Notes from Lapta, Cyprus – Wakey! Wakey! by Ken Dunn

The mornings in the TRNC, once the sun rises, are quite special. The quality of the light, clear and bright, is totally unlike the comparative gloom we often have to endure in the UK and unlike the UK I have never had the need for an alarm clock. There were several other agencies at work in our early days that provided that service, although I didn’t need to formally ask for them or, for that matter, want them either.

As the sun came up the ‘Muezzin’, a person chosen from the Mosque, delivered, or rather sang, the call to prayer, the ‘Adhan’, for those of the Muslim faith. ‘Allahu Akbar….,’ would begin the call and would only go on for a couple of minutes but that was enough to have anyone within earshot fully awake. Another four calls followed during the day until sunset. Now, I hope that’s an accurate, albeit brief, description. I think it is, but that’s not the point. At around 5.30am, although melodious, and often quite beautifully sung, it did feel a tad early for a sleepy Brit of no particular leaning, religiously speaking.

However, well before that, another, far less harmonious sound, broke the silence. Cockerels! Three of four of them, one after the other, all competing with each other to entice their delectable, feathered, female harems out for a bit of chickenny ‘rumpy-pumpy’, no doubt. But that wasn’t the end of it all. Oh, no. That set off the several donkeys in the village, all he-hawing their heads off for whatever reason but they were probably braying, ‘Shut the friggin noise up!’

During the Muezzin call for prayer, dogs would invariably join in and a canine cacophony would ensue, a circular ring of sound of barking and woofing all around us. What else happened? Plenty. Cows would join in wanting to be milked, cats could be heard scrapping and fighting each other in the undergrowth and by this time the sound of not very well maintained engines burst into life, coughing and misfiring as the locals went off to work.

Entering the competition of ‘decibelic delight’ brought geese, sheep and goats. All of them joining in with everything else that was going on. Earplugs would have been totally useless.

As the sun rose higher the cicadas joined in the fun, creating one hell of a din, scraping their sides noisily to attract a mate. These things are weird, very weird. Usually about a couple of inches or 50mm long, they look like flying frogs with huge eyes. That’s weird enough but how do they survive up to eleven years, and more, burrowed below ground, then crawl out and up a tree, almost scrape their sides off, find a mate, have a quick shag if they’re lucky, then die! That’s not what I call fun.

But I digress. 6.30am brought the little local kids out and you know how noisy toddlers can be. Even teenagers were bouncing around unlike in the UK where the majority are quite content to stay in their pit until well into the afternoon. Cars were grinding up and down the roads, the occasional crunch being heard as they sometimes collided with each other on the blind bends, and the local grown ups could be heard yelling at each other from house to house, ravine to ravine and valley to valley.

They say, whoever ‘they’ are, that the early morning is the best time of the day. Well, for all the examples above, I did wonder about that then. But there is some truth in that as pottering around in the garden, slapping on some paint over the ever flaking walls of the house or a modest watering of pot plants outside can be done then before that unforgiving summer sun rises to its zenith.

The rest of the day tended to be relatively quiet but often the garish strains of an ice cream van would float up to us from the centre of Lapta. Bizarrely, it played exactly the same tune, ‘Green Sleeves’, we hear back in the UK!

We used to settle down on the balcony to read or simply listen to music, after a long, slightly yawning, day. The sun would then slowly slide down behind the mountain and a new bunch of contenders would enter into in the ‘noise stakes.’ Frogs! These things kept their froggy heads down during the day but then would leap around a water tank or in some unfortunate individual’s pool!

The locals, arriving home from work, would switch on a Turkish radio and the convoluted strains of a Turkish orchestra would fill the air, which I didn’t mind to be honest. What I didn’t enjoy was the Turkish pop music which sometimes rends the air apart.

At sunset the Muezzin would deliver the last call and we hoped things would calm down, in a strictly audio sense of course. But no. There was yet more to come!

Just before we tootled off to bed, at around eleven plus, rock music would erupt from a club somewhere in the village. That would continue for another few hours before the young Turkish blades and their blade-esses would tire of bopping around and then leap into their highly specialised transports. These tended to be elderly, pre ’74 Vauxhalls, Opels, Austins, Renaults and Fords, festooned with ‘go-faster’ stripes, home made aero foils glued or tied on to the back end and usually silencer free. They would roar off through the narrow roads with the scooter brigade hot on their heels, equally as noisy.

Too often it would be well after two o’clock in the morning by the time we could actually fall asleep. Then. just before 5.00 am it would start all over again. Oh, joy!

They say, ‘they’ again, you can get used to anything and, miraculously, we did! These days things are quite different. The cockerels are down to one, the chicken population has reduced, there are fewer sheep and goats, the geese and cows are no more and all the donkeys have gone. Dogs, cats, frogs and cicadas still perform but the locals have cracked down the ‘sound lid’ as far as the clubs and boy racers are concerned. Cars are younger and can hardly be heard. Communication between the locals has transferred to mobile phones but the call to prayer can still be heard, only now it’s in triplicate! Three speaker systems have been installed around us so we have the joy of three Meuzzin’s singing. When they coincide it’s fine but when they’re out of ‘Sinc’ with each other, well…

During one of these ‘tripartite’ events, in the late afternoon, I called up to my wife to ask her if she’d like a cup of tea. Her reply was ‘WHAT!’ I called again and she shouted down the staircase, ‘I CAN’T HEAR YOU WITH THESE SPECS ON!!’

So, have all those years of noise had a strange effect? Probably.

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