Monday, 27 August 2012

I Went Round The Mediterranean In The Womb: 6. Istanbul Of My Past, Istanbul Of My Present

Do you think the people who love the heat and the general living standards of people who live in sunny and hot places, have been subjected to it by means of being carted to somewhere hot just before you are born? I do. Many people I know told me their parents went on holiday to a hot climate while they were growing inside their mummy's tummy.

It just could be that a baby gets used to spending time in something like a nan bread oven for two weeks, that it influences later life. Wishful thinking, I think and really it must be complete and utter poppycock.

Thanks to my parents I developed a love of the places they went to and which I later followed in their footsteps and visited. The Greek Islands, though by the time I got there they had been ruined by package tours and overcrowding.

I loved Athens. Not for its beauty. It's not. It is a busy, dusty average city. I liked the people - they were spirited and I liked (surprise, surprise) the food. Someone who worked in the British Embassy told me to go to a little backstreet taverna. There I was sat down on a hard wooden bench and without asking a bowl of beans, half a loaf of bread, some spinach, some feta cheese, some olives and a large flagon of red wine from Nemea were put down in front of me. If I shut my eyes, I can still remember the smell. 

Then my parents moved on to Istanbul. What a place. One of the finest cities in the world, with so much variety. The 1960's caps may have gone, but the colour and attitude of the Turks is still the same.

But now I can satisfy myself with a little piece of Turkey in Newcastle. You used to have to travel to Tottenham and White Hart Lane to find the Turkish community and delicious restaurants. Now I can dine in style at Red Mezze, devour bowls of soup and sip tea at various cafes and have my hair cut at the Istanbul Barbers, a shave and a flaming mop shoved in my ears to burn out all evils for £15. The best part is bieng able to watch some foreign soap opera on the tv while you wait which put Eastenders and Coronation Street firmly in their places.

So who knows? Does a love of life come from yourself or does it become engendered before you are born.

My mother took me everywhere. I ruined the authenticity of these places sometimes. In oparticular, once when I was taken to her favourite Italian Restaurant called L'Esperanza on brompton Road. She was slighltly surprised when I said I wanted a glass of water instead of the usual Coke or Lemonade. When it came I produced a tin of Cremola Foam (now re-named Krakatoa Foam) and started to pour the chemical powder into the glass. My mother's frown deepened as I put too much and the foam exploded over the top of the glass leaving an irreversible pink stain on the white table cloth. The waiters surrounded the table and shook their heads. My mother's face reddened. I was removed from the restaurant.

Perhaps at that moment, she regretted taking me around the Mediterranean in the womb. It must have encouraged all sorts of naughtiness.

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