One never knows when one is safe in life. I’m sitting in my lounge, with the aircon on, while an inferno builds around me. Outside the temperature is 42+ C, inside, a comfortable 26C. But then it all depends on the electric company, doesn’t it? Once they decide it’s safer to cut my power, I’ll be immersed into the heat. Once the wind turns, from the east to the west, I’ll sit in the middle of the flames burning the pine tree covered hills around me.
Where would I go? Into the pool, I’m thinking, but would I have to stay underwater while the inferno takes me hostage? For how long? Will I survive? Who knows?
This is the fourth day of the fire. No, it’s not a bush fire. I know this for certain. I’ve lived here for the last 11 years, and never seen anything like this. Usually, the fires are local, and firefighters put them out in a few hours. This is different, deliberate, mean and calculated. Set ablaze in various spots. Mankind is the cruellest creature on the planet.
The villages are left on their own. Their livestock, greenhouses, homes, and fields at the mercy of the flames. There is no state, authority to protect them. The president visits the disaster sites in a convoy of hundreds of cars and throws tea bags out of the window. Not flowers, not water, but teabags…
Have I come here to die in an Inferno? I do not know. I miss my hometown, but I also got accustomed to this place which has given me hope. A fake hope, perhaps. Hope is a wish that keeps us going.
At dusk, the scenery resembles an apocalypse, a blood red sky, smell of burning, and the death of the forest. Hot winds blow ash and burnt pine needles everywhere.
In daytime, driving through the once thick woodland, the ghosts of pine trees lament their lost glory. No more the rich green against the azure sky. Only carcasses in brown, dead and dying, weeping. I weep for them, and all the creatures who have lost their homes and perished. It seems it takes 50-60 years for a forest to recover its ecosystem. The flora and the fauna that provide livelihood to the locals. I won’t be around then, but I have seen the best. No one can burn my memories.
So, I wait for fate to turn its wheels. As far as my view and binoculars allow, I watch the forest day and night, to spot intruders with heinous motives. Will the wind change, the power cut, or will I be saved, redeemed, and perhaps understand what I’ve come to learn in this life.
I remember my first time in Amsterdam, a magical city with dainty bridges over canals, and quaint buildings along it, whose tops symbolize various forms of architecture. Different gables, bell, neck-shaped and laddered, according to the fashion.
Our hotel was far from Rosse Buurt, so we walked and had dinner in an area close to the district. I never forget that name because it is a vivid memory of how things worked in that part of town. The restaurant had a good view of the Red Light District, comprising of houses whose windows displayed young women in their underwear. Once the curtains were drawn and the light faded, it meant they were busy. Other windows lit up and faded into darkness throughout the dinner. What a life, I thought, open, uninhibited.
Prostitution is the oldest profession in history. I remember seeing a sign in Ephesus, probably the oldest bit of advertising, stating, “If you go right, you’ll find your heart’s key,” pointing to a house of joy.
Men marry proper women who bear proper children, but some can’t stay away from the women of joy, can they, and perhaps have some illegitimate children. What’s the secret? The proper versus the improper? Perhaps they prefer the less inhibited? There are many answers to this question. I think it has to do with the alter ego and the rebellion against what’s proper.
Recently, I read that Rosse Buurt will be moved out of Amsterdam. Amsterdam will not be Amsterdam without Rosse Buurt. It will never be the same. With this on my mind, I listen to Jacques Brel.
Yes, I got Georgia on my Mind because it’s significant and the song plays in the background as the US election results painfully unfold. So slow, so unnerving, but we must bear, and the winner will be announced before the next century.
This is where we have arrived now, the most powerful nation on planet Earth cannot decide who is the winner, while the grapevine grows and spreads words of conspiracy… Stealing, winning, losing, suing, etc.
Amid a worldwide pandemic, human or otherwise caused, we are at a standstill, waiting, waiting as to how our fates will unfold.
Hegel says, “thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.” White, black, and grey. We are familiar with the whites and blacks, but who is in the grey area? Who will win? The blacks, whites or the greys? Everyone knows the blacks and the whites. No one knows the greys, made up of all they agree from the synthesis of the whites and blacks. A little bow to the left and some to the right, while making their own synthesis. Will this work? Probably not, because people would rather think in black and white, than try to understand the shades.
Sorry America, sorry the World. We need to learn more, but it will take ages…Meanwhile, Back on the Chain Gang ….
Loss is like something torn out of one’s soul. Something strong grabs hold of it and takes it away. Never to be replaced in this life.
I’ve lived through loss. Of parents, lovers, and relatives, but this is the first time I’ve faced the loss of a very good friend, the only male one. We had been friends for life, he was a month or so younger than me. Our grandmothers were friends, our mothers, and us.
I keep thinking of England, when he came to my wedding party in Warwick. He and his wife were the only Turks there, besides another friend Mehmet, and his English wife. Azmi and his wife gave me a silver tray as a wedding gift. That tray has been sitting on my coffee table for a while, waiting to be put away. You know how one forgets things, after a recent event. I wonder if that was a sign. It is still there and now I cannot put it back in the dresser. Another gift he gave me, sits among the small silver knicknacks. A milk pitcher with a ladle. I love it and polish it, thinking of him.
After our school days, we were apart. He got married and moved to England, while I got married and began to work. We had no contact during the time I lived in the Far East. When I returned to London, we were both separated from our spouses. It was a difficult time for both of us. We stuck together, supporting each other and shared things. Going out at night, to shows, dinner with friends, and countryside rides.
During my miserable days in London, he was the only beacon of light that kept me going. I hope I was the same for him, for his losses.
He used to take me to a night club called The Escapade in South Kensington, very close to the Bibenium. That was the only venue open until the early hours of the morning, after the Pubs closed. South American owners, Argentinian steak, music, and dancing, and Londoners from all walks of life. Then, he’d drive his classic Lancia along Park Lane, breaks and tyres screecing, taking me back to my flat. He was a gentleman, generous, courteous, intelligent, and kind. Despite his excellent education and high qualifications, I don’t think he found the dream job of his life. But he tried, through thick and thin, he tried, to his last day, always…
Then we’d have Fish&Chips at Notting Hill, watch the Talking Heads movie at the ICA, go to Sunday lunch with his friends, or mine at my flat.
I returned to Istanbul after two years, he followed a couple of years later. Being an engineer, he had turned his skills to IT. He became a programmer, an international one. He worked in Beirut, in the UK, and wherever his services were required.
Then life happened. Companies closed, he had the big C. He never ever gave up, until the last moment.
Wherever you are, my friend, may you rest in peace. I have thousands of memories to cherish, once I can deal with your loss.
Sorry I have been away for a while. It wasn’t intentional. I meant to post a story before I left on holiday, but failed to do so while trying to get organized for the trip. So, here’s a true story about our adventures, meeting with fellow writers at various locations, and how this journey evolved.
David J. Meyers, from Melbourne, Australia, and I, first met at the now defunct Harper Collins writer’s website, Authonomy, in 2013. I had joined Authonomy back in 2012 and posted my manuscript The Child of Heaven which David read and edited while I read many of his books, including The Maia Calendar, Lost in Authonomy, The Gargoyle Chronicles, and To See the Sun. This was before David established himself as an historical fiction writer and his genre was more fantasy orientated. Meanwhile, that year I also met the American author, Joanne J. Kendrick who wrote paranormal fantasy and romance. I read her books, Music of Souls and Chance Inheritance, and her sequel to Music, Eternity’s Opus.
The beginning of David’s Maia Calendar takes place at the Sultanahmet Square, the Hippodrome, in the old town of Istanbul. In the summer of 2013, David and Michelle decided to visit Istanbul. At that time, I was no longer living in Istanbul, my hometown, but in Marmaris, on the Southern Aegean coast. So, I made sure I was in Istanbul during their short stay and the virtual friendship became real when I met David and his lovely wife, Michelle, in person, at their hotel in the Sultanahmet area and we had lunch at the historical Sultanahmet Köftecisi.
Joanne had a life change a couple of years ago, and was working and living on her own. She wanted to travel to places she had never been, and had never flown across the Atlantic. I invited her to stay with me in Marmaris, and said we can also go to the Greek islands from here. Last year it didn’t happen, for one reason or another. This year in early January, Joanne asked if we could plan a trip together from Turkey to Greece. This coincided with the time I was diagnosed with hernia in my lower back and was having treatments. I thought, why not, life is too short, and perhaps, I might not be able to do this in the future. Who knows? Not that I can afford to pay anything in Euros with the state of the Turkish economy these days, but what’s money for if you can’t enjoy it in good health. I said, “Let’s do it,” and we began to plan our journey.
Meanwhile, David and Michelle were celebrating their 25th year together and he wanted to do something special for her. Once David heard our plans, he discussed it with Michelle and they decided to fly to Santorini for a romantic break before meeting us in Athens on the 21st of May. For four nights and three days we stayed in a flat with 3 bedrooms and bathrooms, in the Plaka district, which Joanne found from Airbnb.
It was the first time David, Michelle and I met Joanne in person. She turned out to be exactly as I imagined her. Then, thinking perhaps my Facebook friend, the lovely American painter and writer, Pamela Jane Rogers, who has lived in Poros for the last 30 years, could join us for lunch during our stay, I messaged her, and she kindly agreed. So we all met for lunch in Athens, 4 writers, two from the US, one from Oz, and one from Turkey, together with Michelle Meyers and Francis Broun, a professor of History of Art from Princeton, and Pamela’s husband.
David was the tour leader in Athens as we covered all the historical sites, from Hadrians’s Library, The Athenian Agora, Roman Agora, The Temple of The Winds, The Acropolis, The Temple of the Olympian Zeus, to the Acropolis Museum. Although it was a challenging task for my back, I did manage to climb to the Acropolis, with help from my friends, while trying to cope with the treacherous spiral Greek steps and stairs, and hills that were an inescapable feature of our daily excursions.
Joanne and I parted with David and Michelle on the 25th of May. They left for Australia as we boarded a propeller plane to Kefalonia from Athens. We took a ferry to Ithaca, Penelope’s Island, where we stayed with a very good friend of mine. Our week in Ithaca was pure serenity as we marvelled at the unspoiled nature and exquisite beauty of Ulysses’ Kingdom. A population of 2000 and full of Greeks born is Oz with Aussie accents, who have returned home to claim their heritage from their ancestors. It seems back in the early 50’s there was a devastating earthquake in the Peloponnese Islands and most of the inhabitants of Kefalonia, Ithaca and other islands immigrated to Australia, South Africa, the UK, and the US to begin new lives.
After our magical stay in Ithaca, we flew to Rhodes via Kefalonia and Athens on the 2nd of June. Another 4 days of explorations on the lovely island and a ferry ride to Marmaris on the 6th of June brought me back home with Joanne. Jo stayed with me for 5 nights and 4 days and had a brief tour of Marmaris and the surrounding villages. When she left Marmaris and flew back to the US via Dalaman and Istanbul, on the 11th of June, we had been together for 21 days.
It was definitely a trip to remember, with great company and wonderful memories. I hope we’ll have the chance get together again, in the near future.
And there’s a story brewing, in my head. It starts with, “Penelope sat on the pebble beach in Ithaca and combed her hair …” and I don’t know where she’ll take me …
She comes at the most unexpected time. In the evening, when the sun has sunk behind the hills, and it’s time to roll back the canopy on the terrace to allow daylight into the flat. I head towards the kitchen door and open it to let in the cool evening breeze. Something crawls around my foot. A kitten, on the first floor? I look down and see a small pigeon.
She walks, but can’t fly. I presume she would have the moment my foot touched her body. Something must be wrong. Maybe her leg or wing is injured? I fill two bowls, one with water and another with bread and seeds, and place them near her. She doesn’t touch them. Frightened, she seeks refuge in dark corners. I let her be and watch her from behind the terrace door.
Darkness falls. I switch the lights on in the lounge. She hides by the flower pot next to the kitchen door. I must not disturb her. Later, before I go to bed, I must lock that door.
Discreetly, I close the door. She’s sleeping on her feet by the flower pot. Let her be …
It’s still dark when I wake up. Under the moonlight, I see her shadow against the flower pot. I slide open the terrace door. She doesn’t move.
I turn on the coffee machine, sit in my chair, and switch on the computer. I hear wings flapping. Through the netting, I peek outside. Birdie is thrashing herself on the terrace tiles. She makes an attempt, falls on her head or sideways, and tries again, as though her legs are paralysed. She can’t walk. What happened? She was pacing the terrace last night. I took photos …
She’s still trying to hide from me. Desperately, she moves to the opposite side of the terrace, and then, under the table, seeking refuge. I don’t know how to help or comfort her. I take a soft floor brush and gently move her towards the food and water. She perches on the food bowl, then on the water, and stays put.
I check my watch, 7.30 am, can’t call anyone at this hour. I wish my downstairs neighbour were here. She’s good with animals and would know what to do. My conscience hurts as Birdie flaps her wings and falls sideways. She’s trying to hold onto life.
My plans for the morning and the day over, I desperately Google information on vets who might take care of birds. I come across a name I took my neighbour’s cat to. I punch the number on the landline. No reply. At 8.30 am, I call my neighbour, away on holiday, asking for help. “Any vets who can take care of birds? This one is dying and I can’t do anything to help.”
She comes back with a name, someone she knows, but he won’t be at the clinic till 10 am. I look for a suitable box, lay some paper at the bottom, get dressed and call the Vet clinic after 9 am. They tell me I can bring her in.
I lift birdie with plastic gloves and put her in the box. She’s faint, but still living. I drive slowly towards the address not far away from home.
Carrying the box in my hand, I walk into their office. “Can you please help her? I think she’s dying.”
The young Vet takes her out of the box and examines her with his gloved hands. He says, “Her rib-cage is hollow. This is an advanced stage of a viral infection. She’s dehydrated, suffers from malnutrition. “
“But I did give her water,” I say.
“At this stage, you need to force her,” he replies.
He asks the assistant to bring some water and puts her beak into the paper cup. Birdie takes a couple of sips.
“I tried to do that,” I say.
“Maybe she was frightened,“ he says.
“Can you help her?”
“Very difficult at this stage. This infection progresses fast.”
“She was walking last night. Look I have photos.” I show him the images on my phone.
“It happens. Why don’t you leave her with us? We’ll take your contact number and get in touch with you.”
I leave the Vet’s Clinic without Birdie. I arrive home and think I must wash the balcony, get rid of the bird’s poo on the tiles. I can’t. I sit and wait. I’m unable to go for my morning swim. I can’t move. An hour later, the nice girl at the Vet’s calls me. “I’m sorry,“ she says.