Sunday, September 03, 2006


Flying back into Manchester Airport the sky is leaden, over cast. The company picking us up are half an hour late, there’s a horrendous traffic jam on the M6 and by the time we get home the rain is lashing down. There’s the prospect of a new school year and a change of classroom – displays to put up, cupboards to sort, books to label, IT equipment to fix and that’s before all the children arrive.

Not that I should be moaning we had a fabulous holiday in Turkey – once you get used to the heat - 55° centigrade. Remembering that old saying, ‘mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun’, it’s a case of staying by the beach in the day and going out at night when it’s cooler.

It takes us a while to get used to the routine. The south coast is ‘westernised’ – our resort was like Southend with heat. Fish and chips, all day English breakfasts, the Rose and Crown pub, Robin Hood restaurant, Big Brother bar, then the shops, take your pick from Marc and Spencer, Azda, and Trotters Independant Retailers. Why is it that you only see ‘Little Britain’ abroad, the Germans, French and Swedes never seem to indulge in a tacky cultural takeover?

There’s also the ‘hassle’ factor, in Turkey they don’t allow browsing, the standard patter is, ‘Hello mate, you Geordies, wha hey? Come here cheaper than Asda’. After hearing the same message thirty times it begins to grate. It takes us a week to get used to it and blank it out.

One evening we visit a spooky abandoned Greek village. After the Greek-Turkish war in 1923 there was a huge population exchange, 1.3 million ethnic Greeks left Turkey and half a million Turks came the other way. The village was vacated but the Turks refused to live there claiming it was haunted. When you look at the ruined Orthodox Church you can imagine the children playing in the square, men returning from the fields and women praying in the church. As the sun sets it’s an eerie feeling the village is a monument to intolerance, bigotry and prejudice.

Our boat trip around the 12 islands in Fethiye Bay is the highlight of the holiday, if you ever get a chance look up Carole and Tayfun’s boat, the crew are fantastic. There’s plenty of swimming stops and I take up the captain’s challenge and dive off the high board and swim under the boat. I’m just returning in triumph onto the boat when a cutting English voice says, ‘Get off the boat, you’re bleeding everywhere!’ Unbeknown to me I’d scraped my heel on the barnacles on the hull of the boat. Yeah, bet she was a teacher.

When we stay in we play some games of ‘Risk – the game of world conquest’ and I finally realise why all competitive games are banned from space missions. Er… I did storm off in a huff when my son was left in control of Europe (that’s five extra armies) two rounds in succession.

I read some of Orhan Pamuk’s books; ‘Istanbul’ is part historical and part autobiographical, it recounts the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire; ‘My Name is Red’ is a fantastic detective story written in several voices about the seventeenth century Ottoman miniaturists; ‘Snow’ is a controversial book about the Kurds. In the last week the Kurdish separatist group the PKK detonate bombs in Marmaris and Anatalya. How does targeting tourist buses advance the cause of autonomy and language rights?

Our last meal out should have been an opportunity to chill, relax and reminisce about the holiday. Instead it’s a version of eating under a military dictatorship, the headwaiter stands at the back of the restaurant watching all the waiters and they’re nervous wrecks (sounds familiar?). Going through the menu the headwaiter races us through it – no time to change your mind or alter it. Everything is done by command, ‘ENJOY’. All the meals run on time, it’s efficient, clean and the food is passable, but even though it’s only half full everything is whisked away as soon as you finish. We come out feeling really stressed.

Coming back to school I’m psyching myself up to tell the headteacher that a ‘close friend’ of mine has written this book… I check on the Continuum web site and the publishing date has been changed to October 15. Great, as the author you’re always the last to know.


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