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"You've Got to Sleep With Your Mum and Dad" is now available on Amazon. Childhood angst, marathon swimming, international exploitation and the threat of impending pinniped intimacy. on 2014-08-13
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Have a look at my page on Amazon. Still plenty of summer left for challenging literature. on 2014-08-13
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Check out my Amazon Kindle page. 'The Baby Who Killed People for Money' is now available. An utterly charming child with a unique and lucrative skill. A father with no defence against his daughter's impulses. Would you take your little girl around Europe for a spot of murder tourism? Of course you would. on 2014-06-30
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My story on the Tate gallery website on 2013-11-11
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A Thousand Natural Shocks An anthology that includes two of my stories. Available now at Amazon. on 2013-11-11
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Archive for May, 2015

Posted May 26, 2015
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deve011

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Posted May 25, 2015
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deve181

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Posted May 24, 2015
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It’s the best time to be had in Turkey. The camels take over the town on a weekend in January. The Efe, the men who claim title to a bloodline of heroic, semi-legendary outlaws, are firmly in charge. They can be recognised by accordion boots, dapper dress and, most of all, by the dignity of their dancing. What they want is the party of the year. So this is it.

Camel parade on Saturday.

Camel parade on Saturday.

On the Saturday, Selçuk seethes with a palpable excitement. The snake-charmer buzz of the zurna backed by the beat of a thousand drums is the soundtrack of the whole weekend. The camels gather in the square with the aqueduct. Everybody eats sucuk, the sinfully spicy sausage made with camel meat. Dozens of richly-dressed camels parade through the streets. The Efe sit back and approve.

A zurna and drum band makes a surprisingly amount of noise.

A zurna and drum band makes a surprising amount of noise.

As night falls, people stay on the streets. Every meyhane has extra tables outside.The raki bottles open. Men, and a few women, gather in ever-louder groups. More bottles appear on the tables. Predatory bands of musicians pounce on diners, resting drums on their heads and blaring clarinets into their ears. Sporadic outbursts of dancing can be seen. Levels of raki drop and rise again as fresh bottles take their place.

And now it’s dark. Everyone is full of good food and strong drink. The dancers are the majority. You’re jumping up and down with a dozen new best friends. There’s a cigar in your mouth, someone’s shoulder under each arm and the music is your heartbeat.

The camel-owners display their champions for the crowd.

The camel-owners display their champions for the crowd.

The Sunday hangover fades against the anticipation of the main event. You struggle down to the bus station as early as you can. You won’t be driving today. The minibus delivers you to the site. You can smell it before you see it. The airborne mix of wood smoke, camel sucuk and the melange of animal odours that mean excitement.

Meat.

Meat.

The sun has barely risen but the place is full. You walk into a heaving cauldron of smoke and noise. A mountain of hair lurches out of the haze and brushes past you. A camel. A man looms into view and sells you a ticket. You move through an alien land of people trying to sell you things. You emerge with a plastic stool, a bottle of raki and a supply of water. A vast hill seething with people comes into view. Each group is busily preparing a feast that will last through the day. Raki is opened. Grills are lit and contribute their smoke to the atmosphere.The serious business of raising the blood alcohol level begins.

The party gets under way.

The party gets under way.

There is a new buzz. The first camels have entered the arena. This is not the wrestling yet. The camels are paraded for the appreciation of the cognoscenti. The men at the front nod to each other and make notes. The Efe stride through the crowd, receiving due recognition and respect.

One of the Efe in the camel-wrestling arena.

One of the Efe in the camel-wrestling arena.

You find your way to a space on the hill. You set out your territory for the day. The seats, the food, the drink, sunscreen, extra clothes, more drink. You sit down with your group and survey the scene. It’s too much to resist. You leave someone who has been before in charge of the stuff and plunge into the sounds and the smells. Your eyes begin to get used to seeing through the smoke. Someone offers you a drink. You stop for a while and promise to return later.

The first raki is consumed.

The first raki is consumed.

The actual camel wrestling is exhilarating and colourful but it’s not the main event. That’s the people. Family groups for whom this is the greatest time of their lives. Old men who meet old friends once a year. Young men who are allowed to lead the camels for the first time. And the Efe. It’s now that they begin to dance. Slow, balanced movements interspersed with twirls of fluid grace. For many people, this is why they have come. Connoisseurs nod approvingly. The Efe watch their fellows and prepare for dances that are their own specialities. Only the finest musicians are invited to play for these dances. The drumbeat must match perfectly with the movements.

An Efe takes his turn at the dance.

An Efe takes his turn at the dance.

It is worth taking a wander through the entire conglomeration of people. When you need a rest from the relentless noise and smells, you go to where the camels rest between bouts. Here the great creatures lounge with their handlers until they once again need to step into the arena of ancient conflict.

A youthful camel attendant in the ruins of a Byzantine church.

A youthful camel attendant in the ruins of a Byzantine church.

There are children. Some are from Efe families, being immersed in the rituals of their culture. Some just want to have a good time and see camels.

Baby camels are genuinely cute.

Baby camels are genuinely cute.

In the ring you don’t see the bond between the men and their camels. The giant beasts are in territorial mood and nobody wants to get in their way. In the rest areas, you see real affection.

A quiet moment among the Eucalypts.

A quiet moment among the eucalypts.

Every so often, a camel is led out to the arena to perform again. A camel will compete several times at an event like this. The gracious, stately figure from behind the scenes will soon be snarling and foaming at his next opponent.

Immediatly after this photo was taken, the camel leaned down and pecked a little chunk of scalp from the man at his feet.

Immediately after this photo was taken, the camel leaned down and pecked a little chunk of scalp from the man at his feet.

All the time, the party has been going on. You start to make your way back to your friends and continue the real business of the day. The Efe dancers are still going, their commanding movements dominating proceedings at the side of the arena.

An Efe performing a Zeybek dance.

An Efe performing a Zeybek dance.

Further up the hill those outside the realms of Aegean royalty are drinking and dancing too. There is an overwhelming feeling of goodwill throughout the event. If we had an all-day party like this in England, we would have had ugly scenes. Not here. Everyone just gets friendlier.

A man in the crowd hails a friend.

A man in the crowd hails a friend.

Near the top of the hill, the population density is a little lower. The view of the camels is not as good but there is more space for a table and a grill.

The quieter side of the party.

The quieter side of the party.

Vendors prowl the crowd, doing a brisk trade in drums, souvenir scarves, hats, balloons and things to eat. The cigar seller approaches. Suddenly it seems impossible to get through the day without everyone around smoking cigars. The man with the umbrella on his head is happy.

The splendid personage that is the cigar seller.

The splendid personage that is the cigar seller.

And the sun passes overhead. People see the end approaching. It is important to keep the atmosphere going. The Efe nobles call for raki and music.

A man rests between dances.

A man rests between dances.

Your friends have been adopted by a band. It’s a symbiotic relationship. The music is fed by raki and cigars and sucuk sandwiches. Everyone is on their feet now. The crowd has merged into a blur of friendly faces.

These men have been playing for 8 hours.

These men have been playing for 8 hours.

The musicians are rock stars: they have leapt from the stage into the adoring crowd. They sweat and grimace and keep up the irresistible noise. There is urgency in the dancing. Darkness is falling. But there is more raki. More fuel for the great party on the hill. Announcements come from the arena. A camel is crowned champion. Glasses are raised and the noise is renewed.

deve31

And so you lean back into the arms of everyone. You can’t see the people you came with but you have lots of new friends. And as the last camel plods into the darkness, you soak up the atmosphere; pungent and heavy, thick as honey. And you know you’ll be back next year.

For a slightly more scholarly look at the role of the Efe in camel-wrestling, read Emma Harper’s article in Yabangee.

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Posted May 24, 2015
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kilittas01

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Posted May 23, 2015
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kilittas03

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