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   When people talk of the cold in the morning... (July 1, 1986)

When people talk of the cold in the morning my mind invarialy goes back to a winter I spent in a little town half way up in the Taurus mountains of Turkey.

The place was called Mut, in the province of Icel. Several thousand feet below, down a winding mountain road, lay the mediterranean with its cream and white townships of Shilifke and Mersin. Ahead lay piles of mountains, covered in winter snow. Most of the time the road was closed because of heavy snowfall, but when it was cleared you could drive through it to the Anatolian plateau, which is the heart and major landmass of Turkey.

I lived in an inn, cold stone walls, kept warm bgy a stable of mules downstairs, and a teashop of the Jumhuriyet party. The teashops belonged to different political parties or were so designated.

The school bell in the morning would wake me up and the sound of the school children singing the Turkish national anthem. They had cheeks as rosy as English apples, like Mr. Frank Moraes's grandson's.

One of the schoolboy's would bring me black sweet tea in a small glass from the shop downstairs every morning. He would come in his school unifrom, tie, blazer, cap, thick-soled boots to keep the cold out, balancing the tea glass on a flat tray.

He was one of the village's poorer boys, fatherless, and used to help his mother by working in the teashop outside school hours. He would practice his school English on mw, though it was very little and mostly it went: good morning and what is your name and how are you and it is cold outside.

I had thrown away one of those plastic bags in which new shirts are packed. He had borrowed it from me, cut open its bottom, then put the bag around his chest, like a waist-coat. It must have kept the could out a little, though I think it was more for style than a protection against the weather.

He had made me understand that the tea was with compliments of the proprietor of the teashop and he would not accept money for it. This was possible, since the Turks are generous and hospitable people and I must have been the only outsider they must have seen in the town for a long time.

However, much later I learnt that the little boy was paying for the tea from his pocket. By that time it was spring and the road had cleared and I moved north to Europe.

A year later, the following summer, on my way back from Europe, I visited the town. I had brought a shirt with me from London which I presented to the boy. It seemed so inadequate, but it was the only thing I could think of doing.

 
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