The End Of The Tether Is Nigh

Dear Mum,

I’m a fairly easy-going person. I don’t look for trouble, and it rarely finds me. And not that I’m anywhere near the age of the Victor Meldrew character in One Foot In The Grave, but I have noticed as the years pass that the older you get, the less you’re prepared to put up with. I often find myself speaking out these days about a petty injustice, when a few years ago I would have let it pass for the sake of an easy life.

By ‘petty injustice’ I mean… Well, take supermarket/kiosks for example.

I’ve been about to be served at a checkout on several occasions when a Cypriot has simply pushed his way in front of me to pay for one item rather than wait for my full basket to be checked. They never ask. It’s rude and impolite. And it’s unjust. If he asked, I’d say fine  –  go ahead. I’m rarely in a hurry. And if he hadn’t pushed his way in, I’d probably have offered to let him go first anyway. Hey  –  I’m a nice guy! But it’s symptomatic of the resentment they feel towards the thousands of foreigners who’ve taken up residence in their country.

I don’t understand it. Those thousands of foreigners are bringing millions of pounds into the economy. They should be embraced. But I’ve seen the same thing many times in the UK. Low intelligence Brits (and there are so many of them!) are just as guilty when it comes to the way they treat foreigners. I’m sure it’s the same the world over. Low-life nature.

So I put up with this petty injustice because it’s just not worth the hassle. It would probably spoil my day more than it would his if I reacted to it. Sometimes I say something sarcastic like “Please, you go first” after he’s already been served, but it always falls on deaf ears.

It happened on Tuesday. The person in front of me had just finished being served, and I’d just plonked my basket on the counter, when a native Cypriot pushed in front of me to buy a packet of cigarettes.

For some reason I simply wasn’t in the mood for it that day. Enough was enough! He was mid-50’s at a guess, fairly short and didn’t look like he weighed much. So without saying a word, I put my arms around him, lifted him up, turned round and put him down again, and turned back to the counter.

He started babbling away in Greek behind me. I’ve absolutely no idea what he was saying, but I can hazard a pretty good guess. The owner of the shop, who was behind the counter, looked somewhat perplexed and anxious and, I have to say, very amazed at what he’d just witnessed, but there was a hint of a smile on his face. And he could see from my expression that I wasn’t a man to be crossed this morning, so he ran my stuff through the till, with a torrent of Greek abuse still going on behind me.

I left the shop still not having spoken a word or looked at the Cypriot. I wouldn’t even recognise him if I saw him again.

Someone said “Well done! It’s about time” as I was leaving.

Yes! It was about time. I’d put up with it for long enough.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

I’ve mentioned before that motorcyclists in Cyprus have scant regard for their own safety or anyone else’s. They rarely wear crash helmets, and they have no idea what a No Entry sign means. Every day, you see mopeds and scooters going the wrong way down a one-way street. You see cars doing it too, but most of the culprits are two-wheeled.

I’ve seen them riding their vehicular transportation through pedestrianised zones too. I’ve witnessed women with small children having to jump out of their way. I’ve had a few near scrapes myself. But it seems to be a way of life here, and no-one seems to care.

So be it. When you’re in another country you have to adapt to their way of life. But it does annoy me when I see them endangering the lives of children. It’s also another of those petty injustices. Why should I have to step back out of the way in a pedestrian area, when the two-wheeled motorised bicycle shouldn’t even be there?

My route home from the supermarket on Tuesday morning took me through a partially-covered shopping arcade. It’s pedestrians only and fully paved, and there are bollards at each end to prevent cars from driving through it, but of course it’s no problem for their two-wheeled cousins.

As I neared the arcade I could hear the sound of a scooter/moped or even maybe a 50cc motorbike approaching from within.

After the episode in the shop, I really wasn’t in the mood for it, as you can imagine.

I turned right into the arcade and sure enough there was a stinkwheel heading straight for me, about 20 yards away. Not going very fast, but he shouldn’t have been going at all.

I could have stepped to the side. There was plenty of room for both of us. But I had a heavy bag of groceries in each hand, and I also had the right of way, and I also must have had some sort of death wish because I stuck resolutely to the centre line, well aware that playing chicken with something which doesn’t have as much give in it as you do is pretty foolhardy, to say the least. Right of way or not!

My eyes were fixed to the ground as I strode forwards. I flicked my eyes up quickly just to make sure that he’d seen me, which he had. It was the briefest of glances. A fraction of a second. But it was long enough to notice the look of consternation on his face.

He clearly expected me to get out of the way. Something which I had absolutely no intention of doing. Right at the last instant, just as I was wondering what the standard of hospital care is like in Cyprus, he wobbled, braked and swerved  –  all at the same time  –  and jumped off his bike as it side-glanced the plate-glass shop window. There was a very nasty sound as the window cracked from top to bottom.


I kept walking purposefully without looking back, as if I wasn’t even aware of what had just happened. Needless to say there was a torrent of Greek abuse being hurled in my direction, which was suddenly cut short in mid-sentence. At least, it sounded that way, but as I don’t speak Greek, I’ve no idea if he was in mid-sentence, mid-paragraph, or simply mortified because he’d just split an infinitive, or what!

I’d reached the other end of the short arcade by this time, so I looked back to see what had caused the abrupt termination of his irate soliloquy, and I couldn’t help noticing that there had appeared on the scene the one thing that’s never around when you need one  –  a policeman! Two, to be precise. A police car had pulled up at the other end of the arcade. I could just imagine it  –  “Yassou, Yassou, Yassou. What’s goin’ on ‘ere then?

I turned right out of the arcade and left them to it. Hopefully the motorcyclist will have learned a valuable and costly lesson.

But I doubt it somehow.

This is Cyprus…


©MPB 23/November/2007


One Response to The End Of The Tether Is Nigh

  1. You wrote it so good and it was very nice behavior, that you did to the man

    “without saying a word, I put my arms around him, lifted him up, turned round and put him down again, and turned back to the counter.”

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