Life in Cyprus - March 2005

March 2nd:

Two new sofas were delivered at lunch-time. We had been thinking of replacing our very uncomfortable three-seater sofa for some time, and after visiting the Thrift Store many times we realised it could take months - even years - to find what we were looking for. So we went to some of the furniture shops. Most were expensive, with mainly leather-covered suites. Quite attractive in their way, but there's not much point having something like that with four cats in the house. One scratch, and leather (or leather-look) would be ruined.

Eventually we ended up at D V Pavlimbes and sons, a furniture store in down-town Larnaka. Their selection was much more to our taste, and their prices better too! After much thought we went to order two two-seater sofas on Saturday. We chose a material that was somewhat more expensive than the default, thinking it would last longer and be better able to cope with feline scratches. All the sofas are hand-built and covered, so we thought it would be a week or two at least, and were surprised when the very friendly man who took our order said it would be Tuesday or Wednesday.

two new sofas delivered - on time!Cyprus companies are not renowned for good timing. So I was very surprised when today - Wednesday - a phone call came at 11.30am telling me the sofas would be delivered in an hour. I mentally decided that meant probably some time in the afternoon, but to my amazement the doorbell rang at 12.30, and the sofas were delivered. 

The boys like the look of them (that's a relief! Dan had threatened to leave home if they were tasteless) and we spent some time rearranging the room to best effect. When we finally had it the best way we could think of, Dan suggested swopping the dining room area with the living room area. Hmmm.... that would be a major effort (there's some fairly heavy furniture in the dining room) but it might work. He's going to model it in his graphic program Blender so we can see how it would look before moving anything. But it might just be a great improvement...

This afternoon I tackled some of the weeds in the garden. I was feeling very overwhelmed by the garden at the weekend; a couple of hours of heavy weeding seems to make very little difference, and with the warm wet spring we've had so far, the weeds are growing much faster than I can deal with them. Still, every little bit does help. Tim did a bit of lawn-cutting ('lawn' is a euphemism for 'green weedy area that we keep cut short and which contains a bit of grass) and I tackled the far end of the garden which has always been terrible for weeds. 

a few bedding plants at the far end of our gardenI even put out a few more bedding plants, having made some space for them. These are the last of some plants I bought over a month ago and which were looking decidely pot-bound. I wonder if they'll survive. Rain is forecast tomorrow, which wouldn't be a bad thing. Unfortunately it's also forecast for much of next week when my brother and his wife are coming to stay from the UK.

March 6th:

Last night we had great excitement in the street... about 8.30pm we heard a tremendous crash, and then a lesser noise - at which all the lights started flickering madly and the computers re-booted themselves! Richard and the boys rushed outside, to find that half the street was in total darkness and all the streetlights had gone out. An electricity pole (cables are overhead here) a few metres away from our house was wobbling, having been hit by something - with wires sparking like anything!! Very dangerous...

Neighbours started pouring out of houses, and talking in a mixture of Greek and English. They discovered that a large blue van had been weaving to and fro down the street (people who saw it thought the driver must have been drunk). It had bashed into a wall at the other end of the street, and then hit this pole - and driven away. One of the people in the street chased it on a motorbike but didn't catch it up - so we don't know what other damage might have been done elsewhere.

Someone managed to phone the electricity board, who arrived about 15 minutes later and turned off the mains to the whole street so our house was in complete darkness too. I needed to finish washing up so I did that by candlelight. We have quite a few candles so when Tim came in to warn me that we were about to have all the power off, I found a torch and then lit as many candles as I could find.

People were saying we could be without electricity for days... but thankfully the repairmen worked quickly and through half the night, so by about 2am (according to Richard, who woke up) it was all fixed again. We were also very thankful it didn't rain last night, as was forecast. Of course the fridge and freezer were without power for six hours or so, but we didn't open them so hope all the food is all right.

March 16th:

My brother and his wife have been staying, and the week has rushed past. They did go away for a couple of days to the mountains beyond Paphos, where they said it rained rather a lot and they got extremely muddy! However the predicted rain in Larnaka didn't materialise, and they were able to get out and about to the town several times, and visited a museum.

On Saturday night was the premiere of the English version of 'Fairytaleheart', the latest play by Antidote Theatre so we all went. It's a teenage play with only two characters, plus three musicians who are off stage but just visible behind a screen. Daniel is one of the musicians, playing clarinet. It went very well and we all enjoyed it - I was surprised that an hour and a half of dialogue could be so engrossing, but it certainly was. There were some quite young children there despite it being at 8.00pm and they too watched and were absorbed by it.

Monday was a public holiday for 'Green Monday', the first day of Lent in the Greek Orthodox and Eastern tradition. They use a different calendar to calculate Easter than we use in the UK, and while the two sometimes coincide, this year the Western Easter is five weeks ahead of the Eastern one. Since Cyprus is mainly Greek Orthodox, naturally their dates are used as holidays, although the Protestant churches celebrate the Western Easter. I'm wondering if there will be any chocolate Easter eggs in the shops in time for Easter on March 27th... there weren't on Saturday.

On Monday evening my brother took us all out for a meal at the Art Cafe, a small and very friendly restaurant on a side-street near the sea-front. We went early, to avoid the cigarettes (many Cypriots smoke at meals, and restaurants don't have no-smoking areas) and had an excellent time.

March 22nd:

The forecast has been for sun all week, but the sky was a bit grey this morning and it's just started spitting. A pity as Tim had started cutting the grass at the back - a two-hour job in all, and he had only done about a quarter of it when the rain started. Only a few drops so far, but of course it's not a good idea to use an electric lawnmower in the rain even though it has a surge protector thing. I was going to do some weeding this afternoon too, but perhaps not after all.

Our mains water is off at present. This used to be a regular feature of Cyprus life until a new desalination plant was built about three years ago. That was followed by some very wet winters, so the reservoirs are now full rather than almost empty. Theoretically we have water on all the time (it used to be just twice per week) but every so often the mains tap stops working without any warning.

I should perhaps explain that we have two different taps in the kitchen. One regular hot/cold mixer tap which is sourced from our tanks, and one that's directly from the mains. In general people drink the mains water, but tank water is used for washing up, for the washing machine, and also for the bathroom. So we're not without water entirely - the tanks still have plenty. And we still fill up plastic bottles with mains water for convenience - not as many as we used to in the days when the mains was sometimes off for three days in a row, but five or six. However we tend to forget to fill them as we take the mains water for granted, meaning that this morning when it went off there were only two bottles of drinking water. That's three litres in all, so assuming the mains comes on again before the evening we'll probably be all right.

Still, it meant that I didn't do the load of laundry I was planning to do this morning (the washing machine takes 60 litres in all so I didn't want to use up that much tank water, just in case....) and I suppose that's all to the good in view of the rain.

March 25th:

(Good Friday) Today has felt like Saturday, it's very strange. This morning we heard band music so I assume the town band were marching (for the Cypriot national day, nothing to do with Good Friday - the Greek Good Friday isn't for another five weeks), followed by the uniformed organisations and schools. We didn't go to watch, it's not very exciting! Dan is in the town band, but decided not to play today; he still has a slight cough and there are plenty of clarinets anyway.

Tim went to the Anglican church for a quiet service, where apparently he was singing with the choir. As this was at the same time as the marching, I don't suppose it was actually all that quiet! It was followed by a simple lunch, then a 'Stations of the Cross' service, something I had never heard of before. I spent some of the morning gardening, tidying up the beds at the front of the house where I planted some bedding plants about a month ago. One of them is doing well - a riot of red, with some freesias (planted in October) smelling wonderful. Freesias are the only bulbs we seem able to grow here; it's not cold enough for daffodils or crocuses, and tulips get eaten by snails. But I do love freesias!

However the other bed is rather disappointing. The plants are still alive and flowering, but very small. I did some extensive weeding of both beds, then watered the disappointing bed with phostrogen - I don't like to use artificial fertilisers, but it's not as if we're going to eat the plants. Then I did put some compost (home made from the heap) around them. 

By about 11am the sun was on most of the garden, back and front, so I came in for a while. It's about 20C in the shade during the daytime, so not extremely hot yet, but I don't do well in bright sunlight.

In the afternoon, once the sun had moved from most of the back garden, I moved most of the remaining compost from the current heap to around some of the trees, did a lot of weeding, and Richard and I mowed the rest of the 'lawn', so it looks a lot neater. There are still huge grassy weeds around the edge of the garden, but it will take ages to get rid of those.

I started using compost from this heap last November, so it's done well. The newest one is enormous, as tall as me, so I was glad to have a space to start another new one after removing the last of the current compost. The third heap - which I stopped adding to last Autumn - is doing quite well, so I hope it will be ready to use by the end of this year when we need some more.

We had one set of hot cross buns about 4.30pm, but decided to eat the others tomorrow as we were eating our evening meal at 5.30, since the boys both had to leave about 6.00pm. Dan is in a performance of FairyTaleHeart in Nicosia this evening, Tim is at the youth group where they're having a sleepover. I went to our church's Good Friday service in the evening, and Richard stayed at home.

(For even more detail, general rambling and some other photos - with the most recent at the top - see the March pages of my Cyprus blog)

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