Turkey, a Land for All Seasons

Turkey, a Land for All Seasons

I was weeding out my files recently and came across a few articles I wrote for On the Ege Magazine back in the day. Memories of glory days long past came flooding back. Sadly, the magazine is no more. So to preserve my witterings for posterity, I’ve decided to re-post them. Feel free to switch channels now. This first post features the cycle of the seasons, a national obsession for us Brits.

Turkey, a Land for All Seasons

The parade of storms that recently rolled into town was a reminder (if one was needed) that Turkey is a land enjoying proper, melodramatic seasons. Here on the Aegean coast we spend six months too hot, six months too cold and six months just about right. We first arrived in Turkey to find our new foster home bathed in a glorious Indian summer and we were lulled into a false sense of meteorological security. Within a month, the pitiless winter was upon us and we were woefully unprepared. We were mugged by a posse of violent electric storms processing over the horizon, a savage spectacle crashing ashore and trapping us inside for days. The rainbows, though, were stunning.

Turkish winters mean business. Prodigious pulses of horizontal rain cluster-bomb every crack and cranny, forcing water under every window frame and beneath every threshold. Towels are requisitioned to ebb the relentless flow. Staying warm is a challenge. Think pre-central heating childhood days when a bed was too cold to get into at night and too warm to get out of in the morning. We sprint to the loo for a morning pee, wear sexless layers and revert to copulating under cover. They don’t mention that in the guide books.

Video courtesy of Euro News. This was the now legendary flash flood that overwhelmed Bodrum in 2015. Miraculously, the old stone cottage we used to rent survived the onslaught with not so much as a dribble. 

The short, sharp winter gradually gives way to a wonderful warm renaissance. Spring in Turkey is a magical time of  year, nature-wise. The hills seem to blossom overnight with a riot of flamboyant flora blanketing the usually arid scrub. We awake from our enforced hibernation, dust down our flip-flops and freshen our speedos. Smiles get broader as trousers get shorter. It’s a brief respite before the unforgiving sun burns the landscape back to its usual two-tone hue of dull green and ochre.

As the mercury marches inevitably upwards, summer slaps us about the face like a merciless wet flannel. By August, varnish peels off window sills, the upper floor of our house becomes a fan-assisted oven and sofas radiate heat like embers from a dying grate. We move slowly, a pair of damp vampires only venturing out between the hours of sunset and dawn – except when we get the chance to mess about in boats, that is.

This too passes and falling temperatures herald our Goldilocks season – not too hot, not too cold. At last, the wilting wilts. We retake possession of our town and watch the hordes climb aboard the last flight home. Bodrum in autumn is in an easy, relaxed mood. Hassle from the press gangs reduces to bearable levels and itinerant workers join the long caravans travelling back east to their winter pastures. Beware, though. Nothing lasts. Winter waits menacingly out at sea.

The Mould Season

During the cold, mould season, a viral fungus spread like the Black Death in the dank corners of our stone house. I blame this year’s unseasonal cold snap. We relaxed our rigorous ventilation routine in a vain attempt to keep the frost bite at bay. The external wall of our shower room sweated like a shallow waterfall in slow motion and nasty black spores infested every nook and cranny, crack and crevice. Cutting edge building technology like the humble air brick has yet to catch on in Turkey. At this time of year most houses are transformed into damp bunkers. Liam hit back with domestos-scented water cannon. He also told me to stop breathing.

The China Syndrome

Bodrum Belle, Jessica, nearly came a cropper in an attempt to keep body and soul snug in the wee small hours. She turned on her electric blanket a short while before retiring; when she returned to slip between the hot sheets, the room was thick with noxious fumes. The blanket had unhelpfully decided to switch from warm to slow burn. Nice. Jessica acted decisively; she cut the power and aired the room. When the smoke cleared, a large black hole was revealed – a large black hole that had burnt through the blanket, sheet, mattress and divan. As Jessica remarked at the time, her beautiful boudoir suddenly resembled the nuclear meltdown doomsday scenario from the China syndrome. Electric blanket devotees, beware.

Jack Frost

It’s bleedin’ freezin’. As night time temperatures plummeted, Liam extracted his Dennis the Menace jim-jams from the bottom of the wardrobe, unrolled the woolly socks, re-commissioned the hot water bottle and upped the tog with an extra duvet on the bed. It’s icy times like this when I most appreciate not sleeping alone. As night progresses, we weave together, limbs entwined like a French plait, sometimes opting for periods of alternate spooning.

Come sweaty August nights, it’ll be a different story entirely. We’ll roll to opposite sides of the bed in a fruitless attempt to cool our clammy old hides.

Crash, Bang, Wallop

Book Tour Intermission

I’ve interrupt the book tour for a heavy weather warning. After a gloriously long Autumn, winter violently thundered ashore – all crash, bang and wallop. We rushed to get old towels strategicaly placed around the house like thin sandbags to stem the impending flood. We’ve learned our lesson the hard way. Once again the street light next to the house blew up like a Roman candle with sparks flying hither and thither. Thankfully, the house lights stayed on but it was touch and go for a while. Light bulbs flickered like a slow strobe until the storm blew over. We lit candles and unplugged the fancy electricals as a precaution. This was on the same day that the water pressure dropped to a trickle. No bracing showers for us. Just a whore’s wipe.

Where Have All the Women Gone?

Liam’s back from Blighty, exhausted and in need of a little TLC. Naughty Nancy picked him up from Bodrum Airport while I warmed the house with candles, decanted the red and prepared a homecoming meal. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my culinary skills leave a great deal to be desired, but there is one simple dish I can cook without causing an international incident. It’s a one pot number of chicken thighs, tomatoes, peppers, red onions, and spices brewed in red wine. I just bung it all in and hope for the best – a winter warmer on a chilly night.

A winter warmer was needed. Liam brought the dodgy weather back with him – cold, wind and rain. As we sat down to chomp on my juicy thighs, we reminisced about our first winter in Yalıkavak. When we first rambled into the little town on one of those sunny midwinter days, things felt foreign, in more ways than one. ‘Jesus, where are all the women?’ I remember Liam asking. He was right. The scarcity of women in public was a complete shock to the system and a standard feature of Turkish life that we would never fully come to terms with. Okay, during high season, the female population was augmented by foreign bikini babes with their jugs out for the boys, and by the occasional painted lady of the night looking to make a quick rouble. Out of season though, things were a different affair entirely. Yalıkavak became a man’s world. It took us a while to acclimatise. Eventually, we uncovered the fairer sex hidden away in the fields, ringing the tills at supermarkets, dishing out the dosh in Turkish banks or playing happy families on a Sunday stroll. It was a real culture shift for the boys from the Smoke.

Check out my book

Perking the Pansies – Jack and Liam move to Turkey

Yalikavak Skies

We relax at home to revel in our continued good fortune with G&Ts, ice and a slice on the terrace. We sit in silent awe as the sun descends into the sea releasing a final flourish of soft red, peach and orange light into the evening sky. Spectacular but short lived, the riot of delicate hues is displaced by the chilled black night studded with a thousand stars. Now you don’t get that in Walthamstow.

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Thank you to Clive, Greg and Sam for some of the images.