Notes from Lapta, Cyprus – “Vacancy and Territory” by Ken Dunn

Being of a certain age does allow one to sit back and take account of one’s fellow species, such as they are. Many of them are a funny lot. Some married couples (or should we now include ‘Partners’ to be fully engaged with 21st century parlance?) can be an especially funny lot. ‘Peculiar’ that is, not always ‘Ha-ha’ but then…

It matters not what the age is, young or old, they invariably perform in exactly the same fashion, particularly when they are ‘out for the night’ and determined to ‘have a good time’. How they judge the latter has always been a mystery to me.

I refer to those who go out at lunchtime, late afternoon or early evening, to ‘do’ whatever they had wanted to ‘do’ and then, after having done ‘it’, sit side by side, not saying a blind word to each other for hours and hours on end, sipping occasionally at a drink and, usually, dolefully surveying whatever is happening in front of their half glazed eyes. That is mostly not a lot as the thing they came to do has now been and gone and all that remains are others of the same ilk doing exactly the same thing that they are doing. Nothing.

I can only think that it must be a conditioning process which has been nurtured from birth, honed and refined by the social pressures from an older generation who, ‘knew their place’. The only other explanations are that they are either extremely ‘thick’, are totally incapable of speech or have had a full frontal lobotomy at some stage in their narrow experience of ‘life as they know it’. Having weighed all of that carefully I have to choose the ‘thick’ explanation. Ah, bless.

But then there is something else which these folk often demonstrate in their wild and wondrous excursions into their hectic recreational activities of grinding inertia. Their seats. They always sit in the same place wherever they go and can be more than miffed if there’s someone else sitting there when they arrive. I have never understood this kind of ‘territorial’ need. A seat is a bloody seat, isn’t it?! Well, I don’t suppose Hitler would have agreed with me but he was rather more territorial than most as I recall.

Having brought up the ‘territorial’ factor I must admit that it seems to happen less in the TRNC than it does in the UK. That may have something to do with the weather. In the TRNC there is less need to huddle together for warmth and moving around in the UK in a pub or club brings the danger of being caught in a draught. Or is it that simply sitting against a wall side by side is less dangerous? Everything can be seen, there’s nothing behind and only the eyes need to move, apart from having an occasional sip at the drink which always seems to last three of four hours. I don’t really know but I have seen this behaviour at first hand many, many times.

Years ago I became a member of the local Conservative Club not that I vote that way. Anyone wishing to join had to have two existing members propose their membership and unless that new contender was a raving ‘lefty’ they would be allowed in. A modest annual fee of £20 would be paid, a key to the front door provided and access to the cheapest booze in town would be available. There couldn’t have been more than 10% of the membership who were ‘true blue’. Most of them were of the Labour conviction with a sprinkling of Lib Dems and a few quiet ‘Trotskyites’ all of whom were there because the place really did have the cheapest booze in town and for no other reason.

The average age of the membership must have been 85, or so it seemed, and so as a mere child in my mid fifties I had to know my place. And that place would never transgress ‘their’ seat at the bar or anywhere else. So, I found it safer to stand at the bar rather than ‘trespass’ elsewhere and have several malevolent glares scything through the gloom in my direction. I used it now and again as it was the only place where there wasn’t a juke box, a blaring TV or any of that awful ‘piped muzak’. Peace and quiet reigned supreme with an occasional sound of snoring coming from one of the dark corners.

A married couple, in their late forties, ran the place, Mr and Mrs ‘Steward’ and they kept the place clean and tidy but could do nothing to liven the place up as the members liked it just as it was, miserable. I often chatted with Mr Steward at the bar and he was becoming more and more fed up. Any attempt to cheer the place up, adding a few lamps or hanging a few pictures had been grumped about and he eventually gave up. There were only two pictures on the walls. One was a painting of the Somerset Levels, grey sky, flat scrub, no trees, not exactly inspirational and a large portrait of the Queen, God Bless Her, but that looked as if it had been there since her coronation!

Well, it stayed that way for a while but then some ‘young blood’ joined. Their ages were in the fifties to mid sixties and the atmosphere gradually changed to be a little more cheery. To cut a long story short some of us were, miraculously, voted onto the committee, that venerable geriatric body, and we began to try to change things. That was an incredibly difficult task but with fortitude we eventually succeeded. Plans were laid, estimates delivered and a near military operation was planned to install our ideas. This had to be done during the quietest part of the day, the early morning, so that we wouldn’t have the membership getting in the way.

With installations completed we sat back and waited. One by one the walking dead trudged in to take up their appointed places, the Steward serving them without asking as they always had the same drink. As he returned behind the bar he switched on the new lamps around the place to illuminate the corners and the new mirrors behind the bottles and optics. Two of these old geezers almost hard heart attacks when they saw what had been done! Another rose shakily to his feet, looked around and said in quavering voice, ‘My God! It looks like a bloody pub!!!’

Ah, well, as someone once sad, ‘You can’t win ‘em all,’ can you?

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