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Dicing With Death

Quite a lot of people, whole families, die unnecessarily in Turkey every year. The killer is silent. Usually strikes at night when folks are asleep. And it is mostly poorer families who are the victims. The killer is well known with plenty of information and warnings distributed about how to stay safe. Still people die!

The killer is carbon monoxide and the weapon of choice is usually poorly maintained domestic solid fuel heaters.

Here in Turkey they are know as a ‘soba’. They come in all shapes, sizes and shades of brown, They are very cheap to buy and when properly maintained, incredibly efficient! Despite there being a safe, optimum length for the flue pipes they often span great distances across rooms because the hot pipe is a source of considerable heat distribution.

Until we built our cabin J and I had never owned or operated a soba. That we needed one, given the sub-zero winter temperatures, was a given. Our choice was one of those cute little jobbies with an oven built in that you can see above. Mindful of the dangers from lack of care/maintenance we have kept an eye on carbon build-up and carried out regular cleaning.

All had been well until we arrived for this stop-over. The days are a delight but night time temperatures are regularly quite a few degrees below zero. The cabin was cold so we got the soba going right away – except it didn’t! Smoke billowed out into the room and there was nothing for it but to open all the doors and windows and allow the fire to die down.

When it was cool enough I removed the fire bucket and pried open a couple of the easily reached flue pipes – they were clear. There was nothing else for it (by now it was evening and dark) but to put double quilts on the bed, have an early night, cuddle up and hope we didn’t get hypothermia. I can tell you one thing, it was so cold I went the whole night without getting up for a pee once let alone the usual three! Mind over matter or what!

pretty clean – no problem there

This morning, after reviving coffee, it was down to the job of a total strip down. What we found was horrifying and a lesson in not getting complacent! The speed of this build-up was staggering.

Common sense kept us freezing cold last night – by not chancing our arm and trying to keep a small fire in it also kept us alive! That said, I leave you with the following:

and

Tonight we sleep cozy, just one quilt and I bloody well know my bladder is not going to hold out!

Alan Fenn, up here!

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Count Your Blessings

My mother used to say that a lot. ‘Count your blessings, you little sod!’ she would say, with the emphasis on the ‘little sod’. This was usually in response to my bemoaning the fact that my measly pocket money would never run to a sherbet fountain and a Matchbox toy.

sherbet

either, or

matchbox

The ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ where I pondered the imponderable and suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune is no more. Felton’s News Agency in what passed for the High Street, Minster, Sheppey – news, fags and sweets to the left, toys to the right. Now it shares the same fate as the rest of the planet – ‘We’re doomed, Mannering! Doomed!’

minster-closed-down-shops

But I digress! Where was I? Oh, yes, blessings and the counting of said.

What got me thinking of ‘blessings’ was chance meetings (and believe me, they are ‘chance’) with various, mostly British, ex-pats. Conversations invariably run to what is wrong with the government; the new road between Ortaca and Dalyan or with the way things run here in Turkey compared with . . It can be eye-glazingly  depressing!

glaze

Very occasionally someone will show that they have some understanding and concern for what is being perpetrated in our region by NATO/FUKUS and yes, Turkey. I find it amazing that there are people from the UK living here where they are called ‘ex-pats’ who are complaining bitterly about the, always ‘illegal immigrants’, getting into the UK and taking the jobs and scrounging benefits!

Me? I’m happy to describe myself as an economic migrant and thank you Turkey for taking me in!

Just over twenty years ago I was told I couldn’t work any more after being diagnosed with an incurable, inoperable spinal condition. I was told I’d be in a wheelchair within five years – a living death sentence (I don’t do pain/suffering very well).

J and I had long ago fallen in love with Turkey so we decided to burn our boats and grab a bit of paradise whilst we could. Seven years into our life here my back gave up the ghost. Unlike the UK, which gave up in advance, here I was found an eminent spinal surgeon who delivered a miracle! These days I grunt and groan when doing jobs but I can do them.

neurosurgery-spine-surgery

Our life here is comfortable, interesting and filled to bursting with good stuff. I cannot influence what is going on in the world by very much. I can appreciate things like having a full service and preparation for the MOT on the car that included a new set of tyres for the Lira equivalent of £400! I can enjoy the company of good and dear friends who share our view of the world and enjoy lively debate on so many diverse subjects that do not include football or grandchildren! I love being up here in our mountain retreat by a lake even though it means I’ll be moving even more stones and rocks and groaning at the after-effects! I can appreciate every sunset and sunrise. Above all I can appreciate that, whatever ‘fate’ throws my way, I have a life that countless millions can only dream of. I don’t care very much that I have to drive half way to Dalyan or Ortaca to get on to the opposite carriageway on our new, improved ‘motorway’!

I just don’t care! Alan Fenn.

Stuff

Afterthoughts

In a few days time J and I will be returning back to Okçular. My abla (older sister) will arrive soon enough for a month-long stay and whilst she is here Number 1 Daughter will join us for about ten days. They are more like mother and daughter and having them around is going to be a joy.

We’ve hardly shown our faces at the ‘other house’ these past many months and there will be much dusting, mopping and ‘cobwebbing’ to be done. No doubt there will be the odd corpse . .

cobwebs

. . metaphorically speaking!

It will probably be at least a couple of weeks before we are back up here with both of our ‘guests’ in tow. The weather is on the turn – Autumn is arriving up here where night and day-time temperatures are at least ten degrees Celsius lower than Okçular. When we return it will be soba-time in the evenings!

With that in mind one of the jobs was to ensure that the supply of winter wood was stacked and covered.

winter wood pile

job jobbed!

It’s been fun and very satisfying these past months with so much more achieved than we thought was possible. We’ve feasted on fruit and vegetables from our own efforts and the generosity of our neighbouring smallholders.

melon

garden fruit

We have no idea what these fruits are, the locals call them ‘golden strawberries’ and they are delicious.

golden strawberry 2

golden strawberry1

A dragonfly pool has been created and established – it can only get better with new creatures discovering it regularly. Enough well-aged goat manure to last a few years has been delivered and J has started preparing the veggie garden for winter sowing. The weather now is blue skies and distant horizons – it is beautiful and very comfortable to be around and about.

If Mother Nature is kind the rains will begin soon and our neighbours will breathe a sigh of relief and no doubt pray for more and a lot of snow. The village reservoir has been bone-dry these past two weeks for the first time that anyone can remember. We have been fortunate because we are tapped into a source that is fed from a huge marsh area way up the mountain.

Doganbaba baraj 2016

Okçular is much more bio-diverse than here but cannot compete with the dawns and moon-rises over the lake . .

moon over salda lake

or weird spiders . .

strange spider2

strange spider1

Finally, we have been enjoying one of nature’s glories – Bee Eaters in their thousands are passing through on their way south. Unlike Okçular here almost everyone keeps bees and again, unlike Okçular, there is very little shooting of these beautiful birds. The locals prefer to clap their hands and shout out ‘Defol! at them in the hopes that they understand Turkish!

Bee eater

Please excuse the ‘softness’ of these images, they are taken at extreme range with an ancient, totally manual 500mm reflex lens.

Bee eaters1

Alan Fenn, at the turning of the season!

Stuff

On Gold ‘n’ Pond

Posting about our life here in Turkey is not like reporting from the front line. Our days flow by gently, filled (mostly) with little pleasures and small achievements. We are pretty contented as we survey our life together and the views around us, especially up here in the mountains.

lake5

the view from just around the corner back to the cabin

Life may not be fast-flowing but, as I said, it does have its moments – here are just two:

The pond I’ve been rabbiting on about is sort of complete. There are always going to be new plants to add, new creatures to encourage and cosmetic touches here and there. J and I went off up the mountain to the source of all our water to collect reeds, other plants and mud.

pond6

pond7

not very exciting, I know, but this is a good beginning

The other event was much more exciting especially for my grandson and his doting mum (aka Number 1 Daughter). Some of you will know that grandson is a considerable athlete and rows for the Great Britain Under 23s/Junior squad. With his graduation from UC Berkeley a short while ago his junior career has culminated with a gold medal at the European Universities Rowing Championship in Poznan, Poland. Eurosport was showing just one hour of rowing and by pure chance we were lucky enough to catch his race and the presentation on TV.  We were also surprised and delighted to see Number 1 Daughter three times as she bounced about at the finish line! Is that amazing, or what?

In the following photos grandson is the stroke at the ‘back’ of the boat.

rowing1

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3/4 of a length – beautifully judged

rowing3

champions – grandson on right

rowing4

what does one do with a goat???

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congratulations chaps!

Now he moves on to full time rowing with the GB senior squad – he won’t get very rich but at least his mum is relieved from the pressure of pumping unbelievable levels of calories in to him on a daily basis (somewhere around 4700kcal per day – it’s a lot more complicated than just counting calories). Such is the saving that she can afford a holiday this year and is coming out to visit us – how great is that!

Alan Fenn, on gold ‘n’ pond – geddit!

Stuff

Life, The Pooliverse And Everything

Last post had me and my mate Big Al beavering away, as beavers do, making our home pool.

beavers

Now, I was going to wait until I’d completed the building phase including the artfully placed tree trunks and rock features before inviting your gasps of admiration and incredulity. Trouble is we are now in the middle of a mighty thunder storm and I am not willing to work outside and risk getting struck by lightning for a second time! I am also at a loose end so here we go . .

pool construction1

With the land sloping away it was necessary to construct strong retaining walls – seems a pity that they will be hidden by the liner

pond construction2

the bottom was padded out with left over wall insulation boards before the liner was positioned

pond construction3

an extra layer to aid plant growth was added by a retired kamikaze geezer

pond construction4

the overflow checked out

pond construction5

the progress so far – next will come the cosmetic bits on the outside and the various habitats on the inside for plants and creatures

To be continued . .

During the construction stage my mind ever wandered off back in time to the days of the ‘Perishers’ cartoon strip in the Daily Mirror. Dear old Boot was always fascinated by pools and their inhabitants, just like me.

eyeballs

Alan Fenn, engrossed in the Pooliverse

ps in case you were wondering the first time I was struck by lightning was the day J walked in to my pub and asked for ‘A half of Guiness, please.’