We’re always grateful when old friends spend their hard-earned cash on a pilgrimage to their country cousins, particularly as this invariably means the expense of a hotel stay. Cute as it is, the micro-loft is way too micro for topping and tailing, especially for those in their midriff years who prefer private douching facilities for those intimate moments. Just recently, we’ve had an embarrassment of callers. First on the Norwich trail were a couple of old drinking partners from the Smoke who last graced the city with their designer wear in April. As future exiles to Catalonia, we knew they were partial to a tapas or two, so when a new tapas restaurant called East Twenty Six opened to rave reviews we thought we’d give it spin. The setting was impressive but, sadly, the food was not. We drowned our sorrows in a nearby late night boozer, a place that was once Norwich’s only Irish-themed pub. Delaney’s has now been gutted and relaunched as St Andrew’s Brew House. Whereas Delaney’s oozed fake Oirish ambience with a landlady from Hell, the Brew House now boasts an über-trendy micro-brewery and has been branded to within an inch of its life. Very Shoreditch, apparently.
The next day, like ships that pass in the night, the old reprobates from London exchanged brief pleasantries with our next callers who had driven up from the coiffured hills of Sussex. Jacqueline and Angus have been friends of mine for donkey’s years and brought with them their coffee-coloured Labrador for a spot of dog-walking around the city. After an exhaustive saunter and with Ruby safely tucked up in the loft with an assortment of dog biscuits, dinner was courtesy of Jamie’s Italian. It was delicious. But really Jamie, that much for a bit of pasta?
Angus is a hands-on DIYer with an impressive collection of tools and when I mentioned we were having a bit of bother with a sticking flush, he was at it like a rat up a drain pipe.
A little WD40 will soon sort that out.
And it did. It was good to have a man about the house.
A couple of old London reprobates decided to slum it in the shires for the day, joining us for a belated celebration of our wedding anniversary. Happily, the sun also joined us, and we went in search of an al fresco lunch. We found it at the Britons Arms, one of Norwich’s oldest buildings – all thatch, beams and creaky floorboards. Dating back to the Fourteenth Century, the building is reckoned to be the only English example of a medieval ‘beguinage’, a community of lay women living in poverty and chastity – just the place for a quartet of stately old homos to anoint themselves with the Devil’s brew. As I reminded my old mucker, Ian, the only time he was ever chaste was circa 2003 when he shunned the amorous advances of a randy German with a nasty feather-cut who was stalking him along a frosty canal in old Amsterdam. Ah, those were the days.
Converted to an ale house in the Eighteenth Century, the Britons Arms has been a coffee house and restaurant since the early Fifties. The pretty, secluded garden tumbles over the graveyard of nearby St Peter’s Hungate, one of Norwich’s most ancient churches and now a centre for medieval art. Lunch at the Arms was simply divine and the boys kindly picked up the tab. We’re always grateful for the kindness of our well-to-do metrosexual cousins. Especially when the wine bill alone reaches three figures. When the boys headed home to the Smoke the following morning, they were carrying their livers in a Sainsbury’s bag. They’re off to Vienna next month for the Eurovision Song Contest. Not that they’re gay stereotypes or anything. This time, they’ll be flying their livers back from Austria in their hand luggage. Business class, naturally.
Another twist in the visa trail. According to advice published on the British Embassy website, there is now something called a ‘tourist residence permit’. As far as I can understand it, this permit lasts for up to six months and will enable visitors to stay in Turkey for up to nine months when combined with the standard three month tourist visa. This could be the answer for those people who come to Turkey for more than three months in a rolling twelve month period (because they have a holiday home here, for example) but whose country of residence is elsewhere. I fully accept that I could be misreading this. Maybe this has always been the case? Who knows? The dense language would never win a plain English award.
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I’m happy to report that it seems our man in Ankara has stepped up to the plate about the mandatory health insurance scheme for expats. Candid conversations in the corridors of power have resulted in a postponement of the scheme for the time being. According to the Voices Newspaper, we can all expect an official letter in the post (my face is straight as I type) about the scheme after which we will have a month to register. Panic over.
There are still a few other issues to work though like what residents who aren’t really residents because they actually reside in Blighty are to do, whether people with private health insurance can opt out and whether those who are retired (according to their permits) are exempt. The last is the most interesting point as I suspect most emigreys here are registered as retired regardless of their age (I know we are). It’ll all come out in the wash in the end.
After much brouhaha and faffing about, the Turkish Government will finally introduce new visa requirements on the 1st February. Essentially, this means that foreigners entering Turkey on a tourist visa can only stay for a maximum of 90 days in any 180 day period. Anyone staying longer will have to apply for a residency permit.
The permit process is not particularly onerous or expensive but it is a tiresome paper chase of red tape. It can be weeks before you finally get your mitts on the precious little blue book (that looks like it’s been knocked up by a child in a shed). Patience is needed. After years of encouraging foreigners to spend their readies and buy their dream holiday home, Turkey will not allow them to enjoy the fruits of their investment for more than 3 months at a time without becoming residents of a country they don’t reside in.
There’s a more significant change that is rocketing blood pressures into orbit. Spleens are being vented all over the forums. According to an article in the Land of Lights, the Turkish Parliament has passed a law requiring all expats with a residency permit exceeding twelve months to join the Turkish National Health Scheme. The cost will be a flat fee of 212 Lira per month each. This week’s special offers are two-for-one for married couples and children under 18 get in free. Those living in sin or have done the in-sickness-and-in-health thing differently (civil partnerships, for example) needn’t apply. Also, as with all the best health insurance policies, pre-existing conditions will not be covered. So it’s just tough if you’re a bit old and slightly doddery, with a touch of arthritis and spot of hypertension. That’ll be many expats then. Best not cancel your private insurance just yet.
The article also states that, while the scheme isn’t up and running yet, everyone is required to register by the end of this month. Failure to do so will attract a hefty fine. If this is the case, how come this crept up and caught us awares? What’s our man in Bodrum (actually, our woman) been doing? Sod all as usual.
I’m a great supporter of national health care, free at point of delivery and available to all. Apparently, the fee is the same for everyone, Turk and expat alike. I find this difficult to believe as 212 lira is a lot of dosh to most Turks I know. We’re happy to do our bit and pay our dues but I’m not keen on any scheme that isn’t linked to the ability to pay. As the cost of residency for Brits dropped dramatically last year, is this a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul?
As with most things the devil will be in the detail. The forums are hot with gossip and hearsay, outrage, resignation, argument and counter-argument. I’ll let the dust settle before I decide what to do. I’d still like something from the Honorary Consul, though. I won’t be holding my breath.