Sunday, 29 September 2013

Breakfast with the Mayor of Konacık

Local elections are looming and in March 2014 the existing 11 municipalities in the Bodrum area will merge into one large Bodrum authority with the current total of 11 mayors being reduced to one.  There are six months left to woo the voters and the race is on.  Outlying villagers now have a vote that will count in electing the local government for the whole Bodrum area and are enjoying the benefits of this new situation. In our village the dirt roads are still sparkling with their new coat of tarmac and gravel thanks to the Social Democrats, whose candidate personally delivered wheelchairs to the needy. The next village has a new drinking water system from the Nationalists and I've lost track of who delivered 20 new rubbish bins. The Pınarlıbelen graveyard has acquired a much needed water supply and taps. You get my drift. 

With the above in mind, I attended a breakfast meeting for foreign residents with one of the front-runners in the election race, the present mayor of Konacik, Mr Mehmet Tosun a member of MHP, the right wing Nationalist Action Party.  Friends are probably falling off their chairs at this, but the prospect of a nationalist party holding a meeting for foreign residents could not be ignored.  There was a good turnout at the beautiful Dibekli Han Art Village and after much mingling; catching up with old friends and being introduced to new, a delicious breakfast was served.  Having lived in Turkey for over 30 years, just the initials MHP strike fear in my heart, but I resolved to put the person before the party and listen to what the guy had to say.  Mehmet Bey is a local chap who comes from a village just down the road from Mumcular,  he trained as a planning engineer and was voted mayor of Konacik in 2004.  One of the more dynamic leaders, he wins points in my book for sponsoring the archaeological digs at Gümüşlük and Pedasa and has turned the latter from an inaccessible site to a very enjoyable monument to visit. I asked him if relocating the ugly Bodrum industrial site and restoring the underlying stadium and hippodrome were on his agenda should he win and he confirmed it was. 

Photo from Debikli Han 
The main theme of the meeting was that although the majority of the room had no vote, they should have a say in the running of their municipality, an opinion which went down very well with his listeners.  As each guest briefly (in most cases) introduced themselves, it was noticeable what a diverse group the foreign element in the area has become and that only good would come from tapping their pool of combined experience.  

The elephant in the room was addressed in a very eloquent manner by Mr Asım Başaran,  Bodrum MHP party chairman, who stated that they were "Nationalist" by virtue of promoting the Nation's assets; nature and the environment and not race or ethnic differences.

Monday, 23 September 2013

First flowers

With the equinox behind us, summer is coming to an end and for the first time last night I could have done with a blanket in the early hours. Daytime temperatures are in the high 20s but the pool water is so cold that a deep breath for courage is needed before a swim. In the plant world,  the herald of autumn is the Urginea maritima or sea squill; a strange flower that seems to appear overnight from dry earth and is an unearthly pale pink.  It would look more at home on a Star Trek or Doctor Who set. 

The flower is the final stage in its annual appearance and only shoots up long after the leaves have died back and disappeared. I found one of the bulbs earlier in the year and it weighed in at nearly two kilos which explains how this plant flowers when the earth is at its driest and how it can continue to produce leaves and flowers when not even planted. This latter quality made the bulb a fertility and good luck symbol which is still sometimes hung outside Greek houses at New Year, although I've not seen this in Turkey.  Since ancient times, the medicinal qualities of the bulb have been appreciated, especially in the treatment of heart disease, coughs and chapped feet. Virgil gives it as an ingredient of sheep wash. In large quantities it is poisonous which keeps it safe from the wild boar which dig up most roots and bulbs around our house. 

From a distance this pale lanky bloom isn't very interesting, but close up the tiny flowers are very pretty and a magnet for honey bees in search of pollen.  If you are out and about, look around the edges of fields for them as the bulbs were often used to mark land boundaries. 

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Quad Bikes - Fun for Some.

As I'm sure you've gathered by now, as the summer approaches, we withdraw from busy Bodrum and decamp to the countryside where we hope to avoid the crowds, traffic and the general hullaballoo that hundreds of thousands of humans on holiday create.  We have no sea view and are over 30 kms from Bodrum, so have for over 20 years managed to avoid acquiring any neighbours.  Google earth shows our house isolated from just about everything except trees and a pond.   We are not totally anti-social, friends do come and visit but the thing we love most about our hideaway is the sound of the wind rushing through the pine trees and the occasional hoopoe swooping over the garden.
We don't much appreciate revving engines and peeping horns which is why we've been a bit peeved this year.  Since May we have had the dubious pleasure of being on a Quad Bike Safari route.  Not once, not twice but three times a day, ten or so bikes roar past whipping up as much dust as possible by skidding sideways  and then proceed to pointlessly drive round and round the pond just below our garden wall.  If this isn't bad enough, as they approach the start of our garden,  the leaders encourage everyone to punch their horns for the whole length of our boundary.
We've put up with it or rather Teo has as I've been away for most of the summer but last week I was in a bolshy mood and decided enough was enough.  There is a whole forest to drive though with no houses and yet they choose the one path that borders my house. If I was to plan a safari, I certainly would steer clear of washing lines with M&S smalls hanging up and I definitely wouldn't deliberately cover them with dust three times a day.

I marched down to the pond in my "firm but reasonable" walk and confronted the leaders. I managed to stop myself telling them that they should be wearing helmets like their customers and that smoking in front of clients is not good for their company image and asked why they had to peep their horns. The answer "it's fun".  I then pointed out that by driving round and round the only natural water source in the area they were depriving the wildlife of water.  I was answered with a shrug.  I asked if they could dissuade their clients from throwing away their water bottles as they drove  - no they couldn't.  I wasn't getting very far but I did have a trump card up my sleeve.  I asked if they could change their route but was told they had permission to use all the forest roads.  Ah ha! "Were they aware that they were driving over private property on their way to the pond?"  No they weren't so they agreed to use the newly opened road which thankfully doesn't border our garden.   They are still peeping their horns but at least we've been saved from the dust.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Baskets galore

We had another visit from the Raşit the basket weaver. Again he was already well into production on our terrace when we woke up.

I really liked this shape mid-construction and thought it would be nice to have a large handle. 

His grandson came along this time to do the leaf stripping but wasn't a very willing apprentice. 

Raşit sells his wares in Bodrum at the Friday market so he works through the week to have 6 or 7 completed baskets ready to offer for sale. 

He's been branching (!) out with new designs this month but hasn't completely abandoned the traditional.  I've got my eye on this splendid olive pickers basket. 

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

What do you miss?

Yesterday lunch time I was on the bridge of RFA Mounts Bay which is docked in Bodrum for a week. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary is a civilian manned fleet owned by the British Ministry of Defence and the ships serve as supply vessels to the forces.  Anyone interested in the specifications should click  here to read the details

The crew and officers aboard were all very welcoming and as we tucked into the ample buffet and sipped our drinks in our ladylike "cocktail" dresses, the inevitable question was asked;  "What do you miss from the UK?"  I never know what to say to this as it seems churlish to admit to missing nothing and the usual "PG Tips and sausages" is no good as I dislike both.  "Marmite" is my only fallback answer.

After a while, I noticed that my fellow guests were taking photos and, as the crew were happily posing for shots, I realised how "Turkified" I had become.  In the centre of Bodrum there are big signs outside the Jandarma and the military holiday camp forbidding any photography. I had assumed that I would be  marched off to the brig if I started snapping.   I had managed to squeeze my camera in my dainty bag at the expense of car keys so at a very late stage did manage to take a few shots.

We were even given a guided tour of upper and lower decks. 

As I followed our eloquent guide, I wished someone would ask me the question again, because I do miss something from the UK and it's the easy openness and lack of suspicion with which we were welcomed on to the ship.  We wouldn't have got within 100 meters of a Turkish ship and would have probably had our cameras confiscated if we had taken any exterior shots.   A public relations event  wouldn't even be considered in Turkey. And it's not only the military. On archaeological sites, the interested spectator is viewed with distrust and kept as far away from the excavations as possible, with screens hiding the digging from view.   So in one word what do I miss - I think it is "fellowship", but I'm hoping you might come up with a better description.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Courgette flowers - Welcome home.

I'm home at last and I can't think of a nicer way to be welcomed back than a plastic bag full of courgette flowers left on the doorstep.  Unfortunately they don't stay looking this good for long so I had to drag myself out of bed and get cooking.  Usually the flowers are stuffed with savoury rice, dipped in egg and flour and then deep fried but I fancied something a bit lighter so decided to bake them with a cheese filling.  For a plateful of flowers take one red onion and 4 cloves of garlic and chop as finely as you can. Mix with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar and then leave for at least an hour to "cook". This process softens the onion and draws out the bitter juice, leaving you with onion that doesn't need frying. After the hour is up, rub the onions with your fingers to soften them a bit more, then empty into a sieve and rinse with fresh water, shaking to remove as much moisture as possible.  Blitz one slice of bread into crumbs, chop a handful of basil and crumble 100g of white cheese into a bowl, add the onion mixture and 1 dessertspoon of olive oil. Mix it all together and check for seasoning.  The cheese is quite salty so I didn't need to add any more salt.  If I'd had some pine nuts  I would have toasted these and thrown them in too, or a handful of walnuts.

Next comes the fiddly bit.  Open each flower and shake upside down to get rid of any insects (washing ruins the flowers).  I started using a teaspoon to fill the cavity but after a few, found it was easier to roll the filling into a little ball and then push it in.  Fold the petals over the top to seal. 

Lightly oil a clay dish and arrange all the flowers in a single layer. Brush each with olive oil, gently pour half a cup of boiling water into the dish to provide steam and cover tightly with foil  and bake in a preheated 170 C oven for 30 to 40 minutes, taking the foil off for the last 10 minutes.

They hold their shape well and would make a pretty addition to a canapé tray but we had ours with a dollop of yogurt and some stuffed peppers. 

It's obvious I've been cooking fancy food for the past couple of months isn't it.  I'll be back to the homely favourites and one-dish wonders as soon as I've unpacked my suitcase and settled back into village life. 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Bird on the wire

I've grown up with the music Leonard Cohen. He fueled my teenage angst; kept me company at the end of love affairs and generally gave me permission to wallow in sorrow and melancholy. I only have to hear a line from 'Suzanne' or 'So long Marianne' and I am thrown back to an Annie on the brink of adulthood and not many days go by without one of his songs popping up on my ipod. One of my favourites is 'Bird on the Wire' and I have just spent 6 weeks cooking 200 meters from the place where this song was conceived. Leonard Cohen's children and grandchildren still use the house so I'm sure the walls resonate to his music.
I can't leave Hydra without taking you on a walk to his former home.

After the Orloff hotel, take the steep steps to the right.

Turn left at the top and at the green shuttered carpenter take the steps to the right
Turn right at the 4 corners grocery where proprietor Maria says Mr Cohen is such a nice man.
and here you are. These are probably the wires that LC was looking at from his terrace.