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.