Anyone reading this blog would get the impression that I only tend to add stuff when I have a rant on. They wouldn’t be far wrong really, as I have said that I would probably use this to vent my frustrations. So it makes it a bit of a surprise, even for me, when I decide to write about something positive. I suppose in this case it’s worth shouting about because of my general hatred for Ankara and disdain for having to be here. So here it is I have finally found something positive, so I’ll let you know before the mood wears off.
Shortly before we returned in the summer, the Turkish government, like many other European countries, began to enforce the latest phase of its smoking ban in public, enclosed areas. For us we knew that this would be a bonus, since we do not smoke and one of our major complaints has always been that as soon as you get back to Turkey, smoke fills the air wherever you go. The restauranteurs were, obviously, not best pleased with this ban and trying to pressure the government into back tracking. Hardly surprising when the percentage of the population that smoke here is far higher than back in the UK. However, it would seem that some café and restaurant owners at least, tried their best to overcome this. Some by constructing outdoor covered areas, which technically were still breaking the law due to its specifications of what classified as an enclosed area. Others however, realised that families would have to be their new most valued customers.
Over here, dining out is still relatively cheap (though prices are creeping up), and families do frequently go out, but those with younger children, toddlers, or babies were far less visible. It never stopped us when Smelly was young, but it usually meant keeping him in the pushchair or balancing him on one of our laps. How things have changed. It seems that wherever we go with Fatso, we are instantly presented with a high chair, or someone quickly runs off to trundle one towards us. Perhaps it’s not due to the smoking ban, but it certainly seems to have coincided with it. It does mean that we can enjoy our meal out a bit more, and now there is certainly no worry of having to select a table which would be furthest from the nearest smoker, if at all possible.This new purchase of high chairs by restaurant owners has led to a few funny sites. In more than one instance I’ve seen children far too large, and capable of managing perfectly well in a normal chair being bundled into them. I think this may be in part due to a bit of over excitement by some Turkish parents at this new trend.
Some restaurant owners have gone a step further and copied Burger King and McDonald’s in that they have created a small play area for the kids. All this is great, and Smelly certainly took advantage of the last one we went to, but I do think that particular restaurant was a little ill-advised in its choice of play equipment, perhaps football is not really the best activity for children to get over excited about in a restaurant. Smelly was fairly good at keeping the ball under control and not letting it go too far beyond the playzone, but we still had a hairy almost smashing moment, and it is probably a good thing that we don’t go in restaurants at peak times.
The only downside is that while they have done these things to encourage families to feel more comfortable, they seem to have forgotten that kids in high chairs are frequently also in nappies. So adding a changing table in the toilets would be very much welcomed. This has not be done, and so inevitably it means scrabbling around on a fairly grubby floor to sort out Fatso. Toilets in Turkish restaurants tend to only be of note when they have gone the extra mile to be clean, otherwise you’re lucky to have more than a hole in the ground, let alone toilet paper or soap. I think I’ve been to enough places, in enough different price ranges to know that on the whole the toilets are pretty much an after thought in many of them.
So now that smoking is banned, and we feel happier about going with the kids to eat when we are out, Wednesday was a really good day. In the morning I had to go and have a blood test. It was a fasting one so I made sure that Husband would take me to breakfast afterwards. As it was nearing 9:30 when we’d dropped Smelly at school and all our stuff was done, it meant that all the eateries were still pretty quiet. We were near a street called Tunali which is in the wealthier end of Ankara, close to the embassy districts, so a few nice places to choose from. A strange treat for me on a weekday morning but one which turned out to be far better than I’d hoped. We chose to go to Mado, because it’s quite a nice Turkish café chain with standard prices, plus no one was in there so we felt safe that Fatso wouldn’t cause too much of a disturbance to others.
Normally I am not a big fan of trying to enjoy eating with the kids, mainly because something gets spilt, someone starts moaning or crying, they don’t like the food we chose, and so I tend to get stressed and not really realise what I am eating. As such a trip out with them usually is because we are out, it’s dinnertime, they are hungry and we don’t have time to get back home without at least half an hour of screaming. The thing is though, and this is another positive side of Turkey that I often forget, Turks love kids and are not afraid to show it. Initially this can be a bit hard to get used to, especially being British and having been brought up with the ever-increasing levels of stranger danger. I still do have moments when my heart leaps into my mouth when some unthinking staff member will happily wander off with one of my children without asking permission first. Thankfully, though, they are not all that stupid, and most are trying to be nice. With Fatso now walking he chooses where he wanders and we don’t have to be embarrassed as he scrabbles along the floor.
So Wednesday morning turned out to be lovely. this time there was no high chair but he is big enough to sit on a normal chair propping his chin on the tabletop. He’d already eaten, so it could have been a nightmare with him disinterested in staying put. When food is around Fatso is generally too, but restaurants and cafes are also places to investigate. I did start to have images of me getting up every five minutes, or less to retrieve him, while Husband sat there reading a newspaper, even though he’d already eaten and it was my treat. Fatso certainly did not keep still, and I was right he did want to investigate, but being so early and so empty all the staff just loved him. Another thing about Turkish cafes and restaurants is that as staffing is so cheap here due to such poor salaries in those types of jobs, most places are vastly overstaffed. I think I counted at least 8 staff members including the manager. But they all just took to Fatso, showing him all the café, giving him an unsuitable sweet, but since he didn’t recognise it as food it didn’t get put in his mouth, playing peek-a-boo, and generally walking him back from the door when he thought outside was where he really wanted to be. As for me, it meant I was able to eat my breakfast in peace, and only had to share a small part of it with him for once, I wasn’t up and down all the time, I got to eat without the usual need to wolf it down and really tasted what was on my plate. The only downside was that the egg wasn’t allowed for me as Fatso has recently acquired a taste for boiled eggs.