I remember reading few years ago The Lost Continent (Travels in Small Town America) by Bill Bryson and finding it extremely amusing - especially when its author dwells on stories of childhood holidays / trips with his family... his father driving them to some remote destination, his mother making sure everyone had a sandwich ready. In the book, Bryson stresses how dreadful and hopeless these holiday attempts always were - with everyone getting tired, irritable and bored out of their mind...and small town america as a glorious backdrop.
The way you travel as a child - I agree with Bryson on this one - somehow stays with you throughout your life. I think of this every time I pack my bag to go somewhere and picture my father and mother quarelling while picking a destination, bickering while loading the car with bags, complaining during the whole trip and having spats all the way through the family break.
My mother had the secret talent of making it impossible to let anyone enjoy anything - she hated packing and usually overpacked, loading bags with useless items; she hated being away from home; she despised pop music being played in the car; she found flaws in any kind of service she was given - at the restaurant, in the hotel room, with any of the staff trying to sedate her. She even insisted on fussying over the fire escape plan posted behind our hotel rooms' doors - she would point to any (alleged) mistake in its english and french translation, much to my embarassment.
She would be short with any hotel staff, especially waiters - something i dreaded and found horrible to say the least. I found her tedious. Some years later i read somewhere that the way you treat a waiter or a waiteress is exactly how you are going to treat your spouse after ten years of marriage - something i have grown to acknowledge as exceptionally true.
Being doing a lot of packing and travelling recently - hence the childhood memories.
Luckily I am someone who is happy at the mere idea of "going somewhere" - especially if that includes a couple of days spent at the sea. Give me some sun, swimming and plenty of time outdoors and I turn into an enthusiastic 8 year old.
We have been spending few long weekends here and there and I must say the coast close to Izmir is beautiful. The weather keeps on being amazing and it takes very little time from the city to reach lovely spots.
Some of them are less touristy - or, to phrase it better - more popular with the "in crowd" from Istanbul (places like Cesme or Alacati). Others (like Kusadasi, Bodrum and Marmaris) are packed with English tourists - flown in weekly, if not daily, with charter flights.
Just got back from Kusadasi and had a taste of "hols" in a resort populated by mainly Britons and Eastern Europeans. At a first glance it did look like the backstage of a Ken Loach movie - with faces and accents that gave away more geographical and social indications than a very detailed census on the state of the nation. Apart from the beer loving Anglic crowd - there was also a huge number of Eastern Europeans - mainly young couples with two or three kids in tow. The resort was swarming with children and toddlers - you could not help but smile seeing so many tiny people with blonde hair and round faces.
Turkey has quickly become a dream destination for many English families. They come here on crowded crusades helmed by all-inclusive kings like Thomas Cook and love it: it is cheap, beautiful and happy to help with drink binges. A lot of people may well look down at these uncouth, over tatooed, over pierced, over weight and under educated tourists - but to be honest, after sharing some time / sea and pool side with them I am prone to do the opposite.
My mother would certainly cringe at me saying that... But in truth to me they seemed deliriously happy - perhaps in a a bit of a crass, unelegant way... but I am always partial to genuine expressions of happiness seen in others. And English people, I find, have a bit of a talent about that... They somehow never seem to grow up. Give them football, a party with 70's and 80's music, allow them a tan and a nice beach with few extra beers and they will be expressing contempt and joy like children when you give them candy and a new toy.
After all - I must say I have grown to find unbearable the blunt elitarianism of the holiday style now so popular in Europe...with masses of people trying to show off the fact they are travellers - not plain tourists; educated souls, not low-cost faring types; spiritual specimens cultivating eco-friendliness, aware of multiethnicalities and prone to exotic culturalism. I simply think Bruce Chatwin died a long time ago and that most of us grew up and out of childhood holidays closer to the ones Bryson describes so disarmingly well - lacking intellectual acumen perhaps, but with mothers packing sandwiches and fathers angrily cursing behind the wheel.
While lounging around the tiny pool where my 3 year old was happily splashing about I noticed how relaxed and funny English mothers can be with their little ones. There is something incredibly refreshing and real in how self deprecating and sloppy they accept to be. I could never imagine an Italian mother acting like them - being as sporty and silly as they are.
... back to Izmir now... back to school ... back to the usual swing of things...
looking forward to the next long weekend away...
(and wishing long life to Thomas Cook!! -
as well as to the rather adorable army of bridget-jonesy mums!! never prone to even bothering with the bloody fire escape notice...)
it is some time after 11 pm and i just got back from a long jog.
the seafront, seen from the top looked like the scene you get when people leave a stadium late at night, after a concert - crowds walking past slowly, street vendors, people stretched on the grass smoking and eating in small, scattered, improvised picnics.
the restaurants and cafes downstairs swarm with people till late - you can hear the chatter and music, the noise of plates and laughters, the waiters calling each other.
if you look and listen for too long you never feel like going to bed and i guess that's what happened tonight.
i came back from my evening class - and headed out straight.
today the temperature hit 38 degrees.
the weather is hot and dry: throughout the day you cannot a single cloud, the air does not move, the light blazes on - like a paralysing spray...stopping everything...even the sea... slowing down people, slowing down thoughts.
it is high season for cruises "doing" the mediterranean - so the few passers by around are interestingly clad elderly foreigners, looking like a bizarre contemporary rendition of colonel rommel in the sahara desert.
they sport very (very) purple tans.
street vendors sell cherries and watermelon in every street and some kids dive in the sea by the port - careless of all the dirt, the smell and the fact that the kyoto agreement would be re-written if people realised how oblivious turkey is to any grasp / concept / knowledge of good hygiene practice, let alone environmental awareness.
taught a new class tonight. it is an ab initio class - which makes it very hard to actually communicate.
as i entered i could not help but notice that one man sitting to my right looked like the clone of lou ferrigno - the actor who (painted green!) famously played the incredible hulk.
i was so focused on the amazing resemblance that, i must admit, i could not even catch his name when he introduced himself.
but then he started talking about what he does - ......later on he added something about where he comes from etc - and i did manage to take lou ferrigno off my mind.
he works as a surgeon and operates on urology patients.
oddly - he could mumble through the basics like "my name is..." etc - but when it came to giving detailed vocabulary on prostates / bladders and urinary tracts - he was a natural. (which impressed me - but went unnoticed by the rest of the group).
but it was when he said something about his family that i nearly fell off my chair.
he has 4 sisters and 6 brothers.
for a total of 11 siblings!
given such large numbers and to finish off my excited statistics - i asked what they do.
3 are teachers;
2 are policemen;
1 is a security guard;
1 is a butcher;
1 is a farmer;
2 he did not know the english words for.
his father retired from working as a truck driver recently.
"as baby i want be truck driver me too" he added with a polite voice "but my father say to be doctor. so i am doctor".
as i was jogging tonight - i kept on seeing his quiet smile saying that and thought that anywhere else he would have sounded out of time and history - maybe taken to a therapist "to cope"; maybe looked down at as backward or even simple.
i don't know.
when i meet people like him i feel the life and world i come from is a bit spoilt - perhaps a little twisted...and certainly self indulgent.
is that too banal a reaction?
(maybe yes, but still).
i can still hear the noise from 8 floors below, people are still slowly pacing along the sea - but it is time to go to bed now.
i may dream of turning into a green pile of muscles.
hopefully i will be back into bruce banner mode when i wake up tomorrow...
read again - and with much enjoyment - alan ayckbourn's play "absent friends". in my first year of drama in singapore i was actually cast in it as diana, the unhappy and resentful wife of paul. i loved playing diana - a character who keeps sheepish despite being bossed around...but then goes mental big time.
re-reading "absent friends" - i realised it is perhaps one of the best pieces of writing on friendship with very contemporary references to how twisted and sad relationships can turn, when faulted by envy and mediocrity.
the plot of the play is as follows:
Diana has organised a tea party for Colin, an old friend of her husband Paul. Colin’s fiancé has recently drowned and the aim is to cheer him up with a gathering of old friends Paul, John and Gordon. Gordon is, typically, ill and his wife Marge turns up instead, while Paul and John are less than enthusiastic about the party. All this hides deep problems: Paul has had a brief affair with John’s wife Evelyn – who has brought her ("funny looking") baby Wayne to the party and is dismissive of Paul’s love-making; Marge is desperate for a child of her own and has transferred her maternal instincts on to an increasingly dependent and accident-prone Gordon; Diana is desperately unhappy, misses her children who are at boarding school and is bullied by Paul – who she suspects of having a major affair with Evelyn; John is aware of Evelyn’s affair, but is dependent on Paul for employment. Both John and Paul are so uncomfortable with the idea of meeting Colin that they play down their friendship to the point of almost non-existence. The majority of this emerges before Colin has even arrived and just as matters threaten to erupt, the man himself turns up and everyone awkwardly tries to both be nice to him and to get on with each other. But all have seriously misjudged Colin, who is seriously happy. He is blissful in the memory of the time he spent with his fiancé; annoyingly happy in fact. His apparent satisfaction with his life, despite his loss, merely highlights the depths to which all those around have sunk and his attempts to sort out their problems merely creates further rifts in the already damaged relationships of the other couples. Colin is largely oblivious to everything deteriorating around him and finally recalls that Paul once secretly took one of Diana’s handkerchiefs, when they were first in love. Paul reveals he still has it… and uses it to clean the car. Diana, practically at the edge anyway, snaps and pours a jug of cream over him before breaking down in front of everyone, recalling how she longed to be a Canadian Mountie (??) when young. She is sedated and Colin departs, secure in his own memories – leaving all the others isolated and alone. what i found striking the first times i went through the script and what hit me even more recently is how terribly wicked is the way everyone goes out of their way to show extreme pity for colin - while he is the only "complete" and put-together carachter. everybody else is a bundle of nerves, total self indulgence and petty frustrations - whereas colin (the only person who experienced real and recent pain first hand)...has a sensitive and quiet grip of himself while remaining an upbeat, sensitive and strong person.
i think people in general do that all the time - they envy and pity without even remotely knowing what your real life and inner thoughts actually are.
and friends are, yes, quite often more absent than friends.