Kettle boiled. Juice poured. Cereal bowled. TV on. Rain in the North. Snow in the East. Athletics in London. Shooting in Gaza. Rail travel up. School investment down. Motorways delayed. Child dead. Health scare. New store opens. TV off. Cold air. Dunnock sings. Car warms. Office cocoons.
Beyond the shopping centre a sky bruised by torment sulked. Winter still had its grip, the first drops fell, cold as ice. It was a usual lunchtime chicken-run from office to sandwich shop and back. Don’t get stopped by a ‘Chugger’. The young fresh faced enthusiasm, tabards colour varying by organisation week-on-week. They had the same intent -get as many people to commit a monthly deposit to the cause. Last week it was multi-faith non-binary whale-pandas against the war. Pigeons swirled in the air. They mirrored the crisp packets and free news-sheets, spiralling before dying in a corner.
‘Have you ever considered helping save the life of a child in Syria?’ The High Street ran at a slight incline giving the clipboard more authority over the sandwich. Always promising to get fitter made this an imbalanced conversation for the sandwich.
‘Surely, as you look at these pictures it must move you.’
‘Not fast enough’ was the exhaled phrase.
‘Knowing, that at any time, flight to a refugee camp, may have been delayed for too long. They don’t want to leave Syria, but what choice do they have?’
‘They don’t have to come here’, blew down the street with the tumble weed.
‘Imagine if this was your children. You do have children, don’t you?’ A reflexive nod betrayed the sandwich to the clipboard. ‘Imagine if they were standing, in freezing rain, not knowing if their home was still standing; their parents alive.’ The dark eyes in a photo were revealed for effect. ‘Imagine that. For only £3 per month, less than the price of a sandwich’ pen tapped on a clipboard, ‘you, can make a difference.’
‘I haven’t got time for this nonsense.’
This response elicited more questions. Food, education and environment became a cocktail of buzz words. The bank account details remained concealed and with one last, ‘Perhaps, tomorrow, you may wish to consider £2 per month?’ The clipboard turned to review messages on a screen. The sandwich felt relieved that tomorrow it would be far away.
The case was full, personal ephemera crammed against personal ephemera. Everything needed to flee; migration driven by the need to escape. Security –documents for inspection; the inquisitorial eye; the suspicion. Not just from the uniforms, but from fellow travellers. Why have they got that? Why them? Why us? What’s that? Bottles of water are taken and confiscated. Marshalling staff funnel, corral and cajole; into one spot, this spot; nervous laughter hiding insecurity. Moving forward in groups controlled the progress. It prevented a stampede, but not the jostling for position. Some people brought their own food. Seating allocated by number restricted contact between groups to distant noises; a child’s scream; and a random smell.
It had been an early start under the cover of darkness and tiredness set in. With eyes closed and thoughts on better places, the journey passed. After about four hours the journey stopped. The travellers became separated into groups -some would travel on; and some who would not. Again lines, queues, marshals and instructions. These instructions were delivered by a foreign tongue with gestures commonly understood. Onward travel of nearly two more hours dragged some down to their lowest ebbs. Gathered belongings. More documents checked. Hot sun beat down on clothes stained with sweat. They had reached Antalya with their first world problems.
People arriving from the North will see Antalya squeezed between the mountains and the sea. It would appear as pomegranate syrup to someone raised on dry crackers. Antalya is both classically beautiful and stylishly modern. At her core is the wonderfully preserved old-city district of Kaleiçi -‘within the castle’. Her visitors would be dazzled by finely restored Ottoman houses on her winding lanes that hide the scent of food cooked behind thick wooden doors. From here she trails her long fingers languidly down to the harbour and dips them in the far east of the Mediterranean. Many from the North circle this jar of distilled sunshine; fearing the exotic they return to the familiar.
Roman-era harbour with clifftop views of hazy-blue mountain silhouettes. However, this does not have to impact on people wishing to just escape to sunshine from Northern Europe.
The tourism investments starting in 1970s and changed the fate of the city considerably. Millions of tourists each year from around the world discover its fabulous mix of great beaches and traditional Turkish culture. Many do not even have to touch the city as they arrive on “all-inclusive” holiday packages. Taken from the airport to the huge resorts lining the coastline there is no need to learn a language or carry lira. It is possible to stay until the end of their holidays without the need to escape via air-conditioned coaches to any of the nearby archaeological sites. However, kids would love the Beach Park -a waterslide-fanatic’s dream. They can also see dolphins, sea lions and white whales from the Arctic.
People do not arrive in Antalya from the East.
More than 2000 miles, the bottle of sun protection cream had travelled so it could lie beside an ultra-marine pool on its ‘linen-fresh’ towel, refreshed every day. From 10am a blue sky contrived to boil the cream. High above the sundeck thousands of white birds, with black wings and long red legs and bills circled on thermals, pushing north.
White Storks, like many large migratory birds, use these thermals of hot air generated over land to drift without active flying. North in the Spring and South in the Autumn, all their genetic material in one proverbial boat floating over land. They have exited Africa through Egypt to keep water crossings to a minimum; no thermals tower there. They pause in the evening as the air cools, but during the day they look down on Sinai sand; Palestine Ghettos; Israeli prosperity; and Lebanese olive oil. Syrian conflict stops where they circumnavigate the Mediterranean and into Turkey over people poolside towards the isthmus. They push on further north to nest and continue their linage. It has always been so; the land beneath them changes.
The White Stork has always been an important element in the European culture.
As a messenger of prosperity, storks are welcome over most of their range. To those sitting quietly poolside without headphones, these storks could have brought with them stories from the people of Aleppo, just over a day’s flight away. They would have spoken of their life, their loves, how they blended their own spices and baked their own bread. More recently they would have told how the world abandoned these people. This may have melted the ice-cream from the all-you-can eat buffet. We will fetch more from the fridge.
White Storks over Turkey.
having recently had this rejected by @Darkmtn I did not know where to file it so thanks for reading.