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!

Jack’s Lycian Ways

Jack’s Lycian Ways

I recently entered a travel writing contest. The piece was about my favourite part of Turkey, the Lycian coast. It’s not hugely detailed as I was limited to 1,000 words but I managed to pack a lot in. The entry was adapted from my recent e-book Turkey, Surviving the Expats. The last time I entered a similar contest (featuring my best bits of Istanbul, also lifted from the same e-book), I failed to win any gold stars. Boo hoo. Guess what? I didn’t win this time either. Boo hoo too. Mind you, the reference to wet dreams probably didn’t help.

So, ladies and gents, I give you my Highlights of Lycia, the article that didn’t win a bean. Never mind, I like it anyway and I hope you do too.

Postscript

I later found out that my article did, in fact, make it in to the top twenty and I won a prize – Worlds Apart by Smitha Murthy and Dorothee Lang.  The book arrived today (8th October). Thank you!

The Anatolian Collection

The Anatolian Collection

The sequel to Perking the Pansies to tie up the fraying loose ends and bring our Anatolian journey to its crashing conclusion is coming along very nicely. Expect a few surprises. I have a working title of  ‘The Sisterhood,’ so this may give a little clue about the main theme.  In the meantime, a gentle plug for the books already on the virtual and actual shelves. Hey, a boy’s got to sell his soul to bring home the bacon.

Anatolian Collection

The books are widely available in multiple formats. And if you buy direct from me, I get to keep the lion’s share of the take. For more information, check my website.

Tree Huggers Unite

We honeymooned in Kaş on the Turkuaz Coast. I was by then a seasoned Turkey traveller but Liam was an excitable novice. Kaş is a beguiling Bohemian jewel, surrounded by a pristine hinterland that has been mercifully spared the worst excesses of mass tourism. No expense was spared and we took a suite at the Deniz Feneri Lighthouse Hotel through Exclusive Escapes, an altogether superior hotel by an altogether superior travel company. No one star Gümbet with no star Thomas Cook for me on my first and final honeymoon. We bathed in the sparkling blue waters, strolled along the relaxed hassle-free promenade, feasted by candle-light and danced the night away with the locals in Bar Red Point, the best watering hole in town. I promised Liam the genuine Turkish shave experience and we got a lot more than just something for the weekend from the predatory married barbers on the pull. It put Liam off for life.

We hired a car and explored some of surrounding must sees in old Lycia. The area is stuffed with them. We lunched in pretty but twee Kalkan, meandered through the grand ruins of Patara, relaxing awhile on the adjacent beach – a stunning 18km protected stretch of soft white sand – and bathed in its shallow waters. We stumbled across the intimate ruins of the cult sanctuary of Letoon and watched turtles play in the warm pools. Letoon seduced us with its intimacy while nearby Xanthos, one-time capital of Lycia, awed us with its monumental scale and picture postcard aspect.

My first visit to Kaş was ten years earlier and it had hardly changed a bit. It was then that I met a middle-aged Scottish emigrey couple. They were ex-publicans with money to burn. The lazy town had worked its magic and they instantly decided to buy a house – no research, no cooling off, no going back. Prices were cheap and they visited a cashpoint machine each day to gather the deposit. I wonder if the dream lived up to the reality.

It was in Kaş that the seeds of our own change were sown though germination took another year. As we sipped chilled wine by the glorious infinity pool, we idly speculated about dropping out of the rat race and finding our place in the sun. We dreamed of Kaş and the Turkuaz Coast as if our lives could be one long honeymoon. Common sense prevailed as it must. Kaş is what it is because of its glorious isolation, protected by a wilting three hour drive from the nearest international airport. I hear talk of a new gateway to open up the coast. I would gladly chain myself to a tree like Swampy or pitch a tent like a Greenham Common lesbian to prevent it.

Something for the Weekend, Sir?

Hairdressing, like undertaking, is a steady trade which never goes out of fashion. Having sampled a few establishments in the village, we have settled on a high street barbershop run by a delightful father and son combo. Our number two cut requires only a few minutes with a hair trimmer. However, this cannot be said of the average young Turk. Generally blessed with abundant tresses, even the humblest waiter vainly adorns his head with elaborate, gravity defying sculptures held aloft by a vat of gel. Armpits though, are not always so well groomed.

Barbers

Our genteel Yalıkavak barber is a far cry from Liam’s first skirmish with a Turkish coiffeur. The fun began on the final full day of our gloriously romantic honeymoon in splendid Kaş. I persuaded Liam to join me in the exotic pleasure of a Turkish shave, an indulgence I have enjoyed many times on previous visits to Asia Minor. The barbershop boys saw us coming, and we were mobbed by eager young bucks queuing up to service us. The routine began innocently enough – an efficient double shave with a cut throat razor followed by ear and nose fuzz skilfully dispatched with a flaming cotton bud soaked in petrol. I thought it unusual to find that we were stripped of our tops for the neck and shoulder rub. My young man asked if I would prefer a full body massage in the little room at the back of the shop. I naïvely accepted thinking nothing untoward could occur in a busy barbershop on a main thoroughfare.

He led me into the room and lay me face down on the padded table. His expert hands kneaded and pounded my torso into rapturous submission, and my mind wandered into semi-trance. The spell was rudely broken by a tug of my shorts, which were expertly and unceremoniously whipped off in a single movement. I had gone commando that day which rather startled my young masseur but which only added to his vigour. His pummelling went into overdrive. I opened my eyes fleetingly to find him standing to my side inches from my face, shirtless, scarlet-faced and sweating like a dray horse and obviously aroused. For the remainder of the rubdown, I kept my eyes firmly shut and my arms religiously tucked to my side for fear of displaying the slightest encouragement. It was my honeymoon, after all.

Meanwhile, Liam was relishing an upper body rub. However, he became alarmed when the crimper’s fingers started to walk south towards the small of Liam’s back, playfully plucking the waistband of his shorts and continuing their passage into the abyss. Liam grabbed the boy’s wrist firmly giving a whole new meaning to the word hayır.

It is not hard to imagine what raced through Liam’s mind as he endured the grunting, murmuring and bed squeaking that emanated from the back room. Shortly afterwards, my tellak and I emerged into the light, me shaking uncontrollably, he drenched in sweat. We concluded our business with a quasi-post-coital cigarette.

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.