Your Heart Is Just A Beatbox For The Song Of Your Life

A chance encounter on Twitter reminded me of one of my Turkish road trip stories when we made one of our many sixteen hour journeys from Tinky Town back to Ahmed’s family in Kahramanmaraş

You may remember Ahmed’s reluctance to spend money and subsequently on one overnight trip when our hunger pangs got the better of us we decided to stop for something to eat. Ahmed speedily passed all the brand new roadside inns and pulled up in a tiny remote village alongside a ramshackle building with a corrugated iron roof.

I was less than impressed with Ahmed’s choice of venue but not altogether surprised nevertheless at this point as I was so famished and tired that I grudgingly climbed out of the car, slamming the door behind me to register my displeasure.

On walking through the door the biggest surprise of all was hearing the golden tones of Wynonna Judd coming from a ropey old sound system in the corner of this tatty café where the only customers were two elderly Turks drinking çay, sat amongst the mismatched plastic tables & chairs. Well I thought if it’s good enough for Wynonna it’s good enough for me and if the worse should happen and I should perish from food poisoning then at the very least the last thing I would hear would be a decent tune.

The elderly Turk behind the counter sporting a white apron informed me “very, very good girl” pointing to a very old but treasured picture, taking pride of place on the wall “you know her”?

I assured him not personally but I was the very proud owner of the Judds’ greatest hits CD which I had played to death especially “Grandpa“. How could one not be a fan of Wynonna; she has the voice of an angel, is a fellow animal lover and as a bit of a wordsmith myself who appreciates a great lyric, sings some kick ass songs.

My mood lightened and I relaxed whilst Ahmed placed the order which was swiftly delivered to the table by the elderly waiter. A few minutes later calling to his colleague he turned the volume up for “Mama he’s crazy” and accompanied by the other two customers performed a traditional Turkish dance to the melody. I’ve never laughed quite so much but I’d like to think I was laughing along with them as they hopped up & down waving their white napkins in the air and singing the word “crazee” with abandon.

It occurred to me as they danced that Wynonna had probably never dreamed that when she recorded this track it would be playing in a dusty old café on the other side of the world but I felt sure somehow she’d approve of people united in laughter and music, regardless of race, culture or religion, on one crazy hot summer’s night in Turkey.

pide

The Cup That Cheers

I can’t remember a time when there has been a drama in my life and a cup of tea hasn’t been on hand to console me. In fact, tea is one of my mother’s cure-alls along with mothballs and TCP antiseptic. There’s something soothing about it and for some reason it always tastes better in a bone china cup and saucer even though being a cack-handed Carrie I’m always holding my breath & struggling not to drop or smash my mother’s finest Royal Doulton. There’s something very reassuring about a cup of tea; a bit like a hot bath on the inside or wearing your oldest and most favourite sweater.

Let’s be honest it was buckets of tea that got me through the Serial Shagger saga and subsequent indignities. I’m not denying that there weren’t a shedload of cocktails thrown in for overall fortification but ultimately it was my good friends Earl & Lady Grey that were on hand to provide comfort during the humiliating ordeal of being jilted.

When I was in Turkey, tea or çay was more than just a drink it was a social invitation to sit, share the company of another soul, engage in conversation and watch the world go by. It was considered impolite not to accept the hand of friendship being extended to you and declining the invitation may have been considered an insult by some. The Turkish pride themselves on their hospitality and with very good reason; seldom will you leave a Turkish home without having partaken in a meal of some sort. They enjoy sharing their food with guests, their home produce and laughter. Rarely have I ever left Turkish hosts where I wasn’t just taking away a sated appetite but a lesson in graciousness together with some new friends.

Come & share a pot of tea, my home is warm, my friendship’s free

breakfast

Lest We Forget

My great-grandfather William Frederick Cawley or Freddy as he was known to his friends was born and raised in Ballina workhouse along with his nine siblings in County Mayo, Ireland. Doubtless the family had a tough life and at the grand age of seventeen wanting to escape the grim poverty to which he had become accustomed he stole a horse and rode it to Dublin and when captured was given the choice of joining the Queen’s army or passage to Australia as a settler. As the mortality rate on the ships was fairly high he chose what he thought was the lesser of the two evils by opting for the military life and enlisting in the Connaught Rangers.

William's Birth Certificate

William’s Birth Certificate in Gaelic & English

After basic training my great-grandfather along with the rest of his regiment who were also little more than boys, travelled from Ireland to Devonport where they sailed to Gallipoli, in Turkey to take part in the Battle of Çanakkale which would be a military campaign lasting eight long and fierce months, fighting youths not much older than themselves with huge casualties on both sides. The Turkish suffered an estimated 87,000 casualties, the British army 21,000 and the Anzacs 11421. Most of his comrades had never ventured further than their own villages and embraced this bold adventure singing “It’s a long way to Tipperary” throughout the voyage little knowing the hell that awaited them once they landed on Turkish soil.

Freddy was one of the “lucky” ones and when the young farm boy returned home he was a very different and irrevocably damaged man with a bad case of malaria which dogged him throughout his life and which he eventually succumbed to leaving a wife and eight children behind. In the years after the war he seldom spoke of his war years apart to recount the size of the Turkish bayonets. No doubt he along with many others was probably suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but it would be several decades before it would be widely diagnosed and treatments made readily available.

So last night when I extinguished the lights, lit a candle and joined the rest of the nation in remembering the fallen on the occasion of the centenary of World War 1 in the #lightsout event, my thoughts wandered to Freddy and the thousands like him who had also made their own sacrifice returning to their homes in some cases altered beyond recognition and leaving them struggling to pick up the broken pieces of their lives.

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 lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land they have
Become our sons as well

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

William Frederick Cawley -my Great Grandfather

William Frederick Cawley -my Great Grandfather

It’s All About Me!

I was interviewed the other week by the good folks over at PAYAway. It’s a cracking website packed full of information for anybody thinking of moving or working abroad, in fact I wished I’d discovered it before I took the plunge. Anyhoo, here it is although most you will already know the story behind my move to the beautiful country of Turkey but for those that don’t, here it is in The Working Traveller.

Most of you will also know that my beloved old Dad had a stroke last year so I’m back home in Devon because for now that’s where I need to be but rest assured as soon as the old fella’s back on his feet, I will be dusting off those flip-flops and heading back to the golden sands of Altinkum. And for those of you that haven’t yet dipped your toes in the sparkling aquamarine waters of the Aegean off the glorious Turkish coast, you should go.

turkey 10 005

Footprints

When I asked for volunteers for the story/photo collaborations, I was delighted when Suzanne over at the travelbunny stepped up as I have long been an admirer of her work, particularly her Turkish pictures which remind me of sunshine days and happier times. In fact I have one of her pictures as a screen saver on my laptop to lift my spirits on blue days. I’m grateful that she agreed and I hope you like her pictures as much as I do.

On one of my forays into Didim shopping centre, I decided to browse the Saturday morning market on my own. Not always an easy task, as most of the stallholders spoke little English. This particular morning as I was struggling to understand a wizened old lady selling chillies; an American woman seeing my discomfort translated for me in fluent Turkish. She was a stunning looking mature bohemian lady who exuded style and joy. I’d seen her a few times weaving around the market in her big floppy hat and designer sunglasses, stopping for a chat and smile here and there, or to make a purchase. Her laughter was musical and infectious which matched her sunny disposition.

“Call me Nia” she said “Back home it’s actually Lavinia, but that’s not so lovely is it” she giggled “But then that’s the beauty of being an expat, you get to start over. I’m guessing you’re not a holiday maker judging by your purchases so if you live here I’m guessing………….it must be for a Turkish man.Let’s catch a çay over there in that café and you can tell me all about it. I’m a romance junkie so I’m dying to hear your story”.

Over çay I learned that she had lived on her own on the outskirts of Altinkum for several years tending to her animals and garden. She was an American with a family back home but divorced and to her regret, she said that she’d never had any children but as she had travelled the world so much, she’d never settled down long enough to start a family. She had flown to Turkey after the breakdown of her last marriage, become enchanted by its magic and somehow never left.

 

“Dallas, life isn’t all about playing safe, but of course, you already know that or you wouldn’t be here. It’s about finding what makes you happy and doing it; and if you happen to find someone along the way that you love and loves the same things you do, then you’ve found the secret to happiness. Even if it’s only for a short while but grab it with both hands whilst you can and when it’s over move on with thanks in your heart for the love you’ve received”

I thought then that perhaps that was a maudlin thing to say but didn’t dwell on it too much as Nia soon had me laughing with tales of her Turkish neighbours. She told me that she lived on the outskirts of Maveshir on the sea front and suggested that I visit her.

So a few days later, Ahmed dropped me off at her house on his way to the Cash & Carry. We stopped en route once or twice for directions and when we pulled up, I was amazed to see that she lived in one of the whitewashed beachfront villas that I had so admired. The surrounding gardens were also lovingly cultivated and full of the colourful Mediterranean flora and fauna that I had become accustomed to. As I opened the gate I was greeted by two street dogs that Nia had adopted and as with many a rescue animal, I never failed to be amazed by their trusting natures despite their often poor treatment at the hands of humans.

Nia was gardening and shouted a greeting so I made my way to the front of the villa to where she was tending her plants. The view was breath-taking and I felt that I arrived in a Mediterranean oasis and each time a breeze blew past me, I caught the heady fragrance of the surrounding flowers and citrus trees. I envied Nia her little Turkish paradise and as she finished up weeding her little vegetable and herb plot, her face was aglow with pride and contentment. I could tell that she was completely at ease with her surroundings and had clearly found the secret to her joy.

I followed her inside where she suggested we sit down and indulge in some of her homemade lemonade. The villa was every bit as stunning and stylish as the outside, framed pictures filled the walls of her villa, which was simply but tastefully decorated. She seemed to have had her picture taken with nearly every Head of State over the past twenty years not to mention a few celebrities. One of her ex-husbands had been a diplomat she explained and they had travelled extensively. She laughed when I enquired about ex-husbands and explained she had three but the real loves in her life she had somehow never got round to marrying. She admitted she was a free spirit and had married to keep her old Bostonian family happy but regrettably it hadn’t worked out and neither had any of her other marriages but she remained on good terms with all the men that had been an integral part of her life. She confided in me that she lived here alone but she said that although it had taken her a lifetime she had at last found real peace and didn’t miss her old lifestyle at all.

I saw her frequently over the next year or so; often we’d meet up for a çay and a chat. She had a way of making shopping expeditions so much fun and I was grateful for her continued friendship. As summer rolled into Autumn she cancelled a few of our outings claiming a migraine but the next time I saw her, I knew that it was something far more serious although she laughed it off with her usual charm. I noticed that she tired easily when we did meet up and our days out would be cut short as she excused herself on some pretense or other. As we took leave of each other at the end of another successful shopping trip, she hugged me fiercely and said

“Remember Dallas, we pass this way only once and life is far too brief to spend one moment being bitter or regretful”.

Of course, I didn’t know it at the time but that would be the last time I saw my good friend. A short while after she disappeared from my life as quickly as she had swept in without fuss or ceremony. I heard that her family had come and taken her back to Boston; her phone was disconnected and her villa deserted with the “For Sale” sign hanging forlornly outside. All traces of my vibrant friend were just an echo now and I wondered whether the next owner would cherish it as much as Nia had. Hellos and goodbyes are such an integral part of life in Tinky Town and many friends pass through and touch your lives for such a short time but with such heart which makes them hard to forget along with the lessons which they taught you.

Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same

― Adlai E. Stevenson II

turkish garden

Aim For The Moon; If You Miss, You Might Just Hit a Star!

I’ve made the papers and not in a “kiss & tell” kind of a way either as predicted by my old headmistress. In fact the closest I ever got to a celebrity was when Kevin Costner whizzed past me on a golf buggy in Istanbul airport and I restrained myself from running after it stalker-like screaming “Kev I love you”; as I knew I may have been detained by security and my story could have ended so very differently.

voices_01

So how surprised was I when on one of my trips to the tatty little Kahramanmaraş internet café, where everyone knew my name, to open up an email from Andy Probert, the editor of Voices, Tinky Town’s English printed newspaper asking if he could serialise the Honeymoon Stories.

There and then an uncoordinated and very vocal happy dance was performed to the bewilderment of the other clientele who had already become accustomed to the craziness of this English woman.

I owe a big debt of thanks to Andy, who is a journalist of some twenty-six years standing both in the UK and Turkey, for taking a chance on me. I am pleased to report so far so good and no posse has been ‘rounded up to run me out of Tinky Town just yet.

To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are the three great difficulties in being an author. Charles Caleb Colton

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.

I have to admit to having a love/hate relationship with writing; there are days when I would absolutely do anything rather than put pen to paper. These are the times when I can so easily become distracted by a zillion things. The bottom line is I detest working to deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise; which may well be because I am just a lazy undisciplined trollop but also because much of my life and most probably yours too is dictated by so many time bound appointments. Subsequently a treasured hobby which has previously brought so much joy can so very quickly become a routine chore when limits are set.

Most of my posts are written and then re-written in Microsoft word then edited continuously to the point that I’m still frequently unsatisfied even when I’ve published and then still think I could have done something better; so in many ways I probably make blogging much harder than it need be. On days when I am struggling for inspiration, I often start by imagining that I am writing to one of you, particularly if it’s something that has made me laugh or caused me to shed a tear; which somehow makes the process more worthwhile. As a born procrastinator, I know that if I don’t sit down and write a post immediately when an idea hits me, I am going to struggle if I leave it until later on. However, give me a subject which I feel passionately about and it’s a surefire labour of love which can keep me typing away until the wee small hours.

So please tell me what motivates all of you to write & post every day and what keeps you sat at your computer typing away when Bubblewitch or Facebook beckon?

If you want your life to be a magnificent story, then begin by realizing that you are the author and everyday you have the opportunity to write a new page
– Mark Houlahan

Stipula_fountain_pen

Homeward Bound

I’m back! A little weary to be honest and back to work tomorrow; what was I thinking! It’s been a bitter-sweet few weeks; the camera which my Dad painstakingly chose and bought for me as a Christmas present was stolen along with all my holiday pictures.

The only internet access I managed was thirty minutes a day in this tatty little internet café sat amongst some very inquisitive Turkish youths with gravity defying locks; think Duran Duran! The café owner was neither a big smiler nor my biggest fan and wondered why I wasn’t at home in the kitchen barefoot & pregnant. I was initially a bit of an achy face with access to WordPress being a bit hit & miss but I did have great fun in sharing some of your Facebook pictures and YouTube postings with the same curious young Turkish boys that can only dream of other lives in faraway places.

So please bear with me, it’s going to take me a while to catch up, I’m glad to be back sleeping in my own bed without waking up nose to nose with another family member who doesn’t have four legs and fur; always a bonus!

Normal service has been resumed!

bbc-2 colour test card

And He Drove The Fastest Milkcart In The West

I had intended to catch a national express coach to Bristol airport for the trip back to Turkey but my Dad was insistent that his allotment buddy, Ernie take me in his clapped out old transit van as he had an errand in the area. Ernie is the retired village Unigate milkman whom my Grandma used to describe as” a confirmed bachelor who dresses well”. milk Apparently, in his heyday he used to deliver to the most remote dwellings in and around our Devon village come rain or shine in his three-wheeled electric cart. He would get up in the middle of the night without a day’s sickness, so that the community could find bottles of gold and silver top on their doorsteps each morning.

As I had planned for this trip like a military campaign and my Mum had insisted on packing my suitcase for me the night before to ensure that it was done “properly”; I had a good hour or so to spare before Ernie arrived to collect me. I suggested to Dad that we go for a last stroll around the cemetery but as it was already a bitterly cold day with a fierce north-easterly wind blowing, he wisely declined saying that if we went, he probably wouldn’t be making the journey back. On that uplifting note I was relieved when Ernie pulled up outside earlier than anticipated obviously hoping for a swift cup of tea and a slice of my Mum’s homemade Lemon Drizzle cake.

Fed and watered, we made our way outside where Ernie gingerly loaded my case into the rear of the van. When I hopped in the passenger side, the smell was the first thing I noticed along with constant cooing; it was then that I realised that my fellow passengers were racing pigeons. I cast a reproving look at my Dad who in turn beamed a reassuring grin at me whilst reminding me that it was kind of Ernie to offer me a lift. The look on my mother’s face was priceless as she surveyed the rusty bodywork of the rundown vehicle and the seed & feather encrusted upholstery. Secretly, I was rather worried that I would remain a pigeon magnet once I alighted from the vehicle.

After a teary farewell and armed with a packed lunch which could feed an entire squadron, we drove onto the A38 Bristol bound. I soon discovered that the mechanics of the van were as ropey as the bodywork and doubted whether this van had ever seen a service. As the exhaust rattled and roared like a Sherman Tank, I could barely hear his country and western CDs and the smoke billowing from the rear of the van ensured that no other motorist was tail gating. For someone who’d spent most of his life driving at no more than 20mph, life on the open road without a cargo of gold top and yoghurt had rendered Ernie into a demon behind the wheel.

Stopping only to nip to the loo quickly and to break open the sandwiches, the two-hour trip passed surprisingly speedily even without ear defenders. Ernie delivered me on time to my destination just as he had with all his other deliveries across the years.

So as a tribute to our esteemed former milkman here’s the ballad of Ernie, who drove the fastest milk cart in the west by the late beloved comedian Benny Hill. Now surely you didn’t expect me to leave you without a good laugh!

The lyrics:
ERNIE (THE FASTEST MILKMAN IN THE WEST)
Benny Hill – 1971

You could hear the hoof beats pound as they raced across the ground,
And the clatter of the wheels as they spun ’round and ’round.
And he galloped into market street, his badge upon his chest,
His name was Ernie, and he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

Now Ernie loved a widow, a lady known as Sue,
She lived all alone in Liddley Lane at number 22.
They said she was too good for him, she was haughty, proud and chic,
But Ernie got his cocoa there three times every week.

They called him Ernie, (Ernieeeeeeeeeee)
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

She said she’d like to bathe in milk, he said, “All right, sweetheart,”
And when he’d finished work one night he loaded up his cart.
He said, “D’you want it pasturize? ‘Cause pasturize is best,”
She says, “Ernie, I’ll be happy if it comes up to my chest.”

That tickled old Ernie, (Ernieeeeeeeeeee)
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

Now Ernie had a rival, an evil-looking man,
Called Two-Ton Ted from Teddington and he drove the baker’s van.
He tempted her with his treacle tarts and his tasty wholemeal bread,
And when she seen the size of his hot meat pies it very near turned her head.

She nearly swooned at his macaroon and he said, “If you treat me right,
You’ll have hot rolls every morning and crumpets every night.”
He knew once she sampled his layer cake he’d have his wicked way,
And all Ernie had to offer was a pint of milk a day.

Poor Ernie, (Ernieeeeeeeeeee)
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

One lunch time Ted saw Ernie’s horse and cart outside her door,
It drove him mad to find it was still there at half past four.
And as he lept down from his van hot blood through his veins did course,
And he went across to Ernie’s cart and didn’t half kick his ‘orse.

Whose name was Trigger, (Triggerrrrrrrr)
And he pulled the fastest milk cart in the west.

Now Ernie rushed out into the street, his gold top in his hand,
He said, “If you wanna marry Susie you’ll fight for her like a man.”
“Oh why don’t we play cards for her?” he sneeringly replied,
“And just to make it interesting we’ll have a shilling on the side.”

Now Ernie dragged him from his van and beneath the blazing sun,
They stood there face to face, and Ted went for his bun.
But Ernie was too quick, things didn’t go the way Ted planned,
And a strawberry-flavoured yogurt sent it spinning from his hand.

Now Susie ran between them and tried to keep them apart,
And Ernie, he pushed her aside and a rock cake caught him underneath his heart.
And he looked up in pained surprise and the concrete hardened crust,
Of a stale pork pie caught him in the eye and Ernie bit the dust.

Poor Ernie, (Ernieeeeeeeeeee)
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

Ernie was only 52, he didn’t wanna die,
And now he’s gone to make deliveries in that milk round in the sky.
Where the customers are angels and ferocious dogs are banned,
And the milkman’s life is full of fun in that fairy, dairy land.

But a woman’s needs are many fold and soon she married Ted,
But strange things happened on their wedding night as they lay in their bed.
Was that the trees a-rustling? Or the hinges of the gate?
Or Ernie’s ghostly gold tops a-rattling in their crate?

They won’t forget Ernie, (Ernieeeeeeeeee)
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

My Bags Are Packed, I’m Ready To Go

Overwhelmed and bone tired is the best way to describe how I’ve felt over the past few weeks. I think we’ve established that I really am not cut out for a career in nursing and the additional overtime I have been working has taken its toll. My Dad has at last relinquished my laptop having spent a marathon couple of weeks streaming various programmes in an effort to alleviate the boredom of recuperation. I am way behind on posting and catching up with you all; if I’m honest I think that I may have lost my way a little.

Regrettably, Ahmed has decided to remain in to Kahramanmaraş reluctant to leave his first salaried regular job for something less reliable in a coastal resort; which whilst I completely understand was something I hadn’t prepared myself for. So I’ll be flying off to Turkey on an epic journey to the mountains where I’ll be spending a few weeks and not lying poolside in the sunshine for a rejuvenating holiday as I had hoped. I’m not sure what to expect or even whether I will have any internet access. It’s certainly not the dream Turkish life I had hoped for, living in a small traditional Turkish town miles away from the coast and no expat community nearby; but I’m going with an open mind and open heart because at the end of the day that’s all I can do.

rose