Exactly a year before starting the restaurant review blog in 2007 which led to writing for Time Out Istanbul, I’d been doing what I’d been doing for years – leaving one country (in this case, my own, the UK) and flinging myself into another one with all the sense of adventure and independence that made it so hard for me to settle anywhere.
It was the first time I’d picked a country I had actually visited. The others, Czech Republic, Thailand, Australia, Basque Spain had all been not far off sticking pins in a map. This time I had visited Turkey before and actually chosen it with some purpose.
The rest of the beginnings of it are a cliche I’m embarrassed to write down. Yes, I was blond and blue eyed and Queen of all I surveyed man wise in Turkey; Yes, I enjoyed that (to my partial credit, only at first); Yes, I very quickly got into a relationship with my…oh God…tour guide from my holiday three months earlier; Yes, he also sold carpets on the side; No, he didn’t in any way match me educationally or in terms of cultural expectations; Yes, I thought or pretended to myself I was in love – this post explains how that sleight of heart happened; Yes, I eventually lent him money.
In the interests of fairness to both parties, I did not move there in order to be with him. Moving to Istanbul was a completely independent act, the last one of those I’d be making for the next 18 months. And then, boy did I go off the permitted track. And he did pay me back in the end – albeit after borrowing a whole load more and taking various trips abroad as a higher priority than repaying me.
As our relationship entered year two and I opted to stay somewhere for once, he had to go and do military service about 20 hours away by bus. A decision which he had told me that if he opted to go instead of escape to the UK with me perhaps and live for the three years it would take to exempt him, would mean he was ultimately making a choice against a future with me. A thing which I think I was expecting would finish the relationship and stop the terrifying slide into being a cute little English novelty Turkish wife. I’d stopped making rational decisions for myself by that point and feelings do collude against you, stuffing a rag down the throat of the little voice that’s telling you “I can’t do this. This is not the life I want”.
So restaurant reviewing and writing about aspects of life in Istanbul replaced having a present, often controlling, Turkish boyfriend and I started living a different kind of life in the city. A more free, more fun one. One where I saw my male friends and went out sometimes without a curfew imposed. One where I stopped sharing with a Turkish girl in a residential neighbourhood and moved in with an American writer in the expat part of town Cihangir.
One where I went back to writing, the true love of my life that shows these pretenders to the crown for the shadow puppets they are.
This blog is those reviews and articles, filled in with where I was in my life and my relationship and then, maybe, what happened after. Maybe just some of it. A lot of it doesn’t do me credit and no-one who knows me knows the full story. Most friends don’t even know the half of it. Even I have revelations about it still so I suppose we none of us even know our own stories until we try to tell them.
This is that story.