Stuff

Silly Season

Silly Season – (noun)

  1. (British) a period, usually during the hot summer months, when journalists fill space reporting on frivolous events and activities

Alright, so it’s not really summer yet, but I’m busy (really) re-roofing the back balcony and covered area, and I’m worried that you’ll be thinking again that I’ve popped my clogs if I don’t stick something up. There’s been rainwater problems for some time and I kept promising to get around to the job one day. ‘One day’ arrived about a week ago and so it’s been days of steady toil with the odd one off to go market shopping – no scope for dossing about doing this sort of stuff!

Anyway, I’ve quite reasonably assumed that more posts about the exploits of Bob the Builder would be yawn inducing and so I’ve settled for a Picture Post edition (the link is to a brilliant Picture Post exhibition). The subject is J and her Yorkshire passion for cricket – on second thoughts, you may want to go and view the PP exhibition instead!

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J was quietly noshing her apple, when . .

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this fellow turned up demanding a little nibble

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he, for it is indeed a ‘he’, was quite demanding

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. . with impressive mandibles

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. . and fastidious manners

‘He’ is Saga pedo, a Predatory Bush Cricket and for those of you with little going on in your lives just now here’s a link where you can become better acquainted.

Alan Fenn, Fiddling On The Roof

ps I did think this was better than nothing, but on re-reading I’m not so sure – oh, well!

Incredible Okçular!

The Emperor’s New Clothes

emperors-new-clothesSometimes, being in the right place at the right time can have humiliating or even catastrophic consequences. The story by Hans Christian Andersen comes to mind about the two tailoring conmen who promised the vain-glorious emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that he doesn’t see any suit of clothes until an innocent child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!

And sometimes, being in the right place at the right time can leave one open-mouthed in wonder or delight! A couple of evenings ago, J and I arrived home from a delightful day hunting out orchids and tulips in village graveyards and mountain meadows with new friends and wound up with a very nice meal at one of our favourite riverside restaurants in the mountains. As I parked the car in the garage I spotted this:

giant viennese emperor moth1

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A female Saturnia pyri the Giant or Viennese Emperor Moth aka Giant Peacock Moth. She had only just emerged from the pupae that had been fixed inside a nearby nest box and was in the process of ‘pumping-up’ her wings.

By next morning that part of the process was over. The female seldom flies at this pre-mating stage and so she hung there, under the overhang of the garage , conserving her energy and waiting for the night and the trysting hours. As twilight drew on she began emitting pheromones, a sort-of ‘Chanel No5′ on steroids and a real turn-on for any male Emperor Moth within a mile or so of this gorgeous creature.

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The Saturniidae family are an interesting lot – adult females emerge with a complete set of mature ova and “call” males by emitting pheromones. Males can detect these chemical signals up to a mile away with help from sensitive receptors located on the tips of their feather-like antennae. The males fly several miles in one night to locate a female and mate with her; females generally will not fly until after they have mated.

The mouth-parts of adult saturniids are very small and basically useless and they lack digestive tracts so adults subsist on stored lipids acquired during the laval stage. Adult behaviour is devoted almost entirely to reproduction – life without food is short and sweet with a lifespan of a week or less after emergence.

Their distribution is across southern Europe and parts of Africa and Asia. In the UK you have the Lesser Emperor Saturnia pavonia which is smaller but a little more colourful.

So, from the egg there emerges a tiny, brownish caterpillar that then goes through a series of moults that transforms it from this:

Saturnia pyri hatchling

to this:

saturnia pyri caterpillar

After about five moults it then pupates inside a tough ‘box’ that it spins for protection. The connection with its close relative the silkworm is apparent.

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S pyri pupae

. . from this the adult emerges and it starts all over again!

Anyway, back to our own story of romance and seduction! At some point during the hours of darkness, a knight in shining scales flew in, surfing the pheromonical airwaves that make Coco Chanel look a total amateur. There was, I’m sure a exchange of pleasantries before an exchange of a more compelling nature was mutually agreed upon. Come the morning light our amorous couple were oblivious to anything but each other.

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. . let no man put asunder!

After the passion comes that suffused, floating feeling that every Emperor and Empress will only know once – unless they have genetic memory! Here they are, resting in the warm glow of a Westering sun.

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  As I write this they have flown up into the lower branches of our Oriental Plane tree and will no doubt be about the business of depositing the eggs of another generation of these beautiful creatures.

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the sun shines through the wings of the slightly battered male

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the female – great with eggs

These beautiful moths are very amenable to gentle, cautious handling – just putting my finger close to the female had her stepping across for a photo-shoot.

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Saturnia pyri to handa head-on with those amazing antennae (Wikimedia)giant viennese emperor moth11

some wing detailgiant viennese emperor moth12profile

So, there you have it – a new suit of clothes for the Emperors that, in just a few days, will be just a story tale . . until next year.

Alan Fenn, in Incredible Okçular

Incredible Okçular!

Ambushed!

Okçular-Village-Guide_1This coming year will see the gradual winding down of the Okçular Book Project. It was started by way of giving something back to our village for all the love and support we have been given since we were fortunate enough to land in the lap of this farming community.

Originally conceived as a small booklet that would tell a few stories, that could be sold to raise a few lira that could be used for the benefit of the community, the project mushroomed into two guides that over the years has raised thousands upon thousands of lira. To say that our expectations were exceeded would be a gross understatement!

With the exception of two items, a playground in the village centre and a village photo archive, all other projects funded from the books have centred around the school. The creation of the beautiful murals and gardens with Gülay Çolak and Fiona MacRae that so transformed the formerly drab, utilitarian seat of learning came first.

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Fiona and Gülay

the old geezer

the Old Geezer bending his back . . again!

mural crewthe murals crew

This was followed by wi-fi for the whole school; bicycle racks; a library in every classroom; the restoration of a beautiful old wooden outdoor chess set and making a tiled board; the funding of a complete science cupboard.

chess

Ok school watering sys

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Recently the book money provided an agricultural-grade watering system that will keep the garden plants and young trees alive throughout the long, hot summer holidays. This was followed by steel railings to protect the the system and the plants from over exuberant ball games. And there is still plenty of cash in the kitty to do more as needs arise!

So, you may well ask why we feel it is time to wind the Book Project down – it’s a good question. The answer has everything to do with need for complete rewrites and re-vamping of both guides which would entail a huge amount of time and work and the fact that neither of us is getting any younger and there are many other things/projects we want and need to find time for.

Anyway, moving on – 23rd of April is National Sovereignty and Children’s Day here in Turkey and each year we go down to our village school to show our support for the efforts of the children and teachers in their celebration. Here are a few photos to give you a taste:

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the pre-school class getting their ducks in a row – sort of!

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Part way through the proceedings J and I were startled to hear our names and a summoning over the audio system. Mystified and a tadge embarrassed in front of all the children and parents, we gathered at the rostrum where there followed a fulsome thank you from the head teacher for the support given by us through the Book Project over the years. As I shuffled my feet, J was presented with a wonderful armful of flowers and promptly burst into tears!

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. . in the national colours of Turkey, too!

Alan Fenn, ‘Ambushed’ but very happy to be part of Okçular Köyü

Stuff

Knackered!

beer o'clockThere are few things more satisfying than completing a project! Unless, that is, it is the relief that it is well and truly done with and it is beer o’clock!

YGT aka ‘You Gorgeous Thing‘ has its new set of boots for its roots and pretty smart they look, too. Regular readers will know of whom and what I speak – casual browsers can click on the link for enlightenment. The work has been hard on these creaky knees and back with much cracking and groaning, especially in the morning when faced with the prospect of more of the same.

Like all great projects, the sun rarely shines on just one hero – full credit has to be given to young Samet who has manfully done all the heavy lifting and carrying for me, and to good mate Alan who gave up a day to mix mortar so that I could stay on my poor, old, long-suffering knees for longer pointing up all the new-laid stone! I couldn’t have managed without you guys – well, I s’pose I could but it might have taken one of those wonderful, Soviet era Five-Year Plans!

work mates1Samet

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the man with the ‘muck’

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Alan – behind bars where he belongs!

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look at his face – he’s enjoying the pain!

Anyway, for those who were upset that I hadn’t included a photo of YGT in the previous post, here’s a couple of it wearing ‘Wisteria‘ from the Spring Collection.

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precocious young thing

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job jobbed!

Finally, about the title, for the benefit of our readers in foreign parts – a ‘knacker’ was not originally (and here I quote the Oxford English Dictionary) ‘n. vulgar slang for testicles’. No, it originally referred to a person who disposes of dead or fallen and unwanted animals that are not for human consumption. So, when an animal was worn out it was said to be ‘knackered’ and ready for the ‘knacker’s yard’, terms that readily lent themselves to the working classes after long hours or years at the grindstone. It has nothing at all to do with the ‘knack’ which is an aptitude for performing a skill or task or a ‘knackwurst’, which I am assured is a short, fat sausage!

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this is knackered!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Incredible Okçular!

Black and White

We had a treat here in Okçular today – a rather uncommon visitor dropped in on Black Lake for a quick bite before moving on. Ciconia nigra, Black Storks stopped by on their way from equatorial regions of Africa to their nesting grounds in northern Turkey and Europe

Ciconia nigra distribution

yellow – breeding range; blue – wintering range; green – year round

Relying, as they do, on thermals to assist their long passage-making, they tend to use three overland corridors – in the West they follow the coast and cross into Europe via Gibraltar; in the central Med they cross from Tunisia and then island-hop through Malta and Sicily into Italy. In the East they use the Red Sea, Sinai, Syrian shoreline before swinging a left along the Turkish coast and then north through the Bosphorus and then spreading out to their breeding grounds across Europe and Russia.

Most of us living here in Turkey are familiar with the Black Stork’s close cousin, the White Stork. The Whites are much more tolerant of us humans. Blacks, on the other hand are shy and wary creatures choosing to live away from human disturbances and so getting a chance to see them is a rare treat. In the past, on odd occasions, we have seen single Blacks and couple of  times there have been two of them feeding up on the lake before disappearing as quickly as they arrived. Today, J set off in the car only to rush back to let me know that there were black birds on the lake. The lens I had available is a 300mm and the birds were a long way off – this is the best I could do . .

Black and White Storks1a White arrives to keep the blacks company

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. . here are some pics from serious photographers . .

Black Stork1a couple of adults

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Black Stork juvanile

a juvenile

Such beautiful creatures . .

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü