Meander by Jeremy Seal: When a meander becomes a bit of a plod

Cover imageHaving already written the acclaimed A Fez of the Heart about Turkey and spent many years as a tour guide there, Jeremy Seal clearly has a passion for the country. Meander is a testament to that passion, charting his journey along the river which divides the district of Anatolia – the frontier between west and east – from its source at Dinar to its mouth at Miletus.

On the map the Menderes which translates as Meander appears to live up to its name but the reality proves to be very different. Polluted, choked with vegetation, plagued by drought or plundered for irrigation, the poor old Meander is far from the sinuously curving river Seal had envisioned. His original plan to travel solely by canoe is soon scuppered and he frequently finds himself walking its shores rather than sailing its waters. Offers of tea along the way are in abundance, even from security guards. Reliant on the long established Anatolian tradition of hospitality, Seal is rarely disappointed often finding himself in front of an episode of Wolves’ Valley, a soap about which Turks seem to be as passionate as the British are about Eastenders. He frequently meets with amazement at what he’s up to but becomes something of a celebrity as news of his journey travels ahead of him. As Seal nears Miletus, travel becomes easier. Satisfyingly, he’s able to end his journey in the canoe he had hoped would carry him the length of the Meander and deposit the water from the jar he filled at its source into the sea. It’s a little heavy on historical detail for me but then the poor Anatolians have been subject to seemingly endless invasions, bloody battles and general mayhem from around 1700 BC to the early twentieth century mostly, it seems, from the Greeks, and now from the likes of you and me, the holiday hordes.

Spare a thought this weekend for the sixty-six managers who have departed Waterstones this week after a bout of restructuring. It saddens me to think of so much bookselling knowledge and experience walking out of the door. I remember a flowering of independent bookshops set up by ex-Waterstones managers after a major exodus well over a decade ago, perhaps the most notable of which is Jaffé & Neale in Chipping Norton, but the current climate is not so benign as it was then. I wish all sixty-six the very best of luck

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