'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

I Don’t Believe It!

Two weeks back – is it really that long ago? – I put you in the frame about the plot of land J and I have acquired in a delightfully quiet part of the back-of-beyond. Our expectation was that, with luck and a tail wind, we just might be able to get things sorted, cabin-wise, and then look forward to escaping Okçular’s summer heat next year.

hot hot

After the fiasco with the digger word seems to have got around because there I was, up a ladder painting, when the phone rang. It was our main man from the other end of the ‘rabbit hole’. ‘You should come and drink tea with the mayor, he wants to help you.’ ‘When does he want to see us?’ ‘Now! He is waiting for you in his office!’

Seriously! Burası Türkiye! This is Turkey! By the time we’d cleared up, showered, shaved (not J – well, not that day, anyway!), and driven nearly three hours it was mid-afternoon before we got to his office. As it turned out he’d gone to a funeral anyway and didn’t get back for another hour and a half! I have to say that, when he arrived, he was not at all like any other mayor we’ve ever met in Turkey, striking to look at, engaging and dressed very casually. Taking tea and chatting was like having an audience with Jesse Ventura – Different!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, he was kind enough to offer us a corporation digger and driver for the next day for as long as the work took. In case you are wondering, these things have to be paid for at an hourly rate of 100TL, about £20.

Being ‘English’, we were waiting at the edge of the village at the appointed time – an hour and a half later the machine turned up with its charming, smiley driver/operator. Yet again we’d let our foreign sense of time overrule local practices – the triumph of hope over experience! Mind you, when you see what we were getting for our money, it was well worth the wait . .


What is amazing is that our plot neighbour came to help and spent the entire day directing and ensuring the job was done properly and exactly as we wanted. We could never have managed without him.


The plot has not been tended for about 15 years so a lot of scrub had grown up and needed to be cleared. The scrub will be made good use of for firewood and goat food. The place where the cabin will go was then levelled and an access route made.

You will recall that, this being a protected area, we cannot make any permanent structure. I said we were going to use the chassis of an old mobile office as the foundation for our cabin. We had made no actual moves yet to purchase said chassis so you can imagine our surprise and delight to find this parked up at the end of our access track . .

cabin chassis1

It had taken three guys many hours to cut away the office from the chassis because all the bolts were rusted solid. By the time the truck got it to where you see it, it was 11pm! It succeeded in being what they had hoped for – a ‘Büyük Sürpriz!’ a Big Surprise! We still have to pay for it, but aren’t people wonderful?

So, after the clearing and levelling, the next job for the digger was to tow it on site . .

cabin chassis 2

Is that it? Have we done with the digger? Nope! As we will need a soak-away it was decided that that should be dug whilst the machine is available . .


Hole dug, the mayor was contacted to say thank you and fix the price for five hours work. Can you believe he didn’t want us to pay anything by way of welcome! In the end we insisted that he must, at the very least, let us pay for the diesel fuel and we ensured the driver got a bonus.

Next, a phone call had a local usta arrive who specialises in things like soakaways and the like. He looked at the job and then, in line with custom, everyone sat or squatted down to make the bargain/deal. (some pretty wonderful people have and are doing an awful lot to help us make our dream project a reality – it would be great for you to be able to see their smiling faces – not possible for many reasons).


Deal struck, the usta jumped in the hole and set to work and within a day the job will be capped and finished – like to see you get a builder to come and do a small job at the drop of a hat!


In the middle of all this the man who is reputed to be the very best blacksmith/steel constructor in the whole of this area arrived following a summoning from a ‘certain someone’  to discuss the framing of our wooden cabin. Turns out he is the bee’s-knees and will oversee the whole project, including fitting-out. We have now agreed stage 1 price and he has given a guaranteed start and finish date.

It would be great to be able to show you the full team but discretion is required. Here are a few views from this trip by way of compensation.

plot view

from the plot

lake view1

a  stone’s throw away

view from terrace

the view from the cabin with the main-man

So, there you have it. What was going to be a one-nighter turned into three and each day was filled with wonderful surprises. Some pretty special, selfless people, neighbours and bureaucrats joined with us and brought so many threads together. I’m not sure who is more excited about this project, us or them! Oh, before I forget. A guy from the water cooperative turned up and invited us to join three or four others who also want water for irrigation to lay a new pipe that will pare the cost right down. Yet another piece dropped into place.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü (but actually on Cloud Nine)


I Wouldn’t Leave My Little Wooden Hut For You-oo

Some of you will recall that J and I have been searching for a quiet, mountain bolt-hole for some while. About a year ago we discovered a secluded, little gem of an area – you can see some photos here and here. As is often the case with these things, there are pot-holes and swampy bits along the pathway to paradise. In this instance, we are talking about an area under special protection and the fact that the people who ‘own’ the land don’t! Although families had farmed the area for generations there were no formal title deeds. Ho-hum!

Two weeks ago we got a phone call from our under-cover secret agents suggesting that we get ourselves up to paradise toot sweet! A plot was up for sale in a perfect location, at a fair price and the owner had spent a lot of time and money to acquire title deeds! ‘Ferrets up a drain-pipe’ does not adequately describe our reaction time!


Next morning we were on site with our ‘agents’, the owner and really nice guy we’d met previously who happened to own and farm a plot next door to the one we were looking at.

The location was indeed perfect! 1200+ square metres, terraced, with a beautiful, mature pine tree, forest behind and to one side and a great view once the scrub has been cleared. Water for irrigation is free and drinking water is available. We made an offer there and then and by 3pm the next day the title deeds were in our hands. I’m already dreaming of creamy almond blossom scenting the garden in Spring and balmy evenings on the terrace listening to Segovia as he does his thing!



our view towards the lake

Now, this being a protected area, it is not possible to build a permanent structure – a bit of a puzzle you might think. Not really! The provincial roads department has a graveyard of those mobile office things that used to be all the rage.


The chassis is a massive C-section and there are four close-coupled wheels. With the office structure removed one of these would suit our needs perfectly, so we are acquiring one. With the platform area extended, it will hold a 7×4 metre wooden cabin (sans terrace) and if it’s got wheels it can’t be a fixed structure, can it? A modern solar electric system will power LED lighting and a fridge and ‘Bob’s your uncle!’


Access to the plot is via a narrow track that you’d miss if you didn’t know it was there. Here is the digger arriving to do a job of levelling and scrub clearing.


This being the back of beyond, the machine arrived more than an hour late (normal) and, as soon became apparent, with an operator that hadn’t got a clue which lever did what! The real operator had gone to a funeral and didn’t want us to be disappointed! Never mind, another day will do, we don’t need much of a reason to be back here again asap.


he managed to extend the arm before admitting he hadn’t got a clue

– our neighbour was not impressed!

The locals are just as nice as our neighbours here in Okçular – salt-of-the-earth! Out of the blue J and I were told to make our way to our plot-neighbour’s house on the edge of the village.


our plot is way over the other side

The house has fabulous views across the lake and set out on the upstairs terrace was a feast to welcome us to the community. I know we are going to be very happy living part of our time here.



Finally, an interlude whilst we await developments . .

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü and ‘I’m-Not-Telling-You-Where-It-Is’ Köyü



. . as in disabled, handicapped, weakened, incapacitated – this getting older thing is really pissing me off! Before you jump in with, ‘Alan, mind your bloody language!’ I’d better explain.

When J and I got back into our early morning track-pounding routine a couple of weeks back, we had done barely four days before my knobbly knee felt utterly knackered! Days of rest made no difference – walking, standing, sitting, lying down, the discomfort got to be intolerable. Trust me, I do not do stoicism in the face of agony! This same knee had surgery five years ago when the cartilage split like sliced bread so I thought ‘Here we go again!’

Today it was an early appointment with my favourite bone surgeon before he sent me off to do the rounds of blood-suckers, radio-active ray gun wielders and resonating magnetic photographers. I have to admit that it is all pretty efficient and virtually instantaneous. Makes me glad I live in Turkey – (assuming it doesn’t get postponed, my sister will have waited 16 months for a second hip replacement in the UK!) By the afternoon we were back with ‘Bones’ for the prognosis – ‘I remember your knee. Look, it is still perfect!’ he proclaimed proudly. ‘No need for operation. You have crystals of uric acid in your knee joint – very painful!’

Now, uric acid was something that we ‘Toms’ in the British army used to good advantage for breaking in new boots.

urine in army boots

This from some obscure source: “The traditional method of ‘breaking in’ or softening boots was to apply polish without buffing, urinate in them just before lights out,  and leave them overnight. They were then worn the next day and the process worked wonders on the hardest leather. The routine was repeated until the leather was sufficiently softened.” The boots ponged for a bit and the flies could be a nuisance but the leather was like a baby’s bottom! I mean, in boots I get, but in my knee??


Don’t I bloody-well know that!

‘I forget English name’, continued ‘Bones’. Sounds like bloody gout I mumbled. ‘Yes! Yes!’ he exclaimed, ‘You have gout! I will write prescriptions and I want you to have complete, 100% protein-free diet and come back in one week. You will see, pain will be gone!’

Bloody hell! I mean, come on, gout is what old men get in their big toe for gawd’s sake! Gout! At my age!

Alan Fenn, (knackered)





Friend and fellow ‘bleeding heart’ Chrissy found this and posted it to social media. I find it so powerful in the face of all that is happening right now as refugees – people, human beings like you and me, flee conflict; and what’s more – all that has been happening ever since the ‘civilised’ Western world proved to be better gunsmiths and more murderous killers than everyone else.

There is so much compassion to be seen from extraordinary ordinary people who do what they can do to help alleviate the suffering caused by the politics of the indifferent supported by the bigotry of ‘our national interests’. People who open their hearts and their homes in the face of jingoistic government rhetoric.

These simple words scream out – ‘We, too, are human beings!’

“Home” – by Somalian poet Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbours running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than the journey.

no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the –
go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child’s body
in pieces.

I want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hungry
forget pride
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
I don’t know what I’ve become
but I know that anywhere
is safer than here.

“HOME,” by Somalian poet Warsan Shire



All Consuming

ouroborosOuroboros – a symbol that is almost as old as humanity. The depiction of a serpent devouring itself, despite the sinister look of the thing, is actually a symbol of hope and renewal. That the past may disappear from view but is still actually there, hidden away as the serpent ‘grows’ into the future. Personally, I interpret it somewhat differently. I see it as representative of the present political-economic-industrial system as it devours itself before it inevitably drowns in its own shit!

Do snakes actually do such a thing? Could it be possible? Actually, it is not unknown . .


a real live Boa Consumer – Boidae capitalisticae – seeing is believing

Anyway, back to this system that is consuming itself and destroying lives and the global environment in its greedy desire to own everything. In the midst of the horrific pictures of capitalist wars to control resources that have thousands of men, women and children blown to pieces,  maimed or drowned in their desperation to escape conflict, a reminder that there is so much beauty that is being lost along with the lives and dreams of the Innocents.


The planet will not die. Mother Earth will change and evolve and a million years from now this Blue Sphere will still be blue and it will still be beautiful. If any humans succeed in surviving through what lies ahead then one can only hope that they show greater wisdom than we did.

Meanwhile, in the absence of much travelling about on my part, here are a few of my favourite photos of things I love. I hope they lift your spirits, too:


robber rhino0031

Ruby-tailed Wasp008



Syrian Squirrel (up close)

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü