Friday, 29 December 2017

Christmas time ...

Well here we are heading towards our sixth Christmas in Cyprus. We shall be glad to get there as the last week or two have been very busy, and occasionally frustrating. It all started when I realised I had to apply for my State Pension, which according to the UK government, is described as a benefit. What! I could rant on for hours about having to apply for a benefit which I started to contribute towards in 1969.

Our motto for 2018, which sounds uncharitable, is to mirror what Peter O'Toole cried aloud in Lawrence of Arabia "No Prisoners". We are utterly sick of being taken advantage of, and used, by those who home in on Ann's kindness. My lovely wife is one of the kindest souls on this planet, and people have taken advantage of her since we have moved here. She is "Such a good listener" they say, and then bombard her with their concerns.

Well no more. If you have a problem then consult a psychiatrist. Don't bring your problems to us. I get heartily sick of people using and abusing Ann's good offices and she does not need any of that stuff.

So be warned ... cross our threshold and we will bite back ... and sort your own problems out.

Monday, 18 December 2017

A nasty experience ...

As I do every morning, and some afternoons, I took Daisy for a longer walk in the wooded hills above Argaka. Occasionally we meet other dogs and dog owners, and our particular favourite is an elderly red setter and his owner. The dogs chat and the owners chat, and then we proceed on our way.

This morning was different. I noticed another car parked near where I normally park, and so expected to see either dogs or joggers somewhere on the track. Fifteen minutes' later three dogs came bounding up towards us, with a fat woman behind them calling "They're friendly." Well that was far from the truth. Two of the dogs leapt at Daisy snapping and barking and trying to bite her. I shouted at the woman to get her dogs under control to no avail. My heavy walking boot, with my fourteen stones behind it, came to the rescue as the largest dog was booted into the undergrowth. The other dogs made their way back to their owner.

There was a firm and frank exchange of views, and I told her that her dogs (being in a public place) should be on a lead and under control. She told me, without shame or apology, that she would do what she wanted and that we were in the forest. And off she went. Fortunately Daisy, although shaken, was unharmed. I was, and am, absolutely livid.

I noticed, whilst I was parking, that she was driving a small red hatchback (registration number EAB???) and I posted on Facebook to see if anyone knew who she was. As yet, there have been no concrete answers although one or two people have suggested a house in the village. 

The end result is that I shall carry a heavy stick on dog walks in future, and heaven help any dog not on a lead who approaches aggressively. And heaven help their owner as well. I have an easy-going approach to life, a long fuse ... but anyone or anything who threatens me or mine had better watch out. If you light that fuse, it will take some extinguishing.

As for the fat woman and her nasty dogs ... keep well out of my way.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Long trousers, socks and ...

Having spent an excellent week with Ann's sister and her husband, life has returned to normal. The weather is cooler and we now look to sit in the sunshine (rather than the shade we utilise for six months of the years). As I write the thunder is providing a noisy backdrop and much-needed rain is pouring down. Water is desperately needed in the next few months as the reservoirs are very, very low. So rain, rain, rain - except when we want to go out.

Long trousers and sweaters and socks have now been moved into drawers and cupboards, and the days of t-shirts and shorts and sandals are but a memory. I suppose it would get boring if we had blue skies and sunshine every day but I could put up with that today. We have just put the fire on and an extra cup of coffee is not an indulgence. Who knows? It may be time to buy some Scotch for medicinal purposes.

To say that Daisy, our rescue dog, has changed our lives would be an understatement. Two walks a day, every day, and the need to play with her and pay attention to her every need, is something of a change for us. I am certainly getting far more exercise now (perhaps part of a cunning plan by Ann) and that must be for the good. Walking in the wooded hills above Argaka, with unbelievable views over the bay, is good for the soul as well as the heart - except when it is pissing down with rain.

Daisy and Jaz are touching noses at my feet as I write, and there are far fewer spats between them as time goes on. Honey keeps her distance but the need to be in the living area when the heating is on will outweigh her reservations and we look forward to those dark nights when all five of us are co-existing cosily. Time will tell.

Regular readers of this blog will note that I haven't mentioned British politics today. I was very tempted but have decided against moving in that direction. However I may not be able to maintain my temporary silence for much longer. Perhaps when it stops raining ...

Friday, 27 October 2017

Advice - fact or opinion?

I cannot help be amused, and irritated at the same time, by the advice offered to new (in the main) expats in Cyprus. There are various forums, and Facebook pages, which are dedicated to expats and where people ask for advice. We fell into the same trap before moving here, when I researched our move and our options.

It takes time to reach the conclusion that some people basically speak out of their backsides when it comes to answering queries. They dress up their opinions as facts and send people off in the wrong direction. Sometimes it is merely inconvenient. For example people are "advised" about what to take to their Immigration interview. If the opinion is out of date or just wrong, then all that happens is that an additional visit to Immigration is called for.

However sometimes it is more important than that. Ann and I were incredulous to read on a local Facebook page the "advice" given to a woman who wanted to know whether a particular test was available at Polis Hospital. As it happens, Ann has to take the same test and it involves a trip to Paphos General. She kindly mentioned this to help the lady in question. We then sat back in absolute amazement when other people weighed in on medical matters, and some of the advice was not only absurd but potentially dangerous.

I have lost count of the number of times that seemingly intelligent people believe the rubbish that is spouted on these forums and Facebook pages. One recent arrival to Argaka comes out with the most outrageous suggestions, and opinions, and should be committed in my opinion. I offered to help a couple (recently arrived) with any advice they needed. In the end he decided he would find out for himself - from the horse's mouth - what he needed to do and would come back to me if he became becalmed. We agreed that the recent posts to his question on Facebook were, to quote his email, "utter bollocks".

And so, to those following in our footsteps, the information is out there as long as you can keep clear of the shark-infested waters of some of the expat forums. Sit back, take a deep breath, and you will soon realise who is talking out of their backsides (and it is not only the muffled voices when they are sitting down that gives the game away) and who knows what they are talking about. But even then, information becomes out of date. We would have sworn that marriage certificates did not need to be stamped when Immigration is visited. But the law in Cyprus changed in the middle of October, and so our information would have been incorrect.

It appears that it will become more and more difficult for Britons to reside in Cyprus unless they become "official" and I would urge those people we know who are currently "under the radar" to legitimise their status before Boris Johnson manages to screw up Brexit more than the current UK government appears to be doing. That means paying Social Security, registering for tax, getting your "yellow slip" - and that will mean you need health insurance - and stop defrauding this country by continuing to use your EHIC to access healthcare. And yes, I know that the business you are running will not be as profitable as it is at the moment, and that your prices will need to rise (and you will then lose the competitive edge you have over legitimate businesses). That is, or will soon be, your real cost of living in Cyprus.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Five years and counting ...

October 9th, 2017, saw us celebrate our fifth anniversary in Cyprus and what a five years it has been. We have made friends, and been abandoned by people we thought of as friends, and are as happy as we have ever been since the start of the "great adventure".

Autumn has brought beautiful and cooler weather, with sunny days where it is a pleasure to potter about doing those jobs we did not get around to in the summer. It is hard to believe that what we now consider as cooler weather would have been "Phew! What a scorcher!" in the language of the tabloids.

Daisy continues to dominate our lives, and we now have "Daisy's House" in the corner of our living area. She is reluctant to use it yet (probably because of previous bad treatment) but has popped in there for treats and to get the beloved knotted rope. She is to be spayed a week on Wednesday, and the garden should be finally made secure about a week later. After that, serious training can begin and be reinforced.

Ann's sister, and her husband, arrive at the beginning of November. So everything will be on hold as we enjoy their time on Cyprus. Accommodation and transport sorted, and we shall go with the flow. Ann is busy counting "sleeps" until her younger sister arrives.

Our lovely cats, especially Jaz, are gradually getting used to Daisy - as are we. Whoever said life was dull when you get to our age was plainly insane.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

"I see no ships ..."

In fact yesterday - on our return from a shopping expedition - all I saw was my reading glasses on the floor, in pieces and a very proud Daisy looking up at us. She had obviously become bored and decided to chew something. For years our coffee table was the depository for books, mobile phones, tablets, reading glasses and the like. No more.

I was ridiculously cross and Ann said we should just go and buy some more. So down to our local kiosk, and I spent a whole €4,00 on a new pair. Lesson learned, I trust. Daisy looked dramatically unimpressed when I told her that I was taking the cost from her pocket money. To misquote some tv comedian, her look was "Talk to the paw."

Temperatures have fallen now that Autumn has arrived. A welcome breeze, and with the weather reminiscent of a warm summer's day in England, it is pleasant to just potter about doing things. Air conditioning in the bedroom has now been switched off (until next June, we hope) and John Lewis announced it was only ninety days till Christmas. Ye Gods.

I suppose all this talk of seasons is irrelevant. We know when summer is over when we look to sit in the sunshine when we visit a bar, as the blissful shade leaves one felling a little chilled. How times change when you live in a country which has a climate, rather than weather.

The Walking Dead, or the UK Conservative cabinet, seems to be lurching towards another disaster. What will eventually happen is anybody's guess but, here in Cyprus, Brexit still provokes monumental arguments on the expat forums. People I once considered intelligent and well-balanced scream and shout at those who disagree with economic suicide, and I very rarely intervene. My blood pressure is just about ideal and I do not want it to rise.

Happy Days are ....

Friday, 8 September 2017

Brexit ... a sad tale for those who care ...

Living a couple of thousand miles away from the UK does not lessen my sadness when I see what a mess the UK government is making over Brexit. The EU does not emerge with much credit either.

As these negotiations affect millions and millions of British and EU citizens, there does not seem to be a common purpose in sight. "To hell with the consequences" and "don't even look beyond tomorrow" spring to mind when one reads the various commentaries in the mainstream media. Of course I understand that all the media is influenced by their owners, their political persuasion and their desire to appeal to their audience. Just as in the run-up to the referendum, there appears nowhere to turn to for unbiased and accurate information.

As an interested observer it appears that both sides are hellbent in insulting and offending the other side, and nowhere can I find any evidence that the UK and the EU want to work together for the common good of its citizens. The leaking of the briefing papers from both sides is absolute evidence of this. On the British side, and all the opinion polls support this, the educated metropolitan elite are very much against the idea of Brexit - as are big business. And so, in the heart of government and the Civil Service, there exists a hard core of saboteurs who ardently desire the UK to remain in the EU. Off the record briefings, leaks of confidential papers and sheer intransigence all conspire to wreck the process.

From the sidelines, and this is not as a result of the media musings, it seems as if SS Great Britain is heading for the rocks and the Officer of the Watch is having forty winks. What on earth are the government doing? It is almost as if they are sleepwalking to disaster.

The latest - but not the last - confrontation is what will happen to the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Both parties want their border to be open and allow seemless movement of people and goods. But the EU have stated that a border there must be, and it is the UK's responsibility to sort it out. But, and the devil lies in the detail, it must not disturb the fragile peace brought about by the Good Friday Agreement. If ever there was a Catch-22 situation, this is it.

The pound (and the dollar for that matter) plunges against the Euro, and the ECB's unbelievable policy of quantitative easing continues to distort the market and will eventually bring the whole Euro scheme down - to the economic destruction of the world economy. That will make us all poorer ... but, by then, it will be too late. The western world is addicted to debt and cannot bring itself to go cold turkey. There are times when I wish I was thirty years younger but this is not one of them.

Monday, 4 September 2017

The Great Escape ...

This weekend marked the sixth week of Daisy arriving to live with us. Our plan is to "dog proof" the garden in the coming weeks but normally she is on the lead in the garden, or when we go for walks. In a moment of madness Ann and I went to sit in the garden to have a drink and I suggested we let Daisy join us, without her lead on. All was well for a while, and she pottered about investigating all the areas she had not yet visited. I was not concerned when she went up to the gate (which was shut) until she slipped between the bars and was off down the road like a flash. Her tail was wagging wildly and she was obviously having the time of her life. Imagine Mel Gibson in Braveheart shouting "FREEDOM" and that was Daisy.

Grabbing her lead I set off in hot pursuit along the track after her. She disappeared into Odysseas' Land (where we often walk) and disappeared from sight. I was making rapid progress down the track, when she reappeared out of the olive trees. I whistled and she came charging towards me, sat down - looking enormously pleased with herself - and graciously allowed me to attach the lead to her collar.

When we returned home Ann did remark that that was fastest she had seen me move since we arrived in Cyprus. So, until the "dog proofing" of our garden, Daisy will remain on the lead. Our cats looked on with disdain, as if wondering what all the fuss was about.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Hello Autumn, my old friend ...

Summer 2017 was a summer to remember and some of the old hands on the expat forums have been saying that this is the hottest summer they can remember. Certainly July was the hottest July for the last thirty years, according to the government. But the last couple of days have been just as hot but the humidity has fallen. This is, in our opinion, just great. We have been able to sit by the pool, as the sun goes down and it has been idyllic.

Old friends Alan and Alison came for dinner last night. They drove up all the way from Anarita and met us at Santa Barbara. Then they followed us up to the house to meet Daisy. That was an eventful five minutes and then Daisy settled down and spent the majority of the evening on Alison's knees. A lovely and relaxed evening, with good food and great company. This is Alan's only night off in the week and we were delighted they chose to spend it with us.

They stayed until late, and then Ann and I sat on the terrace for a while - and then into the arms of Morpheus. Daisy is zonked this morning, as she was very much the centre of attention last night. But a terrific evening, and our guests are so easy to get along with. They are the same as they were when we first met them at the late Dave Travis' birthday party, and that is something we demand in people these days. I, and we, cannot stand people who blow hot and cold. Consistency in all things, as espoused in Jane Eyre, is what we admire.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Sad times at the pound ...

As regular readers of my blog will know, we have been helping feed and look after the abandoned dogs at the Polis pound. Sadly there was an outbreak of the nasty "parvovirus " which killed a number of the puppies. When I went up there yesterday there was only one adult dog left, and it was on with boots and disposable gloves to feed him and give him what comfort I could. It was heartbreaking to leave him there, and he is obviously lonely and confused. Ruby and the other helpers  must be as distraught as we are, and there is almost nothing one can do. But I trust all dog owners in this area have made sure that their dog are vaccinated against this virulent virus.

August wends its way towards the end of the month, and my goodness this has been a hot summer. July and August can be really difficult to endure comfortably and we see an increasing number of our wealthier friends heading back to the UK to escape the worst of the heat. But September is just around the corner when the humidity drops, the temperature is just gorgeous and one can switch off the air conditioning and sleep,with the windows open. Bliss.

Daisy continues to flourish and is slowly - very slowly - being accepted or tolerated by our two cats. They are keen to establish that they are the senior residents here and that Daisy must accept that. Seeing the way she is with cats suggests that she may not have had much experience of them. She trots around, wagging her tail and can't quite understand why they spit at her. She just wants to be friends with everyone and everything. It can be a dog's life sometimes. But what a narrow escape from the parvovirus. If we had not volunteered and brought her home with us ...

It is sad to see the increasing number of stray dogs and cats on the island. A mass neutering programme, and probably (and sadly) a selective cull would be needed to restore the balance - and an intense educational programme so that animals were considered and treated as pets and not pests. I can't see this happening anytime soon, and so we will just continue to help where we can. When you talk about this, you can just hear the quiet voices questioning "But what about the people who are starving now?" and there isn't really an answer to that either.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Pensions ... what a farce ...

We are sorting out my financial affairs at the moment, with Ann's expertise. I can "claim" my state retirement pension early next year and we wanted to make sure that (along with my teacher's pension) I minimise the tax I pay in Cyprus, and to make doubly sure that I don't pay any tax in the UK.  All is fairly straightforward until you try to access the new Teachers' Pension website ... what a pile of  sh**e it is. I designed databases for a long time and I have never seen anything as cumbersome and useless as this website.

They (and my pension contributions pay their wages) will no longer respond to direct emails and - when you can actually access the bloody website - claim to respond within ten working days. Well that's a couple of weeks in anybody's money BUT they state you can actually ring us ... great.

And then, when we actually managed to log on, I wanted them to pay my teacher's pension direct to our bank in Cyprus. Here's an online form but it insists in telling me that my bank account number (confirmed with my bank here) is too long. Email ... we'll respond within ten days.

Now I want my state pension to be paid directly into our bank here (as Ann organised for her pension) next year and I cannot wait for that farce to begin. It's my money for heaven's sake.

Apart from all that rubbish, our new family member - Daisy the dog - has proved to be a gentle and charismatic addition to our household, and our cats are slowly coming to terms with the new arrival. Jaz sniffs her at the gate when we return from our morning and evening walks, but Honey just stares at her inside the house. But she is now prepared to snooze a few feet away. Quo vadis?

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Polis Dog Pound ...

For those who live anywhere near Polis Chrysochous, you may or not be aware that the municipality has a dog pound and someone who is theoretically in charge of it. They supply food and water, and a caged area for the strays. After fifteen days (and this is the point of this post) the dogs are put to sleep unless someone comes forward to claim them or offer them a home.

Step forward Ruby Pearl Evans from Lysos who is the dogs' guardian angel. I cannot remember the exact number but she has over a dozen rescue dogs living with her at home, and she makes the journey from Lysos to the pound twice a day to feed the dogs, play with them and clear up the mess they inevitably leave. When the dogs have been there for more than fifteen days, she then pays for food for them out of her own pocket in the hope she can find them homes before they have to be put to sleep.

My heart bleeds for these dogs (and the many thousands and thousands of dogs in pounds, and running loose) and it is a sad reflection on this country that nothing more is being done. As some of  you may know we have adopted a lovely young dog (who reminds us of Harvey in those brilliant tv adverts a couple of years ago) and she is slowly coming to terms with us and our two cats.

We have offered to help Ruby with the feeding of the puppies a couple of times a week, and I know another woman has also offered help. But I wonder whether animal lovers in the area might step forward to help. Anyone wanting to offer one of these gorgeous puppies a home (or even a foster home) would be welcome with open arms.

I realise it is no small thing to adopt a dog but ...

Sunday, 23 July 2017

It was inevitable, I suppose ...

Ann and I offered to help a local lady, who made a plea for help on Facebook, and who has taken responsibility for looking after the dogs in the Polis pound. We agreed to meet her on Thursday at the pound to feed and play with the dogs there. Ann and I had a long talk before going, and both agreed we would not take any dog or dogs home - no matter how appealing they were.

And so we arrived and were given entrance to the enclosure. There were about ten dogs there, one large male in a cage (as one of the bitches was in season) and about seven or eight very young puppies, all of whom were very excited to see us. Ann's shoelaces were a terrific attraction, and a couple of the puppies helped her to undo them. After removing the shoelaces there was a terrific tug-of-war to gain control of the aforementioned laces.

On Saturday morning, despite all we had said, we returned to pick up Daisy (a three-year old bitch) to take her home for the weekend on trial. Our cats sulked and stared, whilst Daisy kept her distance and just wagged her tail. She obviously wants to be the best of friends with everyone. Our garden is not yet dog-proof and our friend Tim came round to suggest the best way to make it so. By the way things have gone, it will be off to the hardware shop early next week.

The day proceeded in a fairly predictable fashion and Daisy followed us around wherever we went. We had cool water available for her and we had bought some dog food on the way back from the pound. Daisy was found by some Swiss (I think) tourists who were lost. She was tied to a tree, and there were no houses in sight. As they were lost, they could not tell exactly where that was. She was not microchipped but was obviously from a domestic environment. Why she was abandoned, God alone knows.

She is a beautiful girl with a lovely white coat. If all goes well she will have to be speyed at the end of next week, have her inoculations, and have her anti-flea and anti-tick treatment reinforced. Then she will have to be microchipped, registered and apparently we should have a sign for the gate saying "Beware of the dog". Being British we shall, of course, obey the rules. Happy days ahead ...

Friday, 7 July 2017

The "Cyprus Syndrome"

I have come to the conclusion that there is definitely a "Cyprus Syndrome" which affects Britons living here. It all comes down to the small communities in which we live, and it may be something to do with the fact we live on the outskirts of a small village - rather than living in the centre of Limassol.

In the UK we had, and still have, friends with whom we keep in touch and who come out occasionally to visit. They all had one thing in common. They were of a similar age (although some are younger), and had similar interests to us, and - by and large - were professionally employed. British people, by and large (and there's a generalisation for you), tend to feel comfortable when they live alongside people like them. Human beings have evolved into tribal creatures and that's the way they like it. It explains a great deal about the problems immigration throws up in the UK.

But in Cyprus, with a much smaller population, quite often British people congregate and "make friends" with other Britons. Are these "friends" true friends? I am not so sure. When we first arrived we held a party at our new home, and there were a few Greek Cypriots (who all sat together and talked to each other) and some people who had offered advice or help before we came out here to live. One couple became proper friends, until his untimely death in a car crash, another couple became "friends" and we haven't heard from them for months and months and months. Other guests turned out not to be "our cup of tea", and so any relationship withered.

I believe some expats collect "friends" almost like a safety blanket. Others want to be "best friends forever" within a few hours of meeting. But when I compare them to our friends in the UK it took years and years before the friendships developed. And so the "Cyprus Syndrome" ... I wonder whether all expat communities have the same or similar syndromes? Only time will tell.

Monday, 12 June 2017

For the public good?

Regular readers of this blog will know that my opinion of politicians is not great, and events over the last few weeks have not improved this situation. Where are the men and women of stature, of integrity, of intellect with an overwhelming desire to "serve" the public? One thing for sure is that they do not exist amongst the current crop of politicians in the UK.

The latest shenanigans ... the calling of a "snap election" and then allowing the campaign to run for seven weeks ... defies belief. Every student of politics knows that, if there is a substantial lead in the polls, then that lead will wither under the glare of the media and the campaigning of the opposition parties. And so, it does not take a genius to work out, that you allow the campaign to run for the shortest possible time ... and so the Conservatives allowed the campaign to run for seven weeks and watched their lead whittled away.

Since the election I have watched in stunned disbelief as the PM scrabbles around trying to maintain a tenuous grip on power and it would seem that, at the time of writing, she is contemplating a deal with the DUP. For goodness' sake, Ian Paisley will be rising from the grave. Apart from threatening the fragile Northern Ireland peace process, has she considered what these Neanderthals claim to believe? I don't know about Ian Paisley rising from the grave, but I would imagine Margaret Thatcher turning in hers.

All the talk is about when she will be stabbed in the back. But you only have to look at those waiting in the wings (all claiming loyalty) and all sharpening their daggers. Venal, self-serving and totally without a shred of morality, they will put themselves forward for the good of the country. Utter bollocks ...

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Guilty pleasures ...

There seems to be something inherently wrong about enjoying yourself whilst the world is doing its best to tear itself to pieces. The UK is in turmoil with possibly the least competent and likeable (and nobody can mention "charismatic") politicians in my lifetime lying and making impossible promises, whilst the rest of Europe cannot quite believe the mess the British have got themselves into. Add in to the mix terrorist outrages, the continuing drownings in the Mediterranean Sea, Turkey (and that one word says it all) and the unbelievable Trump posturing around Europe, and it seems at face value that all is bad.

We went out for a drink yesterday afternoon and were hailed by a couple I recognised but can hardly call as friends - more casual acquaintances, and friends of friends. Ann went over to say hello. She is suffering from a brain tumour, and has been given months to live. He, quite understandably, looked a hundred years older than I remembered him. And yet, there they were, living life to the fullest extent they could.

It was a sobering experience and made coming home to enjoy ourselves all the more poignant. We had gin and tonic by the pool, a quite delicious lunch of cold, roast chicken, salad and the best-tasting potato salad I can remember (made even better by Ann picking some spearmint she had planted). After that we sat on the steps of the pool, until I decided that I just had to go in for a swim. Encouraged by Ann, (who refused to let me dawdle as I came to terms with the water temperature) I swam a few lengths and dried off in the sunshine.

It was a lovely couple of hours to end an interesting day, but in the back of my mind, I felt slightly guilty enjoying myself when surrounded by some much doom and gloom. I read recently that you should live every day as if it is your last, and perhaps the writer was correct. No one knows when the number 52 bus is just around the corner.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

"Mind your language"

Like many people I use Facebook as there are a number of groups on there I interact with, and - for example - my IPTV provider uses a closed group to answer technical problems with certain channels. I often read these posts, as my knowledge increases by seeing how other problems are resolved. Unfortunately, being Facebook, there is the ability for people to comment on other peoples' posts.

I posted the other day about the HD version of a channel, and pointed out that the definition was too high to play smoothly on my television, which only played at a maximum of 720 dpi, rather than proper HD which is 1080 dpi. The first comment was "For fuck's sake, get with the programme." It took me a few minutes to work out what this guy was referring to, and this was helped by the next post. "Christ, don't be such a fucking tight wad. HD TVs are as cheap as chips." There were other posts in a similar vein, almost all using somewhat robust language.

In any event it caused me to think about the way bad language has permeated all levels of society, from the Duke of Edinburgh telling a photographer "Just take the fucking picture" to the poorly educated who commented about my television set. What a great shame for all who value the English language and the English way of life. I can remember a headmaster telling the boys at a school where I taught about bad language. He explained that it was a fact of life that people swore. As I remember he told them that when he hit his thumb with a hammer he did not just say "Oh bother". He was telling impressionable schoolboys that there should be a legitimate reason for using bad language.

I went back to Facebook and read random comments made in other groups. Many, many posters were almost functionally illiterate and could not construct a meaningful sentence. Yes ... I do understand that this is social media and that "text speak" is all the rage. But ... I cannot decide whether this makes me an old fogey or not. On balance I swear when the metaphorical hammer hits my thumb. The decision, as they say, is yours.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

UK Politics ... what a shambles ...

I have often written about my dissatisfaction with politicians, irrespective of party, and their mendacious and amoral approach to their "jobs". Never has this been more apparent than in the last couple of years. It is apparent that expenses are still a trough into which many MPs dig their snouts, just having to be slightly more circumspect about their accounting. In fact I often wonder how MPs manage find the time to sit on committees, take part in debates and look after the interests of their constituents whilst milking the taxpayer.

The decision to call a General Election was absolutely correct if (setting aside what is best of the country) your sole purpose is to stay in power. Any Prime Minister in living memory would have called an election if their main opposition was in such a parlous state. The prospects of a landslide will only benefit the occupants of the Westminster "bubble" and will not improve the situation for anyone else. I despair to see an opposition that is totally unable to land any sort of meaningful blow on the government, although the right wing media would not let us, the voters, see it even if it happened.

We are, as expats, part of that group that are - or may be - used as bargaining chips by either side. In the same way the three million EU citizens living and mainly working in the UK are in a similar position. How dare the politicians who are elected (and that has nothing to do with the EU bureaucracy) to serve us take that approach. It would seem that citizens count for very little in modern Britain. No doubt politicians sleep well at night, if only due to the exhaustion they must all be feeling as they fill out more expenses' claims.

Where are the men and women of honour I remember from my youth who put the UK and its citizens first, second and third? I can remember Sir Alec Douglas Home resigning in 1964 after suffering a narrow election defeat and his humility and honesty have stayed with me to this day. When I look back at Blair, Brown, Cameron and May ... I am filled with loathing.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Bee eaters ...

It is one of the most evocative sounds at this time of the year when the bee eaters arrive in Argaka to herald what they consider to be the start of summer. Not only do they sound like no other birds do, but they are indescribably beautiful. When you watch as they wheel overhead it is as if the whole of the rainbow is on display. One of the things we have both done in the last few years is to take much more notice of the wildlife here. And the lizards are so much bigger than they were in Bexhill ...

Ann's birthday is approaching fast and I trust she will have thrown off this bug that has afflicted us both, and left us with little or no energy. We drove to Paphos yesterday, and I had to hang around for a couple of hours waiting for Ann. So hardly an energetic morning but, by the time I had driven back home, it felt as if I had run the marathon. So fingers crossed that we shall be able to celebrate on 12th, especially as we have been invited to another friend's birthday on the 11th.

Watching the farce that is the UK election on television has been hilarious and depressing at the same time. I cannot remember such an inept and hapless bunch of "politicians" in my life, and I refer to all sides here. Dianne Abbott's interview on the radio was hilarious and reminded me of that Green Party leader a couple of years ago who could hardly remember her own name, so confused was she. Taken together with Mrs May's obvious dislike of chips by the seaside (Ed Miliband eat you heart out), and the entire BBC news broadcast could have been from Spitting Image or Monty Python.

We are not a million miles away from being able to apply for permanent residency in Cyprus, after five years' of living here. Apart from the paper trail required, it is apparently a much simpler and less expensive process than applying for nationality (and you have to lived here for seven years). So come the Autumn we need to sort that out just in case our thoughtless politicians upset the EU even more in the coming years. So fingers crossed for that.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Strong and stable ...

What an enormous farce is the General Election campaign in the UK at the moment. If it was not so sad I could easily imagine that the Tory election strategy ("strong and stable" and "coalition of chaos") was part of a televised satire from Monty Python. If you want a laugh (before you cry) check out the YouTube video of Mrs May being interviewed by Andrew Marr on Sunday morning. I have never seen such a farcical response from any elected leader. It is almost as ridiculous as Alex Salmond being interviewed with reference to educational attainment - or the lack of it - in Scotland.

We are slowly recovering from the nasty bug that has afflicted us for some time now. I am much better but Ann has a little way to go before she is free of the coughs and lethargy. We are pottering around the house and just saving our strength at the moment as we have a trip to Paphos tomorrow which cannot be put off.

The cats continue to moult and it would be possible to vacuum twice a day if we desired. Sitting on the terrace the other evening we saw and heard the first arrival of the bee-eaters, which always herald the coming of summer. They tend to sit on the electricity cables on the field opposite and then swoop and warble as if the is no tomorrow. I assume the few we saw were the advance guard and so we await the arrival of the main party. Such beautiful birds and such an evocative sound ...

Friday, 21 April 2017

On the fourth day ...

This nasty little bug I picked up four days ago is showing no sign of going away, and Ann reported yesterday that she was sickening as well. So we now have two sick bays in the house and the cats think we have all gone mad. A maddening cough, runny nose and extreme lethargy is a combination I would not wish on anybody and we can only hope that it clears up soon. It was this time last year that we were both diagnosed with bronchitis and I spent a night in Polis Hospital, where the treatment was excellent.

Long gone are the nights when we switched on some heating in the late afternoon as the temperature dropped. Now if we only felt well enough to sit out in the sunshine ... life would be a lot better. Our friend Savvas dropped in this afternoon and started to paint the metal structure of the carport, which seemed sensible. But it will be good to have some shade for the car again. Even in April it can take your breath away if you jump into a vehicle that has been sitting in the sun.

Ann woke me up the other morning with the predictable news that there is going to be a General Election in the UK. Well that's just fine and dandy but leaves me in a predicament. Both the Tories (for whom I have always voted) and Labour (a party I could not consider voting for) have come out in favour of leaving the EU, which leaves the Lib Dems, and I could never trust a word they said. They would be likely to climb into bed with any party who offered them a sniff of power. And so, much as I want to see the UK remain in the EU, I have got nobody to vote for and I suspect that many other expats will find themselves in a similar situation.

So, apart from a bout of ill health, and with the most important decision the British government have had to make in my lifetime leaving me effectively disenfranchised, life is good. Trump hasn't started a nuclear war (yet) and for that we should all be grateful. But I cannot remember when such an unstable character was in such a powerful position. What a world we live in ...

Monday, 3 April 2017

Another dry month ...

Following the success of November 2016, when we had a month's abstinence from alcohol, we have decided to follow that up with a dry April. It is nigh on impossible to not have a couple of cold beers, or glasses of wine, when the hot weather arrives and so this is the ideal time. And the feeling of self-righteousness is a very secondary part of this scheme.

We were sitting at Saddles this morning and having coffee, when it was apparent that the whole world was waking up, sprucing itself and generally making ready for the next six months. And so, after supermarket shopping, we often call in for a drink as a form of reward for doing something neither of us really enjoy. Did we pull the car over? Absolutely not ... our determination did not waver and we headed for home. As a reward I went to put the chlorine tablets in the pump house and skinned my head on the door frame. There are times when being good is not enough.

War with Spain ... what bright spark in the Tory party came up with that idea. I used to think Michael Howard was an astute politician but after his comments yesterday I think he ought to be sectioned. Did nobody think to remind him that there are hundreds of thousands of Britons living in Spain? Between him, the three musketeers (who don't seem able to muster a brain cell between them) and the wannabe dictator - St Theresa - I am ashamed to be British at the moment. As a lifelong Conservative voter, who never missed an election from 1970 until we moved to Cyprus in 2012, I could not ever vote for them again. And I couldn't vote for the Labour Party (alongside millions of others) and the Libdems ... not a chance in hell.

The good news is that it can't really get any worse and that, I pray, tsome politician with a brain starts to pull strings behind the scenes. Otherwise, as Corporal Fraser said, "We all doomed."

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Fuses ...

Enjoying the Spring sunshine this morning, my daydreams were rudely interrupted by Ann coming out to tell me that our freezer was no longer working. Fortunately it was nowhere near full so the "disaster" was not as bad as it might have been. We emptied the freezer, and moved stuff to our fridge.

Now my friend Savvas always makes fun of me as he says I am not a practical man. There is, I admit, an element of truth to this so I set out to find the fault. The incentive of not having to go out and buy a new freezer was a spur indeed. I checked the socket it was plugged into and that was fine. We moved the freezer out from the wall and had a look at the plug. It was one of those "sealed for life" ones but ... the fuse was visible, and with a small amount of persuasion I was able to remove it. On inspection it was fine but we replaced it and our freezer sprang into life. GCE "O" level physics has never been so valuable. For someone who has always telephoned a man to come and sort things out in his UK existence, this was a first and a triumph. Happy days ...

And, my goodness, don't we need some happy days with the lunatics running UK Plc deciding to trigger Article 50. I see that the people of Cornwall have finally woken up and smelled the coffee. Having voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU, the people have realised that this will mean an end to the grants and general agricultural funding on which the county relies. The Welsh have also seen the light dawn, and many of  "the people have spoken", "move on" and "suck it up" brigade will increasingly rue the day they decided to destroy the UK's financial future, and possibly cause the breakup of our country.

However the clocks go forward this weekend, and the weather is set fair. The Six Nations' Rugby Championship is over (and what a disappointing weekend that was) but the Grand Prix season is about to begin. I wonder how long it will be before we are able to swim in the pool?

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Coptic Storms?

I suppose people are equally divided when it comes to whether Coptic Storms, and thus the Coptic Calendar, are a reality or are coincidental here in Cyprus. Thursday saw the arrival of El Hossum, the equinox gale which is apparently meant to last for eight days. Clouds of dust were very apparent on Thurdsay and Friday, and this morning we woke up to what (according to Ann) looked like the set for a zombie apocalypse.

Garden furniture everywhere, masses of debris in and around the pool and our heavy-duty car port tarpaulin in shreds ... all that was missing were the walking dead. Thunder and lightning, and seeming inches of rain, and the believability of the Coptic Storm Calendar was becoming more and more real. We remember back to our first year here, when we had been told about the Coptic Storms. One afternoon, I think it must have been in November, and the temperature literally shot up by seven or eight degrees within a few minutes, the skies darkened and the wind swirled from every conceivable direction. We watched the live weather feed from the Argaka weather station, and the wind changing direction every few seconds and gusting to 90 kph. The only thing we could do was shut the curtains and drink some wine.

On a more parochial note we have been enjoying the Six Nations' Championship on television. Side-bets on the outcome of each weekend's matches were going in my direction until Emgland played against Italy and the infamous "ruckgate" controversy. I had England to win by at least sixty points, whilst Ann was much more measured and had England to win by a much more conservative amount. Well, and it hurts to say this, she was right and I was wrong. If I ever hear the end of that ...

Our friend Jill has been quite ill with cellulitis, and it is nothing to do with having excess cellulose. We went to see her on Thursday in hospital in Paphos, and she was not in a good way. She had been taken from the private clinic in Polis by ambulance immediately she was examined and has been on intravenous antibiotics since. Her leg was badly swollen and discoloured and we felt very sorry for her. When she is released from hospital she will be out of action for some time, which will give John the opportunity to learn how the oven, microwave and washing machine work. Time will tell how well he copes ...

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

I'm a lumberjack ...

Exciting times here at home when I put on my check short, my boots and entered the world of the lumberjack. We have two large palm trees in the back garden and this is the time of year when they need cutting back. They are both very different and the one I decided to tackle has great swirling fronds. The general idea is to cut back the ones that dip down to the ground and leave the ones at the top of the tree to point upwards.

Grasping my trusty saw I advanced gingerly - not knowing whether the serrated edge of the blade would cut through the tough fronds. Ann advised, and what a good piece of advice it was, that I should wear thick gardening gloves as the spikes on the fronds are sharp and potentially lethal. The saw was up to the job and twenty minutes' later the offending fronds were stacked in the back garden, ready to be transported to the garden waste over the fence.

The other tree is too tall for me to attempt and I shall need to get some help in for that. Our friend Savvas was here the other day and he burned all three garden rubbish piles, which was a great help. We are reluctant to set our own fires, even at this time of the year, as we have seen the havoc our neighbour Demetrious reeked on the land behind his houses.

Through an Internet contact (all related to IPTV) we met, completely by chance, a couple who are moving from Malta to Argaka. David, my contact, was in one of the local bars with his wife and another couple and there was something familiar about him. My phone searched Facebook and there was David's photograph so I went up and introduced myself. The other couple have since been in touch and will make contact before their move in mid-March.

I remember all the help and advice my late friend Dave Travis gave to us over our first months on Cyprus. It is comforting to have people who are able to tell you how things are done and where places are when you first come to a new country. The couple from Malta are experienced expats but, as people never tire of saying, "This is Cyprus".

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

A couple of days of sunshine ...

It's amazing what a couple of days of sunshine does to the system. We moved outside immediately and bask in those precious rays, and the temperature outside is much warmer than inside. It is a peculiarity of the way many houses are built on Cyprus that there is little or no insulation. So, in winter, the heat dissipates quickly and, in summer, the houses get very hot. Surely the opposite should be the case but it is not.

It also doesn't take much for us to start thinking about the garden. Local farmers are ploughing and planting at the moment and that again stirs memories of previous years and the planting we have done. Our friend Savvas says that you take sunshine, add water and anything will grow. Not quite true as I think we overwatered our Aloe Vera plant, and it seemed not very well at all. But Ann decided to move it to "sick bay" over the winter and it has made a miraculous recovery. The other moot point is how far to cut back plants. Conflicting advice abounds and we are slowly learning to make our own decisions.

I am looking forward to the next few weeks as the Six Nations' Rugby Championship is due to start on February 4th, and that always cheers up the bleak midwinter. Apparently this weekend is due to be very chilly (in Cypriot terms) and so we shall batten down the hatches and keep warm and dry. If necessary I shall follow my grandmother's advice and "throw another servant on the fire".

And then, in the blink of an eye, it will be Spring (one of our favourite times of the year) and pottering around in shorts and t-shirts (whilst keeping trousers and a sweater to hand for when the sun goes in). 

News from the UK becomes more depressing by the minute. I have never seen such a collection of intellectually-challenged dimwits in government, led by the "I'm not really a wannabe dictator" PM. The rule of law may well have won the day in the Supreme Court yesterday, but the Tory threat to flood the House of Lords with hundreds of new peers to ensure the Brexit debacle is kept on track is undemocratic in the extreme. The House of Lords may not be perfect but it is a damn sight better than  a dictator in Downing Street.

Roll on October when we are entitled to apply for permanent residence here. I, for one, am ashamed at the direction my country is heading and cannot see me ever returning.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Here and there ...

What a strange month January is turning out to be ... submerged by rain, with local dams now overflowing and then the promise of sunshine. Out we go into the garden to tidy up, clean the pool and generally think about Spring and then "All change".

It is hard not to feel despondent about 2017 and what is happening to the world. The insanity that is Brexit and the utter madness that led to the Americans electing such an obviously unstable man as Trump leaves me breathless. Of immediate concern is that complete lack of intelligence and forethought, and a situation exacerbated by that buffoon Boris Johnson, that the UK establishment is showing in its dealing with the EU.

No one wishes to see the UK kowtowing to Brussels, but there is a sense of unreality in the way that the intellectually-challenged Theresa May thinks she can dictate to the EU. It may have passed her by that the UK is a small island off the coast of mainland Europe and it is the other twenty-seven countries that will dictate what happens. Listening to the bluster and bluff coming out of Westminster you could almost sense that this was in the heyday of the British Empire. "Wake up and smell the coffee."

On a brighter note we are both well and enjoying life, although I yearn for the time when sweaters, socks and long trousers can be banished to the wardrobe. There is something profoundly depressing when you have to reach for a coat (and gloves) when you decide to go out. The cats still have their winter coats and Honey looks as if she has been inflated with a bicycle pump.

Argaka looks deserted with most of the bars and restuarants closed for a Winter break. But the weather will change and people will slowly creep out of hibernation, and smile at the sunshine. My 64th birthday is approaching with almost indecent haste and we must decide how to celebrate it. I suspect good food may well be on the cards. It's just a shame I wasn't born in May or September as the weather is perfect for dining outdoors. I suppose if the Queen can have two birthdays ...

Monday, 2 January 2017

2017 ... fit to drop ... or fit

Ann and I enjoyed a lovely lunch at the Turtle Tavern in Argaka yesterday, completely by chance. For the first time in days it was not pouring with rain, and so we decided to go fo a walk. We parked our car on the seafront and set off along the new pavement. I suppose we walked just over a mile and a half, and then decided that we still had to get back to the car ... another mile and a half. We have both been pretty sedentary since the weather changed and by the time we got to the car, I certainly felt as if we had walked far enough.

The original intention had been to walk to the Turtle Tavern, have a drink and walk back. So, as a compromise, we drove to the Turtle Tavern and were pleased to find it open. It was lovely and warm inside, thanks to the log burner, and it was only when Ann, the landlady, was explaining the options for Sunday lunch that we realised it was Sunday, and that we were peckish. So roast beef ordered and a couple of pints of Old Speckled Hen to hand, we enjoyed a lovely lunch and decided on our priorities for the year.

Moving gas cylinders around, as you do at this time of year, I have found them quite heavy - certainly heavier than four years ago. So I have been looking for a gym to join, as I really did enjoy my almost daily visits to the gym in Bexhill. But gyms over here, as I have discovered, have an alarming tendency to close down at short notice (having insisted on money upfront) or are very overpriced. However in conversation with Stuart, who works at Santa Barbara in Argaka, he told me he has joined the gym in Ayia Marina (a few miles up the road) and that it is €90 for three months. That's more like the £60 for three months I was paying in Bexhill.

So, I must get up there and check it out. Those gas cylinders will seem lighter and it will be good to get back in shape again. Otherwise there will be no option to sample Old Speckled Hen again.