Monthly Archives: May 2016

Don’t Call Me Baby

Angry baby

I was sitting on a beach chatting the other day with friends who are not resident in Turkey but who visit regularly. Naturally, the conversation sometimes turns to the challenges we face living abroad and, although I can’t remember now which particular one I was addressing, I know I was elaborating on differences between life in Turkey and the UK.

Suddenly, in a pause, a compact, dark-haired lady sitting nearby interjected abruptly, asking: “So you live here?”

“Yes,” I replied, smiling, expecting the usual questions about what it’s like to reside in permanent sunny splendour, surrounded by beautiful scenery and such lovely people.

“How long for?” she added. And, suddenly, I knew what was coming.

“Just under two years now,” I said – and waited.

“Oh, well, you’re just a baby then…” And BOOOOM!  She was off, relating stories of her own about her 18 years in country and very deliberately putting me in my place as an inexperienced incomer.

I’m not sure why it happens but I think it’s maybe because, as a resident of a country where so many head for their annual holiday in the sun, you sometimes find yourself the subject of some fascination. After all, you are living their dream and they want to know what it’s like. Start talking about it, and you can soon find yourself the centre of attention. Personally, it’s not something I’m particularly comfortable with but I’ve come to realise that others crave it.

I’m by no means saying all ex-pats do, but some seem to believe their years in Turkey are a badge of honour which ought to be respected and they don’t want to see a relative newbie steal their thunder.

Usually I shrug inwardly and leave them to it. In the early days then yes; sometimes the interest from holidaymakers we’ve met was flattering. But now, if anyone asks about my life here, I try to keep my answers brief. It’s partly because I don’t want to stamp all over people’s dreams with tales of the reality; they don’t want to hear about freezing cold houses in winter, flaky internet, unreliable water and electricity supplies and life with no Cheddar cheese. But I’m also aware I’m still learning every day myself and one of those lessons is that there might be someone with more time under their belt than me lurking somewhere nearby ready to pounce – and sometimes, as on this occasion, I find it irksome.

I’ll happily listen to good advice and I recognise there are plenty of people who have lived here much longer and know far more than I do about the potential pitfalls. But being patronised always puts my teeth on edge and I found being called “just a baby” particularly presumptuous.

The thing is, although I may have only lived in Turkey for a couple of years, I have lived overseas before. My work has also taken me abroad many times, even to a couple of war zones. But this particular lady seemed determined to pigeon-hole me as a romantic fresh from the UK, still wearing rose-tinted glasses with nowhere near the experience necessary even to talk to tourists.

It’s by no means the first time it’s happened. If you live in Turkey, I suspect you’ll find as we have that there is often someone itching to tell you how little you know, how naïve you have been or how much better they have managed or adjusted to life here. The trick is working out which ones are worth listening to.

Of course I don’t have all the answers and probably never will. I’ll freely admit we’ve made some howlers and learned a few things along the way. But isn’t that what life is about? I certainly feel I’ve as much right as anyone to tell a few funny stories to anyone who shows an interest.

But do me a favour. If we meet and I ever describe you as “just a baby”, slap me. Okay?

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‘Have you tried switching it off and switching it back on again?’

It was one of those perplexing incidents. We drove home after a trip to the market to stock up on fruit and veg, had a cuppa, and then Steve got on with the job of cleaning Lenny the Land Rover. The same as we’d done on countless other occasions. Lenny

Some time later, our trusty truck sparkled inside and out. His blue paint gleamed in the sun. Various oils had had been topped up. Tyre pressures had been checked. In short, he’d been subjected to the TLC most Parsley vehicles experience. (Administered by Steve, I should hasten to add. I only just about remember to fill up with fuel.)

When the time came to move Lenny back under his awning, however, he wouldn’t start. There was absolutely nothing there. The key turned but there were no lights on the dash, no response from the ignition, no noise from the engine. Lenny was as dead as Monty Python’s famous parrot, whereas a couple of hours previously he’d been rumbling along in his usual dependable way.

I’d done a quick Google search and told Steve it looked like an electrical fault, to be met with a withering glance that clearly said: “No shit, Sherlock?”

He knows a lot more about internal combustion engines than I do so I shut up and went back to playing Candy Crush, while he changed into his scruffs and spent a fruitless hour trying to track down the problem. He disconnected and reconnected wires, checked fuses and cleaned cables, all to no avail. Eventually he gave up – it was getting dark – so we opened a bottle of red and hoped the Land Rover Repair Pixies would visit overnight.

In the morning, when it became clear they’d failed to materialise, Steve messaged our friend Ersah. He’s the guy we bought Lenny from in the first place – incidentally, if you’re looking for a good jeep safari, check him out here – and within ten minutes he’d arranged for a mechanic to pop round.

Sezgin arrived and, after the necessary glass of çay, got to work. Steve was heartened to see him repeat most of the things he’d done himself the previous evening, although with no more luck. Then Sezgin noticed a sort of handle under the driver’s seat….

Turns out, Lenny has a master switch for use in emergencies. Who knew? And Steve must have knocked it by mistake in the heat of his car-cleaning frenzy. Twist it, and the whole vehicle cuts out and closes down. Twist it the other way, and we’re back in business. As if by magic.

So the Land Rover Repair Pixie does exist after all, and I now know what I believe is true – it’s never a good idea to get too carried away with a chamois leather and a bottle of AutoGlym….