I came back late last night from a long weekend in Istanbul. OHMIGOD! The men! They're all insane! But I loved it!
I’ve had a chat up line or two thrown in my direction in the past few years but none as inventive, exotic and amusing as those dished out by the Turks!
Any ladies feeling neglected in the fawning department should head straight to the airport. Don’t bother to pack – you can shop till you flop right there.
The first point in the Turkish men’s favour is that 50% of them are gorgeous: tan-skinned, black-haired, pistachio green-eyed, three-day stubbled, in short . . . drool-worthy. And if you glance admiringly in their direction, you’ll get it back in spades.
The second point (perhaps not in their favour) is that they’re the biggest shmoozers in history. All I wanted to do was browse the Grand Bazaar but I nearly ended up with a third husband!
Before you’ve had a chance to take in the stock of jewels, handbags, leathers, souvenirs, pashminas, spices and furs, the merchant salesmen have lured you into their caves with a:
“Vel-cum, beautiful lady! Vel-cum! Today is my birthday! You help me celebrate or you break my heart!” Oh! OK then. . . if you put it like that . . .
A small boy appears through the labyrinth swinging a silver tray on which balance various glasses of fruit tea: apple, sour cherry, pomegranate, melon – very tasty. Of course, you neither want nor need a glass of tea, but it’s all part of the shopping experience.
As the banter goes on, your head is turned, your blood starts to pump, a surge of adrenaline fuels the fire as a thousand and one designer handbags dance before your eyes. Try as you might, you find yourself unable to resist the vendor’s leathery clutches.
“Your body is perfect. . . like a Coca-Cola bottle!”
“You look so delicious, I want to eat you in a sandwich. . .”
“Look into my eyes, I will change your life . . .”
British Men: LISTEN AND LEARN!
Now I’ve never had myself down as naïve or impressionable – not with my great age and experience – but by the end of the trip I’d fallen in love - not once, not twice, but three times in as many days! So much so that I actually began to empathise with those foolish English women who set off somewhere hot, and within hours of arriving want to stay forever because they fancy themselves enamoured with the first man who flatters them.
And you can understand why: there’s something utterly seductive about a place where the air smells sweet, the nights are balmy and the moon hangs, laconic and lemony, in the dark night sky.
Add to this a sip of raki, the whisper of promise from those full and faithless lips, the brush of a dark-skinned hand against your hair, the adoring gaze of a pair of long-lashed eyes and what woman wouldn’t find herself hooked?
OK. I'm not shtoopid. I know what they’re after: the same thing men all over the world are after, no matter their colour, creed or climate, but what a wondrous web they weave in their efforts to ensnare you!
No: “Get yer coat, darlin’, you’ve pulled!” or “Brace yerself, Sheila!” for the likes of them. It’s all about ‘your beautiful eyes, your wonderful smile, the scent of your skin, the shape of your mouth’ – keep talking, baby, just Keep. On. Talking. . . even if it is a load of old (Istan) bull!
My first visit to the Grand Bazaar produced one fabulous handbag, a chinchilla-trimmed leather jacket and a date with Josof. The second visit delivered an amethyst necklace, presents for the family and an invitation from Ferro, the quintessential tall, dark, handsome Turkish toyboy. Within hours of meeting, we were snogging on his sofa. Yup! They sure move fast.
The nightly trips to the Tea Garden to smoke shisha pipes and get leered at by anything in trousers offered up Murat, Hasan and Ozäy all very keen to take our relationship to a higher – or was it lower? – plane. In fact the one we nicknamed Ali Baba who started with the usual: “Verr arr you from?” immediately followed this up with: “I have very good feeling about us!” Us? Really? What was your name again?
He did manage to sprat my mobile number though by dictating me his, asking me to dial it to check I had it right and presto! he had mine. Duh!
So now Josof and I are meeting in Rome in November and Ferro is coming to London as soon as he gets a visa and we’re taking the Eurostar to Paris!
I’m very hopeful these two events will come to pass. Why wouldn’t they? These are genuine guys after all, about as genuine as all those Gucci, Fendi, Hermès and Vuitton handbags!
But you know something? I don’t care. You don’t have to go to the party, but boy, it’s nice to be invited! And my long weekend in Istanbul was the most ego-boosting, life-affirming, femininity-flattering experience I’ve had in a very long time.