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

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Oh, I’m A Lumberjack

Being humble villagers J and I are entitled, along with our neighbours, to purchase our winter firewood direct from the chaps at the local forestry department’s timber yard at a huge discount! We paid up-front a couple of months back and three days ago we came home from hospital to find this lot sitting outside the gate.

village firewood entitlement

Now, considering that I had just had my ticker check-up and J had had injections to help free-up her frozen shoulder, you might think that ‘getting in a chap to do the work’ would be the order of the day. Not so! Village life doesn’t work like that, especially if you value your street cred! Let’s face it, we have neighbours our age and some ten years or more older who are still out doing their thing with tractors, billhooks, cows and sheep, etc.  village woman1And they never walk back empty handed, they always have a load of fodder or half a tree over their shoulder. I mean, old Veli still gets sent up the trees to harvest the olives and he’s so old he doesn’t have a birth certificate!

So, village cred starts with a bit of dress sense – when we work we look the part. J dons one of her scarves and does the fetching and carrying just like any good village wife should do. I’m working on the ‘following ten paces behind’ bit – give it a little time! I don my working togs – old, worn shirt with holes and baggy cotton trousers that has J calling me ‘Rhinoceros B@!!@cks’! That’s true, I’m not making it up!

'village lady' at work

village lady hard at it

Next comes tools and the need to look like you know what you are doing because every neighbour who passes will stop to chat and assess how we are going along.

chain saw work

Boffer pretending he knows where it is at

chain saw

You can see their eyes taking it all in, usually followed by nods of approval if we’ve got it right or chuckles as they drive away if we haven’t. Finally, there is the need for ‘greasepaint’ in the form of sweat and grime – we usually have plenty and then some!

end of day one

end of day one

These past three days have been hard work reducing more than two tons of timber to fireplace sized bits and stacking them away in the wood store. Our fingers can barely hold a spoon and our bones and muscles ache.

wood pile

satisfaction at job jobbed!

Despite that we both feel pretty good (for our age). Tomorrow we are off with the local walking group for a gentle, season-opening ramble to the hot springs for a soak followed by a barby and a boat ride back to Dalyan. Then, on Monday we are wandering off to Burdur for a few days with a detour to stock up on some ‘vino collapso’.

Finally, here’s a bit of video if you’ve managed to get this far without dozing off. Taken on day three we are both showing signs of losing it – wandering about in a bit of a daze. I love the bit where J demonstrates her outstanding spacial awareness – we still can’t remember what we were looking for! J loves my display of sartorial elegance – Rhinos beware! The soundtrack is John Surman’s ‘Caithness To Kerry’ track from the album ‘Upon Reflection’ (ECM Records) – as he is family I don’t expect to pay royalties. Enjoy!

Woodcutter’s Ball2 from Alan Fenn on Vimeo.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü where we are still ‘in with the in-crowd’!


Really Getting My Goat

Turkish çay
Turkish çay

When J and I first moved to OkçularVillage nearly 15 years ago we were a source of great interest and incredulity for our neighbours. The fact that we were unable (or unwilling) to muster up a three-course meal, or even an assortment of chocolate biscuits, at the drop of hat whenever a bunch of them dropped by to satisfy their curiosity filled them with wonder. The way we made the tea we offered them was treated with great suspicion and, because so many were disbelieving of such adulteration and called around to check for themselves, gave rise to the rumour that we were running a tea shop. (This is true – we were told about it by a friend from the next town who had heard about it!)

Then there was the issue of chickens and a vegetable plot. ‘No!’ we informed our open mouthed komşular (neighbours), ‘No chickens, and we’ll get our veg fresh from the market each week. Kolay! (Easy)’ Allah allah! (My God! Or words to that effect) These yabanci (foreigners) are a weird lot!

Such was the level of concern about us and such is the depth of kindness of these people towards us afflicted types that a plot was hatched.

The chicken issue was solved by sending up a kid on a bike or hubby on a tractor, every now and again, clutching a still warm, plucked/unplucked cadaver.

The veg plot, on a scale of 1-10, was at least a 5 and required some serious logistical planning. One morning a crew of ladies arrived, replete with çok çapa (lots of hoes) and trays of seedlings. We stood open-mouthed as they set about a section of our virgin plot with great gusto and even greater verbals. In no time at all we had the plot fit for a ‘Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men’ set, with nary a ‘Weeeeee-eeed!’ anywhere and the potential for more peppers, beans, tomatoes and aubergines than any normal couple could consume in a month of Sundays.

Want these things or not, once you have them you have to put the work in to maintain them or face the tut-tutting of neighbours. Same with the olive trees that were grafted for us – very nice to have them but the olives from the market are nicer because they’re less work! Actually, that’s not true – the damn things have to be picked anyway (otherwise the neighbours will be on our case) and then we have to find somebody from miles away (in case they talk) who wants them! Ho-hum!

Don’t run away with the idea that we were ungrateful – the kindness of our new neighbours was, and still is, pretty wonderful. Just remember that we were culturally inept and naive and still immersed in what passed for neighbourly intercourse back where we came from. For those dirty minded little smirkers amongst you, a bloke was shot dead down our track for indulging in the other sort of neighbourly intercourse just before we arrived!

Anyway, let’s move on because what came next were the goats! Our house sits on a bit of hillside and having established that we were not going to transform it into a nut farm our practical neighbours told us that we must have a goat! A date was fixed and at the appointed time we were led in procession up the mountain to meet with ‘Keçi Hanım’ (Goat Lady).

cuddly young goats

Now, selecting a young goat is not easy – all of them are cute and cuddly. Having drunk tea that had been brewed properly, I wandered off to get my goat. Eventually I settled on a beautiful little grey thing with pricked ears and delightful habit of nibbling at my clothing! I picked it up and carried it back to the house – just as J appeared around the corner with a cute little black and white thing with floppy ears and a delightful habit of nibbling at her clothing!

I did not want a great herd of goats and confronted J with my resolve to keep just the grey one. ‘You horrible bloody man!’ said she, ‘They’re social creatures; you can’t just keep one on its own!’ That’s how I won that argument and we ended up with the two goats I’d always wanted!

When it was time to leave we made a lead from some twine and were about to set off when Keçi Hanım stopped us, ‘What are you doing? They’re far to young to walk all that way, you must carry them.’ We didn’t realise it then, but that set the pattern for our future relationship; like kids everywhere, they had us wrapped around their little hooves!

They were utterly delightful, sweet-smelling, intelligent creatures that learned to trampoline over the ever increasing height of the fences I constructed to keep them out of the garden. They collaborated to overcome any challenges to their freedom to please themselves. They never forgot the little tricks I taught them with the reward of treats when they got it right – which culminates in pincer attacks on both trouser pockets and holes in your pants where you least want them! Whenever they out-smarted us they would look us in the eye, roll back their lips and give us that bleat that sounds just like ‘He-he-he-he-he!’

Our neighbours would double up with shrieks of laughter when we went for walks around the area – me, J, our dog and cat, (which loved to wander with us) – and two goats. It was a hoot!

'Behave yourself!'

As these two goats grew in size, they grew in strength and independence and couldn’t be allowed to wander about out of our control; tethers became the order of the day. Pretty soon we began to bear the scars and rope burns from being dragged through hedges backwards. This pair of terrorists plotted by night and carried out their plots by day; they were crafty and totally without morals, one minute smooching and the next tearing pockets open. ‘He-he-he-he-he!’ The final straw for both of us was when I was dragged head first down a rock-strewn hillside by two runaway goats because I’d been stupid enough to loop their ropes around my wrists. ‘He-he-he-he-he-he!’

When I could walk again I went and lied to my neighbour about them being just like our children, beautiful, gentle creatures which would fit in well with her existing small flock. She was reluctant at first but I convinced her in the end and we delivered them soon afterwards. Every time we drove or walked by her place those sods would be on the hillside, curling their lips and ‘He-he-he-he-ing’ at us.

Several months went by and one day they weren’t there any more – I wonder what happened to them – ‘He-he-he-he-he!’


Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü