River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Letter from Cyprus

August 2005

Tom tells of the joys of having ah ouse built in Cyprus

Letter from Cyprus

We had a meeting with our architect and our builder to finalise the last few jobs that require completion before we can move in. The word this morning is that we should be able to move in on 20 July - this year! This is brilliant news, as most of Cyprus closes down for the whole of August and we'd have had to wait until September if we couldn't move in by the end of July.

One of the current problems in completing the job, concerns a pair of house martins that have built a hanging nest on the light cable dangling down from the inside the roof of one of covered patios. I informed George, our builder, that we did not want the nest disturbed before the young had left of their own volition. George is a lovely man and an excellent builder, but I could almost see his eyes light up at this instruction. Here was a heaven sent excuse for stretching the job out a bit longer. He said that the electrical inspector would not pass the building with a bare wire hanging down, but his jubilation died when I informed him that the nestlings were almost ready to fly and they would certainly be gone within the next week. However, Cypriot builders are nothing if not inventive, so watch for news of further delays in the next Letter from Cyprus.

Earlier this month, we went on holiday to Portugal to spend some time with our grandchildren. We had a wonderful time - I wish we could afford it. While there, we took a train from down in the eastern Algarve area to Lisbon and we were amazed at the superb rail system and the very reasonable price of travel by rail. Portugal was reputedly the poorest country in the "old EU" but their rail system belies that unenviable tag. Our rail trip lasted almost 3 hours with the nearly silent train travelling at well over 200 km/hour for a good part of the journey. The train was exceptionally comfortable and the staff that came through the carriages with trolleys of drinks and food were polite, cheerful and looked genuinely happy to be of service. We had reserved seats in a first class carriage and the cost of the return journey was around £20 each. A far cry from our experience on the trains we've used in the UK.

Our experiences when driving are also memorable for a totally different reason. We stayed in a hotel about 20 miles from our grandchildren and their parents and on most days, we would drive over to collect the children and spend the whole day with them.

On one of those occasions, on the way to their home, we were caught in a fairly long queue of traffic at some traffic lights, when, suddenly, a man appeared from nowhere and squirted a jet of soapy fluid onto my windscreen from a squeezy bottle. I tried to wave him away, calling through my side window that my windscreen was already clean, but with 2 deft sweeps of a small window wiper he had finished his self imposed task and held his hand out for a reward. It was all over in about 5 seconds - really! We were caught totally by surprise at the speed of the whole operation and I was reluctant to reward such blatant extortion, but then he pulled up his t-shirt to expose a large scar running from the front bottom of his rib cage to above and behind his kidneys. We both burst out laughing at his cheek and I paid him with some change from my pocket. Then Vicky and I watched as he sprang towards the car behind us.

The driver behind us was gesticulating furiously, trying to discourage the lightning-fast windscreen washing entrepreneur. Again, the job was completed within a few seconds and the T-shirt raised before the outstretched hand indicated that payment was expected. The driver appeared to be ranting at being put in this position, but his female passenger was cracked up and was shaking with laughter. Sullenly, the driver handed over some money and then gripped his steering wheel and glared fixedly in front of him while his passenger turned around in her seat and joined us in watching this highly entertaining modern version of highway robbery. However, before the next victim could be driven by conscience to shell out money for the unnecessary cleaning of his windscreen, the lights changed and we all drove off. We were almost sorry to be continuing our journey, but the memory of it all kept us amused for several hours. Even now, I can't resist a grin as I'm typing this.

While in Portugal, I took advantage of the golf professional in the hotel to renew my acquaintance with golf. I haven't played for several years and wanted some expert advice to help me get started again. After an hour or so with video cameras recording my every movement, the pro gave me some tips on how to regain whatever fluency I may once have had and so, on return to Cyprus, I took my clubs down to one of the rugby pitches in Happy Valley to try out my new skills. I think I must have improved because I missed the ball much closer than I used to. Later, on the course, I just missed a hole-in-one, by only 4 shots.

Cyprus has thousands of Sri Lankan and Philippine ladies who come here to find work. Many of them take up poorly paid cleaning work and send most of their meagre wages back home to pay for food and clothes for their families. In many cases, their men folk deserted them or went away to find work and never came back, leaving them as breadwinners for their impoverished families. We employ one for one day every week and she is a treasure and this has relevance to the following:

Our next door neighbours are being posted back to the UK at the beginning of August and are delighted that Nick's new job is in a no-deployment post because they have never had more than a few months together since they got married. When they were posted to Cyprus, Nick had just returned from deployment in Afghanistan and as he and his wife had 3 small children (an 18 months old daughter and 4 months old twin boys) they were allowed to fly out together. However, 6 days after their arrival, Nick was sent to Iraq for what was to be the first of his 2 deployments to that war ravaged country. A month later his regiment returned to Cyprus, but for Nick it was a short lived respite; he was sent to the UK on a course for 3 weeks. On his return, he managed to get almost 6 weeks with his family before being sent to Kuwait for a month, followed a few weeks later by a second stint in Iraq. In the meantime, Gill, his wife, was struggling, like most of the other wives in the battalion, with the heat, looking after the children, housework, shopping, and the 101 other things that wives and mothers have to do when their men are away. This started us thinking. So, during one of our conversations with her, we suggested that she employ one of the cleaning women, to help her. She liked the idea and within days she had found one to her liking.

Her life changed almost overnight. Now she had time to take the eldest child to the swimming pool while Hansi, her house lady, looked after the twins, cleaning, cooking and shopping. This happy arrangement continued when Nick returned and so indispensable has Hansi become, that they have arranged to take her with them when they return to England. It's like a dream come true for Hansi and she can hardly contain her excitement. She has the biggest grin every time we see her and always questions us on various aspects of life in England.

This little tale is similar to that of another lady who went to work for a teacher whose wife had an affair a couple of years ago and ran away leaving him with 2 young boys to care for. After a few months, we could see the change in the family. The boys were always smartly dressed, the garden was much tidier and the husband appeared to be taking better care of himself and looked as if he was beginning to enjoy life again. About a year passed and then the lady's daughter arrived from Sri Lanka to stay with the family. The story has a fairy tale ending, because shortly after that, the couple got married and they and the 3 children are all part of one happy family.

Tom Darling

This epistle is from an old RAF colleague who has settled in Cyprus after taking retirement from the MoD. I was so taken by his letter that I thought I wouls share it with Pump readers, Editor

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