Somewhere below the clouds there is an island called the United Kingdom. In the south of this island there is a city called London. In the south of this city there is a small village. And in this village there lives an eleven year old boy called Adem.
No, no. His name is not Adam. It is ‘Adem’. That’s right, there is an ‘e’ instead of an ‘a’ just before the last letter ‘m’. Adem is a Turkish name. Both Adam and Adem mean ‘the first man in the world.’
Adem is a curious boy who loves reading. He reads all kinds of story books. He also reads The Guinness Book of World Records. This is his favourite.
The young boy loves to talk about the things he reads in his Book of Records. If Adem were here now, he would already be talking about Sultan Kosen of Turkey who is eight feet and one inch tall. Sultan Kosen is the tallest living man in the Guinness Book of World Records!
Hey look! Here is Adem coming out from school with his two best friends, Ben and Jonathan. Adem is the one with dark hair, olive skin and beautiful blue eyes. You cannot miss him because Ben and Jonathan are both blonde boys with fair skin.
Adem’s father is Turkish and his mother is English. He got his looks from his father, but his eyes are the same colour as his mother’s.
Adem hears someone say ‘Merhaba.’ He turns around and waves at his Turkish friend, Metin. Then Adem replies by saying, ‘Merhaba!’ This word means hello in Turkish. The first Turkish word Adem ever learnt to say was ‘Baba’. It means Dad.
One day, when Adem was a little boy, he asked his Baba, ‘Am I English or Turkish, or am I half of each?’
His Baba thought about this question for a moment, then answered, ‘You are not half of anything, my son. You are both full Turkish and full English.’
Adem liked this answer very much.
Sometime later, Adem got his face painted with an English flag while he was at the carnival. When his Baba saw Adem’s face he was really quite shocked, but Adem said, ‘It is okay, Baba. Don’t you remember, I am full English as well as full Turkish.’
Adem gives a high five to Ben and Jonathan and then approaches us and walks beside us along the pavement. He smiles up at us. ‘Did you know that in June 2003 a Turkish man called Muhammed Rashid entered the Guinness Book of World Records with his moustache that was over five feet long! That is a very long moustache,’ says Adem, his smile becoming even bigger. ‘My Baba has a big moustache too, and bushy eyebrows. But his moustache is not as big as five feet, thank Allah!’
Adem says ‘Allah’ instead of God, because Adem is a Muslim boy.
Adem notices a man walking in the street with a dark blue velvet Kippah. ‘A Kippah is a Jewish hat,’ says Adem, just so we know.
Then the young boy notices a Sikh man wearing a traditional Turban. Adem loves this variety of different cultures walking along the same street.
‘My Baba owns a restaurant,’ Adem tells us. He looks at us directly with his serious eyes, as if he is teaching us something very important. ‘It is not a kebab restaurant. In my Baba’s restaurant they make vegetarian stew and serve it with special bread called Pide bread. It is very tasty.’
Adem’s Baba has a favourite food. It is called Okra. Okra is a vegetable that tastes a bit like a pickle. Adem’s Baba puts lemon on the Okra because he says it makes the vegetable taste extra special!
‘I really like Kebab,’ Adem tells us. ‘I know it is not very healthy, but it tastes really good.’
Suddenly, the young boy looks a little uncomfortable, as if there is something he wants to tell us. He seems to concentrate, formulating the words inside his head. ‘Every Thursday,’ he says after a moment’s silence, ‘my Baba comes and picks me up. I don’t like Thursdays anymore. There is something about my Baba that embarrasses me. I want to talk to him about it, but I love him and don’t want to hurt his feelings.
It’s not always easy to talk to parents, you know. For example, last Saturday after we had been swimming, I bought a really nice chocolate cake and my friend Ben and my Baba were with me in a café. I was eating my cake when my Baba whispers in my ear that I have to give some of my cake to my friend Ben. Baba said that this is a custom in Turkish culture. It took me ages to whisper back and explain to my Baba that in English culture it is rude to offer my friend half eaten cake as I know he has some money in his pocket, and if he wanted to have some cake he would buy some for himself.’
Adem explains to us that his Baba has lived in England for a very long time, but he still does not have many English friends. The young boy says it is as if his father still lives as he used to live in Turkey. ‘That is okay,’ Adem tells us, ‘but it is sometimes difficult for me to understand some of the Turkish traditions, and there are so many of them to remember.’
Adem has almost arrived at the meeting point where his Baba has told him to wait to be picked up after school.
Today is a Thursday.
He looks a little bit nervous as he scans the street. ‘I have tried to do something about this embarrassment,’ he informs us earnestly, ‘but it has not worked yet. I do not know how to talk to my Baba about the way he acts when we are with my friends.’
Adem stops on the corner. He still looks a bit nervous. ‘This is where my Baba picks me up,’ he says.
There are lots of children from Adem’s school standing about on the corner: some waiting to be picked up by their parents, some heading for the bus or walking home in pairs. Adem pretends to read his book. He doesn’t want any of his friends to be near him when his Baba picks him up.
This is when Adem notices Emily. Emily is beautiful. She has blonde hair and blue eyes and Adem has fancied her ever since they were both in year five.
One day, Adem’s history teacher placed all of the children in pairs for a school project. Adem was placed with Emily. The children had to make a Motte and Bailey castle. The best castle would win a prize.
So Adem and Emily spent a lot of time together and worked really hard on their castle. Then, when the judging day came, THEY WON! And that’s when the fancying began, because Emily had hugged Adem. From that moment to this, whenever Adem sees Emily, he feels a warm feeling inside.
Emily is approaching the corner where Adem is waiting for his Baba to come pick him up. Adem looks very uncomfortable all of a sudden. ‘Oh no! Here is my Baba’s jeep coming around the corner. Baba is coming! Emily is coming! Baba is coming! Emily is coming!’
Adem quickly sits on the floor and pretends to tie his shoelaces while attempting to hide from his Baba and from Emily. But it is no use; the young boy can tell that his Baba has spotted him. The jeep pulls up to the kerb and Adem’s Baba steps out. Meanwhile, Emily is getting closer and closer, and now she can see Adem and his Baba together next to the jeep.
Adem’s Baba throws a smile. ‘Are you OK, my big boy?’
Adem stands up now and his Baba grabs a hold of him and gives him a big cuddle and a kiss. ‘Come on Adem,’ says his Baba in a cheerful voice, ‘won’t you give me a kiss!’
Adem looks around, then quickly kisses his father on the cheek and jumps inside the jeep before Emily gets any closer and laughs at him for kissing and hugging his father when Adem is a big boy now and should be more grownup.
Father and son do not talk to each other for a couple of minutes as they drive through the busy streets heading for home. Baba looks at Adem and asks again, ‘Are you OK, my son?’
‘Yes,’ says Adem, but his voice is not very convincing.
Adem’s Baba knows that his son is not happy because he knows him very well and they are very close. ‘Come on,’ he says, ‘why don’t you tell me what is wrong.’
Adem thinks for a little while. He knows what to say, but he does not want to hurt his Baba’s feelings. Eventually, the young boy summons up the courage to speak his mind. ‘Baba, there is something I need to tell you, something that upsets me. There is a person who upsets me. That person is…’ Adem pauses for a moment, unsure how to continue.
‘Someone has upset you! Tell me who it is.’ Baba says to his son.
‘Well it is…’
‘Yes …Come on!’
‘Is it someone at school, a teacher, a friend, a bully?’ asks Baba, clearly concerned for his son
There is another long silence as Baba steers the jeep through the village towards home.
Adem takes a deep breath, then says, ‘It is you, Baba. You upset me.’
‘Me?’ asks his Baba. ‘What have I done, my son?’
Adem does not say anything, so Baba pulls the jeep into the kerb and switches off the engine so that he can properly talk to his son. ‘Tell me what did I do, Adem?’
Adem looks at his Baba, at his big bushy eyebrows and the lines that crease his forehead and make him look like he is angry. Adem knows that his father is not angry but upset. He feels bad that he has made his Baba sad, but he plucks up all of his courage and tries to explain himself. ‘You know that I am eleven now,’ he tells his Baba. ‘and that I am very grownup.’
‘Yes definitely,’ says his Baba with a touch of pride in his voice.
‘You know it was OK to cuddle me and kiss me in front of my friends when I was at primary school, but I do not want you to do that in front of my friends anymore.’ ‘So… you do not want me to kiss and cuddle you anymore, is that it?’
‘No, no, Baba. I like it when you cuddle me, but I don’t want you to kiss and cuddle me in front of my friends at school because I am too old for that now and they will laugh at me.’
‘It is a very Turkish thing to do, I suppose,’ admits Baba as he starts up the jeep and steers into the evening traffic. He looks a little sad and Adem wants to cheer him up.
‘Yes, my son?’
‘Shall I make a cup of tea for you and mummy when we get home?’
Baba smiles at his precious son. ‘That would be lovely, Adem. But please do not put any milk in my tea. You know that I like it black. This is the Turkish way to have tea and the Turkish way is best for me.’ His Baba winks at Adem as he says these words.
Adem smiles because he knows that his Baba understands why he was embarrassed, and he also knows that his Baba loves him very much.
‘Can we play a game tonight?’ asks Adem as the jeep rounds the final bend towards home.
Baba does not look upset anymore and reaches over and ruffles Adem’s hair and waves a finger at his son. ‘We can play a game as long as you don’t cheat again like you did last night.’
‘I didn’t cheat,’ Adem laughs. ‘You cheated.’
Baba and Adem both laugh at this and continue talking about Adem’s day at school and all of the things he did and all the facts he has memorised from his Guinness Book of World Records.
And that was the last time that Baba embarrassed Adem in front of his friends.
But whenever they are playing together at home, Baba will often grab his son and wrap his big arms around him and tease him that he is never be too big for a cuddle.
One upon a time, in a small village in Turkey, there lived a mother and her loyal son. The son was known by all as Bald Boy because even though he was still quite young he had no hair on his head at all.
Bald Boy and his mother were very poor indeed and so each day Bald Boy would take up his basket and venture out into the woods in search of food.
‘Good luck, my son,’ the old woman would call out as Bald Boy waved goodbye and set out on his daily journey.
One day, as he was searching the forest floor for the juicy mushrooms that could often be found growing in the shadows of the tall trees, Bald Boy was sure that he could hear a young girl crying. When he looked up he noticed a little squirrel sitting on the branch of the tree above his head. The squirrel was crying inconsolably and so Bald Boy reached out to comfort the little creature. He took the squirrel in his arms and stroked her and sang to her and assured her that everything was going to be okay.
When at last the squirrel stopped crying, the two friends got to talking and Bald Boy explained how he lived with his mother and how they were very poor.
‘I need to come into this forest each day in search of food because we have no money,’ he told the squirrel.
It was then that the little squirrel said, ‘You have been very kind to me today so I am going to help you in return.’
Then the little squirrel jumped out of Bald Boy’s hands and said, ‘Follow me, follow me.’
The young boy followed the squirrel through the forest for many hours until they reached a cliff edge that overlooked the lush green valley below.
‘You must climb down this cliff,’ said the squirrel. ‘When you reach the bottom you will find the Grouse Queen. She will ask you three questions and you must answer them all correctly to receive the prize.’
The squirrel climbed up onto Bald Boy’s shoulder and whispered the answers to the three questions in his ear. And once she had done so she jumped down and scampered back into the forest without another word.
Bald Boy made himself a rope out of twine and lowered himself down the cliff edge and made his way to where the squirrel had told him the Grouse Queen lived. When she saw him approaching, the Queen stopped Bald Boy in his tracks and demanded that he answer three questions. ‘If you do not answer correctly,’ she said in her stern voice, ‘then you will lose your head.’
Bald Boy was very nervous but he nodded all the same and awaited the first question. The Queen indicated to a cherry tree nearby.
‘How many cherries are growing on this cherry tree?’ she asked.
‘There are as many cherries on that tree as there are feathers on your back,’ replied Bald Boy without hesitation.
The Queen nodded approvingly and then asked, ‘Where is the middle of the earth?’
‘You are standing on the middle of the earth,’ said Bald Boy with just a hint of doubt in his voice.
Once again the Queen nodded approvingly. Then she cleared her throat and prepared for her third and final question. She presented Bald Boy with two identical looking walnuts and asked, ‘Which is the heavier of these two walnuts?’
Bald Boy looked at both nuts and then tossed them into a nearby stream. One of the nuts stayed afloat but the other disappeared beneath the surface.
‘The one which has sunk beneath the water is the heavier of the two, Your Majesty.’
The Queen could not deny that all three answers were correct and so she reluctantly handed Bald Boy the large pot of gold that was his rightful prize.
The young boy climbed back up the cliff face with his pot of gold strapped to his back and ran into the forest to thank the little squirrel for her kindness. But when Bald Boy eventually found the squirrel she was crying once more, her head resting in her tiny front paws as the tears fell to the ground all around her.
‘Why are you so sad?’ asked Bald Boy.
‘I used to be a beautiful Princess until the Grouse Queen cast a spell on me and turned me into a squirrel. Now the only thing that will set me free is a single drop of Emerald Water from the lake in the dragon’s cave.’
Bald Boy was so very grateful to the little squirrel for saving him and his mother from a life of poverty that he instantly promised to fetch a drop of the Emerald Water. He marched into town and used some of his gold to buy the sharpest sword from the blacksmith. Then he climbed the Mountain of Kaf towards the dragon’s cave.
When he reached the cave, Bald Boy raised his sword and did battle with the two giant snakes that guarded the entrance to the cave. the fight was fierce and bloody but Bald Boy eventually cut the heads from the evil snakes and threw them from the edge of the mountain.
Deep inside the cave the evil dragon stirred. He stretched his wings and took flight to see what was happening with his snake guards. It was then that Bald Boy crept unnoticed into the dragon’s lair and filled his glass bottle with the precious Emerald Water. When he was sure it was safe he ran from the lair and climbed back down the mountain and disappeared into the forest to find the little squirrel.
‘I have returned,’ he told his friend as he raised the bottle triumphantly into the air, ‘and I have the Emerald Water for you.’
Bald Boy poured some of the water into his open palm and watched it run between his fingers into the forest floor. The last drop he saved for the squirrel who jumped down from the tree to drink from Bald Boy’s palm
Bald Boy escorted the Princess back to the Royal Palace and when the Sultan saw his beautiful daughter he was overjoyed.
‘You are a brave man and you shall never again want for anything,’ he assured Bald Boy as he embraced the youth fondly.
That was when Bald Boy remembered his poor mother waiting back home for her mushrooms. He thanked the Princess and the Sultan and he took his pot of gold and returned home to his mother after shopping for gifts and food at the local market.
The old woman could not believe the story that Bald Boy told her over dinner that night, but one thing was for sure… her brave son would never again have to enter the forest in search of food. The old woman smiled to herself then as she dipped her silver spoon into a nice big bowl of mushroom soup.