Your Holiday Disaster

At last they found somewhere in Turkey that had not been invaded by British tourists. But if the locals seemed pleased to see them, there was a cat there who, evidently, was not. By Keith Brindle
ON OUR first evening in Turkey, we ate lamb and savouries and drank wine and raki. There were very few British tourists in Datca, and we relished feeling so "abroad". We were dining in a restaurant, half way up the bustling, aromatic main street. When someone told a joke, my wife, Samantha, exploded with laughter. Unfortunately, she had not noticed that there was a cat beside her chair, next to her trailing arm. As she raised her hands to cover her mouth, the cat was startled and bit her, badly.

Next morning, her hand was swollen and painful. The local doctor pulled it about a bit, making Samantha cry. Then he sent us to the hospital. No one there spoke English or French or German. We felt very foreign and Samantha was terrified. Eventually, we were taken into a consulting room, which was full of flies. There were used syringes lying around; there was blood on the walls. Another doctor pulled and pressed Samantha's hand again, while speaking in Turkish to the nurse. The only word I could pick out was "rubies". "You mean rabies?" I asked, when the examination ended. He shrugged: "Rabies. Yes. Possible." He talked to me and ignored Samantha. He explained, somehow, that she must have five injections, one every two days. I shuddered. With no real hope, I pointed at my arm. "Here?" "No," he said, pointing at his own body, "umbilical".

I had to explain to Samantha that we must go to the chemist for syringes; that she could have rabies; that she must have injections in her stomach. Outside, she burst into tears. I had seen a television programme about the treatment; pathetically, I was the one who bent over to be sick.

We returned to the consulting room, because we had to. Samantha lay down. A male orderly stroked her hair while a nurse poked at her tummy button before plunging in the syringe. Apparently, the needle entering the stomach is painful, but the serum going in is worse. The bruises appeared later.

Every second morning, we had to go back again, and there had to be another injection in the same place. I could not imagine how Samantha coped; I could not even watch. But, each time, the orderly stroked the hair, the nurse was businesslike and Samantha never made a sound. Her stomach swelled. It was discoloured and she began to look pregnant. She just wanted to be home, away from the nightmare. Every night, we drank away our sorrows.

Finally, the course of treatment was over. It finished on a Sunday, when the hospital was quiet. Just a few more seconds of agony and we would be free at last. But then, the nurse and the orderly indicated we should follow them.

They took us into a back room, where food had been laid out. They motioned to us to sit down. "I can't do this," Samantha said. Manners, of course, made us stay, but the food was covered in flies so we had to turn it down. We gingerly sipped at some mint tea. The nurse was talking to us in Turkish, as though we were old friends, and then the orderly got out a guitar and started to sing for us. It was all totally surreal.

But even their friendliness could not make everything all right. Even the local doctor offering us a free holiday for the following year in his apartment was no consolation; even the waiters who, on hearing our story, boarded the coach to give Samantha flowers as we left could not change the memory.

We will not be returning to Turkey.

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