Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Every year, something odd happens to my thinking. Just like New Years Eve focuses some people’s minds on what they want for the year ahead; the end of September often has the same affect on me. Intellectually it is simply about planning for the short but often cold and wet Turkish winter to come, yet often this time of year also creates a physical response, a kind of malaise, a feeling that something is not quite right in one’s life. These feelings are not unique to me, as we all have periods when we sense something is amiss but just cannot put our fingers on what it is. A friend once described his experiences as feeling as if someone has just walked over his grave.

Perhaps this restlessness, this need to change things or ourselves, is an innate part of the human condition? In an evolutionary sense maybe that is what now separates us from other species. While we have pretty much made ourselves at home in most habitats on the planet, often after pushing other creatures away; they still answer their subconscious life or death urges by migrating to maximise their own limited food supply or mating chances. Could my feelings be evolution catch-up? Just like our long redundant appendix recalls an ancient time, when we were not top of the food chain, I wonder if this annual uneasiness is caused by an unconscious overriding of a primal urge to do something, the what of which we have long forgotten?

After spending long periods of my life in warmer climes I had often put my drive to find sunnier places in the winter down to a need to change my surroundings or, perhaps, a borderline case of Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD). Or is that just an excuse because I was born and raised in Carlisle in the north of England and cannot remember a single day there, when I experienced SAD. It took another 15 years before I noticed something was not quite right during my time living in London; which at nearly 300 miles south of Carlisle always felt warmer until of course I got used to it. Now I live a thousand miles south of London so how can those same excuses be relevant anymore, and where does it end; perhaps with me perched somewhere on the equator?

With no dependents beyond a semi-feral cat, who has always survived very well during my absences, and a job, which is mainly about marshalling the ideas and nonsense in your head onto a screen or paper, I suppose another reason I fly away for the winter is simply because I can. Although this can occasionally be curbed if I am in a ‘relationship’ with someone, who, not unreasonably may want to be included in my plans, I can pretty much go wherever I want, whenever I want for as long as I want.

Returning to the question posed by the Clash – Should I Stay or Should I Go? This year I suppose I am asking it for a bigger reason than my annual migration? Have I had enough of Turkey? I do love this country, the climate, the lifestyle and despite having many Turkish friends I know I will never, ever, be the same as them culturally and will always be a foreigner, a Yabanci or as one AKP Minister for Tourism once famously pointed out at a conference: a Gavur (a none-believer). My old Turkish teacher always referred to this cultural divide as the Turk Mentality, which sometimes helped me make sense of the stranger things they do, but didn’t always excuse them for it. One of my pet-hates here is overpricing or duel pricing – one price for the locals and another for the foreigners. Far too many people see no shame in perpetuating this practice, which is tantamount to stealing, and often excuse themselves with the mantra “foreigners can afford it so don’t mind paying more” but really – we bloody do mind! Only last month I found myself almost spitting feathers with anger, when I actually witnessed someone charge 3 different prices for the exact same service, after I translated some whispering just before my barber asked me for 25 lira. When I pointed out that I wasn’t a tourist and only paid 10 Lira last time, my Turkish stunned the boy until the manager intervened and magnanimously told me that I had been under-charged last time as 10 Lira was only for Turks, but I could now pay 15 Lira as I was neither a local nor a tourist. He showed no shame and even seemed to expect some gratitude for casting me into an ethnic oblivion, where they’ll steal just a little less? But I did not tip and will never return.

Anyhow, I digress, if I really don’t like it here I can, of course leave for good. But where on this good earth will I live, can I live? I have friends in all 5 continents, so in theory could try somewhere new? However, the older and more introverted I have become, the harder a totally new beginning is to pull off. The UK would be a natural choice if I wanted to be near friends and family but the cold and damp of the winters, and sometimes the summers, makes it a place to visit rather than live. Yes I love the lakes and mountains of my home county Cumbria and last year I had a wonderfully chilled-out Christmas, way up in Aberdeen, Scotland; but I know in my heart I could never live in either place permanently. And yet, If I really had to pick a place to live there I suppose it would be London again. The buzz and vibe of the capital, has plenty to divert ones attention, although by next September I would probably be posing another question: if London was so great, why did you ever leave?