Wednesday 25 November 2009

Things I'd never done before moving to Turkey #3

Wear a vest.

In England, if you wear a vest, you're probably old enough to remember rationing. In Turkey, men wear vests. It's as simple as that.

I tell you what though, I forgot what a good idea they are!

Monday 2 November 2009

October Roundup

It's been a busy month. With school starting again, I've been kept insanely busy. It's been a good start to term though. I was adamant that I would be stricter this year and it's worked mostly. Though as the weeks are passing, the kids can smell my true personality and are starting to have a laugh. But I prefer it that way. Though I did have a 3rd grader grab my arse and say 'Masallah' the other day. That's just wrong.

In other news, I hosted a Halloween party in my flat the other night. It was a lot of fun. Especially as Turks don't really know what to make of fancy dress parties. They got the idea though.

In case you can't guess. I was Michael Jackson.

I remember house parties back in Blighty and I remember the absolute carnage. I never really threw them myself because you could be fairly sure your house would be absolutely wrecked by dawn (not a particular person, I mean sunrise - though Dawn was a clumsy bastard).

But when I woke the following morning (hangover-free I might add. probably due to giving up smoking and being 'of the age' where the room starting to turn is a red flag to switch from booze to juice) the house was pretty much tip-top. Was it the Halloween gremlins at work? Not far off actually. There were Turkish women present.

99.8% of Turkish women have acute OCD. The dishwasher had been filled. The empty bottles had been moved to the balcony and the rubbish taken out. Absolute bargain. All I had to worry about was constructing a fry-up.

This month also saw Ramadam (remember the festival with the fasting and stuff?). That was cool. I managed my token 1 day again.

I quit the fags!

We also had the 29th October festival. This commemorates the foundation of the Turkish Republic. Quite a biggy in terms of public holidays.

Some other exciting news is that Best Buy is about to launch its first store in Turkey just down the road. Media Markt opened its doors to people who'd been queuing through the night last Wednesday. Soon we're going to have 4 or 5 electronic megastores right next to each other and right next to me ...oh dear, the geek within is getting a little too excited about all this.

I stopped smoking.

Something strange happened today... Winter came. People say that this is what happens in Izmir. One day it's summer, the next it's winter. The air is filled with the smell of coal burners and I rushed out and bought myself and new electric fire.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. My flat now has a new sofa and a brand spanking new LCD TV. So much for the plans to get in shape. I can now watch Deal or No Deal with such clarity that I feel I'm in the studio, crying with them.

Most exciting of all, my brother is coming for a flying visit with the kids tomorrow. They're coming to surprise my dad on his birthday. So, if you see my dad, don't tell him please. It's a surprise.

Oh and did I mention that I've stopped smoking?

Thursday 29 October 2009

Things I'd never done before moving to Turkey #2

Getting fairly excited about a dinner of tripe and liver. Had some last night, in fact.

What I had was a dish called 'kokorec'. You will often see it being sold on the streets (I don't think I've ever seen it in a restaurant).

It's basically intestines wrapped around a skewer and grilled over charcoal. Nice.

It's then chopped and put in a sandwich.

Now, what does that remind me of?

I think I'm going to buy me a cart and earn some cash down Covent Garden.
Tourists take note: You're going to get pissed and end up eating it so this is just a heads up to you. It is tripe.

You see, when Brits get pissed in Britain, they eat doner kebabs. When Turks get pissed in Turkey, they eat tripe. Either grilled in the form of kokorec or as the garlic-based soup, iskembe corbasi. Personally, nothing's going to tip the balance of an alcoholic queasy feeling quicker than the thought of tripe. Turks are hard as fucking nails. Even the girls.

My girlfriend, after a few shandies, likes nothing more than a plate of rice topped with a sheep's face. Rock hard.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

How does a muslim nation get swine flu anyway?

I first got the hint that something was wrong when the kids started asking "teacher, do you got pig grip?". Ah yes, that superstar illness is now on its Turkish tour.

I'm really saddened to see this happening. I had got used to it in the UK. From a country that produces little news, the media can make a mountain out of trivia for a good few months. If it isn't paedophiles it's bird flu. People bored of bird flu? How about immigrants? If all else fails, let's do another name and shame campaign. It's all complete shit.

If no one had ever told me about 'bird flu' or 'foot and mouth', I would never have known. I'm not being egocentric here. What I mean is, there are a thousand more likely ways for me (and anyone I know) to die. If a bird had flown into my mouth and I became diseased, I would probably have recovered fairly quickly without even having to pin a name on my discomfort. Had I licked the ankle of a riddled cow, neither me nor the cow would have bothered writing home about it.

The fact I was smoking over a pack a day should have been headline news, not this.

And we're back again with swine flu. Of course, it's terrifying. We know that to date over 4,000 have died globally from the disease. So what can we do about it?

Well, let me ask you another question. What are you doing about the normal flu? That kills somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 people globally every year. So whatever you're doing to protect yourself from the flu, do about 1% of that for swine flu.

Yeah, yeah. I know I'm not the first person to go on a rant about the media selling fear. I just wanted to let off some steam. My hero, Maddox, does a far better job anyway.

It is a disgrace. The kids are being sent home with letters. Emergency meetings are being held. Everything is being bleached. It's completely bizarre.

Come on guys, this is Turkey. I'm in infinite more danger negotiating my way to the shop for a loaf of bread.

Friday 2 October 2009


Is it just me, or does this toothpaste campaign make anyone else feel somewhat uneasy?

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Blood on the Dancefloor

Just been watching this new commercial for "Kotex Anydays cotton-soft fanny pads" and everything was rolling along normally when something broke my concentration. Just before the end of the advert, a guy sings something. Does he say "Michael Jackson" or is my grieving subconscious starting to mess with my hearing?

Saturday 19 September 2009

Random Turkish Fact #7

In complete reverse to the UK, Turks use a comma to indicate a decimal point and a point to indicate thousands. For example:

UK = 2,000.00
Turkey = 2.000,00

It's a fucked up world, my friends.

Friday 18 September 2009

Deal or No Deal - Turkey vs UK

I've been wondering why the Turkish version of Deal or No Deal lasts almost 5 times as long as the UK version. Finally, I think I might have found the answer...

Friday 11 September 2009

Adrenaline Junkie

I just got a ride home in a cab driven by a cross-eyed taxi driver. So extremely cross-eyed, he had to hold the money at an angle to read the denomination ...and I didn't even wear my seatbelt.

Bring me my next challenge!

Thursday 3 September 2009

Road Rage

Time to get away from the random Turkish facts for a moment and give you an update...

The school broke up for summer somewhere around the middle of July and we got a good clear two months holiday. I decided to hide myself away in Izmir. I've grown accustomed to the place and the thought of returning to the screaming tourists of Kusadasi having just aquired peace from the screaming children of Izmir seemed the wrong move. I stayed put.

Summer passed quickly with the help of a week touring the Baltics and a couple of weeks introducing my girlfriend to my folks in England and Spain. My chest barely saw the sun and school has reopened without much change in my skin tone. Oh well.

During my weeks in Izmir, I had the use of my father's car. I had always believed that I'd have no use for one in a city with such good public transport. But the truth is, it's very easy to get used to having wheels.

My father returned a couple of weeks ago and, with tears in my eyes, I handed back his car keys.

Right, I thought, time to get myself a motor. Afterall, I'm earning good money (for Turkey), got my own place (well not strictly my own but I can crap with the bathroom door open). The search began.

Now, at this point I should warn you that I'm likely to swear liberally throughout the coming paragraphs.

I am the first to admit that I'm the king of research. I use it as a very cunning form of procrastination. I currently have on my wishlist: a new PC, a new mobile phone, an alarm clock that wont allow me to 'snooze', a new LCD TV, a new watch, new pictures for the walls... the list continues. All of these items are going to see me keeping google in business for many months. I'll read reviews, scan price comparison sites, read technology forcasts, read historical price trends and anything and everything to postpone making a decision.

When choosing a car, the potential for research-based procrastination is almost limitless. Old or new, fast or slow, big or small, LPG or diesel, automatic or manual, fun or boring? Oh god please no!

In true TopGear style, here's my automotive history:

I learned to drive in a black Peugeot 205. Not a GTi or anything, a five-door run-around. But it was nippy and fun and got me out of Coventry every weekend without breaking down (well not the car anyway).

I loved that car. It was part of me. I could parralel park it like a stuntman. In fact, I think the fastest I've ever been in a car was in that little gem. My brother and I must have had it up to 125mph down the M4 leaving Heathrow after seeing our parents off on their holidays once (sorry mum, sorry dad).

The 205 finally died of neglect in the driveway. Mould started to grow on the back seats and a mate of a mate bought it for £50.

For the same money, my dad bought an old black mini which I borrowed for a while. There's always that fear when driving a mini that any kind of collision and you'll resemble a tin of tuna.

The mini died a spectacular death while I was tucked up in bed. A hoover, a terracotta flower pot, a riot squad, 2 meat wagons and a madman all conspired to comprehensively render the vehicle a right-off.

After that, I got myself a Mazda MX-5. Anyone who's ever driven an MX-5 will know the sheer pleasure they bring. I bought it from a lady in Reading. Something of a rescue mission if you ask me. That little car was fun! The number of times I lost control of the backend (and consequently my own) kept the adrenaline high. In time, though, a 2 seater became impractical. With only enough room in the boot for a bottle of pop and a bag of wheat crunchies, it made trips to Tesco something of an exercise in minimalist consumerism.

My next car was a Golf Mk4 1.6 Gti Turbo. Cunningly bought at a stupidly high price from a VW dealer. It had loads of problems but was reasonably swift. I sold it to pay for my plane ticket to Turkey.

So back to Turkey. What exactly is pissing me off? Let me give you an example...

What can you get in the UK for £2000?

.. and what can you get in Turkey for £2000?

You have got to be taking the piss! I kid you not, I have just done a quick scan for cars at this price range on both and the Turkish Try it for yourself if you don't believe me.

Cars are stupidly expensive here. That, combined with the extortionate price of tax, insurance and the highest petrol prices in the world, mean it's literally cheaper for me to jump in a cab everytime I want to go somewhere.

I honestly don't know how people can ever afford to buy a car here. I'm not exagerating when I say that I could buy a flat for the price of a half-decent run-around.

A friend of mine offered an explanation. He said that, given the relative poverty of the country, people hold their possesions in great value. So second-hand bangers are worshipped by their owners and sold reluctantly.

Whatever the reason, I'm fuming. All I want is a reliable run-around to get me from A to B. For £50 my dad picked up the doomed mini. Here, the same car would set me back 4 grand!

Any suggestions welcome. If you need me, I'll be exactly where you fucking left me. Looks like I'm not going anywhere anytime soon.

Sunday 30 August 2009

Random Turkish Fact #6

Picture the scene... you're in a shop (any shop) with a lady friend (the relationship to you is not important). She asks the salesman a question about a product. 99.99% of the time, the salesman will direct his reply to you, as the man, without even a glance at the woman.

What's the reason for this? To be honest, I'm not really sure. Perhaps it's an assumption that the small brained woman won't comprehend his answer.

More likely, it's an attempt to avoid an "Oi! Why are you talking to my missus/mother/aunt/daughter, you fucking rapist?!" misunderstanding.

Still, it makes me laugh. Especially when I'm given an answer to a question about slingbacks that I have absolutely no chance (or inclination) of understanding.

Beware though, that 0.01% of the time can be taxing. In a shop yesterday, the salesman complemented my girlfriends shorts. Not wanting to appear a stranger to the culture, I smiled, took a deep breath and torched the place... fucking rapist.

Monday 3 August 2009

Random Turkish Fact #5

Turks believe it's a sin to throw away bread.

Not a light-hearted Petshop Boys sin, but a serious sin worthy of celestial punishment. For this reason, you'll often see plastic bags of stale bread hanging next to rubbish bins.

Perhaps they're hoping someone will make use of it (though I'm not sure what your guests will say when you tell them you made the bread pudding out of stale bread found in a carrier next to the skip). Or perhaps they're deferring the punishment to someone else (after all, someone's eventually going to have to bin it). Thus it's probable that all Turkish dustmen are going to hell.

Friday 31 July 2009

Souper Trooper!

I was in my favourite pideci (Turkish pizza restaurant) the other night. It's open 24/7, which is handy because the name of the restaurant is '7/24'. It's round the back of the main post office in Kusadasi if you're interested. You can't miss it, it's the one in the middle of the area famous for Turkish street walking prostitutes and directly opposite the hotel specialising in Ukranian 'escorts'. Just follow the transvestite hookers on mopeds (you'll probably hear them shouting selected terms from my 'random obscenities list' before you actually see them).

Once you've found the place, take a seat and browse the menu. They seem to have gone a bit more upmarket since I was last there (hence the scribbled and updated prices). Even the owner has shaved off his moustache, thus dragging himself into the 21st century (unaware that moustaches kinda came back in fashion with Earl).

Now a soup joint is kinda like a kebab shop in the UK. It's a place where piss-heads go to end their night. A little sustenance to sober them up enough to fool the copper that pulls them over for driving down the promenade naked.

Things can get a little lively at times and the owner has been known to reach for his baseball bat to calm a dispute. But, if you ask me, it's got to be the best soup and pide in town. I honestly recommend it.

So what kind of soup gets a Turk salivating after a heavy night on the Raki? Take a look at the menu below. It starts fine but swiftly goes very wrong. If this doesn't sober you up, not much will...

Friday 24 July 2009

Random Turkish Fact #4

Turks consider it rude to blow your nose in company. They will take themselves off to a secluded spot to clear their trunks. A good old British raspberry into a hankerchief at the dinner table is met with glares of disdain. Be warned.

Thursday 21 May 2009

Things I'd never done before moving to Turkey #1

Hitting a woman with my car ...and blaming her

Whilst driving through a busy market (a first in itself), I clipped a woman with my wing-mirror. The strange thing was my initial response. I (and everyone else in the car) immediately blamed her for not moving out the way. It was only until a few streets later when I felt pangs of guilt.

People, never forget, in complete contrast to the UK, here in Turkey the car is king and pedestrians have to give way.

Sunday 10 May 2009

Random Turkish Fact #3

Turks keep a stool in the bath (no, I don't mean anything sinister). Apparently it's so they can sit down while they shower. Majestic laziness.

Friday 24 April 2009

Turk ...ish Facebook Group

In a Dave Gorman-esque attempt to find people with a similar background, I've opened a Facebook Group solely for people from mixed Turkish descent.

So far there's only one member Can I really be the only half-breed out there? It only takes one stroll down Bar Street to indicate that this can't be true.

So if you know anyone who's half-Turkish, half-something else, please point them in the direction of the group.

I'm waiting...

Thursday 23 April 2009

Random Turkish Fact #2

When the cashier isn't looking, Turks steal plastic bags from supermarkets to use as bin bags at home. Another ploy (and the one I use) is to put every item in a separate bag. Thus ensuring you leave the supermarket stupid with carriers.

Saturday 18 April 2009


Since relocating to Izmir, I've had to source a new barber. My current find is a 17 year old called Ahmet who's been working in the same place since he was 11.

Today was only the second time I've been to see him.

After giving me a mullet and waxing my nose, he slapped me on the back and said "the missus will love it!"

Well worth £5, I reckon.

Friday 27 March 2009


Something you have to know about the way Turks consume alcohol is that, similar to the Spanish, it's rarely done without some kind of food. Even a local bar will usually provide a snack next to your beer. Drinking without eating is seen as uncouth. The most common accompaniments to a drinking session are salted popcorn or cerez.

Popcorn we all know and love. It has a heroin-like addictive quality, costs nothing and the salt ensures you're perpetually thirsty. All perfect ingredients for a landlord to guarantee you'll keep quaffing booze.

The alternative to popcorn is cerez (pronounced cherez). This is simply a general term for nuts of any kind. Though more expensive than popcorn, nuts are equally addictive and thirst provoking. Yet nuts are somehow classier. More importantly, nuts are entertainment. I'll explain...

Put a bowl of mixed nuts in the middle of several groups of drinkers and I bet the order of consumption will be identical. I will now go through the order and identify each nut:

1. The pistachio
King of the mixed nut bowl. Tasty, expensive and nail-breakingly entertaining. Put two bowls on a table. One filled with shelled and one with unshelled pistachios. I promise everyone will want to pull them apart themselves. Why? Because the process of breaking them open is fun! OK sometimes part of the shell gets under your nail and spears salt into your flesh but that's the gamble. Pre-shelled don't taste as good - fact! Pre-shelled don't seem as fresh - fact!

There's no doubt the pistachios are first to be picked out of the bowl of mixed nuts because, ultimately, everyone knows they're the most expensive.

2. The peanut
Usually extremely salty and still wrapped in their paper-thin, brown jackets, the peanuts are a welcome alternative to the rich, complicated pistachio. You can flick these directly into your mouth without taking your eyes off the belly dancer.

Most Turks will, however, roll them between their fingers over an ashtray to remove the salty casing but this is really just a token gesture to a healthier lifestyle.

I did once go to a nightclub where tables were given monkey nuts. My god, you should have seen the excitement. Half an hour into the night, the floor was covered in shells and the bowls empty. Something so simple yet memorable. We must have washed down a couple of kilos on our table of four alone.

3. The cashew
Rarely found in your average bar. These are supremely expensive. Shelled by far eastern toddlers and flown over individually, they cost a premium and so seldom seen. This is the truffle of the bar snack.

4. The Almond
Turks so want to peel these but can't so they take them home and soak them in water. Personally I just shovel them in. But the problem with almonds is they can get a little sickly. You've got to pace yourself. If you're ever on a Turkish drinking binge and you begin to feel queasy, it's the almonds. Honest.

5. Roasted sweetcorn
Yep, you've never heard of them and actually they're relatively new to Turkey. These are corn kernels roasted with spices. Morish, crispy and delicious. However, because of their distinctive taste and crunch, those unaware of their presence in a bowl of cerez can often looked a little startled.

6. The hazelnut
Turkish hazelnuts are enormous. I remember Christmases at home with a bowl of hazelnuts and a nutcracker. All that hard, dangerous work and the reward was a tiny, chewy, pea-like nut. In Turkey, you need a sledgehammer and a welding mask. One of these bad boys could feed a family for a week.

I can't remember if I told you the story of the Black Sea sailors who were moored in Kusadasi harbour last winter to dig an underwater trench. My nan took pity on them and started sending me down to their ship with tea and soup. After a few days bags of hazelnuts began to appear tied to my nan's front door. The reason was, the Black Sea coast is famous of hazelnuts and, by all accounts, the sailors cabins were stupid with them.

7. The sunflower seed
OK this isn't exactly found in the bowl of mixed cerez. Sunflower seeds are usually something served at home while watching 'Deal or no Deal'.

I have fond memories of years watching Newsnight with my parents. My dad cracking away at a bowl of sunflower seeds and my mum perpetually complaining about the 'monkey-like' noise. Happy days.

8. The pumpkin seed
OK now we're back on track with the mixed cerez. These are a classic inclusion. Much like the pistachio, these provide Kinder Surprise style entertainment for the alcoholic.

To open, the pumpkin seed is place sideways (sharp end first) between the front teeth. Clamping down forces the seed to start opening. Then while the seed is partially open, a special tongue (similar to a budgie's and one only found in Turks) darts into the shell and scoops out the seed. I am successful in 1 in 76 attempts. Usually I get frustrated and eat the whole sodding thing, shell and all.

9. The white chickpea
Surprisingly hard. After each one there's always the question "what broke there? The nut or my tooth?". It's your average chickpea in a suit of armour. Be aware that, when eating these, your lips will turn white with powder. This is important if you're in a venue with UV lighting.

10. The brown chickpea
Famously, the cerez choice of Ataturk. Most Turks, however, tend to leave this particular nut until last. Easy to eat but tastes like grouting. If eaten in quantities exceeding 4, the mouth can become dangerously arid leading to a need for immediate lubrication.

Did you ever imagine there was so much hidden in the bowl of mixed nuts sitting in the middle of your bar table? Forrest Gump once said that 'life is like a box of chocolates'. Well my cousin offered me a Turkish translation as I drifted into my early thirties a single man. "Billy", she said "girls are like a bowl of cerez. First the pistachios are taken. Then the peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds. As you hit your late twenties, the remaining pumpkin seeds begin to dwindle until all you're left with is a bowl of brown chickpeas. But if you look carefully you'll find a few pistachios that no one has been able to prise open". There's hope for us yet.

So there you have it, the tradition of cerez. You should now be armed with enough information to look like a native as you plough into your 18 pints of Efes Pilsner in your Nottingham Forest football shirt before climbing onto the bar for a swift Macarena.

Personally I can't eat them. They give me awful gas.

Wednesday 4 February 2009

Chav Tees

Never have I seen a more appropriately labelled clothes rack than this one in a store in Soke.

Saturday 31 January 2009

Show your face on Facebook

Don't forget the Arse About Fez Facebook group! It's open to everyone.

I kiss you!

Friday 30 January 2009

Moments of Turkish Genius #1

Glow-in-the-dark light switches

These have been around for as long as I can remember in Turkey. A fluorescent light switch! So simple. Pure genius.

Wednesday 28 January 2009

A shoe shop with attitude

Don't even try taking anything back to this shop I saw in Izmir...

Monday 26 January 2009

Sezen Aksu - The Queen of Turkish Pop

Music has an important role in Turkish culture and Turkish pop spans generations. The latest hits are known and sung by young and old. Far more so than in British culture. Ask your auntie to sing you the current number one in the UK and she'll probably look at you as though you've suggested she show you some breakdance moves.

Perhaps it's because Turkish popular music stays closer to its roots than most Euro-pop. The subjects are fairly predictable. "Smack your bitch up" just wouldn't make it here. Love and heart break are the only thing people are singing about in Turkey ...with perhaps a smattering classics about famous towns and cities: "This morning it rained in Istanbul", "Bodrum, Bodrum" etc.

By far the biggest star in Turkish popular music is Sezen Aksu. A woman now in her mid-fifties. Her music career started the year I was born (1975).

Divorced 4 times, she has the right to sing about love and heart break more than most and she does it with an emotion you can feel without completely understanding the lyrics. Below is a medley of her most famous early work: "Don't Cry", "Go", "Come Back" (make your mind up, woman).

Fatma Sezen Yıldırım was born in Denizli in 1954 then moved to Izmir when she was 3 years old. She attended the school just down the road from my house before finally moving to Istanbul to persue her music career.

Izmir folk are proud to call her their own and everyone claims to have lived next door to her at one point or another. "We were so close, we could hear her and her father screaming at each other" my friend said proudly.

Like most successful artists, she's had a troubled life. Not quite Edith Piaf troubled but probably somewhere on the scale between Billie Holiday and James Blunt.

Sezen is an unusually attractive woman. I've always had a soft spot for her since I saw the cover for the album 'Gulumse' back in the early nineties (the title track contains one of my favourite lyrics "I'm so lonely, I don't even have a cat"). With her striking red hair, Suzanne Vega bob and a near monobrow, she's an unlikely sex-symbol.

But you know that despite the harsh exterior, there's a sensitive artist just below the surface. Broken and emotional, she brings out the nurturing instinct in most men. Her petite frame earned her the nickname "little sparrow". But the nickname is somewhat misleading when you hear her deep, powerful voice. Like Dame Shirley Bassey on gin, Sezen can belt out songs that make your heart bleed.

Sezen's influence goes beyond Turkey and Turkish Pop. She was behind the pen of Tarkan's classics "Şımarık" and "Şıkıdım", songs that found airtime across the world. Her songs have been covered more times than "My Way". Here's a cover of one of her classics "Herseyi Yak" ("Burn Everything") by the Turkish rock band "Duman".

"Burn me, burn yourself, burn everything,
A single spark is enough. Look, I'm ready.
Kiss me if you want or kill me.
Being prepared to die for love is true love.

I drew you inside myself with one breath
My heart imprisoned, my chest caged.
We're both ready to burn.
A single spark is enough. Look, I'm ready.
Being prepared to die for love is true love.

My God, my God.
I'm walking towards the fire.
My God, with love and pain
I grow.

Exhaust me with your yearning, exhaust me with your love.
Being without love is more painful than separation.
Hurt me as much as you please.
Being with you or without you. Neither are enough for me."
Herseyi Yak - Sezen Aksu
Possibly her most famous track is "Hadi Bakalim" ("Come On") which made her sore to the throne as the Queen of Turkish Pop. Inevitably, it's just been re-discovered, digested and crapped out as a steaming pile of Euro-pap. Here's the original:

Despite understanding very few of her lyrics, I adore Sezen's work. I would love to put up every single one of my favourite tracks but I'll probably bring down the Blogger server. So I'm going to leave you with a couple of her hits that I hold dear.

Firstly, "Rakkas" ("Pendulum"). Inviting you to sway your hips and dance like a pikey. Enjoy:

Finally a track from my favourite album "Adi Bende Sakli". This song is called "Tutuklu" ("Arrested"):

Sezen Aksu is a Turkish Madonna in almost every way. From her string of husbands to her ever changing style to her monobrow. She will continue to be a star even after the cosmetic surgeons have thrown in their scalpels. Her songs will be picked up, covered, remixed and rehashed for many years to come.

Now go, go. Run to YouTube and listen to as much as you can.

Saturday 24 January 2009

Out with the 'New'

As of the 1st January 2009, Turkey introduced a new currency. Before January 2005, the official money of Turkey was the Turkish Lira (TL). The inflation was so bonkers it became embarrassing, the lowest denomination being the 100,000 TL note.

Bread cost a few thousand and cigarettes cost a couple of million a pack. It was very confusing, especially when discussing something costing millions or billions of Sterling. Turkey had words for numbers I'd never heard of.

Then they decided to take action and knock 6 zeros off the currency. Suddenly the nation went from talking in millions of Turkish Lira, to single units of the New Turkish Lira (YTL). Of course, it didn't completely work. People still talk in millions. This gets very confusing when you're actually trying to talk in millions of YTL and people are thinking old money.

This is something I saw in France with the introduction of the Euro. The nation takes time to adjust to the new currency and continues to make the conversion in their heads.

Well, it's deemed that enough time has passed and the Turkish currency is no longer new. So, as of this January, a new banknote has been introduced and, with it, the new name... No more New Turkish Lira, it's plain old Turkish Lira again.

How is this going to affect people's lives? Minimally. See ya!

Apparently the new 50 Lira note is causing some controversy and is being boycotted by Kemalists (supporters of Ataturk). The reverse of the note displays the picture of Fatma Aliye, a writer at the time of Ataturk. She was against revolution and her writings are published in a magazine backed by the ruling AKP Party.

Kemalists are refusing to accept this note and will ask for any other denominations wherever they're offered it.

Friday 16 January 2009

Turkish Truths #2

Residual washing up liquid gives you cancer.

Thursday 15 January 2009

Fitty Cent

Turkey's version of 'Deal or No Deal' is massive. Possibly the most watched show on TV at the moment.

Recently, they've taken to bringing on international celebrity contestants. A couple of weeks ago Christina Aqualung was the star (can you imagine this on the UK version? Noel would be happier than a cat with a chocolate flavoured nipsy). Then last week, it was... wait for it ...50 Cent. Bonkers.

Well, given all the hype, the kids were bound to be excited. I walked into my first lesson of the day and a 9 year old student asked "Mr.Hasirci, have you heard of 50 Cent?". Wanting to keep hip with the kids I replied "who? Me? Yeah, of course I have!", followed by a 2 second misguided bout of body popping.

The kid looked at me bemused and, completely seriously, replied... "no, not 'spastic'. I said '50 Cent'". He'll go far.

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Money to burn

I'm now in the middle of my 2nd winter here in Turkey (last year I was back in the UK for 6 months and missed the whole thing). For a country that fears the cold, Turkey seems pretty poorly equipped to warm itself efficiently.

Having been born and raised in the UK (a country with weather more temperamental than a menstruating polar bear), I don't remember there ever being too much of a problem in keeping my house warm. The classic British route is Gas Central Heating; a system so common its initials alone are enough in a estate agent's advert - GCH.

My first Turkish winter took me by complete surprise. I never imagined Turkey could get so cold. But I was living in a 'summer house', meaning a house that was built for summer jollies not for winter residence. The walls are thin. The windows are single glazed. Things that are ideal in the heat of the summer but completely energy inefficient in the winter.

I tried an electric fire at first but in the words of Withnail, I may as well have "sat round a cigarette". The wiring in the flat was so ancient, the cables were heating up more than the fire itself.

Then I tried the old fashioned route of the coal burner. I'm sure I mentioned this before in the blog. Very useful but hard work and potentially lethal. Noxious fumes nearly took my life on at least one occasion as did hauling coal up from the garage. In a house with no insulation, the heat was fierce but soon disappeared.

Since moving to Izmir and into the teachers' residence, I've discovered a new system. I have big radiators on the walls with pipes leading back into a cupboard with a huge tumble drier type machine. From there the pipes continue out onto the balcony to a large diesel tank. Yes, a big square tank about the size of 4 large fridges, that you fill up with diesel. I was intrigued (and freezing) so I decided to give it a go.

How does it work? Well the other night I saw a petrol tanker outside in the road. You know the kind you see driving up the M6 with 'BP' written on the side. Well I shouted down and a man scurried up. The next thing I know I'm ordering 100 litres of diesel and watching it being pumped into an 'ashtray' sized hole in the top of the huge tank (I know it's ashtray sized because I've been using an ashtray to cover the hole - call me over cautious but people smoke on the balcony. 1 cigarette+100 litres of petrol=Boom!).

About £100 of diesel later, the system was ready to go. I pressed the button and... fuck all. 3 days later they fitted a new pump and I pressed the button again. Whoooooooffff! My god, did it ignite. It's smelly and noisy but it certainly pumped out sufficient heat. When I say smelly and noisy, imagine a Ford Transit idling under the stairs.

That was 10 days ago and it ran out of fuel yesterday. Nice. So, it's going to cost me about £400 per month to heat this fucking place? Why? Well because Turkey has the most expensive petrol prices in the world. That's why!

So, in igniting the diesel burner, I was effectively doing this...

Actually, this would have probably worked out cheaper! Why didn't I do the calculations first??

So, what are the options for keeping warm through a Turkish winter?
  1. Coal burner. Already discussed. Cheap. Efficient. Dirty. Lethal.
  2. Gas burner. Old school types your nan had. Saw one in the florist the other day. The guy said it was useful but the fumes are deadly.
  3. GCH. Only available in certain parts of Izmir. Not here yet.
  4. Diesel burner. See above.
  5. Olive stone burner. No, I'm not making this up. You can get a burner that uses a fuel made from the stones of olives. Very cheap and effective but you need to give 3 rooms of your house over to storing olive pips. Tinker, tailor, soldier, fuck that.
  6. ...and the one that everyone has been suggesting since the beginning to be honest... One of these babies:

This is called a UFO. Most people seem to be using them. So I'm off to Turkish B&Q tomorrow to get me one. No doubt it'll give me skin cancer but at least I'll be warm without having to sell my possessions.

Turkish Truths #1

Walking barefoot on cold ground makes you sterile.