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Coptic storm in a teacup

It's pomegranate season in Cyprus. Ya Beles is the fruit and veg stall at the bottom of our mountain road and is probably the busiest place on this side of the island. Straight from the field, produce is heaped up in tantalising pyramids of colour at every time of year. There are the massive globe artichokes of early summer, the sweetest grapes you've ever tasted, spring onions the size of leeks, garlic bulbs bigger than English onions and, of course, those delicious, waxy Cyprus potatoes.

So autumn brings plenty of mellow fruitfulness but not so many of Keats's mists. Instead, it brings the first of the coptic storms, presaged in on Tuesday night by a massive grey cloud that moved slowly and majestically eastwards along the coast, with flickering lightning like some divine lamp with a faulty connection. We were then diverted by the arrival of friends for a barbecue and forgot all about the storm till around 5am yesterday morning when we were woken by a whirlwind in the bedroom blowing all the pots off the dressing table and the sound of crashing outdoors. Outside the Major and I found most of the cushions and one chair in the pool and later, when it was light, we saw all the pine trees had been swept clean of the twigs they were due to drop this autumn. They were in the pool too.

I only came across the idea of the coptic storm after a couple of years at our sometime home in Cyprus. There is a timetable for these fourteen annual winds and it's been the same for centuries, perhaps millennia, according to an ancient Arabic calendar. The storms last from two to six days and the calendar remains surprisingly accurate. Every storm has its own character and this one, though a few days earlier than usual, is El Saleeb or Cross Wind. It comes from the West around the time of the autumn equinox and is a dry wind that covers everything in a fine yellow sand - Coptic storms originate in Africa and we end up with plenty of Saharan sand over the year. I'll be back in London long before the next one, the Crusader Wind, arrives in a month.

In the meantime, everyone on the island is enjoying the cooling effect of the wind (so far unaccompanied by rain) after the hammer blow of heat we've been under for the last ten days. The trees - we are almost surrounded by forest - are sighing and bending in the wind and dropping their pine cones. The songbirds are quiet but the buzzards are soaring high above the ravine on slightly different thermals - they seem to be enjoying it too.

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