chapter  6
Pages 15

Finding myself working in Cyprus briefl y, I thought I would track down a former teacher of mine who had retired out there to soak up the Mediter ranean sunshine. I managed to fi nd an address for him in a relatively new village development. Here were ranks of bungalows with manicured lawns and English gardens forming the image of an archetypal expatriate commun ity. I only had vague directions so I enquired of a gentleman tending to his roses. His manner and the way he held himself instantly told me that he had been in the army, and yes, he had been garrisoned on the island and had returned there when demobbed. Unfortunately he had not been there long, but helpfully he thought that ‘the colonel’ would know where the person I sought lived. And so I entered a world where I realised everyone was ranked by their former service status. Even civilians were cast into this order – my teacher, it appeared, had reinvented himself as the former headmaster of a minor public school; presumably this gave him entry into this hierarchy at a higher level than his real past as a teacher in a London comprehensive. I did not shatter this illusion or misunderstanding. But I found this all curious: status had nothing to do with wealth or individual personal qualities (the person in this case was one of the best teachers I have ever had); rather it was a given, based on rank. It was not up for negotiation. It all made me wonder about the life of veterans in Roman Britain and their contribution to the urban environment.