Smell the roses, not the manure - Paula Manoli-Gray

If you have read my column before, you may be mistaken that I think Larnaca is the most perfect place in the world; a paradise where nothing can go wrong and where life is all rainbows, unicorns and souvla!

I may sometimes give this impression, because I like to highlight the good and speak positively of my adopted hometown (adopted because I was born in the UK, but both my parents come from a Nicosia village called Lymbia). But I can assure you my eyes are wide open, I just believe in sometimes shutting them for the sake of being happy where you live.

For me, expats / foreigners / Cypriots from abroad who live in Larnaca – and Cyprus in general – fall into two categories. The first are those who bemoan everything. They love nothing more than to whinge, complain and criticize everything about this island, from the fact that you have to pay more for Kellogs (duh, imported!) to receiving some of their bills in Greek. They are miserable and lament the good old green grass of home, forgetting that they left home because they weren't happy with certain aspects there and chose to come here of their own freewill. The other group are those who are fully aware that wherever you go in the world you will find the good the bad and the ugly. They appreciate the positives of the lifestyle here and try to take the infuriating, mismanaged, unjust and illegal aspects with a big bucket of salt, because, if you don't then you move over to Camp Misery.

Of course things aren't perfect here! There are so many things I can instantly list that are wrong; cracked pavements with cars parked fully on them, dog poo everywhere, rude and unhelpful civil servants, overpricing in certain areas, a lack of empathy and support for certain groups of society, rife nepotism, a severe failure to implement many laws such as no smoking and no parking in disabled spots, and, and, and. If I were to get irate over every little thing I come across in daily life, I would have packed my bags long ago. Instead I choose to focus on the community spirit, the flavoursome fresh produce, the low level of crime, the climate, the beauty spots and beaches, the enviable lifestyle my children enjoy, the al fresco dining at quality restaurants, the short driving distances, the simple pleasures, and, and, and…

…That is how we need to live – wherever we live in the world. We need to smell the roses, not the manure and appreciate the good that balances the bad. This is why you will often hear me speak highly and passionately about Larnaca, and this is why I am generally happy and content with my life, as difficult as it can be at the moment with the financial crisis.

It's only natural that sometimes the stench of manure does get too strong, at which point, I just hold my nose till it passes!

First appeared in The Cyprus Weekly, 16/08/14

Not making friends tops list of parents’ worries about their children starting school

  • A third of parents fear their child will not make friends
  • Just one in ten are concerned about their academic progress
  • Charity said that the first day at school can be more stressful for parents than children

Parents are more likely to worry about their child not making friends at school than they are about their youngster struggling with lessons, according to a poll.

It reveals that one in three parents (33 per cent) admit to being anxious about their child finding friends when they start school.

And just over one in ten (11 per cent) said that their main worry was that their son or daughter would not be able to keep up with the school work.

The same proportion were concerned that their youngster would not ask for help when they needed it, while the rest cited other worries

Action for Children, which commissioned the poll, said that a child's first day at school can be an anxious time, sometimes more so for parents than the pupils themselves.

Jan Leightley, the charity's executive director of operations said: "Our centres help them prepare youngsters for their first year at school by giving them a place to play with other children, to learn to make friends and to develop their language skills."

Previous research conducted by Action for Children of its own centre managers found that two fifths (41 per cent) said that they felt children were needing more help to reach basic milestones such as being toilet trained and following simple instructions.

The YouGov poll questioned 9,015 adults including 2,267 parents of children aged 18 or under between February 10-17

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Walking on the spot - Paula Manoli-Gray

It is welcome news that Larnaca will gain some new hotels next year as the region truly is in a strange position of being a popular coastal town with few 'real' hotels.

There are plenty of hotel apartments, and even more privately rented holiday apartments in blocks with communal swimming pools, but not many high-star options. To make matters worse, the nicest hotels we do have are located on a strip that has been in decline and is marred by the ugly blot of refineries. That the region's one and only 5-star hotel should be located in such an area beggars belief, especially when other areas of the town are so picturesque and popular in comparison.

But as positive as the news of five additional hotels is, once again, it feels as though we are walking on the spot. As soon as one positive emerges, we take two steps back in other areas. At the time of writing, I could not give you any clue on what is happening with our contentious port/marina. The battle between tourist hub and industrial beast rages on and I for one am none the wiser on which side is winning, although by the time this goes to press, the matter may have been made clearer.

Personally, I believe that the Larnaka Tourism Board, the Mayor and Municipal Council are doing a tremendous job in upgrading the town, something they do not receive half as much credit as they should for. They are forging ahead in very positive directions; promoting the region for international sporting events, sprucing it up, creating a network of cycle and walking paths, actively supporting those who want to invest in the region and helping to promote any initiatives, start-ups and businesses that are offering something beneficial to the town and its tourism. They work tirelessly and sometimes, against all odds.

You see, Larnaca simply cannot shake off its label of 'poor cousin' to other towns on the island. For too long we have been maligned and overlooked – even looked down on with distain by some of the powers-that-be, and it is they who ultimately make the final decisions and hold the purse strings. I don't know why this is as I am too young to have known the Larnaca of old and its relationship with the other areas of the island, but it has always been this way.

It could be because the region was thrust into the tourism industry rather abruptly following the Turkish invasion of 1974 when it was hastily given the island's international airport after Nicosia's became a casualty of the war. And a large percentage of its hotels were equally hastily erected after parts of Famagusta – the then holiday top spot of the island – were also wounded and taken as prisoners of war.

It may be because of this 'borrowed' tourism that the town has never really been taken seriously, but the region is now – in my opinion – standing head and shoulders above other areas of the island and is probably the only one that does not reek of tacky tourism and areas created solely for visitors to the detriment of its character and authenticity. Maybe it is time for the powers-that-be to open their eyes to Larnaca and its possibilities, but even if they can't, at least we still have passionate, hard-working and determined parties on our side.

First appeared in The Cyprus Weekly, 09/08/14

August’s ghost island - Paula Manoli-Gray

As the calendar changes its date to August, you can almost feel the weight of the sudden hush that descends across the island. All around, the collective sound of shop doors slamming is accompanied with the turning over of the 'closed' sign. We are firmly out of action for August!

August is indeed a peculiar month for us. It is the height of the tourist season and the most defining month of summer, so instead of livening up and getting into gear, we decide to close the entire island down.

The constant thrum of construction work suddenly goes quiet; the roads empty as though the end of the world is nigh, and even those who do stay open or at work slow right down as though their batteries are dying.

When I used to work in an office, August was a real pleasure as I would never take time off then but everyone else would. The drive to work was a dream with no traffic jams and a much quicker journey time, and it was much quieter in the office too. Bliss! But that is probably the only perk of August as when it comes to getting anything else done you either have to accept that August is a complete write-off or go crazy.

Forget anything involving paper work, home improvements, legal matters and other assorted necessary jobs. You literally have to put your life on pause. I always cross my fingers that my air conditioning doesn't decide to conk out on me in August, as finding someone to come and fix it is almost impossible, and if you do find them, they come with a premium just because 'it is August'.

And once again, I think of the tourists! They must find it baffling and highly inconvenient when they try to go to the bank or do some shopping only to find that half of the town is having an extended siesta. I don't know how I would feel if I came to a holiday town only to find that it was instead a ghost town and I couldn't get the most out of it.

So, because of this tradition of powering down in August, everyone does just that, which creates a vicious circle of always powering down… every August. Why should one shop stay open when all the rest are shut and most of the population is on holiday either on island or abroad?

I always brace myself for August and try to remember not to order anything online as it won't arrive until at least September. I ensure that I am fully stocked and prepared for any household disasters and try to put myself in that shut down mode too, because if you can't beat them, you just don't have much choice but to join them… off the roads, out of the shops and on to the beach!

First appeared in The Cyprus Weekly 02/08/14

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