The Pains and Pleasures of Foreign Travel

‘Thar she blows!’ Feeling a bit like Moby Dick, the great, white whale these days – much more comfortable well below the surface wrapped in the security blanket of ‘Home‘!


We’ve been back from our trip to the UK nearly a week, during which time I’ve sat and gazed blankly at this post page on numerous occasions. The pleasures of being unconnected (mostly), whilst away, seem to have solidified into a ‘memory-foam mattress’ of blogging-Facebook-Googleless lethargy cum disconnect. Re-reading The Road To Wigan Pier and starting Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan/Gormenghast trilogy has proved a far more interesting occupation.

Our UK visit was timed around SPGB Summer School weekend at the very attractive and user-friendly Fircroft College. This is an event that always lifts our spirits along with many a glass of fine ale! This year felt special reconnecting with a number of old friends and getting to know some new faces.

Summer School was followed by the seriously enjoyable pleasures of spending time with family and dear friends and the mixed pleasures and pains of getting reacquainted with the land of our birth. Here, in no particular order are some of them:

Fine, English bitter beer . .

fine bitter beer

 J getting stuck into one

No1 daughter

(full credit belongs to No1 Daughter who understands perfectly how to please we crusty ‘boffers’)

. . and learning that it’s only most and not all of the traditional pubs that have closed down . .



The Shipwright’s Arms, Hollow Shore, Faversham – once, the only way to get to it was across the fields or, our preferred method, using our boat – which we sold more than twenty years ago. Imagine our surprise and delight as we walked along the creek embankment to spot a familiar hull – and there she was . .


. . albeit with all of her brass bits, ports and varnish-work buried under a very unflattering paint job. Cosmic Wind, for that is indeed her name, was built around 1959-60 in Oxford to a Maurice Griffiths  Eventide design and proved to be the perfect East Coast cruising boat. Looking at her still plucks a few strings!

Moving on and giving some balance to the pleasures above was the delight of getting infected by *&+% (no names, no pack-drill) who should have been wearing one of these . .


. . as that cleared up it was followed by . .


. . further demonstrating the need to protect oneself against foreign pathogens whilst in foreign lands!

Back to the good stuff – in Tankerton, again, thanks to No1 Daughter, we were introduced to this gem, little changed from days of childhood of the 1950’s – then . .

seaview cafe1950

. . and now . .


. . with the best bacon sarnies in the world . .

Bacon sandwich

More ‘quintessentially English’ stuff . .

bearstead green cricket

Cricket on the village green – Bearstead CC founded in 1749

canal tow-path Birmingham

. . wandering along canal tow-paths around Birmingham . .

. . and reconnecting, after a very long time, with dear friends and two of the loveliest people on Planet Earth . .

dearest of friends

The ‘joy’ of taking four and half hours to drive 91 miles . .


the M6 northbound

. . to get to a concert at the very impressive Manchester Central Library . .

manchester central library

. . to meet up with John Surman, Chris Lawrence and the Trans4mation string quartet led by Rita Manning. We also met up with old friend composer/arranger John Warren. JS is family and J has known Chris and JW from long before she and I teamed up. We last saw this line-up about three or four years ago when they played at the Hagia Irene in Istanbul – it was yet another memorable experience. Here’s a sample to finish off with . .

Alan Fenn, still somewhere out in the Wide, Blue Yonder!


Let’s Get Out Here

Despair is a terrible thing! For example; J often despairs at my collecting stuff, or hoarding as she usually refers to it. ‘Slim your life down’, she tells me. ‘Get rid of the clutter!’ Secretly I think she despairs at the thought of me shuffling off and leaving the house-clearing to her!

old bottles

a few from the bottle collection – you can just make out the antique dust that I collect as well

dead insects

 tiny part of the ‘dead animal’ collection

glass eye collection

the ‘glass eye’ collection

Truth to tell, I only ever owned one glass eye and that I used to keep hidden in a handkerchief. It used to cause great merriment/alarm when I’d pretend to sneeze and send it rolling across the restaurant table or plop it into a beer glass at the pub. Anyway, I’m only showing you these to illustrate that my stuff is not ‘clutter’ and is, in fact, a source of great interest and enlightenment.

This time of year when we are hibernating away from the excessive heat and doing little else but reading, sleeping and eating I find that I despair of conjuring up anything remotely interesting to blog about.  So it was that I turned to one of my bits of bookshelf for inspiration and was reintroduced to two delightful little gems of pure ‘Englishness’ published by the Southern Railway in 1936. They hark back to the days when trains wandered along branch lines and stopped at places that have long ago fallen to Dr. Beeching’s Axe, and are full of warm reminders of carefree days of childhood for nostalgia buffs like me – I love stuff like this!

SPB Mais Southern Rambles

southern rambles

‘the ancient village charms modern youth’ – so quaint


as they wander from Oxted to Tubs Hill

southern rambles

gazing down from Toy’s Hilldolcis shoes ad

in their Dolcis suede walking shoes!

Where, you may wonder, is all this rambling leading us? Well, one of the books is titled ‘Let’s Get Out Here’ and that is almost exactly what J and I are doing for a couple of weeks. We are ‘Getting Out Of Here’ and heading for the UK for a good dose of positive at the Socialist Party Summer School followed by lots more positive enjoying time with family. So, ‘Hadi, bye-bye!’ as we say in Okçular, ‘I might be some time.’

Was that a sigh of relief I heard?

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü


Self Indulgence

There was a time, when vicars, elders and assorted priests had a role in society and pleasuring oneself was considered a sin, when a bit of self-indulgence was thought to lead to blindness and/or paralysis! Not true, folks! J and I are living proof that a little of what you fancy does you good. Repression leads to all sorts of strange hang-ups, as my mother could have confirmed were she not ‘bereft of life’! This chap has been caught early as his eyesight has only just started to dim!


before you rush to order, this is a spoof ad – I know, I checked it out!

So, onwards and upwards – things can only get better! Having had a few weeks of feeling the need to be around because of the geothermal drilling business (see here, and here) in the overwhelming heat at this time of year plus dealing with some residence permit issues (who hasn’t had those!), we needed to indulge our inner and outer selves and escape to the tranquility of the mountains. There is something about being pretty much alone and surrounded by a world much bigger and wider than those irritations that tend to seem so large at the time – somehow, they just melt away – at least temporarily.

girdev camp023

We didn’t want to spend much time on the road and so we decided to head for Girdev Lake and spend a couple of days at the Girdev Camp owned by İlhan and İnci Kurt. Situated 1800mts above sea-level the lake is always beautiful and at this time of year the herders will be there with their sheep and the environment should be wild with life! We were not to be disappointed. Whilst there we also met a young woman named Raz who woke up one morning in her native Cornwall and said, ‘Raz, old girl! You are at a crossroads in your life – why not take a walk to Istanbul.’ (or words to that effect) So she did! Read her  intermittent blog. Then she bought a bike and cycled off and ended up at Girdev Camp for a while. Where next Raz?

Day one it rained cannonballs for a bit, but mostly the sun shone, the clouds were fluffy and the air was like champagne!

girdev camp017

raining . .

girdev camp019

. . cannonballs!

Girdev is a bit like the wilderness with the edges rubbed off – sufficiently off the beaten track to discourage the casual visitors and yet close enough for those willing to trash their tyres if needs must (of which more later)! How long it is going to remain free of mass tourism is open to question because the machines are out in force scraping and rolling in preparation for asphalt. Will they go all the way? It looks very likely. Add in the electricity that is now there and the hopefulless business ventures lining the side of the road won’t be far behind.

Anyway, whilst it lasts, let’s make the most of it and enjoy the wonders! Here’s one that left me amazed – countless billions (not a typo) of Erythromma viridulum – Small Red-Eyed Damselflies everywhere. I have never seen anything like it!

 Small Red-Eyed Damsefly011

 Erythromma viridulum – Small Red-Eyed Damselfly (female l. male r.)

Erythromma viridulum - Small Red-Eyed Damselflies

. . and then there were these:

Large Skipper Ochlodes venatus

Ochlodes venatus – Large Skipper

girdev stayover minis034

Melanargia russiae Russian Marbled White

Melanargia russiae – Russian Marbled White

. . and then there are the mountains:

girdev stayover minis060

ancient juniper Girdev

with ancient Junipers

mosque in the middle of nowhere Girdev

. . and a mosque in the middle of nowhere

girdev cheese making

a lesson in cheese making from a local expert

lunch with goatherders

. . and lunch with delightful goatherders

girdev mountains2

. . who live down there

Some random flower pics:

girdev flowers1

girdev flowers2

girdev flowers 3

girdev flowers 4

girdev lake 4

final view of Girdev Lake

So, what do you think, folks – splendid, or what?

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

ps when we got back down from Girdev and on to a bit of tarmac we realised we’d probably been driving for miles on a flat rear tyre. It was utterly trashed! The inside and outside walls were ripped like this all around! In the nearby little town the ‘Lastikci’ dug-out a nearly new replacement for the spare, checked everything over – 100 TL/£25 – job jobbed!


pps for those of you who have been totally enthralled by this scintillating post, here’s a link to an earlier expedition with a certain professor who shall remain nameless to protect his reputation!


The Spoils Of Victory

‘To the victor, the spoils’ (or words to that effect); 1832 by Senator William Learned Marcy (1786-1857) of New York. In the context of what he was talking about, war, I doubt he was a very pleasant individual – although a very typical Western ‘chicken-hawk’!

Anyway, back here in the present, it seems like an apt title to a post as I look back on two very different victories.

First; those of you who read these rambles or follow  my Facebookache feed will know about the battle to stop a very damaging geothermal project here in Okçular. Well, it took a bare three weeks but in the end it was stopped in its tracks by the resistance of the village; the unrivaled knowledge of the team that led the successful fight to save Yuvarlakçay and İztuzu Beach and the fact that the proprietor of the project was arrogant enough to think that he could drill within 25mts of our village cemetery and get away with it – he didn’t! He was served with a closure notice and told to get out, cap the well and clean up the mess.

A victory, then? Well, some and some! Here are few photos of the ‘spoils’:

Okcular sondaj1

the lubrication/slurry pit now filled with rubbish from three weeks of abuse

Okcular sondaj2

Okcular sondaj3

There is still equipment waiting to be removed and it will be ‘interesting’ to see what ‘cleaning the site’ means. That said, it remains a victory!

Second; I have been much distracted by the exploits of my grandson and his crew-mates from University of California, Berkeley rowing team known as the Cal Bears at Henley Royal Regatta this year. This young man has, with his team-mates,  worked his way into the Henley record books by setting a new course record for the class whilst winning the Visitors’ Challenge Cup. As stroke his roll was key. J and I are nearly as proud as his mum and dad – bathing in the glow of reflected glory, indeed!

So, do indulge me just a bit longer and browse the photos and enjoy the video:

Cal Bears henley2

the fabulous Cal Bears crew

Cal Bears at Henley1

the moment of victory

Visitor's challenge Cup

 the silver – Visitors’ Challenge Cup


the boy with the silver

. . to the victors

morg and anita

proud mum

. . and finally, the record breaking race.  So, two very different battles with two very different victory spoils – both pretty special! Thanks for your indulgence . .

Alan Fenn, from a reprieved Okçular Köyü

Incredible Okçular!

Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends . .

Henry V

Henry V, Act III Scene 1
(with apologies to the Bard from Stratford-upon-Avon)

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English  village dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man or woman
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of environmental war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood!

Blogging has taken a bit of a back seat recently. What with the sudden, unannounced arrival  of a huge drilling rig in our midst just over two weeks ago and the MotoGP from Assen yesterday (Saturday) I’ve been a bit preoccupied with other things and other thoughts.

Okcular drilling rig

It all began three years ago when, without any consultation or proper notice, a company that is said to have connections within the former ruling political party was granted a license to drill for geothermal hot water in Okçular – anywhere in Okçular including private land! There were rumours going around, but nothing concrete.

Then, just over two weeks ago, J and I woke up to a strange grinding sound somewhere near the village cemetery. We wandered up to investigate and found what you see in the photo above. We must have been out when they arrived because we saw nothing go past our house.

Besides the crew there was a guy who, by his attitude and manner, appeared to be a ‘patron’. J began to question him and he certainly acted as if being questioned by a mere woman was beneath him. He learned otherwise! What he told us was that they were drilling for hot water to be used for a spa/fitness hotel somewhere between Okçular and Ortaca and that they would also be selling the water to other hotels who wanted it in Dalyan and Ortaca.

Armed with this information we went to our muhtar (village headman). He informed us that he knew about the project but not when it was starting. He claimed to have called a meeting of the villagers but we have yet to meet anyone who knew of it. We asked if he realised how dangerous this sort of thing would be to the environment and the livelihoods of our farming neighbours. He didn’t, but claimed they had a license so what could be done about it.

We suggested he call a village meeting. ‘OK’, he said ‘Next week.’ ‘No, tomorrow!’ said we – and so it began. News of what is planned is now spreading via the media.


With the help of friends in other places we have learned a lot in just a few days. There has been no environmental impact report/ÇED rapor, for example. With this information and knowledge of what is planned the village has begun the fight back. Trust me, there are a lot of very angry people here! We have been fortunate to have the dedicated support of the fantastic team of environmentalists who successfully defended Yuvarlakçay and İztuzu Beach. With their guidance we will be effective instead of floundering about in the dark.


Geothermal is not all that it is cracked up to be. For example, in Aydin Province there are a number of ‘closed’ geothermal installations where the hot water is extracted, the heat used and then the water is returned to where it came from. These projects are held up around the world as models of excellence! Yet still the farmers in these areas are having their trees and land poisoned and their livelihoods destroyed.


Here, in Okçular, the system will be ‘open’. The water, which is full of such substances as arsenic, boron, selenium, iron, cadmium, fluoride, hydrogen, sulfur, mercury, ammonia, radon, carbon dioxide and methane, in some instances the water is radio-active, will be pumped through pipes laid alongside the village water supply. We know from experience how often pipes under/alongside the road get damaged by heavy vehicles. When the water eventually arrives at spa hotels in Dalyan (and we already know which some of them are), or wherever, it will be pumped through the pools and then discharged – where? Into the canals or directly into the ground!

When this stuff is being extracted the borehole has to be constructed using welded steel pipes that are then lined with concrete to minimise the risks from cross-contamination with drinking and surface water. There is a very, very good reason for that when you look at the contaminants listed above! What are the controls that should be in place when this toxic water is being piped around and eventually discharged?

Part of the actions being taken by the village and our supporters is to start a court case and seek an injunction. This will force those behind the project and the government to open up the licenses and permissions to public examination. Apart from anything else, the drilling is being carried out illegally because it is well inside the boundary of exclusion for the village cemetery. There is an online petition where those of you who want to support us can do so, just click the link. It is complimentary to the paper petition that is being mounted locally and will only be up for a short time as it will go to the judge of the special court in about a week. We have more than one iron in the fire and I am truly optimistic that the village will prevail in the end. That said, there is no place for complacency and the battle continues on several fronts.

To quote a hero of mine, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos;


‘¡Ya Basta!’ Enough!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

ps Valentino Rossi won the Assen TT in a glorious, unforgiving battle – there’s a moral in there somewhere!