A big day awaits

Setting up stage, originally uploaded by Thoroughly Good.

There’s a large crown outside our bedroom window. It’s lifting all sorts of heavy looking items from large lorries parked below us across to the poolside. Lots of bronzed men busy themselves wheeling flight cases from here to there and back again.

Inside, the hotel’s guest list has swelled considerably over the past 24 hours. The breakfast room is occupied by inconceivably handsome men with smouldering eyes and shaven faces accentuating chiselled jaws. I’m convinced they’re parading around just to irritate me as I devour my plate of cheese, salami and salad for breakfast.

The twenty-something females aren’t that much better either. They float around the corridors and restaurant, dressed in billowy-white tops. Pouting lips adorn otherwise expressionless faces decked out with designer sunglasses.

The tanned glamorous set is here at the Kempinski for what I’m told is a Turkish celebrity wedding this weekend. Suddenly I feel really awkwardly British and also fuelled by curiosity all at the same time.

Unfortunately, whilst my investigations have been productive I am unable to reveal the name of the groom (or the bride, for that matter). This isn’t because I’m not allowed to (although judging by the way the security glared at me when I took the picture above, I imagine there would be one or two furrowed brows if I did mention the names of the couple).

Part of the reason I can’t reveal the name is because I’ve only heard it once. Was it Volkon somebody? Turkish names are phenomenally hard to recall or pronounce or even spell. I won’t even try. Would hate to humiliate myself more than necessary.

What I am certain of is that the groom is a hotel owner from nearby Bodrum and that he is of sufficient standing to attract a great many glamorous individuals on yachts to come to his event and most importantly one of Turkey’s greatest pop stars, a man called Kenan Dogulu.

Shamefully, I drew a complete blank when the waiter down by the beach bar handed back my notebook with the name of the artist written on it for me. Any Eurovision fans who are reading this (there aren’t that many, I’m sure, even less now) will know that Kenan Dogulu represented Turkey in the 2007 Eurovision with his song Shake it Up. (On reflection, maybe this wasn’t quite as embarrassing as I first thought. The waiter had no idea who Sertab Erener was which is surprising in the grand scheme of things considering she actually won the damn contest for Turkey in 2003).

Judging by the considerable size of the outdoor stage being constructed by the pool and that a day before the nuptials the infinity pool has been partialled covered by a temporary catwalk (I’m presuming its for Kenan to sing and gyrate on rather than some kind of impromptu fashion show) that Kenan is still really quite successful despite his Eurovision appearance in 2007.

As partially exciting as these preparations for someone else’s party may seem, I can’t help feeling a little peeved by the sudden influx of new faces to the hotel. That’s no judgement on the hotel staff who have proved that their continued sense of priority is to their existing guests.

It’s perhaps more that this year more than ever before I’ve found myself totally relaxed, totally immersed in the laid back atmosphere. So much so that when other people break into the bubble it takes a little getting used to. It will be very difficult to resist not booking ourselves in for another two weeks when we check out later on, but for now I’m really quite relieved we’re on our way home.

The BBC rears its ugly head in Turkey

Fried Fishy Grub, originally uploaded by Thoroughly Good.

Shortly before I left the UK I made the tactical error of saying to a colleague how much I was looking forward to spending two weeks away from all things BBC. “If I so much as glance at a BBC logo anywhere in Turkey, I’ll be livid.”

It’s never great to be reminded of work when one’s on holiday.

I tried to overlook the first sighting. I hadn’t slept very well yesterday morning; woke early; went to the gym; used the ski-machine with the embedded TV screen; the only usable channel was BBC World.

But this afternoon’s reference was a little more difficult to avoid. Sat next to Simon and I as we tucked into some fantastic fried calamari at Sunger Pizza in Bodrum was a smashing lady called Kim.

Former UK-resident Kim now worked for a yacht charter business, the offices of which were situated conveniently above Sunger Pizza hence the fact she was sat at the table next to ours enjoying a post-work beer.

Kim hadn’t been back to the UK for 9 years and had lived and worked in Bodrum for nearly twenty. “Oh, well you can always dip in to what’s going on back home via satellite TV, can’t you?” I pointed out recalling a friend’s parents having British satellite TV in their villa in Spain.

“We get BBC World and BBC Prime. The choice is limited,” Kim replied sipping her beer.

“Well there’s always the iPlayer,” said Simon.

“No, she can’t,” I corrected Simon, “she’s outside the UK, remember?”

“Oh,” replied Simon. “Well .. ”

“What’s the BBC iPlayer exactly?” asked Kim looking slightly confused.

It seemed almost impossible to believe that a British citizen wouldn’t know about the BBC iPlayer. I resisted the temptation to quip “it makes the unmissable unmissable.” If she didn’t know what the product was she was hardly going to know what the advert was.

Simon and I did some explaining, selling a totally objective view of the system. Kim didn’t seem especially disappointed to hear she couldn’t get access to the catch-up system. “My friends send me DVDs of all the BBC stuff they reckon I’d enjoy watching. I’m especially liking Torchwood. John Barrowman is gorgeous.”

Had I not finished eating I almost certainly would have choked when I heard this.

So, keen to draw the conversation about the BBC to a close (and thus avoid any attention being drawn to the fact that I work there – people do always assume that you’re able to sort out any problem with the corporation be it something on the Archers or the colour of Huw Edwards’ tie), we paid our bill and got up to leave.

I made a mental note to kick-start another discussion when I got home about British ex-pats having the opportunity to subscribe to BBC iPlayer content.

At this stage I don’t know of anyone I can pester at BBC Worldwide to get it sorted out. Give me time though, give me time.

Holidaymaker from hell

I am exactly the kind of stereotypical British holidaymaker you could expect to find far from home staying in a luxury hotel. In fact, I’m exactly the kind of holidaymaker who’d drive you wild with irritation.

I can’t abide being ripped off. I’m suspicious of it. I’ll sniff it out and kick up a fuss when I’m certain it’s going on.

Take yesterday. Simon and I return from the pool for our now regular late afternoon cup of tea on the balcony. I’ve already asked for a “Tea and Coffee Maker” from housekeeping knowing the kettle, teabags, milk, coffee and sugar don’t need to be signed for. It’s free refreshments. Perfect.

Only there’s a problem when we get back to our room. We’ve run out of teabags. Calamity. It’s OK, I think. I’ll just ring reception for a handful of replacement teabags and some more milk.

“That’s fine sir. I’ll get that sent up to the room for you,” said the friendly lady with a slight American twang to her voice.

When the chappy arrived with a sparkling jug, two tea bags on a glass dish, a couple of biscuits and a receipt to sign I immediately got suspicious.

Eight Turkish Lira Fifty. That’s £4.25. For TWO TEA BAGS AND A SMALL JUG OF MILK?

Pity the poor room service chappy who couldn’t understand quite what I was getting worked up about. I was charming, as ever, but I was a little riled. I immediately leapt for the phone and dialled room service.

“If you didn’t want to be charged you should have asked for a tea and coffee maker, sir, ” came the effecient and (in her defence) accurate response.

“But I’ve got the kettle already, all I needed was a few tea bags and some milk. I didn’t expect to be charged 8 Lira 50 for a couple of tea bags.”

“You need to order a tea and coffee maker. But I make sure the order you’ve received is removed from your bill.”

Very helpful. Bless them all here. They do have the holidaymaker from hell to deal with.

Guests receive an apology

Post-hotel fire apology party invite, originally uploaded by Thoroughly Good.

The promise of seeing the Chief Executive of the hotel personally apologise for the inconvenience caused by an outbreak of fire in the a la carte restaurant by the nearby marina was an offer too good to refuse.

In truth, it was the offer of a cocktail or two and the thought we probably wouldn’t be required to sign for them which persuaded Simon and I should make a point of going to the poolside Chill Out area for 1900.

However, I had spectacularly failed in reading between the lines of the letter delivered to our bedroom door earlier in the morning.

This wasn’t just a cocktail. This was in fact a cocktail party, with a dress code, something which failed to register in my mind when I slipped into my now favourite pair of jeans and oh-so-cliched cowboy check shirt.

My error was pointed out by some new holiday acquaintances. Angela and Jackie – here for a further eleven days after quite a considerable stay already – hit the nail on the head. “Typical man. Doesn’t read the detail.”

The four of us chatted about the fire, us expressing regret at not being able to witness it because we’d taken off to Bodrum when the drama kicked off. (It’s not that we’re rubberneckers, but really, the damage was quite spectacular and – we understand – it was dealt with really quite swiftly).

Inevitably the question of what happened to the live lobsters swimming around in the tank inside the restaurant came up. Did they manage to save them? Who knows, we’re not sure. They could have boiled alive. Such a terrible waste, if you like your food slaughtered shortly before you consume it.

Perhaps we were laughing just a little too loud. I’m sure it was about then that Chief Executive Axel stepped forward and introduced himself. Our host for the evening cut a dashingly handsome figure in his salmon pink open collar shirt, simple navy blue blazer and full head of hair. Consequently it seemed only right to compliment him on the fantastic hotel, the marvellous service and the effecient way the fire was dealt with . All this and the al-fresco lunchtime buffet continued as normal the day after.

His was an effortless charm. No wonder. No, there was no personal apology I had been expecting – although one might argue the three glasses of red wine I guzzled constituted an indirect apology – but Axel did tell us about the gala meal scheduled for the following night. “Our chef has prepared a special menu and there’ll be dancing with a special Latin band too.” Axel accompanied this with a quite impressive and obviously natural wiggle.

This wasn’t really enough to convince us. We subsequently checked with reception about booking a table for the gala night. Unlike the cocktails, this wasn’t going to be on the house. We’re opting to eat a main course in one of the other restaurants instead.

Sunger Pizza

Sunger Pizza, originally uploaded by Thoroughly Good.

“How much is the hotel buffet?”

I could hardly believe what I heard so I got the receptionist to write down the figure before double-checking with an unsuspecting member of poolside staff.

The first figure was indeed correct. The buffet would cost £41 each.

Having spent a good hour devouring four courses at breakfast (breakfast opening hours run from 7am to midday) from what was a generously stocked buffet, the idea of us forking out £100 for an evening buffet seemed a little steep and, quite possibly a waste of money, as well.

We trundled off into nearby Bodrum instead. Simon suggested I might like to drive. I jumped at the chance.

I was being a twat of course. Twenty four hours in holiday mode and I’d forgotten that driving anywhere outside the UK means sitting on the wrong side of the car, getting used to using the controls with my right hand instead of my left and negotiating scarily conditioned roads. By the time I’d got to the centre of nearby civilisation – the ‘Turkish St Tropez’ according to the handbook – and parked the car in the packed-to-bursting car park, I was a nervous wreck. Thank God I had a packet of Amber Leaf in my back pocket and sufficient skins to subdue my increased heart-rate.

We plumped for “Sunger Pizza” in the Marina. It was recommended by the blokey in the burnt orange shirt on Concierge that evening. “I remember this place,” squealed Simon, “it was recommended on Trip Advisor.”

My cynicism always assumes that most if not all Trip Advisor recommendations are written by those who actually work at the estbalishments. Not so at Sunger’s Pizza where the staff are so busy running around looking after the customers spilling onto the pavement, I doubt they’ve seen a computer in months let alone logged on to the internet.

The food was appealing and we were hungry hence we ended up ordering three starters from the menu, a chicken parmigaeano and a lamb shish. We’d peaked just at the point we’d completed our meal. Our timing is impeccable.

We did look like a couple of lemons when we first arrived, it has to be said. Whilst the staff do understand English, I don’t think they necessarily knew what to do with a couple of blokes slightly overdressed for the ocassion unsure what the etiquette was when it came to claiming a table. One very pushy lady and her family jumped what I thought the queue was. I glared at her in my usual style, but it seems this was somewhat lost on her.

Still, no matter. The atmosphere – once we got used to it – was convivial and we ate at half the price of the hotel rate. Sunger Pizza on the sea front in downtown Bodrum comes heartily recommended.

The only fly in the ointment was the drama we missed back at the hotel …