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 "Ă“chi. 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.