Potted History of Cyprus – part 2

100px-Cyprus_lrgThe dark days

The people back then were just about getting used to living in towns again. Running water was pretty standard as opposed to today and things were getting seriously harmonious. OK there were seven kings, all democratically elected of course and there was the occasional scuffle about who got the best seats at the theater or who owned which goat, but all in all it was a pretty peaceful time the Romans and the slaves made copper from the sale of which they got gold and this made the neighbours in the east very jealous ‘cos all they had was sand at home. The eastern neighbours were of course not locals, but Ayrabs and they were famous for piracy, raping and pillaging, you know the sort of things the Vikings got up to round our way. The locals weren’t amused. The Romans in fact were so miffed they packed up and went home and left the slaves and natives to rescue what they could.

About this time there was  an earthquake which really queered the pitch for the town planners. On the one hand the towns are being pillaged and looted and burned and on the other shaken to the foundations (something of a rarity to have today). The townsfolk were none too pleased at being slaughtered like sheep and having their houses used for toilets, combined with the fact that the pirates almost never paid for their drinks, which made life on the coast pretty intolerable. So they quit the towns and headed up into the hills. These were very rocky and steep so the pirates who were used to walking on sand couldn’t get up them. If you go into the hills today you can see the ancestors of some of the ones that got away. Their families go back generations.

So we got to a stage in history where the economy was in stagnation because everything the locals managed to produce got nicked by the pirates and on top of that the pirates would abuse the womenfolk of the island as well. Some say there were some illegitimate births as a result of all this , but there’s no proof. As you can see, a right mess. Production at a standstill, no wages again for the workers and no loot for the pirates, plus most of the women were banged up so there was really no incentive for the pirates to carry on plundering. So off they went back home to their sand. Years later they were digging a hole and found some black gooey stuff they call oil. Then other pirates came and ripped them off. (who said there’s no justice?) But that’s another story altogether. The country plunged into anarchy, the seven kings all reckoned that seven was too many, particularly since it was a relatively small island. The infighting was intense and the old swords and spears were put to good use again. Left us a few nice burial mounds as souvenirs. So seven were wheedled down to two and things carried on into recession the market for copper had moved on iron was all the rage and the island didn’t have the nouse to make that nor the right ore I hasten to add.

Several years later the Muselmen were were getting antsy about the Holy Land and the Christians were worried that they’d get to King Solomon’s treasure before they did, so they decided to have a competition or a series of competitions to see who got the prize. Actually it turned out to be the best out of three with the third one being the decider. This series was called the Crusades. They don’t do it anymore as it wasn’t very popular.

In the Crusade King Richard (the Lionheart) came to the island and landed at Kyrenia. He was gobsmacked at the prices in the harbour restaurants and is reported to have put the whole scandalous ragbag of restaurant owners and waiters to the sword. He started to build a fort to store supplies when the local King paid him a visit. The King was niceish chap, but fed up with being King, what with all the rivalry with the other one and all that. He made a deal with the visiting Englishman, the first of many such deals down the ages. He said if you marry my daughter and give me  one penny I will give you the island. Naturally he forgot to tell poor old Richard that the half he needed for supplies belonged to the other king, but apparently that too has become a tradition on the island. Another bit of quaint old folklore. Richard married the beautiful Eleonore and paid his hard earned penny to the King who promptly disappeared (rumour has it, to Thailand) before he had to answer any awkward questions about boundary lines, title deeds and the like. Didn’t really matter ‘cos Richard was so besotted by this new bird he had his brains everywhere else but in his head, it is believed to be only the second recorded case in history of “brains in trousers syndrome” after Anthony and Cleopatra and we all know that ended in tears. So Richard built his fort and sent Eleonore back to rainy old England before he went off to play Crusades (not the John Mayall album). I bet Eleonore was chuffed being in Birmingham back then, didn’t even have canals. Poor girl. Richard got more or less a draw out of his round of the Crusades (depending on how you look at it and which papers you read). On the way home he got “kidnapped in Austria”. Yeah! Likely story. Tell that to the misses,

“Sory luv, I’ll be a bit late I’ve been kidnapped in Vienna, can you send some money by Ye old eastern Union to bail me out? The bar bill you know.”

Well she didn’t and he was never seen again. The Bermuda Triangle in Vienna still exists today, it’s just as expensive but I think the girls wear different dresses now.

Years went by and then an exiled french despot  called Lucynan or somesuch, got the job as head Honcho. He was so popular that he had to build a magic castle in the hill to protect him from his adoring fans. Everyone thought it was hilarious so his castle was called Hilarious, which over the years has been bastardised to read Hilarion (derived from the latin no doubt).

There was still a definite lack of tourists. Cheap flight would be about 750 years off by this time and the french despot made money by renting out land to unsuspecting monks and nuns who seemed to flock to the island for some strange reason. They built lots of monasteries (haven’t seen a convent yet, so I’m a bit puzzled where the nuns slept.) Probably the biggest Monastery was the Abbey at Bellapais the ruins of which are still impressive today. Bellapais has a real front page story in the history of the island. I can envisage the headline in the Cyprus Sun now.

“Scandal in Abbey” “Wild sex orgies amongst the cypresses” It was of course the world’s first swinger club. Pope Whatshisface paid the place a surprise visit seeing that he never got an invite to any of the parties and was right surprised when he found mixed sex cells and bondage and punishment utensils. No amount of reasoning from the heavily pregnant mother superior or the Abbott in his y-fronts could persuade the Pope that this was just innocent fun. Without more of a do, he closed the place down and sent the nuns back to the Vatican for further punishment. What happened to the Monks is a mystery to this day. Pope Whatshisface’s  portrait  in Castel Gandolfo shows him with the biggest smile ever seen on a Pope.

A left over on the island  by the Ayrabs were a few Muselmen, they were quite rightly incensed at the goings on and told their mates the Otelmans, who came over from Otelman Empire and ousted the French despot for tolerating this bawdy house. The Otelmen made their own and Pascha Sunnyman the fifth was reported to be the first across the line after the ribbon cutting ceremony in  Kayalar. They have put a searchlight up in his honour, the significance of which fails me. The buildings have been updated since then and the merchandise which was well past its best before date has also been replaced. (so I’ve heard).

We then go into a period where not a lot happened, the Otelmen were just good at collecting taxes and stuffing figs and things, the local indigent population was indignant that they had to work for the Pashas, still they were better off than the slaves, at least they got to keep some of the earnings. Call it Progress.

Many years went by  and the Otelmen waited and waited for tourists, but because the land was so run down and the fantastic infrastructure built by the Romans was irreparably scarred by the ravishes of time, earthquakes, fires and just general lack of maintenance, not to mention the litter, they, the tourists, never came.

After about 300 hundred years the Otelmen made a bad decision and went to a war on the losing side. On the winning side was of course good old England, Remember good King Richard. Well nobody could fathom out now who owned the island. Hearsay about a “bill of sale” back then and the deal with Eleonore  wouldn’t stand up in court even if they had one. So the Brits did a “clever,” or in retrospect, not so clever thing. They demanded war compensation from the Otelmen. The island will do nicely they said. A bit strategic for the Empire and all that. They must have known they were going to have Suez canal built and that the Ayrabs were going to find oil  and all that. Canny forethought for back then, pity they don’t seem to have a clue these days, maybe it’s the diet.. The Brits brought the first real civilization to the island. Vestiges of which are still clearly visible today. I don’t  mean just the driving on the the left or the road signs, the post boxes or the language. Just look in the restaurants,  the full palette of British haut cuisine from fish and chips to bangers and mash, shepherds pie to kippers. Oh the glory that was The Empire. Add to that the immense cultural improvements to the life of the locals, such as Karaoke, 24 hour Football on TV and Quiz nights, you see how appreciated the Brits must have been after all those boring years paying taxes to the Otelmen.

Still history shows us you can’t please all the people all of the time. All these imported delicacies were irritating the local farmers something wicked. Well if you were raising sheep, how many would you sell to the local sausage maker? Sheep were out. In fact the Brits tried to stamp out sheep farming to protect the wool industry back home. The mills in Birmingham now had canals. Ah! If only Eleonore could’ve seen that. The farmers wanted the Brits out, they wanted everyone out who wasn’t in the Union so that included  the remaining Otelmen who’d been staying on the island. That unfortunately is the downside of closed shop unionism. A few slip through the net. A right old slanging match started. Who did what to whom and when and more to the point why, is sadly a point for much discussion, mostly heated, mostly biased and mostly wrong. Really confusing, kids playground stuff basically. You know, “he called me a Geek!”. “No I didn’t! He pulled my hair!,” “Didn’t!” “Did!” “DID NOT!”and so on. The Brits tried to referee but some outsiders, notably the people who make money selling guns, the ones who on the surface present themselves as moderates, made things turn nasty. People got shot and yet more graveyards appeared in the countryside. The locals were so ashamed of some of them that they disguised them as wells and pretended they weren’t there.

The Brits got tired of playing piggy in the middle and dumped some grotty unworkable constitution on the island and withdrew  to the  sovereign base areas which they  had decided, with Americas help, that they wanted to keep. This tactic saved many a British servicemen their lives. They just let the locals get on with it. I’ll cut a long story short, it got messy, so messy in fact that the Otelmen army came back to rescue their Muselmen friends. The island got back into two bits. History repeats itself. Richard the Lionheart and the two kings?

The two Kings this time were tribal and not royal ones. One was Otelman and the Other was Unionist .  The unionist bit got it’s act together a bit quicker than the Oteman bit, because they’d liquidated the opposition in their half and got some tourists in quite quickly  to pay the bills, the Otelman part however is still struggling with the Roman infrastructure which as we all know is in need of a lot loving care and attention. The squabbling about boundary lines and title deeds still persists (so it wasn’t the Brits’ fault). There is no real effective legal system, although they try and copy the brits. The legal system is a bit like watching children playing Rumpole, they get all dressed up and pose around, but drop everything when the gong sounds for tea. In spite of spending immense sums of money decorating the unspoilt beaches with plastic bottles, bags, polystyrene for good measure,  and other things, plus sprinkling a few thousand Efes bottles in the countryside they are still looking out to sea for the tourists. Who up to now have stunningly failed to appreciate all the efforts that have been made on their behalf.

The Otelmen are trying their very best though and building masses of shops for the expected rush. This we are assured will happen when the tourists understand what super things have  been prepared for them. Soon the Otelmen will begin thinking about what smashing bargain things they are going to sell in these shops. Then things will get interesting (so I am advised).

On the labour front; there has been immense progress from the time of the slaves, instead of from dawn to dusk for no pay it’s now attendance money for 15 hours a week and overtime for the rest plus 20 weeks holiday a year. I’m not sure if they get a hot weather supplement. They would deserve it mind you, because it is still very hot to work in summer. (Up the workers!) The down side is that they have to pay for their own accommodation, slaves got that for nothing, but that just shows how flexible the workers can be  in making  compromises. The service industries are flourishing, although there aren’t many people to serve and the traditional method of building has continued to this day (whack it up and ask whose land it’s on afterwards) this is true of both kingdoms.

Last but not least, in spite of the airplane having long since been invented, the founding of a national airline with super schedules and relatively cheap flights, both the Otelman airports remain underused. I can’t for the life of me understand why.

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