'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Down In The Jungle . .

‘Down in the jungle living in a tent,

Better than a pre-fab – NO RENT!’

post WW2 prefabSo went the ditty when I was a kid growing up in the late 40s, early 50s. Bombs had wreaked havoc on the property market in the UK and ‘prefabs’ abounded – designed as a temporary solution to the housing crisis, they were still around in a few places when I last visited my childhood haunts a couple of years ago. You may well ask why and the answer is simple – people loved them – and still do!

I only ever experienced them as a visitor, so I have no first-hand anecdotes to pass on. My earliest recollection of home was a converted blockhouse with a flat, concrete roof three feet thick! Windows had been knocked through but the door was still a huge steel affair that clanged like something from a ‘Hammer House of Horror’ movie. Because my parents were near the top of the re-housing list we soon moved into one of the first ‘council houses’ to be built. These days such places are called ‘social housing’ and have a decided stigma attached. Back then they were modern, clean, available for a modest rent, and people were grateful for a decent roof over their heads.

Prefabs - Excaliber Estate, Catford‘Prefabs’ were council owned as well, until Maggie Thatcher sold off social housing in a very successful ploy to convince the working class that they were now ‘home-owners’ and should therefore vote Tory! This is the only reason these little gems survived – those who loved them, now owned them and could not easily be pushed aside for some flash, new shopping mall. Twenty one in original condition on the Excaliber Estate, Catford,South Londonhave been granted Grade 2 Listed Building status. If ‘prefabs’ were people they’d have a huge following on Twitter and Facebook.

Anyway, enough of all that. Time to get to the point.

These days, our local town of Ortaca is a thrusting, bustling and decidedly prosperous looking place; posh, modern apartments and villas abound. So, the story of Mehmet Orhan and his ‘prefab’ needs to be told before ‘the council’ moves in and ‘condemns’ him.

Baraka with air conditionerAs global warming kicks in and average temperatures rise, the prosperous citizens of Ortaca have set about adding their carbon footprint to the whole by purchasing the odd klima (air conditioning) or three. Out in Karaburun Mahallesi Mehmet Bey has ever been one to move with the times. He already has satellite tv and a fine güneş enerji sistem (solar energy hot water), so adding to his creature comforts with a klima was not given a second thought; ‘Every house should have a klima’ he said.

His latest life-style choice has certainly raised his profile in the community with locals and tourists stopping by to photograph the installation. Mehmet Bey obviously loves his home which offers many fiscal advantages over more conventional accommodation. And that brings this story very nicely full circle . .

‘Down in the jungle living in a tent,

Prefabs - Scrapsgate, Sheppey East Coast floods 1953
East Coast floods 1953 prefabs inundated at Scrapsgate, Isle of Sheppey near where I lived

Better than a pre-fab – NO RENT!’


Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü


13 thoughts on “Down In The Jungle . .

  1. Lovely tale from down memory lane. We had pre-fab housing near my junior school. Us kids were envious of our pals who lived in them seeing them as having their own “house” which wasn’t a flat in a Council Block like us. My mother would have bitten her hand off for one. These were opposite St Thomas’ Hospital – I’d like to think they are still there!

    1. I’ve never met anyone who had a bad word to say about them – fitted kitchens and bathrooms were unknown back then – these places had them! They were warm and cosy and everyone had a garden!

  2. Alan,

    This is a fascinating social history of council flats/prefabs in England. I really enjoyed reading it. Were the thick cement roof structures designed to resist bombing???? Was your family bombed out – is that why they were at the top of the list – feel free not to answer. And, um, when are you writing your memoir, or is that too bourgeois a thought? 😉

    All my best,


    1. Huh! Bourgeois, indeed! That first ‘house’ had been a small command centre during the war and was certainly built to withstand a bit of aerial assault. We lived there because that was what was available – some lived in old buses, huts or railway carriages; places were in very short supply. No, we were not bombed out; my father was in the Royal Navy and my mother had served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service as a RADAR operator with the Royal Artillery. Maybe that gave them some priority together with two children.
      As for the memoir – I think there might be a ‘Backways’ book to get sorted first. Anyway, I need time for my glass or two of raki 😀

    1. Oh! Do stop going on about your roof, Jack. Do as the locals do and get yourself a plastic sheet and a few rocks!

  3. What a riot. I love it. I may have to move in with Mehmet Bey. Italians hate air-conditioning because they think you can get a “colpa di aria” (hit by air) and get a fever. I sweat it out every summer in blistering hot Rome with my anti-airconditioning, anti-fan husband, and my anti-airconditioning colleagues at work.

    1. . . isn’t he wonderful? There is a saying in Turkey ‘burası Türkiye!’ – ‘this is Turkey!’. Mind you, with 6 feet of rain in winter you might want to consider a short term lease!

  4. I have been seeing more pre-fabricated homes around lately, but the cool thing is that they are increasingly becoming more complex and even fashionable. They don’t have to look like trailers anymore.

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