benefits they bring to an almost bankrupt country. Cypriots we know wistfully look back to the golden age before they joined the EU, conveniently forgetting the effect that the Communist-led government had on the affairs of the nation.

We shall arise on Friday morning and see what the electorate has decided and how it will affect our lives here. Whatever happens is outside of our control so we must hope for the best ...

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Shut ... horse ... door ... bolted ... stable etc.

What a strange set of circumstances last night and early this morning ... we needed to replace a bulb in the bulkhead light in our shower room but, after removing the metal holder, the plastic cover would not budge. Our friend Tim, a very practical chap, came and removed it for us. The bulb was replaced and the cover was refitted, but we did not refit the metal holder as we were entertaining.

Ann had placed a towel in the sink underneath the lamp in case of any of the Allen screws disappearing down the plughole, and that is how we left it. Ann must have used the shower room after I went to bed and left the light on. The heat from the bulb must have made the plastic cover expand and it dropped into the sink, just pausing to knock the tap into the 'on' position.

In the middle of the night I got up and noticed the light on in the shower room, opened the door and saw the tap running and water all over the floor. Having switched the tap off, and emptied the sink, I noticed one of my shoes floating in the doorway of the guest room. An hour and a half later, and after much mopping, the floors were dry. The cardboard boxes under the guest beds had been rescued, along with their contents, and the rugs and towels draped over the fence to dry off. I then placed the laundry basket across the doorway of the guest room, and the mop and bucket across the doorway of the shower room, and went back to bed.

What Ann must have thought when she got up is the stuff of legend. The bulkhead light metal cover was the first job of the day. Some people never learn, do they?

Sunday, 19 June 2016

The worst seems to be over

After a tense twenty-fours hours the worst seems to be over. The fire on the hills behind our house would appear to have been brought under control but, for a long time, it was a potential disaster. Argaka is our home and we watched as the fire roared and spewed throughout yesterday afternoon and into the hours of darkness. Coming home from Natalie and Tim's it looked as if a volcano were erupting, and we just hoped there would not be a change in the wind direction.

At first light this morning the first helicopters roared overhead, and I watched as they hovered over the hillside to drop their load and then head for the sea to dip their enormous buckets into the water to repeat the process over and over again. At times it seemed as if we were extras in Apocalypse Now. Our cats were very distressed with the noise and the vibrations. But the bravery of these pilots, the fire crews and the British troops on the ground was incredible.

It appears that a local man and woman have been arrested by police. There are various stories about what they were doing. One has it that they left their bbq by the side of the road, and others report they were trying to clear scrubland by burning it. Whichever report is true they have broken one of the fundamental rules of living here and that is, outside of winter time, the lighting of fires is strictly forbidden - and I mean strictly. This couple have caused untold damage to the land, although it is fortunate that no one died and that no houses were destroyed.

To light a fire was incomprehensible - but to light one on just about the hottest day of the year so far, with a strong wind blowing, was unbelievable. Thank heavens that there was no human cost. Other than that, the weekend has been pretty uneventful. England beat the Australians in an heroic display, and I've missed the Grand Prix so will have to watch it on catchup - probably tomorrow. I can cope with that ...

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Citizens' Advice? Step this way ...

We seem to have been inundated recently with friends, and just people we know, needing help, support and ultimately advice. I don't know whether this is caused by the Cyprus Syndrome or the sunshine, but perfectly intelligent people seem incapable of making decisions by themselves. Of course Ann is a great listener, but there are times when this seems to be going too far.

What is irritating is when people ask for advice, which you willingly give - and then they ask every Tom, Dick and Harry they know - and you begin to doubt your sanity. If we are asked a question, to which we know the answer, then listen to what we say and get on with it. If you doubt us, then don't ask us in the first place.

As the weather heats up, I suspect that people's tolerance becomes less. There are times when the drawbridge is pulled up, the mobile phones are switched off and emails and messages are ignored. We cherish these times as we love spending time in our own company. And how many British expats are long-faced and miserable? You can see them in the bars and restaurants bemoaning the fact that they are living on an island paradise (well ... paradise is a bit strong), which they have chosen to live on and complaining about the exchange rate, the weather (What!!!) and - my own pet grievance - "The Cyps". God how I hate that term.

As the referendum debate continues to dominate the news, we are braced for the British people making the wrong decision. There are opinions aplenty here, and most of those who have decided that a break from the EU is a good thing will not be affected by the freezing of pensions, a disastrous exchange rate and the cost of living going through the roof in the UK. One self-satisfied acquaintance   announced that if the UK left the EU, then he would cross the border and live in the occupied territories ... he, of course, has a house on both sides of the green line. I can only pray that there are sufficient voters in the UK who can see a leap into the unknown may well be the worst thing the country can do.