I’ve used this blog title before. Back then I was writing about someone else. This time it’s about me.
‘The Dream’ in this instance, as those familiar with my blog will know, is writing full-time. Summer holidays for teachers, not pupils, in Turkey ended last Sunday, so I’ve been officially ‘living the dream’ for a week now… and I haven’t written a word towards my next book. Still, I’m giving myself an academic year (that’s just a time reference) and it’s early days. I’m getting used to my new status as a full-time author (unemployed, as she-who-must-be-dismayed never misses an opportunity to remind me).
It occurred to me today that work colleagues from last year will be back catching the sweat box on wheels for an hour’s commute in Istanbul’s noisy, nose-to-tail traffic to teach summer school to those kids whose parents aren’t away and who have had enough of their offspring hanging about the house, and to generally loaf about the campus avoiding the management and not working on displays that ‘simply must be done’ all day before repeating the transportation ordeal to get home. My thoughts are with them.
I might not be writing per se but I have been thinking about it. While I bobbed and bounced about at the mercy of the extraordinarily powerful jets in the local leisure centre’s Jacuzzi – something the size of my old bathroom (the Jacuzzi not the leisure centre), as I doggie-paddled my way up and down the almost empty Olympic sized pool (most citizens who can afford this level of city recreation are all firmly ensconced in their coastal summer homes at this time of year), as I recuperated on pool-side sun-loungers under parachute-sized canopies, sipping iced drinks served by puce and perspiring waiters… . And they said I wouldn’t like it here after Istanbul.
But this new life, like any good life, is not entirely without its challenges. Take Monday for example – my first day at the pool. As my level of Turkish as a spoken language is on a par with George W Bush’s command of English I was escorted there by a family member, someone who is also a member of the establishment (not that establishment), and given a quick tour. The Halfling and I were then left alone to get on with it.
It’s a long time since I’ve visited a swimming pool. (These days I’m not too keen to become an ingredient in human soup. [I was put off years ago at my local baths after I’d dived to the bottom of the pool wearing a snorkelling mask. It was like looking under my teenaged-son’s bed.]) Not much has changed but one notable difference is that the lockers here require the punching in of a randomly generated four-digit code in order to lock and later unlock them. The locker room felt like being in some trendy bank’s safety deposit box vault. Back in the day, I remember locker keys on rubber bands that went round your wrist or your ankle. One in five fell off or snapped.
The Halfling and I swam and messed about for a couple of hours quite happily. We then returned to the changing rooms to dry off and change, like you do, before catching a taxi home. Only trouble was, the four-digit code I was sure I’d used to lock away everything we had except our flip-flops and a single towel didn’t open the locker door. Running with a mixture of sweat and what smelled like neat chlorine, I tried it three times and then, like most devices today that have denied access three times in a row, the electronic mechanism starting emitting a shrill and deafening alarm. Not knowing what else to do, I naturally panicked and, scooping up the Halfling, cowered inside one of the toilet cubicles. I still don’t know why I did that. He started crying. I put my hand over his mouth, which just upset him more. Enough to bite me and draw blood. Employees came in and investigated. There was much muttering in guttural Turkish. The alarm was disabled. And eventually the Halfling and I found ourselves alone once more.
After I’d washed my wound in the sink I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t call the staff back to assist because not only would I look like a complete idiot but I’d have some explaining to do. And other than ask people how they are and commenting on the weather my Turkish… well it’s no secret, is it?
In the end I decided to take the Halfling back to the poolside, act normal and think about things. So we did. We were still there five hours later – starving, dying of thirst, beyond irritable, hot, bothered and no longer speaking to each other – when the family eventually came looking for us. It all got sorted out in the end. Turns out I was trying to open the wrong locker.
That hasn’t been my only leisure centre related experience worthy of note. The following day the three of us trundled off to the baths once more. (I wasn’t going alone again.) Overlooking the pool is a sauna. A wall of quadruple-glazed patio-door-sized windows separates the two. While she-who-must-be-dismayed and child frolicked in blissful ignorance in the blue stuff I thought I’d work up a sweat the easy way – by sitting on my backside in artificially high temperatures with a book for a few minutes. I quickly realised it was too hot in there for me – the door had barely clicked shut behind me before I could feel the scorching heat taking the lining off my lungs with each shallow inhalation. It was like breathing in front of an open kiln. The pages of my novel started curling in on themselves immediately. I decided not to stay and punched in the four-digit code that should have let me out but, yes really, nothing happened. Nothing also happened after I tried unsuccessfully to input the code three, four and five times. No helpful alarm. Typical. I remember snatching a look at the thermometer and if it is to be believed it was a hundred and three in there. At risk of death by sauna, I ended up banging my fists against the obviously soundproofed and steamed up windows looking, I imagine, like someone who’s realised they’re trapped in a research lab with an escaped deadly virus or zombies.
In my desperation to attract attention before I passed out I looked around for a real alarm button to activate. Finding only a thin length of cord hanging from the ceiling I yanked on that to discover it was part of the mechanism for depositing about ten gallons of freezing water on whoever was standing beneath it. It did the trick; my screams attracted the attention of the Halfling who managed to coerce his mater into clambering out of the shallow end and investigating, eventually. I was saved.
We haven’t been back.
Something more important and more relevant to my authorial existence to record here is that in my last week in the UK I had my first face-to-face author chat experience. Like my online author chat at the end of July it was thoroughly enjoyable and, like the online chat, the time flew by.
It was organised by a good friend of my mums who very kindly hosted the gathering at her home. Turns out that a few people my mum knows are also readers of one or more of my series. (It’s possible she intimidates them into reading my books. My mum can be quite intimidating.) It was suggested that as I was back on the Marsh for a while I might like to make myself available for a couple of hours to meet anyone interested in discussing my books and my writing. What a great idea! It turned out to be one of those rare things – a great idea that turned out great.
My sincere thanks to all those who took the time and trouble to attend. In no particular order: Jill, Dave, Sandie, Geoff, Bobby, Debbie, Annabelle, Ann… oh yes, and mother. (Apologies if I have misspelled anyone’s name.) I was quite overwhelmed by the amount of interest in and positive feedback for my books (and blog). Special thanks to Ann for organising the event and for laying on such a lovely tea. Idiot that I am, I didn’t take a camera or my camera phone with me.