Category Archives: Early days

Puppy Love

After an exploratory shopping expedition to Fethiye the other day, Bec and I returned home to discover we had a new member of the family.

Apparently, our landlord was a little worried our daughter Emma would be missing her friends from England and might be a little lonely, so he’d popped round with a puppy – a delightful little ball of chocolate and coffee-coloured fur.

To her credit, Em had already half-demurred, suspecting we’d go all practical on our return and – albeit reluctantly – decline the gift.

But the look in her eyes, to say nothing of the unspeakable cuteness of this apparent and unlikely mix of sausage dog and Doberman, was enough to melt our hearts.

With only a perfunctory attempt at sensible debate, we’d agreed the puppy could stay and our smiling landlord returned to his truck, waving like a benevolent granddad as his red pick-up rolled down the drive and out through the gates.

But, as the dust settled, suddenly we were transported back to the day we returned home with our first-born; we hadn’t a clue what we were supposed to do next.

Where would it sleep? What do you feed it? Do we have any toys? What the hell are the cats going to think? But, most importantly, how do you prevent a weeing and poohing machine from littering the house with unpleasant surprises?

Neighbour Tommy’s advice was as you might expect from a culture which seems to struggle to comprehend the English sentimentality for pets.

“Leave it on balcony with water and food. It be fine,” he said, resorting to a resigned “You English …” when we explained there was no way we’d leave her outside.

An hour on the internet and some advice from dog-owning friends on Facebook put us on the right track – followed by another expedition on the bus to the pet shop in Fethiye, which left us about £120 worse off.

The last few days have been a bit of a blur, fitting work, home chores and friends around the new addition to the family. In fact, I suppose it’s true to say our life here in Turkey has taken a lurch in an unexpected direction as we’re now a little less free to do as we please.

But, as Fidget (that’s what we decided to call her) lies in her basket at my feet as I type, woofing softly in her sleep, I can’t say I’m sorry.

The priest who married Bec and I told us, when it came to having kids, there wasn’t really a “right time”. Maybe it’s the same with dogs…

SP

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Fidget – the latest addition to the family

Do I Dare to Dream…..?

It seems incredible but, just a week ago, I was perched in the prow of a single-masted sailing boat, legs dangling either side of the bowsprit as I watched the blue Aegean sea skim beneath my bare feet.

With the warm sun on my back I watched for dolphins which I hoped might join us as we cruised to our next mooring, where I knew we could look forward to a barbecued lunch of fish or chicken washed down with cold beer from the ship’s ample refrigerator.

Some lazy chat and a bit of snorkelling would probably follow before we’d weigh anchor and sail on, heading for another secluded bay miles from the crowded tourist beaches and a lifetime away from the deadlines and ringing phones which have been part of our lives since … well, forever.

I know I ought to have been ecstatically happy, relaxed, completely at ease… but instead, all I could really feel was panic and guilt.

If you’re a fan of the BBC television series Red Dwarf, you’ll know what I mean when I say I have confirmed yet again that my default settings are similar to Rimmer’s in the Better Than Life virtual reality game. In other words, I struggle to believe that good things happen without paying a high price later.

I’ve had the good bit; now, inevitably, something is going to sneak up behind me and bite me on the bum – hard.

So, while I should have been savouring good food, an azure blue sky and the simple pleasure of watching brightly-coloured fish dart for breadcrumbs dropped from the table, my mind was chasing thoughts about what work I really should be doing instead.

The daft thing is, there wasn’t any. We’ve deliberately planned a few slack weeks between now and the Big Move to allow us time to adjust and complete the multitude of tasks involved in relocating to a foreign country.

But that doesn’t stop the words of the naysayers and doom-mongers creeping up on you in quiet moments or in the middle of the night, rotating on an endless loop, demanding to know just what makes you think you deserve to live in paradise.

The antidote, of course, is to get to work; to do something – anything  – rather than laze around. Fire up the laptop, scour the internet, fiddle about with files, tinker with pictures, even stalk the house looking for things to rearrange, tidy away or clean.

Such behaviour, I know, defeats the object of moving in the first place. One of the main motivations for doing all this was a desire to slow down, to have time for something other than work.

But it seems that’s going to be harder than I thought. It’s going to take time to adjust and to trust to the fact that 12-hour days are not strictly necessary.

In the meantime,  I’d better get on with cataloguing all the pictures on my hard drive in alphabetical order….

SP

Lady of the Lists

Where does the time go? I swear last time I blogged was only a few days ago….but no, here we are, pretty much at the end of January.

Still got my fingers crossed that we’ll complete our house sale in the next few weeks, but thoughts are now turning to my next trip to Fethiye – which is just over a week away.

Someone asked me last night if I’d started packing. I haven’t. I have, however, made copious lists. These include ‘Stuff to Pack in My Handluggage’, ‘Stuff to Pack in my Suitcase’, ‘Questions to Ask Property Agents’, ‘Vitally Important Things I Must Take With Me’…. It goes on.

These join my other lists that are more to do with the move itself. I’ve had to put these into groups to keep them in some kind of order – they have titles like ‘Selling The House’, ‘Finance’, ‘Moving Logistics’ and each one has a set of sub-lists.

It’s no fail-safe, of course, but I feel as confident as I can that I’m covering everything and for once I’m grateful for my need to be organised!

In the meantime, we try to juggle ‘ordinary’ life alongside our plans….helped by copious daily to-do lists, of course! Next on mine is ‘Make a coffee’…..

RP

On The Move

It’s deliberately been a while since the last post, simply because – and I know how daft this sounds – I didn’t want to jinx what I wanted to write about. But if I take that view it could be another couple of months or more, so here goes….

Sold!

Sold!

We’ve sold our house.

It went on the market on Friday, December 6 2013 and we formally accepted an offer on Monday 23 – less than three weeks later. It was the best Christmas present we could have hoped for.

Now, in theory, it should be a simple transaction. Neither party is in a chain and our buyers seem lovely, reasonable people. There’s every reason to expect it all to be done and dusted in – what? Eight weeks? (It’s so long since we bought or sold any property I have no idea what the average is these days.)

But there’s always that little niggle, that fear that something will go wrong. There’ll be some issue that can’t be resolved, feet that will be dragged, or what if they simply change their minds?

Soon after the euphoria came the anxiety, and I don’t think that will really dissipate until we exchange contracts. So I’m having a few sleepless nights….any tips for coping with those welcomed!

RP

Tears Before Bedtime

It had to happen. Ever since we first started talking about The Great Escape, as it’s become known, our youngest has been unbelievably calm about it.

We’ve talked to her, asked repeatedly if she’s really happy with the idea, made sure she knows she can come to us with any questions…. and in that incredibly placid, take-it-all-in-my-stride way of hers, she’s said it’s fine and she’s looking forward to it.

She does have an amazing capacity to adapt and accept, I know that. But this move isn’t just across town – it’s a complete removal, geographically and culturally, from everything she’s ever known. That’s got to be a big deal in anyone’s book.

So when I got a text from Steve that read simply: “Tears about Turkey at home. We need to talk.” there was a bit of me that wasn’t surprised….and another bit of me that panicked wildly. What if she had objections or fears that were quite simply too much to overcome? What if we had to abandon the dream?

Turned out there were a few things on her mind after all. So we asked her to make a list of everything she was worried about and everything she was looking forward to – or, in other words, the pros and cons as she saw it.

Firstly, I was relieved to see there were a lot more reasons ‘for’ than ‘against’. Secondly, all her concerns were entirely natural – in fact, they were the same things that would be on our own list, if we wrote one. They included:

  • I’m upset at the thought of losing touch with my friends.
  • What if I don’t make any new ones?
  • What if I really struggle with the language?
  • I’m worried about leaving my brother behind without us.

I won’t copy out the rest, although there weren’t many more, and the whole episode actually turned out to be a good thing. It gave us an opportunity to sit down afresh and air any fears and reservations we had. It meant Em could see that we’re not expecting it to be perfect – we accept there will be stress and difficulties in our ‘new’ life, as there are anywhere. They will just be different – and yes, we’ll have to learn to cope with them.

It also gave us a chance to really, really impress upon her that she has to talk to us and not bottle things up because saying everything is “fine” is what she thinks we want to hear. She’s entitled to her opinion and she’s allowed to express it. Not saying it doesn’t make it go away and, once it’s out there, we can talk about how we’ll deal with it.

I guess subconsciously I was aware that she was fretting, because something inside me that links to her is more settled – it’s as though before there was something prodding me, asking if I really believed she was ok with everything, whereas now I’m confident she is – and, if she isn’t, she’ll tell me.

As a result, it’s all a lot more open. I’m not saying there won’t be more tears – from any of us – but at least we won’t be hiding them from each other.

RP

Focus on Fethiye

It’s so hard to concentrate on the day-to-day stuff when your head is in the clouds (possibly literally at the moment, looking at some of the weather forecasts for southern Turkey).

We have a business we need to keep going. We have jobs to do around the house to get it ready for sale. Not to mention all the other bits and pieces of everyday life – looking after the kids, cooking, cleaning, shopping. You know what I mean.

But my heart and my mind are already in Fethiye. I just want to up sticks and go. I’d far rather spend time planning how we’re going to get the cats over there, work out whether I can take my slow-cooker and make a decision on what to do with that very delicate but beautiful vase we got as a wedding present than…..well, pretty much anything, really.

I keep telling myself that it won’t be long until we’re there for good, but the next few months still stretch out interminably before me.

At this point I’d like to pay public tribute to Steve, who really is the stronger one of us at the moment. He knows what needs to be done and he’s doing it; not that he doesn’t want to get moving any less than I do, he’s just better able to focus on the here and now than I am. He’s being brilliant.

As for me – I’ll keep kicking myself onwards like a particularly obstinate mule, interspersing Turkey-related tasks with domestic necessity.

We’ll get there. Eventually.

RP

 

More Than Just A Dream

It’s beginning to feel a little more real now. Even though we’ve been talking about this for a while and have started to tell people what we’re up to, it’s still intangible. “Next summer” is a long way in the future.

But because we’re putting firm plans in place, it’s suddenly more immediate. We’ve had a meeting with our accountant to ensure the business is all set up correctly and can continue to provide an income. We’ve got together with the web designer to talk about how we need a new site to reflect the changes.

We’ve got firm notes in the diary to talk to the vet, the bank, the removals company, the estate agent….. and we’ve discussed the logistics of actually getting three of us (plus two cats) over there if we sell the house the minute it goes on the market but we still need to be here for six months. (Wishful thinking on our part, possibly, but fingers crossed.)

It’s all rather exciting, to be honest, and it’s great to have this adventure taking shape in our minds properly, rather than remaining as some kind of ethereal spirit that it would be quite nice to grab hold of at some stage.

One thing that does remain a concern is the law change around applying for residency. The new rules – or costs – still haven’t been confirmed, but the basics seem to be that, after April 1, you have to apply via the consulate in your own country and you can only get one year, maximum. We’re wondering whether it’s worth rushing things on a bit so that at least one of us can get in ahead of the deadline….but then there may be other implications for us given we’ll be seeking family residency.

Another thing to investigate, and a very helpful person on one of the online forums has provided a contact who should be able to help. Watch this space….

We Need to Talk…

Ok, this is stating the obvious – but if we’re going to live in Turkey, we need to make an effort to get to grips with the language.

Actually, I say it’s obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many ex-pats go overseas and think they can stick with the usual Brit approach of speaking very slowly, in English, and simply repeating themselves at an ever-increasing volume when they’re not understood.

Because we’re going to a tourist area and one which does have a lot of English people living there, the move to Fethiye might not be as difficult as it could be, Most of the locals seem to have a pretty good grasp of our language (and certainly much better than ours on Turkish).

But there’s a difference between being somewhere as a temporary visitor and living there permanently. Not only that, but we want to be part of the community. It’s not a case of simply transporting our life in the UK to somewhere warmer and staying in our ivory tower – we want the culture, the way of life. We want to integrate. There’s a chance we could end up living in one of the villages or outlying areas, in which case just knowing a few key phrases – “Where is the toilet?” “May I have two beers?” – won’t cut it.

So, with this in mind, we got together with two dear friends who are also making the move. Yes, we began with the basics – greetings, numbers, that kind of thing. And we had a fun evening – some food, some wine, lots of laughs – and did learn a few words. But we also realised how much we don’t know, and that we probably need some expert – native – help if we’re to really progress.

I’ve always liked languages and been quite good at them, but it’s true what they say – it’s a lot harder when you’re older. We’ve got a couple of ideas to find someone who can help, and in the meantime I guess I’ll revert to my school days and try and learn a few words and phrases parrot-fashion.

The next time I get the opportunity, I also need to make sure I actually use what I’ve learned. It’s like anything – you can study it, understand the principles and, in theory, be quite good. But if you don’t put it into practice you’ll never improve and never really get to grips with it.

Some of that will come once we’re our there and speaking Turkish on a daily basis, I’m sure. For now, it’s back to the phrase book.

Wish us luck. Until next time – güle güle!

RP

Hi honey, I’m home…..

Last week, I went home. I don’t care where I was born or where you might consider my hometown to be – my heart and my soul belong to Fethiye.

From the moment I stepped off the plane at Dalaman Airport, I knew I was in the right place – and I can’t pretend I wasn’t relieved. It had been a while since my last visit and I was nervous that Turkey had acquired a rose-tinted veil in my subconscious. What if it wasn’t as beautiful as I remembered? What if I didn’t feel as comfortable or at ease? What if my inner self – the instinct, the core of conviction we know we should heed – whispered that, actually, moving there was a mistake?

I needn’t have worried. The place, the people, the food, the music – it was all every bit as wonderful as I remembered. All I could think was how much I longed to stay and, just an hour after arriving, I was already dreading the day I’d have to leave.

This isn’t a tourist site. I’m not going to recommend bars or restaurants or tell people where to visit. (That said, Fethiye Fish Market is an absolute must; if you ever get invited to a Turkish wedding then you really should take the opportunity; and if you fancy a boat trip then make sure you go with Captain Tommy and tell him I sent you.)

One of my most poignant moments came on the Sunday, as I lay on Olu Deniz beach. It was perfect – a cloudless blue sky, 26C temperature, gloriously warm sea. I lay on my sunbed, read my Kindle and watched the paragliders drift down to earth from Babadag mountain. The only thing missing was my family, and that made me want to cry.

But the week wasn’t just a holiday – it was for fact-finding, information-gathering, making friends and contacts. I’ve learned that the best way of finding out anything is definitely to get out there on the ground and do it in person. I’ve already started online research of course – made virtual friends on the ex-pat forums and websites, asked questions and received some valuable answers. But you can’t beat being there.

As an example, let’s take finding a home. I’ve seen posts online from people looking for long-term lets. I’ve seen them repeated when nobody responds. If I’m honest, this made me a little anxious. What if we couldn’t find anywhere?

Now, I know it won’t be a problem. There are plenty of places available – you just need to know where to look. Maybe it sounds obvious, but while it’s all very well to Google ‘homes for rent in Fethiye’, if the estate agent’s website is in Turkish, it’s not going to show up.

I was very lucky to meet some wonderful Turkish people in Kayaköy, where I was staying – in fact, they are now friends. Having them on-side will make some of what we have to do that much easier and I’m already planning a return trip in a couple of months to sort out some of the necessary admin.

I can’t wait. I was so close to simply not getting on the plane home, and I wish I could wind time forward six or eight months……or maybe I’ll draw up a chart and tick off the days as they go by, as a child might do for Christmas.

One thing is for sure – if there had ever been the slightest doubt, it’s gone – my future is in Fethiye.

RP

 

I’ve Got Something to Tell You…..

One of the most interesting things about telling people you’re leaving the country is seeing their differing responses.

Reaction has varied from “Gosh, how exciting – good for you” (our daughter’s headteacher) through to “What about me?” (one of our respective parents).

There are also widely varying opinions and beliefs about our destination, Turkey.

Anyone who watched Rageh Omaar’s excellent BBC television series, The Ottomans, has seen how the country has developed, how it’s become westernised, and the part that Islam, Christianity and secularism have all played in its history to date.

Turkey is keen to enter the EU and it’s been announced that talks will resume on this next month, but many people still seem to see it as “backward”. I’ve been asked whether “they” have the internet, hospitals, even running water. One of my aunts is convinced I’ll have to wear a burka.

To be honest, other people’s opinions don’t bother me. They might imagine I’m living in a shack with mud on the floor and goats roaming through whatever passes for my kitchen, but I know that’s not the reality. Yes, there’ll be power cuts. We’ll have to drink bottled water, certainly to start with. My high-speed fibre-optic broadband will be distant memory. It won’t be like living in the UK…..but then that’s kind of the point.

What’s harder is explaining to your parent that, while you understand they don’t want you to go, it’s a decision that’s been made and no amount of playing up or sulking is going to change your mind. We’re not doing it to ‘get away’ from them and we’re not abandoning anybody. We’re doing it because it’s the best thing for us and our own lives, and because we want to.

There’s a school of thought that believes you should stick around and be there for your parents as they get older. There’s another that says you should seize every opportunity while you can, because it might not be there later on.

We’re in the second camp. This was always our long-term plan and in all honesty it is happening sooner than expected. Part of the reason for changing our minds is realising that we shouldn’t wait – “one day” might never come.

We hope our families can understand that.

RP