Archers has been broken and is probably beyond repair. I won’t bore you with going on about inept tech support at my web host Bluehost – charming but inept! Suffice to say that two years of posts were destroyed, comment destroyed and made inoperable and backups were corrupted/broken.

Archers may arise from the ashes or it may not. It may re-emerge in a different guise – a rose by any other name . . .

Until then, A



In a world obsessed with celebrity, with the tits and bums and abs of the so-called Pretty People the truly beautiful are usually passed over for the sensational. Within my immediate circle of family and close friends I am fortunate to be surrounded by some truly beautiful people. This is a glimpse into the life of one of these – Gülay Çolak.

Gülay, like each of us, is many things. Gülay is an artist, a mother, a this, and a that! She is also a world class exponent of the art of having a positive mental attitude. An appalling accident about 17 years ago left her paralysed from the chest down, fighting for her life and mentally in a very dark place. She had a choice to make. Either her glass was half-empty or half-full. She decided that her glass was almost brimming over!

J and I met her through our dear friend and ‘blue-sky thinker’ Ahmet and she joined our team painting murals on Okçular school. We fell in love with her and she with us.

a small part of Gülay’s contribution at Okçular school

Confucius he say ‘Every journey begins with the first step.’ Although he would have said it like this, of course ‘每個旅程開始的第一步. And so it was with Gülay. To encourage the school children to paint and be creative she showed them how to paint creatures on stones and an idea was born. She desperately needed to contribute towards her family finances and it wasn’t just about money – it was about self-respect and being useful.


bird houses

wall plaques

From stones to tins to you-name-it. Other people’s rubbish became prized knick-knacks in her hands. People loved her stuff and as word spread so did the admiration of strangers and not just for her skill but for her attitude. One businessman admirer regularly sends her cargo boxes of stuff that she would otherwise have to pay a lot of money for. She’s been commissioned to paint portraits of the powerful on marble for the marble and granite industry. She’s appeared on national TV and been featured often in the print media.


clucking good


Fads change like the weather and there is need to come up with new ideas. With help from friends Co and Maria Jonker she now turns gourds into the most desirable of keep sakes. And its not just gourds and stones and bird boxes. You can commission portraits of your pet or your mum on gourd, box or canvas.

Gülay’s first ever portrait from 10 years ago

So, there you have it – a brief sketch about a truly ‘gourdgeous’ and inspirational lady and when she describes J and me as her ‘other mum and dad’ we feel so proud to call her daughter.

If you want to learn more about Gülay’s work you can contact her on Facebook,or, if you need help explaining your commission then contact me via comments or on Facebook.

Alan Fenn.


Bottled Out!

It was back in the halcyon days of my youth, when I was misguided (or misled) enough to believe that ‘serving Queen and country’ was actually a beneficial thing for the majority of the world’s population, that I first heard the word ‘bottle’ used in a different context from that of a glass thing with alcohol inside.

iron maiden para

‘Trooper’ – Iron Maiden

In my old regiment, being tagged as someone who had ‘bottled it’, or ‘bottled out’, or ‘lost his bottle’ was on a par with admitting at an Iron Maiden concert that you preferred Cliff Richard. You would carry the scars for the rest of your life!

The ‘lost bottle’ in question is thought to derive from Cockney rhyming slang – ‘bottle and glass – arse’, an organ which is generally reckoned to ‘twitch’ when under extreme pressure!  It is one of those weirdly British terms and refers to a person who has undertaken to do something and then ‘chickens-out’ – loses their courage at the last moment. This was not considered a very useful character trait in the Paras.

As a 71 year-old ex-para I can cheerfully admit that last Thursday, when J and I looked at the weather forecast for the mountain area where our cabin is situated, our collective ‘bottles’ were most definitely dropped! Ice, snow, sleet and temperatures predicted to drop to -16C (that’s 3.2f for the un-reconstructed)! It was time to bail out and take to our heels and aren’t we glad we did.


when this . .


changes to this . .


 . . and this, we knew we’d made the right call. Mind you, it can be very beautiful once the skies clear. This from last winter when we were photographing crocus in the snow up there.


Alan Fenn, snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug in Okçular Köyü


So Here Is Dawning

J and I packed the car full of tools and ‘stuff’ yesterday and fled down the rabbit hole. Yesterday evening we sipped a glass or two and watched the full moon rise over the mountains.


Today, J spent a few hours of her time on her hands and knees scrubbing the last traces of the workers’ boots and tools from the shower-toilet room – no easy task but the results are pretty, damn good!

My time was spent cluttering up the place by turning scrap wood into a divan that is suited to lounging about on and useful for sleeping should we ever have family/friends stay over. It too looks pretty damn good!

man at work

solar powered!



finished product

Finally, to make getting this far worthwhile, this was our dawn (not Photoshopped) this morning, 25th December 2015 – worth getting up for?

dawn christmas 2015

Alan Fenn, Crimbo down the rabbit hole


Limited Shelf-Life

You may recall from a few posts back that this lot arrived . .

Turkish village firewood supply

. . our supply of villagers’ firewood. It included four (or was it five?) monster lumps that, dint of their sheer size, were relegated to the end of the queue. Their day had come!

J and I have been hard at it ( in a wood-cutting sense) putting in four or five hours every other day, with a day off for recovery in between. The results are pretty impressive:


by my reckoning there are at least 9 cubic metres of firewood there and we haven’t finished yet!

I’d managed to cut up two of the giant trunks into log-sized discs and, using a sledge-hammer and steel wedges, had reduced one trunk to usable size. That had taken me two days! This morning, after nearly two hours of huffing, puffing, grunting and groaning I’d split one disc and a few odd logs when who should turn up but J’s young garden helper, Samet.


a reminder of the size of these things – and of J’s cavalier attitude to safety foot-ware!

Now, Samet is a very strong young man who is used to doing all the things village farming lads are expected to do. So, when he had finished his garden jobs, I seconded him to the woodcutting division!

Bloody hell! Talk about rubbing it in – within an hour he had reduced four of those discs to matchwood (in a manner of speaking)! J could barely keep up with him as she barrowed the logs away to the depot.



‘Hey, old man! Easy-peasy!’

Freshly showered but feeling distinctly past my sell-by date I surveyed the scene of youthful vim and vigour. Memories of how things used to be – those days when ‘tabbing’ across the ‘ulu’ with 120lbs of gear on the back was considered a bit of a jaunt! Back then I wouldn’t have just given young Samet a run for his money – I’d ‘ave bloody ‘marmalised’ him! Whoever wrote that twaddle about ‘age shall not weary them nor the years condemn’ knew a thing or two!  The video has a lousy sound track so use your discretion – that said, has-been old farts like me will still get dewy-eyed at the memories it dredges up.

What was really nice was that J came over, put her arms around me and said ‘ I think you are still strong – in fact, I know you are!’

Do you know, the sun came out!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü