Things rarely happen quickly in Cyprus. Things need to be considered, discussed over coffee with friends, debated, get tied up in bureaucracy and then be dunked back in coffee again. Usually.
Then occasionally that whole process gets thrown out and instead speed is of the essence. It doesn’t happen often, just often enough to catch us out, which it did yesterday.
Next to our little cottage is an abandoned single story house. Beyond that is a field containing fruit trees, including the lovely fruit cocktail tree that produces both oranges and lemons. In that same field, close to the abandoned house, is an old and tall tree. When we first bought this house the tall tree was half dead; the side nearest to us was clearly dead, the side away from us was still growing. Over the last two years whatever disease it has took hold and the entire tree died.
During this winter, which has been longer and colder and wetter and windier than most, we’ve looked at the tree a little more often. As strong winds have raced up and down the valley the tree has been creaking a little more and frankly we’ve been concerned. Our best estimate was that the tree was about 100 feet tall but it was nothing more than a guess. From time to time we’d sit outside with a cup of coffee and look at the tree, and the distance to the house and speculate: if the winds were very bad and the tree came down, which way would it fall? And, if it came our way would it reach the house? Would the lovely new roof of two summers ago break the tree or would the tree break the new roof?
A few weeks ago we had a run of poor weather and gale-force winds through the night. 3am is a stinky time to be trying to calculate the likelihood of a tree crashing through your roof, it makes for a poor night’s rest.
A day or two after the weather calmed down we wandered round to the field to take another look at the tree and bumped into the mukhtar. ’Are you concerned about the tree?‘ he asked. When said we were and he nodded and said he would see what could be done. Which takes us back to the start: in Cyprus things rarely happen quickly so we assumed that it would take months for anything to happen.
Which is why we were surprised when a cherry picker turned up yesterday morning followed by a truck full of men with chainsaws. Don’t be deceived by the sky below: yes, it is beautiful and blue but the day was fresh with a cold wind blowing.
It took most of the morning (and much discussion, debating, coffee and cigarettes) but the tree came down. Taking the top off was particularly fraught but it fell away from the houses and hurt nothing other than an inconveniently placed prickly pear. The front door of the abandoned house didn’t fare so well: one of the wheels of the cherry-picker needed to be where the door stood so it was knocked down and then nailed back into place later.
After a leisurely lunch the chainsaw boys reappeared and it became clear why this job had been done so promptly. This long cold and wet winter has meant that all of us in the mountain villages have had to burn significantly more firewood than normal. There’s still no sign of the weather improving, in fact it’s due to take a turn for the worse next week with more strong winds and temperatures colder than the north of England.
Fueled by copious amounts of coffee the chainsaw boys got to work breaking down the tree into usable lengths. Truck after truck pulled up outside to be loaded with as much wood as they could carry.
The fires will be burning well in this part of the hills tonight and we can sleep easy once more.