Thursday 1 May 2008

Park Wife

So you sit and wonder how to follow up such a bitter post... then the answer falls into your lap.

A few days ago, the phone rang. It was my auntie's cleaner on the line. I've known this woman for many years and out of everyone I've met in this amazing country, she's the one I have most difficulty understanding. Though some may speak quickly, they speak simply. Others may speak slowly with complex vocabulary. The lovely Meral is both swift and complex in her communication.

So she called me to ask how I was and how the family was. I wasn't buying this. There had to be another motive for her call. Sure enough, it wasn't long before we got to the real reason. "I've found a girl for you. I will call you again". I uttered the appropriate string of convoluted 'thank you's and 'god bless you's before hanging up. I didn't take it too seriously because whenever any middle aged woman learns I'm single, she'll always suggest someone's daughter who would be perfect.

Well, true to her word, she called today.

Meral: "Hello Billy, it's Meral. Where are you?"
Me: "Hello Meral, I'm at home"
Meral: "Meet me in the park by the clinic as soon as possible"
Me: "But I'm still in my pajam..."

I pulled on some jeans and headed down to the rendezvous point. There sitting on a bench, her head covered with a scarf, was Meral.

I sat next to her and wondered for a while which salutation would be most appropriate. Do I use 'sen' (Turkish equivalent of the French 'tu') or the more formal 'siz'? Should I shake her hand? Should I kiss it? But if I kiss it, that might make her feel old. Should I kiss her cheeks? Is that too informal? Oh for fuck's sake! I nodded hello and smiled a lot.

After a few minutes of small talk about how sweet my parents are, we got down to business. She reached inside her handbag and brought out a handful of photos.

"I've known this family for 12 years", she said. "They're a wonderful family. There are two daughters. The one I'm talking about is the eldest. I've spoken to the mother and she agreed that I should show you some pictures of her. She chose these..."

With that, she started thumbing through the family shots stopping on each to indicate the girl in question, raising her eyebrows and smiling. I reciprocated with eyebrows raised, lots of smiles and the occasional 'masallah' (meaning 'wonderful', 'how amazing').

I sat looking at the pictures Meral had given me and was unsure what to say. Luckily Meral stepped in. "I'll arrange to meet her in a cafe with her family. You can be sitting at a different table. Then you can watch us and see what she's like. If you like her, you can come over and wish us a good day before going about your business".

I had images of a long raincoat, a trilby and a newspaper with eye holes cut into it. I also had images of tripping up when approaching the table, knocking over coffees and falling face first into her mother's lap (my cartoonist Grandfather's blood pumps through my veins).

Later, on explaining the events to my friend, he pointed out that maybe I had already been the subject of covert surveillance. Perhaps Meral had requested the meeting in the park deliberately. I hadn't properly scanned the area.

Meral then continued to talk about the girl and her qualifications and the fact that she'd cook and clean for me and that I wouldn't have to worry about the upbringing of my children- stuff that means very little to me. I was locked in full concentration to capture as many recognisable words as I could from Meral's excited monologue when, directly behind her, a man had just caught a pigeon with his bare hands. My focus suddenly switched to this fascinating spectacle of dexterity and agility as I fought the morbid curiosity of whether he was going to twat it on a rock and put it in his pocket.

Meral dragged my attention back by thrusting one of the pictures into my hand and telling me to take it home and think about it. Does that seem strange to anyone else? Just what was I supposed to do with it?

I walked away from the park clutching the photo, a little bemused by what had happened.

They say that if you want to up your chances of finding the 'marrying type' rather than 'good time type', get introduced by an older woman. It's an idea a few steps West of arranged marriages but I can see the logic. If the family is known, the daughter is known. Although I had to put my foot down when people started suggesting girls who already share my surname. I'm not quite ready to embrace incest yet.

So watch this space for updates on this particular covert operation and any other suitors who are led to my court. Do you think I should set them challenges or, perhaps, one big wrestling contest? Though I'm not sure I'd want to end up with a proficient wrestler.

Perhaps this is all going to my head a little. If you've ever seen me on a horse, you'd know I'm no Prince Charming. For now I'll concentrate on the blog and leave my love life to the Kusadasi Women's Institute.

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