When it rains it pours - Paula Manoli-Gray

So, how did everyone enjoy our new car marina last weekend? And by 'car marina', I mean the floods that turned our cars into boats?

Joking aside, last weekend's flooding was horrendous – worse for some than others, depending on what area you live in.

Personally, I was parked in a side street of the Saint Lazarus area and watched in horror from the venue window as the water levels rose to cover half the height of the car. In the evening when I left, I managed to wade knee-deep to the car, squeeze into the driver's seat from the less-flooded passenger side, only to find myself sat in a puddle! The car had flooded inside. Okay, not the most tragic thing that could happen in a flood when you look at what people in other parts of the world suffer, but for a little Larnaca gal, it was traumatic enough, and I spent the evening with my feet in a bowl of warm water and a hot water bottle feeling rather sorry for myself!

But as it turns out, our car got off lightly! From all over the town, we heard and saw horror stories of houses flooded, shop stock destroyed, cars completely submerged or swimming in 'lakes', electricity outages, and residents who could not get to their homes as their roads had been cordoned off by police – accompanied by a soundtrack of wailing emergency vehicles. And although it was not on a par with the devastating floods that other countries have experienced, it was a very tiny but scary glimpse into what those battling catastrophic floods contend with, and not one I would like to experience again.

It goes without saying that we cannot control weather conditions, hence why there is always a 'force majeure' / 'act of God' clause in insurance policies, and it is not the fault of our powers-that-be that it rains. Last weekend was a particularly severe case of flooding – of the worse we have had – so it would not be fair to come down too hard on those who govern us. But, the truth is, it doesn't take much rain for Larnaca to flood, and so therefore I believe it is their fault that they cannot provide their citizens with decent roads that can cope with rain.

Am I being ignorant on this matter to believe that there are methods to prevent flooding and that they should be implemented, or is it far more complicated than that? Maybe there is a valid reason for why we continue to have to put up with this very dangerous occurrence, almost every time it rains? Thankfully, last weekend's floods were damaging enough to have an impact, and on Monday a meeting was held with the mayor, emergency services, civil engineers and others on putting together a contingency plan so we do not end up in the same situation, as well as the setting up of a helpline and practical and financial assistance to those worse hit. For the time being, I will allow my faith to be restored, but how much faith I do have in their words is debatable.

On the plus side, the dams had a good injection of water, the flamingos at the salt lake are very happy, my rather neglected trees have finally had a really good, long drink, and the wash that the car was desperately in need of has been nicely taken care of, although I didn't really plan on giving it a hosing on the inside too!

First appeared in They Cyprus Weekly, 19/12/14




Ignorance is bliss? - Paula Manoli-Gray

"…and it's Christmas…" Oh I how I hate hearing that phrase in connection with something bad that has happened!

You hear it a lot during the festive season. If someone loses their job, it is made all the worse 'because it is Christmas'. If someone is ill or has a bereavement, it is all the more painful 'because if it Christmas'. If there is war, a large-scale accident, a catastrophic natural disaster, all of these become even more unbearable just 'because it is Christmas'.

I understand that Christmas brings out the good in some people; hatchets are buried, families are reunited and everyone wants world peace – so there is a feeling that this time of year shouldn't bring anything negative – but bad things are bad things, and their timing does not lessen or worsen them.

Which leads on to the debate of whether we should be trying to filter out the negative news that dominates our media, or if we should make a conscious effort to keep up-to-date with the horrors of the world.

This is something that troubles me greatly, and I am not sure which side of the coin to fall on. On the one hand, I don't want to be ignorant to what is going on, as closing it out could be perceived as not caring, or being inwards. I don't want to feel – or seem to others – as though I am only concerned about my little world and that if I am alright and not affected by the suffering of others, then that is okay. Also, by ignoring some injustices, we allow them to continue, and I certainly do not want to contribute to that…

…But on the other hand, I cannot save the world just by knowing all of its flaws, and if I keep allowing myself to feel the pain of the universe, then I will go insane – I am an emotional wreck as it is! As a parent especially, I cannot cope with knowing of the heinous crimes committed against children, or acknowledging the reality that not all children are healthy or safe. It is too unbearable. But that doesn't mean I am not sensitive to the plight of others, it just means that sometimes I want to pretend that we are not freefalling into a bottomless pit of evil and self-destruction. So, is ignorance bliss or is it the easier and lazier option?

As for Christmas, if it brings out the best in people and it makes everyone stand united, then I am all for it, but I wish with all my heart that people felt like this all year round. We save our goodwill for once a year, just like we buy those shiny tins of Christmas confectionary once a year. We suddenly open our eyes and see that there are homeless people; that there are abused people; that there are old people left to rot, all alone; that there are animals mistreated; that there are parts of the world where clean water is not available and food is scarce; that humans are trafficked; that war doesn't just affect those who are fighting it; that we are far more fragile than we can possibly imagine - or have time to realise - as we go about our daily life, stressing over the insignificant.

And yet, I am still undecided about whether I should make the time and effort to know about all of the world's injustices, or if I should concentrate more on ensuring that the people I know and love don't ever have to experience them for themselves. Where do you stand?


A load of junk! - Paula Manoli-Gray

Christmas in Larnaca has either exploded with colourful joy, or vomited tackiness and hypocrisy all over the town, depending on which side of the Christmas coin you land on. But either way, you won't be able to hide from it, and especially not in your local supermarket, where there is suddenly a whole new world of junk food, especially for the festive season.

It is quite remarkable how many seasonal tins of chocolates, biscuits and cakes appear in the run-up to Christmas. It's like these poor 'treats' have been waiting eagerly all year for their special moment, so they can stand proudly on the shelves all shiny and cheery, waiting to shower your Christmas with sweet promises… of weight gain or a heart attack!

It is just baffling and a little crazy too that we equate Christmas to eating a ton more than we would normally do, and in the form of these specially designed, once-a-year sugary confections. And yet we do; we go all out and buy calories by the truckload to gift, to offer guests and to stuff our faces with just because 'it's Christmas'.

But Christmas aside, the size of our supermarkets are largely determined on junk and packaged foods all-year-round. Imagine how small supermarkets would be if they only sold real food such as fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, nuts, legumes, rice, dairy and the like. Imagine entire aisles of processed, packaged or junk food eliminated, and you would probably be surprised at just how much space they had taken, whether in the freezer or on the shelf.

I (generally) only buy real food, so my trip to the supermarket involves bypassing the majority of aisles on most occasions, but I am noticing as the years go by that the number of processed and packaged foods our supermarkets stock is increasing, although not to the point of other European countries. I think that due to our cultural relationship with food, we won't ever reach that point where our children cannot identify fruit and vegetables (I saw a documentary on children's diets in America and many of them literally could not identify basic fruit and vegetables). Cyprus wouldn't be Cyprus without the aroma of souvla, the rubbery texture of Halloumi, juicy watermelon in the summer and small but tasty village cucumbers… all enjoyed around a big table of family and friends.

And I am happy to have noted that even the Cypriot ready-meals are by far superior to their imported counterparts. If you compare Cypriot frozen pizza or sausages to imported products, you will find around three-four ingredients in the Cypriot products versus a whole slew of unidentifiable and unpronounceable ones in the imported versions.

But there is one fresh food area where we are really failing – and which I have written about before – children's menus. This is where processed, packaged and junk really sells in Cyprus and keeps the 'fake food' industry afloat. It is a scary indicator of our times and our changing relationship with food.

As for me, I try to stay clear of junk in my house for the most part, but I may just sneak a tin or two of seasonally designed biscuits and chocolates into my trolley, after all, it is Christmas…

First appeared in The Cyprus Weekly, 05/12/14

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