The fox, Ramadan, The Dragonfly and Jaffa Cakes

The fox, Ramadan, The Dragonfly and Jaffa Cakes

July 31, 2012, Tuesday/ 17:57:00/ JOHN LAUGHLAND

You’ll want to know how the fox is doing. I’ll be brief. When I last reported, she was living in the downstairs toilet and was quite happy there; however, she decided that the office upstairs and our adjacent bedroom was preferable, so one night she moved in via the dormer window.

 Being nocturnal by nature, she sleeps under our bed for most of the day and becomes mischievous during the evening. By mischievous I mean stealing the toilet roll off its holder, beating up Frau’s childhood teddy bears and biting the ankles of her perfectly innocent adoptive dad. Maybe about midnight she exits the dormer window to go digging and hunting until the early hours. The worrying thing is that she spends several early daylight hours lying on the roadside garden wall, bushy tail and pointed ears fully on display as she watches (waves at?) the early morning traffic. Luckily, the road at our house demands a driver’s full attention, so our gun-happy villagers have yet to spot her. It is worrying, though. We are planning to set her loose in the wild about a month from now, but the right location is difficult to find; it must be remote enough but with the possibility of a little dustbin rummaging without being shot. The little girl has possibly been a mite spoiled by us, but we are certain that to keep her as a pet is not the right thing to do; she deserves to be free, to mate and to raise a family in the wild.

Our thoughts go out to the villagers who are observing Ramadan. This must be about the worst time of the year to fast and is the hottest year in a long time. Most of us could manage without food for 14 hours, but to do without drink for that time must be very difficult, even dangerous. I myself have not drunk alcohol during Ramadan for about 15 years, but I drink a far greater volume of soft drinks and clear water than I normally drink beer. I gave up drinking beer during the holy month after seeing a family of four passing villagers visibly very distressed when they saw the beers on our table at a roadside restaurant. Oh, and it makes sense to give one’s vital organs a rest now and then.

We saw our first example of “Ramadan madness” on just day four. At about 5 p.m., a driver, who we assume to have not had a cigarette or a drink for the past 11 hours, objected to the speed I was driving through town. Hand on horn, he overtook us at double our speed and a little less than double the legal speed limit. I made the mistake of responding with my horn, which prompted the driver to pull onto the side of the road, prepared for a confrontation. Of course I did not stop.

We have a new restaurant in the village; let’s call it The Dragonfly. It is being run by a fairly young couple, he from a supra-Sahara country and she from İstanbul. Such are their personalities that they immediately attracted a small group of young people -- young people of a certain type -- long-hairs from the cities and soon long-hairs from other countries, including a remarkable number from Africa. The lingua franca is English with, occasional lapses into French or Turkish. The music excludes most English or American pop and tends towards Cuban, Fado, African, Latin or jazz. Conversation avoids politics and includes travel, film, literature and lust (I included that last one lest I make them sound just a little too intellectual or stuffy -- be sure that there is no shortage of laughter and we understand that they party on right through most nights).

The food at The Dragonfly is first class and plentiful, so tourists and local settlers also visit, but it has to be said that few of our real villagers would venture in for fear of the hairy ones. How, then, do Frau and I fit in?

It has always surprised and delighted me that outside of Europe the generation gap is almost nonexistent. If we engage in reasonable conversation with youngsters we are treated politely and are able to enjoy their company. That generalization applies in our village, our local town and, as far as I can tell, throughout the Mediterranean; the phenomenon is probably related to the closeness of families in this part of the world and the respect shown to the elderly by all sub-generations.

But back to Ramadan. Nearly Normal Nuri came by on the second day of Ramadan, accompanied by a cousin by the name of Tolga who we had not met before. Tolga was not observing the fast but Nuri was. It is always a dilemma for us as to whether to offer refreshments during the holy month, but given the heat and the religious balance of the company, we offered Tolga a cold drink and we tabled a large plate of assorted biscuits. I deliberately buried the chocolate-orange biscuits beneath those awful flour, sugar and sawdust things that some cafés “gift” to you with your Nescafe, but to no avail. Tolga seemed to possess X-ray vision and immediately burrowed his way through the rubbish and down to the hidden treasure at the bottom of the platter. Nuri may not have been tempted had Tolga not made the most enthusiastic noises to indicate his appreciation of the delicious Turkish-made “Jaffa Cakes.” After a few minutes of tension, Nuri was overcome by temptation and he too dug his way to the treasure. He quickly calculated how many his cousin had eaten and how many would make up half of the total and he took his share. He did not eat them, however; he pocketed them in his terrible trousers and indicated by a horizontal circular movement of his hand in front of him that he would eat them later. I can’t imagine how the marmalade would react to the heat in those awful pockets and in that heat, but for sure the chocolate would not have lasted five minutes; any livestock therein was due for a real treat, and livestock of some sort was almost a certainty. You will have concluded that Frau and I were left to enjoy the rubbish biscuits, but you may well think that we got our just desserts for attempting to hide the good ones for ourselves.