My Vegan/Veggie Blog – Weight Loss, Energy and Delicious Recipes.

Okay, I’m well into week 3 and this is how it’s going.

Weight Loss

The first thing most people tend to ask is have you lost any weight. I can answer that question with a simple yes. The answer becomes more extraordinary when I tell you that, we’ve not only been enjoying huge and satisfying meals but we’re also having desserts every night. By desserts, I don’t mean a bowl of chopped fruit. We’ve been having full-on crumbles or chocolate banana aquafaba cake topped with Alpro cream.

Right, down to the figures. In 2.5 weeks Nigel has lost a whopping 9lbs, I have lost 6lbs. We’re both thrilled to have lost a combined total of 15lbs so far.

Health Benefits

We’re both sleeping better. Speaking for myself here, I have suffered heartburn for years and have crunched my way through mountains of antacids and swallowed loads of Zantacs. My overuse/occasional misuse of these products has been worrying me terribly. Not terribly enough to go to the doctor I must add. I have a severe phobia of choking and the thought of an endoscopy fills me with ‘death preference’ levels of dread. Since my lifestyle change, the symptoms have gone. It’s like a miracle has happened and I genuinely feel like a new person. This is not something I’m prepared to give up after a month as I don’t want to go back to my Rennie crunching, Pepto Bismol swigging old self again. I’m ready to adopt this lifestyle from now on. I can confirm that a plant based diet has fixed me. I have also noticed an increase in my energy levels and I’m more alert. On the downside, I have noticed that my hair seems really dry but my skin is better – go figure that one out. As a precaution, we are taking B vitamins, Iron and adding a little linseed powder to some foods.

What Have We Been Eating?

We tend to wander out for breakfast at the weekends. Wetherspoon’s do a lovely smashed avocado bagel and it is delicious. We take a little bottle of almond milk and enjoy the top up filter coffees. This cost us £3.05 each so not a bank breaker either. Don’t let anyone tell you that smashed avocados are an unaffordable middle-class dining experience. The English breakfast was dearer. If you’ve never tried them and are thinking yuck, give them a go. They are absolutely delicious – if you like avocados that is.

Over the past week, we have enjoyed butternut squash risotto and the aforementioned aquafaba chocolate banana cake. Here are the recipes below.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto. (For 2 people)

Butternut squash ingredients:
1 butternut squash peeled and cubed.
A glug of olive oil.
Salt and pepper.

Risotto ingredients:
1 cup of Arborio rice.
1 onion, finely chopped.
A handful of mushrooms and or garden peas. (I added them because I like them).
2 cloves of garlic, crushed.
1 large jug full of vegetable stock made to your taste including salt and pepper if needed.
Half a carton of Alpro soya cream.
2 table spoons of olive oil.
2 tablespoons of vegan margarine. (Pure/Vitalite).
Salt and pepper.
A small amount of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped.
A few shavings of Cheesley. (Vegan cheese – optional).

Cooking the squash.
Add the squash, the oil and the salt and pepper to a bowl and mix. When the squash is coated, pour the mix into an oven dish and roast on about 150 for approximately 25 minutes. Check after 10/15 minutes as you may need to give the squash a shake. This needs to be cooked at the same time as the risotto. When the squash is soft and lightly browned around the edges, it’s cooked perfectly.

While the squash is in the oven, you make the risotto.

Cooking the risotto.
Put your stock on the hob and keep it warm.
Grab a large frying pan. Add the oil, margarine and a sprinkling of salt.
Add the onions, (mushrooms) and garlic. Fry them for a minute.
Pour in the rice and lightly toast.
Pour 2 cups of the hot stock over the rice mix and allow to simmer away.
If using peas, I add them at this point.
When the liquid is fully absorbed keep adding a little more (about ¼ of a cup each time) every time it is absorbed.
There’s no getting away from the fact that you can’t leave a risotto unattended.
After about 5 minutes add a splash of the soya cream.
Stir the mix off the bottom of the pan regularly. After about 20-30 minutes your risotto should be done.
Taste as you go.
The rice should taste rich and creamy and the consistency shouldn’t be too runny. It should be able to hold its shape on a plate with just a nice bit of ooze.
Add more cream until it suits your palate.
Pour 2/3 of the roasted squash into the mix, along with a couple of pinches of the chopped parsley and stir.
Serve in a bowl and top with the rest of the roasted squash, seasoning, a sprinkling of chopped parsley and a few shavings of vegan cheese.

This is a rich, indulgent dish and should be savoured slowly. Enjoy – it’s one of my favourites. If you’re making it now and about to tuck in – I’m jealous.

Chocolate Banana Sticky Aquafaba Cake

Ingredients:
6oz self raising flour.
6oz sugar.
2oz cocoa.
About 3 eggs worth of drained bean juice (from chick peas, kidney beans etc. – I take an educated guess at 3 eggs worth).
6oz vegan margarine.
2 mashed bananas.
2 tablespoons malt.

Making the cake.
Preheat a fan oven to 160 or a few degrees more if you don’t have a fan oven.  
Line a loaf tin with grease proof paper or grease well with margarine.
In a mixing bowl, cream the margarine and sugar.
Stir in, bit by bit, the bean juice.
Add the flour and cocoa in bits and stir the mix as you add.
Finally, add the mashed bananas and malt to the mix and pour into your loaf tin.
Place the cake in the oven and it should be ready in 30-40 minutes. Poke a cocktail stick or fork into the mix and when it comes out without too much mess, the cake is done.

Please note that this is a very moist cake. It is absolutely rich and delicious. It’s tasty when still hot with a bit of Alpro cream poured over it or it’s great cold also.

Toodle pip,
Carla Kovach. 

https://www.facebook.com/CarlaKovachAuthor/

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Office Girl

My musings and thoughts of the day expressed in poem form. Not particularly full of form but it is what I feels so here goes.

Office Girl

You might picture her, behind her desk, filing her nails?
After all, she will never be recognised for her work.
You fail to see that she keeps the company running,
Takes work home, deals with all the shit that the job brings.

You imagine her to be sweet, compliant and good at making tea.
Not like you, the man, the big he.
It’s okay to speak in a demanding tone,
After all, being a she, she’s used to it. She’ll get the phone.

She should be your boss, she’s more qualified than you,
So why the hell do you ask clients to call and ask for the f****** office girl?
I define a girl as a female minor, a child.
She’s not a child, she’s thirty bloody six.

Underneath her clothing, she is built of skin and blood, just like you.
She’s strong, competent and has a mind of her own.
For once shut up, leave your self-importance at the door and ask her opinion,
You might just be surprised, it might make you think.

Office girl, she’s not a girl.
Don’t call her that, call her the company marketing manager,
The credit controller, the shipping clerk, the supervisor.
Call her by her workplace title unless being condescending is in your nature.

The good news is, if I’m describing you,
It’s not too late to change, and become one of the enlightened few.
Go to work tomorrow, have that chat, admit you’ve been a knob,
Show some respect, start again and in turn you’ll be respected.

Carla Kovach

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My Veggie/Vegan Diary – Aquafaba, Couscous and a Husband in Distress.

Well, vegan month rolled around fast. I can honestly say that vegetarian month was a doddle. As a vegan, I can’t use any of the artificial sweeteners in my cupboard. Cheap biscuits, cakes and chocolate bars are out, and I can’t eat eggs but the best thing has happened, I’ve recruited my lovely husband Nigel as my sidekick in this experiment. We’ve both weighed in and have high hopes of feeling full of energy and dropping a bit of weight in the knowledge that we are doing good for the environment and not harming any living creatures. We’ll report our loss (or gain) at the end of the month. This was his reaction (below) when I told him of ‘our’ plan for the month. He is going to miss everything especially when he finds out that most beer isn’t suitable for vegans. Month in front of the telly? I’m thinking, what we spend on vegan substitutes, we’ll save on not going out.

 

How did vegetarian month go?
Finding food that is marked up ‘suitable for vegetarians’ is easy and vegetarian food is available in abundance. Most restaurants have a few options on the menu and will adapt to your dietary requirements with ease, making the vegetarian’s world a good one. Everyday convenience foods are cheap and the frozen food selection is vast, from bean burgers to pies, to soya protein. As for my weight over vegetarian month, I put on 3.5 lb. I could’ve approached the month with a healthier mindset but I chose not to. I can’t blame vegetarianism for my weight gain but I can blame my holiday and my increased reliance on cheeses and ice cream.

How does vegetarianism compare to being vegan?
Well shopping was difficult. All my weekday evening shortcuts to quick meal making have been scuppered. The bean burgers and veggie sausages are suitable for vegetarians, not vegans. Most of them seem to contain egg. The substitute chicken I used during vegan month does have a vegan option – is however more expensive.

So – what next?
I’m going to have to back to basics. Instead of bean burgers, I’ve bought many tins of beans. Butter beans, kidney beans, chick peas, borlotti beans etc. Tonight will be a chick pea and Indian spiced rice night. I have 3 bananas that are on the turn. I hate waste. I’ve discovered that vegans use something called aquafaba as an egg replacement in baking. Aquafaba is the gloopy bean juice that you drain from the can. The stuff that normally ends up down the plughole! I’m going to make a chocolate (cocoa) banana sponge using chick pea juice as an egg substitute. This could be interesting. I’m worried it will end up in the bin. It sounds so wrong but then again why do eggs sound so right? Fun night in for me. I’ll keep you posted on my aquafaba chocolate banana cake.

My lunch today.

Roasted vegetable couscous with kidney beans. Yesterday, I roasted a pan full of thinly sliced carrots, sliced courgettes, peppers, onions, a chilli and mushrooms for about 20 minutes at 180. I threw in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, some cumin and my beloved chilli powder.

While the veg was roasting, I made up a bit of couscous, adding vegan stock powder, tomato puree and a bit of onion powder to the mix. When the veggies were roasted, I added them to the couscous along with a tin of kidney beans and sweetcorn. This concoction is my vegan lunch for the next four days and it is rather tasty.

 

Hope your day’s going well. Hope you’re enjoying your cheap convenience foods while I’m slaving in the kitchen. I’m not jealous of all your extra time – honest. I’m jealous of your cheap bakery cookies though – humph!

Tootle pip,
Carla Kovach.

Meet Me at Marmaris Castle – only 99p on Amazon.

With the help of best friend Beverley, forty-five-year-old primary school teacher Annie Henderson, is hanging up her beloved cardigans and rediscovering her sexy inner-siren. Why? Because of a proposition made ten years ago. Jason’s words have never left her. ‘Meet me at Marmaris Castle, ten years from now, seven in the evening.’ 

As she battles with killer heels, bikini waxes and ill-fitting underwear, she toils with the doubts that swim through her head. ‘Will he turn up? If he does turn up, will he like me? Will I like him?’ After all, her only dream is for a happy ever after. Corny, yes – but it’s true. She wants her dream man, she wants him to fulfil all her desires and most of all she wants him to be the one. Is ten years too much of a gap though? 
Meet me at Marmaris Castle is a romantic comedy full of mishap, awkwardness and severe problems with fashion. 

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My Veggie/Vegan diary continued – Plums and Aubergines.

I’ve been maintaining a vegetarian diet for almost four weeks now. In case you were wondering, I did manage to use the lime curd in my edamame bean savoury rice dish and it went down a treat. Edamame beans are something I’ll cook up a lot more.

Rice has been my latest fad. Indian spiced rice with chickpeas, and Spanish style rice with peppers, onions and butter beans have taken centre stage on my plate. I have rediscovered the versatility of rice and beans – my husband has too, much to his dismay.

The downside of my vegetarian diet. 

It’s not all roses and harps. Even though I don’t react brilliantly to dairy, I have increased my intake. Why? Because I can. Stomach cramps and mucous throat aside, it’s been fun but it can’t continue for much longer. My sleep pattern is poor and my stomach feels like a balloon. I suppose doing vegan month in May is a good thing (for my body) really. As a vegetarian, I’m certain my weight has shot up, but then again, I can’t complain when I’ve added cheese and ice cream to my diet – two ingredients I hadn’t previously eaten often. I’ve been treating myself to ice cream sundaes most nights – not good. It has to stop or I’m going to have to buy bigger clothes!

How did the holiday in Devon go while being vegetarian?

Eating out was a little tedious. Why do most veggie dishes come with salad and garlic bread? and why are they mostly chilli and lasagna? I hate garlic bread. Bring back the stuffed pepper. At least I could have had my beloved savoury rice fix.

I have an exception, the Terrace Tapas Bar in Ilfracombe. I managed to enjoy paella rice, aubergine baked in tomatoes, patatas bravas, Spanish tortilla, nachos, deep fried mozzarella sticks, beautifully dressed salad, and sourdough bread dipped in oil and vinegar. They get ten out of ten for accommodating veggies. On top of that, their customer service was second to none. I made a note, reminding myself to make the paella rice and the aubergine bake when I returned home. I forgot how much I love Spanish flavours. 

The next morning, I asked Wetherspoons if they’d make me a vegetarian Eggs Benedict as Eggs Benedict is one dish I love (as if I hadn’t eaten enough the night before). They replaced the ham with a veggie sausage and I can tell you, it works a treat. Wetherspoons are highly accommodating to individual needs. If you ask and they can do, they will do. Top marks to them too. 

As guessed, the ice cream was exceptional and the flavour choices were amazing. It’s ice cream heaven in Devon. I have to stop thinking about ice cream.

Thoughts of going vegan in May.

I’m going to miss cheese and ice cream. It will be like saying goodbye to old friends. I know there are substitutes but I’m not yet sure they’re in my price range. I’m contemplating making a rice pudding with soya or almond milk. Time to adapt maybe? Who needs cheese? My body is telling me to quit cheese anyway. On the upside, I’ve found vegan chocolate for a reasonable price at B&N and it tastes lovely. Happy days – hopefully. 


What have I been cooking? 

Since returning home from Devon, I’ve made an aubergine bake (below) topped with a mix of grated cheddar, chopped fresh coriander and breadcrumbs; paella rice with Quorn chicken, and a rose water plum and ground almond crumble. The crumble was star of the show and is actually a vegan dish. Check out my recipes below. 

Baked aubergine with cheese and coriander topping. (See photo below).

Ingredients (feeds 4 as a veg side or 2 as a main).
1 aubergine – sliced.
1 tin of tomatoes or 6 tomatoes.
2 onions.
4 cloves garlic.
Olive oil.
Tomatoe purée.
Dried oregano.
Sugar, salt, pepper to taste.
Cheese – grated. (I used cheddar but mozzarella would be good too).
Coriander – finely chopped. (optional but tasty).
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs.

Method.
Fry onions and garlic in olive oil. Add salt to taste. Add dried oregano and peeled/tinned tomatoes. Cook down for a couple of minutes. Taste and season further with sugar, salt and pepper. Keep tasting.
Get a frying pan and add olive oil. Fry the aubergine slices in batches. 
When the tomato sauced has cooked down and you’ve fried your aubergine slices, layer them, tomato sauce first, in a baking dish. Tomatoes then aubergine until you run out. 

Mix the grated cheese, coriander and breadcrumbs in a dish and pour the mix over the aubergine. 
Bake for half an hour at 160 or until the aubergines are all soft and the cheese is grilled. Serve and enjoy.



Rose water plums topped with ground almond crumble.

Ingredients (serves a generous 2).
1 punnet of plums, halved and with stones removed.
4-6 tablespoons of rose water.
Caster sugar.
3 tablespoons of self raising flour.
2 tablespoons of Pure Sunflower Margarine. 
2 tablespoons of Demerara sugar.
2 tablespoons of ground almonds.

Method.
Lay the plums face up in a small baking dish. Sprinkle caster sugar over the plums to suit your palate. Spoon the rose water over the top, making sure that each plum has a slight covering. 

Put the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix. Add the margarine and rub until it resembles crumble. If you need a bit more margarine, go ahead and add a little. If you need more dry ingredients, do the same. Pour the crumble mix on top of the plums and put in an oven set at 160. My plums took about 25 minutes. When the plums are soft and the crumble is crumbly, it is ready to eat. I served it with some Alpro Soya single cream and it was yummy. Plums and rose water are a combination to die for. 

Anyway, I’ll let you know how vegan May is going very soon. 
Toodle pip – and do try the plums. 
Carla Kovach.  

And if you’re going on holiday and fancy something scary and holiday themed to read. …..

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“Cheese” by Carla Buckley – September 2011

Your Honour, my defence I have prepared
Please understand, may I be spared?
Story in my own words I’ll tell
From beginning to end of this present hell

Policeman’s hat through the door I see
No longer if caught, will I be free
“Open up Police” I hear him shout
Enforcer hit’s hard with solid clout

Through the lounge, with haste I run
Accomplice I curse “You said it’d be fun”
First out the window, the waif she’s gone
Over the hill, reaching the path that’s long

Laughing I’m not, through the window I squeeze
“Was not me” I cry, who stole the cheese
With a mighty hand, my leg he pulls
From my jacket the cheddar, it loudly falls

Then Brie, Wensleydale and Laughing Cow
No wonder I got stuck in the bloody window!
Red handed caught he has me so
Read my rights and away I must go

Before you, Your Honour, I humbly stand
Judge and peoples of this land
All witnesses here I’ll make my pleas
“I just couldn’t I swear, resist the cheese!”

By Carla Kovach

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My Veggie/Vegan Diary

Mission:
Vegetarianism for the whole of April and veganism for the whole of May.

Why do this to myself?
I want to explore a healthier, more ethical way of living. Experimenting in this way will enable me to do that without fully committing to a huge lifestyle change. I’m also hoping it will kick start me into a healthier way of life and I’ll finally ditch the excess stone of weight that loves me so much. I’ll keep you posted on any weight loss.

Where am I at?
Today is day five without meat. I can honestly say I’m not missing it at all. I’m not a huge meat eater or fan and I have a love of soya protein anyway. I was also vegetarian for ten years so vegetarian month will be a doddle for me. The difficulty is going to be Vegan May. Milk and butter are easy to replace, I already have almond milk and oil based margarine. The problems I have are trace elements. There’s even lactose in my artificial sweeteners. I’m not going to lie, this is going to be a mega challenge! I will become a label expert, retrain myself in the art of cookery as I know it and eating out is going to be tedious.

What will I miss?
Eggs. I love omelettes, poached eggs, boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, any eggs. They are a fabulous form of protein and in my opinion one of the most versatile items on the grocery list. I will also miss cheese as an ingredient. Will my pasta be quite the same without a shaving of parmesan? Will pizza be the same without mozzarella? Will I master making an egg free cake? I don’t have to answer these questions quite yet. I have the rest of April to slowly come up with a plan to replace these much-loved foods. As far as meat goes, I will miss salmon. I love a salmon fillet. I’ll also miss minced beef as it’s so versatile. Watching my husband Nigel tuck into salmon while I eat a bean burger is going to be difficult but hey, I need to commit to this. Bring on the soya. One thing I won’t do is fail – will I soon be eating my words?

Major concerns:
Cost. I’d be lying if I didn’t bring this up. On a whole I think soya meat products are cheaper than meat so vegetarianism isn’t worrying me. Veganism however is slightly more concerning. The cost of vegan approved produce like chocolate for example is stacks higher than its dairy counterpart and I do like a fair bit of chocolate. Plant based milk and margarines are a little dearer. I prefer almond milk to soya and the cheapest I’ve found it is £1 a bottle at Aldi. Making everything from scratch is going to put a dent in my pocket. I’ve prided myself on cooking highly nutritious meals for next to nothing for years, but now I will have to start thinking savvier. Can I become a vegan but still spend the same on food? That’s a question I’ll hopefully answer in full at the end of May.

What’s for tea?
I bought a tin of edamame beans from Delivegan (details below) and I’m determined to turn them into a smashing meal tonight. I’m going to play Ready Steady Cook (like the cookery program). I have brown rice, a pepper, an onion, a good collection of herbs and spices and a jar of lime curd I bought from a vegan fair last weekend. Who knows how it will all end but I’ll certainly take a photo and let you know. Now is my time to get creative in the kitchen.

Replacement of favourites.
I adore chilli-con-carne but I have been making and enjoying a veggie version on and off for years. I’m going to reveal my recipe below for all who wish to give it a go. I often cook it up when I have to feed a lot of people with varying dietary needs and it goes down extremely well.

Veggie Chilli

Ingredients:
1 bag of Sainsbury’s own soya mince.
3 large red onions.
3 peppers including a green one.
3 mild chillies.
1 small punnet of chestnut mushrooms.
1 tin of kidney beans.
1 tin of mixed beans.
2 x tins of tomatoes.
4 vegetable stock cubes/heaps of stock powder. (Check trace elements if vegan, Marigold vegan stock powder is a safe choice).
1 tin of sweetcorn.
3 tablespoons of olive oil. (Use a cooking spray is watching your fat intake).
4 tablespoons of tomato puree.
3 tablespoons of cumin powder.
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds (if you have them).
2 tablespoons of chilli powder.
1 tablespoon of sugar.
A few splashes of tabasco.
Salt and pepper to taste.

(I also add tins of ratatouille, left over veggies such as carrots, courgettes and anything else I fancy or that is about to go off).

The above will easily make 6-8 main portions (depending on size of appetite) and freezes brilliantly.

Method:
Chop the onions and peppers and fry in the oil until they start to go soft. Add the cumin seeds and lightly fry. Slice and add the mushrooms and chillies. Add the soya meat. At this point the mixture will feel quite thick. Add the spices and mix. Add the tinned tomatoes and stock, then stir. Then, add everything else. If it feels too thick, just add a little water. Bring the pan to a simmer and leave to cook on low for about twenty minutes – easy peasy. Taste the chilli and season to your preference. I normally add salt at this point as stock cubes can be salty. If the tomatoes were a little unripe, add a bit more sugar until you’re happy with the flavour. I also add more chilli as I like it hot.

Assuming that most of us have a few herbs and spices in the cupboard, this normally costs around £7.50 for a pan but makes about 8 main meals if accompanied by baked potatoes, pasta or rice. I buy the soya mince from Sainsbury’s as I think it’s the best tasting mince and the rest of the ingredients come from Aldi which keeps the cost down.

Toodle pip,
Carla Kovach

Author of Whispers Beneath the Pines, To Let, Flame and Meet Me at Marmaris Castle. 

http://delivegan.co.uk/

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More photos of the derelict hotel buildings in Iҫmeler

First things first. This trek is a tad dangerous and I wouldn’t advise you to attempt it. There are barriers for a reason. If like me you decide to climb the fence or go up the steps on the other side, proceed with caution and wear good footwear. After all, I can’t tell you to stay away if curiosity got the better of me and I took the trek upwards myself. 

The first collection of abandoned villa type buildings made up the bulk of my previous blog post. I will post a few photos for all those who haven’t got time to go looking. 

As you can see, had this building been completed, the views from the rooms would have been stunning. It seems from the last photo and photos yet to come that their only use now is for people to hang around making fires, applying graffiti to the walls and trashing the place. There is still much beauty in the decay.


There is a small stone pathway at the back of these villas that leads up to a small cube like building that I presume might be some sort of boiler room. I’m not entirely sure what the building is but take a look and see if you can tell. Beware if you walk up, there are no handrails. It’s a treacherous entrance. 

On a positive note, if you get to the top of the hill, the views are absolutely stunning.

And check out this out …

I took this trek with my husband. When you reach the top, there is an eerie silence about the place until the goats interrupted the moment. Within a short space of time, a load of goats mobbed the place. We watched as they flooded the buildings, jumping through windows, chewing on the flowers and foliage. 

All in a good day out and this day out was free of charge (bonus) and certainly one with a difference. Remember if you do go up there, wear sensible footwear and take a camera. 

My latest Icmeler based story ‘Ludicro’ is set in these buildings. It is part of a holiday horror collection of 5 novelettes (perfect length for an afternoon on the beach) called ‘Dyzturbya – volume 1 – Should Have Stayed Home.’

I’ll leave a sample below should you wish to check it out.

Toddle pip,
Carla Kovach 
Author of Meet Me at Marmaris Castle, Dyzturbya – Should Have Stayed Home (Ludicro) and Whispers Beneath the Pines.

Ludicro by C Kovach

I am a lie,
But you see truth.
I need your soul,
But you’ll not gift.
I’m your desire,
But you’ll not see.
I’m ludicrous,
For your soul, I’m he.

*****

Lydia leaned back in her seat, eyes closed, with one hand on her head whilst intricately weaving a strand of hair around her index finger. The coach went over a bump in the road, then the toddler kicked the back of her seat, again. The driver braked and pipped his horn, forcing everyone to thrust forward. She swallowed, forcing the nausea back, then she pulled the hair out at the root and dropped the black strand to the floor. She wiped her sweaty brow and looked back, catching a glimpse of the child. The sweaty, red-faced menace began to wail. “It’s just down the road Jake, stop playing up. The lady in front will tell you off and you won’t like that,” the mother shouted. That was the first time the woman had spoken and the brat had been kicking her seat since they had left Dalaman Airport. Little Jake responded by climbing over his mother and running up and down the aisle. The coach started to move again.

“That looks like a mini piece of The Colosseum and look at the fountains. I can’t wait to get out of this sweat box and explore,” Imogen said. The small village square looked busy. People were reading papers while sitting in cafes eating lunch. A group of children pointed at the dolphin statues in the fountains. Lydia stared out of the window as she was about to extract another hair. Imogen gently took her hand and guided it back to her lap.

“Why did I agree to come away with you?”

Imogen slipped down her sunglasses and peered over them. “Because it’s been a long time and you’ve missed me,” Imogen replied.

“There is that.”

Screaming boy yelled again as his mother dragged him out of the coach aisle and forced him back into his seat whereupon he continued kicking and screaming. They pulled up outside The Chateau, their hotel for the holiday. Its beautiful boutique image sported a small turret on the top of the building. Behind it, tree covered mountains reached heights she couldn’t fathom. Out the front were some tables and chairs that were set for dinner. She looked through the gap in the people sitting to her left and momentarily had a clear view of the sea. She pictured herself sitting at those tables, enjoying a meal while gazing out at the sea, taking time to reflect on her life, losing Oscar, and her newly resumed friendship with Imogen. Never again would she allow family to come between them. It had been too long and her life hadn’t been the same when they’d gone their separate ways. Imogen had forgiven her and now it was time to start afresh.

“I think this week is going to be one to remember. Welcome to Iҫmeler,” Imogen said as she stood and threw her bag over her shoulder. “Come on lazy, get up. We have a holiday to enjoy and it starts now.” Lydia looked back and noticed that the mother and screaming boy were still seated. At least they weren’t staying in the same hotel. She followed Imogen off the coach.

They waited at reception and a man in his mid-twenties welcomed them in. Lydia removed the booking details from her bag and passed them to him. “I see, you want a room on the top floor, with a sea view. We have keeping just the room for you,” he said in broken English with a smile. “I am Firat. Anything you need, just ask.” He took Lydia’s case, placed it on a trolley and walked towards the lift.

“What about Imogen’s case?” Lydia asked, staring at the man. The man stared back, smiled and continued into the lift. “Wait, my friend-”

“It’s okay Lyd, he doesn’t understand. I’ll get my own.” Imogen wheeled her case into the lift.

They reached their floor. Firat walked ahead with the trolley. “I can’t believe he didn’t take your case. I’m going to say something.”

Imogen yanked Lydia’s arm and pulled her back. “Lydia no. It’s our first day. We don’t want to make a scene.” Firat looked back as he opened the door to their room. Lydia released herself from Imogen’s grip and walked ahead into the room.

“Are you okay Madam?” Lydia ignored him. Her eyes were drawn to the view through the patio doors. The blue tones of the sea blended in with the sky, making the horizon invisible. Mountains jutted out from the sea, and the bay of Marmaris could be seen in the distance. The man continued to stand.

“I think he wants a tip,” Imogen whispered.

“I’m not giving him anything,” Lydia replied as she ignored him. He eventually left. “What a cheek. He really thought he was getting a tip after the way he treated you. I don’t believe it, and to top it off we’ve got a double bed. I asked for twin beds.” She began pacing the floor and biting her nails. “I’m going to have to say something.”

“Don’t. It doesn’t matter. It’ll be like when we were kids and I stayed at yours. Really, it doesn’t matter. Let’s just enjoy our holiday,” Imogen replied.

Lydia walked over to the patio doors and slid them open. As she stepped onto the balcony she felt a faint breeze cutting through the wall of heat. “You’re right. I’m going to put my feet up for a bit, check out the minibar and then unpack.”

“I’m going to explore the village a bit. Want to come?” Imogen asked.

“No. I’m exhausted. I’m just going to stay here and chill.”

Moments later, Lydia watched from the balcony as Imogen walked towards the fountains that they’d passed on the coach. She looked up and waved. Lydia waved back. Soon her friend had disappeared into the distance.

Lydia walked across the room to her bag, took out her camera and lenses, and placed them on the patio table on the balcony. She needed to get back to reality after the shock of losing Oscar. Her mother’s words rang through her head. “Well, he did ride a motorbike. I can’t believe you got on it with him after I told you how I felt. He’ll kill you one day. Thank goodness you weren’t with him that day, stupid boy. It was only a matter of time.” The woman had failed to realise that Oscar was a safe rider. It wasn’t his fault. He always made sure she’d worn leathers and a helmet, and he never even sped on the bike. No, the cow hadn’t realised that as she’d tried her hardest to tarnish his memory.

A tear rolled down her cheek as she remembered her long haired chef and his wide smile that had made her so happy. She wiped a trail of wet from her arm and held it up, blood. There was no way she was ever going to be able to stop picking at her arms. The scab fell off, leaving a tiny but angry red hole, in and around the blood pool. She wiped it away.

Taking her hair, she began to twist the under-layer around her finger until she pulled a few strands out. Her fingertip gently brushed her nape and felt the prickles of new strands poking out of the bald patch under her hair. “Stop it,” she heard her mother yell. That’s all her mother ever had to say. “Stop it, you’ll go bald, take up knitting or something.” Her mother just didn’t understand. Imogen understood, she always did. She picked up the camera and exchanged the standard lens for a telephoto lens and looked through it. From behind the camera she observed the beach below.

A couple of teenagers were playing a game that involved throwing each other in the sea. She smiled as she watched them. The girl in the blue bikini was being carried in a fireman’s lift by a hefty looking boy. He waded through the water, carrying the screaming girl until he was at waist height, then he threw her into the sea. She immediately came back up to the surface and began splashing him while laughing. Lydia’s focus went back to the beach and she watched a waiter carrying a tray of drinks over to a sun lounger. Every image that she focused on wasn’t worthy of snapping. Her inspiration had dried up. She leaned back on the patio chair and refocused on the tall man standing at the water’s edge. Shaking, she zoomed in closer. His long brown hair fell over his shoulders. “Oscar,” she whispered. The man turned. She trembled as another tear rolled down her cheek.

“Don’t be stupid. He’s gone,” her mother’s voice shouted in her head. She was right. He had the build, he had the hair, but he wasn’t Oscar.

A woman ran up to him and kissed him on the lips. Lydia looked away and wiped her teary eyes. She glanced back. Oscar’s gaze met hers through the camera. He let go of the woman and continued staring. Tears of blood began dripping down his face as he reached up to her. She pulled the camera away and rubbed her aching eyes before looking back. The man was still kissing the woman. “Stupid, stupid,” she said as she placed the camera down on the table and put her feet up on another chair. She grabbed her sunglasses and leaned her head against the patio doors. “Too much sun and no sleep last night,” she whispered as she took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

*****

Cold, why was she so cold? She took one step after another but she wasn’t getting any closer. “Babe, I’m here,” Oscar called. She gazed up at him, his head was perfectly framed by the moon, giving him a milky halo. She reached around her neck for her camera but she didn’t have it. Great, she’d tried hard to get the perfect photo for so long, now was her chance, but she didn’t have her camera. His smile beamed back at her. She ran, longing for his embrace, his warmth. She tripped and shivered. Why was she so cold when Oscar was wearing nothing but swimming shorts while standing at the sea’s edge? Like a pond, the sea was still. Oscar took another step into the water. “It’s beautiful. Kick your shoes off and come in.”

“I’ll get my clothes wet,” she said as she pushed each foot forward though the pebbly beach until she reached him. “How did you get here?”

“I’ve been waiting for you. I knew you’d come.”

She held her breath and stroked his face. An image of him in hospital, hooked up to a life support machine, shot through her thoughts. “You’re not real.”

“You’re touching me.” He leaned in and kissed her hard on the lips. “I’ve missed you so much.” Tears flooded her face. She gasped between cries as she gripped him hard, taking in his smell and running her hands through his knotty hair.

“I’ve missed you so much too. I thought you … you-” she pulled away and stared at his unshaven face.

He smiled and took her hand, placing it close to his heart. “You can feel my heart beating. What does that tell you?”

“But-”

“Come swim with me,” he said as he waded deeper into the gentle water.

Lydia shook her head. “Don’t leave me.”

“Come with me.”

“I can’t, I’m so cold,” she replied through chattering teeth. Oscar dived underneath the water’s surface. “Oscar,” she called. He didn’t reappear. “Oscar. Stop playing games.” He bobbed back up and beckoned her to enter. She kicked off her shoes and stepped into the sea. Oscar swam further out and called her. She shook her head and shivered. “It’s too cold. Come back.” She watched as he ignored her calls and swam away. He reached the safety rope and lifted it up. “Oscar, please come back.” Her heart raced as she hugged herself to keep warm.

She heard a rumble in the distance. The water’s edge receded, revealing a seabed of shale, stones, weed and sand. Oscar was gone. The glint of the moon bounced off his shoulders as he swam away. Another rumble filled the air followed by a whooshing, like a tornado gathering momentum around her head. “Oscar,” she yelled as she took a step back. She could no longer see him. Her heart hammered and she began to hyperventilate as she saw the enormous wall of water coming over the mountain that jutted out of the sea. Holding her ears, she ran backwards, screaming and trembling as the approaching tsunami blocked the moon’s light and whooshed forward. There was no way she could outrun a wall of water that was the height of a tower block. She kneeled before it, begging it to take her. She could go with Oscar into the sea and they could be together once again. “I’m coming Oscar,” she yelled as she sobbed into her gritty hands.

“Miss. Are you okay?” asked a large man, who was walking with a woman. Lydia looked around. How had she got onto the beach? She remembered falling asleep on the balcony. A tsunami flashed through her mind. She trembled. “Are you okay?” the woman asked.

“What?” She wiped the sweat off her nose and lifted her tee-shirt away from her clammy skin.

“Do you need a doctor?”

“I’m okay. Where’s the tsunami?”

The man turned and whispered to the woman. She heard the word drugs in their conversation. As she stood, she brushed the pebbles embedded in her knees onto the ground and turned to walk back to the hotel. “Drugs,” she said as she shook her head and crossed the road by the mini supermarket.

As she entered the hotel, Firat ran over to her. “Are you okay?”

She grabbed a flyer off the front desk and began fanning her face. “Why wouldn’t I be?” As she went to speak again, she caught her reflection in a mirror behind the reception desk. Dried blood streaked her arm. Her hair was all matted and stuck around her face revealing her bald area, her knees were raw from kneeling on the beach, and she didn’t have her shoes on. A flashback to her kicking them off as she stepped into the sea came back to her.

“Okay. If you need any assistance, just call down from your room.”

She continued into the lift and to her room. Maybe Imogen had returned. She entered the dark room and called her friend’s name but there was no reply. Maybe she had returned, found the place empty so went back out. Lydia peeled her sticky clothes off and dropped them to the floor then climbed into bed. Tomorrow was another day. She curled up on her side, in the dark, under the crisp sheet and thought of her moment on the beach. The whole episode, dream or whatever it was, slowly came back to her and she sobbed. Being so close to Oscar had felt real, so real she had smelt him and felt the warmness of his breath on her face. She had lost him all over again. She brought her knees up and cried into the pillow, hugging it until she fell asleep.

*****

Lydia had awoken early and left Imogen sleeping. She hadn’t heard her return in the night. As she walked along the seafront towards the marina, she passed a lovely restaurant, serving people breakfast on a small jetty. She smiled as she watched a girl throwing bread in the sea and shouting at her parents, telling them that the fish were eating it. As she neared a bend in the path she reached an ornate water fountain. She placed her camera down and splashed a bit of cold water onto her face before continuing up the steeper hill, away from the marina. Everyone would be snapping away at the boats, she needed something more unusual, a different perspective, so she headed up the hill and followed the road.

She lifted her camera and looked through the lens. That was what she was after, a rusting old mesh with the beauty of the bay captured in every gap. As she continued walking it became quieter. She heard a bell ringing in the distance. Moments later she reached what she had come to see, the derelict hotel. Shrubs and bushes had partially taken over the crumbling steps that led to the main building and apartments. Pushing the branches aside, she climbed the steps, one by one, until she reached the top. She grabbed her camera and snapped away. A clunky bell sound came from the hills. She squinted in the direction of the noise, and what sounded like a crying child pierced her thoughts. “Hello,” she called. The sound was met by the wailing of many. She crept towards the main building and called again. There was no reply. The wailing subsided. “Don’t lose it Lydia,” she said. She shook her head and continued walking.

Standing in front of the chipped white building, she began taking more photos. She needed to explore properly, set up a few shots. She stepped through the door frame and took one step into the empty stone hallway and listened for any sign of life. A rustling drew her eyes to the room on the left. Her heart began to pound. She held her camera up towards the room and took a silent snap. A loud shriek echoed through the building. She stepped back and tripped over a piece of debris. Shuffling backwards on her bottom, she crouched under a flight of stairs and waited, hoping that whatever was making the noise would leave the building. She lifted her camera up and flicked to the last photo she’d taken. She exhaled and laughed as she saw a photo of a small bird entangled in an old bit of mattress that was stuck to a piece of bed frame.

She smiled as she released the bird’s wing allowing it to fly out of the window. Ambling around the rest of the building, she took more photos. Upstairs were more rooms and balconies. Rubble, broken sinks, toilets and door frames, all covered the floors. She stopped at the top of the building and stared at the sea through the torn window mesh. A jet ski skimmed the water and trip boats left the marina for the day. With other buildings to explore, she left.

From what she’d read, there was still a long building and some sort of pump room to find. She headed through a stone arch and up some more steps to reach the long building. She peered in one of the rooms and sniggered at the graffiti picture of a vagina that greeted her. Her heart beat faster as she photographed the decay, the debris and the beer bottles; evidence of current human activity and evidence that her inspiration was returning. Her smile vanished as her ears tuned in again to the child-like wailing that filled the air. The wailing was followed by a rumbling of hooves. “Go away,” she yelled as she ran out of the building.

Clunking bells were all around her along with the goats that they were attached to. The brown and white horned goat stopped wailing and stood in front of her, staring directly at her with its devilish rectangular pupils. The other goats stopped. They remained still and silent behind their leader. The sound of birds, jet skis and boats also stopped. It was her and the silent goats. Her heart hammered as she took a slight step back. She felt a trail of sweat dripping down her neck, tickling her skin. She wanted to scratch, she needed to wipe it away. The goat bleated as it leaned down to chew a flower. The others joined in and began to bleat and wail like babies. She stepped back and kicked a stone which chipped the wall of the building. The horned goat scarpered, followed by the rest. She exhaled and smiled as they ran away. It was goats, just goats. She began the trek uphill towards the pump room where she wanted to take a few more photos before heading back to meet Imogen.
End of sample.

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