We returned to the police station with TJ – a man who could speak both languages. The station was far busier than yesterday, with lots of people milling around the lobby area. Several young men had head injuries and another had blood all over his shirt. There were lots of animated conversations.
In England we would blame it all on alcohol. Not here in Turkey – not least because it was Ramadan. TJ explained that the combination of the heat and Ramadan (no food, no water, no cigarettes) means that tempers get frayed and punches would get thrown. One young Turk had a stitched head wound in his hair– I guess a full bottle on the skull does more damage than an empty one.
Rather than wait politely for attention, as we English had yesterday, TJ walked straight into the police incident room. It was well after breakfast and they were much more lively than yesterday. TJ got involved in a discussion about who was complaining and who were witnesses. We deduced that my daughter, her boyfriend and my son were complaining, but as the last of these was still asleep in the villa, I would complain for him. It would be an honour I thought. Better for him than against us.
The second heated debate was whether or not we needed a translator. TJ – born and bred in Turkey – had spent 30 years in the UK, and although he admitted that 7 years away was making his English rusty, he was clearly bilingual in any language. The police pointed at a sign on the wall. A sign which we were sure was not there yesterday. Was the paint even dry? It read as follows:-
ACCORDING TO TURKISH LAWS FOREIGNERS CAN’T MAKE A STATEMENT WITHOUT TRANSLATOR. IT IS FORBIDDEN TO LAW ENFORECEMENT OFFICERS TO TRANSLATE FOR FOREIGNERS. PLEASE CONTACT WITH YOUR EMBASSY YOUR TRAVEL AGENCY OR YOUR HOTEL TO FIND A TRANSLATOR.
Not a bad effort. A few wrinkles in the prepositions – a “to” in place of a “for” and an unnecessary ‘with’ – otherwise a good translation of the translation requirements. 9 out of 10.
TJ argued for quite a while – but in the end the policemen insisted that we had to hire an official translator – one that was no doubt certified honest and accurate and impartial. Notwithstanding prepositions. Which is a preposition by the way. Notwithstanding that is.
TJ asked us whether we had our passports with us. We did not. So he drove me all the way back to the villa. I phoned ahead to ask my wife to retrieve them from the safe. I explained to TJ how my daughter’s boyfriend’s passport had not been stolen – despite being on his bedside table. TJ said that thieves are rarely interested in passports, only in cash and saleable valuables, which they would then flog at some far-away shop in some far-away town. In fact – in the adjacent villa to ours, the locked safe had been ripped out and stolen, including the passports. So better NOT to leave your passports in the safe. I liked this man’s reverse logic. We returned to the police station.
By the time we got back our translator was here, and busy helping out a German woman who had lost her ring – maybe down the shower drain, or maybe it had been stolen. We rescued him and we queued up behind a couple of head injuries awaiting our turn.
We each made a statement. They seemed to join up – which was lucky – because they were all true. I reflected on how hard it would be to make up a story and keep it straight between three people. My daughter’s boyfriend went in first – he having suffered the greatest loss. My daughter went second – hardly worth it for her cheap Nokia which she would be happy to replace. I was last in.
A very bored policeman sat behind a computer screen typing. He had signed up for car-chases, breaking up fights and solving complex serious crime. Now he sat typing up the loss of a black leather wallet from a room in a holiday villa. Every job has its tedium and its minutia.
They wanted my name, my parent’s names, my passport details, my place of education and my degree. The translator struggled with Geography. And good luck with contacting my parents. I wondered whether saying “Cambridge” would help. “Oh Cambridge, Mr Bottomley, we do apologise, please take a seat in our executive suite whilst we immediately refund you double the cost of everything. Cigar? Port or brandy?”
Back in the real world, I gave a list of my son’s stolen items to the translator. He seemed agitated – “remember”, he said, “you are doing this for your son, so we have to say the wallet is yours”.
I had just put my wallet on the desk, alongside my phone. Putting aside the ethical issues of blatant lying – telling the Turkish police my wallet had been stolen, and then bringing it with me, was not going to look great.
In the heat of the moment, I calmly placed my wallet under my phone and scooped both of them into my pocket.
This mendacity clearly was going to work. On the list of stolen items were my son’s driving licence and a student card for Lancaster University. I guess I could be a post-graduate in road safety (tenuous geography connection) who had confiscated my son’s driving licence. The story was running out of legs, and a night in a badly-furnished Turkish Jail under Ramadan restrictions wasn’t quite the holiday I had signed up for. I’d already been to a Premier Inn.
I protested. “Okay”, he decided, “say it was your son’s wallet but in your suitcase”. I was pretty sure it was my suitcase, which he had borrowed. So we went along with that. By the time he had decided the suitcase was in my room – on the third floor – rather than my son’s, I had lost the plot. Would I have to pretend I was sleeping in my son’s room with him? What would that say about our family dynamics?
I signed a piece of paper in indecipherable Turkish. Maybe it said I was a liar and a cheat. For my troubles, I had our crime report for my son’s wallet, cash, cards etc. The total value was probably less than £50. When I got home I checked the insurance policy. Excess £99.
But, yes, I have a Turkish crime report – not everyone can say that in either language.