Friday, November 30, 2007
St Andrew's Day
How do I know this? Because Greeks celebrate name days i.e the day of the saint after whom they are named, and the custom is to bring treats (pastries or sweets) for everyone in the office. And we have two guys called Andreas on our floor, so we have had KitKats and Cypriot pastries.

At least this is sweetening me up a bit, I am trying to deal with lawyers in the US who keep ask me for vast sums of money for issue of a work permit, which I do not yet have! It is starting to annoy me a little bit, particularly as I cannot claim anything on expenses yet, the system keeps on giving me an error, which Leo is supposed to be sorting out with the admin people. Very frustrating.... I am putting everything - hotels, restaurants etc, on the company Amex card, which at least won't get taken out of my own account for 30 days. And I hope Leo and the admin people sort this out by then, otherwise I will be charging interest!

The other annoying news is that I don't get to have a facial today, they rang up and told me that the time I had booked was unsuitable for them and could I come earlier? Well, no, I have to work, so I just said I would look for somewhere that was open at weekends, because that would be more suitable. I'll call Jacques Dessange later and see if I can book for next week, they are open Satudays and Sundays.

On the stitching front, I am doing well, I have finished the top of the With All Your Heart biscornu, plus the small pieces for the scissors keep and biscornu fob, so only the bottom of the biscornu to go. Also started Lizzie Kate's "Good Things Come to Those Who Stitch", a small piece that I couldn't resist when I saw the chart. Pictures over the weekend.

I am really getting into the rhythm of life here, breakfast in the hotel, going to work, salad at lunchtime, then going home about 7pm and stitching or going out to dinner. Or both, sometimes. Just have to get myself some gym shoes, and then I can add that into the routine.

Today I am working on a very boring and tedious problem that I can recreate at the drop of a hat, but I still have no idea exactly why it is occurring. I am ploughing through a trace of the Cobol programs that are executed - many of them - but it's just not clear. All I know is that it is trying to create a General Ledger record that has incorrect amounts on it, but no idea why it thinks it should be creating it! I am on the point of changing the program to allow the record to create, so that I can see what it is - this is highly illegal, architects are NOT allowed to do anything to programs, but of course we all get desperate at times and do these things. David is the champion, he loves programming, and will do it at the drop of a hat.

So I am looking forward to the weekend, and I will try to make it start early, like 4pm. I need to go to the supermarket to buy water and Aes Ambelis (my favourite Cypriot wine), and I would like to go to a shoe shop where I saw a specially nice pair of black shoes with bows, see if they have my size.

Tomorrow is the Mall, with specific mission to buy Christmas presents for my mother and sister. My sister is a bit of a problem, she has very definite tastes, nothing pink, for example. She also seems to think that, because I live in Paris, everything will come from Dior etc. I know such things are less expensive than in NZ, and I know I earn more than she does as well, but still! I had thought I might get her an evening bag, they have some nice black satin ones at Accessorize, which I don't think you can get in NZ, and they would be good on the taste front, black is OK. My mother is much easier, anything except bubble bath, as she doesn't like getting in and out of the bath - at nearly 80, it's showers only.

Ah well, back to my annoying problem, I want to get it solved today, so that I can go on to the next one!
posted by Ally at 10:46 am ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Another New Week
And another new colleague has turned up, and promptly had a fit about people smoking in the office. Not that anyone smokes in our room, but along the corridor they do.... I wonder if this is the only country in the world where this is allowed. Actually I am pretty sure it is against EU legislation, but they haven't caught up with a lot of that yet.

I told him about the man in the hotel dining room one morning who came and sat down in the non-smoking section, lit up a cigarette, looked around for an ashtray, saw one in the smoking section, walked over and brought it back to the non-smoking section. His table was right next to a large sign on a post saying "non-smoking area" in both English and Greek! I guess he would be one of those people who can walk right over a rubbish bin rather than put anything in it. Like Aurelien at work who puts empty soft drink pack wrappers back in the fridge.

He also asked me what I did at the weekend, and I felt conscious that my life may be considered a bit boring, I mean, a walk to the Hilton bookshop is a highlight, and I spend hours doing embroidery, knitting and Sudoku. I am already getting excited about Saturday when I plan to visit the new Mall of Cyprus, the only shopping mall on the island. It has IKEA, Carrefour and some other shops, don't know exactly what. At least I should be able to get a few more coathangers.

And I also booked a facial at the hotel on Friday, I don't know what that will be like. They have a glossy brochure with a large range of treatments, but when I called to book, they told me they were only open from 10am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and referred to the "girl" who does the treatments. It was also really easy to get a Friday afternoon appointment, so I am wondering. But be fair, they have not been open long, and perhaps the "girl" has magic hands.
posted by Ally at 1:51 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Sunday at Starbucks
Well, yesterday I did nothing really........... just moved my stuff (in a taxi) from the Holiday Inn to the Hotel Cleopatra, which actually I think is a good move. Especially now that the HI has turned on the heating! I can't believe it, every time I opened the wardrobe, there were gusts of hot air, even though I had the room heating turned off.

Cleopatra has renovated a bit, and I have a new flat-screen TV on the wall, with a lot more channels, plus satellite that you have pay for (will not get used by me, that's for sure). Also there is now a beauty salon just downstairs from my apartment, so I must make an appointment for next week.

My apartment is huge, two-bedroomed, but it was the only one left - they have warned me that I may have to move at some stage, but for now it is luxury. I sat on my sofa yesterday afternoon with my white jasmine candle lit, my stitching and TV5 Monde on TV. I am getting on quite well with the breast cancer biscornu set.... and I've unpacked the other stuff I brought, so I should make some progress. It was kind of nice to unpack both my suitcases fully and arrange everything. Plus I did go to the supermarket and get fruit and water, but really apart from that, I've done nothing so far.

I am in Starbucks, which is the best local place for free internet, and of course it makes me think of Nicky, because he used to spend entire weekends here. I miss him and David, of course. Although the company here is far more congenial than anyone in Paris, with the exception of Suzette. The Rabbit, my former PD in Paris, has been emailing me frantically, to return my access badge for the client site there - of course I had to take it with me on my last day, in order to get out of the place, and I didn't see him in between then and my departure to return it. Now he has been having kittens about it - far more important than anything else on the project, of course - so I have posted it to him. And, when I emailed to say I had sent it, I took the opportunity to tell him how lovely and positive and welcoming everyone here is, I hope he takes the hint.

I also had an opportunity to get my own back on Sylvain for screaming at me.... earlier in the week, he sent me email to call him regarding my employment contract (our new masters are doing strange things to our bonus system), so I did - at 10 to 8 in the morning his time, which was when I happened to get to work and open my mail. He sounded terrible, and I am sure I woke him up, it was such fun!

Well, back home to read some newspapers and do some more stitching etc....
posted by Ally at 1:44 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Moving House
To the Cleopatra Hotel Apartments on Saturday.... Leo said I really had to, as it is much cheaper, but actually it doesn't worry me, apart from not having an indoor swimming pool any more. There is an outdoor pool, also a gym with sauna, steambath and jacuzzi, so I will just have to manage :)

Yesterday I was so cross with the Holiday Inn, I had left a bag of laundry, plus the "please collect laundry" tag on my door, when I left for work at 8:15 am. I came back at 7:00 pm to find the bag still in my room, with the tag from the door perched on top of it. Then I went into the bathroom to find everything artistically arranged, but no face flannels. So I push the Housekeeping button on the phone, no answer..... so I then steam downstairs to reception to tell them what I thought. Of course they suggested that I left the laundry tag after 9am, but I know that is not the case, I was at work by 8:30 am.

So this morning I rang the Cleopatra, and they remembered me, and I have got their last apartment, thank goodness. I hope the weather is fine at the weekend, so that I can sit in the garden and swim in the outdoor pool. It rained last night, and there was thunder and lightening, apparently at 5am - Alec said he was watching it from his balcony. Everyone is happy about the rain, it hasn't rained here for a long time, and water reserves are very low indeed.

I feel slightly tired, I did get woken up by the thunderstorm, and I slept only fitfully after that. Alec is lucky not to need much sleep, he always gets up early, but I never can...... Leo is also an early riser, he is disgustingly cheerful in the mornings. And for the rest of the day as well, it can get a trifle wearying at times.
posted by Ally at 11:53 am ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Sunday Evening
This is David's birthday present, as you see, I have not much more to do.... just the top part and some of the flowers at the side - I must get cracking, I want to get it to him before Christmas. I need to have it framed here, and I am not sure where.

This is my progress so far on "With All My Heart" from Blue Ribbon Designs. It's the top of the biscornu. The small heart, key, ribbon are 1 x 1, and there is lettering to go alongside them in 1 x 1 also.
It looks as though the transport strike in France is continuing, I am glad I am not there - 40% of buses will be running tomorrow, so it is doubtful that I could get to work. This is the worst strike for ages, and I don't think anyone is very impressed. OK, so being a train driver is stressful, but is it so stressful being a clerk in a railway office that they should get to retire earlier than the rest of us? If I worked on the railways, I would have already been retired for some years!
Maybe the railway workers should try our jobs instead - I think our hours are just as strange, plus for people who have families, they spend so much time away from home. And forget about RTT days and time in lieu, we all have a backlog of those and of vacation days. Look at Kent, who goes somewhere different every week, he moved to Madrid because his wife wanted to live there, and, as he said, it didn't matter where he lived, as he was hardly ever there. Look at all of us who did the Irish project, working in an office out in the countryside from 8am to 8pm every day - when I went to Ireland, I didn't see daylight for three months. And the people who organise their weddings long-distance, etc, etc.
Well, well, time to stop giving my views on the strikers and go to bed....

posted by Ally at 8:58 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Just Call Me Princess Ally!
At present the greatest worry I have is whether the housemaid will remember to clean my room, and, if so, will she remember to leave me some handtowels........ I came home on Thursday to find my room hadn't been done, and yesterday she took all the towels away and didn't leave me any!

I also seem to have a decent lawyer in the US - from his name he is of Swedish backgound, so this is not surprising. Of course the lawyer here is still useless, her agent came on Tuesday to collect my papers, only eight days late. Rosetta, from the client, saw him, and started laughing about how many photocopies of my passport the Cypriot authorities must now have. It's really silly.... and I also read in the local paper this morning that now European citizens and 3rd party nationals who have been on the island for more than 12 weeks must register for residence as of Monday, so the Ministry will be besieged! They can't even process what they do have, let alone cope with an influx of new applications. Technically both Alec and I are registered, I believe, but neither of us has a work permit, despite repeated applications. Leo has a British passport, and in any case is not here every week.

Apart from these practical details, I don't have much stress at work at present, so I am able to try and build myself up a bit psychologically and physically - I swam after work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, then went for a walk to the Hilton bookshop today. And then walked around town for another hour or so. I'm now going to lie down for a bit and read - I have my French windows to the balcony wide open, and it is not too hot at all, the temperature gauge downtown said 25 degrees. The usual mess of cars in the streets of course, Makariou is like an obstacle course. I looked at a few shoe shops, but haven't bought any yet, I want some new ones with bows on the toes.
posted by Ally at 2:41 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 1 comments
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
A Restful Life
The pace of life here is very slow... every day I wake up with the sun and thank my lucky stars that I don't have to get on the metro and the bus for an hour and a half. More so this week, as there will be another strike in Paris this week, starting tonight and going on probably until the weekend. I feel sorry for Suzette, there is no way she can get to work with this, and it would be the same for me if I were in Paris.

Alec and I are still working our way through problems, one by one, but this week Leo is here, so everything is a bit noisier than usual, given his phone addiction, and he has also brought a technical guy with him, a new one I haven't met before, who is Spanish. He speaks heavily-accented English, but thank goodness, not with the same sort of Hispanic accent as the Dwarf had. I really feel the Dwarf was a one-off, as all other Hispanic types I have met have been totally charming. For those who wonder about the Dwarf's present wherabouts, he did leave our company, and joined another consulting company in the UK. They have apparently sent him to a customer some place in the provinces where the accent is very strong, so I guess it must be a situation of mutual incomprehension... it amuses me to think of it.

The weekend was also very restful, I went shopping and swimming on Saturday. Shopping was just into the main street to buy a few necessities, like a scented candle from Zara Home and some Greek aromatherapy bath foam. Sunday I went for a walk through the Old Town and around the Venetian Walls, only remnants of which remain. Goodness, the Old Town is seedy and rundown, lots of the buildings are unoccupied and derelict, once you get off the main street. And there are so many that would be lovely if done up, I fantasise about buying one and doing so, but I think they would be quite expensive. Apparently most of them are in the hands of the same few people, who want to make a killing out of them one day. The other thing is that, if you do get one reasonably, the permit process for renovation is extremely long, it would be a test of patience and perseverance.

As indeed is dealing with lawyers......... the lawyers in the USA keep on asking me for payment for application and issue of a work permit, I keep on writing to them to say they have the credit card details (my boss's, not mine! although mine just arrived here this morning) and what do they mean, issue of a work permit? Because I don't have one and never have had. I was instructed to bring photocopies of my passport and French residence card with me, as they would be urgently needed for the application. I phoned the lawyer here last Monday, and she was going to send someone to pick them up, well, this still hasn't happened. I am following a policy of not getting agitated about this, as there is no way that I can control what these lawyers do (basically nothing, in my opinion).

I have managed to do stitching nearly every day, I am well-advanced with the birthday present, and I have started "With All My Heart", the pink biscornu from Blue Ribbon Designs and Elegant Stitch. I brought so much with me, as I am determined to get a few more finishes this year, after the disastrous record while I was at the last project. I have half-knitted socks too, that only require a little bit of effort. And I'm looking forward to starting another big sampler, I really wanted to do a few of these this year, and so far I've only managed Toccata 1 and most of Point de Reprises.

Actually I must make an effort with David's birthday present, I am listening at the moment to Leo phoning him in Poland and giving him a hard time about external designs and when things are going to be finished. I can only hear David faintly, but he sounds tired, and I think he's getting up really early on Monday mornings to catch a plane. Now Leo is going on about VAT, poor David...
posted by Ally at 9:53 am ¤ Permalink ¤ 1 comments
Friday, November 09, 2007
Friday Afternoon
Now it is Friday afternoon in Nicosia, about 2pm, and very few people are left in the office.... lots of cars on the road already when I went over to get lunch, I guess they are all going home for the weekend. I hope I will be able to go about four o'clock, and wander home along the main street - as I shall have my wheelie bag with me, I can't go the normal way, it's too frustrating with all the potholes etc. Only the main street has relatively decent footpaths. It also has Accessorize, where I hope I can get some flip-flops for the pool, if they haven't packed away all their summer stuff.

I plan to go to the shops in the old town, then head back to the hotel for a swim, and spend the evening in front of "The Accidental Tourist", which is on CYBC2 this evening. I saw that film ages ago, and enjoyed it, but I haven't read anything by Anne Tyler for years, I wonder if she is still writing? I will be sorting out all the stitching I have brought with me as I watch, so that I can start to make progress over the weekend, and make up for the six months when I had to spend three hours a day travelling. I tell you, it is a pleasure here to leave work at 7pm, and get back to the hotel at 7:15, after having bought the newspaper on the way. And a pleasure to get up in the morning at 7am, and be here by 8:30, after having had a leisurely breakfast. I'm sure I will get bored with small town life after a while, especially if it gets colder and especially if there is rain, but for the moment it's OK.

This week I think have heard from Madame LA and Suzette practically every day, and today also Gil - Suzette and Gil say they miss me!

Ah well, time to go, the only other person left on this floor - and indeed probably in the whole building apart from the guards - is a workaholic project director, who will probably be here until 9pm.
posted by Ally at 2:10 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Thursday, November 08, 2007
It is so calm here - workwise, that is - after the project in Paris. There are just two of us, Alec and I, working with the client, and we just sit here and work on problems all day. At lunchtime we go out and get takeaway salads, and I go back to the hotel about 7pm. It takes at most fifteen minutes to walk, and that is with stopping to buy a newspaper on the way, and also allowing for the mad traffic that means you have to keep on stopping for cars to whiz past.

The drivers here are still seriously bad - on Monday night, I saw one car just drive into another near the hotel. And most days Alec and I hear a fight going on in the public car park opposite work, because someone has clipped someone else, or whatever. We cross the road at lunchtime very carefully, and I certainly won't be going for any walks along the larger roads at the weekend. It's also hunting season, that started last week, and every day there are reports of people being shot by mistake, so I won't be going out into the countryside either.

Fortunately there is quite enough to keep me busy without venturing into danger - at the weekend, I can of course work, or I can swim, go to the gym, walk, read, stitch, shop (but that only on Saturday morning, shops are closed at other times over the weekend). Alec goes home Thursday nights, so I will be here alone on Fridays, and I hope I can leave fairly early on Fridays. The shops here are fairly limited - Debenhams, Zara, tiny M&S, Accessorize, Beauty Line, plus quite a selection of shoe shops, and a single knitting and patchwork shop. There are a million kiosks for newspapers and magazines and so on, but very few bookshops, even Greek ones are not numerous.

No stitching shops, of course, but at one of the Debenhams, you can (still, I hope) buy DMC threads and the materials for Lefkaritika. There is a craft shop near Limassol, which everyone keeps on telling me has embroidery materials, but then they add "it has a wonderful range of Disney kits", so it's probably not what I am looking for, even if it wasn't so far away. Thank goodness for Sew and Sew, they are the best ONS at sending here. Of course I've brought heaps of stuff with me, why do you think I had 40 kilos of luggage?
posted by Ally at 12:38 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Nicosia Again
Here I am in a room at the Holiday Inn, where I arrived late last night - plane was late as usual! But our driver was waiting for me, it was nice to see her again, and she brought me and my 40 kilos of luggage straight here.

The room is big, with a huge bed, the usual Cypriot bathroom (not luxurious, but adequate), and a little balcony with a strange view over a rundown part of the Old city and into the Occupied Area:

That flag on the hillside is placed to be seen from the unoccupied area and cause as much offence as possible.
And there is a mosque in the background.... I can see (and hear) a few of these from here. We do have mosques on this side of the Green Line as well, although I think only one is in use, and that mostly by diplomats etc.

As it is Sunday, very little is open in Nicosia, but the town is full of Filipinos and Sri Lankans, workers who only have one day off per week. I went out earlier, before it got too hot, just to see that everything is where it was......... then I came back and had a swim, there is an indoor pool here, which is good. I did my version of aqua aerobics and lounged in the jacuzzi for a while. Then came back up here to figure out the internet and so on. Breakfast was good, you can have omelette and mushrooms, also fresh kiwifruit and pink grapefruit, even hot halloumi! It's nearly time to think about lunch, they have Italian and Japanese in this hotel. With "specially flown in chefs", their brochure says. Let's hope they are tasty!

posted by Ally at 12:47 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 1 comments