Mark had been staying at the Kelebek Pension when I first arrived in Göreme and used to treat it as my second home. It was early in the tourist season, not to mention relatively early in the development of tourism here, and the pension was often quiet, which meant that we spent a lot of time chatting with each other. Not surprisingly, then, when I opened the section of the book devoted to Turkey it was to find myself face to face with a story about one of the past mayors, a story revolving around a Louvre-like glass pyramid that he had had built in front of the open-air museum, and a disco ball that once surmounted the most dramatic fairy chimney in the center of Göreme. It was a story that he had obviously picked up from me.
Mordue is a witty man with a great turn of phrase, so this was a saga that made me laugh. But then I picked up a copy of “Travelers’ Tales Turkey” and received a nasty shock to find myself reading about a sexual encounter in eastern Turkey that involved a good friend of mine. At once I dropped the book as if it had stung me.
Feeling somehow soiled by what I’d read, I reflected on the fact that I’d managed to live in the UK for 45 years without ever stumbling upon a description of anyone I knew in a book. But of course I lived in Bristol, an attractive but non-touristy place in the shadow of the beautiful spa town of Bath, and for someone to write about Bristol rather than Bath would have been rather like someone choosing to write about Kahramanmaraş instead of Gaziantep. I’d grown up in London, but although the leafy suburb of Ealing was home to several television producers it was also the Acıbadem of the city, a place in deepest suburbia where travel writers rarely stray.
Now, though, my life revolves around tourist centers, and it goes without saying that many travel books focus on people who work in tourism since they’re both readily accessible and tend to speak English. For the last week I’ve been rereading Brendan Shanahan’s “In Turkey I Am Beautiful,” which features a cast of colorful characters almost all of whom are known to me, not least because they used to run a carpet shop in Göreme before moving on to İstanbul.
How, I wondered, did it feel to find yourself described in print as looking like the devil and as a man of appetites? Or as cute, puppy-like and lacking in discipline? I was pondering this question on my way home from the post office when a voice called out, “Pat? Remember me?” and there I was, looking straight at the puppy, slimmer now than he appeared in the book but otherwise much as of old. And you know what? I felt instantly guilty, as if I’d been caught peeping through the keyhole at him. And how odd was that reaction, given that I, too, write about the people that I know?
Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-house in Göreme in Cappadocia.