August is a month best avoided in Cyprus. Unfortunately, this year it decided to arrive in June. During the last few days of last month and continuing into the first week of this one, temperatures – even in our mountain home – have become unbearable. In the 40s centigrade (the 100s in old money), we have stumbled through the heat haze to a standstill. The only places your brain starts to work again are in the pool or in the air con. If you go out to eat, you choose your destination according to its proximity to a sea breeze rather than anything to do with the food.
In the island's capital, though, these temperatures would be welcome. Europe's last divided capital has two names – Nicosia on the Greek side, Lefkosa on the Turkish side. Whichever side you're on, though, the temperature is now over 50C. Yesterday they recorded 52C. 52C!!!! The current discussions about unifying the island are, luckily, taking place in Switzerland. Any hope of even halfway sensible talks being held would have long ago bitten the dust. Though, to be fair, talks about unity 40 years after the division of the island and after several thousand years of mutual distrust and loathing between Greeks and Turks (remember the Trojan Wars?) are unlikely to result in agreement.
It's not just we humans who are feeling the heat either. The pine forest that covers the mountain also surrounds our house on three sides. Once temperatures hit 40, the trees begin to protest, making a curious crackling sound – the resin heating up maybe? And then there are the flies. While no temperature seems to be able to prevent the cicadas shouting their heads off all day long, the flies have disappeared. Back in the balmy days of mid-30s C, they were everywhere, dozy with the heat and buzzing around, repetitively buffeting windows and walls. Now they've gone. The only ones we see are dead, perhaps quite literally felled by the ever-soaring heat. They've dropped like flies.
This is a blessing. But the most glorious result of all this heat is the effect on our owl. This is a popular nesting place for Little Owls (and they are the cutest, I reckon, of all the owls) to nest. When the chicks are first out of the nest, you have to drive very slowly up the mountain at night as they have a habit of sitting around in the road while they decide about giving this flying thing a go. We have occasionally in the past had an adult fly across our pool at dusk, dropping down for a sip of water, before heading out to the ravine and a night's hunting. Now our owl is thirsty. For the last three nights, we have had repeated visits – last night I counted six – when on noiseless wings, the owl swoops back and forth scooping up water while we sit (equally silently) on the terrace a few feet away and marvel. So, no, I'm not going to complain about this blasted heat...