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Old 28th September 2004, 15:10   #1 (permalink)
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Travels in Turkey - Part 8

How I expected my life to return to normal after that holiday, I don't know and it never did. Spending time alone with Mehmet made me realize that I no longer wanted to be a domestic goddess, who simply raised two children, worked for pocket money, kept a neat and tidy house, cooked uneaten meals and stood like a fashion accessory on Peter's arm.

I tried to explain this to Peter, went regularly to Marriage guidance meetings and I was still unhappy. The crunch came, when after one meeting the counselor asked me about my affair with Mehmet. Being an honest person with nothing to hide, I told her everything. Peter sat there in stony silence and said that he had been made to look a fool.

I ventured that he had been doing this to me for far longer than I had been seeing Mehmet. In fact, I am sure that he had been playing away for the last two years, ever since he set up his own company. When the counselor asked him, why he had never mentioned his affairs, he said that they were totally irrelevant. Discussing the point of why I wasn't allowed to keep the money I was earning as a company secretary, Peter's response was simply because I had no need of my own money, I could rely on him for everything and If I had my own money, then I would make demands for my own time. How right he was, but the counselor was clearly shocked and advised us that with due consideration, we were beyond help.

That same afternoon, he drove me home and then said that he was going out again. He was cagey about where he was going and it eventually turned out that his latest girlfriend, had been slung out of her flat for non-payment of rent and he was moving her to another place. He had a company cheque for the key money already written out and asked me to countersign it.

I obliged, telling him that it was the last thing I would sign for him and his lady friends and that first thing in the morning I was going to my solicitors to push the divorce through.

He never came home that night. Next day I took the boys to school and paid a visit to my solicitor. I explained what had happened the previous day at the marriage guidance, what had transpired that same evening and she agreed that I was right to press on and set the divorce in motion. Although the papers had already been served, Peter had failed to respond and this meant that they had to be served by a court officer to him personally. I never did know where they found him, but find him they did.

I suppose now, dear readers that I should mention that Christmas is a time of mixed emotions in our house. The boys were very young when their sister died and I thought that life should continue much as normal. Yes, we remember her and have decorated the tree every year since in the colours that we had when she spent her last days with us, but apart from that, time has moved on.

Christmas day came and I tried to make it special for the boys. I cooked dinner for my mum and brother, but Peter never came home. The boys opened their presents, my family went home and just after midnight, Peter walked in. The boys had long gone to bed. He said that he was going upstairs to pack some things, woke the boys up, told them he was leaving, that he loved them and left the house.

What I felt, I cannot describe to you. I was angry that he could that to the two boys on Christmas day, annoyed that he was so selfish he didn't stop to consider their feelings and put out that he didn't buy them a present.

Switching off the tree lights, fairy lights at the window and turning the television off, I went up to bed. The kids were now wide awake and wanted to know where daddy had gone? It was pointless lying to them, so I took them both into my bed, told them that daddy didn't love me anymore but still loved them. This seemed to reassure them and eventually the fell asleep.

Boxing day, I informed my mum that I was now suing for divorce. She was horrified and kept crying. In her book, you marry for life and I was just being typical, giving up too easily. Huh if only she knew.

My brother understood my reasons and had countless run-ins with Peter over the years. If anything, he was the only family member who approved on my side.
Peter's grandmother rang and I told her. She gave me her support as did his aunt. Cathy, who had known all along, just said that I should have done it sooner.

Christmas out of the way and only the New Year to face. My friend next door came in for a drink and we discussed the events of the year and what we both hoped for in the new one. At that time, I had no idea what I was going to do. Obviously, Peter would have to pay for his children, but regarding the house it was above my head.

During this time, Mehmet had been a great support. He phoned three or four times a week and wrote constantly. I tried to explain to him, what he was letting himself in for and we discussed English schools for the boys, living out there and how we would manage.

The first court hearing was on 26th January which was simply a hearing in front of a judge to say that we had both agreed to a divorce. Well, I thought we had both agreed, but no sooner were we sat in front of the Judge, than Peter stood up and said that he wasn't in agreement and the hearing was adjourned to give him time, to find a solicitor.

To cut a boring long story short, Peter fought on every front. He had at least six different solicitors over the course of the divorce, would argue silly, irrelevant points and accused me of allowing AJ at seven years of age to watch porn videos. When challenged, he was referring to Freddie Kruger of whom AJ was a fan!
Nothing was settled and the divorce dragged on for months. We were awarded joint custody, but every time it was Peters turn to have the boys, he cried off at the last moment. The boys have never forgiven him for that and even today 12 years down the line, AJ has no contact with his father.

In February of 1991 I made arrangements to fly out to Turkiye for a month. My mum was happy to have the boys, I was on Income support and single parent benefit and I only had to pay for my flight.

I flew into Ata Turk Havalammani on a cold, wet February evening and hated Istanbul on sight. Mehmet and Fedai were waiting at the airport and we got into Fedai's uncles car. If you think the M25 or Spaghetti Junction is bad, wait until you see Istanbul. The traffic was horrendous and I was shocked to see hearses whizzing along side the car, complete with coffin, horses and carts clip clopping in and out of the traffic and trams zooming along the middle of the road.

Speeding over Ata Turk Bridge, the lights of Asian turkiye shone and flickered as far as the eye could see. Above them all rose the magnificent Ayasofa or Hagia Sophia. From the top of the minarets to the surrounding gardens lights shone out brightly. I would imagine for every homecoming Turk, it was a welcome beacon.

We drove through narrow streets, lined with tall majestic buildings. Passed modern ‘Holiday Inn's' and then dropped down past the famous Beºtikas football ground. I had no idea where we were heading and around every corner there was something new to catch the eye.

After about an hour, we pulled into a residential area, which consisted of a piece of waste ground, ringed with tower blocks of flats. The whole area looked shabby and rundown. I hate to admit it now, but visions of White Slavery ran through my rather fertile imagination. I was urged to get out of the car and lugging my suitcase, I was led into a tiny lift smelling strongly of cabbage.
Wrinkling my nose, I put on a smile. By this time, thoughts of Opium dens, Turkish mafia and god only knows what, where playing havoc in my brain. Grabbing hold of Mehmet's arm I shivered.

The lift stopped and we got out. To the right, in front of us was a normal front door. I was led to the door, someone knocked and the door was thrown open. In a line by the open door, was a row of shoes. I bent down and undid my boots, adding my clod hoppers, to the neat row of dainty ladies shoes, children's trainers and goulashes! Someone handed me a pair of flip flops.

I was led down a corridor, which opened into the main living area. What a contrast to the outside. Crystal chandeliers hang over a huge mahogany dinning table, complete with six chairs and a matching wall unit. A huge sofa took up the space under the picture window and a large television flickered in the corner.

I recognized the Turkish woman who came towards me. The previous September, she and her husband and two children had stayed in the house behind the bakery in Ovacik. They were relations of Fedai and were more than happy to put us up for a few days.

A meal of Pasta, salad and Onions was prepared for us and we washed it down with the customary çay. Small talk was made and I sat there just listening whilst Mehmet translated into English. It had been a long day and soon I was feeling drowsy. Not wanting to appear rude, I told Mehmet who took me into yet another corridor, opened a door and revealed a made up pull-out double bed. It was the eldest son's room and he had been farmed out elsewhere in the building.

I undressed and climbed into bed, not knowing if Mehmet would be joining me later, or if he was expected to sleep elsewhere with the men. No sooner had my head touched the pillow than I was sound asleep. It must have been 2 or 3am when Mehmet did climb into bed and woke me up. By then, I had slept four hours and was more than eager to make his acquaintance.

I awoke to the smell of cooking and looking at my watch saw that it was 8am. Nudging Mehmet awake I staggered into the hallway to find the bathroom. What a let down. Compared to the rest of the flat, it was a pokey little hole, with the toilet, sink shower and a plumbed in washing machine. Jugs were dotted around the place and there was no toilet paper.

Bearing in mind, that when in Rome etc, I completed my toilette and turned on the cold water to wash. What came out was a brown stream. Making tut tutting noises, I dried my hands and went back to the now fully awake Mehmet.

Mehmet was laying in bed, with two glasses of çay in his hand. The family had left the flat to go about their daily business and there was only Fedai, Mehmet and myself there. We decided that we would take the ferry down to the Blue Mosque, the grand bazaar and see whatever else we could.

Filled with excitement, after all this is where East meets west, we went out into the cold and frosty morning. We walked through streets pilled high with rubbish and the whole area looked dirty.

We came onto the main road and waited on the corner for a dolmus. Now my experience of dolmus's back in Fethiye is that they are clean. When this dirty mini-bus chugged into view, I was horrified. More horrified to find that the inside, was as dirty as the outside! Standing crushed between Fedai and Mehmet I couldn't see a thing out of the window and only knew we were heading downhill by the way everyone lurched forward and back.

Alighting ten minutes later, I could smell the sea. Sea gulls cawed overhead and to my right was the famous Galata Bridge and just beyond this the Galata Tower. I was hustled across the road and into a ferry port.

Here too people were packed like sardines and we huddled together in the tiny saloon, sipping hot çay and munching pastries. From the window I could see the banks of the Bosporus. The buildings were much like ours on the banks of the Thames. Ata Turks palace was pointed out and various other famous sights.

Some twenty minutes later, we rounded a bend in the river to see the magnificent Blue mosque, standing proud above the city. Her blue dome glittered in the winter sunshine and she was beautiful. Perched on a hill top, I could see roads running down and around her to the quay side.

We disembarked, hailed a taxi which turned out to be a wonderful yellow Chevy and climbed slowly up the hill. We stopped outside the mosque and I thought we would go in and explore. Not a chance.

I was led across the road to a flaming McDonalds. The boys tucked in happily to Big Macs and fries, while I stared out the window and sulked. I knew that had it just been Mehmet and I on our own, we would have been in the mosque, but Fedai was his best friend and what Fedai said always went.

After devouring the burger in seconds, the boys swigged back the root beer (yuk) and said we were leaving. Thinking that we would just go from one boring place to the next, I hung back.

Being dragged out of a McDonalds isn't something I would recommend, especially if your boyfriend is too busy talking to watch where he is dragging you. It was only after I bounced off the plate glass door the second time, that Mehmet realized something was not quite right. …….

Eventually we got outside, crossed back over the road and explored little side roads, tree lined avenues and passageways the sides of which had wooden ottoman houses. I had this feeling that we were lost or looking for something. Neither of the boys would tell me what (very typically Turkish) so I just shrugged and followed like a lost sheep.
An hour later Mehmet told me that they were looking for the Grand Bazaar. I asked why the hell didn't they ask anyone and I could clearly see the light bulb turn on in their heads.

Grabbing a passing man by the sleeve, Fedai asked him in Turkish the way to the Bazaar. He replied in Turkish gesturing with his arms, as only the turks can do. I smiled sweetly and said to Fedai, the market is up there, to the left, keep straight on and turn right. He looked at me in complete utter amazement and said to Mehmet ‘How the hell does she know what he said?' Trying hard not to laugh outright I said to him, I know more than you think and dragged them both past a signpost, clearly marking the way.

What I was expecting to find, was nothing like reality. If you can visualize entering through a doorway into a domed roof then you are half way there. The domes and rooms stretched as far as the eye could see. All linked together and supported by hundreds upon hundreds of stone pillars. For some reason I get the idea that the whole lot was painted gold, but thinking back it was probably the vast number of gold shops, showing their wares that gave this effect.

Underneath our feet were cobblestones. In front of the shops and to the edge of the roadway drainage channels running with water tinkled and babbled past. Boys with huge trays of çay and Kharve walked past, stall in one hand waving at friends with the other. Bicycles were ridden through the heaving crowd and dogs run amongst the tangle of legs.

Business men darted through the crowds, clutching black leather handbags, school children gathered in groups exchanging football cards, traders called out their wares and from the great domed roofs, rich tapestries of kelims and carpets blew gently in the breeze.

I was horrified. For the first and last time ever in my life I felt afraid. People jostled and shoved by, hands touched you everywhere and I just wanted to turn and run. Not wanting to appear a wuss, after the fuss I had made to get there I clung tighter to Mehmet and sweated buckets.

One of Fedai's relations had a gold shop in the bazaar and we spent over an hour looking for the damm place. We eventually found it in the bottom but one lane and it was partly outside in the spring sunshine. Relief flooded through me. Whilst the boys sat and drank and talked ‘shop' I spent a boring hour or so looking at all the gold on display. Far from enjoying the experience I hated every minute.

As four o'clock neared, the owner declared that business was finished for the day and he was locking up. With a sigh of relief, I shook hands and stepped outside. Thanks to a combination of too much çay and the heat inside, I needed the loo and desperately.

Luckily, just outside the bazaar I spotted a sign for tuvalet. I couldn't see anything except a water fountain and what appeared to be some historical building. Taking the proffered 100 lira from Mehmet - you have to pay before you pee in turkiye! I stumbled up a flight of stone steps to where the boys had waved.

Stepping inside was amazing. From the stone flagged floor, to the high domed roof was nothing but stone. The toilets themselves had been hewn out of the rock, god knows how many years ago and the toilet door was a half door made of pine. Stone pillars rose to great heights at regular intervals and the atmosphere was awesome. Think sultan, think harem and this place had it all. Even the little windows were made of stone lattice work.

Unfortunately, I hadn't learnt the art of lengthy squatting and it was only when a cool breeze blew under the door and onto my bum, that I thought ‘oh god, they will be worried about me'.

I found them sat on the steps, smoking and talking as usual. We walked off down to the waterside and I assumed that once again, we would be traveling by ferry.

No. Our journey back to the part of Istanbul where we were staying was by train. We climbed aboard a cross between a tube train and the orient express. The seats were hard wood, the floor and windows filthy and it was freezing cold.

As we hurtled round bends, through residential areas, slums and even a shopping precinct I looked out in amazement. We eventually came to the final stop and climbed off. It was on the top of a hill and leading downwards to the shoreline were what I can only describe as subways.

I could see at least six stairways on either side of a pedestrianised walkway. I simply hadn't a clue what they were and when Mehmet and Fedai strolled off in front, I was right behind them.

We entered the first stairway and to my surprise, it was an underground shopping centre. There were well known famous Turkish stores, little general shops selling everything, shoe shine stalls and of course Tea shops. I felt like Alice in Wonderland.

As we walked through the shopping area, we came out on the 2nd flight of stairs. Walked a few yards and then down the next set of stairs to find exactly the same lay out and no doubt the same shops.

All in all, we did this four times. Eventually, we reached the bottom of the hill and came out onto a main road with a huge roundabout. Directly in front of us, on the shoreline was an Ice Rink. I asked if we were going home and was told no, we are going skating!

Entering through plate glass doors, I could see the circular ice rink straight in front of me. The walkway went around the edge and beyond this, was every take away food shop you can imagine. The boys proudly pointed out a fish and chip shop, Wendy's and various other American fast food joints. It was every food lovers dream.
On the rink, young Turkish people whizzed by, fell over and laughed. Like the bazaar, it was teeming with people. I suppose that unlike the rest of turkiye, Istanbul is very westernized and this became more apparent when I saw what the Turkish girls were wearing. Not a headscarf in sight, legs everywhere and even more startling was the fact they were wearing make up. A culture shock indeed.

We lingered for an hour or so and then walked outside to find a dolmus home. I don't recall that we did find one, but remember walking back up that hill to the train station. I assume we took a train back to the flat, but it was quite possibly a taksi.

Mehmet and I went to bed early that night. We talked quietly and I was shocked to discover that like me, he didn't like Istanbul. I hated the cold, the people were very unfriendly and I felt threatened. We both wanted to get back to peace and quiet of Fethiye, the smell of pine trees and the song of the mountains.

Next morning, we left without breakfast. Leaving Fedai behind in Istanbul we headed straight for the coach or otobus station. Within the hour we were sat in our seats and headed out of Constantinople.


January/February 1991
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