Monday, July 15, 2024

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Never Say Never

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It was the 2001 new year I flew back from Canada to Turkey for Christmas break and we as a tradition of my family, we decided to celebrate the New Year in London. You see we are a very secular family therefore we didn’t celebrate any of the holidays most families did around us. Most of them were like obligations of fake family dinners where everybody smiled at each other’s faces but talked behind their back. I did have a very fake family; I think that is another story for another day.

Today it is all about how I ended up in London and what is next.

Some of you will remember the ‘99 earthquake’ in Turkey, but most of you won’t. I am not going to go into details of that either but I just want to give a summary as it is part of the story. I was at Avşa an island close to the earthquake when it happened. I was awake and just got off a phone call with a friend waiting for a meet-up with me and some other friends at Yalova as we were planning a week-long goodbye party for me before I left for Toronto. It was a weird night. I got off the phone and we were at our summer house and just felt a long shake but didn’t think much of it, even laughing how everybody panicked so much, till we saw what happened the next day. We were on an island when that happened. Life couldn’t be more annoying as unless you have your yacht waiting for you, you are not getting out immediately to check on your friends and family. Phones are locked; it was just sitting down and watching from a distance, not knowing what to do, and feeling hopeless. Since then, I don’t particularly like being on an island, it just feels like a prison surrounded by a beautiful view.

Fast forward, after seeing most of Europe, my family decided to travel to London for the 2021 new year. There was a lot of jet lag going on when we finally arrive in London, so everything might have been a little blurry. We did everything touristy. The only thing that impressed me the entire trip was the mud-like beer I drank, as I wasn’t a beer person and it tasted really good. Everything else was grey. For me coming from Istanbul for a break from my amazing university life in Toronto, England was simply grey, every shade of grey but not like the book you are thinking of. That is the best way I can describe it, I guess. Rainy, cold, impossible English to understand, cold people. I was not impressed by the parks or the palace or the museums and the famous mummies … Who says cheers as thank you? Honestly, I did not see what all the fuss was about. We had pretty good parks in Toronto even on our campus, we have Dolmabahçe in Istanbul so it is not easy to impress me with a palace and if you have seen Louvre no museum will be that impressive. These were my opinions. It was one of the least impressive cities I have ever seen and I honestly did not understand why people loved London so much. Also, why do they drive on the wrong side for God’s sake??? So, for me by the end of a week-long London visit, I was done. I promised very loudly that I was never coming back to this damn island.

Fast forward and it is 2010, and I have started my hat-making carrier. Suddenly I have all the possible suppliers in the UK, and all the hatters are in London, so my work center is in the UK. I keep coming to London once a month and some extended cities for supply hunts and arranging new suppliers while following up on what is going on in London. Funny enough I think except one time I was here to visit it was always sunny, even in the middle of winter. At the time I didn’t realize that the universe was playing a game with me… Or maybe it was London tricking me into something not sure. But there was a foul play for sure.

I always stayed around Kensington which is a lovely area and close to one of my favorite places Hyde Park, I think it sort of reminded me of Toronto, with people from all ethnicities lying around playing with their dogs or kids, having a glass of wine laughing. As the years pass the more depressing Istanbul became, the more I loved London. I mean when I wore a hat and a crazy dress for an event it was a thing in Istanbul but when as in London, I could be me and it was normal. Just me, I was normal… People were polite there was always a smile and a good morning or a hi. Something I craved so much back in my country as we were slowly losing our niceness. Everything was accessible to everyone and everything was organized. There was no harassment so as I said as things got more depressing in my country the more, I wanted to be here.

I think the terror incident in March 2016 was the last straw for me. I was done. I just couldn’t take the pain. It wasn’t about not standing for what I believe but it was the fact that a lot of people seem to be accepting the circumstances or choose to appear like that. It felt like I couldn’t breathe. It was senseless to promote these expensive hats in a country where there was so much pain. So, without telling anyone till the last minute, we decided to move to London. For the little sanity, I had left, and for safety as I couldn’t shut my mouth up, as well as the possibility of becoming an international hatter/milliner.

18 June 2016 we flew to London to make it our home, yeah! That is the day when they bomb Ataturk airport… The insanity. It was the last drop; I was sure the decision was right. Even though I was in the middle of boxes I was sure, then 15 July happened in Turkey, watching it on TV very stressed, not knowing what to do, where I belong. Whatever, however, things were, I had to find another way. It had a travail effect on me, so I changed my country. Even though it is sort of like a long-term friendship, you leave and you know it is done but you still get sad when bad things happen to that person.

Here I was, I was able to walk in the parks with my dog, go to cafes with my dog, wear shorts without being scared, and easily travel around Europe. Life was exactly as I planned. Even though they insist on driving on the opposite side I loved it here and I found a little bit of peace. I loved the farmers market, l loved every park they had, and I loved going to Portobello or Camden to hunt down vintage items. I loved the flower festivals, horse races, Tate and Victoria & Albert Museum, I loved my friends. Everything was perfect. I think my brother was happy that we were in a safer place as well, as it was just me and my mother. Unless you are a woman, I doubt that you will ever get what I mean by safe, I wish you could…

Buttttt… Yes, there is a ‘but’, there is always a “but”. At the end of the day let’s be honest no story has a happy ending and there are no stories without the villains. And unfortunately, you don’t see the villains from the outside, you have the part of the story. The problem is I was already part of a story with villains and the biggest reason I left and come to the island I promised never to come back was because there seem to be less evil in there. Aha never say never and do not believe the illusions you see.

It was good, it was. We had a peaceful 6 years. And I was so brokenhearted towards Turkey and towards the love of my life Istanbul, I was so tired, and I had no regrets, I still don’t. See Istanbul was a woman of beauty, elegance, and adventure, she was seductive with so many hidden jewels and so many surprises and when they start to steal from her it was sort of stealing part of my soul. So, coming to London and finding a part of me I left in Toronto was a good substitute. It made me feel maybe this could be my home.

Till the UK decided to leave the EU. I don’t think anyone living in the UK realized it was going to be real or affect everyone this much. Especially because this event actualized itself in the middle of covid, we didn’t understand much of it. After covid though suddenly I was back in on that island. No, where to escape. The weather was grey, people were grey half of the Europeans left the city, things got a little out of hand in my opinion. Even though for outsiders it kept looking shiny and polished, the reality hit everyone pretty hard here.

People are unhappy here. London is a place where you have to work hard just to survive. They don’t know how to have fun in my opinion. And I didn’t realize the Royal family was really this important. I mean don’t get me wrong I am a huge admirer of the late Queen Elizabeth, but honestly when you hear “Long live the King” next day after she passed away, it sorts of hits you. So, in the end, I, who was born and brought up in a secular country in one way or another, was torn between those who think they’re kings and true royalty… Honestly, can reality please learn to come by a way, a bit slower maybe? If you are rich this is the country for you. I say to those who want to settle in another country, it is cold here, everything is very expensive, houses look amazing outside but horrible inside and it is all an illusion may be an illusion I created in my head. Nevertheless, it is an illusion also summer still has not come to London yet. It is cold and we are still in winter coats. Seriously this is a very large island in the middle of the ocean and that means 100 times worse than any island in Turkey especially when the storms hit.

Okay, I am sure all of you are thinking, how much has she complained and if she was going to be so unhappy why did she go there in the first place. First of all, when you realize you don’t have roots in a country nowhere can be home. I think growing up in Istanbul as an outsider, moving to Toronto for 5 years and fitting in, then back and never managing to fit in I realize I don’t belong to my country or it never accepted me, I don’t know. It is just I don’t belong anywhere; I have no home so I get to complain about the things I don’t like without worrying about damaging my home’s reputation.

I know this is more depressing than my usual articles, but the reason I say this while I do not regret my decision to move here, I just want people to understand that whatever you see from the outside whether it is on Instagram or in your head it is an illusion. It is up to you to make where ever you live livable, it is up to you to find the silver lining or create the silver lining.  My silver lining is that I did become an international brand. While I don’t know what the future holds for me whether I stay in the UK or move to somewhere else, I know one thing; I was happy here for 6 years. And I appreciate every sunny day, every picnic at the park, every glass of gin or wine I had, every walk I had with my dog, every show I got to see, every day I have been here I appreciate it till now.

As when people start become poorer while some get richer, as people can’t heat their homes some spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to celebrate someone getting a title for nothing, he had done other than being born into it, while some people skip meals to feed their kids others throw governments money around like it is their bank, I tend to not like that place so much. I don’t think that is how life should be.

I am not a socialist, nor am I a politician, and if I have learned anything about myself it is that I have no fight left in me to defend others. So, while I will never be returning (damn it! I said never again…) let me fix that; while I don’t ever plan on moving back, I hope and wish that spring will come and for the UK I know there is a bit more time for them to get there but eventually spring will be all over the world. Because everybody deserves better than this.

Also, I still hate islands.

This will be it for today. I love you all and I love you who is patiently reminding me every other week that I need to write something. I keep promising I will get better, but I will tell you why it is occasionally very hard for me to get better in my next article. And if you are having difficulty understanding a friend or your emotions, I strongly suggest you give it a shot.

PS Hopefully in spring.

Final note: While we don’t talk about them as much, please remember the victims of the earthquake and donate whenever you got a penny to share or even in your prayers.

Thank you,

And see you soon…

Merve Bayindir

Instagram: mervebayindirofficial

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