Back to Turkey

We were struck down with the dreaded lurgy over the festive period and it just went on and on. What’s a boy to do when he’s at his lowest ebb, snot-wise, and he needs to perk up the pansies? Book a holiday of course. And the holiday we booked is to Dalyan in southwest Turkey. We plan a week of R&R with a bit of sightseeing and beach-bumming thrown into the mix.

We all know about last month’s catastrophic earthquakes, which flattened large swathes of Turkey and Syria, killing tens of thousands. It’s truly heartbreaking. We got a small taste of it when we lived in Bodrum. It was just a minor tremor, no damage done, but it still sent us fleeing into the courtyard.

The recent disaster will put some people off visiting Turkey but I hope not too many. The last thing the country needs right now is yet another blow to the economy. As most tourist businesses are family-owned, it’s the ordinary folk who suffer the most.

The situation is desperate and will remain so for a long time to come. If you’d like to help, please give what you can. It all makes a difference. There are plenty of appeals out there to choose from. Here’s one in the UK:

Disasters Emergency Committee

On a lighter note, Dalyan is a long way from the disaster zone. This is how I described it in Postcards from the Ege, a tongue in cheek guide book I wrote many moons ago:

“Back in the day, Dalyan was a quaint and sleepy village on the banks of the Dalyan River. The town first hit the headlines in the mid-eighties when an international campaign successfully defeated a plan to develop the nearby Iztuzu Beach where endangered loggerhead turtles famously lay their eggs. Turtles and tourism now co-exist (just). The soft, white sand is well worth a visit but take a packed lunch, slap on total sunblock and don’t step on the eggs. You don’t want to be responsible for wiping out an entire species.”

And the nearby ruins of Kaunos:

“Stuck in the bog of the Dalyan river delta with a chronology dating back to the 9th century BC is Kaunos, a city lost in the vegetation for over 300 years. Originally a Carian settlement and now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the ruins are a jumble from different periods – Greek, Roman and Byzantine. Kaunos was a regional seaport of some note. However, like Ephesus, the silting of the harbour left the city high and dry and sealed its fate. The site is best reached by small boat from nearby Dalyan. You’ll gently put-put through the crystal-clear river past majestic reed beds belly dancing in the breeze. Today, the city is appreciated as much for the prolific wildlife as it is for the scattered stones. Also, as with Miletos, the surrounding swamp is particularly popular with holidaying mosquitoes. The city was finally abandoned in the 15th century following a malaria epidemic. You’ve been warned.”

The last time I was in Dalyan was over 25 years ago. I can’t wait to dip my toes in the warm waters of the Aegean again. I might even persuade Liam to take in a mud bath with me in a vain attempt to regain our long lost youth. Yes, this was me back in 1997. It didn’t work then either.

Inevitably, the resort will have changed but I hope not too much. I’ll keep you posted.

New Balls Please

New Balls Please

You’ve got to hand it to former Labour Party heavyweight, Ed Balls. After losing his seat to the Tories at the last general election, he’s been busy re-inventing himself in the most unexpected ways. Ed became something of a comic sensation on Strictly Come Dancing this year. His salsa to Gangnam Style is now legendary. The question of whether we were laughing with him or at him is a tad ungenerous. Balls had a ball and it was infectious. God knows, we could all do with a laugh right now. As a politician, he was rather dour, but Strictly had a definite humanising affect. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

Few people here realised Ed was a local boy until he became the Chairman of Norwich Football Club. ‘The Canaries’ are something of an obsession in this town, a devotion little rewarded on the pitch recently. Naturally, the newly-improved Balls was asked to switch on this year’s Christmas lights in front of the Art Déco finery of City Hall, and naturally, he couldn’t resist a salsa reprise with Santa. We also had the obligatory reverend wheeled out to remind us all that Christmas without Christ was just Marks and Spencer. As Norwich is one of the least religious cities in the land, I’m afraid the sermon flew over the heads of the kirk, literally as well as spiritually. Still, like many others, we’ll be hitting M&S for all our festive fancies.

When Ed pushed the button, we got something quite unexpected. My own snaps of the extravaganza turned out to be mostly rubbish, as usual. But I do like the one that makes it look like someone succeeded in doing what the Luftwaffe conspicuously failed to do.

I’ll leave it to the BBC to show you properly. (click below)…

look-east

Perking the Pansies

Perking the Pansies

Our hobbling tour of Bodrum was something of a boozy whirlwind and confirmed I can’t do multiple piss-ups anymore. It was season’s end with flight prices to match, but the interminable limp through Stansted was a brutalising experience when compared to our little local airport. Working to a slum-it budget, we bagged ourselves a hotel in Bodrum for eleven quid a night, breakfast included. Nothing much worked in our barrel-scraped digs but the family-run gaff was clean and convenient. This was the first time we had set foot on Turkish soil since we called time on our Anatolian adventure in 2012 and we were determined to make hay. Naturally, the wedding of the year was the main event but we also wanted to share a jar or two with some of our old muckers, so we pitched our standard on a Bodrum Beach and waited for battle to commence. The onslaught came in waves and after nine hours of friendly fire, talking ten to the dozen about everything under the moonlit sky, we staggered to the nearest taxi rank. A huge hand to all the Bodrum belles and beaus who really made our day. You know who you are.

These images are as blurred as our vision was by the end of the evening.

Of course, no trip back to Bodrum would have been complete without a reunion of the Sisterhood…

… the antidote to the VOMITing sickness that afflicts the many Shirley Valentines who wash up like driftwood on the beaches of Turkey. Many of the Sisters are reformed VOMITs who’ve been through the ringer, some more than once, but have emerged to tell the tale stronger and wiser. The Sisters stick together (like birds of a feather), because men are rubbish.

Expat Glossary

So after a day trip down memory lane along Turkey Street (more of this later), we joined the Sisterhood in Musto.

Musto was top of our list and sat in a prime location on Marina Boulevard opposite the smart shopping parade. Its handsome young owner, Mustafa the Magnificent, was second cousin to our landlady and a generous and convivial host. The eponymous Mustafa learned his trade at Sünger, his uncle’s legendary pizza parlour, a place that had been dishing up margheritas to the sailing squad since the early seventies. Unlike some of his rivals, Mustafa never resorted to pressganging people in from the street. He courted the emigrey crowd with Italian seasoning, palatable wine, affordable prices and generous yolluks. It was a formula that attracted swarms of discerning diners, even out of season.

Turkey Street

mustoMusto has expanded considerably since our last visit, though I’m pleased to say the menu and ambience remain special. Back in the day, regular meetings of the Sisterhood always kept the pansies perked, particularly during the chilly winter months when Bodrum life was as a slow as pond water. Thank you Doc, Jess and Victoria.

There was a distinct autumnal nip when we got back to Norwich and the heating went on for the first time since the spring. A day or two later, Liam departed for London on family duties so I sank into the sofa to watch an ancient episode of Midsomer Murders on ITV3 with my carcinomic ankle resting on a Swedish pouffe. I was unsettled. We thought our trip back to Bodrum would be our swansong. Now I’m not so sure. Despite challenging political times, Turkey has worked her magic all over again. Blimey.

bodrum-beach

More Postcards from Gran Canaria

More Postcards from Gran Canaria

Following last week’s delivery from the Royal Mail, here’s the second batch of postcards to land on the mat.

Mad Pedro

The staff in our global holiday village are delightful, particularly Pedro, our mad barman. He services us with charm and generosity and rings his little bell every time he gets a tip. It’s like a royal wedding at Westminster Abbey when we’re around and the bigger the tip we give, the bigger the drink we get. As Pedro said to Liam:

Ah, you Engleesh with your happy hour. It’s always happy hour in Pedro’s bar!

Loose Talk

Regular readers will know I’m a dedicated eavesdropper. Here’s a small selection:

And I’ll tell you one thing for nothing. As soon as I get home, I’m back on the tramadol.

 

 We went tut Benidorm in January. It were great. We ‘ad beach to ourselves.

Oh. How come?

It were rainin’.

 

Me son’s got an apartment in Bulgaria.

Nice. Wotsit like?

Cheap but those Bulgarians…you wouldn’t trust ‘em.

 

Of course, we normally go to Goa, don’t we Jean? All-in for a tenner a day – and that includes two packs of fags and enough booze to sink the Ark Royal.

A Yumbo Cocktail

We’re just a short mince from the Yumbo Center, the largest of the many tacky shopping and entertainment centres dotted about Playa Del Ingles. As I wrote back in 2012 after our last trip…

The Yumbo Center is the throbbing epicentre of gay Canarian low-life. The Yumbo is a naff treat for all the senses, a crumbling multi-layered open air shopping and sex emporium. It started to fall apart as soon as it was built (some twenty five years ago). By day, it’s an over-sized pound shop patronised by ancient slow-lane Germans in busy shirts and socked sandals. But, at the stroke of midnight, the racks of tat are wheeled away, the garish bars throw open their doors and the entire place is transformed into a gaudy cacophonous neon-lit cess-pit of drunken debauchery.

Gran Canaria Sex Emporium

It was one of my most popular posts ever. Can’t think why. Strangely, we’ve only ventured into the Yumbo Center once so far – and then only during the day to do a bit of shopping for that must-buy momento. The venues come and go but the place never really changes – apart from the newly installed lift for the mobility-challenged. It’s true, we did stop for a daiquiri or two – for old time’s sake and to survey the footfall. Our immediate neighbours were an over-waxed Franco-German gay couple with plucked brows, precision beards and perfect pecs. They could have been separated at birth. Must be like shagging a mirror. When they weren’t fiddling with their iPhones (to check Grindr, presumably), they communicated in Globalish*. Our barman was pretty. And pretty useless. Just like every gay bar around the world.

yumbo-centre

Geordie Shore

Mercifully, the heatwave has broken. I’d started to lose the plot and I was a hair’s breath away from garrotting the leathery old early birds who always get the brollies. With plunged temperatures, Liam bundled me out of the apartmentos for an excursion to Puerto de Mogán, a marina resort on the south-west coast of the island. We went by public transport, by far the easiest way to get around. Naturally, the bus stop was like a multi-national rugby scrum. You’d think people were fleeing a war zone. Why do we Brits bother queueing?

Set on a steep-sided valley, Puerto de Mogán is built in faux Spanish colonial style and very pretty it is too. But the epithet ‘Venice of the Canaries’ is over-egging the pudding a bit. There’s just the one ‘canal’ – more of a creek really. Still, we ate tapas in a lovely marinaside restaurant followed by coffee and cake in an inviting backstreet bakery. The port’s like a mini version of Bodrum in look and feel, particularly with the dripping, multi-coloured bougainvillea. Sadly, the relaxed ambience was marred by a gang of pissed-up Geordies stalking the streets and waving empty Peroni bottles. My dad was a Geordie. He’d be spinning in his urn.

Back to Bodrum

All in all, it’s been a splendid week, with batteries, scent and cigs (for my mother) recharged. Next trip: back to Bodrum for the wedding of the year. Now that really is something to write home about.

*Globalish is the cut-down version of English used by air traffic controllers, international conferences and dating apps which is totally lacking in elegance, colour, nuance or wit.

Dirty Weekend

Dirty Weekend

What better way to celebrate our ‘salt’ wedding anniversary than a trip to the seaside for a dirty weekend? We were chauffeured to Gorleston-on-sea in decadent style by a pair of old Norwich rascals (you know who you are), necking fizz all the way in the back of their Mercedes Benz. Our luxurious room with a sea view came courtesy of my sister and the celebratory bottle of red on the Cliff Hotel terrace came courtesy of Liam.

Mother Nature, a contrary old bag round these parts, was in a bright mood for a change so we were all set for fun on the sand and frolics in the boudoir. The rest I leave to your vivid imagination.

Alas, we were four months too late to catch a performance of ‘Sindaz’ the adult panto, giving a whole new meaning to the line, ‘he’s behind you’.

SindazSo we squandered a few quid in the penny arcade instead. And what did we get for our coppers? A cuddly toy, obviously. We called him Gallstone.

Gallstone