Kathy Martin’s life story (22)
By Kathy Martin…
My life story continues with our life in Cyprus
Written May 2009
The majority of the flats around us are holiday (or possibly investment?) flats. We appear to be the only British Ex-pats, there is also a Russian woman and also Turkish taxi-driver, but no other flats appear to be permanently occupied apart from these three. As it is very quiet, we have no objections!
The worldwide recession/depression and cut in interest rates has had its effect on our “income”. In December the interest was over 18%, in February exactly 10%!
Nevertheless, as our monthly expenditure on maintenance charges (for our flat), gas, electric and water is less than the equivalent of £100.00 we are still able to lead a comfortable lifestyle.
Unfortunately for us, we were frequently able to save £200.00 a month towards a trip to the UK and/or a holiday on the Turkish mainland. We have now stopped this. The bank has assured us that interest rates will improve, and, indeed, this month it has risen to 10.5%! This is still considerably higher than the 0.5% (down from 4%) we are getting on our UK savings!
We had planned to get TV when we moved into our flat (there are a number of satellite programs available), however, although the annual “running costs” are reasonable (approx £150.00 pa), the full set-up charges total not far short of £1,000.00!
Although we have the money, it is in non-replaceable capital, so we use a local DVD shop from where we buy films at £0.95 each, if/when we return them we exchange at ½ price!
Sasha, Jon and Alex, 5, came here on holiday for a week from 28 March to 04 April 2009. Prior to their visit we had been enduring unseasonable cold (for us) weather with heavy rains, very welcome for the islanders, ecology and agriculture.
However, the week that they were here was clement, dry and sunny.
They even went into the sea for a swim on a couple of occasions! We (and the café waiter) thought that they were mad! The week that they were here flew by, it was almost as if they arrived Saturday evening and left Sunday morning!
We did the following on various days.
- We showed them round their inheritance (our little flat) with some pride. We think that they were impressed. They were certainly impressed with our balcony that faces the nearby mountains, where we usually have morning coffee.
- We had a lunch in the picturesque old harbour in Girne.
- On other days we went to 2 castles (from the Crusader days).
- At one of them they clambered round the ruins (we played the age card and sat at the café).
- At another they tried climbing up to the ruins, but it was so high that it defeated even them. (The time, ingenuity and labour that went into construction on top of a mountain beggars imagination!). We, again, played the age card and waited at a nearby café!
We went to a nearby ruined abbey (Bellapais) and grounds where again, they went in for “the tour”. We (having done it) sat in a café.
- We lunched at “The Tree of Idleness”, a restaurant in the area where Lawrence Durrell wrote his book “Bitter Lemons”.
- On another day we had lunch at a Turkish restaurant that we had discovered. We only ordered the “meze”, the Turkish equivalent of French “hors d’ouvre” or Spanish “tapas”. Sasha and Jon (despite our warnings) also ordered a main meal each.
Both had “filled up” before the 18, yes 18, hot and cold meze courses had been served! According to a Turkish acquaintance, if an empty plate is left at a Turkish establishment, it implies that insufficient food has been provided, and this is dishonourable to the patron!
Evenings were spent in the flat, playing dominos with Alex (a demon player) and/or watching DVD’s. However, on their last night we asked Alex where he wanted to go for a meal. He replied, “Where we had duck pancakes”. This was “The China Garden”, one of our favourite restaurants. When we later told Tariq (the manager) this, he was very pleased.
Among our favourite restaurants are three that are run by Pakistanis:
- The China Garden (yes a Chinese restaurant) – no longer open in 2016
- The Happy Valley
- Sheraz – a new restaurant opened in Çatalköy.
Throughout our lives we have always tried to greet and thank restaurateurs in their own language. At our request Sasha and Jon bought us an Urdu/English phrase book. We get lots of “giggles” from waiters when asking for two beers (or anything else) in their own language! For some time we have been known as the “permelenge” (Urdu for “see you soon”) couple at the China Garden and “the two beers and an ashtray couple” at the Happy Valley.
Incidentally, we have now given up smoking and both feel a lot better for it (Alistair for over eight weeks and me for over six). When amalgamating these documents in February 2014 we are delighted to report that we are permanently off cigarettes and neither of us could imagine returning to being smokers.
A few years ago the availability of pork products (this is a Muslim country) was rare or non-existent. Now, what we want (usually just bacon and sausages), are freely available in all the local shops. One thing we have learnt, in respect of shopping, is that if something is seen on the shelf and will be wanted at some time in the near future is “buy now”!
We don’t think that it is the result of poor stock control, (as it happens in both Turkish and “ex‑pat” shops), but the likelihood exists that once sold out, articles are not immediately replaced on the shelf. We think the cause is more likely to be intermittent import controls.
We are delighted to say that we have been in the local paper “Cyprus Today”. In 20 December 2008 issue, when we were depicted in a large article about “Meet the buyers living their dream”. Basically, we had got fed up of reading about buyers with problems and we wanted to put the other side across. We have received nothing but help from our builders and managed to get this over.
A photographer came and took a photo and we were shown on the front page, as a small heading: see focus on pages 16&17. Then a full article about our good fortune, we shared the pages with another satisfied couple. Several of our acquaintances said how lovely it was to read some good news for a change.
Another occasion was after considerable press about a local couple, the Orams, who are going through a longstanding court case regarding whether the land they have built their house on belonged to them or a Greek Cypriot living in the south. This goes back to the fact that in 1974 when the Turks and Greeks split the island into two (about 1/3 to the Turks).
The UK press refer to this period as the Turkish “invasion”, which is not the way it is seen here. Turks living in the south of the island moved to the north and vice-versa. Each nationality was only given 24 hours to decide what to do. Now 35 years later these people (or their children) are living with what was in effect a split second decision. The idea was that there was exchange of land, however, the Greeks do not see it as having been a fair process.
Anyway, we wrote the following letter to the paper and it was published.
The world needs to learn the truth
Leaving aside the “legality” and morality of the recent decision by the ECJ in the Orams case, we would like to point out the following: The UK press still reports the Turkish 1974 rescue operation as an “invasion”. This is undoubtedly fuelled by the Greek propaganda machine. Why don’t the TRNC and Turkish residents of the period leading up to that date speak of their experiences and let the truth be known? If officially sanctioned and recognised then perhaps in future cases like the Orams will never happen!
There were several other letters, all along this theme, so we are not the only ones to have this attitude/opinion.
My life continues next time