Friday, November 25, 2005

Quick update

Our freight arrived on Tuesday! Excellent company, pallets well-stacked, everything in great condition.

So much of the week has been spent sorting and cataloguing books and finding places for other stuff we unpacked. We did put a few of the boxes away in our tiny loft space, for when we move, but it was fun finding all the books - in all we have about 2,500 now - and the four bookcases we brought out with us.

It's all been very tiring though.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Freight.. or fraught?

When we were in the UK, sorting out our house to sell it, we had to look through a huge number of boxes. As mentioned below. Although, as Daniel pointed out, we had survived without all that stuff for eight years so we might as well get rid of it all, we decided to bring a fair amount out to Cyprus where we intend to settle for the foreseeable future. I think we're only bringing about a third of what was left, and very little of the furniture.

Then, having roughly estimated what we wanted to bring, Richard started contacting freight companies. Hunting through the Yellow Pages yielded dozens of possibilities, but most of the phone calls were frustrating in the extreme. They didn't send things to Cyprus. They only did entire containers. They couldn't insure anything. They weren't operating any more. And so on...

We did get a few quotations, but they were fairly high.

Then Richard contacted a number he was given by Cyprus Airways, a special offer on air freight since he's a frequent flyer. He didn't want to trust Tim's new keyboard to sea freight, despite its strong flight case, and Tim wanted it within the next month or so in Cyprus. Previous experiences had taught us that even if sea freight is estimated to arrive within a couple of weeks, it's more likely to be at least a couple of months.

The company (called Signet) were very helpful, and gave a good quotation. They collected the keyboard when they said they would, and a colleague picked it up from Larnaka airport a couple of days later.

So Richard asked if they knew a company who did sea-freight, and they said they did that too. Their quotation was the best we had been given, insurance was not much extra. We would have to deal with the freight (or organise its delivery) once it got to Limassol port, but we didn't mind that. Having seen how some sea-freight is treated at the port, Richard felt he would prefer to supervise it himself anyway. We know someone with a transit van which we might be able to borrow if we need to collect it ourselves.

So we had the freight collected, we posted a cheque, and we had an email saying that it would arrive at Limassol on 14th Nov, and their agent in Cyprus would contact us. They even gave us a number.

On Tuesday (15th Nov) Richard tried phoning the number. No reply. But he left it till the afternoon, and some companies only work mornings.

Yesterday he tried again. No reply.

So he phoned the company in the UK, to check the number. The lady he had dealt with was on holiday, and the man answering the phone said he would check for us. He said there was no record of our having sent anything....

Richard asked him to check again, and this time he said we had sent air freight not sea freight, and we should have received it weeks ago. No, Richard said, that was different. We have signed paperwork accepting our sea-freight, and an email confirming arrival of our cheque, giving information about the arrival of the ship....

All rather worrying, but thankfully the guy did eventually find our details. Apparently their filing system isn't computerised or well-organised - something we have come to expect in Cyprus, but not in England!

They also gave Richard a completely different phone number for the Cyprus agent. By this time it was nearly 6.00pm here, and the Cyprus agent office closed at 5.30.

This morning he tried again. He got through to someone who said that yes, they do have our paperwork, but the ship has been delayed and should arrive this weekend.

What a relief.

We don't hold out high hopes for actually getting the freight next week; previous experience has taught us that it can take up to a week to be released, and that inevitably there will be further delays. When we came out here eight years ago, we sent some freight which was due to arrive in the first week of November. It actually arrived just before Christmas and had two parcels missing. They were insured, and the contents replaced, but it was very annoying.

However the time-frame was quite good compared to others we've heard of: one family discovered their freight had been sent first to Malta, then to Greece (huh?), and was then on its way to North Cyprus... at a time when it would almost certainly have been lost irretrievably if it had arrived there. Thankfully they were able to get it diverted to the south in time, but in all they waited about three months rather than the expected three weeks.

Tim hopes the freight arrives before mid-December, since one of the items coming is a very strong keyboard stand which he wants to use in the inter-church carol concert. I'm in two minds: I'll be relieved when it's safely here, but I have NO idea where we're going to put it. I also suspect we're going to find that we want to extract one or two items from every single box so we won't even be able to leave it neatly stacked away somewhere.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Another day, another house...

Today we went and looked at another house. Not as big as the others, but we liked the look of the photos at the site, and the agent assured us it was in excellent condition and a good price.

Sure enough, it was a very nice house, beautifully kept. There were several air-conditioners, and oil-based central heating. We had thought that the bedrooms might be too small, but they all had fitted wardrobes (the kind known as 'closets' in the USA - ie not intruding into the room) so they were actually quite reasonable sizes. There were a lot of bathrooms too - a regular one, en-suite loo and shower with two of the bedrooms, plus a cloakroom downstairs. Having lived for eight years in a house with just one bathroom, and not even an extra cloakroom or loo, we know for sure we want at least two in our new house.

Downstairs the kitchen was huge, with a separate utility area and loads of work surface. The outside was good too: a lovely well-kept garage that could be turned into a music room/studio - the roof was lined, there were even windows. There was more garden than the website shows, too - a little patio area just outside the kitchen and some grass as well as the bare concrete bit going up to the garage. Not huge, but not too small either.

The living room was a good size, but rather than three rooms as implied on the site (living room, dining room, family room) it was just one with different areas. Big enough for a church house group, or even a party, but not big enough for separate interests. There were lots of walls for hanging photos and pictures, but almost nowhere that we could have put our 2000 or so books.

Even so, we might have seriously considered it if the area had been right. But we're all agreed we want to be no more than a kilometre from the churches and theatre (which are very close to each other) since the boys and I need to be able to walk to them regularly. Perhaps a kilometre and a half at the outside, if we find somewhere really nice at a good price. Of course we're quite capable of walking far more than that, but since we often seem to be in a hurry we don't want to have to spend more than ten minutes in either direction. Nor do we really want to be more than ten or fifteen minutes' walk from the edge of the town.

Unfortunately this house was about three or four kilometres from the church, really too far away to be reasonable. It was also in an area that seemed to have a lot of building going on, so I suspect it would have been quite noisy, and probably lots of new houses or flats will appear in the next few years.

So we chatted a bit with Paul, the agent who's taking us to see these places, and explained that the distance is very important. We also said we don't mind the size so long as there are at least four bedrooms and two bathrooms, and a bit of garden. Nor do we mind the age, so long as it isn't falling down, and we don't mind doing some redecoration, so long as it doesn't need a huge amount of renovation.

I think he understands what we're looking for now, and says he'll keep an eye out for suitable properties. He did explain that the nearer they are to the town, the higher priced they are. Lots of people want land, and plan to knock down whatever house is there to rebuild flats, but in the area we looked at today there's a limit of two storeys allowed, which is why prices are lower. Where we are, three or four storeys can be built, so an older house with a good amount of land will sell for a huge price, irrelevant of the state of the house.

He also explained why people don't put up 'for sale' boards. Most Cypriots live in their homes their entire lives, passing them down to their daughters (or building separate places for them when they get married), and it's only recently that people have started moving at all. So they don't want their neighbours to know until it's actually happened - they're a bit ashamed of it, I suppose.

Ah well. It's interesting to see these different places, and it's not as if we're in a great hurry to find somewhere, so it's good to be able to take our time.

Monday, November 14, 2005


I don't really like the phone. I much prefer email, and usually that's fine. Typically we might get one phone call in a day, although Richard gets plenty of work calls on his mobile.

This afternoon, though, I think the phone has rung seven times in the past four hours since Richard went back to work after lunch. I was expecting one of the calls: house-browsing online again, I found another one that looks interesting so Richard called the guy who's shown us two already, and enquired about it. It may be a bit further away than we want, since we walk nearly everywhere, but it sounds quite nice and well within our budget. The guy did indeed call back, and we should see it tomorrow.

I also had a call from the other agent we've spoken to, saying she's found a three-bedroom house that might suit us. No, I said, we definitely want four. OK, she'll continue looking.

Then there were two calls for Daniel, and three from Daniel, who's in Nicosia for the afternoon. Only forty-five minutes' drive away, but this has turned out surprisingly complicated.

Let me back-track.

When we moved here eight years ago, Dan had been playing clarinet for a year, was doing well, and loved it. A big priority was to find a teacher in Cyprus. We enquired at several music schools locally, but they all seemed to teach piano, guitar and violin only. None of the ordinary schools do music at all (other than a little recorder and guitar at some of them) so they were no good either.

Finally we heard about the Town Band, and the leader who taught woodwind. To cut a long story short Dan auditioned, was accepted, and had heavily subsidised lessons for a couple of years. Then he joined the band as he was both tall enough and advanced enough, and his lessons were free.

However the band leader isn't really a clarinetist. Most of the people who learn from him are almost beginners, whose only ambition is to get to play in the band. He doesn't teach at advanced level, and so for the past couple of years or so Dan's really been teaching himself. He plays for at least an hour each day, often more, but was worrying at the lack of an expert who can tell him if he's going wrong, help him with tricky techniques, and so on. Particularly since he recently bought a professional level instrument.

A few months ago we heard that one of the local music schools had a clarinet teacher. So Dan phoned them in early September. They said the teacher was away but would phone him when he got back. Every three or four days he called again, and each time was told a slightly different story. The guy was on a concert tour, it seemed. Encouraging in a way - he must be a very good player. But he didn't seem to be returning!

Then when we were in the UK, Dan had a call on his mobile from the music school, saying that the teacher never came back so they had found a new one who lives in Nicosia, and comes to the music school in Larnaka to teach. They said they would phone when we got back, and try to arrange a lesson for the first weekend.

We got back, and heard nothing. So Dan rang them. Ah, they said, the teacher isn't here. Try tomorrow.

Tomorrow came. Ah, they said, she's busy. She'll call you later.

She didn't.

He started phoning every other day, and getting a different story every time. She'll call you. She's abroad. The office is locked so we can't find her details. If he wasn't so eager to find a teacher it would have been funny...

Eventually he got through to someone who told him that she wasn't coming any more to Larnaka, but they did give him her number. Progress! He called her, and eventually managed to arrange a lesson in Nicosia at 6.15pm today. The lessons were enormously expensive by Cyprus standards, but he really needs them. Perhaps he could have them every other week once he's established a pattern, we thought.

In fact he heard on Saturday that he's been accepted by the Doulos to return for two years, leaving on January 12th, so these lessons will probably only be for four or five weeks before Christmas, assuming he and the teacher are happy with each other.

His friends the Antidote Theatre company go to Nicosia on Monday afternoons and said Dan could ride with them, but they leave here at 2pm. That was OK, he didn't mind hanging out at a coffee shop for a few hours beforehand.

His first phone call was to tell me that he wouldn't be able to get a ride home with Antidote. They were going out with someone to eat after the classes. He phoned to ask me for the phone number of the shared taxi ('service') firm. I didn't have the number but our Yellow Pages listed the Nicosia tourist information office, so I gave him that number.

Ten minutes later he called back. The last service leaves Nicosia at 7pm (the lesson should end at 7.15) - and it's full anyway.


I did have a quick look online for bus timetables, but they're even worse: they stop at 6pm. Even after eight years here I'm not quite used to the appalling public transport here, but then we haven't often had cause to use it.

I was trying to think of people we know in Nicosia, where he could stay overnight if necessary, but that's no good: he needs to be at the theatre tomorrow morning for a rehearsal, as there's an extra performance of last year's play 'The Little Man's Best Friend' at a school on Thursday. Daniel plays the clarinet in this play...

Well, he said, he'd just have to see if he could get home with Antidote after all; however it would be very late. He'll buy a sandwich somewhere (I always worry he's going to get hungry!) and will let us know when to expect him. I don't think he even took his key but if necessary we can leave one under the doormat. Cyprus is pretty safe that way.

I just hope the lesson goes well and is worth all this hassle!

Sunday, November 13, 2005


On Saturday morning when I opened the back door, I realised that the garden no longer looks dry and brown. Of course, compared to luscious British gardens it's still very bare, but the overall effect is now much closer to green than it was even a week ago. Most of the green is weed or moss, but still... it's one of the good things about Autumn.

At 9.30am we went to look at another possible house, courtesy of The agent
told us the house was massive, and in a good area near St Lazarus church with some garden at the back. He also told us it was a listed building, in need of some renovation, but that we would get a government grant of £350 per square metre to do the refurbishment, so long as we left the original structure in place.

It was certainly massive. Four bedrooms upstairs - all huge - and part of an ex-shop downstairs. There was also a bit we couldn't see downstairs, where an old lady is living. Apparently she will move out when someone buys the property. The back garden was rather a jungle but not too bad a size. I suppose the place did have great potential...

However we didn't like the location, or the fact that the property was right on the street - no front yard at all. We also didn't l ike the fact that it wasn't just a bit run-down, it was in terrible condition - nowhere was really livable. Plaster was falling off walls, the roof would need replacing, some walls would need knocking down or rebuilding, all the windows and shutters would need replacing. Besides, it didn't feel like a good place, somehow.

Then the owner said that the government subsidy wasn't a grant, precisely; we would have to employ architects and then get approval, and the government would give us 40% of the costs, up to a maximum of £350 per square metre. In other words, we would have to have found 60% of the costs. At least, that's what we think he was saying. But by that stage we'd all decided this definitely wasn't for us anyway.

Still, it was an interesting experience.

We decided to walk back as it was a nice day. On the way we looked at another house - just the outside - which we had been told was for sale. It looked in quite good condition, but was much too close to the town centre, and would have been very noisy.

We did pass an estate agent with a lot of interesting looking houses at good prices advertised in the window. We went in to enquire, but were told they had been sold... oh well. We gave our name and phone number, and told the lady there what approximate size, location and price we're looking for, and she said she'd do some research.

Unfortunately it was quite warm on Saturday and by the time we got home I was far too hot. I don't do well in heat and sunshine. So I didn't do the gardening I was planning to do. Maybe later this week.


Somehow we've managed to catch nice photos of all four of our cats in the last couple of weeks.

Here's Cleo, our oldest and most nervous cat. She's seven now, but still as anxious as she was as a kitten. On bonfire night she hid inside Dan's sofa when fireworks started nearby. But here she is sitting out in the sunshine - alert, as ever. Probably she heard a leaf falling somewhere...

Sophia is Cleo's daughter, six-and-a-half years old now. She's highly intelligent, even for a cat, and belongs almost exclusively to Daniel. Or rather, he belongs to her. Here she is having found a very comfortable pillow on his bed:

Jemima is Sophia's twin. She's fluffy, conflict-avoidant, and considers me to be her human. She often sleeps till lunch-time, but here she is sitting outside late one morning:

Last comes Tessie, who is five years old. She is very friendly to people, and unfriendly to other cats. Mostly she tolerates our others, though she has spitting matche with Sophia sometimes. But she fights viciously against any other cats who dare to wander into our garden. Here she is nearly asleep (or perhaps trying to avoid the camera) on a sofa:

We're all 'cat people'. It makes life easier when a whole family is that way. We all quite like dogs too, but much prefer having cats in the home. When Cleo arrived it would never have occurred to us to have more than one cat at a time, but it's very enjoyable having four as they have such distinct characters.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

How do they do it?!

I know of some people who can cook vast quantities of delicious food, and be relaxed and waiting half an hour before guests arrive, with food fully prepared, and kitchens cleaned. Sometimes they have considerably less workspace than I have but still emerge smiling.

On Wednesdays we usually have a colleague or two of Richard's to lunch. Our lunches are basically cold: bread-based, with salad veggies, cheese, marmite, etc. In the summer we have grapes to follow, most days (local Cyprus grapes are excellent in season); in autumn and winter when I'm more inclined to spend time in the kitchen, I'll often make some kind of cake if guests are coming.

So, today I planned to bake gingerbread. Easy-peasy, throw the ingredients together, put mixture in a lined roasting pan, 40 minutes in the oven. I didn't plan to make any bread as one loaf wouldn't be enough for six people, so Tim went out to buy fresh bread from our local baker's.

Then I thought about some soup. Nothing complicated: just a leftover vegetable soup. My 'more-with-less cookbook' suggests putting any leftover veggies, rice, pasta, cooking water etc in a large plastic container in the freezer. Then, when it's full, cook them all together with a bit of extra water, liquidise, re-heat, and serve. I had collected a box of this kind of leftovers, so stuck it all in a large pan and put it on to simmer.

Then I remembered we had run out of home-made lemonade, there were no useable lemons in the supermarket last week, and our bottle of commercial lemon squash was almost empty. The boys and I mostly drink plain water, but Richard likes some fruity concentrate added, as do the guests. So, as we had some oranges (and more on a tree outside) and half a litre of frozen lemon juice (though no peel), I decided to try and orange squash drink from one of my recipe books, that uses both oranges and lemons. Not difficult, so I washed and peeled the oranges, squeezed the juice, and prepared it.

I started all this about nine o'clock, thinking that would give LOADS of time.

By 11.15 I thought I was well-organised. Gingerbread was in the oven, orange squash was cooling in its pan, soup had finished simmering and was also cooling, prior to being liquidised. Tim had made some egg mayonnaise too, and that was in the fridge. Both the boys asked to do tests for their home education coursework at that stage, so I went through to the dining room to supervise those. Dan's was fairly quick - only twenty questions, not particularly difficult, on New Testament church history. Tim's was a maths test, but it was from a workbook he had found fairly easy, so even though maths tests can take an hour or more, this one was only about 25 minutes long. I marked the tests, then returned to the kitchen to take out the gingerbread - which, I was pleased to see, seemed to have cooked perfectly.

I scooped out about a litre of the soup, added a little extra water, and liquidised it.

Then... I wondered where to put it! I couldn't return it to the same pan, since there were another couple of litres of mixture that also needed to be turned into soup. I couldn't put it in one of the small saucepans, or it would overflow. The pan I needed to transfer it to was the other large one currently containing cooling orange squash.

I temporarily abandoned the soup in the blender, and started to strain the orange mixture. It made about two litres, so I bottled that and put it in the fridge. Then I had to wash the pan, which was a bit complicated because the washing-up bowl had been moved to the side of the sink, and the sink itself was full of pans, mixing bowls and spoons from making the gingerbread.
Eventually I had a clean pan to transfer the soup to, and was able to liquidise the rest and then put it on to simmer once more, now looking like soup rather than sad watery vegetables. So that was fine..

Trouble was, by this time the kitchen was in utter chaos. Then I remembered that I had a load of laundry to hang outside, and when I opened the back door I saw that two loads of yesterday's laundry was still hanging out. Totally dry, but it had to be sorted and put away.

So at 12.30 I collected up each person's clean, dry laundry, and put it in the relevant rooms, then hung out today's wet stuff. At 12.45 I cut up the gingerbread and put it on a plate, then began the mountain of dish-washing.... and gradually felt less and less relaxed. Not that it would matter if the kitchen was still a mess, of course; I just couldn't understand why, with four hours available, I couldn't succeed in making ultra-easy soup, fairly-easy lemonade, and reasonably-easy gingerbread AND have a clean kitchen at the end of it.

Oh well.

The soup tasted all right - better than I had expected, actually. The orange was popular although I thought it had a slightly bitter aftertaste. The gingerbread was fine. Half of it's gone in the freezer for some future occasion, along with about half the soup which wasn't finished, so it was all worth doing. I just wish it didn't take me so long to cook things that are basically so straightforward.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Energy, Photos and Home Education

In the UK, Spring is my favourite season. I love the bulbs, the blossom, the new growth on trees, the warmer weather with gentle wind and (sometimes) sunny skies.

Here in Cyprus, however, I think I prefer Autumn. Despite the chilliness of the house at night, as mentioned previously, the weather is mostly very pleasant. Today, for instance, it was sunny with a deep blue sky, and a light breeze. Warm enough that I opened most of the windows at about 9am to let in some fresh air, and then left them open until it began getting cooler and dark, shortly after 4.30pm. I did three loads of laundry today, and the first one was dry by the time I hung out the third. I baked some bread this morning, and was able to leave it to rise on the kitchen window-sill, rather than having to put it over a pan of hot water.

I've realised that the only way to get much done, and keep on top of the household chores, is to leave the computer switched off until after lunch. Somehow if I turn it on 'just to check email' in the morning, I find other things to do online (broadband is a blessing, but also something of a curse as it means the Internet is constantly available) and time whizzes by. Then I rush to do what has to be done - cooking, cleaning the kitchen, laundry - and become stressed. By contrast now, I'm more relaxed and getting more done.

Of course I've tried this before: it's that extra energy that comes with cooler weather, motivating me. I'm back to cooking all our evening meals from ingredients rather than using jars and ready-made food. Baking bread and cakes has become enjoyable again. It will probably last until about Christmas, at which point I'll take a break, and relapse into bad habits again. But it's nice while it lasts.

While online the last couple of afternoons, I've been uploading photos to the DirectFoto site. We've used the DirectFoto ordinary envelope service for years, when we used 35mm film cameras. They would post processed photos to Cyprus with no extra postal service, and would include a free film as well as an index-print, and prices about half those we could get locally. Moreover the quality was always excellent, whereas in Cyprus some of the processors seem to change their chemicals only rarely (if ever!) and produce very washed-out prints.

Before we went to the UK I put several digital prints on a CD and sent them to DirectFoto for printing; as with prints from film, the quality was superb and the prices good. We even got a free CD returned with the pictures. I was going to do the same with the digital photos taken while in the UK, but discovered that DirectFoto now have an online service where prints can be stored, and then ordered as wanted. That seems like a much better idea - so much easier to get reprints, for instance. Moreover they have a special offer at present: 15 free prints with any order of £2 or more. Since each regular-sized print is 10p, and postage £1, that means I can get 35 prints for £3.

As with any of these sites, it takes a LONG time to upload high-quality pictures, even with broadband. I'm doing five at a time, and each batch takes about 20 minutes. But - so far - they've all uploaded successfully. Previously I tried using another similar service, but about half the time the uploads failed and I had to try again. So that's another point in favour of DirectFoto!

In case anyone reading this is interested in our home education - it's still continuing, in a low-key way. Dan has about eight workbooks to complete; he thought he'd lost his current science one, but found it again today. He only has two subjects to finish, then he'll have his level two certificate and can stop doing any coursework. Having got this far, we thought he might as well finish this level, even though he'll probably never need the qualifications. He's still hoping to return to the Doulos next year - if possible in January - but hasn't heard from them yet despite going for an interview in Shropshire three weeks ago.

Dan is also busy with his new clarinet - and hoping to find a more advanced teacher, but with no success as yet. He's continuing with drum lessons, teaching himself piano, taking aural music lessons, doing drama with the English-speaking teenagers at Antidote, helping out occasionally with Antidote's other productions (keeping the website up-to-date, designing posters etc), taking stage combat and karate, learning Greek, and playing in the church band. In addition he's starting to make short video productions, and hopes to be repairing/servicing more clarinets and other woodwind instruments in future.

Tim has rather more to complete for his level 2 qualifications, but is working steadily through. At last he's making sense of the maths (American-style geometry with rather convoluted proofs required - however he's grasped the techniques) and actually quite enjoys the history. Tim is busy with his other interests too: he takes piano lessons, plays keyboard in a youth band, and sometimes plays the organ at the church he attends. He also takes singing lessons and aural music lessons, plays guitar at a group for international students run by the church the rest of us attend, is on the committee for the inter-church youth group, and administers some online forums. For the future he wants to take some technical computer qualifications, and study theology.

So I certainly say that home education has not damaged their prospects in any way; on the contrary, it's given them widespread interests, social contact with people of all ages and backgrounds, and the ability to teach themselves whatever they want to learn.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Once upon a... Box!

Once more we were invited to the premiere of Theatre Antidote's newest production. It's advertised as a play for young children, ages 2-9. The blurb describes it as being about imagining: a man is packing up his house to move, and a child decides to explore the contents of a box.

I wasn't sure what to expect at all. The theatre was fairly full, with a good number of young children sitting at the front, but not packed completely. For about twenty minutes after sitting down we were entertained by the two musicians in the play, on violin and accordion As with most Cyprus productions, the show itself actually started about fifteen minutes late.

Right from the start, I was captivated. Xenakis, co-owner of Antidote, and director of this play, had the part of the man packing up the box at the beginning and end. He was dressed as a workman, and set the scene extremely well, all in mime. There was quite a selection of items to be put in the large box he produced, including this ancient gramophone:

The part of the little girl was played by Catherine, the other owner of Antidote. This was slightly confusing as she arrived in high heels, looking like an elderly lady, but perhaps that was intentional.

There's a lot of humour in the early part of the play as items emerge from the box (cleverly designed with a flap that allows items, and indeed people, to appear in or disappear from the box, through the curtains behind, without being seen). This shot shows a snake - on the end of someone's arm - trying to read a story book. There's no actual language used - just noises that express clearly what's intended, without having to worry about whether the audience is Greek or English! The musicians at the side of the stage accompany most of the play.

Eventually the little girl works out how to get other people to appear, and she's joined by Andrei and Korina, playing the part of an Italian couple who attempt to produce some music. There are some extremely funny scenes, most of which I wasn't expecting at all. Again there is no actual dialogue, although there's a lot of talking in a sort of pseudo-Italian, with a few recognisable words such as 'concerto'. It's very clever, and works effectively.

The play lasted just over an hour, and seemed to be thoroughly enjoyed by everyone other than a couple of very small children (perhaps 18 months or two years) who were frightened by the snake and some of the more dramatic music. I think age 2 is perhaps a bit over-young for this kind of thing, but children of about three or four were captivated, as were much older children and adults.

It's showing in various place around the island in the next couple of months; I recommend it highly.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

November in Cyprus

If you found this page hoping for general information about temperatures in November in Cyprus, rather than personal anecdotes, you might want to check the page for Autumn weather in Cyprus on my other site.

Before we lived here, we had read that Cyprus has 360 days of sunshine per year. Well, in a sense, that's probably true. I should think that on 360 days of the year, the sun does shine for at least some of the time. But we have considerably more than 5 days when it rains, and yet more when it's rather grey and cloudy.

We also thought Cyprus would be much warmer than the UK. Certainly it is during the summer, when the sun shines almost continually. Even in winter (roughly early November until about the middle of March) the outside temperatures are generally higher than those in the UK. Today, for instance, it was apparently about 22C outside at lunchtime, and now - at nearly 10pm - it's 16C according to the weather site. Those who read this in a few hours' time will see from the weather image at the side of the site that it may get to as low as 12C before tomorrow morning. In Birmingham, my home town in the UK, 12C is only about the maximum daytime temperature during November.

But here's the difference: in Birmingham, we had central heating. The radiators would come on about an hour before we woke up, making the rooms pleasantly warm to get dressed. Even the bathroom had a radiator. We could set the inside of the house - or individual rooms - to be 20C or even more, and then dress up warmly to go outside.

Here, we have no central heating. Some of the newer houses do have it, but mostly places like ours are built for summer, not winter. Marble floors with rugs, rather than fitted carpets. Much better for allergies, no doubt, but chilly for bare feet in the winter. The ceilings are four metres high (that's about 13 feet in the imperial system). Heat rises, so it may well be warmer several feet above my head. The rooms are large and spacious, which is pleasant in the summer, but means that they're remarkably difficult to get warm in the winter.

We do have one kerosene-powered heater in our middle room, but it's not yet been serviced so we can't yet use it. We also have three or four electric halogen heaters, but they're still in the little attic space above the bathroom, where we packed them away when we got the fans out. Time to do another switch, I suppose.

Having been to the UK during most of October, it all seems quite sudden this year. Before we went away, we were too hot in tee-shirts and shorts. Today I wore a sweatshirt and jeans all day, and am feeling quite chilly now; I suppose I should have put a fleece on top once it got dark. Before we went away, we just used sheets at night. Now we've got all the duvets out, and it still takes awhile for the bed to feel warm. Before we went away, the cats were in their noctural mode; now they're sleeping on us, keeping our feet warm.

There are some benefits, of course. I like cooking and baking when the kitchen is cooler; it gets all the morning sun, which is a nuisance in summer as it becomes unbearably hot, but at this time of year it's a good place to be. Yesterday Tim and I baked some chocolate-and-orange muffins (a bit chewy, but not bad), some oaty biscuits, and also made some jam tarts with leftover pastry. Today I was going to bake some bread, but got caught up in organising photos until it was too late. In the next few days I must bake this year's Christmas cake, which needs six weeks or so to mature, and make some mincemeat and a Christmas pudding.