I CAUGHT one of those video compilations of old Cyprus on Facebook this week. Actually it was a series of photos from a coffee-table book, Cyprus in Colour, set to music.
They are achingly beautiful shots of a Cyprus so near and yet so far away. Like Paul Simon’s Kodachrome: “They give us those nice bright colours. They give us the greens of summers. Makes you think all the world's a sunny day.”
Shot in the early to mid-Sixties, they are a glimpse of the Cyprus that was and could have been, before mass tourism and political turmoil changed the face of the island.
Here is Girne harbour, little fishing boats bobbing in clear blue water, engilded by the setting sun. No bars, no restaurants and no litter. Here too is the timeless elegance of Bellapais, unsullied by gimcrack shops, and Famagusta, just beginning to show signs of hotel development along a pristine Varosha beach.
We can no more return to those days than reintroduce Bakelite telephones, but there is still much of North Cyprus that remains undeveloped. It’s not too late to save what’s left.
When we first started coming here more than 30 years ago, the harbour was our first port of call. Then as now, the planes from the UK arrived late evening. We invariably stayed at the Dome, where we would check in and leave our bags in our room, dashing around to our favourite spot for that first blissful, late-night drink in the warm air.
I have no desire to see it in its current dilapidated state. Effectively, it is lost to us, but our daughter was here recently and wanted to revisit, so off we went. The sad result is that her happy childhood memories have also now been sullied.
I don’t care how many official surveys tell me the water there is clean – there was the umistakeably malodorous stench of sewage around the Customs House end of the horseshoe.
Our walk along the harbour wall was a depressing step over stained tarmac littered with the inevitable broken bottles and empty drinks cans.
It was extremely hot so, against our better judgement, we stopped for a drink at one of the bars. Its wooden roof and surround hadn’t seen a lick of varnish in a while. It wasn’t what you could call busy, but when we finally managed to gain anyone’s attention, the surly waiter could barely be bothered to lift his eyes from his mobile phone while taking our order, for which we paid well over the odds. It will be a long time before we go there again.
This country has always faced an extra-hard task to lure visitors. It should treat them all with special care, but I am sorry to report other examples of indifference.
One comes from a five-star hotel, where holidaying friends have felt let down by the standards of service. This couple are at the top of the catering industry in the UK, so they know what they are talking about. In a world of pain and hunger, being served a flat, warm gin and tonic, for example, may seem pretty trivial, but as customers who paid top dollar for their stay, I believe they are right to expect better than that.
Being a traditionalist, I like my fish and chips on Fridays. Favourites for this are Efendi in Girne old town and the Crow’s Nest in Karaman, but as these are often fully booked we resort to a simple, old-fashioned, under-the-grapevine kind of place in Alsancak.
One large and one small or medium is our usual order. Last week my wife was taken aback when a colossal cod was presented to her. When she pointed this out, her plate was whipped away, only to be returned with the fish chopped in half -- and some chips removed for good measure.
You’ve got to laugh -- I suppose -- but she has had many similar dining experiences here when asking for vegetarian meals; chicken offered as an alternative to “meat”, plates taken away and returned with offending meat removed or soggy pasta dished up at a plush hotel.
Choice and standards have improved markedly since our early days, but levels of customer service need constant policing if North Cyprus is to compete in world tourism. We are not short of universities where one can pick up degrees in customer relations and hotel management, but has anyone thought to open a school of catering and hospitality to train the staff ?
OKAY, children, what sound does the cockerel make? Cock-a-doodle-do, I hear you cry. Well, that depends where he comes from.
The birds’ alarm call sounds different depending on your own language. For example, French birds supposedly say “Cook a rie kee”, while next door in Germany it’s “Kicker-ree-KEY”. There are variations around Europe.
In Cyprus, naturally, there are two types of chicken, Greek and Turkish. Our cockerels cry “Ku-ku-riku”, while those in the South go “Koukourígou".
Retired businessman Neil Dymott knows all about this. He has been given a restraining order in a dispute over his neighbours' cockerel that he claimed made too much noise because it was "not British".
A court heard claims the 56-year-old threatened to cut the cockerel's head off and shouted abuse at Helen Richardson and Paula Holland, who lived next to him in Marchwood, Hampshire.
Mr Dymott denied charges of harassment. He said he had complained to police about the noise created by his neighbours' cockerel and hens and blamed the volume on the type of chicken.
He said: "Those cockerels go off as much as 60 to 70 times an hour. This is not a British bird, these are birds going all the time.
"When they started crowing they do not just crow once, they crow, crow, crow. If these had been a British cockerel going off at dawn and dusk we wouldn't be here."
I dunno, these immigrants come over ‘ere, taking our hens and making their ‘orrible foreign racket!
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