23 August 2011

Marmaris: like England, but sunny

You expect to have a full English every day when you decide to stay in the country for your holiday, but not when you travel 2000 miles from home…surely?  That’s exactly what you get in Marmaris; a veritable home from home for us Brits.  It has everything you could possibly want, providing that you only want things that you could have back in Blighty.  The streets are littered with British pubs, fish and chip shops, flat screen TVs showing live football, what more could you wish for?  In my case, anything vaguely Turkish would have been nice.  Sadly, Turkish delight was about all I could find.

It really saddened me that Marmaris was clearly designed with British tourists in mind.  And the worst kind of British tourists at that.  Everywhere we went, even during the day, we were offered free cocktails or shots to convince us to eat at restaurants.  The favourite offer was a fishbowl full of cocktail, which was accompanied by several giant straws that allowed your group to guzzle simultaneously.  

Having never been on a girls’ holiday before and usually going to a foreign country to explore and experience new and different cultures, I found it very difficult to adapt to this kind of trip.  I still find it a bit of a confusing concept to travel a different place, to do the same thing you can do at home, but I went along with it.  My personal low point of the holiday was our one and only (thank goodness) visit to Bar Street (oh yes, that’s its actual name).  This is home to some of the tackiest clubs I have ever seen, packed with leering Turkish men and highly intoxicated holidaymakers grinding to awful dance music.

If I’ve not already put you off, I have to mention the HASSLE that is an integral part of a holiday in Marmaris.  We managed to make all of the staff at our hotel completely despise us, merely by not eating at the restaurant.  We repeatedly explained that we had been offered better deals elsewhere and weren’t really interested in their planned entertainment, yet at every opportunity they would thrust their flyers into our hands and reiterate their offers over and over until we said ‘maybe’ so they would leave us in peace.  Then of course when we didn’t show for dinner they called us liars and gave us a lecture on how untrustworthy English people were.  Needless to say we never ate there.  They then called us whores and on our last night told us to never come back to Turkey.

It wasn’t just in restaurants that we received such treatment; we visited the local bazaar for what we hoped would be some spirited haggling, but ended up with the shop keepers shouting abuse at us when we refused to pay their inflated prices.  One owner even admitted intentionally charging English people more than he did other nationalities.  Part of me can’t blame the residents of Marmaris for having such an attitude, as I’m sure they receive abuse from a lot of English visitors.  One night we witnessed a gang of drunken English men throwing stones and aggressively shouting at a group of taxi drivers and I felt ashamed that they were representing my country.  Another night a severely under-dressed young woman climbed onto a bar to shout at everyone for being too boring, we left soon after.

I would like to end on a positive note, as I did actually really enjoy my holiday!  There were many people that we encountered in Marmaris that were more than lovely to us.  I admired the seemingly endless energy of some of the people who worked ridiculously long hours in the bars and restaurants, and always had a smile on their face and a compliment or funny joke.  The scenery was also beautiful, with stunning mountains surrounding the bay.  

Of course the weather was perfect, if a little hot at 46 degrees, and I didn’t once see even a hint of cloud.  At the end of our holiday we went on a day trip to Dalyan, where we saw turtles and had a mud bath, which was a lovely day.  Speaking to a hotel manager in Dalyan, who had previously worked in Marmaris, he told me that Marmaris was nothing like the rest of Turkey.  This was such a relief to hear!  I had a lot of fun during my stay, but a week was enough, and much to the joy of the hotel staff I won’t be returning to Marmaris.

5 August 2011

Spotlight on Mental Health

Even today in our supposed world of tolerance, acceptance and understanding, mental health is a somewhat taboo subject.  Treated as being different from other aspects of medicine, mental illness is still sometimes seen as something to be ashamed of.  As always, the fact that it is misunderstood and a little bit of a mystery creates the illusion that it is something that should be treated with caution and possibly feared.  However, could the recent rise in celebrities stepping forward and publicly acknowledging their mental health issues go some way to overcome this?

Catherine Zeta-Jones recently admitted that she suffers from bipolar disorder, which mental health charities say will help to remove the stigma often attached to mental illness.  Thankfully the media seems to have evolved from the ‘Bonkers Bruno Locked Up’ headline that The Sun ran after Frank Bruno was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in 2003.  The press can often sensationalise mental illness, rather than sensitively discussing the issues and raising awareness of them.  The fact that other celebrities such as Stephen Fry and Russell Brand have also opened up to the public about suffering from bipolar has gone some way to normalise mental illness. 

Mental health charities have congratulated Zeta-Jones for her courage in speaking out about her treatment, as they believe it will help the public to see that mental illness can affect anyone and that it is something that can be treated.  They now want to see well known individuals from a wider variety of backgrounds, not just people from the creative industries, coming forward about their mental health issues.  Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, a campaign to end the discrimination surrounding mental health problems, said "The former prime minister of Norway, Kjell Magne Bondevik, got re-elected with an even higher majority once he disclosed he'd had to step back for a couple of months because he'd been experiencing depression."  Yet for British politicians, this seems an unlikely occurance: as the law stands at the moment if you're a sitting MP and you get sectioned, you wouldn't be able to remain an MP.  This is just the sort of discrimination that needs to be addressed.

There is still a long way to go before mental illness is no longer perceived as being separate from physical illness.  However, if public figures continue to help raise awareness by sharing their own experiences of life with a mental illness then hopefully the associated stigma will begin to disappear.

As for Zeta-Jones, she seems to be on the road to recovery following her five-day stay in a rehabilitation clinic in April.  She has returned to the movie set, filming new comedy Playing the Field in Louisiana.

4 August 2011

All White?

Arguably this season's biggest trend; white was all over the Spring 2011 runways.  Whether in the form of the LWD (Summer is all about the Little White Dress, dahling) at Karl Lagerfeld and Calvin Klein, or as a flowing shirt dress at Stella McCartney, no show was without at least a splash of whitewash.  Dolce & Gabbana even braved an entirely white collection.  But while white may encapsulate carefree summer days on a runway model, what about the rest of us?  Will we still look pristine and super-cool when we've spilt our morning cappuccino on our new white dress in the rush to get to work?

Dolce & Gabbana SS2011

It all depends on how brave you are.  Or perhaps how accident-prone you are.  I myself cannot wear a white t-shirt for more than 2 hours without getting some form of food or drink on it, so I will be approaching the white trend with caution.  If you magically repel stains (or, you know, can actually maintain cleanliness like a grown-up) then you can easily look the epitome of fresh summer chic with an effortless white outfit.  White doesn't necessarily have to mean innocent either: summer is a great excuse to flash some flesh.  Or you could show off your figure with a waist-cinching belt.  Less is more on the accessories front though; we're keeping it ultra minimal and nude, mmmkay?  The power of white is that it focusses the eye on form and line so you can have fun with silhouette while keeping everything else simple.  Frida Giannini experimented with cutaways and layers on her LWDs at Gucci, while Tommy Hilfiger channelled Grecian goddesses on their maxis so try out a few styles and see which gets you in the summer mood.  Mix up the textures with different layers to complete your white look.

Gucci SS2011
Feeling less brave?  Go for a statement white piece.  How about a white blazer to complete your summer wardrobe as the perfect cover-up?  White reflects heat leaving you feeling super cool in more ways than one.  Or you could embrace two trends at once and try the 70s palazzo pant.  Perfect to keep you cool with flats at the beach or dressed up with wedges to complete the 70s look in the evening.  Failing that: every woman needs a white shirt.  This is your go-to item, which can be styled numerous ways; androgynous and buttoned-up, prim and tucked, loose and knotted: it's up to you.

The key to this trend is that its only constraint is the colour: the rest is entirely your choice.  You can't go wrong, hooray!  Go as far as you feel comfortable with and embrace the cool, calm composure that follows.  Just one last piece of advice: stay away from the spaghetti Bolognese.