Sunday, October 20, 2019

Insects in Spices in Cyprus

It was a normal Saturday, late in September.  I usually change the sheets and clean the house on Saturday mornings, in a fairly leisurely way.  Before that on this particular morning I planned to prepare our favourite pinto bean curry for the evening, and put it to simmer in the slow-cooker.  I had also bought a small crate of tomatoes, and was going to make apple and tomato chutney, as we had run out.

I had forgotten to soak the beans overnight, but put them in cold water before going for my early morning walk with my friend Sheila. So when I had finished breakfast (and turned on the air conditioning) I decided to make the chutney first. I chopped onions and apples and tomatoes, and crushed garlic... and realised I didn't have enough malt vinegar.

So I popped out, despite the heat, to the supermarket just around the corner, and bought another bottle of vinegar.

Next I wanted to add the spices.  I opened the jar of cayenne, to add a quarter teaspoonful.... and something moved inside it.  I closed it quickly, and tipped it on its side, and held it up to the light.  To my horror, there were several tiny insects crawling around.  I shuddered, and decided not to use cayenne.  I picked up the chili flakes... and they were crawling too.  Both jars were only about a quarter full, and I could see that the tops weren't fully closed - although we have never had insects in them before.

So I checked every other spice jar carefully. Most were fine, but I also found insects in the ginger and the paprika.  (When I googled later, curious as to what insects could possibly live on hot spices, I learned that they are not unusual.  They were most likely either cigarette beetles or drugstore beetles. I did not research too deeply so have no idea which one it might have been. I don't really want to know).

I have to confess that I temporarily abandoned both my humanitarian and ecological principles.  I did not empty the jars somewhere outside to let the insects escape, and to allow me to put the jars for recycling. No, I sealed the lids as tightly as I could, and put the infested jars, in a sealed plastic produced bag, in the dustbin.

Then I went to the supermarket again, despite it being even hotter, and bought new jars of the four relevant spices.

By this time the beans were ready to be boiled, so I finished making the chutney and put that to simmer. Then I thoroughly cleaned the spice rack, and sprayed it with biokill, before replacing the jars.

It was past eleven o'clock by the time I put the curry in the slow-cooker, but it's a fairly forgiving recipe and was fine.  It was later still when I finished the chutney.  The kitchen surfaces were chaotic so I sorted them... and I still hadn't started cleaning the house.  So much for a relaxed afternoon reading and possibly writing....

The dusting and mopping was rather cursory that day. But at least the spice shelf was considerably cleaner than it had been, and I had - hopefully - a year's supply of apple and tomato chutney in the cupboard.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Cyprus in September

As Facebook keeps reminding me, there are several years where I have spent most of August in the UK, and returned to Cyprus early in September.  August remains my least favourite month in Cyprus: the heat and humidity are excessive, and many activities and businesses close down for two weeks or longer.

Not that local activities are particularly relevant now our children are grown up, living and working in the UK. But it does mean that a lot of people tend to travel during August. So it happened again this year: I was away for nearly five weeks, in cooler climes which I like so much better at this time of year. More significantly I spent some quality time with the family. 

I flew back to Cyprus on September 3rd.  It hasn't been too humid since my return, and it hasn't been excessively hot. Daytime highs (in the shade) have been around 30-33C, and the nighttimes down to a much more pleasant 22-24C.  We're still using air conditioning when computers are on, and for a couple of hours in the bedroom at night to reduce humidity. I'm not walking anywhere between about 9.00am and 8.00pm. I'm not liking the fact that it's still hot for me, but I have to acknowledge that it's vastly preferable to August.

Last week I agreed to start walking early in the morning with my friend Sheila, again.  We stopped mid-June when it started feeling unpleasantly warm, but usually resume some time in September. I remembered to take my camera for the first walk.  The ground cover was mostly brown, after over three months without rain:

Salt Lake in Larnaka; brown ground cover, water remaining after a wet winter

But, as can probably be seen in the thin strip of blue in the middle of the photo, there is still quite a bit of water in the Salt Lake.  Some years it has dried up completely; some years there's just a little water by the end of Summer.  But this year - where we had a lot of rain in the winter and spring, far more than normal - it has as much water now as it sometimes has by the end of the winter.

Here's a cropped picture which shows more clearly how much water there is:

close-up of photo showing water still remaining in the salt lake after a wet winter in cyprus

There even seem to be some flamingoes, although they were so far away that none of my photos show them.

We walked to the Airport Road end of the trail.  Three months ago the water was almost up to the trail, so it's gone down a fair bit:  there's dried salt on the sand, although it probably isn't obvious from the photo:

Water in the Salt Lake, September in Cyprus

I kept looking at the forecast, hoping it might cool down a degree or two. But the long-range forecast continued to show 31-32 degrees in the daytime, 21-23 overnight. 

So it was a bit of a surprise to see a lot of cloud in the sky yesterday morning, and by about noon the clouds were grey and quite threatening. It was extremely humid, too; I turned on the air conditioning in the kitchen where I was cooking our Sunday lunch as I felt so sticky; the air was heavy, and I wondered if there would be thunder over the mountains.

It was even more of a surprise when it started to rain. It slowed down after about half a minute, which is normal for the first rain of the season.  It usually brings lots of dust from the trees and rooftops, and makes the atmosphere even more humid.

But then the rain started up again. It must have rained solidly - quite heavily at times - for almost an hour.  There was some hail, and the kind of torrential rain which is very unusual this early in the season:

Raindrops falling in the street, torrential rain in Cyprus in September

Our roof leaked over the stairs, as it does in heavy rain; local friends reported, on Facebook, that their roofs leaked too. And there was apparently some flooding in parts of Larnaka.

By about 3.00pm the rain had stopped, and the sun came out later.  The evening was a little cooler, but today the temperature is back to 31C.  The forecast doesn't show any significant reduction of temperatures for the next ten days - but then the forecast didn't predict over an hour of rain yesterday.   

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Photobooks on Photobox

I have always liked photographs. As long back as I can remember, anyway. I was given my first camera when I was seven. I took photos on holidays with my little Instamatic. At some point I was given my grandfather's old 35mm camera.

In my teens, I took photos at school; I embarrassed friends by taking photos at parties. I was absolutely thrilled with the gift of a negative album and half a dozen photo albums when I was about fourteen. I organised and annotated some of my pictures; I stored my negatives carefully, with dates, names and places.

I suppose it's because I'm not at all a visual person that I like looking at photos. I can't picture anything clearly in my head, with my eyes closed. So I rely on photos to remind me of scenes in the past, and people I have known. My parents had a darkroom in the house I grew up in, and I loved seeing the pictures emerging after developing the films, and then processing the images.

In the early 1980s, colour films dropped in price, and it was possible to send films to be processed, at a cost that was rather less than that of buying new chemicals for the darkroom. I was newly married, at university and then out at work, with a house that needed a lot of repair work and redecoration. So I appreciated the saving in time, too. I was much less disciplined about organising negatives - they came in nice little sleeves anyway - but I bought new slip-in albums and kept more-or-less up-to-date with the photos.

In 2005, we moved from analogue film to digital photos. But I still ordered prints. It was more economical and far more efficient - I could take as many photos as I wanted, choose the best ones, and order just those.  I didn't get them locally; I uploaded them to one of the online photo processing places; originally Kodak Gallery (which closed some years ago), and then the excellent Photobox site.

The number of albums kept growing. It was proving more difficult to find suitable new albums, however.  And I was running out of space:

Back in 2010, I had managed to make a digital 'photobook' at Kodak Gallery online. It was our thirtieth wedding anniversary, and I wanted to make a memento. I scanned some of my favourite photos over the years, which I uploaded, then the site took me through the steps of creating a hardback book.  There were several different formats offered for each page - I could place just a single picture, or four, or nine... I experimented with the options, and we were very pleased with the eventual result:

I had wondered, more than once, about making more photobooks.  The Photobox site offered them, but they seemed extremely expensive.  However, they regularly sent me emails of special offers:  50% off everything on the site;  60% off photobooks;  extra pages free with photobooks; - I never knew what was coming next, but tried to take advantage of special offers with the prints I was ordering.

Early in 2016 I calculated the cost of making a regular photo album with prints ordered from Photobox.  I had discovered somewhere in Cyprus that sold photo albums holding 300 prints, which would - just about - take about a year's worth of pictures.  The album cost about €20.  300 photos at about ten pence each cost around £30.  Total: not far off £50.  The special offer reduced-price Photobooks, with up to 100 pages, cost about £40.  I could put in more photos - each page can take at least six photos - and I knew they would take up much less space than regular albums.

I decided to try it with our 2016 photographs. I finished my last analogue album, ensuring it ended at the end of 2015. And over the year, I sorted and uploaded to Photobox one month's photos at a time, then very much enjoyed playing around with the online system to create the photobook. I realised I didn't just need to use the pre-defined templates. I could add extra photos, place extra text, and change the size or shape of the pictures.  There were different backgrounds available, and also some extra illustrations I could add.

Many of my online friends were creating 'bullet journals' at the time; hand-crafted beautiful books containing memorabilia of their day-to-day lives, along with photos and hand-written text.  I am so un-artistic that I could not do that kind of thing; but making an online album fulfilled a similar function.  Early in 2017 I ordered my 2016 album, and was very pleased with it.  There were, inevitably, lots of pictures of my grandson:

I liked being able to include several similar images.  And at times I placed far more than six on one page:

Inevitably there were a few typos in the text, and I had not been consistent with the font size or colour. But I was so pleased with it that I've kept making the current photos into photobooks: 2017 and 2018 are complete, and 2019 is in process; I'm up to the end of June so far.

Having established that photobooks are good value, great quality, and - best of all - replaceable, should any disaster strike the ones we have - I started thinking about making them with older photos.  My first album, from the 1960s, has photos falling out; we don't have an album at all from Richard's childhood.  But I had some scanned copies of negatives of photos from both sides of our family, and decided to start with the year Richard was born.

I quickly realised that I didn't have all the available photos. So this project was going to have to pause until I could get hold of them to copy.

Meanwhile, our 1980 professional wedding album was looking considerably the worse for wear:

The photos inside fall out if we're not careful, and some of them are starting to fade.  We only selected about eight of them, but there were about fifty or sixty taken by the photographer, and more by my father and my father-in-law.  We had photographed the 'proof' album with all the professional photos (which my parents-in-law had bought), and I had scanned my father's negatives, and also some slides we had taken on our honeymoon.

So I decided to skip forward to 1980.  I first made us a new wedding/honeymoon album:

I even scanned copies of the wedding service booklet and hymn sheet to include:

And then I made the decision to create photobooks of ALL our photos - the analogue albums only ever contained a selection of the better ones, and some of them are very faded now.

So I got going on chronological albums, making one that covered the years from 1980-1983, and one that covered 1984-1985.  I've been reminded about my grandparents' golden wedding, my grandfather's 80th birthday, and some holidays we had in the Middle East, where my parents were living.

I was particularly looking forward to the next few, as they include our sons as babies.  I ordered 1986-1987 about a month ago:

Daniel had four grandparents and five great-grandparents still living when he was born, so I have loved seeing photos of them together.  I've also included pictures of Richard's work at the time - photos which never made it into our former albums.

I've been working on the next two albums as well, and they're just about ready to order; I'm hoping for a good special offer in the next few weeks.  There's no hurry - once created, they stay in my Photobox 'creations' collection, along with the ones I have ordered.

The bookcase in the photo above is about 60cm wide.  The middle shelf contains twelve books, which just about fit, covering something like 18 years of our married life.  The lower shelf contains ten slightly bigger books, covering ten years of our life.  Digital photography leads to more photos being taken, and as I get older I like more photos anyway. Particularly of our grandchildren.

By contrast, here are our first eight photobooks. The two on the left are the special anniversary and wedding ones. The remaining six, covering ten years (1980-1987 and 2016-2018) take up just eight centimetres of shelf space:

It's said that one knows how good a company is by the way they deal with things that go wrong. I had to test that out a couple of months ago, when I ordered two photobooks at the same time. When the parcel arrived, it contained one of the ones I had ordered, and one that was nothing to do with me - on the front was a photo of someone I did not recognise, and some text in one of the Scandinavian languages.

I clicked 'help' on the Photobox site, and was greeted by an online 'chat' box. I explained the problem to an extremely helpful assistant, who apologised profusely and said that just occasionally something goes wrong with the printing, and an order gets missed out. She ordered a replacement album to be sent to me, and asked me to return the one that wasn't mine, and to send them a copy of the postage receipt. I did so, and the amount was refunded to my Photobox account within a day.  I was very impressed with how quickly it was handled.

I would highly recommend Photobox to anyone interested in trying this kind of thing. If you do, make sure to get on their mailing list so they send you regular special offers.  

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Installing air conditioning in Cyprus

Two months ago, I wrote a post about having our air conditioners cleaned. I mentioned that the one in the guest flat front bedroom no longer worked, so we had to have it replaced.  This wasn't difficult; after a little online research, we went to our favourite white goods shop George Theodorou.

We bought the least expensive one whose brand we recognised, and which was recommended by the shop owner. A few days later it arrived and was installed, with minimal difficulty.  It's on the ground floor, and there was already a hole in the wall, wiring in place, and a suitable place for the outside part. Since the old one was at least fifteen years old, the new one should be far more efficient, and also quieter.

About a month later, I was sitting outside in our side garden after walking with my friend Sheila. We had guests in the flat, and they were using the air conditioning.  There was just a gentle purr, rather than the rather obvious noise that the older one had used. I commented that it would have been nice to have a new, quiet and more efficient one in our bedroom.  But we certainly didn't want to have to pay two installation fees, to have a new one upstairs, and then to relocate our current one in the guest flat.

Besides, we didn't know how long our upstairs one would last. It was also at least fifteen years old, probably more. But it was working fine...

older air conditioning unit in our bedroom

.. or so we thought.  Until one morning when I woke up and it was on, although I was certain I had set it to go off after an hour. The following night, I was awake when it went off... and then it came on again.  And refused to take any notice of the remote control. And it seemed to be getting colder... so eventually we turned it off at the wall.  

We changed the batteries in the remote; when that didn't help, we tried using a different remote (as there were three other identical air conditioners in the house).  The same pattern repeated. And unless we switched it off at the wall, it would turn itself on at random times.  

Evidently we needed a new one - and it wasn't a difficult decision to return to George Theodorou, where the same product we had bought in May was ten euros cheaper.  

Unfortunately, there was no way to get the external unit out of the window and secured into the brackets - or, indeed, to remove the old one.  So the installers had to rent a fork-lift truck for an hour, which cost us an extra forty euros. But there was no alternative:  

fork lift truck to instal an air conditioner in Cyprus

Sheila took this photo; if she hadn't, we would have no record. I was trying to look after our nervous cat Lady Jane who dislikes workmen of any kind.

Eventually it was installed.  It's smaller than the older unit, so at some point we'll have to touch up the paintwork on the surrounding wall.  But that can wait until the Autumn. 

The remote control has many more options than the old one.  The temperature setting is obvious. We use it at 28 or 29 degrees Celcius, to remove the humidity and cool slightly; too much cooling isn't healthy and can also be very expensive.  When coming into the room from 30 degrees and humidity in the bathroom, 29 degrees and dryer feels wonderful, particularly when the ceiling fan is circulating the air too. 

We knew about 'swing' too.  That moves the air more effectively than having it just pointing in one direction.  And we were relieved to see a 'lamp' option which allowed us to turn off the large LED light at the front of the air conditioner, when it's on. 

But the other controls were a little confusing.  

Chigo air conditioner remote control

The instructions were only in Greek, and we could not find this particular brand online in any other language. We haven't yet used Air Flow, Turbo, Short Cut, Clean, or Follow Me.  We decided to use the ioniser, which apparently should help to clean the air and reduce the dust, though we haven't noticed any particular effect.  We tried 'Sleep', one night, assuming it would turn itself off. It didn't. It seemed to get warmer - not turning itself off when it reached the set temperature, but (apparently) blowing warm air out. We definitely didn't want that!

On our older air conditioner, there was a 'timer' button which let us tell it what time we wanted it to turn off (or on, although we never used that option).  We assumed this one would be similar.  It is... but rather more complicated. And with an odd quirk that if I set it to go off (for instance) at 11.45 pm tonight, then tomorrow I will have to adjust it by at least one minute, making it turn off at 11.44 (or 11.46).  If I try to keep it at the same time, it refuses to take it.  

I don't know if our electricity bill will be a lot lower due to this more efficient air conditioner; but it should be considerably better for the environment.  We're wondering, now, about replacing some of the other older ones before next summer, and possibly using them more often than we do to keep the house less humid during the worst of the Cyprus summer. 

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 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 frapp├ęs 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!