Letter from Cyprus
An exciting review from our Cyprus correspondent.
This summer seems to be lasting forever. Cyprus has been very, very hot for the past couple of months and we're looking forward to the temperatures starting to drop as we move into autumn.
Apart from the uncomfortably hot weather, Cyprus is worryingly short of water and the government is once again looking at the options to supplement the dams and reservoirs that are now at their lowest levels for many years. Ministers have been lining up to exhort the populace to save water, which is a bit rich when one recalls that these are the same people who cancelled work on the desalination plants after the last drought in 2003 when heavy rains came that winter. However, since then, the annual winter rainfall has progressively decreased and the government is now considering the way water is being used on the island, particularly by farmers who persist in spraying their crops during the day when most of the water evaporation takes place.
This summer, Cyprus has experienced 2 massive fires that have caused enormous damage to the forests in the foothills of Troodos. The first took place when Vicky and I were on holiday in Australia and New Zealand. The fire was only 2 or 3 miles from our home and our friends from Germany, who were looking after our house, dog and cat were terrified that our house would be destroyed during our absence. In the event, we were spared that catastrophe, but hundreds of thousands of acres of forest have been reduced to black, skeletal trees, silhouetted eerily against ash covered earth, devoid of any undergrowth.
This morning, we went for a walk in what was a huge forest when we left in June, but is now just a vast burnt-out landscape with scorched, skeletal tree trunks as far as the eye can see. The fire destroyed several square miles of forest before the fire and rescue services managed to control it. However, during our walk with Hugo, we spotted the first signs of nature reasserting itself among the ravaged trees; small patches of green shrubbery and leaves have begun peeping out through the ashes on the forest floor. I've attached a photograph of the burnt forest to illustrate more clearly the devastation wrought by the fire. The most frustrating thing about these fires is the fact that many Cypriots don't seem to be aware that their actions can start a conflagration that threatens the lives and livelihood of thousands of their neighbours. Even after this latest devastating fire, we still see lit cigarette ends being flicked out of car windows and farmers burning stubble in their fields when all vegetation is tinder dry by the sun. Recently, when we drew up to a petrol station in Limassol to fill our car we saw the attendant at another pump smoking while filling someone's car - honest!. I hardly need to say that we filled up elsewhere.
After our German friends returned home, we had only 2 days before our grand children arrived and real chaos began. We had forgotten how tiring 2 youngsters can be, but we had a great time with them and are missing them already. They spent hours in the swimming pool most days and thoroughly enjoyed it, partly because we hid the evidence from them of another visitor to the pool (see the attached photograph). Vicky found the snake swimming around in the pool when she went for a quiet dip one afternoon. She didn't notice it at first, then thought it was a branch of a tree and went to remove it. She believes that she broke the Olympic record for the back stroke when she realized what she was about to pick up. In the event, we removed our unexpected visitor with a net and released it into the bondhu before the children saw it. We now check for any uninvited guests before we enter the water!
That brings me back to the present. Perhaps its time for a dip; Hugo's already tested the water for me and has checked for snakes and the like. He's dropped his ball at the edge of the pool and is standing looking at me to encourage me join him in the water. Ah, well, I guess he's right, live for the moment and enjoy life seems to me to be an eminently sensible viewpoint in this weather, so I'll just finish here and splash about with him for a while.
Take care of each other and enjoy your lives.