Stuff

Thank You

Dearest friends and family – it is less than twenty four hours since I sat here on this bed, in this room in my wonderful Number 1 Daughter’s home and wrote what I so needed to write. My J was sleeping the sleep of the exhausted back in my homeland of Turkey, in the village of Okçular where we have been accepted and made at home. I couldn’t call her and break her peace. Number 1 Daughter was also sleeping the sleep of the mentally and physically exhausted and I couldn’t disturb her either. And yet I needed to talk to someone in those dark hours and who better than my e-friends and colleagues who couldn’t interrupt or answer back directly.

Thank you for being patient and thank you for the words that flowed freely from your innermost selves. Will you ever really know what you contributed and gave? Perhaps. But I know and J knows and Number1 knows, my abla knows, and soon some others of my family will know.

This is my ‘Thank you’, instead of replying to each comment individually as I usually do – I know you understand. I’m so glad that Jack Scott, Natalie Sayın, Karyn Phillips and others, like Jane Akatay said ‘Go for it!’ Go and blog, tell your stories and have fun doing it. I never, in my most outlandish fantasy ever thought you would be there for times like this when I actually needed someone out there in the middle of the night. It never crossed my mind. I have realised that, over time, this community has solidified into more than just some ‘e-thing’ – it doesn’t just exist in the ether – it may exist on a different, parallel plane – but it does actually exist! There are hearts that beat and friends that care – what a lesson in humility!

keysa picture from Number 1 to Number 3 – the keyboard and butterfly are so significant

Experience is a wonderful teacher and a wise person learns from the experience of others. If my daughter’s tormented adult life and death are to mean something more than a pronouncement in a coroner’s court, more than just memories to our immediate family, who thought they knew her – then learn – learn from the experience of others rather than your own, bitter experiences. Be a light, a candle for others, a haven – be human!

My warmest best wishes to each of you, thank you, from me and J and abla and Number 1; from Number 2 and those other family members who have been moved by your warmth and kindness.

Stuff

Going To The Dogs

My mother, who joined the last Norwegian Blue in pining for the fjords many years ago, had a number of apposite sayings relating to dogs. The country was always ‘going to the dogs!’ and I always looked like a ‘dog’s dinner tied up in the middle!’, a comment on my sartorial inelegance. If the reference to ‘Norwegian Blue’ has you stumped I suggest you join the fans of Monty Python on Facebook – that said, I think I need to refocus . .

‘Bereft of Life’

. . on going to the dogs. J had spotted a couple of exhibitions going on in Istanbul and so we decided it was time for a visit which could be coupled with a re-run of ‘Brief Encounter‘. I had been e-introduced by friends to a couple of likely kindred spirits from the US who were living in Istanbul. I was advised that they blogged and that we had so much in common and were therefore bound to get along – a reassurance I found somewhat unreassuring – until I began reading back through the excellent and thoughtful posts on their Senior Dogs blog. I commented on their blog and they commented on mine – one thing led to another and before we knew it we had agreed to meet up and get to know each other. A trip to Istanbul transmogrified into ‘going to the dogs’!

a Senior Dog and his new Trixie

a Senior Dog and his new Trixie

Neutral ground seemed sensible (you never know with these things!) and there is no place more positively neutral than a local meyhane.

Boffer and his Trixie

. . and a Boffer and his Trixie – ‘now, did I ever tell you the one about . .’

Food is served but is secondary to a copious supply of rakı (pronounced ‘rakker’) aka ‘Aslan Sütü’ or Lion’s Milk; Turkey’s home-grown pastis.

Alice thro' the raki glass

. . a bottle between four needs more!

Do not underestimate rakı, it has the amazing ability to cement friendship or start regional wars! I have it on good authority that the guy who shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo was on the stuff!

clive-uptton-the-assassination-of-archduke-franz-ferdinand

rakı can have unexpected and dangerous consequences (Clive Upton)

Anyway, enough of all this history – back to the real world. It was great to share thoughts and stories; to find confirmation that what we had hoped for was a growing reality. That here were indeed two kindred spirits who were delightful and stimulating company. People who would make good companions on the occasions when our roads converged or cross briefly as they did just 24 hours later for an excellent dinner when we were at home with them in their lovely old apartment in Cihangir, Istanbul’s intellectual/arty quarter.

I know that some of you who read this will pop over to the Dog’s blog to see what they say on the subject and then conclude that this is nothing more than four old ‘Boffers’ (Boffer translates into German as ‘er ist ein langweiliger alter Knacker’ or ‘he’s a boring old fart’ for the linguistically challenged)  indulging in a bit of puffery. So what! says I – ‘Boffers’ puffing is a symptom of age and a function over which we seem to have less and less control. Having matured beyond embarrassment it is also extremely satisfying!

So, thank you Senior Dogs, Mark and Jolee, for the sampler; J and I are sold on the product and look forward to some serious future consumption! Thank you mutual friends for bringing about the intro. And thank you blogging for the e-introduction, the e-CV and the very real dog’s dinner that resulted!

ps Sorry for the hassles with loading this post – my much loved Ubuntu machine is comatose and I’m reduced to this Windows crap!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Stuff

‘Coincidentally . . ‘

Coincidences are funny old things; a few are amazing, some are funny or not so funny and most are really insignificant and barely flutter a synapse in passing. There are some, however, that open up dusty, cobwebby passageways to memories long locked away for one reason or another or simply lost in the mists of time.

The Cameronians badge
The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)

Anyway, back to the present and my little string of coincidences. A few weeks back I was reading the psychedelic ramblings of a certain blogger whose story weaving skills I thoroughly enjoy. She was writing about soldiers tales and mentioned the title of a book about her grandfather who had emigrated to New England but returned to Scotland and enlisted at the outbreak of WW1. The book was titled ‘A Tale of Two Captains’ and had been co-written by her uncle. Curious, I searched out the book on my favorite independent second-hand booksellers site, learned a little about the leading characters and their connection with The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). I can’t tell you exactly what it was but something ‘Cameronians’ clicked in the archive department way down in the basement of what passes for my brain these days. I saw that one copy was signed by the author and, although a tad more expensive, on impulse bought it. Meanwhile, I emailed my blogger friend and was made privy to some family history and political matters that have no place here – they did, however, help to pad out the picture.

Today my book arrived.

John Frost
John Frost in uniform of his parent regiment - The Cameronians

On the cover are old photos of the two captains in question – one of them clearly displays a belt and cross-belt with the distinctive badge of the The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). That name again! I couldn’t pin it down. Then I opened the book and inside, signed by the author was written ‘For General John and Jean Frost, with every good wish’, and the penny dropped.

I’d joined the Paras less than 20 years after the end of WW2; John Frost was a living legend to everyone associated with the regiment. The Commanding Officer of 2 Para (2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment), Frost and his 747 men were the only unit to succeed in reaching the bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem during Montgomery’s ill-conceived Operation Market Garden. Their task was to hold the bridge for 48 hours until relieved by the British armoured column led by XXX Corps. That relief never arrived!

Frost and his men were surrounded by the German 2nd SS Panzer Corps, all veterans of the Eastern Front, and what followed was described to me by a survivor (still serving when I joined) as an ‘abattoir’. Eventually the survivors ran out of ammunition – there were less than 100, including a wounded John Frost. The 9000 strong British 1st Airborne Division, of which 2 Para had been a part, existed in name only, some units were wiped out. Five Victoria Crosses were awarded for actions during what became known as the Battle of Arnhem. In 1978 the Dutch re-named the bridge ‘John Frost Bridge’ (he was not amused but eventually was persuaded to go along with it) to commemorate the stand by 2 Para.

As a young parachute soldier I was required to learn the history and personalities of this time inside-out and backwards, and here’s the murky memory, the coincidental link – John Frost’s parent regiment was The Cameronians!

So, there you have it – The Cameronians – two captains – a book – John Frost – the Paras – Arnhem – New England – blogging – a blogger (with more going on in her head than most of us can imagine). A little row of little coincidences that led to the bubbling up of loads of dusty memories – ‘old soldiers never die, we just get boring!

Lt Col John Frost
Lt Col Joh Frost CO 2 Para
1Para at Arnhem
1 Para at Arnhem (my old mob - a bit before my time!)

 

John Frost Bridge Arnhem
John Frost Bridge, Arnhem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alan Fenn, Okcular Koyu

Stuff

Soldier, Soldier by Perking the Pansies author Jack Scott

Perking the Pansies logo

Today, for your delectation, I am proud to have the doyen of Bloggers in Turkey penning here on ‘Archers’. He is a man with more facets than the Koh-I-Nor diamond; more front than Woolworths and a disgusting excess of talent in the sphere of writing. He is fast becoming a Best-Selling Author having just had his amazing first offering published. He has (to quote him rather loosely) perked more pansies than the late, great and much lamented Quintin Crisp.

Ladies and Gentlemen, here he is, all the way from Bodrum (which means basement or dungeon in Turkish, you draw your own conclusions), fresh from his New Year’s Day hangover – Mr Jack Scott. ‘Enjoy, darlings.’

Soldier, Soldier

My father ran away from home at the tender age of sixteen. He abandoned his Durham mining town and joined the army. I don’t know why. He never spoke of it. He learned to play the clarinet, joined a marching band and for twenty-seven years floated up through the ranks, eventually making Warrant Officer II. I can only speculate that the army provided a sense of belonging and security that he didn’t get at home. True to his blue collar roots, my father voted Labour all his life and, while he thought the Queen was alright, he had no time for the rest of them. “The hangers on,” he called them. I don’t think Jack Senior was much of a fighting soldier. ‘Trained killer’ isn’t a phrase that springs to mind when I think of him. He was placid but determined, non-academic but bright. He worked for the Pay Corp. I guess he would have been described as a pen pusher. He liked a drink and smoked roll-ups – Golden Virginia. Like father, like son. I even look like him.

As was usual during those post-war fading days of empire, my father travelled – Cyprus, Aden, Eqypt. When he pitched up in Northern Ireland, the penniless pretty boy met a beautiful young woman from a town made famous by an IRA bomb. He swept her off her feet and put her on a slow boat to Hamburg. She sailed away from everything she knew and towards a life less ordinary. I often remark that my father was a sergeant major and my mother was the officer’s mess. She doesn’t mind too much but still clips me round the ear for saying it.

I am the fourth child of five and was born in the married quarters of Canterbury Barracks. I’m the only sibling who was born in Britain. When I was two, we moved to quarters at the Queen Alexandra’s Military Hospital along Millbank, Central London, adjacent to Tate Britain. Long since abandoned as a military establishment, the handsome Edwardian buildings now form part of the Chelsea School of Art, a fitting reincarnation. When I reached six we flew to Malaysia (or Malaya as we old imperials called it back then). I remember being sick on the plane and I remember sitting on my father’s lap and hugging him as soon as the seat belts came off. We spent three glorious years in Terendak Camp just outside of Malacca (Melaka) as part of the 208 Commonwealth Signals Squadron. The 1,500 acre purpose-built camp sprawled along a stretch of tropical coast lined with golden white sands. Lofty palm trees waved in the breeze and I remember staring up at them, watching the birds land on top and wishing I could shimmy up and bag a coconut. It was like living on an all-exclusive resort with everything on tap – a hospital, two schools, four churches, a shopping mall, a cinema, pubs and clubs, sports and leisure facilities, butchers, bakers and candle stick makers. We had a gardener (always Malay) and a maid (an armah – always Chinese). It was the Swinging Sixties and my two elder brothers will tell you it was the best time of their lives. I think it was the best time of all our lives. Mum and Dad seemed to party continuously. Sometimes the occasions were formal with Dad in full dress uniform and Mum in glittery ball gowns run up by a Chinese seamstress. Others were just plain fun with Dad in Bermuda shorts and Mum in a Hawaiian skirt she ran up herself.

I schooled in the mornings, swam in the afternoons and roamed shirtless at will. I climbed up and fell out of trees, got bitten to buggery by tropical creepy crawlies, built ant-infested dens out of army-issue packing boxes in the patchy rainforest, played Chinese hopscotch with the armah and crashed into monsoon drains on the back of a rickety home-made go cart. I’ve still got the scars to prove it. Ironically, even though the camp was (loosely) guarded, the freedom within was liberating. Those early experiences made me what I am.

We returned to Blighty just before the Christmas of 1969. We were one of the last families to leave. It coincided with Britain’s reducing global influence and the ‘East of Suez’ policy of withdrawal; the camp was handed over to the Malaysian military soon afterwards. My abiding memory of our return to England is that Rolf Harris had the Christmas number one with ‘Two Little Boys’. I particularly loved the line ‘Climb up here, Jack and don’t be crying.’

There’s a point to this nostalgic ramble down memory lane – apart from the obvious connection with Alan’s own army background (though his experiences and memories are very different from mine, I’m sure). When I wrote my book, almost without knowing, I sprinkled it with personal anecdotes. Instinctively, I wanted to write something which was more than a light hearted romp through our early days here in Turkey. I wanted to add the pathos and drama of our human story alongside the comedy and camp. You see, we miss our families. It’s the price we pay. We didn’t leave our pasts in left luggage.

My book is available at amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, (paperback and Kindle) other online stores and any good bookshop near you. Please check my website for more information www.jackscott.info

 If anyone is interested in learning more about Terendak Camp and the people who were stationed there, check out this website. The pictures tell an amazing story of a bygone era.