The Yorker Archives; Jubilee: a review

Shelley Harris’ first novel is about a photograph. The one two-hundred-and-fiftieth of a second it took to take, the events leading up to it and the lives of its subjects after it. A delicately bittersweet account of childhood and of the undercurrents of racism in 1977 British suburbia, Jubilee is a summer-reading must have.

We follow the life of Satish Patel, the introverted cardiologist who, amongst other demons he wearily faces, is horrified when the photograph resurfaces. Considered a national treasure, the picture taken on Jubilee day has a darker significance for Satish, and is a poignant reminder of the cruelty of adults and children alike.

As the reality of the pictures deeper meaning is slowly unfolded throughout the chapters, we’re given an intimate portrayal of the world as Satish saw it as a child and an immigrant in the 1970s. Often heartbreakingly funny, and at times, just plain heartbreaking, Jubilee is full of thoughtful nostalgia and an effortless charm.
Glancing between eras; we meet all characters before and after the infamous picture is taken. Aligning past and present so seamlessly allows us to see if, and how, the actions of the past do indeed affect the behaviours of our future. As Satish reassures himself “we are all better than the worst thing we’ve done”, readers can contemplate a sense of justice in how the lives of characters map out.
The narrative is subtle, and the murky topic of racism is dealt with with such a finesse that it doesn’t seem to impede on the innocence of the children we are reading about. The way Harris writes about childhood is a genuine, realistic interpretation of how childrens’ relationships work- the hierarchey of friendships, the relevance of race and age, the attacking and protecting of each other.
In exploring the story of this photo- this one two-hundred-and-fiftieth of a second- Harris masterfully deals with an entire society’s attitudes towards immigrants, and shows the beginning of a change in those attitudes in the coming-of-age of it’s children.
A surprisingly light read considering the sadness of some of its themes, Jubilee is a beautifully written and moving story about innocence. It’s characters, relationships and plot line are so simple yet so plausible that you can’t but help admire Harris’ style- and to certainly look forward to a second novel.

My Turkish boyfriends.

I have been attracting a lot of male attention while I’ve been in Turkey. I’m not suddenly a goddess (lol), I’m just a tourist wandering around with a pocketful of lira. And that, in the Turkish tourism industry, is enough to get you a few marriage proposals, if not a free Fanta.

The two stand-out creepy encounters for me have been Mamut, the shoulder-gripping waiter, and Captain Tom, the moustached boat trip guide. In between the dozens of attempts of flirting that are supposed to coax me into buying a meal/pair of Roy Bans sunglasses/a yacht, these two men really take home the trophy for pushing “sexy sells” over the limit.

Mamut is the fella that made me the paper rose. Regina had taken me back to his restaurant for some chai, and she immediately rebuked him for his overly personal way of talking and touching me. Instead of backing off, like most normal humans would do when chastised by a mother figure, he stepped up his game. He didn’t want me to think he wasn’t being genuine. He wanted me to think he was sincerely in love with me.

Now. I’m no expert, but I’m going to say it takes more than a rose made out of a napkin and a wink as he passes me my drinks at a restaurant one time to fall in love with someone. This didn’t stop old Mamut though. He sat practically on my knee and stared into my eyes. “I want to know your soul” he said. “I want you to know mine”.

Not sure whether to laugh or cry, I tried to avoid eye contact. But, no. His face was so close to mine that there wasn’t much else to look at. There was a lot of face on face action going on. I was terrified he was going to kiss me, or worse, sneeze. “I have a boyfriend” I muttered, wrenching my hands free of his clutch. Without missing a beat; “Your boyfriend isn’t here” . True, I thought. He doesn’t exist, so he’s definitely not here.

Creepy, yes, but not even in the same league of our mate Captain Tom. That’s his name by the way. First name Captain, second name Tom. It’s a good job he has a boat really, otherwise he’d sound a bit bloody stupid.

Captain Tom did those boat excursion days out, and I’d been listening to his sales pitch one evening when considering booking a trip, when he took a turn from salesman to love interest in a movement so swift I’d barely noticed it happening. Politely declining his offer to take a private moonlit cruise, smoking shisha and touring the bays of Turkey, I almost tripped over myself trying to scuttle off. He told me the tour started at half eight tomorrow morning. He refused to let me pay for the ticket, but I insisted. You don’t want to owe anything to a man that’s just casually tried to sail off with you in plain sight of all passers by

The next morning, having been comforted and reassured by my friends and family, (“Have you seen Taken, Farrah? This is Taken.” ) I set off to do some minor espionage before my trip. I’d wait (behind a bush, presumably) to see if there were any other customers getting on the boat. If not, I’d scarper. 20 lira to not be kidnapped is a bargain, really. In any case, it didn’t work, because as I was trying to find a suitable place to stake out the boat, Captain Tom saw me and waved me over for some tea in a nearby cafe.

Whilst lecturing me on “living in the moment” and “don’t worry about boyfriends, you’re on holiday” and so on, I quietly sipped my chai and wondered what he’d do if I just got up and ran right now. Thankfully, doing a runner wasn’t necessary, as a family of six called and asked for directions to the boat.

The relief! A family! You can’t be kidnapped on a boat full of tourists from Somerset! Freedom! From that point I took a uninhibited attitude to Captain Tom. I don’t have to be extra nice to you in case you steal me now. Ha! I immediately took advantage of this by pretending I had a gay sibling when he was midway through a lengthy explanation of the “disgusting” gay couple he’d had on board once. I’ve been making up a boyfriend all week, a gay brother was no issue. Doing my bit for the LGBTQ community, really. You should have seen his face. Backtracking in your second language is much more awkward. That’ll teach him to be so openly homophobic.

Having taught Captain Tom a thing or two about berating people’s sexuality, I relaxed and enjoyed the rest of my day. The boat trip was lovely, by the way. Got on well with the Somerset family, and Captain Tom’s creep levels dwindled. Afterwards, on the way back to the hotel, I passed my favourite waiter Mamut. He wanted to know why I didn’t wait for him. Fuck this, I thought, I’ve nearly been kidnapped once today, I’m not having it again. Instead of politely coming up with an excuse and trying to shrug off his embrace, I writhed out of his grip and told him straight- “Because I didn’t want to”, I said, all but shouting, and stalked off.

Later, in a restaurant that evening, a waiter wrote his number on the back of my bill. If this trip has taught me anything, it’s that if I’m ever in need of a husband, Turkey wouldn’t be a bad place to start looking for one.

This is what not being kidnapped looks like- on board Captain Tom’s boat.

Haggling and heckling- my paisley green trousers.

Tuesday is Market Day in Fethiye. I love markets; they’re the most exciting way to see a town in action. People arguing about that extra couple of pounds. Stallholders competing for custom by shouting out the prices of their products, money being exchanged, flurries of colour and smells and sounds. Everyone seems to be having fun. Bartering, haggling and heckling. Handfuls of spices, sheaths of fabrics. Handmade trinkets and “Off-The-Lorry” pots and pans. Ugh, I love it. So much so that I resent shopping anywhere but markets when I‘m abroad.  

Up early (to catch the worms), I zipped into the market area to immerse myself in it all. I’d been saving my lira for today,  and was prepared to spend every last penny. First buy was a handful of peaches from the food bit, to keep me going through the beating heat and rush of the day. 

Okay. I’d never ever normally do a fashion related post. Seeing as everything I own is from H&M, you’d be better off browsing their website than having a look at which t-shirt&jeans/skirt combo I’ve gone for today. But I’m riding on a bit of a high right now, so you’ll have to excuse me. And with all due respect to H&M, I don’t think they’ve ever designed a pair of trousers as exciting as the ones I’ve just bought. Plus, in my defence, I’m not sure this counts as fashion.

Paisley! Green! With red bits!

Not sure when I plan on wearing them- they might raise a few eyebrows in a syntax lecture- but how could anyone feasibly resist a pair of trousers like this? (Don’t answer that, please. I love them too much.) Even the guy selling them couldn’t quite believe my delight at finding these treasures. They remind me a little of the Peru-pants Max Wartelle and Sam Graham came back wearing from South America this time three(?!) years ago. Utterly useless aesthetically, but wholly lovable. 

More, ahem, conservative buys included a pair of coral pink shoes, a hipster tie-die dress that I’m going to get Nana Kelly to alter, and another handmade cushion cover. A few hours later, I rushed back and bought the same pair of shoes in a different colour. I had honestly intended on buying souvenirs for my loved ones, but I got swept up in the paisley-green excitement of the day and forgot about my nearest and dearest. Sorry mum. Sorry friends. You get to see me dressed in those badboys as a booby-prize.


Faith in humanity: Restored.

Considering my ordeal the other day, I think I can be forgiven for having a slightly eschewed image of the kindness of others. Seeing my ex-boss’ cold stare as I lugged my suitcase out of the door and waited for a taxi cemented “People can be bastards” right at the forefront of my Lessons Learned Archive.

Yet, my new maxim has already, thankfully, been proved wrong.

The other night, I arranged to meet with Regina. She was leaving Fethiye for Ankora, and this would be the last time we had the chance to meet (possibly forever) so I was keen to get one more round of backgammon in. She’s the only one who’s ever let me win. She arrived at our meeting point, and slightly breathlessly told me that a German couple who had been staying at the hotel I’d briefly worked at were waiting in a car around the corner for us. They’d offered to take us for a meal, if we would like to.

So I spent the evening with three Germans, talking about the nuances of English (you try explaining to three non-English speakers why we say “iron” the way we do) and gossiping about the hotel. They had been horrified to hear what had happened to me, and insisted on paying for all of my drinks and food by way of saying they were sorry for not helping me out sooner. This was to be considered their “tip” to me for all the work I’d done at the hotel. I was charmed. What wonderful people.

We waved Regina off on the night bus, and I promised that if I was ever in Germany, I’d make sure to arrange to meet her again. (I’ll stay in touch Regina, don’t worry!). The couple drove me about a mile away from my hotel because they didn’t understand my English directions, gave me their business card and asked me to keep them updated.

Me and the Greeks, all kicked outta Kaya. 

The next day, I grabbed the dolmus to Kayakoy. I’d thought about skipping this day trip out, seeing as it’s frighteningly close to the ol’ demon hotel, but pushed that thought out as ridiculous and looked forward to wandering around the ghost town.

It’s very creepy. Completely empty, except for those chilling sheep cries that sound like trapped souls calling out for forgiveness. In the 1920s, thousands of Greeks were forced out of this village. Just imagine that for a second. One day, you’re having your breakfast, dropping the kids off at school, knocking up some shelves for your front room; next,you’re packing up everything and leaving. Not just you though, the entire street. All of your neighbours, at the same time.

The 17th century church was particularly eery. That used to be a place of real significance. People got married there, worshipped there. They mourned their dead and celebrated the newborns. This was a place that was important to almost every villager at some point in their lives, and all that was left of it now were the bare bones of its architecture and a few tourists wandering around. I was sat imagining all the years of prayers that had happened here, when a Scotsman and an Irishman walked into my eyeline.

I know that sounds like the beginning of a joke, but they really did; Kevin and Jerry. They asked how long I’d been sat there, I told them since the Greeks left. They said I looked good for a ninety odd year old, must be something in the water. We set off around the ghost town together, speculating what the buildings were used for and explaining what on earth “linguistics” was. Upon spotting a hotel in the distance, complete with swimming pool, one of them exclaimed “the lying bastards, we were told this was a ghost town”. It’s the first time I’ve laughed like that in weeks, and I was really thrilled to have such company.

We stopped for lunch at the entrance of the village and tested each other on our knowledge of world flags, Charlie’s Angles and Manchester United players. They pointed out that me and the Greeks that once lived in Kayakoy had something in common; we’d both been kicked out by the Turkish. They told me about their lives and their families, and I told them about my little adventures and writing. They refused to let me pay my share of the bill.

Wandering back through the park, we came upon a dog. Admittidly, it was quite big- but no larger than Ralph, really. Though it was scampering about in the opposite direction to us, Kevin and Jerry quickly u-turned and hotfooted their way out of any, ahem, danger. Leaving me trailing behind. “How manly of us, leaving a young girl to that Rottweiler. When you write that up, make sure you put that we rescued you from the jaws of a wolf.”

Kevin and Jerry “Are Large”

So, Kevin and Jerry, if you’ve managed to remember the name of this blog, thank you. For saving me from that pack of wolves/camels. I almost certainly wouldn’t have any arms to type this with if it wasn’t for your combined bravery. And with a slightly more genuine gratitude, thank you to both sets of couples for reminding me that not all people are bastards. Some of them are really, really lovely people.