Cyprus is a great place to live, in many ways. The people are friendly, the lifestyle relaxed, and while I don't do well in heat, the weather is at least reasonably predictable. We love having a lot of space in our home for visitors, and it's been a wonderful place to bring up our sons.
But it's still a strange culture, in some ways. Bizarrely, even the Cypriots are aware of it. They are the ones who will shrug and say, 'This is Cyprus!' at any oddities of life. Such as crossing the road when there's a space, rather than at a pedestrian crossing.
We fly to the UK tomorrow, on the start of our seven weeks away. So here, in the meantime, are a couple of the oddities that we still haven't got used to:
I wrote last week about some problems with the Cyprus banks. Richard wrote another post about his frustrations with the banks both in Cyprus and in the UK.
Oh, and a friend of ours tried to withdraw a large amount of money to pay his children's school fees, at a branch other than his own, and was told that he couldn't do so. He thought perhaps the amount was too great for his ATM card, so tried to withdraw a smaller amount. It wouldn't let him, saying he didn't have enough money. He went to his own branch and asked what was going on.. and they said the entire amount was 'blocked'. Why? Because he had tried to take it out, but hadn't completed the transaction. And no, his own bank couldn't do anything about it - he had to get the other bank to unblock it.
Eventually the other bank did release the money, but it was very frustrating for a few days. Nobody quite knows what it means for money to be 'blocked' but it's a commonly used word here. When we pay a UK cheque into our Cyprus bank account, the money is 'blocked' for 21 days. It takes about one week to clear... but we don't have access to it for three weeks.
Compared with all that, my latest little snippet is hardly worth mentioning.
Last week, Richard went to close down the business accounts he had been using that were in our personal name, and open up new ones in the organisation name. It had only taken about two years to get that sorted.
In the process, he discovered that £38 had been transferred from our personal account to the old business account. They thought the account was going to go overdrawn by £38, apparently - and rather than letting us know, they do tend to go ahead and make a random transfer from an account that has money in it.
It turned out that the account was actually only going to go overdrawn by £6, because of a cheque book which he didn't need (yes, we even have to pay for cheque books here). So he gave them some cash to cover it, and asked that the money be transferred back.
A few days later I was working on our accounts, and checked our online statement. It showed a transaction of £35 out of our personal account, but no corresponding transaction into it. I thought maybe it would take a few days, but today I had another look and still there was no repayment. And it wasn't even the amount they said they had transferred.
Then I saw that our savings account had an extra £38 in it. That, too, turned out to be a bank transfer.
But why take it out of one account, and then pay it into another? And even more oddly, why did we apparently gain £3 from it???
This is Cyprus!
For over two years now, I've been going to a pleasant girl who runs her own business on her own, very close to where we used to live. She doesn't talk too much, she does exactly what I want, and she only charges £4 despite usually working for nearly an hour on my hair, even when it's just a trim.
It's a bit of a walk from our new house, but I've been going back there because she's so good. I last went in early June, as far as I recall. I asked then if she would be closed at all during the summer. She said yes, she would have to close for a week in August as it was the law. But that was all.
I was going to go in July, but it was hot and humid, and I wasn't in that neighbourhood, and anyway my hair looked OK. So I didn't.
I thought about it in August, but realised I didn't know which week she would be closed. Then I realised that, as we'll be away for seven weeks, it would be best to wait till the first week of September anyway.
On Tuesday this week, the mothers-and-toddlers group (where I help out) started again after a two-month break. It's quite close to the hairdresser, so I walked back past the shop, intending to pop in and either book a trim or - if she wasn't busy - have it at the time.
But it was closed. There was a note on the door saying that it was going to be closed from August 15th-19th, so I just assumed she had gone to lunch or something.
On Wednesday, we had to do a few errands and drove through the same area. So I thought I'd pop in. Once again, it was closed. The same note was still on the door. And then it occurred to me that the hairdresser is very tidy and organised, and would surely take down her holiday notice when she went back. So it looks as though she has not returned to work. Either she's sick, or she's decided it's not worth running the business - she never seemed to draw a huge amount of traffic.
But that means I have no idea where to get my hair cut.
However, I remembered a place in the town that some friends have recommended, and I also knew there was a hairdresser just five minutes walk from our home. Today I wanted to go into the town to check our PO Box, so I thought I'd go this afternoon and then call in at the hairdresser there, and see what they were like. I've been told that appointments aren't usually necessary.
Trouble is - it was closed.
So was the hairdresser near our house. And so was another one I saw on the way back.
Then I remembered that while Wednesday is the regular early closing day for shops, Thursday is the early closing day for hairdressers. It does make sense, I guess... shopkeepers can get their hair cut on a Wednesday afternoon, and hairdressers can do their shopping on a Thursday afternoon.
It's just that, despite having lived here for nearly ten years, I had totally forgotten.
Cyprus has, at last, got the MOT theory sorted out. All cars have to have this test ever two years, and there has to be a valid MOT certificate before we can apply for car tax.
Of course, it's quite possible to pay the car tax up to a year (or more) late - that doesn't seem to worry anyone.
Anyway, the tax on our newer car (the one that's only ten years old) is well overdue, so - nothing like leaving things to the last minute before we go away - Richard took it for its MOT test today. It had a thorough service not long ago, and the mechanic said it was up to MOT standard, so he thought it would be fairly straightforward and quick.
The car has tinted windows at the back and sides. Very pleasant in the summer as it cuts down the glare of the sun, and also means the car doesn't get too hot.
Unfortunately, new MOT regulations mean that tinted windows are not allowed. At least... they're allowed if the glass itself is tinted. But if there's a thin tinted film painted on it, that's not OK. Unfortunately, our car has the latter type. Why that should be 'worse' than tinted glass, I've no idea.
Richard did not think it possible to remove the tinted film. But then one of the junior mechanics produced a small double-sided razor blade, and demonstrated that it is possible. In about five minutes, he managed to remove about a square centimetre.
Labour is very cheap in Cyprus, so the garage owner said he would employ someone for a day to remove all the tinting, so that our car can pass the MOT tomorrow, so that we can pay the tax. Would they really go to that much trouble in other countries??
What's even more bizarre, though, is that our old car (the one that's 20 years old) had its MOT on Tuesday. It has a tow-bar which Richard had fitted a couple of years ago, when he bought his first dinghy. Apparently the new regulations say that a tow-bar should not stick out quite as much as ours does.
So, the mechanic told us, if we get asked about the tow-bar, we have to say that we fitted it after the MOT was done....
So let's hope nobody asks about it, since we're not going to tell lies about it, but also don't want the mechanic or the MOT folk to get into trouble!
Yes, this is Cyprus...