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Pole to Pole

Day 50: Limassol and Akrotiri

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleIn reality things have changed quite a bit. The garrison at Akrotiri has been reduced to 1500 from a peak of 5000. There is concern that the Turks and the Greek Cypriots may patch up their quarrel and the three bases the British still have on the island could be the first casualties of rapprochement.

Our papers checked, we are escorted onto the base past a weather bulletin board on which is scribbled the chalk message 'Cyprus will have a public holiday on the first day of rain'. A cricket match is in progress between a Youth XI and a Veterans XI, though how they can play in this heat, and on grass watered with recycled sewage, is beyond me. There is no alleviating breeze here, just air so thick with humidity it practically bubbles. But being British means not letting that sort of thing worry you, and during the interval the teams are tucking into cream buns and cups of hot tea as though it were a spring day in Hove. I ask one of the Veterans if he felt he'd lost much weight out there.

'Oh, about seven bottles of Carlsberg.'

The talk is mostly of sport rather than fighting, though the base had been on full alert during the Gulf War five months previously, when an extra 400 medical staff were drafted in to deal with expected casualties. The men I speak to regard Cyprus as a good 'tour' but some of the women are less keen. Because many of the civilian jobs on the base are open to local Cypriots, the forces wives find it very hard to get work, and life, after the initial euphoria over the sun, sea and sand, can become very routine. As one of them said with feeling, 'All you can do here is have babies'.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 50
  • Country/sea: Cyprus
  • Place: Akrotini
  • Book page no: 112

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