Tom Kane's Blog

A word can change a mind. A sentence can change a life. A book can change the world

image of a belly dancer

Image by ITSI from Pixabay

Jordanians are among the most polite people I have ever met. I had never been to Jordan before and no sooner had I stepped off the plane than I was greeted with ‘Welcome to Jordan.” From security, to passport control to the taxi driver, it was the same all over. Polite, pleasant and very respectful. Not only was it my first visit to Jordan, it was my first visit to the Arab world, the world of Muslims, tradition and time-honoured culture. At this point some of you will have an image in your head of a women in full Burqa.

image of a woman in a burqa

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Well, you would be wrong in that image. You will probably see more women in Burqas on the streets of London than any shopping mall or hotel in Jordan. Society in Jordan is probably more open than any other country in the Arab world. It’s a heady mix of modern 21st western living and traditional Arab culture. As one barman told me, “This is Jordan, not Saudi Arabia.”

They say that smoke gets in your eyes and if you’ve ever sat round a camp-fire at night you’ll know what I mean. That said, the same is also true in Jordan, except you don’t actually need a camp-fire to get your eyes watering, a Shisha will do just as well. More of that later.

In my brief stay at the posh hotel that needs to get it’s customer service act together, one night was given over to a traditional Arab buffet. Having no idea what exactly to expect I was amazed to find that my idea of a buffet was a western fixed perception of cuts of meat, a few veg and a pudding. Oh no, no, no dear reader, that is not what I found to greet me. The sight, the smell, the ambiance and the pleasant greeting by the staff was out of this westerners world.

It was low lighting, plenty of spicy smells and many many dishes. I shamefully have no idea what their names were, but they looked enticing. The most obvious thing that was missing was pork, but, being a beef man my salivating tongue was more than happy at the absence of pork. I have no idea what it was I ate except to say it was obvious what went into the dishes in terms of meat, veg and fruit, yep, even fruit made an appearance in some dishes. I wasn’t a fan of spicy dishes, but I’m a fan of Jordanian dishes. In fact I’m a fan of Jordanian cookery and may well do some research and try a few myself.

As the food dwindled the music started and with it came a sultry mix of sounds, vision and smell. The belly-dancer made her appearance to the music of I know-not-what, but it was foot tapping stuff nonetheless. The dancer knew her stuff and shook and swayed to the music with well practiced ease. It was glad I hadn’t chosen her path as a career. Supple it was, subtle it wasn’t. The point of the dance seemed to be to entertain, sort of titillate, but mainly it struck me this was maybe an art-form expression. Either way it was impressive stuff.

After a couple of numbers I noticed a sweet smell in the air and at about the same time my eyes began to water and my nose twitched. The belly-dancer was the signal for those who felt the need to smoke. Not cigarettes or cigars, but the traditional Shisha. Note of warning, don’t mix up shisha with shiska. Shiska is a Jewish term to describe a gentile girl or woman. That probably wouldn’t go down well if you shouted out, “Oh look, a shiska,” at a traditional Arab gathering.

image woman smoking a Shisha

Image by Christo Anestev from Pixabay

The shisha is what some call a hubbly-bubbly or water pipe. You smoke mainly materials that are apparently molasses based tobacco infused with whatever takes your fancy. It’s a sweet and heady smell that brought tears to my eyes and is probably not particularly good for your lungs, but if it’s something you enjoy and isn’t illegal, then who am I to rain on your parade. Admittedly it wouldn’t go down well in a coffee bar in Epsom, but when in Rome let the Romans do their thing.

Without a doubt I will be visiting Jordan again, but with one exception. I will not be floating in the Dead Sea. More about that experience next time.

Copyright © Tom Kane 2019

I’ve lived in Cyprus as an ex-pat Brit for 11 years and in that time I’ve written six volumes of my popular series Living in Cyprus. You would be surprised what it’s like living as an ex-pat in a foreign land… I was amazed.

 

image sculpture

Image by Sabine Felidae from Pixabay

Last week I flew to Jordan for a short break. The plan was to spend a couple of nights at a hotel at the Dead Sea to chill and relax, then go on to spend a few nights in Amman and visit the sights there. All was fine and all went to plan, after a slight hitch at the start of this holiday.

To begin with the airport at Paphos had a problem with the security scanners. Well, that’s par for the course in Paphos, they seem to be a lot more switched on at Larnaca airport… maybe that was the problem, the machine wasn’t switched on. Who knows, all I know is this was the first of many queues that day.

So, into the departure lounge and an almost immediate call to board the aircraft… except this is RyanAir and I know how they achieve a fast turnaround. When your aircraft is about five miles out from landing, you are called to board. You are then shunted, en-masse, cattle prodded almost, into a confined area and made to wait up to 20 minutes until your plane has landed, passengers disembarked, and cabin staff given the aircraft a quick clean. Then you are herded onto the aircraft and told to sit down asap.

Two queues down.

Arrival at Queen Alia airport Amman in Jordan was uneventful and so was the taxi ride to the hotel. It’s a special treat so the hotel chosen was considered to be quite up-market. I won’t mention the name but it rhymes with a famous carpet maker named Wilton. It has its own access to the Dead Sea and is a Spa resort. Here’s a top tip. Do not book a holiday in Jordan when there is a religious holiday. Eid al-Adha is a public holiday and Islamic festival to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim (also known as Abraham) to follow Allah’s (God’s) command to sacrifice his son. This event is celebrated by Muslims around the world, and most of them seem to have descended on this one hotel to celebrate. Not being of any religious disposition, I had no idea I had walked into a huge event, until I entered the lobby. Over an hour later and a long argument about upgrades that didn’t happen and staff who kept disappearing after promising the world, I had a card in my hand and a room I was able to stagger to because my legs had stiffened so much during the process of registering.

Three queues down. And that was enough for one day. There were other queues, not least for food at the posh hotel and during the journey back with RyanAir. But I take it as only a true Brit can take it. We British know how to queue and suffer in silence, when all around are ranting and raving.

More from my trip to Jordan over the next few days, including an eye-watering introduction to belly-dancing and the ubiquitous Shisha.

Copyright © Tom Kane 2019

I’ve lived in Cyprus as an ex-pat Brit for 11 years and in that time I’ve written six volumes of my popular series Living in Cyprus. You would be surprised what it’s like living as an ex-pat in a foreign land… I was amazed.

 

image Pasha Hotel

In the heart of Amman there is a hotel with an eclectic mix of guests. The Pasha Hotel is more a hostel, but it offers good food, clean rooms and good value for money.

On the roof terrace I can hear an American talking to a local. Three Portuguese girls chattering away and all interspersed with the annoyed duck demanding food. This duck and one or two others is joined by a menagarie of Guinea Pigs, Mice, multi-coloured Chicks, a variety of large and small fowl as well as quite a few Rabbits.

I’ll be writing more on the story behind this interesting array of guests at the Pasha Hotel, Amman.

Welcome to Jordan.

Copyright © Tom Kane 2019

Image cars

If you want an easy time getting about in Amman, Jordan, then use the advanced taxi service called Careem. This service extends across the Muslim world and is very much internet based.

Once you have downloaded the app you’re good to go. Call up a taxi and your location is noted. Tell the app where you want to go and what time you want the ride. then the ride details will be transmitted to you. make of car, colour and registration number. and you are sent a time estimate as well as a map showing where your ride is.

So far in the last week, the ride has turned up on time, every time. And it’s not expensive. a 30 minute ride is around 2.5 Jordanian Dinar or 3 Euros.

Simple, stress free & cheap.

Copyright (c) Tom Kane 2019

 

image of a book and camera

If you’re a fan of Douglas Adams’ book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy then you’re in good company. Millions of Sci-Fi fans the world over, and I mean millions as it’s sold over 15 million copies, have read the book, heard the radio show, watched the TV show, watched the movie, re-read the book and read the sequels.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was first published on the 12th October 1979 and sequels followed soon afterwards. The author, Douglas Adams, who sadly died on the 11th May 2001, was a far sighted and gifted writer. So much so I believe he came up with the idea of Smartphones and eReaders like Amazon’s Kindle with his description of the fictional book carried by one of his characters, Ford Prefect, a researcher for the The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. As Ford Prefect, an alien from Betelgeuse, explains to his human pal Arthur Dent how the book works, low and behold, we are being introduced to the workings of the Smartphone and the eReader, like Amazon’s Kindle Fire.

I also believe that Google was first vaunted by Adams within the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s been said and documented that the famed search engine, Google, was derived from the word googolplex. What’s a googolplex you may ask. Well, in an episode of the science program Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, the narrator, astronomer Carl Sagan, estimated that writing a googolplex in full decimal form (i.e., “10,000,000,000…”) would be physically impossible. It would, he determined, require more space than is available in the known universe. So a googolplex is a pretty big number. Google, it is said, was derived from googolplex and misspelled in the process.

I beg to differ.

At one point in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, one of Adam’s characters asks the super-computer Deep Thought,  “And are you not,” said Fook, leaning anxiously forward, “a greater analyst than the Googleplex Star Thinker in the Seventh Galaxy of Light and Ingenuity…”

I just wonder if somewhere in the back of the mind of the person who came up with the word Google that we all know and have come to love/hate was there a little voice in his sub-conscious reminding him that Googleplex had already been used by Adams back in the 70s, long before Larry Page and Sergey Brin came up with the idea for Google in the 90s.

There’s no proof of all this but hey, it’s perhaps worthy of such a creative writer like Douglas Adams, and is the sort of thing urban fantasies are made of.

Copyright  © Tom Kane 2019

Yes, it’s a play on words and poor attempt at humour. But if you’re not British you probably won’t understand the connection between Aaron and jumper… I think I’ll leave it there now.

If you’ve been to Cyprus or Greece for that matter, you may well have seen the Glass Dance. Put simply it’s where a dancer has glasses of liquid piled on his head while he is still moving around, or glasses and trays of glasses are piled on the poor souls head.

Many beleive these trays have the glasses stuck to the tray, but either way it’s still pretty impressive.

What’s even more impressive is when the dance group pick a willing stooge, sorry, volunteer, from the audience. Usually male and usually a few glasses of wine or beer under their belts.

Last night we went to the village for the Thursday night buffet and Cyprus dancers and at the end of the evening poor Aaron, on holiday from England, was singled out to be the volunteer.

The twist is that the volunteer believes he has glasses piled on his head, he’s even shown what it is they expect him to balance. When in reality all he ever had on his head was a single glass. To add to the belief the crowd is encouraged to cheer and clap when each glass was placed on Aaron’s head. Last night’s crowd were more enthusiastic than usual and encouraged Aaron to strut his stuff.

I’m never certain, but I assume the victim is told about the deception later, but I hope his friends and family kept up the pretense for a while, he was so proud of his achievement. It’s a bit of fun and with the fabulous food and drink it’s well worth a visit to Kouklia, near Paphos, on a Thursday evening during the summer.

Copyright © Tom Kane 2019

image Kouklia Coastal Retreat

Living in Cyprus has some great advantages and you can even try it for yourself at our holiday apartment, Kouklia Coastal Retreat. Close to Petra tou Romiou, the Sanctuary of Aphrodite, Paphos, the Waterpark and much more besides. A bargain self-catering cosy apartment for two at only €45 per night.

When I moved from England to Cyprus 11 years ago, I was set for a lazy time in the sun. To relax and chill for the rest of my life… it took 30 minutes for the airport to lose my two dogs. It took me hours to find them and at the same time cost a small fortune and a ton of paperwork into the late night to get my dogs out of doggie jail. “Welcome to Cyprus, please ensure your wallet and passport are open.”

 

 

image of Petra in Jordan

In a short while I’m off to Jordan, using Ryanair’s regular flights between Paphos and Amman. It’s only for a short break but it will give me the chance to experience a new culture. Jordan has some stunning ancient buildings, like Petra above, but most people seem attracted by the Dead Sea.

The Dead Sea isn’t actually a sea, it’s a lake. I suppose some bright and enterprising travel agent in the 1800s decided Dead Lake didn’t quite have the ring of Dead Sea, and so a tourist hot-spot was born.

image Dead Sea Hilton

Dead Sea Hilton

I’m not going to pre-judge, but I am told that the Dead Sea is also quite muddy, so I may be spending more time in the hotel pool. The problem with the Dead Sea is that not only can you not dive down into the sea, because it’s so salty, it’s actually classed as a hypersaline lake and as such all you can do is float, swimming and diving is out of the question. So it’s going to be a bit weird going from the beaches and sea of Cyprus where most of the year round the seas are blue and inviting, to a sea that simply doesn’t want you in it splashing about.

There will sadly be no time to visit Petra which I’m told is magnificent, but that should really be visited when it’s not so hot as there’s a lot of walking involved.

One interesting little snippet is that the language is Arabic but with English, French and Turkish influences in the vocabulary. But I guess there’s also more than a smattering of Greek because Petra, meaning stone, is also used here in Cyprus where the birthplace of Aphrodite, goddess of love, is Petra tou Romiou.

Human beings the world over are a lot closer to each other than most realise.

Copyright © Tom Kane 2019

Ryanair do regular flights to Paphos in Cyprus from a variety of European cities from Eire to Sweden, all through the summer and winter, so a short stay in our apartment in Kouklia, only ten minutes away from Paphos International Airport, probably won’t cost a fortune.

Our holiday apartment, Kouklia Coastal Retreat, is close to Petra tou Romiou, the Sanctuary of Aphrodite, Paphos, the Waterpark, Secret Valley Golf Course and much more besides. A bargain self-catering cosy apartment for two at only €45 per night.

image Kouklia Coastal Retreat

image Kouklia Coastal Retreat apartment

You can check availability here by clicking on a date.

Click here to view our website for more information and images.

When I moved from England to Cyprus 11 years ago, I was set for a lazy time in the sun. To relax and chill for the rest of my life… it took 30 minutes for the airport to lose my two dogs. It took me hours to find them and at the same time cost a small fortune and a ton of paperwork into the late night to get my dogs out of doggie jail. “Welcome to Cyprus, please ensure your wallet and passport are open.”

 

 

 

 

 

image of a door

You never know what goes on behind closed doors. Here we are, setting up a self-catering holiday rental apartment, for which we already have a few bookings in August, September and October, only to discover the odd behaviour of some guests in such establishments. It’s not so much a matter of behind closed doors but more like what happens to the doors themselves.

In order to ensure our apartment is clean and our free welcome pack is in place, we employ someone to go in and do the necessary. Sweep up, wash up, wash the bedding and towels and generally tidy round. But it seems that such a job isn’t as straightforward as one would expect. Our lady does this for a living and has told us a few tales that would make my hair curl, if I had any hair to curl. It seems one of the favourite tricks of some guests is to remove the door handles to ensure there are no spy cameras inside. Spy Cameras! The last thing I pack when I go on holiday is a screwdriver and the last thing I think about when I arrive where I’m staying is where are the spy cameras! Am I too naive or stupid in this modern world? No, I don’t think so.

I can assure our guests there are no spy cameras. I wouldn’t even know where to get a spy camera let alone how and where to fit it.

And as for guests taking door handles off to satisfy their privacy is intact, when you put them back on, make sure they are the right way round, please.

Copyright © Tom Kane 2019

image Kouklia Coastal Retreat

Living in Cyprus has some great advantages and you can even try it for yourself at our holiday apartment, Kouklia Coastal Retreat. Close to Petra tou Romiou, the Sanctuary of Aphrodite, Paphos, the Waterpark and much more besides. A bargain self-catering cosy apartment for two at only €45 per night.

When I moved from England to Cyprus 11 years ago, I was set for a lazy time in the sun. To relax and chill for the rest of my life… it took 30 minutes for the airport to lose my two dogs. It took me hours to find them and at the same time cost a small fortune and a ton of paperwork into the late night to get my dogs out of doggie jail. “Welcome to Cyprus, please ensure your wallet and passport are open.”

 

image gun

If you have ever been threatened in your life, you will know it’s not a pleasant experience. A direct threat of violence was pretty much all you would have expected in your life, until the invention of the world wide web, emails and social media. Now we can and are very much subjected to threats of a very different nature to violent threats. But these threats are nonetheless very real sometimes. I’m talking about the current trend of threat where an email is sent to your inbox and the sender immediately threatens that they will expose what you have been up to online. It goes something like this.

Hello, I know your password is: ???????????

Your computer was infected with my RAT (Remote Administration Tool), your browser wasn’t updated / patched, in such case it’s enough to just visit some website where my iframe is placed to get automatically infected, if you want to find out more – Google: “Drive-by exploit”.

My malware gave me full access to all your accounts (see password above), full control over your computer and it also was possible to spy on you over your webcam.

I collected all your private data and I RECORDED YOU (through your webcam) SATISFYING YOURSELF!

After that I removed my malware to not leave any traces and this email was sent from some hacked server.

I can publish the video of you and all your private data on the whole web, social networks, over email of all contacts and send it to your friends.

But you can stop me and only I can help you out in this situation.

Transfer exactly 800$ in bitcoin (BTC).

It’s a very good offer, compared to all that horrible shit that will happen if I publish everything!

The sender then goes on to tell you that you must buy an amount of bitcoins and pay them into their bitcoin wallet. Now here’s where the helpful idiot is making a mistake. Most bitcoin wallets can reveal an awful lot about the owner and indeed even their name and location in many cases. Not a good move on behalf of a blackmailer.

Apart from that, this message, sent to my inbox, indicated  that –

I collected all your private data and I RECORDED YOU (through your webcam) SATISFYING YOURSELF!

which would be a miracle because I don’t have a webcam.

Suffice to say, the email was a bullshit scam. But nonetheless it was a threat, meant as a threat and in fact an attempt at blackmail. This sort of threat is like holding a gun with no bullets to your victim’s head. You, as the victim, can’t be sure the threat isn’t real, even though you don’t own a webcam. So, here’s my advice. Pass the email onto your local police who will know exactly what to do with it and hopefully they can catch the scum that sends out these mass phising emails.

Copyright © Tom Kane 2019

image Astronaut

Image by Thomas Malyska from Pixabay

When I was a kid, a teenager, watching the first Apollo moon landing, I vowed to become an astronaut. There was a major drawback with that dream. I hated school and lived in Britain. Two main requisites to becoming an astronaut was to be good at Maths and science and live in the USA. So I had to take up  another profession. But in so doing, I still found myself working in some odd environments.

Take this piece I’m writing now. I’m in the kitchenette of my apartment in Kouklia, writing on my laptop. Which is difficult because I’m using the glare from the screen to see the keyboard, which means the screen is pushed forward and I can’t see what I’m typing. I’m told a good typist will never look at the screen until they have finished. I’m not a good typist. I’m self taught two-finger style, so I need to see the screen sometimes. Add to that the discomfort of sitting on a bar stool and experiencing my legs going dead every few minutes and you get the picture.

Another odd place to type from, and a firm favourite of mine, is the toilet. On holiday or when travelling I need to be sure I don’t wake my wife up, so I quite often sit on the toilet and type on my laptop. A while back I did the typing onto a small keyboard attached to my Kindle Fire… now that’s a dedication to my art.

Many years ago I had an office in Belfast, in my then girl-friend’s house. It was in the attic which had not been converted for the purpose so the only way up there was by a rickety wooden ladder. I did my work on a PC which had a huge monitor attached (no flat screens in those days) and carrying that up the ladder was an experience  I will never forget. In the summer the heat was almost unbearable and in the early morning and late at night I shared my office with a couple of bats… they were not amused. In the winter it was almost as bad for the heat but at least the bats were hibernating.

I think my most favourite place to work was in a garage, but this time it was converted into an office. Our car never saw the garage attached to our house in England, the whole thing was an office for my multi-media business which was pretty handy for early morning starts.

Today I’m waiting for the dawn to break so I can make a coffee and sit outside in the cool morning air. That, to me, is the best time to write. Clear head, nice and cool and a hot Colombian coffee at hand. At least I can see the screen and the keyboard. But that’s another 45 minutes away and currently I am hot, sweaty and making multiple  mistakes on my keyboard. Dedication to your art or your work is what it takes to be successful. I’ve got the dedication, but I’m still waiting for the success.

So while I wait, I’ll just keep on tapping away at the keys and hope success is round the corner. At least when it comes I should be able to afford a laptop where the keyboard lights up and I can see what I’m doing.

Copyright © Tom Kane 2019

When I moved from England to Cyprus 11 years ago, I was set for a lazy time in the sun. To relax and chill for the rest of my life… it took 30 minutes for the airport to lose my two dogs. It took me hours to find them and at the same time cost a small fortune and a ton of paperwork into the late night to get my dogs out of doggie jail. “Welcome to Cyprus, please ensure your wallet and passport are open.”