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.

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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

In The Beginning (Part Four)

After waving goodbye to the rowdy hens, we made our way to the exit and pushed our trolleys through the crowds of awaiting transfer drivers all holding name signs for their passengers. We eventually found our designated courier, a young handsome and cheery Turk, who introduced himself as Erhan. He suggested we sit at the outside café whilst we waited for his “friend” who was driving the transfer bus which unfortunately had broken down. He assured us that we shouldn’t be concerned, as his friend was already en route to the depot to collect the luxury vehicle with a well-stocked mini bar and would be with us shortly. It was fair to say that now we were concerned!

Having travelled all night, fatigue was beginning to set in and to bolster our spirits we purchased some coffees and water from the kiosk attendant. When I handed over the lira, I realised that I could have financed an entire spa weekend based on the price I had been charged for the refreshments. We passed the time talking with Erhan, asking him about Turkey and in particular, Altinkum, where we would be staying.

An hour and a half later, the “luxury” transfer bus arrived. The transfer driver was a scruffy toothless elderly gentleman who his friend explained, didn’t speak any English but frankly we were so tired that we would have accepted a lift from Attila the Hun. All too soon we realised that vehicle was roughly in the same condition as it’s driver. The upholstery was stained, the ashtrays overflowing and the well-stocked rusty mini bar was padlocked. The stereo blared Turkish music and prayer beads swung from the rear-view mirror; we were left wondering whether the standard transfer vehicle would have in fact, been a donkey and cart. Leaflets advertising the local bars in Altinkum were strewn across the back seat, detailing “cockytails for half price”; oh yeah we would definitely be needing some of those bad boys sometime in the very near future.

We’d barely said our goodbyes to Erhan, when the minibus took off at breakneck speed. In addition to other basic comforts, it appeared that the luxury vehicle also lacked seatbelts. As we were tossed around in the back seats like a salad, I couldn’t help but wonder where were those cockytails when you needed one?

The surrounding countryside flashed past us, as we hurtled towards our destination at seventy miles per hour. As we were travelling so fast, it was difficult to appreciate the numerous roadside stalls selling fresh fruits and the migrant farm workers harvesting the olive trees which covered most of the passing landscape for as far as the eye could see. We also noticed that all Turkish drivers seemed to drive with reckless abandon and have a flagrant disregard for road safety and other road users. Our driver constantly smoked and answered his mobile phone whilst driving, pausing only to curse in Turkish at other drivers.

It was already beginning to get hot and the minibus was stuffy and smoky, and unfortunately, the luxury air conditioning didn’t appear to be working and neither did the electric windows.

As we rocketed around the winding roads, I wondered whether I would in fact, live to see my family again or in an ironic twist, I had unintentionally taken Serial Shagger’s advice literally and fallen off a cliff.

However, a short while later it seemed I was redeemed as the driver decided to put us out of our misery when he pulled up roadside and got out and opened our door. The fresh air and slight breeze was a welcome relief. Nodding and grinning, he gestured for us to step out. He had stopped the van at a shaded area overlooking a vast lake – Baffa Lake as I was later to discover. The views were breath-taking and it was beginning to get hot even though the day was still early.

As I was about to climb out, my friend grabbed hold of me and pulled me back into the van. “No you don’t! He’s going to steal our money and abandon us or worse still, kill us”. It seemed that I was going to be making Serial Shagger’s day after all. The driver seemed confused by our reluctance to leave the vehicle and after shrugging his shoulders grudgingly got back into the minibus to continue on with the white knuckle ride.

Thirty minutes later we drove into the bustling seaside resort of Altinkum where we were going to be staying for the next couple of weeks. I visibly relaxed as I knew then that our nightmare journey was coming to an end. However, once again fate seemed to have other ideas and as we drove around the town stopping to ask for directions, it was apparent that we were lost. So after a further forty-five minutes, tiredness had dictated that I take command of the situation and gesturing for the driver to stop, I got out and asked at a local café. An English couple were able to help along with a Turkish waiter who translated the directions to the driver. Confident that we were now headed in the right direction, I jumped back into the minibus.

Ten minutes later we arrived at our destination and the driver kindly assisted us to the apartment and even helped unlock the door with keys that had been left at the local estate agency office or Emlak offis as they said in Turkey.

The driver departed with a wave, a toothless smile and a generous tip; having mistaken good old-fashioned Turkish courtesy for something a little more sinister, we had felt duty bound to over compensate for our mean-spirited thoughts.

After struggling with the lock, we eventually gained access into what was going to be our home for the next couple of weeks. The apartment was fairly amazing, however, there was one thing troubling me. There was a trail of wet towels leading along the corridor to the bathroom. On closer inspection all of the beds were unmade and the wardrobes were opened; in fact it looked very much like the apartment had been burgled!

Leaving my friend guarding our luggage, I marched back to the emlak office and insisted that the man who had given us the keys some fifteen minutes earlier, return with me to the apartment. In the Turkish laid back manner, that we had become accustomed to since arriving, he climbed into his Fiat Doblo and gestured for me to do the same. He drove erratically the short distance to the apartment, chain-smoking the entire journey, narrowly missing another vehicle then jumped out of the car, gesturing for me to do the same. As we mounted the stairs to the apartment, he appeared fairly unconcerned about potentially confronting a burglar.

My friend was stood outside the door surrounded by all our luggage, whilst the man from an emlak office flashed her his whitest smile as he pushed past into the apartment. After a brief tour, he said “s’okay housekeeper holiday no come today”.

“Sorry?”

“No problem housekeeper coming tomorrow”.

Irritable from the lack of sleep, my friend asked where we would sleep tonight and the man from the emlak office sauntered into the apartment and selecting some linens from a chest of drawers passed them to us and indicated in the direction of the bedrooms.

As I was just too tired to argue, I took the proffered bed linen and selecting the large double room, stripped and remade the bed into which I fell almost immediately into a deep slumber. The rest could just wait until later!

didim beach

Buy Me A Shot I’m Tying The Knot (Part Three)

It hadn’t taken me long to find someone who wanted to share two weeks of sun, sea and sand. One of the girls from work, who’d recently divorced was only too happy to lock up her lonely bachelor flat for a couple of weeks and accompany me to sunny Altinkum.

So a week later we were transported to Bristol Airport via a National Express coach, bursting with excitement and anticipation. We checked our luggage in and sailed through security without disappointingly requiring a body search; leaving us free to do a spot of shopping.

An hour or so later with our wallets considerably lighter, we sat in the café bar outlet in the departures lounge waiting for our flight to be called. My friend and I couldn’t help but laugh at the antics of our fellow passengers. A large hen party from South Wales, dressed in skin-tight pink neon tee-shirts sporting the words “Mine’s the Barman”, matching feather boas and Stetsons danced around the bar. You gotta love class.

My friend and I had made our duty-free purchases and were now sat alongside the boisterous ladies; who were now indulging in tequila shots whilst cheering each other. That was one hangover I was glad that I wasn’t going to be having.

Their laughter was infectious and I nearly joined them in singing along to the old Wurlitzer jukebox; although the acappella version of “I will survive” left a lot to be desired but what they lacked in tone, they made up for in volume and enthusiasm.

Our flight was called and we all grabbed our hand luggage and boarding cards making our way to the boarding desk. In true Thomas Cook style we boarded the plane fairly quickly and took our assigned seats. We discovered that we were sat next to the Hen Party who all introduced themselves as they were going to be staying in the same resort. A few of them had been to Altinkum before and knew the area well and were able to recommend some bars & restaurants. We got chatting and shared the confidences that you do with holiday friends that you think you may exchange the occasional Christmas card with or request as a friend on Facebook.

Never!” the bride said after I had shared my sorry jilted story with the girls. Nothing like a shedload of alcohol and a group of liquored up girls for a self-indulgent pity party.

“Was he a munter?” one of them asked of Simon. “Or was she?”

Another butted in “I know the type, bloody BOBFOC” as I was looking puzzled she continued “you know body off Baywatch, face off Crimewatch”. Well actually I didn’t but if the red swimsuit fit….

When they suggested that I indulge in some Turkish lovin’ to help me move on, I couldn’t help but point out that I needed another man about as much as I needed another wedding. Fortunately, before we were able to continue that conversation, the ever efficient cabin crew dressed in their ill-fitting polyester uniforms, started to dispense duty-free and the hen party became distracted with making purchases.

My friend took the opportunity to rummage through her possessions in the overhead locker dragging out a best-selling paperback and her iPod. “Are you not going to stretch your legs; you don’t want Kankles” she informed me.
Kankles?”

“It’s when your ankles swell up to the size of your knees”. Attractive visual I thought; not only jilted but jilted with the ankles of a rugby player; I’m going to be beating off men with a stick at this rate. Not wishing to add to my catalogue of less attractive features, I decided to take the scenic route to the Loo; where I had to queue for ten minutes. Once inside having completed my ablutions, I just couldn’t resist uttering the immortal words “to infinity and beyond” before flushing.

Upon my return, the party girls were giving their numerous drinks orders to the cabin crew who were struggling to keep up with all the requests. There was a good deal of banter exchanged by both parties and abundant amounts of alcohol purchased and consumed. I was encouraged to try all sorts of various concoctions to choruses of “one for sorrow, two for joy, three and you’ll never sleep with an ugly boy”. As that ship had already sailed, I focused on the drinking task in hand. However, it was after the raspberry Sambuca, when my lips became numb that I realised I was never going to be a real Lambrini girl; particularly, when the feeling only returned in my facial muscles, some two hours later.

Full of cocktails and well-intentioned advice, I slept for the rest of the flight and was only awoken by the cabin staff reminding me to fasten my seatbelt as we were preparing to land. With big sleep hair and a face full of drool, I tried to rouse myself and realised that it was only in movies that the heroine woke looking daisy fresh and airbrushed to within an inch of her life. Real life was a totally different matter judging by the startled expression on the face of the woman sat next to me. As we were coming in to land, I would have to wait until later to freshen up but even then there was only so much restoration work that Estee Lauder could do.

As we disembarked, we thanked the perma-tanned cabin crew and filed slowly off the plane to passport control, with the required visa fee, a crisp ten pound note tucked safely into our passports. At the desks the clerks quickly scanned our passports before stamping them with that all important visa; and then it was on to baggage collection.

Although tired, we joined rest of the passengers in the usual scramble for luggage; and as the hen party loaded their bags onto the trollies, the bride turned to me and said with a wink “Now remember angel cakes, what happens in Tinky Town, stays in Tinky Town. Gotta go love, got a coach to catch” she yelled over her shoulder whilst rushing off in the direction of a clipboard waving holiday rep.

And if you’d like to read the rest of the Honeymoon Stories, you’ll find them here & tales about life in a Devon village here

hisoronu

In The Beginning (Part Two)

“Another”? Carla mimed at me across the public bar at the local Taverners Pub. Well! It’d be rude not to!

I’d been dragged along to Karaoke night by my best friend having spent a week moping around the house after calling off my wedding to my fiancée, Simon “I’ve been shagging anything that moves”. My family tiptoeing around me, along with my mother mouthing the word “jilted” to anyone who’d not heard of my misfortune; that would be the ones living on Mars of course. In fact, she’d delighted in the opportunity to showcase her Women’s Institute award-winning baking skills for the constant stream of visitors to the house. I wasn’t sure I could face any more sympathetic looks and insincere condolences but as my well-meaning friend had pointed out, I wasn’t the first to have been shafted in the love department.

As she sauntered across the bar bearing two large G&Ts, I pointed out to her, that if her dress had been any shorter, it would be doing the walk of shame on its own. “It always pays to look your best; you never know when you’re going to meet Mr Right”.

As I’d already that night met Mr Bobby Bullshit, Mr Fred (I can make your bed rock) Flintstone and nearly married Mr Wrong On So Many Levels; I was clearly having a wardrobe malfunction of my own; so who was I to be offering fashion tips.

“Are you having a good time cupcake, cos if so, tell your face will you”! Carla muttered putting her drink firmly down on the table “Look pet, I know what happened was awful but its time you moved on. You were Simon’s equivalent of Gillette; the best the lying cheating barsteward could ever hope to get, but as with most men he didn’t appreciate what he had. He always thought he was God’s gift to women and frankly if that was the case, God has a bitchin’ sense of humour. So instead of wallowing, let’s start with what are you going to do now you’ve got a couple of weeks’ leave from filling shelves? Be a shame to waste it. Get yourself off somewhere for a bit of sun, sea and sangria. I’d come myself but it’s a really busy time for me and it’s a competitive business when you’re a mobile hairdresser”.

As I pointed out I had used every bit of my overtime money to pay for a honeymoon in Turkey, I was now broke; the best I could hope for was a ropey old deck chair at my Dad’s allotment and a glass of his dubious homebrew.

And it was then that a plan started coming together for me; why not go on the honeymoon? I could change the name on one of the flight tickets if I could get someone to go with me and the apartment in Altinkum was already booked and paid for. It would be better than holding my own pity party in my Mum’s imposing lounge whilst trying not to spill any red wine on her shag pile carpet.

As I unveiled my idea to Carla we toasted my holiday plans and continued laughing and joking until I was asked to dance by a heavily tattooed and medallion enhanced individual; who pointing to his head and then his feet, he said “up there for thinking, down there for dancing”.

As appealing as the offer was, I declined and retired home to pack my suitcase.

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In The Beginning (Part One)

“What do you mean, he’s been seeing Sharon?” shrieked my sister. Carla, my trusted friend since primary school, had arrived at my parent’s house like a tornado bringing along with her, news that had turned my world upside down.

All I could bring myself to numbly ask was “how long”? My childhood sweetheart, Simon whom I was supposed to be marrying in just over a week’s time, had been enjoying cosy romantic nights out with one of my other best friends, Sharon, whilst I had been stacking shelves in the local supermarket to pay for the Turkish honeymoon we had booked – well every little helps.

“Our Brad, has seen them in the Tangiers getting very cosy over a Tikka Masala on five-a-side nights, as he apparently dropped out of the team a couple months’ ago”. Now, that was too damn much that he was taking her to our place; the local Indian and on nights when I had been slaving away unpacking tins of baked beans. Not to mention that his tired alibi, brought a whole new meaning to the phrase “playing away”.

“His Facebook profile says he’s single as well and she’s been writing on his wall” she said; adding insult to injury. Who reads Facebook; well the whole world apparently, apart from night shift supermarket replenishment assistants.

Almost immediately after Carla had lobbed that particular grenade into our midst, my Dad disappeared to his allotment, my sister was screeching non-stop expletives that would have shamed a hairy East End Docker and my mother went to make tea. Although I could sense that she too wasn’t happy as she banged and huffed around the kitchen.

By the time the tea arrived, my sister and Carla had discussed in great detail, different ways in which they would murder Simon and dispose of the body. My mother’s only thin-lipped retort was “I’ve already paid for that barrel of sherry and I don’t think they’ll take it back”, referring to the reception drinks for our forthcoming wedding breakfast.

Spurred on by Carla, I texted Simon and asked him to call round after work. Never before had the phrase “live by the text, die by the text” seemed so appropriate. As the minutes ticked by, we drank enough tea for England and my sister and Carla continued with the theme of dispatching my fiancée in various grim and twisted methods. I had always considered myself a pacifist; however, even I was considering the castration with a blunt instrument option resulting in matching earrings and pendant.

Eventually, Simon arrived somewhat perplexed by my abrupt text and even more so when my sister and Carla gave him the evil eye; you know the look we women have perfected over the years that indicates impending trouble. Reluctantly, they left us alone in my mum’s pristine lounge usually reserved for special visitors; although I had no doubt that they were pressed up against the door trying to eavesdrop.

As the door slammed shut, I whispered just one word “Sharon?”

“Look love, I was going to tell you…”and when exactly I thought to myself, at the wedding reception, whilst I was in labour with our child or at the graduation of our first-born.

“It didn’t mean anything to me, you were working all the time…..” he stuttered as he caught my icy glare. “Spending time with Sharon was like being close to you
As he whined on, it was then I realised what a despicable deceitful selfish coward he truly was.

“We can put this behind us, we can be happy” he persisted “after all, we have our wedding to look forward to”. At that point I realised that it was true what they said about Devonians – thick in the arm and thick in the head!

With a big sigh and whilst simultaneously trying to restrain myself from bitch slapping him sideways of stupid; I began to tell him exactly why I wasn’t going to be marrying him any time soon.

“You’ll regret this; Sharon said you weren’t good enough for me” he shouted at me as I banged the front door behind him.

After he’d left, I stood on the patio with Carla whilst she smoked a sneaky B&H, as my mum wouldn’t tolerate smoking in the house. Inhaling deeply she said “I never liked him you know; he had no sense of direction even as a kid. Well, let’s be honest, would you want to be spending the rest of your life with a man who needed a bloody Sat Nav to find your erogenous zones?”

Well, when you put it like that!

wedding cake

Courage Is Fire & Bullying Is Smoke

Dear Tormentor

I am writing to you because I want you to know how wretched and hopeless you make me feel.  No doubt I will never have the courage to say this to you but simply by writing this, I have taken my first step along the self-respect road.

I doubt that you will dread returning to work tomorrow as I do; after all there is no tyrant waiting to criticize and harangue you.  It is unlikely that you will have had another sleepless night ahead of what you know will be another  distressing day filled with humiliation and anxiety.

I can’t help but wonder if you were taught the importance of common courtesy and civility as a child or perhaps they were lessons that passed you by.  Were kindness, patience and integrity sacrificed in exchange for your ruthless ambition?

Deep down I know that you are an intensely unhappy human being and for some unknown reason, you have this need to belittle me; simply because you can.  Clearly you believe that good supervision necessitates public degradation and I wonder if you congratulate yourself on your particular style of management.  You have so much to celebrate in your life and yet you are a bitter and arrogant individual with little or no thought for others.  Your dissatisfaction with your life and achievements is apparent and yet like most bullies you seek to apportion blame for failing to realise your dreams on those you deem insignificant.

At the end of the day, I realise that I’m just another unimportant irritant in your very busy world, but you need to know that when I return home tonight, I know that to at least one person I am the world.  Now tell me when you look in the mirror what do you see?

Most comedy is based on getting a laugh at somebody else’s expense. And I find that that’s just a form of bullying in a major way. So I want to be an example that you can be funny and be kind, and make people laugh without hurting somebody else’s feelings.

Ellen DeGeneres

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The Road To Success Is Always Under Construction


I am always astonished when I am acknowledged by a fellow blogger (a) because I started this blog when I was a Billy No Mates in a strange land (b) nothing warms your soul more than when you have someone else laughing along with you and (c) I’m in no way whatsoever a professional. When I started I was clueless and to a certain extent I still am; frankly I’m amazed some of you have stuck with me and more than just a little grateful.

With your encouragement I have become a better writer, overcome prejudice, shared laughter and tears and received the best kind of advice a girl could ask for. I think that fairly early on we established that I am as mad as a box of frogs and it helps that I seem to share that characteristic with quite a few of you. We have expressed our revulsion at cruelty towards animals and our fellow human beings and wished the world a better place.

My Roll of Honour is endless, and as I have supermarket shelves waiting to fill, I will instead just thank you for sharing your breathtaking pictures that make me gasp & promise to try harder with my camera, your razor-sharp wit that has me howling with laughter, your human interest stories that have me reaching for a box of kleenex, and your mouth-watering recipes which I swear will make me a half decent cook (fat chance).

So without further ado, I would like to thank Aisha at Expatlogue for nominating me for the ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award. I am really really flattered as frankly, Aisha is the kind of disciplined and compassionate writer that I aspire to be.

The Rules are:

1 Select the blog(s) you think deserve the ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award

2 Write a blog post and tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen – there’s no minimum or maximum number of blogs required – and ‘present’ them with their award.

3 Please include a link back to this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award – and include these ‘rules’ in your post (please don’t alter the rules or the badges!)

4 Let the blog(s) you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the ‘rules’ with them

5 You can now also join our Facebook page – click the link here ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award and then you can share your blog with an even wider audience

6 As a winner of the award – please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award – and then proudly display the award on your blog and sidebar … and start collecting stars…

So this particular Work In Progress would like to acknowledge all of you for your support, encouragement, inspiration and words of wisdom. In my eyes you are all winners!

My nominations are:

East of Malaga

Sue Ann’s Balcony

Animal Couriers

Movin’ On

Anotherdayinparadise

This Sydney Life

La Vida Loca

Clanmother

Long Life Cats and Dogs

My guilty pleasures

flyawayhomebook

gypsy life

Latebloomershow

The Urge to Wander

There & Back

Travelling Marla

Writing Between the Lines

Czech the Flip

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

A Very Big Good Detective Man & The Sunbed Incident

Last Christmas we’d managed to rent one of Ahmed’s “friends” apartments for the duration but as in the case of many Turkish resort holiday rentals, they were not designed to cope with the colder winters. And even though we’d managed to borrow a portable heater, it could not combat the miserable wind and lashing rain. Whilst we succeeded in getting out sightseeing every day, we usually went to the Hotel first thing in the morning and at the end of the day to ensure that there were no security breaches as Ahmed had been appointed security manager during the shutdown. The owner of the hotel had not paid any utility bills or his seasonal staff that year and subsequently (and don’t ask me how), a cable was being run from the local shop to provide electricity to the hotel office. The office had a small television set and an old one bar electric fire, along with a computer; wireless internet again provided courtesy of one of the neighbours. Although, I wasn’t entirely sure that the neighbours providing both the internet access and electricity supply were altogether aware of their generosity.

Ahmed and a couple of his brothers took turns in sitting in the office in their capacities of security guards whilst a stream of locals called into the office to say that they were owed money by the hotel owner and where could they find him? I was beginning to think probably prison, had he’d lived in England! The other locals that filed into the office were all asking the lads to loan them money as either they or a member of their family were in need of hospital treatment. I have subsequently discovered this is a common occurrence and it is doubtful that any family member would be facing a hospital visit any time soon. Most accepted that they were unlikely to obtain money from the brothers but one or two of them were fairly insistent. Ahmed kept calling them “gypsies” which is about the worse insult that you can level at a Turk. It means that they are a low life criminal and thief who would steal from their best friend if the opportunity arose.

The brothers spent most of the day either skyping their various love interests and watching some really bad Turkish Television programmes. Ahmed and his brothers were mesmerised by the worst television soap imaginable and sat there for hours captivated by some fairly bad acting and the dodgiest sets. I may have also previously mentioned Ahmed’s obsession with the Turkish wedding channel; this is a channel dedicated to running home-made wedding videos twenty-four hours a day. Trust me when I say that for most of us the novelty soon wears off; but clearly not in Ahmed world.

One particularly bad weather day, after a visit to Kusadasi a beautiful Turkish town, if you ever get the chance to visit, Ahmed stopped off at the Hotel on the way home. I took this opportunity to warm myself in front of the one bar electric fire, whilst Ahmed and his brothers exchanged heated words. There was a lot of tutting and hand waving going on and whilst I could make out one or two words; it’s safe to say that they weren’t ones that would be approved of by the elders of the Mosque! They all stormed off in the direction of the pool before Ahmed returned to drive us both back to the apartment.

Whilst we sat down to enjoy the delicious Turkish dinner that Ahmed prepared for us, he informed me that some “gypsy” was routinely stealing the hotel sunbeds and that every day there appeared to be more missing. Not an easy feat for someone so it was safe to assume that the sunbed thief had some mode of transport. He then went onto to advise me that we were going to spend a “big romantic” evening sitting in the sub-zero temperatures at the hotel office in the dark waiting to catch the thieves; as he was a “very big good detective man”. I pointed out that was clearly not going to be happening as long as my backside pointed downwards but he was welcome to undertake this covert operation on his own; or as the man himself would say “only one”.

So I lovingly despatched my man to coincide with the screening of some English film I was wanting to watch on the television. As I cosied up on the sofa, my guilt was alleviated by the fact that I had insisted that Ahmed take a quilt and flask of çay with him to fight off the chill. Thirty minutes later, Ahmed returned to the apartment uttering Turkish curses of a questionable nature. It would appear that my beloved was a fair-weather man and not designed to fight crime in arctic conditions. One had to hope that the thieves were also discouraged by the cold; but I thought it unlikely and possible that the robbers were just contractors or ex-employees who had been short-changed by the hotel owner and were trying to recoup some of their financial loss.

The next morning, as we pulled up outside the hotel bright and early, an elderly Turk was strapping a sunbed to a cart attached to the back of his push-bike. I had to admire his sheer audacity and couldn’t help but laugh. Ahmed jumped out of the car but the Turk sensing his game was up, abandoned the sunbed and pedalled off at full speed. Ahmed jumped back in the car, but the old fella was too wily and turned into a small alley where it was impossible to follow him in a car. Ahmed was fairly less than impressed and vowed to launch a round the clock operation to catch this spritely old age pensioner.

The sunbed bandit was never caught and clearly lived to pilfer another day; I hear that this year the hotel parasols are mysteriously disappearing.

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The Party’s Over

Last Christmas I was fortunate to be able to spend a few weeks with Ahmed prior to the Big Move. Ahmed had managed to secure a winter job caretaking and providing security for a resort hotel. I was a little sceptical even then that Ahmed would receive payment for this job but I kept my own counsel; however, I should mention that he never actually did, which is one of the reasons that he has travelled to Maras this year to spend the winter working in a factory alongside his brothers. The average Turkish monthly wage is about 700 Turkish lira which at today’s exchange rate is approximately £241 or $388, but frequently it is a lot less and that is for a six or seven-day working week. Last winter with no money to pay the electricity bill, his sisters-in-law had to sell their treasured wedding rings in order that their family could light and heat the house.

Many Turkish lads who flock to the resorts to earn money as bar boys during the tourist season frequently work seven days a week and whilst provided with meals and a roof over their heads often return to their villages empty-handed at the end of the season, when the wages which they have been promised by the unscrupulous bar owners fail to materialise. Unsurprisingly, towards the end of the season burglaries and bag snatches become all too commonplace as many young Turks feel that they cannot return home without providing their family with some financial contribution.

Also thrown out onto the streets will be the puppies that the bars adopted during the summer to lure tourists into their premises. They will be left to fend for themselves, dodging stones thrown, traffic and other adult, territorial ownerless dogs, for which they will be ill prepared. The animal shelter in Altinkum, Didm Dog Shelter and Akbuk Dog’s Trust are government-run and only provide shelter for the street dogs whilst they are waiting to be neutered, when they will also have an ear tag, an anti-rabies vaccination and then they are released back onto the streets. Most “street dogs” have at some time been a pet and abandoned when their owner’s circumstances have changed. For those of us with much-loved pets, it is inconceivable that we would desert our friends when they are most vulnerable. In fact, all government funding has now been withdrawn from the one in Akbuk with immediate effect; what do you do with the animals left behind in these hopeless circumstances? Forget Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and the amazingly equipped ones you see on all the television programmes, this is Turkey; the facilities are at best basic and their resources incredibly limited. Whilst there is a small band of dedicated volunteers that do sterling work trying to find them homes both in Turkey and back in the UK, alongside the mammoth task of raising funds.The funds raised will provide cleaning materials such as bleach, feeding bowls, milk for puppies, blankets, medication including parasite treatment.

Many Tears Animal Rescue & Turkish Street Dogs

Actually if you live in the UK and you are looking for a dog please check out the Turkish street dogs at Many Tears Animal Rescue, based in Wales, first; these dogs have a lot of love to give and deserve a chance at a better life. Volunteering at the Turkish shelters can be a soul-destroying task and sometimes whatever they do, there must be days when it never seems enough. There is no RSPCA equivalent in Turkey to provide care for injured street animals like the young puppy hurled from a balcony by a Turkish youth last week and left to crawl around on the pavement below.

Whilst I love living in Turkey, I think it is fair to say that there are some aspects which sadden my heart. Animal welfare will always be one and deceitful greedy bar owners are another.