Tuesday, 13 March 2018

30,000 + Page Views

I never considered, when I started this blog about our life in Cyprus, that many people would stop by and read my musings. But they have and I must say I am pleasantly surprised. This bog is an outlet for my irritation with politics and politicians, and I hope an insight into what it means to go and live permanently in another country.

I still remember my finger hovering over the "Buy" button on the EasyJet website where we planned to buy two "one way" tickets to Cyprus. Only a few weeks later, with our apartment in Bexhill echoing after the removal men had finished and all our worldly goods were heading for the container to be shipped here, we sat and looked out over a cold, grey English Channel. Twenty-four hours later we were sitting in 28°C under the palm trees at Paphos Airport, completing the paperwork for our hire car. The adventure had begun.

And now, five and a half years later, we will soon be applying for "permanent residence" here (Form MEU3). Who would have thought it? We should have just been pottering about our daily lives if the huddled masses had not voted for Brexit. I still cannot quite believe it. Self-harm on an epic scale will be committed and the UK will be much the poorer for generations to come.

Will others be able to follow in our footsteps? Perhaps they will, but it will not be straightforward and it will be at the whim of those bloody politicians. We moved here simply, and it was our legal right to do so. Quo vadis?

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Short trousers ... in March

Hard to believe that the weather is so perfect today that shorts are the order of the day. Even Ann removed a layer. A gentle breeze, warm sunshine and a blue sky - there are times I would be content with all of this, especially when the temperature in the shade is 35°C + in summer. But there again, the water in the pool needs to warm up somehow.

The pain I have been suffering as a result of my cracked ribs is a little more bearable today, and I am cutting down on the number of painkillers I am taking. We are off to the pub this afternoon to pick up our "Beware of the Dog" and "Shut the Gate" sign that Ann commissioned from Mike (the ever-so-talented barman at the Turtle Tavern), and I suppose it would be rude not to stay for a drink or two.

Apart from that, everything is on hold until I become more comfortably mobile. The doctor thought about twenty days, but I am hoping for a shorter time than that. The builders are still here and Daisy is relaxed enough not to bark a warning when they arrive. One of the guys has, without being asked, picked up garden rubbish we were collecting and disposed of it for us. He obviously felt sorry for the old boy hobbling around in pain. What a lovely gesture.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Spare Ribs anyone?

I didn't realise that whatever you do physically it involves your ribs moving. With two cracked ribs, and the prescribed painkillers proving not particularly effective, almost anything I do can be a little painful. The thought of lurching through life for the next three weeks, until they heal, is not something that fills me with joy.

The builders are renewing their work on the plaster on the outside of the house, and it is almost continuous and very loud. After they finish, and the special paint is applied, followed by the magical chemical, then everything will need to be replastered, and then painted. At least the plastering and painting will be quiet. After that the inside paintwork, affected by the damp will need to be cleaned and then repainted with the anti-fungal paint. And then, and only then, will we have our home back.

Daisy, Honey and Jaz have been brilliant whilst all this has been hoping on - taking it in their stride (unlike the human occupants). They lie on sofas, roll their eyes and hibachi to sleep. It is a moment of immense pleasure when the builders drive off in the late afternoon.

But the cold weather has departed (only relatively cold if you are reading this in the UK), Spring is all around us and soon the clouds will disappear for six or seven months. No doubt I will be blogging about how hot we are. I note from the site stats that this blog is approaching 30,000 views. Amazing and I trust you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Don't fall over here ...

Everywhere in Cyprus is so hard, be it marble floors in the house, patios and terraces, or the rock-hard earth. So don't fall over as I did on Tuesday night. I was walking Daisy round the garden when I lost my footing and fell. And boy - did I land heavily?

Ann made valiant efforts to help me up but in the end we had to call an ambulance. A lot of people criticise the health services here but the ambulance crew were brilliant. Hospital and an X-ray, a pain-killing injection, various tests - the bottom line is that if my ribs are bruised, cracked or broken, the treatment is the same. We return to the hospital today for more X-rays and hopefully some stronger pain relief.

The builders and Savvas had a major row by telephone last night and we wait to see whether they return to do what they were contracted to do. If they do, it will be a noisy few days. If they don't, no doubt a third company will be engaged. I must admit we are heartily fed up with the noise and the disruption, so we hope that it will be all worth it in the end.

So the sun is shining, the sky is blue and winter seems to have retreated. The dust that has been very noticeable over Cyprus for a few days, and which has made breathing difficult at times, is apparently due to clear today. That will be a welcome relief. Happy Days ...

Saturday, 3 March 2018

I love angle grinders ...

Well, finally, the new Bulgarian builders started work this morning. We were promised they wouldn't start before 08.30 (which they didn't) but they did arrive to offload materials at 06.45. Daisy, our trainee guard dog, was on the alert and we never did get back to sleep. The sound of angle grinders is reverberating around the house, the animals are not happy but I suppose we are content that the work has finally started. It will apparently take a fortnight to complete, and then the decorators will have to return to sort out the interior AGAIN.

We hope and pray that this will resolve the damp and mould issue for good. When I think of the thousands of euros that must have been spent (why engage a structural engineer and not follow his advice?) trying to do the job more cheaply. By the time this has finished, it will have cost three times as much. We are glad it is not our money.

At the moment we are busy planning so that Ann can fly to the north of Scotland to visit her sister - hopefully sooner rather than later. Becoming bogged down in details, we thought it would be better to engage a travel agent. I contacted a well-known travel agent in Paphos (one which had been highly recommended by friends and acquaintances) and a very detailed email arrived with Ann's travel options. My initial thoughts were "How much?" and my subsequent thoughts were identical.

As she does not know how long she will stay, a return ticket is out of the question. And so, I investigated the options. A single ticket from Paphos to Gatwick can be had for as little as £46. Another single ticket from Gatwick to Inverness costs a little more. Ann can stay with a friend near Gatwick, and her single flight to Inverness takes off at a friendly early afternoon time. The return journey will cost a little more (it always seems more expensive to fly to Cyprus) but can be arranged at a time to suit Ann. The options suggested by the travel agent were nudging £700. Hmm!

Spring seems to have sprung here, and it is mild and quite sunny. The poor old UK has been through a nightmare week, and the floods when all the snow melts will make matters even worse. It all manages to be quite minor when you compare it to the government's handling of the negotiations to leave the EU. The opposition has shot itself in the foot by doing an abrupt u-turn on the customs union in what I believe is a naked power grab for office (and to hell with the country just so long as the door to No 10 Downing Street can be wedged open).

The British High Commissioner has been travelling around the island urging British expats to apply for permanent residence after five years here. In our sixth year this was already on our list of things to do, and as soon as my new passport arrives it will be off again to Immigration to sort that out. In any event we don't plan to live anywhere else. I cannot imagine snow and ice, and Brexit. Brr!

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Never mind "Back to the Future" ...

Well the saga of our house, and the builder, continues. Work was done, but not finished, and the builder was sacked for being an ar****le (I can't spell the Greek version) and so Savvas came to continue with the work. I felt that he was not doing what the structural engineer had advised and - sure enough - in the areas where the new work had been done, the damp and the mould returned with a vengeance. All work stopped and then a phone call that Savvas was going to arrive with a new builder.

A Bulgarian builder (with a very expensive liveried van) arrived and there was a site inspection and a lengthy conference. The end result is that, apparently, this builder recommended doing what the structural engineer told us all six months ago. And so, he will remove all the work already done, come out three tiles all around the house, dig down (which was never done previously) so that the saturated ground underneath the tiles can dry. He will then remove the plaster and some brickwork from the house (a metre or more up the walls), and apply the magic formula which will insulate the ground and the walls. Ye Gods! It is apparently going to take a fortnight. After that the outside of the house will need to be repainted (as it was last year), and the interior will need to be made good and touched up by the decorators.

After that we have to hope for a prolonged wet spell to see whether this has cured the problem. If so, great celebrations. But how much money has been wasted on "cheap" options? Why employ a structural engineer and then disregard his opinion? No doubt Savvas lights his big cigars with €50 notes.

Watch this space. But not in the next few days. My 65th birthday is on Wednesday and I intend to celebrate in style so that both Ann and I have a great few days. My old friend Mikkis used to refer to himself as a "Pensioneer" (to rhyme with Musketeer) and that is what I shall be. Who said life was dull?

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

"I see no skip ..."

Despite my blog yesterday, some materials arrived later on in the day and the builder turned up a few minutes ago with his pneumatic drill. And so - and no doubt the arrival of headaches later today - the next stage of the great work begins. Contrary to what the civil engineer said, the tiles are being removed and a magic chemical is to be sprayed, before a membrane is put in place. I can remember him saying that the sand underneath the tiled area would be saturated and would need to be allowed to dry for three or four days. This now appears to be not the case.

A lot of money had been spent in the last couple of years (and not our money I am glad to say) and the work seems to have been done in the wrong order. Surely solving the damp and mould problem (caused by the fact that "damp proof courses" do not appear to exist in Cyprus) should have been the first step. But no ... remove the mould and redecorate inside and out at a considerable expense. Another winter and more mould ... and so decorate the interior of the house with an anti-fungal paint. Six days later the first signs of mould reappear. And so ... a builder is called in but is not appearing to be following the advice of the civil engineer. So "quo vadis?" No doubt the affected areas will be rubbed down and treated again with the anti-fungal paint. And then ... wait to see if the mould reappears.

Some people appear to have more money than sense. But what do I know? You cannot seal the house from rising damp. You must eradicate it and then treat it.

Daisy was not amused at the sound of the pneumatic drill but seems to have settled down now. Mister Sprout is making his feelings felt from the laundry room. Ann and I will no doubt be reaching for the paracetamol if the drilling goes on all day. But the sun is shining, the sky is blue and already there are signs of Spring in the air.