Living in Cyprus - July 1999

5th July: 

The boys and I are going to the Rocky Point campsite for the next 12 days or so, to a kind of conference. The main reason for going is to get away from the heat of Larnaka, where it’s up to the mid thirties Celcius by the afternoon, and very humid. It's good to have the air conditioning unit in our living/dining room, but somehow the rest of the house seems even hotter by comparison!

July seems to be a very quiet month here. Everything has ‘finished’ for the Summer - no more music lessons etc, and we’ve stopped doing any kind of structure to our home educating since the schools closed mid-June. Daniel is still doing a lot of programming: last week and some of this week he’s been in at the office helping Richard and someone else creating an online catalogue/database for the Internet. Tim had two friends over this morning, but has mostly been enjoying having the computer to himself, and reading his way through all the books in his bookcase - yet again.

sunset at Kurium watching Twelfth NightOne particularly enjoyable experience was going to the amphitheatre in Kurium to see 'Twelfth Night' performed. Apparently there is a Shakespeare production done there every summer at the end of June and start of July. We were very impressed! Tickets were not cheap but we were given a couple of free ones, and it was well worth going.

Cleo and the kittens are all thriving, and look like permanent fixtures now. We’ll get the kittens spayed when we get back from the mountains, as we definitely don’t want more than three cats! They’re quite different in character - Sophia is noisy with a most determined mew - if she ever gets shut out, we can hear her at the other end of the house. 

However Jemima is much more naughty about jumping on the table and trying to steal food. Sophia is sleek and independent, Jemima fluffy and loving. Both tortoiseshells, though Jemima is much darker. They scamper together around the house, up and down bookcases, over the backs of furniture etc - but never scratch any of us at all. And when they’re tired they snuggle down together, except when it’s too hot - then they sprawl on the marble floors, about 50cm apart.

The only problem with having semi-wild cats in a semi-wild environment is that they have a hunting instinct, and keep on catching lizards, grasshoppers and so on, and bringing them into the house. They don’t want to eat them so they just play with them and chase them around until they squash them, then bat them around presumably hoping to get them to move again. Sometimes they bite them so we find tails and heads lying around - yuck! At first we tried firmly taking the insects out again but it didn’t help - the cats would simply bring them in again another way and hide them under beds for later use. We’ve mostly stopped worrying now, I just vacuum up the bits afterwards.

6th July: 

I woke up early this morning to find the mains water on, so I did two loads of laundry and watered the garden with the hose before it went off again at 9am. We seem to be getting more water than we did in the winter, which is strange, but at least we’re not running out any more. It hasn't been quite so hot today either, so that's a bonus. The boys have their friends here today: they’re spending some of the time out in the back garden. Their ‘den’ in the trees at the far end doesn’t get too hot, at least not when there’s a slight breeze as there is today.

Timothy has been working hard with his guitar, teaching himself to play various songs from ‘Songs of Fellowship’ with the aim of joining the Church music group in the Autumn. His teacher doesn’t know about this, but apparently he considers Tim to be doing very well and a fast learner. I expect this is at least in part because Tim spends so much time playing the guitar for other things as well as the work for his teacher! Richard bought Tim a ‘cappo’ recently so he could play songs that were in difficult keys.

25th July: 

camping at Rocky Point in TroodosJust back after a fortnight away. Up in the mountains the weather was very pleasant, perhaps 25C and sunny most days, distinctly cooler at nights so we needed a couple of blankets to stay warm enough. There was one thunderstorm while we were there, after a couple of hotter days. We were glad not to be in Larnaka at the time, since apparently it was 45C here and extremely high humidity. But thankfully the thunderstorm in the mountains seemed to clear the air a bit here, and we came back to only about 35C and 30% humidity, much more pleasant. It's got a little hotter since then but not unbearable. Last night there was a work beach barbecue which was pleasant. We all went for a swim before eating, and the sea was about as warm as a British swimming pool.

We've learned that it's heat that causes computers to fail frequently: apparently they don't mind humidity. Over 30C is the critical temperature for most of them. We now put the air conditioning on in our dining room as soon as the temperature reaches about 29 and leave it on until the outside temperature drops below 30, when we can open the windows instead. We were told it was best to leave it on for most of the day rather than switch it on and off, and to start it before the room got too hot. We run it at 28C which feels pleasantly cool since it's also removing humidity from the air in the room. My computer usually lives in the study/guest room, in when you're here, but we've moved it back in the dining room until September!

The garden looks like an absolute wilderness; I've no idea how plants manage to grow in the dryness, since it hasn't rained since April - and that only about two hours on one day. We water the various fruit trees and the plants in the front, maybe once or twice a week depending on when the mains is on, but have pretty much ignored the rest. However there are some weeds over a foot high, and some rather pretty wild flowers that seem to have lucious leaves and pink flowers, which have suddenly sprung up everywhere without a drop of water. I don't know if they somehow get water out of the atmosphere. Anyway it's far too hot to do anything in the garden, and a losing battle anyway, so we don't worry about it! Jemima and Sophia are still growing, and very attached to each other. The fact that they play together means they don't attack us or try to leap on wiggling toes, which is a big advantage.

They have developed totally different characters, Sophia still very talkative but generally well behaved, considers anything on the floor to be her property, and catches lizards and other insects, also very good at jumping. Jemima however has become extremely naughty, and jumps on the table at the least temptation. Not just meat - she likes bread and will drag slices onto the floor given half a chance. 

She has also discovered her voice, rather higher and hoarser than Sophia's, and is also very affectionate when she wants to be. She seems to be a modern cat as she is very interested in both TV and computer, she was particularly interested in PacMan when Tim played it, and kept trying to catch the 'ghost' things with her paw. Sometimes she jumps on the desk when screen-saver is operating, watches for a while, then stands on the keyboard so something different appears on screen. This seems to be deliberate so Tim thinks she must be highly intelligent and thinks he can teach her to read. Not much success so far, however.

29th July: 

Richard's grandmother died earlier in the month, aged 100, and one of the things he has brought back from her house is an old-fashioned barometer. We’ve put it up, though I’m not sure that it really understands Cyprus weather. The needle keeps moving a few degrees between ‘fair’ and ‘dry’ but of course there’s very little apparent change in the weather. It’s not too hot at the moment, about 32C outside, and humid, but not as much as it was last year. We’re mainly keeping in our air conditioned dining room/living room during the daytime. Both computers are in there and we have a 2000 piece jigsaw on the dining room table, which we cover up with the tablecloth any time we’re not actually working on it, since the kittens rather like playing in a jigsaw!

While the boys and I were in the mountains, both the fridge and washing machine broke down! We had bought both second hand when we arrived, but they had worked fine on the whole. The washing machine door catch had broken but we were able to use it; however the door completely broke while we were away. Nobody in Larnaka had even heard of this type of washing machine, so in the end Richard had to buy a new one - even if he had been able to replace the door it probably wouldn’t have lasted much longer anyway, as there was quite a bit of rust on it. 

Then the fridge, which wasn’t coping terribly well with the heat, gave up completely. He was told it needed a new compressor which would have cost over eighty pounds, but that it wasn’t a fridge designed for temperatures over 30C so there was no guarantee it would keep working anyway. So he also had to buy a new fridge! Fortunately he was able to save all our frozen things as we have another freezer which my parents bought us when they were here, but he had to throw away a lot of things from the fridge. 

At least it wasn’t as bad as another colleague, who was also camping in the mountains for two weeks. She arrived back in her flat to an awful smell, opened the freezer and promptly shut it again as there was a ghastly mess of blood from thawed meat and water from vegetables... her fridge had also given up, presumably shortly after we left, so the freezer had completely defrosted. She also had to have a new one - she hadn’t left much in the fridge as she was away, but had her freezer compartment full.

We rang the vet to book the kittens in to be spayed, as they’re now five months old, but he said he won’t do them until they’re six months old so we have to wait until the end of August. I don’t know why that is, but this is the only vet that people recommend, so we don’t really want to ask anyone else. So far neither of them has shown any interest in male cats - in fact the feral cats all seem to have disappeared completely from our garden, although for a week or so after Cleo’s operation they came in droves and she got into a lot of fights. Perhaps her hormones were doing strange things that attracted the toms. We had thought Cleo was about five months old when she got pregnant, but looking at the sizes of the kittens I think she must have been rather older than that. Perhaps she was so small and weak when we first had her because she was undernourished rather than being as young as we had guessed.

Last night the owner of the office where Richard works had his 50th wedding anniversary. I don’t really know him, but Richard sees him and his wife most days, and they invited Daniel to play clarinet for a couple of hymns in a short service of thanksgiving they were having last night. They sometimes come to our church so they’d heard him play, and he felt most honoured to be asked. 

Richard said he’d go too, but as we weren’t actually invited Tim and I stayed at home. It turns out that we could have gone - they had a meal for 200 which they’d prepared and set outside the church, which they expected Richard and Daniel to stay for. However as Daniel didn’t get home till 11pm (and Richard even later - I was asleep before he got back!) I think it’s just as well we didn’t go.

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