Friday, February 27, 2009


I woke up yesterday (Thursday) morning realising that I am flying to England on Tuesday, Monday is a holiday, and my passport has expired. So I got Leo off to school – the Big Ones have half-term this weekend and Zenon was not feeling well – and called Sil (my Sister In Law) at work at eight. “No problem!” She works in the District Office, and if anyone could help me, she could. “Come in when you can!” Oh, it's good to have family in the right places!

My friend Angela needed me to help her move some boxes to her new apartment today, and I had agreed to be there by nine, so at 8.30 I left the house and drove the Land Rover townward, toward a black and roiling sky that was developing a bilious green tinge. Zenon stayed in front of the t.v., and the Big Ones had not yet surfaced. No one else was heading into town. The road was eerily empty – except for the occasional oncoming driver, invariably with headlights on.

At Angela's we loaded the van but decided to leave the trip until later – unloading cardboard boxes and schlepping them up an outside staircase in a downpour is no one's idea of fun. I got to Evzonas Photography for passport photos just as the first drops fell, and fifteen minutes later when I walked out again, the rain was still holding off, though the sky was very dark overhead and lightning flashed ominously. I called Zenon to tell him that there would be a storm, that it would be bad, and that he might lose electricity. “If you get scared,” I told him. “Wake the Big Ones. And if you really need help, Papoose and Yiayia are at home.” He wasn't bothered. Harry Potter has to deal with lightning, too.

I raced across town to the District Office, and of course couldn't find parking within 500 metres.

Sil works in the Old District Office – as opposed to the New Monstrosity next to the Courts. Her building dates from the Colonial Era – massive stone plastered white, with dark green wooden shutters, high ceilings, and graceful pointed Cypriot arches. I found her in a cubicle “Hey, you've been promoted! Got an office to yourself...” the last time I'd been in she was sitting behind a long desk with several colleagues. “Don't let it fool you, it's the same old stuff!” said she, handing me forms for a new passport and an i.d card. I started to fill them out, alternating between the Greek and the Turkish to figure out what information to put in which boxes. Then she took them from me and filled them in speedy Greek. Thank goodness! I can write Greek, but my letters look like a second grader's, and I get confused with the two O's and the five E's, so my writing tends to be a lengthy process.

She grabbed an umbrella. “Ela! Come on!” and off we went, through the labyrinth of corridors and courtyards, dodging the splashing down spouts, and into the cashier's room.

There ensued a lengthy conversation about the rain – no one's complaining, despite the massive inconvenience that twelve days of wet weather causes in a fundamentally arid land. We're all so pleased to see the water, that I've yet to hear any gripes, except about the road works. But that's another story. Then there was a long debate as to whether my Greek surname on my new documents should be spelled with a C in English to match the rest of the family's, or a K to conform to the EU rules about phonetic spelling in Greek. I would have chosen a C (my current passport spells it with a K) like Best Beloved's, but our air tickets had already been issued and the spelling was with a K. “You can change again in ten years time when you apply for a new passport!” Sil said. “For now, you'll have to be the only one of us to use a K.”

Then off to another office where the Lady in Charge told us that the documents would be ready on Tuesday. “But she travels on Tuesday and Monday's a holiday. Why not do them today?” Sil asked. We left with a muttered promise of tomorrow before lunch, and fortunately met a friend of Sil's who works in the same office on the way out. “By this afternoon, and you can take them with you after work,” he promised. Sil said she'd deliver them this evening when she goes home. Phew!

She splashed off to another office, and I headed through the gathering rain to the Land Rover. I had just reached it when the hail began.

The hill down to the post office was, literally, a river. Then I had to thread my way through the canyons of the Kato Paphos road works, at time sinking past the hubcaps in muddy water, profoundly glad that I was not in the white Toyota. How the Boy Racers manage with their low-clearance sportsters and expensive body-kits, I have no idea.

Yerouskippou, the last village before Paphos proper when you're coming from Limassol, has been enduring road works as it's central artery and village square are being renovated for well over a year. A couple of hundred metres are done at a time, necessitating long detours through narrow residential streets to left and right, and massive inconvenience to shopkeepers and residents within the stricken zone. The final stretch is undergoing treatment at the moment, and the roads that have been chosen to host the diversion are suffering badly from the rain and the heavy lorries. Only one lane is passable at a time, sometimes only on the footpath. Each time the trenches are filled in with sand, torrential rain scours them again, and the gutters are full of fist-sized rocks that have washed down from the banks and hillsides.

Inevitably people try and circumvent the detours and cut the wrong way down the one way stretches causing back ups, horn blowing, and raised and gesticulating fingers. This is where I like the Land Rover. It's bigger than almost anything else on the road – except the two Hummers in town – and when impatient young bucks rev their souped-up engines and try to intimidate me, I can occupy my rightful place on the road, smile serenely, and wait while they reverse. We did that twice on the way home.

As I was writing this yesterday evening, I heard a knocking on the window behind, and saw Sil, backlit by the glare of her headlights. “All done!” she said. “Have a good trip.” She dodged through the still-falling rain drops back to her car and I turned to Best Beloved. “Sunny in London, is it?”

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