“I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to relinquish your chair, dear boy,” said the gentleman in the fedora sitting opposite in a rich English accent which could have been cultivated in the halls of Eton.
“You see, there is absolutely no way on earth I could entertain the idea of eating an entire meal with my back to the door.”
“Gunfighter?” I asked with a smile.
“No, dear boy. Just something I learned in Morocco,” he replied without a hint of mirth.
As we duly swapped seats, I was thinking this was hardly a conventional introduction to the village’s ex-pat community – albeit an intriguing one.
But then what had I been expecting? If I’m honest, I’m not sure…
We’d seen groups of Brits gathered in bars and restaurants of course, and we’d even been told by Turkish friends that if we wanted to make their acquaintance, then they always seemed to meet in the same places and at the same time every week.
From a distance, others we’d seen in bars and restaurants up and down the harbour in Fethiye during the summer looked to be close-knit groups; mostly retired, mostly deeply tanned by years in the Mediterranean sun and, I’m afraid to say, emanating that slightly superior attitude that as a race the British tend to use, particularly towards people in the service industry.
So when it became evident that most of Kayaköy’s ex-pat community would be attending the same (and only) restaurant in the village laying on a traditional turkey dinner on Christmas Day, I’ll admit to being a little apprehensive.
But despite the slightly unorthodox introduction, I needn’t have worried. Aside from his slightly Coward-esque demeanour, I found my closest fellow dinner guest entertaining, charming and a fascinating raconteur. Another retired couple sharing the same corner of the tiny “lokanta” also proved to be kind, patient with our lack of experience “in-country” and generous to a fault.
Indeed, in such an intimate setting, it was easy to forget the temperature was mid-20C outside, that tinsel and Christmas trees had been scant to say the least and that not a single TV ad so far had tried to persuade me to buy a three-piece suite.
We pulled crackers, read out dreadful jokes, ate far too much and, after a thoroughly enjoyable few hours, waddled out the door after bidding our hosts (both Muslim and Christian) a merry Christmas.
As we left, I glanced across to the tea house next door – a bastion redolent of Turkish tradition, card games, backgammon and cigarettes – which hardly seemed to register our paper party hats and slightly raucous farewells.
Sensing that indifference, it would’ve been easy to suddenly feel a long way from home; for family and friends in the UK to seem a long way away – and I can’t deny we have missed them.
But, instead, that sudden realisation of juxtaposition, the sudden contrast, underlined many of the things which inspired us to try life in a different country in the first place.
Christmas is about family and friends, about reconnecting. But it’s also about giving thanks for what we have – and, at that moment, I was grateful all over again for that sense of adventure which brought us here six months ago.