J has long-lived genes; she also has long legs in her jeans and it is these two connected things that are at the root of my Dorian Graypresent crisis. I have to find a way to outlive her because I can’t live without her!

I need the Elixir of Life or the name of Dorian Gray’s portrait artist!

‘Why!’ I hear you cry. Well, I’ll tell you why; because she is a semi-minimalist who has designs on my ‘things’, that’s why!

She thinks I should give my stuff away when I’ve finished with it – you know; read a book and pass it on. Watch a DVD and pass it on. I keep explaining, life isn’t like that for me; these are ‘my things’! OK, I don’t mind parting with the odd crap book or DVD, but she’s actually talking about loads of this stuff. I mean, what are the extra book shelves we had fitted in the entrance hall because the ones in the lounge were full up for? My books and DVDs; that’s what they’re for!

What are the shelves in the office for if not my boxes of radio-controlled model aircraft that I haven’t touched since I stopped modeling to join my neighbours in their battle to end the destruction of Kocadere Valley? Go on, answer me that! I will get back to them at some stage, probably when I get fed up with this blogging lark.

It was the same when we moved here, all those screws and nuts and bolts and washers that I’d painstakingly collected over the years were left behind in the UK. It’s taken me 14 years to get back to some semblance of normality by taking apart and saving bits from every discarded or broken item we’ve had since. Yet still J will pass comment on all the ‘rubbish’ I accumulate – Huh! Wasn’t rubbish when the toilet cistern went kaput and I fixed it with bits from my ‘accumulated junk’, was it?

Gollum My PreciousSo, now you see my dilemma, J says it’s a sickness as a result of my deprived childhood, but I disagree. I love pulling down some of my old books and sniffing and feeling the ‘patina’ of age. Turning a few pages and remembering the story as if it was only yesterday that I read it (sometimes it was only yesterday but that’s another story some day, if I can remember). Before you ask; no, I don’t sit and caress DVDs although I might well watch them again someday. Actually, I re-watch the ‘Alien’ quartet every year because I’m mesmerised (Jack (in joke)) by Lootenant Ripley.

So, what I need is a working recipe for long life so that I can outlast J and her obsessive compulsion to dispossess me of my possessions, I couldn’t stand being on my last legs and knowing I’d still be warm when she got the ‘Totters’ in – ‘My Precious!’

(for US english speakers – totters are rag and bone men)

Alan Fenn, Okcular Koyu

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Yuvarlakçay – Two Years On

Yuvarlakçay was not just a battle against corporate greed and bureaucratic bullying; it was above all a battle for the rights of people. The right of local people to have their needs factored into decisions being made in the plush boardrooms of İstanbul and the less-than-connected offices of the faceless pen-pushers in Ankara.

Lokma and Çay being prepared

Yuvarlakçay brought together villagers who are subsistence farmers and business owners; it brought together foreign residents and Turks in a ‘coalition of the willing’ prepared to turn out at any hour of the day or night to face down the authorities who were backed by the Jandarma and the power of the state.
This coalition came together to protect the environment of the Yuvarlakçay River and the water rights of the villagers whose livelihoods depended on the continued free flowing of this, one of the purest water sources in Turkey. Villagers defied the authorities and occupied the site; protecting it day and night through the coldest and wettest part of the Winter of 2009-2010.
To keep spirits up and the media interested a dedicated group set about organising everything from classical and folk concerts to my favorite, a barby, followed by midnight march of flaming torches along the river to the protest encampment on New Years Eve 2009. It was like a scene from the ‘Lord Of The Rings’! For me it is a magical memory and a confirmation in my belief in the innate ability of people everywhere to cooperate and work together for the common good.

United We Stand (thanks Co & Maria for this one)

Today, Sunday 11th December J and I joined a group who retraced the river walk to the site of ‘Occupy Yuvarlakçay’ to commemorate the start of the campaign that led to the people’s victory in securing the river and its environment and water rights for all and not the profit of the few. The sun was shining, it was a beautiful day and we shared in the sense of achievement, comradeship and community as well as the tea and lokma supplied by our Brothers and Sisters in Arms from Pinarköy.
Yuvarlakçay was a catalyst that bred, through hardship and threats against the property of villagers, a species new to this part of the world – the ‘Lionesses of Pinarköy’ and here, by way of tribute is an unedited piece of video of the Lionesses in action sending a message to the then governor of Muğla Province – ladies and gentlemen, I give you the ‘Şalvar Rappers’.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Yuvarlakcay Salvar Rap – original 1st performance from Alan Fenn on Vimeo.

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Ulu Camii – Grand Mosque, Sivrihisar

. . from the ‘Tardis Files’ 15th June, 2004

J and I were off, yet again, on one of our trips to the east of Turkey – to Erzurum Province, to be exact. Our route was to take us around Ankara to an overnight stop at one of the Turkish Drivers’ Club hotels at Kırıkale; then on to our destination after a stop off to inspect the ancient Hittite capital at Hattuşa near Çorum. The earliest settlement discovered in the area so far dates back to the Chalcolithic Age and the dawning of metallurgy – the working of metals – around 5000 BC.

first sight of Sivrihisar

We had set off at 6.30am and had made such good time that we felt compelled to search out somewhere interesting to have a look at rather than spending three or four more hours gazing at the walls of our hotel room. Two places jumped out at us; Sivrihisar and Gordian. Sivrihisar was closest, so working on the basis that if it was naff we could move on to Gordian, we set off.

This Gordian, by the way, is the same Gordian that used to own that bloody great granny-knot till Alexander came along and cheated by ‘undoing’ it with his sword and taking over the Phrygian kingdom. The Phrygians were a bit cheesed off, as you can well imagine, and accused Alexander of cheating. He invited them to show him where, in the small print, it said he had to unpick it with his fingers, and anyway, his army was bigger than their army so what were they going to do about it. No contest!

Orthodox Church

So, what was in Sivrihisar that was of any interest? Well, it was a mosque. More of that in a minute. Sivrihisar was, until the War of Independece, a mixed Turk and Armenian town. The remains of the Orthodox church are a bit sad, all boarded up and neglected. Not vandalised, just falling to bits. The old merchant quarter has a number of what were once truly grand Ottoman houses, also falling into disrepair. They’re just too expensive for their owners to restore, and anyway, they’d prefer modern plumbing just like you and me! Some are still occupied, many are empty and up for sale, if they don’t fall down before someone comes along with enough money and a strong desire for the hobby of a lifetime.

. . if you didn't know

How we found the church was fun. We’d learned that we’d have to waste a bit of time waiting for the mosque to open up for prayers. It’s kept locked because of antique carpets inside. The locals assured us that it would be worth the wait however. So we decided to do a bit of shopping for gifts for the local kids at journey’s end (we’d been there the previous year). There was one of those ‘Everything-a-Million’ shops nearby, so we went in for one of our renowned spending sprees! We still call them ‘Million Shops’ to this day; back then they really were. I don’t think the young owner could believe his luck because he promptly shut up shop and took us on a tour of his town, including the old church, before escorting us back to the mosque for opening time.

It would be hard to find a less pre-possessing place. From the outside it looks derelict. Cracked plaster, bits of corrugated tin, dirty, green, peeling paintwork, incongruous additions around the perimeter. Inside, ‘Harika!’ Wonderful! Can you picture this?

. . conjured from a dream

Imagine you have just entered a set from ‘The Lord of the Rings’. What you see is how you imagined one of the great Viking wooden palaces of legend; or how the palace of the Lords of the Riddermark would have appeared. Dim lights shine here and there. You are faced by a forest of 67 massive carved wooden columns that are supporting equally massive wooden beams that, in turn, support the carved wooden ceiling. The building is flat-roofed by the way, no domes or the like. In years gone by it would have been covered by a thick layer of earth and turf.

a true 'relic'

This is a Selçuk ‘forest’ mosque; built in 1274. The floor is covered by dozens upon dozens of carpets and kilims, some of great age. A wooden balcony fills one side, carved and beautifully crafted, as is the screened section for women off to another side. The mihrab, from where the imam conducts part of the prayers, is a wood carver’s fantasy of geometric designs. The atmosphere is utterly calming.

We were met with much interest and kindness. One old man insisted on telling us all about the place, although we struggled to understand him, before he finally headed off for prayers. What an incredible place – well worth hanging about for. A gem – hiding behind its scruffy exterior.

I would have loved to have had my own photos of the inside, but several of the men asked me not to use my camera. Like me, you’ll have to make do with stock shots from the internet.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü


Home Alone

It’s an odd feeling, being home alone; a mixture of elation at being free to watch the whole set of 4 ‘Terminator’ films at one sitting and minor anxiety brought on by the need to constantly check and re-check the ‘to do’ list.

Home alone? How come? Well, J has headed back to the UK for a couple of weeks to visit friends and family and take in a political ‘summer school’, which leaves me here and free to indulge or fret as the mood takes me.

Our ‘to do’ lists are a must these days as we try and keep our heads together when we’re apart. Together we seem to have enough active grey cells to make arriving at day’s end a reasonably satisfying experience as far as achieving the things that need to be done is concerned. Apart, even for short periods, results in having to clean the remains of exploding hard-boiled eggs off the ceiling – twice (me), to rescuing Noah and all the animals because the garden pump has been left running (J); and these are just a couple of funny consequences! What fool said that half a brain was better than none?

As long as we remember to look at them, lists are great.

Anyway, looking on the bright side of being home alone, there is the joy of being able to enjoy, once again, for the umpteenth time, my little (all right, not so little) stash of favourite films. Films like ‘Terminator’; ‘Lord of the Rings’; ‘Alien’ (Ahh! Sigourney Weaver/Lt Ripley – my hero!) and Terry Pratchet’s ‘Disc World’; sci-fi and fantasy one and all – I love the stuff!

It’s not that J is disapproving exactly, it’s sort of, well, hard to explain. There’s the getting up and leaving the room, or the sigh, or, most painful of all, ‘Is this stuff really made for adults?’ So I have this guilt thing that J says was instilled in me by my mother and which I should deal with. She’s right on the button of course, so while she’s away I’m having some therapy –

‘Look out Ripley; it’s behind you!’

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Incredible Okçular!

Learning From Recep

Recep is a man of few words; our regular ‘conversations’ consist of gestures that interrogate or indicate. They always end with a beaming smile and ‘Çok güzel. Hadi!’ (Wonderful, splendid. Off we/you go) Recep is also an ‘Ent’!

For those of you not familiar with the world created by JRR Tolkien; from the ‘Silmarillion’ through ‘The Children of Húrin’, ‘The Hobbit’, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and many others, Ents are foresters who so loved the trees that they were charged to nurture and protect that they became like them. Ents are ancient beyond years and, although much fewer and more secretive in these days of avarice and men with chainsaws, they are still among us.

As I said, Recep is an Ent; you can read it in the sun-browned wrinkles of his smiling, lived-in face and in the slow and gentle pace at which he moves. Or in the love he shows towards those in his care – the trees of any shape, or colour, or race, or creed! Recep does not discriminate or favour any one above another, and I am privileged to have him as my neighbour.

Three years ago there was a storm that uprooted a number of trees around our area; many were broken or beyond salvation. One that looked beyond saving was near my house, a mulberry that I suspect had been planted by Recep many years ago. The tree was lying on its side, roots exposed, looking fit only for logs. Later that day I walked by and there was Recep with 2 of his grandsons, a tractor and trailer and a chainsaw – that’ll soon be on the wood pile I thought. Not so! By the time I walked back the tree, polled back and shorne of its heavy branches, was upright once again. I stood a while to admire; ‘Çok güzel!’ said Recep, ‘Çok güzel!’ Three years on the tree stands yet, its branches laden with fruit in the late Spring.

I learned about him soon after moving to Okçular; ‘Recep the Tree Man’ he is called by locals. We met one day, about ten or eleven years ago, on the track to my house; using our gesture language I asked him what he had in his hand, ‘Okalip’ (Eucalyptus) he stated, there being no known gesture in our ‘language’ for such a thing, and held up 2 seedlings. ‘Çok güzel!’ said I and then gestured ‘What will you do with it?’ ‘Plant them, there and there’ he gestured. ‘Çok güzel!’ I exclaimed. Recep then handed me one of the seedlings, ‘You take it and plant it’ he gestured.

I brought this delicate little piece of life home and set about searching out a suitable pot or container. Here, the magic of Recep interceded because, amongst the pile of flower pots was one full of bone-dry soil but showing a feathery green shoot an inch or so high. Eighteen months earlier my, then young, grandson had brought me a ‘conker’, the seed of the horse chestnut, which I’d dutifully stuck in this pot, watered for a while and then, when nothing happened, forgotten about. There is no doubt that had another couple of days passed it would have withered and died without trace.

That wise old Ent, Recep, must have known, because now J and I have two magnificent trees in the making; Recep’s eucalyptus, fast-growing and already 10 metres high, grows outside our gate; my grandson’s ‘Conker Tree’, slower growing, is a healthy 2 metres tall and lives in our garden. Trees are gifts to generations as yet unborn, cared for, where they can, by Ents – eternal foresters.

As Tolkien wrote; ‘The Age of Elves is passing and the Age of Men is begun’ and what a mess we have made of it. As I look about the world and the destruction we are wreaking I can only speculate that the ‘Age of Man’ is passing too and for the sake of the rest of the creatures in this world, not a moment too soon!

photos: an Ent; avenue of eucalyptus Marmaris; a ‘conker’; horse chestnut tree; horse chestnut flower.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü