I’ve moved a lot in my time – more than most, I reckon. I dropped from the womb in utilitarian army digs in Canterbury then on to a central London military tenement, lots of fun in the sun in tropical Malaysia, down with a bump in damp and grey Hounslow (west London) and onwards to civvy street Wandsworth (south London). And all before I could vote. My flight from the nest took me on a swinging tour of London postcodes – W6, W14, W4, SW19, SW18, E7, E17, interrupted midway by a five-year residency in royal Windsor with a moustachioed man called Mike. Then came the Turkey years – Yalıkavak and Bodrum – before finally wading ashore in old Norwich town. I’ve done old build, new build, Charles the First to Barratt box. When Liam and I embarked on the latest move – my nineteenth – it was a fond farewell to the flash city centre micro-loft and a nervous hello to the village micro-cottage. As Liam said, paraphrasing the indomitable Bette Davis in Now, Voyager,
‘Oh, Jack, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.’
After several lean years, it seems that we Brits may be falling in love with Turkey all over again. You know things are on the up when the London Evening Standard Property Supplement runs a feature on the Bodrum Peninsula with our old cruising ground, Yalıkavak, and its fancy new marina, getting a special mention. This how I described our first glimpse of the whitewashed town in my first book, Perking the Pansies, Jack and Liam move to Turkey
As we breached the brow of the hill, we caught our first picture postcard glimpse of Yalıkavak shimmering at the end of a lush valley below like randomly scattered sugar cubes on an overgrown lawn.
Chapter 3, Back to the Future
These days the sugar cubes are tumbling over every hill and, at the top end of the market, this is what you can get:
It’s the kind of dream home that costs a whole lot more than the misleading £75,000 quoted in the ad. Also, what the agents don’t tell you (and why would they?) is that if you keep all your doors and windows open after sunset, you’ll get eaten alive by mozzies. Just so you know.
House-sitting and house-swapping are fantastic low cost ways of getting to stay in some amazing places. We have old friends in Turkey who live in…
…Gökcebel, a sprawling village in the foothills above Yalıkavak. Their impressive detached pile is surrounded on all sides by a well-manicured walled garden and patrolled by a trio of cats brought in from the bins. Just like its owners, the house is elegant, unpretentious and homely.*
They often exchange their village homestead for ruritanian French gites and posh Californian condos. All they ask (along with the place not being trashed, obviously) is that their soporific cats are fed and watered. Easy.
Now we’re in our new gaff, we might get in on the act. There must be people out there who wouldn’t mind laying their hat in a well-appointed micro-garret with all mod-cons minutes away from the delights of Norwich and her embarrassment of riches. Ours is a lock-up-and-leave loft, small but beautifully formed (like me). All we’d ask is that guests turn the lights out as they leave. I guess we’d have to hide the dressing-up box and battery-operated play things. Or maybe not.
Sometimes, this care-taking lark can be a tad more challenging. Take, for example, the menagerie owners in Hockwold cum Wilton (yes, that is a genuine place) who pretty much need a qualified zoo keeper to look after their duo of dairy goats (Simone and Ashia), a pack of terriers (Monty, Blossom, Scarlett and Sanya), a clutter of cats (Jarvis and KC), a brace of drakes (Flappy and Ballerina), a nest of guinea pigs (Hearty and Chubby), a clutch of chickens (including randy roosters) and a small shoal of goldfish. Sounds a bit too much like work experience at Whipsnade for my liking and besides, I’d be terrified of killing something. Still, there are no shortage of goat-herders applying for the busman’s holiday. They’re fully booked.
Thanks to Roving Jay for the heads up on this one.
There’s a tense stand off in the Scott-Brennan household. The air has cleared of gun smoke leaving a wreckage of words scattered round the cutting room floor. It happened last time for my first book and it’s happening again for the sequel. Just when I thought I’d got the bloody thing done and dusted, Liam slashes it with his big red pen. It’s all to the good in the end but the tortuous journey is littered with out-takes that have cut me to the core.
My post before last was about our good fortune with neighbours in recent years. I deliberately left out Clement, our first neighbour in Turkey because, well, we were rather pleased to see the back of him. Now poor Clement has been left out of the book too. Still, nothing gets wasted. It just gets recycled, like most of my rubbish these days. So Ladies and gents, as it’s American Independence Day, here’s the neighbour’s tale, a painful cut from Turkey Street, Chapter 13, Happy Birthday, Uncle Sam.
The incomparable Roving Jay recently blew into town for a few bevvies, a bite and a chin wag. She was on a pilgrimage to the Norfolk flatlands of her birth and catching up with her folks. Luckily for me, she detoured to Norwich to pick up where we left off last time we met and this time, Liam joined us for a boozy threesome. First stop was a couple of bottles in the Lamb Inn, a lively little watering hole where the ridiculously low ceiling makes everyone look tall. Even me. Hair gel was being applied like Dulux emulsion. Next up, gourmet grub at Cinema City’s swanky Dining Rooms, a bar-restaurant with an old vaulted ceiling, a medieval courtyard and a mini multiplex in the east wing. Last time, the rural hit-and-miss bus schedule conspired against us and Jay flew away prematurely. This time, she threw caution to the wind, stayed for a natter and jumped into a Hackney cab at the end of the night.
Those who are familiar with Jay will know that she is a devoted Turkophile and a holiday resident of glorious Gümüslük. In 2013, she realised a long-held ambition and published a fabulous guidebook about the Bodrum area. Jay is a bit of a magpie and the Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide is a meticulously researched, first-hand account of the little corner of Turkey we called home for a while. The e-book is doing well, very well. That’s because it’s good, very good. Summer’s just round the bend so if you’re heading Bodrum-way this year you’d be mad not to pick up a copy. For more information about Jay’s must-have guide, click here.
Jay’s next big thing is a more detailed guide to Gümüslük and it will include offerings from others in the know; she was even mad enough to ask me for my tuppence-worth, but don’t let that put you off. The Gümüslük guide will be the first in an exciting series of in-depth guides of towns on the Peninsula. To find out where Jay the magpie’s at with all of this, do check out her portfolio of websites. There’s an awful lot to see.
Liam and I were deeply saddened to hear of the death of Patricia ‘Babs’ Miller, after finally losing a long battle with cancer. We first met Babs one cold winter’s evening in Yalıkavak in 2009. We were passing Dede’s Restaurant and, drawn by the sound of clinking glasses and raucous laughter, we popped in for a final snifter. There was larger-than-life Babs standing out from the crowd as she always did. Babs employed a ladies excuse me and led me on a slow smooch across the dance floor. That was the start of a glorious but all too brief friendship. With more than a passing resemblance in looks and personality to Barbara Windsor (hence the ‘Babs’ nickname), our gorgeous little Cockney sparrow was a one-off, a true original, one of life’s great characters and huge fun to be around. She will be missed.
The Bodrum Peninsula on Turkey’s stunning Aegean coast is the summer playground for hundreds of thousands of discerning holiday-makers offering something for everyone – the beach bum, party animal, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie. Described as the ‘San Tropez of Turkey,’ the whitewashed town of Bodrum (ancient Halicarnassus) is the beating heart of the Peninsula where the Turkish elite come to let their hair down. ‘The Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide: Turkey’s Aegean Gem’ is the definitive book for visitors and expats alike from the marvelous Jay Artale, part-time resident and someone in the know. The book is packed to the rafters with meticulously researched facts and fun, sites and scenes, eats and treats, must-dos and don’t-dos, both on and off the well-beaten track. Need to know how to get about? Want insider knowledge on the best boat trips to hidden coves and where to find ancient sites to tumble over? Looking for the best places to eat for authentic rustic cuisine? Fancy a high-energy water-ski ride around the bay? Dying to know what bars to see and be seen in? It’s all here, and much, much more. Whether dipping in for a hint or two or reading cover-to-cover in one serving, this book should be in everyone’s suitcase.