Living in Cyprus - February 1999

February 9th:

The boys are both completely better now; Tim is eating more than he did, and remembering to take a multi-vitamin tablet each day, so that should help. He does eat a little fruit but vegetables really make him feel ill, other than a few salad ones. I expect when he’s older he’ll start to eat some more. 

Daniel went down with the flu the very day that Tim was feeling better, and had a very congested week where he couldn’t do much more than read, but he wasn’t so ill. Other than being sick once he continued eating reasonably well, although a little strangely: he kept asking for little pots full of frozen peas - still frozen! He eats them with his fingers as snacks, and must have got through a kilogram pack at the worst stage of his flu.

Anyway, although he was still very congested on Friday and couldn’t play his clarinet, he felt much better by Sunday morning and played in Church as usual despite having missed the practise. The rest of the band were very glad to see him back. It’s nice that they make him feel so welcome, despite all being so much older.

Richard’s infection has been quite different, including a badly swollen eye, but it's now back to normal and he’s going in to the office in the mornings, though not getting up as early as usual. He’s still having steroid drops in the eyes, and they look rather red, but he says they feel much better. They started to get better around Sunday lunchtime, when the swelling disappeared completely. He has a bit of a cold but it doesn’t seem like the flu, although he’s feeling very tired and rather weak, so perhaps he did have mild flu. I seem to have escaped it - at least so far!

I don't know when it dawned on us that our cat Cleo was pregnant! Having intended to get her spayed early in January, events overtook us.. and we gradually realised that she was not merely getting plump and healthy, but was carrying kittens. Probably the result of her going missing on Christmas Eve (see Dec 1998). We're a bit anxious as she's still pretty young, and not entirely tame. She's so unpredictable that even if she gives birth without problem, she might ignore the kittens - if they survive.

Tim joined the Greek Evangelical church choir last night, and had a wonderful time. There are only about 16 people in it, most of whom are English-speaking, although the choir is all conducted in Greek, and the songs are Greek. There are two girls who we know, aged 12 or 13, in the choir but all the rest are adults, so Tim (now 10) was the youngest, but that never worries him. Daniel isn't singing at present.

It’s been very windy with a lot of rain in the past few weeks; this is good for the reservoirs, although we’re still limited to two days of mains water per week. It means our house is rather cold, and we’re having to run the kerosene furnace all the time, but it’s surprisingly effective so long as we keep remembering to top it up! We’ve hung a heavy drape made of two blankets over the front door, and that also makes a difference as the door is extremely draughty.

All the rain has meant that the weeds are taking over our garden completely. We were trying to keep them cut down with the strimmer, because we didn’t really want to use weedkiller that the landlady suggested. Partly this is because it’s not totally pet-safe, and partly because in the summer when all the greenery dies off, it’s better to have short stubble of grass and weeds rather than just dry ground that becomes dusty. However it’s been too wet to use the strimmer for about a week - and of course before that I was looking after the boys and didn’t have much time for gardening. 

So now the far end of the garden has weeds about 18 inches high so we may have to use some kind of weedkiller on those, if we can find something safe. We planted some grass seed nearer the patio, and some of it has grown but the ants kept stealing it and taking it to make new anthills. I went out every day to rake them and try to get rid of them but there were far too many so the grass is patchy, but at least it gives some ground cover where there weren’t any weeds.

We have just finished the oranges from our tree; we had a wonderful crop this year, and had to give lots of them away as of course they all became ripe at once. We made juice out of some of them as well as eating them, and are now buying oranges from the little vegetable shop at 10 cents per kilogram! We have a few lemons on the trees but nowhere near as many as last year. This is probably because it was so very dry last summer and autumn, and although I watered the small trees the hose didn’t reach to the big ones. Still, we have enough for normal usage, just not enough for lemonade. But again they’re becoming very cheap in the shops so I may start to buy some soon.

16th February

Daniel has reached Grade 4 on the clarinet, though he’s not taken the exam - his teacher told him he was that standard, and that he didn’t need to take the exam if he didn’t want to. He plays in the church band every week which involves at least six songs. We have a computer program which allows us to type in the melody of a song from a hymn book and then transpose it, so he isn’t learning to transpose at sight; however we often don’t know what the next Sunday’s songs are until Thursday night or even Friday morning and he has his practice with the band Friday lunchtime, so he doesn’t get any chance to practise them alone - which means he’s getting good at sight-reading!

He’s not joined the town band yet; there aren’t any other children or young teens in it, and the band are currently planning an American tour in the Summer. It wouldn’t be appropriate for Daniel to go - the men would be limited in their drinking and socialising if they had to look after a 12-year-old, and he doesn’t want to go anyway - thank goodness! So he’s not going to join the band until probably September. He’s as big as me now so he could fit into the uniform; the reason he couldn’t join the band a year ago was that he was too small.

Tim playing his guitar, classical styleTim's guitar teacher is a real perfectionist: picky about timing and practising, which is probably very good for Tim! He finds it hard work but is thoroughly enjoying it and looking forward to the time when he can improvise and play guitar to sing without much effort.

28th February

The biggest event of the week was Cleo giving birth to three kittens, two days ago! We thought we’d established her in a box in front of the fire, but she apparently had decided to give birth on our bed, which is where she usually sleeps. However when she was obviously having what Tim called ‘contraptions’ we moved her firmly to the box and shut all bedroom doors! 

At that point she gave in, and was very affectionate. She knew exactly what to do, which was a relief - she cleaned the kittens up and fed them efficiently. She’s proving an excellent mother, allowing us to touch them but becoming very protective when anyone else goes near. She now goes out for an hour or so when the kittens are asleep, but comes back again before they need feeding again. She seems to purr all the time and to be very happy.

She did insist on having the box on our bed, the day after they were born - she kept running through and jumping on it, then running back and trying to pick up the kittens by their tails, or roll them over! In the end I carried the box through, kittens and all, and she was much more content. It’s a bit of a squash, and once they start exploring we’ll have to move it on the floor, but Cleo is happy. So far we're just calling the kittens One, Two and Three - One being a tortoiseshell with a lot of orange, Two being a slightly fluffier, darker tortoiseshell, Three being a tiger-striped tabby.

For the last couple of weeks we’ve had beautiful weather - warm and sunny and most inspiring to do some gardening. We've pulled up thousands of weeds, and cut with a strimmer any that were remotely grass-like, in the hope of trying to encourage a lawn of sorts. If we simply pull up all the weeds the ground will be dry and dusty when Summer comes. Richard has sprayed, with weedkiller, the worst of the weeds at the end of the garden, but of course they still need to be pulled up after they have withered.

looking along the beach in winterWe've even taken a walk or two along the sea-front in Larnaka. It seems strange to see the beach so neglected, with all the loungers and parasols packed away. Seaweed has washed up on the shore, which will eventually be taken away and used as fertiliser.

Because of all the rain at the end of January the ground was nice and soft and the weeds simply came out by the roots with a good pull, which was quite satisfying; the only trouble is that there are so many of them! Just as the ground started to get dry, it rained again, although it’s now been dry for 10 days. 

Our neighbour over the road, gave us an old metal oil barrel thing which is what’s used for burning garden rubbish. Richard has had two days of mini bonfires in that, burning all the prickly bits of lemon trees that we’ve pruned, and cutting up some of the wood that was left here when we arrived. That’s made a big difference too.

Cyprus diary January 1999 | Cyprus diary March 1999