Stuff

Punched, Bored Or Countersunk!

A couple of posts back I put you in the frame about the secret hideaway at the other end of the Rabbit Hole that J and I had just acquired. In it you learned how quickly things can evolve here in Turkey if you have a good attitude backed by a fair wind. This post takes this little voyage of adventure a bit further forward as we pick up the Trade Winds and ride the rollers of good fortune. Enjoy the trip, we are – sort of – most of the time!

sailing the trades

I’m not being a grumpy old fart by voicing that, just saying that sometimes the pace of things can leave one gasping and spinning around rather like the effects of that first, illicit fag behind the bike shed.

Anyway, having sorted out and paid for the steel that will form the framework for our wooden cabin, we agreed with our usta/craftsman that we would come back for an inspection visit about halfway through this phase of the job. We arrived, parked up on our neighbour’s plot and, with great anticipation, stepped through the hedgerow for our first view . .

cabin trip 1

we both thought ‘Blimey, it looks like an apartment block!’

cabin trip2

side elevation

cabin trip4

checking the measurements – again!

cabin trip3

rooms with a view

Shortly after we arrived the head of forestry for the province turned up and introduced himself. He congratulated us on our project and then got into conversation with J who told him of our hopes and plans for the plot with fruit and nut trees and a ‘dragonfly’ pond. Such was her enthusiasm that the forestry department have offered to supply us with all the trees we need – free!

Next came lunch, a BBQ of a whole, roast lamb at the beach for everyone thanks to the father of our young usta. Also present, along with the forestry guys, were the village muhtar/headman and a provincial governor. A new project (nothing to do with us) to plant a forest of acacia trees to help the village with honey production was agreed. Turks really know how to network!

Acacia-Honey-With-Walnut

Acacia Honey – reputedly the best

Next day was pretty frenetic as we were taken to the forestry depot to pick out the wood we wanted for inside and outside the cabin. Then it was off to the showroom to choose shower, toilet and washbasin. That was followed up by various visits to select roofing material and insulation, rock-wool for walls and ceiling and a special type of foam for underfloor.  Oh, and before I forget, we managed to fit in a trip to Eğirdir Lake for a scrumptious meal with our main man and his wife – two people we love dearly.

eğirdir-005

that’s us, right by the little harbour

In the midst of all this mad activity, and my occasional outbursts of exasperation at my inability to keep so many balls in the air at once, was Sue. Sue is J’s long-time friend who has been on a two week visit that I’m sure she thought would be a calming and relaxing experience.

What can I say, Sue? I don’t know if I’m punched, bored or countersunk – join the club – ‘Burası Türkiye’ – ‘This is Turkey!’ Above all, never let anyone tell you that Turks are lazy or that you can’t get things done here – ever!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü – this side of the Rabbit Hole!

Stuff

(F)lights of Fancy

Life has become a bit of a distraction, and it’s rather nice! What with one thing or t’other I seem to be flitting between inconsequential jobs whilst what’s left of my mind goes walkabout or indulges in flights of fancy (which I’m told is a ‘really relaxing colouring book’ for adults).

f of f

My mental wanderings seem mostly to be focussed (in a misty sort of way) on the imminent start of the building of our cabin in the mountains at the other end of the rabbit hole. In an attempt to keep my feet on Terra Firma J has been keeping me occupied on lighter projects. She has always disliked the garden lights that were installed when the house was built. ‘They’re boring’, she was wont to say, ‘everyone has these!’ She wasn’t wrong – I’ve seen them all over the place in one variant or another.

Her propositions for change start something like this – ‘Don’t you think it would look wonderful if . .?’ or ‘What do you think about . . for an idea?’ And so it has been that for the past ten days or so I have been bringing some of her (f)lights of fancy from fluffy butterflies of wishful dreaming into solid manifestations made up of any old stuff that has been hoarded because it might be useful one day or was just lying about the place.

Old, handmade bricks, rocks from the mountains, plastic pipes, antique glass ‘windows’ from a hamam and bits of gaffer tape have taken on a new persona and really come into their own as night time falls. As they used to say on Blue Peter, ‘Here’s one I made earlier.’

Flight of fancy

by day

Flight of fancy2

and by night

Flight of fancy3

by day – a pile of rocks

Flight of fancy4

at night – still a pile of rocks!

Buoyed up by the success of her ideas J has started to collect things like ‘interesting’ tree branches, jam jars and the like. I have taken to locking myself in the workshop and sharpening chisels, plane blades, drill bits and doing other important stuff!

Whilst on the subject of lights and flights of fancy I really have to make mention of my sister. Despite my very best attempts she never, ever, forgets my birthday! Things have much improved from the days when I had to fly home with three concrete meerkats and a Christmas pud in my bag. These days, with the never-ending tide of electronic tat from China, she is able to pack dozens of items into one, lightweight parcel of pleasure! Here’s a little solar-powered garden light that has proved to be a real hit with some of the locals.

Flight of fancy5

Orthetrum coerulescens anceps – Keeled Skimmer

Flight of fancy6

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

I Don’t Believe It!

Two weeks back – is it really that long ago? – I put you in the frame about the plot of land J and I have acquired in a delightfully quiet part of the back-of-beyond. Our expectation was that, with luck and a tail wind, we just might be able to get things sorted, cabin-wise, and then look forward to escaping Okçular’s summer heat next year.

hot hot

After the fiasco with the digger word seems to have got around because there I was, up a ladder painting, when the phone rang. It was our main man from the other end of the ‘rabbit hole’. ‘You should come and drink tea with the mayor, he wants to help you.’ ‘When does he want to see us?’ ‘Now! He is waiting for you in his office!’

Seriously! Burası Türkiye! This is Turkey! By the time we’d cleared up, showered, shaved (not J – well, not that day, anyway!), and driven nearly three hours it was mid-afternoon before we got to his office. As it turned out he’d gone to a funeral anyway and didn’t get back for another hour and a half! I have to say that, when he arrived, he was not at all like any other mayor we’ve ever met in Turkey, striking to look at, engaging and dressed very casually. Taking tea and chatting was like having an audience with Jesse Ventura – Different!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, he was kind enough to offer us a corporation digger and driver for the next day for as long as the work took. In case you are wondering, these things have to be paid for at an hourly rate of 100TL, about £20.

Being ‘English’, we were waiting at the edge of the village at the appointed time – an hour and a half later the machine turned up with its charming, smiley driver/operator. Yet again we’d let our foreign sense of time overrule local practices – the triumph of hope over experience! Mind you, when you see what we were getting for our money, it was well worth the wait . .

digger5_copy2

What is amazing is that our plot neighbour came to help and spent the entire day directing and ensuring the job was done properly and exactly as we wanted. We could never have managed without him.

digger3_copy2

The plot has not been tended for about 15 years so a lot of scrub had grown up and needed to be cleared. The scrub will be made good use of for firewood and goat food. The place where the cabin will go was then levelled and an access route made.

You will recall that, this being a protected area, we cannot make any permanent structure. I said we were going to use the chassis of an old mobile office as the foundation for our cabin. We had made no actual moves yet to purchase said chassis so you can imagine our surprise and delight to find this parked up at the end of our access track . .

cabin chassis1

It had taken three guys many hours to cut away the office from the chassis because all the bolts were rusted solid. By the time the truck got it to where you see it, it was 11pm! It succeeded in being what they had hoped for – a ‘Büyük Sürpriz!’ a Big Surprise! We still have to pay for it, but aren’t people wonderful?

So, after the clearing and levelling, the next job for the digger was to tow it on site . .

cabin chassis 2

Is that it? Have we done with the digger? Nope! As we will need a soak-away it was decided that that should be dug whilst the machine is available . .

digger6_copy2

Hole dug, the mayor was contacted to say thank you and fix the price for five hours work. Can you believe he didn’t want us to pay anything by way of welcome! In the end we insisted that he must, at the very least, let us pay for the diesel fuel and we ensured the driver got a bonus.

Next, a phone call had a local usta arrive who specialises in things like soakaways and the like. He looked at the job and then, in line with custom, everyone sat or squatted down to make the bargain/deal. (some pretty wonderful people have and are doing an awful lot to help us make our dream project a reality – it would be great for you to be able to see their smiling faces – not possible for many reasons).

Doganbaba30092_copy2_copy

Deal struck, the usta jumped in the hole and set to work and within a day the job will be capped and finished – like to see you get a builder to come and do a small job at the drop of a hat!

usta

In the middle of all this the man who is reputed to be the very best blacksmith/steel constructor in the whole of this area arrived following a summoning from a ‘certain someone’  to discuss the framing of our wooden cabin. Turns out he is the bee’s-knees and will oversee the whole project, including fitting-out. We have now agreed stage 1 price and he has given a guaranteed start and finish date.

It would be great to be able to show you the full team but discretion is required. Here are a few views from this trip by way of compensation.

plot view

from the plot

lake view1

a  stone’s throw away

view from terrace

the view from the cabin with the main-man

So, there you have it. What was going to be a one-nighter turned into three and each day was filled with wonderful surprises. Some pretty special, selfless people, neighbours and bureaucrats joined with us and brought so many threads together. I’m not sure who is more excited about this project, us or them! Oh, before I forget. A guy from the water cooperative turned up and invited us to join three or four others who also want water for irrigation to lay a new pipe that will pare the cost right down. Yet another piece dropped into place.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü (but actually on Cloud Nine)

Stuff

I Wouldn’t Leave My Little Wooden Hut For You-oo

Some of you will recall that J and I have been searching for a quiet, mountain bolt-hole for some while. About a year ago we discovered a secluded, little gem of an area – you can see some photos here and here. As is often the case with these things, there are pot-holes and swampy bits along the pathway to paradise. In this instance, we are talking about an area under special protection and the fact that the people who ‘own’ the land don’t! Although families had farmed the area for generations there were no formal title deeds. Ho-hum!

Two weeks ago we got a phone call from our under-cover secret agents suggesting that we get ourselves up to paradise toot sweet! A plot was up for sale in a perfect location, at a fair price and the owner had spent a lot of time and money to acquire title deeds! ‘Ferrets up a drain-pipe’ does not adequately describe our reaction time!

IMG_4366_copy

Next morning we were on site with our ‘agents’, the owner and really nice guy we’d met previously who happened to own and farm a plot next door to the one we were looking at.

The location was indeed perfect! 1200+ square metres, terraced, with a beautiful, mature pine tree, forest behind and to one side and a great view once the scrub has been cleared. Water for irrigation is free and drinking water is available. We made an offer there and then and by 3pm the next day the title deeds were in our hands. I’m already dreaming of creamy almond blossom scenting the garden in Spring and balmy evenings on the terrace listening to Segovia as he does his thing!

IMG_7983_copy

IMG_7986_copy

our view towards the lake

Now, this being a protected area, it is not possible to build a permanent structure – a bit of a puzzle you might think. Not really! The provincial roads department has a graveyard of those mobile office things that used to be all the rage.

IMG_8009_copy

The chassis is a massive C-section and there are four close-coupled wheels. With the office structure removed one of these would suit our needs perfectly, so we are acquiring one. With the platform area extended, it will hold a 7×4 metre wooden cabin (sans terrace) and if it’s got wheels it can’t be a fixed structure, can it? A modern solar electric system will power LED lighting and a fridge and ‘Bob’s your uncle!’

large

Access to the plot is via a narrow track that you’d miss if you didn’t know it was there. Here is the digger arriving to do a job of levelling and scrub clearing.

IMG_8011_copy

This being the back of beyond, the machine arrived more than an hour late (normal) and, as soon became apparent, with an operator that hadn’t got a clue which lever did what! The real operator had gone to a funeral and didn’t want us to be disappointed! Never mind, another day will do, we don’t need much of a reason to be back here again asap.

IMG_8013_copy

he managed to extend the arm before admitting he hadn’t got a clue

– our neighbour was not impressed!

The locals are just as nice as our neighbours here in Okçular – salt-of-the-earth! Out of the blue J and I were told to make our way to our plot-neighbour’s house on the edge of the village.

IMG_7990_copy

our plot is way over the other side

The house has fabulous views across the lake and set out on the upstairs terrace was a feast to welcome us to the community. I know we are going to be very happy living part of our time here.

IMG_7995_copy

Neighbours!

Finally, an interlude whilst we await developments . .


Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü and ‘I’m-Not-Telling-You-Where-It-Is’ Köyü

Stuff

Knackered!

. . as in disabled, handicapped, weakened, incapacitated – this getting older thing is really pissing me off! Before you jump in with, ‘Alan, mind your bloody language!’ I’d better explain.

When J and I got back into our early morning track-pounding routine a couple of weeks back, we had done barely four days before my knobbly knee felt utterly knackered! Days of rest made no difference – walking, standing, sitting, lying down, the discomfort got to be intolerable. Trust me, I do not do stoicism in the face of agony! This same knee had surgery five years ago when the cartilage split like sliced bread so I thought ‘Here we go again!’

Today it was an early appointment with my favourite bone surgeon before he sent me off to do the rounds of blood-suckers, radio-active ray gun wielders and resonating magnetic photographers. I have to admit that it is all pretty efficient and virtually instantaneous. Makes me glad I live in Turkey – (assuming it doesn’t get postponed, my sister will have waited 16 months for a second hip replacement in the UK!) By the afternoon we were back with ‘Bones’ for the prognosis – ‘I remember your knee. Look, it is still perfect!’ he proclaimed proudly. ‘No need for operation. You have crystals of uric acid in your knee joint – very painful!’

Now, uric acid was something that we ‘Toms’ in the British army used to good advantage for breaking in new boots.

urine in army boots

This from some obscure source: “The traditional method of ‘breaking in’ or softening boots was to apply polish without buffing, urinate in them just before lights out,  and leave them overnight. They were then worn the next day and the process worked wonders on the hardest leather. The routine was repeated until the leather was sufficiently softened.” The boots ponged for a bit and the flies could be a nuisance but the leather was like a baby’s bottom! I mean, in boots I get, but in my knee??

gout_pain_feels_like_this_by_stubbornmonkee-d7057uo

Don’t I bloody-well know that!

‘I forget English name’, continued ‘Bones’. Sounds like bloody gout I mumbled. ‘Yes! Yes!’ he exclaimed, ‘You have gout! I will write prescriptions and I want you to have complete, 100% protein-free diet and come back in one week. You will see, pain will be gone!’

Bloody hell! I mean, come on, gout is what old men get in their big toe for gawd’s sake! Gout! At my age!

Alan Fenn, (knackered)