Ayia Napper Cyprus ill-Equipped

Oh hi. I’m on holiday again. Jesus, how is it I’m always on holiday? And furthermore, how is it a bunch of my mates get to mid-November and have less holiday left than me such that they can’t take a day off to day drink through Staffordshire? Well who knows. I blame children. But anyway. Where was I? No, wait, better question. Where am I?

I’m in Larnaca, that’s where. Pretty well-oiled, and made a conscious decision to blog before I go to bed rather than when I wake up, which means maybe this will be an even bigger load of bollocks than usual. Or perhaps I’ll fall asleep face first into my keyboard and wake up at like 3am or something, midway through a description of the flight. Perhaps I should just get on with the meat of the post rather than all this stupid fucking preamble, to see off such threats.

Hi, Kingston.

Unusually yet deliberately, I packed for a short trip the night before I went away. This was so that I disrupted Helen as little as possible, since I intended to leave the flat at like 8am or so on a Sunday morning. As it happens, due to forcing myself to watch the end of the Aleister Black/Johnny Gargano match at WWE NXT Takeover War Games II, I was running late enough such that I was still home when I received a phone call at about 0810 or so.

I fucking hate getting phone calls and mostly just send them to voicemail, but this one I took. I was kinda expecting it; a guy was calling me to make sure the (first) cab I have booked for Monday is arranged correctly. Yes, it seems to be, except they’re the ones who find the address weird. Fingers crossed eh.

Left the flat at 0818, deliberately noting the time as I had anticipated the first leg of my journey today would take around 1hr. The leg in question was a walk, a long walk with my two bags over my shoulders, from Surbiton to a bus stop in central Teddington. It was a cold and phenomenal autumn morning in SW London/North Surrey/Middlesex, with the view from Kingston Bridge being stunning enough to make me pause. I grabbed a good 8,000 steps before reaching the 285/X26 stop exactly one hour after leaving the flat. Go me!

At the stop, a street cleaning man with his street cleaning wheelbarrow thing and a high vis jacket nodded at me, said “you alright?”. Yes mate, I’m alright, you alright? Yes mate, he’s alright too. You know who’s not alright though? That other guy back under the sheltered bit of the bus stop. I mean fine, whatever... but then Mr High Vis puts his barrow to rest and goes back to confront Mr Not Alright. Uh-oh. “That’s my bus right there!” he kinda whimpers, though HV isn’t particularly threatening, just, I dunno, weird.

He stays weird, too. Giving NA the full eyeball treatment as he boards the bus, there’s a lot of creepiness I’ll now admit. I get no such treatment, what with having been willing to shake his hand ‘n that, when I get on the 285 which is, admittedly, not my first choice of bus - though only a bit slower than the X26 and has the benefit of being here already.

Up on the top deck, a lad with giant chrome headphones on is “singing” along with whatever he’s listening to. He gets off way before the airport, but there is some overlap with the guy who gets on and sits immediately in front of me. Within a few seconds there’s a loud wailing sound, and less than a minute later (by my estimate) the guy in front of him moves to the other side of the aisle. I realise this is because the new arrival is grabbing onto the seat and rocking really hard, while making a kind of braying sound, especially when we’re at rest.

So look, right, this is clearly someone with either learning difficulties or, my preferred theory, someone very very very far along on the autistic scale. Being stationary doesn’t seem so worrying after a few stops, and both the rocking and wailing stop. But he’s still pretty excitable. There’s nothing threatening whatsoever about his behaviour, and honestly I wish I knew what to do – if indeed there is anything I could do – just to give him a signal that, mate, you’re fine, hope you’re doing well and know where to get off, and to ignore anyone who’s looking round and giving him evils. Towards the end of my journey (he stays on beyond Hatton Cross) he starts periodically pulling his coat up over his head. Because he’s ahead of me I spend a lot of it wondering if he’s actually upset, but as I descend to the lower deck he’s behaving no differently and has a big smile on his face. I really hope he’s off to Heathrow just to spend the day plane spotting or something, and that no fucker gives him any grief.

Anyway. At Hatton Cross on a mostly deserted platform there’s a 5 minute wait for the tube to T123+5, then the long familiar walk all the way to the First Wing. It’s about 100 minutes until take-off. I believe I’m hyper-efficient at security, but reality would say otherwise. First off, my new trousers set off the metal detector even though I’ve genuinely emptied the pockets of everything except currency in note form. I go through a second scanner, then have a Geiger-counter-type-thing waved around me which makes a noise around an empty pocket near my right knee, and then one - and only one - of my shoes is swabbed, after which I’m waved through. Well fine.

Neither of my bags or any contents I’ve separated have made the other scanner go wrong, so I take my two trays and put everything back in its place and fuck off down the corridor towards the lounge. About 25% of the way down I think, hang on, why are my new trousers falling down a bit? Oh shit, my belt! Doubling back I get to the scanners and there’s a lass shouting “ANYONE LOST THEIR BELT?” just as I appear. Why on earth did they take my belt out of the trays? Honestly, it absolutely was not in either of them because I stacked the trays neatly and that wouldn’t have worked if I’d left anything behind.

Jesus Christ. Fine. Whatever. I’m in the lounge and I’ve grabbed a space near the champagne bar and I’ve set off to get something to eat. Said something is a big fry up, and life is really fucking good.

I hook my iPad up to the WiFi and attempt to stream more of WWE NXT Takeover War Games II, which takes a while to get going but eventually does so for long enough that I can watch, well, I don’t even know what proportion of a match because I don’t get to the end of it. Bah.

The reason I don’t get to the end is because at 11am my phone blows up in a “go to the fucking gate!” kinda way. It’s a nearby gate and they say it’s open, but it’s not, so I go for a bit of a wander (gotta keep those steps going) and, oh, hello, are you offering me free Beluga vodka? It seems you are. The poor guy thinks he’s genuinely about to make a sale, and his smile when I say “y’know what, I’m gonna leave it for now but thanks for the freebie” is a little strained.

Back at gate A13 it really is open now, and I join the Group 1 queue. A man in the Groups 2&3 queue is kicked out and loudly responds “well, how are we meant to know what group we’re in?”. “It’s exactly where your thumb is on the boarding pass sir”, he’s told.

Soon enough we’re let through the Oyster departure gates and then queueing up on the airbridge. Thanks to WWE NXT Takeover War Games II I’ve an earworm, it being Tomasso Ciampa’s entrance music. The practical effect this has is that I’m humming a guitar riff followed by mouthing, and most likely whispering audibly, the lyric NO-ONE WILL SURVIVE. As I’m queuing to board a fucking plane. In retrospect this may not have been the wisest course of action.

But no-one collars me under any anti-terrorism acts and soon enough I’m turning left, because this ‘ere plane is a 767 with two aisles and business class is to the left. I’m in seat 3A, a window seat in the second row on the left hand side of the plane. The cabin is going “bing” a lot. As if someone was running riot with all the crew call bells. I’m wondering if something is actually wrong with the plane, but no-one else seems panicky.

For a long long time I believe I’ve managed to avoid having a seat mate - on this type of plane there’s no real privacy in business; the seats are 2-3-2 and there’s no gaps between them. Eventually a man arrives in 3B; he falls asleep immediately and snores really really loudly. For, like, fucking ages.

I spend the best part of an hour squinting out at the parking markings for different sized planes. It shouldn’t be an hour, but 3 different apps have informed me that we’ll be taking off at least half an hour late. None of the crew have done so, but the apps don’t lie as eventually the first officer comes on to tell us that there’s a staff shortage amongst loading staff so while all passengers are onboard, the bags are not.

Also, retirements. Today is the captain’s last flight after 30 years with BA (and, I think, other airlines). I hear the Cabin Services Director also talk about this being her last time in this role, and furthermore this actual plane is being retired after it returns back to Heathrow at night. There are only two 767 planes in BA’s fleet left, and after today only one of them will be used and that finishes next week. Accordingly, for the next few hours all the mental notes I make about how best to maximise my experience on a BA 767 “next time” are completely fucking wasted. D’oh.

Is the 747 the only pretty plane there is?

45 minutes or so late we eventually start to taxi, taking our sweet time to reach the front of the queue for take-off. It’s a gloriously cloud free sunny day and all the planes look lovely, if you like that sort of thing.

As we climb out of Heathrow I’m mesmerised. I mean let’s face it, I’m virtually always mesmerised by flight, because flying is fucking ace. But rarely is the weather so perfect and the sun so well placed that I can track the shadow of the plane I’m on. It’s great.

The airport and SW London look magnificent, of course.

After just a couple of minutes I’m like, whoa, that’s the London Wetland Centre. We went there last Sunday, and now I can see it! That’s great! But there’s just tons of stuff to recognise because the weather is, as I have already said a few times now, perfect, especially for a climb to the East.

Helen, look! The wetlands! See?

Central London looks its absolute best at twilight, when the street lights are on but don’t really need to be. But 1pm on a cloud-free day runs a close second place to be honest.

The real camera comes out, as do my excuses for poor photography which are:

  • Planes are wobbly
  • The window is poor
  • I suck

Zoom works, in a way. I mean it’s obviously better than with my phone, right?

I use the phone as well, because I want the wide angle.

That’s London City airport’s runway, that.

We hug the Thames all the way to the estuary, meaning I get great views of Kent and Essex. Hooray for Southend and Shoeburyness and Canvey Island and whatever else it is that’s under me. I’ve done this before, earlier this year in fact I think, but in the opposite direction. It’s still fascinating and wonderful.

I do love those offshore wind farms.

Eventually the view becomes a little boring. Averting my eyes to the front, there’s an entertainment screen showing BBC News/World on a BREXIT TURMOIL special. Well OK then. The coast of.. I dunno, Belgium? Holland? Wherever it is, it comes and goes and the landscape becomes even less interesting.

While the loud snorer continue to snore, a hot towel comes and goes and I get aggravated by losing the rubber cover off my right earphone. None of the spares I have in my coat pocket are the right size because they’re from a different pair. Grr. Perhaps the gods are telling me this is not the right time to be listening to a true crime podcast about a plane bombing from the 1960s. Well, whatever.

Once we’re airborne, nuts and a drink get served. I’ll have that fizzy wine stuff if you’ve got it, ta. Germany – I think – kinda bores me. What’s this sprawling city? Ah who cares.

Another glass of champagne arrives and then there’s a choice of food. The flight attendant attempts to sell me on the cold beef dish and that’s fair enough, because I had that last month and it was really great, but now I want the pasta with chorizo. Ayia Napper, which is now what I have internally christened the snoring man next to me, wakes up and instantly orders two cans of full fat coca-cola and the same food as me.

It might not look great, but it is really nice. OK the salad is nothing to write home about, but everything else is very impressive and the blue cheese in particular knocks my socks off. Though not as much as the view does, because oh, wait, there’s some mountains.

You look nice. Who are you? The Alps, I guess? I mean I suppose we’re flying south over Switzerland or Austria or something, right? Towards Italy? I have no fucking clue, there’s no moving map and my phone has no GPS. But these look pretty alpine to me.

In fact maybe the real camera should come out.

The window really is filthy, y’know.

But sometimes the pics come out great. This is cracking, even though there’s massive turbulence as we pass over top.

I’m not gonna apologise for the quantity of same-y photos of mountains here.

Things flatten out, and naively I assume this is the top of Italy. I still don’t know if that’s right, it’s just a guess. What I do know is that I don’t recall ever seeing the obvious source of three rivers before.

There’s very little point looking out of the window once the mountains disappear. The landscape is pretty but nothing like as good as what I’ve already seen, plus it’s getting hazy. So, fuck it, I’ll have a gin and tonic please and get going on watching some stuff I downloaded from Netflix. Four episodes of Cuckoo, because I searched for Andy Samberg and was surprised to discover he was in a British sitcom, followed by one episode of Wormwood.

Interaction with the crew is strange throughout, with weird smiles and wordless responses a couple of times, but more gin and tonic arrives so who cares. It’s a bit weird for them anyway, apparently. As we cross much more water it’s now very dark outside, and I’m starting to feel trepidation about my upcoming transit from airport to accommodation. I’m sure it’ll be fine though.

We land 50 minutes late, at 1920 local time. Apparently it’s 20ºc outside, but that doesn’t stop me from putting on the beanie “international hat”, which I must wear whenever regaling Helen with crap selfies.

I get off the plane pretty much last from business, and there’s two bridges so I’m actually well behind half the plane. Accordingly, when I reach passports there’s a vast queue at the EU passports bit but very few at the non-EU bit. Maybe we should get the fuck out? But for now we’re in so I inch forward until an empty automatic gate is ready for me – ready, that is, to tell me first that I didn’t insert my passport properly, and second to go see a person.

Well, fine. The queues for the humans are even slower, and when I finally get seen I don’t get seen, because Johnny Surly at the desk literally doesn’t even take the shortest glance at me throughout our interaction. As soon as I’m past him and out through customs there’s a sign saying BUSES in big fuck off letters, and I need a bus, so I walk out there.

There’s a coach park and people going to resorts and stuff, but no public transport bus stops that I can see. I wander around for a bit, chatting to Helen on facebook, still unable to find the stop. This is pissing me off. Consulting the map of the official bus company tells me I’m in the right place but I’m plainly not, so eventually I get in a huff and resolve to get a cab. But as I’m withdrawing cash I vacillate again. No, fuck you, I’m not getting some rip off cab driver (there’s no Uber), I should be able to get a fucking bus. So I ask a policeman, and he says oh yeah, the buses are upstairs at the departures level. Thanks!

Upstairs at departures level I locate the bus stop. There are a few other people waiting, playing with the local stray cats and kittens who seem to live in the hedge. A 417 - one of the four buses I could use - comes along, and the driver refuses to take me or anyone else, shouting GET THE 425 IT’S COMING RIGHT NOW and shooing me out of the bus. I don’t even know why he stopped, since no-one got off and he wasn’t letting anyone on.

Look, buses are bouncy, OK?

Anyway, the 425 comes and I pay my €1,50 for central Larnaca. Sitting at the back I bring up Google maps, so’s I know where to ring the bell and get off. We wind past the salt lake and a few golf courses and hotels and stuff and then are nearly at my hotel... and then nearly not. Shit!

I get off at some stop that’s still kinda in the centre of town, but in reality is in some dark, pavement-free district where faux-menacing men are killing time on the steps of a kebab house and stray animals are roaming and there’s not many street lights. The wonder of modern life is that I can walk along staring at my phone and look like I’m just some guy staring at his phone, not someone obviously lost and holding a map or anything.

10 minutes later suddenly there are well-to-do shops, pavements, music in the air, and a big fancy church. Ooh look at that, a tourism.

My hotel is just the other side of it. Or is it? I’m at the Hotel Operetta, which is also the Hotel Opera, I think. I go in the Hotel Opera reception and a friendly woman says yes, this is the reception for both places, but Operetta is across the road. Anyway here’s some free tea/coffee/juice, and she’ll accompany me to Operetta. OK then! It’s back past the church.

The front door is always open. The second door is the blue key. The third door is the other key. Except there’s an other other key which never gets mentioned. I wonder what it opens? Anyway here’s my room, please drop the key back at checkout. I will! But first, I’m going to see what the view is from the balcony. Oh, it’s that church again.

The room is nice. It even has a little kitchenette, which will be wasted on me but I can still appreciate it.

But not right now, because I’ve got stuff to do. Specifically, I want to go have a drink at the Barrel House Bar. Supposedly I’m a mere 300 metres away, albeit not a straight route. In fact the first couple of roads are dark, dingy, pavement-free affairs again. Larnaca seems weird, its personality changes every 100 yards or so. The roads are uneven and its got a bit of a smell to it, then there’s a bunch of high-end shops and a pedestrianised precinct full of middle class hipsters having a good old Sunday evening drink.

Hang on though, where’s Barrel House? Apparently I’ve walked past it, twice. C’mon Larnaca, don’t fuck about.. oh right, that bit with all the seats and the roof isn’t actually part of a restaurant but is an alley into a covered arcade lined with venues. And here’s Barrel House, hurrah!

There’s loads of people outside and none inside, so I grab a seat at the bar. The music is viciously loud but I’m OK with that. The barmaid hands me a menu and also walks me through a few choices of dark beers and I’m on the O’So Brewing company stout, which is as delicious as the accompanying olives are massive (and they are massive). I’m on my phone chatting with Helen and enjoying having the bar to myself. The menu certainly looks interesting.

Elsewhere there’s a sour porter; behind the bar there are numerous clear jars with hand-written labels such as “hoppy vodka” and “gourd aged negroni”. I think the spirits may be even more tragically hip than the beer selection.

For my second drink I ask for a local beer and it turns out they make their own. Cool! She recommends the Pumpking ale.

It’s a poor choice. I like it less and less the more I drink. But next up is a coffee stout I first had in Helsinki in July this year and it’s AMAZING. During this, a group of other lads arrive and turns out they’re logging beer on Untappd too. I spot this on Untappd, not through any hint of socialising with strangers or anything. I mean, fuck that, y’know?

Helen tells me I should have one final beer so I go for the other Barrel House pale ale. It’s nicer than Pumpking but still not all that. Still, when in Larnaca ‘n that. Once I’m done, four beers in with precious little real food, I ask to pay and the barmaid is like “what, already?”. Funny, but look, it’s 2330 and I’ve got shit to do. I pay €30 including tip, which in retrospect is pretty bloody expensive for 4 drinks but, fuck it, I’m on me hols. Not like I could change my mind after the fact is it?

Standing up is a trickier task than I thought it would be. I guess some of that beer was stronger than I realised. It’s a fairly wayward stagger back to the room, but in reality that just puts me in sync with the bad quality paving and I probably look like I’m just floating gracefully along. Right? Right?

Back at the hotel I’ve got the TV on and the separate cable box on and BBC News is showing some panel-on-a-stage thing about battling fake news, with a feisty host shouting crowd-pleasing questions at employees of twitter, facebook, and stuff. It’s very depressing, so instead I type this entry up to a rolling Al Jazeera that concentrates mostly on whether Trump has listened to the audio of a journalist being murdered or not. Cheerful.

Lastly, I type the word “Cheerful” and look at my watch, kinda shocked to discover it’s almost 0145. I intend to get up around 0600, ‘cos I’ve a full Monday ahead. Shit! Best get to sleep.

Created By
Darren Foreman

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