Alan, You Must Have Kontrolation

When J and I first settled here in Turkey, our good friend Emine taught me two valuable life-lessons. The first came when she observed me ‘go into one’ when faced with the Byzantine bureaucracy and my very first, totally disinterested bureaucrat – ‘Alan,’ she said, ‘you must have acceptation!’ The second occurred when I gave my instructions to a workman and then walked away naively assuming that he would get on with the work as directed. ‘Alan,’ came the admonishment, ‘ you must have kontrolation!’


These two aids to sanity and survival in Turkey have served J and me well over the years – we are, after all, only slightly abnormal and still hanging in here and having a whale of a time!

Anyway, back to the here and now . . those of you who have been following this irregular narrative of late will know that J and I are doing a bit of California Dreaming and having a cabin hideaway built in the mountains somewhere.

string theory

Knowing the way things work here and knowing that random questions arise at random times in line with the ‘Chaos Theory’ – or was it ‘String Theory’? lordy, it’s so hard to remember, we decided we needed to be around.

So, Saturday saw us up at 5 o’clock and back on site by nine, and it was a hive of activity. Timber being treated and steel framework sprayed – we dived backwards and forwards shopping for more nuts, bolts, screws and paint.



Lunchtime saw the whole crew driving over the mountains to the home of our demirci/blacksmith for a meal with his family and a surprise (for J and me) in the village of Akçaköy. Now, Akçaköy is an amazing place – on the outside it looks poor, poverty-stricken even. Photogenic in its dilapidation, it was the home of Fakir Baykurt. Born into poverty, Baykurt went on to graduate from the amazing Village Institutes and become one of the great authors and social agitators in modern Turkey. (if you don’t know about this wonderful exercise in social engineering then do, please, click on the last link) The village boasts a library and a population that reads, nine out of every ten students from this village graduate from university and all because of Fakir Baykurt.


Fakir Baykurt2

Fakir Baykurt

at some point I will do a post about the village and Fakir Baykurt

But I digress – apart from the wonderful meal that we all enjoyed, there was a surprise in store for J and me. Knowing how we love and treasure old things a deal was waiting to be struck between our blacksmith who wants to please his beautiful wife and his wife who hates the 60+ year old doors in their home and us who simply adored them from the moment we first saw them. A deal was done – wife gets the doors she desires and we get the doors of our dreams for our new cabin home.

cabin 3

at some point this will be the external door


and this and its mate the internal doors

Back on site, tea on, we await delivery of the roofing . .


the most important bit of kit on site

cabin 6

roofing delivered and paid for

Sunday was amazing! Apart from the usual ongoing work, our neighbour and all-round decent guy Ramazan turned up and set about organising our midday meal. (three) Chickens in a tin, baked spuds and onions, pickles and honey for afters! Look at these pics . .

cabin 7

cabin 8

40 minutes later (and you thought your new NEFF was the bee’s knees)

cabin 9

the guys with the scoff

cabin 10

luncheon is served

When the day’s work was done, we were invited back to the home of Irfen, our blacksmith cum project manager. What a delight to eat with the family in their kitchen before retiring to the salon where all manner of social issues were discussed. There is no doubt about the extent to which ‘village folk’ have a handle on world affairs. Our hosts were desperately disappointed that we declined to spend the night – we old farts needs our pills, toothpaste and clean underwear – another time, with a bit of planning!


Irfen’s sister (nurse), Irfen, his wife Ayşe and children, J, Mum, Dad

Thursday saw the internal metalwork completed and the carpenters moving ahead with cladding. Lunchtime we planned to take the crew to the beach pide/pizza place, When we got there we found that a young man working for the forestry had provided a meal for everyone who came to celebrate his wife’s survival as a pedestrian from an horrific road accident – he even paid for the drinks!! What an amazing place this country is. Tomorrow the car will be serviced  and Thursday is MOT day – we also need to fit in a lot of mundane stuff before heading back down the ‘Rabbit Hole’. Ain’t it great!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü


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 – 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.


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!

'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 . .


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.


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 . .


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).


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!


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)


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!


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!



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.


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!’


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.


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.


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.


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.



Finally, an interlude whilst we await developments . .

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