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.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Gertrude Bell's footsteps

I'm often asked why I live in Turkey and I can only answer "kısmet' or fate. It wasn't a planned move and I had no reason to gravitate to the Eastern Mediterranean but when I look back over my teenage years, I can see the beginnings of an attraction that may have subconsciously led me to find my way to Western Turkey.  In my mid teens I was obsessed with Victorian lady travellers; Isabella Bird, Mary Kingsley, Freya Stark et al and oh how I wished myself into Rose Macaulay's novel, 'The Towers Of Trebizond'. The opening first line "'Take my camel dear' said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass" were just the words a young girl in the dull Midlands of the 1970s needed.  One of my heroines was almost too fantastic to be true - Gertrude Bell, after gaining a First in history from Oxford, was sent to Persia to stay with her uncle, a diplomat in Tehran. There she fell in love but her parents rejected her choice and her beau died soon after, so Gertrude threw herself into Near Eastern studies. Learning 7 languages and immersed in Near Eastern behaviour, she became the only female political officer in the British army and was instrumental in founding modern Iraq. A self-taught archaeologist she eventually founded the Baghdad Museum. She also found time to be a serious mountaineer.
From my later reading, I realise that, had I met her, I wouldn't have enjoyed her company as she was arrogant, intimidating and felt contempt for most women, not considering them worthy of suffrage, but she was the bee's knees to a 15 year old me.

So I'm really exited that Pat Yale is writing a blog about her journey following Gertrude Bell's travels in Turkey.  I'm hooked and can't wait for the trip to be collated into a book.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Bodrum Market Surprises.

Just when I think there is nothing new to see at Bodrum market, I find another first - Sage "apples". According to my admittedly rather ancient guide to plants of the Aegean, these "fruits' are not fruit at all but "galls".  I await further information because I've drawn a blank on the internet.  I wasn't expecting them to taste very good but I can see why they are called apples in Turkish; a sweet/sour juicy mouthful with a hint of sage, not at all unpleasant.

My second surprise is not so pleasant.  I needed some celeriac for a supper party on Thursday night and could only see tiny ones. I asked how much they were and when I found out that a "mouthful" size one was 3 TL I protested.  Asking the stall holder how he could justify the high price, I was told that markets are always more expensive than shops.  Are they? When did that happen?

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

First responders vying to be first .

Lots of confused tourists in Bodrum today trying to work out why there were so many motorbikes and good looking guys in high visibility jackets in the centre of Bodrum today.  I'm sure a lot of visitors got on the ferry back to are Kos none the wiser.  Those familiar with the number 112 would have understood  that they were something to do with emergency services and maybe realised that they were all paramedics. A relatively new concept in Turkey - first responders on motorbikes; able to get to accidents and emergencies before ambulances arrive.  The guys I photographed had university degrees in paramedics, a course that didn't exist in my day. 

Seventeen Turkish teams and one each from Britain, Hungary and Slovenia were racing in time trials that involved manoeuvring around traffic cones, driving through the busy Bodrum streets and practicing  CPR.  The winning team come back to Bodrum on a free holiday.

There's never a good time to fall ill or over but today was the day.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Reflections on Hydra

Our photography homework this week is "reflections". I've been going down to the port early to try and catch the sea at its stillest but wasn't very happy with any of my shots. I could hear Jak dismissing all my reflections of boats in oily water as 'boring and formulaic" as he did our shadow photos last session.  So I turned away from the sea and bingo! Shop windows are much more interesting. I'm happy with the outcome even though the shop keepers were a bit suspicious at my excessive interest in their wares.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Away from Bodrum

I spent most of yesterday travelling away from Bodrum. Not far, just to Hydra on the other side of the Aegean.  Unfortunately to go West, I have to first fly North. I  keep meeting Greeks who have really enjoyed holidaying in Turkey and Turks who have loved visiting Greece and I'm hoping that one day this will encourage airlines to put on direct Athens-Bodrum flights.  Until this happens, I leave home at 7:30 am and, via two planes, a lot of sitting around and a hydrofoil, get to Hydra at 9pm. I haven't picked my dates well this time. My tiny Bodrum garden is belatedly bursting into flower and I'm missing the first canna lilies, blooming honeysuckle and the delight of sitting beside a newly flowering jasmine on a warm evening. When I get back it will be time to move to the country so only the site's feral cat population will enjoy the scented sun-trap.  I also hadn't anticipated how important May 1st is in Greece; I am travelling at one of the busiest times of the year. I  risked being stranded on the island as all the ferries have been booked  for weeks but was lucky to be in the right place at the right time last night to book a seat out next week. 

I am also missing a very busy week-end in Bodrum. There is the  Global Run around the centre of Bodrum, (click here to read about last year's run. 2014 Bodrum Global Run), a Black Sea Festival on one side of the town and a folk celebration at Pedasa on the other, not forgetting the last cake sale before summer in Gumbet.   

I'm not expecting much sympathy as I'm on one of the most picturesque islands of Greece and, having just joined Instagram, I am finding a suitable photo opportunity around every corner, but as I'm cutting back on internet access I'm rationing myself to just one a day.  You'll have to click on the instagram logo on the right to see what today's is.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Time to think about moving. Turn off the WWW.

The sun has finally come out and temperatures are rising. The streets of Bodrum are getting busier and it's time to think about moving out to the country. But before we can up sticks and abandon urban sophistication for bucolic pleasures, we have to get the house ready. A particularly damp winter has left its mark on the North and East facing interior walls so the annual scrape and paint season has opened.  You'd think after 24 years that we'd have sorted the damp problem but whatever we've tried and however much money we've thrown at the problem, a wet winter always seeps through.  We've now accepted that damp will find its way in and we live with it.  We spent the week-end out in the village and got lots of small and large jobs done. If I want to analyse why we were so much more productive than usual, the answer is a simple two words; 'no internet'.  As long as we don't connect the house up to the addictive World Wide Web, we are busy bees.  A good resolution for the summer would be to have at least two internet-free days a week.  This means no news, no emails, no Skype, no Twitter, no Instagram, no T.V.  and no funny cats. This is a stratagem that is obviously not going to work during Wimbledon, but that apart, if successful, we may even run out of jobs to do.  I have not mentioned this idea to my other half yet, he'll be reading it on the blog like you are.

Whatever is happening indoors, outside is always wonderful. 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

23rd April 2015, A date to remember.

I think I said all I wanted to say about 23rd April in 2012, and anything I missed out I added in 2013. In  2014 I was in Greece on 23/4 and this is where I took these two photos of a flag showing St. George about to slaughter a dragon next to St George's red cross pennant flying from the roof of a church in Hydra.  I was sure that there was something deeply meaningful to say about the flag that was once a symbol of everything great in England but is now an emblem we are embarrassed to acknowledge lest we be thought racist  (How did that happen!).   About  the flag of a saint born in what is now central Turkey, hoisted above a Greek orthodox church.  But as you can see from the previous two sentences, this notion is not easy to articulate. So 2014's 23rd April post was left unwritten and having got this far, you are probably wishing that I'd left 2015's in the draft box too.

So why should this Thursday be a date to remember? Because I exchanged 100 pounds today and received 400 Turkish Lira. This is the first time the Lira has dropped so low and broken the 4 Lira barrier.  The general feeling now is that the only way from here is down.  On that depressing note here is a happy picture of a tree prettily decorated for Children's Day.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

A Party

It has been generally agreed that the party for the 5th anniversary of  H3A went very well and that a great time was had by all.  Speeches were kept short and sweet, which is almost a miracle in Turkey and the concert given by Mutlu Torun was a revelation. I didn't think I liked listening to the ud, a lute look-a-like instrument, and almost didn't stay for the recital, but he strayed way off the usual classical Turkish repertoire and I enjoyed every minute.  An impromptu concert by the H3A singing group in the beautiful gardens of the Karia Princess Hotel was a perfect end to the evening.  Now to the two photographs above.  What are these 4 doing on the roof of the Turkish Bath? It wasn't another spontaneous entertainment, in fact nobody seemed to notice them.  They are all members of the photography workshop and our homework this week is to photograph shadows (or shade and shadows as both these words are the same in Turkish) so they were taking advantage of the sunny evening and the hamam's stark white roof.  Mary in blue is not only an ace photographer but also a fellow blogger.  After a year's break she is back at the keyboard and you can check out some of her beautiful photographs on The Adventures of a Cilgin Kiz