Saturday, March 31, 2012

School Sports Day

Throughout last summer and into the autumn contractors and workers laboured mightily on the other side of the valley to finish the stadium that would transform the dusty gravel pitch where generations of Koukliots had played football into a sports centre. They finished some time in the winter and now the school, the local kids, and the village football team all benefit from a properly built futsal pitch and a grass football field complete with canteen, toilets, and changing rooms.

On Friday the Littles' school hosted Trimithousa and Anarita primary schools for a combined athletic event. We were blessed with sunshine and a pleasant breeze, and the gathering began at just after nine a.m with some Greek dancing that segued into track events which included the 4th through 6th graders competing in high jump, long jump, 75 metres running, hurdles, shot put and javelin with light balls and foam javelins. It was Leo's first chance to compete – usually the younger grades have to sit and watch, which doesn't go down well.

Both finished the day around the middle levels in terms of times and throws – my children, with the exception of Alex who held his high school record for javelin for a while, excell at sports other than track and field – but but they enjoyed themselves and got to see old friends from Trimithousa school.

The venue was a huge improvement over the asphalt and gravel where competitors and spectators baked alike in previous years, and which has been responsible for many a scraped elbow and skinned knee in the past. Of course it will have to be watered over the summer to maintain its lush, verdant appearance, and is probably liberally dosed with pesticide, fungicide, and all sorts of other goodies to keep it 'healthy'...

 ...But that's another rave for another time.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday walk: Along the River to the Sea

For weeks, I have wanted to walk our river to the sea. Best Beloved and I planned it as a family outing last week but it didn't happen: this Sunday, nothing stood in my way. At just after eleven, Sophia and I loaded the two dogs and the Littles into the Land Rover and set out for the other side of the bridge.

The water level has fallen a lot since the dam overflowed two months ago, and soon only a chain of muddy pools will lead from spillway to the sea. Then those will parch under the summer sun, and the river will be just a memory for the next decade or so.

We couldn't follow the water. Mud, impenetrable thickets of weeds, and bulldozered channels and rises stood in our way, but we picked our way along a track under the motorway bridge until we found a clutch of bee hives tended by their white-suited keepers, then around the edge of a potato field, through a barnyard, deserted but for a couple of chained dogs, along an asphalt road bordered by olive and citrus groves and to an area of greenhouses where Vietnamese workers in conical hats picked peppers.

 Fly-tipped rubbish and river refuse blighted what would otherwise have been a beautiful walk, but flowers made everything bright, and the dogs dashed in and out of the fields searching for mud puddles and sniffing the exciting smells of spring countryside. Frogs serenaded us from the water below, and I wished that we could have found a way down so that I could have initiated my children into the delights of raising tadpoles.

After a burned out car and a wrecked BMW with a sloughed snakeskin on the driver's seat, the asphalt became a track that led us past other fields, the river on our left, to the sea. Neither dog had been to the beach before, and Sophia conned Lucky into swimming by tossing a rock into the waves. Once bitten, twice shy – she refused to go in again. Sputnik tried drinking it, but gave that up as a bad job with a dismayed expression on his face.

Despite not feeling well, Zenon enjoyed the walk. Normally he would have thrown himself into the spirit of our quest for a path to the sea, ranging on each side as a scout, hunting Orcs or other creatures, but a lingering cold made him more subdued. But “Can we do this again next week, Mum?” he asked as we reached the Land Rover on the way back. “I've had a really good time!”  Leo was more inclined to be negative, but I have the feeling that if I suggest another walk next Sunday, he will jump at the chance.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Little White Donkey Distillery

I mentioned quite a while ago that we were in the midst of a citrus glut, and that the price of labour meant that it was not cost effective for Auntie Maroulla and Cousin Despo to pick their mandora crop. I'm less sure that I mentioned that Best Beloved has acquired an interest in distilling, and to that end, after extensive research into local and foreign options, ordered a stainless steel still from China. Marry the two threads: surplus citrus and a brand new still, and... Hey Presto! Little White Donkey Distillery is born.

BB and Leo went fruit picking this morning, then we cut the mandoras and put them into stainless steel tanks to begin fermentation.

Watch this space for updates... Never a dull moment!  Anyone remember this scene from The Great Escape?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Zenon Takes to the Water

Zenon has joined the Paphos Nautical Club and started rowing (sculling? kayaking?) on Asprokremnos Dam.

He came home from school a few weeks ago and announced that he's like to try, so I arranged a swim test for him with the team instructor.  He plopped into the Yerouskippou pool one chilly evening shortly afterwards, swam one hundred and fifty metres without a murmur, and duly pushed us to take him to sign up.

It's early days yet, but he seems to love it: Paphos has an active water sports club and there are a few members of his age, several older teens – including the Cyprus champion – and some adults including one of Best Beloved's cousins. We go twice a week for now, Wednesday afternoons and Sunday mornings, and he comes home glowing, as much from the sense of achievement separate and totally different from what anyone else in the house does as from the physical work-out (rigourous stretching before and after plus six or seven kilometers of rowing).  He also loves the different perspective that being on the water gives.

For the moment he's learning the basics in the four-man shell. By the summer he should be in the double or the single ones, and if he wants by then, he can go every day. I don't know the first thing about rowing, but am supporting him all the way: he desperately needs something to feel good about that is his alone, and I'm thrilled that it's something that happens outside in the fresh air that will be good for his mind, body, and soul rather than something academic or technological that keeps him indoors.

Leo is desperate to join in, too but we are holding him back at the moment. He gets a turn on the rowing machine when we drop off or collect Zenon, and the team coach, former Soviet Olympic rower Mr Vladimir is keen to sign him up, too. Although even he admits that Leo's a little on the small side for now.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

'Light' for the Gallery

This week the Gallery's theme was 'Light'.  Please follow the link to see how other's handled the theme.


Zenon goes once a week to play with clay in Nino's pottery workshop in Yerouskippou. Ninos has a wonderful space: part shop, part studio, part coffeehouse where anyone is welcome and discussion touches topics from art to zoology, embracing gardening, politics, and society on the way.

In the winter afternoons the late sun lances through the windows and open door, warming, caressing, pinpointing, highlighting.

A Visit to the Vet

After his week's elope with the Siberian beauty, Sputnik returned home thinner, dirty, and scarred. He had been staying at Cuz's Supermarket at the end of the road, but although we had tried several times to bring him back, he always found a way to return to his lady, the Ice Queen – so we let them be in their love nest between the gas bottles and the water tanks.

The Acolyte's blood had come off, but he still had some oil stains on his coat. “You should see the back of the supermarket,” Sophia said. “It's disgusting. No wonder he's filthy!” He had a bare patch on his hip, his ears had been bitten, and he had a cough.

“Dissolute living!” I told him as I poured his breakfast kibble. “There's always a price.”

But when Sophia noticed a trail of bright red blood under his tail after yesterday's walk, I decided that the time had come to visit the vet.

“Which vet do you use?” is a constant topic among Paphos pet owners. After much trial and error, I have cast my lot with Paphiakos who also run the largest animal welfare in the district. They are open 0700-1900 every day of the year (although clinic hours are shorter), have bi-lingual staff, clean premises, a tea-room, and plenty of love to go around. Also, their prices are well within the reasonable range.

We arrived at 8.40 and spent the twenty minute wait in the tea room with two enormous cats, two nescafes, and thick slices of banana nut loaf. Overwhelmed by his ride in the back of the Land Rover (“Mum, do you think that Sputnik hates cars so much because he associates them with having been abandoned on the road, probably from a car, and he thinks that we're taking him somewhere to dump him?”), Sputnik didn't know what to do with himself: he had to smell everything at once, to see everything, to investigate the cats, the cake, the outdoors.

The vet gave him a thorough examination, and pronounced him 'healthy, but a bit run down' when we told her of his escapades. “He's been very stressed, very excited,” she said. “He didn't eat well while he was away, and his immune system suffered.” (Why does that remind me of another adolescent male that I know?) “That's why he has an overgrowth of skin parasites that are normally present but controlled.”

“I don't want to put him on anti-biotics for his cough,” she continued, as his lungs are clear of fluid. “But if you notice that it gets worse, that he stops eating, or see more blood, bring him in again.” She gave me a worming tablet for him, and instructions for a thorough bath.

On the trip back he looked out of the window with interest rather than angst, and sprawled on the floor of the back while I nipped into Carrefour to see if I could find any gloves for the Littles (I did – the last two pairs of a size that will fit). When we got home, Sophia bathed him – to his disgust – and he's now sleeping in the sunshine.

The bill – for half an hour appointment with a full examination, two diagnostic tests (fungus and parasites), and a worm pill? Forty-six Euros. Seemed reasonable to me.

Baffled in Paphos

Spring is here, but the effects of the coldest, wettest winter in a decade are all around. More than two metres of snow crown the summit of Olympus, and the rivers are still rushing under the bridges to the sea. The thermometer stands at about four degrees Celcius when I take the kids to the bus in the mornings. The day after tomorrow, the Littles go on a school trip to the snow: a morning's play or ski lesson on the slopes, lunch in Platres, bus back to school.

Realising that over the last few warm winters, they have managed to lose all their gloves, I set out yesterday afternoon during my enforced 'town time' (while Leo is at tennis and Zenon does TaeKawnDo) to find them each a pair of gloves suitable for playing in the snow.

Sports Direct only had gym gloves. Natiotis only had acrylic knitted things. Ditto for both Dominates. Please note that these are all sports shops with a dizzying array of gear for all keep-fit activities in a range of eye-watering colours. Jackets, caps, and scarfs – yes: but fashionable kind only.

OK, so, time running short, I hit Debenhams: “Snow gloves?” the immaculate Russian attendent said, with furrowed brow. “We had some, but they were on special offer and have all been sold...” She pointed to the rack where a couple of bobble hats and some soggy fleece mittens languished amid board shorts and tank tops decorated with surf logos, and I wonder why, now, with the roads still often closed to all but four-wheel-drive vehicles with chains. I can buy flip-flops, sarongs, sun-hats, and any model of bathing suit my heart desires, but nothing remotely suitable for the conditions an hour up the road. Same-same happened at Next. “Things for the snow? Not any more!”

So today, after taking the dog to the vet, I'll hit Carrefour in the hope that the French giant will have some Continental cop-on. Orphanides and Papantoniou are out of the question: they're too busy preparing for summer.

This situation reminds me of when a couple of years ago in early August I went looking for fins, masks, and snorkels in preparation for the big August holidays after the middle of the month. Could I find them? The shelves that the week before had held beach toys galore were loaded with school supplies and backpacks – a good six weeks in advance of the First Day of Term.

Nothing like living in the present, eh?

Once again, I resorted to photos from the Internet.  Apologies to the photographers who were not given credit because their names were not on the sites that I found with suitable pictures...