Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart All Rights Reserved
A crescent moon hangs over the airport,
its smoky aura a faded flag
unfurling to greet weary travellers.
The sun rises on fierce Taurus mountains,
while an orange seller opens his stall,
ready to squeeze any thirsty tourists,
dud Ataturk coinage at the ready.
Jewelled pomegranate juice is bitter:
Bitte schon, bitte schon, the fervent cry.
From the coach window slim minarets pass,
jabbing upward like propelling pencils,
whose secret calligraphy is noting
Islamic history on the skyscape.
In a field a lone cotton-picker wears
a balaclava-benign terrorist.
His eyes meet mine for a second’s fraction.
In the amphitheatre at Aspendos
a pseudo Roman centurion climbs
purposefully up the marble ledges,
kisses my hand; claims we’ll be together
forever, because he wants a photo
which he can charge me for, striking a pose.
Rebuffed, he then looks ready to crumble
like the masonry and retreats backwards,
dropping a five lira note in his wake,
sad confetti for a failed love affair.
I disentangle myself from a scarf
draped round my neck by a woman who knows
how to persuade me that her gift is free.
A straight-jacket of guilt ensures her sale.
Blue, glass evil eye is pinned to my chest,
but fails to protect me from bargaining
for a fine silk carpet I did not want.
A feral cat stretches over roof tiles
and a sandy dog curls up in the sun.
Soon the call to prayer will be ascending.
The dervish will rotate one final time,
realising his tomb is not on Earth,
but in the hearts of the enlightened.
How can I ever be his resting place
when all I see is from a moving pane?
Mum, that’s really good. You should publish it online when
we get back, encouraged Drusilla Fotheringay who was
looking over her mother’s shoulder as she wrote her
perceptions down in her diary. Show it to Dad.
They were sitting in the sun at Pigeon Valley, having some
apple tea before going on to The Fairy Chimneys.
No, your father would correct it with red ink and would give me
a mark out of ten. Once the teacher..
Mum, are you two going to get together, do you think, or….?
She looked around for her father, but he was standing looking
out across the chasm and appeared to be deep in conversation
with someone from the other tourist coach. The same company
was shifting various groups around the sites in a different order,
but today they seemed to have their charges in synch.
Both men were wearing cotton hats and very similar long shorts,
their look completed with orthopaedic sandals and dark socks.
It was then that she noted that they wore identical t-shirts
emblazoned with Britten Concert Dec 2013, St Birinus Middle School.
The face of the other conversationalist seemed familiar.
Mum, Drusilla whispered. Don’t look now, but it’s that conductor guy-
you know, the one from the school concert.
Mr Poskett? replied her mother. Oh, what a bore! What’s he doing
I don’t know. Your evil eye amulet doesn’t seem to be
working! You should ask for a refund! Look out! Here he comes!
Drusilla Fotheringay had excelled herself in the end of term
Christmas concert. Her performance on the harp had
charmed the audience of parents, staff and pupils and
had deeply impressed Geoffrey Poskett, the choirmaster
of St Birinus Middle School.
Nigel Milford-Haven, Junior Master, had been fully supported
in his Britten solos and could see that this could be a partnership
made in Heaven- possibly a marriage planned in Paradise. He had
only taken his eye off the conductor’s baton once, in order to beam
encouragement in Dru’s direction and consequently earned himself
a deep frown and a strong downward beat from his tense colleague.
Now Drusilla was looking forward to a trip that she and her parents
had organised earlier in the term. It involved some Turkish delight
in the wintry sun of Cappadocia, so they were flying from Stansted to
Antalya forthwith. They were going to view some strange geology and
Augustus Snodbury had been revising the theology of the Early Church
Dru opened yet another congratulatory card -this one from Juniper
Boothroyd-Smythe. She knew that she had scored a hit in settling the
potentially delinquent student into her boarding house. The card showed
a not particularly cheery image: it had a Damien Hirst For the Love of God
skull on its front, but Juniper had super-imposed a Santa hat which hung
down in a somewhat louche manner, over its glittery sockets.
Other less original pupils had sent her a robin with a standard wish that
she would have an a-ma-zing time in Cappadoccia, Capadoccia, or in other
orthographically challenging destinations. Why did they never bother about
spelling? In her day..Oh well, it was the end of term, so why should she get
her palazzo pants in a tangle?
She wondered if they would be warm enough for a hot air balloon
trip. They had been packed and unpacked several times, but she
felt, on the whole, that they would preserve her dignity if the landing
was less than smooth.
She gathered up the wrapping paper and boxes which contained last
year’s unwanted toiletries which had formed the basis of some of the
girls’ presents, no doubt cobbled together by their mothers. These could
go straight to Help the Ancient charity shop, if they had not derived their
origin from hence.
But, hold on! What was that letter that was sticking to some clear plastic
wrapping by static? Someone had forgotten to stick a stamp on it, but the
postman must have delivered it in a spirit of goodwill, or because he received
a tip at this time of year and didn’t want to jeopardise the custom. At any
other time, there would only have been a card with a sticker instructing her
to pay a pound if she wanted to come and collect whatever it was.
Dru tore it open impatiently and a grubby five pound note fell out of a
letter. It had come from Snodland Nursing Home for the Debased Gentry
and the calligraphy was somewhat shaky.
Dear Grand-Niece, (spelt correctly, she noted)
It was good to see you and your father recently. I do hope that you
will both manage to fit in a visit in your copious free time and will
endeavour to remember not to leave bottles in the car.
The chocolates were slightly past their sell-by date, unlike moi, I can
assure you. I off-loaded them on the auxiliary staff, who having lost their
bloom didn’t mind devouring the chocolate variety. They disappeared in
a twinkling. The chocolates I mean..
Thank you for the letter which informed me of your holiday plans.
Don’t drink the tap water and eschew all salads, there’s a good girl.
Believe you me, I have suffered on several caravanserai trips in my
girlhood. If it wasn’t my camel allergy, it was those blooming chick peas.
To this day, I refuse to clean my dentures with anything other than gin.
I suppose you’ll be whirling around like some dervish, packing your clothes. I
thought I’d enclose a little something, but don’t spend it all in one bazaar.
And remember to take a toothpick. Those pomegranate seeds used to give
me the pip.
Thank you for your photograph. I can see the family resemblance:
the Snodbury jowls prevail. My mother has evidently influenced your
DNA. Mind you, we always suspected that she had had a fling with a
carpet seller in her days of gallivanting round the Bosphorus. Still, it
saved us all a mint in suntan lotion. A swarthy complexion can be a
problem in wearing certain hues, though, darling, and so I just give you
a little hint: yellow is not your colour.
We actually had a belly dancer here last week, arranged through our
cultural programme in the Activities Room. One old boy had to be lifted
out as he was immobilised at the conclusion. No doubt he enjoyed the
gyration of the nubile, if not so youthful, genie, but most of us
would just prefer the bottle. They were able to re-set his pacemaker,
Forgive my rambling. Must go and investigate why the drinkies are late.
Look forward to hearing all about your travels on your return.
Who knows? If we continue to get on so well, I just might make you my
Your Great-Aunt Augusta.