Sunday, June 16, 2019

Kataklysmos fair in Larnaca

Today is Kataklysmos Sunday. That's Pentecost in the Greek or Eastern calendar.  Eastern Easter was a week later than Western Easter back in April, and thus Pentecost is a week later than the Western celebration of that important feast in the church's calendar.

However, whereas many folk in the UK were probably unaware of Pentecost (or Whitsun, as it used to be called) a week ago, it would be hard to miss it here in Cyprus. Larnaka is traditionally thought to have been founded by one of Noah's grandsons, and Kataklysmos (a word which means 'deluge') is a celebration - if that's the right word - of the Flood, as well as of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

At least, that's the official line.  As with many of the religious festivals, it has become an excuse for a sea-front fair, which lasts nearly two weeks, as well as concerts, games, and much more to attract visitors and locals. It's not something that appeals to me, particularly. When our sons were younger we visited a couple of times, but the noise, heat and general chaos left me with a headache.

Twelve years ago we went out to eat with our house group on the Friday before Kataklysmos Sunday (back then, the festival did not open until the Friday, and lasted only one week). Even sitting in a restaurant, it was noisy, and I had no wish to go anywhere near it again.  Then last year we took some visiting friends for a walk along the sea-front a week before Pentecost, when there were some stalls but it wasn't yet total chaos.

This afternoon we went out for ice cream about 4.30pm, and then I suggested we could have a brief look at the stalls.  Although summer is here, it hasn't been as hot in the past week or so as it was, and by 5pm I was fine walking mostly in the shade.  I certainly didn't want to go in the evening, when it will be very busy and loud, but a couple of hours ago it wasn't too bad at all.

There were far more stalls than I remembered from the last time we visited. Some were set inside little tents with pointy roofs, extending much further than they did twenty years ago:

2019 kataklysmos, Larnaka, Cyprus

What always surprises us is that there are so many duplicate stalls. We saw at least three (maybe more) lengthy stalls, in the main part of the sea-front, selling traditional Cypriot sweets and nuts.

traditional cyprus sweet stalls

There was a huge trampoline for children, and a bouncing castle, and bunting everywhere - the atmosphere is a carnival one, and I doubt if many people thought about the origins of the festival.

Kataklysmos 2019, bouncy castle and fair in Cyprus

There are some stalls selling locally made jewellery and other crafts - we glanced at a few, but we didn't plan to buy anything.

Kataklysmos 2019, touristy stalls selling crafts

Toy stalls are another kind replicated so many times that I'm amazed they manage to sell anything.  I hope the quality is better than it was twenty or so years ago when our sons bought super-soakers at one of these stalls, only to have them break within a few days. 

Toy stall at Kataklysmos 2019, Larnaka, Cyprus

There was one book stall amongst the many others.  I didn't take a photo, but there were quite a few Greek hardback children's books.  Unfortunately this kind of fair doesn't have second-hand books, and those are the only stalls I ever really look at in fairs of this kind.

We had parked at the Marina (a fringe benefit of Richard having a boat there is that he can park there free any time he wants to) and walked almost as far as the fort.  It was half-past five, and the noise was increasing; there was going to be a concert later, and loud music was coming from some of the stalls, as well as from the concert area.

So we walked back on the other side of the road, in the shade, by the restaurants, and then came home.  Many locals and tourists will be down there this evening; some of the restaurants had extended out into the street with extra tables and chairs, hoping for extra customers later.  The noise will be unbearable (from my perspective) and the crowds claustrophobic.  But for those who enjoy crowds and loud music, the Kataklysmos fair is a highlight of the early Summer in Cyprus. 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Cyprus: Summer, air conditioner servicing, and a nervous cat...

Summer arrived in Cyprus about ten days ago.

I wrote back in March about the long, wet winter which we've experienced over the past six months or so. During April, rain continued off and on, and it stayed relatively cool. We used our double-thickness duvet at night for longer than I can ever remember using it in previous years.

In the last ten days of April, it warmed up a little, and the sun came out most of the time, which was good as we had friends staying.  Around that time I switched to our medium thickness duvet, and put the thinner part away, temporarily.  I started wearing lighter jackets, or only one sweater rather than two.

On May 4th, I switched to the thin (4.5 tog) duvet. I kept the warmer one out for a week in case we needed it, but we didn't.  We started using our ceiling fans. We stopped wearing sweatshirts or sweaters of any kind during the daytime.  I started thinking about finding my shorts...

We went out for evening walks, three times one week. It was that short period of the year when it's cool enough for me, and yet not too chilly for Richard.

On May 13th, Summer arrived.  The daytime temperature reached 30 degrees Celsius.  Richard told me we needed to go out for ice creams in the afternoon, once it had cooled slightly. It seemed like a good idea to me, and he announced that it was a tradition. A new one, which we were starting this year.

Sitting outside with ice creams on May 13th, when summer arrived in Cyprus

He had the strawberry sorbet, and it was very good. I decided to splash out and asked for the raspberry yogurt ice cream. I was a little shocked to find it almost three times the price of the single scoop of strawberry sorbet, but it was over twice the size. And it was excellent.

Last Saturday I decided we didn't need a duvet at all. We had only used the thin one for two weeks, and it was already feeling too warm.  I remembered that in previous years it has sometimes become very hot mid-May, then cooled a little before the full onslaught of summer, so I folded up the thin duvet, still in its cover, in case we needed it.

On Monday we had our air conditioners serviced. The last time we had them properly serviced was three years ago; in the intervening years we have cleaned them ourselves, but they are supposed to be professionally serviced and cleaned every two to three years.

We have eleven air conditioners in all.  Three upstairs in the bedrooms (one of which is Richard's study); a large one in our living room, one in my study, one in our kitchen, one in the dining room area, and four in our guest flat on the ground floor.

We also have a very nervous cat. Lady Jane Grey was not living here three years ago, and our other cats were all accustomed to going in and out of the house.  Jane is an indoor cat only.  She also finds workmen of any kind to be terrifying.

The workmen arrived when they said they would, which is unusual in this country. They said they would start on the top floor, so I shut Lady Jane in my study with me. Alex, our more sociable and relaxed cat, went to see what was going on and followed the workmen around.  Jane looked a bit askance at the noise, but everything was fine until one of the workmen opened the study door and looked in.  He apologised and closed it again quickly, but I realised they needed to clean the air conditioners on the main floor.

This is what some of their cleaning equipment looks like:


And this is the trough thing they put below each air conditioner while they pump fluid in, to catch the dirt.  It's a surprisingly non-messy process, although some of the liquid that came out was very dirty.


I picked Jane up, planning to go with her to what was Tim's room upstairs, until my study was safe again. She was not happy, and my arm got quite badly scratched, but we reached the sanctuary and I put her down.

Unfortunately some of the workmen's' equipment was still in the room. And the door was opened, and Jane flew out. I use the word advisedly... she runs so fast it seems as if she is flying sometimes. She raced downstairs, behind the sofa, under chairs, behind the TV... there was no way to catch her.  I got distracted by something else then when I tried to find her, she had vanished.

To my horror, I saw that one of the workmen had opened the outside door in my study, to make a phone call.

Would Jane have rushed outside...?  We didn't think it likely, but when we searched the house she was nowhere to be found. We looked in every hiding place she has previously used, and called her...to no avail. We looked outside too, in our side yard, and under the van (where she has gone on previous occasions when she has escaped) - no sign.  I sat outside for a while while the work went on in my study, but she didn't reappear.

When the main floor was finished, and the men went down to clean the last few air conditioners in our guest flat, I went around closing all the windows that had been opened, and calling for Jane.  We thought she must have hidden somewhere but could not think where. Eventually  I went out on our upstairs balcony, wondering if she had hidden on the neighbour's roof, and called....

... and Jane came strolling out, greeting me in her chirpy way, stretching as if she had been having a relaxing sleep.

I was SO relieved.  But very puzzled as to where she might have slept.

This might have remained an unsolved mystery, but a couple of hours later, when the workmen had left, I heard Jane calling.  She sounded as if she wanted something.  It happened again, so I went to look for her. Once again, I could not find her, but could hear her voice.

I noticed that Alex had knocked the thin duvet in its cover down from the place where it had been, and that he was batting at it.  I looked a bit more closely.... and realised that the duvet was batting back.  Something was inside the cover....

Hoping it was not something unpleasant, I gently probed around, and sure enough, there was Jane.  She had somehow got lost in the folds, or perhaps confused when it fell down.  So we're pretty certain that's where she hid earlier in the day - probably just a little way in, where she could sleep in comfort.

As for the air conditioners: the men told us that yes, they were quite dirty, but not bad for three years, only what was expected. None of them was mouldy or disgusting, and one of them in the guest flat was so clean that it didn't need any servicing.

However, the one in the guest flat front bedroom, which was the worst of all last time, gave up completely.  It tripped the electricity several times when they tried to service it, and they eventually realised that the compressor was dead.  It was one of the older units in the house, thus much better to buy a new, more efficient one than pay as much (if not more) to replace the compressor.

We were only charged for the servicing of nine air conditioners rather than eleven, even though they had spent a considerable amount of time on the one we had to replace.

We went out later, checked a couple of shops, and ordered a new air conditioner from our favourite white goods shop.  It should be installed tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the temperature still hovers at around 26-30C in the daytime, so we haven't yet had to use any of the air conditioners.  We usually try to hold out until at least June. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Some Cyprus beaches

The last post I wrote, at the start of March, was about the very wet winter we've had in Cyprus. The rain continued, off and on, through the month, and most of April too. The weather only startied to warm up towards the end of the month.

Time has passed by rapidly, and I haven't written anything on this blog for too long....

We had quite a few visitors in our guest flat during March and April. They included long-standing friends, a former colleague with his family, and some folk we know less well, with some of their relatives. It's good to have the separate apartment: we can spend a good amount of time with close friends or family members. But for those who want space for themselves, or whom we don't know well, can do their own thing entirely separately. 

At the end of April Richard was able to take a bit of time off to spend with some friends we've known for a long time who came to stay for a week. They mostly wanted to walk in Larnaka, or play board games with us, or just hang out and chat. But one day we went for a drive and explored a couple of beaches.

Because we live here, we're not very adventurous about where we go. I have been to very few beaches other than those locally.  Richard suggested we drive to Fig Tree Bay, somewhere I had heard of, and which is a popular tourist resort a little beyond Ayia Napa. It took about an hour to get there in the car; it did indeed look quite touristy when we arrived.


Apparently it's usually very crowded in the summer, but although the day was sunny it wasn't particularly warm. Well... not to those of us acclimatised to Cyprus weather. Our friends were wearing tee-shirts and shorts, and there were hardy folk sunbathing in swimsuits or bikinis. But we were still in our not-quite-winter clothes:


We strolled a kilometre or so along the beach, and found a little cafe for lunch.  By then the sun was quite strong, so after eating I waited in the shade while Richard and our friends walked a bit further, and then when they came back we had our first frappés of the season.


Other visiting friends had spoken enthusiastically about Agia Thekla beach, so we decided to visit that on our way back to Larnaka. It's another one I had never been to, and was quite a contrast to Fig Tree Bay.  The part which Richard was familiar with was mostly unspoilt, and entirely empty:


There were no sun-beds or umbrellas, no cafes, no toilet blocks. We did see a taverna nearby but it was closed.

In the distance we saw a huge hotel, under construction, no doubt intended to attract tourists. But hopefully they'll leave part of this beach alone, for those who prefer a more natural environment. 

Saturday, March 02, 2019

An Extremely Wet Winter in Cyprus

At the end of October, I wrote about the first real rain of the season in Larnaka. It's always an occasion to mark in a country where drought is fairly frequent, and where there's virtually no rain for at least five months of the year.

In the winter of 2017-18, there were very few rainy days. The weather was mostly mild, and the nights not too chilly at all. We only used our extra-thick (13 tog) duvet for a few weeks, and I didn't get out my wheat bag at all.

The past few months have been a tremendous contrast. In November, it rained regularly. It was mostly at night, with sunshine in the daytime, which seemed like quite a good arrangement.  By December 1st, the Salt Lake was looking decidedly fuller, and the flamingoes were clearly in evidence.

Larnaka Salt Lake in December, with flamingoes in the distance.

December was even wetter, and it started raining in the daytime too. By January we had become used to regular rain. By mid-February, the island was looking greener than I could ever recall it being - and we've lived here for more than 21 years now.

It has been colder, too. We have used our double thickness duvet for nearly two months now, and heat up our wheat bag every night. Some early mornings it's been 8-10 degrees Celsius.  A couple of days ago it was only 5 degrees.

The water in the Salt Lake was higher than it had been for years:

Larnaka Salt Lake in February, with flamingoes in the distance.

Here's some of the greenery we saw at the side of the trail, mid-February:

The Salt Lake trail looking very green after so much ra

A couple of days later - on another cloudy morning - I looked over a different part of the park; it was so green that it didn't look like Cyprus at all:

The Salt Lake trail looking very green after so much rain

This morning we walked to the Airport Road end of the trail again - we've done so more often recently - and there was very little 'beach'.  The water was higher than I can recall it ever being before.

Water in the Salt Lake very high

Today I saw an article saying that the past five months have been the second wettest period since 1901 (when, I assume, they started keeping records). 620mm (62cm, or just over two feet) doesn't sound like a whole lot, but is apparently 165% of the average annual rainfall for Cyprus.

I looked up the UK annual rainfall for the sake of comparison. The UK is typically considered a very wet country. Apparently Birmingham, where we used to live, has only 680mm rain per year.  London has just 592mm.  Cyprus in the past five months has been significantly wetter.

Last Summer the Water Board sent out dire warnings about restricted use of hose pipes, and on-the-spot fines for people seen washing their cars or patios using hoses. Of course people continued doing these things, mostly early in the morning or late at night, or on Sundays, when the police would not be around to report or fine them.  And we were still encouraged to use hoses on plants.

Now the reservoirs are fuller than they have been for a long time, with some of the dams overflowing.

I don't think there will be a hose pipe restriction in Cyprus this year!


Friday, February 01, 2019

Twenty year anniversary of my home education site, and a new book

Ten years ago exactly, I wrote a post about the ten year anniversary of my home education website. I described its gradual evolution from a few pages on a long-gone platform to a site with over a hundred pages, and around 500-600 visitors each day. I even found old versions of the site and uploaded screenshots on that early blog post. I wondered, then, how much it would change in the next ten years.

Those years have raced past, and today, is the site's twentieth anniversary. I haven't made so many radical design changes, but I did - with Richard's help - move it to being powered by wordpress.org a few years ago. This makes updating it so much easier.  Here, for what it's worth, is what it looks like now:


Perhaps a little more modern-looking, but not, I think, so very different from the 2009 version:


I still update the site when people ask me to include suitable resources, or links to local home educators' groups, or when I spot a relevant article from an online news site. And occasionally I write a new subject-oriented page. From time to time I re-write a sentence or two and check for broken links, but on the whole it doesn't need much maintenance.

However, back in the early days of the site, several people asked me to write it in book form. I didn't have the time or inclination then but the idea never went away.  About five years ago I downloaded the entire site onto my computer and tried organising it, but quickly realised that there was far too much content which could not possibly work in book format, such as pages of links to resources. And I didn't know quite what to do with the specific subject pages, which would need considerable expansion to be included in a book.

Eventually I decided that the focus would be an introduction to home education for people starting out: the kind of book I would like to have read when we were unsure, worried about how it could work, and trying to look at all the options.  I edited it down from over 100,000 words to slightly over 50,000.

It's taken me years to get this far, but when I realised the site's 20th anniversary was coming up, I decided that this would be a suitable occasion to produce the book. Richard has published quite a number of books on Amazon's CreateSpace system, both his own and other people's, and said he was happy to create a cover and do the layout. CreateSpace has moved to Amazon's own 'KDP' site, which previously only published Kindle books, so there was something of a learning curve.

But we finalised it a few days ago, and uploaded it for approval, both in paperback and Kindle form. And today, on the 20th anniversary of the home-ed.info website, my book is available. It won't be of any interest to seasoned or long-term home educators, or to those who are strongly committed to just one style of home learning. But to anyone who is interested in learning about the subject, or how it can work, then this book aims to answer some pertinent questions. 

Monday, January 28, 2019

More road works in our area

It's more than seven years ago that builders started digging up roads in Larnaca (and, we assume, other towns around Cyprus) in order to instal the new sewage pipes. The ones for storm drainage seem to have taken effect, and despite an extremely wet winter we have not seen any flooded streets in our neighbourhood.

Our street had its pipes installed in September 2011. Richard asked one of the builders when they expected the houses to be connected to the massive new mains drainage system, and was told, 'about five years'. He thought, at first, that the builder (whose English was not entirely fluent) had mistaken the period, and meant 'months'. I was more cynical. I reckoned five years was probably an optimistic estimate.

It turned out that I was right. Five years later, we had heard nothing. It wasn't until this time about a year ago that we received our official letter telling us that we needed to get our septic tank sealed, and the connections made so that we could be joined to the main drainage. The letter was all in somewhat complex Greek, but Google Translate is pretty good these days, and I can type Greek almost as fast as I type in English.

The main part of the letter said (in translation):

Please be advised that the sewer council of Larnaka (SAL) has completed the construction of the drainage system in your area and you can proceed with the connection of your premises after first submitting a request and obtaining the required permit. The application should be submitted on the attached form.

The SAL undertakes that the construction license will be issued as soon as possible, meaning that the application will be complete and accompanied by all required documents and documents. Then, with your own contractor and on the basis of the license you secure, build the private construction of your building. The Technical Inspector of the SAL will carry out an on-the-spot check on your contractor's (or your own) presence as soon as possible after your call. If the private building sub-building meets the technical specifications of the SAL, the Technical Inspector will issue the consent to link your property to the sewerage system.

Submitting an ΙΥΟ license and obtaining consent for a connection is also mandatory even where the private system is built.

For your convenience, we attach all the information you need to submit your application for an IYO, that is, the application form and the technical specifications. We furthermore inform you that the relevant information and these documents can also be found on the website www.lsdb.org.cy

If you have submitted an application for the construction of a IYO and you have obtained an IYO construction license and a certificate of consent for the connection of your premises, please ignore this letter.

It is noted that the connection of your premises is mandatory and must be completed within six months from the date of notification, ie until 08/06/2018.

It all sounded rather confusing, and we didn't do anything for the first few weeks. But then gradually our neighbours started having extensive (and very noisy) digging done. So Richard contacted a friend to ask who she used as a contractor. We were given a contact number, and a helpful guy came over to look at what we have currently. He explained that first we had to employ an architect to draw a detailed plan, then that had to be submitted to the sewage board for approval. They would grant a license, and we could then employ a builder he would recommend to do the work.

He told us that there was a long queue for this, and no, it couldn't possibly be done by the end of June, but that didn't matter at all. We said we would be away for six weeks over the summer, and he shrugged and said that nothing would happen in July and August anyway, so we didn't need to worry about it till the autumn.

A very competent architect came over, took extensive notes, and went away. A couple of weeks later she brought us the plans and charged us eighty euros. It seemed like a reasonable fee for some highly detailed drawings. She said that she had already submitted the plans to the relevant board, and gave us the reference number.

Summer came and went, and by the end of September we had heard nothing. So Richard phoned the number we were given by the architect. He was told that yes, our application was in process, and we should hear something by the end of the year.

Sure enough, last Monday there was another letter in our mailbox.

Notification that we have a license to connect our drains to the mains sewerage system in cyprus


This one (according to Google Translate, again) told us that our application had been accepted, and that we had to go to the sewerage board to collect our license. It would cost us 60 euros, and after collecting it we should employ a builder to make our connections. At last!

It was rather a busy week, so it wasn't until Friday that we went to the sewage office. It was a bit complicated to find, but well-signed:

Larnaka sewerage board building

The letter told us to go to the first floor, so we did that, and handed over sixty euros. We were given a receipt and told to go to the second floor, where we were finally given our sewerage connection license. It says that it was actually granted on December 17th, but the letter was not written until January 3rd, and did not arrive in our mailbox until nearly three weeks later - we have no idea why the internal Cyprus post is so slow, but this is not unusual.

Richard phoned the original contact in the afternoon, who said he would come over with the builder soon, to give us a quote, and then, hopefully, the work can start.

All of which is great, even if it has taken significantly longer than usual.

But... this is Cyprus. Nothing is ever straightforward.

On Tuesday, there was another letter in our mailbox. This one was just a brief notification:

notification that our street in Cyprus will be re-surfaced

The word 'ΟΔΟ' means 'street', so we were amused that instead of putting in our street name, whoever filled this in merely put 'ΣΑΣ' (which means 'your').

We were less amused that this turns out to be a notification that our street is going to be resurfaced.  Finally.  Over seven years since it was given its temporary resurfacing after the initial digging for sewers.  And then we will be employing someone to dig part of it up again in order to make our connection.

Sigh.

On Wednesday and Thursday last week the former surface was dug up and the rubble removed, leaving it like this:

Larnaka street awaiting re-surfacing

Some other streets in the neighbourhood have also had their surfaces removed, so we assume they are finishing that process before starting the resurfacing. It will be very nice to have roads that are less bumpy, and look smarter...

Until our builders arrive and dig it up again. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve

It has become a regular occurrence for me to write a blog post on Christmas Eve, with a photo of this year's Christmas cake. I'm not sure at what point a regular occurrence turns into a tradition. Either way, it has happened sufficiently often that it is now on my general list of things-to-do-in-the-runup-to-Christmas.

Not that there are all that many things on the list. We have simplified as much as we can, while keeping to the things we like. This year we still had two Christmas puddings and a large tub of mincemeat left from last year, so I didn't even have to make those.  I ordered UK gifts online, early in December. I wrote our newsletter around the same time, and posted about thirty along with Christmas cards, to relatives and a few close friends. Most of our friends send email newsletters rather than cards now, though;  each year the number we email has increased, and the number of cards written and sent has decreased.

Should anyone reading this, who is not on our mailing list, wish to see our newsletter it's now up at the family site:  Family Christmas newsletter 2018.

We decorated - in a low-key way - a couple of weeks ago.  I printed out the newsletters we received by email, and added them to the handful received by mail in a folder, so we can read them at our leisure. We ordered our turkey mid-December and collected it, along with other food items we need over the next few days, yesterday. I prefer not to shop on Sundays if I can avoid it, but we definitely didn't want to fight the crowds in the supermarket on Christmas Eve.

I have a few things to do today - to bake an alternative cake, and make some vegetarian sausages, and, this evening, help Tim with some of the vegetable preparation for tomorrow. He's made stuffings and the turkey is gently roasting now. Doing it on Christmas Eve, carving in the evening and then re-heating for an hour before Christmas Day lunch, works beautifully for us.

As for the cake, I baked it late in October, fed it a couple of times, made marzipan (without almond essence) about ten days ago to cover it, then iced it (again, making icing in the food processor - so much easier than beating by hand) a couple of days ago.  There was leftover marzipan so I made a few rough balls as it looked rather sparse after I added the least tasteless of my plastic cake decorations.


Wishing everyone a peaceful, relaxing Christmas, and a hopeful New Year.

PS if anyone would like to hear/read a rather different perspective on Advent, this is one of our son Daniel's rare blog posts with something he wrote recently:  Audio Advent Calendar

Monday, December 17, 2018

Christmas Decorations... and a few aberrations!

We don't do a great deal in the way of decorating the house for Christmas. I'm not artistic, so we tend towards minimalism - anything more would look cluttered rather than attractive.

But we always put up our artificial tree, bought nearly thirty years ago in the UK when we left it a bit late, and there were no real Christmas trees to be had (or not for a price we were prepared to pay). It has become an annual tradition, over the past nine years, for me to have help from my friend Sheila and her daughters. As they gave grown older, they have started decorating without much assistance, and this year they put the tree together by themselves.


They all remembered that the branches are of differing sizes, marked with letters of the alphabet to match the slots in which they go.

We were amused that K (13) was finding one branch at a time, locating its hole, and slotting it in.  H (10) was checking each branch in turn as she searched for those marked 'A', which she wanted to put in first. And E (8) was trying to sort them all into alphabetical piles before starting.

Despite these differences in approach, the tree was put together with surprisingly little argument. K then lost interest, and the younger girls did most of the decorating. I wasn't watching what they were doing... they decided to be creative, and made it look (as they explained) like a face:


They didn't expect me to keep it like that, so after I'd taken the photo H decorated more traditionally, and I didn't have to change anything later:


Well... other than picking it up and replacing a few items more firmly, after the cats knocked it down. But that has only happened twice so far, within a couple of hours of it going up. Since then, they have ignored it.

Meanwhile, E decided to get out the nativity characters which I knitted back in 2016.  Again, I wasn't taking too much notice, until she told me it was set up:


The donkey and sheep, she told me, were having a snack at the manger. Joseph had just acted as midwife for Mary, so he was exhausted and taking a nap (when I said I thought Mary would have been even more tired she rolled her eyes). One of the shepherds was so worn out from his walk to the stable that he had fallen over. And E was still not quite sure what to do with the Magi, since (as she pointed out correctly) they arrived some time afterwards (probably days later, maybe a couple of years later) when the shepherds would have gone home.

I adjusted them later to a more traditional scene:


The post to Cyprus at this time of year is remarkably slow. Most years we receive at least half of our Christmas cards after the New Year.  I've got into the habit of keeping the current year's cards in an envelope, to hang up the following December - not that there are as many as even five years ago, as fewer and fewer people send cards.  Only five have arrived so far this year, and they're up on a bookcase. But I had thirty-three from a year ago.

Yesterday I decided it was time to hang up last year's cards.  I managed to get the shorter string up, and hung eleven of the cards only to have Lady Jane take a decided interest:


While she was occupied, I started putting up the other string, which is a bit more complicated. I didn't expect her to come leaping towards me along the pelmets.  She didn't expect that brushing against the clock would knock it down and shatter the glass front...

I swept up the smithereens, and thought the clock was history. Then I noticed that it was still ticking. So I thought that perhaps we could at least rescue the mechanism. Further investigation revealed that the oval frame at the front of the clock was undamaged, as was the face, although the two had come apart and there were several broken-off pieces from around the edge. Richard said he thought that perhaps he could repair it...


... and succeeded in doing so.  So the clock, without a cover, is now back on the wall, as are the rest of last year's cards.


Oddly enough, Lady Jane has not been back to check on the Christmas cards or the string... and since 'her' human will be arriving this evening, for nine days in Cyprus, I hope she'll be too occupied over the next week or so to think about them again.