Living in Cyprus - May 1999

10th May

We’ve had my parents here for the past two weeks, and the time seems to have flown past. Richard took some time off and borrowed cars so we could a few days out: we went to Lefkara to see the lace-making and silver one day, and had a picnic at Kiti beach by the small lighthouse another day. 

musical float at the Larnaca flower festivalUnfortunately the last week was really too hot to do anything much so we mainly stayed at home, although it cooled slightly at the weekend. We’ve been running out of water a fair amount too, as it’s now even more strictly rationed than before. On one of their last evenings they went down to the sea-front with Richard to watch the traditional flower festival, with some amazing floats. 

Sophia and Jemima, our remaining two kittensThe kittens Jemima and Sophia continue to grow and become slowly more affectionate; since they’re being brought up by a real mother they’re not as dependent on people as Cleo was, and while they like sitting on laps, they mostly play with each other. Yesterday they spent about an hour chasing a rolled up piece of paper around the floor, playing a kind of ice hockey on the marble as they pushed it around and raced after it. 

Cleo seems to be trying to wean them as she keeps bringing lizards and grasshoppers into the house and presenting them to the kittens. I suppose this is how the feral cats wean their kittens, but since ours eat cat food they’ve no need of wild food, so they just play with them. It’s becoming rather a nuisance as I hate having these things in the these things in the house!!

If the kittens weren’t enough, we also have several hundred silkworms, which the boys were given by their art teacher about six weeks ago. Apparently they weren’t supposed to let all the eggs hatch, but they did, and at the first count there were over 800 of the creatures! They only eat mulberry leaves, but we have two mulberry trees so feeding is no problem. However as they get bigger they need to be cleaned more and more often, and at first the boys didn’t do this enough, so some of the worms died. 

Eventually we moved them from Tim’s room down to the basement, where they now occupy five large boxes. The art teacher has come to help a few times with the cleaning, and also to collect some mulberry leaves for his silkworms, since he lives in a flat with no trees. He says he knows all the mulberry trees in Larnaka, and goes around each one in turn! 

Anyway, there now seem to be about 500 left in the boys’ boxes, all large and healthy but not yet showing any signs of starting to spin. Their art teacher has about 5,000 and I gather his have started spinning. They boys are thoroughly fed up with them, but having grown them this far they want to keep going and see the cocoons of silk being made. However we don’t intend to keep any eggs for another session! Once is quite enough.

The loquats are finished now - they have a very short season - but the mulberries are almost ripe, so I’m going to experiment with some more jam and perhaps ice cream. They don’t have a great deal of taste but mix well with apples. Our lemon trees have several small lemons on them, so we’re not sure if they’re going to have a late season or whether they’re going to be ready in the Autumn. The pomegranates are in their scarlet red blossom phase, very attractive.

28th May

Weather is definitely hotting up now; it got a little cooler after my parents left, then we had one VERY hot day about a week ago where it was almost unbearable even in the house by about 8.30am. However a big wind blew up later in the day, distributing a layer of dust everywhere in the house, but cooling the atmosphere by several degrees. Since then it’s been pleasant enough in the house, though rather too hot for me outside during the middle of the day. 

I usually get up about 6.30am and do whatever needs to be done with laundry (if the mains water is on) etc before the hot part of the day. The dining room stays coolest as the sun is on the other side of the house during the morning, so we’ve been continuing with a fair amount of ‘school’ work during the mornings. By the time it gets dark - shortly after 8pm now - it’s pleasantly cool again, but the mosquitoes are getting active so we have to run a lot of repellant things to stop us getting bitten.

About a week before the very hot day we’d had a special offer on an air conditioning unit, so long as it was installed out of season. We decided that as we’re not going to the UK this summer, and we had some Christmas money left, it would be a good idea to have one; they’re semi-portable so can be moved from one house to another if necessary. Modern ones aren’t too expensive to run, apparently, and make life so much more bearable when it’s hot and humid. After some discussion we decided to put it in the dining/living area so it’ll keep the computers cool on very hot days (otherwise they risk overheating); this means we can work, eat, sit etc in some comfort at least in one room of the house. We hadn’t expected to use it at all until July but were glad to have it that one hot day.

The kittens are still doing very well, becoming more lively and interesting than ever. Cleo still feeds them once or twice a day although I’m sure they no longer need it. The vet told us to give them all dried food as he said it was better for cats than canned food, so we’ve started buying large sacks of Friskies or the equivalent. Certainly on a hot day it’s better to have a few crunchy pieces of dried food left than bits of canned food, which is what was happening, as they didn’t all necessarily eat at the same time. 

Cleo has taken some persuading that she doesn’t need anything other than the dried food, but she’s extremely healthy on it, and the cat litter much less smelly!! The kittens both like drinking milk from a saucer but Cleo still only drinks water. Anyway, since it looks as if we’re going to keep them all, it’s both easier and a great deal cheaper just to feed them dried food.

Sophia is becoming very friendly and also rather vocal; she squeaks loudly any time she can’t find her sister, or wants to go out, or simply wants a cuddle. She sometimes purrs and meows alternately and at first we thought something was wrong as her meow sounded so plaintive, but now we think it’s just an attempt at conversation. Jemima is quieter but naughtier! They like to play outside in the evening when it becomes cooler, chasing up and down trees and so on. Cleo looks after them very well. 

Around 8pm I get them in so we can shut the shutters and know they’re safe. Usually Sophia comes to me, though she complains rather a lot about it, but Jemima knows it’s time to come in and belts away, up trees, down the far end of the garden and so on. Last night Cleo helped me to catch her - every time Jemima ran off, Cleo raced after her and caught her round the scruff of the neck until I came up to her. 

Unfortunately Jemima was so quick that as soon as Cleo let go, she raced off again at full speed before I could get hold of her! This happened about four times before I finally caught her, so I was glad of Cleo’s help. Usually Cleo stays out about half an hour after the kittens; I think she likes to feel she has some adult privileges! But then we go to the door and call and she comes in, so that’s much easier.

It’s interesting to compare Cleo, brought up by humans, and the kittens, brought up by a cat. She’s much more affectionate, come to greet us any time we come back and wants a big cuddle. She also sulks when Richard gets back after being away for a few days. Last time he got back, she refused to look at him all evening, though the following day she was as friendly as usual. The kittens, however, seem much more self-sufficient, and get upset when they can’t find each other. They fight a bit but it’s playful, and they always like to sleep in the same place. They don’t race around trying to bite our fingers and toes like Cleo did at that age. They play with toys a lot, but are much less violent around people.

The silkworms have all died, unfortunately, without a single cocoon being spun. The art teacher who gave the boys the eggs, says it’s because they were too crowded up when they were younger. Tim had them in just two boxes and didn’t really clean them enough - we hadn't really been told what to do, other than give them mulberry leaves, and they got extremely crowded for a while. We thought they would be all right since they looked so healthy about two weeks ago, but by Wednesday this week there were only about 30 left out of 800 or more, and now there are none. The boys are rather disappointed, though I’m not sure what they’d intended to do with 800 cocooncs of silk if they’d had them.

One of our friends had a breadmaking machine which she bought second-hand but couldn’t get to work properly. For some reason she kept burning the bread and then having to spend hours cleaning it out inside. She moved flats recently, and decided she was never going to use it, so she gave it to me as I’d been interested in it: after a bit of experimenting we’ve been able to make some pretty successful bread with it. 

It’s so nice to have the smell of fresh-baked bread without the hassle of kneading - you just put the ingredients in the pan and switch it on, then four hours later there’s a fresh loaf of bread. It doesn’t make a lot at once, but it’s just about enough for the four of us for one meal. Now it’s so hot I’m glad not to have to go to the bread shop so much at lunchtime.

Daniel is still growing rapidly: I just looked at him standing next to Richard, and realised he only has about an inch to go before he’s taller than he is.

Cyprus diary April 1999 | Cyprus diary June 1999