how much seasonal sparkle?

We all need a bit of sparkle in our lives, but the trick is not to overdo
it…so how much glitter and bling is too much for the first Christmas party of the year?

The other day I read that women spend more hours planning their outfit for
the Christmas party than for any other occasion…I can’t quite believe
that, what about a wedding for instance? Anyway, there was a whole article
devoted to the perfect party dress and accessories. I am certain I’m not
among this set of highly researched women who spend weeks planning their
outfits, however, I did spend half of yesterday sorting out what to wear
last night.

This involved trying on a couple of dresses I already had, choosing the one
with most sparkle in it, then unearthing the highest pair of heels I could
find. It was a good start, but something was missing…the bling or sparkle
factor was pretty low. So I hunted round the house for something red and
shiny…found some small red baubles and attached them to some earring
clasps – hey presto, I was practically a walking Christmas tree. My next
mission was to find some tights that had a bit or sparkle to them and
something for my hair. I decided against sprinkling glitter onto an old pair
of tights covered in glue, so sometime later and several shops on I returned
home with some expensive tights with sparkles on the sides (shhh, don’t
tell the Major!) and glittery hair bits.

I thought I had got it about right, but you never know until you arrive how
other people are going to interpret the invitation to dress as glitzy and
glamorous as possible. Infact, I was pretty understated if I compared myself
to some of the party-goers….we had someone in a tutu, who really did
belong on top of the Christmas tree, others in very short shiny red and
sequins and then there was the very classy ladies in black with touches of
sparkle here and there. Some of the best accessories were the reindeer
headbands and the Christmas tree glasses…not forgetting the flashing Santa
brooch. Compared to all this glamour and bling, my red baubles and diamante
encrusted tights weren’t going to cause a stir…although they were
commented on, so I figured it was worth the trouble.

This particular party was unusual in that it was a fairly exclusively female
event…apart from the interval when Santa arrived, accompanied by two elves
and a supermarket trolley full of presents. There was ‘no comment’ to
questions about what had happened to the sleigh, presumably something to do
with the economic climate. The night also set the bar quite high for all the
other Christmas events coming up; with great food, good company, pretty
presents and singing, to top it all we each had our own bubble pots to add
to the sparkle in the room.

Following last night, there are a few essentials I am adding to my
pre-Christmas shopping list which will include an appropriately silly and
glitzy headband to wear to church on Christmas Day and a bottle of spray
glitter perfume, plus a lip gloss with a light and mirror on it. Thank you
ladies on my table for the inspiration! You may not be a fan of glitter and
sparkle, but I think Christmas is the one time when you probably can’t have
too much….now I am off to hunt down the tinsel and little lights because
it is actually starting to feel a bit Christmassy here, despite the


ghost town with attitude

I don’t want to spread alarm, but yesterday I came face to face with part of the island’s underground army…
After a pleasant stroll along the cliff tops, we decided to take a peek at what would normally be a very busy tourist beach, lined with expensive hotels. Driving down through the network of shops and apartments towards the sea front, we began to feel like we were heading into a Wild West ghost town. What had been buzzing cafes and restaurants, now had their curtains drawn and instead of an array of tourist shops selling anything from buckets, spades and blow up rings to shell jewellery and ‘hand-made’ Cyprus pottery, the windows were plastered with paper and the stalls outside had disappeared. The pavements were empty as well and every house and apartment in all shapes and sizes appeared to have its shutters down or blinds pulled. The streets were dusty, there were no other cars and the sky was slightly overcast, while remnants of newspaper and packaging blew across the road. The atmosphere was eerie. And then we spotted them…

First there was one, slinking slowly across the road in front of us, then another sat watchfully on a wall, its eyes following the car as we passed. A glance to the left and two more were heading down a side road…the streets were filled with cats. As we turned a corner, one particularly huge ginger beast, that looked more like a lion than a cat, crossed the road and strode menacingly towards a raised area outside an empty shop. The cats appeared completely at home and had now become the main residents of the area. They owned this place and no-one could challenge them – at least that’s how it felt. Instead of the mangy underfed specimens we had seen in the summer scuttling between restaurant tables for food, these cats were large and well fed, confidently patrolling their home territory.

As we drew into the empty car park, surrounded by buildings, a wide path between two hotels was all that separated us from the beach. But before reaching to open the car doors we both hesitated and glanced around. They were here too and not just one…there was a tortoiseshell sentry sat boldly upright at the top of the path and his bright green eyes were watching us. In the top corner of the car park another pair, a ginger and a white and tabby cat, were pacing. It certainly felt like an organised group patrolling their area. We decided to take our chances and boldly headed down to the sea, hoping to leave the cats behind. As we turned left along the decking walk beside the sea, there was no-one to be seen. All the umbrellas and chairs had been removed from the hotel grass and a solitary line of white sun beds had been left in a row on the beach, where a lone waiter was settling them in line. The sea looked a bit more English, more grey than blue, with just two swimmers a few metres out, their heads bobbing in the water.

Suddenly I spotted a movement on my left and very large tabby cat appeared on the walkway striding towards us. We hesitated…but it was just a cat, after all. Further ahead two more were munching on something on the slope leading down to the beach, there was another weaving its way in amongst the deck chairs as it ‘patrolled’ the beach. We were surrounded. It felt like a ‘Dr Who’ set where cats had taken over the world and the humans were just their staff. I let out a sort of nervous laugh, what harm could they do, they were only cats? Then as a very well fed black and white specimen began approaching, I stepped away quickly. They had a knack of making us feel uncomfortable, as if they were saying – “What are you doing here off season?”

Time to move on. After a quick swim, during which I fretted about cats running off with my shoes and towel, or worse the car keys, we headed back to ‘cat car park’. We were escorted back up the path to the car by another couple of sentries, who sniffed at the tyres and watched us change. Glancing back as we sped off in the direction of normal civilisation, I could see them crouched at the top of the path again. There were no waves goodbye, they were just watching and waiting. I don’t know what they were waiting for, but I had a feeling they knew something we didn’t. Could it be someone was coming with food, or are they in fact busy planning an invasion right across the island? Watch this space for updates.

a bit of a pickle

Friday night found me caught as a stowaway between the set of ‘Hornblower’ and ‘Master & Commander’.
If I told you Lord Nelson’s body was ‘pickled’, in order to preserve it on the way back to England after the Battle of Trafalgar, would you believe me? Until Friday night I was swallowing this story hook line and sinker, as we set out for our first Royal Navy dinner, named ‘Pickle Night.’ Stepping on board at the start of the evening and enjoying a drink on the poop deck, or something like that, I realised we had set sail on HM Pickle. The occasion was the 208th anniversary of HM Schooner Pickle’s return to England with the news of victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.

I had thought there were lots of rules and regulations at Army dinners, but this was a whole new league and language. There was a list of ‘orders’ to be complied with, and we were told failure to do so would result in ‘punishments’. There were white uniformed sailors with gold, bling, buttons and medals at every corner. We were allocated to a table and I could almost feel the boat rocking as we sat down surrounded by the ‘sea’ on all sides, while rushes of Hornblower played on a massive window screen at our backs, we looked out on the Battle of Trafalgar through the stern windows of the boat. Russell Crowe, alias a Naval bigwig, sat at the top table in front of the square-paned panel of windows and according to the ‘orders’ on our table – those seated at the top table can do no wrong! So, we kept an eye out in that direction.

You know you’re at a Navy dinner when the evening starts with a song. This was one I knew – What shall we do with the drunken sailor? – but rather than being judged on musicality, the competition was for port and starboard sides of the room/boat to make the loudest sound…yes, it was going to be one of those evenings. I soon discovered the man on my left was ‘a beer monkey’ and it was his job to make sure the drinks on our table kept flowing, so he frequently jumped up into the middle of the room to fill a jug with beer from the barrels on tap. He was the only one allowed to move off the table without permission. First problem of the night – what about the toilets? I started to slow down on the drinking, but it was a relief that before long Russell Crowe announced – ‘ease springs’. At first I thought this was something to do with the tides – neaps and springs and that kind of thing – but when everyone began to push back their chairs and head rapidly in the direction of the toilets, I realised it was Navy speak for ‘loo break.’ Easy when you know how.

There was plenty of lingo to keep up with all evening – including an introduction to the contribution the Navy has made to the English language. Instead of a table mat, we all had big square wooden trays in front of us, which held our plates and glasses. This is what sailors would have eaten off on board in Nelson’s day – the sides obviously stopped the food and drink spilling everywhere when the boat was tipping. It was also the origin of the term – a square meal. The menu was a mine of information and I learned the origins of terms like ‘pipe down’, ‘loose cannon’ and ‘loaf’. The last one is a particular favourite and means ‘the idea of not doing any work whilst giving the appearance of beavering away.’ Something to perfect for the future. There were also plenty of rules that could be easily broken, such as taking a sip of port before the Queen was toasted. Can’t remember if I did, but at least no-one saw me. I was shocked though, that the Navy chaps remained seated when we all stood to toast the Queen…apparently this is what they do on board ships, but seems a very shoddy habit to me.

Everything boaty was in abundance and while oars and anchors served as decorations, our pudding was a chocolate boat filled with rum and raison ice cream. Then we came to the rum. Rum rations, I believe were abandoned in the Navy some time ago, but on this particular evening it served as a kind of discipline. After we had learned all we would ever need to know about the Battle of Trafalgar, cheering each time the name of Nelson was mentioned, so it took some time, there was the list of culprits and their misdemeanours to be read out and dealt with. Punishment took the form of ‘knocking back’ a considerable shot of rum and your crime could be anything from just being an army captain – that is, impersonating a naval officer – to having a French sounding name. I did think that was quite funny. All good things have to come to an end and so the evening did – earlier for some than others. But what of Nelson being ‘pickled’? I don’t think so, Pickle Night, was all about the Pickle vessel and nothing to do with transporting and preserving a dead sea lord, which was quite a relief. So whoever started that rumour please stop it, I’ve been having nightmares ever since.

Unexpected visitors

Last week marked the departure of our last guests of the season…or so we thought.
It was Monday morning and I was thinking about getting up, when I was summoned to the garden, where two of the tiniest kittens I have ever seen were crawling up on a windsurf board by the fence and crying plaintively. Both of them started to run towards me and then one went under the car. They were no larger than my hand, but very cute looking, with pleading blue eyes.
One of us had to get to work, so it would be down to me to see where they came from and try and find someone who could look after them. I went inside and poured milk into a plastic plate, hoping they could lap it up. Setting it down near the gate, they rushed towards it and started dipping their heads towards the liquid, not quite sure what to do. But they were obviously thirsty and it wasn’t long before they seemed to be lapping some of it up and still looking at me and crying. Kittens’ cries are not like cats meowing; they are sort of squeaky and sound a bit desperate.
We are not big cat lovers in our house, having had a dog that chased them out of the garden for many years…but this was difficult. Next plan was to phone a friend who liked cats and might help take them. The trouble is in Cyprus there are hundreds of cats and kittens, many feral, who are often seen scavenging for food outside restaurants. So there is no demand for kittens, however pretty and cuddly they look. Our Aussie neighbour was sympathetic though; he came across to see them and lent me a cat box and some food.
“Give them evaporated milk diluted with water or they’ll get the runs,” he explained, “and you don’t want that!”. He already has several cats and I wondered if he’d like these as well.
“No thanks….they are cute though…why not keep them?”
We don’t do cats, I thought.
Well, we weren’t intending to keep any kittens or cats, if anything we would be looking for a dog, but not till we are back in the UK. So who could have them?
More crying…they were hungry. So I tried them with a little kitten food with water, which they seemed to like. One started chomping away with his/her paws right in the food and the other began gently licking round the food – signs of the sexes already emerging.
Eventually I got through to the ‘Cat Oracle’, alias one of the forces wives who runs the animal welfare group. Unfortunately, they had no funds at the moment and all the ‘foster parents’ were full up. The nearest place that would take them was a two and half hour drive away on the other side of the island. This was looking tricky. The kittens were now well snuggled up in some soft material in the cat box, fast asleep.
With the best intentions we tried to be logical and resolved to drive them to the rescue centre later that week once they had got over the trauma of being abandoned – big mistake! It started with a trip to buy evaporated milk and some kitten food…by the weekend we went in search of cat litter and a tray. By Sunday we were talking in terms of when we needed to get back to feed the kittens. Someone screwed up balls of newspaper for them to play with and let them fall asleep on his lap. But who has the heart to turn their back on two orphaned kittens?
The trouble is, these unexpected guests look like being here for some time. They may not need their sheets washing, but they like their meals on time and although they are good at entertaining themselves, they are always pleased to see us home.