Sunday, 28 June 2015

Austerity? Up in Smoke

On 28th June last year I wrote this: 

I've arrived in Hydra on the day they celebrate thrashing the Turks.  Named after Admiral Andreas Miaoulis, a Hydriot naval commander during the War of Greek Independence, Miaoulia commemorates his victory at the Battle of Elder where he destroyed a massive 130 strong joint Turkish/Egyptian fleet with only 75 Greek ships.
The town is full of visitors and the taxi boats are still bringing more people from the mainland. A navy frigate is anchored outside the harbour and the dashing officers in their formal whites are mingling with the crowd.  I've missed the folk dancing, boat races and concerts but the evening concludes with stirring speeches, rousing music, fireworks and a reenactment of the sinking of the Turkish Flagship.   Should I be keeping a low profile tonight? I won't be advertising the fact that I arrived from Istanbul today. 

One year on, and this year I've been in Hydra for over 2 weeks so I've seen the whole run up to the "Great Finale". I watched a concert celebrating the works of Leonard Cohen (who still owns a house on the island) ballet,  karate, folk dancing, modern dance and lots of music. The finale last night was the burning and sinking of a Turkish galleon; a very convincing performance accompanied by a sound and firework display that must have cost hundreds of thousands Euros. You have to admire the Greeks: their economy is balancing on the brink, their debt has reached almost 180% of their GDP, unemployment is pushing 50% and today none of the ATM machines here are giving anyone any money. But the party went on.  I remember a friend telling me that if you owe the bank £100 pounds the bank will rule your life but if you owe the bank £1,000,000, the bank will let you do pretty much what you want.  I think the Greeks are following the same principle.  Last night the harbour was lined with massive Gin Palaces, most with British flags, none registered in Greece, but I heard only Greek spoken on the luxury aft decks. I'm told such wealthy spectators finance the festival. I wonder if they'd be willing to put their hands in their coffers and bail out their country too. 









Friday, 26 June 2015

A vegan challenge


Every cooking assignment brings a fresh challenge and this past week I've faced a new one. I am used to cooking for vegetarians and gluten or lactose intolerants, but I haven't had to cater for a vegan before. So I have been trying to adapt my recipes to fit.  It hasn't been too difficult as a lot of Turkish vegetable recipes are vegan friendly but many also rely on egg to bind and cheese to give flavour so I've had to think up alternatives. 


I was making mucver/courgette fritters for the rest of the party and didn't want to leave the vegan out so had to put something into the courgette and onion mix instead of egg. I'd made some hummus the day before and had some cooked chickpeas over. I whizzed them in a blender and added them to the grated courgette, dill, grated onion and seasoning. I didn't want to put too much in and turn them into felafel so added a little chickpea flour, left the mixture an hour for the chickpea flour to swell and then fried as normal.  

Necessity is the the mother of invention, especially in cooking. 



Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Shop, Cook, Sleep

The title sums up my life at present. There is no time for the quiet hour of contemplation needed to write a blog post.  I can't complain. 75% of my life is time rich, where I can plan to achieve just one thing a day or decide to while away the hours walking the dog, reading a book or watching the sun cross the sky from East to West while I think up things to tell you about Bodrum.  Such a lifestyle costs very little to maintain but those pesky utility bills do have to be paid so every so often I throw myself back into my previous existence, where time is money and money buys everything except time. So I apologise for my disappearance from the blogging world, but it is just a temporary blip on my life of lotus eating.  Once the pockets have been refilled I will be back on line. 

Monday, 15 June 2015

Jeff Koons in Hydra Harbour



Well not Mr. Koons himself, but his eye-confusing art work that decorates the hull of contemporary art collector, Dakis Joannou's yacht, Guilty. Describing his unusual vessel, Mr Joannou is quoted saying "We did what we wanted; style was irrelevant."  If Art is meant to make one look again and ponder, this piece fulfils the criteria. The design takes its inspiration from a WW1 British Naval camouflage technique which aimed to confuse rather than conceal.  I'd like to see Guilty moored in a calm bay as I'm sure the design reflected in  glass-smooth turquoise water would be quite spectacular.


When I first caught sight of this yacht a couple of years ago, I recoiled in horror but as with many of Jeff Koons' pieces,  familiarity is breeding acceptance and the beginnings of admiration.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Hedy's Venison Stew


I've spent the past 6 days in 3 different countries, had two 3:30am starts and haven't quite caught up with myself yet, so I think it apt to write a post from Greece on a supposedly Turkish blog about a Scottish recipe cooked by a South African.

We are all encouraged to eat as naturally as possible and one of the most wholesome sources of meat must be venison.  Allowed to wander where it fancies, feeding on grass and shrubs in the Highlands, miles away from chemicals and pollution, drinking pure water and having a jolly life until the gamekeeper's expert bullet kills immediately.  Despite its organic credentials, it's a dish I'm often reluctant to eat (unless it's a filet cut) because the very low fat content can make it a tricky meat to cook successfully and I've sat down to a fair number of venison stews that could take a week to chew through. Unfortunately, I've cooked a few of them myself.  So it was a real treat to enjoy probably the tenderest venison I've ever eaten, prepared by Hedy. She was very generous with the secret of her succulent stew, even though I had to ask her to repeat it 3 times as it is a name quite alien to me;  Sweetheart Stout! A sweet, black beer with a low alcohol content of only 2%, it used to be recommended drinking for pregnant and breastfeeding mums in the Highlands. Added to sautéed onions, root veg and cubed venison, and simmered for a few hours in a low oven, it makes a fantastic sauce for venison or any other meat stew.  So if there are any Highlanders heading for Bodrum, slip a can or two of Sweetheart Stout in your bag and this blogger will see how it cooks down with Turkish beef.



Monday, 8 June 2015

The Disenfranchised.

I should know better. In my 34 year association with Turkey I've made more than my fair share of mistakes and I still haven't learnt my lesson.  In late March I was told that I would be travelling to the Highlands of Scotland again this year. I didn't book my own flights, so it was on 30th March that I found out that I'd be travelling back to Bodrum on 7th June.  Election Day! And that I'd be flying in a couple of hours after the polls closed so there was no chance of voting.  I know one vote either way won't make much difference but I especially wanted to have my say in this one. So off to my local mayor I went, to find out how I could tick the box for democracy.  He gave me my Voting Paper and said that all I had to do was present my Identity Card at the airport and I could vote in advance before I left. And this was my mistake - I believed him.  Even though everyone knows that you should never believe what a person in authority in an official office tells you. Consider it maybe, but never believe it without investigating further.  So I arrived at the airport on 22nd May. I presented myself and my paperwork to the two pleasant ladies at the voting desk and they told me I couldn't vote because I hadn't filled in a form saying that I would be out of the country on the 7th.  Which form was this I asked.  The one that had to be completed by the middle of March.  So I stomped off through passport control muttering unrepeatable sentiments to myself and anyone in earshot.
( It doesn't help that we are still awaiting the delivery of the postal votes that would have allowed us to vote in the UK election in May)

As you can see, I obviously don't have my finger on any political pulse at the moment so I'd like you to read this great post from Alan, who does.  It explains why, despite my disenfranchisement,  there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon in Turkey today and gives you a recipe that involves gin - What's not to like?




BOTTOMS UP!



Relative peace has returned to Turkey and to our quiet corner. The election is done but not dusted – now come the smoke-filled rooms and the shenanigans and (in my opinion) the ‘Night of the Long Knives’!There are two blessings to be counted. First, those bloody awful vans plastered with portraits of political wannabes that go around in convoys blasting out ghastly music have disappeared back from whence they came. continue reading here 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

It all happens on Turkey Street

Three years ago I met two interesting guys in a supermarket.  They were behind me in the queue and I had an inkling from the amount of wine bottles in their basket that they weren't locals.  I'd just arrived back in Bodrum after spending 12 years in the UK and, in an effort to stave off mental degeneration in my new semi-retired state, I'd started writing this blog.  As research, I had been reading a Bodrum blog called Perking the Pansies and I was pretty sure that these two chaps at the check-out were Jack and Liam - The P the P heroes in the flesh.  So I turned and introduced myself.  After their initial shock at being recognised, we chatted and agreed to meet up again. Sadly for me, when I met them, they had already decided to leave Turkey and return to live in the UK, but I have continued to follow Jack's antics in Norwich and this week I've enjoyed reading Jack's second book, Turkey Street.  It's been quite a comfort in rainy, icy Scotland to be transported back to a more familiar terrain and it was fun trying to work out whether the characters in the book are individuals or amalgamations of several different people.  (In the end I rang the author and found out from the horse's mouth that he's taken a mix and match approach to characterisation).  He's certainly made the author of BacktoBodrum blush. Thanks to Jack, I now have a literary alter ego to live up to.





Tuesday, 26 May 2015

A global problem at home

I'm in Scotland on my annual May trip to the Highlands but my thoughts are back in Bodrum. I've just read a disturbing report that homeless Syrians from Aleppo have been removed from Bodrum's streets because their presence is upsetting local tradesmen. What is the world coming to?  Just before I left Bodrum last week, Jake and I came across a Syrian family on the street behind our house. The tattoos on the womens' chins immediately identified their nationality but their Syrian plate car which they'd driven across the border confirmed it. The whole family of 6 and all that they owned were spending each night in the car. They asked for some money but I'd come out without my purse so I couldn't give them anything.  I felt guilty for the whole day and when we walked back that way in the evening, their car was there but no sign of the family.  The next morning I took them breakfast and asked them what they were going to do. They shrugged their shoulders. What can they do? Their home town has been bombed. They have no money and no chance of earning any and there are at least 2,000,000 more in the same awful position. No one wants them. Every day, 50, 100 and sometimes greater numbers are picked up in unsafe boats trying to cross the Aegean to Europe. There seems to be no solution to this massive humanitarian disaster happening on our doorstep. I am being hypocritical to criticise authorities for moving on these hopeless souls because I didn't offer them a place to stay, and I hate myself for not doing so. Giving them breakfast or a bit of ready cash just made me feel a bit better, it did nothing to help sort out their problem. What on earth is going to happen to these poor folk? 

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Bodrum's Golden Retriever Man.


Bodrum has had its fair share of "characters" over the years.  Individuals who choose to follow a different lifestyle from the norm and good luck to them.  For the past three and a half years, Şenol Özbakan has been living in his Peugeot Minibus with his Golden Retrievers, Şesu 14, Tarçin 8, Ajda 4, Hürrem Sultan 5, Aslan 3 and Leydi 3.  A former merchant seaman, Şenol bought Şesu as a puppy in England and brought him back to Izmir on his ship. A few years later he rescued Tarçin from a rubbish bin where she'd been left for dead.  Ajda is their offspring. Hürrem Sultan and Aslan were also found on the streets and Leydi was about to be sent to the dog pound by her owner because she'd been stealing shoes.  She now fulfils her retriever instincts by carrying the shopping bags back from the grocers.  Unfortunately, Şenol's wife did not share his love of dogs and thus his 20 year marriage ended and he moved into a minibus. He never asks for money despite having no income apart from that sent by his family, but well-wishers donate enough to provide sacks of dog food. Until a couple of months ago, he had a permanent base in a car park, where he had planted flowers and generally made a pleasant home for himself but he was moved on and is now beside the football pitch, grateful for the tree that provides shade but without the space to lay out the dogs' blankets and without access to an electric point that he needs for his oxygen equipment that, with 11 daily medications, treats his heart condition.  The Municipality may not be very happy with his living conditions but the general population in Bodrum are very pleased to see him walking his 6 dogs down to the sea for their daily swim and many slip him 10 TL or so as he passes to help with his expenses.  He's become quite a local celebrity and has had his picture in several newspapers.  I asked how he trained his dogs to be so obedient, but he said that they educated themselves which reminded me as a terrier owner of the saying " A Golden Retriever is born half trained, a Terrier dies half trained".  Unable to leave his dogs anywhere or travel with them any distance, he will be missing his daughter's wedding in Izmir next month, which is a shame as 6 Golden Retriever attendants would have made a good follow-up story.


Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Sweet Williams


This post is for my mother, Maggie.  Two years ago, my father brought over a spice jar full of seeds collected from their small plot in Sturminster Newton.  I scattered them in our village garden and waited - and waited. Nothing much happened except for a few plants that grew an inch or two and then stopped and sat still, neither growing taller nor dying off.  I'd just about given up on them and was bemoaning my lack of green fingers when I had a lovely surprise.  We moved back to the village last week and were greeted with a patch of beautiful Sweet Williams.  Now that Dad is no longer with us and Mum yesterday signed on the dotted line to sell the Dorset house, it's up to me to collect the seeds and keep this dynasty of English flowers blooming in Turkey.