Jim Henry - A lifetime's odyssey
Jim joined the RAF as a Squadron Leader just after the war. He served in parts of Africa and several places in the Middle East. When he retired in the 1970s, he’d reached the rank of Group Captain.
Domestic Arrangements and Batting
While Jim was in the RAF, he was entitled to the services of a batman who was a sort of personal assistant. While in married quarters, the batwoman came in to clean etc. The batwoman in Locking prefaced everything with “The Wing Commander…”
The territory of Cyprus is divided, the Northern part ruled by Turkey (and recognised officially only by Turkey) and the Southern part is the Republic of Cyprus ruled by Greek Cypriots.
For years there was always a rumour in Cyprus that the Turks were coming and in 1974 they did come. The UN have had forces there for years policing the line between the two communities. A colleague of Jim’s in the medical centre when they were organising the evacuation said to him, “I’m greatly consoled by the thought that the Turks can’t possibly know what we’re doing – because WE don’t know what we’re doing!”
The first house the Henry family stayed in was in a part of the Sovereign Base Area in Episkopi called Kensington. There hadn’t been married quarters available in the area considered more appropriate to Jim’s rank but he was more interested in having the family close at Christmas than worrying about the address.
On the first morning, after Jim had left for work, a knock came to the door and a woman called Tevideh was standing there with a cactus plant bearing a red flower, a present for May. Tevideh, or Davina, as we mistakenly called her at first, was the “bat woman”. At first when she answered the phone she used to immediately replace the receiver which meant that nobody ever knew who had called. Jim did not ask her to change this practice for quite some time, it seemed to suit him well!
After a few days May noticed that she was stripping every bed, all seven of them, every day. Her previous employer had insisted on it.
The following summer the family home was in Paramali, an all together grander affair. The batwoman’s surname here was Sophocles which amused the family greatly. But while she obviously liked drama, and was quite bossy – she used to change the radio station when Jim’s son Edmund was listening to Turkish music – Georgie Sophocles did not like the way her boss actually insisted on the gardener following the water restrictions. (to save water, one couldn’t use a hose before a certain hour in the evening.) One thing led to another and Georgie had to go. Luckily Tevideh was available and came back to bat, along with her fiancé Mehmet. Georgie was Greek and Tevideh was Turkish but fortunately there were no international repercussions.
Sadly, Tevideh and her family fled the island and came to London because of the political upheaval.
There was a cat that came with the second house and it was surprisingly discovered that the Cypriot cats liked water – to drink and to play in.