October 19, 2006 GMT
TURKEY: Article

Clever Mikes articles crack us up!!
Sunday October 1, 2006 The Observer

The pickup truck drives along the Bodrum esplanade and stops outside the restaurant. On the side, in lurid pink lettering, is: Halikarnas - The Club. On the back are three young women, dancing like they're being attacked by wasps, wearing tiny bikini tops and strips of black cloth for underpants, with which they appear to be flossing their nether regions.
We have just been discussing underpants. By 'we', I mean me, Belinda and Pat, the Aussie couple I've just been reunited with after getting separated from them at the Romania/Hungary border. And by underpants I mean mine, whose regular turnover is a particular obsession of Belinda's. (I tell her I am putting clean ones on every other day, but it is a terrible lie.)

'You gotta get your photo taken with them,' Belinda tells me, mercifully moving away from the issue of my personal hygiene and pointing at the dancers. Belinda is the same age as me, but manages to make me feel as if I'm 14. So I meekly move towards the truck like a petulant teenager.

'Don't worry, I'm not a pervert,' I tell the girls.

'They are Russian. They don't understand you,' the driver tells me as the girls move to the far side of the truck and look at me as if I'm a pervert.

We've all got photographs of ourselves we'd rather didn't exist. I have two. The one Belinda has just taken and one from 1986, the last time I was in Bodrum, showing me wearing a leather glove on one hand and sporting a denim waistcoat, glove-clad hand pointing to the stars, head tilted downwards to the floor. For, during a brief spell that summer, I too was a dancer at the Halikarnas, Turkey's world-famous open-air nightclub.

The driver explains this to the girls. I grin at them and say 'Yes, yes', and stick up my thumbs. But they're still looking at me as if I'm a pervert.

But yes, it's true. And yes, it is a long story. But back then, I didn't let the silly little fact that I dance like a Thunderbirds puppet missing some strings matter. Every night I'd go out on stage, part of a 15-strong mostly English showgroup, murdering 'Grease' or 'Absolute Beginners' and strut my stuff in front of paying punters, full of brio and unquenchable self-belief, and, even writing this, thinking about how terrible I was, is making me want to stuff my head inside my T-shirt.

Belinda insists I go back to the Halikarnas and even escorts me, holding my hand, telling me it'll be OK, like it's my first day at school. But there is a slow accumulation of dread. I really don't want to go back and I'm not sure why.

'He used to be a dancer here,' Belinda tells the doormen and they have a good chuckle. The story is relayed to the young people in the queue, who look as if they've been told to imagine their parents having sex, then the girl on the cashdesk, then the cloakroom girl and, my, how I filled their evenings with a little joy.

I walk through the whitewashed tunnel and into the vast, spectacular space; the dancefloor with the floodlit backdrop of St Peter's castle, the colonnaded terraces. It is more or less the same - give or take the near-naked Russian podium dancers, the foam-filled dance floor and the hip hop - and the memories come percolating back.

I look at the stage and think back to 1986, and the photograph of that fresh-faced dancer with the leather glove and the cut-off denim waistcoat, frozen in time. And I can remember, as if it were yesterday, the innocence and sense of entitlement, the energy and limitless horizons. And sitting there, thinking about the then and the now and everything that's happened in between, I cannot help but smile.

Posted by Patrick Peck at October 19, 2006 02:58 PM GMT

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