Monday, 5 December 2016

Christmas presents

It's that time of year again, not my favourite I admit and this year I have little enthusiasm for Christmas shopping. My email inbox is already full of pressure to spend money.  Wouldn't it be nice if everyone ignored this big business push to empty our wallets and just bought items made by hand; artifacts made with love, care and thought, that support local communities rather than offshore bank accounts. I've made a start by buying myself a pair of earrings - you can see them on the board below - eucalyptus wood tipped with Bodrum blue resin. I know I will treasure them because they have a story. I saw where they were produced, know the hands that made them and met the dog that does her best to interrupt the creative process. You don't get that with

Salih Çakır makes this tactile jewellery in his workshop a few paces from his home in Bitez mandarin gardens, working alongside his wife, Aysel, who produces ceramics. Last year I bought two of Salih's olive wood chopping boards, one for me and one for my daughter and I think I have used my board almost if not every day since.  Salih started making furniture and will take on creative home decor projects but it is his wood and resin jewellery that is attracting attention in Turkey.

Each piece starts as a lump of coloured resin fused onto wood, the rough shapes are cut and then each piece is sanded down with increasingly fine sandpaper until the wood and resin shimmer. Each pair of earrings take several hours of work over 2 days so output is small and each piece is original.

Once the summer arrives you won't find Salih and Aysel in the workshop though, they will be on the beach with their kiteboards. Salih was Turkish Kiteboard Champion from 2011 to 2014 and Asian Champion in 2012, so if you are interested in a pair of earrings to match mine you should take a look at Lignum Design's website before the sun and breeze call the woodworker back to the sea.

Lignum Design on Facebook

Lignum Design on

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Sisterhood in Yalıkavak

We Brits may have a reputation for being strait-laced, uptight and rather reserved but invite us to Happy Hour in a bar, give us a pair of maracas, bongos or a jar of pebbles and stand back and watch us keep the beat with the rest of the world.


Karen Wilson sent out the call to be at The Cafe Minör in Yalıkavak, I have no idea what we were doing but it was great fun and will search out my school recorder for the next one.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Sitting Ducks

I'm a night bird who very rarely gets up early so it was a treat to see the sun rise on Thursday.

With a flask of tea, The Hamlyn Guide to Birds of Europe and an ancient pair of binoculars in my backpack, I joined Lon and Kim on one of their regular trips to count migratory birds. 

As Autumn mornings go, it couldn't have been bettered; watching the steam rising from the water and mingling with the mist was quite magical but it very soon became apparent that we weren't the only ones looking for ducks.

We met National Park rangers on our way who warned us that there were fifteen hunting parties around the creek and lake, that they all had official permits and were bagging their self-regulated quota of duck. 

Decoy ducks had us fooled for a few minutes

So, apart from the occasional grebe, the only ducks to be counted were plastic, the others were staying out of shooting and binocular range and any survey had to be abandoned.

But on an impromptu ramble through the undergrowth, I found a this quill, so we could at least record that porcupines were around.


For those of you with busy lives, here is 17 seconds of tranquility from S. W. Turkey. 

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Moving on.

Treat all disasters as if they were trivialities but never treat a triviality as if it were a disaster.”   — Quentin Crisp
I haven't written for a while because there are a couple of subjects which cry out for comment, but committing thoughts to paper has been too depressing to contemplate so it is easier to just avoid writing anything.  But, I've given myself a good talking to, had a good look around and have convinced myself that the vast majority of the Bodrum population neither wants to legitimise child abuse nor to build on every available inch of green space, so I will avoid discussing these subjects and write about an afternoon which made me glad I live where I do. 

After the wedding, my daughter and her new husband travelled back to their honeymoon hotel in a minibus so their car was left with me.  I offered to deliver it back to them at the hotel and get a bus back to our village.  Being able to get home on public transport is still a novelty for me as for years we had none. Now there are buses from Bodrum to our village at noon and a few in the early evening.  I was aiming for the midday bus.  I delivered the car to the hotel on one side of Bodrum and power-walked to the garage on the other side of the town, picking up prescriptions and lost sunglasses on the way, and was standing at the bus stop by 11:55.   But the bus didn't pass by.  At 12:15,  I was convinced that the route must have changed and I'd been standing at the wrong bus stop so I walked back into the main garage, pretty much convinced that I would have to wait for the next bus at 5pm. No one was sure what had happened to my midday bus, but the driver of the Camlık/Etrim bus recognised me, knew where I lived and told me to hop on. Thus I was given an 40 minutes long, unguided tour of the back roads of villages I have only every driven straight through. After dropping off all his regular passengers, he drove me a further 8 kms to my garden gate and wouldn't take anymore than the regular 6 TL.  This doesn't happen on public transport in the country of my birth and I must keep reminding myself that it is the people who define a country not its politicians. 

Friday, 11 November 2016

Pomegranate skins

It is pomegranate season and the tree beside my back door is full. I've picked and juiced several oversized fruit and there are lots of small ones waiting to ripen.  Walking home in the dark a couple of nights ago, I headed a low hanging fruit as I looked down to search for my keys. It didn't fall which means it is not ready but I will use a less painful method to test their ripeness next time. I had earlier had an altercation with a low hanging bougainvillea bush so already had a sore scalp. The vegetation is out to get me. 

I've been eating this fruit for several decades, (ignoring the advice I was given as a nine year old that the seeds would give me appendicitis), always throwing the peel on the compost heap but this year I read that I should be eating all the fruit so I decided to give it a go.  The peel should be stripped of the white pith and dried either in the sun or a low oven (my thermostat has broken so I have burnt several attempts). The brittle skin can then be ground in a spice grinder.

The resulting powder is high in vitamin C, ellagic acid and other anti-oxidants, and can be mixed in hot water and drunk as a tea to help ease sore throats, coughs and gum problems,  mixed to a paste with milk or rose water and used as a facepack, or added to soups, yogurts, cerals etc.   I finally managed to dry one skin and have been adding it to my porridge for the past few days. I hope it stops me walking into trees.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

In a pickle with the Police

I am very law abiding - I'm also a bit obsessive about having the correct papers and licences. I also possibly have an OCD about insurance so after Teo died I went not once, not twice but three times to the bank to check all our insurance policies were in order.  They were, I was assured, all three times. How long have I lived here?  I really should have known better.

On the Thursday before the wedding I was driving home with the car stuffed to the brim with booze. Jake was squashed into a corner of the back seat by 4 cases of wine and I had beer in the boot and Rakı in the front, so I suppose it was sod's law that I got stopped by the traffic police for a routine check. Aware in these increasingly alcohol-averse times that I was a mobile caricature of a middle-aged ex-pat, I started to explain about the wedding but the cop wasn't interested. My compulsory road insurance was out of date.  Now I was pretty confident that it wasn't but my agent was on holiday so I rang her assistant. She was on a course in Istanbul but answered anyway but couldn't do anything until her lecture finished.  So being Turkish, I ignored my British reticence to disturb a well earned holiday and rang my agent's mobile and she, being Turkish, answered, even though she was on a beach.  She was equally sure that I was legal, having faced me three times in the past three months. She would ring back in 5 minutes. She didn't.  By this time I had been asked to step out of the car and a fine had been issued, as according to the polite policeman, the computer is never wrong and my insurance had run out (but my tax and fully comp insurance were fine, but that didn't cut any ice). By now Jake was also out of the car and we were both sitting in the roadside traffic office, tea had been provided plus the number of an insurance agent to get me the required piece of paper as my agent had suddenly remembered that she was on holiday and wasn't returning calls.  But the car was still in Teo's name as I'd been desperately trying to finish the paper work for the two houses before Esi's wedding. As Teo was no more, I couldn't buy the insurance - stalemate.  The car would be towed away.  I'm glad to say I found this situation funny, the only real annoyance was that I had had my always-messy car valeted that morning as I was picking up family from the airport later in the day. The friend I rang also laughed when I explained what had happened but did arrange a hire car for me. My son-in-law-to-be was very gracious in driving 35kms to collect me, the dog and the booze and taking me home, and my house guests very kindly drove me to the airport to collect the hire car so I could pick up my family. Even the policeman said he was very sorry to have stopped me and if he'd known about my husband he wouldn't have. (Not sure how I could have indicated my newly widowed status while driving - suggestions please below)
Eight days later I got my car back after a 90 TL fine paid at a government approved bank,  150TL notary expenses to change the car into my name, 1,850 TL for compulsory insurance (it was 500 last year, but I had to use the probate to do it as you can't change the name without insurance unless the maximum possible is charged), 85 TL for a change of log book, 480 TL for the hire car and 330TL to get my car out of the pound. Just the kind of expense one needs after a wedding! And if there is a moral to this story I think it is either 'ride a bicycle', 'don't die' or 'immediately burst into tears if a policeman stops you'.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Perking the Pansies

I have stolen this post lock stock, and barrel from Jack Scott at Perking the Pansies

Well I already have his tree, why not pilfer his post - click on the link to see a much more professional delivery.

See the Tree, How Big it’s Grown

When Liam and I first pitched our yurt in Anatolia, we bought an olive sapling in John’s memory and put it in a patio pot. It did remarkably well and bore fruit in the first year – a lean harvest but a harvest nonetheless. After we decided to wade back to Blighty, I asked Annie of Back to Bodrumfame if she would take care of John’s little twig in her Bodrum garden.  Annie went one better and offered a sunny spot in the olive grove of her fabulous country pile.
Four years on and the wedding of the year presented the perfect opportunity to check on John’s tree. Little more than a twig when it was transplanted to Annie’s field, it now stands tall as a strapping sapling, framed in chicken wire to protect it from nibbling cattle.
The first snap is courtesy of Elaine Akalin.
Thank you, Teo, for planting it. You did all the sweaty work while all I did was pat it down like the Queen at an opening. And thank you, Annie, for taking such good care of it.  I’m not religious at all but a part of me hopes Teo and John popped a cork and shared a bottle on the big day.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

A morning so good I could roll in it

Our pre-breakfast morning walk usually takes us just to the end of the lane; Jake gets to sniff about and relieve himself and I get back to make a cup of coffee and decide whether it is a porridge or fruit day. Yesterday's walk started out like that but it was such a glorious morning, we kept going. The ground is crying out for some rain but I can't help enjoying these balmy temperatures where we still only need one layer of clothes, and socks are still firmly in the sock drawer.  In fact I ended up walking for an hour in my flip flops and it was only in the last 5 minutes that a vicious thorn gave me a bloody big toe.

The village vegetable gardens are almost empty with just a few red peppers and the odd watermelon hanging on, but the marigolds and zinnias, which self seed every year, are still blooming and give off that distinctive autumn scent that defies the sunshine to remind me of bonfires and misty mornings. Jake found a scent so good that he had to cover himself in it, and once I'd checked that it wasn't anything decomposed or defecated, I let him get on with it.
It was such a beautiful day that for the first time in 4 months I felt a bit of hope springing and that maybe life could be enjoyed again.  But the curse of 2016 is not going to leave us just yet - a couple of hours later my daughter rang in tears - she has been made redundant, the fate of many in Bodrum I fear. I would say roll on 2017, but I doubt it will have much good news to offer us in Turkey.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Gümüşlük - Calm and Chaos

I was in Gümüşlük this week on a beautifully calm and sunny day. There were a few late sun-seekers on the beach and one or two boats in the bay but there wasn't much going on to disturb the peace and quiet. 

It was probably after just such a day on October 22nd 1943 when the Greek destroyer Adrias hit a mine in the Gulf of Kos and lost most of its bow section, and the HMS Hurworth, steaming to aid the stricken ship, was blown in two by a second mine.  The sea off Gümüşlük was filled with oil, debris and wounded and dead sailors.  The Adrias managed to limp into harbour and this tiny Turkish coastal village became hospital, home and burial ground to Greek and British sailors. This fascinating glimpse of history has been well researched and reported by Dave and Ken in the Gülsüm Balcony Project  and I recommend a visit to their blog to read about it.

When I first visited Gümüşlük in the early eighties, there was a story going around that a British soldier, washed up on the beach after the battles off Kalymnos, had gone to ground in the mandarin gardens to avoid being repatriated to the UK.  Then and now it struck me as a great plot for a film or novel and somewhere in my folders there is a preliminary draft of a screenplay - maybe now is the time to dig it out.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Drums, Guns and Rakı

I was about to write a post about how we saved money, while making my daughter's wedding that bit more personal, by collecting bougainvillea petals to use as confetti. The idea came from close friend Netia, who had done the same for her daughter's wedding and I collected most of the petals pictured in the baskets above from the bougainvillea bushes that Netia planted over 25 years ago.  But I've been diverted by a wedding that is going on close to my village house. It started last night in the groom's garden- no music, just constant drumming and shooting - all night, sometimes single shots, sometimes, repeated fire, building up to a crescendo at about 7 am this morning with 10 minutes of constant gunfire. Needless to say I am short on sleep and the dog is close to a nervous breakdown.  At dusk tonight, the drums gave way to a band but the shooting is still going on.  I've just met a neighbour on his way home who told me that the family have spent 10,000TL on bullets and that the ground around the wedding is littered with spent cartridges, and the 300 cases of rakı that have been bought for the event. This family are not rich, they sold a piece of land to pay for the festivities and the young couple will be moving into a rented flat after the marriage - a flat which could have been bought for less than the cost of the sold land.  We had free petals, they have spent bullets - I'm sure both of us think the other is bonkers.