The end of an era?


This blog is my writer’s diary. I try to make one entry a week. The entries are mostly about my journey as a writer. This week I have some significant news to record for posterity regarding my writing life.

No, not that.

I’ve known my news for a while but have waited to share here until the time was right. This is the last week of school in Turkey where I work full-time (ahem) teaching English – the time is right for sharing my news.

MY NEWS: This is not just the last week of the academic year, if things work out this is also the last week of my teaching career.

We are moving cities after the summer. Goodbye Istanbul, hello… Ankara. (Cue non-functioning party popper and stunned silence.) It’s not exactly the frying pan to the fire. It’s more frying pan to the pile of cold, grey ashes dumped behind the coal bunker. In partying terms, we’re moving from Turkey’s thumping, pumping heart to its brain-dead-head. The reasons are not particularly important. Just the deal I managed to thrash out over the negotiating table (surely dinner table, ed.) with she-who-must-be-dismayed.

I only had one condition regarding a proposed relocation: we move I get to try writing full-time for a year. If I can physically and mentally hack it (easier dreamed about than done) and make it work for me as a lifestyle, I’ll try another year. If I can’t, I’ll be looking for another teaching job. (One thing about being a native English speaker with a teaching qualification, you never have to be out of work in this world.) I will be busting my behind trying to make it work.

What do you know about Ankara? I’ll tell you what I’ve found out about the place in the half-a-dozen visits I’ve made over the years. It’s quite possibly the most boring capital city in the world.

Apart from the little bit of old-town slum stuck somewhere in the middle, infrastructurally (if that isn’t a word it should be) and architecturally it’s intensely uninteresting, plain, without imagination or inspiration or flair or colour or definable style. It is dull and often oddly soviet in appearance. But it is functional, more orderly than Istanbul, quieter, cleaner and less frantic.

Geographically: in the surrounding area there are no mountains, no forests, no great rivers. And it’s quite flat. A flat featureless landscape slowly being gobbled up by apparently unregulated, sprawling development in every direction; a gently expanding flow of concrete, glass and tarmac, like something from a futuristic magic-porridge-pot fable about the destruction of the environment. And being in the centre of the country there is no sea for about a million miles in any given direction. I think that will be one of the biggest challenges for me living there – no sea to stare at wistfully, to throw stones into, to fantasise about doing a Reggie Perrin with. I’m British. We need sea around us. As David Booker once said: it’s in our DNA.

For anyone wondering about the objectivity of my take on the capital of Turkey, Ankara has more shopping malls per square yard than any other major city in the solar system, allegedly. That in itself is an indication of how little there is to do there.

Well all that will suit me fine. I’m going there to work, to try to carve out a new way of life for myself, a new career. Distractions, I don’t need. I can do a year.