Stuff

Necessity Is The Mother Of Adventure

. . or words to that effect!

When J and I wandered back down here to Okçular we never dreamed that weeks later we would still be here feeling locked in by the bitterly cold weather that has hit the country. I mean, this time last year we were having a whale of a time playing the backwoods man (and woman) and building stone walls and then more stone walls! We were working outside in shirtsleeves and waking up at the crack of each beautiful dawn.

About the middle of January we made a run for it as a minor blizzard set in but we were soon back enjoying every moment of life in the mountains.

This year the polar north winds set in a couple of months ago and are showing no signs yet of moving on. We huddled around the fire in our centrally heated house and worried about how things would be up at the cabin – then we worried some more. With temperatures regularly in minus double figures up there we worried about what temperature wine, beer and home-made marmalade freezes at and the after-effects. Well, you would, wouldn’t you!

Photos appeared from friends who live up there in the mountains – photos that caused us to admire their toughness and fortitude but did nothing to stop us worrying about the wine and marmalade! Here are a few from friends Emine and Armağan . .

The days passed with little change and we remained huddled around our fire devoid of any spirit of adventure but well reinforced with spirits of a different kind! You could say that the spirits were willing but the flesh was weak!

More days passed until suddenly an ashen-faced J stood in the doorway, shoulders slumped. She had just been to the wine store only to find that ‘There are only a few bottles left!’ It was crunch time. The thought of running out of wine and having to pay retail was altogether too much. An emergency run to our favourite winery up in the mountains was a must. When push comes to shove (and it very well might do up there) there is only one thing an intrepid mountain man (and woman) can do – go for it!

With absolute faith in Turkey’s ability to keep its roads open we set off the next day just before 7am. Now Turkey, for some obscure reason decided to stay on summer time this winter so it was pitch-black and even down here we were seeing temperatures below -3C! Sensible and cautious driving was called for.

As usual, the roads were amazingly clear and despite a -7C at one point we made good time to our supplier in the back of beyond. By then the sun was shining in a clear blue sky and once loaded we decided to stick with the main roads and head to the cabin for a quick recce and damage control.

As we climbed over the last ridge that brings the lake in to view we were astonished – it had disappeared behind a grim layer of grey cloud and everywhere looked bleak.

Not the usual view we, or you, are used to seeing from the cabin

even the pine-needles are frozen solid

Sami’s pide (pizza) place on the beach

Now, as it turned out, everything was fine with the cabin and so feeling much relieved we set off back to Okçular with its central heating and un-chilled wine. The roads were clear, the sun was shining and all was well with the world! Until we got within a few miles of the climb up to the pass at Karabel on the Antalya-Fethiye road and it started to snow.

Karabel was a nightmare of stalled cars and trucks parked at all angles. Instinct took over, all I knew was that I needed to keep the bloody thing moving – if there was a gap then go for it – ‘Vorwärts Kameraden! Vorwärts!’ ‘Onwards and upwards!’ It felt like inches at a time but we made it to the top, the only car that did, due in no small part to the weight of a boot overloaded with boxes of wine and a wonderful truck driver on his way down who stopped and let me scrape by. As we drove sedately down towards Fethiye I vowed never to forget the snow-chains again!

What is amazing is that two days later a dear friend Türker decided to go for a driving adventure of his own up to the lake. These are his photos – Odin, you bastard!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü for the time being

ps thanks again to Türker, Emine and Armağan for the photos – a picture is worth a thousand words!

Stuff

When Are You Going Back?

Back in the halcyon days of my youth when I thought I was god’s gift to the British Army there was a guaranteed greeting to be had from the regulars down at my local watering hole whenever I came home on leave. ‘Blimey! You’re here again. When are you going back?’ These days the same question is getting asked whenever J and I re-emerge at this end of the ‘rabbit hole’.

dhobi wallah

My answer remains much the same, ‘As soon as I’ve done my dhobi, given my back a break and caught up with the MotoGP, I’m out of here!’

Don’t get me wrong, J and I love Okçular. This village is a big part of us and represents much of what we love about living in Turkey. I’ll come back to that shortly, first I want to fill you in on where we are at back at the cabin.

You may recall that our friends had returned to Dalyan and we were about to have our neighbour, an expert in these things, come in and fix up our irrigation system. It took him two days and I have to tell you it is a triumph! Even some of the wild roses we transplanted are in the loop!

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irrigation system2

connection made

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up and running

Now we no longer have to worry about the fifty-something trees we’ve planted so far. We can come and go as we please and there are no more major tasks to be completed – the pressure is off and everything now feels much more relaxed and tranquil.

Meanwhile, back here in Okçular, what a difference ten days away makes in the springtime.

mock orange

mock orange

wisteria

wisteria

tulip

tulip

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geraniums

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banksia

Banksia Rose

arum

Arum

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Judas Tree . . and much else beside.

There was also a visit to Kocadere Valley and our village primary school by students from the International School in Istanbul. It’s an annual thing that is organised by our friend Begüm and involves leading the group of about sixty young people to the valley and discussing the environment and such. It was a very pleasant stroll and not a single complaint about ‘hot’ or ‘boring’ was heard.

A little later they joined our junior school children and talked about where they come from (so many different countries) and what they like to do, etc. It is always a treat to observe the open-eyed wonder at these exotic creatures from our children and then to see the shyness melt away as barriers come down. The students from Istanbul usually bring balls and other gifts for our school which is much appreciated and pretty soon everyone is rushing about and having a great time.

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our students assemble to welcome their guests

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cautious wonder . .

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. . melts away into . .

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. . something quite special

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thanks for a wonderful experience

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organiser Begüm who deserves so much of the credit

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J gets a big hug from Yeliz who cares for everything else at the school apart from teaching

Alan Fenn, glad to be home in Okçular, a very special place.

Stuff

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’:

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

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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:

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the fabulous Cal Bears crew

Cal Bears at Henley1

the moment of victory

Visitor's challenge Cup

 the silver – Visitors’ Challenge Cup

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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;

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!

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