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.

gulay fiona

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

Okcular school10

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:

Okcular school3

Okcular school4

Okcular school5

 

Okcular school6

Okcular school7

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

Okcular school8

okcular school9

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!

Okcular school1

Okcular school2

. . 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

workmates4

the man with the ‘muck’

work mates2

Alan – behind bars where he belongs!

work mates3

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.

wisteria

wisteria2

precocious young thing

job jobbed

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!

knackered

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

Black and White Storks2

. . here are some pics from serious photographers . .

Black Stork1a couple of adults

Black Stork2

Black Stork juvanile

a juvenile

Such beautiful creatures . .

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

 

Stuff

This’n’That

Life has felt rather full of ‘doing stuff‘ these past 10 days or so. The old back and knee bones have most definitely been ‘connected’ and are feeling the pace and their age. This despite the fact that we have a very good and reliable young man in our occasional employ who does pretty much anything we ask of him whenever we ask. He’s a really good ‘Gopher’ and ‘Dopher’!

Moving on: Living with us we have very beautiful teenager by the name of Platanus orientalis, who also answers to the name of ‘You Gorgeous Thing’, YGT for short. One day, all things being equal, YGT will grow to over 30 metres in height and attain an age that Methuselah would have been proud of had he lived that long! Methuselah, of biblical fame, lived (so it says) for 969 years. He obviously got tired of swimming against the tidal wave of ageing because he popped his clogs just seven days before the start of the Great Flood. It’s likely that Mr Noah would have denied him passage anyway on the grounds that he was well over the reproductive hill . .

methuselah_syndrome-ianlome

. . and not very pretty, either! (artwork from Ian Lome)

The other Methuselah is a splendid old Grand Basin Bristlecone Pine aged around 4850 years and YGT, with its ‘live fast, love hard, die young’ mentality, does not expect to be around long enough to get that bored!

METHUSELAH bristle cone

trust me – this Methuselah fairly bristles with health

Dredging up these snippets of mostly useless information gives me great pleasure – especially when I find myself standing with creaking joints, gazing into cupboards and wondering why I’m there!

Anyway, getting back to YGT, like most teenagers these days it’s been getting a bit too big for its roots and causing some upset and cracks around the fabric of the family home! The very foundations of our life together were being disrupted. Something had to be done!

roots

Now, we love YGT and have no intention of giving it the ‘bonsai snip’ – no, we decided that the answer was more freedom because, as they say, with freedom comes responsibility. The responsibility not to be a bloody nuisance and cause any more upheavals for at least the next ten years! I mean, there was masses of concrete that had to be lifted and recycled into usable rubble for extra ‘blinding-off’ . .

rubble

. . a new retaining wall to be built, new concrete to lay followed by relaying of the stone paving.

brick terrace

Knowing how I feel right now, today I informed YGT that we now have a new social compact (as Old Labour liked to call any new bit of anti-union legislation) and if I’m faced with a repeat performance before I shuffle-off this mortal coil then YGT will become Fx4 – ‘Free Fuel For the Fire’ in very short order!

In between laying bricks and feeling knackered J and I were ‘hosting’ some 60 young students from the International School in Istanbul for part of a day. They have been coming to this corner of Turkey for about three years now and the organisers like to bring them to Okçular where we take them on a visit to our beautiful Kocadere Valley and give them some idea of the value of these places and the need to protect them . .

students in Kocadere

. . before they end up at our village primary school. There these children, usually from a privileged background, intermingle with the kids from our school who mostly come from a very different background. It is a formula that has proved to be very stimulating and very constructive. This year the visitors brought a gift of loads of footballs and basketballs bought with money raised from a cake bake and sale.

international students at Okcular primary school1

international student in Okcular2

international chess game Okcular

there was even an international chess match

Finally, adding to the ‘stress’ of fitting everything in, we went to our bolt-hole to check out a promising plot of land – it was pretty good, just didn’t quite light the blue touch-paper. This is what pushed all the right buttons . .

 the perfect place

. . the view from this relic of a bygone time. If it all comes together, and it is a big ‘if’, then this really is worthy of a proper restoration job – right down to the last cow pat and straw brick!

Dungroamin

For a name I thought ‘Dungroamin’ was as good as any!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Stuff

Intestinal Fortitude – ‘Guts!’

However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.
Stephen Hawking
How true! Attitude is everything –
‘Life is like a world made up of different windows where good and bad intermingle and everyone has their own perspective. In this world we each try to make a place for ourselves.
Some allow fate to cast a shadow over their future whilst others create positive outcomes from whatever life throws at them . . Our lives may not always be what we have hoped for, but seldom is it as bad as we sometimes allow ourselves to believe . . We each seek happiness and to achieve it we should choose to look at life through the ‘happiness window’.
As I look out from my self-created window I see the world filled with colour even though ‘fate’ painted a black picture for me some years ago . . From my small world I have managed to reach inwards to realise huge dreams and have trained my arms to drive my wheelchair towards hope.
Although I was paralysed 15 years ago I am thankful for having had the opportunity to live in this diverse and multi-coloured world because it is life itself that matters, and to be able to share the sunrise of another new day with those I love.

When I was forced to change my perspective on life I was never alone in my struggle . . . I am thankful to the rainbow of people who have given so much support on my journey of hope – how lucky I am that you are all there . . . ‘       Gülay Çolak

Over the few years that J and I have known Gülay we have watched her blossom as her self-confidence in her own creative ability has grown. Her positive attitude has drawn others to her and those people have, in turn, found their own lives enriched whilst, at the same time, enriching hers. People like Len who, when he realised Gülay’s need for a proper workshop, set about organising his mates and, using their former work-skills, they built one for her. Positivity is a very ‘attractive’ power and a force to be reckoned with.
Mutlu
Mutlu (which translates as happy, lucky or fortunate in Turkish) is well-named
 People like Mutlu Bengüler, a successful business owner from Izmir who so admires Gülay’s grit and determination to overcome her disability and provide for her family that he sent her boxes of stuff that she can turn into desirable items using her self-taught skills as an artist. He wrote to her of his admiration for her courage and attitude. He said he had a good life, a great family and a good business and wanted to help her in her endeavours – he has, quite unannounced, repeated this kindness on several occasions.
Recently she received a pallet-load of marble tiles of various sizes from the Denizli Marble and Stone Manufacturers’ Association with an commission to decorate some of them. The idea being that the association would give them away as gifts.
GB0068
11668_10205161520570377_2368407071131264823_n
This was followed up with an invitation to be an expenses-paid guest of one of the companies at the massive, annual Marble Fair in Izmir. The invitation included a commission to paint some eight portraits on marble of various ‘big-wigs’ such as Kemal Kılıçdağoğlu leader of the CHP (main political opposition party), İzmir and Denizli Valis (Provincial Governors), Commander of the 4th (Aegean) Army, the Economy Minister as well as several mayors and heads of chambers of commerce. She was also able to demonstrate her art to visitors and potential clients.
GB0047gulayplus2GB0064
B21T2521
 GB0050GB0051
GB0061Nihat Zeybekçi – Economy Minister
10320610_10205161520370372_342549180145473077_n
Gülay described the experience as one of joy, excitement and tears. Joy at the reception she and her work received; joy that the company paid most of the hotel expenses for her, her husband and daughter for the four days; the excitement of staying in a hotel for the first time in her life; the excitement of being interviewed by a television crew (see her interview here as long as the link stays up); the tears when she realised that their four-star hotel had put them on the third floor, had no toilet access for anyone in a wheelchair and a lift that was so small she had to be carried like a sack of coal up any stairs! Tears when she realised that the huge İzmir Fair site (the size of our local town, Ortaca) did have one toilet facility for disabled visitors but that access for a wheelchair was impossible because of a barrier! Legs crossed and whistle, then! Not only does she have a wonderful attitude, she proved she has some serious will-power, too! Mind over matter, as my old sergeant, Danny (The Beast) Haddon,  used to say!
GB0066
 Some of the beautiful stuff she took up with her has found its way to the US as well as into boardrooms, offices and living rooms around Turkey. She was handed photos and given commissions on the spot for collection the next day. This resulted in late night painting sessions in her hotel room ending in the early hours before she was off again the next morning to the fair for another day of smiling, working and (metaphorically) keeping her legs crossed!
How much her exposure at the fair will reflect in future commissions remains to be seen – what I can tell you is that the experience has been great for her, boosting her confidence and self-image no end. I would also add that if intestinal fortitude – guts to you and me – was worth its weight in gold then Gülay Çolak would be a multi-millionaire many times over!
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü (bathing in the reflected glory of a wonderful lady)