Lofty Pretentions

After viewings that ranged from the dreary to the dreadful, we found our Norwich city centre loft in appropriately named Queen’s Street. It’s a newly converted top-floor, top drawer flat with skylights, down lights and grey appliances with real feel-appeal. Yes, we are that shallow. The apartment is above a trendy bar with a student clientele. We’d rather hoped it would be a seedy clip joint to cement the sanitised neo-Bohemian garret theme we were looking for. Back at the letting agents, we paid our fee for our credit assessment. Without being prompted, the nice young man processed our application as a married couple which gave us a bit of a discount.

On the last evening of our exploratory week, we celebrated our continued good fortune at the Premier Inn restaurant where the fare was surprisingly good and wine surprisingly fine. As we raised our glasses, we watched the smart suits with smart phones file in two by two. It sent a visible shudder down Liam’s spine as he was rudely reminded of his old laboured life. “Never again,” he muttered. Our young waiter was a busy walker who darted about dispensing friendly but unobtrusive service to his charges. Now we’ve left Turkish airspace, my gaydar is fully-functional and we exchanged sly we-both-know-what-we-are glances. At the end of his shift, he joined us for a large glass of red and a little casual conversation. He’d recently moved from Devon to Norwich to be with his new partner and gave us the low down on the low life of the Norwich gay scene. Apparently, times were tough when he first got off the bus. It took him three months to find a job. He said:

“I was the assistant manager of a motorway service station. It had a Burger King and a Costa Coffee. I was trained in both. They said I was over-qualified.”

Every Little Helps

The Bodrum Bulletin has just updated its annual grocery price check, comparing Britain with Turkey. This exercise was first started in 2009 using the same basket of goods from Sainsbury’s (in the UK) and Migros (in Turkey). The headline is that the price differential between the two countries has been gradually eroded since the survey started. In 2009 the British basket cost 26% more, whereas today the difference is less that 10%.

As with all things, the devil is in the detail. Buying habits vary from person to person and the comparison is affected by the prevailing lira to pound exchange rate. Nevertheless, it does indicate a direction of travel during these recessionary times. We residents all know that booming Turkey is no longer the low cost paradise it used to be. To add to the depressing trend, the Turkish Government has just hiked the price of gas by nearly 19% and the price of electricity by just over 9%.

A year ago, I set Liam a challenge. I wanted to know the cost of living for our kind of life in Britain, Spain and Turkey. He calculated  our average monthly spend on the typical stuff we consume –  food, booze, fags, essential trips back to London, rent, bills, healthcare, insurances, etc. He also used Migros for the Turkish grocery shop, comparing it to Tesco’s in Britain and a major Spanish chain. At the time, the results showed that living in Spain would cost a fifth less overall whereas living in Britain (outside London) would cost a third more.

The same analysis today (excluding Spain) paints a completely different picture. Our British living costs will be on par with our Turkish expenses. This is almost entirely due to the low rent we expect to pay in Norwich and the fact that we’re (almost) a smoking-free family. This isn’t the reason we’ve decided to leave our foster home but, as they say at Tesco’s, every little helps.

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From Local to Yokel

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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Old Bodrum Renewed

Old Bodrum Renewed

There is an authentic stone cottage in the heart of Bodrum Town sitting prettily in a well-stocked walled garden dominated by an ancient double-trunked olive tree. It is the original homestead of an old Bodrum family. As the family grew wealthy they moved on to larger premises and left their family home to slowly fall into quaint dilapidation. The house has an open-plan biblical feel, with a semi-basement – where I presume animals were once kept – a small mezzanine level and a larger first floor. One day the family had a bright idea. Selling off the family silver was unthinkable but maybe there was a little money to be made from the estate. They decided to renovate: extend the old house and build a brand new cottage in traditional style on the adjacent land where a small barn once stood. It took time, dedication and a few wrangles with the planners but they did it. It is a quality job. The family house now looks superb, sympathetically redressed in recycled stone finery. We seriously considered renting this bijou piece of local history but the cramped and quirky arrangement didn’t quite fit the way we live (no, I don’t mean camp discos, glitter balls and a blacked out sauna). Instead we rent the new house next door with its more practical and flexible living space. Both houses stand out from the crowd and are a happy snappers delight.

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Caveat Emptor

Liam and I love living in our little stone cottage tucked away in the middle of old Bodrum Town. A perilous spark, a sieve-like roof, heat exhaustion and frostbite have not put us off. Our neighbours are a joy and the locals are warm, welcoming and obliging. We feel blessed. We rent and are thankful for the freedom. We can move as we please and when the mood takes us. We have been mercifully released from that inbred notion to own (something we Brits nurture in the womb).

For some, the dream can turn sour. For years now, we’ve read reports about people buying property abroad falling foul of unscrupulous builders, vendors, agents or officials. Some of the stories are enough to make you weep, particularly when the unsuspecting lose their shirts in a single dodgy deal. Sadly, it’s a phenomenon which afflicts many countries around the world – not just Turkey – and the laws which protect such people vary from country to country.

I was recently contacted by a member of the Turkish Living Forum who is fronting a campaign for change in Turkey. He points out that while many people successfully purchase property here, there are plenty of examples of those who have a really rough ride. He’s not alone in this view. The Turkish press is littered with examples of  scams and only last year, police raided the Central Tapu Office in Bodrum.

Of course, fraud can afflict all buyers, foreign and Turkish alike. But for foreigners, coming to grips with the complexities of unfamiliar property law in a foreign land can be a daunting task. Not to mention an emotional one.

Wherever you are willing to splash out, in Turkey or elsewhere, it clearly makes sense to do your homework. Do everything you can to understand the buying process, get good legal advice, don’t be tempted by cost-cutting shortcuts and don’t dish the dosh unless you are absolutely sure that everything is above board. Let’s face it, that’s exactly what you’d do in your own country so why lose your head (and possibly your life savings) when abroad? If it looks too good to be true, the chances are it is. There are plenty of people around who can offer good advice.

Turkey is a fabulous and seductive country to live or invest in. Dreams really can come true if you do it right and the authorities play their part too.