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Turkish Delight

Gail is a free spirit like me. She lives semi-off-grid but civilised, like. With plug in power and running water etc. Gail is a healer and gives me tarot readings. I always feel good around Gail.

After a red-wine induced sleep, I remembered our conversation about signs from the Universe and hearing something ping into Gail’s phone. I promised to see Patrick Gamble, psychic artist, in Glastonbury. I didn’t want to go now in the sober light of day. Time was ticking and I still had to find a resting place for my big yellow van but “Said it, Doing it.” I thought; signs from the universe and all that… and I still had the rest of the day to get up to Ebbw Vale.

I was hoping My second cousin, Andrew, would be okay with looking after Big Yellow since he had offered last year. I’d been unable to raise him on the phone since I’d been back. I was due to visit him anyway this trip and if it was a problem then worse case would put me back in Essex with a long trip back to Bristol airport, or another cheap flight out of Stansted.

Patrick painted my spirit guide. Nice looking feller. Didn’t recognise him though. The message I got along with it was to be more audacious “Fly your flag, don’t have it folded in your pocket.” I take his point. I don’t like arrogance and don’t like being in the spot-light so I carry some dissonance with that as I exit Yin Yang into Glastonbury High Street.

Seventy Five miles to Ebbw Vale. I estimated that I had enough fuel so planned to leave big yellow stored with a mostly empty tank while I’m away. Approaching the Severn Bridge Toll gate, I knew there would be a delay while the inside is checked over and that my van really is a camper, saving £7 on the toll. I switched on my hazard flashers so following traffic can peel off to other gates. Yes, it worked for a few seconds until a car pulled up to my tail and blocked my flashers from view for everyone else. Still, it was only a short wait before a high-viz vested agent to skipped across the gates to peer through the door and put his thumb up to the cashier, to the relief of the growing queue of cars behind drumming their finger on their steering wheels and craning their necks out the windows.

Twenty three miles to go and fuel was falling faster than expected. The Welsh hills were taking their toll. I could top up at the next fuel station if need be. Turning off before Abergavenny, the steep hills became one steady climb.  The needle on the gauge was nudging the bottom of the red as big yellow heaved her way up the endless hill. This was new road freshly scarred into the emerald green landscape and stitched along the edges with orange and silver road-cones. If there were any fuels stations they remained on a drawing board. My old sat nav put me somewhere in the wilderness trying to snap my track back into by-passed streets. The speed limit was 40mph but 30 was the best I can do, which prolonged the agony for me for the following traffic encouraging my progress from behind.

The gauge drops a little off the bottom of the dial as I arrive in Ebbw Vale and I make it up the drive and allow the tension ease over my shoulders. I must have helped Big Yellow up the hills with my prayers…

Andrew wouldn’t tolerate me sleeping in the van, he gave up his room while he slept on the sofa in front of the roaring fire. I’m happy in my van but many people are insistent I go indoors. He’s a good man, is Andrew. With looking after his mum until she passed away and then his German Shepherds at home, he hasn’t been away much, I tell him to use the van while I’m away, take the dogs too. A call to the insurance company gets him onto the policy.

Monday morning 8am, Andrew drove me down to the railway station. I was on my way again, this time to Turkey to join Pantelisa, a yacht for delivery to Colombia. Sailing the Atlantic was on my bucket list ten years ago but this epic journey took in the whole of the Mediterranean and Caribbean too. And I wasn’t even looking for this and it just dropped into my lap via Lucy who had since ducked out and taken another option.

Looking at the notice board against a slate grey Welsh sky 08:18 my flight was 15.55 so I had plenty of time to get to the airport and relax.

I stepped off the train in Bristol into a haunting, blood-red sky with the sun an orange disk hanging in the clouds stirred by a warm, gusty wind. Hurricane Ophelia was making landfall in Ireland but it’s presence was felt here too. Hurricane Irma brought me home. Hurricane Ophelia sends me away…

Turkey reminds me of a Zoo… in that you have to pay to get in. They call it a ‘visa’ to give it some official credibility but it’s really no different to a ticket. Next to passport control was a ticket booth labelled ‘Visa Applications.’ The only application involved was handing over some cash. Kerching! Then to queue at passport control for a FREE rubber stamp thumped on top of it. Bonus!

A hundred years ago, passports were generally not required for international travel. Now look at this bureaucratic industry of fear mongering non-jobs that rake in millions of pounds every year disguised as being for our own security.

Anyway, $30 lighter, I march through the dark, warm air to the gentle fanfare of chirruping crickets. A motley collection of taxi drivers holding badly written signs stood at a barricade. “Paul Pantelisa.” That’s me, no-one had my surname but the sign served its purpose.
“Hello, I’m Paul” I say thrusting out my hand.
Perplexed, the driver offered me his limp fingers. The relationship progressed no further other than sharing the journey. The taxi was already paid and I had no idea where the marina was and it was too much bother me asking my Turkish chauffeur. Much easier to wait and see what was at the end of the magical mystery tour. Anyway, it would make no difference to the arrival time.

We travelled about 50km mainly in the middle of the road with me leaning toward the curb to encourage the vehicle back into its lane. This wasn’t the UK though. Hardly any traffic at this time of night and other drivers seemed to be expecting unstructured road-craft from their countrymen.

It was about midnight when I found myself at the gate at Marina Yat Limani, Fethiye.
“Pantelisa!” I told the guard.
…I think he asked for pontoon and berth…
“I don’t know… Boat! Pantelisa!”
Toni and Rolf, my Swiss crew mates appeared down the quay. I guessed they noticed the taxi pull up. It didn’t matter how. Problem solved.
“Is that all you got?”
“Yes, I travel light and I don’t like checking in bags.”
I was escorted to Pantelisa, directed inside, dumped my backpack into the starboard fore cabin and joined the guys for a beer on the stern.

New boat, new guys, new experience. The unfamiliarity feels awkward and I find it hard to fully relax in so much ‘newness.’ I know this feeling passes with time but I’ve spent long enough periods out of my comfort zone that I expect to feel more and more at ease wherever I go. This could be a remnant of seeking approval or fear of looking foolish: something interesting to put under the microscope before the next opportunity.

Meanwhile, the introductions are complete, beer quaffed and first impressions registered. Time to fumble my way to bed, banging doors of unfamiliar weight, size and direction, and figuring out where the light switches are. I’ll deal with my bag tomorrow. It’s dark and I’m tired. My next adventure was about to start… or maybe it already had…


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