I FLEW to Cyprus recently – my first visit for 58 years.
My mother turns 90 this summer and I’ve been checking out possibilities for a celebratory holiday. In the 1950s she was a radio presenter for the Forces Broadcasting Service in Nicosia, playing requests for the troops in what was then a British colony. Though at the time we were being shot at and blown up by Greek Cypriot terrorists, Cyprus was enchanting and provided one of the happiest times of my mother’s life – and of mine, as a little boy.
It’s been wrecked. The Greek part hardly merits getting out of your car for: Mindless, tasteless development everywhere. The Turkish part in the north keeps some of its sweetness but the coast (of such blissful memories to me) has been ruined by concrete: Worse even than the Costa Brava. Charm is such a fragile quality.
I determined to climb to the top of the beautiful Kyrenia mountains: Something my seven-year-old self always longed to do, if only Dad hadn’t been such a spoilsport. For five hours I followed footpaths upwards through banks of flowers, rock-roses, early poppies, wild geraniums, lilies, turpentine trees and birdsong; met nobody; felt somehow blessed to see hawks and a huge black snake; and was taken back to the Cyprus I loved. My climb was transfigurative.