Turkish Delight

Diary. Sunday 22nd June 2008

Early morning coach to Rhodes from outside the hotel then the Lord Saron to Marmaris, Turkey. Broasting weather and indigo blue mountains in the haze. Got there 1030hrs-ish. Narrow inlet with dry pine trees wobbling vertiginously on the slopes. Wrapped in a welcoming hot blanket of humid heat in the sheltered port. The red flag, white star and crescent. We’re not in Europe now, soldier. Though with problems like only 27% of Turkish females literate they want to be. No schools in the sticks. Hospitals? Welfare state? Infrastructure? 3% of the country is in Europe. Beyond the straits at Constantinople the other 97% stretches away across a parched field of minarets and poverty. Asia Minor. Greedy eyes on my increasingly heavy tax burden.

Arranged for a Turkish Bath. Armutalan Haman. Taxi’d up there. Undressed. Locker 99. White rubber sandals. Key and numbered fob on a stiff loop ‘round my wrist. Into the sauna. Sweat beading out of my pores. Hot sensation at the tip of my nostrils when I breathed, like fish hooks being tugged. Zoned. Cleansed.

After fifteen minutes, centrally heated, padded into the hamam room.

A German strutting. Sculptured mullet. Gymtastic. Humming some David Hasselhoff. Pink and white faces. Fried bacon dripping sweat.

Too relaxed and tired to care.

In the high, domed hot room. Light provided by holes cut in the ceiling. Set like stars. Large white marble rectangles laid in a bonded pattern. Polished smooth. Constantly running water. I’m steadily getting warmer. Enervated. Drowsily content. I lie down, give in. Surrender my body and all thought. Voices travelling through the air. Echoing. Huge reverberations flying and colliding together so that the sounds are spinning like a motorcycle rider on the Wall of Death. Chasing each other, holding on to the inside of the dome. A blur of noise and I’m drifting away. Ornate copper basins with cold water from big sinks arranged on the octagonally arranged walls. Soaked. A refreshing sensation through my head.

Turks in chequered skirts, douching themselves with plastic buckets filled with water. Clapping for the next person to step up and be flannelled. Talking to each other in words that I can’t grasp hold of. Admiring the young girl’s incipient titties. Her fat mother ballasted to the earth under the weight of cellulite. The father’s tight, confessional Speedos.

I drag myself upright and onto the marble platform at the centre of the room. Then exfoliated by mittened hands.

Douche. High pressure shower.

I pad back to catch sight of a big hand slap on an obese German woman’s back. Like a side of ham. Turn over.

Onto the marble platform. Soaped. The relaxing sensation. Air filled flannels that roll soapily over my softened body.

I’ve got to get one them. Felt great. I’m asleep, stretching in my bed.

A time-slipping experience of Empire. I glance across to seedy, broken down Colonels and sweating locals. Damp khaki. Falaka canes and indulging in lazy Ottoman orgies. Jodhpurs and swagger sticks. Dusky, available nakedness. T.E. Lawrence. A night in a Turkish Harem. Drowsily sensual.

Another cold shower. A burst to the system.

Jacuzzi. Tumbling into the tepid, bubbly water. Buoyancy forcing me slowly up to the surface.

Ten minutes and upstairs. On beds on the mezzanine running ‘round the central hall with its massive dome and huge black chandelier. Oil massage. Face mask. Rough hands. Attila, I’ve got the one with manky feet! Attila smiles back, greasing some Swede’s large breasts.

He pressed into my muscles. Thumbs probing. The heels of his hands digging into me. Felt good in a painful sort of way. Muscle atonement.

Dressed. Locker 99. New Balance. Camo shorts. A vaguely seasoned feeling to my skin as I pull on my t-shirt.

Fourteen Euros each. Bargain.

Taxi’d back to the centre of Marmaris by two deeply criminal-looking blokes. A short fat one with thinning black hair arranged in a comb-over and an older, taller none with brooding eyes and skin that looked like it had been stained with gravy browning. Straight from the pages of Rudyard Kipling. Anything for a Euro. A pound. A Turkish Lire.

Worked up a hunger. Head for a bar over-looking the tree-lined harbour.

The Turks are complaining about the heat. Forty-two degrees and close. It’s nuzzling my face. Breathing warmly down the back of my neck. Hot hands on my chest. Locals fanning their coffee-coloured faces.

Kebab in the shade of the sun. Donna meat. Savoury. Cold beer. Fat waiter giving me the big thumbs up. He’s jostling for gratuities and commission with another one that looks like Vin Diesel emaciated on a lack of tips.

Kebabalicious. Tzatziki. Pita. Gyros. Wet and dry at the same time. Spiced. Onions complimenting the flavour. I chew greedily. Cold tomatoes and colder lager. Salad. Salt.

Covered bazaar. Real fakes. Real fakes Real fakes. The Turkish guide from earlier, the short coach trip from the harbour: ‘Tell them you have no money. Don’t trust them,’ he smiles benignly. ‘OK?’ A small man with grey hair, glasses, flamboyant shirt. Reminds me of a woman’s hairdresser. ‘You want pink? Buy red.’ Long arcades intersecting. Marble floors. Von Dutch. Abercrombie and Fitch. Ray Ban. Prada. Lacoste. Every name. Every logo. Blurred, over-stitched, crooked. But cheap. Except Gio Goi. Don’t have that. I do. 1988. Leapt on. ‘This is big in Britain?’ Greedy, venal eyes. Examined. Shirt off. Labels inspected. ‘Gio Goi!’ they intone reverentially, staring at the silk screening. Build it and they will come… ‘I make this!’

A done deal for some Prada sunglasses. One piece aviators. Wobbly typing. Just keep saying I don’t want them. I’ll have to leave it at that. Push the glasses back, put them down, return them to the rack. Down down, you bring me down. Down fifty percent. Rock bottom. Glum expression on the tye-dyed face. Any sale better than none at all. Sod him. Sod him for the Dardanelles. For Gallipolli. For shoddy Ottoman uniforms behind Maxim guns. For Lord Byron. I’ll take your Prada 2008. Have that.

Ferry back to Europe on the rising electric blue swell. Rhodes. The deer at Mandraki harbour on its plinth. The Knights Hospitallar’s bastion on the frontiers of Christendom. Thick, medieval walls. Crumbling. Weakening. About to fall.

SAL 28 11 1996

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