Notes from Lapta, Cyprus – Close Encounter of the Welsh Kind by Ken Dunn

One of the joys of being in the TRNC is the accidental, and often hilarious, contact with tourists who haven’t been here before. I’ve had several of these ‘encounters’, many of which, I have to say, have been a complete and total pain in the ‘lower’ nether regions but, occasionally, just occasionally, they can be extremely bizarre. One such meeting happened several years ago but it actually began in the UK.

A long time ago we decided not to take the car to the airport, park it there and pay whatever the going rate was. To simply save a few quid we took the National Express coach from Bristol to Heathrow. At less than fifteen pounds return then, being upright senior citizens, this was substantially cheaper than the cost of the journey by car plus the parking fee. OK, it did mean getting up in the morning at the, ‘crack of sparrow fxxt’, but it has been perfectly fine for us, reading the first book of the holiday on the way there and feeling completely relaxed knowing that someone else, the driver of the coach, was ‘taking the strain’.

From Bristol the coach rolls along the M4 and stops at a pick up point just outside Reading. Some folk get on, some get off but on that day, while we waited through the few minutes it took, we somehow fell into conversation with a couple sitting directly opposite to us. They were a Welsh couple on their way to the TRNC for two weeks and for the first time! So, we fed them as much information as we could as to where to go, what to see and all kinds of other recommendations for restaurants, bars, sites of interest and all the rest. Once at Heathrow we all checked in but we lost contact with them via the security process and the hubbub of the Departure Lounge.

We didn’t see them again until we had taken off and were well on our way. So, virtually picking up the conversation from where we had left it on the coach, we chatted on trying to give them as much information as we could about the TRNC. Now, it’s important to say here that ‘Mr Welsh’ was a very ‘happy chappy’ but he was also the spitting image of the Scottish comedian and actor, Billy Connolly! Long hair, beard, the works, but with a very heavy Welsh accent! ‘Mrs Welsh’ was rather demure and shy and hadn’t said a word on the coach and remained very quiet on the plane. We never did get their names but that doesn’t matter. When we landed at Ercan we waved our goodbyes and we thought that was that. They were nice folk and we hoped they would enjoy their two weeks of holiday.

Two years later and we were back in the TRNC. I was plodding my way back to the car park beyond the Dome Hotel, after having completed the chore of paying the electricity bill and other minor tasks, when I heard a strange call from behind me. ‘Oheloah! Heloah!’ This was new to my ears and I wondered whether it was either an unfamiliar Turkish greeting or the call from a visitor from Hawaii. It came again, this time with great fervour. I turned to see who was making this noise and… there he was. Mr Welsh himself!

He was dressed, well partially dressed, in only a pair of shorts. The day was hot, well over 38C but there he was, in all his pink and reddening glory. We shook hands as he said, ‘Oh, heloa! It is you then, isn’t it?’ Nonplussed I had to agree replying with a limp, ‘Well, I think so.’

‘Oh, smaaashin’, smaaashin’, he said, a huge grin on his face. ‘Can’t wait to tell the wife!’

His Welsh accent was as strong as ever and we were standing in the middle of the road under the baking sun as the conversation rolled on. A few of the locals strolling by gave us strange looks and no doubt thoughts which were probably, ‘Bloody tourists!’ I tried to rise to the occasion with, ‘Well, it must be one, no, two years since we last met on the plane, isn’t it?’

‘Thassrite,’ he said brightly. ‘Haven’t been back since then though.’ His smile disappeared. A frown taking over. ‘Had a problem, see. Wife was very upset, yeahss, yeahss. Very distressin it was.’

Not knowing what he meant or wanting to enter a ‘difficult’, and perhaps personal area of distress I offered a pathetic, ‘Oh, sorry to hear that. Was it family, a friend?’

‘Ohh, no, no. Well, sort of, like.’ Came his sad reply, his head dropping forward.

A few seconds ticked by. I didn’t know what to say. Then he spoke.

‘The wife was very upset, see. It was very distressin.’

I was confused, to say the least but he continued.

‘Yeahss, yeahss, very distressin, see. Cos the dog died.’

‘The dog… died?’ I asked, carefully.

‘Yeahss, yeahss. The wife was very upset.’

But then, before I could answer he gave a huge sigh and began again.

‘I drive a truck, see, and when I came home I’d park the truck, come to the front garden gate and there would be the dog. The wife works in the village, see, and doesn’t come back until after I’ve arrived. Soh, me and the dog, like, we would go for a walk up the moun-tain before she came back and when I came back with the dog I’d make a pot of tea for us and the dog would settle down. Smaaashin dog he was, yeahss, yeahss, smaaashin.’

I realised then that this was going to be a long story and we were still standing in the middle of the street, the sun blazing down. I edged him over to the side to prevent being mown down by passing cars as he continued to tell me the saga. This is a very short version of what was said.

‘Can’t do that no more,’ he said. ‘After the dog died the wife was very upset. It was very distressin. Yeahss, yeahss. I’d come home, see, park the truck and there’d be this… this… there’d be this…. Well, there’d be this….’

‘There would be this bloody what?!’ I wanted to ask but I held back.

‘There’d by this… this hole, like. This… hole.’

I was completely lost by now but he kept going.

‘Yeahss, yeahss. There’s this… this hole see, where the dog used to sit. It’s just like a gap, like, where the dog used to sit and wait for me. Issnot the same no more. Can’t go up the moun-tain with the dog no more. Not now. Not now. The wife was very upset, very upset, very distressin it was, very distressin, yeahss, yeahss. That’s why we didn’t come over last year. Cos the dog died. The wife was very upset. She said she couldn’t go on holiday, see. Not with the dog diein’, like. Very upset she was, yeahss, yeahss.’

Detecting the possible end to this I ventured to say, ‘That’s very sad. But are you going to get another dog?’

‘Another dog?’ he asked eyebrows rising. ‘Oh, no, no. The wife wouldn’t have that. She didn’t want to have that happen again, see. Anyway that’s why we didn’t come over last year. Cos the dog died, see?’

I didn’t ‘see’ and wished I could just vanish! In a desperate attempt to find an exit strategy I asked him how they’d enjoyed their time two years before, and now, and if they’d be back again.

‘Ohh, ‘ he said beaming. ‘Last time was great. Smaaashin. Went to all those places you told us about! Smaaashin, yeahss, yeahss. This time’s been even better and we remembered that place, that restaurant by the sea you’d told us about. Smaaashin it was! In fact, I’m sure we saw you there a few days ago. I said to the wife, ‘There’s that man and his wife we saw on the plane last time!’ She said, ‘Ohh. I’m not sure’. I said ‘Yes it is!’ she said, ‘Oh, don’t be makin a scene! What if it isn’t? If you go over and it isn’t it would be very embaaarasin’. Very, very embaaarasin’ if it isn’t, isn’t it?’ So I didn’t.’

Now that’s what I’d call a ‘near miss’. I wasn’t aware they had been there but didn’t bother to pursue it. Instead I said I’d look forward to seeing him/them again, if not now but next year.

‘Ho, yeahss, yeahss’ he grinned. ‘We’ll be back. Yeahss, yeahss, yeahss. But I must go now and tell the wife I’ve seen you! Yeahss, she’ll be soh pleased!’

With that, a quick hand shake and a wave he was off. I have never seen him again! So, if you see a Billy Connoly ‘look-a-like’ in the TRNC with a heavy Welsh accent be prepared and don’t ask him about dogs, it might turn out to be a very long, long saga indeed. Oh, yeahss, smaaashin, yeahss, yeahss!

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