Notes from Lapta, Cyprus – Hairy Bikers by Ken Dunn

There used to be a popular watering hole in Girne, called the ‘Dragon House’ and it was another alternative meeting point for the ‘Ancient Brits’. Tucked away in the back streets of the town it was a few minutes walk up from the main Post Office and Law Courts. I don’t know if it’s still there as I haven’t been near it for a long time. Things change and folk move on. But then, a chap called Alan Cavinder ran the bar. Alan had previously worked at the Grapevine but I think there was a ‘falling out’ with the owner, so he ‘moved on’ and most of the AB’s followed him.

Alan was quite a character, sadly ‘gone on’ some years ago, but an incredible fount of knowledge of all things Cypriot, with a sharp, dry, Yorkshire wit, always ready with endless anecdotes and a personality which almost glowed. Every visit to see him was an entertainment, par excellence. He’d been around Girne since ’72 and stayed on, originally running the bar at the Harbour Club just along from the Castle.

So, on one day in early July, late 80’s, AB’s in abundance, Alan holding court with them, the talk at the time was of the growing rumblings from the south. This always happened, and still does, a few weeks before the anniversary of that event, July 20th, which was, using a word the GC’s hate, the ‘intervention’.

But this time it was likely to be a much bigger stunt than had been seen before. Rumours had been flying around in the last few days about the possibility of the Turkish Army moving weapons up to the line, so it had caught everyone’s attention.

If it was true, it could prove to be a very ‘difficult’ situation, and more importantly, for both sides of the line.

Propanganda levels from the South had grown to fever pitch and pleas to their compatriots abroad were made to arrive on the island and help stage a major protest along the border. Many came but the main concern in the TRNC was for the weirdo’s who were rumoured to be massing in the Balkans and travelling relentlessly towards Cyprus. Many of them were, allegedly, rather unsavoury, black leathered, tattooed, ‘oiks’, in equally unsavoury style – swastikas, second World War German helmets, SS regalia and the rest of it. ‘Hells Angels’ with a foreign twist.

The conversation moved around the small group at the bar with all kinds of speculative suggestions as to what might happen. It didn’t look good, that was for sure. One of the AB’s hadn’t said a word, calmly puffing on his pipe, occasionally sipping an Efes, but, for the most part, a wry grin on his face. This was Ted. He’d flown a fighter-bomber during World War Two, had been a member of the Police force in the then Palestine and had, to say the least, been around quite a bit.

I asked him what he thought about what might happen. He put his pipe down on the bar and began.

‘Well, he said, the grin fading. ‘It’s nothing to really worry about. In the first place the Turks will warn them not to come. If they continue onto the ferries to come over, the Turks will, again, tell them not to. If they land on the island and begin their journey to the line, the Turks will tell them not to come any further as they might have to do ‘something’ to protect the TRNC.’

No one said a word, allowing a short silence to well up as we waited for his next, ‘sage-like’ delivery.

‘Something? A few of us asked at the same time.

‘Yes,’ Ted repied. ‘The Turks will say ‘something’ may have to be done. And when say something like that you know they mean it.’

The word ‘something’ conjured up all kinds of scary situations but then another question was asked.

‘So, what if these characters don’t take a blind bit of notice?’

Ted re-lit his pipe, blew out a cloud of smoke, the grin reappearing on his face.

‘Well’, he said, slowly. ‘They’ll probably drive up to the line anyway to join the others and that’s when the Turks will give them a final warning not to cross into the TRNC, and, probably, not to touch the flag of this country. There’s been too many ritual burning of the Turkish and TRNC’s flags over the years and the Turks are very sensitive about that, and quite rightly.’

‘Do you think they’ll actually cross the line?’ someone else asked.

‘Who knows,’ Ted replied. ‘Anything could happen. You know what they’re like over there.’

We did.

‘But, I do have an idea about what might be the end result.’ he said, a twinkle in his eye.

I could only assume the worst possible scenario.

‘And what’s that?’ I asked.

‘Well,’ he began. ‘It’s simple really.’ He took a slow, long swallow from his glass, put it down, theatrically, and simply said, ‘There’s going to be a hell of a lot of second-hand motor bikes around!’

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