After six weeks ‘Internetless in Dymchurch’ (could be a film starring Tom Shanks and Smeg Ryan) I’m back ‘home’ in Istanbul. How do I feel about that? Honestly?
Well, let’s start Britishly. With the weather. I could do with one of these today.
No doubt about it, the temperature in UK was far preferable to how it is here at the moment. Istanbul feels like I’m zipped up fully clothed in an Arctic grade, double-goose down, four season sleeping bag, in a one man nylon tent in the middle of a blistering and breathless Gobi Desert on a summer’s day, and it’s not even noon (or it wasn’t when I started writing this post four hours ago).
Lying in bed last night I was forced to undo the top button of my Winceyette pyjamas as I felt the perspiration puddling around me. The fabric of my night attire had reached saturation point and was unable to retain any more of my body’s vital fluids that were flowing out of my pores quicker than US dollars are flowing out of Russia these days, such was the stifling oppressiveness of the trapped, stale night air. It was like trying to sleep mummified in warm, damp kitchen towel.
We can’t have a window open to encourage a hint of any available night-time breeze because of the ‘enormous infant-obsessed killer mosquitoes’ queuing up on the window sill with their ‘crazy straws’ to gorge themselves on the blood of The Halfling; we can’t have a fan in the bedroom because ‘they are dangerous to leave on unattended through the night in case of electrical fires’; we can’t have air-conditioning because The Halfling might ‘catch pneumonia or Legionnaires disease’ from the ‘impurities being forced into the atmosphere by artificial means’. So let’s all die in our sleep of heatstroke or drown in sweat.
To all intents and purposes (what does that actually mean?) today is the last day of my summer holiday and oddly the first day in the last seven weeks that I’ve been able to spend entirely alone. Christ, how I’ve missed my own company (and you, my best friend: my laptop x). I’m holed up in a coffee shop that has air-conditioning and WiFi and which overlooks the Sea of Marmara (not bad, I suppose). The current-future-ex-Mrs Tidy has dashed away to visit her parents for the weekend. (Naturally, sans enfant terrible.)
The Halfling is at home renewing his bond with his Turkish nanny who he hasn’t seen for six weeks (someone who, from the look on his face this morning when she pitched up, he obviously believed he’d seen the last of in July) while I’ve been ‘instructed’ to make myself scarce so that said bonding can be more easily achieved. Good luck with that. I might not know much about kids but I didn’t need to be Dr Spock (the child doctor so influential in my mother’s thinking regarding child-rearing and not to be confused with the pointy-eared alien who my mum simply resembled) to recognise the sense of betrayal on the angelic features of my son and heir when the nanny’s face loomed around the front door this morning, like something out of a Hammer horror movie, while calling his name in that curiously shrill tone she manages that actually rattles the fillings in my teeth.
My son’s features instantly resembled those of Luke Skywalker on learning that his biological father was in fact his chief enemy.
I could barely bring myself to meet his watery, accusing eye as I did up my laces in preparation to leave them to each other. (Mr Iscariot, I know your pain.) And then he made a bolt for his room before either of us could grab his sweaty little body. It was unfortunate that all that stood between The Halfling and his dash for refuge was the nanny. It was doubly-unfortunate that, owing to the regrettable brush with Rickets she clearly suffered in her youth (the sort that leaves the afflicted unable to stop a pig in an alley, which is exactly the expression that sprang to mind as he ducked under her crutch and scuttled up the narrow hallway to his sanctuary [if only she’d turned up in a long skirt instead of those skin-tight, leopard-print leggings she insists on wearing making her look like some form of bizarre, over-sized wishbone from the hips down], slamming the door behind him and twisting the key. I knew it was a mistake to leave that in the lock but ‘he must have his privacy’. He’s just three for God’s sake!) she was unable to snap her knees together (not without dislocating her pelvis in at least three places) and block his escape. Mind you, I did experience a grudging admiration for him. I wouldn’t like to be cooped up with the Turkish love-child of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the captain of the Swiss women’s Olympic yodelling team all day being force fed his mother’s idea of nutritious meals: a lentil and pulse mush that looks like it could have come straight out of his nappy.
The staff are glaring at me with something akin to unpleasantness. I think that they think I’ve outstayed my welcome. They might have a point. I’ve been here a long time and only drunk two large cups of black coffee. They want the table for six that I’m stubbornly occupying for the family of nine that they want to cram in and make some profit from. Well I’m not moving. It’s hot out and I’m comfortable. And I’ve got Internet.
This summer I went away without any Internet enabled device: no laptop, no ipad, no Kindle fire. How liberating, I thought. How fucking stupid, more like. It wouldn’t have made much difference because the only Internet available to me in the UK would have been through my first son’s iphone, a device that always seemed to have either one bar of shaky Internet access or 3% of battery remaining. (Did I mention my first son before? The young man who is squatting in my English home. The son who should have vacated the property after giving it a thorough cleaning [make that fumigating] so that my Turkish family and I might enjoy the fruit of my pre-Turkish move renovation labours. On arrival the place looked like a scene from A Life of Grime.)
Where was I? Internet access. But still, I could have found somewhere, like the pub in the village that offered free WiFi if you bought a drink. I did that once. In fact I ended up buying quite a few drinks and making a bit of a spectacle of myself as well as a significant dent in the holiday spending budget and a smaller dent in the casing of my current-future-ex-wife’s brand new mini ipad that she’d rented to me for the evening. (We didn’t go to the zoo the following day, as I’d promised everyone. But that was because I was still being violently sick into a saucepan in the spare room. This was doubly-unfortunate because it was one of the three days that it didn’t rain in the six weeks we were there. How was I supposed to know that?)
I read quite a few ‘real’ books, which was lovely to be able to do. I got quite into Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montelbano series and I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was that I enjoyed about them. I read JK Rowling’s A Cuckoo’s Calling and really enjoyed it, despite being determined to hate it. (Call it professional jealousy.) I read an Anne Cleeves, Shetland Islands book that was pretty good and Charles Cummings A Foreign Country that was very good. I also read a book about Ian Fleming, something that I ‘borrowed’ from the school library and took to read on the plane. I found out that Fleming and I share the same birthday. He wrote thrillers and so do I. He was enormously successful and rich…. anyway, spooky.
Talking of birthdays, I received a message from a reader yesterday, Erling Larson, who will have his ninetieth birthday in ten days time. Congratulations to him. I love the idea that a reader of such senior years is reading my books and getting on the Internet to let me know about it. If my dad had lived that long I know he’d of been just like Erling. Happy birthday, sir!
I need to get on with some work. I have emails, Amazon comments and blog comments to catch up on. I have a half-finished Booker & Cash to renew my acquaintance with (I can’t remember much of the forty thousand words I’ve already written. Bugger. I hope it all comes back to me quickly.) Smoke & Mirrors is still under construction.
I just read a blog post by a fellow author and virtual acquaintance http://patriciaismith.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/where-have-all-my-author-mates-gone/comment-page-1/#comment-16).
She says this:
I have come to realise I live two separate lives: a writer’s life which is quiet and solitary, and a family life which is busy and boisterous at times. I love them both, but the twain never meet, they might bump into each other occasionally but that is all.
How very true that is. Exactly how I feel. I’ve spent six weeks back in the UK surrounded by family and I could count on the fingers of one foot (in Turkey toes are referred to as ‘foot fingers’. How I laughed first time I heard that.) the number of times someone asked about my writing. It seems strange to me; they are my ‘nearest and dearest’ after all. Mum is always supportive but really no one else (apart from my daughter who has read all of them and my favourite nieces who have also partaken) is the slightest bit interested. It’ll be a different story when that seven figure, three book/film/TV series deal comes in, I’m sure. It used to bother me a bit but now I’m resigned to the truth: I’m living two separate lives.
And on Monday I start a new job, which I’m really looking forward to.
Anyway, back to my original question: how do I honestly feel about being back in Istanbul? Answer: things could be worse.