Friday 31 December 2010

Turkish Sports - Camel Wrestling

It's not what you think. Besides, I'm not sure a man would stand a chance against an angry camel. No, this is the winter pass-time of pitching two dromedaries against each other in a fight to the ...flee.

It's not as bad as it sounds. Camels are fairly passive creatures. This isn't like cock or dog fighting. This is the blood sport equivalent of two kids shoving each other in the playground until one runs crying to the teacher.

So how do you get a camel fired up and ready to rumble? You show it a lady camel, of course. Two males watch a female being paraded in front of them. They froth at the mouth and a fight ensues. A similar scene can be found in bars up and down the country.

The real attraction of a camel fight for the spectators is the copious consumption of alcohol. The nudging camels are nothing compared to the fighting in the stands. Men wearing the traditional flat caps and scarves binge on the fruits of an open grill whilst quaffing raki. The real excitement comes from drunken spectators scrambling to avoid the hooves of fleeing camels. Fun for the whole family (as long as your an adult male).

Thursday 30 December 2010

Songs About Turkey #5

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda - Eric Bogle

I first heard this performed by The Pogues at the end of another manic album. A spectacular song written by Eric Bogle. It tells the story of an Australian soldier being shipped off to Gallipoli.

I wont go into the detail of the war; that deserves a much longer post. All I will say is that it's not something we learnt much about at school in the UK. We were told it was the greatest retreat in British military history and that was about all.

It is, however, a subject Turks like to remind me about and tell me their version of events. I think both sides agree that it was one of the biggest fuck-ups in British Military history. A war filled with bad luck, communication, timing, strategy, reasoning and execution.

I watched a documentary in Turkish with my cousin and uncle. Not understanding the commentary, I looked to my cousin to pause and translate from time-to-time. He often paused just to laugh at the comedic incompetence of the allied strategy.

One story I remember vividly... Anzac troops take two weeks to finally clear and mount a strategic point on a hill at the cost of hundreds of lives. Finally reaching the top, allied ships see them, think they're Turks and bomb them. It's something from the pen of Mel Brooks.

Anyway, here is the song sung by Mr.Bogle himself. Take a moment to think of the thousands who lost their lives and remember the quote of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk:
"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours.
You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears. Your sons are now living in our bosom and are in peace.
Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well"

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Turkish Sports - Oil Wrestling

Leather chaps with metal studding and muscular men dripping in oil and sweat could only be one thing. Somewhere between Smackdown and a rub-down, we find the ancient sport of Turkish Oil Wrestling. Though, at first glance, it may appear akin to a street brawl in Soho, this challenging feat of endurance takes strength and stamina.

Not being particularly au fait with the rules and regulations, I decided to do a little research.

Thanks to the work of Dr. Donald Stewart Miller, I found more than enough facts, puns, double meanings and homosexual references to write this article.

"The Kirkpinar (“Forty Springs”) in Edirne, Turkey is the annual world series of Yağlı Gűreş (greasy wrestling), the Turkish national sport." (I'm not sure I would class it as Turkey's national sport, but anyway...).

Wrestlers are divided into thirteen categories:

  1. Chief wrestler
  2. Under chief (sometimes literally)
  3. Big medium (my shirt size)
  4. Small big medium (sorry, what?)
  5. Small medium small (OK, forget it)
  6. Supporting big size (braggers)
  7. Supporting medium size (most of us)
  8. Supporting small size (it's what you do with it that counts)
  9. Kickers of the dust (the wrestling equivalent of window lickers)
  10. Encourager (they don't need any encouragement)
  11. Small and sweet 2 (hardly a title for WWF)
  12. Small and sweet 1
  13. Best beginners

It is said that true wrestlers should have been rolling around in oil from the ages of seven to seventy. Today, ages usually range from twelve to forty ...though, that would seem a slightly unfair match should they ever be pitched against each other.

"Each fighter wears a kispet, sturdy leather trunks from the waist to below the knees." Worn to cover their nudity, according to Dr. Miller as "an act of male modesty commanded by Mohammed".

"He also wraps coarse cloths around his knees in order to block the opening of the cuffs against his opponent’s probing fingers. The writing in metal studs on his butt indicates his name or his sponsoring club, usually his home town."

The bout is won by pinning the opponent to the floor. Once decided, "often winner and loser will walk off the field together arm in arm". Sweet.

Not surprisingly, googling 'Turkish oil wrestling' produces a fairly healthy number of gay results. There are even tours organised to go to the rather conservative Kirkpinar for a weekend of group man on man action:

"Oil Wrestling Traditional Festival is a unique and 1500 years old festival. This is the festival where the strongest and helathiest men from all over Turkey come together and wrestle which form up a very "sensual" scenery. The world was ruled by Ottoman Empire from the event hometown city of Edirne for 100 years. You will discover this beautiful city and also the city of Istanbul in a very gay environment."

Good luck with that, chaps.

To prove that Turkish oil wrestling is far from gay, I've put together a short video:

Turkish Oil Wrestling - definitely not gay.

Monday 13 December 2010

Arse About Fez gets a Christmas No.4!!!

I love the Turkish Travel Blog. It's official. In fact, I thought I couldn't love it more. And then I see they've got me listed in their Top Ten Turkish Blogs list. So now my love is bordering on creepy.

Thank you very much!

Monday 6 December 2010

Songs About Turkey #4

Telephone call from Istanbul - Tom Waits

My all time favourite drunk crooner. Self-claimed to have a voice like "Ethel Merman and Louis Armstrong meeting in hell", this is a track from his 1987 album "Frank's Wild Years". I'm not really sure what it's about but I like it ...and it mentions Istanbul. Enjoy.

Thursday 11 November 2010

I'm still a child at heart...

Oh I do amuse myself while the kids are listening to the story. This nugget of gold is from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

10th November 1938

Today is an eerie day. Something happens every year on the 10th November at exactly 9:05am. Something that makes my skin tingle.

At this time, on this date in 1938, Ataturk died in Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul. In remembrance of this sad moment for the nation, Turkey stands still. And I mean, completely still.

After a moment of silence, everything and anything that has a siren or a horn begins to sound. Cars, ships, schools, police cars, ambulances, all give an eerie drone.

After all these years, the passing of Ataturk is respected by the entire nation. It's quite an emotional moment, even for an outsider.

Here follows a short video of the funeral procession back in 1938.

His body was taken from Istanbul to Ankara, where he was laid to rest in the magnificent Anitkabir mausoleum.

If you would like to know more about Ataturk, I have another post here.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Songs About Turkey #3

Turkish Song of the Damned - The Pogues

From one of their greatest albums, this song has almost nothing to do with Turkey. Based heavily on Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the Turkish title was something of an accident. Apparently a Pogue heard someone talking about 'Turkish Song' of The Damned (though I've not been able to find any reference to The Damned having made any such track) and the name stuck.

The video here includes the late Joe "should I stay or should I go?" Strummer, the late Kirsty "not looking for a new England" MacColl and, the forever teetering on the edge of alco-meltdown, Shane MacGowan. Enjoy.

Thursday 7 October 2010

Twit about Fez

I'm trying my hand at Twitter these days (yes, I know I'm getting a trifle slow at adopting new technology in my old age).

Come find me and read a minute by minute account of my daily life. It's the social media equivalent of watching paint dry.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

More Turkish things that make you go ooooohhhhhwaaaaaaaaaahhh!!!!!!

Looking on my girlfriend's shelf the other day, I spotted something that made my testicles retract into my lower abdomen.

At first glance, it's a classic shelf - The Cambridge English/Turkish dictionary, a few batteries, a mug of loose change, a taser ...sorry? What?!

Yep, a taser. A weapon used for the purpose of inducing neuromuscular incapacitation and something the U.N. classifies as a weapon of torture.

Turkish girls... don't mess with them!

Things I'd never done before moving to Turkey #5

Getting stuck in a lift and forgetting to panic.

Being claustrophobic, I thought my first experience of getting stuck in a lift would be something of a screaming frenzy. I guess living in Turkey has toughened me up a bit.

Tonight, I got stuck in the metre square lift in my apartment building. The strange thing was my reaction of complete and utter calm; as though it were an everyday event.

No punching walls. No loss of bladder control. No crying. No tearing at my clothes. Just a very matter-of-fact tap of the buttons and a nudge to the door. It worked too.

Monday 20 September 2010

Turkish things that make you go ooooohhhhhwaaaaaaaaaahhh!!!!!!

Walking through Izmir the other day, my cousin pointed out this sign.

Roughly translated it reads: "this building could collapse at any moment. Do not get too close". Please also note the tables and chairs of the local cafe. Aaahhh nothing like a relaxing lunch.

Saturday 11 September 2010

Fezaurus #7

İmam osuruyor, cemaat sıçıyor - the priest farts, the congregation shits.

Comparable to the English "give them an inch and they'll take a yard", this beautifully imaginative phrase is used in situations where the lower echelons of society take the piss (or, in this case, a shit).

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Songs About Turkey #2

Uska Dara - E.Kitt

Probably best known by the fur-promoting feline wannabe, Earth Kitt in 1953, this pseudo comedic ditty sings of the region of Üsküdar in Istanbul. Riddled with mistranslated, mispronounced and over-hockled Turkish, the song is, nevertheless, quite cute. Favourite line: "Ooooh those Turks!".
Uska Dara

Üsküdar'a gider iken aldi da bir yagmur
Üsküdar'a gider iken aldi da bir yagmur
Kâtibimin setresi uzun, etegi çamur
Kâtibimin setresi uzun, etegi çamur

Kâtip uykudan uyanmis, gözleri mahmur
Kâtip uykudan uyanmis, gözleri mahmur
Kâtip benim, ben kâtibin, ele karisir?
Kâtibime siter eter faltu ne güzel yarasir

Uska dara is a little town in Turkey
And in the old days
Many women had male secretaries
Oh, well, that's Turkey

Üsküdar'a gider iken bir mendil buldum
Üsküdar'a gider iken bir mendil buldum
Mendilimin içine lokum doldurdum
Mendilimin içine lokum doldurdum

They take a trip from Usku dara in the rain
And on the way they fall in love
He's wearing a stiff collar, in a full dress suit
She looks at him longingly through her veil
And casually feeds him candy, oh, those Turks

Kâtibimi arar iken yanimda buldum
Kâtibimi arar iken yanimda buldum
Kâtip benim, ben kâtibin, el ne karisir?
Kâtibime kolali da gömlek ne güzel yarasir

Kâtibimi arar iken yanimda buldum
Kâtibimi arar iken yanimda buldum
Kâtip benim, ben kâtibin, el ne karisir?
Kâtibime kolali da gömlek ne güzel yarasir
Kâtibime kolali da gömlek ne güzel yarasir
The song is based on the traditional Turkish song Katibim (below). Enjoy.

Monday 6 September 2010

Arse in the Press

My random drivel about the great Turkish nation has been picked up by a couple of magazines.

Firstly, by the super Gezenti Magazine right here in Turkey and secondly by the spectacular Bluesky Traveling Magazine in Russia. Though I can't understand the translation of either articles, I just hope that the knob gags retained their banality.

Right, I'm off to add 'published writer' to my CV ...What?? It counts!!

Songs About Turkey #1

Istanbul (Not Constantinople) - J.Kennedy/N.Simon

Originally recorded by The Four Lads (above), the song talks about the change of name of Turkey's most famous city.

Probably the most famous recording was in 1990 by the group They Might be Giants.

Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Now it's Turkish delight on a moonlit night

Every gal in Constantinople
Lives in Istanbul, not Constantinople
So if you've a date in Constantinople
She'll be waiting in Istanbul

Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why they changed it I can't say
People just liked it better that way

So take me back to Constantinople
No, you can't go back to Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks

Istanbul (Istanbul)
Istanbul (Istanbul)

Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why they changed it I can't say
People just liked it better that way

Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks

So take me back to Constantinople
No, you can't go back to Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks


Saturday 4 September 2010

Famous Turks #6

Ayda Field (AKA Mrs. Robbie Williams)

Born Ayda Sabahat Evecan in Los Angeles to a Turkish father and American mother. Ayda launched her career as an actress in Days of our Lives (I thought that was a make-believe soap from Friends).

Yada yada yada, she married Robbie at the beginning of August 2010. I wish them 'hayirlisi' (may it be without problems). That said, shall we start taking bets? Anyone for 6 months?

Thursday 2 September 2010

Fair! ...Enough!

Every year, Izmir hosts the oldest tradeshow in Turkey. Known simply as Izmir International Fair, its venue is the Kulturpark in the heart of the city. Running for a week from morning until way passed midnight, it swarms with locals as well as out of towners. This year, I decided to head down to see what all the fuss is about.

The first thing you notice is how incredibly busy it is. This is obviously a massive event in the Izmir calendar and people from all walks of life turn out to pay their 2TL to be a part of it.

The exhibitors range from TV channels to car manufacturers to olive oil wholesalers. Dolly birds trip around showing off mopeds to young couples, while slick businessmen eat waffles and ponder audio visual equipment.

After a walk through the trade section, we made a dash for the 'World Food' area. At first glance, it appeared a misnomer as the food stalls were divided into the famous cities of Turkey. There was food from Mersin, Gaziantep and even Aydin. I thought the world was bigger than this.

On closer inspection, however, I found Romanian, Bulgarian, Mexican, Italian and Chinese stands. Tucking into my Chinese noodles and fajitas, I started to get into the swing of the blaring music while food sellers danced waving paper napkins. 

After a few stuffed mussels, my friends convinced me to make the next stop the amusement park.

As a child I would visit Hampton Court fair with my friends every Bank Holiday. But, being a complete coward, I would always be the one holding the coats for my friends as they crammed themselves into gypsy-powered waltzers.

It wasn't until a 4-day motivational seminar that I had enough fire in my belly to try a rollercoaster for the first time. I headed to Euro Disney with some friends and boarded the scariest ride on offer. Despite screaming like a resident of Brokeback Mountain, this then paved the way for me to climb Kilimanjaro and, ultimately, sky-diving over Las Vegas. Nothing, however, had prepared me for the Izmir funfair.

This was where the action really was. I stood in awe as I watched scarved families barge their way through the crowds to fulfil the death wishes of their offspring. The greased pikeys who'd been lapdancing foreign pensioners in the tourist towns only days before were finally letting off steam on some of the most horrifying rides I'd ever laid my eyes on.

A friend pointed out a truth I'd been unable to admit to myself. "When you look at those responsible for your safety and the way the machinery rattles and rocks, the excitement is a very real sense that you may be propelled, waltzer and all, into a pomegranate tree."

Before long I was strapped into a ride and back to my camp YeeHawwing. Not satisfied, we got in line for the Magic Carpet ride. I watched the controller with a psychotic intensity as he pressed one button then the next, stopping only to take puffs on his cigarette.

We boarded and pulled the metal bar down over our laps. Soon we were off, swinging back and then forth. As my 95 kilo frame was ridiculed by the immense contraption as it jarred us higher and higher. A glance to my friends confirmed that we were all now in a state of silent terror. Gone were the smiles and the woops. We were now all clinging on for dear life and waiting for the ride to end.

Desperately trying to find something to anchor my obese frame, I lodged my shins under a metal bar. Though excruciatingly painful, it did offer a vague hint of security. The bruising on my lower extremities, however, is still a reminder of just how scared and desperate I was.

With all the poise and grace of four Parkinson's victims, we slowly trembled over to the Big Wheel to round off our evening with spectacular views over Turkey's 3rd largest city.

Yes, that's right. Forget the chocolate cigarettes of Hampton Court, this is Hoop-la for real packs of Marlboro Reds. I love Turkish funfairs.

Clever dick!

I think I'll try and get down there again before it ends for another year.

Izmir International Fair ...recommended!

Monday 30 August 2010

Four Weddings and a Divorce

Yeah, I know. I've been away a while. I'm sorry.

Summer came and went (well, going ...slowly). It was a busy one as it is every year. It's strange that when you live in a holiday destination, you never really get to have a holiday. When I was living in the UK, I worked all year for my two weeks in the sun and went I went on holiday, I holidayed.

These days, I seem to spend my time pottering around the house, avoiding the blazing heat outside the front door. I've put up shelves and pictures and spring cleaned my brains out in preparation for the new school year. At last, it seems, I've buffed the flat as much as I can.

In late July, I took a trip to Poland with my great mate from the UK and topped up my bacon reserves.

A couple of weeks later, I flew home to the UK for ma's birthday. Notice I'm using the word 'home' again in reference to England. It's a little hard to explain, but I'll give it a try.

Perhaps I needed time away, but my relationship with the UK changed considerably on my return this time. It was a stroll along the tree-lined banks of the Thames in my hometown of Kingston, when I realised just how beautiful the country is.

When you live in another country, you're forever reliant on other people. Especially when your grasp of the language isn't that great. Always asking for help with this and that slowly but surely bears down on you and creates an ever so slight feeling of confinement.

Turkey is a country where men, generally, make the decisions in a relationship. I'm talking about the day to day stuff; "which restaurant shall we go to?", "what film shall we watch?". Since moving to Turkey, I'd given up a lot of these decisions to the natives but on returning to the UK, I felt knowledgeable, decisive and confident again.

I'm probably coming across as a control freak but, believe me, I'm quite the opposite. It's just a little thing I noticed. A little thing that actually seeps deep into your sense of self-worth.

I feel I've forgiven the UK for whatever sins made me flee. I'm seeing it again with new eyes and appreciating what a fabulous place it is.

However, here's the gripe. Here are a list of things that still get on my tits about the UK:

1. Too many rules! The UK has gone regulation crazy since my departure. And what's worse, is that everybody seems to be policing these rules with ferocity. One of the things that's so infuriating and yet, is the charm of Turkey, is the lack of rules. You drive how you want, you sit where you want, you picnic where you want (I saw a family having a picnic on the grassy central reservation of a three-lane highway the other day. Surely there are better spots but who gives a shit?).

Notice the no-smoking sign. Why can't I smoke in this open air phone box? It has no door. My departure from the booth would cause enough air circulation to completely clear any residual fumes. I can guarantee, that should I spark up, someone would tap on the window and gesticulate for me to stub it out.

On a shopping trip one day, I was walking through an open precinct enjoying a smoke when a man in pseudo-police uniform came running over to me to point out, rather officiously, that I was in breach of the no-smoking law of the precinct (as there was a roof over a small section of the walkway). It was clear that this was his sole responsibility.

His speech meant that I had taken twice as long to pass through his pissy poundland ridden precinct and expelled twice as much carbon dioxide.

I said, in an overly nice way "oh I'm so sorry, where can I put this out?". To which he pointed to a drain. So litter control is not in his remit then. Cock.

2. The weather. It's still mental. Having to leave the house with sunglasses and an umbrella fucks me up.

3. Chavs. I hate pretty much everything about them. And I especially hate the fact that their influence is spreading into general society. From crocs to that slack jaw way of talking. Groups of middle-class white kids speaking in pseudo-patois, really gets my goat.

4. Heathrow Duty-Free closing at 10pm. Are you fucking kidding? It was like Supermarket Sweep trying to buy some aftershave. Having to beg a bloke at the door of Dixons to allow me 2 minutes to buy a netbook is something I've grown unaccustomed to. The Turks have the right idea; if you're thinking about spending money, you're always welcome. Anyway, I thought once we've passed through customs, we're in a no-mans land where time stood still? Not in England, clearly.

I know I'll think of more, but I better leave it there as the red mist is starting to descend.

In between trips to colder climes, I've mainly been attending weddings. The subject of weddings is on my to-write list, along with why poor Turkish people always where suits and why one turkish sport has a massive gay following in the West.

Oh, something I forgot to mention...

I bought the tickets for our flights to the UK through the Turkish Airlines website. BE VERY CAREFUL! In the small print, I hadn't realised that our flights were to be with a subsidiary carrier called Anadolu Jet. On realisation, I figured they couldn't be that bad considering Turkish Airlines had put their name to them. Wrong.

Turkish Airlines have really sorted themselves out over the years and I would even take them as preference over BA these days. The staff are friendly (usually), the food is superb (you even get a little menu to choose from), booze is free-pour and free, the planes are new... everything is lovely.

Anadolu Jet are a budget airline. OK, fine. I've flown budget before. EasyJet are great if you play by the rules; get to the airport early, bring your own food etc. Anadolu Jet, are sub-budget.

When the food arrived, we got a small roll (I mean small, see the pic), some water and a toddler's handful of pasta. I asked for a whisky, I was told they only had tea, coffee or orange juice.

My girlfriend reclined her chair and the right side of my chair went with it. This meant, we were pretty much spooning for the rest of the journey. Thank god the bloke on my left didn't fancy a snooze.

I guess I would have seen the warning signs if I'd compared the Turkish Airlines ads with those of Anadolu Jet...

How Turkish Airlines is supposed to make you feel.

How Anadolu Jet actually makes you feel.

You'll be glad to know I managed to get us back onto Turkish Airlines for the return trip. Not through conventional channels, of course. Despite emails and calls to Turkey, it took all the strings I could pull to get us back on a decent airline. Believe me, without a connection fairly high-up in Turkish Airlines, it would not have been possible. This, unfortunately, is just the way things go in Turkey (even if you're in England).

Right, I better get on with that article about the homo-erotic sport. I kiss you!

Friday 16 July 2010


To celebrate the end of the school year, I thought I'd treat my tired feet to a well-earned pedicure. You wont believe it, looking at my immaculately groomed appearance, but I've never actually gone in for any kind of foot treatment before.

Pedicures and manicures are something that Turkish women have almost weekly and I vividly remember women visiting the home of my aunties to sharpen their talons. So I called upon the advice of my girlfriend to set me up with her beautician.

From the outset, it was clear that this wasn't really the norm for a Turkish man and that any nail work would have to be given under the cloak of darkness. The local salon is patronised by covered masses of religious women. A place where they can throw off their scarves and get a 2 hour perm, just so that it can be covered back up again before returning to the outside world.

"When a woman with a scarf has her hair done, we pull down the blinds so that no one can see" said Hulya (the woman I'll now refer to as 'my pedicurist').

The only way I was going to get my heels shaved was either for her to visit me or for me to visit her after hours.

A time and location were set and we headed off for the rendezvous.

Hulya welcomed us warmly and we sat and gossiped for half an hour or so (well actually, I just sat and listened and hoped my feet didn't smell while the girls chewed the fat - probably best to rephrase that).

Rising from her seat, Hulya stated it was time to get my feet into some water. Promptly she arrived with a bucket of warm water and I soaked my little piggies while the gossip continued.

I think we're going to need a bigger bucket.

After a while she sat in front of me and invited my foot onto her lap.

The etiquette with a Turkish pedicure is that you bring your own weapons of torture. This may well be the case internationally but being a pedi-virgin, I will run the risk of stating the obvious.

I'd complained of a painful big toe and before I'd finished my sentence she confirmed "oh yes, it's cutting in here". With that she snapped away with her (or rather, my) nail scissors. Hacking into anything that could cause an obstruction.

Taking a sharp, flat, metal thing, she then proceeded to gouge into the 'meat'. Cleaning and scraping while I winced and gibbered about women's pain thresholds.

There was blood, some tears and some plums! Yes, she brought me a plate of fruit. It helped!

All that's missing is the semi-nude harem lowering the strawberries into my mouth and this fantasy is complete.

I think the weirdest part for me was when she started cutting my toenails. It's always been such a private thing. Even the sound of nail cutting creates a similar response to the sound of someone emptying their nostrils. But why should this be? It's not exactly a taboo region of the body.

For whatever reason, I felt mildly embarassed during this stage of the proceedure.

Next came the tickling. I giggled like a girl (though girls are probably immune to it) while she shaved me feet with some kind of abbrasive bastard stick.

Then came a moment of pain swiftly followed by intense pleasure. The pain was the arrival of the omnipresent lemon cologne poured over the open wounds but before I could reel off some choice profanities, she had begun a cream foot massage that left me cross-eyed.

When I'd come to my senses, she uttered the words "sihhatler olsun" (a wish of health blessed upon the newly groomed - after a shower, haircut, shave, pedicure, armpit trim, Hollywood wax). We dragged ourselves into the kitchen and ate sunflower seeds, watermelon and smoked cigarettes until the early hours when we decided to let poor Hulya try to forget about the ordeal she'd suffered and get some rest.

What was the price of this intense pampering? Despite my pushing, she refused to accept payment. It was her first time treating a man and she made up all kinds of reasons for not accepting money. I hope she enjoys the tray of baklava I'll send her tomorrow when my girlfriend goes for her weekly visit.

Hulya is a lovely lady and clearly very good at her job. If you're in the Hatay area of Izmir and fancy a pedicure, drop me a line and I'll give you the details. Please though, ladies only. I don't want anyone getting the wrong idea.

Right, I'm off to take pictures of my feet for my Facebook profile.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Another brand that wont get a UK franchise

I was sitting having a tea in a patisserie in Selcuk the other day when I noticed its name.

"Bum Bakers" ...I refuse to grow up!

And to prove it, here's a song.

Monday 12 July 2010

Camel Cock

I regret the words I spoke last night to my friends in Ankara. "Oh Turkish buses are the best in the world. They make up for the trains. If only England blah blah blah..."

These words were uttered just minutes before boarding a Kamil Koc service from Ankara to Izmir. It was going to be my second experience (counting the trip out there on Friday) of a long-haul bus ride.

So why the regret? Let's start at the beginning...

Some friends were getting married in the Nation's Capital and we needed a way to travel the 579km. I'd driven before but I no longer have a car and, if I did, I fancied a more relaxing means of transportation.

The planes were expensive because we were booking late. So ruling out trains (which are never considered anyway) the only other option was the bus.

Unlike the UK, 8 hours on a bus isn't a big deal to Turks. Izmir to Istanbul or Ankara is a perfectly acceptable alternative.

We headed down to the Kamil Koc ticket office here in Hatay and spoke to the young chap behind the desk. He made me wary from the outset by talking about how "everyone will tell you that Kamil Koc is the best". So why do you need to tell me?

"Oh you're better off coming back at 1am and you'll arrive 10! Lovely!"

Fuck you, that's the middle of the day as far as the thermometre is concerned and I'd rather be safely at home by then. I know your game, mate. You want me to get on the shit-mobile because you can't sell those ungodly tickets. The 10pm bus is going to get people in to work on time and is a breeze to sell. Shove it, I want the 10pm.

"These are techno-seats! There's a TV with lots of different films. USB slots for your movie-filled flash disks. So much leg room, you can do your morning pilates..."

Oooooo USB. Now you've got my attention!

"Coming back, I'm going to give you the best seats on the bus. These two at the back, recline like a bitch and you'll not be disturbed by anyone. You'll sleep like babies until you reach Izmir."

Oooooo USB! OK just give me the tickets!

Boarding the bus to Ankara, we were sat just in front of the middle stair well. Not bad at all. The leg room wasn't amazing. The USB port was... well you know when you buy the cheaper model of something and they annoyingly use the same template for all so you can see where all the better functions should sit but they're blocked off? That was the USB port. Blocked off.

I did the British thing and kept quiet and tried to doze off. Not a chance. I don't sleep on vehicles unfortunately. My girlfriend, however, could sleep on a bike so I watched her instead.

After 4 hours, we arrived at Afyon; the home of sucuk (Turkish garlic sausage) and marijuana. We had a glass of tea and got back on the bus. We arrived, we went to the wedding. Lovely.

Coming back was a different matter. There was a bomb scare at Ankara bus station which meant nothing more than people were running around like headless chickens.

We made our bus with no time to spare and climbed on board. The time is 10pm. The World Cup Final started at 9:30pm. Now, I'm not a football fan but I do like the World Cup and I was hoping to fucking watch it on the bus!

"No signal" came a message on my screen. I called the teenager who serves tea and asked what was going on.

"No football, sorry" I nearly threw my undrinkably hot Nescafe over him.

Then a nudge from my girlfriend and she points to the screen. Game on! We've got signal and we've got a final and we've got ...half time. Bollocks. Oh well, at least we've got something.

Spain wins. Hurrah! That'll teach Robben to run around crying about every little knock.

Time for a doze but ...wait's really hot in here! My legs are burning. There is also a strong smell of burning.

We call the spotty bastard back. "What's going on, why is it so hot?"

"Well, you're sitting on the engine." came his patronisingly obvious reply.

"But they told us these were the most comfortable seats on the bus!"

"Nooooo, you'll never be comfortable at the back". Duh!

Oh jesus no! You mean, I've got 7 more hours of this hamam?

The USB didn't work again. The stupid tart in front of me kept her seat reclined so the table was at a slant, making it necessary to hold my red hot Nescafe with tears in my eyes. My TV was the only one that I could see that was not getting a clear signal. And our seats didn't fully recline.

By the time we reached our half-way break, I had taken off my shoes and socks, rolled my trousers up to my knees and lifted my t-shirt into a crop-top yet the sweat was still pouring off me.

My shoes had almost melted, the packed lunch we'd brought most certainly had. The tepid fart coming out of the aircon could not be directed usefully. All this combined with a lack of sleep, didn't make for a pleasant journey.

By 6am, we were in Izmir Bus Station looking for the service bus home. "We're not going where you want because of road works". But you picked me up from there didn't you? "You'll have to get on this one and make your own way from there". Anything else your company wants to do to us today?

We struggle on with our luggage and sit down and wait a long 15 minutes for the smelly, sweaty transit van to cough into life. "Just so there's no mistakes, this bus is going to Bornova". Mistake!!!!

The git had put us on the wrong bus. "Oh you want the service bus  just pulling out there". STOP THAT BUS!

Throwing our bags out of one and onto another, whilst ignoring the tuts from idiots, we were finally going home.

We get off at the last stop and hail a cab. "We're going to Hatay". We say exhausted but relieved.

"Where's that then?" Are you serious? Oh god, this is never-ending.

"It's back over there!" I say frustrated. He then proceeds to reverse us into a ridiculously busy roundabout. Only milimetres away from a fatal collision with a local bus, he decides that reversing is too dangerous and opts for driving forwards ...the wrong way round the roundabout.

Here I am, finally. Sleepless and furious. I'm writing this publicly to spread the word that, based on this one experience, Kamil Koc are a shower of shit and should be avoided at all costs. They are rude, useless, ignorant, have no desire to please the customer, lie to get custom, leave their passengers stranded and are generally an enormous pile of shit.

If I can be bothered to ever take a bus again, I'll try someone else. Any recommendations welcome.

Thank you for reading and remember:

Friday 2 July 2010

Seker Bayram

I've just had a visit from Bayram Bey - a man with a yellow canister strapped to his back. He smiles a lot and sweats even more and, for the price of a glass of coke, he fucked the nervous system of every creepy crawly in my apartment. He's my new best friend and I'm looking to add him on Facebook.

This dude knows his cockroach from a hole in the ground and gave me a brief insight into the life cycle and purpose of various things that scuttle in the night. Here's the scoop people!

1. Cockroaches like humid places with water that doesn't move much. Washing machine outlet pipes are popular, for example. Block such pipes with a plastic bag, it'll both stop the smell and close the door to cockroaches.

The cockroaches that are causing me bother are the "American Cockroach". They come, wander around the bathroom, realise they can't live there, die then startle me to the extreme of squealing like a pre-teen. Twats.

The kind that wait until I'm asleep before eating my biscuits are known as the "German Cockroach"...

2. The 'Kalorifer Bocegi' (literally 'central-heating bug') or 'German Cockroach' are smaller and, though not as prolapse-inducingly scary as the American variety, are apparently more to be worried about. Big black cockroaches can't live in your house and prefer to lie back and wait for the bright light. The Germans wait until you're asleep and lay their eggs (and their beach towels) on everything you own. They're quite happy in your kitchen so you need to go for their nervous system.

One problem with these buggers, is that when you kill them, they expel their eggs. 15 days later, the eggs hatch and that same poison wont effect them. A shoe, however, will.

3. I've always thought of cockroaches as useless creatures whose only function appeared to be to keep me regular. Bayram Bey, however, put me straight... "The sewage pipes in Izmir would get blocked were it not for rats and cockroaches scuttling through the shit and keeping it moving". Nice work guys! I have trouble believing that their sole purpose on this earth is to clear our pipes.

For the time being, however, my house appears to be cockroach free. Bayram Bey, I love you and your yellow canister of joy.

Thursday 1 July 2010

Honest packaging

You remember when Dove ran that campaign of 'real women' with 'real bodies'? Yeah, I know, they weren't really 'real' were they? They had no varicose veins or eye bogies.

Well I was looking for some pants to ease the chaffing of obesity when I stumbled across this vest. This is the antithesis of aspirational marketing. Do-Re-Mi Vests, I salute you.

Monday 28 June 2010

Not liking this!

My fucking house is over-run with cockroaches tonight. I'm not a fan of creepy crawlies and I get that weird shuddering thing going on when I see one. Should one get too close, the shuddering progresses to a jumping, flapping and frantic rubbing of the hair. It's not the most masculine manoeuvre, I'll grant you that.

They seem to be massing in the bathroom but their plan is literally going tits up because they keep landing on their backs. Why has this species (that is supposedly the most resilient on Earth) not figured out a way to get up off its back?

Suits me, the ugly bastards.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

The great Arse About Fez fortune telling experiment

I've mentioned before that reading the coffee grinds is a traditional Turkish way of telling someone's fortune; well I had a thought about I put up pictures of my coffee grinds and invite the internet to tell me my fortune? Then, I'll compare the notes and see if there are any similarities. By the end of this experiment, we should know without doubt whether or not fortune telling is real or shit.

So here's the deal. Below are a series of shots of my coffee cup today. Have a look and then please email your reading to (please don't post your reading as a comment or you'll fuck everything up and give others ideas). Once I get a serious quantity back, I'll share my notes.

....then all we have to do is to wait to see whether it all comes true.

BTW click on the pictures for a bigger version.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

I am but a child at heart...

...and that's why things like this make me laugh when the kids are doing a listening exercise.

Monday 14 June 2010

Is it just me...

...or does this peach have a frenulum?

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Things I'd never done before moving to Turkey #4

Tried to coax a dog down from the roof of a car.

Saturday 22 May 2010

The Native is Restless

I feel the time has come for me to pack my satchel and move onto greater things. But what can be greater than this, you might ask? Well that's entirely up to you.

I'm looking for your help. In an ideal world, I'd be working at a university, sharing my culture and language with individuals who don't show you the contents of their hands every time they sneeze.

Here's the killer though, and I hope you'll support me in this... I want some time next year. I want some time to write. I have a feeling deep down in my toilet area that there's a book or a film in me. I want a chance to prove that. For this reason, I'm looking for fewer hours than the 31 I'm doing now (like dogs, 1 teaching hour = 7 actual hours).

Please think hard about who you know and tell them that you know this incredibly talented, slightly odd, Anglo-Turko, gentleman teacher. Don't get too hung up on the university thing, I'm open to any offers. Perhaps it's not teaching. Perhaps a traveling lecturer, promoting (or warning about) Englishness/Turkishness to Caribbean nations. Translator (from English into shit Turkish? or shitter French? ...or even shitter German?). Maybe a kitten/puppy sitter. Beauty contest judge. Private Dancer (a dancer for money, any old music will do).

Come fly me!

Thursday 22 April 2010

Nilüfer Hasırcı 1924-2010

Early on Monday morning, my father called with the news that my grandmother had passed away. Though she'd been bedridden for a few years now, somehow you can't prepare yourself for that call.

Her character was a rare cocktail. So kind and gentle, she was loved by all who knew her. Never one for idle gossip or bad-mouthing. Yet confront her and she had the tongue of a brick layer. This colourful language is how you've come to know her as 'rude nan'.But no matter how angry, her overwhelming positive attitude meant she was never far from bursting into contagious laughter.

As every grandparent gives a pet name to their grandchild, she would call me 'grandma's little lamb, peanut or Turkish delight" but I'd hear her say that to my brother too. There was, however, one pet name that was exclusively mine: "tasak yanak" or "bollock cheeks".

Though hard to imagine when I remember her lying so frail in her bed, this woman had seen hardship that required the strength of a lion to overcome. The wife of a senior minister in the ruling party during one of Turkey's most turbulent political eras, she had experienced wealth and privileges. To a coup that saw the Prime Minister executed and my grandfather imprisoned, she was left with nothing but 4 children to raise single-handed.

How will I remember her? I'll remember her cooking through the day to host vast family dinners on the balcony. I'll remember her laugh. I'll remember watching her from the back window of the taxi as she poured water from the balcony to wish us a safe journey back to the UK. I'll remember her wanting to kiss my neck and calling it 'kaymak' and then laughing when I'd say 'buyurun'. I'll remember how she would shed a tear at the utterance of my granddad's name years after his death. But more than anything, I'll remember her positivity, sense of humour and enormous heart.

This is the hardest post I've ever had to write. It has to be perfect, but it's an impossible task.

She was the reason I came to Turkey. I wanted to get to know my remaining grandparent while I had the chance. I am happy to know that I did what I set out to do. I sat with her for hours on the balcony. We talked. We watched the ships. She knew I loved her. And I said my goodbye.

Babaannecigim, seni cok seviyorum. Ozlecem ben seni. Gelecem birazdan ama simdilik rahat uyu hayatim.

Sunday 28 March 2010

A book that wouldn't be so popular in the UK

I'm not sure we'd see this book in an English school library.

Saturday 27 March 2010

Shake the Room

I had a dream last night. I could probably describe it as a nightmare. I don't remember much about it other than I was in an earthquake.

Well, according to reports, we've had a series of earthquakes here tonight. The weird thing is, I never actually feel them. Not that I especially want to. But the ones tonight seem to have been quite strong.

Take a look at the Bogazici University website which lists all the current seismic activity in Turkey.

I hope that'll be all the activity we see tonight.

Thursday 25 March 2010

You know you're in Turkey when... see benches like this.

Judging by the nut shells decorating the pavement, I'm guessing it was a man and a woman sitting side by side (but not too close). He had more of an appetite. They were leaning forward (otherwise the shells would be to the side of the bench). Perhaps it was rather heavy discussion about their relationship. Perhaps it was a clandestine meeting to discuss how she's going to introduce him to her father.

Maybe it was a father and his daughter. She's telling him of her new love and he's eating his hand off with stress. The sunflower seeds just aren't enough to distract him from the fact that his little girl is growing so fast. Soon she's going to be a woman and have a family of her own. This little girl who used to cry in his arms will now embrace another.

Or maybe it was a pisshead and his dog.

I'm afraid the secret is hidden deep in that pile of shells. I just hope they're both happy wherever they are (and that the salt didn't give them an ulcer).

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Famous Turks Special - Coşkun Göğen and Nuri Alço

What do the initials T.C. mean to you? As a child of the 80s, perhaps 'Topcat' for me. If you're Turkish, perhaps it's Türk Cumhuriyeti (The Turkish Republic). Well, that's what I thought but apparently, for a lot of Turks, another name springs to mind.

I only heard about this man the other night while sitting with friends, exploring the depths of YouTube. As they virtually flicked through the highlights of the golden age of Turkey's silver screen, I noticed a definite leaning towards videos depicting acts of sexual aggression. I began to fear for my own safety as my friends laughed manically at the brutal defloration of girl after girl. What was it? Why were they laughing?

I still don't know but I was introduced to the existence of this man, Coşkun Göğen. More commonly known as 'Tecavüzcü Coşkun' ('Coşkun the Rapist'), or 'T.C.' for short, this now 'comedic' character appears in many hundreds of classic Turkish movies.

"If you see him in a movie, you know he's the rapist" my girlfriend informed me. Right but why must there always be a rapist? And what if he wants a different role? What if he wants to move into childrens' theatre? There's no hope and, anyway, I think he's quite happy being typecast.

Born in Antalya in 1946 he was pretty much unknown until the 1972 film Asi Gençler where he forcibly took his first cherry and never looked back (well, just a few times to see whether anyone was coming).

As sure as Frankie Howerd will, at some point, exclaim "ooooooo" in any of the Carry On classics he appears in, Coşkun is sure to fuck someone without their consent. Here are a few of the wonderful comedy highlights of his career:

The second name here is Nuri Alço. Often seen working in colaboration with T.C., Nuri has a slightly different spin on vaginal trespass.

Where Coşkun uses brut force-play, Nuri wines and dines the lucky lady first. Shortly after dinner, the love interest swoons into his arms. Why? Because he's poured her a full bodied glass of Chateau du Rohypnol.

Yes Nuri wants chemistry in a relationship - preferably stirred into whatever she's drinking. Sometimes he'll even invite Coşkun round for a game of 'poke her'.

Born in Eskisehir in 1951, perhaps his parents dreamed of a future in medicine. Their dreams came true when Nuri's pharmaceutical talents eventually made him Turkey's number one professional sexual predator.

Let's take a moment to enjoy the work of this charming yet heavy handed date-rapist:

So there you have it - the cinematographic sex-scene Turkish style. Now excuse me while I expand my back catalogue of the Turkish classics. Remember, as the T-Shirt says, it's not rape if you shout "SURPRISE!" first.