FIGHTING BOREDOM IN CYPRUS
They also serve who only stand and sweat
“You’re welcome, sir, I mean ma’am.” The private snaps hard to attention, crunching broken glass under his boots. In the moonlight, the empty flour mill looms eight stories of fractured Bauhaus above us. It is the highest building in the area, by day a military vantage point. At night the guard stays downstairs just inside the wall surrounding it, waiting for the field telephone to ring in his tin United Nations hut, a token United Nations presence patrolling an empty forecourt littered with rubbish. As we leave, Major Courbauld tells him he can lock up. “Thank you, sir,” he stammers politely. The tin door slams, and a small hand gratefully retrieves the chain through a square hole. The lock snibs.
The private is 18. When he was 10 and riding a bicycle in
the streets of Antigonish, the flour mill was opened by its Greek owner in the Turkish sector of Nicosia, Cyprus, and closed quickly again as fighting broke out between the Greek and Turkish communities. Now he has the shreds of the eightyear abandonment to walk upon during his night watch. “Not so bad when there’s a moon,” says the major, “but they don’t like it there; locked in in the dark where you can’t see anything.”
The major is in his thirties, a career army man. Thin, sensitive, not one of your swagger-stick types, though he could put on the manner if he chose: what comes through is a very Canadian high seriousness. He cares a lot about his men.
Before the jeep starts its engine racket, you can hear the private beginning his loping patrol: boots on glass.
What was it that was so moving about the hand that came through the hole in the door? It was a kid’s hand, still gnawed and plump around the fingernails. Keeping the peace in Cyprus.
There were 585 other Canadians with him when I was there in 1971 — the same number as now. The Canadians are part of the United Nations peace-keeping force that has been there since March, 1964, composed of Danes, Swedes, Finns, Irishmen and British soldiers, along with the Austrians who man a field hospital, Australians who form part of the UN Civilian Police force. They speak a strange language in a strange land; not the native Greek or Turkish, but one composed of those abbreviations the UN has a passion for: CANCONCYP, DANCONCYP, IRCONCYP, SWEDCONCYP, BRITCONCYP. FINCONCYP and UNCIVPOL are everyday words to them. A lot of them live at Camp Blue Beret, which they refer to as Blueberry. The Scandinavians are a special levy: the men in the ranks sign up for six-month tours at $300 a month, paid by the UN. The British, the Irish and the Canadians are regular soldiers who receive their ordinary salaries, and, as far as the Canadians are concerned, $87 per month foreign-service allowance. They consider themselves / continued on page 68
CYPRUS from page 46 underpaid beside the Scandinavians. But an Irish captain earns only $20 a month. They have their own multilingual newspaper, and successful efforts are made to provide them with their own multi-national social life. They sit on the island as naturally as a grid of lines on a map. This year’s budget for CANCONCYP — i.e., Canadian Contingent in Cyprus, i.e., Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadian) — is $2,218,755. Since March, 1964, the mission has cost Canada more than $19 million.
On the island there are also 7,200 Greek Cypriots who form the national guard; 4,000 soldiers referred to as “Turkcypfighters” — Turkish Cypriots formed into a self-protective, semiofficial army; contingents from Greece and Turkey; and Great Britain has two sovereign bases.
It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean, 3,572 square miles in area. (A Canadian colonel told me it would fit 1,078 times into the area of Canada and apologized for having the time to figure that out.) It lies 40 miles south of Turkey, 300 miles from the Greek islands, 250 miles north of Egypt and 200 miles northwest of Israel. Of its population of 625,000, 80% are Greeks, and 20% are Turks. The Greeks are Christian, members of the Eastern Orthodox rite, and have their own auto-
cephalous church, of which the President of the Republic, Makarios, is archbishop. The Turks are Muslim.
All the wars now are old wars, and their age makes them no less bitter. Muslims and Hindus are fighting old battles in India and Pakistan, Protestants and Catholics in Ireland, Jews and Egyptians are periodically at each other’s throats. Cyprus, after passing from the hands of the Mycenaeans to the Phoenicians, was ruled by the Ptolemies and the Lusignans, the Crusaders and the Genoese and the Venetians, and passed into the hands of the Turks in 1571. The British took over in 1878 as part of a deal to provide defensive aid to the Turkish sultan. When Britain grudgingly gave the island independence in 1960 she handed Cyprus a constitution that gave veto powers to the Turkish 20% of the population. The Turks vetoed, among other pieces of legislation, the income-tax laws. Toward Christmas of 1963. President Makarios announced that, since the constitution was unworkable, he had decided to abrogate certain sections. Both communities began to oil the guns they had saved from the independence struggles, and fighting broke out on December 21.
My husband Howard and I lived in Cyprus in 1962 and 1963. We loved it
even on a small free-lance income, and hated to leave, but toward the end of 1963 it became clear that our expatriate years were over, and we climbed on board the SS Agamemnon in late November. I remember standing at the rail thinking I now understood Milton's line: Adam and Eve, cast out, wistfully “through Eden took their solitary way.” Cyprus with all its difficult beauty lay like an old yellow dog on the horizon. We hadn’t had such good friends since we were at university, and people were open, generous, friendly; even the foreigners were given, however, to melodramatic gestures: something about the atmosphere of the place?
The outbreak of hostilities between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities a month after we left was not a surprise. The surprise was that, theoretically at least, any form of civil war on Cyprus offered the opportunity for a world war. The guarantors of the constitution were three NATO members, Greece, Britain and Turkey. They were allowed to interfere militarily on the island; it was sure that they were going to, and not on the same side; conflict between NATO members meant the end of NATO; and Russia and Bulgaria were hungrily, it was said, watching the situation. By March, 1964, the UN continued on page 70
CYPRUS continued peace-keeping force was in operation.
The war looked more desperate than it was. There were nasty moments and melodramatic gestures again; the Armenians who have traditionally lived between the Greeks and the Turks were badly squashed. But an English friend of mine, who went back home with her babies, quickly returned. No reality, she said, could be worse than the dramatic hysteria of the Daily Express. By the time the peace-keeping force arrived, a British tommy had drawn a green line with a pen on a map, marking the borderline between Greek and Turkish ter-
ritory. A form of separatism prevailed. But since then, except for an isolated piece of madness in 1967. quiet has prevailed. The United Nations has orders to “facilitate a return to the status quo” and vast arguments continue as to the nature of the status quo. The peacekeeping force is still there, to the tune of two million dollars a year for Canada.
The private stands for six hours at the foot of the flour mill, looking at nothing and listening to the howling of those packs of wild Egyptian-looking hounds they have there. It’s dark and it’s
spooky. He has already decided he doesn’t like Cyprus. Join the army and see what? Is this the world?
Most of his buddies describe the six months’ tour in terms of boondoggle. There are some good days when you feel the bliss of the sun, and it’s a pretty island if you like that sort of thing; but mostly, for them, it’s six months away from the wife and kids on a godforsaken desert island stuck back in the Middle Ages. Nothing to do but drink and go shopping. If anything happens, you’re told that that’s not peace-keeping. Boredom is peace-keeping.
By day, however, the outpost on the roof of the flour mill could be worse. There’s a fine view to the north of the Kyrenia mountains, nothing like the Rockies, but still young and sharp, rising 3.000 feet in a couple of miles. The Turkcypfighters are in the big castle on the pass, there, and just below you can see all the army camps in the main Turkish area of the island. To the south there is the old, walled city of Nicosia, crammed with mosques and minarets and khans and mini-skyscrapers, traffic snarled and snorting in its crazy narrow streets. The view is fascinating, and, like all the best views, it offers great scope for gunfire.
The Canadians have been stationed in Nicosia district, in the scorching central plain of the island, since 1969. Some of those who are on their second tour of Cyprus preferred the previous posting in the Kyrenia hills, where the Finns are now; it was closer to the sea, cooler in summer. Nicosia, however, offers a range of night life from French lessons at the French cultural centre through outdoor cinemas to cabarets (“Spanish” dancers with big English legs, strippers, magic acts, girls at a price) and bars and outdoor restaurants. The city is nöt as old and scrofulous as Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria, but the mixture of two cultures, overlaid on remnants of more antique conquest, gives some of its quarters beauty and charm.
The Canadians have as their assignment 16 manned and 21 unmanned outposts inside the walled city and in the northern suburbs, making sure that Greeks and Turks stay away from each other. By now, the routines are old and established. There are two companies, City and Suburbia, each commanded by an army major; City within the walls, Suburbia without. City’s headquarters, just north of the Famagusta Gate, is called Beaver Lodge, and used to be a Greek high school.
Beaver Lodge is located in the Ayios Cassianos quarter, once famous for its silk weavers. Here, mulberry trees still flourish, and the churches of Cassian and St. George are decorated with rich silver-plated icons. On the other side of the Green Line and far different from the modest Greek villas are the continued on page 72
CYPRUS continued huge mansions of the 16th-century Turkish overlords — magnificent compounds with thick double front doors, overhanging balconies, Elizabethan halftimbered facades and great iron grilles in the windows. Between these two quarters runs a belt of confusion and destruction and desolation three streets wide that indicates the formerly embattled area (the words Green Line may seem decorative but the 1st Battalion arrived during a garbage strike and stood scowling, up to its boot buttons in old lettuce leaves and tannery scraps).
The great Green Line walk for journalists is from Beaver Lodge to Maple Leaf Manor on the other side of the city, a secondary headquarters: down Hermes street, still the main market street, past boarded-up mosques to the left and bombed-out churches to the right. In the heat and boredom of inaction, soldiers half-doze at their posts. Here, young Greeks have painted a militant mural; here, young Canadians have carved a series of comic faces in a punky yellow stone wall. You think. Roman soldiers used to do things like that. During the day. the street shrieks with action. Bicycles, cars, taxis and buses cram against each other, vendors shoot by on motorbikes carrying trays of coffee suspended by tripods from their non-driving hands. The air is heavy with the smell of charcoal and grilling shish kebab and gas and the black village wine of the wineshops and, under it all, in summer, the fumes of an ancient septic tank system.
There’s nothing romantic about the street — most of the stores are just archways boarded up at night — but in the seething activity there is always something to watch: bootmakers turning out peasant’s high boots, tailors cutting in doorways, furniture makers caning Van Gogh chairs and lovingly tailoring scraps of Formica into hideous threecornered tables. Agrotis the perfumier funnels into old Chanel No. 5 bottles brilliantine scented by the flowers of his village, Agros. After guard duty is over, you can go into the dim wineshops, refuges against the heat, and sit among tuns of sweet and dry wine, and cognac labeled from one star-to four.
Alas, the Canadian soldier is not. on the whole, afflicted by romanticism. He does his drinking mostly in his mess (it’s cheaper), he has been told not to drink the water, he doesn't like mess and dirt and he knows where he’d rather be. He is essentially non-European, capable of being moved by landscape and fascinated by watching the handicraftsmen, but if he were an architecture buff he wouldn’t be a soldier. The stripped, tumbledown buildings around the Green Line disgust him. He sees in chipped clay roof tiles and cracked plaster revealing mud-brick walls sluttishness and lack of industry. What moves
him when he is at his post is more likely to be the sun rising over St. Sophia mosque, a former Gothic cathedral, built by the Lusignan kings of Cyprus and minare ted by the encroaching Turk. That takes his mind off counting the jerricans the Turkish outposts are made of, to make sure they haven’t enlarged them in the night; or the Swedish soldiers strutting the beach at Famagusta, able to bring their wives over.
The terminus of the Green Line within the city is at the Paphos Gate, one of the three ancient openings of the city wall. Farther up the street is Maple Leaf Manor, where a good many of the Canadians live and on its balconies the soldiers are starching their blue UN fatigue caps by wetting them, spraying them, and setting them out to dry stretched over tomato-juice cans. They sit outside like a row of ducks’ heads.
These lodgings, former apartment buildings in no-man’s-land, are among the most modern in the city. Suburbia company does not fare as well: its headquarters, in a former clinic, are decent enough, but there are men housed in old workshops and in the bleak former Public Works Department buildings. The
ALAS, THE CANADIAN SOLDIER IS NOT, ON THE WHOLE, AFFLICTED BY ROMANTICISM
soldiers don’t expect luxury, but the institutional gracelessness of iron beds is hard to stomach. They try to make them cheerful — one famous room is now completely papered in a decoupage of Playboy foldouts — but the fact that the buildings they occupy are buildings no one else wants is only too obvious to them, and they feel less cheerful at heart than the gypsy squatters who huddle outside the enclosure and subsist on doing washing and errands for them. You wouldn’t mind living like this in a war. the camaraderie created by impending danger would warm the situation up, but jeez, here . . . look at all those machines just rotting and rusting and nobody picks them up because they’re in no-man’s-land; roads full of potholes because there are no machines.
Those less closely involved with maintaining the outposts — mechanics, drivers, maintenance staff, technicians, storekeepers — live up at Camp Blue Beret, which is rented from the British: stone quonset huts, ca World War II, set on a blazing plateau near the airport. The vegetation — gorse and eucalyptus trees — is as colonial as the four-fingered fans slowly whirring on the ceilings.
Here, too, are the offices of the General Staff of the UN peace-keeping force: impeccable English accents, cups of tea, uniforms nostalgic of Jack Warner and John Mills and Wendy
Hiller in wartime movies. The Force Commander, Major-General D. Prem Chand, is the very model of a modern one: small, quiet, unassuming, with a brilliant academic reputation in addition to his military honors. Second in command is Brigadier-General E. M. D. Leslie, of the Canadian Forces: also brisk and British in style in a starched Aertex desert tunic, looking you straight in the eye as, in a routine press interview, he cuts through the phlegm of other people’s politics to make the Cyprus situation seem idiotically simple.
And perhaps it is, because when I am with the military I am always anxious to be off with my Cypriot friends, so that I can feel I am in Cyprus at all. Given its tightly-knit social framework, the military is more a portable place than an institution. You feel when you are with them, even when you are enjoying yourself immensely, that you could be in Timbuktu or the high Arctic. When you leave them, you do not miss them and they do not miss you. They are complete unto themselves.
There are new conventions on the island, important ones to keep since Greeks are not allowed into Turkish areas; you cannot, as in the old days, suggest a picnic in Kyrenia without remembering what time the UN convoy escorts Greek cars across the Turkishheld pass; but aside from a number of forbidden roads and passes and the beautiful Swedes making bows and heel-clicks as they greet each other on Famagusta beach, you do not have to notice the United Nations at all. Soldiers of some kind or another, after all. have always been here. They have been very good for business — the economy is not depressed, and there is television in the villages, making them global and killing local handicrafts — but, you know, before them it was the British, after them. God knows.
“Do you make friends?” I asked General Leslie. A woman’s question but not an uninteresting one. “No.” he’ says. “We have friends here: old friends from other places. But we cannot allow ourselves to make friends within the two communities.”
“Do you make friends?”
“Sure,” says the private, “but I won’t give my name, you can get 30 days for saying the wrong thing to a journalist. Some of the guys don’t, but gosh. I’ve even had a date with a Greek girl and with a Turkish girl. How’s that for fraternizing?”
He is coming home from Cyprus loaded with goatskin bags and plush tapestries of the Last Supper and the Stag at Bay, gold lighters and handmade jewelry for his girl: plunder of the Green Line Gifte Shoppe, and Goldfinger, the Turkish jeweler, who sells Playboy lighters at such a good price . . .
continued on page 74
And he’s had a date. He’s had a bit of luck there. This is lock-up-your-daughters country. The island had a bad reputation for Aphrodite worship and general lasciviousness in ancient times, but for the past 1,000 years or so it has seen a lot of conquerors, a lot of armies, and it knows what to do with them. Both sides keep their women close in modifications of the purdah system and, except with the very modern or the very dissolute, there’s no such thing as a date. Facilities are provided on a street called Regaena, and there are houses in the tiny streets near the Green Line with “family house” written in Greek lettering on the door, meaning the adjoining houses are probably open for night visitors.
It’s an old part of the world, with old ways. Neither of the padres I met, Captain Tom Hassett of the RCs and Captain Ron Sutton, the Protestant, thinks much of the system. Father Tom has a fine eye for a Persian carpet and a fine hatred for the medieval social system: he doesn’t like to see old women working on road crews and young women suffering from arranged marriages. Orthodox ritual seems as pagan as Muslim to him. Both he and Ron Sutton find that homesickness among the younger men with housebound wives is a problem. “A good marriage survives separation and thrives on it,” Captain Sutton says, “but some of these guys are so young . . .”
Each member of the regiment is entitled to have his wife visit him in Cyprus for two weeks: about a fifth of them manage it, but, as the padres point out. it’s 50 times as hard for a private from the West to bring out a 20-year-old wife from Victoria or Calgary as it is for a colonel to bring his wife for a visit from Toronto. There’s the red tape to go through, and the baby-sitter to find; and the young ones haven’t traveled much.
I suppose most battalions are a hodgepodge in the department of age and experience. I came on the plane with a weatherbeaten group of sergeants and warrant officers, many of whom had been in Korea, Gaza and the Congo. They had no naïve interest in joining the army to see the world. Some of them had been in Cyprus before, some of them hadn’t, none of them much wanted to go. They thought maybe the army would be better put to use doing something to open up the North. In contrast, the privates — the new army generation — green, goggle-eyed at the world as if it was their first time out, were full of hope. “They say it’s like Florida,” some of them muttered.
Well, it is, or it isn’t. It has its own peculiarities. You have, for instance, to take your eyes off the palm trees and drive on the lefthand side of the road. I heard a corporal breaking in his replacement. “To the left, to the left! The way continued on page 76
the Brits do. They can’t drive here, you got to watch out for the bastards. You don’t have to go by street names, you can’t read them anyway. You just remember, if it’s Bubble-Up it’s Turkey Town, if it’s Seven-Up it’s the Greeks.” The new driver is ready to learn, and does well enough. But he is bursting with the information that he met an English girl in Fama-G and he’s taking her out tonight. I think of the enigmatic ending of E. M. Forster’s novel, Howards End: “Only connect.”
The military grid sits on the island, disconnected from its essential liveliness. The officer of long-standing is sustained by his connection with the grid. The well-traveled NCO of 45 has made his peace with connection in his own way: some drink, some buy women, some have hobbies, some are obsessed with their work. The young ones still make an effort. They look enviously at the Cypriots and say to me, “Gee, look at those guys holding hands, there must be a lot of queers here, eh?” They are envying not the queerdom, but the touch.
Men here touch each other in public because they cannot touch women. This stems from the medieval folkway that annoys Father Tom, in which women are property and property is public or private, nothing in between. In the villages, despite new electric lights and television sets and padlocked Frigidaires, dried sheeps’ stomachs still hang on courtyard walls — to provide rennet for making yogurt and cheese — women live as pioneer women did, peasants go out to their scattered fields on foot or on donkeys, and the old men drape themselves in the sun in front of the cafés. A chair for the left foot, a chair for the right, a chair for the left arm, a chair for the right, one to sit on: one’s hookah, and an improvised song celebrating the old ways. Machinery and expectation of a high standard of living are driving the grandsons off the land, now; even the granddaughters commute to high schools in the towns — the Greeks patterned theirs after the German gymnasium, the Turks after the French lycée — and in a generation or so may even become working girls with their own apartments and go on dates. But the old ways are not quite gone, nor the old celebrations: Greek Easter, the Feast of the Blessing of the Waters, Lent, Carnival, Ramadan, Big Bairam, Little Bairam: the year, for each section of the population, is still a garland of religious feasts.
In many ways, the Turks, after original losses, came well out of the 1964 war. Although they did not achieve the partition of the island they asked for, they gained virtually separate government, temporarily at least, and have continued on page 78
CYPRUS continued since 1967 had normal freedom of movement on the island, where Greeks must stay out of Turkish areas. On the other hand, they are now incredibly poor. A Greek will point out to you that a Turk can now go into a Greek area to collect his rents, but in many cases Turks have lost landholdings and livelihood. They are supported to the tune of $20 million per year by the government of Turkey, but that does not go far among 125,000 citizens. Traditionally, they have made their livings as farmers and landholders, or as civil servants. Very, very few of those jobs are still open to them. The Turkish areas never did look very prosperous — partly I think because the bourgeois appearances of prosperity meant nothing to them — but the Turkish quarter of Nicosia is now flyblown and run-down.
General Leslie, who looks amazingly like the Greek General George Grivas, who looks amazingly like Monty, cuts through the maze of Cyprus politics like a hot knife through butter. “The fact to remember,” he says, “is that Turkey lies only 40 miles away. You can see it on a fine day.
“You must also remember,” he says, “that it’s a very small war. With very large possibilities. In actual fact, total casualties in this war have been 197 — 197 since 1964. From that, you can judge the size of the operation. And both sides have Museums of Barbarism. Both sides. Have you seen their Museums of Barbarism?”
I reply that on principle I never visit Museums of Barbarism.
“Good, don’t. They do tend to exaggerate, don’t they?”
It is General Leslie who goes from district to district in his big black car checking on the operation. In some ways he is old-fashioned, authoritarian, very very British (he was educated partly in England and has a public-school accent). He’s a man who could run a war: not an idealist, not a fumbler, but much as I admired his style I found his attitude rankled. He spoke of General Grivas’ disastrous 1967 landing with a force from Greece in an attempt to exterminate a troublesome Turkish village, when the Turks retaliated by flying bombers over the island, and the bourgeoisie grabbed its sewing machines and ran for the formerly scorned British Base Areas ... I could see it from his point of view: the craven, foolish Wogs interfering in their own problems again, setting the world on fire.
“What will you do if such a thing happens under your command?” (He was not in charge in 1967.)
“I will instruct my troops — I have so instructed them — to physically interpose themselves between the Greeks and the Turks. And if one UN life is lost there will be hell to pay — hell to pay —
in the United Nations.”
Thus far there has been no need for physical interposition. Foot patrols along the Pedieos River in Nicosia pass nervously over dried carpetings of eucalyptus leaves — the Turks’ fierce reputation for bloody-handedness persists among UN troops as well as Greeks — but the interchange is usually on another basis. “Psssst .. . Canada. You got a cigarette?”
They arrange to meet on their free day; the Cypriot will take the Canadian home for dinner. Even after centuries of conquest the sacred island word is ¡copiaste: sit down and share. And there is no rule against fraternization for men in the ranks.
The home the Canadian goes to is more likely to be poor than well off. There is a prosperous bourgeoisie which builds modern villas and furnishes them with silk carpets and heavy furniture, but the average Cypriot is poor as far as a great number of possessions go. There is, however, an admirable simplicity in the lifestyle and a grace afforded by the climate: the lemon tree in the courtyard makes up for the television set enshrined in the house as the One Treasure.
The incidents between Greeks and Turks are not overly troublesome for the peace-keepers. Turks arrest Greeks for wandering over the Green Line into the Turkish quarter. Greeks pick up Turks on drug charges that are often phony. The physical intervention required by the present situation amounts to a UN soldier’s walking along to the police station in the hope of cooling an interracial argument. Incidents are more frequent when a new battalion arrives, some say in order to convince the soldier that his presence is necessary.
Whether it is or not is a moot but expensive point. Most Greeks, and most soldiers will tell you that the peacekeeping force is a $ 19-million boondoggle.
But General Leslie will tell you that if the UN peace-keeping force leaves, there will be trouble in eight hours. Peter Hellier, Reuters correspondent and columnist on the Cyprus Mail, the English newspaper, says, “more like eight minutes.” I asked nearly everybody 1 ran into whether they thought the UN force was of any use. Greek businessmen tended to shrug their shoulders and say, “I wish they would go away and leave us alone to run our own affairs.” The situation is complicated by an emotional movement called Enosis which has for the last 40 years passionately recommended union with Greece. Britain organized the constitution so as to forbid this; to the Turks the mere idea is anathema. Greece itself runs hot and cold on the subject. President Makarios continued on page 80
CYPRUS continued preaches Enosis in the villages on feast days and, when he puts on his political hat in town on Monday, denies that he recommends it. There are those who say that it is a dream, merely; there are those who say that with the Colonels in power in Greece (Cypriots do not share the Western liberal view that the Colonels are a nasty piece of work, and the movie Z is banned on the island) it is drawing near realization, in spite of the fact that it is technically impossible and would surely cause war with Turkey. I have tried for years to convince a friend of mine that any independence is prefer-
able to this kind of union, but to no avail. “We are Greek, we should be part of Greece,” he says. “Besides, we are too weak to stand alone.”
Cyprus has been a problem since the earth shook and the sea flooded in and cut it off from Anatolia (where no Turks lived then). Racism has been a problem since transportation was discovered. The peace-keeping force does not solve the problem, but it allays some of its international complications and is thus, probably for people who believe in NATO, worthwhile.
We are not yet sure whether peacekeeping missions are of real value. Certainly, lives are saved, büt whether the frustration of not being able to use force exacerbates or lessens problems we do not yet know. What happens this fall, or next spring, or 10 years from now in Cyprus may tell us. Whatever happens is bound to provide some kind of stalemate as long as the domino theory still operates in the Middle East — and it does. Perhaps if your island is so strategic that it is never quite yours you must resign yourself to perpetual frustration, perpetual stalemate, and play political games to amuse yourself. Like those old women who, theoretically deprived of any independent power, lend money out of their dowries at 22Vi% and manage everybody.
Meanwhile ... if only something would happen. But your job is best done if nothing happens. So you go over to Goldfinger’s and haggle for a good price on a Bunny Club lighter; you work on your upgrading; you sign up for French lessons with that classy dame, the ambassador’s wife; you can learn Greek dancing, if you want to; there’s old movies at the American Cultural Centre, and new movies on the base, and 2001 at the Princess Zena, but you never found out where that is; blue movies if you can get a ride down to the Danish camp at Xeros.
You stand on the street corner listening to some guys singing, making bagpipe noises. You don’t go in. They’ll clip you if there are girls there and what’s the point if there aren’t any.
Stand all night in a tin box, waiting out the phony war, and the sea breeze never comes. Music (the theme from Never On Sunday). Door slamming. They keep even the little kids up late in the summer. In the winter, nobody’s out after ten.
Another goddam palm branch sifting down. The rats chew them off. When’s Ron coming on that old bike? Ninety years old, my Mom should see it, her brother had a paper route.
Old Raleigh squeaks. Jeez, if they could see me riding back on the bicycle. Hi Ron.
Anything going on?
Oh, the usual. Nothing.
What time you come off?
You got duty or you want to do something?
Didn’t you hear? Colonel Hutchison’s got the new bus. We’re all going swimming at Ky-re-nia.
Can you swim, Ron?
You don’t have to swim in that, Ron. You just lie on it and it holds you up.
Over against Tyre lies the island of Qubrus. É