Notes from old Lapta, Cyprus – Time by Ken Dunn

TimeIt’s a funny thing, time. I’ve noticed that it varies from place to place, depending on what you’re doing, who you’re with and, particularly, where you are. It’s the ‘where you are’ that is the most significant as I’m sure anyone who has visited or lives in the TRNC is well aware of.

To begin with, the pace of life in the TRNC is slower, much slower and that can be so refreshing, not having to rush around because the shops may close, or you might miss a bus, or the pub closes down serving food at 2.30 in the afternoon and all the other irritations which the UK can offer. Every glorious day in the TRNC can be enjoyed, at length, and the evenings savoured over dinner at one of the many restaurants which keep popping up all over the place. Yes, I know they often disappear, sometimes at the same rate, but I think you may have caught my general drift.

However, there is another aspect to this and that manifests itself in all kinds of circumstances. How many of us have waited for a Turkish ‘artisan’ to arrive at the house to paint, fit equipment, mend something, deliver something, take something away, the list is endless. The number of times I’ve tried to organise something for the house with the locals and been given a time only to be disappointed, are legion. It’s usually, ‘Izz OK, tamam, (OK). Zee you tomorrow’, or, ‘Izz OK. I weel be round, inşallah, (God willing) at 9.00 on Monday – or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday morning or any combination of the time of day or the day itself. What usually happens..…is nothing. You’re stuck in the house waiting, and waiting and waiting. And then they’ll arrive just after you had to go out to the local shop for something trivial, only being away for five minutes. Sometimes a hastily written note has been wedged into the tiny gap between the frame and front door reading, ‘You not here. Zee you tomorrow.’ Or whatever you had wanted has been dumped in front of the door, a temptation for anyone walking passed. It can be very, very frustrating.

I always have to remind myself, when this kind of thing happens, that I’m a guest in their country and when in Rome…. But Turkish Cypriots, bless them, seem to have a completely different notion regarding what time actually is. An hour can mean a day, a week a month and anything longer than that is simply forgotten about. Getting angry about it is a complete waste of time. They always eventually turn up, well sometimes. And to be fair, usually with a big, wide grin on their face so how can you possibly be annoyed?

This relaxed view of life, together with what happened during a mid-summer’s day in the early 80’s, led to the most extraordinary twenty four hours for everyone across the whole of the TRNC but thankfully for only one day. I think it may have been ’84 but I may be wrong. No matter. Earlier, some European countries, UK excepted, were having some trouble deciding if they should alter the winter – summer timings and arguing loudly with each other. As usual the UK dithered about, fretting about whether they should adopt the experiment of the Second World War when double summertime had been introduced to fox the evil ‘hun’. The Scots were up in arms about this, complaining that they would be stumbling around in the dark until almost ten in the morning if it happened. The Europeans were still arguing and the UK continued to dither, trying to ignor what those ‘foreign jonnies’ might do. After all the UK had ‘ownership’ of GMT, Greenwich Mean Time, and, of course, that would never change, eh, what, what?!

Confusion reigned and the poor old TRNC didn’t know which way to go. The South changed its official time, twice I think, and the North still wondered what to do next. By this time, well through the day, nobody had a clue what the time actually was. Bayrak Radio gave out one time, the BFPO radio service, British Forces Posted Overseas based in the South, gave another and good old BBC World service yet another. Turkish television, broadcasting from Nicosia was of no use at all. Do remember that this was at a time before the internet was part of daily life, so that was all that existed in terms of mass communication.

Working folk were late, early or just plain mystified as to what on earth was going on. The ordinary Turks were quite oblivious to this, bless‘m, and the Ancient Brits didn’t give a damn anyway but were content to sit back and watch, amber liquid in hand, as the TRNC fretted about what to do next. It wasn’t until the following day, sunrise, that any confirmation of the actual time floated over the airwaves. A two hour difference had now been re-established between the UK and the TRNC and that has continued. The following day to all of this found a collection of Ancient Brits in the harbour shouting to each other, ‘what’s the time?’ Answers floated back, ‘haven’t a clue!’ or ‘it’s one o’clock!’ or ‘no it’s not, it’s eleven!’ or ‘nah! Twelve!’ Someone else yelled, ‘any advance on twelve, going once, going twice….’ and so it went on.

So, the next time you’re waiting and waiting and waiting at home for something or somebody to arrive, just relax and say to yourself, ‘Izz Zypruzz!’

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