Notes from Lapta, Cyprus – Aphrodite…? by Ken Dunn

Venus Genetrix (de Frejus)When Malcolm Channing accepted my first article for the NCFP, ‘Almost a Regatta’, I was delighted. I had expected some editing, for the sake of those ‘sensitive’ souls in the South but not a word, comma or letter had been touched. Sending in any kind of written report, story, right up to the heady heights of a full-blown novel usually has to undergo a degree of scrutiny, spellings, grammar corrections and so on. None of this has happened. That’s not to say my ramblings are that special, they’re just memories of a place I love and want to share with others of a like mind be they British, Turkish or even, dare I say, ‘Greekish’.

But this cuddly feeling soon fell away when I read some of the extraordinary reactions and comments posted from our vitriolic ‘persons of questionable birth’ in the South and so, without more ado I offer you this but, and I have to warn any GC’s who read it that you won’t like it. You won’t like it one little bit.

I promised myself, after the second article to NCFP, that I must not allow myself to pontificate over what has happened in the past, it’s not my place, it’s not my country and would only arouse the manic, foaming at the South mouth I’ve seen, and heard, too many times before. So, after reading some of the personal attacks made in my direction within the ‘comments’ section I felt able to write this……

Some of my perambulations in the early days of the TRNC found me wandering around Lefkoşa, in complete tourist mode, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the city. The magnificent St Sophia’s Mosque, the Bazarre and the sadness of looking at the delapidated state of the Bűyűk Han. I believe that translates as, ‘The Great Inn’ and now, the restoration of this magnificent building, is a joy to behold.

Anyway, I like to visit the city at least once whenever I’m in the country and on one particular day I was chatting with a young couple who had never been to the TRNC before and, even after only two days, they were loving it. Knowing I was due my statutory visit to Lefkoşa, I invited them to come with me and I’d show them around. They jumped at the chance. Piling into my car we drove off. They drank in the sights of the journey, slightly apprehensive about the ‘creative driving’ techniques of the locals around us but nonetheless enjoying themselves.

So, we wandered around the streets of the city with me pointing out this and that and eventually I took them up to the top of the Saray Hotel, always a ‘must stop’ venue. The view from the top is, as you probably know, spectacular and particularly fascinating as I noticed the first time I experienced it. Red pan-tiled roofs suddenly stopped and then it was concrete, concrete, concrete. The contrast was remarkable and underlined the obvious division of North from South. It’s still more or less the same today but the construction activity in ‘concrete land’ has never stopped. Where they find the space to throw up new, faceless buildings is a minor miracle.

I gave these two young folk as balanced a view as I could about the intervention and the reasons for it, emphasizing that they could and should take on board ‘other’ points of view and not just mine, giving a gentle warning that coherent, rationale was rather thin on the ground ‘over there’.

We wandered around the top of the hotel, they taking several photographs and asking about the many landmarks below. At that point a local woman turned the corner, followed by two European ladies. I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation which ensued. It became clear the ladies were fresh from the plane and, just like the young couple I had in tow, this was their first time over here. The Turkish lady was showing them the sights, they were chatting away and then I heard the Turkish lady say, in answer to some question, ‘Ah, yes. Well, of course, there is a difference between Turkish women and Greek women’.

She smiled, they waited, so did I. She then said, not too quietly either, ‘Well, the main difference is that Greek women are very ugly!’ Wow!! She would never make a diplomat, that’s for sure.

The following day, and days after that, I recounted this tale of woe to several friends, Turks and Brits, who, I have to say, without exception, didn’t flicker with any emotion at all but simply waited a few seconds and then said, ‘Yeah, that’s right.’

Double WOW!! I thought at the time the comment the Turkish lady made was a tad harsh and does nothing at all for cross-border relationships. But, with luck that kind of petty criticism will fade, as I hope the torrents of mindless, abusive rhetoric from the other side will diminish so that all Cypriots can pull a united Cyprus, of whatever kind, back into the real world with equality for everyone and a recognition of the very special jewel they can all have and share.

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