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. 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Another Breadmaker

When we first moved to Cyprus, we regularly bought bread at an excellent bakery nearby. I knew that it would be less expensive and more healthy to make my own bread, but I didn't get around to it very often. Kneading by hand was hard work - exhausting in the summer! - and although I had a food processor with a kneading blade, I didn't like to use it too often as it felt as if the motor was struggling, sometimes.

Then just before Christmas 2005 we bought a breadmaker. After a couple of false starts, it began to make excellent bread, and we used it several times per week until the summer of 2012 when something went wrong with the motor. It had more than paid for itself in the savings on bread over six-and-a-half years, so we decided to buy a new breadmaker. It was a fairly inexpensive one, a shop's own brand:


Then it started going wrong. I don't remember what happened, or why we were unable to take it back, as I'm pretty sure it was still under warranty.  Or maybe it still worked, somewhat, but the bread was heavy. Perhaps we had it fixed under warranty, and it still didn't work properly.

I didn't blog about it.. and so have no reference point, other than in our accounts application, where I can see that we bought our next breadmaker in April 2014.  It was from Lidl, on special offer. I remember having a discussion about whether or not it was a good idea to buy another inexpensive shop-brand one, and deciding that we'd try just one more time.


It was a good breadmaker. It had various functions, although as with most appliances I used just a couple of them probably 99% of the time.  I wasn't making bread nearly as often as I did when we had our sons living here, but every couple of weeks our friends with several children come over for a kind of high tea on Sunday afternoons, and I usually make two loaves then, slicing and freezing any leftovers. I sometimes make a loaf at other times, too.

All was well until just over a week ago when we were hosting a birthday party for a visiting friend. I decided to make a loaf of bread for the evening buffet, so put the breadmaker on, only to realise that only one paddle was working.  I tried turning the tin around, so the dough would mix at both ends, and it made some unpleasant graunching noises.  Eventually I took it out, mixed and kneaded it by hand, then put the dough back in the breadmaker, without the paddles, on 'dough' setting so that it would rise.  I made some bread rolls which I cooked in the oven, and they were fine. But I didn't want to do that every time.

Nor did I want to go back to buying all our bread from a bakery. We like home-made bread, and I love the convenience of a breadmaker. Perhaps this one could have been mended, but it was over four years old, and didn't owe us anything; we worked out that using a breadmaker for about six months means it pays for itself in the savings on buying bread.  We hate the fact that so many modern appliances are 'disposable' - getting it mended would probably cost almost as much as a new one, and with no guarantee of continuing to work.

So I went to the website of George Theodorou, where we usually buy large appliances/white goods. Relationships are important in Cyprus, as is customer loyalty.  And they've always given us good service. However they only had one breadmaker listed; it was over 100 euros, and when we checked against Amazon, it was evidently somewhat over-priced and not very highly reviewed.

Last Friday we decided to see what else we could find in Larnaka. Lidl didn't have any on offer, although they probably will at some point. But I didn't want to wait, possibly months. I looked at the website of another shop that sells appliances, but they didn't have any breadmakers at all.  We went to a couple of big DIY shops that sell electrical appliances: Leroy Merlin didn't have any breadmakers. Super Home Centre had one, but it was even more expensive than the one I had seen online, and looked a bit flimsy. We went over the road to Debenhams, but although they have some kitchen things, they don't appear to have any electrical appliances.

We were almost ready to give up, but I suggested we go to the 1st April Street thrift shop, where we've occasionally bought appliances in the past.  And there, in the corner, was a breadmaker. Phillips brand, twenty-five euros.

It looked almost new, so we thought we would try it. It's not a design I would have chosen:

breadmaker from the thrift shop, with a purple stripe

Nor did it have an instruction guide or recipe book included. I was able to find them online, though - the advantage of an unusual looking breadmaker with a purple stripe is that it was easy to find the model via an image search - but decided that I would try, first of all, my normal recipe which has worked in all my other breadmakers.

It worked.

bread made with the Philips purple-stripe breadmaker

We've got used to longer loaves with our previous two-paddle breadmakers, but this one has the advantage that the bread comes out very easily, rather than getting stuck (which was the worst problem with the Lidl one).

So we're very pleased with this new (to us) breadmaker, and hope it will last us at least as long as the previous ones. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Walking along the Salt Lake trail in cooler Cyprus weather

As mentioned in a previous post, my friend Sheila and I resumed our early morning walking in the middle of September. It's a pleasant way to start the day, but in September we were often far too warm by the time we had finished, even if it was only 7am. I always feel as if September should be the start of Autumn, although I now know, intellectually, that it isn't in Cyprus. It's almost as hot as summer.

October continued warm at first too, with temperatures in the lower 30s Celcius, although the humidity was much reduced and the nights began to be a little cooler. Once or twice we rejoiced in a high of 29, only to have it a degree or two warmer the following day.

Then, on Wednesday, it rained.  There were gale warnings on parts of the island, and some places saw hailstones, but here in Larnaka it just rained. Not even for very long, but quite heavily.  The temperature dropped a degree or two, and it felt almost chilly overnight, under just a duvet cover. Thursday morning I over-slept, and didn't go outside until almost 6.45am.  Just as well, really, since it started pouring. Sheila and I sat under our outside tin roof on the swing, wondering if we would walk at all.

Then it stopped, and we saw a bit of blue sky, and decided to risk at least a short walk. The Salt Lake trail was quite muddy and I nearly slipped a couple of times. We had to negotiate our way around - or through - several long branches which had fallen with the rain:

plants, weighed down by rain, along the Salt Lake trail

The Salt Lake had water in it, for the first time in months, and to our astonishment, we saw flamingoes on the water.  We wondered how they could possibly know that there was water here, as they fly in from various places for the winter in Cyprus.

water in the salt lake - and flamingoes too

My phone doesn't take very sharp photos, so even if you click to enlarge this one, they won't look like more than a row of dots. But they were quite noisy.

There were puddles along the trail...

puddles along the salt lake trail

And some attractive cloud formations in the sky:

clouds after a heavy rainstorm in Cyprus

However, we didn't walk the entire trail, as we reached a place that was too wet to go past, so we returned, thankful to have stayed dry.

By Thursday evening I was feeling almost chilly, so I got out our thin duvet, and it was very nice to snuggle into it. We had the ceiling fan on for an hour or so, but then I turned it off.

On Friday evening, when we went out, I decided to wear jeans, and put away my shorts. I found my jogging trousers too for walking this morning. I was glad I did, as it was decidedly chilly first thing.

We walked the other way this time, almost to the Airport Road, and saw more flamingoes in the distance:

Tonight we put the clocks back throughout Europe, so the early mornings will be lighter, but the it will get dark quite early in the evenings. I'm glad it's a little cooler by the end of October, but am aware that Autumn is a short, almost non-existent season here in Cyprus.  All too soon we'll be wearing a couple of layers of warm sweaters, wanting the thicker duvet, and getting our central heating serviced.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Changing our Cablenet Contract

Four-and-a-half years ago, I wrote about how we decided to move our landline phone and Internet provider from the national company CYTA to the somewhat newer Cablenet.  It saved us about ten euros per month, and gave us a faster Internet connection.

I still have the original documentation, which shows that we signed up for the 'cable/talk + surf + view 20M' package, at €44.64 per month.


At the time, all the Cablenet packages had cable TV included, although we weren't in fact interested in that as we don't watch TV. We thought we might - but it hasn't happened. We wanted to keep our landline phone although we didn't use that much either. And when our last physical phone handset gave up working, we simply diverted the number to Richard's mobile phone; the landline was barely used, and we haven't missed it.

A couple of months after we took out the contract - which was 20M download, and 2M upload, though I'm not entirely certain what the two figures refer to - we were upgraded to 30M/3M, at a slightly inflated cost.  Perhaps that was part of the initial contract; I don't remember. Anyway, for a couple of years it worked well, and we were paying €46.90 per month for the package, plus the occasional few cents if someone dialled the landline and it was then transferred to Richard's mobile.

Shortly after that, we were upgraded again to 75M/5M, and then, earlier this year, 100M/6M. Paperwork arrived with the bill, sometimes, and we glanced at it, wondering if we would do better with a different package. Richard thought that perhaps he could transfer his mobile number to Cablenet as part of one of their new packages which included a mobile. But somehow we never got around to it.

The monthly price had gone up to €52.90 per month, which seemed rather on the high side, when compared to costs elsewhere. But a six euro increase - along with much faster speeds - didn't seem too bad in four years.

Then in the summer, we were away for over a month. Our Cablenet bill for August (it's always paid in advance) had arrived just before we flew, but by the time we collected it from the PO Box, I had turned my computer off. I knew I had until the end of the month to pay it, and since I was taking my laptop with me on our travels, I thought I could easily log into our bank before the end of the month, and pay online. So I popped the bill into my laptop case... and forgot about it.

The Internet connection wasn't great for our first couple of weeks away. But then we stayed for a week in a villa in Coronado, which had a reliable connection. I found the bill, and paid it online without any problem, despite it being about six days after the end of July.

Richard flew back to Cyprus towards the end of August, and visited our PO Box where he found our electricity and water bills, but no Cablenet bill. I was able to pay the other utilities, despite them also being rather late, but was surprised that there was no phone/Internet bill. Everything was working, and I didn't think about it until about ten days ago, when we went to check the PO Box again. Still no Cablenet bill. 

So we went to the Cablenet office. A very helpful lady was able to print off our bill - both the one we should have received in August, and the one for September which had not yet arrived. When we asked why we hadn't had the September one, wondering if they had gone paperless and we'd missed something, she said it was because the August bill was paid late, and attracted a re-connection fee of five euros.

No, that didn't make any sense to us, either.

We asked if we could pay then. Yes, she said. Did we want to pay just the September bill (which included the reconnection fee), or the October one too?  I said we might as well pay them both at the same time, and produced my debit card.

Meanwhile, Richard had been looking at the special offer card that was sitting on the desk.


It was all rather confusing, with several different offers, nowhere near as straightforward as it was four and a half years ago.

I asked if we could have an Internet connection that didn't include TV, since we didn't use that, and the lady suggested a couple of options. However, both of them had rather slower upload speeds than we had been using - and for Richard's work, he likes that as fast as possible.

But after some discussion, we realised that we could get a connection that's almost as fast (5M rather than 6M upload) with the package labelled '2play 60M Purple 2', which costs €39.90/month.


This has no TV, but does include, in addition to home Internet, a mobile phone with a monthly allowance of 400 minutes, 200 SMS and 1gig Internet.  There wouldn't be much point having my phone on this package, since I only spend about €15 per year on pay-as-you-go. I write perhaps thirty text messages in a month, but I don't think I use more than about 60 minutes a year of talking.  And even with my new-to-me smartphone, I don't want to use mobile Internet, other than, briefly, on wi-fi when I'm at home.

However, Richard's phone, which was on a CYTA contract, was costing about €20-30 per month. The basic contract was only €2.50 with what's considered low usage, but he paid another €8 or so for 300m mobile internet per month, and typically at least €10 in charges for calls and texts. Until recently he had used it mainly for work, but now he mostly uses online calling for work calls to people abroad, so the call/text charges to his mobile phone were mostly local. I had felt for a while that we should now be paying this rather than his work (which has been doing so).... 

So once the Cablenet lady had established that his current contract doesn't include any minutes or SMS, she agreed that we would do much better with a new contract. It should save about thirty to forty euros per month.

We had to take in a former CYTA bill in order for the process to begin, but since we already had a Cablenet contract, there were no further charges. Richard was given a new sim card for his phone, and told to change it when he received a text message informing him of when the transfer was done.

On Monday morning he was sent an SMS telling him to start using the new sim card at noon on Tuesday...  and shortly after lunch on Tuesday, when he realised his CYTA connection was no longer working, he changed the card, and everything - so far - has worked perfectly.

All of which is a very long-winded post to say: it's well worth checking special offers with phone/internet companies.  Facilities change, and what seems like a great deal at the start of a contract may not be the best one a couple of years later.

Will we remember to check the options in another two years time....??  That remains to be seen.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Early Morning Walking Resumed

It took me nearly a week to feel as if I'd recovered from returning to Cyprus. Not that I had any trouble adjusting to the two-hour time difference. And although I'd had a bit of a broken night before flying (continually waking in case I'd missed my alarm...) a couple of good nights' sleep easily made up for that.

Instead, I felt unutterably weary, my brain foggy, my actions slow. Partly it was returning to the heat, I'm sure; yet the humidity is down, less than it was in July before we left, and the temperatures are no more than 31-32C in the hottest part of the day. As I type, it's almost 6.00pm and a not-too-warm 28 outside. It will be dark in a little over an hour.  I had air conditioning on in my study earlier, when the temperature was a bit higher, but not now.

But partly it's something I've come to expect each time I return to Cyprus. Perhaps it's resuming responsibilities for looking after the house, and the cooking, and so on. Perhaps it's a kind of reaction to the end of an enjoyable holiday. Or perhaps it's the way I experience jet-lag, though it's odd that it only ever seems to happen when I'm back in Cyprus after a break.

Still, by Tuesday I'd decided I could manage an early-morning walk with my friend Sheila. It's mostly light by about 6.00am and a pleasantly cool 23C.  We exchanged text messages, and I put on some socks and my trainers, untouched for the past three months.

I grabbed my camera as I left, and took my first photo as we approached the entrance to the trail:


The Salt Lake, when we saw it, has completely dried up.


That doesn't happen every year, but we'd had no rain since at least May, and far less than the normal amount in the past year. There are strict water restrictions in place. Not that water gets turned off, as it did when we were first here. But heavy fines are being imposed for people who use hoses to wash their cars, or their patios/verandas, or the pavement outside the house.  Or rather....fines are imposed for people caught doing these things. First thing in the morning, and late at night, we've seen neighbours use their hoses, surreptitiously, to clean their outside areas anyway.

The lack of recent water shows in the general brownness of the sides of the trail:


We walked, as usual, to the aqueduct and then back to the opening. About two km in each direction. We weren't walking at all fast, but then neither of us has done much walking in the past few months.

On the way back, I was struck by this rather pretty display of purple flowers:


However, some long-forgotten memory of the basic horticultural education given me by my parents told me that it was bindweed. I don't know why I thought that, as the bindweed I vaguely remember from my childhood was white. I suppose there's something about the shape of the flowers.  And, as we looked more closely, we realised that this plant is wrapping itself around branches and even leaves of other plants.


Neither of us recall such a profusion of these purple flowers in previous years. But bindweed is insidious. I doubt if anyone will do anything about it. Most people will admire its beauty rather than worry about what it's doing.

There's a rather obvious spiritual lesson there, which I won't expound upon.

We walked again on Thursday.  Yesterday, there was some rain in the late afternoon. It wasn't heavy, but it was enough to make the whole street look wet. Inevitable, perhaps, as we were planning to barbecue with our friends in the evening - but happily the rain finished in plenty of time to do so.

It was nowhere near sufficient rain to make any different to the Salt Lake, but as I looked out of the window prior to walking this morning, I saw some clouds and wondered if there would be a pretty sunrise.  I was about to grab my camera when I remembered that my new-to-me phone had a built-in camera.

When the moment came that I wanted to take a photo, I wasn't entirely sure how to use the phone. But it wasn't difficult to find the camera icon and press the button on screen.

This afternoon I wondered how I would get the photo from my phone to my computer. Google searching suggested plugging them together via the charging wire, and installing an Android connection app on my computer.  I did that... but the app wouldn't recognise the phone. Perhaps it's too basic.

I looked at the photo, wondering if I could email it to myself, or download it, but there were no options to do so.

Finally, I opened Google Photos, wondering if I could put it there temporarily....

... and to my astonishment, the photo was already there. So I opened Google Photos on my computer, and was able to use it.  Not that it's great quality. It's nowhere near as sharp as my camera photos. I certainly won't be abandoning my camera any time soon.

But it gives a general idea of the colours in the sky; not as impressive as some we've seen in previous years, but still: my first phone photo:


Now that I've got used to using an on-screen keyboard, I don't miss my old phone at all.  I haven't yet worked out how to make phone calls on the smartphone... but I can send texts, and WhatsApp messages, and even quickly browse Facebook without having to switch my computer on.  Richard installed some more hard drive a few days ago - the tiniest hard drive I've ever seen - which means I'm not running out of space any more.

The weather forecast sites don't show any indication that the temperatures are going to drop in the next ten days; 30-32C remains the expected maximum temperature, 22-24C the expected overnight minimum. But with humidity no more than 50%, it's not unpleasant.

September usually marks the last month of summer in Cyprus. Perhaps in October it will cool down a little.