Notes from Lapta, Cyprus – No Water but lots and lots of Words… by Ken Dunn

I don’t know how or when it had happened but there it was. Over four feet wide and very deep. A long trench had been dug down the middle of the road stretching off to the right and left. Long, bright metal tubes were scattered on either side of this. It was impossible to get the car out of the drive and even if I’d been able to do so a mere strip of three or four feet on either side of the trench ruled out trying to drive anywhere. So, I reversed the car back up to the house.

How all this civil engineering had been done without either my wife or myself hearing the noise was another mystery but, on reflection, that may have had something to do with the previous evening and the local brandy we’d been drinking after dinner. In any case we had a problem and the full nature of that problem soon emerged. It was late morning and the sun was high. I picked up a glass and took it to the cold tap of the kitchen sink. The few minutes in the hot sun had given me a thirst. I turned on the cold tap but nothing happened. The hot tap was fine but not a drop emerged from the cold. That’s when I realised what was happening outside. They were laying water pipes. I checked all the other cold taps in the house with the same result. Great!

I phoned the Belediye to find out what was happening. Fortunately the chap who answered could speak English and told me, ‘New water pipes need. Important very. Only two days then water.’ Two days. Well, it could have been worse but they could have let us know about it. Did the water tank have enough to get us through? I knew the answer before I lifted the lid to it to find out. With no water coming out of any of the cold taps I knew what I would find. Yepp. An empty tank.

Whatever we were going to do about that we would have to walk to do it but that would mean stepping and stumbling over the rocks and earth spilled out from the diggings. The shops down in the village had bottled water so I resigned myself to get some, not looking forward to the return journey and the steep climb back to the house laden with as many full bottles as I could carry. I wished we had a wheel barrow! Before the temperature outside rose any more I thought I’d better get a move on so I set off. A voice called from somewhere.

‘Hello! Hello!’

Looking across to the other side of the road a woman was standing on a small, first floor balcony, waving.

‘Hello!’ she called again. ‘Just thought I’d have a word about the cats!’

What cats? We didn’t have any cats. She was a Brit, new to Lapta, but by the look of her tanned skin she’d been around this kind of climate for some time. She was, I reckoned, in her late seventies, thick lensed specs giving her a ‘Mr Magoo’ look and wearing a floppy diaphanous dress which the sunlight easily penetrated. Quite a sight. She continued talking loudly, a slow monotonous delivery without the sign of a breath being taken at all.

‘You see this trench is a bit dangerous. The cats go down into it, you know what cats are like, curious, and sometimes they go into the holes on the sides and if they do that they might cause a rock slide and if they do that they might get trapped so I have to be careful about not letting them out but when they get out, you know what cats are like, curious, and sometimes they go down into the trench and then they go into the holes and when they go into the holes…..’

This went on for a while before she changed track and began another saga.

‘So, I saw the men this morning and they told me that the water would be off for a while but they didn’t say how long it would be and I said well how long but they just said it would be off for a while and I said well what about my cats because cats go down into the trench and then they go into the holes and…..’

She went through the whole thing all over again before introducing another problem.

‘So, I said but what about my car? I can’t get my car out at all with this trench being here and I won’t be able to get to the shops and it’s just as well I have enough in the house as I did the shopping yesterday so I have plenty of gin and tonic and whisky and soda and red and white wine but I’m stuck here until the trench is filled in and I can use my car again but until then I’m worried about the cats because you see, the cats go down into the trench and they go into the holes…..’

All of this lasted for around ten minutes but the gist of it was that she was as marooned as we were and so were the cats because….. Not content with that she was off again.

‘So, I’ve had to bring the cats into the house because..… (trench and holes again) ….and they don’t like it, no, they don’t like it at all being in the house all the time with the windows and doors closed because if I open the windows and doors they get out and they go down into the trench and…..’

As I stood there, trapped, I could hear my wife giggling uncontrollably at the non-stop verbal battering I was getting. I took a deep breath and interrupted.

‘Thank you, that’s good to know. Got to go now. See you soon!’ and I shot back inside our place almost falling over my wife who was sitting, helpless with laughter on the floor of the hall. When she calmed down we ran the verbal gauntlet of trench, cats and holes, cheerily waving as we quickly picked our way over the obstacle course which had once been a road.

Down in the village we sat sipping a welcome beer at a hostelry run by Sharon, a large and loud lady from south London who’d set her place up ten years earlier.

‘All right dahhlin’s? Better now?’ she asked. ‘Don’t worry ‘bout the bleedin’ water. It’ll be back on soon but two days is a bit optimistic.’

She was right. Four days later and the work on the road wasn’t anywhere near being finished and we would have killed for a shower. Every day brought new and regular messages from the old dear across the road and I nick-named her the ‘traffic warden’ as she was always ‘on station’ keeping an eye out for anyone unfortunate enough to walk along. She caught us on the fifth day bringing more bottled water to the house.

‘I’ve just seen the men who were carrying tools and they said the water will be on soon but didn’t say when and they walked away before I could tell them I can’t get my car out and the cats might get down into the trench and go into the holes. They came back again and were working just along the way there fixing pipes in place but when I asked them when the water would come back on they just said it would be soon and I told them I still had the cats inside and they don’t like being inside but they walked away before I could tell them about the trench and the cats and the holes…..’

On day six the pipes were in place and trench was filled in and although the surface was pretty rough we could, at last and albeit slowly, drive down the road. Sharon had been a life saver for the whole time as she offered her plumbing to us until we had our own supply back on. The following day we woke to the glorious noise of the hiss and gurgle of water filling the water tank. Normality had returned. It happened to be a Saturday and in the early evening we sat on the balcony and could hear the locals in the village gearing up for a ‘knees up’ in the open space by the church. Turkish music floated up mixing with the final call to prayer from the mosque. Quite contradictory sounds but nothing to really complain about.

Then a familiar voice floated over to us.

‘Hello! Hello!’

The old dear was, as usual, standing on her balcony, the light from the room behind her shining through another flimsy number she was wearing. It was different but just as much a sight as the first time I saw her.

‘Oh, there you are!’ she began. ‘I’ve just been on the phone to the mayor and told him that the noise from the village is far too noisy and if it continues I won’t be able to get to sleep at all and the cats might get frightened and if they get frightened they might do something silly and that would be awful because they don’t understand loud noises and they don’t like loud noises and even though the trench has been filled in they still might find another hole, somewhere to crawl into to get away from the noise because they don’t like loud noises and they don’t understand loud noises and…..’

‘I’m sure it will be all right!’ I called across to her. ‘Don’t worry! The police will quieten things down! Just keep the cats in!’

She nodded and was about to launch into another delivery but I’d turned and walked back into the house relieved to escape another ten minutes, or more, of pure drivel.

On the following Monday we ‘d been down to Girne for some minor shopping event but as we arrived back at the house the traffic warden was again on full vigil mode.

‘Oh, hello! I’ve just seen the workmen again and they told me that there should be someone coming along in the next few days to lay a new surface on the road so I said it would be very nice to have that happen providing they take care about the cats while they’re doing it because if they don’t do that the cats might get frightened and if they do I’ll have to keep them in and they don’t like being kept in they don’t like it at all but it’ll be better when they lay a new surface because they’ll cover up such a rough track where the trench used to be and the holes and you know what the cats are like with holes because they go into the holes…..’

I leaned against the car and just muttered quietly, ‘Oh, bugger.’ My wife prodded me and said, ‘They say the weather’s really good in the UK at the moment and there are three flights from Ercan tomorrow.’

I said, sideways, ‘Get on the phone now!’

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