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Stuart Lennon

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cyprus-map-political

I spend a fair amount of time in Cyprus.

My parents retired here and I lived here for a while.

I have a holiday home not far from Limassol.

It’s beautiful. It’s hot and sunny.

Cyprus, island of Aphrodite, sits in the eastern Mediterranean, not far from the coast of Lebanon. As islands go, it has seen more than its fair share of turbulence and invasion.

For many years it was a part of the Ottoman empire and laterly was a Crown colony of the United Kingdom. In 1960 it became an independent republic.

Recent history is complicated – Greek Cypriots in the 1950s were fighting for ‘Enosis’ –  union with Greece.

Instead, they got an independent republic, where ethnic Turkish Cypriots had protected rights.

The Republic never really worked and in 1974, the Greek Cypriots staged a military coup (egged on by the Junta in control of Greece) with an eye to achieving Enosis.

Turkey resisted this with an old fashioned, but effective counter.

Paratroopers.

The island was partitioned and remains so to this day.

The above is a gross over-simplification, I am no historian.

There is a fascinating book called the Cyprus Conspiracy by Brendan O’Malley that does a good job of shedding some light on a dark corner of geo-politics. Well worth a read.

The United Kingdom, throughout all of this upheaval, has largely managed to maintain a strong relationship with the part of the island that was not occupied by Turkey.

The Royal Air Force has an airfield here and there are several other UK military installations on the island.

Cyprus is reliant on tourism and the lion’s share of visitors have always been British.

Certainly, one would never struggle to find an English Breakfast on the coast.

While I would not necessarily see the ubiquitous availability of an English breakfast as a positive, there can be no denying that the universal use of English and affinity with the British does make Cyprus ‘easy’ to work for the Brits.

This affinity, together with the tourist industry and turnover of military personnel means that thousands of UK citizens make Cyprus their home in retirement.

Greek is a tough language, and the British are notoriously bad at learning languages anyway.

In Cyprus, this never mattered. Cypriots speak excellent English and many have attended university in the UK or the USA.

Over the last couple of years though, I have noticed a trend.

A sort of militant “Greek only” trend.

In equipping the holiday home, I have visited that famous Swedish furniture giant – Ikea. As Cyprus is a small island, rather than invest directly, multinational firms tend to grant franchises. Ikea is no exception.

Everything in Ikea – from the labels on the goods, to the leaflets, to the signs on the door is in Greek and only Greek.

I have never seen that in Cyprus before.

Adjoining the Ikea store is a shopping mall. The mall has a food court where can be found the usual fast food suspects.

There is also a fast food version of more traditional Cypriot food.

Again – all of the signage was in Greek only.

A reasonable percentage of consumers in Cyprus will speak little or no Greek. Tourists generally don’t, and many expats don’t either.

Therefore this policy has a cost to the business.

Perhaps I am reading too much into it – but there seems a sort of militance to it – an intentional statement.

I am not sure why it should be happening and whether it might have a broader connotation.

 

What? My data is not safe?

 

 

 

I have been droning on and on about email and productivity.

My email client of choice is Mailbox. A great piece of kit on the iPhone (and hopefully soon on my Mac).

Joyfully, this great app is free. Yes, free!

How can this be?

Well – its pretty simple really.

All of my email is passing through Mailbox’s servers. I have no doubt that all of that data has a value in some way, shape or form.

Big-Brother-is-watching-youI daresay that I have accepted buried deep in the terms and conditions, that Dropbox Inc (who own Mailbox) will never use my personal data unless it makes them money, or something similar.

Will.I.Am has said that he believes that we will all look back with wonder at how we gave away all of our personal data for nothing. Actually, I suspect that he said it a whole lot more eloquently than that.

Google and now DropBox see all of my email. The hosting company does too. The vast majority of my electronic filing also exists on a commercial company’s server somewhere. Data privacy is effectively a thing of the past.

What will all of this mean in the long run?

I don’t know.

Where have I ever written anything that would make you think I am smart enough to know that sort of thing?

12493936Companies apparently are prepared to pay to know what stuff I might want to buy – that way, they can sell me stuff.

Terrifying isn’t it?

No. It’s not.

The reality is that I get convenience (a great app) in return for the data.

Increasingly, my junk mail is around subjects that actually interest me. That’s a win as far as I am concerned.

Should I really be worried that Google tracks that I visited the John Lewis website and tells Facebook so that a John Lewis ad appears on my home page?

Why would that worry me at all?

Perhaps I am just too naive, and that one of you knows why I should be terrified that Google knows where I go on the internet?

immigrants

Stop spouting uninformed nonsense about immigration and immigrants.

I posted about this before.

I am prompted to do so again by the horrific images currently all over the media.

A school of thought is emerging that we have an obligation towards refugees but that economic migrants are a major problem.

I don’t want to pontificate, so I will limit myself to a story or two.

I married the daughter of two immigrants. Economic migrants in fact. In post-war Sicily, there simply was no work.

My father-in-law packed a bag and worked in Germany, Switzerland and Glasgow before settling in London and becoming a postman. Hardly the Cosa Nostra is it?

Once he had saved enough money to buy a house, he brought his wife and three daughters over. His wife and ultimately daughters got work in the local hospital.

My wife came along in London as a little surprise. Testament to the poor quality of British television in the sixties perhaps.

Margaret got a university degree and has never been without work.

Britain has done well out of these particular economic migrants.

I even got a wife out of the deal, which I’m very pleased about.

This year, my wife’s cousin has made the move from Sicily. In post-crisis Sicily, there is simply no work.

My cousin-in-law packed his bag, come to London and become a bus driver. He is hoping to soon have enough money to bring his wife and child over.

The parallels are obvious.

On the phone the other day, my cousin asked my wife why no English people drove buses in London.

All of his colleagues are immigrants. All of them.

I daresay that some would say that all the bus driver jobs are taken by immigrants.

For this to be true, I would need to believe that the major bus companies are intentionally filtering out indigenous English people at interview stage.

I really can’t see why this would be.

We might speculate why immigrants are that much more successful in becoming bus drivers than the indigenous population.

We might wish to look at motivations of employers and applicants.

Anecdotally, an employer might tell you that an immigrant is more likely to be flexible, and to find a way to work.

There are good people of all colours, creeds and nationalities. There are bad ones too.

That a man (or woman) wants to build a good life for his family is to be admired, not feared.

We must stop demonising immigration and immigrants.

I suggested in another post that you go away to a desert island for a week and come back to face the barbarian horde that is your weekly email delivery.

Gettting-To-Zero

Add this horde to the mass of missives that you already have kept, and soon your inbox is so big that it is actually slowing your computer down.

The instinctive answer to this is to delete all the mail on the basis that any important ones will probably get sent again.

I do believe that this approach has its merits, but some of the downsides can be severe – all of my bosses would have taken a dim view of it for a start.

The accepted measure to demonstrate one’s brilliance and mastery of email is “inbox zero”.

Inbox zero is what it sounds like, it is the state of having an empty inbox.

When you assess the inbox is up to you, but the aim is to have a time each day where you reach the point that your inbox is completely empty.

A point where every piece of correspondence that has been sent to you has been ‘actioned’.

_40916095_allen_cigarette203bbcThis approach is often credited to David Allen.

I admit to being amazed the Irish TV wit who sat on a stool, cigarette in hand making people laugh in the 70s and 80s had time to write books on productivity.

Turns out to be a different Dave Allen.

This one designed the Get Things Done (GTD) approach to productivity.

The theory is that I look at my Inbox and act on every mail.

I reply, delegate, delete or schedule. Each choice moves the message out of the inbox.

GTD is alarmingly trendy.

But that notwithstanding, there is something to it. If you feel that you are working for email rather than the other way around, have a look at “Get Things Done”.

I am now pretty much perpetually at Inbox zero.

How?

1. I use Gmail. In my experience, Google have been the most competent provider at keeping spam out of my inbox.

2. I use Gmail. When in doubt, don’t delete – archive. That way, you can always find the mail with a google search of your ‘All Mail’ folder.

It works. It makes the decision making process faster. Knowing that if I ditch a mail too hastily, I can recover it simply and easily.

3. Once at my desk, I take a few minutes to unsubscribe from email lists.

4. I manage mail from all my devices. I can therefore triage my inbox from anywhere.

Waiting for a meeting/bus/coffee? Whip the phone out, and go through the inbox…delete, archive, delete, snooze, reply, add to list and so on. I use a client called Mailbox that gives me these options.

I might not get through the whole inbox in one go – but through the day, I will have dealt with most unimportant email during spare minutes.

5. Turn notifications off. I look at email when I want to. I am not at its command. We all have enough to do without responding to beeps and whistles.

Are you the boss of your Inbox?