First blog from Cyprus – Don’t mention the sun
After ‘Bag Gate’ with Monarch and the unbelievable exhaustion of the last few weeks, we are this morning sitting in the yellow thing that shall not be named, reflecting on this new and temporary existence. This will be the story over the next 9 months or so but life can be so unexpected so who knows where we will end up?
After we touched down in Larnaca airport there was the small matter of retrieving Tazmania. I approached a stocky but friendly faced Policeman (with sidearm) and asked him where I should go to find my dog. He gave me a warm smile and gestured to follow him. “You come, you come” he shouted above the noise of taxi drivers . He led me up the stairs to departures where the only soul in sight was a smartly dressed (hair swept back and tied) blonde lady at the information desk. She directed me to lost baggage and as I turned and headed back the way I had just come the same officer was there to check I was OK. He gave me the universal sign language of thumbs up and then reversed his face to a stern expression as he resumed his duties watching the new arrivals in his country.
Meanwhile, Michelle was negotiating the somewhat tricky ‘Sixt’ desk where we were due to pick up our hire car. I swept past and she paused her signature to give me a confused look: it was the calm and the storm. Mike, a little like Basil Fawlty, frantically trying to pull things together “don’t worry dear, it’s all in hand” and Michelle was Sybil leaning laconically over the desk saying “Ooh I know” a few times to the sales rep.
Lost baggage was exactly what it says on the tin, it was a lost sign and a dead end. There was no desk, no one to speak to and certainly no Taz. Larnaca may look like an international airport (very fine building it is) but lost baggage was a lost department. To my right there was a door, it was white with no sign on it. Bruce Willis would have shouted something heroic at this point and stormed through! Me, what did I do? I looked around first. Don’t want to try a door and it’s locked, that’s very embarrassing. I gently twisted the handle and it opened. There was a light beaming down the corridor and another door to the left where I could hear giggling. Had I inadvertently stumbled on a secret porn set? From the other end of the corridor a lady walked toward me and asked me what I was doing there? Good point I thought! “I’m looking for my dog”, I replied in haste and of course that wasn’t quite the right use of English. This was like the Steve Maclaren interview when he worked in Holland sounding like a Dutch person with a rudimentary command of the English language. I went on to explain that my dog was on the flight from Birmingham and I needed to locate him. She pointed to the office where the giggles were coming from and I tip toed in. Thankfully, there was not a TV crew and loud panting but just two ladies sitting upright ready to help me! “Lost baggage?” I asked. They nodded and one of the ladies with long, tightly curled hair with a penchant for rolling her R’s told me that I needed to drive to the old airport. She then proceeded to give verbal directions which was “Go left, then right, then third exit, second exit, second again, right again….” She looked up in the air as she recited it. I nodded the whole time but had stopped listening. Michelle’s dad would know the way and he was waiting for us with Sam and our luggage.
I picked up a moaning Michelle on the way back, mumbling that we had been ripped off on the cost of having a full tank of petrol in the car and we proceeded to the car lot still minus a dog. Our bottom of the range rental car (for you petrol heads) was a knocked up Skoda Fabia. I felt like James May turning up with his car that cost less than £200 as we flipped the boot and loaded our bags. We gave each other anxious looks. Still no Taz. Michelle’s dad, Mick, thought he knew the way. The man is an encyclopedia of Cyprus, having lived here for years, he just always seems to know where to go.
After negotiating Cyprus’ version of Milton Keynes endless roundabouts, we headed down a side road and a well fenced secure cargo area. As we drove in around the back I said “this can’t be it, there’s not a soul in sight and it’s dark”. I’m not sure why I kept being reminded of movies but Die Hard 2 came into my thoughts again as a man came running from the darkening field behind us saying something I couldn’t quite catch but I think had the word ‘dog’ in it. Was this a prisoner exchange or a place where pets were stored waiting for their owners? Taz’s journey had started that morning at 6.20am where he had a last wee before being escorted into his travel kennel. It was now 5pm Cypriot time (3 o’clock UK). How was he doing? Michelle has already explained her own guilt complex in her blog michelledevitt.blogspot.co.uk, but we just wanted to see that he was alright now. The long haired man led us into a dark room and another corridor with a single light bulb to illuminate it and we emerged into a large hangar. On the far side I could see TV’s in boxes precariously stacked upon each other and just in front of us on the only trailer in this large expanse was a box I recognised. I heard a familiar whine and my stomach went through the floor. There he was, head bowed and desperate to see us. Michelle followed the man to an office and I headed over to see our fluff ball. I was not permitted to open his door and let him out so I was restricted to letting him lick my fingers through the grates in the cage. I just wanted to give him a mighty hug and say that I was sorry. A man stood next to me. “It’s been a long day” I said and then realised he didn’t speak a word of English (there goes the tumbleweed). Maybe he understood my big stretch as he gave me a grin. Taz carried on licking my hand and this man supervised me by smiling and nodding a lot like he was telling himself that he was doing a fine job.What was I going to do, make a run for it?
After another fifteen minutes where Michelle was asked to provide one more Euro (which we didn’t have and almost became a sticking point, Mick saved the day here) we undid the plastic and let a very unhappy, happy dog out. We gave him lots of love but this was Taz on caffeine. Locked up for hours when he has only ever known affection and caring, this had been a traumatic experience for him. He was everywhere and set a new Taz record for cocking his leg in one minute. The man who signed Taz off could not understand why we would transport a dog at that cost; pets are not held in the same regard by the Cypriots but we were now all together, bounding along a dark dual carriageway into our new unknown looking forward to basking in the thing that shall not be named that is keeping me warm this beautiful Friday morning.