Notes from Lapta, Cyprus – Tomorrow Man by Ken Dunn

Paint and wood. These are the two products I have bought quite regularly since we’ve had our place in Lapta. After the major ‘works’ had been completed, to deliver huge dollops of ‘TLC’ to the place, it’s been an ongoing process of the ‘cosmetic’ variety. Shelves to construct, worktops to fit, purpose made, but simple, bits of furniture to make as well as interiors and exteriors to paint. And where do I buy all this stuff? Mehmet’s in Lapta of course!

It is a wondrous emporium of all things D.I.Y. with mayhem, confusion, noise, frantic searching thrown in for good measure and an incredibly hilarious place to observe, even if you don’t actually buy anything.

The open challenge of ‘find it if you can’ always beckons whenever I arrive. But it’s something you get used to, eventually. One of these days he’ll tidy the place up so it doesn’t look as if a rather large bull has been rampaging through the place followed by a tornado to further the ‘mixture’. But be warned, paint can be a tricky product to purchase and ordering anything that isn’t in stock can be ‘time consuming’.

In my early days of needing paint I thought, naïve Brit that I am, that paint was, well, just paint. But no. There are, or were, three different grades of emulsion. The expensive stuff, the middle of the road stuff and the third category, far cheaper than the first two, which is, to quote the technical term, ‘Crap’! The crap variety has the consistency of skimmed milk and slid off any surface it was applied to. Having gone through gallons of the bloody stuff I was then educated by friends to only use the other two.

Thus armed with ‘inside’ information I needed paint for the bathroom, the final stage of its completion. This would have to be a matt, spirit based concoction. Prepared for another grading system I asked Mehmet what he had in matt white or eggshell finish.

‘Ahh, yezz, thizz good, thizz good,’ he said pointing to a rack against the far wall. The only indication of content was a small daub on top of each tin. He pulled down a couple, white daubs on each, and brought them to the counter. I paid for them and off I went. So far, so good.

I’d already prepared the walls in the bathroom so off with first lid, a quick mix and on went the paint. I completed two walls and was running almost empty on that tin but knowing I had another I was confident that there wouldn’t be a problem, or so I thought. Painting anything in the TRNC, in summer, is a joy. The stuff dries, water or spirit based, in less than an hour as opposed to the UK when it usually takes all day.

So, with two walls completed and two more to do I whipped the lid off the other tin, another quick mix and slap, slap, slap. I now had a completely finished bathroom.

Leaving that last lot to dry I beetled off to do some other chore in the village and returned an hour or so later to see how the room looked. I was puzzled to see that the last two walls I’d done still looked wet. Touching the surfaces carefully I discovered they were, in fact, bone dry. Mehmet had given me two tins of white eggshell paint, hadn’t he? No, he bloody hadn’t as I now had two eggshell, matt walls and two gleaming, sparkling gloss ones! Well, that was easily rectified but I was, just a tad miffed.

Still in ‘paint mode’ the next task was the dining room. The original colour had faded and was looking a little ‘tired’ but I thought I’d try to match it as best I could. Back down to Mehmet’s place with a flake of the original colour. Could he match this? ‘Yezz, yezz. Take white base, meex theze little pots into and same colour, tamam?’

I looked inside the little pots. One was a deep red and the other a dark brown. The colour I wanted was a kind of raw straw but I wasn’t sure they would give me that.

‘Izz OK, tamam. Meex an meex and you get colour you want, OK?’

The Dining room isn’t huge but it I reckoned it would need two coats to bring it ‘back to life’. So, I took a large pot of a white based emulsion, around ten litres of the stuff, and the two little mixer pots he’d recommended. Whatever I didn’t use would always be useful for the future, or so I thought. Sadly, the ‘mix’ gave me a ten litre pot of bright, bright pink paint! It’s taken years to get rid of the damned stuff as primer and undercoat for other walls in the house. I’d thought of using it on some of the raw concrete outside but didn’t want to the place to compete with some of the ‘casinos’ to the west of Lapta!

As our house began to come ‘together’ I’d organised enough tools, hand and powered, to ‘fit’ numerous additions. A wooden screen between the Kitchen and Dining room, shelves upstairs, cupboards various and a few other ‘creature comforts’ around the house. In those days Mehmet’s ‘emporium of delight’ was one of the few places you could order and buy sensible lengths of timber and sheets of suitable, wooden based material. But there were drawbacks as I found to my cost.

An easy way to construct wardrobes, kitchen cupboards and storage units of any kind is to use ‘MDF’- Medium Density Fibreboard. It’s manufactured in large sheets varying from 3mm to 25mm in thickness and is easy to cut, finish and paint. Sorry to be boring, but that was what I needed to continue the ‘fitting out’ process in our place.

So, down again to Mehmet’s place.

I explained what I wanted. 2 MDF sheets, 8’ by 4’, 15mm thick. Not exactly a difficult request. ‘OK, tamam,’ he said. ‘It come from Lefkoşa, tomorrow…. Err…tomorrow afternoon, OK?’

I came back the following day, late afternoon and waited until he’d served a couple of folk. ‘Ah, not come yet,’ he said. ‘Wait. I phone.’ He punched in a number on his mobile, had a quick, slightly ‘testy’ short conversation, put the phone down and said, ‘It come tomorrow, first thing, OK, sorry.’

Mid morning I turned up again but….no MDF. He was on the phone again, this time more than ‘testy’. Two… days… later and he had a delivery of MDF but…there were two sheets, the right size, but the wrong thickness 9mm instead of 15mm. Too thin for what I wanted. So, this time I drew the shape, wrote down the size and thickness and handed it over to him in the hope that it couldn’t be misunderstood. He took it, sheepishly, nodded his head and said…,’Tomorrow.’

Two days later the MDF arrived , the right thickness but only one sheet and that was huge! It must have been ten feet wide and six feet across! I didn’t know the stuff came in that kind of ‘monster’ sheet but it was, apparently, part of a shipment from China! But four days had gone by and I decided to take it, not wanting to have another, ‘Tomorrow’ and wait another day and have something else turn up, or not! So, he delivered it to the house and it took me the better part of the day, almost giving myself a hernia, stretching across it trying to cut the damn thing into workable sizes.

My next task was to complete the Kitchen. Lengths of timber 2” by 2” thick and probably about 50 metres of the stuff would form the basic construction of cupboards and to place the worktops on. I also wanted 20 metres of 6” by 1” for shelves. As well as that a new stainless steel sink. Fairly straightforward? No, not really. Mehmet did have a suitable sink but I had to order the timber. Here we go again I thought. Yepp! The timber would arrive tomorrow.

Tomorrow came, I arrived, the timber hadn’t. Mehmet was on his phone again, and, by the sound of it, it was rather a ‘demanding’, one-way conversation from him to whoever was on the other end. Slamming the phone down he uttered the single word, a weary expression on his face…, ‘tomorrow.’ Well, to cut this short the timber didn’t arrive until two days later but…it wasn’t 2” by 2” it was 2” by 1” and, instead of fifty metres there was a pile outside Mehmet’s shop of 200 metres of the bloody stuff! The 6” by 1” arrived the following day but instead of 20 metres there was a stack of 300!

By the end of the week I had the correct size and the correct quantity so I worked on to complete the structure in the kitchen, fitted the worktops, which had arrived ‘tomorrow’, and was ready to fit the sink. I’d organised a plumber to connect the water supply and that was when we discovered that the pack which held the sink didn’t have any waste, a ‘u’ bend or any of the connections required. Two more ‘tomorrows’ slid by to correct that.

With the sink now operational I was dismayed to find a mere dribble came out of the mixer tap. Unscrewing the outlet I found five filters instead of one! No wonder the damned thing didn’t work properly. Once four of them had been removed the water flowed properly. By now I was at the ‘detail’ stage and needed several metres of quarter round beading to finish off the cupboard doors. Back to Mehmet.

The stuff arrived the following day but it was square. Another ‘tomorrow’ and more arrived, this time rectangular! I gave up after that and found a local carpenters shop who produced exactly what I needed. But Mehmet then excelled himself via the ‘tomorrow’ effect. I needed a long electrical screw to hold the front of a repositioned plug so…. yes, it would arrive tomorrow. Four days later we were due to fly back to the UK and it still hadn’t arrived. We didn’t come back to the TRNC for three months and I went straight down to see if he had, after all that time, a long, electrical screw.

His answer was….,’tomorrow!’

So, if you need many metres of 2” by 1” or 6” by 1” go and see Mehmet. He must have a huge great pile of it at the back of his shop! And the next time I want anything from Mehmet I’ll take advantage of the usual mayhem which always takes place in his shop and saunter off without paying. He will then ask me, when I see him again, ‘You pay?’ I’ll just say….., ‘TOMORROW!’

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