"I’m afraid Mia has been involved in a very serious incident". I grab the banister for support as my legs buckle under me.
I try to speak but I can’t find my voice. I’m silently willing her to explain further.
But she remains silent.
I grab my car key and run outside. Then she finally speaks “She hit another child”. I burst into hysterical laughter “Is that all?”
She scolds me with “It’s not a laughing matter”. I explain that I am laughing out of sheer relief. She almost gave me a bloody heart attack; my hands are still shaking.
Her tone is condescending “As I said, this is a very serious matter”.
My relief is quickly replaced by anger. I suggest that it may have been less irresponsible to start the conversation with “Mia is fine” before throwing words like “very serious incident” at me.
And what was with the long dramatic pause? “I was waiting for you to digest the information I had given you”. I tell her that her information was frighteningly vague and therefore almost impossible to digest. In fact I almost choked on it.
“I didn’t mean to alarm you. I was simply calling to ask you to come and take Mia home. She needs to cool off”. And so do I; her tone is really starting to piss me off.
I have barely set foot in her office when she starts lecturing me about the school’s zero tolerance policy on violence. I tell her I’m confused. Mia isn’t the sort of child who lashes out. I ask her to talk me through what happened.
Apparently Mia got into a physical fight with a boy in her class. “Who hit who first?” She tells me that's irrelevant. I disagree. I have taught my daughter that she should never hit someone unless they hit her first.
The boy in question is a known bully “Did he hit her first?” Yes. “In which case, she has done nothing wrong. She acted in self defence”.
She also gave him a bloody nose (I told her to hit back as hard as she could). I explain to Miss Mullins that children who do not hit back end up being bullied. She says that the school rules are very clear; you must not hit anyone under any circumstances.
I tell her that particular rule is flawed and as such, I have advised Mia not to follow it. “You cannot do that. Mia has to follow all the school rules”.
Again, I disagree “She will not blindly follow every single rule you have. She has a right to question them. We all do. It is then up to you to provide justification. And in my opinion, you haven’t been able to justify this particular rule”.
Then there is a knock at the door and a puffy faced Mia is brought in. I give her a big hug. And tell her that she has done nothing wrong while Miss Mullins looks on disapprovingly.
It’s only when we get back to the car that I realise I've locked myself out of the house. We drive to Melek’s to get the spare keys. And end up staying for lunch.
It is early evening by the time we get home. The door feels a little stiff. And I have to really put my weight against it to push it open. Then all this water comes rushing out over our feet.
I don’t know what to do. My mind goes into overdrive. And my body remains frozen to the spot. Then Mia takes me firmly by the hand and says “We need to find out where the water is coming from”. I let her pull me inside.
The water is coming down the stairs. The carpets are ruined. Then she points to the bowed ceiling. And that’s when I remember; I had been running myself a bath when Miss Mullins had called.
I run upstairs to turn the tap off. How could I be so stupid? I scream in anger. Then the tears come.
Mia brings me a tissue and tries to comfort me “You should see this as one of life’s obstacles mummy and just have faith that we can overcome it”.
I immediately stop crying “Where on earth did you get that from?” She looks very pleased with herself “Television! See, I do learn things from watching television!”
I reluctantly pack a suitcase. We can’t stay here tonight. I make a quick phone call. Then we get back in the car.
I take a deep breath before I ring the bell.
My mother opens the door and starts shouting “They’re here! They’re here!” Meyrem and Hatice (her neighbours) come out of the kitchen laughing their heads off “We hear you flooded your house! What a silly thing to do”. I resist the urge to slap them.
“It’s very good of you to take them in Fatma”. My mother shrugs her shoulders. And revels in her martyrdom “What else could we do? Leave them out on the street?”
I excuse myself to unpack. Mia and I will have to share a bed in my grandmother’s old room. I open the wardrobe and put a pile of clothes on the top shelf.
My hand brushes against something cold. I carefully pull out a large hunting knife. Then I take it downstairs to my mother “Why is this in the wardrobe? I could have cut myself.”
She laughs as she takes it from me “Oh, I was wondering where that was!” And I make a mental note to check all the places that Mia is likely to put her hand in.
“Mummy, I’ve just had four biscuits and a crème egg”. My mother sighs “Mia, we agreed to lie about that!” So not only is she pumping my child full of E numbers, she is encouraging her to lie to me.
I must not lose my temper; she can’t do too much damage in a couple of days. I thank Mia for her honesty. And scowl at my mother.
But she doesn’t notice; they are taking it in turns to measure their sugar levels. My mother is the only one with diabetes. Then they start measuring each other’s blood pressure. Predictably all three score highly.
Then Meyrem almost chokes on a piece of bread and has a coughing fit. Hatice diagnoses her with a chest infection and offers her some antibiotics she has “left over from before”.
I'm horrified “You can’t give someone medication that hasn’t been prescribed for them”. She dismisses me with a wave of her hand.
But I persist “It’s a very dangerous thing to do. Meyrem could be taking medication that your antibiotics react against.” She tells me that they do it all the time and none of them have died yet.
I turn to my mother “I hope you’re not doing it”. She shakes her head. Then they start to giggle like naughty little schoolgirls. I am just starting to lose my patience with them when the doorbell rings.
My mother introduces me to Meyrem’s nephew. Then they launch into what appears to be a sales pitch.”Doesn’t Gϋlenay look good for thirty-five?” “She’s educated you know, a lawyer”.
Then it’s his turn “Mustafa is an accountant”. Mustafa also bears more than a passing resemblance to Borat. I cringe as he sizes me up like a prize cow.
I grab my mother and pull her into the hallway “What do you think you’re doing?” She feigns ignorance. “And you know full well that I have a boyfriend”.
Actually she doesn’t. Surprisingly Ayșe didn’t mention Jake when she was telling her about my blog. But now I have. Damn it.
I tell her that it’s rude of her to neglect her guests and push her back into the kitchen. Then escape upstairs to bed.
There is a large framed photograph of my grandmother on the wall. I always thought that was sweet but it’s actually a little spooky at night. Every time I open my eyes she is looking down at me.
Mia falls asleep very quickly. But I am having difficulty drowning out the sound of the radio (for Rϋștϋ) and the television.
Turkish television is pretty unpredictable, the volume will suddenly go up to ear piercing levels. And my mother narrates very loudly all the way through.
I put the pillow over my head but I still can’t drown out the sounds. And there is no reprieve when they go to bed either.
They both snore, loudly and incessantly (which is why they sleep in separate bedrooms). Our room is in the middle. It sounds like a god-awful torturous symphony.
I get up to use the bathroom. Then sleepily make my way back to the bedroom. My heart almost stops; there is a woman in a long white nightdress standing in front of me. She doesn’t speak. It’s my grandmother’s ghost.
She holds her arms out. I scream. And she screams back. I turn on the light. It’s my mother. Apparently she heard me get up and was worried that I was ill. I tell her that I just needed to pee.
And that doesn’t explain why she just stood there silently staring at me “I didn’t want to startle you”. What about the outstretched arms? “I thought you needed a hug”.
I tell her (through gritted teeth) that what I need right now is sleep. I go back to bed. At least I have a head start now; I can try and get to sleep before she does. But I have barely settled back when I hear her snoring again.
It feels like I have only just dozed off when I am woken up by a combination of Rϋștϋ chirping and my mother slamming cupboards in the kitchen.
I have a very strong coffee before I drive Mia to school. Then stop off to buy earplugs. It’s either that or commit parricide; I actually considered smothering my mother with a pillow last night. I get back to a wonderfully empty house. And a note from my mother.
They have gone to the Cypriot Community Centre; a government funded organisation that is supposed to promote unity between the elder members of the two sides. That (like Marxism)is wonderful in theory but a dismal failure in reality.
Admittedly I enjoy hearing the stories every week; on one occasion my mother had got into an exchange of words with a Greek Cypriot lady.
One of my mother’s Turkish Cypriot comrades then came to her defence. And started attacking the other woman with her walking stick. Then a full scale hair-pulling, face slapping brawl broke out amongst the rest of the women. And it was left to their men folk to break it up.
Then there was the recent spring trip to the seaside where an administrative error left them two seats short on the coach. It had been agreed that the fairest way to allocate seats would be on a first come first served basis.
Then the last two people on happened to be Greek and the majority Greek administration asked a Turkish couple to get off and let them on.
At that point my father intervened and instructed the Turkish couple to stay in their seats.
Then turned on his Greek adversaries “You think because there are more of you that you can do what you like? You may have got away with it in Cyprus but you will not get away with it here”.
This led to a long stand-off between the two sides. And the trip was cancelled.
They will be fighting with the Greeks for most of the day so I decide to catch up on my sleep. But the radio is blaring out. I turn it off. Then Rϋștϋ starts chirping like a canary possessed. I turn it back on. And he stops.
I tune it to an English station. He starts his crazed chirping again. I put it back on to Turkish. He stops. I do this several times until I am forced to concede that the bloody canary really does like listening to Turkish radio.
Then my phone rings with bad news. The damage is much more extensive than I had thought. We’re going to be here for at least two weeks.
And that leaves me with only two options; parricide or suicide.