Another day, another painful nip and tuck to the manuscript of Turkey Street. ‘Nice story,’ Liam had said at the time. ‘Cut it.’ Naturally, I complied, unable to bear another hangdog look from my taskmaster. So, ladies and gents, I give you the barber’s tale, ripped from the heart of Turkey Street before it went off to the publishers – Sweeney Todd minus the music, the murder and the meat pies.
I used the phrase ‘clip joint’ on a post a little while ago and the words brought back distant memories of an old flame long since extinguished. He crimped for his supper. A bit of a gay cliché I know but he did have his own salon. He called it ‘Clip Joint’ and it was a good little earner down Wandsworth Town way. We stepped out for about 18 months and had some naughty fun until my fickle crimper discovered line dancing and a South African clone. They wore matching tight-cropped beards and dosey doe’d down the aisle. I moved on to lusher pastures and Clip Joint moved up to Nob Hill, rebranded as Alan Foster Hair Design. I heard he bought a detached gaff with en-suite swimming pool. Alan deserves his success. He has talented hands and there’s money to be made in curly perms.
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While looking for a new gaff to lay our hats we boxed and coxed with trunks in tow. Some of our time was spent with Liam’s folks in Edmonton, North London. The area has a strange familiarity, and not for the obvious reasons. As a world city, London is used to migration and transience. London is what it is because of it. Centuries of settlement and resettlement have reinvented and re-invigorated the city in an endless cycle of renewal. This constant shift in the cultural cityscape is not without its challenges but it is always enriching.
Forty years ago Edmonton was host to a thriving Irish community. Catholicism, the craic and the tricolour dominated the local scene. Forty years on, next generation Irish have moved up and out leaving a rump of the old who are slowly dying off. Nature abhors a vacuum; as the Irish up sticks to greener pastures, Turks fill the spaces in between. Of course, Turkish people are no strangers to London. The colonial connection to Cyprus established Turkish and Greek communities, now decades old. The partition of Aphrodite’s troubled isle following the 1974 Turkish invasion helped to bolster numbers on both sides of the Cypriot divide. Ironically, both communities live cheek-by-jowl in a way that is no longer possible on Cyprus itself. They don’t exactly mix but neither do they growl at each other from opposite sides of a thin blue line. When I lived in Walthamstow, my local convenience store was run by Turks and my greying hair was clipped by the Greek barber next door. I wisely avoided the Cypriot question while Stavros wielded a cut-throat razor.
Back in Edmonton, the ethnic influx is of a different kind. Recent immigrants tend to hail from Turkey itself rather than Cyprus. This has introduced a more traditional feel to the area. Grubby old pubs that were dying on their feet have been turned into colourful restaurants and locked-up shops have been given a new lease of life as tea houses. There’s even a branch of Doğtaş – a well-known (and horribly gaudy) Turkish home furnishings chain – in the local shopping centre. It’s all brought a new vibrancy to the vicinity. Unfortunately, as well as a fresh new Anatolian look, the Turks have also imported their truly terrible driving habits. Lollipop ladies leap for their lives.
It’s Sod’s Law. As soon we decide to paddle back to Blighty on the evening tide to become country yokels, two things happen to make life in battered Bodrum just that little bit easier and that little bit cheaper.
First off, the Town’s highways and byways are being laid with fibre optic cables. A battalion of dusky, sweaty vested navvies is carving out mini-trenches along every street. The deep furrows are being backfilled badly and dribbled with lumpy tarmac. In some of the crazy paving alleys, zigzagging troughs look like hastily repaired earthquake cracks.
The project is a joint venture between Super Online (internet) and Turkcell (mobile phone). Fibre optic cables provide a much faster and more reliable internet experience and the new service will give the current whore’s drawers service from TTNET (Turk Telekom) a run for its money. Who knows, it may even drive down prices. I hear there are also plans for cable TV in the pipeline. Oh, what joy: the chance to tell Digiturk (Satellite broadcaster) where to shove their overpriced packages.
And so to the second piece of good news. Dolly drivers on the flat fare blue-liveried bus routes now charge us the tariff usually reserved for locals (2 lira instead of 2.75 as advertised in English). It’s only taken two years. Sadly, we’ve yet to get the local rate at cute Ali’s barbers for our one-round-the-side-two-on-the-top crops. He’s worth it though. Even without the ‘extras’.
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To my eternal shame, I’ve never been to Oz. Liam, has. He loved it and wanted to stay. Forever. He even considered re-training as a hairdresser to gain enough points to emigrate (crimpers were in short supply at the time, apparently). From civil servant to coiffeur would have made a dramatic career change. He thought better of it when he realised it was a gay cliché too far. That was before he met me, of course.
More at stop two on my virtual book tour. Hop over to Gidday from the UK.
One advantage of living in hair dryer heat is rapidly dried laundry. Our smalls that are strung low so as to not offend our neighbours are dried in a flash, sheets flap gently to an instant arid crispness and towels desiccate in a jiffy. Direct sun is not required as a breezy Turkey in August is like an open air tumble dryer. Not that there is much washing to dry since we wander round in only loose cotton shorts in a vain attempt to avoid a nasty rash in our sweaty nether regions. Perhaps we should emulate the locals by getting a back, sack and crack wax. I wonder if our local barber would oblige?
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I’d like to give a big hand to Natalie, author of the Turkish Travel Blog. Natalie kindly invited me to be one of the contributors to her splendid post on Anatolian wonders in words and pictures. Her eclectic selection evokes some of the best that Turkey has to offer to the curious traveller, from magnificent high drama to the gloriously humdrum.
My pretentious piece describes Bodrum Otogar (bus station), a modern day kervanseray where nose to nipple dolmüslar vie for space and custom. I wrote:
To imagine daily Turkish life think of sweet baked sesame seed simit stalls, lemon scenting cut throat barbers, piercing purveyors of rapid kebabs, entrepreneurial pantaloon’d grannies on the make, baffled travellers lost in Left Luggage, mobs of weary eastern boys bussed hither and thither, carefree western girls shocking the eye, sallow sightseers with brats in caps and tea sipping cabbies dropping off in the sweaty midday sun. This magnificent entrepôt of the exotic and the ordinary is a typically Turkish tussle and bustle of commotion and chaos.
Take the look at Natalie’s delicious box of Turkish delights here.