Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Bathroom Renovation....

It's almost three weeks since I wrote about our proposed bathroom renovation, with the reasons for going ahead, and what we were planning. I was very pleased to be flying to the UK the following day... or so I thought. In the event, my flight for March 29th was cancelled - apparently one of the airline staff was ill - and rescheduled for the following evening.

I could have gone to a very nice hotel for 24 hours along with most of the other passengers, but decided I'd rather come home. It was useful in that I was able to pay some bills and catch up with a few things I'd neglected. But it was VERY noisy.

I had assumed, in my ignorance, that on the Wednesday, when work finally began (after a two-day delay) that the builders would first of all work on our guest flat shower, taking out the old one and installing the new one.

Wrong.

The guy who came was the demolition expert. So he did take out the guest flat old and tatty shower, and left it pretty tidy, but he then got straight to work starting to demolish our bathroom.  I didn't want to look at first, but after some hours I took a look:


Since the tiling had been done thoroughly, and expertly, over the entire bathroom, it wasn't an easy task to remove them. And the noise was horrendous.

Had my flight been cancelled again, I would have taken up the option on a hotel rather than returning to the house for another day of destruction!

Happily my flight went ahead on the Wednesday evening; I arrived in Liverpool about 1am UK time, and I spent the night in the nearest airport hotel; Richard had re-booked everything for me after the cancellation, and I was very pleased indeed to have somewhere to crash out for a night:


On the Thursday morning, the last day of March, I caught various coaches that took me up to Carlisle, and a wonderful reunion with my son, daughter-in-law and toddler grandson.

I had little thought to spare for the continued destruction of the bathroom, but Richard took photos such as this one, after more of the tiles were removed:


And this one, after the builders discovered that the entire bath was sitting on a slurry of concrete:


And this one, at the end of the day, after they had tidied up and removed the bath.  Alex was quite disturbed by it all, but determined to investigate:


Friday April 1st was a public holiday in Cyprus, and Richard had arranged to go sailing. So work was halted for a long weekend. And they still didn't install the guest flat shower. Thankfully we do have another loo; we also have another shower - in a sort of cupboard in my study. We use it for keeping heaters and/or fans (depending on the season) and our beach equipment. So he took everything out of it, and used the shower there for the duration.

Meanwhile, I was having fun with my grandson in the UK, where it was a bit grey and showery. But the only noise was that of a cheerful toddler, and the bathroom was functional!


On Monday April 4th, the work resumed. I had really hoped they'd have started installing the new bathroom by then, but no... there was yet more preparation work to be done, uncovering and moving piles, drilling more holes and doing some initial cementing:


And here's how it looked by the end of April 5th - not much different, but by now there were new channels dug into the floor and more concreting done:


Meanwhile in the UK, my grandson wasn't too well during the day, but enjoyed tucking into some curry and naan bread in the evening: 


Wednesday April 6th was both sad and happy for me: I had to say goodbye to my family in Carlisle, but the train took me south to stay with my father and his wife in the Midlands. It was very good to see them and to catch up with my siblings and their spouses too, at the weekend.

Back in Cyprus, there was some progress, in that the walls received their first cement 'skim':


But a day later, although it had dried out, it didn't look much different and I was beginning to wonder if we'd ever have a bathroom back again. I think Richard was getting a bit concerned too...


Then on Friday 8th - the day when it should all have been complete - construction began, and the tiles were put on two walls:


The builders realised that there was an imminent deadline: Richard was leaving the country on Tuesday 12th, so they worked through the weekend, grouting the tiles, laying the floor, and doing the electrics and lighting.

We had chosen some light orange paint for the other two walls - not wanting the entire thing tiled again - so that was the next task. By the end of Sunday 10th April, there was a shell with plumbing complete, lights installed, and tiling and painting done. It still looked a bit depressing.


And then it all started to come together on the Monday, more so on the Tuesday morning. By the time Richard departed for the airport, he was able to take this remarkably different picture:


I had to say another set of sad goodbyes, and travelled down by coach to meet Richard at Gatwick. We were able to spend a day and a half with his mother, and to my surprise the thermometer rose and the sun came out. Tuesday, when we went out for the day, was apparently the warmest of the year so far:


On Thursday we were back at Gatwick. I flew back to Cyprus in the evening, and about an hour later Richard flew in a different direction to some work-related meetings.

I felt a bit bad that Richard had put up with all the noise and chaos, yet I was the first one actually to use the new bathroom. It felt a bit strange at first, and the bath surface was so slippery that I went out and bought a non-slip mat as a temporary measure. When he's back we're going to put up some hooks, and pictures, and buy some new towels... but it's a very pleasant bathroom which looks amazing, and - due to an efficient extractor fan - should no longer attract mould.




Monday, March 28, 2016

Replacing our bathroom....

It's coming up to ten years since we moved into our house in Cyprus. It's more than ten years since we first saw it, and pondered, and prayed, and decided that it was the right house to buy. As, indeed, the past decade has amply demonstrated.

But back in January 2006, we didn't know what to expect. We didn't really know what we were looking for although we had a few important criteria. At first we tried to find a four-bedroomed house, but they were too expensive in the area we wanted to live. So we started looking at three-bedroomed houses... only to have an estate agent take us a three-storey house which had three bedrooms on the ground floor, which is a separate flat, AND three bedrooms on the top floor, as well as a good-sized room off the living room which could be used as another bedroom.

We fell in love with the kitchen immediately, we saw lots of potential in the main living area, and although the bedrooms seemed a bit small compared to the ones in our rental home, we knew they would be fine.

But we really didn't like the bathroom.

It's not that it was too small, but there was a huge sink unit that seemed to take up almost half the floor space, and there was mould growing around the bath sealant (although everything else was scrupulously clean):



We really didn't like the colour, either. And whereas we could easily repaint other rooms (and did so before moving in) it's a lot more difficult to change bathroom tiles.

Thinking about the bathroom almost put us off the house entirely, but we went back for a second viewing. When we saw it again - and I took the above photo - we realised it wasn't as bad as we had remembered. We still didn't like the style or colours, but it was quite adequate; a great deal better than the one in our rental home (of which I don't think any of us ever took any photos).

Besides, with the amount we sold our UK house for, we had some 'change' when we went ahead with buying this one. We used some of it to buy important items such as a large freezer, and an electronic piano, and a television (since our previous one had quit some months previously), as well as a few extra bookcases. But we promised ourselves that once we'd settled in, we would do something about the bathroom.

Time, as it is wont to do, passed.

Richard replaced the sealant around the bath.


A few years ago, he managed to cut down the shower doors which were a bit broken and somewhat mouldy.


But it's continued to cause frustration. Nothing major, in the scheme of things, but it gets very damp, and the condensation turns to mould on the ceiling and wall tiles. I clean them regularly, but it grows back, and we don't always notice black on the ceiling. We could keep the window open, but it would be VERY cold in the winter. What it needs is an extractor fan... but that's not an easy thing to install without taking the bathroom apart.

The radiator, too, is extremely rusty. Each year it looks worse, and we wonder if it's going to leak. We muttered that it would be nice to have a heated towel rail...

We're not good at getting around to doing things, and time continued to pass, but we seriously needed a new shower on the ground floor (which we use as a guest apartment). The doors have been wonky since we moved in, and are getting worse. There's mould there too. And we have been given money specifically for the upkeep of the guest flat...

So at the end of last year, we started looking at new showers, and other bathroom fittings, curious to know what was available, and what the likely cost would be, and whether we would even be able to find anything suitable.

Finding a new shower for the guest flat wasn't too difficult, but we also wanted to know what might - theoretically - be possible in our main bathroom. We discussed having only a shower with no bath, to make it feel bigger. But occasionally we both like to take a bath, and it's important to have one for visiting children.

Visiting the bigger DIY stores was discouraging; nothing was inspiring, and we'd almost given up when we decided to look at a local bathroom supplies place. There we saw a corner bath, the kind of thing Richard had always rather craved, which would take up rather less space (or less awkward space, anyway) than our current bath.

We saw a sink we liked too, and Richard said he would be able to build a small, neat shelved unit to go around it.

I didn't think we needed a new loo; this is our current one:


But they're not expensive, and this one has a lot of scale (and needs a new seat lid anyway)... so we thought that if we were buying the rest new, we should go ahead with that, too.

We contacted the builder who has done some other work on the house, and he gave us a quotation for doing the entire bathroom - removing all the tiles and old units, plumbing in the new ones to our specifications, re-painting the ceiling, doing any necessary plastering, putting up tiles... at least a week's expert work. It wasn't cheap but not unreasonable either.

Richard was eager to go ahead, but I was still resistant. Partly because I have an inherent dislike of spending money on myself (part of my Scottish heritage, perhaps) and also partly because I find it extremely stressful having builders in the house, no matter how friendly and efficient they are. There's inevitable noise, and dust, and chaos... I really, really dislike it.

But I'd been wanting to spend a couple of weeks in the UK visiting relatives, as it's over a year since we've been, and so the idea formed that I would go on my own, and Richard would get the bathroom done in my absence.

The vague idea turned to more concrete plans in the past month. My flights and other travel arrangements are booked, and one of our bedrooms is currently full of bathroom fittings and fixtures. We've chosen tiles and paint, and the builders are booked for this week. They're going to replace the guest flat shower first, and that should have been happening today.

This morning Richard had a message to say that they're going to start a day late. They're still finishing a previous job that took longer than expected.

I can't say I'm unhappy about that. That means they'll do the guest flat shower tomorrow, and probably won't start work on the main part of the house until Wednesday, by which time I'll be a few thousand kilometres away.

The only slight problem is that the heated towel rail (to replace the rusty radiator) was not in stock when Richard put the order in, so had to be ordered from abroad. And last week there was a port strike in Limassol. I gather it's now been called off, so we hope that shipments will be unpacked and will make their way to the relevant stores in time for us, and for the many other frustrated customers awaiting bathroom and other parts.

Tomorrow morning I'll take my last shower in the present bathroom. I don't think I'll have any regrets... it's served us well for the past ten years, but I'm not going to miss it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Cyprus style damp proof course

When we first moved to Cyprus, someone explained to us that the older houses - and some of the newer ones - suffer from rising damp. Because of their construction, the kind of damp proof treatment that we knew of in the UK was not possible. However, we were assured, it wasn't a huge problem. With the long hot summers, everything dries out nicely, and it's easy enough either to rub down and repaint each year when damp showed in the walls, or to have a kind of hardboard layer in front of the walls to stop it showing.

That was all very well in the house we rented, which we knew would eventually be pulled down. And those were the drought years in Cyprus. But then we bought our own house ten years ago, and there has been more rain. Moreover, since we use our downstairs floor as a guest flat rather than living in it all the time, a musty smell developed in several cupboards. Guests in the warmer months have opened windows and doors and let fresh air in, but those staying in the winter have experienced problems with mould growing on walls of one of the bedrooms, and the bathroom ceiling. It was fairly easy to wash off with some vinegar, but we started talking about what we could do to decrease the damp and condensation.

Doing some research online, we both came across the site of 'Dr Damp'. This is a company who claim to do the only reputable damp-proofing in Cyprus, and to have gained a good reputation across Europe. So, at the end of January, we arranged for them to come and do a survey. Richard went around the guest flat with the guy who came, watching the damp meter and learning about the method they use. We were told that we did have a damp problem: not yet a serious one, but it could become one in the next few decades. The system is guaranteed for twenty years and it sounded entirely reputable, if rather expensive.

Since it's Cyprus we wanted a personal recommendation rather than just affirmations on the website, and a friend remembered that some other friends had had a damp-proof system installed a year or two previously. I got in touch, and we were assured that the Dr Damp team do a great job, and are friendly and professional. It all seemed like a good thing to get done, and we inherited money from my mother a couple of years ago... so we booked the treatment for the second week of February, knowing that the flat was going to be empty from then until almost the end of the month.

Despite the company being based in Paphos, the men arrived fairly early on the Monday morning, and the house reverberated with power tools for several hours as they drilled out the rectangular holes that form the first part of the process for all the external walls.  These are what we saw, all around the outside of the house, by the end of the first day:


They don't go right through to the inside so it's not going to create draughts.

By the end of the second day, the special system was in place - here's a different part of the wall, showing how they had to cut away some of the paintwork to install each one.


The men were indeed very friendly - even helping to rescue our cat Alexander when he got stuck up a neighbour's tree - and cleaned up all the mess they had made, roughly plastering over the worst of the bits of wall they had hacked away.

There were some internal walls that were damp too, and they had to be treated with chemicals, so we had to move everything out of the way so they could do that:


If you think that really doesn't look too bad, this is what the guest flat kitchen/dining room looked like by the time furniture and various other things had been moved to enable the damp proofing:


After three days the Dr Damp guys left, and we paid our teenage friend Jacob to do the plastering and repainting, and some other painting that was long overdue.

Here's the first stage, around the new system. Of course it was important not to fill in the holes around the triangular stone things: that's where the airflow, in and out, removes damp from the walls.


Unfortunately, in rubbing down and sanding some of the exterior paintwork and plaster, more pieces fell off, showing that the damp had indeed taken a hold in places. So Jacob worked rather more hours than we had anticipated, but did an excellent job.  By the time he had finished, the damp proof system looked more like this:


Once the sanding and necessary inside painting was complete, we had quite a job to clean the guest flat, which by that stage was covered with a fine layer of dust. So we removed and dusted all the books (only about a thousand of them, but still... quite a task), and I washed every single piece of bedding that I could find, and all the towels and curtains too.  The washing machine was in use at least a couple of times every day - thankfully it was good drying weather - and I also used our carpet shampooing machine to clean all the mattresses.

We swept and dusted and mopped several times, and I also sorted some of the kitchen cupboards, cleaning away any mould that had grown, washing all the things inside, and getting rid of some bits and pieces that had evidently never been used.

And, at last, the living room was back to its usual self, albeit rather cleaner than it has been for a while, in preparation for our end-of-February visitors:


The kitchen, too, was clean and sparkling, the windows freshly washed, the floor reflecting the sunlight:


We were told that it could take two or three months before the damp smells vanished entirely, but the bathroom cupboard - which was very bad - smelled fresher within about a week, and the kitchen cupboards are a great deal less musty than they were, although not yet perfect.

This won't entirely solve the condensation problem: however, Richard is going to install an extractor fan in the bathroom, and we hope that the reduction of damp in general will make the master bedroom less likely to grow mould on the walls too. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

How to stop random birds from nesting on air conditioners...

There are a lot of birds around here - pigeons mostly - and they're a bit of a nuisance. They flap around the rooftops, producing droppings that either mess up the outside steps, or - worse - make a kind of channel in the tiles that can cause serious leakages when it rains heavily, as it does from time to time in the winter months.

They also like to nest on top of the outside sections of air conditioning units. Any time I opened my study door during nesting season, until about six months ago, I'd hear a fluttering and flapping and birds would take off hastily, while bits of stick landed on the ground below. Sometimes the cats would sit at the window, or on the chair below the air conditioner, chattering noisily, trying to protect the house - or, depending on the cat, trying unsuccessfully to fly after the birds.

I know, I know. This is very much a 'first world' problem. The birds don't, as far as we know, carry disease, and we're very blessed to have a house at all, let alone air conditioners. We don't want to harm the birds so we're not going to put out poison, as some locals might consider. And while we talked about putting a kind of netting on parts of the roof, it was complicated to do and would have made it even more difficult to clean if droppings landed anyway.

Then, perhaps eight months ago, Sheila and I were talking to an acquaintance on the Salt Lake trail one morning. She said something about using plastic snakes to keep the birds away. I was skeptical; it sounded like a coincidence to me, and I didn't think birds could be quite so stupid as to think a toy snake was real... could they?

A few days later, Richard and I were in Kleima, a big shop that sells hardware and household goods and some furniture and various other random items. As I was wandering up the aisles looking for something we needed, I spotted a tray of remarkably realistic looking plastic snakes. They cost a couple of euros each, and I recalled the recent conversation. Shuddering slightly as I chose a green and curly serpent, I added it to our shopping basket.

One of the cats saw the snake sitting on our living room table after we got home, and approached cautiously. A quick sniff and she realised it was harmless, so she batted it a little and then ignored it. The others didn't even bother to investigate. I know birds are less intelligent than cats, but even so... surely they would be able to sense that a plastic toy was no threat to them. And how would they know what a snake was anyway....?

We got out a ladder and I placed the snake on top of the air conditioner, and then pretty much forgot about it. It wasn't the season for nesting anyway, and then when we saw pigeons appearing on our neighbour's roof, I thought it was probably a coincidence that we didn't seem to have any birds on my study air conditioner.

Then, yesterday morning, I opened my study door and heard wild flapping of wings and fluttering, and two birds emerged from my air conditioner. I smiled wryly. They must have got used to the plastic snake, I thought. Or perhaps these birds were a bit brighter than the others. Or maybe none of them had been interesting in nesting there until then.

Later that morning I heard one of our cats making strange noises outside. I peered outside, and he was sitting on the chair underneath the air conditioner, looking up at the birds who were flapping around. I opened the door and they flew away as usual. I went out to talk to the cat... and saw this on the ground:


It had been a very windy night, and evidently the snake had blown down.

The birds continued fluttering to and fro, so later that morning I managed to get the snake back on top of the air conditioner.


A bird flapped around about half an hour later... but then flew away again.

And, this morning, when I opened the door, there were no birds out there. There were several on our neighbours' roof, and sitting on their air conditioning unit, but none at all coming anywhere near mine.

It appears that this method actually works, at least for us. We did wonder if we could get some more of these unpleasant looking toys and put them on different sections of our roof, but we were concerned that they would blow off much too easily; my air conditioner is quite protected by the balcony and it takes a very strong wind to make it fall. But any heavy rain or gusts of wind could blow one from the roof... and we really don't like the idea of random plastic snakes landing on the ground around our house.


Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Kiti beach, becoming commercial?

When we first moved to Cyprus, we sometimes went out for walks on Sunday afternoons, and a popular location was Kiti beach. It's about fifteen minutes' drive from where we live, an unspoilt location where one could walk along a beach with stones as well as sand, or at the top of a small slope overlooking the beach. It was often almost deserted.

But life moves on, and we hadn't been there for over a year.

Friends were staying last week, and wanted somewhere to go for a short walk. By the sea if possible, and not too far away. We decided to drive to Kiti. I was quite looking forward to seeing it again after all this time.

The route seems to change slightly, every time we've been there. But eventually we spotted the (rather underwhelming) lighthouse, and parked the car. We were a bit surprised to see railings, although the gate to the beach was open:


Here's the lighthouse: that not very tall tower towards the right of the photo below.

Kiti beach lighthouse

There was nobody stopping us from going through the gates and inside, but there was a 'no entry' sign and a big warning notice saying that it was dangerous. While two of our party weren't too worried about that, one of us was decidedly anxious about the thought of disobeying a 'no entry' sign, and I didn't feel entirely comfortable either. Even though it's Cyprus...


So we walked, instead, through the outdoor eating area of the restaurant (which was closed) and onto some steps going down towards the beach:


And then we were stopped by some fencing, and saw the beginnings of a concrete path, which would have been very difficult for at least one of us to climb over:


Eventually it will be quite a nice walkway, we think, but there was no easy way to get to it, or past it:


Then one of our friends managed to scrape her leg on an unexpected pole that was poking out of the ground, and we decided we weren't even going to try going down to the beach from there.


There was a sign lying just beyond the fencing:

adoption notice of the beach by Noble Energy

It says, in Greek and English: 'This beach has been adopted by Noble Energy in cooperation with Cymera and the Pervolia Community Council. Please keep it clean.'

We didn't know that companies could 'adopt' beaches, nor what it means in practice. Is it still open to the public, if they can fight their way past the wires and ignore the warnings, or does it mean we have to stay away?

We decided to try and find another place to access the beach, so once again we headed back. I felt quite sad that this lovely non-commercial beach is evidently going to be made more appealing to tourists and given walkways and so on. Then again, very few people ever seemed to go there.

We drove back a little way and followed another sign to a beach, only to be confronted by more gates with another similar warning notice:


When we drove through anyway, there was some construction work impeding our way:


So we drove still further back, and followed yet another sign, in a residential area, which led us, finally, to a section of beach where we could walk and enjoy the sunshine and breeze:


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Colourful and inexpensive fruit and veg in Cyprus

It's been a while since I wrote. We've had a very cold spell in Cyprus and, more recently, an unseasonably warm few days. We've had work done on the house, which means there's a lot of cleaning and some repainting to do next week before our next visitors.

There is a great deal that I could write about, and perhaps I will in the next few weeks.  But on Friday, Richard was out for the morning so I did my weekly shopping on foot, using my trolley to transport food home. The main part of what I bought - indeed, the main part of what we eat - was fruit and vegetables.

As I brought it all in, and started unpacking, I realised again what good value fruit and veg are in Cyprus. They're mostly fresh, they taste extremely good, and there are usually slightly older items on sale at even better value than normal.

So here's what I bought on Friday:


Some of the carrots, cauliflower, peppers and courgettes were to take to a shared meal on Friday evening. But other than that, I was only buying for the two of us for the weekend (three on Sunday), and a couple of days next week; I'll buy some more fruit and veg on Wednesday.

We already had some oranges, cucumbers, tomatoes and mushrooms, and also garlic, so I didn't need any of those; just as well, as my trolley was very full, even though, laid out like this, it doesn't look like a lot for five days. We needed some lemons, too, but our good friends have a prolific lemon tree so they gave us a couple of dozen of them this morning.

I've been so long out of the UK that I have no idea what this amount of fruit and veg would cost there. They're not organic - but they're unwaxed, loose, and - mostly - locally grown.  I had thought this would be around €15-18 and was pleased that the total was slightly less than €13.50.  That's about £10.50 in the UK by today's exchange rate (or just over $19 in the US).

Oh, and for those who are concerned about the environment, I did get a lot of small plastic bags (more than are shown in the picture) but I re-use them for cat litter, so they're not wasted. The shop has a system whereby pink bags are the special offer items, green (though they look turquoise in the photo) are the main ones, and the final aisle are blue. Not using bags would make everything more complicated for the checkout people - and I do take my own larger cloth bags to pack them in.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Scanning negatives

When our young friends were here last week, one of them asked what the odd noise was in my study. I explained that I was scanning some negatives. She looked at me, a little puzzled, and asked what I meant.

'I'm scanning some old negatives of photos,' I explained, 'and putting them on my computer.'

'Do you mean you're printing some photos?'

'No...'  I paused, and realise that this is one of the technological divides of recent history. A child of seven years old may never have seen photo negatives. Yet until ten or fifteen years ago, the majority of cameras used them.

I've always liked taking photos. Perhaps it's because I don't have much of a visual memory, I like to be able to capture people's faces and special moments on film. I had my first basic camera when I was about six or seven, with black-and-white film which we developed and printed at home. I progressed to a 35mm camera during my teens, and was very organised with my negatives, filing them in albums along with 'contact sheets' that showed positive images in thumbnail sizes, and an index at the front.

I continued doing that up until about 1978, when it became clear that developing and printing at home cost rather more than sending photos to be printed. And I wanted to start using colour film, which was a great deal more difficult (and expensive) to process at home. So I tried several different companies, both high street ones and mail order ones.  Here are a few of the envelopes I found recently:

old envelopes from some of the different film processing companies

Since the negatives came in little packets attached to the ones containing the prints, it didn't occur to me to store and catalogue them anywhere else. The prints went in albums, those I didn't want got thrown away (eventually), and the envelopes with the negatives were stored in random boxes and drawers.

I had vague thoughts of eventually getting bigger prints of some of the pictures, but it never happened... and the collection of negatives got larger and larger. I did label some of them with the date and sometimes even the subject matter, but mostly I forgot.

We bought our first digital camera in 2003, but the print quality wasn't great, so I continued using my 'ordinary' camera for prints, with the digital one for newsletters, and the family website, and - when I started it - this blog. That was a definite improvement on waiting for photos to be printed in the UK, and then using our elderly scanner to get them transferred to computer.

In 2005, after losing our first digital camera, we splashed out on a nicer one and found that the prints were now sharper better quality in general than those from my film camera. So the latter was, at last, retired, and the negative collection stopped increasing.

When we first moved to Cyprus, my old negatives were stored away in our UK house, but eventually came out here when we sold it. They were then stored in a high cupboard in our new house. Meanwhile we'd also managed to collect several slides that belonged to my grandparents, and a few quite old negative plates that my mother had been keeping. I knew there were places where one could get these things transferred to CD but they were expensive, and there were just so many of them...

In May 2007 my father was staying here, and wanted to buy me a nice present. I couldn't think of anything I wanted at first, then I wondered aloud whether it was possible to buy a scanner that would also do negatives and slides. He and the more technologically aware members of the family went to investigate, and returned with a 'CanoScan'.

Sophia, who was always a very curious cat, investigated it thoroughly when it was first set up:

The cat Sophia investigating our scanner when it was new

(I tried to think of a clever comment about 'cat scans' but couldn't think of anything suitable)

In great excitement we followed the instructions and scanned a few of the slides, and were very pleased with the results. Then we tried a few negatives, and were even more pleased with the results. It was a bit of a complex process: only two strips of negatives can be scanned at a time, or just a couple of slides. But it worked very well indeed.

In 2010 we decided to make a special album for our thirtieth anniversary, so I hunted through photo albums and scanned either photos or negatives (if I could find them) to get pictures of us and the boys when we were younger.

A few years later, we wanted some photos for my father's 80th birthday celebrations, so I scanned some of my old (and well-organised) black-and-white negatives.

A year after that, a cousin wanted some old photos for her parents anniversary, so I did some more scanning. And I thought, several times, how nice it would be to get ALL my negatives scanned, and organised on the computer, and maybe made into new albums....

... but it was all quite daunting. I did spend a few Saturdays doing a lot of scanning, but during the week it returned to being a spot for Cleo to sleep on:

The cat Jemima using the scanner as a bed, or at least a place to sit

Then one day, last Autumn, I wanted to scan something and the scanner refused to speak to my computer. I tried everything, to no avail. My technically minded son tried different leads and different USB ports and everything he could think of... and it still didn't work.

We assumed that the scanner had stopped working.  Richard reminded me that he had an identical one which he rarely used, so suggested we switch them.  Several weeks later we tried... only to find that his one wouldn't speak to my computer either, while my one worked perfectly with his computer.

It turned out to be a problem with the operating system, but after much frustration and many experiments, we finally got a version of the CanoScan software that works for me. A little klunky: I have to switch the scanner off and on again after each scan, but I can deal with that.

So I decided to make the effort to work through ALL my negatives, one film per day.  If the last software update made it more difficult to scan, the next one might make it impossible; the scanner is, after all, nearly nine years old.

Here are some of the negatives waiting to be scanned:

Piles of old negatives to be scanned...

I've done about ten films so far.  There are at least two hundred more to do, but that means I should have finished by the end of the year.

Back to my small friends, their mother and I managed to explain, roughly, what negatives are and how they worked. The girls' response was that they sounded SO COOL! They thought I should put them on my walls as decoration, because it would be AWESOME to see photos where all the colours were reversed...

I don't always like modern technology, but I am very happy with my digital camera. I wouldn't ever want to go back to the old methods.



Thursday, January 21, 2016

Beanbags in Cyprus

While most people find chairs or sofas comfortable, I've always preferred sitting on the floor. When I sit on a sofa to read, or watch a DVD, I usually take off my shoes and curl my legs up under me. Even sitting at the computer or the dining table, I often have one of my legs curled up next to me.

The problem in Cyprus is that instead of carpets with wooden floors underneath, most floors are hard, covered with marble or large tiles. In the winter, they're cold as well as hard, and while I do sometimes sit on the floor, I can't do so for lengthy periods.

When we lived in the UK, my second favourite place to sit was on a large beanbag. We didn't bring it to Cyprus, as it was quite bulky, and I have no idea what happened to it. I assumed we could buy beanbags here - the boys liked them too - and was very disappointed when I discovered that none of the local furniture shops stocked them.

Indeed, it wasn't until the latter part of 2006 that we suddenly spotted beanbags in the Nicosia 'Super Home Centre' DIY shop. I would have liked a brown one for my study, but the choices were blue, green, or brightly coloured/patterned ones. Tim chose a green one:

new green beanbag

Daniel had left home by then, but we'd vaguely assumed he would return at some point, so we bought him a blue one:

new blue beanbag, the cat Sophia in the room

That photo from 2006 shows Sophia, who considered Daniel her human, and thus all his property was hers too.

After some thought, I also chose a blue one, thinking I might keep it in our bedroom but quickly realised that I wanted to read or relax in my study, so that's where it sat for most of the past nine plus years.

The cats liked the beanbags very much. Here are Sophia and Cleo in 2009 sharing my beanbag:

The cats Cleo and Sophia amicably sharing a blue beanbag

Tim's green beanbag wore very well; he has it in his flat now, and despite plenty of use by cats, it still looks pretty good:

The cat Lady Jane Grey in a green beanbag

The blue ones, however, seemed to fade and develop unsightly marks.:

Two blue beanbags

They're machine washable, but it's rather a nuisance carefully emptying all the polystyrene beans into a large plastic sack in order to do so, and then getting them back in the container afterwards - there are always bits of polystyrene floating around for days afterwards.

I had wondered if it was possible to get a new cover for a beanbag, but couldn't find anywhere that sold beanbags or covers in Cyprus - even the SuperHome Centre seemed to have stopped stocking them - nor did lengthy searching online reveal anything.

Perhaps I could have made a cover, but I'm not good with sewing, I don't currently have a sewing machine, and there's not a great deal of choice of fabric around here. And I didn't get round to it.

Since losing Alex's sister Joan, he's tried to snuggle up to Cleo (very elderly now but still with us...) and she tolerates this, but really isn't keen:

The cats Alex and Cleo reluctantly sharing a beanbag

And when they're both there, I have nowhere to sit. The other blue beanbag is fine for cats but quite squashed and not particularly comfortable.

However, I now have a nice sofa in my study, so I sit there if the beanbag isn't available... and I'd stopped even thinking about getting a new cover.

And then....!

We had to go to the Larnaka SuperHome Centre yesterday. We're having some work done on the house, and needed to get some wood to repair rotting window sills. And some sealant, and one or two other bits and pieces. What a very useful shop it is, even if the lights make me feel queasy after about twenty minutes.

As we went into the shop, I saw a furniture display and a couple of faux leather beanbags. I glanced at them, but faux leather and cats do NOT go well together.

Then I saw that a beanbag on the other side of the display was made of fabric.

Unfortunately, it was bright orange.

And THEN.....

At the far corner, was a beanbag covered in brown fabric. Pretty much the same brown as the doorframe in my study. Heart beating a little faster, I went and felt it... and sat in it. It was much higher than my old blue beanbag, and will need a bit of squashing, but otherwise it was perfect!

I find it remarkably difficult to spend money on myself (well, other than second-hand books of course), so I went to discuss it with Richard. He said afterwards that my whole face had lit up. I have Christmas money and even birthday money that I had not spent, so - unusually for me - I made an immediate decision to buy it.

We had a slight contretemps in that we'd apparently picked up the 'display' beanbag, which we weren't supposed to do; a shop assistant tried to find another one the same colour that was still in its packaging. But there wasn't one, so they agreed that we could take the display model.

Here it is in my study, looking so much nicer than the blue one ever did:

new brown beanbag in the sunshine

I thought that the cats would like having two blue beanbags in a corner of the living room, but no... they like the new beanbag as much as I do. And it does go rather nicely with Alex's colouring:

The cat Alex blending nicely with the new brown beanbag

(For those following the Alex saga, he seems to be a lot better, and is able to sit and crouch down properly again without pain, but still isn't using his tail. Another vet appointment tomorrow...)