Notes from Lapta, Cyprus – “The Unkindest Cut” by Ken Dunn

The flora and fauna of the TRNC, and I suspect in ‘the other place’ as well, are not what they were. Although the flowers in the spring are a delight to the eye many of the fabulously old Olive trees and a substantial amount of the Pine forests have disappeared. Hundreds, if not thousands of Olive trees have been felled to make way for the ‘Costa del Nasty’ styled houses built during the housing boom. That began well over ten years ago but, thankfully, that near criminal construction blight has petered out. The aftermath is still evident. An awful lot of the countryside is still quite barren and is likely to stay that way for some time.

Vast acres of Pine trees have been destroyed, wiped out by the great fire of ’95 which also consumed many houses to the east of Lapta and along many miles to the southern parts of Girne and beyond. The problem continues to tax many communities, especially during the hot summers when fires can suddenly erupt, igniting the dry undergrowth, caused by sunlight through discarded bottles, which act as a lens. Cigarette ends are another factor, thrown from cars and pedestrians and sometimes, though fortunately rarely, deliberate arson has been committed.

On top of all this the wild life hasn’t had a particularly easy time. Many of the bird species which could be have found in the past have been shot to extinction by hunters. The shooting season has been reduced recently but it still continues. I arrived too late to the TRNC to see the large fruit bat colonies which, I’m told, used to be common, their fate being the same as many birds, shot for sport. What remains is less exotic. Lots of goats, a few cows here and there, many, many cats and quite a few dogs of varying lineage.

As far as goats are concerned, I often see them roaming through the higher levels of Lapta, eating anything vaguely green, usually being herded through the undergrowth from behind by a ‘slow motion’ local, holding the statutory long, strong stick. I occasionally hear the odd ‘moo’ from a distant cow first thing in the morning but my contact with cats has been the more direct and, at best, could be described as a ‘love-hate’ relationship. To explain that I have to go back, yet again, to the early 80’s.

We always used to arrive in the TRNC during high summer. Our daughter was still at school so it was impossible for an earlier or later expedition in any year for a long time. Eileen, my mother in law, had, in her early days there, taken in a couple of stray cats. By the time we began to come over the two had been joined by a few others. The grand total, a few years later, had risen to… 34!

Most of them were manically feral, you couldn’t get near any of them at all, not that I wanted to, but a few of the others were relatively ‘normal’. That was OK but getting out of bed in the morning had its own problems. During the night several cats would creep onto the bed to settle down and stay there. My wife had thirteen to cope with on her side of the bed one bright Cyprus morning. For me they were usually lurking under the bed so that I often had my ankles shredded as I attempted to stand up.

Geoff, my father in law, took all of this in his stride, never batting an eyelid as he sat at the dining table in the morning with two of them perched on his generous shoulders, snatching his breakfast bacon from his plate! But then, there were the dogs. Geoff’s sad demise, Eileen took in another stray, a delightful, spaniel-like dog who turned out to be female, simple inspection confirmed that. Eileen decided, for reasons not known, to call her ‘Bonza’, which if memory serves, is a near ancient Australian term for, ‘That’s great, mate!’ But I doubt whether Eileen was aware of that, bless her. The following year the bond between them was a delight to see and Bonza had learned to cope with the ‘moving carpet’ of her feline companions.

KAR, ‘Kyrenia Animal Rescue’, didn’t formerly exist then. Latterly they have been active in spaying cats and dogs, as both species had multiplied exponentially to huge numbers over the years. Eileen had the same responsible notion, some years before all this happened, deciding that she didn’t want to have Bonza being ‘interfered with’ by any passing randy mongrel who fancied his chances.

So, we found a local vet in the village who, to our surprise, informed us that he would come to the house in a couple of days. I asked why couldn’t he perform the act in his surgery but was informed, politely, that he didn’t have one! So, two days later he arrived to perform the operation, complete with a fearsome, leather muzzle. He refused to go near Bonza unless we strapped it over her head.

At that time a Turk would not go anywhere near a dog, although Rabies was, as far as I knew then, not endemic to the island. That attitude still exists. Yet then again, as now, the puzzling thing is that many Turks do, and did, own dogs to use as hunters during the shooting season. Sadly, most of the dogs they did have were invariably tied up, or chained to posts, ignored and literally fried under the summer sun. Many died.

Anyway, we reluctantly slipped the muzzle over Bonza’s head and stood back so the vet could do the deed. But where? The only convenient place he could suggest was on the dining room table, not exactly what we wanted or had expected from him. There was no other alternative as far as he was concerned. We covered the table with towels, lifted Bonza up and onto that, her eyes wide with fear, and I held her as he fumbled in his bag of tricks, brought out a hypodermic and administered a general anaesthetic. Bonza floated off, sagging to the terry towelling above the wooden surface of the dining table. After a couple of minutes of preparation, various ‘sharp’ devices emerging from the same bag, he began.

At that point my wife took Eileen upstairs, concerned about her being upset by the sight of the whole event. I stayed. I wish I hadn’t, as it was not a particularly pleasant experience. It didn’t, fortunately, last very long. A deft incision, his hand groping, finding, clipping and cutting, followed by a few brisk stitches, then closing the wound, several more stitches and it was over. Surprisingly, very little blood was spilled. The towelling caught any that escaped.

As the vet had almost completed his task we had to suffer the surreal event of the sudden arrival of a rather stroppy chicken which waddled in from the garden, through the open doors of the dining room. It clucked several times then half jumped, half flew, up onto the top of a propane gas heater in the corner of the room, clucked again, sat down, laid a bloody egg (!!) and then flappily jumped down to calmly saunter off outside! This was obviously an avian statement of huge proportions, but to who and for what reason?

After ‘double-taking’, at least twice during this, the vet completed his task, dropping his tools back into his bag. He then gave me a potion to give to Bonza over the next day or so and, after some brief aftercare advice, was gone but not before insisting that I should undo and hand back the leather muzzle on Bonza’s face. She was out like a light so I have no idea why he was so reluctant to do so himself.

Eileen enjoyed the gift of the egg the following morning for breakfast but having dinner that same evening, on that dining room table was, and has remained, unlike any other surface we’ve had to dine on before or since.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments are closed.