We leapt off the train from Norwich at Stratford (the main gateway to the Olympic Games). It was busy but not uncomfortably so. There was no sign of the much anticipated transport gridlock that has dominated the news for months. We jumped on a bus to the penthouse pad overlooking the stadium and took our seats for the biggest show in town. As I had hoped, it was a mesmerising salute to British polish, quirkiness, individuality and diversity – funny, moving, creative, self-deprecating, inclusive, mildly subversive with tongue jammed firmly in cheek. The eccentric cultural cabaret was infused with subtle (and not so subtle) political messages to the great, the good and the incompetent both at home and away. It mattered little to me that much of the humour might have been lost on the globally bemused. It was worth all the money just to get the first lesbian kiss ever broadcast on Saudi TV. After much reticence, all but a few diehard cynics now seem to have risen to the occasion and finally taken the Games to their hearts. There’s a real buzz in the air, a buzz you can feel, taste and see. I think we have Mitt Romney to thank for this. His ungracious remarks about London’s readiness to stage the Games have galvanised opinion. No one likes a bad-mannered, bad-mouthing guest in their house, do they?
I give you one of the many highlights from the show – HM becomes a Bond girl. I hope our German friends weren’t too miffed by the Dambuster’s theme. Naturally, Her Maj was as inscrutable as ever.
Just before we clambered aboard our life raft and paddled back to Blighty, we learned that the popular and dashing Mayor of Bodrum had been arrested by a detachment of Polis and carted off to jail, supposedly on bribery and corruption charges. Such transgressions are nothing new. A nod, wink and palms well-greased have made a vital contribution to the mad march of little white boxes up and down the Turkish coast (and elsewhere around the Med). When mega money meets meagre purse the outcome is often a foregone conclusion. Even the honest and the honourable can be led (or forced) into temptation by big business bullies or murderous mafia gangsters. As a vetpat of our close acquaintance remarked recently:
“If an ugly thug in a shiny suit strutted into your office, casually placed a loaded gun on the desk and made thinly veiled threats to you and your nearest and dearest, what would you do?”
However, there may be more to this Mayor’s rapid fall from grace than meets the eye. Rumours abound that he is a victim of trumped up charges because he refused to join the governing AK Party. Certainly, the arrest was carefully staged with the media in full attendance. Smile for the camera, Mr Mayor, you’re going to be on the six o’clock news. It’s not implausible. The current administration do not have a particularly tolerant attitude towards opposition. Locking people up at the drop of a fez is their forte. Is this evidence of a spiteful government tightening its grip on power or simply another a greedy public servant caught with his snout in the trough? Time will tell but neither outcome will do Turkey any favours.
One of our favourite Bodrum Belles took us to the airport for our airlift back to Blighty with Sleazyjet. We shall be forever in her debt. It was our first experience of Bodrum’s brand spanking new international terminal building. Very impressive it was too but, as with much of Turkey, not quite finished. I’ve always thought of airport buildings as the new cathedrals, built high and mighty to invoke awe in the great unwashed (or in Bodrum’s case, the great sunburned). Bodrum’s new edifice is a lofty triumph in steel, marble and fresh paint. It puts Stansted’s tired old concrete shed with its stalactites of filth dripping from the ceiling and duck-taped carpets in the shade (why do Britain’s airports have carpets anyway?). Catering arrangements at the new terminal were an expensive shambles. Much of the food hall had yet to open. Bewildered staff at the only available eatery hadn’t a clue what they were doing; thrown to the lions with no training, no doubt. This led to much tut-tutting and foot tapping from the hungry hordes.
The flight home was an uneventful affair. That was until we landed. The bottle-blond cabin crow swung open the aircraft door to the sight of a small platoon of armed police waiting outside. The corporate perma-grins dropped out of position and we were politely asked to re-take our seats. A name was announced across the tannoy. A handsome and well-constructed young man (who I’d greatly admired back at Bodrum Airport) swaggered down the aisle and joined the waiting bobbies. They handcuffed him and off they trotted. It was all done with the minimum of fuss. There was neither argument nor struggle. His pretty missus and their two young children followed him off the aircraft. She didn’t seem at all surprised by the ambush and the kids remained calm. She casually flip-flopped down the tunnel with the jolly sprogs in tow. People will do anything to get to the front of the queue at passport control.
Fellow jobbing blogger Deborah writes Bitten by Spain, an amusing narrative of living on the Iberian rural edge. Deborah commented on my recent post about the Turkish Government’s attempt to curb suicidal driving. Deborah wrote:
‘We have an absurd situation here at the moment whereby the Spanish police are stopping to fine all extranjeros for driving in sandals without heel straps, or not having the dog belted into the back seat. During this operation a moped can be passing unsanctioned bearing two adults with a child sandwiched between them and a goat in the front basket. And none of them will be wearing helmets.’
It made me think of our own experiences of the local Jandarma. Road blocks are common, particularly at night. Drivers are routinely stopped and their particulars checked. The authorities are looking for drunk drivers and uninsured or un-roadworthy vehicles, all too common offences hereabouts. It’s the Law in Turkey to carry ID at all times. We often forget. Being Brits we’re just not used to it. We’ve been stopped a number of times by a youth in an ill-fitting uniform. On each occasion we smiled sweetly, spoke politely in English and were waved on. We assumed the spotty conscript just didn’t think it was worth the hassle. Or maybe we were just lucky.
Once more we are staying at Karen’s gaff in Southfields. She, on the other hand, has decided to decamp to the States for the duration leaving us in the safe hands of her lodging nephew Jack, my namesake. Jack junior is a special constable and looks devastatingly cute in his uniform. He let me feel his truncheon though I resisted the urge to handle his helmet. Thumbing his warrant card reminded me of the time, many years ago, when I met an arresting sergeant from the Los Angeles Police Department. He showed me his LAPD badge which was so heavy I asked him if he hit people across the head with it. Before entering the Police Service, Jack had been a part time model for Abercrombie and Fitch. Expect to see him as the new pretty face of Crimewatch sometime soon. He can feel my collar anytime