We were on holiday and we needed it. We needed some kind of reconnection, even though we had just gotten back together. We needed to take ourselves out of our landlocked lives, to sea, to see.
Bodrum is on the west coast of Turkey, making it a tourist destination for a mix of Europeans who play it safe in the Mediterranean. The ones who don’t want to stray too far East, or South.
In our hotel everybody seemed to be from Yorkshire, old Yorkshire. Turns out that Doncaster, the remodeled Robin Hood Airport, had direct flights to Bodrum, cheap and available.
We had flown in from London Gatwick but I guess the passengers on our flight had booked into other hotels, so here we were with a cocktail of British Northerners. It’s not exactly an exclusive club, and one you might want to escape from, but when abroad… Let’s just say I’ve been a card-carrying member my whole life, so I was a cack caked pig, but she, Olivia, being from the south, she wasn’t happy. I had reverted to type.
After another night of charred steak and raki and salad and raki and a late stumble home through the pomegranate grove and passing out by the pool, Olivia decided to expand our horizons. We were going on some package tour.
We boarded a bus outside of the slipper baths. Our guide was a twenty-odd year old with good English, thick glasses and a pencil moustache. His name was Taki, and he would be our guide, he said, welcome to Bodrum.
The bus made several stops and was soon full of the chatter of Italia and Germania and Great Brittania. I had a hat that I pulled down over my nose as Olivia got to know our bus neighbours, using some kind of Esperanto body language. I could feel her affirmative head bobbing next to me as I nodded off. Is that what I want to say? Beneath the murmur murmur, I could see her “Right! Right! Yes! I get it!” positivity, and her willingness to smile. I could see it with my eyes closed. I could feel her non- genuine smile. I could hear it stretch across her lips. Why?
The beach wasn’t great where we were staying so I was glad to investigate a little, but this bus had caught me a little unprepared and I was still the worst for wear. Those guys at the bar hadn’t kicked me out until 5 a.m. and I hadn’t hydrated much this morning. There were no refreshments on board either. I drifted back into a lovely eye rolling sleep of regretful memory that warped into all kinds of demons with every bump in the dusty Turkish road. And I understood everything beneath my eyelids.
We stopped for petrol. I got off the bus, rubbing my head and scratching my eyes. Olivia was in a surprisingly good mood and affectionate towards me, even though I was grumpy and sore headed. I reasoned it was the adventure of going new places. Luckily the service station sold beer.
We set off again and I stayed awake as Taki gave us all history lessons from the front of the bus. There were stories of conflict and hard won independence, historical recounts of heroism and sacrifice from the country that he loved. It turns out that he didn’t like the British much. I kept my mouth shut but it was interesting. I wondered what Olivia thought about it but she was busy asking about silk rugs to an Italian family behind us. After my third can of beer I called Taki over to talk about rebellion. He went to school in England for a few years but he despised the country. I kind of agreed with him, but I said that I couldn’t see how one empire was better than another, or how you could blame a whole country. I asked him how far back one should hold a grievance? He went back to his post at the front of the bus and avoided eye contact with me. Olivia asked me what I had done now.
Our big stop was Ephesus. We drove through the Necropolis. They buried the dead outside the city walls in those days because of the smell, or the fear. They say there are more people alive now in the world than have ever died. I cannot figure that out. Or did I make that up?
Ephesus is what was. A thriving place not even that long ago, in the history of things, but long enough to be abandoned and to be seen crumbling now. I felt like I was on the set of Jason and the Argonauts. Unreal ruins.
Taki gave us some interesting facts about how the place had been a major city, in a strategic position, that had been invaded, taken and used by all the classical empires. He gave me a dirty look. I guess he could hold a grudge forever, and ever.
I had never been to Egypt, Athens, Rome, nor Persia. I had been to Stonehenge, but that was tiny and basic, and only impressive in its longevity. Ephesus fascinated me in that I could sense a once thriving place, with people not too dissimilar to myself walking down it’s roughly made streets, shopping and whatnot. I could feel a connection to those that were gone now, and I could half imagine their lives. I am simple in that way. I held Olivia’s hand as we walked. The world turned.
We got back on the bus and visited a silk rug factory, it was part of the deal, we were tied in. We witnessed the breeding of silk worms and the farming of them to make these human hand-made, beautiful floor coverings, but we couldn’t afford to get one. Olivia’s taste didn’t even border on Turkish anyway. She was into IKEA. I am not one for aggressive salesmen either, or how aggrieved they feel after so many refusals to buy. “No, thanks.” I say it to beggars and merchants and prostitutes and street corner pamphleteers without blinking. I find it easy to say no as I have two hundred pounds to my name until next week.
Then we ate somewhere. Hard boiled eggs and meat and olives, all laid out and waiting. There was salad too and water. I ventured into the bar and got a beer. The rest of the bus company had dispersed and were sat on benches drinking Turkish tea when I came out. The bus headed us back to our hotels.
We get back and go out to our regular spot. The Donny lot are there and we end up staying too late again with the raki. Back at the pool we sit around and talk and smoke and try to outdo each other with shit jokes. Olivia is flat out on her stomach and snoring when I flop in to bed.
In the morning I find out that Olivia has booked us on another trip. This time we get to take a boat. It’ll be a day jaunt to nearby beauty spots on a big wooden gullet bullet.
I am still drunk as she urges me up. No time for coffee. A taxi takes us down to the boat and we board with a bunch of others. My eyes aren’t working yet, but it’s a big boat. There must be fifty of us passengers. I have sunglasses. We are a little crammed in.
Soon we have the excuse of staring in awe at the beauty around us. It’s enough to leave anyone speechless, never mind the overhung. Olivia gasps and prods at the scenery and I am responsive but I can tell she is still eyeing the Italian lad in the corner with his shirt off. He is with someone. The rocks out around the bay and the colour of the sky reflected in the sea, then out there, the blue, it makes all of us feel beautiful.
The skip anchors and we see a swimming opportunity. There are other boats and there are whoops of delight as brave ones dive off. We drop off the boat and marvel in the warmth and tranquility of the sea.
Then over at the cliffs, there is a splash as someone dives. Wow! And as we look up, there are willing divers on top of an outcrop, and as we follow with our eyes the trail of swimmers to the base of the cliff and a trail up to the top. It looks high to me.
Olivia, she is a strong swimmer, freestyles off towards the jumping point. I struggle to keep up, breastroking, and am a little tired as I clamber out after her. She urges me on after her up the rocky path to where the locals are congregating. Some men are walking back down past us gingerly, saying “no way!”
When we get up there, with one or two others from our boat, although not the Italian lad, we realise that a lot of them up there are just watching. Sure, they have their swimming gear on but they aren’t brave enough to leap. The trail of jumpers and divers are steadily swimming from boats. Oh my. Olivia has no such qualms. Come on, she urges, and takes her step and leaps feet first over the rocks into a god knows what plunge. I see her bikini bum narrowly miss a scrape before she disappears. I daren’t look over though. The group of young, local lads gasp and cheer. I don’t know what to do, but I know I can’t walk back down. I take five steps back and then surge forward
I try to keep my body straight
It takes a while
I am falling
Where is the water
I look down to see where it is
It hits me in the face
I don’t think I even try to get back to the surface
It just happens
Then there is air
Are you alright? Olivia asks. She is laughing. It’s funny. It must have looked funny because she can’t stop laughing. One of my eyeballs has been pushed backwards into my skull. Yes, I say, I feel sick. There are a couple of previous jumpers still there in the little pool. We saw you, that was bad. Are you okay. It was the worst entry. I gasp a bit and I find it difficult to swim, or even tread water. Olivia swims ahead, she’s still chuckling.
When I manage to clamber back onto the boat the captain tells me that they don’t recommend that we do that. I collapse onto my bag.
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