Notes from Lapta, Cyprus – Colonial Mode by Ken Dunn

There was a time, when flying to the TRNC, passengers were obliged to disembark in Turkey, shuffle along to a transit lounge and sit, for hours and hours, sometimes eight or more, waiting for another aircraft to complete the journey. From the very early 80’s it would be quite a few more years before anyone could stay on the plane while a couple of ‘hoodies’ wiped the windows, pumped up the tires, checked the oil and water, filled the tank and then it was possible to fly off to Ercan.

Before the ‘simplification’ of a ‘direct flight’ to the TRNC happened it was pure chance that luggage would be transferred to the correct plane. In those early days, having already identified our luggage on leaving the plane, amongst a massive pile dumped onto the tarmac, we had to do it again before we, eventually, clambered onto the plane bound for the TRNC. But then, on one occasion, we couldn’t find our bags at all with airport staff simply shrugging and being of no help at all. The plane was due to take off but I was damned if we were going to leave our things behind.

This happened at Istanbul, an airport which was then rather ‘basic’ to say the least. My wife, our eight year old daughter and myself had been sitting in the transit lounge for hours with no access to refreshments of any kind, in high summer temperatures and before air conditioning of any kind was thought necessary. Sweaty, tired and very, very grumpy I wondered what could be done to find our elusive baggage. I then remembered something my father in law had said when faced with a problem. ‘Well, dear boy,’ he said, ‘When something goes wrong and you need to put it right all you have to do is shout at the buggers!’

How could I apply my father in law’s advice faced with complete and total apathy? Still disgruntled we reluctantly walked across the tarmac towards the plane destined for Ercan but then, in the gloom, the sun had set and even with ‘darkness being upon the land’, I recognised the aircraft which had brought us there earlier. Here was an opportunity for ‘the shouting’. ‘Stay here,’ I muttered to my wife. ‘I might be able to solve our problem.’ Standing there with our daughter, between the terminal and the aircraft, she didn’t have a choice as I strode off towards the previous aircraft. An official came up to me, hands raised in the attempt to prevent me approaching the plane but before he could say a word I shouted at him, ‘Open the hold of that! Now!!’, pointing at the plane and striding passed him.

He scuttled after me protesting loudly that it was not allowed. I did not stop but simply replied, in succinct but loud anglo-saxon, ‘Open the fxxxxxg hold or I’ll slash the fxxxxxg tires!’

He ran on ahead and scampered up the steps at the front the plane. I marched on to the rear, where I knew the main access to the hold would be. A can’t remember the type of aircraft it was but in those days all luggage entered via a large door at the back end rather than the side. A few seconds later the hold opened, a huge ‘door’ coming down to the ground. Three luggage trucks with empty trailers had arrived to take off the remaining contents, so I launched into another anglo-saxon set of orders. ‘Bring those fxxxxxg things closer, switch on your fxxxxxg lights, full beam, so I can see what the fxxk I’m doing!’ They did!

With the lights from the trucks concentrated on the hold the bemused drivers of these trucks watched as I climbed up the steps on the inside of that large door to find an enormous pile of luggage filling the entire space. The whole lot had simply been dumped in there with no obvious attempt at any kind of order. My first thought was, ‘Oh, bugger! This is going to take time!’

With no other option, I began to pick up and hurl bags behind me, hunting for ours, the chaps from the trucks trying to catch them as I threw them out. I was probably saving them a great deal of work! But I eventually found our bags and triumphantly strode back to where my wife and daughter still stood, ignoring the nonplussed expressions on the faces of several airport staff and Police who had been alerted and arrived to watch this mad Brit at work!

I handed our bags over to the luggage staff for the plane to Ercan, a malevolent ‘Colonial’ expression on my face. They took them carefully, as if likely to explode, but not one person, airport or Police, stopped us as we regally boarded the plane for Ercan. I entered the aircraft first, fiercely staring down disgruntled cabin crew and grumbling passengers who had been waiting to take off for the previous twenty minutes. We then took off and actually landed at Ercan bang on time!

I have often wondered what would actually happen these days if I ever have the need to try that kind of stunt again. I’d probably end up in the nearest Police cell! But that was then and this is now. The ‘Colonial Mode’ today, I’m sure, will not work any more but then it was extremely satisfying!

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