Life in Cyprus - October 2001

Mid-October - still the end of Summer

As we heard from friends and family in the UK about the first frosts, signalling the end of their Summer displays of petunias and busy lizzies and other bedding plants, I was reminded that here in Cyprus, we have quite a different season for colourful flowers. Despite being in the Northern Hemisphere, like the rest of Europe, the best time for petunias (which do extremely well here) is from October. If we keep them watered and regularly dead-headed, with a little judicious pruning at times, they will continue blooming until April or May when the weather finally gets too hot for them.

So we went to one of the many small gardening shops and bought quantities of petunias and antirrhinums. We have experimented with other plants but found many of them don't grow well in this climate. Antirrhinums often manage to survive two or three years, so long as they get plenty of water during the Summer, and the colours are quite stunning. In addition to these, we found the shop selling bulbs for crocuses and freesias, so decided to experiment. I thought crocuses needed a very cold spell before they would grow, but these come from Holland: perhaps they had been given a cold snap, or even put in a freezer before sending to Cyprus.

Freesias are probably my favourite bulbs; we did try and grow them once in England, but they were not very impressive and I was told that they really need greenhouses unless the weather is particularly warm. Perhaps they'll do better here. Anyway, I spent an hour or two re-planting some of the ferns and other plants we had growing on our front porch, planting out the bedding plants - mainly in pots, as snails pose a terrible problem here - and putting the bulbs in pots alongside other plants. I don't suppose we'll know whether they're going to grow for some months.

The weather is still hot as I write in mid-October - up to 30C or so during the daytime - but the humidity seems to have passed, and it's pleasantly cool at night, down to about 20C, so we need more than just a sheet over us at night. It's not light in the mornings until about 6.30am now, and dark by about 6.30pm in the evenings. The boys' activities - mainly musical - have started up again, so there's more of a structure to the week. Although schools go back in early September (and we began our home education coursework again then) the music schools and bands seem to wait until October.

Home educators' trip to Kritou Terra

This year our home educators' support group has grown from about four families, meeting monthly in someone's home, to a potential 12 or more. This gives us more scope for doing somewhat different activities, and this month we had our first true 'field trip', visiting the village of Kritou Terra at the other end of Cyprus. One of the mothers in the group works at the Environmental Centre there. The Centre frequently hosts groups from schools both in Cyprus and around the Middle East, but they were able to find a slot to fit in six of the home educating families for a day and a half.

Chairmaker in Kritou TerraWe had no idea what to expect, and found the village charming - old in style, but not so neglected as some of the old villages we have seen. There is quite a sense of community, as everyone knows everyone else! There are very few children or young people; the future of the village lies in the hope that young adults will go to live there, to renovate some of the houses which are falling down, and to bring new life into the area.

On the first afternoon, after settling in to our accommodation - small but attractive flats equipped for visitors, although rather mildewy in places - we went for a guided tour of the village, with a stop at a local chairmaker and also a weaver. The Centre has a bilingual guide who came with us and translated; for those of us living in towns such as Larnaka, it's rare to find Cypriots who speak little or no English, so it was a new experience to meet these craftspeople who spoke only Greek. 

elderly woman weaving in Kritou TerraWe heard about how they make their products, and also about the problems they foresee with craft skills dying out as there is nobody to take over from them. If they have children and grandchildren, they have moved away to big cities and would rather work with computers than create traditional crafts.

In the evening we went for a twilight walk to listen to night sounds, and watch the bats. We didn't actually see many bats - nowhere near as many as we have in our large tree in Larnaka - but it was very pleasant to be out in the countryside, away from the noise and pollution of traffic. Although it had been cloudy, we were pleased that the weather stayed fine - cooler than at sea-level, but still pleasant and sunny.

On the second day, we walked a mile or two to a stream, to collect some pond creatures, after a talk about how to collect them without damaging them. We brought them back to the centre, and the children were able to look at them through the excellent microscopes available, including some with two eyepieces to give stunning (or horrifying, depending on what was being examined!) three dimensional views of the animals.

In mid-afternoon we had to leave, since Daniel had a Greek lesson back in Larnaka. As we drove along the new motorway - which means that the drive from Larnaka to Paphos is now well under two hours - we saw storm clouds gathering, and by the time we had passed Limassol we were driving through quite heavy rain. We arrived back at our home shortly before six o'clock, having driven through floods of several inches in some of the local streets. We wondered if our dining room ceiling would have leaked, as it sometimes does during heavy rain; sure enough, there was water not just under the crack in the ceiling, but spread right out over the floor!

Once again we were extremely thankful for our 'big green cleaning machine' - the wet/dry vacuum cleaner with powerful suction that will suck up any amount of water. It had to be emptied four times as we took turns to do this, and we calculated that there must have been 40 litres of water on the floor!

This heavy rain signalled the start of cooler weather; although the following day was sunny again, it felt much pleasanter to me, no more than 25C and sometimes less than that. We put away our shorts, started wearing jeans again, and found our sweatshirts to wear in evenings.

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