Notes from Lapta, Cyprus – Diversions by Ken Dunn

I’ve never been ‘sporty’. The prospect of rushing around kicking a ball, spherical or egg shaped, using a bat of the willow variety or the ping pong kind, a racket, cue or any other device for a particular game has never attracted me. The notion of watching sport of any kind gives me an instant feeling of somnambulism. Is that a word? I think it is, but, anyway, to put it another way, sport sends me to sleep.

Even the ‘excitement’ of Formula One racing leaves me completely cold. The speed at which those vehicles travel is one thing but being able to focus on them is another. The milliseconds of the instant blur flashing across my line of sight does make me wonder why this is so prestigious and at the end of it what a terrible waste of champagne!

The problem is getting away from it all. The media in the UK is full of it and the need for some to dress up in the same kit which the professional football fraternity wear is a sad sight, not to say expensive. Over the years, with the advent of ‘the big screen’, many of the venues in the TRNC have been ‘infected’ by this. The single mindedness of some to follow every move, kick, red and yellow card, lbw, volley, conversion, scrum and all the rest of it is extraordinary. The endless machinations, discussions and arguments which follow are as much a mystery to me.

There are, however, other forms of recreation and amusement which can be found in many towns and communities east and west of Girne but, I have to say, none of these appeal to me. Quiz nights have become extremely popular but every night? I have to admit I have enjoyed the odd quiz night but there are some amongst the ex-pats who attend these events almost religiously and they take them so very, very seriously. That makes me wonder if they also spend whatever time they have left ‘boning up’ via dictionaries, encyclopaedias and any other obscure reference tome to ensure the correct answers can be given.

Another form of recreation, which frankly makes me shudder even thinking about it, is ‘Line Dancing’. This seems to have become very, very popular. The enthusiasm of all the performers is amazing but I cannot see myself ever joining in, dressed as an ageing cowboy and moving in ‘relative’ synchronisation with fifty or more hand clapping, ankle slapping twerps.

And then there is ‘paint-balling’. A relatively new arrival for the ‘what the hell are we going to do to fill our time over here’ corpus. Is this just a surrogate way of being able to machine gun down your fellow man? Probably. It’s a very sad indictment of some folk’s attitude to ‘having fun’.

For the more adventurous the ‘am-dram’ route can be very fulfilling. There are groups who continue to perform, on a regular basis, many plays, revues and ‘skits’. Oh, dear. I’ve only experienced amateur dramatics twice and both were excruciating to watch. The first was years ago in London. My father in law, previously a bank manager there, had received tickets to the bank’s annual am-dram event. He didn’t want to go, wise man, but sent them to us.

This was a production of the musical ‘No, No, Nanettte’ based on the 1940 film of the same name but with a cast of thousands, or so it seemed. The ‘performers’ cheerily murdered jolly little songs such as ‘Tea for Two’ and ‘I Want to be Happy’ but neither of us was. We made a hasty retreat at the interval. I didn’t forgive my father in law for that for quite a while.

The other, and last time we ever went near an am-dram event, was after we’d moved down to the South West. Neighbours invited us to the performance of some obscure play, the author and name of which I cannot remember, but it was just as dire as that one in London. This time we felt obliged to steel ourselves to sit through the whole thing but the interval thankfully arrived to allow some respite.

But no, that didn’t happen. To keep us all ‘happy’ during the fifteen minute break one of the cast delivered a Pavarotti-like version of ‘Nessun dorma’, the translation of which I think is, ‘None shall sleep’. He couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate song and it was so bad I was taken with a fit of the giggles, halted by a swift dig in the ribs by my wife.

The trouble with both of these ‘presentations’ was that there was no attempt whatsoever at ensemble acting, where actors usually work with each other. They simply delivered the words, wooden and disconnected but revelling in being able to ‘show off’.

Now, I don’t mean to pour scorn on any of the activities I’ve mentioned as I’m sure they provide satisfactory diversions. For those of you involved with them please continue to enjoy yourselves and I hope you didn’t shout or throw anything at the screen as you read the above. Carry on with your activities but don’t involve me. I have other things to do.

My father in law once stated that recreation for him was, ‘A leisurely stroll across a medium sized bar’, but he was, in fact, a very good player of Golf. He and his wife played regularly in the TRNC many years before the new Esentepe course was built.

On the coast, a few miles from Gűzelyurt, lies a golf course where they and other ex-pats played. At one time it belonged to a Copper mining company. When the economics of mining proved less than worthwhile the mine closed and the course was handed over to the community.

It’s still there, as far as I know, called Pendayia, the orginal Greek name. I don’t know what it’s called now but it was a classic middle-east affair. The greens were ‘browns’. Once the ball had rolled into the hole players had to sweep the surface with a large brush. Starting at the centre they had to move, dragging the brush behind them, in an ever widening spiral to the outer edge thereby removing all footprints. They then moved on to the next hole. Woes would betide the players who left tracks behind!

Well, that was fine but the course only had nine holes so anyone playing had to go round twice! The Turkish Army had taken over the other half the course and used it for exercising the troops and weapons training. Again that was OK but too many times a player would be in mid swing on the tee when a heavy machine gun would open up scaring the hell out of anyone nearby! Not exactly an aid to concentration.

So, what do I do for recreation in the TRNC? Well, not a lot. I potter around the house, attending to all those minor maintenance jobs, or in the garden, tidying up and sometimes pruning the fruit trees. Reading is high on my small list of recreational activities and the opportunity of having satisfactory, conversations with others about books, art, theatre or occasionally politics. The latter subject being dealt with briefly before moving on quickly to some other, more worthwhile, topic.

This is not so boring as you might imagine, especially conversation, but it can have its pitfalls. Some folk have a very bad habit of droning on about their personal problems and particularly their various ‘maladies’. Once we all reach sixty plus many of us have various ‘bits’ that give problems. Varicose veins, cataracts, arthritis, breaks of one sort or another and many other far worse conditions are examples. I dread this happening especially when I have to endure the detailed description of the latest ‘operation’ someone may have had. So, I have developed two stratagems to prevent that and stop it ‘dead’.

Many chats take place in various watering holes. If the ‘malady’ factor turns up and if it’s someone I don’t know that well, or have only been in the country for a short while, I’ll first turn the conversation to an ‘advisory’ status. A typical conversation, along these lines might go something like this.

‘You see that chap over there?’

‘Yes’.

‘Well, he’s a hit man for the Mafia’.

‘Really?!’

‘Oh, yes. Be careful what you say to him.’

‘I… I will.’

‘And that lady over there?’

‘What about her?’

‘She’s on the ‘game’ if you see what I mean.’

‘Blimey!’

‘Yes, she was a ‘Madam’ in the UK but started up again over here. She’s touting for ‘work’ right now.’

‘Well, I’ll be…’

‘Oh, yes, and watch him over there.’

‘Why?’

‘He’s a gun-runner. On the run from Interpol. Nasty bit of work. Dangerous to be around him.’

By this time whoever I’ve been talking to is already off his chair and making flustered apologies to leave. There is another wheeze to employ when you really don’t want to talk to someone but they insist on trying to bore you to death. The trick is to begin by pretending to fumble for your glass and slowly develop a slur in speech. Then interrupt whatever they are burbling on about and say, looking them straight in the eye, ‘ I sh.. should warn you th.. that I c.. I can be v.. very vio.. violent wh.. when I’m d..d.. drunk.’ Swaying slightly will help. That works a treat as they usually move away at high speed!

So, whatever you enjoy doing for diverting recreational pastimes please continue to enjoy doing it. I do!

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