This year when Frau brought me my breakfast in bed she also brought a small dish of sweets pilfered from the kids’ dish, a one-kilogram dish full which was awaiting the first arrivals an hour or two later. My share was three of those delicious honey and sesame-seed ones, my favorite. No harm in a couple of sweets once or twice a year surely? That was two days ago and all those particular sweets have now gone from the dish. I estimate that the one kilogram of sweets contained a numerical total of about 200 sweets in about six varieties. Therefore I have devoured some 30 of my favorites. Luckily Frau has a different favorite and is a little slower than me, so she’s probably only scoring 20 or so.
The kids started to arrive on schedule but they seemed a little reticent this year and only took two or three sweets each, so too did most of the grown-ups with the exception, of course, of Nearly Normal Nuri who I suspect had special holiday trousers on, trousers with XXL pockets which were soon bulging, giving the impression, as he walked away, that he was wearing jodhpurs.
Having done our duty to our dentist friends we left for the village at our usual lunchtime. It being an important holiday we decided that on the way to our usual, more Westernized restaurant we would make two stops to chat with our villagers. The first stop was at a köşk (mansion) which had recently been erected by the forestry authority. It is situated in an elevated clearing where a forestry officer or two may be stationed with either a lightly equipped Toyota Patrol Pickup or with a fully equipped 10-ton firefighting appliance. In either case they are on guard against illegal felling of trees and against picnic fires. Of course they are in radio contact with all other forestry stations and are themselves on the lookout for forest fires.
There were six men at the köşk including our Muhtar and we spent a jolly half-hour chatting with them. There was no news from them but we were able to give them a couple of items of local news which they had not yet heard. On then to the tea house which was full to overflowing and we made our rounds of the tables avoiding, of course, the very-serious-gambling tables. During our rounds we were twice offered a recently shot wild boar. We declined because we have an ample supply in deep-freeze.
We fully understand why the villagers kill wild boar: They do enormous damage to the crops and the fields. We could also do without them digging up our little private forest in their quest for food and water but of course being city folk (Liverpool and Berlin) we don’t shoot them. It wasn’t long before we learned that the pig we were being offered was the sow who I had described in a recent column as a “…big ugly mother, currently the size of a Buick.” My belated apologies to the dear departed and condolences to her sweet young orphaned offspring who I had chased away only eight hours before, when they had come for water and cat food.
And so, on to our usual restaurant where the talk is seldom about hunting or farming. We found a goodly group of youngish Turkish long-hairs who were very busy smoking roll-up cigarettes and drinking tea. None of them had fasted for The Holy Month but by-golly they had celebrated its ending (all night).
A few tourists came in and eventually a Turkish man in his mid-forties. We were at the time looking at a large photographic print made by a good friend of ours and we were approached by the Turkish man who asked in some sort of northern-English accent if we liked the print. That led to a short conversation about the photographer and his style and eventually the young man asked “Don’t you remember me?”
Frau got it first… it was Slow Serkan! We had last seen Serkan about 18 years ago when he was a local footballer but had worked at a restaurant between games. Slow he certainly wasn’t! His training took place whilst he was serving, he literally ran between the kitchen, the bar and his 10 or 15 tables. He was probably the fastest waiter in the local town at the time and having such a jolly personality he was very popular. He was a good-looking young man too, which meant that he got on very well with young women.
When Serkan’s girlfriends were returning home they would exchange addresses and promise to write; that is when Frau and I became close friends with him. We would read and write his letters for him. When in the mood I have something of a poetic bent and, though I say it myself, I wrote cracking love letters. Most of the letters would be very similar but varied a little depending upon the color of the girl’s eyes and how long the two had known each other, etc. For instance “When I look in your eyes I see the blue of the Mediterranean; I only knew you for four days but it seemed like a lifetime” might change to “When I look into your dark eyes I see the depth of the universe and the weeks we enjoyed together were the happiest of my life.” (Forgive me; I’m a little out of practice.)
One day Serkan asked me for such help and said that he had received two letters from his recent girlfriend Annie. I read the one he had with him and wrote a blue-eyes letter including the “….only knew you four days but it seemed like a lifetime” bit. When I had finished the first page and answered Annie’s first letter to him I asked him for the second of her letters; so in between sprints to the kitchen he ran home and retrieved the letter. I read it and halfway through I read (her to him, remember) “…I only knew you four days but it seemed like a lifetime”! Darn it, she had quite spoiled my first page! Not to worry though, Serkan said that she’d probably not remember what she’d written and after I’d done the second page he posted the letter.
Now, I said that I undertook that job a lot. Truthfully it was probably no more than five times over the course of one season. But, didn’t I say that I was good at it? Serkan eventually moved to England with Annie and they married some time later. They were together long enough for him to acquire a north of England accent and for her to bear a couple of little footballers but unfortunately the marriage ultimately failed and Serkan is now living in Turkey just a stone’s throw up the coast. He has given up playing football but still works as a waiter, probably much slower waiter than in old times and it is to be hoped that he has slowed down with the girls too. He has my e-mail address and I dread the day when I receive a mail from him starting with “I wonder if you could help me with a letter…” email@example.com