Every so often, in Cyprus, some imported item vanishes from the shelves of our local supermarket - and it seems to be a temporary island-wide problem since all the other supermarkets stop stocking whatever it is too. That happened one year with vanilla essence, and another time (more significantly) with Marmite. It once happened with Linda McCartney veggie sausages, too, and a few other items. But each time before this year they reappear after a month or so. We were warned that this kind of thing happens from time to time, and told not to worry about it.
So, about three months ago when Pure margarine (the dairy-free soya version) disappeared, I wasn't too worried. It was a bit of a nuisance as Tim tries to avoid dairy products completely as they give him glue ear. But we don't do that much baking, and we found other products that had very small amounts of dairy products to substitute - or Bertolli, which we use as a spread.
But it didn't return.
A couple of months ago I realised that veggie sausages were no longer available. I much prefer them to regular sausages, but it wasn't a huge deal.
They haven't returned, either.
About a month ago I looked for my favourite London Fruit & Herb brand blackcurrant and green tea, which I like to drink in the morning. That, too, had vanished. There was still orange and green tea, and multi-packs, so I assumed they'd just temporarily run out of the blackcurrant.
But it's still not there. Nor were there any multi-packs this week - just the peach (which I find rather artificial) and the jasmine (which I don't like at all).
Bertolli has gone, too. And the frozen Walls sausages Tim loves. And Rombouts brand of filter coffee, which Richard drinks. And almond milk, which Tim has on cereal.
But worst of all, there was no cat litter. It wasn't just the type we usually get that was missing - the entire shelf, where usually there are at least three varieties and several bags, was empty.
What is going on?
Richard said he thinks he might have heard something about a dockers' strike - but if so, it's been going on a long time. And you would think the supermarkets would put up a notice somewhere, if they really are having trouble with imported goods.
Of course there are still plenty of local products available, and it's better for the ecology to use local items as far as possible, but there just aren't equivalents to most of these items. Cyprus-made sausages are not very nice at all, and they don't do a veggie version. Coffee isn't grown here at all, so it will be a big problem if that runs out.
As for cat litter... well, I thought rapidly. I guessed the other big supermarkets might also have run out, so on the way back from our weekly shop I called in at our local small supermarket, Kleitos. To my great relief they had three bags of cat litter remaining. The most expensive brand, but at least it was something. So I bought two of them immediately.
We're having quite a few visitors in the next few months, but most of these items aren't really transportable. So we just hope that whatever the problem is will soon be resolved.