Even though I was a scientist, before retiring, this is far from scientific. Consider it more as the wandering mind of an old man who doesn’t know when to stop writing!

I bought this house 26 years ago. There were several reasons why the choice was made but one of them was free access to government-owned land, behind it. This was unwilded forestry but with almost no trees at the time. It is still like this but with a few pine trees having grown – not a house in sight! At the time, I was working for the Swiss Environment Office and the United Nations Environment Programme, mainly on ozone depletion.

Back in 1998 – one summer evening we had enjoyed a great meal, cooked by my wife, Margaret. As the dishes were cleared, my grandson, Robin, and I were sitting on our patio, enjoying the night, possibly with our glasses still half full of Maratheftiko. I glanced up and saw a magnificent display of the Milky Way. This was not unusual as we could see it every evening before the moon started to show its face. That evening, so many years ago, is imprinted permanently and pleasurably in my memory because Robin and I chatted about it for possibly half an hour.

Fast forward now to 2023 after a meal of cauliflower in white sauce and chips, prepared by my Indian helper, Param. Margaret had unfortunately passed on in January, so it was just cauliflower and chips for the main course, followed by a delicious home-made lemon sorbet from our own tree. Usually, I’m indoors to watch the news at 9 o’clock but, last night, I didn’t want to hear about the misery in the world and I stayed on the patio. At 9 o’clock, it was getting dark and I couldn’t even see a planet, let alone a star. I went indoors a little later, but came out again at 11:15. Yes, I could hardly see perhaps a dozen stars or so but very dimly. There was nothing I could use to identify a constellation. My first reaction used some language that would not have been proper in a drawing room or even in one of my laboratories.

So, what has changed? I cannot give a scientific answer without more data. Without any proof whatsoever, I hypothesise, guess, surmise, think that there is something reducing the light from the stars reaching the ground. But what? Some extremists blame aircraft contrails but I can hardly think that the volume of water vapour, even polluted by the engine combustion products, could have that kind of effect. Other man-made pollution at high altitude? No! Mount Etna erupting? That appears to be unlikely – is there any correlation between the eruptions and the upper atmosphere in Cyprus? Not very likely, is it?

So, what is it? I have no proof, but my guess is that we have a layer of dust from man-made sources moved to the mid-atmosphere by the land-sea breeze cycle. That dust comes from industry, electricity generation by combustion, the exhaust pipes of cars and other vehicles, road friction, heating homes and so on – the list is endless!

As I see it, this endless list can be divided into two; there is, on the one hand, the problems caused at the individual level and, on the other hand, those caused at a communal level.

There is plenty of advice on the internet and better informed sources as to how to tackle the two kinds of problem. However, there is another kind of difficulty which is almost impossible to treat and that is the politician. We elect a presidential team and parliamentarians who are, in general, as ignorant of the environment as Joe Bloggs in the pub round the corner.

Brian Ellis, Mosfiloti