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?