The sea is blue. Good. The water in the pool looks blue. Good. But when blue water comes out of the tap? Not so good. I’m told of a number of possible reasons for this. The one I favour is that Cyprus is full of copper (its name actually means copper) and if copper gets into the water it acquires a blue tinge. Well, maybe.
In the meantime, in the north of Cyprus our village still awaits the connection to the water pipeline from Turkey so everything is coming by tanker still from the amiable Husseyn – business has boomed so much this summer his well is running low. There is talk of a second pipeline, this time for electricity coming from the Turkish mainland which – now the Coptic winds have blown away the heat haze – we can see clearly from our house.
It is a sign, perhaps, of the hopelessness of the current peace negotiations between North and South that when a devastating forest fire was raging this summer in the Troodos Mountains, the government of South Cyprus refused any help from the North. No Turkish water wanted there. And that’s not all. Last week, the South were refusing access to British expats wanting to cross the border in their cars. Northern phones don’t work in the South and vice versa. And now, in a decision worthy of a Pirandello farce, the North has decided to follow mainland Turkey’s decision not to turn the clocks back this autumn. So now the island is to be divided not just by the Green Line and decades of mutual loathing. They’ll be on different time zones, too. A settlement by Christmas? Absolutely no chance.
So while we wait for the water, the Major and I decided to get another utility on site – gas. It’s hard to believe in October when the temperatures are still in the mid-30s but it can get cold here in the winter. In fact, last year there was even some (very short lived) snow. The locals had never seen the stuff before and were thrilled but it only lasted a night and melted when the sun came up.
Now we had been putting off the gas. Or more accurately the Major had been putting it off because there is only one man here who will connect up your tank – Mr Sabatini. The Major had come across Mr Sabatini when we connected the gas in our old house and had been interrogated in some detail about most aspects of his life. Discovering the Major had been a headmaster after he left the army, Mr Sabatini returned the next day, unannounced, with his son slumped with adolescent misery in the passenger seat. The Major was then required to inspire him to enter the groves of academe. The Major was horrified and the poor boy didn’t get out of the car.
We decided to drive to the wild west of the island never having been there before. The coastline is beautiful, there are few villages and some of these are the last outposts of the Christian Maronites from Lebanon who are another of the many peoples who have been on Cyprus for centuries. Our own house is built on Maronite land but there are far fewer of them now. We found a tiny Maronite church, garlanded with flowers and, at Soli, an ancient basilica where St Auxibius was baptised by the apostle Mark.
Returning home we discovered an interesting development in our trees. Something has appeared there that looks like a white cardboard miniature house swinging from a branch. No one knows what it is but there are more of them all over the forest. What can it possibly mean?