Same Sex Marriage in the UK

Scratch the surface and stupidity lies beneath. The lunatics have taken over the asylum at the Turkish Living Forum. What is the subject that’s got the bigots crawling from underneath their stones? Why gay marriage of course. All this tedious religious claptrap from tossers who take their bible like they take their software – jump to the bottom and tick the ‘I accept’ box. They are in good company – kiddie fiddling priests, the British National Party and religious fundamentalists who talk in tongues and still murder witches. Where are the forum moderators? Running for cover and hiding behind some corrupt notion of free speech.

Personally, I have no wish to get married in church. Unlike the hettie hypocrites who keep the chapel tills ringing with their white weddings and solemn vows that only half will keep, I won’t pretend to be religious. No priest is going to make a phoney out of me. Liam and I have a Civil Partnership. That’ll do us for now. However, I would never deny the right of others to marry whoever they choose. It’s an equalities thing.

Let’s keep a sense of proportion. The proposed law in Blighty will simply give those religious organisations (the Quakers, primarily) that want to perform a marriage ceremony for same sex couples the freedom to do so. So really, what is all the fuss about? The bigots are fighting a losing battle. Don’t want to treat me as equal? Then don’t take my taxes. The days of second-class citizenship are over. Almost.

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Resident Aliens

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.

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.


The Knickers Nicker

Apparently we’ve got a knickers nicker in the vicinity according to Funlife on the Turkish Living Forum (to nick is to steal in British English parlance). Someone has been skulking around the Türkuyusu area of old Bodrum Town pilfering from washing lines. Well, to be exact only one confirmed line has been plundered at this stage of the game. Who is the miscreant I wonder? Is it some impoverished itinerant worker who left his meagre belongings in a black bin liner on the bus as it sped off back east? Or perhaps it was some panties pinching perv who gets his kicks from wearing freshly laundered women’s undies. My preferred explanation is that some secret paramour was caught in the act with his knickers down, fled naked from the scene of his undoing and improvised with whatever he could find hanging around. There’s always someone’s washing flapping in the wind around here so he’d be spoilt for choice. Does my bum look big in this? Of course it does, you fool. Everyone’s bum looks big in baggy floral pantaloons. I’m keeping my Calvin Kleins under constant surveillance from now on – the genuine article, not the market-bought fakes that fall apart after a couple of cold rinses. He’s welcome to them.

That’s me in the picture, obviously.

To Comment or Not to Comment, That is the Question

I recently followed a heated debate on the Turkish Living Forum in response to an article in the Guardian called Turkey is not a free country. The predicable salvos from unbending minds ensued – I think this, you think that and never the twain shall meet. It’s a futile exercise in grand standing and the usual stuff of forums. I rarely comment on the rhetoric. I moved to Turkey to keep control of my blood pressure, not to see it go into orbit. However, one particularly rigid point of view really got me thinking. One of the combatants declared with absolute righteousness that foreigners who live in Turkey do not have the right to criticise their foster land. Is this right, I wondered? The more I thought about it the less clear-cut my own view became.

To some extent, I found myself in agreement with his statement. Whinging is a peculiarly British national pastime. It must be frustrating and irritating for Turks to endure the endless whining of the bar room bores. After all, if you choose to live in a different country you need to accept that it’s different. We Brits are the first to complain when immigrants to the UK refuse to learn the language or make no attempt to integrate. Sound familiar? It should do. This is the everyday practice of many expats in Turkey (or Spain or Portugal or any other destination of choice for north Europeans wishing to live out their dotage in the sun). Too few venture out of their whitewashed ghettos to sample the real Turkish delight. Frankly, I’m surprised that our hosts are as tolerant as they are.

There is another side to the argument of course. Turkey has actively encouraged foreigners to invest and settle here. With this comes a responsibility to give non-nationals a voice about the issues that matter most to them. It won’t wash to say ‘thanks awfully for the cash but put up and shut up.’ We are supposed to be living in a democracy.  All the money Liam and I spend goes into the local economy. As consumers of goods and services we have the right to complain when they’re not up to scratch. Who pays the piper calls the tune, I say. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work. We do the right thing and pay our dues to the Government to be bone fide residents We have tax numbers and the income from our capital is taxed at source, all adding to State coffers. Given the size of the black economy this can’t always be said of all Turks. We cannot vote, of course, but does this mean that we can’t hold a view on the political process? After all, wherever we live, what the Government does affects us too.

I think we need a more balanced approach. It’s immature and insecure to suggest that foreigners cannot express a contrary opinion, even a mildly critical one, but we foreigners have a responsibility to ensure that what we say is reasonable and culturally sensitive. After all, we can always get out of the kitchen if we can’t stand the heat. There are taboo subjects best avoided by everyone of course, Turks and foreign residents alike. Now that’s another story.