It's August 1989 and I decided to move to Cyprus....yey! This was a Cypriot pilgrimage, I went out and bought a silver Mercendez(Mercedes for those of you not paying attention) I bought lots of ghastly loud shirts and I headed for Dover. I took the Ferry to Calais, then drove down through Reims, Nancy, Stuttgart, Munich, Graz, Belgrade, Skopje, I crossed in to Greece at Evzoni, then drove to Athens and then on to Pireas.
Even though I left the UK in August, it was not very warm and I left wearing a Leather jacket and warm clothing, this continued all the way through Europe, until I crossed over the Alps and descended in to the former Yugoslavia, then it began to get warmer and I began to slowly strip off, finally arriving in Pireas wearing shorts. However, there was something I did not remember to do, I had put my watch forward one hour on the Ferry to Calais, but when I crossed Yugoslavia, I should have put it forward another hour, but I didn't realise, being totally consumed by the excitement of this amazing journey (which is whole story on its own) until I got to Pieras, then the time difference did make a difference.
At that time, there was a Ferry from Pireas, to Limassol on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 19.30, it stopped off in Rhodes for the day, then arrived in Limassol the following day, then it went on to Haifa. The last leg of the journey did make embarkation a nightmare as there was always Israeli security checking out everyone, which was annoying.
After driving around Athens for a few hours and looking around, I arrived at the port for 18.45 (or so I thought) and went to buy a ticket to get on the Ferry, to which I was told........."To Karavi efige" (the Ferry has left) Yeap, that awful moment that I looked at my watch and realised that it was not 18.45, it was in fact 19.45 and I was now stuck in Athens till the following Tuesday!
I called home and did what Cypriots do...........
"mum, what family do we have in Athens?"
She said, "You have your cousin Androulla, your cousin Niko, and there is always a Maria, EVERY family has a Maria! Excellent, I thought, but the problem was they did not have a phone, so I would have to call them at work the next morning, leaving me stuck in Athens overnight. I stumbled on a 24 hour kiosk with a nice lady working there and ended up parked there talking to her and different customers all night long, it actually turned out to be a wonderful experience.
I called my cousin in the morning and she came and found me, so I spent the next few days with her until Tuesday when I could leave. The first thing I needed was some sleep, then I got up and went for a drive, but this was the first time I had gone to bed and woken up in Athens, I had driven on Motorways all the way from Calais, so it was natural to stick to driving on the right (or wrong side for us Brits) so you can imagine what happened next, I drove down the road, saw an oncoming car flashing me, more and more, it screeched to a stop next to me and this Greek shouted....."Sta deksia........na MALAKA!" (to the right, you W*ANKER)
So, Tuesday the 22nd of August 1989, I finally got on to the Ferry to Cyprus, my journey was nearly at an end, but the real adventures were yet to start. The Ferry left at 19.30 ( yeah I know) and arrived the following morning in Rhodes, where I was able to get off and spend the day looking around, then it left Rhodes that evening and arrived in Limassol the following morning..............let the games begin!
"You're not Cypriot and you're not English either!"
I rolled off the Ferry in the port in Limassol where I was immediately directed to park up and go in to a nearby office. You should have seen this place, it was like 'Revenge of the FAT SLOBS' these land Whales with Moustaches looked like they were lowered in to their chair in the morning by a crane, that returned at the end of the day to take them away.
At the first desk, slob number 1 demanded CY£10.00 from me, (I have no idea why) for which I received an aggressively stamped piece of paper, then I was instructed to move to the next desk, where slob number 2 demanded CY£20.00 from me, this was for insurance, this went on for about 5 slobs who had taken a total of CY£80.00 from me, then I was instructed to take a customs officer to my car.
These people really have a stick up their arse, talk about getting above themselves, he opened my cases and questioned me as to why my clothes were new! I told him that I had brought my best clothes along with a lot of new items as I had come to stay, but I was immediately told that I had to pay duty on them (yes, even on my bag of new briefs that I had bought from the 'Cash & Carry) !
I did ask him why I was not allowed my personal effects duty free, as I was a re-patriot, to which he responding by yelling at me, "you were not born here, you are NOT Cypriot, so you ARE NOT a re-patriot!"
"Oh really? English people are allowed their personal effects duty free aren't they?"
"You are not English!"
Fair enough, I got the picture, they were determined to get money out of me and there was nothing that I could do, I paid up, (over CY£300.00) and left. I drove out of the port in to Limassol, I was in Cyprus.....WOOHOO! I made my way to Larnaca and headed out for my first Souvlaki.
My next port of call was the Customs regarding my car, now I was under the impression that being a re-patriot (which I now realised I was not) that I would be entitled to a duty free car, like everyone else who moves back to Cyprus, (duty on cars at that time was as much as 150%) well I was wrong. Yet another slob squashed in a chair that didn't really fit took great pleasure in telling me the same thing that I was told at the port, I WAS NOT Cypriot and I WAS NOT English, they told me I would have to pay CY£9,000.00 in duty on my car (a fiver year old Mercedes!) I was pretty pissed off with this bunch of thieving slobs by this point, but then I thought to myself, if I'm not considered Cypriot, at least I won't have to do national service (obligatory 26 months for locals but those moving back from abroad could do 6 months)..............WRONG!
I went to the ministry of defence where I was told that I had to do national service, when I asked why, guess what this bastard said? Yeap,........"because you are Cypriot!" Can you imagine my shock? When I replied by stating that the others did not regard me as Cypriot, he actually had the nerve to say, "they work it out differently, if your grandfather is Cypriot, then YOU are Cypriot!"
That's when I lost it and said, "Why don't you tell that fat slob in the customs to let me off paying duty for my fucking car then?" but I was wasting my time, this was 'welcome to Cyprus' these three events should have opened my eyes to the way everything worked and there was nothing that I could do about it, so despite being insulted about my nationality (only where it suited them of course) I still had to do my national service, but I had other ideas. I was not going to take this lying down and go along with it, NO WAY, the Cypriot army was about to induct it's worst soldier in history, I was going to mess them about so much that they would cheer when I walked out of the gate, this was when I came out with my new nickname for them......"Smiling Assassins"
I'll tell you about my adventures in the Cypriot Army another time.