Sea Bass

22nd December 2006

I told Atkins Down The Road about our apartment in Turkey and mentioned that once we’ve taken possession of it at the end of October 2007 he and Mrs Atkins Down The Road will be welcome to stay with us whenever they likle.

His reply was immediate and without ceremony at all. “No thanks.”

There was something wrong here. In Atkins we are talking about a man who is as likely to turn down a freebie as Cherie Blair on speed. I asked him why.

His lip didn’t exactly curl but it might well have done from the tone of his voice. “Turkey?”

“What’s wrong with Turkey?”

“You’ll do well to last a month without having your throat cut. You wouldn’t get me within a thousand miles of the place.”

“This is Altinkum we’re talking about,” I said. “A holiday resort on the Aegean coast. Not downtown Istanbul after Galatasaray have just lost at home to Millwall.”

“Altinkum, Istanbul, they’re Turks, and they’re all tarred with the same brush, Turks. Only the amount of tar is different. Vagabonds, murderers, the lot of them; they can’t help themselves, it’s in their blood, it’s the hot weather.”

I was prepared to say more fool you to him then let the matter drop when an idea came to me that if acted upon would test to the full Atkins’ resolve to keep Turkey off his list of desirable holiday destinations. I acted upon it. “Even if what you say is true it’s a risk I’m prepared to take,” I said.  Then I paused for effect before continuing, “If only to sample that sea bass again.”

Atkins’ ears pricked up at once. “Sea bass?”

Those of you who have heard me speak of Atkins Down Then Road before might recollect that he is such a lover of duck that if he is eating out and someone in the company orders duck then Atkins has to order it too as he can not bear to see other people eating duck if he himself is not eating it. Sea bass is it’s Piscean equivalent; in fact if anything he likes sea bass even more than he does duck.

“While I was over there I had the most marvellous sea bass I’ve ever tasted, fresh out of the sea that day,” I said. “Hanging over the edges of the plate it was, must have weighed a pound and a half at least. It cost me £7, including chips and all the trimmings. In this country you couldn’t buy a sea bass of that size for twice the price from a fishmonger, let alone have it cooked and served up to you in a restaurant that also served up perfectly acceptable wine for two quid a bottle.”

He thought about it for all of a second. “October you say?”

“We take possession on the 31st of October.”

“Put me down for early November,” he said.

“How are you going to eat sea bass if your throat’s been cut?” I asked.

He thought about it for a moment then said, “We might have let them in the Common Market by then,” as if that were all the reason Turks would need to stop slitting Englishmen’s throats, then made himself scarce before I could query his reasoning.

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