Friday, August 04, 2017

Returning to Cyprus today

The last week has, once again, flown past. Today, accompanied by Tim who is coming for a holiday, I will be returning to Cyprus. I'm looking forward to seeing the family again and spending a few more weeks with my grandchildren, having all my descendants under one roof! But I'm really NOT looking forward to the heat, humidity and sheer exhaustion that overtakes me during the summer months. Apparently last month was the hottest July for the past thirty years in Cyprus. I am, rather selfishly, very relieved to have missed the last ten days of it.

However, I can't move on, blogwise, without mentioning a delightful restaurant where I was taken on my last Saturday in Alcester. It wasn't particularly close to the house, and in the opposite direction from a large computer shop we had been visiting in the morning, looking at laptops.  Indeed, if we had not known it was there, we would probably never have driven up the small road where it was located, nor necessarily even have spotted the rather modest-looking sign on the outside, letting us know that it was The Broom Tavern:

There was a small car park, but it wasn't immediately obvious where we were supposed to go. The house looked old; apparently it was originally a farmhouse in the 16th century.

Inside the decor is attractive, with a very pleasant atmosphere.

The menu isn't huge, but with a wide variety of options including some for vegetarians; they seem to be quite flexible, too. I'm not vegetarian, though I lean strongly in that direction; I learned a few months ago that I am a 'flexitarian' - one who mostly eats plant-based foods, but also a bit of poultry or fish when offered it by other people. Since I'm married to a confirmed meat-eater, and Cyprus culture really isn't  good at understanding vegetarianism (let alone veganism) I've opted for this, at least for now.

Anyway... one of the menu options was vegetarian chili with various side dishes, so that's what I opted for.  This photo, unfortunately, doesn't really show how stunning the presentation was when it arrived laid out on a wooden platter.  One of the black metal dishes contained rice, the other an excellent veggie chili. There were tortilla chips (clearly made from tortillas rather than bought in), guacamole, sour cream, tomato salsa, grated cheese, and salad.

I didn't think I would manage more than half of it, but in the event, other than about half the rice, I ate it all. It was delicious.

My father, who is not vegetarian but highly intolerant of garlic, and whose appetite fluctuates somewhat, asked for a baked potato with baked beans and grated cheese.  That was also beautifully presented but the photo doesn't show it at its best:

After such a large first course I wouldn't have opted for dessert at all, but my father very much likes desserts, and chose a fruity sorbet one - pineapple and melon were certainly involved, and he said it was delicious:

Lorraine chose a strawberry panacotta dessert; I might have gone for that, but the dish description mentioned balsamic vinegar, and that sounded rather odd.  It was also beautifully presented, and she said it was extremely good:

I decided, since they were having desserts, I would have the basic ice cream. Three scoops, they told me, with various choices.  I opted for two chocolate and one salted caramel.  I expected three scoops in a small dish, as one might expect in Cyprus. Instead, I was presented with this:

The odd-looking squiggles on the top of each of the desserts was a kind of crystalline spun sugar. A sort of hardened, flat candy floss, I suppose.  The chocolate ice cream was good, the salted caramel out of this world... I should perhaps have had two of that. It never occurred to me that anything could be better than chocolate.

Replete from this amazing meal, we took a short walk in the afternoon...

...which included some blackberrying.  July seems rather early to me for blackberries, but there were lots on the local bushes, with plenty more to come.  Hard to see in the small version of this photo, but anyone interested in knowing what blackberries look like, just click the image and a larger one should appear.

ripening blackberries on a bush, in Alcester, UK

Sunday was a relaxed day. We went to a church service at St Nicholas' Church, then home for a roast lunch followed by apple and blackberry crumble. In the afternoon we played our fourth game of Settlers of Catan in which I really hoped I wouldn't win. In the first game, earlier in the week, I won rather too resoundingly. The second was much closer, and I only won because I picked up a victory point. I don't remember the details of the third, but I won again. I had tried a different starting strategy in each.

For the fourth game, I didn't have particularly good starting places, and decided to play the 'harbour' strategy. It worked all too well, but when I was approaching twelve points we decided I'd keep playing, opting out, so to speak, of the possibility of winning.  Eventually they both reached eleven points... and Lorraine eventually reached twelve and was declared victor:

We then counted my points and I was slightly embarrassed to find that I had managed to acquire eighteen...

On Monday morning I made the train journey down to Surrey to stay a few days with Tim. It's a journey of about three-and-a-half hours by train, with three changes including a brief ride on the London Underground. I am always a bit anxious about the Underground as I haven't used it much and don't understand it... but all went well and I arrived safely at the station close to Tim's flat. What amazed me most was that the entire trip (three trains and one Underground), since I booked it in advance, cost me the grand total of £11.

In the evening, we played a game of Cities and Knights, and Tim creamed: sixteen points to my eight.

On the Tuesday we took further trains down to Sussex to spend the day with Richard's mother. It was the first day since my arrival when the sun had shone almost all the time, so we spent some time sitting outside, admiring her garden:

On the Wednesday it rained, off and on. I caught yet more trains, this time to Woking, to spend a few hours with my friend Anne, who is, as far as I can tell, my longest-standing friend. We met when I was seven and our family moved to Walton-on-Thames, as we were in the same class at school. We spent two years at Ambleside Avenue First School before moving to the larger Mayfield Middle School when we were nine.

After a year there, our family moved to Birmingham, and not long afterwards Anne's family also moved. We had agreed to stay in touch, and although our parents didn't expect us to, we wrote letters - pages and pages, sometimes - very regularly, at first, then gradually easing off to just Christmas and birthday greetings. Anne came to our wedding ten years after we parted, and at the time we said we ought to get together every ten years, but that hasn't happened. So it's over 37 years since we had actually met!

We talked endlessly, catching each other up on the past few decades' worth of news about family and friends. Then Anne drove me back to Tim's making a considerable detour through Walton-on-Thames where we went past the sites our our old schools (Ambleside Avenue is now a primary school, with rather different buildings; Mayfield no longer exists at all).

I had only the vaguest memories; my family only lived in Walton for three years, but I did vaguely remember the road where we used to live, and that our house was just around the corner from another school friend. I knew the address, so as we briefly slowed down, was able to snap this picture out of the car window. I'm pretty sure it's the right place, though I wouldn't have been able to pick it out if I hadn't known the house number:

On Friday - yesterday - Tim showed me round the grounds of the school where he teaches, then we walked into Epsom, a nearby reasonably-sized town with a good set of high street shops. I particularly wanted to go to Lakeland, to buy some of my favourite breadmaking yeast, and one or two other things. I also went to several rather upmarket charity shops and was delighted to find yet more children's picture books that were not previously part of our collection.

In the evening, Tim treated me to Indian takeaway food, and then we had another Cities and Knights game. This time I did at least reach ten points before he won.

After that we sorted out a lot of paper recycling, printed our boarding passes, and even did most of our packing.

This morning we've cleaned and tidied everywhere, turned my bed back into a sofa, emptied all the rubbish... and were completely ready to go over two hours before we need to leave. This is a bit disturbing for both of us, so I decided to write a blog post, and Tim has popped out to buy a few essentials that he will need as soon as he returns.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Out of Cyprus: ten days in the Midlands

It's over a month since I last wrote. Being a hands-on Grandma has been thoroughly enjoyable and far from full-time; but still tiring in the heat of a Cyprus summer. David is lively, talkative and energetic from the time he wakes up - usually not long after I do - until the time he falls asleep, not long after the evening meal. If I found an hour or two during the day, when David was out with someone else or playing downstairs in the guest flat with his family, I would either catch up on household jobs, or write emails, or perhaps try and put a few photos on Facebook. After he went to bed, I would usually start to clean the kitchen, and then curl up with a book for an hour or so to myself...

I write this somewhat in the past tense because I've been in the UK for the past ten days. I'm very much looking forward to seeing the family again at the end of the week, for a few more weeks until they leave Cyprus for their next adventures in Central and South America.

It was with very mixed feelings that I set off, on the evening of July 20th. I looked forward to getting out of the Cyprus heat and humidity, and I was so exhausted that I knew I needed a rest. The trigger for choosing this particular period was an invitation to my younger goddaughter's wedding in Birmingham, and I also wanted to spend a few days with my father, including helping him finish an ongoing project to write and publish his memoirs.

But although I needed a rest, and some cooler weather, I hated saying goodbye to the family. They were also struggling in the intense heat, with all usual children's activities closed for the summer, having to stay indoors for at least five or six hours during the hottest part of the day: not something appreciated by a lively and energetic three-year-old.

However, when I checked for flights on the day I wanted to fly, only about six weeks earlier, there was one direct to Birmingham for under sixty euros. It seemed to be a confirmation that I should indeed go. We didn't know, at the time, how long the family would be staying in Cyprus, and I needed to make a definite decision in order to make other arrangements.

My good friend Heather, who lives in Birmingham, suggested staying with her for three nights, and my father contacted my three siblings who live in different parts of the UK, and determined that the only day they could gather at his house for a family reunion was the day after the wedding. So, gradually, arrangements fell into place.

I arrived at Heather's via taxi from the airport shortly before 2am UK time, very tired indeed as I can never sleep on flights, but slept well and then spent a wonderful and relaxing day with her, including a visit to my other goddaughter - Heather's daughter - and her one-year-old son.

On the Saturday I caught a bus into town, where I met Tim, and we then got on another bus to take us to the wedding, which was in a small and friendly Methodist church.

All went well, the bride looked radiant, and the reception was in a lovely place set in the middle of the countryside:

I was extremely impressed by the cake, baked by the bride's mother, who had never done this kind of thing before:

I was at a table with other godparents and neighbours of the family. I didn't know any of them beforehand but they were all friendly and it was a very enjoyable day. The evening party was due to go on until midnight but I was tired, and the music was quite loud, so Tim and I left around 10pm.

On the Sunday morning I packed my case (I had travelled with hand luggage only, using a cabin bag as large as is allowed) and got on the bus to Selly Park, where I went to a pleasant service at Christ Church, which still feels like 'home' to me, even though there were only a handful of people I knew there. Tim had been staying with other friends and was there too, and afterwards we were collected by my father and driven to his house, where my siblings and families had gathered for an excellent lunch:

Tim stayed overnight and was able to help with various computer issues; on the Monday we were taken out to lunch at a nearby Carvery.

Then Tim was dropped at New Street so that he could get the train back to Surrey.

The subsequent week has raced past, and I have thoroughly enjoyed being a 'lady of leisure'. The weather has been quite rainy and not particularly warm, but we've managed a few short walks, and even some blackberrying nearby.

On Tuesday my two young step-nieces (if that's the correct relationship) were here for the day and we all went out to lunch at a garden centre. On Wednesday afternoon one of my secondary school friends came over for a couple of hours. On Thursday we went to a charity lunch organised by the local church.

My father's wife is an excellent cook, and in between the outings we have eaten some delicious meals. I've helped a bit with food preparation, but find myself much happier in the sous-chef role than being in charge of a kitchen. I don't like the word lazy...but I do appreciate an easy life! It was enjoyable, too, experimenting with one or two different things, such as these breadcrumb-and-parmesan coated courgette sticks which we had seen online, and which used up a couple of the courgettes from the garden produce:

One thing I wanted to do while staying here for a week was to help my father finish his memoirs. This project has been ongoing for at least a couple of years, and in the weeks before I arrived, he wrote a few extra chapters to fill in some gaps. I've been through the whole thing (nearly 70,000 words) editing and proof-reading and compiling into Kindle-readable versions so we and other family members could check for inaccuracies, omissions and errors.

I finished the second draft yesterday evening, with a sense of satisfaction; we hope to publish via CreateSpace later in the year.

In a few hours I will be travelling down to Surrey to spend a few days with Tim before returning to Cyprus on Friday.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Family visiting Cyprus

It's almost four weeks since the family arrived in Cyprus after a few stressful weeks packing up the house and travelling, via relatives in the UK, to stay here. They were all exhausted when they got here, and it took a few days for the children to get into somewhat regular sleep patterns.

David, at three, no longer takes naps in the daytime, and Esther, at six months, just takes catnaps, and still usually wakes at least once in the night. She's teething, has just started solids, and has reached the stage of frustrating backwards crawling. She was very clingy with Becky when she arrived, too, and David quite stressed and anxious about all the changes.

I had already planned, before they arrived, to find as much time as possible to be with the children. I'm hardly doing any writing, or participating in forums, or doing anything with my websites while they're here. Emails are written in odd moments, and I've been uploading photos to Facebook every few days, but it's taken me over a week to find the time and energy to write this blog post.

With the increasing heat, we're all quite tired - other than David, who seems to have vast reserves of energy - and inevitably have to spend at least the hottest part of the days indoors. I'm delighted to discover that David has an almost endless capacity for books, so we're all reading aloud to him, everything from simple picture books through to early chapter books with line drawings, such as Mrs Pepperpot and Winnie-the-Pooh.

Still, we seem to have done a fair amount of other things - a few highlights below.

On one of the first days, Richard and I took David out to the local park where he enjoyed climbing and digging in the dirt as well as the standard slides and roundabouts.

He's been to some Little Muse presentations and drama sessions (the last one before the summer break is today, giving me an hour to myself) and enjoyed doing some painting there:

Great excitement ensued when he went sailing with his Daddy and Grandpa:

Richard has been very busy with work in the past few weeks, so there haven't been any more opportunities for sailing, but they hope to do that again soon.

We've been to the beach a couple of times, although it's so hot that we can't really go before about 4.30pm at the earliest:

David's third birthday was a very important occasion, and Becky created a wonderful 'digger' cake:

One of his birthday gifts was a paddling pool, which has provided a great deal of entertainment:

We found a second-hand bike at the thrift store, and a helmet, and he's ridden that in an area Richard cleared in our side yard, although, again, it's really too hot to ride much:

Another gift (bought with birthday money) was a sandpit, which he likes very much indeed:

The shop where the sandpit was bought didn't have any play sand in stock, so after some research we discovered the Larnaka Early Learning Centre shop, which not only had sand, but let us know that on Tuesday afternoons they have play sessions for toddlers and young children, with plenty of toys and other activities available. So David's been to a couple of those:

We haven't managed many board games; they're not possible in the daytime, for obvious reasons, and by the evenings we're often too tired to do anything. But we've had a few, sitting outside the guest flat, as it hasn't - yet - been too humid:

Daniel and Becky's closest friends came out to stay for a week, too, which was very enjoyable for them all, and they managed to play games most evenings.

David's enthusiasm and exuberance are quite tiring for those of us who are more introverted, but they also mean that almost anything can be fun for him. Even a trip to the supermarket became a great adventure when he was able to drive the trolley for us:

Esther, meanwhile, is quieter, and more placid. She's very taken with a set of plastic balls which we bought a few years ago, before David visited for the first time. She can sit by herself but topples over if she turns suddenly, so we made a mini ball pool for her, in a plastic box, and she was contented for quite some time:

David is interested in building, mechanics and pipework, so Daniel bought some plumbing bits, and we've made various constructions for David to experiment with. One of his favourite activities is pouring water down a funnel, and seeing where it comes out:

He can concentrate for a long time, adjusting the pieces and trying again when connections break, or when water comes out in unexpected places. I tried to explain that it would pour out of the lowest available gap in whatever system we built, and he seemed to understand. He exemplifies the concept of learning through play!

A local friend told us about a park that's much nicer than the two local ones; it took us a while to locate it, behind St George's Church, but finally we found an afternoon to take David there. Unfortunately it's not open all the time, and has almost no shade until the late afternoon... but still, it's a wonderful park and we hope to go there again:

The family are here for another two months, and the weather is going to be hotter and much more humid, so we're going to look at the two recommended indoor play places that aren't too far away, and make the effort to go to the beach a bit more often.

We didn't move to Cyprus until our sons were nine and eleven, so we never had to find places to entertain very young children in the summer. By the time we moved, they were old enough to play outside safely by themselves (we had a huge garden in our rental house) and were also happy to sit inside during the hottest part of the day, reading books, or at the computer, or otherwise occupied with Lego or music or some other activity.

I am loving being an active grandma of a three-year-old, although I'm getting a lot more tired than I did when I was 27 years younger and had a three-year-old of my own.  

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Preparing for some important people to arrive in Cyprus

In the last few weeks we've been doing some extra preparations in our guest flat. We always make sure it's clean before anyone arrives, but we were expecting some very important (to us) people for the month of June: our older son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. A couple of weeks ago they heard that their expected plans had fallen through and they're actually going to stay in Cyprus for three months. We hope this will give them a good break, and time to relax after a very busy recent period.

Last Friday, we began by cleaning the guest flat air conditioners. They're not needed yet, but within the next few weeks the humidity will begin, and then they'll be essential overnight for refreshing sleep. We haven't done the ones in the main part of the house yet, but wanted the guest flat ones done before the family arrived.

Next we moved the desk/bookcase out of the front bedroom, so we could put up the cot for almost six-month-old Esther, next to the double bed.

We vacuumed the living room rug thoroughly, and put on the sofa throw which had been packed away by previous guests, who used the sofa bed to sleep on.

David, who is nearly three, will sleep in the other bedroom. I made up the bed with a Winnie-the-Pooh pillowcase (not shown) and a special extra visitor at the end of his bed:

Jess the cat is a knitting project I started a couple of months ago, knowing how David loves Postman Pat. He turned out considerably larger than I had expected - here is he with Lady Jane, for comparison:

We remembered that, when they were here in the winter when David was a baby, there was too much light in the front bedroom in the mornings. In the summer, we realised, it would be much worse with the sun coming up early and streaming into the room. So we decided to instal a blind behind the curtains.

This proved to be a longer job than anticipated. We measured the windows and bought a 160cm wide blind at Mr Bricolage, a local DIY store, only to find that 160cm referred to the entire width, including fixings, and the blind itself was only 156cm wide. So we returned that and came away with a 180cm wide blind. Richard installed that under the curtain rail.... only to discover that the door (which is a very high one) would not open.

To his relief, the gap between the ends of the curtain rail had just enough room for the blind, so finally it was in place:

We had moved the cot out of the room, not wanting dust from the wall to fall on it, but still had to do considerable sweeping and mopping afterwards. However, it's well worth it, and the room now stays cooler and darker when the blind is down.

A week or two earlier, we started looking for car seats for David. Esther's is part of her pram/buggy, and we knew that was coming with the family, but they couldn't bring David's. We had the option to borrow one but it was quite old, and not necessarily up to modern safety standards. It didn't have a cover, either. Had they just been coming for a month, we might have opted for that, but with a three-month stay, we thought a new (or, at least, reasonably new) one would be a good idea.

There were none at the Thrift Store. We looked in Jumbo, and they didn't have anything suitable. We went to New Baby City, and were shocked at the prices of suitable seats. Of course one can't put a price on the safety of a child, but several hundred euros seemed extortionate, particularly when the same or similar seats were under fifty pounds on Amazon UK.  Unfortunately, Amazon won't deliver anything as big as a car seat to Cyprus.

However, we then went to Mothercare - similar the UK one - a shop we had always thought of as expensive. But they were selling car seats suitable for a child from two to twelve, exactly what we were looking for, at similar prices to Amazon.  Richard checked online reviews, and we eventually chose this one:

We also looked for a dining chair booster seat for David, since Esther will be using our high chair. We found one at Mothercare.... only to discover, on getting home, that it's only for children up to 12kg. So that had to be returned. They didn't have anything suitable for a child of around 20kg - so in the end we borrowed a car booster seat from our local friends, which works well:

Richard bought some webbing straps to attach it to a chair, and since it's for older children it's quite sturdy.

We also bought a couple of baskets for toys to keep in the living room, and yesterday afternoon I found the things which we'd been storing since their last visit, and a few new items, and put them out:

The family had been visiting relatives around the country before coming to Cyprus, and reported that David had been a bit feverish, and not eating. However, he was getting better by the time they flew, and their flight arrived in good time (fifteen minutes early, despite leaving late).

We both went to the airport, and our friend Sheila also arrived with a car to take the luggage - they brought three large suitcases as well as the buggy and lots of hand luggage - and also to take me back, as only five people can fit in our car.  She arrived at the airport just before the family came through the barrier, with all their luggage.

What could possibly go wrong...??

Sheila and I set off with the luggage in the back of the car, while the family went with Richard (who had parked in the car park) so we assumed we would arrive back home five or ten minutes before they did.

Unfortunately, about a third of the way back, her car ran out of petrol. It had been a busy day for Sheila, and somehow nobody had thought to fill up the car.... so, after coasting several hundred metres on petrol fumes, we drew to a halt.

She put on the flashing hazard lights and tried to call the roadside assistance company... only to discover that the insurance documents with policy details were not in the car, so she had no number or information.

Meanwhile cars were shooting along the dual carriageway, some of them much faster than they should have been, swerving to avoid the car, and, in many cases, hooting.  I suggested putting the bonnet up, even though we knew exactly what the problem was, so that passing cars would realise we'd broken down rather than just stopping to admire the view over the Salt Lake:

Sheila was able to phone her son Jacob who agreed to go and buy some petrol and a canister, and cycle out with it to the car. So we waited.

Jacob arrived perhaps twenty minutes later:

He put a few litres of petrol into the car....

...but it wouldn't start.  It appeared that the battery had gone flat after the lights had been on for so long.

We'd been in touch with Richard, of course, who by that time was home with the family. So he said he'd come back with our van, which is equipped with a tow-bar.

Fifteen minutes later he arrived, then he and Jacob spent some time trying to find a place to attach the rope to the car.  They eventually found a place that required a special kind of eye, which we didn't have.

So after much discussion, we transferred the luggage to the van, and Richard took me and Sheila's youngest daughter (who had been in the car) back to our house, while Jacob cycled across town to buy the necessary gadget to enable the car to be towed. Richard had agreed to take Jacob in the van so they could tow the car back.

Sheila waited with the car.  Then a friendly stranger stopped and managed to use his jump leads to start the car again. She didn't want to stop at that stage to phone, in case the car stalled... so she drove straight home, and then phoned Richard. It was too late to stop him and Jacob travelling back in the van. But towing would have been a long and slow process, so they turned around and came home again.

We eventually ate our evening meal a little after 7.30, and Richard arrived back just in time.  So the whole frustrating experience had been under two hours.  Sheila said it's the first time in thirty years of driving that she's run out of petrol - and she hopes she won't do so again for at least another thirty years.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Twenty more books read

Early in March I wrote a post about the first twenty books I'd finished reading in 2017.  A few days ago, I reached my 40th book, a couple ahead of schedule.

So, the next twenty books, with links to my book reviews blog for anyone who might have an interest in knowing more about what I thought about them.

Christian books
The first one I finished was a Kindle book: Beth Moore's devotional study 'To Live is Christ'. It's a series of studies on the life of the apostle Paul. I started reading this in January, and found it worked well to read a chapter (or part of a chapter) each day.

books by Brian McLaren, John Ortberg, Rob Bell and Michael Harper'The Secret Message of Jesus' by Brian McLaren is written in his usual thought-provoking yet very readable style. I thought it contained a lot of good sense, although I found it rather strange that he kept saying that the message of the Kingdom of God was a secret.

For contrast, I next picked up a much older book that was nestling in our bookshelves, 'Spiritual Warfare', by Michael Harper. An interesting author who was an Anglican minister but converted to Orthodoxy later in life. Terse writing on a subject that's often ignored.

Next I decided to re-read one of my favourites: 'The life you've always wanted' by John Ortberg. Very well written, with anecdotes and some humour, and also some immensely helpful points.  I should probably re-read this more often than once every ten years or so.

By this stage I'd had a birthday, when I was given several new books so I embarked on 'How to be here' by Rob Bell. His slightly odd style of writing has grown on me over the last few years, and I found this thought-provoking and encouraging. It was exactly what I needed to read.

Writing Books
Two writing books: Michael Legat's non-fiction books, and Dorothea Brand's Becoming a Writer
I completed two more of these, the classic, 'Becoming a Writer', by Dorothea Brande, and Michael Legat's 'Non-fiction books'.  The latter is about 25 years old, and Dorothea Brande's book, to my surprise, over eighty years old! I bought it online, second-hand, after reading recommendations for it in several places.

Inevitably both books were very dated in the information about typing, editing, presenting documents to publishers and so on. Even 25 years ago computers in the home were rare, and email almost unknown. However, whereas the topic covered a significant part of Michael Legat's book, it was only a tiny part of Brande's, which is one of the most inspiring and helpful writing books I have ever read.

Children's Books
Brent-Dyer Chalet School Triplets, Noel Streatfeild Primrose Lane, Goudge Linnets and Valerians
I included teenage/older children's books with the novels section in my earlier post, but this time there were three I read that were clearly intended for children.

'Linnets and Valerians' by Elizabeth Goudge is a book I liked as a child, and have read at least two or three times over the years. I last read it eighteen years ago, and spent quite a bit of time searching for my copy, in vain. Eventually I went ahead and ordered a second-hand and inexpensive paperback online, and thoroughly enjoyed re-reading it.

'The Chalet School Triplets' by Elinor M Brent-Dyer is one of the later books in the lengthy series, one which I'd almost entirely forgotten. It was about incidents in the lives of the Maynard triplets, Len, Con and Margot, and although I only have the paperback version, I don't think much has been removed.

'The Children of Primrose Lane' is by Noel Streatfeild, one of my favourite children's writers. Many of her books are about extremely talented dancers or musicians, but this one is an exciting adventure story set in the 1940s, involving six fairly ordinary children. Unfortunately no longer in print.

book covers of nine novels
I read nine novels in this period - or eleven, depending on how they're counted!

'Ultimate Prizes' by Susan Howatch is the third in her thought-provoking and often shocking series about the Church of England in the mid-20th century. As with the previous time I re-read it, I hadn't recalled it with much enjoyment, yet found it unputdownable towards the end. Best read after the first two in the series.

Next I decided to read 'Don't Let me Go' by Catherine Hyde Ryan. This was a gift for my birthday a year earlier, which somehow I had not yet read - and I enjoyed it very much. All based around an eclectic mixture of people living in a block of flats, helping a neglected but very likeable ten-year-old girl.

After two novels of such high drama, pulling on the heartstrings and making me think, I decided to indulge myself in some classic Jeeves and Wooster. I hadn't read 'The Jeeves Omnibus 2' (by PG Wodehouse) for a long time. And here's where I don't know whether to count this as one or three; it's one volume, but three individual Wodehouse books: 'Right-Ho Jeeves', 'Joy in the Morning', and a collection of short stories, 'Carry On, Jeeves'. I thought it might be a bit much reading three Wodehouse books in a row, but it wasn't a problem at all. Wonderful writing, great humour, and no political correctness at all.

I try to vary the style of novel I read, so next I chose 'The Good, the Bad and the Dumped' by Jenny Colgan. I bought this a while ago at a thrift store. Colgan writes very light fiction, in the genre sometimes known as 'chick-lit', but I like her style. This one is a rather odd plot, where a newly engaged girl explores her past by visiting all her ex-boyfriends. Pleasant enough holiday reading.

Next I read 'Light a Penny Candle' by Maeve Binchy. This is one of her earlier novels, which I hadn't read since the year 2000. It's very well written, with lovely pictures painted of life growing up in rural Ireland during the second world war, contrasted, later with life for young adults in London. But the ending was, in my view, very depressing.

'Running Wild' by Victoria Clayton is another character-based novel, based in the 1960s. Most of this author's novels are out of print, and I found this second hand. It's a delightful story about a young woman running away to Dorset after deciding that she has to cancel her wedding. Beautifully written, on the whole, with the author's usual sprinkling of literary references.

I've been trying to vary the authors I read, but didn't succeed in another twenty different authors for this period. I embarked on 'Chasing Windmills' by Catherine Hyde Ryan, a recent birthday gift, having temporarily forgotten that I read another of her books only a few weeks earlier. This one is very different, featuring two lonely and stressed young people who meet by chance on the New York subway.

As a deliberate contrast, I followed this with 'Death in the Stocks' by Georgette Heyer, While I like Heyer's historical romance books best, I have enjoyed most of her mid-20th century detective ones too. This is, in my view, one of the better ones plot-wise, although her characterisation is always excellent. I did guess 'whodunit' before the end, but it wasn't obvious until quite a way through.

The last novel I read in this set of twenty books is 'A Song for Tomorrow', by Alice Peterson. This, as I discovered while reading it, is a fictionalised biography of Alice Martineau, a young woman who fought against the odds to become a singer with cystic fibrosis. Very moving in places.

And finally... I read just one 'miscellaneous' book that doesn't fit into any of the above categories. This one, 'Survival Games Personalities Play' by Eve Delunas' looks at the subconscious strategies used by people of different temperaments when stressed. It includes an overview of the Keirsey temperament system, and made very interesting reading.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Summer in Cyprus. Approaching yet again.

Once again, the inevitable is happening. A chillier-than-usual winter in Cyprus gave way to a pleasant spring. I very much like March and April here. The sun shines, but it's still cool overnight. I have the energy to get things done, and the landscape is green with a wide variety of wild flowers, and cultivated ones too for those who go to the trouble of growing them in their front gardens.

It's been a pleasant 20-23 C in the daytime for much of the past few weeks. Now, as April draws to a close, the predictions are for hotter weather ahead. Here's what the Weather Channel site is showing for the next couple of weeks:

Screenshot showing weather forecast for Cyprus, May 2017 first two weeks

Yesterday, for the first time since about November, I spent most of the day without any sweatshirt or jacket of any kind. We went into town for various errands, and I found it was too hot in the sun, though still pleasant in the shade. Last night we ran our bedroom ceiling fan. It was only on the slowest speed, and we're still using a duvet... but the air felt still, and my face was too warm without the fan.

Today we realised that we haven't used our warm jackets for a week or two, and are unlikely to do so for the next few months. This is what our coat rack looked like:

jackets and scarves, necessary for winter in Cyprus

Two scarves, and about five warm fleeces and coats. I removed them all, and put most of the jackets in the washing machine.  A few hours on the line and they were dry, so they're now hung up in our landing closet upstairs. I took the opportunity to put more of my winter clothes there, and extract my shorts... which I expect I'll start wearing soon, if the forecasts are correct.

I found my sandals, too, looking rather grubby, so washed them as well, in preparation for needing them all too soon.

Then I collected our surprisingly large collection of sun hats and put them on the now empty coat rack:

a selection of our sunhats and caps for summer in Cyprus

If Murphy's law holds, now I've made these preparations for Summer, we could be due for some unexpected and extra chilly weather meaning I need to get the jackets out again.  I won't mind in the least if that happens, but it's unlikely in May.

In the next few weeks I shall wash all our curtains, and we'll clean the air conditioners which we try to avoid using until at least June.  We'll switch to our very light-weight duvet, too, and then - probably only a couple of weeks later - just a duvet cover or flat sheet to cover us at night.

In other unexciting but typically Cyprus fashion, we went to Lidl just over a week ago. The shop has grown on us since our first unimpressed visit several years ago when it was new to the island.

This time,  I wanted to get some of their cat litter, which is about half the price of our usual brand and seems to work just as well. I also wanted a 2-litre bottle of olive oil, as our current one was running low, and theirs is usually the best value.  We didn't even look at the weekly brochure telling us what the special offers were, because we were only going in for these two items...

This is what we ended up with (plus two bags of cat litter) :

an eclectic mixture of produce and other items bought from Lidl in Cyprus

When we arrived, we remembered that our digital kitchen scales had recently gone faulty.  They were consistently weighing everything at about 75% of its correct weight, which was irritating and I didn't always think about the adjustment.  Happily, Lidl were offering good value kitchen scales with a bowl.

Then we saw a digital medical thermometer. I'd had what was probably a sinus infection the week before, and one day felt very shivery. We realised we had no thermometer, so no way of knowing if I was running a fever. Not that it mattered much, but at 2.99 euro it seemed like a good idea to have one.

Richard needed new crocs/clogs for casual use when sailing. We know the controversies about them, and that they're a bad idea for anything other than use on the beach or as slippers in the house, but he found just ONE pair in his size, in a colour he liked. So those were added to the basket. Along with our usual Lidl dark chocolate, and a new fresh basil plant, and a couple of jars of honey, and a couple or rolls of duct tape... and some seeded bread rolls for lunch.

A nicely eclectic mixture, not atypical for our Lidl visits. We still can't find most things we want there, and their fruit/veg are over-priced (in our view) but their special offers are often very good.