Working from home can be hard, and can be an absolute privilege. An understanding household and a dedicated space make things a whole load easier. The icing on the cake though, is reliable, fast internet.
Living as I do, in a village on the way to the mountains, on the Eastern-Mediterranean island of Cyprus, I feared that I would never get access to high speed broadband.
I do OK. We have two DSL broadband lines that are combined by some sort of black magic. I pay for 50MB, and sometimes get 30mb, but usually 25. Generally, that keeps things ticking over. However, TV often buffers and video calling can come and go.
Back in February, I was reporting a fault on my landline. I have no need for a landline, but if you want broadband, you have to pay for a fixed line too. At the end of the call, the customer service representative asked the standard question.
"Is there anything else that I can do for you today?"
"Tell me I can have fibre-optic broadband!" I laughed.
I hear the clack-clack of a keyboard.
"Yes, Sir. You need to log on to your account and sign up."
So I did. 1GB up and down. Ship it in!
Last Wednesday, I got a call setting up an appointment for the engineers to install the line on Friday at 11am.
Naturally, nobody came. I made a few calls, and then eventually the engineers turned up. Friday afternoon in Cyprus, and I was going to get fibre broadband in a tiny village. Huzzah!
He sucked his teeth.
"We may have a problem."
"I'm not sure we have a ladder big enough."
"Big enough for what?"
"The telegraph pole."
"Oh, I thought the cable was in the ground?" The telecoms company had been making holes in every road in the village for weeks.
"It is. But then to bring it to your house, we need to come along that line there." He pointed to the telegraph pole.
"Ah. Right. On that basis, I would have thought a ladder would be standard issue?"
"Are those swallow's nests?"
"Sorry? What? Oh, yes. Up there on the balcony? Yes they are."
"Are you stopping them build?"
"Yes, when they build at the front, I do. They make a terrible mess on the balcony, and when the chicks fledge, my dogs catch and kill them."
"You shouldn't stop them, you know. In Cyprus, we say that these birds only nest in the houses of good people. They bring happiness."
"Oh? I didn't know that, Nikos. Anyway - good news. I let them build at the sides and back of the house, and even better, I have a ladder you can borrow."
"Where is the modem?"
I pointed to the wall where the existing cables enter the house.
"Can we drill a hole here?"
"Um...why not use the existing hole, which is at the point of the house nearest to the telegraph pole?"
"Difficult...difficult...I remember this place. I came here before."
"The road is far."
"The road is far."
"I haven't moved it."
"What do you think, Costas?" He asked his trusty side-kick.
"Yes. It's far, Nikos"
I looked for hidden cameras. Surely this was some sort of wind-up?
"How far do you think?" Without waiting for an answer, our hero set off down the garden, pacing the distance.
"If you say so."
"I told them." He shook his head sadly.
"Told them what?" I was beginning to feel sorry for him.
"I told them, here in the villages, 100 metres wouldn't be enough."
"We only have 100 metre cables in the van."
"You can't use two?"
He regarded me tenderly, with kindness.
"They're glass." He spoke slowly, willing his words to get through to the simpleton that I clearly was.
"I see." I flushed red.
"I think there must be longer cables. There must be longer cables, Costas?"
"We'll have to find out." He turned to me.
"We need a longer cable. We'll call you."
"I hope so."
I watched my dreams recede down the lane. I'd forgotten to remind him to bring a ladder, next week.
It's Thursday. Yesterday, our internet went down. Mrs L was on the phone to the Telecoms company.
"Down? Can't be. You're on fibre."
Mrs L assured the operator that we were not in fact on fibre and his colleagues last week were lacking both cable and ladder of sufficient magnitude for the job.
"I'll get in trouble if I switch you back to DSL."
"You're in trouble now, if you don't." Mrs L explained, and got our internet restored.
This morning - I called the landline number that had organised the appointment, and Nikos' mobile. No response.
Alas - this is the way of things here. I could chat to Nikos for hours. Lovely personable sort of guy. A credit to the telecoms company. If only he could get a cable into my house.