Random Ramblings

Recently, leading up to and including the “Remembrance Day” celebration/commemoration events, a great deal has been made in the press and media about the bravery of the common soldiers and other servicemen who sacrificed their lives, especially during World War One.

I have never gone against popular opinion (oh, yes you have cry people who know me!), but, while some service men and women, or even many of them, were indeed brave, but, in trench warfare, the “common (British) soldiers” were forced to advance across “no-man’s land” with the option of either being shot by the Germans if they advanced, or being shot for cowardice by the British if they tried to return to their own lines!

Isn’t it time for more attention and publicity be broadcast about the ineptitude and incompetence of the generals and chiefs of staff, especially in the First World War?  These people whose imagination, initiative and creative thinking only extended as far as “the Germans and their allies have only got one million men, whereas we (the British and our allies) have one million and one”. 

Therefore, if each of “our” soldiers kills one of “them” before being killed by one of “them”, we will still have one man “standing”, and therefore “we” will have won the war!

In modern times, I am reasonably confident that in the eyes of an organisation such as the Court of Human Rights grounds exist to regard the inept generals and chiefs of staff as “war criminals”!

During our years here we have occasionally met British tourists, and Ex-pats, both of the “swallow” and long-term resident variety, who feel that signs in English should be more prevalent in hospitals, police stations etc.  After all, these (fortunately few in number) people argue, “Cyprus used to be British, and therefore most people here are, or speak, English”.

Some time ago there was a letter printed in one of the local newspapers from a (presumably newly-arrived) British Ex-pat complaining that he had been given a parking ticket.  The complaint was not that he had been given the ticket, but that the procedures to pay on the back of the ticket were only in Turkish.  The writer claimed that the omission of instructions in English caused him to delay making payment, until after the “period of grace” (I think that it is 14 days) had expired and therefore he was obliged to pay an additional fine for late payment!

Obviously, despite being a stranger in a foreign land, the thought of going directly to the police station or going to a local cafe or bar to ask a waiter or manager to translate the procedures on the back of the ticket didn’t cross his mind.  Alternatively the writer could, within a few days at the most, have used one of the internet translation programmes, either on his own computer or at an internet cafe.  But no, to his arrogant, “colonial” brain, it was “let’s blame the natives for putting needless obstacles in the path of the great white lord from across the ocean”!

Yes, all you of in the “Union Jack” brigade who want to live in a British environment, but with sun, Cyprus was at one time under British rule, but that ended in 1960, over half a century ago!  No, most of the people here (in Kibris), do not necessarily speak English.  Most of the people here may be Ex-pats; however, they are not all from Britain, but most are from mainland Turkey!  I believe that the only population group that the British can claim to be a majority of, is the Ex-pats from “Europe” which, from a recent census, accounts for only 1% of the entire population.  I believe that British Ex-pats make up something like 90% of that ethnic group.

Here in Kibris there are many “London Cyps” who are fluent in English, as well as many bi-lingual or multi-lingual people in the tourist and catering trades, but it is neither a requirement to speak that language nor have signage in it.

It is a simple matter to purchase a phrase book and/or a Turkish-English dictionary.  We invested in each of these before we emigrated and have since found them to be invaluable.  When we produce and use them in almost any circumstance, “the ice is broken” and we get all the help and attention that we want.  We have frequently been taught the correct terminology and pronunciation, although our “teachers” have occasionally dissolved into gales of laughter or giggles!

Indeed, when we first arrived here we had to complete many bureaucratic procedures to get our residency permits etc.  While waiting for various procedures to be completed we would often go to a Turkish Cypriot run bar and cafe.  Like many middle-aged men I have gained a “beer-belly”, and, once the waiters got to know us fairly well they asked me why I had it, as most Muslims don’t drink and therefore don’t suffer from this condition.  I dug out the “medical” section of our phrase book and, proudly patting my belly, announced “gebeyim”!  As this means “I am pregnant”, it caused great merriment among the staff as well as the Turkish-speaking customers, who were within earshot!  We were always welcomed there, but after that occasion we were treated with greater respect and hilarity whenever we visited!  Sadly another owner and manager have since taken over the cafe/bar and it is now a “European style” fast food establishment, which we no longer visit.

As far as local politics go, the Greek Cypriots have not (at the time of sending this column to press) returned to the negotiating table.  Can we, (the politicians, citizens and residents of Kibris), the United Nations, the European Union and the rest of the world assume that if they see no further need for negotiations, that they are happy with the status quo?

The status quo is the fact that there are two separate states on this island, A Greek Cypriot “south” and a Turkish Cypriot “north”!  Each “de facto” state should now also be recognised as “de jure” because the Greek Cypriots have decided that there are no further matters to negotiate about!  Just a thought!

Having mentioned negotiations in the above paragraph, I want to share a paraphrased script of part of a film that we saw recently.  The scenario was that two nations had been at political and territorial loggerheads for generations, but were now trying to negotiate a “peace plan” under the chairmanship of a disinterested third party.  After a long period of listening to each side say to the other “if we do that, how can we trust you to comply because 50 years ago you didn’t”. Finally the chairman firmly stated that “I am sick of your petty bickering, as a compromise does not necessarily please either side, but if it presents to only workable solution to the problem, then it must be implemented”!  Because the chairman took control and focussed the delegates, an agreement was reached!

Are you listening, North and South Cyprus leaders and, (especially) the United Nations?

Regarding European Union politics, I understand that the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has told the British Prime Minister, David Cameron that he cannot introduce restrictions on the number of immigrants from other EU countries into the UK.  In order to do this he, well Britain, would have to leave the European Union as the free movement of labour within the EU is a “sacred rule”!

Leaving aside the question of whether the majority of the British electorate want Britain to be in the European Union, I don’t think that Mr Cameron wants to limit “working” immigrants.  No doubt brain surgeons, rocket scientists etc will be welcome, but he is trying to limit the number of non-working immigrants who will put an immediate strain on the British Treasury, health, education and housing systems.

I would like to ask Mr Cameron, or any of his legal and economic experts, to clarify an anomaly that has sprung to my twisted little brain.  Why does he, along with the rest of the political leaders in the EU think that Britain is in the European Union while the British currency is the pound?  The European Union currency is, whatever its flaws, the Euro.  Imagine the harrumphing in the English parliament if, when the pound, shilling and penny (£.s.d) currency was decimalised in 1971 to the pound and (new) penny if one of the counties had said that, (while remaining in England), it was going to retain the “old” currency!

Indeed, it was only recently that Scotland; during its attempt for independence by breaking away from “Great Britain”, which was formed by the Act of Union in 1707, was told that it would be unable to retain the “pound” as a currency unit, if it wasn’t part of “Great” Britain.  Therefore, by reverse logic, surely Britain cannot be regarded as a member of the European Union until it accepts the Euro as the currency unit!  Just a thought.

While on the subject of Britain and anomalies when compared with Europe, Britain’s linear measures are (or certainly were) in “miles” and the volumetric measures are in “pints”, while the rest of Europe uses metric measures.  According to the popular press (from memory) one of the reasons is that “kilo” would confuse both shoppers and shopkeepers alike, especially the elderly people.  That may be so, or simply scaremongering because I don’t remember hearing of anyone, young or old, asking for “half a kilo of spaghetti” and taking home half a kilometre (500 metres – 546.81 yards) of it!

The above goes to show that whenever any currency or measurement of any system changes there will always be the elderly or mentally challenged who may find it difficult to come to terms with visualising the new systems.

More next week folks!

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