Kathy Martin’s life story (18)
By Kathy Martin…
My life story continues with our life in Cyprus
You have to admire a nation that has the number one “bir”, pronounced “beer”. Beer is “bira”! The number two is “iki”, so it didn’t take long to become fluent (enough) for Turkish bars/cafes! Seriously, although our Turkish is still very basic, we can do our shopping and the till transactions in Turkish.
Written in 2007
Our local “super” market, which a year ago was (and we can say this to ex‑Rhodesians) was little more than a “kaffir store” a year ago, is now a small supermarket. Every time we see the owner he teaches us a new phrase, word and/or corrects our pronunciation. We could probably (except in emergencies) get away with only speaking English, here, but it gives us a feelgood factor to use Turkish greetings and basic pleasantries. Our attempts appear to be appreciated. It is not unknown for us to be complimented (in Turkish) on our knowledge of Turkish!
There is a great deal of red tape here and we have heard and read in the local paper many “horror” stories. So far we have had nothing but help and courtesy from all officials. When we mentioned this to a Turkish-Cypriot friend (Mehmet, whom we knew from UK) he said, “Ah, but the mirror can only reflect what it sees”.
We live on an island where borders crossing places (even to mainland Turkey) are under strict control and surveillance. As such bank robberies and the like are unheard of. The police come down extremely hard on any criminal, but if a tourist, or ex-pat, is the victim; it is more than the book that is thrown at the criminal!
As such, on the occasions when we have walked around with thousands of pounds to pay our builder, we have felt totally safe. This may also be because Alistair (apparently) looks like a compilation of the photo fits of all top ten thugs that must not be approached by members of the public!
Unfortunately, as I write this in 2016, crime has risen, but still safe enough not to worry about locking my car! In most places I leave the keys in the ignition!!
Written after a trip to UK in 2007
We flew to Heathrow on Monday 28th May 2007 (public holiday, so, of course, it was raining!). Sasha and Jon have a two bed-roomed house, so we couldn’t stay with them, therefore, we had to stay in a cheap hotel on B&B basis. As such, our finances (we had to hire a car as well) only stretched to a week stay, we left again on Monday 4 June.
Our main objective was to visit Sasha, Jon & Alex. Our other objective was to contact Alistair’s pension office, as his (index linked) Civil Service pension becomes payable on his 60th birthday 19th August 2007.
Firstly, we did not pick the week that the UK summer happens. The weather forecasters would say “….and tomorrow the temperature will rise to around 16 degrees with frequent showers….” Rise?………we haven’t been that cold since January!
However, the weather did not affect our pleasure in seeing our family, and on the Saturday, a strange (to the Welsh) yellow object was seen on the sky and we all spent a very enjoyable day at Bristol Zoo. This is a marvellous place, the animals in enclosures, (rather than cages) identical, or very close, to their natural habitats with plenty of information about the inhabitants.
During the working week (for some!) we “pottered” around Cardiff. We bought a few clothes, Playstation games, a DVD player (£15.00) and other odds and sods. Occasionally we met Sasha, for lunch, as she worked in Cardiff (Jon was working on a site some miles away). With Sasha we picked Alex up from his school. After “pottering” we went to Sasha & Jon’s house to await their return and had “quiet” meals and evenings there.
One evening, we walked around to their local Indian restaurant and had a very pleasant meal there. Alex, 3½, was a “hit” with the waiters and they were amused by his choice of naan bread and chicken curry, which he thoroughly enjoyed. Also, the waiters asked where we had been on holiday, as we are browner (Alistair in particular) than the regular “Brits”. We told them that we lived in Cyprus and they asked if we liked it, of course, we said “YES”!
Alistair contacted his pensions office on Tuesday 29th May, and was told that he is going to get about twice as much as expected and a lump sum payment………there was no argument from him! So it looks as though we will not be rich, but will be able to live a far more “comfortable” lifestyle than we expected.
The drawbacks of living here?
- Missing friends and family
The (not infrequent) power cuts, although now new generators have been installed this situation should improve. In any event we have emergency bottled gas lights and our cooker is also bottled gas. We have a bottled gas heater for cold/damp times
- Water (1) We have had a dry winter, and (the island relies on reservoirs) therefore their capacity is at an all-time low. We anticipate water shortages during the summer. However, each house has a “header” tank (and solar (water) heating, so showers etc should not be a problem. 16 litres of drinking water is only YTL3.00 (July 2016 now 6tl).
- Water (2) Water in the washing machine has a selective shrinking agent that only targets the waist area of skirts, trousers and shirts.
“Old Hat!” written July 2007
When we went to the police station to start our residency renewal procedures. Alistair wore the hat that Sasha bought him in Zimbabwe (for the huge price of 75p, with the exchange rate of 60 Zimbabwean dollars to the pound).
This became a centre of attention among the Immigration Police and a civilian who was (until we appeared), just about to leave. Those present had very little English, and our Turkish is still very basic. However, although it was soon established that the hat was real leather, our dictionary did not have a translation for kudu or antelope. Alistair pronounced “antelope” with the “lope” rhyming with “coffee” (Turkish phonetic pronunciation).
The policeman suddenly smiled, said “Discovery Channel” then put his hands above his ears, fingers spread and pointing upwards to indicate horns! From that moment on the first part of our application went without a hitch!
Twenty days later we drove into Lefkoşa (with excellent directions from a friend of ours) and found the offices. There was no explanation what to do, but a very helpful European lady told us that we had to get a number (this process is used EVERYWHERE e.g. electric office (where we go to pay our bills), banks, etc).
We only had to wait a few minutes until our number came up. Once we paid, we were told that we have to come back in two weeks, i.e. Tuesday, 17 July 2007, to get our pink card i.e. full documentation, which will last a year.
We had a minor panic attack, when we realised that our annual car insurance was due on 6 June. This we realised in July! It is primitive here; there is no central database to create junk mail and offers from Direct Line or Churchill’s, a few weeks before insurance is due! So we went to see Sadık, whom we had got the car from and found to our delight, that he had in fact renewed it for us on the correct date and that we just had to pay him (£60 third party).
Doubt that we would get this service in the UK!
One other thing Sadık did for us earlier in the year, we went to see him for our MOT certificate to enable us to get our road tax disc. He asked us for the documents (log book etc) and asked us to come back a few days later. He (or probably, one of his family or staff) had gone to the road tax office and got one for us (at no extra cost!). He said that this was to save us from spending “hours” in a queue! What service!
We have paid the third (and penultimate) payment on our flat. We will not pay our last payment until completion and only if we are satisfied. We will then live rent/mortgage free for the rest of our lives. Indeed, when Alistair’s pension payments start next month (or September?) they will more than cover our current rent. Once we move into the flat, our monthly ground rent (covering cost of pool etc) will only be £40 (2016 it is still £40).
My life continues next time