19 November 2002

Cyprus # 4. A mixed Bag

OldEric says :-)The night of our arrival in Nicosia was continually disturbed by the rumble of planes taking off and landing. Next morning we learnt on the grapevine the Suez war had started. We knew something was imminent, as we crossed the Mediterranean the sea was filled with naval vessels from skyline to skyline all heading in one direction---East. As I looked out of the aircraft window I remember thinking what an awesome sight, all that fire power. So we were not at all surprised with the morning news.
As I mentioned in an earlier piece, we were under canvas for our first few weeks. Not long after our arrival whilst still under canvas a contingent of French paratroopers were billeted in tents close to us and used the same ablution block of us. We were warned to keep clear of them, a smart remark could trigger an incident. Only a fool would have done so. Just looking at these men they were fighting fit. They were all lean and all appeared to be around six feet tall with hair shaved extremely short. All seemed extremely aloof, not even glancing when washing in the adjacent sink in the ablution block.
Strange, in later years when I saw pictures of De Gaulle, tall and aloof he reminded me of those earlier paratroopers. They were not as tall as De Gaulle of course. One morning we awoke, the French paratroopers and their tents were gone, no sign that they had even existed.
Eventually the construction of our permanent accommodation was finished and we move in. The building was not as you would have expect as forces accommodation. It was a large double story building, each floor with about ten rooms and each room big enough to hold six personnel. The door of each room opened out on to a wide tiled patio with a railing on the front and a set of steps at each end of the building for access to the upper level. To us it was a fine looking building and today the style of some motel units here in New Zealand remind me of our accommodation at Ayios Nikolaos. The rooms were first class too, the floors were tiled and the plastered walls were painted a light pleasant colour. The back wall, opposite the door had two large windows and the view from our room on the top floor was extensive. All in all, a very pleasant situation. Our block was one of two blocks, the other block had already been constructed previously to ours and was occupied.
Oddly I do not remember any of my room mates names and I can only picture one of the five in my mind. The others I cannot picture at all. I do remember we used to get on well. And, I do remember while sleeping late one Saturday morning being shaken awake with a call of “Fire drill” and leaping out of bed to a flash of a camera. I used to sleep naked. “A leg pull” I shouted, but it was no leg pull a few days later I was presented with a photo of me in all my glory. I kept that photo for quite a while. All I asked was “which shop developed it?” no way was I going in that shop to be recognized.

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