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Old 29th September 2004, 16:17   #1 (permalink)
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Travels in Turkey - Part 12

Arriving home, I booked flights for the boys and me for the end of September. We were going for a month. The days flew past and soon we were boarding the plane at Gatwick.

We arrived on time, stepped into the bright sunshine and Mehmet was once again waiting. We had been in touch by phone calls and letters but with an outstanding phone bill of £2,300 from when he was in the army, the home phone had been disconnected. Letters took too long to arrive and in the summer months there is little free time to spend writing letters. I had phoned him the flight details only the week before and prayed that he would be there. He was.

We arrived at the hotel in the late afternoon sunshine and found we were staying in a two bedroom apartment. The kids loved it, found a kitten to move in with them and made themselves at home.

The hotel was busy, so I didn't expect to see much of Mehmet and after unpacking, I wandered down to the bar to see what was going on. Mehmet was working in the kitchen cooking, so it was natural that I take my place behind the bar and work. I did meet many lovely people in that month; some who still remain friends and keep in touch.
The kitchen closed and Mehmet came over to help out. Some people were leaving and a goodbye drink, turned into a party. Two of Mehmet's friends popped in and we were soon dancing on the bar. The transfer coach pulled up outside and we waved the leaving guests off.

I hate saying goodbye, even if it is not me leaving and went to the apartment to relax. It was now 1am and from the bar I could hear singing and the occasional shouting. I changed into Jeans and a jumper and walked back to the bar to start clearing up.

A few stragglers still remained but they eventually wandered off to bed. We collected glasses, wiped the bar down, washed up and sat down to wait for the new arrivals………..due at 2.30am. Mehmet told me to go to bed but I said I would wait with him, because I was overtired and wouldn't be able to sleep anyway. We checked the rooms were ready for the guests and sat smoking and talking quietly.

The coach pulled up outside and Mehmet went off to welcome the arrivals. I stayed at the bar and waited. The first couple who appeared were both of very large proportions. Both were red in the face and sweating. As I went to shake hands with them, I was told in a broad Yorkshire accent that the journey from the airport was like a F****** cattle lorry and they needed a drink.

Regardless of your personal situation, the customer is always right. I went behind the bar and asked them both what they would like. He replied a beer. I said' would you like a large or a small beer?' Back came the reply, ‘just give me a F****** beer' Considering the time of morning and how tired I was, it was only will power that prevented me from pouring the damm thing over his head. By this time the other six guests had joined them and were ordering Brandy & Lemonade. So much for hoping that they would be tired and go straight to their rooms! Only one couple opted to go to sleep, the others standing at the bar drinking until 4.30am. Callum woke up and walked down to the bar for a drink and something to eat, so I took him into the kitchen and made him a sandwich. When I returned, the guests all wanted sandwiches, but Mehmet said there was not enough bread and gave them packets of crisps from the bar.

At 5am, Mehmet said he was closing the bar and he would appreciate it, if they went to their rooms for the remainder of the night. Moaning and groaning, they left.

We cleared the bar again and crawled off to bed for two hours sleep.
This is how the first week and a half passed. Just a constant rush of work, eat, sleep, play host, work .Luckily the boys were more than capable of keeping themselves amused and having the swimming pool, was a big bonus. They were safe as houses and spent the days, strolling through fields, disturbing sleeping tortoises and hoping to find a scorpion. If they needed anything, they would come and find me at the hotel or ask Mehmet's mum.

Occasionally friends would offer to take them down to the beach or for a picnic leaving Mehmet and I to snatch a couple of hours alone. Mehmet was staying in the apartment but we were so tired at the end of every day that all we wanted to do was sleep. Moments without the boys meant we could talk undisturbed.

At the end of the second week of our holiday, our guests went home. It was now the end of September and because the hotel had decided to go independent, there were no further customers to come. It was wonderful feeling of relief and the thought that tomorrow you could lay in bed until lunch time. No breakfast to be made, no lunches to prepare, no drinks to be served and no fixed smiles like Cheshire cats. Ahh freedom.

We did spend most of the next day in bed until the afternoon, the kids running in an out of the open door with the Turkish children and Mehmet and I snoring happily in the background. I cannot remember having been that tired before or since. You do operate like a zombie and I still don't know how the turks manage to keep going all summer from May until the end of October. Two weeks at full steam was more than enough for me.

Now the season was finished, at least for us it was time for the big clean up. Basically whatever is bought out for the guests use during the summer, it is carefully cleaned and wrapped up, ready to store away for the winter. Although the hotel has a family area (three bedrooms, storage room, bathroom and kitchen) the family moved down to their other house in Fethiye for the winter. Not every year and not this particular year.

We stripped beds, swept floors, stacked furniture in rooms, wrapped crockery and cutlery, stored food and then washed everything down with hot caustic soda! A huge drum was placed outside with steam rising from it as it heated. Foolishly, I dropped my little pan scourers in and it was instantly dissolved.

The last job of the year was to trim back the grape vine over the restaurant and bar, pick the last vegetables and fruit for bottling and beat the olive trees. The vines are not pruned until February/ March to give them a nice boast in the early spring sunshine.
The paperwork is filed away, the till emptied and cleared and numerous trips made to the bank. Everyone hopes the summer has been profitable, a bad summer and the following winter will be hard. In England we have the back up of DSS or Works and Pensions as it now wishes to be known. In Turkiye, there is nothing. No money, no food. If you are ill and cannot afford to pay for treatment, you die. It does seem harsh and totally alien to us, but such is life in paradise.
Unfortunately, the summer hadn't been that good. In previous years when the hotel was with a holiday company, this ensured a certain number of bookings. The amount of money actually paid to the hotels is a very small amount and they were not making any profit, unlike the holiday companies who were laughing all the way to the bank. Even then, you could be paying £240 for two weeks bed and breakfast and the hotel would actually get £3 a night per person. I know that this ratio hasn't changed much over the years and is why a lot of hotels are more than happy to take your bookings for next year, there and then, book on-line or prefer to deal with you direct.

Whilst Mehmet beavered away, the kids and I went horse-riding. Never having been before and thinking it ‘girlie' the boys were very reluctant to try. Off I marched them to the stables opposite with Mehmet's mum who was hoping to see her friend, the man's wife. Turkish women, love to talk and if she could use us as an excuse to get away for an hour or so, why not?

The boys were propelled unwillingly into the stables. An old man with bow legs caused by years of riding bare-back, waddled into view accompanied by a round, fat smiling Turkish woman. Leaving mehmet's mum to explain what we wanted I told the boys that the horses were small. Now, my boys have never been petite nor under no circumstances could they be called slight. Compared to Turkish children, they were the jolly green giants.

When the horses were brought out, I thought ‘oh no, it wouldn't be fair on the horse to let the boys on them'. Having ridden 16 hands and higher over here the Turkish nags, looked like Shetland ponies.
Horses were selected, the boys mounted eventually……….and we were led off across the fields into the back of Hisaronu. A similar route to the one Cathy and I walked a few years back, but with more building work going on. After half and hour, the boys started to relax and wave their arms about. Up until then, they had been hanging on for grim death.

We strolled into the village, up past the Irish bar (as it was then), past St Nicholas hotel and into the main street, startling villagers and tourist alike. Clip-clopping our way through people we headed down towards the kaya very slowly.

Stopping just before the graveyard on the outskirts of the village, Mehmet – the guy leading us crossed the road up into the forest. We slowly picked our way amongst, rocks and trees upwards into the sunlight. On reaching the top, we turned left and walked slowly down the mountain. It wasn't really a slope and was level, but it did go downwards. Ten minutes later we were told to pull up, dismount and tie up the horses.

We did, tying the horses to any old scrub or bushes that were to hand. Leading the way, Mehmet strolled off in front down a sheep track which seemed vertical. In the distance we could see the sea spreading beneath us for miles, the azure skies and glimpses here and there of the boats making their way home.

Eventually, the path levelled off to a rocky outcrop and spread beneath us was the lagoon in all its beauty. It was simply breathtaking. We sat in silence for a good while, Mehmet puffing on the awful smelling Samson cigarettes and the kids lobbing stones into space. I have never seen such a view before or since and it is one that is best left to the chosen few to visit. Not because it is a special place, but too many tourists and it will be ruined.

Mehmet indicated that it was time we were leaving and we reluctantly stood up and followed him. On the way back to the horses, we found a large tortoise sunbathing. Having kept tortoises all my life and still having three now, I am still amazed at Turkish peoples reaction to them. They don't harm them, because they are protected but if they come to close, the Turks start to get flustered. Naturally the boys fell on their knees and started to touch the tortoise. For those of you in the know, tortoises are very friendly creatures and love being tickled. Our ones at home actually come for their food and follow you around the garden.

The tortoise started hissing, which ours never do and the boys were chuffed. Mehmet started gabbling in Turkish and implied that it was going to bite them. They replaced him in the bushes and untied the horses. Mounting them this time, was easier for the boys although Aldwyn's decided he would wander off before we could catch him.
Everyone safely seated, we set off back down the mountain to the village. This time we followed the logging road and were rewarded with a huge black and white snake on our path. I thought horses didn't like snakes, but ours merely glanced at it and strolled by.
On reaching the bottom of the track, Mehmet spoke to the horses in Turkish and they all started Cantering. Thoroughly enjoying
themselves the boys whooped and rode into Hisaronu like a posse.
Unfortunately for me, my bra rode up, my boobs fell out and I one handed, attempted to steer my horse after the others and adjust my clothing.

I tried pulling my horse to a stop, but it had found its head. I would now like to apologize to Hamish Mc Turk, whose shop my horse tried to enter. The silly mule, had turned before he should have done and caused chaos.

Extracting myself without causing too much damage, I followed the dust kicked up in the distance. Eventually, I caught up with them and we all slowed down to a gentle trot. Pulling alongside the boys, I said that we were nearly home. Now either my nag didn't like me, or it was just being mischievous, it suddenly took upon itself to go flat out, hell for leather in the direction of home. Screeching at the kids to save me, I caught a glimpse of Mehmet's face. It had a huge smile from ear to ear and he made no attempt to stop my wayward horse, but chuckled evilly.

As I flew into the enclosure, the horse turned its head and I swear bared its teeth in a grin. The others followed me in and dismounted. Over tea and coca cola with Mehmet, his wife and my Mehmet's mum we sat and talked as the sun went down and the sweet smell of wood smoke filled the air.

On the main road, a dolmus tooted and Mehmet's mum said it was time to go home. We eventually got the boys back to the hotel, but only after I had promised and paid for a riding lesson the next day.
On returning to the hotel, the kids were sent for a shower and to change. When they came back, they ate dinner, went back to the apartment and played quietly in bed. For the first time in two weeks, the were sound asleep by nine pm. They were definitely going out the next day, if it had that effect on them!

Mehmet and I changed and went out for dinner. His mum would pop in to the boys for the rest of the evening and they would be safe as houses. Getting in the car, we drove down to Hisaronu and a dodgy place called Stravos, which if my memory serves me correctly would be somewhere close to the travel agents, right in the middle of the village. So much has changed, that it is impossible to remember where we actually did go. I do remember that the owner was a big fat Greek man and took his name from a Harry Enfield character!

We ate, talked then strolled across to the moonlight bar to play pool. In those days the floor slopped towards the bar and was very uneven. It was on the main road and football or futbol would be played from the main door, across the street. Naturally, Mehmet played football, I sat at the bar drinking and talking. I don't know whenever it is a particular ‘Turkish thing', but as soon as I settled anywhere, Mehmet would be at my side saying' Come on, lets go!' He did the same that night and shrugging my shoulders I finished my drink and waited outside.

Some twenty minutes later, Mehmet appeared with Güney the owner of the bar and another friend also called Mehmet. We were going down to the beach to ‘Harry's bar'. We all got into Güneys car and headed down the mountain. Reaching the beach, we walked into the bar which was heaving with people and decent music. Leaving the men, to talk as only Turkish men can, I sat down at a table and looked around.

Had I been prepared, I would have had a book in readiness as being left alone for hours, is a favourite pastime of Turks. It wouldn't have been much use, because the lighting was dim and the music too loud. When a particular song was played I stood up and began to dance. Well, if you can't beat them join them. From nowhere, the two Mehmet's appeared, found a table and I was pushed into the far corner nearest the wall. The boys sat either end of the seat so it was impossible to get out unnoticed. Oh very subtle are Turks.

They chatted amongst themselves, ignoring me. Güney was sat at the bar, knocking back the Raki and was definitely three sheets to the wind. I told Mehmet to drag him out and that we should head home. One problem, the car was Güney's and he wouldn't let anyone else drive. Without thinking, we climbed into the car and let Güney drive us up to the village. He drove at break neck speed we were all urging him to slow down and take care, beads of sweat dripping from our foreheads. On reaching the bend half way up the mountain, we slewed across the road and missed a wall by inches. Mehmet jumped out the back, dragged Güney out of the driver's seat and dumped him unceremoniously in the back with me.

We eventually arrived in the village in one piece, very shaky and praying they to allah and me to god. We put Güney to bed, got in our car and drove to the hotel. We were both in shock after coming so close to meeting our maker and it certainly taught Mehmet a lesson.
Drinking and driving is a big problem in Turkiye and if you come up from Fethiye on the dolmus, look over the side of the mountain to see all the burnt out cars which are littered there. Not all, but a large number of them have been driven off after a drinking session.

This was not the first encounter I had with god whilst out in Turkiye, but the nearest I have come to seeing my life flash in front of me.

<center>JENNI</center>

September/October 1994
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