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.