Turkey, a Land for All Seasons

Turkey, a Land for All Seasons

I was weeding out my files recently and came across a few articles I wrote for On the Ege Magazine back in the day. Memories of glory days long past came flooding back. Sadly, the magazine is no more. So to preserve my witterings for posterity, I’ve decided to re-post them. Feel free to switch channels now. This first post features the cycle of the seasons, a national obsession for us Brits.

Turkey, a Land for All Seasons

The parade of storms that recently rolled into town was a reminder (if one was needed) that Turkey is a land enjoying proper, melodramatic seasons. Here on the Aegean coast we spend six months too hot, six months too cold and six months just about right. We first arrived in Turkey to find our new foster home bathed in a glorious Indian summer and we were lulled into a false sense of meteorological security. Within a month, the pitiless winter was upon us and we were woefully unprepared. We were mugged by a posse of violent electric storms processing over the horizon, a savage spectacle crashing ashore and trapping us inside for days. The rainbows, though, were stunning.

Turkish winters mean business. Prodigious pulses of horizontal rain cluster-bomb every crack and cranny, forcing water under every window frame and beneath every threshold. Towels are requisitioned to ebb the relentless flow. Staying warm is a challenge. Think pre-central heating childhood days when a bed was too cold to get into at night and too warm to get out of in the morning. We sprint to the loo for a morning pee, wear sexless layers and revert to copulating under cover. They don’t mention that in the guide books.

Video courtesy of Euro News. This was the now legendary flash flood that overwhelmed Bodrum in 2015. Miraculously, the old stone cottage we used to rent survived the onslaught with not so much as a dribble. 

The short, sharp winter gradually gives way to a wonderful warm renaissance. Spring in Turkey is a magical time of  year, nature-wise. The hills seem to blossom overnight with a riot of flamboyant flora blanketing the usually arid scrub. We awake from our enforced hibernation, dust down our flip-flops and freshen our speedos. Smiles get broader as trousers get shorter. It’s a brief respite before the unforgiving sun burns the landscape back to its usual two-tone hue of dull green and ochre.

As the mercury marches inevitably upwards, summer slaps us about the face like a merciless wet flannel. By August, varnish peels off window sills, the upper floor of our house becomes a fan-assisted oven and sofas radiate heat like embers from a dying grate. We move slowly, a pair of damp vampires only venturing out between the hours of sunset and dawn – except when we get the chance to mess about in boats, that is.

This too passes and falling temperatures herald our Goldilocks season – not too hot, not too cold. At last, the wilting wilts. We retake possession of our town and watch the hordes climb aboard the last flight home. Bodrum in autumn is in an easy, relaxed mood. Hassle from the press gangs reduces to bearable levels and itinerant workers join the long caravans travelling back east to their winter pastures. Beware, though. Nothing lasts. Winter waits menacingly out at sea.

But What Are They Eating?

But What Are They Eating?

Author Shelley Workinger runs a blog that provides a unique approach to book promotion – food and the consumption thereof. My expanding waistline is evidence enough of my love of all things culinary, so I bit her hand off to get featured.

Turkish cuisine is justifiably famed as one of the world’s greatest. The Sultan’s table overflowed with extravagant bounty from the vast Ottoman domains that once stretched across three continents. The empire may be history, but food – preparing it, eating it, sharing it – is still of enormous cultural importance to all Turks regardless of status and income. So it’s small wonder the simple act of eating plays a starring role in both of my memoirs, Perking the Pansies and its sequel, Turkey Street. Here’s a soupçon…

More…

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

Once more round the sun and it’s that time again to look back at the top of the pansy crop. For some reason, matters medical and mortality caught the imagination this year. On a happier note, stepping back in time to renew old acquaintances and bear witness to vows ’til death they do part also proved popular. So ladies and gents, I give you…

A Manifesto for Life | Back to Bodrum | Perking the Pansies | It’s All Double Dutch to Me | Victoria  Wood, RIP | Scarred for Life | Postcards from Gran Canaria | See the Tree, How Big It’s Grown  | A Pain in the Arse | David Bowie, Starman

And then there were the year’s three most popular images. Really, have you no shame?

 

 

 

See the Tree, How Big it’s Grown

See the Tree, How Big it’s Grown

When Liam and I first pitched our yurt in Anatolia, we bought an olive sapling in John’s memory and put it in a patio pot. It did remarkably well and bore fruit in the first year – a lean harvest but a harvest nonetheless. After we decided to wade back to Blighty, I asked Annie of Back to Bodrum fame if she would take care of John’s little twig in her Bodrum garden.  Annie went one better and offered a sunny spot in the olive grove of her fabulous country pile.

From Little Acorns…

Four years on and the wedding of the year presented the perfect opportunity to check on John’s tree. Little more than a twig when it was transplanted to Annie’s field, it now stands tall as a strapping sapling, framed in chicken wire to protect it from nibbling cattle.

The first snap is courtesy of Elaine Akalin.

Thank you, Teo, for planting it. You did all the sweaty work while all I did was pat it down like the Queen at an opening. And thank you, Annie, for taking such good care of it.  I’m not religious at all but a part of me hopes Teo and John popped a cork and shared a bottle on the big day.

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

Back to Bodrum

Back to Bodrum

Picture it, May 2012, a stone cottage in the centre of old Bodrum Town. With the house cleared and our bags packed, a young lady popped by to say farewell and to make a confession. Heart all a-flutter, she said,

I’ve just met a boy I really like. He’s called Celal but I’m worried Dad won’t approve.

The young lady in question was Esi Onursan. Readers may know of her mother, Annie, author of Back to Bodrum, the wonderful blog about the everyday life of a Bodrum returnee. As Annie herself put it…

In early 1982 I boarded a Turkish Kibris flight to Izmir – my destination was a 29 foot sloop in Bodrum’s new marina. At 22, my belongings fitted into a worse for wear sailing holdall. In 2012 I made a similar journey from Heathrow to Bodrum. Thirty years have passed and Bodrum has changed.

You can say that again.

bodrum castle4

Picture it, October 2016, a country pile on the outskirts of Mumcular…

…surrounded on three sides by an arc of dense pine-forested hills and on the fourth, a swimming pool overlooked a dusty olive grove. The house itself was centred round a striking dome-capped circular room, an architectural nod to the traditional yurts used by ancestral Turkic tribes as they migrated west from the Asian Steppes.

As I wrote in Turkey Street.

Esi was about to marry Celal, the boy she thought her father wouldn’t approve of. It was the perfect day for an alfresco wedding. Mother Nature, an unpredictable old bag during autumn, smiled benevolently. The guests gathered, the I dos were brief but perfectly formed and the newlyweds were drenched in petals of purple bougainvillea. Esi glowed and Celal beamed. Breaking with tradition, the village world and his wife were not invited. No doubt, tongues will wag for months to come. Instead, the congregation was selected, Brit-style. Annie provided a generous table and bottomless wine cellar. We ate, we drank and we made merry with friends old and new under the canopy of a small copse delicately decorated in lace and silk. Speeches were pointed and poignant. This was a bittersweet wedding. Esi’s father, Teo, wasn’t there to give her away. He had died a few months earlier.

But not before giving his approval.

Here are a few images that caught my eye from the hundreds on Facebook.

Every Dog Has Its Day

Every Dog Has Its Day

Playa Del InglesLiam works like a dog and every dog must have its day in the sun. And where better to laze round a sun-kissed pool lapping up a large glass of chilled white than the island named after man’s best friend? So we’ve picked up a last minute bargain to Gran Canaria, flying from our very own little international airport right here in Norwich. Liam and I are well acquainted with the volcanic rock that is Gran Canaria. It’s been a firm favourite with the fairies for decades now.  It was in 2012 that we last rolled out the sun towels there. At the time I wrote:

Now I’m older, wiser and firmly married, I’m content to observe the boozin’ and cruisin’ from the safety of a bar stool and shady sun bed. Notes will be taken and reports will be written. No doubt the odd geriatric German will wave his crumpled old do-da at us on the beach, flopping out from a well-clipped grey bush. My wrinkly old British do-da will remain safely under wraps.

Jack and Liam Go to Gran Canaria

So you can imagine what it’s like. According to Going Local in Gran Canaria by Matthew Hirtes, that nasty old fascist, General Franco, banished gay soldiers to the island which may explain the island’s evergreen appeal to the rainbow brigade. A place of exile is something Gran Canaria has in common with Bodrum, a place which…

…has always provided refuge to the exiled and the unorthodox…

As I mentioned in Turkey Street.

And talking of Bodrum, we’re popping over in October to attend a wedding, so some good news coming out of Turkey for a change. Salud!