Once bitten . . .


WE are having some wonderful warm weather, which is very welcome. Not so welcome are the biting insects which accompany it. A few days ago a little wretch got inside the neck of my T-shirt and had a banquet. It must have needed a lie-down afterwards. 

However I am the fortunate possessor of several tubes of Stilex Jel, bought over the counter in North Cyprus (the Turkish sector) some years ago. It is magic for insect bites. Nothing you can get here comes anywhere near. If you know anyone going to Turkey make sure they bring some back. 

The Cyprus holiday, in May 2013, was fascinating. It got off to a pretty bad start when we arrived at the (as we thought) self-catering accommodation in a holiday village not far from the coastal town of Kyrenia in the middle of the night, having had to fly via Turkey as direct flights from Britain are not permitted. A half-asleep clerk gave us a key and we had to find our way in semi-darkness to our apartment. When we opened the door we found it full of cleaning equipment. Back to reception for the right key and lug the suitcases to another apartment. In the morning we found a notice taped to the fridge: ‘You may not bring your own food or drink. If the housekeeper finds anything bought outside it will be confiscated and you will be fined £10.’ And they call it the hospitality business.

It could only get better, and it did. Highlights included juice made from oranges we had just seen picked from the tree, vodka sold in supermarkets in three-litre boxes like wine, and sea turtles in Kyrenia harbour.

Even in May it was very hot, but someone told us this was nothing – in midsummer he had seen a glass ashtray explode in the heat. There were gorgeous flowers everywhere, including these lantanas.

Inspired, I have tried to grow them here in Lancashire. These are this year’s efforts.

As you see, quite the star of the show.

On a coach tour we were taken to the remains of the 5th century Christian basilica Agia Trias, with wonderful mosaic floors. I found this image of sandals very touching. 

The guide told us that because Turkey is Muslim no efforts were being made to preserve the site, which was unprotected and open to the elements, but according to this website a conservation project was announced in 2018. Let’s hope it happens.

Another trip took us along the Karpaz peninsula, where the imaginatively named Gold Beach stretches for miles.

At the end, nearly three hours from Kyrenia, is a monastery. It is now being restored but when we went it was looked after by one ancient monk, and was the unlikely site of a flea market selling a vast array of tacky items including old Star Wars games.

The peninsula is also home to thousands of feral donkeys, which come to be fed. 

The supreme moment of the holiday came when we were walking to a village in the hills, and spotted something in the middle of the road. We realised it was a chameleon and as a car approached we snatched it up. I took a (not very good) picture of Alan holding it. 

It was a Mediterranean or common chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon). I suppose it had fallen to the road from the tree canopy where they live. As a reptile fan it was a wrench to put it into the vegetation at the side of the road, but they are not good in captivity and it was much kinder to leave it to its own devices. It did not not seem hurt by its fall and trundled off with determination.

North Cyprus has no extradition treaty with the UK, and we met quite a number of people there who seemed to be evading something. (Remember the Polly Peck tycoon Asil Nadir? As far as I can tell he is still there, aged 80.) But we would love to go back – though with the Government’s determination to wreck foreign travel I doubt if we will.  


Now this is what I call a bonfire.

I have watched the pile growing steadily and presumed it was being saved for November 5, but it went up last weekend. I must be a latent arsonist because I really enjoy a good fire. This is what remained the next day.


Talking of warm weather, everyone probably knows this but just in case . . . 

I have never really got used to temperatures in Centigrade, as we used to call it – by the way, did anyone ever ask if we wanted to switch from Fahrenheit? So it helps me to remember that 28C reversed is 82F, and similarly that 16C is 61F. 


Our village hall hosts numerous activities during the day, such as a gardening club, mums and toddlers group, keep-fit classes and so on. However for the last several weeks it has been commandeered as a Covid-19 vaccination centre, so everything else has had to go hang. Two characters in hi-viz are on duty outside from 9 to 5, seven days a week, to control the rush. Usually they avail themselves of the bench handily located just by the door. I walk past every day and so far I have seen not one soul going in or out. Now I am told that the requisition has been extended till the end of November for booster Covid jabs and flu jabs. What it is costing in wages and hire (if the NHS are paying for the space) heaven only knows, but I am sure it is well worth displacing the clubs and groups.

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