In this warm, human-story documentary, award winning film maker Norman Hull has produced a unique film, brave in pace and style for the peak-time tv schedule – and it works. It’s a Shiver film we’re proud of.
“Holiday romance is great for people. You come on holiday, no expectations, you have a beautiful Greek man chatting you up, taking you out, what more do you want?” – Jean Manship
Shiver’s one off documentary, I Married The Waiter: Love In The Sun focuses on the ups and downs of the holiday love stories – from marriages which have endured to this day, to romances which didn’t last the course.
With heart-felt testimony from the women and their Greek, Turkish and Tunisian lovers, this programme follows the tales of those who continued their romances after their planes home had landed.
Among those featured in the programme are Anne, Dawn and Jean, who fell in love at different times with Greek men who all lived on the island of Symi. Maddison, Fleur and Ruth all fell in love with Turkish men. Dorothy, at the age of 70, married a 21-year-old Tunisian man. While some of the romances may have ended, and in one case a new writing career launched on the back of one woman’s experiences, none of the women express regrets about finding love in the sun.
Fleur Ozdemir first met now-husband Ferit when she was on a girlie holiday to Turkey in 2009 and they started chatting at the bar where he worked. He found her on Facebook, and when she later returned for another holiday, they really connected. She says: “I saw him and I just turned round to my friend and went, ‘Wow.’ It was that definite your heart skips a beat [moment] and it was at that point, after that I started to think this is more than just this crazy love, we actually really do connect together. We’d started introducing each other to people and saying you know this is my fiancé because one day we’d get married.”
After their wedding in Turkey, came the next challenge – integrating Ferit to life in Newcastle. To get him some work, and to improve his English, they set up a market stall, and then their own shop. Now the pair are expecting their first child – though he says he found settling in a struggle: “When first I came here the weather is different. Cars different, road is different, food is different, people colour is different, you have to need to speak in Geordie, ‘Alright mate. Why-aye man!’”
Ruth Burman, meanwhile, met future husband Hasan while visiting his jewellery shop in Turkey on holiday with her daughter. Five years after the death of her husband, she was ready to meet someone new. She says: “It was a mutual attraction, he was obviously much younger than I was at the time, he was 42, and I was 66. I liked his company, and we discussed his life. And I discussed my life. Even after five years, very sad at the loss of my husband, who I had been married to for forty years, perhaps because I was vulnerable at the time, it was easier for me to want to have something close with somebody else.”
Ruth visited Turkey several times and the pair married in 2010. But when he moved to England and the pair started their new life together, their relationship unravelled. Hasan didn’t want to live in the UK and Ruth didn’t feel the same any more. She says: “I don’t fancy him any more, it sounds awful but I don’t. I don’t know what I felt in the beginning but [I] certainly don’t feel it any more.”
One love story which did have a happy ending was that of Dawn and Panormitis Karagiannis, who met in 2001 on the Greek island of Symi. While he describes himself as being the biggest lover on the island at the time, the pair married and now live together as part of a traditional Greek set-up where Panormitis’s mother cooks the family meal every night. Dawn says: “We’re not romantic in perhaps the normal way that romance is perceived, we are romantic in the way that since the first time we really looked at each other we have just been together and wanted to be together.”
Dorothy Sims met her future husband Rafaa, then a waiter, on holiday in Tunisia in 2006. At first, the age gap between them concerned her, but romance blossomed and the pair married – with Dorothy at the age of 70 and Rafaa aged 21. She says: “There was an instant attraction between me and this waiter, but I never said anything, I never did anything and then he sent me a little note, would I like to go for a coffee. Out of the blue. And I said to my sister, ‘Is he crackers, what does he want with an old biddy like me with all these young birds around?’”
But after Rafaa was refused entry into Britain, he decided to go to work in Saudi Arabia – effectively spelling the end of their marriage. Dorothy says she was heartbroken: “When you love somebody and you’ve finished it just doesn’t go away, the hurt doesn’t go away, does it? It’s still there. I’ve cried buckets, I have really. Lots of happy memories. Walks along the beach, and he’s very romantic man.”
Anne Zouroudi met future husband George when she holidayed in Symi in 1990. She stayed after falling in love with him and bore him a child after their marriage. But Anne found that she did not want to be a traditional Greek wife as George wanted. She says: “After the marriage, George did change, he wanted me to be far more the Greek housewife than the English woman. I learned to clean things in the house that I never knew needed cleaning.”
The pair grew apart and she found solace in writing, becoming a successful novelist after writing a book based on her experiences there. She says: “I started to write a book which became The Messenger of Athens. And I set it on a very thinly disguised Symi and I borrowed one or two characters. It became the first in a series of seven books and one of the high spots of my career, my books were published in Greece. The Greek islands sojourn that I had, led to a whole new career as a novelist.”
Anne’s friend Jean Manship helped her settle into life in Symi and had found a man of her own, Michalis, in 1983. But the relationship fell apart after it became clear they wouldn’t have children. Jean says: “When we met he was 23 and I was 40 – so by the time he wanted to get married I was 45, he wanted children. Not feasible – so he said, ‘Well I am going to have to look for a wife.’ It was all very amicable and I said that’s fine.”
Meanwhile, Maddison is preparing for her wedding to Isa Oksuz in Datca, Turkey. The pair met when she was a children’s rep and he was a windsurfing instructor. Maddison says it was love at first sight: “I found him really attractive when I first saw him we knew that we’d be together forever that’s the feeling we’ve got.”
Now they have one of their biggest decisions coming up – whether to live in the UK or in Turkey. She says: “It has been hard because are both really family-oriented. But because we have spent the majority of the time in Turkey, I think it would be nice to give us a chance to live in England and see how that goes.”
I Married The Waiter: Love In The Sun airs on Tuesday 23rd September at 9pm on ITV.