Living in Cyprus - January 2001

Christmas was over, the decorations put away, thank you emails written. Well, mostly. And so, at last, whatever anyone's thoughts on the controversial topic of 'When does the new century/millennium start?' we are, beyond shadow of doubt, in the 21st century.

What did we do to celebrate?

We adopted a new cat. As mentioned in December 2000, a friendly kitten was determined to sleep in our porch. We could find no trace of her family. She purred continually, when anyone took any notice of her, and was clearly a cat who liked humans. We were a little worried, wondering if some family (presumably with small children) was miserable because they had lost their kitten. 

Tim cuddling Tessie But although we took her down to the other end of the road, she arrived back on our doorstep again. One neighbour said that she had probably been abandoned. So, a week after she had arrived, one day when it was raining, we let her into the house. Our other cats were a bit wary: one ignored her, one sniffed her and then seemed to accept her, one hissed and spat. But the new kitten had obviously decided she was going to stay. Oh well. Four humans, four cats.

But we DEFINITELY aren't going to have any more…!

Here in Cyprus, we don't suffer frost and snow, at least not at sea-level. In the mountains there has been quite a bit of snow this winter. It's also been pretty cold. We keep forgetting just how chilly January can feel; some days we never seem to get completely warm unless we go out for a long walk in the sunshine. It does get up to about 14C during the daytime, but with clear skies the nights are much colder, down to 8 or 9, and our kerosene furnace doesn't do much more than take the worst of the chill off. We found ourselves sometimes wearing a sweatshirt, a woolly jumper, AND a fleece in the evenings. On the worst days we ran the air-conditioning on 'heat', which at least made the main living room/dining room a little warmer. And we made the most of our warm quilts and hot water bottles.

There's also been far more rain this year than for several years previously. The water shortage is, provisionally, over. A desalination plant is nearly ready to start giving us continual water extracted from the sea, and the excess rain (and melting snow) has filled the reservoirs to a higher level than we've seen since we first arrived here, in October 1997. We had an unexpected surprise a week before Christmas: suddenly our mains water was on continually. After having got used to having mains water only twice a week - and having to use our tanks sparingly in between times - we couldn't quite believe it at first. I kept switching on the mains tap just to make sure that the water was still there.

'Does this mean,' asked Tim, 'that we can run the washing machine whenever we want?'

To him, this was the height of luxury. He had forgotten our time in the UK, over three years previously, when the problem wasn't lack of water, but being unable to hang the laundry out to dry!

One of the run-down houses near us, with tall green weeds and plants flourishing due to the rain this winterWe were only promised continual water for a month, as an experiment. People took down their curtains to wash them, sure it would not last. But it carried on raining - off and on - and people returning, after a holiday or furlough elsewhere, commented on how amazingly green everywhere looked. Grass started appearing where formerly the earth was bare and hard. 

As for our enormous back yard ('You don't have a yard, you have a mile!' as someone commented) the weeds kept on growing. We can't identify most of them, but a significant number are stinging nettles, so weeding is a rather risky business. With rain, perhaps two or three times a week, it was too wet to do much weeding anyway. Certainly too wet to cut down weeds and grass together with our strimmer ('weed-eater', in American English).

Still, the rain meant we had an abundant supply of citrus fruits.  When we first arrived it was a novelty to pick oranges and lemons from our trees; now we scarcely give it a second thought.  But we do very much enjoy fresh oranges, and I have plenty of recipes using lemons! 

As for the ongoing car saga, if anyone has been following this... Richard was told the car should have been in a bonded warehouse for the past 5 months, but when he said that he didn't know that, and that nobody had told him, they apparently signed some kind of waiver form. Then they said it would have to be in the bonded warehouse for the next 6 weeks while they sorted out the paperwork - or, if he chose to pay them twenty pounds of 'overtime', then it would be done within 24 hours! As the bonded warehouse fee is considerably more than 20 pounds, he said he'd pay the overtime.. and, sure enough, the paperwork was sorted out.

Then he went to try and get a tax disc, and to register the car. We assumed we would need a new number-plate too. To his amazement, he was told that the car was now 'duty paid'. He queried this with two different officials, who assured him that although it was duty-free, the duty had now been paid! So the last part was straightforward, we didn't need to have new number-plates, and the car is now entirely legitimate, may be driven by anyone with appropriate insurance, and can be sold to anyone, irrelevant of their status. And Richard is still entitled to a duty-free car, should he want another one!

By the end of the month, our three 'older' cats seemed to have accepted Tessa, more-or-less, and Tessa slowly learned the other cats' rules. For instance, Cleo doesn't like anyone else eating at the food bowl with her, but Tessa didn't know this at first and suffered a few slashes from Cleo. Now she knows, and will sit and wait if Cleo is there. Jemima and Sophia often eat together but neither of them want to eat with Tessa either. The cats have another 'rule' that only one can be on any lap at any one time. Cleo takes precedence: if Jemima or Sophia is on one of our laps and Cleo comes into the room, clearly wanting the same lap, then Jemima or Sophia obligingly get down. Tessa didn't know this at first. She also tried once or twice to join one of the cats on someone's lap, and got hissed at for her impertinence! But she now seems to understand.

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