Having friends to stay is always a pleasure, especially ones that reconnect me to my lost iPhoto files (Thank you Simon). It is also good excuse to get out and about and revisit nearby sites. Jake is always up for a trip to some old stones and I like to think he's becoming a canine authority on the differences between Hellenic and Roman theatres and the transition from Lelegian hilltop fortifications to Carian towns. He certainly appreciates drinking rainwater from a 2,500 year old bowl and in the last picture he is contemplating the natural state of the unexcavated theatre at Euromos and wondering whether he'll still be around when the rest of the cavea is uncovered.
For many Turks who live in big city apartment blocks, Bodrum is a Shangri-La: a fantasy of blue sea, white-washed sugar cube houses and tumbling magenta bougainvillaea. Artist Mehmet Sönmez should probably be held responsible for 90% of these fantasies. He moved to Bodrum in the 1970s and his paintings of the town were turned into postcards which circulated the globe for 2 decades.
Copies of some of his most famous works can be seen in Oasis Shopping Mall until 16th April. The opening of the exhibition yesterday, was like a flash back to Mehmet's favourite bar, the Hadi Gari, all of us 35 years older (but I have to say everyone still looking good). Mehmet would have easily recognised us all although no one would have called him Mehmet, he went by his nick-name 'Asker' (soldier).
This vision of Bodrum still exists if you look in the right places but it's rapidly being overwhelmed by insensitive development.
In the last few years of his life Mehmet was not happy with the way Bodrum was developing and produced a series of paintings called "Critical Bodrum" which I haven't been able to find on the internet. I heard lots of stories last night about how Bodrum was so wonderful 30 years ago, and I feel very privileged to have lived in Bodrum before it expanded but it's worth remembering that in this Utopian past, Dursan's bicycle, shown in the pictures above, was stolen 3 times and recovered before it was nicked for good. Bodrum is still a great place to live and we still need to lock up our bikes.
Troubled times in Turkey coupled with an elderly Mac desktop that has not only eaten my photographs and won't cough them up but also appears to have not been communicating with my posh, expensive back-up system for a while, have forced me into a blogging quiet patch. So today I'm concentrating on immediate pleasures that can be captured with an iPad, and a glance back to 3 years ago when we all had less to worry about. I'm not usually an envious person but I have always wanted a wisteria plant and would cast covetous glances at the masses of purple blooms that cascade over houses and fences on my daily walks. I was under the impression that wisteria took years to grow and always cursed my lack of forethought at not planting one when I first moved to Bodrum. Two years ago I bought a small wisteria in a pot and planted it behind our house in Bodrum, not expecting to see any flowers for years. I'm not green fingered so can claim no part in producing the profusion of flowers that hang over our garden wall today, but it's a joy to sit and look up at the tumbling lilac flowers. It almost gives me the courage to have another go at sweet peas.
Friday 12th April 2013
It's heating up in Bodrum and my daily walks are getting warmer and warmer. As summer approaches, the late Spring scents are particularly strong in the morning and as I head down to the harbour, there is one particular aroma that sends my thoughts tumbling back to the 1970s. I pass an untended mandarin garden that is in full flower but its negligent owner has not bothered to collect all the fruit so there is a heady scent of blossom with an underlying hint of overripe citrus. It's a dead ringer for Aqua Manda, the ubiquitous whiff of my early teenage years. If I close my eyes, I'm 14 years old, in a Laura Ashley flowing dress with massive puff sleeves and a multitude of tiny buttons, trying to emulate a medieval damsel or Babs from Pan's People.
On the way back home I pass this fence full of wisteria which is another blast from the past as I was also a fan of Mary Quant's Wistaria perfume oil. I must have been older when I wore this as I had to take the train to London to stock up; Rugby being too provincial to sell Mary Quant.
My sense of smell seems to evoke much stronger memories than sight or sound and whip up a more intense feeling of nostalgia. I'd love to hear about the aromas that take you back to your youth.
A giant billboard erected by the Forestry commission telling us that blue and green make Bodrum beautiful. Across the bay three hotels in various stages of completion on land that locals were promised would not be built on.
We moved to the UK when Esi was 8 so she only spent 3
years in Turkish Schools. While in England, she lost the patriotism
that is drummed into Turkish kids but last week, on a visit to see army
recruits at their passing out parade, she reconnected with her innate Turkish pride.
A full month after my prospective brother-in-law was
conscripted into the army wegot the chance to see him. We
woke up at 7.15am, packed our bags and left for ManisaKırklağaç.
The road from Bodrum was so quiet and peaceful, not a
sound of a car horn or modified exhausted to be heard. I was hopeful for a
wonderful drive up to Aydın to pick up my fiance Celal's parents. We stopped
on the way for somelentil soup and salad for breakfast (sad
to say I am currently on a new diet thatdoesn't
allow me to have dairy or eggs... so no cheese or a hard boiled egg for me!)
By the time we arrived at Çine, we were greeted by Celal's parents and
there was a rush to get everything packed in the back of the car. They
insisted we takesupplies to people who wanted them, so
the back of the car was full of olive oil, vegetables and village eggs.
Great, I thought to myself, we have now started a farmdelivery service... Sadly the silence of Bodrum seemed
far behind us as we hit traffictowards Aydın. The
plans changed again when it was decided to see my brother-in-law's wife.Anyway after seeing her we set off towards Izmir. Even
though we are in the car,looking out onto the greens and newly
blossomed almond and peach trees, Icouldn’t
help but think how beautiful Turkey is the further North we went once
away from the cities. Celal’s parents and I were singing along to some Turkish songs and enjoying the view and talking about what happens in the
army and listening to Celal and his father sharing their army stories was
magical. They both had very different experiences, same scenery but different
jobs. Celal's dad was on foot and Celal was in tanks. Listening to Celal
really made me realise that the army was not always a proud memory for men. As
much as he loved the friends he made he also had bad experiences that
not a lot of men feel comfortable speaking about.
As we arrived at Manisa we decided we had time to go
see where my brother-in-law was and visit him for some dinner. As we
parked the car I almost burst with excitment. This was my first time walking
into an Army camp. Sadly for Celal, it brought back some bad memories and it
took him a long time to walk to the entrance squeezing my hand so tight I
thought my fingers were going to break.
Walking into the army block I heard men shouting. I
couldn’t hear what they were saying but it sounded something like a commander
saying "we are" and the soldiers saying "yes commander" I
felt butterflies in my stomach. We waited in the visitors lounge for my brother
-in-law to come through the door. Normally I do not gawk at people but I could
not help myself but watch the soldiers march past. I saw my brother-in-law
walking past with a gun, marching with dignity and a cheeky smile to say hey I
After taking the guns back he ran over to us and gave
us all hugs (apart from his dad who is like a plank when it comes to affection)
We all sat down and he told us stories of who is who and what the commander had
told him about assignments and training. Rain, wind or sun they had to wake up
at 3am and gather around to hear what they were doing that day. It was amazing
to see so many 20 year olds in one place. Some short, some tall, some chunky and
some skinny, a few with glasses. As time went on we met some of my
brother-in-law's friends and said hello to their families and slowly slowly
people became one. I, on the other hand, felt like an outsider as people knew
exactly what was going on in the army and I had no idea. My father did army
service and so did my cousin and uncle but I do not hear any stories about
their past experiences so I had no clue.
After a wonderful nights sleep in a nearby hotel, we
all went to the army camp for my brother-in-law's 20 Tören (swearing on the
gun). Thousands and thousands of people were arriving and I was shocked. We had
to walk about for 1 hour from where we could leave the car up the hills of
Manisa Kırkağaç to get to the army camp. I was horrified. In the pouring rain
we all got SOAKED! We finally arrived and took our seats right at the back. We
waited about half an hour for the soldiers to come out but it was well worth
the wait. In this particular army there were 15 sections. I didn't know how
many soldiers would be in these sections. 1 came out... 2 came out...and
already up to 200/300 soldiers had arrived. The march went on and on and on and
all I could feel was my heart pumping, hearing their feet stamp on the ground
and lots of shouting. People were clapping, mothers were crying, wives were screaming
out their husbands' names. It was very emotional.
We saw my brother-in-law. He was in the 12th section,
3 rows back, first on the right. I recognised him straight away because sadly
his ears gave him away... The march went on for a good 45 minutes before the
senior soldiers came out dressed in their very handsome uniform, cap and gun
tucked under the arm with a sash full of badges. The tallest of the tall Celal
whispered in my ear thinking I would know who these professional soldiers were. After
the fancy soldiers came out the national anthem began. Soldiers shouting so
loudly I could barely hear the sound track. At this point almost half of the
people standing in the audience were crying with hands on their hearts and the
other half taking videos on their phone or ipads. After the national anthem,
row by row soldiers stepped up to put one arm by the gun and the other on their
partner's shoulder/hip (depending on how tall they were) and say "Önce
Vatan, Her Zaman, Her Yerde" meaning "First Country, All the Time,
Everywhere". This took up to an hour as there were so many people. Celal
then told me that there was at least 2000 people in this section, maybe more.
Then BANG BANG BANG! At the top of the towers, 3
soldiers with guns, all at once fired into the air. I can safely say in the
future if I go to another one of these ceremonies I will have to wear a diaper. But the
rush was fantastic. After the guns went off it was the end of the parade and
soldiers went back to their quarters to get changed to go home to family for 2
days. Then Monday will be the day that they get assigned to their new units
I know it's a long story but I can honestly say there
was nothing like being a part of my brother-in-law's laws journey to manhood. I
am proud to be a Turk (and English). We are strong. People think Turkey is a
horrible place at the moment due to what's happening on the borders, but after
this trip I have faith in my country.
I’ve been sorting my bookshelves and came across my George Bean guide
books.In the 1980s and 90s,
these volumes were my constant travelling companions. In the age before the
Wikipedia and Google Maps, George Bean guaranteed that I found my way to almost
every archaeological site on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts because he had walked, driven or
ridden there himself.In the early
80s, turning up with a copy of “Turkey Beyond the Maeander” under an arm would
be the signal for elderly gentlemen seated in the kahves tomake that
universally accepted Turkish hand-flapping gesture meaning “come hither”andrecount how George,Uzun Boylu, The Tall One (he was over 6ft 5 tall)
had stayed in the village and how Ahmet, Mehmet or Ali had taken him up to the Kale on the hill and this was cue for
every one else tojoin in the
conversation emphasising how polite he was.His wife Jane tells a story illuminating George’s innate
niceness; They were staying as guests in a village
house and a goat stew was brought out. Jane and their other travelling
companion were unable to even take a mouthful of the stew; it was so rank, but
George unwilling to offend his hosts who in true village fashion were putting
them up for 3 days and refusing to accept any payment, ate 3 portions. He spent the whole night outside in the
privy and was unable to visit the local worthies the next day.
George Bean was a teacher of Ancient Greek at St Paul's in London before he was
sent to Izmir by the British Council in 1944.He was seconded to Istanbul University and was head of the Classics Department. He
travelled widely and as a fluent speaker of Turkish was able to question
villagers and discover and map hundreds of ancient sites that other foreign
scholars had not been able to find.His great frame did not suit him to travelling in Turkey, bus seats and
beds were always too small and his travelling companion J.M. Cook writes that
the luggage space at the back of local buses was the only place George would
fit. But in his good natured way,
he took everything in his stride and being a natural sportsman, once reaching
the 3rd round in the doubles at Wimbledon and captaining Surrey at
badminton, he was fit enough to walk where local transport didn’t exist.Once sleeping on a village roof, he
forget where he was and getting up in the night to visit the outhouse, stepped
straight off the edge and buckled his knee.The next day he had to be carried down a steep hill by a
strong village youth.
George’s last travels in Turkey were in 1977 and his last volume was
published a year after his death.His books are still of great use to travellers and I’m sure there are
still a few who would welcome the opportunity to remember“Uzun Boylu” over a glass of tea.
A walk along a beach on the Southern shores of the Bodrum peninsula is a thought provoking activity these days. We no longer see refugees in Bodrum but their presence is revealed by the shoes, clothing and rubber dinghies washed up on a few beaches. I don't know when these marble sculptures were placed on the sand but they are extremely unsettling as they face Europe, just a few miles away. Boats made of marble and looking like stone coffins.
I was in Greece recently and was upset to hear educated Athenians hold forth on how the Turks are herding refugees into boats to be rid of them. All the time I listened I was mentally battling the urge to put them straight and thus declare my Turkish allegiance. When I heard for the fifth time that Turks were doing nothing to stem the flow and just wanted the EU money, I threw in the towel and gave them the facts. Road blocks are active all the time to stop refugees reaching the coast. The Coastguard boats are out every night and bring back 100s of men women and children every week. In Bodrum alone sometimes 300 are brought back in one night and every one is then seen by the local police and a doctor. Local captains have formed their own association to patrol the coast and rescue those in danger. The cost of this is borne locally. Human rights lawyers hand out pamphlets telling the Syrian refugees what they are entitled to in Turkey (free health care, free pharmaceuticals, free education and Turkish lessons as long as they register in a designated municipality) and give out telephone numbers where help can be found. Local volunteers provide dry clothes, food, sanitary goods and toys but despite this the majority of families still risk the crossing because hope lives in Europe not in a Turkish refugee camp. Some try again and again despite nearly drowning on a previous trip. And the EU hasn't handed over the money.
When I got back to Turkey I saw this cartoon on Facebook, shared by a Greek speaking acquaintance, copied I assume from a Greek magazine. It came with no text but speaks for itself.
It seems that this disaster is becoming an exercise in shifting the blame while those that sell the weapons and create the power vacuums are sitting safe and sound.