Life in Cyprus - August 2004

12th August:

It seems as if the end should be in sight now we're over half-way through the summer, but somehow August tends to drag. Each day is the same: temperatures of 30-35 in the shade, down to 21-25 overnight. Cicadas start chattering around 6.30am and keep going until dusk. We've got so used to them that we hardly notice them, other than to brush away flying ones when outside at night.

Actually we've been very lucky with the weather this summer, at least so far. For a couple of days at the start of the month the temperatures rose, and the humidity was worse, but thankfully it didn't last. Cooking isn't unbearable in the evenings, and a couple of times when we went swimming in late afternoon the water actually felt quite chilly when we first got in.

Daniel stepping over a stream in the Troodos mountainsDaniel's gone to Troodos for the weekend - there's a sort of retreat there - and the rest of us are going up on Sunday afternoon for a couple of days. It should be distinctly cooler and fresher up there. I certainly feel the need of a change of scene. I'm very thankful for our air conditioning, but being in the same room for 12 hours or more every day does tend to drag.

All the boys' activities have stopped too, other than some drama rehearsals for Daniel for the Autumn. This year he's going to be in some Greek language plays as well as English ones with Theatre Antidote. They're renting an old cinema and will be converting it to a kind of Arts Centre - an ambitious project, but it should be very good when it's finished. A big benefit from our point of view is that it's only five minutes' walk from our house!

Last Saturday the washing machine stopped spinning. It had been a bit erratic for some months, only spinning when there was a very light load of laundry in it, and sometimes not even churning properly, but it was going and of course it's easy enough to drip-dry clothes on the line in this weather. However when it refused to spin even with just one shirt, we thought we'd better speak to a mechanic. So Richard went to chat to the owner of the 'white goods' shop where we bought the machine about five years ago. That's how things are done in Cyprus!

Half an hour later the mechanic turned up. I tried to show him the non-spinning machine, but - typical! - it started spinning without problem. So he told me to load all the dripping washing back in, and I did so. He was able to diagnose a broken capacitor which he replaced. I suppose it took him about fifteen minutes in all, and the cost of his visit (including the new capacitor) was 15. Labour is really very inexpensive here.

flowers struggling at the far end of our gardenThe garden looks dry and brown, although there's a creeping clover-like weed progressing gradually over the 'lawn' area, keeping it green and much softer than any grass we can manage to grow! So we're encouraging it. I do a bit of weeding some mornings, but on the whole it's reasonably tidy. My new little flower bed at the far end is doing quite nicely with the bougainvillea growing rapidly and producing pink blossomy leaves already.

Soft fruit is wonderful in the shops this month. The grapes are plentiful, getting bigger each week, and for sale at about 90c per kg. There are some excellent nectarines and plums too, and to our delight there are apricots again. When they appeared for a couple of weeks in June I thought that was all for the year, but every week there are lots in the supermarket. Perhaps this is another benefit of being part of the EU!

As for our own fruit... well the mulberries finally stopped falling about the end of July. The orange tree has plenty of green oranges, currently around the size of plums, so they should be ready by about mid-November. Two of the lemon trees look as if they're going to have plenty of fruit too, and one of the small citrus trees is fruiting for the first time - they're round fruit, but slightly larger than the orange tree. Could well be more marmalade oranges, but it would be nice if it were another sweet orange tree.

As for the pomegranates... well one tree had rather a lot of split ones, perhaps because I kept forgetting to water it. A couple more don't seem to be fruiting at all this year, but that's not a bad thing as we always have far too many. But the one outside the kitchen window is absolutely laden with fruit - so much so that one branch has bent almost to the ground. They're quite springy branches so I hope it won't break; it does seem odd that these trees don't seem strong enough to support much fruit, though!

22nd August:

At the start of the week we went up to the campsite in Troodos for a couple of nights. It wasn't too cold even for Richard during the daytime, and I did like having to use blankets again overnight! More importantly it was peaceful, the air was fresh, and there was no humidity!

We returned to Larnaka on Tuesday evening, when grey clouds started amassing in the mountains and it looked as if it might pour with rain. To our surprise, there were still clouds in the sky even when we returned home and it didn't seem too hot or humid at all. However it stayed dry here, and by the end of the week it had become more humid than it has been all summer.

I'm still watering the garden once a week - all the fruit trees, anyway, and the flowers that are still alive. Last night I didn't start till about 7.00pm, and had forgotten that the nights are drawing in so that by 8.00pm it was totally dark. As dusk fell there seemed to be bats everywhere flying around our garden. They never come near me, and I understand they eat more than their weight in insects each night, so we're very happy for them to be there, living in our huge Cypress tree.

I saw some giant ants, too - about 1cm long, running around near some holes that have developed in the garden near one of the citrus trees. They don't seem to bite and they don't do any harm, so we don't worry about them so long as they stay outside!

This evening I watered the front garden, where geraniums and hibiscus are still blooming, and a few of the antirrhinums and petunias are staying alive too. I found myself wishing it would rain. It may still be several more weeks before we get any rain, and I've been watering weekly since at least April this year, more than I can ever remember doing in previous years. I hope our water bill won't be too astronomical!

There was a half-starved cat mewing in the garden - very thin, and with eyes that looked as if they had cataracts, or at least some kind of infection. I gave it a few crunchies as it seemed to be asking me for food with a high-pitched, almost inaudible mew, and to my amazement when I bent down, it rubbed against my arm and wanted to be stroked for a while before it started eating. Poor little thing, I wonder if it's a family cat which has been abandoned. Of course our cats won't let it come in the house, and that's probably just as well. We don't want to adopt yet another cat.

25th August:

When I woke up this morning there was an almost eerie silence. It took a moment to realise why: the cicadas were not chirping. When they have been chattering away during sunlight hours for two months, we more-or-less filter them out so it was quite a shock when they were no longer doing so. I don't know what happens to them - perhaps they all die overnight. Actually they haven't all vanished entirely; later on in the day I did hear a few from someone else's garden, and at dusk there was about half an hour of cicada chattering again. But it's encouraging: the first sign that summer is ending.

In the evening we saw three kittens in the front garden, all watching the road. Probably their mother left them there; when feral cats wean their kittens, they tend to take them somewhere quite a way from their home, and then abandon them. I wonder if the thin cat who appeared earlier in the week was their mother, scouting out the neighbourhood and choosing somewhere with friendly humans and a source of food.... not that we're going to take in any more. But it's a reasonably cat-friendly street. I hope they survive and don't start mewing pitifully in the night.

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