Thursday, July 31, 2008
Paris Here We Come
Tomorrow I am going home for the weekend - yay! I'm not flying back until Tuesday, that being the earliest flight I could get. I wasn't supposed to be coming back at all, according to the Big Boss last time he was here, I was supposed to be having holidays in August and then going to some other project. Of course, even though we only have about ten bosses, none of them can plan anything, so this is all changed now. Alec and I were moaning yesterday about how sad it was to keep a dog and bark oneself, as it were, since it seems that anything that does require organisation is carried out by us.

Current plan is that I shall stay here until mid-September, then take some holidays, which sounds like a very good idea, since I have currently 29 days of vacation and probably about 6 RTT days that I need to take. This company takes vacation days off us, if we do not use them by the end of May each year. I lost five earlier, even though I had three weeks off when I went to New Zealand. It will be interesting to see if Sarkozy's reform of the 35 hour week will affect our vacation days - of course we don't work a 35 hour week, no-one does, except in the civil service and in shops and so on, but this is why we have extra vacation. I tend to think that, with a big company like ours, any effects will take quite a long time to be felt, as they have to go through a lot of negotiations to change anything.

I am looking forward to going home for a bit, since there should be some squishy mail waiting for me, also I am hoping it will be considerably cooler. Although last night it said on television that Paris was 28 degrees, which can be very hot and unpleasant there. On the other hand, 28 degrees can also be quite nice, it depends upon sun, wind etc, so here's hoping.
posted by Ally at 10:02 am ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Sunday at Starbucks
On the way here, I saw a sunglasses shop that I think Anne would like to frequent:
Their windows are just full of ducks, there must be hundreds of them scattered amongst the sunglasses! The shop is halfway between my hotel and Starbucks, not very far at all, I haven't been anywhere that is not within about a square kilometer since I came back to Nicosia three weeks ago - that's normal at this time of the year, when it is impossible to walk around. So I'm looking forward to going to Paris on Friday. I'll be coming back on Tuesday.... I went out yesterday and bought myself a bag that will take my computer plus some other things, so I can travel with hand luggage only. It will have stitching supplies, yarn and books in it on the way back to Cyprus.

Yesterday I got this far on Red Velvet Building Blocks:

This one shows the bottom as well:
I am pleased with the way it is coming out, and I quite like stitching monochrome, although I haven't so far done a lot of it.

I seem to have some sort of computer problem at present, I cannot open Internet Explorer - I am using Mozilla Firefox at present, but I will have to get IE back somehow, as our system uses it, and I am more used ot it in any case. No idea why these things happen! But I was quite impressed with myself for remembering that Mozilla Firefox is installed as standard on our machines, instead of just panicking. Tomorrow I will sort it out somehow, it will either start working again, or I will have to download another copy.

Time to go, I need to go home and sit in the quiet again - this place is full of screaming children, as was the hotel pool this morning - and do some stitching. I'm hoping that there is no wedding at the hotel today, as then I will be able to swim again about 5pm.
posted by Ally at 12:29 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 1 comments
Friday, July 25, 2008
A Nice Fish Lunch
There is such a thing as a free lunch............ the new PD, who is called Yehiel, came to Nicosia today and took me out to lunch with the client's IT Director. To a nice fish tavern, where we first had salad, dips, octopus and red mullet, then a whole fish with oil and lemon sauce. Rounded off by some fruit, fresh figs and so on.

Of course Yehiel does want me to do something for him, to work for him in his new group where he is leader of the universe. He asked me whether I was interested in any sort of project management, the answer was a resounding NO! Don't tell my sister, she would be shocked, but I have spent years avoiding becoming a project manager, after occasional forced sentences. It's not that I think it's a terrible job or that I can't do it or anything like that, it's just that I am an architect and that's what I want to do for the foreseeable future, in any case.

And it looks as though I am coming back here for a considerable time as well. Definitely August and September, then I will get a holiday, I have told Yehiel that I insist upon that.... Goodness knows what my holiday plans will be by that time of the year! I haven't even thought that far ahead, but it would probably be quite nice to get on a train and go somewhere.

I am trying to go home now and start my weekend, via the supermarket for essential supplies (chardonnay, anyone?), hope I can get there before it closes. Actually here you are not supposed to be able to buy wine except at licensed premises and supermarkets, they stopped the kiosks from selling a while ago, because the other shops complained about this. However, most kiosks still keep some for their friends etc, and I qualify in this category at the kiosk next door to work. There are three people that work there, Andreas, his father and a part-time guy. Now Andreas and Papa are lovely people, but the part-timer is weird, and if I go in there and ask for chardonnay, he makes a big thing of it. In fact, if I go past and see he is there, I will not go in at all - the guy is obese, with a huge great beard and sticking out hair, and he has eyes that look as though he is on drugs. And he thinks he is wonderful, he is always trying to chat me up! At least I think so, repeated questions about where I am from, how long I am going to be in Cyprus, how cute my accent is and how many languages do I speak? David says this is definitely chat lines, and he should know....

So it's the supermarket for me, then home, a nice shower and so on, and some stitching when I feel cool again. I'll have to take a photo of my Red Velvet Building Blocks tomorrow. Which reminds me, in the interests of research, I have ordered all "red" colours of Belle Soie silk from Sew and So, they should be waiting for me in Paris next week. Then I can pick which will be the best for various larger projects e.g. Romy's Austrian Sampler and order more of those, while the single skeins will be perfect for smaller things.
posted by Ally at 5:04 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Monday, July 21, 2008
A Couple of Photos
These are a couple of knitting photos, that I intended to post over the weekend, but Blogger was not being at all cooperative.

First, my Louisa Harding Frilled Scarf and matching Aurora Beret - from pink Impressons and Kimono Ribbon. The pompons on the scarf are two x Impressions and 2 x Kimono Ribbon, and the Rosette on the Beret has the first row from ribbon and the rest (= insides of petals) from Impressions, which is a soft yarn that is not too fuzzy:

Now a lacy cashmere scarf from Debbie Bliss Pure Cashmere and some socks from Regia bamboo mix yarn:

After that, maybe you can guess my favourite colour? But I am now knitting a scarf in pale green Sari Silk, as a bit of a change from pink.

The weekend was so hot here, well over 40 degrees continuously both days, and it only drops to about 27 or 29 overnight. All I can hope is that my airconditioning doesn't break and that the swimming pool doesn't suffer some calamity that renders it unuseable. I was very happy yesterday, as there was no wedding party at the hotel, so the pool was open until 6pm, and I was able to have a late afternoon swim. When there is a wedding, it closes at 4pm, and it's still very hot for me then. But by 5:30, there is a bit of shade over the pool, and all the annoying kids have gone. We had two small English girls on Saturday morning, who repeatedly jumped in (after long run-ups) screaming "bombs away!" each time. One of them nearly landed on me, because they were not looking where they were going.............. never mind the notice that says "no jumping or diving". The pool is only 1.60 deep at the deepest part, so it's not made for that sort of thing.

Apart from that, as usual I only did embroidery, knitting and some reading at the weekend, plus a sleep each afternoon. I do feel a lot better today, though, and part of this must be that I have a work permit, albeit only valid until the end of August. Quite something that we can spend three years and two months getting a work permit which is then valid for seven weeks! But after our sojourn in the other office on Wednesday, our passports were taken to the immigration office on Thursday and returned to us, with work permits, for both Alec and me.

Let's hope things continue to go along pleasantly this week, so that we can cope with the heat etc...

posted by Ally at 9:14 am ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Some Progress
This is the start of my BRD Red Velvet Building Blocks.... taken at the weekend, I have completed the last block on the bottom of the picture now as well. The thread is Gloriana silk, colour Rosewood, a beautiful rich red. I am being quite slow on this, what with the heat and so on, but it is fun to stitch. By the way, I am left-handed, you may be able to tell this from the photo, as I have started with the left side of the stitching. With plain cross-stitch like this, I can stitch it in the hand.

The weekend was hideously hot, and it has got hotter through the week. Yesterday the temperature according to television was 39, but my taxidriver told me it hit 45. Today it is forecast for 41, so goodness knows what it will in fact be. I did very little at the weekend, the usual swimming and so on, but I did manage to get to the sale at my favourite shoe shop, Aerosoles, and buy two pairs at reasonable prices.

Today Alec and I are actually at the Nicosia office of our own company, the great huge multi-national software giant. We haven't met these people before, and it is wonderful how nice they are and how willing to help us with our work permit problems. Actually we are doing the work our Cypriot lawyer should have done months ago, getting application forms filled out and signed. It is going to take a few hours to get authorisations for signatures and so on, and the MD here has meetings and has to fit us in between these. But it's quite pleasant here, the aircon is wonderful and we are in a very nice meeting room, where they bring me iced coffee at regular intervals.

I was actually rather depressed earlier this week with the heat, the horrible lawyer and so on, I had to send away for a new Shepherd's Bush kit - I used to do a lot of theirs a few years ago, but they have become rather twee lately. However one of the new ones, Sail Away, has Quaker elements and is really very nice. I do hope it will be waiting for me in Paris when I get back home on 1 August.
posted by Ally at 10:26 am ¤ Permalink ¤ 2 comments
Friday, July 11, 2008
This is the opposite of hibernation, it is what you do in summer when it is too hot to go out, and it is what I intend to do all weekend. The supplies you need for estivation are airconditioning, chardonnay (just the right quantity, not too much), mineral water, fruit and stitching, plus a few audio books and some loose clothing. Estivation can be interrupted by short dashes to the pool. Estivation is not only for human beings, also hotel kitties can take part, although not in the chardonnay and fruit bit.

Concentrating on estivation will also mean that I have no time to think about lawyers, the Cyprus lawyer seems to have vanished, or at any rate she is not taking calls from the US lawyer. This is typical, she tried this trick with Leo once, and he had a field day leaving messages and eventually I think he made a complaint about her to the head of the firm. As usual, she had some wonderful excuse, like she was in court.............. at midnight, yes, sure. Poor US lawyer, who seems very normal and efficient, is quite frustrated by this, and I think she is seeing what Alec and I have been through over the past three years.

Kathryn, the immigration authorities here make the NZ ones look like pussy cats. My main experience of the NZ ones is whenever I come back to New Zealand, they always say "welcome home" when they see my passport.

This certainly is not the case in Cyprus, where the officials at the airport are actually policemen, and many of the officials at the immigration office are policemen as well, and armed ones at that. A visit there is fairly scary, as there are a lot of policemen and soldiers wandering around with firearms. Normally the main office there is a seething mass of foreigners who all need permits, but there are only two ladies behind the counter - most employees here are male, but these two ladies are the ones who do any work that gets done, and probably get bullied by the men as well.

Around the edges of the room are offices with the doors shut, mostly occupied by the male officials who are interviewing female artistes, they require at least one personal meeting before a permit is granted. But there is one door marked "Housemaids Complaints" (which always makes me think of knees), that has a long queue of tearful or enraged-looking Philipino or Sri Lankan girls. Tears and rage are, in my opinion, an entirely natural reaction to being referred to as "the domestic" by some snippety woman from the suburbs who expects to be called "the madam", and it's no wonder the queue is huge. No idea what happens to them.

Where do I fit in? Well, the last time I was there, I got ushered into a director's office, they seemed to think neither the large room nor any of the closed-door rooms were suitable for me. I sat there, on a sofa next to a soldier with a machine-gun, for about an hour while my lawyer screamed at the director and he screamed back. The lawyer, the director and the machine-gun guy all smoked several cigarettes during this time. Then we left. I don't think it either advanced or regressed my work permit application, it just seemed to be something that had to be done.
posted by Ally at 2:58 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Lawyers Again
Perhaps I should say first that my father was a lawyer, my uncle was a lawyer, some of my cousins and my friends are lawyers, even David used to be a lawyer..... and all of these people were / are normal (well, within the normal range).

But they did not practice in Cyprus. Here, if you want to be a lawyer, you have to go to Greece or the UK to get a degree, since law degrees are not yet available in Cyprus. Upon return, you get a well-appointed office in the best part of town, photos in silver frames of you with the Archbishop or the President are a great accessory. The other thing you need is the largest, flashiest car possible, and once thus equipped, you can settle back for life and do absolutely nothing and charge people, preferably foreigners, large sums of money for this.

Yes, I have had enough of the woman who is handling my work permit. To be fair, she has only been handling it for half of the three years it has taken not to get a work permit, but I do not think it is unreasonable to expect a little progress to be made in one and a half years.

The latest thing is that she is supposed to arrange for me and/or my passport to go to the immigration office, supposedly in order to get the work permit (I'm a little sceptical, as I have heard this before). And I asked for it to be arranged in advance, so that I could fit it in with my work committments, unlike previous occasions, where it has been a phone call at 5pm to say I need to be at the immigration department at 7:30am the next day.

Is this so difficult? Well, on Monday I get told that the appointment is for Wednesday, and to avoide me queueing (for an appointment???), I don't need to be there. Someone will come and collect my passport and our client here will need to sign and seal some papers. Well, I say, you had better make an appointment with them to do this beforehand. No, you can't just bowl up here on Wednesday morning at some unspecified time and expect them to be free to do this. Anyway, what papers? They need to know beforehand what they are expected to sign. And while we are about it, who will collect my passport, at what time and when will I get it back. Silence......

Until I get to work this morning, and Andy says to me, oh the lawyer called, she is weird. They wanted him to sign something, so he asked them to read it out, and it started "we agree to employ".... Naturally he said he wasn't signing that, as the client is not my employer, which you would think after this length of time, the lawyer would know.

Next thing, I get an email from the weird lawyer, saying "client will not sign application form, can someone from X (old name of my company) do this?". Application form? Haven't we filled out a few of those before? Why another one? Why X, a company that has not existed for over a year?

So I have taken the coward's way out and told her to take this up with the lawyer in the US, who seems quite sensible and organised, and must be driven mad by having to work with this woman. I wonder if I will get an appointment or a work permit before I leave here at the end of July? It seems unlikely with the way things are going. If I come back here after the summer holidays, I am going to try asking for another lawyer, maybe there is a competent immigration lawyer somewhere in Cyprus.

Of course all of this has its roots in the fact that the Cyprus Government historically has not wanted foreigners here (see this, it's from the Cyprus Mail recently), and they are still doing everything they can not to process any more work permits than they can avoid. I am pretty much on the lowest priority, because I am not a "female artiste" or a house maid. See this for the way a lot of people here think about their house maids, although this did provoke a barrage of "why not do your own housework if employing a maid is such hard work?" letters to the paper.

And as for female artistes, I won't go too closely into the nature of their employment, the government swears that they are dancers and waitresses and so on, but then they can't really answer questions about why they need to have regular AIDS tests..... I think Cyprus is the only European country that has a special visa category for this, and it is only open to women from certain countries, formerly Asian countries, now also from Eastern Europe. Which of course accounts for the fact that women who are from those countries, but who are not female artistes, can find life very difficult here. We had one young woman from our company, who comes from Singapore, where her father is a professor and her mother is a judge, and she was harassed by "offers" every time she went out, so ended up spending six weeks in her hotel, more or less.

I should probably stop going on about this, it's nothing to do with stitching or anything even vaguely relevant to the themes of this blog, but really it is just SO annoying to be without a work permit for this length of time.
posted by Ally at 1:58 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 1 comments
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
VQ Photos!
Yes, camera is working again........... so here we are, the finished Victoria's Quaker:

Plus the bottom half closer up, as that's the part that has not really been photographed at all so far:

I am actually very pleased with the way it has turned out - when I first saw the colours of the silks, I thought they were dark and boring, but the effect is much better than I had expected.
I got back here as planned on Saturday evening, a little later than expected, since the plane was crowded with package tourists as I predicted. It took ages to board in Paris, going through the security queue was a complete nightmare, even worse than usual. All of economy class was full, not one spare seat, and there were very few spares in business class. When I got back to the hotel, I distinguished myself by breaking my keycard in the front door of the apartments! Don't ask me how I did this....... anyway George from Reception, who is a hero, managed to fish the pieces out, otherwise I would have been very unpopular with all the residents.
It is incredibly hot, on Sunday I really could not go out until the evening, and going to work yesterday and today was like walking into an oven. Yesterday I went home at 5:30 and jumped straight into the pool, which is supposed to close at 6pm. The surrounds are a restaurant in the evenings, but no-one ever comes to have dinner before 8pm, so in practice one can swim until after 6pm, but it depends upon who is setting up for dinner, as to what time they tell you to get out of the pool.
I am fairly busy at work this week, as Alec is at home, he has major dentist work plus visiting his in-laws! And I am being hassled by lawyers as well. At the moment our US lawyer is rather good, I think she really does understand what the problems have been regarding the mythical Cyprus work permit. But the Cypriot lawyer is hopeless, both incompetent and rude. Incompetent is actually the best construction that can be put on her behaviour, I have caught her in a couple of mistakes that are either due to extremely poor record-keeping or plainly simply lies. The latest example of staggering rudeness is that our client and I are expected to drop everything tomorrow and sign documents about whose purpose we know nothing, to be deliverd to us at some unspecified time by some person we do not know, to whom I am supposed to give my passport as well......... supposedly it should be returned tomorrow, but who knows?
posted by Ally at 11:10 am ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Friday, July 04, 2008
Success At the Soldes
At present it is sales ("soldes") in Paris........ I've been here since Wednesday afternoon, and yesterday I did things like doctor, pharmacy, epilation, so today I went to Boulogne-Billancourt, out in the suburbs near Roland Garros, where there is a BIG Ulla Popken shop, three floors. For about 200 euros, I bought a dress, a cardigan, a swimsuit, a nightdress and a beach caftan, so I am quite happy. Everything was 30% off, very nice! Would you believe I really needed a swimsuit because, living in Cyprus, I have actually worn one out - I didn't think swimsuits actually ever wore out, they never have for me before, but there you are.

Then I came back on the metro to Sevres-Babylone and went to Le Bon Marche, where I found two Empreinte bras at 30% off, very good, because these are the ones I really like but they are normally nearly 100 euros each. So I had enough money left over to buy some Noro Kureyon sock yarn that is new in stock, three colours of it. After a nice lunch at Hippo, I was even happier. Now I'm home again and thinking of reading or falling asleep before I go out to get some groceries to take back to Cyprus tomorrow................. hope I survive the journey, the plane is fully booked, probably with the great unwashed on their 399 euro package tours.
posted by Ally at 2:54 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments