Cyprus – Family Diary 2016

Family Holiday Diary 2016

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Saturday

Met R and S at Gatwick. Ate big brunch in Lebanese restaurant. Males drank beers. At 11am.

Flight uneventful. 4 hours.

Paphos airport efficient (empty, wondered why.) I used toilet. You can sometimes tell a lot about a country from the toilets. These were clean but I was slightly perturbed by the signs…

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Bought water, collected hire car (which, for 7 people, is more of a van.)

Drive to hotel long. J map read, relatively little abuse from family. Hotel (Hilton, Nicosia) nice. Dinner by pool. Hotel has a glass elevator. Rooms nice. Learnt Greek for ‘thank you’ – ‘ef-harry-stom’.

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Sunday

Late breakfast. Males very late. Nice range of food. I ate too much (meant to be losing weight.) Males didn’t drink beer.

Swam/read. Weather very hot (might be why airport was empty.)

Drove to Nicosia Old Town. Van very wide for narrow streets. Parked (stressful) and walked around. Wandered, by chance, to border with Turkish controlled northern section. Saw sandbags and barbed wire and a young soldier who picked up his rifle as we approached. Decided not to try and chat (wasn’t sure my eight words of Turkish would make much of a conversation. Plus thought he might shoot me.)

The whole divided Cyprus thing seems strange to me. I missed it at the time, so will explain briefly: After the Brits left in about 1960 the Cypriots were a mix of Greeks and Turks, who lived peacefully alongside each other. In 1974, according to the Turkish Cypriots, a few Greek Cypriots were pressing for the island to be joined to Greece. They staged a coup, backed by Greece, trying to overthrow the government by force. In order to protect the Turkish Cypriots, Turkey sent in their army, who marched down from the north. This history is told rather differently in the south, where they claim the Turkish army invaded Cyprus, unhindered by the UN, and have since refused to leave. They now state the north of their country is under Turkish occupation.

I can offer no insights as to which is the true opinion. Probably there is some truth on both sides and ordinary people, who just wanted to get on with their lives, were hurt on both sides. I can tell you that the border is odd. It looks temporary, like something students have erected as a dare overnight. But with armed guards (who also look like students.) The country is now divided, north and south, with what is called ‘the green line’ running through the middle. This is patrolled and fenced, with passport border controls and military and signs telling you not to take photographs or enter certain zones. It is odd. However, for a marriage, I can see that a green line has certain benefits. Tried to instigate a green line in hotel room (when in Cyprus…etc) It didn’t work. I clearly also need Turkish soldiers.

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The old town in south Nicosia seemed a bit run down. Not sure if this is because we were seeing it mid summer (when sensible people are elsewhere.) There was a strange mix of very expensive shops right next to very cheap shops. We wandered round for a while, then ate dinner in a boiling hot kebab place (which said it had air conditioning, but if it did, they hadn’t turned it on!) D worried about the drink/driving laws half way through a Keo, which boys kindly finished for him. We were given tiny pots of bitter yogurt for dessert. Most of us passed them straight to S.

Monday

Breakfast at 9. Ate loads again. Then waiter appeared with fresh pastries so ate those too. Diet not going well.

Sandwiches by pool. Looked around hotel and discovered there’s a bar with free drinks and snacks. Males view this as a challenge.

Drove into Old Town. Found easier carpark. Walked up to the ‘green line’ and showed our passports at border control. Walked through a deserted bit of road (the ‘buffer zone’. Wondered if the people who owned houses there had been compensated) into the Turkish section of Nicosia. It was VERY different. Almost at once we were in bustling lanes with crafts and trinkets spilling into the paths. It was exactly like being in Turkey. I bought some gifts, which I paid for with Turkish Lire left over from a previous holiday (D so pleased I had kept them in my purse for a few years.) I could have used Euro. Saw minerets of mosque.

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Went to Büyük, which used to be an inn, is now a market. Males delighted I had found more lace and needlework to admire. Had drinks and sandwiches in the shade. Very hot.

Back through border, didn’t get shot. Drove back to hotel (slight Jimmy detour).

D decided we would eat in typically Greek restaurant listed in guidebook. Did not turn out as planned. Found correct hotel, but had trouble locating actual restaurant. It turned out to be next to the pool, which was very pretty with urns and arches and flowers. It was also shut (despite him phoning ahead.) We were told they were serving the full menu in the bar. They weren’t. Phoned another restaurant from guidebook, and were assured they were open. It was shut. Our call had been diverted to a different restaurant, in the same chain (but they hadn’t mentioned that.) This was a challenge to find. R used clever phone to mark exact position on map. J then directed us straight to marked position, which turned out to be a carpark in a dodgy residential area. Finally drove to correct place. Dinner was actually very nice. Cafe La Mode. Good food.

Returned to hotel. Hot chocolate and cards in lobby.

Tuesday

Big breakfast again (diet not what I was hoping.)

Swam. M worked, poor thing. H swam a whole length underwater. D didn’t. Everyone in danger of burning, sun very hot.

Checked out of Hilton. Reception gave gifts to me, H and R – nice thought, nice box, not entirely sure what it is – I think metallic pomegranite. Or tomato.

Driving through the border into northern Cyprus was fine (once we found it, is not signposted.) We bought 3 days of car insurance, because Cypriots won’t cover driving in the north. On the way, we saw a huge Turkish flag on the hills. Somewhat confrontational for the Greek Cypriots one might feel….

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Arrived in Kyrenia. Hotel, The Colony, seems nice and is a short walk from the harbour, which is beautiful. R broke her room safe and it started beeping, so she removed the battery. Resourceful.

3pm lunch on hotel roof. Slow. Great view of mountains behind Kyrenia. Could see outline of castle my sister wrote about in her blog (which describes how high it is, so am not tempted to visit.) Males drank 1L glasses of Effes (local Turkish beer.) Am thinking whole afternoon will be slow.

Walked round harbour. Pretty.

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S adopted a stray dog, Gerald, who then came along on our walk. Reminded me of going for walks as a child with pocketfuls of biscuits and trying to entice dogs to follow me. Someone should buy him a pet…

Walked to Roman ampitheatre. Slightly renovated (the plastic chairs were a giveaway.)

Ate in Italian restaurant overlooking harbour. View magnificent, food shabby, service careless. Hoping none of us have food poisoning.

Walked around town. Saw some stalls selling things they had made, or had found (looked a bit like an attic clear out in some cases). The people looked so poor in cheap synthetic clothing, and were trying so hard, straightening things made from beads to try and present them better, I felt uncomfortable. D gave me some local money so I could buy bracelets and scarf – not quite sure what to do with them, but felt better for having bought them. (Part of trying to live by the Micah verse:- What God requires is this: to do what is just, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.)

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Wednesday

Nice breakfast, huge choice (The Colony hotel in Kyrenia, northern Cyprus.) Waiter was from Ukraine, had rings on his thumbs. Learnt ‘thank you’ in Ukrainian – ‘jack-queer’ – not unlike the Polish, ‘chink-queer’. Spelling my own, in case you were wondering.

Family swam/sunbathed. H swam TWO lengths underwater. I wandered around the lanes of Kyrenia. Pretty town. Saw tiny shops, an abandoned church, a mosque, and lots of cats and dogs who wandered freely and seemed content.

Pizza lunch on hotel roof. Then most of us drove south, to Salamis (this was M’s choice, strangely. Either due to latent historic interest or because it features in certain computer games. I expect it was for intellectual reasons.) Salamis is old Roman/Hellenic city. Lots of random walls and pillars left. Very relaxed rules, we could walk where we liked (later read sister’s blog, which warns of snakes, but we didn’t see any.) Toilet incredibly clean (in case you ever visit.) Apparently Barnabus (New Testament character) lived there (in Salamis, not the toilet.)

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Drove to Famagusta. Eventually found the part that has been fenced off (after lots of stress free U-turns by good natured husband.) It is weird. The deserted area runs right to the seafront, with fences and warnings going into the sea. What a waste. We could see houses, boutique hotels, shops, all left to crumble into ruin. Lots of barbed wire and notices warning people to keep out, that photos were prohibited, soldiers with guns – right next to kiosks selling cold beer, ice-cream and flipflops. I cannot believe it has been like this since 1974 and nothing has changed. No wonder people are angry. What a waste.

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Didn’t get shot/arrested. Drove back to hotel. Buffet dinner in hotel. Not especially nice.

Thursday

The males have been clearly impressed/perturbed by H swimming so far underwater. This morning J nearly died, but also managed two lengths underwater. H then swam THREE lengths. Am worried J might die attempting this, have forbidden D from trying to keep up.

12:00 Checked out of hotel. Well, D checked out, it takes a long time for seven people to all arrive in the same place at the same time. About an hour.

Drove for a few hours, doing a slight detour to Mount Olympus. Grandpa was stationed here in the 1950’s, as part of his National Service. We weren’t sure what exactly he did, nor where exactly he was, but it was somewhere in the area and something to do with signals. Personally, I think that if Husband inherited his DIY skills, I might have found the aerial he put up….

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Journey enhanced no end by D taking photographs of everyone for a very long time in the very hot sun.

Eventually arrived at Annabel Hotel, Paphos. J did a better job of map reading than yesterday (when we were suddenly aware he had fallen asleep….) Hotel seemed very nice, though crowded with English people. It has beautiful pool area with plants and lazy rivers and pillars and rows of sun beds. There’s even a pool bar, where you can sit on stools in the water. A few steps lead to the beach and a promenade you can walk along for miles, towards touristy shops or other hotels. Seems lovely.

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Pathos has a beach front full of shops and restaurants designed for tourists. Most of them seem to be English. We ate in Bacchus, a Bistro overlooking the sea. They were very friendly (the old man who enticed us in gave us his home-grown cucumbers to try). Food was a bit rough.

Drank cocktails in bar.

Friday

Breakfast at 9. Everyone surprisingly awake. Apparently, if you have a room overlooking the restaurant, it gets noisy from 7am. Breakfast was busy, but had a huge variety of food to choose from.

M worked (beware, gentle reader, if one does a Masters course for one year from September, it can somewhat eat into your holiday.) Rest of us considered sitting in silence to support him, then swam/read/sunbathed instead.

Nice lunch in cafe opposite hotel (a fraction of hotel prices.)

Swam in sea, which was cold and had big rocks near the surface, so you had to be careful. Played ‘netball’ in the pool and didn’t get shouted at by attendant (we sometimes have rather unhappy relationships with pool attendants on holiday.) S swam a length underwater. H didn’t, which was tactful of her.

Chinese for dinner. Very nice, though slightly strange being in a Chinese restaurant where no one at all was Chinese. Perhaps the cooks were.

Saturday

Breakfast a bit ‘old’ – had been there a while I fear. Not everyone made it to breakfast due to extensive clubbing the night before (will remain nameless, but they know who they are…)

Swam/read on balcony. Pleasant.

Lunch at La Place Royal opposite hotel again. M dropped a chip and a whole deluge of ants arrived (waitress swept them away with a broom.) Big telly was showing Olympics.

D and S played table tennis (obviously inspired by Olympics.)

Drove to Pathos old town. Guide book showed bustling markets, interesting churches and mosques, historical sites. Hmm, not what we saw. Firstly, we got lost trying to leave town, as there were random one-way streets and closed roads not marked on the map (apparently – J was map reading.) Found some ruins, with St Paul’s pillar, by chance. This was where St Paul was tied when he was whipped (I have to say, this story does not appear in my Bible, where his trip to Pathos was relatively smooth, but perhaps I missed it. There was a pillar, clearly labelled, so who am I to doubt its authenticity?)

Finally made it to old Pathos. A large sign directed us to parking, but we realised just in time that it was pointing to a steep flight of steps, so didn’t drive down there. No other cars in carpark (which perhaps should have been a clue.) Wandered around. It was very hot. Everywhere was deserted. There was a gun on the floor, and sounds of chanting from the church. The shops had mannequins straight from a horror movie, all the roads had been dug up, cafes and market were all deserted. A few isolated cars and bikes passed us – we began to think they were all driven by the same few people. It was very weird. It also made for a perfect story, so I wrote one (I didn’t have to use much imagination!):

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Decided we would visit again another day. Returned to the seafront. Arrived back at Annabel hotel. D drove up to the barrier and spoke into the intercom.
D: Hello – Guest-e-o (why??)
Reply: Hello, welcome.
D: Welcome (why?? Why repeat welcome?)
Reply: Are you a guest?

We all refused to walk in with him.

J informed me that, “Physics is all the interesting parts of maths.” So much I do not understand in that statement.

Went to Democritos, which promised to be a traditional Greek restaurant with music and dancing. There was a good menu, a pretty atmosphere, and live music by some talented musicians. Had a very nice selection of starters to share. And then the dancing began… I have to say, Greek dancing is somewhat repetitive by the time it is in its fiftieth loop of repeated steps. A man came and balanced glasses on his head. Lots of them. He wore a badge declaring he was a Guinness World Record holder – was tempted to ask him what for. He asked for volunteers to add glasses and then put his hand up their skirts. M and J decided he was a pervert. It was a very long evening. I think perhaps Greek restaurants are something you only need to experience once in your lifetime. It has been much discussed since. At the time, I was just bored – I now realise how lucky I am that M and J didn’t get up and punch the glass balancing man (I much prefer the bored option.)

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We checked out of Annabel Hotel, Pathos, and drove along the coast to Coral Bay. We had rented a villa for the last week of the holiday. R and S had left to return to work, so it was just M, girlfriend H, J, with me and D. We drove there via a supermarket (parking always stressful, but foreign supermarkets are usually interesting. This one was fairly standard, disappointing.)

The villa, booked through James Villas, was fairly basic, very brown, but will be fine as long as nothing breaks. It has air conditioning (essential) but only in the bedrooms – so I decided pretty quickly that home cooking was not on the menu. Coral Bay is a mix of beautiful coastline and trashy restaurants. We ate in a ‘traditional’ restaurant that wasn’t traditional at all, just over priced and full of ‘Brits Abroad’. Hope we find somewhere nicer tomorrow.

Monday

Woke late after a terrible night. Lazed around, swam/read. M worked (still finishing dissertation) then stepped fully clothed into swimming pool. As a suicide attempt it was lame, but I can think of no other reason.

Found washing line (most exciting feature of villa) and hung up classy fluffy expensive beach towels that we bought in the supermarket. (The expensive bit is true.) Ate stale bread for lunch.

Drove to catacombs. Quite interesting, though spoilt by all the litter. One cave had a pool of water (hard to see in the dark) which J washed his muddy shoe in and then worried might be a leaking sewage pipe. Afterwards read guidebook (why does my family always read them after the visit?) and discovered that actually it was miraculous water. All hoped it might improve his rather ugly feet, but no change so far.

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Drinks in McDonalds (so nice, mainly because it was cool in there.)

Stopped on way back to villa to photograph banana plantations. This area has lots of them. It was interesting because you could see the various stages, from flower, to tiny beginnings to full bananas – which were then covered in blue plastic bags. Never found out why, so do tell if you know.

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Walked from villa to beach. D claims this is a 7 minute walk. It isn’t. It is 10 minutes of fast walking to the top of the cliff. Beach crowded, sea nice – not cold, wonderfully blue with gentle waves. J looked for fish and saw a mammoth (no alcohol involved, so not sure how he managed that.)

Dinner at The Old Cinema Tavern next to the church in Pegeia square (99380842). It was very nice, traditional Greek food (without the dancing or pervy glass balancing man.) It was recommended by the woman who works in the supermarket. {Top travel tip: Forget guidebooks, just ask the woman who works in the local supermarket for places to eat. They will be better, cheaper, and more traditional than anything you’ll find in tourist guides!} When we finished our meal, they brought us plates of fresh fruit and shots of zivania. This was a little like drinking paint stripper. H was surprisingly proficient at drinking shots…

Drove back to villa. Saw the glasses balancing man doing his act (complete with “hand up volunteers’ skirts” routine) in a different Greek restaurant. Evoked an extremely strong reaction from both boys. This is how wars are started. So glad we hadn’t chosen that particular place to eat.

Tuesday

I read the book of Acts, about Paul visiting Salamis and Pathos 2,000 odd years ago. Pretty cool to read about places we’ve visited ourselves.

Stale bread and cereal for breakfast. D tried to educate everyone in early eighties music and played Alan Parsons Project. Loudly. Not sure everyone appreciated it. I washed my extra expensive quality fluffy towel with tee-shirts. Tee-shirts now covered in fluff.

Bought a selection of pastries for lunch. Olive bread a challenge due to olive stones. One pastry seemed to contain toothpaste, wasn’t popular. Also, we keep having ants in the kitchen. Have designated Dustbin Dave to empty rubbish regularly (he is objecting to name.)

Went for drive. Followed signs saying “Waterfall: Road suitable for all cars”. Followed signs for a long way – until they led off tarmac road onto gravel track with sheer drop on one side. Decided we didn’t want to see waterfall that much. Fantastic views of Pathos and coastline from hills. Walked along deserted hills for a while, then came to some leather chairs under a sunshade, on a deserted hill, miles from anywhere. Bizarre.

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Dinner in Imogens Tavern in Kathikas (another recommendation from supermarket lady.) Sat at tables with chequered cloths with candles under vines and fig trees. Not bad at all.

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(Photo of our villa.)

Wednesday

We decided to go back to Old Pathos (the place that was completely deserted and inspired the creepy story:https://anneethompson.com/short-stories/other-stories/old-paphos-cyprus/) I just could not believe the guidebook could be so completely wrong. Only J wanted to come with us, the others all checked where we kept our will and where the passports were, just in case…

It was completely different. The car park was full, there were tourists everywhere. The market was full, lots of lace, leather goods, local wine, fake designer handbags and wine. I bought gifts and had a good look round. Then spent a few hours sitting under a convenient fan while J chose a wallet. Seriously, took hours. Important decision. (Will mainly hold used train tickets, but who am I to judge? Might be a need for them one day if anyone opens a train ticket museum.)

After lunch, we drove to look for a shipwreck I had spied from the hill top. Organised D had done a Google search of “Shipwrecks near Pathos”, found the exact location, and marked it on our map. J then left map on kitchen table. Drove west along coastline, saw lots of sea caves in the white cliffs. Found wreck. Apparently it had hit a rock further out to sea, veered off course, and hit the shore. I cannot imagine how such a huge boat had managed to not see the coast. Perhaps the pilot was looking for Pokemon or something. Interesting for us though. We could walk right up to it, and someone was swimming and climbed up onto the deck.

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There is another wreck, nearer to Pathos. That one is slightly out to sea, and has grounded on some rocks near the surface. It’s a bit of a worry for the hoteliers I should think, as if it breaks up there will be lots of sharp metal shards on the beaches. At present it’s an interesting view. You can see the waves breaking where the rocks are (though obviously the pilot missed those. Or rather, didn’t miss those.) Expensive mistake for someone.

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Dinner back at The Old Cinema Tavern in Pegeia. We shared a Mini Meze (nothing mini about it) and D and J shared a Full Meze. This amounted to a lot of food. It’s served in many courses, a bit like Spanish tapas. Meats, olives, pittas, beans with sage, feta, grilled halloumi. The males planned an eating strategy, H and I ignored them and ate what we wanted. J took photos of every course and then every empty plate. To be honest, I think the empty plate photos will all look quite similar…must be a Physics thing.

Finished with grapes and shots, and played charades. H had trouble counting number of words in titles. M had trouble miming “Texas”. Restaurant owner ignored us (which was good.)

Thursday

A lazy day. They all made sandcastles on the beach (doesn’t seem to be something they’re growing out of. Though they are more sculptures than sandcastles these days.) I walked around a development of new houses near the villa. This area of Cyprus has a LOT of new houses being built, whole streets of them. In some areas they have just built the roads, in preparation, others have whole streets. They tend to be built in order, the walls and roof first, then solar panels and a water heater on the roof, then they plaster the walls, before adding windows, woodwork etc. Lots of streets have one or two finished houses, I guess to entice buyers. They even fill the swimming pool and plant flowers in one garden (a bit strange when it’s in a half built street.) I had noticed that many of the road signs and all the estate agent signs, have writing in Greek, English and Mandarin. It’s unusual to see Mandarin on street signs outside of China. A waiter told me that this is because if you buy a property over €300,00 then Cyprus will issue a European passport. This makes it a good investment place for rich Chinese people.

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It was M and H’s anniversary, and they wanted to cook and eat together at the villa, so the rest of us arranged to eat at Trattoria La Vigna, an Italian restaurant in Coral Bay that we could walk to.
Friday

We went to The Tombs of the Kings. The guidebook said the best time to visit is early morning. It probably is. We went at midday. (We all have to go out every day, otherwise we distract M, who is finishing his Masters.) Unbelievably hot. Wasted some time looking at some interesting rocks with holes in them. By the time we found the actual tombs, we were too hot to be interested. Which was a shame, because actually they were pretty amazing. Great underground caverns with pillars and courtyards. But hot. When the family declared they would pay me the admission fee just to be allowed to leave, I figured they’d had enough. We left and went to McDonalds (it pains me to write those words. But it was wonderfully cool. Plus they have coffee milkshakes in Cyprus.)

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 Tomb of the Kings. Even though, they were not built for kings.

Swam/read. J did some kind of physics experiment involving an empty cola bottle suspended mid way in pool. Something to do with pressure. Absolutely no idea why. M worked. Weather clouded over, so D began a Google search for “Holidays in Sahara” (he will be going alone.)

Dressed for dinner. J tried to push H into pool, so I pushed him in. Boys then pushed H in. Were late for dinner. Went back to the Chinese restaurant in Pathos.

Saturday

Our last day. Feel rather fond of villa now, despite the uncomfortable bed and sofa and the brown furnishings. M wanted to work for the morning, so we all went to a museum that showed the struggle of Eoka – the fight for Cyprus to be independent of the Brits in the 1950’s. It’s when Grandpa was doing his National Service here (as one of the ‘baddies’, according to the museum. There weren’t any photos of him though.) It was hot and not especially interesting, mainly a few photos and notebooks copied and enlarged several times and displayed in different ways. But it used up about an hour.

D and I walked in the hill town of Pegeia. Lots of signs of ‘normal’ Cypriot life, away from the tourists. Fruit trees, families eating outside, gardens with urns of flowers, steep roads, battered cars, and amazing views down to the sea.

Returned to villa to find H had swam FOUR lengths underwater. Males in awe.

Last dinner at Old Cinema Tavern. Good food, relaxed atmosphere, friendly service. The owner gave us a bottle of wine as a leaving gift.

It has been a lovely two weeks. Everyone is seems contented. Packing always awful. My slightly too tight shorts that I brought to wear at the end of the holiday, after I’d lost weight swimming, never left the suitcase. Instead my ‘baggy’ shorts are quite snug! Might do some exercise next week.

Cyprus is a mix of very old remains and extremely new builds. I do hope the rate of growth is sustainable. The people are mostly friendly and helpful (though beware anyone who balances glasses on their heads.) The weather is hot. In August, it’s very hot.

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Thank you for reading.

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