Today, here in Turkey, was the 76th anniversary of the death of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder and inspiration of modern day Turkey. He is so well revered that every town square has a statue or bust of the great leader. Likewise every business, shop, restaurant has a portrait of him in a prominent position on their walls. Just before 9.05 this morning sirens sounded in our town of Kalkan to mark the start of a minute’s silence. A very moving event.
But I digress, for a small and select band of expats plus two Turkish friends from Istanbul, today was our day to celebrate the feast of St Andrew’s. St Andrew is the patron saint of a number of countries including Greece, Russia, Romania and, interestingly given the country we are in, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. But for us, he is the patron saint of Scotland the country of our hosts and a few more of us in the assembled throng (does 10 count as a throng??). The actual date of the feast is November 30th, but some of us would be far away from Kalkan on that date, so an early celebration was called for.
Our generous hosts had prepared a feast which included such Scottish delicacies as smoked salmon, black pudding and, of course, haggis. These dishes along with the traditional accompaniment of mashed neeps (turnip) has all been smuggled into the country in some of our suitcases.
Just an aside. Last year I was charged with bringing some of the turnip for the 2013 event. You might think this would be a fairly innocent piece of contraband but no. I was travelling light so only had hand luggage. At Gatwick security my small case went through the security scanner and set off the alarm bells. The new security technology separated out my bag and sent it down to a manned position for further scrutiny. The bag was opened and the security office pounced on the turnip. He was not of UK origin and had apparently not seen one before. I had to explain what it was and why I was carrying it. He accepted my tale and then explained that, in the security scanner, it appeared like a big ball of water!! This was not the time to argue about the quality and texture of the turnip but rather to gracefully accept his agreement that it could be taken onto the plane.
The food was delicious and tasted wonderful as we sat on the roof terrace under a cloudless sky with the temperature in the mid 20’sC. And, of course, it all tasted even better when a few drams of fine malt whisky were produced. For those who could not manage a dram of Scotland’s finest at this time of the day, our ever thoughtful host had purchased some cans of Scotland’s other national drink, Barr’s Irn Bru. (Whoops – the spell checker suggested I meant to type “Ian Brut”, who be that??)
To add to the atmosphere the meal was complemented by a fine selection of Scottish music. This included “Flower of Scotland”, “The Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond”, “Mull of Kintyre”, the theme music from “Local Hero” and, rather incongruously, the theme music from the film “Titanic”, a ship that wasn’t even built on the Clyde.
As the feast progressed from starter through main course to dessert, we were interrupted by the sound of a tractor entering the adjacent hillside about 100 metres away across a deep ravine that channels storm water to the sea. The hillside has been protected land for many years being the site of part of the original Greek village that was Kalkan prior to 1923 and the founding of Turkey as we know it by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk himself. In the last few years unscrupulous builders have flouted planning regulations – back-handers are not uncommon here to say the least – and a small number of new buildings have appeared on this hallowed ground. We all had visons of the start of a new building project.
The trick employed by the “rogue” builders is to clear an area of land to make it look more attractive to a potential investor. Then they quickly get into the building phase before anyone in authority notices. Was this what was happening today? Our Turkish companions started to remonstrate with the driver. He seemed to be full of glib answers. Not satisfied, a call was made to the Zabita, the local authority enforcement people, a mini police force. They arrived post haste. At this point the driver turned irate and was probably using words that would not go down well in polite society. It seemed that his explanation was that he was just removing some building blocks that had been left there for a project that was abandoned. Whether this was completely true or not, the Zabita accepted his argument and let him continue. For the next hour or so he had to work under the suspicious eyes of our party and only do what had been agreed.
As the sun started to set over the Mediterranean, some had to depart. This included our old friends “Tom & Barbara” (remember them from other posts in this blog?) who had chickens to bed down for the night. The stalwarts continued to chew the fat under the ever-darkening sky and with the temperature falling by at least 1C every five minutes. We all knew it was time to call it a day when some of us realised we were starting to veer into talking nonsense. So it was hugs, kisses and handshakes all round, messages of thanks to our kind hosts and we were off into the night. The end of another great day on the Turquoise Coast.
Note to self – must hope for an invite to next year’s bash.