Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Putting up Curtains in Cyprus

 We  have new curtains in our dining room. 

new curtains in our Cyprus dining room

It sounds so simple. But somehow things are never quite as easy here as one might expect...

Way back in 2006 when we moved to this house, we installed blinds over those windows. There wasn't space for the wooden pelmets that are everywhere else in the house, and we found some wooden slatted blinds that fitted perfectly, and for fourteen years or so they were just fine. Well, except for a broken slat (courtesy of one of the cats) on one of them. And the thing to turn the slats up or down had broken on the other. But we hadn't seen wooden blinds anywhere else - the shop where we originally bought them is long gone - and they were basically okay...

Then, towards the end of last year, one of the strings broke and we had a very lopsided blind. We managed to manoeuvre it into a horizontal position, but there it was stuck. We couldn't move it up, or down. So it was a bit draughty, on chilly evenings, and couldn't let sunshine in during the daytime. Not a huge problem in the fairly mild winter we've been having, but I knew that, once summer starts, I will want that window blocked from the morning sunshine. 

broken blind over a window

We had an identical blind in the kitchen, but that one broke a year or so earlier, and we replaced it with a basic white blind from Mr Bricolage:

functional kitchen blind in cyprus

It's functional, but not attractive. So we didn't want something like that in our dining room.  And there really wasn't much else available. There are very thin blinds that are a bit prettier, which are fine for blocking sunlight but not so good for keeping the cold out. And they didn't come in the right size anyway.

So we started thinking about using a pole rather than a pelmet, and hanging curtains, which we like better than blinds anyway.  We looked in a few shops and didn't see anything that we liked. But, early in January, right before the recent lockdown, we were in the Larnaka Thrift Store, and saw some that were in good quality fabric and the right width, in a pattern with colours that we knew would go well in the dining room. They were also at a good price. 

I knew I would have to make them shorter, but that wasn't a problem. So we bought them, and I put them through the washing machine, and we hung them on the back of a chair in the dining room so we wouldn't forget about them. 

curtains hanging on the back of a chair

Meanwhile we went back to Mr Bricolage, where we knew we had seen curtain poles and other necessary fixings. We headed for the light pine-style wood, as it's our default choice, and bought a couple of poles of suitable diameter (albeit a bit long), as well as matching end pieces, and curtain rings and so on.  

curtain rings and end pieces

The poles balanced nicely against two of our bookcases: 

two pine curtain poles

We knew another lockdown was imminent, but it seemed like a good project for an evening when we couldn't see friends and didn't have any other plans.  

It did occur to me, after a couple of days, that although we like light wood, and usually choose it, our dining room is full of dark wood items.  But we didn't really feel that we could take it all back and ask to replace it just because we weren't thinking when we bought it. We shrugged, and decided it probably wouldn't matter.

A couple of days into the lockdown, I realised something was missing.  We had forgotten to buy suitable pieces to fix the rods to the wall.


So for the whole of January, when all non-essential shops were closed, the curtains stayed on the back of the chair, and the rods - except for one incident with the cats, which rather scared them - stayed against the bookcases, and the rest stayed in the bag.

The lockdown started easing slightly on February 1st, with retail shops re-opening a week later, on February 8th. 

So we went back to Mr Bricolage, found four pieces to fix rods to the walls, and brought them home. 

We then discovered that although the poles were 28mm diameter, these fixings were for 20mm poles.

Oops again. 

And although the lockdown is eased, we're still limited to just two outings per day, after sending text messages to the government. One can't just pop out at any time. So the following day, we went back to Mr Bricolage, and explained our problem to the helpful young woman at the returns desk.

Unfortunately, there were no fixings for 28mm poles. The return desk woman came and checked too.  She called the manager, who also checked, and then told us that these were end of stock, so they didn't have any alternatives. He didn't know if they would be stocked again, and all he could suggest was that we returned the poles and other fittings that we had bought before the lockdown, and look elsewhere.

We did look in a couple of other shops, but to no avail. We could possibly have gone to various other curtain shops, and might eventually have found fixings for 28mm poles. But instead of spending potentially hours doing so, we decided that we would do as the manager suggested. And then we could legitimately look for dark wood poles and fixings, which would undoubtedly look better.

Mr Bricolage was extremely efficient and friendly, so we returned everything a couple of days later, and were given a refund.

But then we were back to square one. Or, perhaps, square two, as we did still have the curtains hanging on the back of a chair, so much part of the scenery that we barely noticed them any more.

A few days later, our friend Sheila said she was going to Ikea in Nicosia and asked if we wanted anything from there. We checked their online catalogue, but they didn't have any curtain rods that we liked. However, very close to Ikea is another DIY store called Leroy Merlin. And their online catalogue showed curtain rail 'kits', in dark wood, the right length, and a good price. Most importantly, the parts to fix them to the wall were included.  So Sheila brought them back for us, and at last we had everything we needed. 

Richard was very busy at the time, but just over a week ago, on Monday evening, he felt like doing something different. So he decided to put the curtains up.  

He took down the first blind.  He started drilling holes... and his drill stopped working.  Evidently it wasn't going to be simple... 

The fuse was fine, but the drill - which is probably five or six years old - was not.  So after we had eaten, in the midst of tools and a taken-down blind and some dust, he called Sheila again and went to borrow her drill for the evening.  By that stage with nothing on the window he didn't want to stop.

What a great moment it was when the first curtain rod was in place!

curtain pole and rings

And even more so when the first curtain, with the hem very roughly pinned, was up!

Compared to the previous problems, the disruption caused by Lady Jane when I was trying to pin the hems in place was almost irrelevant...

cat makes it difficult to pin up hem on curtains

The second one went up more quickly, and at last we had two curtains in place:

two curtains in place

Yes, the colours look different in the photo, due to different lighting, but they are the same, bluer than either of them look.

For the next week, I admired them, and enjoyed them, and felt very thankful. 

Then yesterday I decided it was time to sew the hems. And I wanted to do it properly, not just roughly while the curtains hung in place.  So I took the first one down, and extended our dining room table to its fullest length, and measured the hem exactly, ensuring it was the same all the way along. 

measuring hem for curtains

Lady Jane usually sleeps in the morning, but decided that what I was doing was far more interesting than a nap: 

cat examining curtain spread out on the table

Despite her 'help', I finished pinning, and cut off the excess material.  Then I got out the iron, something I haven't done for at least a couple of years, probably longer. It was a bit dusty, as was the ironing board, but thankfully the iron still worked. 

the unusual sight of an iron in our household

Hemming is one of the few useful skills I learned at school and still remember.  So I carefully ironed and re-pinned, and then sat down again to do the sewing. It wasn't quite 'invisible' - my needlework teacher would have tutted a bit - but with such a strong pattern, the tiny bits of thread didn't really show. 

Of course, Lady Jane thought that sewing thread was another game, and I spent as much time moving her as I did sewing...

cat (not) helping with sewing a hem on curtains

But, at last, the hem was finished, and I hung the curtain up again. 

And one corner drooped.  

drooping curtain end

I thought perhaps I needed to pull the curtain strings a bit tighter, or that it would hang out... or maybe that the radiator wasn't properly square so it was an optical illusion. After all, I measured so carefully.  

When I showed Richard, and explained what I had done, he said that it might have made more sense to measure from the top of the curtain, rather than from the bottom.  And when he did measure, one end was about 3cm longer than the other. 

Yet another oops.

I was not happy. But I followed his suggestion with the other curtain, in the afternoon (when, thankfully, Lady Jane was asleep) and when I hung it up, it was much more even.  So I sighed inwardly and took the first one down, and measured from the top.  One end was the same length as the middle, so I only had to re-sew half of it. I really didn't want to. But I knew that if I left it, I wouldn't get around to it. And we'd both look at it from time to time, and find it irritating. Much better to get it right at the start.  And it was a great deal quicker hemming without feline interruption.

And so, just eight weeks after finding the curtains (and probably four months since the blind broke) we finally have completed curtains.  

In a slightly ironic postscript to this saga, the other job Richard needed to do was to fix quite a major leak in the pipes under our kitchen sink. Not a job he looked forward to, as the old pipes were in a tremendous muddle. Hanging curtains, he had thought, would be much more satisfying and straightforward.  

But in the event, the plumbing took him about half an hour. He had all the pieces he needed, including some special cement.  And it worked perfectly, first time.

under-sink plumbing in Cyprus

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