The 31st of July. Time for Peter's interview at the British Consulate in Taksim.
Travel to Taksim is best by dolmus (shared taxi), and usually this involves a few minutes of queuing as vehicles arrive, fill, and leave, until there is a space. We thought maybe it would be different early in the day, so we went down on Monday morning to have a look. This was different, at 7am there were ten or so dolmuses queuing, waiting for passengers. And there was hardly any traffic. Catching a dolmus early would mean a short trip, maybe half an hour, but catching one a few minutes later after the traffic started to build would mean a long trip, over an hour.
So this morning we were up bright and early and we went there soon after seven - too soon. We were in Taksim in half an hour ... and the interview wouldn't be till nine.
We wandered around the (fairly) quiet streets, walking slowly, enjoying the cool (though humid) air. By 8.45am we were tired of walking and we showed up at the consulate anyway.
The British Consulate is not a very obvious place - no signs at all, just a crest on the wall to give the clue. But there is heavy security (after a bombing a few years ago) and we have been there a few times now so we know where it is. We went to the guardroom window, and were quite surprised when they said I could not enter, only Peter. So I sat on the stone wall outside and waited. He was finished and back out before 9.00, even before his interview appointment time ... but the rest of our day didn't follow this pattern.
He had good news, and bad news. Yes, he was granted the visa, and would get it today, but he had to come back at 4pm to pick up his passport with the visa in it. (Good thing we didn't book our flights for today!)
What to do? An hour back to Bakirkoy, and then returning later - another hour in the dolmus - and then another hour in the dolmus home again. Or hang around Taksim for 7 hours?
We decided to hang around, after all it seemed fairly cool. We wandered slowly up to one of the three Starbucks in the main street, and sat in big comfy chairs in the third floor lounge for about two hours. That was pleasant, but slow moving - its not like we could grab an (English) newspaper to read or something.
Then we went out and wandered some more. We went for a ride down the hill on the little tram. Then we walked back up, and decided to look for a cinema showing English movies - most of the movies here are in English with Turkish sub-titles. We found a cinema, with several bad choices of movies, and chose to go in to watch one that had just started.
It was called "28 weeks later". If you ever get the chance to see it ... go to the dentist and have some teeth pulled instead, it will definitely be more worthwhile.
We counted off the minutes and hours we had managed to waste already, and decided to go give the Consulate a try - who knows, maybe they will be running early.
The man in the glassed-in air-conditioned guardroom repeated the four o'clock starting time. We noted there were already a few people sitting in a patch of shade on the ground under a tree near the Consulate, so we wandered off looking for a cool shady place to perch and wait for two more hours. The day had heated up considerably, but the Consulate is on a steep hill and there are places you can catch a cool breeze off the Golden Horn.
At 3.30 we were back, and waiting in the shade across the road from the Consulate. We watched as various people came and asked at the window and then joined the growing group crowded into the shade under the tiny tree. A few noticed us, and came across to join us.
By four o'clock there were more than 20 anxious people. The traffic had reached a crescendo, and the sun had developed quite a sting. Everyone started queing at the window, which made the guards nervous, so they erected a metal barrier over against the wall that was receiving full sun, and got everyone to queue behind that. Instructions were given in Turkish, which was a bit discouraging for English people wanting to get into the British Consulate.
One older balding man in the queue (not Peter!) was holding his hands on his head trying to protect himself from the sun. He became distressed, so the nice man in the guard room gave him a glass of water to pour over his head - well, maybe it was for him to drink, but his head was so hot it was all he could think of to do. I nipped into a little supermarket I noticed just down the road and grabbed some cold cans of iced tea for my man - who was glad to be wearing his codger hat!
At 4.30 it finally all happened. They took people through the gates five at a time, and a few minutes later Peter had his shiny new "Settlement Husband" visa.
We are going to England!!