Work ended for me in September 2010 and for Liam a couple of months earlier. He used this time wisely as our planning guru, researching every last detail and concocting a bells and whistles financial model to ensure that our enterprise would not end in certain penury.
Naturally, our plans attracted its fair share of detractors. Moslem countries don’t exactly have a commendable record of tolerance, and since I dropped out of the womb screaming ‘I Am What I Am’, we could well be asking for trouble. I addressed this in my leaving do speech. ‘God knows,’ I said ‘why two openly gay men would want to live in a Muslim country with a dubious track record in sexual equality and an unenviable history of military coups. I shall simply insist that Liam wear a head scarf and walk three paces behind me at all times. Besides,’ I added ‘we’re not moving to Iran since we have no desire to be lynched from the nearest olive tree by the Revolutionary Guard.’ Nevertheless I accepted that Turkey provides a challenge to the free-spirited wishing to live unconventionally. Openly gay Turks in visible same sex relationships are as rare as ginger imams.
Having slipped from the shackles of the waged, we journeyed once again to Bodrum for an exploratory visit armed with a list of prerequisites. We determined that we would live in a fully serviced town that was open year round, we would find a house or flat with a sea view costing no more than £300 per month to rent, and we would live on a bus route so we could get along without a car. Easy.
We quickly decided not to live in Bodrum itself: too hot, too busy and too expensive. Besides, we were sold on the idea of views and space and Bodrum had neither within our price range. So, we spent our days exploring the surrounding area by dolmuş, the little minibuses that traverse the peninsula. Our final excursion was to the small town of Yalıkavak about 20kms north west of Bodrum. After leaving the main arterial highway lined with commercial developments reminiscent of a sun-drenched North Circular, we ascended into brittle shrubby hills along a gently winding road. The bus joined a long convoy of slow moving heavy vehicles that laboured towards a high pass framed by windmills. As we passed over the brow of the hill we became instantly captivated by a picture postcard view of Yalıkavak shimmering at the end of the lush valley below. Arriving in the lazy white-washed town, we alighted at the bus station and followed the modest crowd towards the centre. We strolled along the arresting little pedestrianised high street protected from the obstinate sun by huge white sails and toured the harbour to admire the gulets that bobbed playfully in the soft breeze. After the hassle and bustle of Bodrum, the calm and tranquillity was a timely indulgence. The Rough Guide described Yalıkavak as relentlessly gentrified. That’ll do us just fine.
As luck would have it, Liam had already researched some rental options and emailed one of the companies advertising on the net. We got a reply virtually immediately and arranged to meet Lorraine the next day back in Yalıkavak.
Lorraine got our number straight-away which appeared to thrill her no end. She seemed nice enough if a bit tarty in a footballer’s wife sort of way. She showed us a few apartments on her books, none of which hit the right spot. ‘OK,’ she said “I know what you boys would like” and made a quick phone call. A short while later we knocked on Clement’s door. As he beckoned us in his first words were ‘No kissing, I haven’t douched’. Walking into his sparking white reception room we gazed up and gasped at the double height room with a galleried walkway leading to a huge upper terrace. He served tea and gave us the grand tour. The place was enormous compared to my little Victorian terrace in Walthamstow and Clement had done it up lovely. His taste in décor was very IKEA/Habitat/Heals (delete according to budget), simple, tasteful and very us.
Once we had seen the show home, we viewed a nearby vacant house. Lorraine could smell a deal and explained that the rent was more than we budgeted for at £425 per month but included site fees (which helped pay for the gorgeous swimming pool). So, our rental limit was unceremoniously tossed aside like a used dish cloth. We had become utterly seduced by the chance of living in a detached villa with the most amazing, virtually unobstructed view of the Aegean and Greek islands in the far distance, we just didn’t care. We did the deal with the landlord and agreed Lorraine’s fees. Tepe House was to be our new home. We flew back to London to pack.