All posts by Alan

Stories from 14 years of living and traveling in Turkey - from the funny to informative and from cautionary to the downright hilarious. Insights into integrating into village life, customs and ways as well as the joys of exploring one of the most beautiful and bio-diverse areas of Turkey.

Seventh Heaven

I feel like the Buddha looks – smugly  happy, eyes half closed and with a nicely rounded belly that has followed a day of great expectation! That doesn’t read correctly, but you’ll get my drift.

It started with our very nice fishmonger at Ortaca veg market. After he’d safely pocketed the price of our çupra (sea bream), he went all conspiratorial on us. ‘Look, lady – taze karides (fresh shrimps/prawns), çok güzel!’ So we broke the first rule of survival in the commercial jungle and looked. Then we broke the second rule by agreeing with his pitch. And that was all he needed to start picking out the biggest and juiciest and arranging them under our noses on one of those styrofoam trays. ‘Not a kilo, a kilo is too expensive’, he said with his finest, unshaven smile. We ended up with 700 grams and considered we’d got away with a real bargain!

I don’t know how you like your prawns, but J and I enjoy them with shells on, cooked in olive oil with loads of garlic and sprinkled with chilli flakes, a splash of lemon juice (and salt and pepper to taste, of course). We serve them from the pan with chunks of bread to soak up the juices . . Heaven! Or, as our one Buddhist friend would say, ‘Seventh Heaven!’

garlic prawns 1

in goes the garlic

garlic prawns 2

lightly pepper-flaked

garlic prawns 3

Yorkshire Prawn Cocktail

garlic prawn 4sorry about the blur, I was all of a tremble!

So, there you have it – Archers’ first ever ‘foodie’ blog post. Now for a glass of rakı and a couple of episodes of ‘Dad’s Army’ my just rewards for J’s hard work!

Alan Fenn, very contented in front of the fire.

Our Family Trees

There is an area just behind our house that once was a source of pocket money for a less than creditable muhtar. He would oversee the removal of trailer-loads of rock that was ideal as a base material for tracks and small construction jobs. Over time the removal created a mini ‘Red Cliffs of Dover’ with the wall to the village graveyard perched on top. When he started to dig out behind my garage/workshop I threatened him with a complaint and put a stop to his activities in this area at least.

We knew from experience and plain, common sense that the ‘cliff’ was unstable and told him so – ‘Problem yök, (no problem) profesyonal, profesyonal!’ (professional) pointing at the digger driver. Two days after we got rid of him and his bloody digger the first collapse occurred, not too serious, but an indicator of what could follow. That was when J and I began a programme of planting young trees and collecting seeds from trees all over Turkey.

Acer cappadocicum ssp divergens

seedling of Acer cappadocicum ssp divergens (seeds from L. Van)

Common sense and a man from the Forestry Authority told us that most of the seedlings that ‘hatched’ wouldn’t make it but we nurtured them anyway. Our idea was to try and stabilise the ground and discourage anyone else from digging stuff out.

A few years later a second small collapse left parts of the wall undercut and we thought that the big one couldn’t be far away. More years passed by, we continued planting and nurturing and the trees continued to grow. The ugly red cliff was almost forgotten as the trees screened it away from view. In the rainless summer months I would drag out the hose and keep the young trees alive. Gradually a mini climate developed and other species settled in and made themselves at home. The dozens of Red Pine seedlings that we planted began to seed and produce young. The Toros Cedar thrived despite being a couple thousand metres too near sea level. The Eucalyptus must be fifty feet high now and the Carobs are doing great. Of the seeds of the Cappadocian Acer from Lake Van that we planted, two survived to be potted on and eventually set in place. They are slender and fragile but one day they will grow into beautiful, graceful adulthood. Here are some photos of adult trees of species we have planted near the house wherever there was space. We even have an English Horse Chestnut that we grew from a conker!

Acer cappadocicum ssp divergens

adult Acer cappadocicus ssp divergens

Pinus brutiaRed Pine Pinus brutia

I should say ‘were’ for some of these because a few days back the inevitable happened after some heavy rain and a biggish section of the cliff has come down bringing the cemetery wall with it. Our mini Special Forest has taken a real knock. We have lost at least half of our beautiful trees and shrubs, buried under a small landslide that feels bigger than it really is. The Toros Cedar has survived – part buried and so a few feet ‘shorter’ than it was. The Acers have survived, one unscathed and the other was dug out from under and set upright. Only two of the carobs and two of the pomegranates made it and a lot of Red Pine, wild avocado and Maltese Plum, et al have gone together with a lot of shrubs like Cistus.

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a young one we dug out from under and propped up

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Toros Cedar – one day ours will look like this

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most of the fallen blocks cleared

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but so much is buried and lost

old Eucalyptus

really old Eucalyptus – one day!

Melia azedarach

Indian Bead Tree – Melia azederach

Indian Bead

and its flowers

There is no point in being too despondent, we’ll carry on planting and try and stabilise things again – who knows, with a bit of luck, the next landslide will be someone else’s mess! For anyone interested there is a comprehensive list of ‘our’ trees and shrubs below. Some in the garden, many, in fact most, outside – a lot of them collected as seedlings or grown from seeds.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Yucca flamentosa; Pinus brutia; Vitis sylvestris; Aesculus hippocastranum; Acacia retinoides; Acacia cyanphylla; Cercis siliquastrum; Albizia julibrissim; Ceratonia siliqua; Paliurus spina-christii; Planus orientalis; Persea americana; Rosa canina; Eriobotrya japonica; Liquidamber orientalis; Capparis spinosa; Cistus salvifolius; Eucalyptus camaldulensis; Punica granatum; Clematis sp; Schiaus molle; Pistacia lentiscus; Melia azederach; Lanicera caprifolium; Catalpa bignonioides; Jacaranda mimosifolia; Plumbago aumiculata; Olea europaea; Morus alba; Morus nigra; Acer cappadocicum ssp divergens.

Kaçkar Captures

Back during the heat of summer J and I travelled up north and met up with friends on the Black Sea coastal side of the Kaçkar (Kachcar) Mountains. We were hunting out Carpathian Blue Slugs and you can read about it in this post.

The Black Sea region has a lot of rain and I seem to remember that it tipped it down every day mixed in with some drizzle – it was refreshing after the temperatures back home in Okçular! Anyway, I’ve just discovered some ‘little camera’ shots whilst idly swanning through some folders (just like the last posting). They capture the feeling and mood of the Kaçkars beautifully for me – hope you like them too. If you don’t like pics of flowers in the rain you should get back to doing useful things . .

In no particular order:

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this was the dog’s dinner – I insisted on having a slice; delicious!

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J choosing socks

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friends feasting

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Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

An Open Letter to Russell Brand

Clifford Slapper, musician, composer, author and a member of the SPGB since 1981 has penned a superb open letter to Russell Brand who has taken a very principled position regarding the global, capitalist system in which most of the world’s population struggle to survive, he has taken a lot of flak in the process. Much of what Brand articulates has been the position of the SPGB since its foundation in 1904.

On his book, “Revolution”, Century, 2014

First, how do I come to be reading your book, Revolution? I have spent the past thirty years arguing the point whenever and however I could, that world capitalism has to be ended. Not just in its most excessive manifestations, not just when it is run for private corporations and shareholders as opposed to state bureaucracies, but in every conceivable form it might take. How can you tell if the system in operation is capitalism? With a simple check-list. Employment – the exploitation of employees (French for the ‘used’) by employers (users) via the legalised robbery of the wages system. The market; in other words, the buying and selling of things which could instead now be created in such abundance that they could be taken freely by anyone in the global population, without the need for any system of money, vouchers, tokens, barter or trade of any kind whatsoever. Also, state power: governments, armies, police, who enforce the class rule by a tiny fraction of the population who own and control all productive resources.

Your book is disarmingly honest about your past, your faults, your flaws, thought processes, previous ambitions and resulting disillusion, the sources of your unhappiness, your latest hopes and desires, your continuing self-doubt, your determination to continue speaking and writing uncompromisingly and unashamedly what you believe to be true, and your refusal to give in to the pressure from snobs and hypocrites. These are people who have often attempted to silence your expression by mocking almost everything about you from your accent to your origins, your supposed lack of education, your poverty, your wealth, your hair, your profession – and, when all else fails, by misquoting, misrepresenting and distorting the ideas you express.

I hope it will make a refreshing change to have it suggested that, far from advocating the impossible or going beyond the thinkable, rather that you need to go one step further by demanding the so-called ‘impossible’. Your book is a brave step in promoting discussion of revolution to end the capitalist system we have throughout the world today. You make several cogent and absolutely essential points which are not only true, they cry out to be endorsed and adopted by the thousands who have already read your book – and the millions of others who would relate to so much of it. Points such as:

1. Do not vote – IF there is nothing worth voting for. Do not feel obliged to give moral and practical consent to the status quo by endorsing it, through voting into power one of several parties, each of which are openly pledged to defending, running and upholding that status quo in one form or another. Most of your opponents in the wake of that Paxman interview conveniently ignored the second half of this proposition, pretending that you had some kind of bizarre antipathy to the concept of voting, under any circumstances. More heinous still was their subtle exclusion of even the possibility of allowing a different way of running society: ‘you have Labour, Tory, Liberals. Lots of ways of running Capitalism. What more do you want? Now get out there and vote for one of those! And be damn grateful for having this wonderful choice once every five years!’ runs their mantra.

2.  Global society is currently organised in a way which is designed purely to benefit a tiny (even less than one percent) minority, who have unfathomable wealth and power, who own and control the Earth and its resources – and who in doing so are depriving the 99 percent of access to the riches and comforts those resources have to offer us all. This is an insane, anti-social, irrational, illogical, unacceptable premise and starting point on which to found our global society. It is therefore urgently in our interests as that majority to end that regime completely and utterly, now. Another word for such a huge and urgent change in the way society is run is revolution, so clearly the fact that this is needed is beyond dispute.

3. There are many ways in which the present organisation of society like a vast prison camp (disguised as a holiday camp) causes unhappiness, suffering and distress – way beyond the crudely economic aspects of poverty, crucial and painful though those are too. Terms like alienation, epidemics like addiction are easy to dismiss as in the first case abstract waffle and in the second a poor choice made by (millions of) individuals. However, these are in fact very real, almost universal side-effects of the global social system we have. Indeed, for many people in the huge cities of the more ’developed’ parts of the world – like London or New York – these are some of the most powerful prompts which drive many of us to question the way society is currently structured. The one percent are devoted to maximising the surplus they extract from the work of the rest of us, and this in turn depends on them maintaining a certain social landscape, the consumer culture, the stifling of true dissent, the separation of people from one another and from themselves.

As your book progresses, you draw on input from a variety of activists and social thinkers. Some are more credible than others. One of the more compelling is Naomi Klein, with her brilliant expose of the stark choice now forced on us, between saving capitalism and saving the planet as a viable ecosystem or human habitat, and she shows incontrovertibly how incompatible the two are.

In eventually sketching a plurality of ‘alternatives’ , however, you may be unwittingly over-complicating the situation. There are not ‘loads’ of alternatives; the one key issue causing all significant social problems is the way we organise society – the system of minority ownership and production for profit. The solution, the one solution, to this is therefore common ownership and production for use. That means no money, banks, finance  – and no ‘co-operatives’ selling goods in the market. Free access to all, for all! From each according to ability, to each according to need  – one worldwide co-operative society, no buying and selling.

Some notes you quote about the virtues of co-ops mention ‘raising capital’, ‘job opportunities’ and making agreements with governments. But the revolution to get rid of capitalism has to mean getting rid of capital, government, finance, money, ‘jobs’ – all parts of the capitalist way of running world society. Of course, on paper, the idea of having thousands of autonomous co-operatives, each run democratically within itself, and engaging fairly with all the other units sounds a lot more just and pleasant than the current control of the world, its resources and its population by a tiny, powerful minority of less than one percent of the population. But if we are talking about ending that, then let’s end it. All these models and reforms are variations on the market system which, if ever pursued, would inevitably lead us eventually back to where we started. The solution is for us to withdraw our consent from capitalism, as you say – but to create instead a society without ownership, in which the whole world and all its resources becomes the common heritage of all humanity.

Of course, this necessitates all of the democratic aspects of administration which you touch on, local, regional and continental, but the key point is that these are ways for the world’s population to run a planet no longer divided into owners and non-owners. In the model of separate co-ops which you settle on at the end of the journey in your book, you do not go far enough – after all, if each co-op autonomously owns its resources then those outside that co-op are still alienated from the resources in it. You still then have money, trade, competition, separation  – and the certainty of corruption, accumulation and minority power again flourishing.

You emphasise your belief in God. Connecting with our true selves and connecting with one another are positive parts of the revolutionary ending of property-based society. Belief in an all-powerful, all-knowing, benevolent force outside of ourselves is significantly less helpful in creating the freedom from oppression to which we aspire. On this I would be more inclined toward the healthy cynicism of the late, great American comedian George Carlin:

‘I’ve begun worshipping the Sun for a number of reasons. First of all, unlike some other gods I could mention, I can see the Sun. It’s there for me every day. And the things it brings me are quite apparent all the time: heat, light, food, a lovely day. There’s no mystery, no one asks for money, I don’t have to dress up, and there’s no boring pageantry. And interestingly enough, I have found that the prayers I offer to the sun and the prayers I formerly offered to God are all answered at about the same 50-percent rate.’

You rightly describe as mere ‘pipsqueak reformism’ the Swedish workers’ shares schemes (which in fact are a means of co-opting the impoverished majority into supervising our own exploitation). In one of your final chapters, you then make a list of demands which includes, for example, ‘State power to dissolve wherever possible to empower autonomous, democratic communities.’ Wherever possible? Although I have no doubt of your sincerity in sketching possibilities for what we construct in place of the wretched system we currently have, I would strongly urge you to reconsider the wisdom of listing multiple ‘realistic’ steps as the culmination of a book so rich in its often poetic damning of current social relations. The biggest tragedy in history, already played out myriad times, is this lowering of expectations as the first slippery slope back to cynicism and misery.

I recognise the courage and honesty with which you have put yourself on the line, derided your own celebrity status, taken on Paxman and others and often left them in gibbering defensiveness. Your regular podcasts, “The Trews” are a welcome window into reality without the twisting and obfuscation, the bullshit mediation of the media. In many ways it has been a breath of fresh air to see those hilarious and perceptive insights into the madness of capitalism viewed regularly by hundreds of thousands of people.

Let’s now take the next logical step and build a majority movement committed to the complete ending of capitalism, in all of its forms, with all of its trappings, and nothing less. On page 297 of your book you slightly misquote Marx in a way which could be significant. You say ‘From each according to his means, to each according to his needs’. On Twitter last year, however, you correctly quoted it as ‘from each according to ability, to each according to needs’. It was never about redistributing money, but abolishing it – and Marx’s slogan is even more relevant today than it was 150 years ago.

CLIFFORD SLAPPER    click the link to learn more about musician, composer, author, socialist and member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain or here to learn more about SPGB

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü (a member of the SPGB)

Amasya Revisited

Earlier in the year J and I were on our way from our home in Muğla, in the SW, to meet up with friends on the Black Sea side of Turkey for a few days. Our plan was to hunt for Carpathian Blue Slugs in the Kaçkar Mountains.

TurkeyTouristicMap

We decided to break the journey and overnight in Amasya, a town that had made a real impression on us when we had stayed there quite a few years ago. Read about that trip here.

Why am I telling you this? Because I’ve just done a bit of rare tidying of some of masses of photos in folders that clutter-up my desktop and I’ve rediscovered these shots taken about the old town. I’m sharing them ‘as is’ not because they are good photos, they are not, but because they gave me a really good feel about Amasya again. If you told me I had to live in a town, this place would be my choice. It has history, charm, culture, charm, is cared for, charm, gives of warm fuzzies, charm, but above all it has charm! You can do your own research or click here, otherwise enjoy these sometimes blurry and over-exposed images of a lovely town taken by night and very early in the morning – hence the camera shake!

Pontic tombs Amasya Turkey

Pontic Tombs behind our hotel

Amasya back street

back lane

blurred vision Amasya

blurred vision

Amasya old town

mosque Amasya old town

old tap Amasya old town

Amasya river side

Amasya

Korprubasi Mosque Amasya

Köprubaşı – Head of the Bridge Mosque Amasya

Amasya

Amasya

Mosque and Tombs and Hamam and Ottoman house restorations

Amasya Turkey

town club amasyathe Town Club Restaurant where we first dined all those years ago

If you have the opportunity to visit this delightful town then do it – it will not disappoint you.

Alan Fenn, missing Amasya!

Judgement Day 2.0

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By way of an update on the previous post, here are the photos and names of the three winners of the ‘Okçular Village Guide’ book. These three entries were considered to be ‘most promising’ and I hope that the books will encourage the recipients to explore the beautiful countryside around my village where they will find lots of wonderful subjects to fill up the hard-drives or storage cards on their electronic devices!

For any of you reading this post who are curious about the book and the ‘Okçular Book Project’, you can click on the tab at the top of the page, or the ‘Okçular Book Bazaar’ tab where you will find information about our secure, worldwide order/delivery service.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

 

Judgement Day

photoc-camera_w2Several moons ago friends, fellow nature lovers and environmental activists from Dalyan asked me to join a judging panel for a photo competition they were organising. The logic behind our Okçular Book Project has always been to encourage people to get out into the beautiful countryside around here, use their eyes, and discover some of the amazing flora and fauna, people and views to be found. That being the case I was delighted to accept the invitation, not least because it is always enjoyable to see things through the eyes of others.

Each month the panel would sift through the entries in three separate categories and select winners and runners-up. These were then printed out and put on public display.

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Dalyan photo comp jury

Finally, the panel gathered yesterday to select the overall winners and runners-up in each group. We were not looking for the most professional photos, this is after all a competition for enthusiasts and total amateurs. What we were looking for were moments in time that captured the essence of Dalyan, its human and wild inhabitants and the surrounding area. It was interesting how few photos that had been ‘colour enhanced’ or otherwise ‘fiddled’ with made it through the earlier rounds.

Here are the category winners and runners up:

Flora and Fauna

1st flora and fauna

‘Squacco Heron’ – John Codling – a great capture with terrific detail

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‘Jay’ – Mark Mills

Village Life and Scenes

1st village life

‘Crocheting Lady’ – Serhad Özsoy – the detail of the scarf oya really draws you in

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‘Honey Colours’ – Quentin Alder

Landscape

1st Landscapes

‘Foggy Iztuzu’ – Monique Boon – this beautifully balanced, moody shot of Iztuzu Beach captured the eye of more panel members than any other and was judged the best overall picture in the competition

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‘Serene Köyceğiz Lake’ – Carla de Cuijper

Generous prizes donated by local businesses will be sent to the category winners and the runners up will receive a copy of the Okçular Village Guide Book courtesy of yours truly. It was a lot of fun to see so many excellent photos and it has spurred me on to ‘see’ stuff around me in a different light.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Down The Rabbit Hole 2.0

Following the last posting and all the ‘Go on, tell us where it is’ and ‘Ah, ya will, ya will, ya will!’ via comments, pm and emails, here’s a few more shots of the bolt-hole taken at sunset, in the meadows and during the depths of winter. No give-away captions, I’ll leave you to work out which is which!

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saldameadow

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So, are we happy at the thought of spending some time wandering and exploring at the other end of the rabbit hole?

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I’ll let you be the judge of that – Alice with the Cheshire Cat, who once said, “If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.” … Cheshire Cat

As for ‘Go on, go on, go on!’ I say, in best Father Ted style, ‘I will not Mrs Doyle!’ Fans will understand.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Down The Rabbit Hole

‘Down the rabbit hole’ is, to quote Wikipedia, a metaphor for adventure into the unknown, from its use in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It is also a slang expression for a psychedelic experience, but that is a different story – or maybe not!

down the rabbit hole

J and I have been a two-man escape committee quietly seeking a rabbit hole to disappear down to escape the summer heat for some time. A place, in fact, that lends itself to a bit of ‘California Dreaming’ any time of the year.  To be able to vanish and then reappear in a somewhat different world has its appeal. A world that could be on a different planet, Mars for example, now that would be really rather nice!

reflections on 'Mars'

one of two places on Earth that (supposedly) resembles Mars

medicated mud-pack

with medicated mud-pack

upside down world

A world where images are turned upside down and where a unique species of fish lives, that would also be really nice.

longhorn beetlewith very friendly alien creatures

Adding in a few ponds and streams to paddle around in and new tracks to explore would be really, really nice. If you then sprinkle the mix with the odd wild white rabbit being casseroled in a delicious, peppery sauce then, to my mind, you are talking ‘Wonderland‘!

peppery rabbit casserole

good company

in good company

wild flowers

with beautiful wild flowers

berries

and berries

Martian cabbages

and Martian cabbages

very welcoming Martians

very welcoming local ‘Martian’ bureaucrats

paradise

Wonderland!

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Wonderland, the alternative view

Alan Fenn, following the White Rabbit!

ps you might think that I’ve forgotten to tell you where the entrance is . . I haven’t!

Oh, I’m A Lumberjack

Being humble villagers J and I are entitled, along with our neighbours, to purchase our winter firewood direct from the chaps at the local forestry department’s timber yard at a huge discount! We paid up-front a couple of months back and three days ago we came home from hospital to find this lot sitting outside the gate.

village firewood entitlement

Now, considering that I had just had my ticker check-up and J had had injections to help free-up her frozen shoulder, you might think that ‘getting in a chap to do the work’ would be the order of the day. Not so! Village life doesn’t work like that, especially if you value your street cred! Let’s face it, we have neighbours our age and some ten years or more older who are still out doing their thing with tractors, billhooks, cows and sheep, etc.  village woman1And they never walk back empty handed, they always have a load of fodder or half a tree over their shoulder. I mean, old Veli still gets sent up the trees to harvest the olives and he’s so old he doesn’t have a birth certificate!

So, village cred starts with a bit of dress sense – when we work we look the part. J dons one of her scarves and does the fetching and carrying just like any good village wife should do. I’m working on the ‘following ten paces behind’ bit – give it a little time! I don my working togs – old, worn shirt with holes and baggy cotton trousers that has J calling me ‘Rhinoceros B@!!@cks’! That’s true, I’m not making it up!

'village lady' at work

village lady hard at it

Next comes tools and the need to look like you know what you are doing because every neighbour who passes will stop to chat and assess how we are going along.

chain saw work

Boffer pretending he knows where it is at

chain saw

You can see their eyes taking it all in, usually followed by nods of approval if we’ve got it right or chuckles as they drive away if we haven’t. Finally, there is the need for ‘greasepaint’ in the form of sweat and grime – we usually have plenty and then some!

end of day one

end of day one

These past three days have been hard work reducing more than two tons of timber to fireplace sized bits and stacking them away in the wood store. Our fingers can barely hold a spoon and our bones and muscles ache.

wood pile

satisfaction at job jobbed!

Despite that we both feel pretty good (for our age). Tomorrow we are off with the local walking group for a gentle, season-opening ramble to the hot springs for a soak followed by a barby and a boat ride back to Dalyan. Then, on Monday we are wandering off to Burdur for a few days with a detour to stock up on some ‘vino collapso’.

Finally, here’s a bit of video if you’ve managed to get this far without dozing off. Taken on day three we are both showing signs of losing it – wandering about in a bit of a daze. I love the bit where J demonstrates her outstanding spacial awareness – we still can’t remember what we were looking for! J loves my display of sartorial elegance – Rhinos beware! The soundtrack is John Surman’s ‘Caithness To Kerry’ track from the album ‘Upon Reflection’ (ECM Records) – as he is family I don’t expect to pay royalties. Enjoy!

Woodcutter’s Ball2 from Alan Fenn on Vimeo.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü where we are still ‘in with the in-crowd’!