Tuesday, 11 September 2012

See you next year

I've said goodbye to my sister far too many times. One day, we tell ourselves, we'll live in the same country. Until then, there will be tears. We're like that.

Barb and Andy left us yesterday, flying back to the real world where people have titles and jobs, make  plans and are accountable for their time. They left looking like they'd had a holiday, which is small recompense for getting back into your clothes, but it's the price of hanging out with the grownups.

In a way neither of us anticipated, their visit unsettled us. Rubbing up against the ambitions and busy-ness of a couple in their early 50s peeled back the layer of protective skin Alex in particular has grown to adapt to retirement (yes, I'm going to use that word), and to shield him - and me - from regret. It's difficult, however much you tell yourself that wild horses couldn't drag you back to the shop/desk/running a business, not to feel some longing for the drive and vigour of your former self, the one who built and pushed and created and Did Important Things. But you know what? You've got to move on (as they say)....and we have, and we did so again yesterday.

We left Keci Buku soon after a driver in a big Audi collected them from Marti marina, and by the time Andy rang from Dalaman airport, I could tell him we were passing the mark off the Bozburun bank at 7.5 knots under sail. He knew exactly where we were, and even though I know he's looking forward to dinner at the House of Lords tonight, I am fairly sure he would have felt a twinge of regret at not being at the helm of Enki.  "I was surprised at how well she sails," he'd admitted to Alex as they waited for the taxi. From a man who snatched the 2012 Trans Tasman challenge trophy off the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron on its home harbour, that's high praise. He likes to go fast.

There are other people saying goodbye to us too. When the wind faded and then died a short way past Bozburun, we canned our plan to be in Marmaris that evening, and headed into Bozuk Buku (or ancient Loryma), our fourth visit in as many weeks. Would Ceren still be here, we wondered, or had she already gone back to school in Istanbul? No, there she was, racing towards us in the boat which bears her name.

We met Ceren (pronounced Jeren) on our first visit. She's 16, and I'm a sucker for a bright young girl, so of course I bought something from her boat of textiles. The second time we came into Bozuk Buku, she was back within 30 minutes of our dropping anchor, recognising the boat and remembering our names. We bought something from her again, but this time she didn't leave straight away. She wanted to talk (her English is beautiful).  She was teary. Her parents were arguing, she told us, and she didn't like it. It made her sad. Her mother wanted to separate from her father. She didn't want that to happen, even though her mother said she would be happier away from her father. "I come back here for three months in the summer. I don't want to spend 6 weeks with my mother, and 6 weeks with my father." We know all about that.

Twice while she was alongside our boat, someone, a family friend she said, buzzed over to herd her back home, but she pushed him away. She told us her story - how she lived in a village over the hills, how at 10 she'd won a place at the high school in Marmaris but her parents couldn't afford to send her there, how a customer at the restaurant (the one in front of us, which her family used to run) had overheard some of the discussion between her parents about her education and had offered her a place at one of his two boarding schools, and how she hadn't wanted to leave her mother, but had been persuaded to give it a go. So at 10, she left the village and went to Istanbul, and she's still there. She's been to England three times for summer school, she speaks German too and this year wants to learn Italian or maybe Spanish, and after she's graduated, has got her International Baccalaureat, she wants to study to be a lawyer. That's Ceren, the girl in the boat in Bozuk Buku. I'm sure she enchants everyone she meets.

Her sister brought us fresh bread this morning. Ceren was asleep, she said. We'd said goodbye yesterday, and given her the monster watermelon we'd been carrying on board all week, but hadn't had the courage to crack open - it would have meant eating it in one sitting, given the small capacity of our fridge. She'd headed off with the melon in the direction of Ali Baba's restaurant. "See you next year," she'd said. At 16, you expect next summer to be the same as the last...

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