And so this is Christmas

Commentary

The word’s out that: It’s too hot for Xmas. What tree, what presents, what festive spirit in short-sleeves and a mini skirt? This is not Australia! This is Cyprus, everyone mutters fatalistically. It’s the end of the world as we know it. Ho, ho, ho.

If I hear it one more time, I’m pretty sure I’m going to act out as the panda in the Panda cheese commercial. Can we puh-lease move on to other things we can whine about? I get wrinkles just listening to this pathetic patter!

Let’s focus on the good things, like the Christmas tree competitions around supermarkets and municipalities. This year carols have been replaced by frenzied supermarket ads on TV and radio. My mailbox has no Christmas cards, but dizzyingly colorful leaflets with the best offers on meat and decorations and toilet paper. Everyone’s priorities du saison are quite apparent here, it seems. If I hadn’t done my DIY Chrismas cards with fabric, it would have been tempting to cut them out and reincarnate them on thick cardboard as multi-colored Christmas trees and funky Santas.

And as for the street decorations, why yes, this year we not only have our classic giant condoms-by-day, upside-down Christmas trees by night, but we have some glitter glam too. Just in case you missed them, that is. As you cruise downtown, look up and you’ll see the Christmas sparkle bright enough to give pink eye. I would love to be in the municipality’s Christmas committee, if such thing exists, to discuss more ways of making Larnaca look its most ridiculous and phallic in December.

As I make my way through the end of December, broke and utterly tired, at least I have one thing to be thankful for: Santa. Rumour has it, he’s bringing me an Xbox. You can’t say no to a panda, after all…

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Keeping the balance

Commentary

Photo by poca-traça

I’d like to say that as I ride my bicycle past manic drivers and clouds of CO2 everything blurs as I become one with my vehicle. In reality the only thing that keeps me focused is my inner mantra: Keep your balance, don’t topple over. A quick pause is enough to start me thinking of the small tyre width, the slight swerve that might send me flying into the windscreen of the speeding car jetting down the other lane. No, the fears of the modern cyclist cannot easily be assuaged — they keep the adrenaline at an all-time high.

I only recently bought a bicycle and it’s true that you never forget how to ride one even if it’s been decades since you’ve been on an uncomfortable saddle. As I started cycling again I realized that I am invisible! Owning a bike has its burdens and this is perhaps its heaviest one. Yes, I can cycle close to the curb but sometimes it seems I might as well be riding on it. I could, but pedestrians have an even bigger problem recognizing that cyclists have their own pavement rights too. Cycling lanes? A luxury for Cyprus that is simply non-existent. Why create a new lane when we’re only just starting to fix up our roads? It feels like cycling through a mine field avoiding those crater-like potholes.

I know the solution is simple; I can protect my brain and other body partsby wearing protective gear. This has its advantages. For starters, I know I look like the biggest dork on the planet and immediately think that there’s no way anyone could avoid spotting this knight in plastic armor on the road. It’s my saving grace — I look like such an idiot, it’s began to feel reassuring.

Riding the streets of Larnaca is a dangerous enough feat as it is, and add to that my natural gift of clumsiness and you have a recipe for a potentially serious disaster. But I combat this with carefully planned routes; I consider the quieter streets, I wear my brightest clothes and as a car brushes by I hold my breath for good luck and good measure. As I cycle vehemently through streets with no name to meet friends for coffee I know that by the time I arrive I’ll be sticky with sweat and my knee might be scraped, if not bleeding. I know I’ll lock my bike against a tree I can see while I’m sitting, and then make my bruised way towards the table waiting for my disheveled company impatiently.

It’s always nice to make an entrance, at least.