Cyprus was hit by a series of powerful economic shocks in the second decade of the 21st century.
Under the combined assault of Northern European vindictiveness, under the emerging Dijsselbloem Empire’s ritorno alla terra austerity programme and considerable domestic fumbling of the ball the plucky Mediterranean nation languished under a mountain of debt and decaying real estate for some years.
Desalination plants lay idle and the luxury marina at Limassol, once promoted as a low-tax playground for Russian oligarchs, filled with sand and became an important turtle breeding site. But abundant rains produced bumper crops in the island’s agricultural heartlands. And landless young people reclaimed the famous Aphrodite’s Hills resort determined to find shade, if not wealth, in new carob orchards producing Locust Bean Gum (LBG) for Knorr Homestyle Stock (TM).
The island seemed destined to quietly live out its declining, sun-drenched days, eking a living from the trade in cut-price higher education, medical tourism, its re-opened copper and asbestos mines and a certain take-off in solar powered energy. The Sunni-Shia wars ravaging the Middle East also brought in a bedraggled and seemingly endless stream of UN peacekeepers for R&R and refugees with little money to spend.
But just as the sense of lassitude and despair that reigned like a thick and chocking fog on the island seemed destined to last forever things, miraculously, changed.
A day dawned in March 2017 more pellucid, crystalline and brilliant than anyone could remember. A gentle north-easterly breeze fluttered newly formed leaves and wafted the scent of a million mountain wild flowers through the dazzling air. Zephyrs blowing down Makarios Avenue in the early hours lifted and twirled the discarded grubby betting slips of the island’s youth caught between the implacable pincers of Bet Far and Bet Fed.
A lone red Mercedes hybrid coupe panted silently at the traffic lights at the long-closed Debenhams department store on the Avenue. A cloaked and bowed figure emerged from the low slung epitome of German know-how and ostentation and placed itself in the middle of the town’s great, but now traffic-less, junction.
The figure tossed back his hood to reveal a gaunt face and an unkempt head of thinning hair. The man, for it was one, raised himself up and looked to the sky (it really was glorious day, as a passing British tourist muttered) and began to speak. In a deep and sonorous voice the bewitching figure proclaimed,
Peoples of Cyprus, I have watched your suffering from afar. I have witnessed the collapse of your banks, the decline of your dam architects department, and the
fall of your thrice-yearly cost of living increases.
I have suffered with you as your young and gifted have left their homeland to slave in the fleshpots of Berlin and London, Sydney and Singapore. I have prayed for you as if you were my own and prayed too for a small slice of your Church’s land rights and real estate to fill my somewhat diminished coffers which I foolishly converted from a Greek subsidiary coffer to a Cyprus branch company coffer in 2011 much to my chagrin.
From my high purchase in Troodhos fastnesses I have summoned rain for your fields and gas for your pipes. And now I am come, people of Cyprus, to walk amongst you, to know you and witness your suffering for I am Pefkos, gender reassigned son of Aphrodite, the beholden one, the magnificent, the unbending, the inscrutable, the bewildering.
People of Cyprus I have been called from a long and troubled sleep by my mother, Aphrodite, the Wanassa, the Astarte, the Ishtar, the Baal, the Eshmoun, the Reshef, the Mikal, the Melqart, the Bes, the Ptah, the Hathor, the Thoeri and Shed to walk amongst you to spread the word of hope and to bandy the message
of salvation and to lead you to the sacred ground of regeneration high in the hills of Troodhos, between the ageless villages of the Krasochoria, hard by the township of Kalo Chorio, to the place
I dwell where the old and new roads to the High Troodhos cross at the inscrutable land of the lost that is Pefkos Junction, that great trackless waste more inscrutable than the Sphynx, more
unknowable than the Minotaur’s dark and stinking lair. There, at the great highway planners' kataklysmos shall we meet in three days hence. Fail me not.
Gather up your light belongings (particularly your ipods and tablets) oh people of Cyprus and follow me.
With that began the great 21st century epic of the Cypriot people (and quite a few curious but somewhat aloof Brits) that was to become known in folk song and celebrated in Lefkara silk hangings as ‘The Long March (with meze and Ipods and tablets and smart phones) to Pefkos Junction.’
Funnily enough, and despite all expectations, this bizarre and hysterical incident marked a turning point in the island people’s fortunes.
Gas flowed in ever-greater quantities from the wells in the Levant Basin. Huge furnaces constructed along the Limassol-Larnaca littoral turned out a genetically modified Locust Bean Gum from the islands revivified Carob plantations with amazing adhesive and gelling qualities.
A new breed of agri-nutritionists trained at the thriving University of Pyla (once part-owned by a Brit college but now in the gentle hands of the Neophytos Christoforas New Light Corporation) developed a world-beating product. Combining hydrocolloidal polysaccharides and their component galactose and mannose units in new constellations the top scientists of the island discovered a remarkable ‘happy gum’.
Working in close collaboration with a subversive cold-storage logistics chain this brightly packaged and blameless confectionairy was shipped ever northward, through the Cyclades and via Thessaloniki up through Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia to agents in the city of Trieste. Diced and sliced into tasty Halloumi samples the 'happy gum' was infiltrated through the Alpine passes to Austria and Germany and taken into great meetings of dignitaries in Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt and Brussels.
Such was the euphoric power of this now defunct and banned gum that it bestowed great happiness on those who imbibed it. The ‘Chewchums’ as they were known,
were overcome with generosity and a benign and empathetic outlook (and a strange, almost murderous, craving for more of the stuff).
It was not long before a new fleet of state-of-the-art cruise ships had been built in Greek shipyards ringing with peel of happy workers' laughter to carry the great and the good to Cyprus to seek out its 'happy gum' and the myriad varieties to be sampled in the 14 Chewmandaria villages in the carob-clad hills of Limassol district.
Disaster, of course, was always in the wings for poor Cyprus and Emperor Dijsselbloem, driven mad by the loss of his power and influence, joined forces with his great rivals to the East. On March 24th 2020, a date long-celebrated by the Court as the ‘Night of the Long Templates’, the Emperor and his new allies issued a decree at 23.55 hours banning the 'Happy Gum' business model of the island on the pretext that it was ‘too productive of real and enduring well-being and happiness'. (See ECFinMinMinute/EmpDijss/Bruss240320/happygum/businessmodel/end.pdf)
Within days assets had been seized and gas supplies turned off. The great furnaces were left to grow cold and the magnificent forests of carob were thrown to the ground with fiendish Finnish forestry equipment.
The last rallying call
Mortally wounded and severely weakened, Pefkos-J or 'The Jayman Isle', as he was now known, uttered his last rallying call to the cowed but defiant people of Cyprus,
‘Cyprus and Cypriots you are tough and adaptable people. You are now again as you ever were used to the shocks imposed on you from outside and within. You will recover even from this but it will take much resolve, and result in much hardship, before it is over. God go with you.
And remember to keep to the left and follow the signs for 'Zoopigi' or you’ll end up in that bloody garden centre at Pefkos Junction.
Adieu my bright island nation. Adieu my proud and noble people. ’
And with that he and the brief #Carob Renaissance died.
Written late into the night as details of the second bailout deal unfolded. March 25th 2013.