Back to the Future
This is a preview to the chapter Back to the Future from the book Perking the Pansies by Jack Scott.
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“Don’t be an idiot, Liam.”
We had slipped the shackles of the waged and journeyed to Turkey in search of the perfect idyll to rest our work-weary bones. Bodrum itself was quickly ruled out: too hot, too busy and too damn expensive. We were sold on the idea of space to breathe and a room with a view; the frenetic town had neither within our price range. We spent a sticky week exploring the surrounding towns by dolmuş, the cute mini-buses that traversed the peninsula. We dubbed them ‘dollies’. Nowhere hit the right spot and time was running out. We placed our final bet on the small town of Yalıkavak, twenty kilometres northwest of Bodrum.
It was high noon at Bodrum’s busy otogar (bus station) and the dollies scurried about the cracked tarmac like random ants. As usual, the modern day kervanseray was bursting with life: purveyors of rapid kebabs and sweet-baked simits, lemon- scenting cut-throat barbers, pantaloon’d grannies on the make, weary country boys looking for work, sallow sightseers melting in the heat and tea-sipping cabbies dropping off in the midday sun. The place was a magnificent, chaotic and typically Turkish entrepôt. Liam had already begun his transformation into a bone fide plastic Turk. He stubbornly refused to let anything pass his lips unless it was authentic local fare and insisted on thanking every single waiter in dreadful pidgin Turkish. His waking moments were spent muttering in Turklish, pointing at random things in his line of sight, flicking through a dictionary and shouting out the Turkish equivalent like an excitable child on his first field trip.
“Coffee, Kah-ve. Bus, Dol-mush. Bus station, Ot-o-gar.”
“Marvellous, Liam. Now, give it a rest.”
“Tam-am.” Liam grinned. Tamam – ‘okay’ – was his definitive response to absolutely everything. He loved the otogar and would have stayed there all day, drinking Black Sea tea, talking to the trees and watching the madding crowd. We beat a path through the raucous melée to an empty dolly with an acrylic Yalıkavak sign hanging from the windscreen.
We sat at the back and waited for the bus to fill. The inside was sweltering and relieved only by a begrudging breeze slipping through the sliding windows. An old lady weighed down by capacious plastic bags bursting with mandarins, tomatoes and aubergines, laboured aboard. The old dear’s haggard face was criss-crossed with deep-trenched furrows, bronzed by the sun and fringed by a red and yellow floral headscarf. A crocheted cardigan enveloped her tiny body, stretching like fishing net across her arched torso. Apart from us, the bus was empty and she had her pick of the seats. The choice seemed to overwhelm her. She scanned the dolly, gesticulated at the driver and shouted something indecipherable in our direction. Liam smiled apologetically and frantically thumbed through his useless dictionary.
“What’s she saying?” I whispered.
“‘Does my bum look big in these?’”
“Just keep on smiling, maybe she’ll go away.”
One by one, an eclectic mix of characters scrambled onto the bus, each adding an extra layer of colour: pink-skinned day trippers in hats and strappy tops; local likely lads in cheap jeans and gravity-defying hair held aloft by vats of gel, and beefy hillbillies in need of a bath. It was a heady blend that left us in no doubt that Europe was a long way off. Colin was right. It wasn’t Spain.
The dolly scurried out of town and joined the main arterial highway, an uninspiring road lined with commercial developments reminiscent of a sun-drenched London North Circular. Feeling like the Sunday roast slowly cooking in a fan assisted oven, we rushed past a hotchpotch of flashy ultra- modern furniture showrooms, out-of-town hypermarkets, ramshackle builder’s yards and an endless number of shanty lokantalar serving soup, kebabs and pide, the delicious Turkish take on a pizza. Ten kilometres into our sweaty trek, we left the dual carriageway and ascended a gently winding road into brittle tinder-dry shrubby hills burned brown by the staunch summer sun. This was more like it. The over-laden bus struggled up the hill and joined a long convoy of slow moving heavy vehicles toiling towards a high col framed by tumble-down windmills. As we breached the brow of the hill, we caught our first picture postcard glimpse of Yalıkavak shimmering at the end of a lush valley below like randomly scattered sugar cubes on an overgrown lawn.
An expectant mother hailed the bus from the dusty roadside and waddled aboard. Liam leapt up and offered his seat. She dropped like a dead weight next to me, retrieved two onions from a tatty sackcloth bag and handed one to me. Assuming this to be a standard act of kindness, I smiled, accepted the onion and placed it in my man-bag. Without a word, my hormonal friend took out a rusty paring knife, peeled her onion, quartered it and started to eat. Out of duty and cultural sensitivity, I contemplated doing the same but quickly thought better of it. You may want to reek of raw onion, my love, but I most certainly don’t. For the remainder of the journey, she chewed on her onion and belched every time the dolly driver applied the brakes. Liam became a reluctant clippy, passing cash to the driver and returning change to the punters. Eventually, he wedged into a space at the middle of the bus in between a lemon-scented shiny suit and a pallet of stinking eels.
Ten minutes later, we jumped off the dolly at Yalıkavak Otogar and followed the crowd towards the centre of the lazy white-washed town. The pretty pedestrianised high street was shadowed from the sun by huge, fluttering, white, triangular awnings. We sauntered past yellow-stone craft shops and postcard vendors and headed aimlessly towards the harbour, a relaxed affair crammed with two-masted wooden gulets. A cobbled promenade ran the length of the slim but well-groomed beach, a grit and sand concoction edged with low-rise hotels and an assortment of cute restaurants. After the hassle and bustle of Bodrum, the informal tranquillity of Yalıkavak was a hypnotic indulgence. The place was ideal and we knew it. We rested at a smart but unassuming beachside bar, watched the world stroll idly by, sipped ice-cold beers and sported manic perma-grins. Liam rescued a battered copy of The Rough Guide to Turkey from his bag and thumbed through the torn and sun- bleached pages.
“Oh dear.” “What?”
“It describes this place as relentlessly gentrified.” “Perfect,” I said. “Fancy another?”
We returned to Yalıkavak the next day to meet a British estate agent Liam had stumbled across on the Internet. The emlakçı had promised a choice selection of rental properties, all within ten minutes of the town and all with the obligatory pool. Lorraine from Bodrum Turkish Delights picked us up at the village otogar and was a sight to behold. A striking thirty- something woman, she lacked in stature what she made up for in tarty-chic. Her crowning glory was a huge pair of fake gold-hinged Gucci sunglasses wedged hard inside a thick tong- teased auburn bob. The trashy brash package came with an easy Scottish charm.
“Welcome to Turkey, boys. Hop in.”
We jumped into the Mercedes sports sedan and the gaudy Lorraine launched into an intense what brings you to Turkey inquisition.
“Retiring so young? Ach, aren’t we lucky wee lambs?” Lorraine talked ten to the dozen and broke into frenzied bouts of laughter for no apparent reason. When she laughed, her Carly Simon mouth split her face right in two. In between monologues Lorraine showed us some apartments to suit our ‘disappointing’ budget, none of them quite hitting the mark. Her final selection, a cracked concrete bunker three hundred metres up a huge barren boulder wasn’t exactly what we had in mind. The beach hut in Bognor was starting to look appealing.
“You don’t like it, do you?” said Lorraine
“No,” I said, “we don’t like it.”
“It’s cheap.” “Figures.”
Liam lit a cigarette and walked back to the car.
“I’ve got it,” said Lorraine. “I know the perfect place.” “Is it cheap?” I said.
and all the others, when you
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