Acclimatising to Turkish village life always takes me a couple of days after a trip abroad. I’m reluctant to get into the car, especially when I’ve just been on a traffic-free island. Driving in Bodrum in the summer is a chore to be avoided but the fridge was bare so a shopping trip was unavoidable and the 32 degrees on the garden thermometer ruled out the bicycle. The main road to Mumcular has been getting progressively more pot-holed as the thin layer of pre-election promissory tarmac wears away and it may be a coincidence, but as another election approaches, a layer of gravel has been spread over the whole road in anticipation of another meagre spraying of tar. Gravel is probably a too grand a word for the white crumbly aggregate, which turns to a thick white cloud as each vehicle passes. This white dust hides small stones that ricochet between passing vehicles. Local wisdom holds that a finger placed on the windscreen will prevent said stones from shattering the glass, thus most drivers are negotiating the friable road surface with only one hand on the wheel and if you consider that using a mobile phone is almost mandatory here when driving , you can imagine why I’m reluctant to get behind the wheel. On Sunday, I sat at the T-junction leaving our village. In the distance a white mass was billowing towards me at great speed. I decided to sit and wait for it to pass, which it did but maybe my presence caused the driver to consider moderating his speed. As he sped past me, his previous straight trajectory starting to wobble and in a second the car was imitating a snake crossing our swimming pool (yes, quite often). If he hadn’t had the misfortune to divert towards the only fenced field, he might have got away with just a load of maize in his bonnet, but the concrete corner post that brought him to an abrupt stop, severely shortened the length of his car. Amazingly both driver and passenger were already crawling out of the wreck when I arrived and were scratching their heads as to why one minute they’d been speeding along and the next they weren’t. The Turkish news has a phrase for this kind of accident. They say the driver “direksiyon hakimiyetini kaybetti”, i.e “lost control of where they were going’. You will see this phrase in almost every accident report, as if “losing control” is just something one does on a regular basis and a valid reason for totalling one’s ride.
I was sad to see that the smashed-up car was a Renault 12, the stalwart of village life. Many a family swapped a few donkeys for a Renault 12 in the 1970s and treat them in a similar way. Anything can be put in or on them. They are as happy on a paved road as in a field and they need very little money spent on them in maintenance. Many of the Renault 12s you see around here are a good 30 years old and though they rarely come on the market, they’ll still change hands for several thousand TL. Where the donkey wins, of course, is that if the driver “loses control”, it can usually make its own way home.