The Ottoman Diaries of an English Lady - in which our heroine is covered in sugar, has her toes nibbled, and is soundly lathered by a young Turk
|The Sea of Marmaris, south west Turkey|
At a port on the sea of Marmaris, I was invited by that most knowledgeable of travellers, Mr Thomas Cook, to sojourn in one of his summer residences - an opulent seafront palace decorated with gilt, marble and fine cloths. Everything is filigreed and festooned to such a degree the eye is dazzled and the senses smitten. The temperate air allowed me to divest myself of woollen undergarments and walk around with flesh exposed as is customary in these parts.
|The subtle decor of the reception area|
|The sultry pleasures of the Turkish bath|
The Turk is much taken by salads of herbs and flavoursome pastes more rewarding on the palate than the eye - all is accompanied by breads both thick and flat, hunks of meat cooked upon sticks over fire, and potatoes fried a la Francais - an import as inauthentic as it is welcome. I am much taken by the sinister-looking eggplant but the deserts are profoundly wicked, being comprised of pastries doused in sugar syrup.)
I visited a 'Turkish Bath' accompanied by the Doctor - a Scottish academic who has proved good company in recent adventuress. Upon arrival, the 'victim' inserts their feet in a tank populated by a score of 'Garra Rufa' fish which nibble the dead skin from every crevice. The Doctor declined, having spent some years in the Amazon basin, where piranha can strip a man to the bone in a few frenzied moments.
Next we were locked in a heated chamber and steamed like one of Mrs Beaton's festive puddings. The Doctor remarked that it was much the same clime as the Amazon, which dampened my ardour to make an expedition there.
A 'Turkish bath' involves no porcelain tub nor private meditations. I suspect the eastern sensibilities would find little to admire in the way we westerners stew ourselves like rabbits in our own gravy. Instead, it begins with a public scouring and flagellation. A young buck by the name of Ozgur - perhaps it was the flirtatious glint in his swarthy eye and not the vigour of his loofering that gave me palpitations? - rubbed all but the most private few inches of me as I lay on a marble platform, writhing like a fish on a slab with each fresh-flung dish of scalding water. Stopping barely short of intimacy, Ozgur then produced a luscious foam from a length of cloth and - I blush to recount it, though I am assured it is the custom - lathered me like a baby. As he wrapped my towel around me, his gaze promised infinitely more should I but say the word.
The next stage, intended to invigorate and restore the anatomy through manipulation of muscles, was more intimate than any acts my husband e're performed. The boy said several times in his fetchingly limited English that I was 'very tense' - though how an English lady could be anything otherwise in such circumstances I am at a loss to imagine.
Greased and fondled like a brace of Christmas geese, we reconvened, the Doctor having been similarly pummelled by a young lady. We spoke little on our return to the dining room, both discombobulated by the unaccustomed sensuality of the experience.
(Mr Thomas Cook, I regret to report, has been turned by the sultry charms of the East to a dissolute life of hedonism with much drinking, eating and loud merrymaking. An air of indolence pervades his compound, though this is almost desirable after a perambulation along the promenade where all sorts of merchants - who can tell an honest son of Mohammed from the rogues, cheats and charlatans whose daily quest is to liberate the unwary traveller from their Lira with a pirate's hoarde of trinkets, boat trips to unlikely paradises and a confection they call 'Turkish Delight' which is no delight to the sticky-toothed consumer submerged in icing sugar?)