An Expat Christmas in Turkey – Part Four

So there it was, Merry Christmas! In the UK it came and went in an icy cube of travel chaos, trembling thaw, bursting pipes and urgent sales that launched upon a midnight clear – let the tills ring out, it’s Christmas!

Here in Turkey Christmas came and went in a fog of hot steam from my oven working overtime and the fairy light twinkle of the lights on the fireplace and fir cones stretching open in the roar of the soba and electronic greetings gaily bounding across the globe via satellite and cuddly warm nights watching old films and listening to carols. It was lovely.

On Christmas Day Carols from Kings played on the iPlayer and the turkey resting in its lumpy cocoon of silver foil wafted rich memory triggers through the house as I sliced prosciutto thinly for the starter and a thick wedge of cambozola quietly warmed itself to oozing temperature.

I unwrapped the parchment crackling leaves of sharp orange physalis, dusted them with icing sugar and piled them on the Christmas cake on a bed of bright sugared peel. To the rising chimes of the choir hitting high notes I laid the table and made the gravy and put out bowls of salted peanut brittle with glass bright caramel glaze.

Guests arrived for dinner in a flurry of kisses and beaded chill glasses of French white toasted the start of a festive meal that was just right and only interrupted by the neighbours popping in to borrow a stepladder.

Down town people who are comfortable in party hats enjoyed many course feasts in restaurants overlooking the restless sea and hotel owners pulled out all the stops to give Christian exiles a Christmas to recognise with pirate trove tins of quality street shipped in from home and sharp cracking crackers and puddings all aflame and festive games and presents.

It really is just like home, with the annoying bits taken out! Like the hot flush crush in the shops and the constant loud shouting of adverts on the television and the pressure to be both permanently perky and peaceful.

“What about the new year, did you party ‘till dawn, did you ring in the new, did you first foot it?”

New Year’s Eve and I’m at the oven again! Supervising a six hour slow roast of a massive loin of pork, clean and jerking a dauphinoise the size of a small car in the oven and making ginger biscuits to go with a chocolate mousse I sneakily made from left over truffle mix.

Then it is out into the breath smoking cold of a New Year night and a drive down town to watch the midnight fireworks over the harbour from a terrace on the hillside. On the seafront sky trackers send fat beams of light into the night air and along the front from Scala Nova to Kustur Beach overeager celebrants suffer an attack of premature ignition and the New Year comes in early and jerkily with popping fountains of sparks.

Amidst the crackle and smoke and chrysanthemum burst of light and sound I sense the Ghost of Christmas Past nearby. He steps out of the shadows with a glass of Bergerac in his hand and the collar of his jacket turned up against the night air. He smiles at me; for another year endured, and another year closer and a new year to keep trying through.

The smoke across the harbour blows towards the Kaleici and tumbles black on black over Bird Island turning the lights to glowing globes and the sharp firework smell wafts over the town. And I feel it is time to be moving on, this time next year somewhere new, and the Ghost of Christmas Past raises his glass in a toast to the work yet to come and steps back into the shadows as the last firework bursts in a diamond white dandelion, blowing away in a slowly fading path of sparks across the sable sea.