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Alfred Edward Housman is, without doubt, my most cherished poet. He published only two books of poems, A Shropshire Lad and Last Poems and yet many of us know his beautiful, balanced, evocative verse without knowing anything about him.
Here his words that could apply to Syria or Afghanistan or Yemen or a child in Mosul whilst we are safe in our illusions:
They say my verse is sad: no wonder;
Its narrow measure spans
Tears of eternity, and sorrow,
Not mine, but man’s.
This is for all ill-treated fellows
Unborn and unbegot,
For them to read when they are in trouble
And I am not.
. . and here on the beauty that surrounds us that we so often take for granted.
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A mighty conflict has been going on in my head between, on the one hand, conscience and on the other imagination/motivation. I suppose ‘mighty conflict’ is a bit hyperbolic, over the top even, but when one doesn’t have to worry about a boss or paying the mortgage little niggles can become big niggles.
I bet JRR never dreamt that little ‘Niggle’ would turn into a bloody great big niggle when they strung the films out over how many Christmases?
Anyway, back to the plot. My niggle was finding something, anything, to stick up in a post. The old grey matter was not cooperating! Days passed! Then, this morning, there it was staring me in the face – a Cockchafer! No, no! Not a worn out ‘athletic support’ as we used to call them in polite circles.
I’m referring to to the real McCoy – Melolontha melolontha aka the Common Cockchafer, a fine and rather handsome beetle! He, for indeed he was a he, was lying on his back (a very common position for this species) legs waving in the air and looking very forlorn.
Beetles, having started their evolutionary journey about 300 million years ago, have done very nicely until encountering a problem with Homo sapiens and their, roughly, 6000 year-old ‘civilisation’! Flat, smooth surfaces are a pain in the back when one has landed on one’s arse and there is nothing to get a grip of in order to perform a forward flip! I mean, one just lies there, waving one’s legs in the air and looking stupid!
When seen with their best feet forward Cockchafers are a pretty photogenic lot.
This is George. How do I know this is he and not Georgina? because George has seven ‘feathers’ on his antenna whilst Georgina has only six. Why does he need so many? Good question and as you have probably already sussed it has everything to do with ‘Makin’ Whoopee’. When the fancy takes Georgina she pumps out the pheromones and George, who’s usually hanging about on the off-chance of a bit on the side, will get those antenna tuned in anywhere up to a couple of miles away! Day or night it’s all the same to our bug-eyed Romeo and he will track this amorous lady down – even if it kills him! Love, they say is blind, and certainly where Cockchafers, brick walls and smooth patios are concerned it can lead to a frustratingly long, slow decline of the libido.
So, when (not if) you next see George on his back with his libido limp and his legs in the air do him a favour and jack him up the right way, find him a tree and wish him ‘Better luck next time, mate!’ because, after all it’s a miracle that he’s got as far as he has.
. . on a wet, dark day when the sky is closed until torn apart by great, sizzling sheets of lightning? What else but share the light of a few glorious, multi-coloured candles. So here are just a few flickering lamps to brighten the day for any of you, anywhere, gazing out at a grey, guttering world. They were all taken just a couple of days ago on a short walk around to our beautiful Kocadere Valley. I know you’ve seen them all before but, let’s face it, waking up to a new day has got to be worth it!
Beautiful Anemone Coronaria
Tilly Tortoise taking the Spring sunshine
Bee Orchids (Ophrys) in all their diverse glory
those beautiful anemones again
a delicate little Fritillaria
Finally, a question: what has a hazelnut in every bite?
Quite a lot of people, whole families, die unnecessarily in Turkey every year. The killer is silent. Usually strikes at night when folks are asleep. And it is mostly poorer families who are the victims. The killer is well known with plenty of information and warnings distributed about how to stay safe. Still people die!
The killer is carbon monoxide and the weapon of choice is usually poorly maintained domestic solid fuel heaters.
Here in Turkey they are know as a ‘soba’. They come in all shapes, sizes and shades of brown, They are very cheap to buy and when properly maintained, incredibly efficient! Despite there being a safe, optimum length for the flue pipes they often span great distances across rooms because the hot pipe is a source of considerable heat distribution.
Until we built our cabin J and I had never owned or operated a soba. That we needed one, given the sub-zero winter temperatures, was a given. Our choice was one of those cute little jobbies with an oven built in that you can see above. Mindful of the dangers from lack of care/maintenance we have kept an eye on carbon build-up and carried out regular cleaning.
All had been well until we arrived for this stop-over. The days are a delight but night time temperatures are regularly quite a few degrees below zero. The cabin was cold so we got the soba going right away – except it didn’t! Smoke billowed out into the room and there was nothing for it but to open all the doors and windows and allow the fire to die down.
When it was cool enough I removed the fire bucket and pried open a couple of the easily reached flue pipes – they were clear. There was nothing else for it (by now it was evening and dark) but to put double quilts on the bed, have an early night, cuddle up and hope we didn’t get hypothermia. I can tell you one thing, it was so cold I went the whole night without getting up for a pee once let alone the usual three! Mind over matter or what!
pretty clean – no problem there
This morning, after reviving coffee, it was down to the job of a total strip down. What we found was horrifying and a lesson in not getting complacent! The speed of this build-up was staggering.
Common sense kept us freezing cold last night – by not chancing our arm and trying to keep a small fire in it also kept us alive! That said, I leave you with the following:
Tonight we sleep cozy, just one quilt and I bloody well know my bladder is not going to hold out!
I really hate this getting older stuff, I really do! Well, not actually getting older, that’s alright. It’s the decrepitude. It’s the chickens of misspent youth, the years of abuse in the gym and playing at being a parachute soldier coming home to roost that are the pits.
you’d never guess we were categorised as fast moving light infantry
Carrying loads like this is what started the rot. Followed by years of macho denial as tears and sprains in the gym took their toll on knees and back. (I’m only showing this to remind myself that I was once a fine young specimen)
‘You’re stubborn and stupid,’ J used to say (and still does) ‘and I have no sympathy for you! You never know when to stop!’ Which is only her opinion and not exactly true. Anyway, J is from Yorkshire and everyone from Yorkshire is opinionated. I mean, look at Geoffrey Boycott for one. I don’t know why there hasn’t long ago been an independence campaign so that England can detach itself from that lot. At least then we wouldn’t have had to put up with his boring cricket commentaries and his even more boring batting!
Watching Boycott ‘chase’ runs was on a par with watching paint dry!
But enough of all that, I need to get back on topic. Where was I? Oh, yes! Decrepitude!
One knee in particular has been pretty troublesome for a long time. It has a history of falling apart, being operated on, generally fiddled about with and dishing out some eye-wateringly painful reminders of its existence in my life. About a year ago it also decided that a bit of gout would look good on its résumé. My excellent bone surgeon sorted it out with medication and all seemed well. Then about couple of months ago it started to make a comeback and so I started back on the medication. It had no effect. Zilch! It was back to the bone doctor.
What he soon discovered was that along with the gouty crystals there were deposits as a side effect of one of the heart medications that decrepitude requires I consume on a daily basis. So, that prescription has been changed and there are even more pills and creams to add to the cocktail and for three weeks there will be ‘WD40‘ injections into the knee.
Oh, bugger! would seem a pretty appropriate response to all this except for one thing. In the space of just a few days the pain has been relieved and last night I got the first decent night’s sleep in quite some time. Living here in Turkey means instant treatment and being contributors to the social insurance scheme the bulk of the costs are defrayed by the state health-care system. Beats the hell out of the UK and most any place else in the world if your chickens are coming home to roost and crapping all over the place!
Roll on Spring, and let me get at that patch of stony ground up there in the mountains!
Alan Fenn, grinning like a Cheshire Cat here in Turkey.