Stuff

Things That Go Bump

”fae ghosties and ghoulies and lang-legged beasties and things that go bump in the nicht… guid lord, deliver us” – so goes and old Scottish prayer – no wonder they voted to stay in the EU!

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I mean, a body needs their sleep and so, in the event that these ‘things’ are disturbing and disrupting a good nights rest then one can call in the power of the EU and its amazing array of regulations in order to bring some peace and tranquillity. I mean, there is bound to be something that says the dead shouldn’t be up and about, especially after midnight when the discos have to close down!

My question is, ‘What about squirrels at dawn?’

Where’s the enforcement of regulations to curb the antics of Caucasian/Syrian/Persian Squirrel – Sciurus anomalus? The little sods are a bundle of energy and and they start their day with a game of rugby on the roof of our cabin. The fact that they were here before us, living in the big, old pine is neither here nor there!

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zoom in on those ‘pinkies’ – formidable!

Then there are other ‘ghoulies’ that prey in innocent, passing victims . .

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Small Pincertail/Green-eyed Hooktail – Onychogomphus forcipatus – female

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the male

. . long legged beasties and the things that go bump in the night?

J

Not true, actually, well she is certainly long-legged, but she sleeps gently and quietly, rises at a reasonable time and is mostly not scary at all!

Alan Fenn, back home in the mountains.

Stuff

Yes, We Cairn!

Those of you who loyally wade through these interminable whitterings about country life up here in the mountains might just have noted a recurring theme; Rocks!

We have rocks! More rocks than exist in the asteroid belt! Really! As we slave away to clear yet another few square metres more of the buggers seem to appear – or is it my imagination? It’s a bit like a stick of Margate Rock, you can never get to the end of it and no matter how hard you suck ‘Margate Rock’ will outlast you!

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It’s not that we haven’t used a bit of initiative for ways to use up the bloody things. We’ve filled in ruts in the track up here to the cabin; we’ve stacked them around the edges of the plot – it doesn’t look that pretty but give the weeds time!

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We’ve built little rock circles around the trees and vines we’ve planted. We think that painting them pastel shades will liven the garden up a bit!

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Then we’ve built a wall to retain a pathway and give the roses something to look classy against. And there’s a very nice terrace area under our magnificent old pine tree where we can collapse and swallow beer without tasting it after several more tons of rocks have been moved from A to B, or C, or bloody Z at this rate!

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I know it’s a mess, it’s another ‘work in progress’

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Then, of course there are some nice steps that we’ve made to meet health and safety regulations;

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Today saw us begin another bit of walling to tidy up the area in front of the great big retaining wall;

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OK, sometimes we need to get at the bottle before we finish for the day and collapse! Yesterday it lead to a moment of sheer, blindingly obvious inspiration – Leonardo would have been proud. Edward DeBono would know that we once read his books!

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A cairn! We’re building a cairn! Our neighbouring smallholders have been arriving to admire it as the word has got around – they are incredulous! They cannot believe what they are seeing with their own eyes.

There is one small, dark cloud that is floating about – as there is a limit to how far up I can chuck a shovel-full of stuff, and I do not intend to get into any scaffolding work, then it follows that there is maximum cubic capacity to what I can build and fill. So, it is at this point, dear reader, that you come in – as there are still tons of rocks to find a home for, what do you suggest?

Alan Fenn, (with Joe Brown up a pile of rocks)

Stuff

Bewitched! A True Love Story

Many moons ago my dear friend Ahmet related a story to me – in very much his own words, it went something like this . .

‘My father was a judge and when I was a child we seemed to move around quite a bit. Traditions were strong in those days and we would always journey back to visit our elderly relatives whenever a Bayram (holiday) came around. Both my mother’s and my father’s parents came from Nazilli in Aydin Province and that is where the family homes were.

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There was a time when my father was based in Fethiye and so, when a holiday came around, we would hop on the bus and journey back to Nazilli to spend time with my Grandma at her house. I loved that house with its wonderful, mature gardens and its amazing method of heating that was modelled on the Roman system that allowed hot air to circulate under the floors. It was a perfect childhood playground.

Anyway, back then, one of my strongest memories was of this strange old woman who always seemed to be visiting with Granny. I met her during these trips to Nazilli – Nazik was her name. We were little kids, around four or five years old I suppose. Everybody called her Nazik, which means ‘polite, delicate, kind or gentle’ in Turkish. That was her name, rather unusual! Even then!

She used to talk with my grandmother mostly. They seemed more or less the same age but then everybody looks old to a child! I did not know where they were friends from, or how they met. I did not know if there was a relationship with our family. Maybe, at that age, I was not aware of relations at all!

Now, when I say her name, Nazik, you may think of an old Turkish lady with a scarf. And so she was but there was much more. Looking back (and if I may be very politically incorrect) she was proof positive of the theory of evolution! Truly! So she used to be very, very much something like an ape! Something in between – the missing link between the chimps and homo sapiens! You would really be surprised! Probably, the only difference was that her feet did not look like a hand, but she’d got real feet!

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Surely, she was a major attraction for us kids. We used to play outside, in the garden, and when we got tired, we would go in and peer secretly, we thought, around the door. Or, like glasses in a cupboard, sit in a row, leaning back to the wall and watch her speak with my grandmother. All the while fixing our eyes on her with curiosity! She used to be very interesting for us, so we really could not take our eyes off her. Surely, within some time, our grandma would get the point, and worrying that Nazik would understand the reason, would chase us out yelling, trying to scare us all. With our small meatball like puffy feet touching our backs, we would run away like kittens back to play in the garden. This used to be repeated until we grew tired of it!

Years passed. Years without ugly, old Nazik and soon enough the memory of her faded.

One day, when I was visiting Granny at her home I noticed an old faded photograph of a gentleman in a frame. White hair and moustache, a really nice face, smiling, handsome maybe. No, no, definitely handsome. Taken a long time in the past, and surely, you can tell.

Who is this man Grandma?

Oh, son! You haven’t met him, my brother. He died before you were born.

Really, what a nice looking man he was. Didn’t he have any other relatives, kids, wife?

Yes, sure he had. Nazik was his wife!

What? How come? Nazik, that old witch, and this fine, handsome brother of yours? How was that possible?

It was then that she started to tell the story:

Part of our family is from Afyon. Some kind of a landlord. Their surname was Kabaağaçlı there is a close relation with the famous Çevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı (Fisherman of Halicarnassus). There was another family in the town. They were very wealthy and they had a beautiful daughter.

This great uncle of mine, a handsome, young and wealthy man is mature enough to consider a marriage. He starts dreaming of marrying this beautiful young girl from a rich family. He decides to snatch her and elope, a common practice in those days.

eloping on horse

this is how he dreams it will be

He plots and tries to find a way to make an arrangement with the girl. The girl has a maid, a foster child of the family and our hero, having poured his heart into a letter asks the maid to deliver it to her mistress. Soon, the maid brings a reply. Reading it he thinks the girl is also in the mood, or hopes she is. The letters pass back and forth each more passionate than the last. Finally, he writes a letter to the girl, saying he will be waiting at the fountain, early in the morning on a particular day, to take her away.

Early in the morning of the fateful day, before anyone in the household is awake, she is waiting with her pack by the fountain her face covered by her peçe (veil). Soon enough, our handsome, proud hero comes by on his fine stallion, reaches down and sweeps the girl up onto the horse behind him.

After riding for several hours our couple arrive at a cottage that our hero has organised and prepared for them. Can you imagine the passions, the excitement, nerves a jangle from the vibrations and the motion of the horse?

They jump off the tired horse and go into the house. Two young persons consumed by passion stand in the defining moment of their lifetime. Hearts beating as if to break out of their chests they look at each other. So my great uncle moves to open the veil. Of course with a bişmillah! (‘In the name of God’ or ‘In the name of Allah’)

With the expectation that he will see the face of this beautiful girl, he opens it and there is the face of Nazik!

As his eyes open wide in shock, Nazik takes his hand. ‘What you see is not who I am.’ she says. ‘Who I am is what is hidden inside of me. Who I am is the one who poured out her heart to you in those letters for it was me who wrote them and not my mistress.’

What do you expect was his comment? ‘So this was my kismet!’ (my fate) he said.

Well, my grandma told me the story of an ever happy couple who really lived the happiest of lives of anyone she had ever known. How passionate they were for each other, and how they managed to get along so well all their lives.’

At this point Ahmet was crying – and so am I!

Now, Nazik and her husband Sabri Dayi were childless and so they adopted two orphans, a girl and a boy, and raised them as their own. Here is a photo of Nazik, Sabri and their adopted son and his bride on their wedding day.

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standing, back row left is my grandmother Sakibe – my grandfather Tevfik is standing, back row third from right. Nazik and Sabri, her dashing Prince Charming, are seated with children on their knees. Is it possible that these are the orphans they adopted?

So, there you have it! This is a love story – a true love story. I hope it has warmed the cockles of your heart in these difficult days and shown that ‘human nature’ is not always as it is painted and that a book should never be judged by its cover!

Alan Fenn, (somewhere in the mountains)

Stuff

Time Lapse

I need to prioritise more and that is a fact! When we wandered back to the cabin this last time we knew that all the big, pressure jobs were jobbed. We were going to relax, potter, wander about, do the odd things that were always waiting, blog and J was going to spend time preparing her presentation on a moneyless world.

Isparta Rose

Nothing short of stopping to smell a few roses – our beautiful Isparta Roses!

It was not to be – good stuff as well as jobs got in the way!

Friends flew in from the UK and spent a week based at the hotel across the lake. They were, by turns, amazed at the beauty of the lake and surrounding areas, thrilled as para-gliders descended from the mountains, caught ogling men in rubber and roped in for interview as obvious foreigners.

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diver

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Then J decided that she absolutely needed a garden table made from a pallet . . .

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I’m entitled to look happy, it could have ended up like this . .

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Anyway, back to the narrative – the lovely guy who built our dry-stone wall presented J with a bag-full of mixed seeds . . .

mixed seeds

. . . which required that irrigation system be expanded to incorporate the vegetable garden!

veg garden irrigation

Meanwhile, Ruddy Shelducks are flying over the cabin every morning and down to the lake –

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image from chum at ‘Birding Turkey’

 . . . and we watched Pine Processionary Moth caterpillars digging in to pupate (I know I’m going to be vilified in some quarters for not murdering them (and neither of us smoke)).

pine processionary caterpillars

welcome

. . and put up the sign my dotty sister sent from UK!

Then there was the day we took our friends to the village of Akçaköy, birthplace of the great Turkish author and activist Fakir Baykurt. (J is going to translate some stuff about him and then I’ll write a post some time) ‘Fakir’ means poor or impoverished in Turkish and Akçaköy, the home village of the blacksmith and the carpenter who built our cabin, must look pretty much as it did when he lived there.

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a couple of examples of occupied homes

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Recently there has been a very interesting collaboration between the state, which granted access to land around the village, a very interesting local veterinary environmentalist who donated plants and the villagers who provided the labour. The objective is to plant vast acreages of lavender which will be tended and harvested by the villagers and sold on to the veterinary who will process the crop at his facility which produces natural lavender and rose products. We were amazed at the scale of what has been achieved in a very short period of time.

Akcakoy lavender

lavender stretching off into the far distance

All of this, though, was not the main object of our interest in Akçaköy. A year before Fakir Baykurt died in 1999 a library, dedicated to his grandmother, was opened in this still impoverished village. It is open to all but is there specifically for the children who use it five days a week. It is an astonishing legacy from a man, born into poverty, who, because of Atatürk’s dream and the vision of others like İsmail Hakkı Tonguç, went on to graduate from one of the Village Institutes. With the gift of enlightenment he grew into one of Turkey’s great men of letters – a ‘wordsmith’. His life and the library he left to his village has inspired generations of village children to read and study. His true legacy, however, is to be found in the well-above-average passes of children from Akçaköy moving on to University.

Here are a couple of photos from the village library, the story is for another time.

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the reference room

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one of the reading/study rooms

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friend Patrick ‘salutes’ the source of a great concept

Finally, as we drove in to the village we were spotted by the family of our blacksmith and greeted like long-lost family.

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. . and whilst there are butterflies and beautiful knockers to be found I’m there with a camera!

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Scarce Swallowtail

beautiful knocker

So, ‘things’ and ‘stuff’ got in the way of a bit of blogging resulting in an overly long tale. We came back to Okçular in time for Children’s Day and I’ll tell you about that and the surprise that went with it in a few days.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Stuff

When Are You Going Back?

Back in the halcyon days of my youth when I thought I was god’s gift to the British Army there was a guaranteed greeting to be had from the regulars down at my local watering hole whenever I came home on leave. ‘Blimey! You’re here again. When are you going back?’ These days the same question is getting asked whenever J and I re-emerge at this end of the ‘rabbit hole’.

dhobi wallah

My answer remains much the same, ‘As soon as I’ve done my dhobi, given my back a break and caught up with the MotoGP, I’m out of here!’

Don’t get me wrong, J and I love Okçular. This village is a big part of us and represents much of what we love about living in Turkey. I’ll come back to that shortly, first I want to fill you in on where we are at back at the cabin.

You may recall that our friends had returned to Dalyan and we were about to have our neighbour, an expert in these things, come in and fix up our irrigation system. It took him two days and I have to tell you it is a triumph! Even some of the wild roses we transplanted are in the loop!

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irrigation system2

connection made

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up and running

Now we no longer have to worry about the fifty-something trees we’ve planted so far. We can come and go as we please and there are no more major tasks to be completed – the pressure is off and everything now feels much more relaxed and tranquil.

Meanwhile, back here in Okçular, what a difference ten days away makes in the springtime.

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mock orange

wisteria

wisteria

tulip

tulip

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geraniums

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banksia

Banksia Rose

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Arum

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Judas Tree . . and much else beside.

There was also a visit to Kocadere Valley and our village primary school by students from the International School in Istanbul. It’s an annual thing that is organised by our friend Begüm and involves leading the group of about sixty young people to the valley and discussing the environment and such. It was a very pleasant stroll and not a single complaint about ‘hot’ or ‘boring’ was heard.

A little later they joined our junior school children and talked about where they come from (so many different countries) and what they like to do, etc. It is always a treat to observe the open-eyed wonder at these exotic creatures from our children and then to see the shyness melt away as barriers come down. The students from Istanbul usually bring balls and other gifts for our school which is much appreciated and pretty soon everyone is rushing about and having a great time.

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our students assemble to welcome their guests

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cautious wonder . .

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. . melts away into . .

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. . something quite special

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thanks for a wonderful experience

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organiser Begüm who deserves so much of the credit

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J gets a big hug from Yeliz who cares for everything else at the school apart from teaching

Alan Fenn, glad to be home in Okçular, a very special place.