Monday, May 21, 2018

Three months slipped by...

I knew it was a while - too long - since I last wrote on this blog. I'm shocked to find that it's almost three months. I've thought, more than once, about a blog post in recent weeks, but no one topic stood out as blog-worthy.  However,  the longer I leave it the harder it will be to get back into it... so I've grabbed a few of my photos for a whistle-stop tour of life in Cyprus, from my perspective, since the end of February.

Immigration and Citizenship
My last post was about our visit to Immigration, and the successful granting of yellow slips. That was a huge relief. They demonstrate that we are living here legally as European citizens, and - in theory, anyway - there are no expiry dates. What will happen after the UK leaves the EU is still unknown, so Richard is still hoping to acquire Cyprus citizenship.

The next stage in that process was to get a criminal record bureau check, something that is fairly common around the world now, for people working with children or other vulnerable folk. Neither of us had needed one before, but in the event it was straightforward. We drove to Nicosia, found the correct police department, submitted paperwork (and twenty euros), then went and had coffee.

I was mildly amused by this sign we spotted as we walked back to the office, suggesting we might want 'criminal record certificates'.  Happily everything was straightforward, and Richard now has a piece of paper stating that he has not committed any crimes.  This wasn't just backdated a few days to the granting of our yellow slips, so we still don't know why we needed them!  Our Alien Registration Cards, which we have had for over twenty years, have the same ID on them.

So we scanned and printed this document, and the yellow slips, and added them to the enormous pile of paperwork necessary for Richard to apply for citizenship.  We had to pay 500 euros just to submit it all; someone glanced through the paperwork and at first said that it was no good because he only had the yellow slip for a few days. So he came home, and wrote a note explaining why we didn't have them for our first twenty years here, and the following morning a different official accepted it. They didn't need all 1000 sheets of documentation, but they glanced at some, and took copies of all they required, plus of course the application form itself.

The next step will be an interview, but that could be anything from six months' time through to about six years.

Our guest flat has been very busy this year, with friends, friends-of-friends, acquaintances, and (currently) acquaintances of local friends. At the start of March, four friends came out for a week; one of them worked hard trying to get Richard's work accounts in order for last year, and the others relaxed and had a holiday. One evening they took us out for a meze at Kura Georgina, which is probably our current favourite restaurant, with the added bonus of being within walking distance.

One thing we particularly like about it is the fresh fruit platter offered 'on the house' as dessert:

In the background are some candied fruits, also part of the dessert, and a few minutes later we were given some loukomades, but were so full we could barely eat them.

I usually post photos of yellow wild flowers in Cyprus in March. There were, indeed, many of them. But for a change, here's rather a pretty pink plant that was also in bloom around the Salt Lake trail in March:

Long-term readers of this blog (if there are any...) might remember that last October we employed our teenage friend Jacob and his worker Mike to transform our side yard into a little garden, complete with artificial grass and some custom-built wooden planters.  We bought a random selection of small shrubs and other plants at local places, and were given a few extras by a neighbour.

We're not great with plants in general, and most of them weren't labelled so we didn't know what kind of watering or sun/shade situation they would need... nor do we know whether they will survive the summer, even supposing we manage to give them sufficient water.  But this is how one part was looking at the start of April - the rest of the plants, likewise, seem to be blooming.  So far, anyway.

Fresh air and walking
We're both quite keen on fresh air where possible, and during the last couple of months have sat outside in the garden swing to drink our after-lunch coffees.  I'm still walking three mornings a week, first thing, with my friend Sheila. When we get back, we sit in the swing to cool off a little, and chat.

Richard was beginning to feel a lack of exercise, but he is not, in any sense, an early bird. So we thought we might try a few late afternoon or evening walks.  I think we've managed three so far.  More than once we have been put off - or forced to return after only a short walk - due to increased levels of dust in the Cyprus air.  This usually happens during one weekend each spring, but this year has happened several times.  It was particularly bad one Sunday when we planned to walk... so we didn't get far:

National Days
25th March and 1st April are always public holidays here. If they fall on weekdays, schools have days off, and banks and some other institutions are closed. There are parades along the sea front and some of the side streets, and we used to go and watch - over twelve years ago now! - when our older son was in the town band.

We never can remember which of these dates is Greek National Day and which is Cyprus National Day. 1st April this year was also the Western rite Easter Sunday, so we went to the local Anglican church for morning service. All the other churches we know of, including other Protestant ones, celebrate Greek (Eastern rite) Easter, which this year was on April 8th.

Walking back from the service, we had to pause while part of a parade went past:

Since the Greek flag is clearly in evidence, and there was blue and white bunting, we assumed that it must have been Greek National Day.

We were wrong. Apparently that was a week earlier, and 1st April is in fact Cyprus National Day.

UK trip
We managed to miss Greek Easter entirely, since we flew to the UK for ten days on April 5th. It was an early flight, via Blue Air, which landed mid-morning. That meant we were in plenty of time to have lunch with some close friends, before driving to stay with my father for a few days.

Our main reason for going, however, was a very special birthday celebrated by Richard's mother. Twenty-four of us gathered in a restaurant for the main party, a few days after the actual birthday. Since all our photos contain people, who might not want to appear on a public blog, I won't illustrate it.

It was a busy ten days, catching up with quite a few family members on both sides, and seeing some friends we hadn't seen for a long time. Richard spoke at two church services and we bought various things we can't easily get hold of in Cyprus.

Although we flew out to the UK with just one suitcase, we had to fly back with two. That's partly because of various things we had bought, and partly because my generous family had given me a lot of birthday presents in advance, to save on international postage. Happily, my father had a large-size suitcase in excellent condition, which he no longer used, so he gave it to us.

After completing a knitted nativity scene in 2016, and knitting several toys for family and friends in 2017, I wanted a new project. I find knitting relaxing, and it's supposed to be good for cognitive functions... so I was delighted to find a Facebook page which coordinates knitted blankets, 'bonding squares' and other items for premature babies at hospitals in the UK.

I had some yarn in stock and bought a bit more locally, and by the time we were in the town where there's a collection point for knitted blankets, on our UK trip, I had completed five.

If anyone wants to know in more detail how this works, and what patterns I used in these blankets, I have a separate blog about knitting. The most recent post describes what I did. I've completed another one since returning to Cyprus, and several 'bonding squares' and am over half way through another large blanket.

(Bonding squares, in case anyone was wondering, are pairs of small knitted squares, identical in colour, size and pattern. When a baby must be separated from the mother, each takes one square to sleep with. Every six or eight hours, they are switched.  This enables the baby to breathe in the mother's scent, and become used to it; it also enables the mother to breathe in the baby's scent even when she cannot be near him or her, and that can aid in her milk production). 

Jam making
I usually make strawberry jam in March, and apricot jam in May.  But although strawberries started appearing in the local shops in February, as usual, they weren't all that great, and were quite expensive.  During March I watched out for special offers, but it appeared that strawberries were late this year.

Since we were away for ten days early in April, I wondered if I would miss out entirely on this year's jam-making. But a week after our return, I saw this at the local fruit stall:

3kg strawberries for 2 euros seemed like a very good deal. I used the sugar tongs that used to be my mother's to hull them quickly, and made just over eight pots of jam:

In the evening of my birthday we had our usual Friday meal with our local friends, and they gave me this lovely miniature rose, which we planted out on a balcony near our 'garden':

It's almost twelve years since we moved to this house, so it's not surprising that some appliances have started to misbehave. I wrote in October last year about having to replace our freezer.  About a month ago I turned on the knob for our oven... and the electricity went off. I thought at first it was a power cut, but went to check the power trip thing and found it had tripped off.

So I turned it on... and then, when I tried to turn the oven on again, the same thing happened.  It wasn't urgent to use the oven that day, and Richard wasn't there. So I used other methods to cook, and looked online to see if I could work out what the problem might be.

It was an Ariston oven, so I knew from TV advertisement indoctrination in the 1980s that it would go 'on and on and on and on'... which, indeed, it has.  It wasn't new when we bought the house in 2006; at a rough estimate, we think it was probably at least ten years old then.  It's worked well, on the whole, although a few times the glass front fell out and was complicated to put back. At Christmas our son Tim commented that it didn't seem to be heating as well as it should... and I had noticed it was taking much longer to warm up than it used to. 

Google told me that the most likely cause of the power tripping was that the heating element would need to be replaced.  When Richard came home, we discussed it, and - taking into account the age of the oven - decided that it would be more sensible (and not THAT much more expensive) to replace the oven.  

So, a few days later, courtesy of George Theodorou (from whom we buy all our white goods, and who offers free delivery and installation as well as pretty good prices and excellent service, when needed) our new oven was installed:

We didn't want anything fancy, and I definitely didn't want a touch screen. It had to fit exactly in the space given, and we wanted a rotary fan at the back, as well as easy-cleaning... so once we'd narrowed it down, we chose what looked like the best value.  So far, we've been very pleased.

Reducing plastic
At the start of the year, Cyprus was supposed to introduce a one-cent charge for plastic carrier bags, in preparation for the requirement to implement a higher charge in July. Most of Europe did this some years ago, but as happens in so many situations, Cyprus lags behind. We have used cloth carrier bags - when we remember - for a couple of years, now. But the locals, who don't necessarily travel outside Cyprus, are used to the free plastic carriers . Until recently, we haven't seen any real encouragement to reduce them.

But a couple of weeks ago, on what has become an every-other-month visit to Metro Supermarket, we saw an advert for trolley bags. I'd seen this idea in a catalogue and it had seemed ingenious: different sized bags, joined by velcro, which could be used in a supermarket trolley, then separated for putting into the car and carrying into the house. Metro were selling them - although they weren't easy to find! - at a better price than I had seen before.  So we decided to get some.

They would be ideal in supermarkets with self-scanning, but that hasn't come to Cyprus yet, and I doubt if it will any time soon. Still, they were fine to pack things into after they were scanned at the checkout; the blue one at the end is a cool bag but we had too much cold/frozen stuff for it to close:

I wasn't sure if these bags would fit in other supermarket trolleys, but this week we went to Lidl (also an every-other-month exercise) and they worked well there.

I was going to write even more in this post - about theatre productions, and macaroni straws, and heatwaves, and a new (to us) boat... but I've been writing for over an hour, and it's well past my bedtime.  So perhaps, if I get back in the habit of blogging, they'll be mentioned in my next post.


Cathleen said...

I was excited to see your post! I have been checking every few days. I am so glad you got to celebrate the special day with Richard's mother!

alban said...

As with Cathleen, I am truly delighted to see you back.