The title of this post is an example of the classic British understatement.
Three days ago we learned that two Australian writers Richard knew somewhat, in Lebanon, were hoping to escape on a British warship coming to Cyprus, and wondered if they could stay in our guest apartment. They thought they might be here some time Thursday, but communications were limited. We gathered that the husband needed to go to a conference in Tunis on Saturday, so Richard reserved him a seat with one of the Cyprus estate agents. Just as well, since it's now impossible to get any flight out of Cyprus - they're all fully booked, with extra flights chartered for refugees from Lebanon.
Wednesday was our 26th anniversary. We thought we might go out and buy some plants in the morning. But, knowing guests were coming, we went first to buy a curtain pole for the main bedroom (which has large french windows onto the front porch), then to look for other bits and pieces such as saucepans for the guest apartment. By the time we got to the plant shop it was noon, very hot and sunny. I had had enough of shopping... so after a cursory glance around we decided it would be better to get plants in the Autumn. My head ached, and I felt weak with the heat as well as overwhelmed by all those shops.
During the afternoon I had a phone call from the person who's sorting out a door and sink for the main bedroom in the guest apartment. He said it would be at least five days. Since Cyprus more-or-less shuts down for two weeks in August, lots of people are having jobs done now and the workmen are busy constantly. Since the only way into the room is a hole in the wall at present, and the old hairdresser sink (removed) is dripping, we knew there was no way the main guest room could be used.
In the evening, after an afternoon in air conditioning, I felt better so we went out to eat, taking Tim. We went to Viale's, an open air cafe/restaurant where some friends took us for ice creams a few weeks ago. Very pleasant food, beautifully presented; good service (albeit rather slower than we would have liked), and prices not too unreasonable.
When we got back, we spent a couple of hours moving boxes from the second guest room, where Richard had set up two single beds. He moved some boxes, which we knew we weren't going to need for a while, to high cupboards, and others upstairs. But when we gave up for the night, the kitchen was covered in tools, and other random bits and pieces, and there were still about four boxes on the floor.
On Thursday morning Richard moved a few more boxes, then I spent four hours sorting, tidying and cleaning. What had seemed impossible proved to be doable. I even got to the stage of finding some pictures to hang up, and they made the walls look less boring. It would have been nice to paint before having guests, but obviously there was no chance of that! I washed loads of curtains from the old house, and hung a pair in the guest room, cutting them to size.
Thursday afternoon, Richard had a phone call saying that this couple were hoping to come on a ship leaving Thursday evening, so should be there in the middle of the night. So I made up beds, and we found various useful bits and pieces - a lamp, a fan, bug spray, towels, and so on. During the afternoon we had an hour and a half's power cut, to our surprise, so I decided to spend the time usefully and hemmed the curtains in the guest bedroom by hand. Something which, otherwise, would probably have been left for months.
There was no phone call during the night, but about 9.30 this morning Richard received a quick call saying that they had just arrived in Limassol port. There were long queues, and they expected that it would take at least an hour to get out. Then they would get a shared taxi ('service') to Larnaka. So we did our usual weekly trip to Metro supermarket, and picked up various extra bits and pieces for the guest apartment, knowing that our visitors were arriving with hand luggage only.
They finally got here about 12.30, very tired but relieved to have got out. They said it was unbelievable how quickly Lebanon has gone from a peaceful, busy city to a war zone. They've watched bombs falling, they've seen people who have lost everything. They are thankful that they're safe, that their adult children are safe - one in Australia, the other, newly married, leaving Lebanon tonight with his bride. This son had to cancel his planned large wedding in August, and get married a couple of days go in a small ceremony with only about 25 guests, most of them in jeans as it was last-minute.
They said that the British warship was brilliant, with all the soldiers helpful and friendly. But they're worried about so many people left behind, and about the fact that the embassies are telling foreigners to leave the country. They're trying to be as fair as they can about the whole conflict, and are horrified at how biassed some of the media is, particularly the American channel CNN which is apparently as pro-Israel as ever, and giving a highly sanitised version of the horrors going on in Lebanon. The BBC is apparently somewhat better; but perhaps it's impossible for a reporter to describe accurately what's going on, though, without having lived in the country.
I had wondered, sometimes, why we bought such a huge house now the boys are adults. Now I'm beginning to find out!