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 stuffing 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.