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

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

When Is A Honeymoon Not A Honeymoon (Part Six)

No Turkish holiday would be complete without taking the obligatory boat trip, and predictably Ahmed had a “friend” with a boat. So the very next day we joined twenty other tourists for a brief trip to a nearby cove where we could swim before taking advantage of a freshly prepared meal. Turkish Flags festooned the boat and there was no “euro pop” blaring from the speakers on this trip, it was Engelbert, Sinatra and Tom Jones all the way; after all doesn’t everybody love a bit of Sir Tom!

As expected we were going to be accompanied by Ahmed’s brothers and the terrible twins. The girls, Paige and Brittany, whom I later renamed Blank & Blankest, eventually rocked up, after several frantic calls prompting them to leave their beds.

Everybody had boarded by the time they finally graced us with their presence; two less than Angelic visions in white. Blank asked me if the salt water would harm “us xtensions and cryllics”. Having neither, I wasn’t able to offer a valid opinion. As the boat left the shore, the girls were too busy texting to notice the breath-taking scenery, whilst Ahmed’s brothers, were just as mesmerised by the scenery on the boat. Sadly Blank and Blanker did not share the brothers’ enthusiasm and I feared that this was going to be a somewhat brief liaison for all parties concerned.

Ahmed took me along to the wheelhouse to meet his “friend”; the captain of the vessel who was a big burly crazy Turk. He told me that he had three obsessions which he loved above all things; his boat, football and women. Nodding in the direction of my friend he asked “she has man, no?” Sensing another potential conquest, he mentioned that we would be stopping in about an hour for a languid lunch and suggestively winked at my friend; who’d evidently won the love lottery today!

After dropping anchor in a nice quiet cove and whilst the crew served lunch, the captain decided to join us. He told me he was a very passionate man and had several girlfriends who visited him at different times throughout the season but he was always willing to test drive another. I have to admit there was something very endearing about him. As he sang along with Sinatra, whom he told me was possibly one of the greatest men of our time; no argument there from me. He ate and drank with gusto, and I suspected he romanced in the same way. Although, I don’t think his dentist would have approved of the way he removed the caps of his beer bottles with his teeth. He also loved chomping on raw chillies and I noticed that Ahmed also seemed to enjoy this practise as well. I had to marvel at the resilient digestive system of the Turkish man but couldn’t help but wonder whether chillies and a little Turkish lovin’ made compatible bedfellows.

My friend appeared to be succumbing to the Captain’s flirting; well let’s be honest, it’s just as easy to love a man with a boat, than one without. I also think that abundant alcohol enables you to drink even the fugliest individual handsome.

As we lay there soaking up the rays, another boat sailed into the same cove. There was a man at the front of the boat with a huge pair of binoculars trained on us. The captain was immediately on full alert and hailed the other vessel. The grating voice of the girls’ father could be heard above the Turkish voices. All I could decipher was various expletives and “Turkish worms”. The captain clearly affronted by the insults to his fellow countrymen, started hurling insults back and suddenly a huge argument erupted between both crews. I have since discovered that Turkish disputes involve a lot of posturing, an inordinate amount of shouting, inappropriate curses and very little resolution. However, on the upside they are usually diffused very quickly.

The captain buoyed by several bottles of the local brew, apparently enjoyed a bit of a rumble and drew his boat alongside the other. The girls’ father unprepared for the swell, lost his footing and toppled overboard much to the delight of the passengers and crew on our vessel. The only damage incurred was the father’s pride so both crews had lived to love and fight for another day.

On returning to land I discovered that our plans for dinner that evening were scuppered as unfortunately, Ahmed was unable to leave the toilet for any length of time. Must have been something he ate!

boat 5

When Is A Honeymoon Not A Honeymoon (Part Four)

After a leisurely breakfast the next morning, we trotted down to the pool for a day sunning ourselves. I admit to being a little peeved at having been wined, dined and dumped at the door but it’s not as if that’s a new experience for me. Having had one too many Rakis at dinner last night, I was quite happy to sit poolside camouflaged by a big sun hat reading the latest blockbuster before participating in a game of water volleyball with some other holidaymakers.

As I was frolicking around in the water like a walrus, I noticed two feet poolside and I looked up to determine the owner. “Hello I am Ahmed” – no shit Sherlock! I can’t deny that I felt somewhat pleased by his unannounced arrival, but prayed that he hadn’t brought his scooter with him. Hangover + white knuckle ride = a very poorly me; and it was not an experience I was hoping to repeat again whilst (a) conscious and/or (b) sober.

“I am coming later going Turkish night” – well, since you put it that way, it’d be rude not to! So later on that night, showered, moisturised, shaved and exfoliated to within an inch of my life, I was ready to rock. Expecting a night of Turkish culture and cuisine, I took extra care with my appearance and a tip from Ahmed’s grooming regime by liberally dousing myself in half a bottle of duty-free Prada.

When he called for me at the apartment later on, I was delighted to notice that he hadn’t brought the monstrous moped with him. So we had a nice stroll to a local hotel, which he informed me was owned by one of his “friends”. When we arrived, the venue for the Turkish evening was on the Hotel pool terrace which was decorated in garish balloons and streamers. We were shown to our seats and as we were getting comfortable, the Chef lit the barbecue that was situated directly behind us. Already, I was regretting wearing shedloads of hair product as should a spark stray my way, I would have become a human torch within nano seconds. Both my waterproof mascara and Prada were also fighting a losing battle with the smoke, giving me the appearance of Norma Desmond meets the cast of Scream. Not to mention that I now smelt like a kebab.

As the Turkish master of ceremonies announced the entertainment, everyone clapped as a Michael Jackson impersonator took centre stage. Now don’t get me wrong I love Michael Jackson as much as the next person but there seemed to be something mildly misplaced about this young Turkish teenager and his endless crotch grabbing routine. Next up was the Turkish Elvis impersonator who crooned “I am no help falling in love with you”; which will never be quite the same for me again. As the evening progressed Ahmed showed me the “Cockytail” menu and against my better judgement, I ordered an “Organism” as opposed to a “Mangarata” which was possibly Margarita’s less attractive and cheaper sister. I was touched to notice that when the waiter delivered my drink it was accompanied by a single red rose and a note from Ahmed which included his phone number with the words “I am very bex like you”. What can I say the man was smitten or quite possibly his parents were, at the very least, first cousins.

I don’t know at what point Ahmed got roped in to assisting with the barbecue, possibly when I was being serenaded poolside by “Elvis”, who was a portly Turk demonstrating that anyone can wear sequined spandex. All too soon he was rapidly replaced by a Turkish breakdancing group with a dodgy sound system. As the required music failed to start on cue, curses were exchanged together with the odd blow between the DJ and the group, which resulted in them abandoning their routine mid performance and jogging off to their next venue.

The buffet was pleasant enough although I was hoping for something a little more traditional than salad, cips (chips or fries) and BBQ chicken. Very quickly the remains of the meal were cleared for the big attraction of the night, the Turkish dancing.

I don’t know exactly what I was anticipating but I thought that there may have involved a little more skill. The hotel staff held hands at shoulder level and hopped along to the music whilst moving backwards and forwards but I noticed that if you were on the end of the conga line, you did get to shake a white hanky around. Everyone was dragged up to dance young and old, and as there were no difficult steps to follow, it was fairly easy to pick up. To be fair everybody entered into the spirit of the proceedings; some a little more enthusiastically than others, owing to the abundant availability of “Cockytails”. As I was hopping up and down, the hot and sweaty aged Elvis cut in next to me – oh yeah I’m a fox magnet! Keen to impress, he hopped along with gusto in his skin-tight Lycra cat suit, grinning at me as if I was his next meal. As the tempo increased so did the enthusiasm of the dancers with Elvis hanging onto me as if I was a prize heifer. Inevitably, he toppled backwards, dragging me along with him into the swimming pool. I don’t know who was more embarrassed me or Mr Presley. A couple of the hotel staff helped me clamber out to the rousing applause of our audience who clearly thought I was the best cabaret of the night. Ahmed came running to my aid with a pile of hotel towels and as he was helping me to dry me off, Elvis suddenly realised he had serious competition for my affections so stomped off in a huff, muttering something about “stupid Engleessssssssshh girls”. As Ahmed gently dried my hair I had no doubt that Mr Presley would have already moved on to another conquest who would appreciate the rhinestone-studded costume and quiff. But for now, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Elvis had left the building.

cocktail 6