Saturday 26 July 2008


I spent the evening of the 20th trying to make good the custom of saying my goodbyes to relatives. Luckily my friend Serhan was around with his car to help me fulfill my duties. I knew 5 weeks was a long time to be away, especially during the height of the summer season.

Arriving at my uncle's hotel, I had barely enough time to neck a whisky and a couple of beers before I made my way down to meet the First Choice coach running a Bodrum transfer that I'd managed to secure a place on.

Bodrum airport is actually closer to the town of Milas and has only recently started accepting international flights. First Choice, it seems, has pretty much got the monopoly.

I often hear Turks complain about the quality of the tourists coming from England. Everyone remembers a time when Turkey was an 'exotic' location, somewhere off the beaten track. As I tried to kill the hours in the airport, I could see what the Turks were moaning about. For that night as I searched for a place to sit amongst the masses jetting back home to Doncaster, Manchester, Newcastle and Gatwick, I realised that the departure lounge had all the class of Jeremy Kyle's Green Room.

Nevertheless, 4 hours later I had touched down and was soon in the arms of mum. I'd missed her loads over the months and it was lovely to see her again.

After a brief kip, it was time to crack on with the main reason for my early arrival in the UK... renew my passport. I had already filled out the forms online and had them sent to mum in preparation for my arrival.

Apparently now you have to call to make an appointment. Gone are the days of turning up at the Passport Office and waiting. Unfortunately, there was a slight problem...

Due to a strike, the only appointment they had was in Newport, Wales which would mean leaving immediately. After some calls, it was apparent that I didn't need a 6 month expiration buffer on my passport and therefore didn't need to renew it to be accepted into the USA. Bargain.

But I will take a moment here to rant about Civilisation.

Q: Can I travel on my passport? A:

[1] Home Office: No
[2] Passport Office: Don't Know
[3] US Embassy: Probably
[4] Trailfinders: Yes

Note: 1-3 palmed me off to their websites. Why? I was on the phone to them at the time. Anyway, then I got straight onto the other pressing matters at hand. Firstly:

Oh fish and chips. I missed you so.

Next came prawn korma swiftly followed by a Chinese I couldn't even carry. I was recharged with missed tastes.

Over the next few days I caught up with friends, helped mama around the house and slowly got myself prepared for a trip I've dreamed of all my adult life...

Sunday 20 July 2008

Caption Competition #3

Sitting having a drink in a cafe the other day, I noticed this strange cartoon character on the side of my Coke can. I couldn't find the character's name but it appears to be some kind of penguin. Perhaps you can come up with a name for him. I came up with a few as the bubbles poured out my nose...

Iyi yolculuklar

Today's post is a bit of a hotch potch of things, which kind of represents my mind at the moment anyway. I'm a little stressed and disorganised. It's nothing new to me and I've come to accept this side of my personality.

Tonight at 11:30pm, I join a group of tourists on a transfer bus to Bodrum's Milas airport. From there I head to the UK to sort out a few things (renewing my passport, applying for Turkish residence etc). A week later I board a plane to New York with my greatest mate Pete. After a day of shopping, we pick up a hire car and head West towards Chicago.

My other greatest mate Sam will be meeting us there to join us as we head further West to Denver where Sam will leave us and head back to London.

From Denver we'll continue our journey all the way through to Las Vegas. After a couple of days of throwing huge amounts of money at the roulette wheels and open buffets, we'll catch our flight back to Blighty.

Once back in the UK, I'll spend another week celebrating mum's birthday before returning to Turkey on the 25th August.

Well, this is the plan. Everything's booked. All that's left is to pack my bags and say my farewells.

I feel strangely nervous about the journey. I'm excited too, don't get me wrong. But I just feel that I've overlooked something crucial. Perhaps it's that 'did I leave the iron on' paranoia that age brings. I'm sure it'll be just fine once I board the plane.

The fact that I'm almost completely deaf isn't helping the situation. Why, you might ask? I was at a concert last night here in Kusadasi. One of Turkey's best loved pop stars was in town and my step brother had a VIP ticket going spare.

You may know this pop star from his attempt to 'shake it up sekerim' at the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest. I believe he came 3rd, which would be a nail in his coffin in the UK, but here he's something of a superstar.

A fantastic gig. He's a handsome beggar with a great stage presence.

So, anyway, I'm going to leave you now to pack my bags. I will be documenting my journey across the US so the title of this blog may seem irrelevant for a while. Hopefully you'll enjoy the break from all things Turkish or perhaps I'll just use the opportunity to draw comparisons from that culture. Nothing is certain yet.

Watch this space...

Sunday 13 July 2008

Fezsaurus #6

At yarağına kelebek konmuş - A butterfly that's landed on a horse's cock

I was in the barber's the other day. Since I told him I'm writing this blog, he's always got a new pearl of wisdom for me whenever I pay him a visit. As I was enjoying my massage by a 9 year old boy called Ahmet (a sentence that would have me wearing an electronic tagging device before you could say 'name and shame' back in Blighty), Ozkan (the owner) shouted excitedly "have you heard this one? have you heard this one?". He then launched the above phrase.

I was a little embarrassed to ask the meaning of this particular gem as the shop was full of children and not wanting to corrupt their innocent minds, I simply shrugged my shoulders. He left the half-shaved face of his customer and brushed Ahmet aside.

"Look at this air conditioner" he said pointing at the wall "see how I've jammed newspaper in it to stop it moving about?". I hadn't noticed, but he was right. "Now it's like a butterfly that's landed on a horse's cock".

"I understand", I lied.

"Can the horse fuck the butterfly?" he asked.

"Erm, not really"

"But the butterfly can fuck the horse!". With that he tapped me on the shoulder and with a knowing wink, he resumed his business.

So there you have it (or like me, you don't), anything that's been bodged is like a butterfly sitting on a horses cock. If anyone can help me out with understanding this one, please do.

Saturday 12 July 2008

Breeze Block

As I've mentioned many times in this blog, the Turks are a brave nation. They single-handedly freed their own land from a multitude of occupiers and are perpetually ready to do it again. Any trip on the nations roads will tell you that these people have no fear. A man will slice his own arm off, rub a bit of lemon cologne on it, light up a cigarette and calmly say "tsk, it's nothing".

But I've discovered a weakness; a chink in their armour if you will. Something that sends a shiver down the spine of any God fearing Turk. Something so feared, they'll always make sure they are carrying something to protect themselves (and others) from it. So what is this foe? What is the Turkish Kryponite? For a Turk, there is nothing as horrifying as a mild breeze.

The fear of catching a cold is absolute and even in the height of the hottest summer, a Turk will always make sure their lower back and neck are protected from any kind of cool air.

Actually it's the cold in any form. Cold water, cold floors, cold breeze, cold sea... they are all potential menaces.

Whenever I talk to my nan about my mum and days gone by, the one thing that sticks in her mind is how "she always walked around barefoot and never covered her childrens' feet". The fact that the ambient temperature was 50 degrees matters not. The shortest route the devil can take to whisk away your soul is through your feet via cold tiles or cold water hitting your stomach.

Through the years, I've been ill many times in Turkey. Everything from throat abscesses to dysentery and every time I come down with something, the response is always the same: "you must have got cold". It's certainly a possibility but having lived 31 years on a small island in the North Sea, I'd probably say my body is pretty resilient to all things 'chilly'.

Taking a wild guess, I'd wager it was swimming around a couple of metres above a cracked sewage pipe that blessed me with Amoebic Dysentery (being, as it is, an 'anal>oral desease). I'd go further to say that eating meat from a sheep's carcass that'd been swinging in the midday sun for god knows how long led to the numerous times I've been scared to sneeze for fear of ruining my shorts. But, no, it must be the fact that I wasn't wearing slippers.

This isn't just a wives tale. I hear doctors make this diagnosis. I wonder, though, is there any truth in it? Could it be that we're wrong and they're right? Just what damage can the cold really do?

"The results are back and I'm afraid you have a rather aggressive form of Gonorrhea. Now, I want you to think back. Have you drunk any cold water recently?"

When offering water to someone, you always have to ask "would you like cold, room temperature or a mixture?". Everyone has their own way of taking water and it's always best to ask.

Children never drink cold water (though, bizarrely, ice-cream is all good). Children a wrapped up like Inuits as soon as their arse leaves the sea. Childrens' feet are constantly monitored for any indication of dropping below 'warm'.

Here's an experiment you can try at home. Below is a picture of me with my gorgeous niece Lily. Show this picture to a Brit then show it to a Turk and notice the difference in the response:

You probably got responses similar to...

British response: "My God, she's gorgeous. Look at that fat belly! And those feet! I could eat her up".

Turkish response: "My God, her belly's not covered! ...and her feet! Poor thing. Oh my God!" followed by a stream of prayers along the lines of "God protect her", clutching their ear lobes and knocking on the table (it's the "God protect you" gesture).

When I was a baby, we lived in Turkey for a year. In Antalya, arguably one the hottest areas of the country. I was just months old and mum would lie me in my cot and point a fan at me to stop me from cooking in my own sweat. On seeing this, my grandmother would begin to pray for God to intervene and cut the electricity to block. It just ain't done I tell you.

When my Turkish family used to visit us in the UK, no matter what season they arrived, they'd be wrapped up in scarves, gloves and full length fur coats. "It's like ice, I tell you. Ice!".

I mentioned the throat abscess I had once. My neighbour came in to see how I was doing (I was fine. I just had a sore throat). What happened next, will haunt me till the day I die (probably of a cold neck). She rubbed my entire body in Deep Heat, wrapped me in blankets and closed all windows and doors to keep the warmth in. This was one of the hottest Summers on record, by the way. Ever cooked Salmon en Papillote? You see where I'm going with this.

The other night I was having dinner at my cousin's house. As I sat there on the balcony, I looked out to all the other families doing exactly the same. It's a lovely sight to see people enjoying the evening with their loved ones, chatting, debating, laughing and tucking into the delights of the Turkish kitchen. But if you look closely, you'll notice that theirs a constant ballet of people switching seats to avoid the evening breeze.

Throughout the summer, you'll hear Turks complaining of sore throats ("I must have got cold"), or lower back pain ("I must have got cold"), headaches ("I must have got cold") and a whole host of other cold-related ailments.

I know that now having written this post, I'm opening myself up to the most severe bout of the flu but I simply had to share this rather curious difference in our cultures. Excuse me now while I take a cold shower and sit on the balcony to dry off with a nice cold glass of water. May God protect me.

Monday 7 July 2008

Village of the Damned

The Brits are here! The Ocean Village cruise ship pulled into port to bring a touch of class to our small town.

The class manifested itself with everyone on the top deck clapping and singing along to classics such as 'Alice (who the fuck is Alice)', 'Is this the way to Amarillo?' and 'Hey baby (ooh ah)'. Individually, any of these songs instill in me fantasies of an indiscriminate massacre. But the combination of all three plus the discordant wailings of football shirt clad masses had me turning myself into the police before anyone could get hurt.

I fear that 2 years in a tourist resort has fueled my snobbish distaste for the stereotypical "these aren't like the beans we get at home" English tourist. But, after observing this faux-posh cruise in full swing, I can conclusively say that this is a cruise for people who most certainly do do cruises.

Friday 4 July 2008

Not Enjoying the Silence

There's been something in the air these past few days. Perhaps it's the heat but everyone seems to have the arse with each other. The Turks do this well and they have a special word for it: 'kusmek' (it's even got its own hand gesture, look out for it in 'single hand gestures pt 2'). Appropriate translations would be "mardy", "to be in a huff", "a woosy", "to have an arse on", "to be in a mood with..." or "sulking".

I've come to realise that the Turkish culture has a multitude of social rules and etiquette that are known but usually unspoken. They come naturally to most but, as a foreigner, I have to learn by example or, more usually, by getting it wrong.

'Kusmek' usually materialises in the form of being sent to Coventry (FYI I spent 3 years in Coventry and I wouldn't wish it on anyone). Silence is weapon of choice. You don't speak to the person you're 'kus' with and you do everything in your power to avoid social gatherings where your paths might cross.

The process can last years; the Turks are stubborn to a fault when it comes to seeing the process of 'kusmek' through. My father and my uncle didn't speak for over 5 years. My father and my aunt about the same. It's not uncommon and I know many people who are 'kus'.

So what leads to this break down in communication? Well, as I said, breaking one of the many social rules is the usual way. Here are some I've picked up along the way:
  1. Your relative arrives in town and you don't call him to welcome him = Kus
  2. Your relative arrives (he's younger than you) and he doesn't call you to tell you he's arrived = Kus
  3. Your relative is leaving town and you don't call him to say good bye = Kus
  4. Your relative is leaving town (he's younger than you) and he doesn't call you to say good bye = Kus
  5. You're not invited to an engagement/wedding = Kus
  6. You're invited but you don't go = Kus
  7. Your elders come to your engagement/wedding but you don't visit them in the following week to kiss their hands = Kus
  8. Anything to do with money = Kus
  9. Disrespect of any kind = Kus
  10. Forgetting to use the appropriate title (big brother, big sister, uncle, auntie, sen/siz (Turkish equivalent of the French Tu/Vous)) = Kus
  11. Not calling elders on holidays/birthdays = Kus
  12. Breaking rules that are aren't really official or known but plucked out of the air for the sake of making a rule = Kus
The list is endless.

Never underestimate the power of silence. I'm usually given the benefit of the doubt being an ignorant foreigner but I have been on the end of 'kus' and it's a killer. I've also noticed that I'm starting to dish it out more and more (it's necessary in the graduation to fully fledged Turk).

This playground-style huffing may appear comical but it's deadly. Watch your back. Kiss appropriate hands and make those calls. Be careful out there people. Hell hath no fury like a Turk scorned.

Tuesday 1 July 2008

Nothing's gonna change my love for me

I was sitting in my flat, minding my own business when there was a knock at the door. I opened it to find my neighbour standing there in full professional photographer garb.

"I have to learn this" he said calmly, "I've got a new job and I need to learn this camera. I have to learn about sunset photography and you can be my model".

There followed an hour of standing on the balcony holding a picture of the Dalai Lama (something to do with being able to see foreground detail). These were the results...

Ring any bells?...

Come on, you remember!

Welcome to my home. I offer mediocre sex and a spectacular view.

Here you can see with only minor photoshop work, the picture is transformed into something quite special.

Oh, I do love the random events that occur here daily. This simply wouldn't have happened in Surbiton.

Blowing my uncle's trumpet

OK this is a shameless plug for an evening my uncle will be holding at his hotel. The Turkish Jazz trumpeter Muvaffak (*bites lip*) 'Muffy' Falay is going to be visiting Kusadasi and holding an exclusive gig at the Palmera Hotel on Saturday the 5th of July.

The evening starts at 10pm and you can make reservations by calling the hotel on +90 (0)256 612 62 12. First drink is 25YTL and normal prices after that (think of it as 25YTL entrance with a free drink).

If you're not into your jazz, I'm going to be there and will be signing chests later in the evening.