As a child, the word “picnic” would stir up feelings of excitement. I knew I could look forward to sweaty cheese and tomato sandwiches on white crusty bread that were crammed into Tupperware containers, plastic bottles filled with diluted Treetop cordial, packets of crisps and, accompanying us would be the round metal tin that once housed chocolates and now contained broken biscuits. The day would be spent running around on the grass, playing catch, tag, five stones or hide and seek.
Over the years picnics grew up and evolved into something else entirely. There were the “Company” softball picnics, where white collar workers would dress down in well ironed check shorts, Ralph Lauren T shirts and the latest trainers. Girls normally in shorts, cute t-shirts emblazoned with daring phrases like ‘If you think I’m a bitch just wait till you meet my mother”. The boys would drink Lager from cans and we girls would bring out the bottles of wine, normally Soave or Frascatti, as they were the ones that came with screw tops. BBQs were lit and wisps of smoke would drift all over Hyde Park or Clapham Common (until it was banned of course).
These days, our Sunday picnics resemble neither of the above.
Around 11am I will arrive in the village where the folks will be waiting. On the doorstep will be my mother in law, sister in law, aunts, children, an iron bbq, a duel teapot, rolled up rugs, woven plastic bags filled to the brim with cutlery, tea glasses, salad vegetables, serviettes and the kitchen sink…….ok, not really the kitchen sink but you get my meaning.
We will cram it and them into the car and drive the short distance to Orman Kampi, a camping site in a forest on the edge of the Aegean.
The women unload and start setting everything up. At this point, I become chief child minder, preferring to run around with the kids than all that grown up sensible stuff of making salad, cooking chicken or boiling kettles for cay.
This particular Sunday, male members of the family are few. The ones that do turn up, eat and run. This leaves us ladies all afternoon to ourselves to sit, chew the fat and drink cay.
The kids are at the little park a few feet away, the women sit around chatting and I am laid out under a pine tree, watching the branches sway in the breeze. Next to me Samseir, Crazy uncle’s wife, is having 40 winks.
Hava, here on her holidays from Urfa, picks a long stalk of grass and playfully pokes it into Samseirs ear. Ayfare, takes a break from clicking my toes (Turkish obsession!) and joins in, tickling Samseir’s feet. Did I mention, Samseir is a bit crazy? Well she is! She flinches, then jumps up like a wild woman and starts shouting and laughing. Shegrabs grab Ayfare, who weighs around 6 stone soaking wet, but, before she can really get a grip on her, Hava jumps her from behind and they start to wrestle to the ground. They grapple like two greased Turkish wrestlers, headscarf’s flying, hair poking through and sticking to sweaty faces. I am laughing so hard I can hardly breathe.
Finally Hava pins Samsier down and claims victory. I think that’s the end of that but I’m wrong. Slightly miffed by this is Sasmsiers daughter Sidiki and she is definitely not 6 stone soaking wet but more the size of Trunchbull from Matilda.
She demands an arm wrestle. This kind of behaviour from these village women is highly unusual and I wonder, did someone slip something into the cay? Of course, we are dealing with crazy uncle’s wife and daughter so I guess it’s understandable.
Sidiki beats everyone but more surprising is Ramsier, Murat’s sister who I call the Tasmanian Devil of Cleaning as she never stops. She is, far less than 6 stone soaking wet however and much like a walking skeleton but, somehow, she beats everyone apart from Sidiki.
I refrain from taking part, preferring to get my kicks by holding my sides laughing at them.
In Turkey, it can sometimes feel like someone has turned back the clock. I like that. Picnics these days have gone back to grass roots; down to earth fun and frolics that make me feel like a kid again.