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Intestinal Fortitude – ‘Guts!’

However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.
Stephen Hawking
How true! Attitude is everything –
‘Life is like a world made up of different windows where good and bad intermingle and everyone has their own perspective. In this world we each try to make a place for ourselves.
Some allow fate to cast a shadow over their future whilst others create positive outcomes from whatever life throws at them . . Our lives may not always be what we have hoped for, but seldom is it as bad as we sometimes allow ourselves to believe . . We each seek happiness and to achieve it we should choose to look at life through the ‘happiness window’.
As I look out from my self-created window I see the world filled with colour even though ‘fate’ painted a black picture for me some years ago . . From my small world I have managed to reach inwards to realise huge dreams and have trained my arms to drive my wheelchair towards hope.
Although I was paralysed 15 years ago I am thankful for having had the opportunity to live in this diverse and multi-coloured world because it is life itself that matters, and to be able to share the sunrise of another new day with those I love.

When I was forced to change my perspective on life I was never alone in my struggle . . . I am thankful to the rainbow of people who have given so much support on my journey of hope – how lucky I am that you are all there . . . ‘       Gülay Çolak

Over the few years that J and I have known Gülay we have watched her blossom as her self-confidence in her own creative ability has grown. Her positive attitude has drawn others to her and those people have, in turn, found their own lives enriched whilst, at the same time, enriching hers. People like Len who, when he realised Gülay’s need for a proper workshop, set about organising his mates and, using their former work-skills, they built one for her. Positivity is a very ‘attractive’ power and a force to be reckoned with.
Mutlu
Mutlu (which translates as happy, lucky or fortunate in Turkish) is well-named
 People like Mutlu Bengüler, a successful business owner from Izmir who so admires Gülay’s grit and determination to overcome her disability and provide for her family that he sent her boxes of stuff that she can turn into desirable items using her self-taught skills as an artist. He wrote to her of his admiration for her courage and attitude. He said he had a good life, a great family and a good business and wanted to help her in her endeavours – he has, quite unannounced, repeated this kindness on several occasions.
Recently she received a pallet-load of marble tiles of various sizes from the Denizli Marble and Stone Manufacturers’ Association with an commission to decorate some of them. The idea being that the association would give them away as gifts.
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This was followed up with an invitation to be an expenses-paid guest of one of the companies at the massive, annual Marble Fair in Izmir. The invitation included a commission to paint some eight portraits on marble of various ‘big-wigs’ such as Kemal Kılıçdağoğlu leader of the CHP (main political opposition party), İzmir and Denizli Valis (Provincial Governors), Commander of the 4th (Aegean) Army, the Economy Minister as well as several mayors and heads of chambers of commerce. She was also able to demonstrate her art to visitors and potential clients.
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Gülay described the experience as one of joy, excitement and tears. Joy at the reception she and her work received; joy that the company paid most of the hotel expenses for her, her husband and daughter for the four days; the excitement of staying in a hotel for the first time in her life; the excitement of being interviewed by a television crew (see her interview here as long as the link stays up); the tears when she realised that their four-star hotel had put them on the third floor, had no toilet access for anyone in a wheelchair and a lift that was so small she had to be carried like a sack of coal up any stairs! Tears when she realised that the huge İzmir Fair site (the size of our local town, Ortaca) did have one toilet facility for disabled visitors but that access for a wheelchair was impossible because of a barrier! Legs crossed and whistle, then! Not only does she have a wonderful attitude, she proved she has some serious will-power, too! Mind over matter, as my old sergeant, Danny (The Beast) Haddon,  used to say!
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 Some of the beautiful stuff she took up with her has found its way to the US as well as into boardrooms, offices and living rooms around Turkey. She was handed photos and given commissions on the spot for collection the next day. This resulted in late night painting sessions in her hotel room ending in the early hours before she was off again the next morning to the fair for another day of smiling, working and (metaphorically) keeping her legs crossed!
How much her exposure at the fair will reflect in future commissions remains to be seen – what I can tell you is that the experience has been great for her, boosting her confidence and self-image no end. I would also add that if intestinal fortitude – guts to you and me – was worth its weight in gold then Gülay Çolak would be a multi-millionaire many times over!
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü (bathing in the reflected glory of a wonderful lady)
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A Half-Braked Idea

Gulay and SerifeEven occasional readers of this blog will know about Gülay Çolak. Gülay is paraplegic, paralysed from the chest down after an appalling accident about 15 years ago. What is not paralysed is her love of life (most of the time) and her indomitable spirit. Her attitude has won her countless admirers and friends. Here she is with her daughter, Şerife, at the Çaliş Christmas Fair.

 

During the past eighteen months or so, she has had a rough time with ulcers on her foot that failed to respond to medication. After two failed skin grafts the prospects for her were not good and the cause of the problem lay in her inability to exercise properly and get her blood pumping around her limbs.

So it was that a good mate of mine, Ahmet, and I put our heads together to find a solution. We designed and built a prototype exercise machine that would work-out her arms, heart, lungs and get her legs moving. I’m not going to bore you with details all over again, you can read about that here and watch a video here.

The machine worked, her ulcers healed and the exercise routine is helping to ensure that there should be no recurrence.

If only life were that simple! Gülay has now developed diabetes, and this, too, is directly related to her inability to work-out properly.

It was head-scratching time again! Gülay has considerable strength in her arms – you wouldn’t want her to put you in a head-lock, for example! Exercising on her machine with those arms was altogether too easy and she was hardly getting puffed on her 40 minute sessions – something had to be done to put some serious ‘grunt’ back into the job.

There have been various suggestions made, from fitting one of those fan things you see on rowing machines to nicking an electric retarder from a long-distance coach! Come on guys, I’m working out of what amounts to a garden shed! My idea, based on what I know I can manage, was to fit one of those disc brakes that you see on modern mountain bikes. Great idea, but could I find the parts? Could I hell-as-like!

In the end, in desperation I messaged a friend, Jane Akatay, from Land of Lights newspaper. Jane knows everybody in Fethiye and she facilitated contact with Gareth Patten, a cyclist and, as it turned out, all-round decent chap (even if he was ‘born in Wales, by the grace of God!’ (according to his FB profile)).

Gareth FethiyeSpor

Gareth is the flagpole for FethiyeSpor!

Gareth understood instantly what I was trying to achieve and sourced the parts to do the job. When we met up in Fethiye to exchange bits for bobs – a bob was a shilling in old money – this splendid fellow refused to take payment. Said it was his contribution to the project – how generous is that? Thanks, Gareth. When you meet Gülay you’ll no doubt get one of her special hugs/head-locks!

Gareth's packet

Gareth’s contribution – just about perfect!

From here on the pictures can do the talking – it was a bit of a struggle over two days to get the thing set-up as precisely as it needed to be considering it’s not fitted to pre-positioned mounts. Suffice to say, it works a treat and is now back home with Gülay. She is busy preparing for the big, four-day Marble Fair in Izmir where she and her family are honoured guests of the Denizli Marble Manufacturing Chamber. She has a commission for a whole bunch of portraits, painted on marble, of the various bigwigs like provincial governors and mayors, to get finished and I didn’t want to bother her by asking for her to pose with the finished machine. I’ll get some pics when she’s back home and not so stressed.

here she is with a couple of the not-quite-finished-yet portraits

crank

Stage 1: wreck a perfectly good crank

disc crank

Stage 2: fix disc to mutilated crank

create lash-up

Stage 3: create lash-up to fix position of calliper mounting bracket

calliper mounting bracket

Stage 4: callipers mounted and aligned (above and below)

disc and callipers mounted

Stage 5: and her special leg supports re-fitted

micro-adjustable brake control

Stage 6: micro-adjustable brake control fitted

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Stage 7: cabled up and waiting to be reunited with the other bit – job jobbed!

So, once again, thanks Jane for the intro; thanks Gareth for sourcing and gifting the parts.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

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Working Out With The Green (and pink) Goddess

A quick follow-up on Gülay and her exercise machine. Apart from any small mods that may crop up to make things better with the ‘scrap heap’, the ball is now well and truly with my chum Ahmet and his  technocrats and engineers in Istanbul. It seems that if we need any backing, whether technical or financial we can turn to the TÜBITAK – the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey. I find that amazing, but Ahmet knows about these things and has the contacts and skills to pull this off.

Down here in Okçular we have the hard job of waiting it all out. Meanwhile, Gülay gets to build her muscles, pump a bit of blood and model her fancy, spotted green ‘pantalons’ and lurid pink top – enjoy!

ps we fixed the chain rattle!

Gülay’s Work Out Machine from Alan Fenn on Vimeo.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

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Why I Support Beşiktaş

Turkey is a football crazy country – it dominates the daily life of men (and not a few women) to the exclusion of almost everything else. Flick through the myriad of Turkish tv channels and every other one will be showing groups of men discussing some aspect or other of the game. Every Turkish male knows how to run their favourite club or the national team better than anyone else. There is even a national daily newspaper dedicated to football – I ask you, Fukushima has melted down and is the greatest disaster ever to hit the planet since a meteorite wiped out the dinosaurs! Not that you’d know it from the media here where every rotation of every football from every match is dissected and analysed ad nauseam.

Beşiktaş is also home to the famous/notorious Çarşı anarchist group which was at the forefront of the battle to protect Gezi Park. They were also instrumental in establishing the community forums that sprang up in the aftermath of the police brutality

Anyway, I’m happy to admit that I know nothing and care less about the so-called ‘Beautiful Game’. Watching a bunch of over-paid drama queens prancing about has about as much appeal as an evening in the company of Karl Pilkington. That said, these days, whenever I’m asked the inevitable question ‘What is your team?’ I always reply ‘Beşiktaş – Kara Kartal’ – the Black Eagles! I usually try to escape before the howls of laughter and derision from the Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray supporters dies down because, in truth, I couldn’t name a single player nor where they play.

So, why do I tell ‘porky pies’? Because Anne, my Turkish ‘mother’, is a life-long Black Eagle fan. She is a village lady of unknown age with a big heart that’s filled with love. Whenever we meet she sheds tears, hugs me mightily and calls me ‘Kuzum, kuzum!’ (My lamb, my lamb!) and it is inconceivable that I would deny being a Beşiktaş supporter. There is no danger of being found out because she doesn’t know the names of player since the 1930s anyway.

By way of recognition of her great age and life-long support for the Black Eagles, J and I had Gülay paint her portrait and here she is . .

probably the longest serving Eagles fan in the world

Gülay’s wonderful portrait of Anne

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

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Our Gnashional Gallery

One-man projects are my thing. I don’t like people in my workshop and I don’t handle advice about ‘how to’ as well as I should – it’s a trait, like much else, that I blame on my mother rather than do too much uncomfortable self-analysis! This is why the latest project here at ‘Chez Nous’ has been a surprise – a triumph of cooperation and downright good taste!

For years I’ve had some rather good photographs of tree bark and fungi. It was J who pointed out the amazing patterns to be found in things that normally pass me by.

Blown-up to A3 they looked great – good enough to sit in a folder for years whilst I tried to work out what to do with them. There was a lot of wailing, gnashing of teeth and rubbishing of ideas, I can tell you.

Then J got excited about having Gülay paint us some pictures in the style of the great Audubon and suddenly we had more than just a few photos to think about – we had a gallery! To cut a long story short, there followed a remarkable (for me) period of calm cooperation on a project that has resulted in what we both feel is a dramatic triumph. What do you think?

Audubon by Gülay

fungal focal-point

restricted space and no wide-angle lens – our Gnashional Gallery – walking out of our bedroom in the morning is a real eye-opener!

Alan Fenn & J, Okçular Köyü