Welcome to writings and rantings of Michael Crane!

At present, for your delight I have a short story, Somewhere Nice And Sunny and my diet diaries from my Rosemary Clooney diet & exercise classes from a couple of years ago. I have included My First Trip to Turkey, an account of . . . my first trip to Turkey! I hope you find them as much fun to read as they were to write.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere Nice And Sunny

By Michael Crane

Falling down the stairs. That would do the trick. There’s no way a frail 78 years old widow would survive such a tragic accident. These sort of accidents happen every day somewhere or other. Mind you, it is a bit of a cliché – perhaps too much so. It might draw too much attention.

How about falling over in the shower and banging her head on the bath taps? Mmm, what if the first fall didn’t kill her? She can hardly fall two or three times! She could drown in the bath; a lot of old folk do. The problem with that is I’d have to hold her under. How long would it take until she died? Less than a minute? Well, I’d imagine that in less than a minute she’d have clawed me to death; which would be a bit of a giveaway.

It was 4.15 in the afternoon and Barry Collins was sat at his desk at Hope & Son, absentmindedly tapping away at his keyboard; his mind clearly on a non-work topic. More and more nowadays his mind wandered to the forthcoming tragic death of his much loved mother. At fifty-seven years old he was still living with his mother – and this situation was a subject of much speculation among his work colleagues. Half of them thought him gay, and the other half thought him a sad old loser that nobody could fancy whatever their sexual proclivities.

He had hoped that after the death of his father, her beloved Arthur, that she’d have pined her way to death. They were an inseparable couple and utterly devoted to each other. Dying of a broken heart seemed a real possibility. A possibility that Barry saw drawing him closer to his goal in life – the lazy, opulent life of a millionaire playboy. His parents didn’t have much money, fifty, sixty thousand, perhaps, but they did own a huge house; and it was worth a bomb. However, after a gap of ten years it didn’t seem likely that she’d succumb to a broken heart.

Elsie and Arthur Collins had moved into the six bed-roomed house three years before Barry was born. Situated in what was at that time a quiet suburb of London, it was a wedding present from an admiring, childless aunt of Elsie’s who bequeathed it to her in her will. Elsie always looked upon her aunt Gladys with affection and, in later life, with gratitude for it was she that introduced her to Arthur.

Gladys was a Nippy at the Angel Café, Islington; a position that was in complete contrast to her wealthy upbringing, and it was through the Lyon’s policy of offering holiday provision at their Sudbury ‘holiday camp’ for employees that she met, and fell in love with, Arthur, at that time aged 16 and angry that the war would be over before he’d be able to join up. That summer of 1942 was idyllic – they discovered they lived but one mile apart and, after returning to their respective homes after an all-too-short holiday, they regularly kept in touch and met most weekends under the watchful gaze of aunt Gladys – resplendent in her black uniform and white starched collar, cuffs, hat and apron.

After the war, in 1945 Elsie began working for Lyon’s but she never did attain Nippy status, her wedding to Arthur in 1946 cut that ambition short – but it was an ambition that she was happy to relinquish. The next three years she and Arthur busied themselves with readying their new home for the arrival of a much wanted family and travelling the country with Arthur’s orchestra, in equal parts. Her favourite times were when the regular pianist, Bob Pick, was taken ‘ill’ or “Bloody drunk again!” as Arthur delicately put it! Then she’d accompany Arthur on his violin: Years later she and Arthur would laugh about Bob and his ‘illnesses’ as they recreated those halcyon days in the living-room.

As the City expanded the property became absorbed in its rampage outwards and the family home became closer to the heart of the City and increased in value at an obscene rate. No mortgage meant that there was 100% equity and at a conservative estimate it was worth six figures as it stood - and Barry had big plans to increase that.

The newly-weds had planned to fill the house with children, lots of them. They were both the only child of loving parents and they both discovered that the other had craved a sibling. Sadly their ambition to fill the house with children wasn’t to be. Elsie was a long time falling pregnant; and it wasn’t a pleasant pregnancy. Literally from the day of conception she was sick, and it never relented. Day after day she took to her bed, too tired or nauseous to do anything. The birth itself was a nightmare and it was touch and go whether or not she or the baby, or both, would survive. To Arthur’s great relief both did survive but there was a price to pay for his prayers – Elsie would be unable to bear any more children. The house that was to ring to the laughter of five or six children rang with the occasional laughter of one.

Barry was an unhappy child, despite the love and affection each parent lavished upon him. It seemed as if he resented his birth and held both his parents responsible for bringing him into a world he would have been happy to have never known. His unhappy childhood converged into an unhappy teens, and then into an unhappy adulthood. How shocked would his mother have been had she known that the only day he felt truly happy was the day of his father’s funeral? His grieving mother, at the graveside, looked as if she’d soon be joining him – but she didn’t. Her stubbornness in not joining him incensed Barry and made him even more unhappy – which seemed an impossibility.

As the years dragged by and his mother showed no signs of laying next to Arthur in the grave she lovingly attended each Sunday afternoon, Barry slipped into depression. He was on drugs to combat it but they didn’t really help – except to make him habitually tired. In fact, he was convinced that he’d be joining his father instead of her if things didn’t get better. Six months ago, they did!

Despite the opinions of his work colleagues Barry was not homosexual. He had, on numerous occasions, visited prostitutes in Soho and he enjoyed a ‘healthy’ sex life. He probably had better sex than the majority of the married men that infested his office. Paying for it wasn’t a stigma for Barry, quite the contrary. Whilst the office studs were at it with the same woman time after time, he was at it with a variety of women - and in ways that'd make their wives blush.

It was during one of his lunchtime visits to Soho that he met Sandy. As a prelude to sex he’d gone into a peep-show to whet his appetite and there she was – a vision of beauty. He instantly fell in love with her and wanted to posses her; to be with her; to be in her; to rescue her.

I suppose she could commit suicide. She could take an overdose or maybe slit her wrists. No, that won’t work. No one would believe she’d top herself – she was never depressed, the bitch! Too bloody cheerful to do anything like that.

He started plotting her demise the day he saw Sandy. Everyday the same thoughts. And everyday the same inaction. This morning at breakfast he even contemplated strangling her at the table over the cornflakes – but he didn’t. As usual, he came down to breakfast already on the table; his suit jacket nicely pressed, his shoes shiny enough to please a Sergeant Major. She fussed over him and tripped about the kitchen like a ballerina – certainly not the day she’d keel over and die of a heart attack; much to Barry’s dismay.

He glanced down at his monitor. Bloody hell, is it only 4.20? Roll on 5.45. A smile flickered over his face – not one that could be discerned by the others in the office – but a smile nonetheless. His penis began to stiffen, ever so slightly. He was remembering this lunchtime and another twenty minutes past the hour.

He’d been asked by a few of the chaps in Accounts if he fancied a pie and pint for lunch. He knew they didn’t really want (or expect) him to come, and that they only asked, The Grey Man, out of sympathy. He told them he was going home over lunch to see Ma. She’d been unwell at breakfast and he wanted to go home and see that she was OK. They didn’t know it was a lie. Stupid bastards!

He knew they called him The Grey Man behind his back. It was because he always wore the same type and colour suit every day: a grey double-breasted worsted; the trousers cut just a tad too long so that the turn-ups polished his black brogues to perfection. The sobriquet secretly delighted him for he was a Grey Man. He had an instantly forgettable face. People sat opposite him on the tube or next to him on the bus would have forgotten all about him entirely when they alighted. He imagined he was some sort of spy, a Harry Limeish character, wandering the streets of London, unseen and unremembered by all he came into contact with.

As his colleagues repaired to the pub for their pies and pints, Barry caught the tube – not the Circle to Sloane Square, Belgarvia and mother, but the Picadilly to Soho and Sandy.

As he passed the ‘doorman’ and proffered his five pounds ‘membership fee’ to the gum-chewing, blonde-haired moron that took it without a smile or a thank you, Barry didn’t detect a flicker of recognition from either of them. They never did – The Grey Man was never seen!

He descended the steps and made his way to Booth Six – Sandy’s booth. He deposited two one-pound coins into the slot and the curtains opened and the light in the booth came on. There she was, the love of his life. Her long, light-brown hair cascading over her pale shoulders and framing her pert breasts. Her nipples erect; although this was most likely due to the temperature of the booth and nothing to do with arousal, Barry liked to think is was the latter; and that he was the cause of it.

Of course, her real name wasn’t Sandy. He’d never actually met her socially. He’d named her Sandy after her beautiful hair. She didn’t do much; a few poses, a stride around in her patent leather thigh-boots; leaning over the solitary chair in the centre of the booth - it was the ‘finale’ that Barry fed upon, the Christine Keeler! It was the most erotic thing he’d ever seen.

When (and hopefully soon) his mother died it was Barry’s plan to convert the house into luxury apartments and realise a shitload of money. Enough for him to take Sandy away from all of this. To pamper her and make love to her, to shower her with gifts; and to live happily ever after somewhere nice and sunny – Portugal, perhaps.

With a click the light was extinguished and the distant buzz of a motor heralded the closing of the curtains. Barry returned up the stairs, past the moron and the doorman – neither saw him leave:  They never see The Grey Man.

Later, back at the office Barry was washing his hands in the Gents. He shook the water off and ran his fingers through his greying hair – Still got my hair, thanks, dad. As he checked himself in the mirror to his annoyance he noticed one of the spare buttons common to double-breasted suits was missing. Bugger! Where the hell is that? He was still annoyed about it when he returned to his desk.

A glance down to the bottom right-hand corner of his monitor told him it was 4.30. Still another one hour and fifteen minutes to go. Poisonous mushrooms, they might work. I could get some (don’t know where from though) and leave them for her to have for her lunch. I’d be well away, in my office, and not a suspect. He Googled, poisonous mushrooms and was overwhelmed by the 352,000 entries! As he scrolled through the many pages his attention was caught by a movement he saw in his peripheral vision. He turned his head towards Hope’s office to see a uniformed constable and what might be a plain-clothes officer, entering, their bodies obscuring the Hope & Son inscribed in gold-leaf on the glass. I wonder what the Son’s been up to this time?. Barry grinned, and returned his attention to his PC; this time Googling, property conversions london.

Every lunchtime, Elsie had her routine: a sandwich, a cup of weak tea and the BBC News at One. She’d watch the news until Neighbours came on and then she’d turn off the TV in the kitchen and, if it was a Wednesday she’d get the playing cards and the sherry out for her weekly session of gin-rummy with her friend, Nance. Today was a Wednesday.

It was during these lunchtime rituals that Elsie’s mind wandered back to the happy times she and Arthur shared; the visits to see aunt Gladys; the balls and functions they attended where, on the occasions Arthur wasn’t performing, they danced the nights away. A twinge in left her hip would drag her back to reality, a reminder of a hip replacement operation a few years back; however she was still as sprightly now (well, almost) as she’d been then, regular exercise and a good outdoor life and kept her fit and relatively active. She led a full and happy life and didn’t have many regrets, but one she did harbour was her inability to have any more children after the birth of Barry. Adopting had been considered, but that was as far as it went – just a consideration. Over the years she looked upon her ‘accident’ as a blessing; Barry was a difficult and demanding child and he would have made it impossible to tend to any other children.

The news was on, she had her tea and her sandwich, and she sat at the table. She was just about to bite into a lovely piece of ox tongue when she glanced across the kitchen, got up from the table and went over, bent down and stood up again. “Now, where is my basket?” she asked herself. “Ah, yes. The back bedroom.” She replied to no one in particular. So saying she exited the kitchen, crossed the hallway and climbed the stairs. As she pushed open the bedroom door she stopped. “Oh silly me, it’s not in here, it’s in the parlour behind Barry’s chair.” Muttering to herself about her mind going she about turned and headed back to the stairs.

It wasn’t the abrupt halt at the bottom of the stairs that killed her when she hit the hallway wall with a loud thump! It was the threadbare seventh tread as it made contact with her skull, instantly snapping her neck like a Twiglet. She’d known she was falling. Despite her advanced years she contorted her body round as she lashed out in a vain attempt to grasp the banister or one of its rails. If it wasn’t so tragic her graceful movements would have gained her a good score in a high-diving competition. She didn’t feel any pain, death was instantaneous; her demise accompanied by a loud CRACK as her life-force was extinguished.

It was Nance who discovered her body. She arrived at 2.03. Rang the doorbell . . . knocked on the door . . .  but Elsie didn’t materialise. She could hear the closing bars of Neighbours drifting through from the kitchen. Neighbours? Elsie can’t abide Neighbours! So thinking, she popped open the letter box to call out Elsie’s name. Before the words left her lips she saw in the hallway, Elsie, her limbs at impossible angles, a pool of dark liquid she knew to be blood pooling around her outstretched arm.

It was she who called the ambulance. It was they that called the police.

The police arrived first in the form of P.C. Jack Gibson. A policeman of the old-school – big, brawny; fingers like pork sausages and ears like halves of bagels. His broad shoulders soon made short work of the door jamb as it splintered open under his powerful charge.

He stepped into the hallway and knelt by the body, Nancy peeking, tearfully, behind him. Elsie was obviously dead, her eyes were staring up at him, her head hanging back and to one side; her neck definitely broken. Cause of death? Broken neck he looked up and saw the chipped tread one third down from the top after a fall down the stairs. CSI? Who needs ‘em? He became aware he was kneeling in Elsie’s blood, and as he began to rise he spotted shards of glass glinting up from the cold terracotta flooring. He reached out and carefully lifted Elsie’s left-hand, turned it over to reveal her wristwatch – an anniversary gift from Arthur many years earlier. The shattered lens revealed at what time the watch had stopped. Time of death, 1.20. Gil Grissom, move over, Jack Gibson is on the way!

He was just about to put her hand back down when he noticed her hand was balled into a fist as if she was clutching something in her bony fingers. With a tenderness belying his bulk he delicately peeled back her fingers one by one to reveal a single, grey button.

© Michael Crane 2006

 

The Rosemary Clooney Diet - A Personal Account (2003)
By Michael Crane

Week 2
Well, I've just got back from my second visit and I narrowly missed being, Slimmer of the Week after losing 2½ lbs! I was second to a woman that lost 10 lbs! My weight loss is equivalent to one pound a week . . . I've had bigger poos than that!

I achieved my astounding weight loss by eating cardboard and sick for the last 14 days - or to give it its proper name, Ryvita and cottage cheese. Has anyone tried these two foods at all? I am certain the box containing the Ryvita tastes better than the contents; and the comparison between cottage cheese and sick is spot on - except, perhaps that sick contains more nutrients in the form of bits of carrot and the odd pea.

Why are you dieting, Michael?, I hear you ask. Well it's my age. Listen carefully, for what I am about to tell you will (maybe has) happen to you.

In my teens I had the nickname, Snakehips, because my hips were slim and I was lithe. Sadly now the snake has moved from my hips to my waist and has wrapped several coils around me and has taken up full-time residency.

On my 30th birthday I noted with interest that my waist and age were the same - 30 each. At 35 years the waist had expanded to 31", at 40 years it had gone up to 32". This meant that on my 54th birthday in January of this year I was ballooning out towards 35" in the next 12 months. Do you realise that by the time I reach 100 years old my waist will be a gargantuan 44"? I am in danger of becoming a human Weeble!!! Hence the diet.

Now, good old Rosemary, in her wisdom has decreed that eating cardboard and sick alone are not the answer; we must also exercise. This is done in the form or aerobics; which is Japanese for humiliation.

I thought the best place for me would be at the back of the class for two reasons:
1 - I could make a fool of myself and no-one would see me;
2 - I could look at the ladies bottoms in front of me.

Neither happened. I was placed at the front and they all saw me make a fool of myself and they all ogled my bottom!

Men, if you haven't tried aerobics yet - don't. It takes an enormous amount of co-ordination to smoothly glide from one bit to the other. Daniel Day Lewis showed more co-ordination in My Left Foot than I showed today. When they went left, I went right; when they went up, I went down; when they skipped, I tumbled; when they mamba'd back and forth I fell over my feet. Hopefully, as time goes by and I learn to anticipate the movements rather than try to catch up that two beats behind, things will improve. Fingers crossed!

Finally. One of the ladies said to me, "You're brave, coming to a Rosemary Clooney class. We never get any men. Don't you feel out of place?"

"Out of place? One man - several ample, voluptuous, tightly-clad, bending stretching women? No," I replied, "I'm very much in the right place!"

Week 3
This week I lost an amazing one pound! I can't believe it, one whole pound! OK, so it's not that big a loss, weightwise, I'll grant you, but consider this:

I've just spent the weekend at the Hilton, Coventry where all the food and drink I could eat and drink was eaten and drunken. And, I got the call of the fig rolls last week, too. I adore fig rolls - so Sharen (bless her) got me a packet of the Go Ahead slimming fig rolls, and they were delicious . . . all of them! Yep, I ate the lot at one sitting; I mean, who on earth can eat one fig roll???

You'll be pleased to know that my co-ordination has improved during the aerobics (see Japanese for humiliation) in two ways.

1. I am getting used to the routine
2. A new-comer arrived and she made me look good!

Mind you, we departed somewhat from the routine this week; we did 'circuit training'. Sounds manly, eh? Well, if squeezing a cushion between your thighs or balancing on a hot-water bottle or hula-hooping can be termed manly, then I'm the man for you.

The old snake-hips came into their own with the hula-hoop, I can tell you. I was swinging it around like they were going out of fashion . . . which they have!

Jo, the instructor, has advised me to cut down on my evening glasses of wine (good, full measures, none of that stingey pub measures for me!). According to her they're costing me about a pound a week - and we aint talking money! So, it'll be diet coke from now on. How shall I survive?

If I haven't wasted away I'll post another update next week.

Week 4
Yippee! Another pound hits the dust! This is fantastic news. I love the Rosemary Clooney diet. Let's hear it for Rosemary. Hip, hip, hooray!

Over the top? What do you mean, that's a bit over the top? Consider this:

Friday night out at my favourite Italian restaurant celebrating a friend's 50th birthday. I ate:

Starter - 12" tomato & basil garlic bread (actually it's more like a pizza).

Main course - Taglitelli al pollo (chicken and pasta in a creamy sauce). Big portion!

Sweet - Triple scoop mint-chip chocolate ice-cream. No cream, after all, I am on a diet!

Liqueur - One strega (fine Italian liqueur).

Extras - One bottle of Frascati; nicely chilled and all for me!

I consumed all of this . . . and still lost a pound. I love Rosemary Clooney!

The aerobics is getting easier. I've managed to co-ordinate my legs now; all I have to concentrate on in future are my arms. Currently I am in danger of being tilted at by Don Quixote! I flail my arms around like a windmill on speed. A drowning man has more grace than I. Most of the time I restrict them to my sides for fear of knocking out the persons nearest me. Mind you, on the plus side, I do get lots of room!

Week 5
Regular readers will see a trend here . . . Have you spotted it yet? Yes, that's right, I'm losing a pound a week! So, once again, Jo gives me the good news, "Congratulations, it's a pound!" as if she's announcing the birth of my first-born. Now that would be news - and very very profitable.

I'm really getting the hang of this dieting lark. I eat all I want to and then I vomit it all back up again! It worked for the Romans!

Of course, now that I've enlisted with Rosemary Clooney I've become a diet bore. It's amazing the ways in which I can bring dieting into the conversation:

"So, Michael, are you looking forward to your holiday in Turkey?"
"Yes, very much so, but I'll have to cut down on the kebabs; I'm on a diet!"

"I see Lincoln City are playing in Cardiff this weekend. Will you be going?"
"No. Last time I went to see City play they began singing that song about 'Who ate all the pies?' and I thought they were referring to me - just because I'm on a diet!"

"I see that SARS thing is getting worse. Does it frighten you?"
"No, it doesn't really. If I catch it and am confined to bed and go off my food it’ll help with my diet!"

I didn't stay for the humiliation this week. I felt a bit off to tell you the truth, so I took the dog out for a walk into town. But, this was no ordinary walk. I turned it into an experiment. . .

I took out the kitchen scales and measured out 5½ lbs (flour and a couple of tins of baked beans) to simulate the load of fat I've lost so far. I then plonked it into my back-pack, collared the dog and set off for town. It's amazing how heavy things can be when you've got to tote 'em around with you. When that little lot was lodged around my waist I didn't really notice it - put it on your back and walk two miles and you do!

I'm at that awkward stage of the diet now. My waist has gone down at least 1½" and a lot of my trousers are beginning to hang a bit low around the crotch. I keep tightening my belt, but without that lovely layer of fat anymore, there's nothing for the belt to sink into.

If things continue in this manner, ol' Snakehips will be back.

Week 6
I met an old friend today at the weigh-in. I've not seen them for a few years now and I'd lost all hope of ever seeing them again.

"Hello waist!" I said.

Yep, I've got my waist back. I really have! I couldn't see it before because of a couple of things - my stomach hanging over it and the snake coiled around me! But, now that my stomach is getting back into shape the waist is there in all its glory.

Now, don't get me wrong, my stomach isn't exactly a six-pack at the moment, but hey, anything but the Party-7 that had insinuated itself there over the years is alright by me.

I didn't lose any weight this week - nor did I gain any, so that's OK. Jo has put it down to a couple of reasons; a possible lapse in calorie counting or replacing fat with muscle (thanks to daily tummy exercises). I think it's both.

I've yet to cut out alcohol completely, but I am trying - honestly. My biggest hurdle is going without my nightly glass of Chardonnay or Merlot with my dinner; I am compelled by some greater force to get out the corkscrew and indulge. I just can't resist.

So this next week I resolve to strenghten my resolve and to count the calories, cut the imbibing and tuck in that tummy. It'll all be worth it when I hit my target weight.

Week 7
Well, my resolve was well and truly strengthened; I lost yet another pound this week. Very Happy I am on target for a half a stone loss before I expose the new, sleekier, svelte-like, toned and bronzed body to the lucky people of Hisaronu, Turkey, next weekend.

I have to confess, this isn't my first attempt at losing weight. I have tried in the past with qualified success. On all previous occasions I lost the weight from my face, prompting calls of concern from family and friends along the lines of, "My God! Have you got Aids? You look terrible!"

And I did look terrible. To give you a mental picture, I had the face of Victoria Beckham (hollow eyes, sunken cheekbones, pinched expression), and the body of Bernard Manning! There, I've scarred you for life now, haven't I?

The wonderful thing about Rosemary Clooney is that this time the fat I was cultivating for an extended polar expedition (or so it seemed) is falling from my waist and hips - leaving my face full and round and healthy. This is all due to the low-fat diet and exercise I'm now committed to . . . for the rest of my life.

I mentioned last week about my long-time-no-see friend, Waist. Well, now that it's back I can look down and see my feet . . . and if you were not thinking feet, then you should be ashamed of yourself!

I went to the doctors the other day for my annual MOT. He told me I had the heart and lungs of a twenty-year old. They're waiting for me in cold storage for when my own peg out.

Week 8
Made it! I aimed for an eight pounds loss for my holidays and I've just achieved it.

Hurrah for me!

All I have to do now is to be careful and to watch out on my alcohol and calorie content whilst in Hisaronu . . . . Yeah, like that'll happen! I'm on holiday, of course I'm going to overdo it - that's what holidays are all about. Mind you, I do promise to take regular exercise. I already have a few routines worked out:

Vigorously rub suntan lotion over the bodies of any topless woman that asks - I wish!
Raise my glasses of Efes to and from my lips several times a day.
Walk briskly from bar to bar.
Have a shower several times a day and run around the apartment naked whilst I drip-dry.
Carry the suitcases (which I normally leave to Sharen).
Finally, use as weights my stash of Turkish Lira (2.4 million to £1) in a daily workout as I calculate the fluctuating price of cocktails.

Finally

Last week, on the Carvoeiro forum I was asked why no mention of the aerobics. Well, I didn't bother because I was in step and in tune. But, I'll mention it this week because I had a special treat - albeit unintentional. During the routine, Jo decided to turn us all around and let the front become the back. For the first time I was able to look at their bottoms - which was nice.


Also, three new-comers were there (at the back) and I was able to see how I performed eight weeks ago. Blimey! Mind you, I still can't control my arms. They move about like Joe Cocker having a fit!

2006 Update: I've put a bit of weight back on since then and I have returned to the gentle embrace of Jo and Rosemary. Together they are sculpting my body into that of an adonis . . . which will be a change from a doner kebab!

© Michael Crane 2003

 

 

My First Trip to Turkey
By Michael Crane

 

The beginning
My first trip to Turkey began in the November of 1986. The roof of our kitchen developed a leak and it had to be re-tiled. We got a few quotes in to send to the Building Society and we were rather impressed by one builder who said, "Would you like a few extra quid for yourselves?"

Naturally we said yes! And so the Building Society kindly kept the rain from our kitchen and at the same time financed my first ever trip to Turkey - in fact, my first ever trip aboard.

Yep, here I was, fast approaching 40 years old and still a 'virgin' when I came to flying. Now, I'm the sort of guy that gets sick and dizzy on the Carousel at the fairground. The Helter-Skelter and the Cakewalk are enough to put the fear of God into me, so you can imagine what trepidation a flight held for me.

My wife at the time, Caroline (we're divorced now - a long story), was far from a virgin (in every sense of the word), she'd flown many times and was looking forward to the flight; and I the antithesis.

We'd booked a two-centre holiday, the first week in Kas and the second in Fethiye; and all it cost was four hundred quid for the two of us - those were the days!

The big day arrived - the flight. All the way from home to the airport I was suffering from butterflies, whereas Caroline, the worldly-wise traveller, was extolling the pleasures of air travel - the take-off and landing; two things I was looking forward to about as much as trepanning! In the Departure Lounge I was on tenterhooks, resolutely refusing all drinks and food lest I bring it all up later in the plane. Caroline, women's answer to globe-trotting, Michael Palin, was eating and drinking for the two of us.

So; here we were, taxiing down the runway . . . gaining speed . . . going faster and faster and faster. The only thing going faster than the plane was my heart - it thudded in my chest so loud Caroline was convinced we had a flat tyre that was flapping around on the huge wheels that supported the huge weight of the huge aeroplane (which, plainly was far too heavy to fly. Surely it had to defy the very laws of physics to actually get off the ground and remain airborne?) and not to mention the huge amount of fuel housed in the wings - just feet away from my window seat!

But, as we lifted into the air my spirits lifted with it. I became exhilarated by the rapid rate of ascent and the smoothness of the climb. This was fun!

I had plenty to occupy me on the flight; I looked out of the window and marvelled at the clouds below as they glistened in the sunshine, looking for all the world like a blanket of snow; I admired the cabin crew as they busied about the cabin seeing to our wants and needs; but most of all I was occupied by Caroline 'Alan Wicker' Crane barfing her guts up into a paper bag beside me!

Yep! That hardened traveller, that Marco Polo, that 'one big step for man' was airsick! I was the opposite, I not only wasn't sick, but I enjoyed two airline meals!

We land
Nowadays I hear a lot of people moan about Dalaman airport - well you should have been there in the late 80s; then you'd have something to moan about, I can tell you.

On our arrival (following an exciting touchdown for me - and a relief for Caroline) we were herded (quite literally) into the 'Arrivals' which was in fact just one big room in which the disgorged passengers and baggage on our flight and one other were expecting to be reunited with their suitcases.

What a shambles that was. Our case was one of the last to come out, and that was after one hours wait! Yes, that's correct, one whole hour. Why, you ask, did it take the carousel that long to deliver our cases? Easy. What carousel? There wasn't one. The holiday reps had to physically lug the cases off the tarmac, hold them up in the air and shout out, "Whose is this one?" I kid you not.

Every piece of luggage was 'auctioned' off in this manner. It was chaos. It was hot, it was smelly (that good old Dalaman smell's been there yonks!), it was tiring. Three hundred people all clamouring for their long awaited luggage - - ah, those were the days!

On our way to Kas
Eventually, luggage attached we were escorted to our transfer 'bus' or as I now know it to be, dolmus! We landed at mid-day and were expecting an air-conditioned coach with all the mod cons; we got a rickety old dolmus with open windows. This to me was just another exciting experience of a foreign holiday, to Caroline it was purgatory. She sat near the window; all the better to puke through; but this turned out to be a BIG mistake for her.

People nowadays just don't appreciate the excellent roads from Dalaman to Fethiye over the mountains. They complain that it takes 1¼ hours and the roads are too windy. On my first trip we used the original road, not the new one used today. If you peer out of your coach window nowadays you'll catch occasional glimpses of the old road below you. It was very windy and at times dangerously precipitous. It was the stomach-turning drops down the mountainside that eventually finished Caroline off extracting mutterings of "I want to go home" and "I'm going to die" issued between bouts of retching as vertigo took a grip of her insides.

Overall, the transfer from the airport took what seemed to Caroline like one week, but was in reality much less. Throughout the entire journey I took in all the sights and sounds of what I took to be a wonderful country (a feeling that has never left me to this day), while Caroline oscillated between the window to be sick and the interior to keep her eyes off the road and those stomach-churning drops into oblivion and certain death.

In Kas
Kas turned out to be a charming place, and our pension, though basic was as Turkish as I expected. Caroline, somewhat empty by now and consequently, puke-free, had brought with her the brochure to ensure we got what we'd paid for: A double room with wardrobe and separate shower and toilet. The double bed was evident, as was the WC but an extensive search of the room (10' x 10') failed to unearth the wardrobe.

Armed with her brochure and a growing hatred of Turkey and a desperate longing to return to England, Caroline confronted the owner. With her finger stabbing at the description she berated him with, "Look. Here. It clearly states, 'wardrobe'. Where is it?"

"I will show you," he said, leading her back into the room. "Look, it is here," he said, proudly pointing to a row of six nails hammered into the wall. "There is your wardrobe!" After pointing out the obvious to us he promptly left.

Caroline was speechless; I was convulsed by laughter. This holiday was getting better and better. What a country!

Caroline did mellow over the next few days but she still wanted to return home. However, she did get out and about and we explored Kas. It was a beautiful place we both enjoyed the sights and sounds - but in Caroline's place, not the food. She was a vegetarian (I was a part-time one in deference to her) and she hated the food, complaining that it was all prepared in conditions of filth and therefore full of bacteria. Her main foodstuff became bread. I on the other hand eat everything Turkish I could lay my teeth on. Yum, yum.

We explore
During our stay in Kas we decided to do a bit of sightseeing and decided that the Xanthos, Letoon, Patara trip offered to us by the holiday rep sounded a good day out. The only thing was the cost. The organised trip was about £15 each, but, we figured out that if we caught a dolmus or local bus it'd only be a fiver for the entire round trip - so we went DIY.

It almost cost us a lot more than a fiver - it nearly cost us our lives!

We caught a local bus to Kalkan enroute to Xanthos. Our driver was a homicidal maniac . . . on speed! He drove the bus like he was Michael Schumaker going around the streets of Monte Carlo. He hurtled into the corners on the narrow mountain roads and braked (if at all) at the last possible minute. We, and the other six passengers aboard were convinced at each hairpin bend that we'd overshoot and be catapulted into the sea hundreds of feet below. It was a nightmare.

I can still see his mad staring eyes reflected in his rear-view mirror; they will be with me until the day I die. To this day I always check each bus and dolmus driver to ascertain that he isn't the same one that caused us so much distress back on that terrifying journey. No doubt he'd passed the Turkish driving test - if you can open the door and find the steering-wheel, you've passed!

The remainder of our day was uneventful but fulfilling. We lingered at Xanthos, leisurely exploring the ruins and taking a picnic lunch; during which time friends from our pension on the 'official' tour were herded onto the site, prodded along at quite a lick and then herded off to the next location in the time it took us to cut open a nice juicy tomato and a loaf of bread!

We went from Xanthos to Letoon and from there to Patara where we spent sometime on the beach. Well, I did, Caroline was moaning about the sand being blown into her eyes and spent her time there waiting for the bus back to Kas!

It was on the bus back to Kas that I met someone who was to change my life and furnish me with a whole new family.

I meet a friend
As I sat there on the rear seat - having carefully checked the driver's identity - (Caroline washing the sand out of her eyes and hair with a bottle of water), I leafed through my guide book. As I turned the pages the guy sitting next to me asked, "Could I have a look at your guide book? We don't get them in English where I come from."

I thought this last statement a little strange as he was obviously Australian - his accent was a give-away! "Sure," I replied, handing it over.

It was only after we began talking about Turkey that it transpired he was in fact Turkish and had spent some time Down Under, hence the accent. In fact his family, wife and two children were still there, and he was back in Turkey 'seeking' work. This was my first ever encounter with Mustafa Manav, or, as a lot of you know him, OzGold! In those days he was a self-confessed beach-bum whose wife was sending HIM welfare cheques to sustain his Bohemian lifestyle. That's my boy!

Hands up all those of you know him that well . . . mmmm, not many. The fact is that the vast majority of his long-term holiday friends only know him as a jeweller and know nothing about him before that. It is debatable that few if any would have befriended him in those early days; but I did.

I asked him his name and he told me, John. Now, this might be my first ever trip abroad and my first in Turkey but even someone as 'widely' travelled as I would know that John isn't a Turkish name. I pressed him for his real name and he was reluctant to tell me lest I mispronounced it as his friends back in Oz did. I promised I wouldn't and he told me it was Mustafa (pronounced Mus tafa emphasis on the t, and not Musta fa with the emphasis on the f). To this day I am appalled by the number of his 'friends' that mispronounce his name.

I told him we were on a two-centre holiday, Kas and Fethiye, and while we returned to Kas, he was enroute back to Fethiye via Kalkan. As he alighted from the bus he said, "I'll be in Fethiye next week. I'll see you there," and off he went!

I'll see you in Fethiye? Have you seen the size of the place? It's enormous! Anyway, we went back to Kas, finished off our first week; and then departed to Fethiye for part two.

In Fethiye
Life is full of coincidences, isn't it? The pension we stayed at was called the Kleopatra; and it was situated just across the road from the apartment that Mustafa, (the jeweller), was to occupy many years later! I only realised it when I stayed there with him and recognised the building from his living-room window (it was then a different name).

I digress . . . It was during our second day in Fethiye that Caroline (an art college graduate and keen amateur dressmaker) decided that she'd like to take home some fabric so that she could make herself some dresses. So, I was dragged around the many fabric shops of Fethiye as she searched for the one fabric that caught her eye and imagination. I was dragged from shop to shop in her pursuit of the 'holy grail of fabrics' until I finally said, "That's it. I've had enough. See that shop there?" I pointed, "that's the last one. If you can't find it there, then hard luck because I'm fed up!"

So saying I walked in. "Hi, Michael," said Mustafa as he sat in his friend's shop drinking coffee, "Good to see you again, man!"

From that day to this we've been the firmest of friends. Since that day I've been divorced and remarried and divorced and remarried again, and although wives have come and gone, our friendship has flourished. I often refer to Mustafa as 'my brother' which isn't just an endearment but a 'fact' inasmuch as that when my own, younger brother (the same age as Mustafa) died some 12 years ago, Mustafa took his place and became my brother. A kinder, nicer, better person you could never meet. We are as close as real brothers and I am the richer for that.

Ah, the old sights
Needless to say our time in Fethiye was spent in his company as he gave us personal guided tours of Fethiye and the surrounding area. Olu Deniz looked like the faded postcards one sees outside the many shops now down there - sparsely populated and quiet. The lagoon was so quiet that on the afternoon that he took us there we were the only ones down there! No pedalloes or umbrellas or drink or food vendors. Just us, the sea the sky and the mountains. A lasting memory of a time now gone.

Hisaronu was nothing but a small village that we passed through on our way to Kaya. And Kaya was as deserted as though the Greeks had just left, unlike nowadays, where it is alive with restaurants and residents.

This was the Turkey I fell in love with. This is the Turkey that I yearn for but know will never return. In a way I am responsible for its demise; me and people like me. We'd visit Turkey, fall in love with it, then tell all our friends about it . . . until such numbers invaded it that it had to change.

Back home
Caroline never did like Turkey. The following year I returned alone (divorce pending) to bum around with Mustafa. I even 'emigrated' to Turkey but had to return to England due to personal matters from which I never fully recovered. Happily my wife, Sharen, loves Turkey as much as I do, and Mustafa and his wife, Nurimen fully approve of her, stating that she's as near to a Turkish wife that I'll get! In fact, during one of my 'single-status' visits to their home in Fethiye, they had picked out a nice Turkish girl for me to marry. Fortunately I had just met Sharen four weeks earlier and had to refuse their kind offer!

The rest, as they say, is history. I have made many friends in Turkey (and a few enemies - but they are different stories for another time) and will return each year until I die. I'm not a religious man but if I were I think I'd embrace Islam rather than any other religion. Contrary to (un-informed and ill-informed) popular opinion, Muslims are peace-loving people and have a lot to offer us.

Long may Turkey reign!

© Michael Crane 2002

 

 

 

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