There is only one bar in Eceabat, and it is not a bad one either. Free accomodation (although you might have to compete with others for the couch space). Sunny spaces front and back. Low key management. Easy going staff. Some English spoken.So here we are sitting around one night, talking about everything and nothing as you do.
And at the table are two Canucks, an American, two Aussies and two Kiwis (of which I am one, of course). Pretty much a British enterprise (since he was from one of the British settled parts of America).
And we get to talking about working, or rather about not working and travelling. As part of the context, let me say that my planned absence from gainful employment pales in comparison to that of the American (two years and counting, and that just in Europe) and one of the Canucks (three years and no backwards glances as yet). It is amazing, it seems to me, to be sitting at any table anywhere with so many people who share similar beliefs to me about the best approach to life, i.e., that leisure is better than work, that travelling is a great form of leisure, and that accumulating things can often be a hindrance rather than a help to leisure.
It turns out that the second Canuck (whom I shall call Ralph for the purposes of this story) is on only his second holiday ever from work. And he tells us his story.
So Ralph took his first holiday ever last October. He is a youngish man, like me. So he has been working for seven or eight years. Three weeks. To Turkey. And he loved it.
So he went back home. And he was not satisfied with the ‘take a holiday, feel like working again mantra’. Indeed, he did not feel like working. He felt like holidaying. This continued for a little while. And then he realised that he really wanted to be not working. So he did what you do in such circumstances, he went to see his boss.
‘Okay’, she said, very reasonably, ‘take the day off and see how you feel tomorrow’.
So he took the day off.
But back at work Monday, it just was not working. Personal email. Coffee breaks. Looking at photos. Not working. So he goes to see his boss again.
‘I think I am going to need some more time off’, Ralph says.
‘Okay, take a month’. He has a very reasonable boss.
‘I do not think that is going to be long enough’.
‘Righto’, boss nods. ‘Tell you what, take two months’.
‘Hmmm’, says Ralph. ‘You know what, two months is not going to be long enough either. I quit’.
And so he does. And he sells his house, and he sells his car, and he tells his friends, and they wonder just what has gotten into him. And he lines up some voluntary work that will take him to the battlefields of the world, and off he goes.
I like meeting people like that. It restores my faith in my own, far less radical, course of behaviour.
Now it is the next morning. Or the afternoon after the next morning. And I am sitting out in the sun enjoying my last drink in Eceabat, for I am off to Istanbul that very day.
And a Mercedes pulls up. Nice car. Shitty carpark. Low rent bar. But a very nice car. And in the passenger seat is a guy who looks like he is playing the clarinet.
There are four. A driver, who speaks some English, an apparently important guy (AIG), the important guy’s offsider, and the guy who plays the clarinet. He has a suit jacket, but it doesn’t look like he wears it every day. Greenish, checked. Not so styley. He is definitely the odd man out.
A table is got. Some chairs. Some Raki. A few others gather to see what is going on. And the clarinet player plays. And they sing along for the bits they know. And make requests.
They have come from Ankara they say. Now Ankara is a long way away. Like a whole day’s drive and then some (and there is not much there to look at anyway, say tourists who have been there). So I can understand why you might want a decent car if you are going to come so far.
And it seems that they have hired the clarinet player to come along with them for entertainment on the journey there and back. Which makes some sense, in a distorted sort of way, perhaps if you don’t like the pop radio stations and your cd collection is getting a bit tatty.
But how surreal is it to be sitting at a bar in a tumbleweed town, listening to three guys (including AIG) sing along to a clarinet player they brought along with them?
They put out his hat and put money in it. I put some money in. Hell, it entertained me.