It's fascinating to look down the years of one’s life and identify the twists and turns which have led to the current day. Often the smallest turn results in a most significant change and none more so than when the smallest and most insignificant happening to a young man in a foreign country had the most unexpected repercussions on my own life.
Born in 1946 after the war, my life was low key. Money was always in short supply and holidays were courtesy of Dad's perks of employment with British Rail. We always managed to get away as a family for two weeks’ a year and I was 18 before British Rail took us as far as Italy and the awakening that a precious two weeks’ holiday was best spent in hot sunny climes. Hopping across the Irish Sea to Ireland was never on the holiday agenda.
However, one Irish youngster failed his Irish exam and his plan to go to Limerick University was scuppered. He chose instead to study at the Agricultural College in Nantwich, England, met my daughter Hannah and the rest, as they say, is history. They married and settled in Ballybrown. Two year’s later my son completed his studies and decided to follow his sister, joining Abbey Machinery in Nenagh.
By this time I was married to my now late second husband, David, with a holiday home in Cyprus. But a second Irish wedding, and the arrival of five grandchildren led us to decide an Irish base was necessary and so we put roots down in Clarina. These days I would normally be drifting happily between England Ireland and Cyprus but the Covid pandemic has changed all that. The question now is, will I, along with Society in general, revert to my previous lifestyle?
Hannah introduced me to the IWO back in 2006. She took me along to an Altzheimers fund raising coffee morning chez Goretti and I have enjoyed meeting up with members regularly since. My reappearance after being away is seamless; we take up where we left off and I joke that my absences give my friends a rest so that they can welcome me back later! The coffee mornings are never to be missed, and I enjoy Louise's mahjong group, and Alyson’s card evenings. IWO allows me to feel part of the community and that sense of belonging is vital. IWO’s mission to embrace new members both local and non-Irish is a very valuable, indeed essential, service.
As my time in Ireland increases with my advancing years, my IWO friends will remain ever important. But meanwhile my love affair with Cyprus will keep me coming here for as long as possible. Nothing can beat the blue skies, the daily bursts of sunshine and the gentle warmth even in winter, the al fresco lifestyle and the general feeling of wellbeing. To step out of an aeroplane onto the steps brings a sigh of joy especially if one has just left a dull dreary cloudy day elsewhere. One’s outside space in Cyprus is more important than inside space because most activities are carried out outside. Its not perfect - I find the heat and humidity over the summer months exhausting but my first winter here is proving to be a very happy experience.
With the loss of my husband I sought new interests and joined the Paphos International Sailing Club in 2013. The name belies the fact that most members are mature ex-pats who just enjoy time messing about with boats. It has been a source of huge enjoyment as I took up this new hobby in my late 60s. I took a basic sailing course and have sailed regularly over the past eight years though my preference these days is to be crew, leaving the position of helm to others. I have had one or two stressful experiences as helm; once when my tiller extension got caught in my life-jacket and the dinghy lurched wildly around in a brisk wind as I tried, and failed, to extricate myself; once in strong winds when I suddenly lost confidence and just did not dare to tack - the safety boat thankfully came to my rescue again that time; and one other occasion when I fell off the boat which was more a cause for laughter than distress. But best now that I play the support role. This year I have been awarded the Club’s Aphrodite Cup which is presented each year to the lady who has been most involved within the Club during the year,
The Covid Pandemic has kept me here for the past eleven months and like everyone else I long for the freedom to visit family and friends. I have my rescue dog Tika to think about and although I could have taken flights home none were easily available for her. But why would I want the stresses of Covid tests, Passenger Locator forms, and Quarantines with the nightmare scenario of possibly not being able to return if flights were suddenly grounded.
The Cyprus Government’s handling of the Covid crisis has been very reassuring. Little self isolating here. Throughout the pandemic when restrictions were tight all new arrivals were accommodated in local hotels for their quarantine. My friend booked to visit family over Christmas in the UK and on arriving back into Paphos airport was given a Covid Test and along with all passengers was taken by bus to a hotel. In this case The Annabelle in Paphos Town. My friend found herself in a double room with all the usual facilities plus a balcony with sea view. There was no menu but three daily meals were delivered in polystyrene containers and left outside her door. The evening meal did not arrive until 7.00 p.m. and she joked she felt like she was in a zoo waiting for the food to be dropped so she could eat! No extras could be ordered though friends could deliver treats and she was thankful that the Annabelle was in her home town. She was not allowed out of that room for the next seven days at which time she had another Covid test. A negative result and she was allowed home to self isolate for three more days. The entire operation was at the expense of the Cyprus Government.
In spite of these strict controls Cyprus is still under lockdown because although our numbers are relatively small the health facilities are limited and we are all fearful of the various mutations arising throughout the world. Relaxations over Christmas have given rise to concern and we hope that a review on 31 January 2021 will ease things once more Meanwhile, all the hotels are shut. The beaches are empty [so strange to see as Cyprus is known as a winter sunshine island] and walking along the nearby coastal path one can feel almost marooned on a desert island.
But the weather has been divine. Summer/Autumn continued throughout December and even until this week daytime temperatures have been mid-20s with little need of heating even at night. What’s not to like about life here?
I look forward to being able to return to Ireland, the family and my friends. I will move mountains to return this year - even without a vaccination if necessary.