The British writer and traveller W. H. Mallock stayed at Government House in 1889 as the guest of Sir Henry Bulwer, and was lucky enough to observe a social occasion:
In spite of its English architecture, Government House abounded in quaint sights and incidents. Chief amongst these were certain formal banquets given to prominent natives. A few English officials were always invited also; but they only heightened the bizarre effect of the others. Sometimes there was a Turkish night, sometimes there was a Greek night, and alternately the table seemed to flicker with turbans and to be surrounded with fez caps like a border of red poppies. As few of the Greeks and not one of the Turks were able to speak a single word of English, it might be supposed that conversation would not flourish. On the contrary, I have rarely known it busier, and for this reason: half the remarks made had to be committed to an interpreter, who first understood them wrongly, then had them explained to him, and finally passed them on to the person to whom they were addressed. Thus one platitude about the weather did duty for several and the loaves and fishes of small talk which each guest brought with him, by this happy arrangement were multiplied threefold.
As for the interpreters, they cannot be praised too highly. They were seated at the sides of the two ends of the table, like croupiers at Monte Carlo, and whenever an observation was hazarded or placed, so to speak, on the cloth, they raked it in, making it sound as they did so, and adroitly transferred it to the person to whom it was addressed. Pondering over my first night at Government House, I felt that my first evening was rather flat as an incident of life in a remote country. If the rooms had not all of them opened into a verandah and their ceilings rose at a sharp angle into the roof, I might almost have fancied that Cyprus had been a dream, from which I had just awoke and found myself disappointed in England. The walls were covered with familiar English papers. The carpets, though Eastern, had been most of them bought in London and suggested nothing but civilized English life; and the chairs, the sofas and the books that littered the tables had somehow an air of being within a day’s journey of Piccadilly and the Governor himself too, Mayfair seemed to enter the room with him...It all disturbed my sense of visionary seclusion. Finally, the dining room and the dinner – English in every particular excepting the presence of two Oriental footmen – came like a veil between me and the city of minarets and the myrtle-scented mountains whose breath I had been breathing above Kyrenia.
The 'What I Saw...' series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus) and the Active Citizens Fund.