Monday, December 31, 2007
Happy New Year
This is just a quick message to wish my readers a Happy New Year - it's quick because I'm sitting at Starbucks in Nicosia with only about 30 minutes of battery left, and I think the only available electric plug has been commandeered by some nerd who is probably going to sit there all day glued to the internet or games or something. Some people have nothing else to do!

I made it back to Cyprus, again two hours late, because of the Haj. Next time I go anywhere, I am consulting the calendars of all major religions, this is getting just too much. Yesterday I was half asleep, I had lunch with Nicky, and both of us were late for it, and we were both practically falling asleep in the sunshine along the main street here. The cafes have got heaters on the terraces, for the lily-livered locals, but really it makes it too hot for the rest of us.

Good news is that I have a new camera, it is a pink Nikon Coolpix, I got it at the airport in Paris - have to install some software to upload pictures to the laptop, but that shouldn't be too hard to do, even for me. I'll do it at work on Wednesday, I think. I've already taken a few photos, and the quality looks better than the old camera. But I'm still cross about losing that - either it dropped out of my bag or someone took it out, I actually wonder if that happened while I was in Debenham's the day before Christmas? Someone did brush against me, and the camera was at the top of my bag, as far as I can remember. But who knows? What annoys me is to lose the photos of the cats at Le Meridien, they were good.

And to finish, a quick summing-up of my stitching oeuvre for 2007: pretty pathetic! I didn't have as many finishes as in 2006, by a long way. I guess some of this can be explained by six months of commuting three hours a day, and the stress of the French project. I want to do better in 2008, and I think I will, as there are a couple of things making their way to the finish line.
posted by Ally at 11:33 am ¤ Permalink ¤ 1 comments
Friday, December 28, 2007
Paris in Winter
It is cold - between 1 and 4 degrees - but quite fine, no rain or snow. I have been running round like a mad thing, after getting home the latest I ever have from a flight from Cyprus on Wednesday. It took off two hours late because of the Haj, and then, when we landed, I had to wait an hour for luggage, because what came off first was about two hundred large plastic containers of water that the returning pilgrims had brought back with them. I keep meaning to look up why. The poor crew, the return flight to Larnaca could not have taken off before 5pm at the earliest, so it would be a long day for them. I'm just hoping tomorrow is better, and we don't have to wait for flights from Jeddah or Riyadh.

I foolishly left my pills in Cyprus and couldn't get any more until today - yesterday I was looking in every handbag trying to find the prescription! But I didn't keel over, so all is well. It's the first time I've done anything so silly, maybe I was thinking too much about Nicky. David was trying to tell me he had put on weight and looked older, but I don't think so.

Today I went to the hairdresser, so I look less like a yeti, my hair was just too long, and I did Le Bon Marche, and bought some Cashmere Island (Noro) yarn, this is absolutely delicious, and two La Droguerie scarf kits. I've also bought lots of books, tights, toothpaste, cleanser and sundry other necessities. So I will be going back with a fuller suitcase than I came with. I did go to Brentano's yesterday, I hoped they might have the new book on Judith Hayle samplers, they tend to get things like that, but alas, no. I'll have to order it to be sent to me in Cyprus, I think.

The other thing is of course Benazir Bhutto, I was totally, totally stunned by this. I didn't know her, but she was pretty much a contemporary, and I do know people who were at Oxford with her. Such a waste for her to go like that, and she has three teenage children as well....
posted by Ally at 5:26 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 1 comments
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Boxing Day
In Cyprus, it is actually called Boxing Day, as well.... I am sitting in the airport lounge, with the plane to Paris delayed an hour. Because the flight from Jeddah is delayed, of course, it is the Haj again, this delays all flights at this time of the year, it is a total pain. I have no idea why the airlines do not schedule realistically, the simple fact is that it takes a long time to get all the Haj passengers on to a plane, so they should call the flights an hour before departure time instead of 20 minutes! I still remember two years ago in Paris, where some Haj men made a big fuss because I was allowed on the aircraft first (being the only business class passenger), and I was sitting in my seat for an hour before takeoff, while they all boarded.

Today the incoming flight from Jeddah is delayed by three hours, that is just totally absurd! I am really glad I used some of my points to upgrade. The lounge attendant just told me there are eight passengers in business class, which is not too bad.

My weekend was fantastic, but I can't think where my camera is! I went to upload my photos yesterday, and the camera was not in my handbag. I'm really cross, because I had excellent photos of the pool, the beach and all the cats. No ordinary street kittens, these, but well-fed, well-groomed, extremely sleek creatures. One of them actually pushed me off my sun lounger, she wanted it - I had to get on the next one, so then we had me dozing on one and the cat dozing on the next one. I suppose it is her home, and I was just the guest.

The spa was great, I had thalassotherapy in three pools. First, the magnesium floating pool, which stings madly, but is incredibly good for the skin. Second, the saline floating pool, sheer bliss after the magnsium. And last, the hydrojet pool, where you can swim from jet to jet, of course I love the strong jets that hold you up. All follwed by hamam, then I had a facial and a pedicure, so I felt really, really fantastic by the end of this.

When I came back on Monday, I met up with Nicky for coffee, I forgot to mention before that he is here for Christmas.... I am seeing him again on Sunday as well....
posted by Ally at 10:21 am ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Microsoft Soup
Alec and I thought of this recipe, Microsoft Soup - my license keys for Visio and Project arrived this morning, and I said to Alec that I had to put a justification for having them into the Order system, I had put "needed for project work". Alec said, well of course we need them for work, do they think we are going to make soup out of them? Hmm, Microsoft Soup, tasty, no?

I've now started on downloading them, it seems very slow, and I have already managed to place quite a large order at SBB while only 20% of Project has downloaded. Includes quite a few CHS charts that I am missing and the new WMN Mermaid smalls set that has the fish threadwinders with it. I don't really have a lot of other stuff to do, I finished a couple of things this morning, and, since our clients are all in a tizz about the euro, I have not acquired anything new to do.

I just had an absurd conversation regarding winter sports and mooses with David as well, so I have used up all other sources of amusement. If I had remembered to bring some scissors, I would be able to spend some time sticking the expenses receipts on to the sheets of paper, as required by our new masters. What happens then is that they get sent to Roumania, where a team of Accounts people goes through them and asks silly questions. Leo had a hotel receipt that said "double room", and they wanted to know who the second person was! Of course, there wasn't one, it was a hotel where the rate per room is the same no matter whether it is one or two people, but he had some problems explaining this to them, and apparently they still think he has been engaging in something he shouldn't have. It was in Amsterdam, as well, which didn't really help.

Today is also the second anniversary of this blog, I have just realised, my first post was on 20 December 2005. And I think it really came about because of the Dwarf, our late and not much lamented PD, who used to fulminate about people who used blogs for trivial things like hobbies. At that stage, we would have all said the Earth was flat if the Dwarf had said it was spherical, so of course the logical thing was to start a stitching (well, partly) blog as soon as possible. So maybe the Dwarf did have some positive effects, after all. I've made over 400 posts, which is not bad in two years.
posted by Ally at 2:43 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Holidays Are Coming!
At last I feel as though these unexpected holidays are real....... I just went next door to the Cyprus Airways office to upgrade my economy class ticket to business, using some of my vast quantities of Cyprus Airways frequent flyer points. Our new masters will not let us book business class, then claim only the economy portion of the airfare as expenses, they insist on booking and ticketing economy, then our going directly to the airline to upgrade by whatever means we use! At least here Cyprus Airways is only next door to my own office.

So it is only two days until I go to Le Meridien at Limassol, I need to order my taxi down there. Then back here on Monday, to Paris on Wednesday and back here again on Saturday. The planes on practically every other day are booked solid, I checked all the days.

Alec is not going to be here the next two weeks, he will be working from home, as it is not holiday time for him. He was trying in vain the other day to explain to our taxi driver why there were not Christmas decorations in the streets of Tel Aviv, I don't think she really understood! Anyway, this means I will be at work three days by myself, but I think our clients will be busy with the change to the euro, in any case. I am quite happy about the change to the euro, it means that I won't have to have two sets of money any more.

There is more news on the holiday front, I have committed to going to New Zealand next year for my mother's 80th birthday! I am trying not to think about the horrors of international flights, I truly think that anyone who believes that flying is fun these days never goes anywhere... it's quite a long time since I went on such a long flight as Paris to Wellington, but I expect it just means more hassle at airports, since there are more of them between Paris and Wellington than there are between Paris and Larnaca, for example. And potentially one of them is Heathrow, which has got to be the nastiest place in the entire world. Having to pay through the nose for the privilege of being there is just adding insult to injury, in my view.

Oh well, I must stop this train of thought, otherwise I will never get there...
posted by Ally at 12:10 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 1 comments
Monday, December 17, 2007
Rather Better
This morning I felt quite good when I got up - allowing for my not being a morning person in any case. I felt terrible Friday night, and Saturday, especially as on Saturday morning, I picked up my glasses and the screw fell out of one side! I tried to put it back in and only succeeded in giving myself a headache. Fortunately in Cyprus there is an optometrist on every corner, and mostly they are Australian-trained and very friendly and helpful. My local one, two minutes walk away, put a new screw in very smartly, and I could see again.

Then I had my facial and hair-do in the afternoon, which made me feel a lot better, and I went to bed early (for me - 10:30 pm) and slept until 8am yesterday, by which time I was much restored. And yesterday I did not do much, except go to the English bookshop, do a little bit of stitching, some knitting and all my washing.

Here are some photos I took yesterday of my recent finishes:

These are the socks in Opal self-striping yarn that I completed last week... this stuff is such fun to work with, as you get this pattern with no effort at all, the only tricky bit is starting the second sock at the right place in the yarn to match the first. I was knitting on these in the launderette down below my apartment a while ago, and one young woman was looking at me, and finally had to ask how the stripes were created!

And this is "Good Things Come to Those Who Stitch", but why is there a red spot on the "t"?

This one shows the frame, which I bought at Zara Home, and I think is extremely effective:

This one looks much prettier in real life, and is a very nice design to stitch, if you need some quick gratification.

Today is very quiet here, just Alec and me, a welcome relief after having four extra people here last week, two of whom (Roddy and Leo) are extremely noisy PDs. Alec is slightly depressed, he has a new laptop, and is trying to configure it, with a few problems, as it is a Dell, as opposed to his old IBM. Now we don't get a choice, our new masters buy only Dells, and it takes a little getting used to after several years of IBM.

Speaking of PDs, I had a message from Sylvain to call him, I did call him, he said he was on a train and needed to log on and get some data before he spoke to me. He will try to call me today, he says. Goodness knows what this is about, but, as I said to Alec, if he screams at me again, I will put the phone down on him. Actually I don't know if he knows that I have to stay here until April, but it may be regarding that. It is kind of my secret ambition not to work on any more of Sylvain's projects again, I don't like the way he manages things, but I have to try and achieve this in a way that makes it look accidental, since he is actually my boss!

Well, now I just have to get through to Friday lunchtime, then I can go to Limassol and enjoy myself. Only have to work out what to take with me.... I really need to buy some gym shoes this week, but I think I have everything else I need. I did buy in Debenhams on Saturday a necklace that is like one of those Givenchy ones with pearls and velvet ribbons, £19 as opposed to 500€. I really like them, and have been ogling them in shop windows for a couple of years, but the price is absurd!

posted by Ally at 9:54 am ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Friday, December 14, 2007
TGIF... the Common Cold
Oh yes, I was feeling a bit blah when I got home from the delicious fish meze on Wednesday night, and yesterday I felt really quite odd, and today it is a full-blown cold. Really weird, this sort of thing always happens when finally I can relax, as this week after news that we have an extra few weeks before go-live.... I don't think it would have happened if I had been going to spend the entire Christmas holidays working.

The fish meze was fantastic, as usual - you start with a fish soup, then go on to Greek salad, with bread and dips (salmon, taramosalata, humus, spicy cheese) and olives. Then they start bringing the fish and seafood: squid, prawns, whole sardines, sole, whole barbounia, fish croquettes, fish kebabs, battered fish, at which point I started to lose count of all the different dishes. Soon after that we surrendered and refused dessert. It was the first time Seve and Jim had been to one of these places, and they were in a state of shock almost. Of course we washed it down with Aes Ambelis as well. Fortunately this restaurant was just around the corner from my place. The hotel cat was waiting for me when I got back, and I am sure she knew where I had been, as she looked quite envious.

Anyway today is Friday.......... So far today, I have made reservations to go to Le Meridien in Limassol next weekend, coming back to Nicosia on Christmas Eve, then leaving on Boxing Day for Paris for a few days. I am looking forward to Le Meridien, I have not been there before, but have heard good things about it. I have also been extremely good today, and filled in most of my outstanding expense reports, only two to go. This is in the system, I still have to do all the sticking together and photocopying, which is unbelievably tedious. This is of course a totally fantastic use of my time, at about 50 euros an hour! And my time is far from being the most valuable around the place....

Still at least I can go home with a clear conscience, that I have got quite a few things done that I need to today. I have even done work, we had a big meeting yesterday, and I acquired a few new tasks there.... I plan to have an extremely restful weekend!
posted by Ally at 4:33 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
A Development
Well, our client had their big meeting yesterday, and decided to postpone going live until 1 March i.e. another two months..... this isn't really what we expected, and apparently it was a very close decision. Roddy (a super project director who arrived especially for the big meeting) and Leo are quite upset about it, as it means they have to rearrange the universe now. For one thing, it has been asked by the client that Alec and I stay until the end of April, which is much longer than anyone expected, and we would have expected to be elsewhere by then, well and truly.

I don't know what to do about Christmas, I didn't have anything planned, but all the planes out of here are booked until Boxing Day, so I can't go home (not that there is any point going home while shops, banks and doctors are closed). Maybe I should just book a hotel in Limassol or Ayia Napa, with a heated pool..... and then Nicky was talking about coming to Cyprus as well, so I don't know what to do. Apart from I think I will fly to Paris on Boxing Day and back here at the weekend, which would be just before New Year. That would give me a chance to do the Paris things, including hairdresser, and take back clothes I will not need in winter.

This is something quite unexpected, and I am surprised at how well I am dealing with it - if it had happened last year, when I was having all the troubles with the lawyers and travel insurance and everything else, I would have been disconsolate for days, and really gloomy.

Tonight we are all going out for fish meze, this will be five men and me, as usual when we have these gatherings. This will be the biggest gathering for a long time, and soon it will be just Alec and I again..........
posted by Ally at 10:00 am ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Monday, December 10, 2007
Oh Silly Me!
When I went to open the safe in my bedroom this morning, in order to get out my laptop (which I had not touched since Friday), the code wouldn't open it, it just buzzed at me and displayed red lights! So I hotfoot it over to reception and then Angela came back with me and opened it for me with the gizmo they use (quite frequently, she says) for this purpose. She kindly said that likely I had not forgotten the code, it just happens sometimes. And of course when she came over, the cat who is not supposed to come into the building came in and tried to follow her into my apartment.... so we end up with really stupid feeling Ally.....

Of course I had intended to take photos of weekend finishes in the daylight this morning, but with this excitement, I did not, as I would have been late. There will have to be photos taken this evening, so I hope I can get the colours right. I have actually finished "Good Things Come to Those Who Stitch", AND put it into a Zara Home frame that I bought on Saturday. That shop is so good. I also finished the pair of socks that I have been knitting for ages, not bad going, when I did spend a lot of the weekend shopping and so on.

The facial on Satuday was brilliant, she did my eyebrows as well, and I was in there for nearly two hours. So I have made another appointment for this Saturday, for facial and hair. I was falling behind with my program of facials, etc, now is a chance to catch up.

Apart from that, what did I do? I had dinner with Jim the techie on Friday night, went shopping on Saturday and Sunday, etc, etc............. Seve got back in one piece from Israel, but only just. If he had not been travelling back with Alec, he would be in custody. Apparently he had some Japanese knife with him (no, I don't know why, and I don't know how he managed to get it into Israel on the journey over, there are some things for which the language barrier is too strong), and the security at Tel Aviv on the way back found it. Of course they confiscated it, and Alec managed to persuade them not to take him in for questioning. They did search him quite thoroughly and look at all his photos.

I do think Seve is naive, actually, he should have known it was a silly idea to take a knife with him. And he said the police kept telling him not to go places in Jerusalem as well, like over walls into the Arab areas! But quite a lot of young men in IT have weird ideas about tourism (Pakistan, Iraq etc), they need to remember that they are programmers, not war correspondents. He doesn't seem particularly subdued about it either, and I guess that is the language barrier again, because I bet Alec was scathing about the knife thing.
posted by Ally at 11:11 am ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Friday, December 07, 2007
Idling Away My Friday
I am in the office, the only other person here is Jim, one of the technical people. The other guy, Seve, has gone off to Israel for the weekend with Leo. I hope he will be all right - I mean, I know he will get there OK, because he is travelling with Leo, but then he is going to Jerusalem for sightseeing etc. His English is very erratic, and I don't really think he understands the difference between the East Bank and the Right Bank. He will come back with Alec on Sunday, he has Alec's address written in both English (for himself) and Hebrew (for taxi driver), so hopefully he will make it to Alec's place.

This afternoon I need to take courage and do the dreaded expenses, over a month's worth, but until then I am just looking at a couple of leftover things from the week, updating my Todo list, waiting for a delivery, so I can do a bit of testing etc. I feel a bit sleepy, I didn't want to get up this morning, and I will be happy when I can leave. Jim and I are going out for dinner tonight, then I shall go to bed and sleep in a bit tomorrow. It is my facial appointment tomorrow, I really need it too. And I may walk up to the knitting and patchwork shop as well, if I get myself up and ready in time, we will see. I will not buy clothes this weekend! But I should finish Christmas shopping for my mother and sister.

Speaking of Christmas, everyone has expressed horror that I will be spending it here, and most likely working (we will know on Tuesday whether they will go live on 1 January). But it's not so bad really. If I do work, I will reclaim all the days later for holidays. If I don't work, I will just book in somewhere with a spa.... we shall see.

Have practically finished "Good Things Come to Those Who Stitch"...
posted by Ally at 10:59 am ¤ Permalink ¤ 1 comments
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Full House
Today we have five people, as Leo has arrived... this of course means it will be quite noisy, as he talks a lot. The others are dealing with performance issues, with the migration and with batch jobs, that's why we have two techies here. The migration belongs to Alec, so he is involved, and of course Leo is the PD, so he is involved. I just sit here and do functional stuff, which on the whole is much less exciting.

Last night I did not stitch much, as I went out to dinner with Alec and the techies, we went to a restaurant in the Old City, near the Green Line (on the other side of which is Turkish-occupied territory). We had meze, traditional Cypriot meal of many small plates, and as we were sitting outside, we were watched by several cats, who were hoping for some meat to fall from the table. They were in luck, they did get a few pieces of souvlaki and lamb chop. Then I went home and did a bit of Sudoku - goodness, I am glad I brought several booklets from Paris with me.

It's raining today, which means that the Archbishop of Cyprus' instructions to pray for rain on Sunday clearly have borne fruit (or rather clouds). Seve is really cross, because he is going to Israel at the weekend, and rain is forecast there also. He's made a big fuss about getting tickets, he wanted to go to Israel, Jordan or Egypt, and he was really surprised how few flights there are. We have had to give him a crash course in the politics of the region, but I don't think he gets why people here tend to go to Athens or Paris or London for the weekend rather than Amman or Beirut or wherever. And why it is not possible to fly from Larnaca to Istanbul....
posted by Ally at 9:32 am ¤ Permalink ¤ 1 comments
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Tuesday Morning
After fulminating a lot about expenses claims yesterday, I discovered that Leo had told me the wrong task code! I should have realised this, the man is dyslexic. So it looks now as though I can fill the things in, I just have to master the rest of the process, it is all about sellotaping receipts in the right order to sheets of paper and sending them to Accounts Payable. There is some group in Roumania that actually gets all these bits of paper and processes them, the whole thing is mad. As mad as people in India ordering our cellphones and other things that we need to get.

Yesterday our Spanish technical man arrived, he is quite new and has come while the other one is here in order to increase his knowledge of our product. For some reason he arrived at 4am in the hotel, the same one where I have an apartment, and was appalled immediately, because there were a couple of cats sleeping in the lobby. I didn't know this happened in the hotel itself, we do have the apartment cat, who sleeps in our lobby, but thinking about it, it probably happens in every hotel in Nicosia. Anyway Seve does not like cats. Then there were people in the room next to him talking all night.... so he is going back to the other hotel, the one he said he didn't like last time, because it didn't have a gym or any fruit for breakfast! Strange, after he sent me about seven emails regarding the facilities of the various hotels in Nicosia.

Apartment cat has taken to waiting for me to come home, then inserting herself between me and my apartment door when I open it. She then wanders around a bit, settles down for a little sleep and miaows when she wants out again. To visit the next person, I guess. She is quite cute, and well looked after, not your typical street kitty, but not yet at the stage of sitting on the sofa with me, watching tv while I stitch.

I stitched last night, am nearly finished my little Lizzie Kate, but I really need to get on with things, there is only a little time to go until the end of the year. And no Christmas holidays, either, since we will be working all the way through. I have been going out at weekends too, and even this weekend, I am going to have a facial - at last! I booked at Jacques Dessange for Saturday afternoon with no trouble whatever. At least I know they will not ring up and tell me they have to cancel, and while I am there, I can check out any new treatments they have, and make a few more bookings.... pedicures, Dead Sea pool, etc. They have this pool of Dead Sea water in which one can float and listen to underwater music, it is very relaxing, and in fact one can even doze off, no danger of drowning, as the Dead Sea water holds you up.

Can you tell I am writing in order to use up time in which I should be testing another one of David's leftover changes? This one is incredibly boring, to do with the use of write-down instead of write-off. If you are a normal person, as opposed to an accountant or an IT financials person, you happily do not know anything about these! They are so boring that even writing emails in French about health insurance (to HR lunatics) is more appealing.
posted by Ally at 11:15 am ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Monday, December 03, 2007
Un Bon Weekend
I went to the Mall on Saturday, it looks just like a French mall, and possibly that can be explained by the presence of Carrefour, Grand Optical, Du Pareil Au Meme, Go Sport, as well as the other usual suspects, Zara, Massimo Dutti, Nine West, Mango, etc etc. Not very big, but pleasant in the morning before the crowds arrived. And there was a big bookshop with a huge selection of English books, great. I bought a few things I needed at Carrefour, and then I came back into the city and I bought black shoes with bows, just what I needed and I am wearing them now:

Plus evening bag I picked up from Accessorize:

Saturday evening I went out with the technical guy who is here for three weeks, we went to , a seafood restaurant not far from the office and our respective hotels. This is a great restaurant, I had fish croquettes followed by seafood pasta, which was simply enormous, with half a lobster, as well as mussels, prawns, fish.... I couldn't eat it all and wished I could take it home for street kittens.

And yesterday, I went to my Ulla Popken shop, I was just passing by on my way to the supermarket, and I saw it was just opening, this was at 10am, so I popped in. The shops will be open on Sundays until Christmas, which is quite nice, as winter Sundays here can be drear. So I bought a few tops and some underwear. The nice lady told me new stuff will be in on the 15th of December, so I'll have to pop along then as well. It is so good that Ulla Popken has opened here, there was a complete lack of clothes shops that I liked before.

Even with all this excitement, I did manage to do a bit of stitching, I am getting on well with Lizzie Kate's "Good Things Come to Those Who Stitch", plus have put a few stitches into the second side of the BRD biscornu. Here is previous progress on that "With All Your Heart" set from BRD:

Yes, those letters are one over one, amazing that I can still see, but I managed quite well, I am looking forward to finishing the second side and putting this together.
posted by Ally at 3:48 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments