There’s been a fun discussion on Adventures in Ankara following a post about car parking in Turkey. I’ve written before about the sheer insanity of driving in Turkey as have many, many others. It’s a story that just runs and runs. It seems de riguer for death wish drivers to dart along pot-holed roads, jump lights and overtake on blind bends while happily playing with their overused horns. Indicating is for girls. This is all hard-wired into the Turkish macho psyche. The Adventures in Ankara post and ensuing debate reminded me of a recent conversation I had with Aziz, the owner of Jack’s Bar, a favourite watering hole of ours. We were supping and chewing the cud when a call came through to his head waiter. He was told he’d passed his driving test. Naturally, there was a round of rapturous applause, a celebratory jig, multiple back slapping and drinks all round (like I need an excuse). Aziz had been helping his young apprentice with driving lessons.
“Great news, ” I said to Aziz. “Now he can go out on his own.”
“No, Jack. He can’t drive yet,” came the inscrutable reply.
Bodrum’s radical urban overhaul is almost complete save for a few rough edges that will be completed next year (or sometime never). I took afternoon liquid refreshments at Bodrum’s organic deli, a great place from where to people watch. Their natural fare is even more delicious during happy hour when a glass of white costs only 4 lira a shot. The tubby waiter with precision hairdo, George Clooney eyes and Russell Crowe features serviced me silently with charm and grace.
I watched Bodrum life pass by in all its ambling majesty. The strolling likely lads with their grand gelled tresses and baffling stares promenaded along the promenade, stopping to check their reflections in the porthole mirrors of Helva Bar. I watched the Helva bar boys wash down the floors in anticipation of a profitable night’s innings from the urban elite and the Ukrainian prostitutes who silently ply their trade among them. A rainbow of cars cruised by from Nissan tanks to clapped-out Fiats. Happy-clappy kids played hide and seek in the play school playground opposite. Sunny Cabaret was provided by Bodrum’s resident drunk (I thought that was me), who frothed at the mouth, toyed with the traffic, harangued unsuspecting tourists and talked to the street animals like a modern day Dr Doolittle. I staggered home to the tune of the Hi-De-Hi public address system and another power cut in the full knowledge that our Turkish expedition would soon come to an end. To quote Old Blue Eyes, “Regrets, I have a few.”
Living as do at the heart of old Bodrum Town, we are both regaled and disturbed in equal measure by the glorious non-stop cacophony that surrounds us – the silly-speed mopeds farting down the street, the earth-quaking Turkopop vying with the impatient horns from every four-wheel Nissan tank, the catcalls from the randy rooftop pussies, the amplified ezan bouncing about in surround sound, the discordant cock-a-doodle-doos from the roosters in every courtyard and lonely mongrels barking incessantly until they’re hoarse.
One of the charming aspects of town centre living is the twice daily water-man who heralds his arrival by ringing his little bell. He’s a hairy giant of a beast who effortlessly swings his 19 litre bottles around like a Herculean water carrier. It’s enough to make a boy go weak at the knees. For a while, we were waterless. Our dusky su-seller’s familiar ding-a-ling was missing from our noise-scape. Maybe he was ill or away visiting relatives? A week went by before, one afternoon, we saw him silently pass by our window. Liam rushed out, empty bottle in hand. “Where’s your little bell?” he asked. “Finish,” was the shrugged response. “Many complaint because of noise.” Liam struggled to understand above the roar of the traffic. “But I like your little bell,” he said. Su-man smiled the warmest of smiles and shook Liam’s hand. “I know, my friend. I know.” It’s a real shame. We miss our big man’s little ding dong.
Now for the tenuous link. Sit back and feast on Ding a Dong, Teach In’s Eurovision Song Contest entry for the Netherlands some time during the Seventies (judging by the outrageous glam drag).
Liam and I spend most of our festive time in Blighty apart. It is our habit. He dispenses TLC to his folks while I tour the Capital like Elizabeth the First dumping myself on various friends and family. Two experiences stick in my mind.
I joined Liam at his folks for a couple of nights and helped with the festive shopping. Picture it – Tesco’s, Christmas Eve, 2011. A cast of thousands weaving over-laden shopping trolleys through the heaving aisles like bad-tempered dodgem drivers. Their faces gave the game away – London during the Blitz. The frayed staff wore festive plumage and forced smiles, praying to the Baby Jesus for closing time. It was as merry as Christmas Day at the Queen Vic.
We shuffled our way along the mile-long till queue, manoeuvred the unfamiliar hire car out of the bumper-to-bumper car park and snaked back to the house, emptied of festive joy. After we packed away the calorific goodies, I stepped outside the front door for a cheeky cigarette. I spotted a corpulent covered lady in Horn of Africa robes wander down the road towards me. A young boy skipped along at her side singing Jingle Bells. She smiled as she passed. That simple, single act of cheer recharged my yuletide spirit. I stepped back inside to recharge it further, courtesy of my father-in-law’s bottle of Jameson’s.
While Nurse Liam is in Londra doing his Florence Nightingale gig, he frets that I’m wasting away on a liquid diet. There’s a lot to waste away these days. I could do with dropping a few pounds around the midriff. Nevertheless, he has a point. My culinary talents would never get me on Masterchef. When I was a young gay boy about town I considered my function in life to be purely decorative. That worked extremely well until I reached about thirty when the looks began to fade. After that I had to learn some proper life skills that would keep, and not just attract, a partner. These days, I’m quite handy about the house. I can scrub better than the best char in town. Sadly, the kitchen has remained a bridge too far. This may explain my life mantra – the 5Cs. This isn’t an indication of bog-standard IQ, but the formula I’ve applied to assess relationship potential. What are the 5Cs? I thought you’d never ask.
Cook – I know good food when I eat it.
Conversation – A brain and an opinion worth hearing.
Car (or the ability to drive) – Another skill I’ve never mastered.
Cuddles – I’m a romantic old sod.
And the last C? Well, I’ll leave that to your filthy imagination.