Here’s One I Made Earlier!

‘Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’, so said my mother (mumble, mumble). Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never found this to be so. Pounds (the paper ones) have always flowed through my fingers like water, whereas pennies (and I include the current pound coins) seem to gather and collect in obscure corners of furniture where they breed and multiply over the years.

Be that as it may, in the spirit of saving more than a few pennies á la Barry Bucknell, I offer you the following DIY project that is guaranteed to save you a small fortune if you are thinking of buying a thermal cover for your swimming pool. It will also have you hopping-mad, á la new Residency Permit prices, if you have just gone out and bought one!


What you need:

A sharp knife or scissors

‘Gaffer’ tape

A suitable amount of horticultural grade bubble wrap

Something for rolling the seams

A willing helper

A sweat rag


Cut enough equal lengths of bubble wrap to cover your pool. Get your helper to butt the first and second sheets together while you apply ‘Gaffer’ tape along the seam and roll the tape to ensure strong adhesion. Repeat this with subsequent sheets. J and I can tape and roll 3x8mts lengths in about 30 minutes. Fold over and tape one end allowing enough for a length of plastic water pipe to pass through – this will make the putting on and taking off easy.

One of these covers lasts us about 3 years before it begins to fall to bits. It is very efficient at keeping debris off the pool (we are surrounded by trees and shrubs and want to keep them in place), it provides excellent thermal insulation and extends your season at both ends of the year. You’ll also find that you don’t need to ‘vacuum’ the pool so often. If you want to use a roller to help put the cover on and off you’ll have to ask elsewhere, we’ve never bothered.

You could also cut the cover to the shape of you pool; we share ours with various friendly frogs, waterboatmen, etc so we keep our cover larger than pool size so that the edges provide plenty of air space for the visiting wildlife.

And that’s it!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Send SAE for your free Blue Peter badge.

Theirs cost: TL650 and upwards

Ours costs: TL30 (plastic) TL10 (tape) + lots of fun and swearing!

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

World Exclusive! Okçular Ex-pat Spots Previously Unknown Species Of Bird

There was great excitement today as our region’s local newspaper ‘Güneyege’ hit the news stands and it was revealed that Okçular ex-pat resident, John Codling had become the first person to photograph a previously unknown species of bird.

Avid nature lover, bon vivant, amateur photographer of considerable skill and all round good egg, John was with a few friends attending the village picnic day at our neighbouring village of Kemaliye. The picnic this year had proved to be a great bore compared with other years when there had been plenty of singing, dancing and raki to be had, not to mention side stalls and the odd brawl! Kemaliye picnic day was something to be talked about for weeks afterwards (and sometimes longer for those carted away by the Jandarma!).

Anyway, this year all that changed and the picnic became nothing more than a glorified political rally because, would you believe, even the Minister of State for Industry turned up to make a speech in support of the muhtar who this year will be a candidate for the current ruling party. All a bit like having Tony Benn (alright, alright, I’ve been away for a long time!) turn up to support the election for chairman of the parish council – but it really happened. This surely put the dampers on any partying (as opposed to political partying) as huge numbers of Jandarma, black 4x4s and ‘Men-in-Black’ with funny wires coming out of their ears and very suspicious bulges under their jackets suddenly appeared. They didn’t stay long but somehow the zing had gone out of the day and a sort of melancholy settled over our group.

This was broken momentarily when I spotted ‘something’ on a rock not far away; I pointed it out and John, true to his calling of building a vast collection of pics of Okçular’s wildlife, leapt from his seat and set about getting some close up shots. His unusual speed of movement attracted the attention of a group of kids who, being kids, set about scaring the bejeezus out of whatever was there by getting between camera and subject. John also attracted the attention of local ‘Güneyege’ reporter Zayit İzmir who is a newshound of great initiative and resourcefulness as attested by his regular, two-page spread in the paper. Zayit was too late to see what all the fuss was about so he set about ‘pumping’ some of us for information. He then demonstrated his quickness of mind for a scoop when, using his secret mini-camera he got a shot of John’s camera’s screen as John was reviewing his pics.

Zayit’s audacity and cunning meant that he got the drop on John, who has been faffing about trying to sell his photos of this new species to the Sunday Sport for loads of dosh. John’s tragedy is Zayit’s triumph as this previously unrecorded species was named ‘Yusufçuk kuşunu’ (Dragonfly Bird) and unveiled to the world.

ps Zayit was later asked to refund his bonus when the creature was identified as the Odalisque damselfly Epillage fatime.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Incredible Okçular!

Stalking the Storks

With the threat that this might be our last season with a view over Black Lake and its wonderful variety of wildlife, ( J and I have spent a lot more time just liggin’ about and soaking up the view. If our farming neighbours go ahead and put in the drainage pipes then next year might well be very different. There’s a chance that it might not be as well because pretty much every drainage pipe, of whatever size, that I’ve seen installed over the past 14 years has simply disappeared and within no time at all has become a misty memory. They disappear because of the sheer volume of water in the winter time and the rocks and debris that get swept in and over them. About 7 years ago our former muhtar and his crew arrived and laid some enormous concrete pipes across the road near our house in order to divert the course of a, mostly dry, stream bed that becomes a raging torrent when it rains. We ended up with a humped-back bridge that had the virtue of slowing down the turbo tractors and their 7 year-old drivers! Within a year the hump had disappeared along with the concrete pipes and to finish the whole thing off, 2 years ago the road was asphalted; plus we have a new muhtar – ‘Pipes? What pipes?’

Anyway, back to our story which is not about pipes – this spring has seen a huge increase in the numbers of birds on Black Lake. It’s as though they know this might be their last banquet and that next year they’ll have to work a bit harder for their meals. That’s because this shallow, seasonal, patch of water is home to countless millions of frogs and dragonfly larvae at just the right time for breeding and chick-raising. The storks mostly nest down at the famous Ley Ley Restaurant where there are suitable trees and special nesting poles. The owners and staff at the restaurant provide care and a permanent home for those birds that get injured by falling from the nests so it is a great place to visit because the ‘permanent staff’ get so used to people that they will feed from your hand. It really is amazing how precise and gentle they are with those enormous and powerful beaks.

Why am I telling you about this? Because I don’t know for how much longer we will be privileged to have these beautiful and graceful creatures around. I understand why my lovely farming neighbours need to be able to make use of their land for more profitable crops; at the same time I’m a bit of a ‘NIMBY’ about my view and the wildlife it attracts. I know that the new environment will attract new and different creatures and my beautiful storks love to forage around in fields anyway, so I do expect them to come back. And the various herons and egrets? Well, they’re a different matter so I’ve been spending much more time than usual stalking the storks and liggin’ about watching them in the reflections on Black Lake. Ahhh! Another beautiful day in Turkey!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Incredible Okçular!

Holy Week in Okçular

J and I went on a pilgrimage today to the ‘Shrine of Kocadere’. Actually, we tend to go there quite a lot at different times throughout the year because it’s a very special place. There is an intimacy as well as a grandeur about this cleft carved through the limestone by the forces of nature. Here I can sit or walk and actually hear myself think! No traffic noise, no music and usually, no other people; just the gentle sounds of our other, non-human neighbours that we share this corner of the world with.

Once, long ago the waters of an un-named little river in what today is Okçular discovered a fissure in the bed of the stream and began to bore its way through the soft limestone, ‘zigging’ and ‘zagging’ until, eventually, it burst back into the light of day some 5kms from where it had gone underground. Millennia passed and the relentless flow of water dissolved away the rock until a vast cavern had been hollowed out. I like to believe that this great gateway to the Underworld would have held very special significance for the early inhabitants of this area and this accounts for the affinity that I experience whenever I go there. A hydrologist whom I took there described it as a ‘bridged canyon’ which would have been open at both ends.

Today Kocadere is bridged no more because, based on best estimates, an earthquake about 2000 years ago caused the roof to crash down. What you see today as you walk into the valley proper are great vertical walls of limestone with many, many rocks and huge boulders littering the valley floor. It takes very little imagination to picture the area as it once was.

If you are reasonably fit and sensibly shod, you can traverse the valley from end to end, although there are no footpaths to ease your way. This very inaccessibility has led to a distribution of flora and fauna that, whilst not totally unique, is nearly so.

Critically endangered species like the endemic Fire Salamander Lyciasalmandra fazliae or Alkanna mughlae, a member of the Borage family of herbs, abound. The Alkanna was only known to exist at two sites in the world, both in Muğla Province after which it is named. When I happened upon it, and drew it to the attention of one of Turkey’s eminent environmentalists, Okçular was inundated with professors and students. Kocadere is, today, the most important site known for this species.

The sheer number of different species to be found around Okçular and Kocadere has astounded biologists. One example is orchids; to date I have recorded 27 species and one of these was my reason for going to the valley today – the beautifully delicate Holy Orchid Orchis sancta. Here you can enjoy a photograph; to see one in the ‘flesh’ in the supreme setting of Kocadere, you will need to be quick – they will only be flowering for the next few weeks. Give your senses a treat and come and visit, ‘We are waiting you’.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü


Here There Be Dragons

My mother kept a dragon – she really did. It lived in a large pot behind the shed in the garden of the very new, post-war council house that we occupied back when I was a very young and impressionable child. She didn’t call it a dragon in those days, she called it a ‘Snake Plant’ and she told me that evil snakes were born from plants just like this one and I believed her. The stem was mottled like a snake and the leaves were shaped like a snake-headed Gorgon with a viper like quality (or so it seemed to me). Although the plant would sprout up each year there was never a flower and mother said that it only flowered every 7 years but when it did there would be snakes all over the place.

Then, one year the plant sprouted and seemed much thicker and stronger that ever before and from the top there grew a great green spike (a biologist will tell you that this is normal plant behaviour – I was not a biologist, I was 6 years old), mother said the flower was coming and so were the snakes! We waited.

When the flower opened it was amazing – and I really do mean amazing! A huge, purple, ‘thing’, of great beauty with a strange black spear sticking out of it. I remember spying on it from the relative safety of the corner of the house – I knew what was inside. Slowly, I summoned the courage to approach and look more closely and as I did so all of my worst fears were confirmed . . . here was a monstrous creature that devoured flesh. I could smell it – the stench of rotting meat was nauseating and flies massed and buzzed around the monstrous creation of evil. My dear mother soon added her pound of suppurating flesh to the mix when she informed me that she had seen the snakes dragging screaming babes down into the plant. Jeez, this thing scared the sh^%e out of me!

Anyway, time passed and we and life moved on and I didn’t give any more thought to ‘Snake Plants’ and those ‘missing’ babes – until I came to live in Okçular village and J and I went for a walk that first Spring. ‘Tanrım!’ as they say in Turkish – it all came back; my mother, the plant, my mother, the snakes, my mother, the missing babes, my mother, death, my mother, the stinking flesh, my mother . . my mother . .

Which brings me to a ‘poem’ by the Poet Laureate Philip Larkin:

They fu%$ you up, your mum and dad,

They don’t mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had,

And then some extras, just for you!

(this, is apparently, the most popular poem in the US which could be a pointer for all the damage the US government does around the world)

Anyway, all of that aside, let me introduce you to one of the most spectacular plants you will ever encounter in our neck of the woods. It is hugely beautiful, very common around our village (and, if you live in SW Turkey, common around your area, too) and deserving of your admiration from a safe distance. Why so? Because it has a ‘scent’ like one of the Orcs from ‘Lord of the Rings’ that has a peptic ulcer and a severe case of halitosis!! It is appalling – I kid you not! Meet Dracunculus vulgaris the Dragon Arum – admired from afar but never truly loved.

That said, it has naturalised itself in our garden and J and I are delighted. We nurture them (for now there are five) and enjoy their company and, because we are so polite, we never comment on their bad breath.

Okçular is a truly amazing place with beautiful flowers like the Dragon Arum; it is also home to one of the world’s rarest plants Alkanna muglae but more of that in another post. You can learn more about the flora, fauna and history of our village by visiting there are also books available that support the Okçular Book Project, find out more from the website.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Village