Our arrival at the Anba hotel gave us an insight into how royalty feel when they travel; our bags were whisked away as we were ushered through the reception. Unfortunately we weren't in the right frame of mind to appreciate it. Our only attempt to stem the inevitable sale into slavery and a life under a red light was to cling on to our passports which involved a mild tussle over our hand luggage with a porter as he tried to obey his boss's orders and divest us of all our bags. Eventually we were shown up to a room on the first floor which was the first relief of the evening. However after a shower and change we were summoned up to the penthouse. Supper was being served there. Should we go? Would it be madness to accept or churlish to refuse? We decided that as there were two of us, we'd go up, also we were starving as the meal on the flight had been inedible.
The penthouse was very plush for the early eighties. A fantastic selection of meze were on trays infront of the TV. As we piled up our plates, Bilge was keen to get started on the videos, he'd been waiting all week to watch them. Carolyn and I tensed, ready to make a dash for the door but as the tape whirred for a few seconds, the familar strains of Match of the Day's theme tune piped up and we all sat and watched the last Saturday's Arsenal and Chelsea matches.
As I arrived in Istanbul last week, I was remined of Haluk and Bilge as all the Turkish businessmen on the flight had dutyfree bags from Heathrow with goodies they had brought back from England. They probably all have Sky Sport now and can watch which ever match they like but there are still things from the UK which are valued. My first arrival at Izmir was a good lesson as Haluk and Bilge were perfect gentlemen and I was always treated with total respect when employed in Turkey. I ended up working for Bilge for 2 years in the mid 80s and I'm still in touch with the late Harun's son. The hotel is still open and I intend to make a trip back there this year for old time's sake.
(Note for 2015. The Anba Hotel has now been pulled down and a new smart chain is going up in it's place, but still in Haluk's family).