Jack Scott’s Postcards from the Ege

Jack Scott’s Postcards from the Ege

Not much of the news coming out of Turkey these days is positive – refugees, bombs, riots, censorship and the usual rhetoric from the imperious Erdoğan. The western media do so love to stoke up a drama. You could be forgiven for thinking the place is falling apart. Well, it isn’t. But the headlines are putting visitors off. According to some estimates, bookings by Brits are down by over a third. A glance at the travel agent’s window reveals the bargains to be had, reflecting a tourist trade going through lean times. It would be foolish to suggest there aren’t any problems but Turkey remains one of the safest holiday destinations anywhere.

It’s been four years since we returned from Turkey and we’re content with our lot in old Norwich Town. The slowish pace of life suits us well. But, we’re often nostalgic for our easy come, easy go days of Bodrum. During one particularly wistful afternoon in the boozer, Liam and I took a drunken stagger down memory lane. Over the last few years I’ve scribbled a word or two about my best bits of Turkey and I’ve even won writing competitions with my musings. So to cure me of my melancholy, Liam suggested I put them all together. So that’s what I’ve done. And very cathartic it was too. I’ve called it Postcards from the Ege, Jack Scott’s Turkey Trail.

Here’s the blurb:

With such an immense political and cultural heritage, it’s no surprise kaleidoscopic Turkey is such a feast – a prime cut of authenticity, seasoned by the West and spiced by the East. Jack Scott knows a thing or two about the country. He lived there for years and travelled widely – to Istanbul and along its south-western shores from Izmir to Alanya. In Postcards from the Ege, Scott shares some of his must-sees and personal highlights. Follow Scott’s trail. Come to Turkey.

The e-book has just been published on Kindle by Springtime Books. It’s a steal at a couple of quid and if it encourages people to sample the extraordinary land we used to call home then that’s all to the good.

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Türkiye’ye Hoşgeldiniz!

Someone Like You

Kym Ciftci is a Didim doll and a complete force of nature. Kym isn’t just a looker, she’s a talented looker. She has a gift for the song and for the word. Kym’s also got a soulful, silky voice and a heart as big as the Temple of Apollo. All this is coming together for one night only on the 5th of April in a brand new musical play called ‘Someone Like You’ which Kym has both written and directed. All proceeds will go to a local children’s charity. If Liam doesn’t receive the call from Blighty, we will be there to show our support. Be there or be square. It’s a weepy so make sure you bring a Kleenex.

For more information, click here

Rutting Reptiles

Rutting Reptiles

With the weather set fair, we accompanied semigrey hedonistas Greg and Sam on a road trip to reconnoitre some of the tumble down sites north of Bodrum, establishing ourselves at a secluded hotel on gorgeous Lake Bafa. We wanted a cute log cabin with charming rustic fittings. We got a Spartan concrete bunker decorated with blood red squashed mosquitos, a lumpy hard bed and stiff, thin towels. The entire complex is shabby chic but without the chic. However, the views across the lake are spectacular and the genial proprietor, Wilhelmina the beefy, bearded lady, is welcoming and helpful. She attempted to persuade us to participate on a five hour eco-trail walk. Not unless there’s an organic bar at the end, I thought.

Our first excursion took in Euromos where there’s little to see apart from the well preserved Temple of Zeus so a five minute stopover is enough for most. Onwards we drove to Didyma in search of the Temple of Apollo. We journeyed across miles of tedious, treeless, tatty flatlands broken only by occasional heaps of building rubble and skeletal erections. This is not the best of Asia Minor and provides an unappealing gateway to the truckloads of tourists who flock to Altinkum during the summer scurries. Now I know why Thomas Cook prefer to ferry their clients after dark. We passed through dire Didim, an ugly and unfinished urban sprawl, and arrived at the temple to find it fenced in by a shanty town of scruffy establishments. Despite this encroachment and the vandalism of Christian fanaticism, earthquakes and frequent plunder, the vast shrine is an impressive pile and well worth the entrance fee.

The hilarious highlight of our visit was tripping over a pair of horny tortoises. The smaller, younger male pursued his ardour with all the steely determination of a spring-loaded waiter chasing a VOMIT, banging his head on the rear of her shell until she relented. Typically, the no nonsense, no foreplay intercourse ended as soon as it started and the old broad looked bored throughout.

After a couple of hours surveying the ruins we travelled onwards to Altinkum, the playground of choice for those on a budget. We expected little and the resort lived down to our expectations. Few seaside towns look appealing out of season (and Southend looks unappealing in any season) but the pretty beach is utterly wrecked by the paltry parade of trashy hassle bars lining the frayed promenade. I don’t mind down market resorts for those on a fixed budget. I’m partial to a full English and a tuneless, tanked-up karaoke myself from time to time. Nevertheless, Spain does it so much better. It’s small wonder that a holiday home in Altinkum is cheaper than a Bournmouth beach hut.

We returned to the woods to drink the night away, star gaze and UFO spot. The frequency of alien sightings rose as the wine bottles drained.

In the Beginning

In the beginning there was work and work was God. After 35 years in the business, the endless predictability made me question the Faith. Liam, on the other hand, was neither bored nor unchallenged but was routinely subjected to the ephemeral demands of a capricious boss, a soft and warm Christmas tree fairy with a soul of granite – Lucifer in lace. He feared for his tenure. I feared for his mental health. It was the 30th May 2009, Liam’s 48th birthday, and we were enjoying a romantic meal in Soho. As the booze flowed the conversation turned to ‘What if?’ Thus began our Great Adventure.

We began to hatch our audacious plot to step off the treadmill and migrate to the sun. Turkey sprang instantly to mind since we had just returned from Bodrum – a chic and cosmopolitan kind of place attracting serious Turkish cash, social nonconformists and relatively few discount tourists. Liam loved it and, after many years visiting the western shores of Anatolia, I needed no convincing. All I had to do was sell my house just as property prices were in free fall. All Liam had to do was agree a financial settlement with his ex on their jointly-owned property, something that hitherto had proven more difficult to resolve than the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Against all odds, I sold my house and its contents to a God-send of a neighbour and, after some emotional horse-trading, Liam finally achieved a reasonable settlement on his own property. Implausibly, we both secured voluntary redundancy from work. In my case, it happened with such an indecent haste that I sensed they were glad to be rid of me. Well, the axeman was stalking the Town Hall corridors looking for prey. It mattered little since it all added to the purse. Our remarkable run of luck convinced us that someone was looking down kindly upon us. Liam attributed it to the Virgin Mary.

We turned our attention to where in Turkey we might settle. The obvious choice was the narrow western coastal strip tucked beneath the vast Anatolian Plateau as it is the most attuned to European sensibilities. Turkey beyond this is the genuine article, a magical land of sweeping landscapes, drenched in drama and culture but far too foreign and exotic for a couple of mature, bourgeois, gay boys from the Smoke.

Bodrum was the bookie’s favourite, an urbane, liberal oasis where we could live safely and unmolested. We briefly entertained the notion of living in Kaş on the Turkuaz Coast where we had honeymooned. Kaş is a sparkling Bohemian jewel, surrounded by a pristine hinterland that has been mercifully spared the worst excesses of mass tourism. But, its glorious isolation, protected by a wilting two hour drive from the nearest international airport, means that the town is effectively closed out of season and lacks those dull but essential full time services we all need to live in the material world: banks, supermarkets, hospitals and the like. We cast our eyes along the map. The coast running south-east of Kaş towards Alanya has been colonised by the Germans and Russians and the string of major resorts running north – Fethiye, Marmaris, Altinkum and Kuşadası – attracts legions of bargain basement Brits. It was no surprise that the odds on favourite won by a mile.