Notes from Lapta, Cyprus – “things ain’t what they used to be” by Ken Dunn

EffervescentMy wife, bless her cotton socks, cares about how she looks and what she wears. Indeed, good show! And why not? However, there are times in the UK and especially when we’re in the TRNC, that the morning ritual of reviewing the complete contents of her wardrobe, as to what might be appropriate for the day, makes me smile. I’m quite happy to climb into anything handy as long as it’s clean, fits, and completely covers up the parts that other folk shouldn’t see. And under the sun in Cyprus means that with my fair skin I have to be careful, I can tan through a shirt!

My wife however, does not have that problem and gradually darkens to the deep, dusky, but glowing colour of an expensive mocha chocolate bar which has it’s own problems. Finding her in dark can sometimes be tricky and Passport control can often take a few seconds longer for her to be recognised and identified correctly.

So, in Cyprus, this minor pantomime of what to wear gives me the opportunity of another cup of coffee while she tries this top with those shorts, or those other shorts with that other top and so on and on. Any final decision making usually entails me being tested once a tentative choice has been made. Standing, holding up garments in each hand, she’ll ask the question, ‘What do you think?’ My reaction, much to her chagrin, is always the same, ‘Umm, yes. That’s nice.’ She will often say, ‘Oh, do you think this ‘goes’ with that?’ Same reply from me. Alternatively, any suggestion I may make, rarely, is usually dismissed with, ‘Oh, no. That doesn’t ‘go’ with this!’ What does ‘go’ actually mean? Tis a minor mystery.

If truth were told, my wife could walk around over here wearing a long, black bin liner and a brown paper bag over head, and no one would take a blind bit of notice!

What she forgets is the ‘fashion stakes’ in the TRNC are, very often, abysmal. ‘Clocking’ the tourists ambling up and down Girne High Street, in full ‘retail therapy mode’ or wandering around rubber necking (quaintly know as ‘fighter pilot’s neck’ syndrome) in the Harbour underlines that. The things people wear on holiday these days is very often depressing, sometimes quite scary, occasionally hilarious, together with being grossly over weight and sporting a myriad of tattoos – and they are just the women!

But, twas not always so.

Thirty years ago tourists were comparatively ‘thin’ on the ground, dressed appropriately for the sun and were usually quite well turned out. Younger, certainly. The elderly were few and far between. And the ‘Oi! Lezz gedd wanna these ‘ere cheap villa jobbies in the sun wivva bleedin’ pool’ brigade didn’t begin to swamp the place until many years later.

In the evening most folk, going out to have dinner somewhere, dressed for the occasion. Not ‘up to the nines’ but just a little more carefully than they did during the day. Quite gentile in fact. But I remember one occasion where the standards of ‘how one should dress’ was demonstrated. It was, in fact, completely ‘off the clock’ but extremely funny, but you decide for yourself.

We witnessed this first hand, one lunchtime, in a small restaurant down by the ocean edge. A small venue but quite popular at the time. A few customers had already arrived but it was by no means full. After ordering drinks and a modest collation of meze dishes we chose a table in the shade and sat down to enjoy a slow, languorous hour or so.

More visitors arrived and the place began to fill up. Then a threesome arrived, a couple and a lady, the latter dressed, shall we say, ‘in style’. But not for Cyprus, that was for sure. It was a very hot day but there she stood at the bar with the other two, wearing a thick tweed suit, sensible flat brogue-type shoes and a trilby-like hat which matched her jacket and calf length skirt. Quite a sight but totally inappropriate for Cyprus. In fact, she was very well dressed but this was classic, ‘Let’s have a stroll across the estate and see what the poor people are doing’ gear.

From the beginning it became clear that all was not well. They spoke at a slightly higher decibel level with accents which were pure 50’s. Crystal clear diction and completely BBC. You know the kind of thing. ‘Gowff’ for ‘golf’, ‘awff’, for ‘off’ and ‘sex’ was something the coal came in. The conversation was sprinkled with lots of ‘dahlings’ and slightly testy. I have a bad habit of ‘ear-wigging’ other folk’s conversations but this was heard by all and was impossible to miss. To clarify this, ‘one’ could say they were definitely ‘upstairs’ and certainly not ‘downstairs’. Home counties, or rather ‘kynties’? Minor aristocracy perhaps?

Anyway, the chap was asking, waving an arm at everything, ‘Well.. Is this all right?’

The lady sniffed and replied, huffily, ‘I suppose so. It’s better than that ‘larst’ place and all those…, those people.’

I wondered where she’d been and what kind of people she’d seen. Or had the ‘larst’ place been full of monkeys, giraffes or water buffalo? The conversation continued, without any drinks being ordered or any one them attempting to sit at the bar.

‘Oh, dear, dahling! We thought you’d so love it over here, dahhling.’

‘Well’, she replied, her expression one of sucking on a whole lemon, ‘ It’s just that.., it’s just.. Ohh… Never mind!!’

Oh, dahling! Do tell, please. What is it, what is wrong?’

She sighed deeply and began again. ‘Well, it’s just that…’

‘Yes, yes, dahling? Do say. Doo tell! We sooo wanted your time over here to be a jolly gay one!

‘Well.. It’s just that… It’s just that…’

The last part of her answer had me near drowning as I choked and spluttered on a mouthful of cold Efes.

‘It’s just that there are no servants!!’

And how true that was then and still is today! Bless!!

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