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.