Another section cut from the final draft of my new book, Running Up The Down Escalator, touches on our long-standing friendship with the March family, Americans who we met during our time in Cyprus in the 1950s – and have kept in touch with since.
One reason I have such an affection for our time in Cyprus was the March family. The father, Patrick, another Pat, was from Oregon, his ancestors having braved the rigors of the Oregon Trail—as had some members of the American side of Tim’s mother’s family.
Pat March would eventually become a rear admiral, but I remember him as accessible, kind, and warm. I had no idea then, at the height of the Cold War, that he spoke Russian, had a doctorate in Russian history, had flown electronic surveillance missions around the Iron Curtain,[i] and was now engaged in setting up American intelligence operations on the island.
We adored his wife, Saumie,[ii] and their daughters, Molly, Terry, and Peggy. Together, us in our sky-blue Jaguar 2.4, they in their gray Mercedes, we visited places like Kyrenia, where they had a second home on the waterfront, above a carob processing plant.
Together, we swarmed up St. Hilarion castle, where it is thought that Richard the Lionheart spent his honeymoon—and which later served Disney as a visual reference for the towering castle in his cartoon film, Snow White.
When Elaine and I returned to Cyprus in 2005, we found the old medieval jousting ground beneath the castle had been repurposed as a Turkish helicopter base.[iii]
Molly, when I think about it, has been my longest standing friend. We saw each other again when the Marches later moved to London, in our teenage years, and the three girls have regularly come to visit us in the Cotswolds and in London. I have a feeling that my love of surfing music, including Jan & Dean and The Beach Boys, can be tracked back to them.
One interesting connection via Molly was that she had a long-term relationship with Nick Hutchinson, son of the actress Peggy Ashcroft and the lawyer Jeremy Hutchinson, QC—who among many other things represented Christine Keeler after the Profumo scandal broke.[iv]
But such things were far from our minds at the time. In Nicosia, we preferred scrambling across the waste ground near our home where, if you lifted the edges of rusted sheets of corrugated iron, you would be rewarded with large centipedes, lizards, scorpions. At one point, our nanny, Aisha, opened the door to the washhouse—and released a flood tide of lizards we had been collecting, many having shed their tails en route.
I can hear her screams to this day.
[i] https://stationhypo.com/2020/01/16/remembering-radm-george-p-march-usn-32-commander-to-lead-naval-cryptologists/. See also: http://navycaptain-therealnavy.blogspot.com/2009/12/fair-winds-and-following-seas.html