Friday, 26 June 2015

Tempus fugit

As Virgil wrote, time does indeed fly and it seems to fly faster here in Cyprus than anywhere else I have been. That, of course, could be a matter of age but I don't think so. Perhaps what is most peculiar is that, to us, it really doesn't matter what day of the week it is. Of course if it is Wednesday many businesses shut and (if we forget) we have to return on another day. Such hardship.

"Le Weekend", as the French describe it, still has an allure, presumably a throwback to the time when we both went out to work. When we are thinking of inviting people for lunch it is always "Why not come over on Sunday?" When you are retired, as we were once told, every day is Sunday. But old habits die hard.

It was good to hear from our friends Pete and Sylvi the other day, who suggested meeting for a barbecue at a picnic site a few kilometres away. Miraculously neither of us suggested Sunday. It will be good to catch up with them, and share gossip and news. It is so easy to sit back and let others contact you, when - and I have to give myself a stern look in the mirror from time to time - we should be more proactive, as should our friends be.

The weather is now just about perfect for us, with lovely sunny days which are not yet too hot. We know that over July and August we shall be less active because of the heat, and that there will come that time when we have to use air con to get a decent night's sleep. And then will come the relief of September, when we can sleep with the windows open and it is so beautifully cool. At what stage Ann will want the electric blanket on the bed, only time will tell? And that is why time really does fly.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

News from the garden ...

Ann's hard work in our back garden has started to pay real dividends. We picked the first of our peppers a week or so ago, and they were delicious. We found out how to freeze them in halves, and so the call is now for a bigger freezer. Then yesterday, after having been to pick tomatoes which we do regularly, we noticed that our chillies had turned red (or most of them). It was necessary to check out the relative hotness of them and they have some kick. The plan is for us to pick and string both red and green chillies and allow them to dry out.

Photos of this bounty are on my Facebook page. As our friend Savvas says, add water and sunshine and they will grow - and they did. We religiously water our vegetables each evening, which can be a little onerous as that is in the middle of the cocktail hour - but sacrifices need to be made. Next year we plan to grow spring onions and onions as well. Perhaps this year we got the balance wrong and planted too many peppers but, just yesterday, we noticed some of our peppers turning red. So they really were red and green pepper plants we bought. I was beginning to doubt my memory but Marinos, our lovely man at the garden centre in Agia Marina, always sees us right.

So after all this excitement it is time to get on with the rest of the day. Last night we watched The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and it was a real treat. Poignant and funny at the same time. Well worth a couple of hours of anybody's time. Guest star Richard Gere being given an acting lesson by Maggie Smith, Judy Dench and Bill Nighy (et al) was priceless.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

A Golden Age?

Just considering our life here in Cyprus, and knowing we have friends in the UK who might well follow in our footsteps, I was wondering in years to come whether this will be seen as a golden age. A golden age of what, you might ask? The answer ... pensions, of course.

We, and many others in their 60s and older, have (in many cases) final salary pensions which are both relatively generous and index-linked. In addition the State Retirement Pension adds a welcome bonus to our income, even though I have to wait another thirty-one months to receive mine. Not that I am counting the days but it will be nice ...

And yet, when we look at the UK's working population, the final salary pension scheme has all but been withdrawn, and public service pensions are being savaged by the government for the simple reason that there is the most enormous black hole staring them in the face with an ageing population. I never countenanced going on strike in my entire working life, but tens of thousands of teachers are now faced with the prospect of paying more for their pensions, receiving less and having to work longer than they thought. As a former teacher I understand where the anger is coming from.

Before people start coming out with all the old clich├ęs about long holidays and short working days (oh if only that had been true), we should remember that it was compulsory for teachers to be part of the teachers' pension scheme. The terms of the contract between the government and the teachers were what you had to sign up to, and now the government are unilaterally changing the conditions of the contract. In any other situation, people would be reaching for their lawyers.

It is the same for many other public sector employees, with compulsory pension enrolment, and the anger and possible industrial action will cost the country dear.

But back to the golden age ... I cannot see the State Retirement Pension existing in decades to come and for people in their 20s and 30s they will have to fund their retirement privately. The possibility that some people may have to work until they drop is truly frightening. And so, we who are comfortably provided for, can sit by the swimming pool wondering whether to have another gin and tonic. And this is truly a golden age but in ten or twenty or thirty years I wonder how many people will be able to fund a life in the sun.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Racism - alive and well

A gorgeous evening with friends in Pomos was completely ruined by the attitude of their other guest, who just happened to be the lifelong friend of our host. Sitting and relaxing after dinner, this "lady" (obviously educated and successful, so no excuse there) announced that the flat above hers in the UK had been sold recently to a black man. She was concerned in case he played his bongo drums all night and would have loud music playing, and wild parties as "these people like to do".

At first I thought it was a wind-up, and that it was the beginning of some awful joke. But no ... and she then waxed lyrical about her dislike of black people in general, that there were far too many of them in the UK, and on and on. Taking the reasonable view and suggesting that she was a racist did not stop her. Yes ... she was a racist and did not want these people living anywhere near her.

Apart from the fact that the apartment she lived in was probably worth a small fortune, she was prepared to move out if his noise disturbed her. The argument that white, black, yellow and goodness knows what other colour of people might be noisy, have wild parties and play the bongo drums did not move her one jot.

Our host's husband told her that her views were racist and still that had no effect on her. The good news is that she only comes to visit once a year and returns to her white compound next Thursday. The bad news is that our host has her birthday on Saturday and we have accepted an invitation to join them for a meal in Polis. Jockeying for seats will be an art form.

We shall go and be excellent guests and will not do or say anything to rock the boat, as the priority on Saturday will be to ensure that our friend has a birthday to remember for all the right reasons. We have been asked not to let the words "Title Deeds" pass our lips as another couple of guests have had and are still having horrific problems with the Land Registry. My only hope is that England beat New Zealand on Saturday so that John and I can have something to chat about. Ann, whose love of cricket is well-known, may well wish to join this meaningful conversation. Happy Days.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Loyalty and Friendship ...

My good friend, Amanda Morton-King, back in the UK shared this thought on her Facebook page and it just hit the spot.

SOME PEOPLE AREN'T LOYAL TO YOU ... THEY ARE LOYAL TO THEIR NEED OF YOU ... ONCE THEIR NEEDS CHANGE, SO DOES THEIR LOYALTY.

We both value loyalty and give our loyalty to our friends and expect loyalty from our friends. What we value even more is that our friends are constant - they don't blow hot and cold. Additionally we value honesty.

We have made some good friends in our time in Cyprus, and they have proved loyal to us in the way we hope we have been loyal to them.

Acquaintances come and go but friendship means something to us, and we hope it means something to you. This all explains why we are selective in our choice of friends.

Food for thought, we think.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

As Jane Austen wrote ...

"To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment."

With the temperature rising quickly now, it is apparent that shade is absolutely vital. Forget going on a fortnight's holiday and sitting in the sun at every conceivable moment so that you return with a tan. Living in this climate we never sit in the sun from June until the middle of October, and we are still nut brown. Bars and restaurants will know the mantra "No trade without shade".

We still giggle occasionally when we remember asking, when being shown round a property, whether the garden was South-facing. The agent did not even smirk, she must have heard that so often. The reality of life in Cyprus is that shade is vital, as there is no point in coming to live here and then spending all the time indoors. Sitting in the shade and enjoying the lovely cool breeze that so often comes across Polis Chrysochous bay, with a cool beer to hand, is as close to perfection as you can get. Ironically the cost of gazebo and awnings, and garden furniture in general, is very expensive because - I suppose - everybody needs it.

Ann had a first the other day when she cooked dolmades from scratch. They were absolutely delicious, and apart from being fiddly when you have to wrap your vine leaves around your filling (at least I found it fiddly), this latest foray into Cypriot cooking was straightforward. And, as we underestimated how filling they would be, I had some cold for lunch the next day. Warm or cold, a fabulous dish.

Time for a dip in the pool and who knows what else ... life here can be okay.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Good News and ...

Jaz appears to have made a full recovery from her snake bite yesterday and that is a relief to both of us. Whether she has learned her lesson and leaves those pesky creatures alone from now on, only time will tell.

The poisoning scandal is on all the forums now, and everyone is waiting to see what happens to the alleged perpetrator. I, for one, would be appalled if this was swept under the carpet. It is a sad fact of life here that animal welfare is so poor. We knew about it before making our decision to live here, and  the same lack of concern for animals seems to be prevalent across the Mediterranean region.

The argument about the teachings of the Greek Orthodox Church (and I am grateful to my friend David from Gracie Towers for his comments) may well be something of an urban myth. I have read in many places that it is part of historical church teaching that animals have no soul, and whether this has contributed to the disregard of animal welfare exhibited by many, but not all, Greek Cypriots I do not know.

At the time of the scandal regarding the dog thrown into the crusher at an hotel, and also at the time of the Cypriot man who was arrested for dragging his dog behind his car, the newspapers were highly critical about the church here and its teachings. It may be a thing of the past but the allegation keeps rearing its head. Urban myth or not, we both love animals and we have Cypriot friends who love their animals even more than us, if that is possible.

So where does this island go from here? It is reported in some circles that there may be 170,000 stray dogs on Cyprus and an uncountable number of cats. The animal charities have closed their doors to strays as they are stretched to the limit. It has been written that the municipalities are responsible for these poor animals and some dogs have been taken in. But this just leads to euthanasia.

The problem seems insoluble given the numbers involved and the parlous financial state of the island.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The Dark Side of Cyprus ...

Two things today have impinged on our life in Cyprus. The first is that our young cat, Jaz, was again bitten by a snake. We drove very quickly to Polis to see our lovely local vet, Yiannis, who injected her with anti-venom and another pain-killer (all for the princely sum of €20,00). This is the second and, hopefully, the last time this happens.

But another disturbing story was of a taverna owner near Paphos Airport who has been poisoning local animals with Lanate, a banned substance. I shall post a link to the Facebook page tomorrow, and I hope the bastard rots in hell.

 Be aware that Cyprus has a dark side, through ignorance and possibly the teachings of the Greek Orthodox Church, regarding animal welfare. Do not come to live here unless you understand it.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

It's all happening in Argaka ...

Having seen our closest bar close (Santa Barbara) amid rumours of an "investment opportunity", it was with some interest we saw the outside area being cleaned up - followed by a blackboard notice "Opening Soon". What on earth was happening?

All was revealed when we popped into The Fly Again and spoke to the owner, Yiannis. He and his wife, Lucy, were very active and there were at least three new members of staff there. But of George, the manager of the last two years, there was no sign. The conversation turned to Santa Barbara and Yiannis revealed that when he returned from his holiday in the Czech Republic, George had informed him of "bad news". This was that he had acquired the keys of the Santa Barbara bar. He left immediately.

Our waitress, Gabriella, one of the three new members of staff, hails from the Czech Republic as do the others. Yiannis' wife, Lucy, also comes from that country. Gabriella was having difficulty with understanding our order, as her English is not yet up to speed. I tried Greek (always ready to practise my Greek when I get the chance) but she does not speak Greek. Argh ... but we managed in the end. Good luck to them all in their new lives in Cyprus.

Interestingly our next closest restaurant, The Half Way House, has a new member of staff. Daniel, you will not be surprised to hear, hails from the Czech Republic.

In any event, back to Santa Barbara. In our view it is a great shame that George is going to run Santa Barbara. He is ever-so-slightly oleaginous and irritated me greatly a few weeks ago by insisting that Greece was in a better financial state than the UK, and that - on a separate issue - the Greek navy would blow the Royal Navy out of the water. Not the best strategy to encourage the British, who make up the overwhelming majority of customers at The Fly Again and, historically, at Santa Barbara.

We shall watch unfolding events with interest but from afar. Customers we will not be.