by Alex Smith
Since I last wrote in this place Ramadan (or Ramazan as the Turks call it) has come and gone. This year the monthly fast has coincided with some of the hottest and longest daylight hours, so for anyone working and observing the fast it was surely no easy task. In my experience the period of Ramazan has coincided with a falling off of the numbers of Turkish tourists in town because, for even those not observing, it has not been seen as the done thing to be obviously enjoying oneself. I made confident predictions to guests we had staying with us the week before Ramazan began that they would certainly see numbers thinning out in the following week. I got that one wrong, this year the town appears to have been ever more populated with tourists during the period of denial. Whether this has anything to do with the recent events here which have served to polarise the Turkish people I really don’t know but for sure the masses did not dissipate and fun was still very much being had. Anyway Şeker Bayram (the celebration at the end of Ramazan) came and went and we were inundated by local children coming to our door here in Gökseki to be given sweets (a good stash is always advisable at this time of year).
The end of August is nearly upon us and we’re all hoping that we are now nearing the end of that oppressively hot and often humid spell that visits us annually. We may not be out of the woods yet though these conditions can sometimes drag on into the middle of September.
I’m going for a daily swim still down at Olympus beach and that keeps me ticking over. If I go down around eight to eight thirty there is virtually nobody there, the Turkish people are not known for their early arrival at the beaches. I’m often down there completely alone except for the fish and odd turtle that I see beneath me. I have to confess to an element of nervousness here; there were many tales last summer of a rogue turtle of considerable size that was biting swimmers around the Kaş coastline. I wasn’t sure if these stories were part of a local myth which had been spreading until this year when I met someone who still bore the scar. Now Steve Irwin she wasn’t, she was just swimming innocently when completely “out of the blue” she was bitten on the backside by a turtle bigger than a double-decker bus (my attempt at exaggerating the story). It was a big bugger anyway so you can probably understand my nervousness when I sight one gliding about beneath me on my morning swim. So far so good though I’m still scar free they probably don’t fancy my arse.
I don’t actually go to Olympus I enter the water just west of it where there are some steps leading down to a rocky halk plaj (free beach). Last year I made it my business to take a few big pebbles back home with me for our garden but this year I have been engaged in a totally different pursuit each day. Almost without exception I have been greeted on my arrival there with the detritus of the previous day involving beer bottles, plastic water bottles, drinks cans, plastic bags, food remains, cigarette packets and whatever else people have chosen to leave lying there. My routine now consists of filling plastic bags with all of this and dropping them off in the nearby (and plentiful) municipal bins. I could half understand some of this if there were no bins nearby for public use but within 200 metres of the beach there are 3. I have twice seen the drivers from the big coaches that travel daily to and from Istanbul clearing out all the crap from their vehicles and just leaving it by the roadside in full sight of the bins I have just referred to. Now I’m old enough to remember when it was the norm to cast rubbish away on the streets in England and this was only addressed by a huge central government campaign (Keep Britain tidy) and education in the schools. It strikes me that something similar is necessary here, somehow the whole thing seems just so much worse in such a beautiful place than seeing chip wrappers and plastic trays blowing around Balaclava Street in Blackburn. No offence Balaclava Street. God remember them, Balaclavas? Everyone’s mum used to knit them for the kids and we all wore them throughout the winter, I used to particularly like the way the snot used to run on to them when there was no hanky to hand.I’m due to do a bit more guiding in a few weeks, actually it’s the middle of September and it’s with walking groups for a couple of weeks. The clients are usually from England and it’ll still be pretty warm then. I’m kind of used to the heat by now but when you’re fresh off the plane and had nearly 16 hours or so travelling the previous day a mega hot walk in the searing sun may not be just what the doctor ordered. Sun screen and water consumption will be right at the top of my advice list. Actually I just had a phone call this morning to ask if I would be available to guide a one off day walk tomorrow (27th August). I’ll do it though I’m not sure how enjoyable it will be but I’ll know by tomorrow evening.
I may or may not have referred in this place before to the availability of English Premier League football here. Digiturk provides us with around five live matches every weekend for a subscription of around 10 TL per month. In the past this has come with full English commentary (not always the best particularly when it involved David Pleat or Dean Sturridge). This time round though that has cruelly been taken away from us and it’s Turkish or nowt, I cleverly thought that I could circumvent this by streaming a game on my computer and having the commentary from that accompanying what I could see on the TV. The 25 second or so delay involved with anything that comes through the internet though put paid to that. Not much is more irritating than listening to a commentary with such a delay. The outcome? Improve your Turkish Alex – you know you should.