(or bringing several disparate threads together into one addled heap)
As a kid, growing up in the austere aftermath of WW2, one of my favourite hobbies was ‘bird nesting’ – collecting and displaying eggs. It cost nothing, and in those days was neither illegal nor reprehensible. I was part of a little gang and we’d go to any lengths to acquire new and different eggs; scaling cliffs, trees, barns and churches.
We’d pop a couple of eggs into our trouser pockets before clambering back to ground level – accidents were frequent! Not ones where we were hurt, but ones where the eggs ended up scrambled in our pockets! Occasionally there’d be a rotten egg and the stink was appalling – causing great mirth amongst those of us who were not going to get a parental clip around the ear.
‘Them’s addled!’ we’d say in our, now extinct, Kentish dialect. Addled; as in rotten, gone bad. We also applied the same term to our elders (when out of ear-shot and ear-clipping range) to describe rambling speech or odd behaviour. ‘Them’s addled, them is!’
That said, it brings me nicely to the rather muddled thought processes behind this post.
J and I prefer to wander from place to place by using roads less travelled – backways and trackways, if you will. A couple of weekends ago, we wandered off to Denizli for a soak in a spa and a bit of camel wrestling; we also needed to get away from the constant assault on our equilibrium that is the quarry next to our home.
Anyway, whilst there, we’d spotted a route on our maps that wandered up into the hills heading for (yet another) Baba Dağ – Father Mountain, and a town of the same name. There the road stopped – the town was, quite literally, at the end of the road! There can be no better reason for a visit.
We passed through some amazing, eroded landscape – mountainsides sculpted into strange buttresses and buttes. The forestry authorities were making great efforts to stabilise and rehabilitate the whole area with countless sponsored tree plantings to be seen.
The town itself clings to several steep ‘pinnacles’ of rock, with streets winding up and down and around. There was nothing special about the place other than a lot of very fit residents (good air and exercise) who were politely curious and very insistent about plying us with tea. J and I both liked Babadağ, it’s been there for a long time judging by the hundreds of old Ottoman gravestones in the two very large cemeteries; it’s unpretentious and typically Turkish.
Which brings me to another thread – getting to Babadağ means you have to ‘keep right on to the end of the road’ – a song made famous by Sir Harry Lauder a hundred years ago, this led to one of those flash-backs that seem to happen a lot these days – together with CRAFT moments (‘Can’t Remember A Friggin’ Thing’ or words to that effect).
Nearly fifty years ago I was serving with 1 Para in the Aden Protectorate in what is now Yemen. We were there to cover the withdrawal from this remnant of the empire after 128 years of imperial occupation and were the last British troops to pull out. Anyway, not long after we arrived there, I ‘liberated’ or ‘acquired’ (airborne soldiers never steal anything) a wonderful old wind-up gramophone and a fine selection of single-sided 78rpm records from a nurses’ home. One of the records was Harry Lauder’s ‘Keep Right On To The End Of The Road’.
One way or another I ensured that the gramophone stayed with me as I went about my soldiering with my mates. Whenever we came under fire from the duty terrorists of the National Liberation Front, a not infrequent occurrence, it was my job to sprint for the gramophone; get it cranked up and make sure that the voice of Harry Lauder could be heard warbling out over the roof tops of Aden. This never failed to reduce us ‘Toms’ (Tommy Atkins –Tommy) to fits of uncontrollable laughter. It also, no doubt, led to the myth that we Paras were a fearless bunch who laughed in the face of danger.
So, there you have it! Harry Lauder; the end of the road; bird nesting; old gramophones and 78rpm records; end of empire; Baba Dağ; CRAFT moments; flash-backs; rotten eggs. Vague and disparate threads to be sure. Addled? Almost certainly! Meanwhile, there’s no need to be rude; why not just humour me and join in as I relive past glories – go on – click the button! (cue violins)
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü