During the winter Kusadasi is pretty quiet. The nightlife is restricted to the weekends and only to a handful of bars. My favourite Rock Bar (Big Bang) has recently opened for the weekends but is yet to pick up. The only other place in town is Biraver in the port itself. This bar has a live band playing the classics you'll hear played by most Turkish bands; "Wish you were here", "Mustang Sally", "Sweet Child of Mine" etc.
I was sitting having a drink with my cousin last Friday and enjoying the lead singer's pronunciation of some rock classics (how does "she's buried right in my back yard" become "she's very right in my bodyguard"), when we noticed the group of women at the table in front of us were clearly not Turkish and clearly not sober. I heard an accent and assumed they were Aussies stranded by the ship.
I spoke to my cousin about the current political instability in the country ...or was it ...that's right, we were talking about fannies, when I heard a bellowing voice in my left ear. "Have yuuu seeeen ma shooooooo?". I turned in shock to see the red face of a woman holding one shoe and whose eyes were having trouble synchronising.
"Yes, it's there on the table" I replied nervously
"I knooooo but it's the wrang size. This is a size foooooorr and that's a size six". I'm now completely lost. Even so, I managed to keep the conversation flowing whilst occasionally grabbing her in mid-collapse.
Before I knew it, she had dragged me off my chair and onto the dancefloor and was spinning me like a dervish. I have no idea whether this was intentional or just an elaborate stumble. After a couple of Mustang Sallys I offered the international sign for 'time out' and tagged her mate to help me out.
When I got back to the table my cousin was in conversation with one of the older women in the crowd. Apart from one teenager, the rest were comfortably middle-aged. So as not to look a complete tool, I started conversation with the eldest; a woman in her 60s who could have been a big star on Eldorado. She gave me the run down on who everyone was. 2 Brits, 2 Irish and 1 Scot. All were living in Kusadasi permanently except for the teenager who was on a short break.
"Why's your friend off her tits?" I asked politely.
"She's celebrating a divorce". Nice, I thought. "I'm commiserating myself tonight too actually" and with that began to cry. I remembered why I never chat up women in bars. This was going to get messy. "I wish I had a boyfriend to take me home and take care of me".
"So what's her story?" I asked pointing at the teenager and desperately trying to change the subject from anything involving tears, sex or both.
"She's come over to see her boyfriend. She met him on holiday last year". Then it suddenly struck me, sitting at this table, we have the full circle of the classic holiday romance.
I feel I have a right to speak out on this subject, being a child of a Turkish man and an English woman. But, ultimately, this is something I see all the time.
My parents met through work in Belgium so it's not quite the same, but take a walk down Bar Street and you'll see middle aged European women having lap dances from young Turkish men. You don't have to look too far into their future to see where it's all headed.
It seems the perfect match right?
She gets what she wants: a young, attractive, muscular, energetic, exotic, tanned, brave, masculine, caring man.
He gets what he wants: a woman who is 99.934% guaranteed to sleep with him, holding a passport that isn't Turkish.
So off they go into the sunset and live happily ever after. He runs a kebab shop in Stoke Newington, she carries on working and looking after the kids.
But this just ain't how it goes. This is the story of most I've seen:
She's in town with her friends and head down to Bar Street. Every night is a Hen night while they're away. They find a table in the liveliest bar and sit down (her veins are giving her gip anyway and she's pleased for the break).
Their waiter comes over and does a little dance, wearing a stupid hat. His t-shirt says something like "am I bovvered, innit?" and he wows them with a can of fly spray and a lighter. "What you want drink? Is cheaper than ASDA" then pats his back pocket and waits for the laughter.
4 pints of lager (of course) are immediately necked in a fashion that makes young Mehmet question the gender of his new customers. But he knows that this is his opportunity to strike. Rather forcefully heaving the ladies down the bench, he makes his presence known. His English is limited to footballers and cocktails but actions speak louder than words.
There is an unspoken agreement between bar owners and staff that should they be 'getting in there', they're allowed to 'get in there'. So Mehmet is left alone to work his magic ...well apart from Ahmet who also sees an opportunity and shuffles the other two geriatric tourists down their bench.
Most nights, Mehmet knows that after a hideous skinful and perhaps a snog, the ladies will leave him to clear the table and walk home alone. But he knows too that tomorrow they might just return and he could well be one step closer to his dream of mopping up chili sauce down Archway.
Sure enough, Sue and the gang stagger in at 1am the following night. Sue's off her tits again and succumbs to a night of sexual ecstasy with her Antonio Banderas (though he looks more like Glenn Medeiros after a night shift in Matalan).
So fast forward a few weeks or months. The ladies were only there for a couple of weeks and Sue got her money's worth. She calls him from the UK when she can and even visits him from time to time. They get engaged and the process begins.
They are surprised when the British Consulate don't welcome him into the UK with open arms and so they enter into a legal process that gives Sue enough time to create an image in her mind of a young stallion waiting patiently for her. This urchin she's going to save and bring back to a world of plenty.
On the other hand, this gives Mehmet the time to fuck his brains out with every other tourist that walks through the doors of the bar while he counts the money in his mind of the world of plenty that awaits him for this one sacrifice of banging a woman who makes his grandma look like a young Judy Garland.
From here it can go one of two ways:
Firstly, Mehmet gets his visa. They open the kebab shop. He beats the living crap out of her. She takes the kids and goes back to her mother. He goes back to Turkey and uses the pictures of his kids to spark conversation with women in Bar Street.
Secondly, Mehmet is flatly refused entry into the UK. Sue comes to live with him in Turkey. He beats the living crap out of her. She has a harder time divorcing him then either stays in Turkey and opens an Estate Agency or flies back home to her mother.
You see, the cultural difference between our nations is immense. It may not appear so when you're 5 tequilas to the wind in The Queen Vic in Bar Street but the truth is, these guys aren't usually locals. Even if they were locals, there's a cultural gulf to cross but the reality is, these guys are coming from the East of the country where the difference is even more pronounced.
Gender roles are clearly defined here in Turkey and it just doesn't sit comfortably with the British concept of Girl Power. I'm not saying it's a bad or a good thing. I would strongly argue that family values are far more intact here and divorce is nowhere on the scale of the UK. The options aren't considered as frequently as they are back in the UK. Marriages are made to work through hell or high water and that can't be a bad thing. In the UK, we know we can walk away if things go wrong. Divorce isn't a badge you wear for life.
I'm sure that some Turkish/English marriages work but all I'm trying to do is make the motives clear. These guys are looking to the UK as a nirvana that will have them living like kings. They don't see the reality of a life in the UK for a young Turk. They will end up being a waiter, living in a house the size of a Turkish balcony, trying to understand why the hell their wife isn't cooking dinner for them and why the washing up hasn't been done in 3 days.
The women are dreaming of this young hunk who'll bring some excitement into their lives. Sure, he will but not perhaps the type they were hoping for. It'll be a tough lesson in 'back to basic' values and, as they're approaching retirement, they wont want to be doing anything but car boot sales and 'Deal or no Deal'.
So I'll see you all down Bar Street and don't say I didn't tell you so. I hope someone can enlighten me with stories of true love and happily ever afters but until then, I'll keep watching the pensioners strip on the bars while Mehmet and his friends teach them the Macarena.