Richard has just returned from attending a conference in Scandanavia. He flew in the early hours of last Wednesday morning. Since our street was blocked off, due to ongoing construction work, he could not park in our driveway, or even in front of our house.
So, as he has done for the past few weeks, he found a place to park in a nearby street, in front of someone else's house. Cypriots can be a bit possessive about the road space in front of their homes, but with so many road works going on everyone locally seems to have been fairly flexible recently. It was a street where construction work had finished, so we hoped it would be all right for five days.
Mid-morning Wednesday, the phone rang. I said 'kalimera', in response to the greeting, and the person at the other end launched into some rapid Greek. I was about to say that it must be a wrong number when I caught the words 'Mr Richard', with a query. Yes, I said slowly and in English, Mr Richard lives here, but he is not here now.
More rapid Greek ensued. I apologised (in English) and said that I did not understand. I have learned from experience that trying to apologise in Greek just leads to a response in Greek which I still won't understand.
So the person who had been speaking to me found someone who spoke English, at least somewhat. 'This is the traffic police', he announced. Then he read out the number plate of our car and asked if it belonged to Mr Richard. I acknowledged that it did, but that Mr Richard was currently out of Cyprus.
'You must move the car, it is blocking,' I was told. I did not, at that stage, know exactly where the car was, but was pretty sure it would not be blocking anywhere. More to the point, I don't drive. So I told the man.
'You have a key?' he asked. I said that we did.
'Then you must ask a friend to move the car. It is blocking.'
I said I would see what I could do. I knew that at least one other person was on the insurance, possibly more. I wrote a note on Facebook (to local friends only) explaining the dilemma. And saw one friend online, whose husband - I thought - was on the insurance. It turned out that he was, and he would be able to come over late morning, and would happily move the car to somewhere safe behind the building where he lives.
So far, so good.
I went for a brief walk to check exactly where our car was, and it wasn't far at all. Nor was it blocking anything. It was parked in front of a fairly wide house, with plenty of space, nowhere near the driveway.
I discovered that I could even see it from one of our bedrooms:
At lunch-time, our friend arrived. He started the car with the spare key... it turned over... and nothing happened. He repeated it. And again. Each time, the car sounded lively - the battery was evidently fine, and the petrol gauge showed plenty of fuel - but it simply would not go.
After several more attempts, our friend said that we must have some kind of immobiliser chip in our key, which rendered the spare one rather pointless (unless the main keys had been locked in, I suppose). So he walked home. There was evidently no way to move the car until Richard returned. I did find an email address for the police, and wrote to explain, but had little expectation of anyone reading it.
Having heard stories of cars being towed away and even crushed when they could not be moved for a few days, I felt quite anxious for the rest of the day.
On Thursday, late morning, I had another call from the traffic police. This time it was from a man who spoke excellent English. I explained about the apparently immobilised car, and he understood immediately. I gather it's quite common although it's not something we've had on any of our other cars. Probably they were all too old.
He sounded very worried until I said, 'So, I'm afraid there's really nothing we can do until Monday. I don't see the problem since the car is NOT blocking anyone in...'
.. and he said, 'Monday? Your husband returns then?'
'Yes,' I replied. 'Early Monday morning. He is only away for five days. '
He sighed with relief. 'Oh well, in that case, we can wait. There is no problem at all.'
So that was that. I still don't know why we were phoned. Did the people really complain that they were blocked in, or is there some further construction work to be done in that street? We will probably never know.... this is Cyprus!