Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Internet TV Part II

I suppose the one things that British expats want when they move to Cyprus is British television. A couple of years ago, it was possible to purchase an enormous satellite dish and pick up Sky by various nefarious means. Sky switched satellites and narrowed the footprint of their signal and that avenue closed. But the demand still existed.

Why, when you move to a foreign country and want to soak up the local culture, is there such a demand? Well for many people British TV is the best in the world and we want to watch it wherever we are. Football, rugby, cricket, Eastenders ... you name it and people over here want to watch it. So the big question is how do you do it, and what will it cost?

IPTV (Internet Protocol Televison) is the answer, and it is when your televison is streamed via the Internet, through a special box, to your televison. There are as many options as there are days in the year: some are free and some are subscription-based. By and large "You get what you pay for" and some of the paid services (especially when they have been around for a couple of years or more) are just about as good as satellite or cable television in the UK.

Is streaming legal? According to the EU, receiving illegally-acquired television programmes and films is legal for us, the end-users. If you are streaming these programmes to the end-user, then that is illegal. If you download these tv programmes and films to a hard drive (in other words if you keep them) then that is illegal.

What's the quality like? Our "black box" cost us about €150 but research shows we could have bought it cheaper. It connects to our tv and that is that. Once set-up, and we pay £17 a month (month by month and not a year in advance), the quality is astonishing. Many of the channels, including all the sports' channels are in HD (mostly 1080 and sometimes 720) and play without buffering or problems. Absolutely brilliant. Using this method there is some "tweaking under the hood" but it is simple enough. But, of course, for those who do not wish to do this, there is a slightly more expensive method.

I shall return to this in Part III ...

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Polis and Argaka beware ...

Late last night our friends Becky and Pam arrived, and no doubt Bexhill will be quieter as a result. But this will make for interesting times in Argaka, Polis and beyond as these girls know how to party. It's their third visit and we always look forward to seeing them. Whether my blogging will be put on hold until next Monday, only time will tell.

Our trusty iMac decided, after nine years, not to switch on last week and it is now at Computer SOS in Chloraka, and we wait with bated breath to see whether it is repairable. The last thing we want to do is to have to buy another computer, but we are feeling its absence at the moment.

The weather looks to be set fair for May, which is good news for our friends and their holidays. Ann's birthday on Thursday is all planned and we look forward to welcoming our friends to Moustakallis. It should be a relaxed lunch in the old style and no doubt everyone will be on their best behaviour. Sadly Peter's wife, Sylvi, will not be able to join us as she is still in the UK - but everyone else has indicated they will be there. The guest list is secret, despite the attempts of one or two friends who want to know who else will be there. The table plan is also secret until arrival, and was arrived at after considerable discussion. All sorts of "Will he have something in common with her?" discussions have taken place - whereas I just want to ensure my lovely wife has a memorable day for all the right reasons.

If you haven't been invited, if you haven't made the "cut", then you'll just have to wait until next year ...

Friday, 6 May 2016

Does The Force Awaken?

I have been an unashamed Science Fiction fan for as long as I can remember. Dr Who, Blake's Seven, Star Trek, Star Wars ... the list goes on. For some time I have been looking forward to the latest Star Wars film, and yesterday was the day we sat down to watch it. What a load of old bull.

Episodes 4, 5 and 6 were great, and 1, 2 and 3 were not. Most Star Wars' fans agree. But this was a diluted repeat of the plot from the original, except that the Death Star was bigger. We've all seen the other films and enjoyed the special effects and the music, but forty years later we want just a little more. Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and (just about) Mark Hamill had the acting ability and the charisma to make you care about the film.

Daisy Ridley lacked charisma, and was about as sexy as rice pudding. John Boyega was totally miscast, needed to lose quite a few pounds and totallly lacked the athleticism to portray an action hero. The rest of the cast were grey and the villains appeared as what they were ... cardboard cutouts.

What did I enjoy? I loved Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, and the humour and sadness they brought to their parts. The droid BB8 was an inspired creation, and how it was possible to portray all the feelings with a nod of the head I don't know. JJ Abrams is a talented director, and I loved his two Star Trek films.

But here there was something lacking. The script was appalling and the fantastic rebel bases of the original films seemed to be now reduced to a single spaceship in a park. The grandeur and the scale of the earlier films was entirely missing. Perhaps I should have written my guide to Internet TV instead of wasting two hours and eighteen minutes of my life. The Force was definitely not with me yesterday afternoon.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Internet TV in Cyprus.

Of all the things that UK expats seem to miss when they move to Cyprus, it is British TV. Whether it is the football, or the soaps, or the British news, everyone hankers for that taste of "home". It used to be possible, with an enormous dish, to pick up Sky - but that is no longer the case. So what are the options?

One of the chapters of my ebook gives all the options. It is possible to stream almost any channel via the Internet to your television, but the methods are many and various. We have HD quality tv (about 150 channels, with all the sports' and movie channels) but it took a long time to get the right mixture. Many of the people we know have struggled, and still struggle, to watch high quality tv without freezing or buffering ... but it is possible at a small cost.

I shall sit down tomorrow and put together a guide but tonight ... too late and there is a good film to watch before bedtime.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Busy, busy, busy

After a couple of quiet weeks, we have a busy time ahead. Next Monday sees the arrival of our friends, Becky and Pam from Bexhill, and they are staying with us for a week. During that time, of course, we are celebrating Ann's 65th birthday at Moustakallis in Polis for a leisurely lunch. Our friend Pam, from Peristerona, arrives back on the island after a break in the UK and there will be lots to catch up on when she is back "home". And, today, there is ten-pin bowling. Enough said.

Argaka is a small place, but covers a surprisingly large area. The expat community, and I hesitate to use that word, is a little claustrophobic if you let it affect you. When local expats conspired to sabotage our fund-raising at a local bar - Argaka Aid - we accepted it as par for the course. Imagine our surprise when we heard a local expat had taken over the bingo and quiz night, was being paid to do so and there was no charitable outcome. Well the biter was bit this week, when there was the mother of all public rows in the bar, which was apparently crowded at the time, and she was shown the door by the owner. It is also alleged that €700 is unaccounted for, which was the prize fund for one of the games. It had "apparently" been donated to three local charities, but no receipts could be provided.

The whole affair leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, and of course is the subject of much gossip locally. No doubt people will come out in support of the bar, or the bingo organiser, and tongues will wag until the cows come home. Being retired has many benefits, but it does leave a lot of time to gossip and the keyboard warriors will no doubt be out in force. A friend of ours videos the whole event and we look forward to seeing the footage. Whether the missing money will ever see the light of day is debatable.

A couple of days of possible rain and high wind are forecast, literally, and then the sun should reappear in full force. There was a report in one of the local papers that NASA had forecast that the Eastern Mediterranean would have much higher temperatures this summer. Whether this is true, only time will tell. This is where air conditioning comes into its own, and there is no point in having it if you don't use it when necessary. Electricity prices have fallen by about 40% in the time we have been here, and we cannot see any point in being uncomfortably hot and sweaty - especially at night. So air conditioning at the ready, if NASA is correct. But a point to consider if you are following us out here. Air conditioning is essential at times, and is useful for background heating in winter if it becomes necessary. Our first house had air conditioning in the bedrooms only, but here we have it in every room. Just something to add to the list.

Strangely it is heating the house in winter that is more important. Cyprus winters are generally brief, but most houses lack insulation. So a reliable source of heating is a must, especially for those times when the sun goes down and the houses become pretty chilly. Log burners, gas fires and open fireplaces are quite common, but LPG central heating is much less common and can be very expensive to run. All of which makes choosing a property more difficult, and - believe me - it is so easy to fall in love with a house when you first arrive here, and then to regret allowing the heart to rule the head. A common mistake is to look at the beautiful (large) garden and enormous rooms and think you are getting so much for your money. And then in 40°C you realise you want something manageable and it is too late. The number of people here, including us, who move after the first year (or earlier), is quite astonishing. By then you have learned your lesson and your second home is the one you stay in. Who would ever have thought that retirement in the sun could be so complex?

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

An enigma, wrapped in a riddle ...

Last night we were sitting by the pool, having just barbecued some swordfish steaks and combining this with an avocado salad, and I don't think that life can get much better than that. Cyprus is an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, and does take some getting used to - but if it is right for you, then it is to die for.

Reading the expat forums you could be forgiven in thinking that many British people hate Cyprus, Cypriots and the way of life here. I am appalled to see and hear what some of my fellow countrymen say and do. I was chatting to a Russian doctor at the hospital the other day (just getting repeat prescriptions), and she commented on how politely I had asked her to do this. I made a joke of this and told her "Of course I am polite. I'm English." She rolled her eyes and made a face. It transpired that she had had so many arrogant, rude English patients in her time there. What a pity. But, upon consideration, it is so true. A couple of years ago I was queueing up in the local supermarket, when a voice behind me announced that a "Cyp" was pushing in at the front of the queue. "These people used to know their place and they used to stand aside when Brits wanted something." Appalling, but true.

The BBC uses the blanket term "migrants" when they report on the vast movement of people moving around Europe, looking for a new home. Well, as we remind ourselves, we are immigrants in Cyprus and we moved here through choice. We have a legal right to live here, but that is not the point. I suppose it would be quite possible to make two lists - the first would contain all the things we love about Cyprus and the second the things we don't love about Cyprus. The first list would be far longer than the second, as it would be regardless of where we lived.

For those considering following us in our great adventure, there is no Shangri La at the end of the rainbow (I am awash with clich├ęs this morning). Research, research and then perhaps a little more research. The great adventure is just that ... an adventure to be lived and hopefully enjoyed. To all those expats who seem to hate Cyprus, I am quite happy to point out the road to the airport.