Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter Sunday

I was promised candles and fireworks. Nobody mentioned a hanging.  The fireworks were more like mortar shells. If I'd sailed into the harbour with no prior knowledge,  I would have assumed that war had been declared.

An effigy of Judas was hanging over the harbour for most of the day and then at 8pm,  was well and truly  annihilated by multiple musket shots up the rear accompanied by cannon fire from the sea wall. 

My image of Easter has been changed forever. No more bunnies, fluffy chickens and chocolate eggs.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Happy Easter

Happy Easter. I'm in Hydra and have been watching my first Orthodox Greek Easter since 1981.  That was in Rhodes and the excitement of someone setting alight the pony tail of the girl in front of me, has dimmed my memory of the service.  Tonight most of the islanders and visitors on Hydra gathered at the small harbour of Kamini to wait for the arrival of the Epitaph ( an icon carried on a bier to represent the body of Christ) . I wasn't expecting to understand any of the service but  "Kyrie Eleison" was repeated constantly and as this is familiar to anyone who worships in the Anglican church, I felt quite at home. After the prayers, The Epitaph was walked into the sea, (at nine thirty, on a chilly, blustery evening this really is an act of devotion), blessed and then carried back through the streets followed by the crowd.
Tomorrow I'm looking forward to candles and fireworks.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014


One of the Turkish bloggers I follow lives in the next village to ours. They live a similar life to us, away from the crowds, enjoying the countryside and the simple life ...until last week. Their beloved black lab/retriever, Carlos, picked up a cheese sandwich spiked with pesticide and was dead before they could do anything about it.   The  grief at not being able to protect their dog, even though they were walking together, is hard to read. The blog is finished.  The poison was probably aimed at foxes raiding chicken coups, but that doesn't make anything better, does it.  

Twenty years ago we lost our Alsatian/Anatolian Sheepdog, Brian to poison.  Despite arthritic legs he'd taken himself off after a bitch on heat and was poisoned with 6 other dogs outside Mumcular.  One reason we had Jake done was to stop him chasing the girls. I couldn't bare to lose another dog in the same way.  But how can we keep him safe, if poison is all around.  One idea is to make him wear a muzzle when we are out.  He hates it, but by giving him treats before and after he wears it, he is just getting accustomed to it.  I will have to explain why he's wearing it to everyone we meet as I don't want him to get a reputation as a vicious dog.  

If your dog picks up poison it is important to make them sick as soon as possible.  I was always told to force yogurt down their throats but our vet says this is the wrong thing to do as the fat in the yogurt accelerates the absorption of the poison into the gut.  He suggests 3% Hydrogen Peroxide  (Oxsijenli su in Turkish) by mouth.  The easiest way to get it into the dog is using a syringe to make swallowing easier. Administer 1 ml for every kilo your dog weighs.  This should make your dog vomit.  I'm going to take a bottle and syringe on long walks from now on.
I found a good web site which explains in detail.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Baking Hot

The last time my father was featured in my blog, he was baking beetroot and apple bread in his kitchen in Sturminster Newton, Dorset.  This time he's getting his hands floury with master baker Mehmet Ali and his assistant Halil in the kitchen of Taş Fırın bakery on Turgutreis Street in Bodrum.  In the winter, I buy my daily loaf from this oven and when I asked if my inquisitive dad could come in and see how they bake their bread they said "Any time". So we turned up at 3 pm for the afternoon baking.  This bakery is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and turns out 2000 loaves per day.  Each lump of dough is individually weighed by Halil at 310 grams and then hand-shaped by Mehmet Ali.  All the bread in this bakery is made by the sour dough method. Mehmet Ali showed me us his drum of fermenting  flour and water that harvests natural yeasts from the air creating a natural rising agent. As I'm used to paying a fortune for sour dough loaves in London, it had never occurred to me that the 1 Lira I pay in Bodrum was buying me a very trendy loaf.

A bakery from the past from Eski Bodrum

When I first came to Bodrum, only crusty white bread baked in wood-fired ovens was available. Bought hot from the bakers, it was a challenge to get it home without devouring half on the way. Most families would consume several loaves in one day.  In the last 15 years, wholemeal loaves have appeared and now corn, rye and oats are all used in bread making, sometime all at the same time.

Izzet in charge of the slicing machine

Wood-fired ovens gradually disappeared over the years as more efficient electric ones took over so it's one of Taş Fırın's selling points that they still bake all their bread using firewood. The  oven is cranked up to 300 C and reduces to about 200 C during the 15 minutes cooking time, much hotter than domestic bread making and probably why the crust is so irresistible.

Dad's beetroot and apple bread recipe

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Signs of Summer.

Summer arrived last week.  The first charter flights of the year started landing at Bodrum airport. The first cruise liner docked and filled the town with visitors on a day that was already heaving with free-concert goers and the sun not only came out, but warmed us up so much that even those who doggedly hang on to their jackets all through April had to abandon long sleeves or melt. Our daily dog walks along the beach were shelved as the bikini clad began to stake their claim on the sand and anyway Jake looks rather overdressed in his long winter coat among the half naked.  A few hardy souls were even swimming.  The prospect of summer coming reminds me of summer past, especially of our old friends Kath and Dave who spent some of their epic road trip with us and let us join them in their adventure.  I don't have to look far to think of them as their gift to us is growing just outside the window; a young lime tree bearing at least twenty tiny fruit.  By any reckoning that should be good for a few months supply of gin and tonic and the odd Thai curry.

Cheers to good friends. 

A lime tree, a rare sight in Bodrum.

Tarting up carries on with the cruise ship in the background

Red sky at night

(I tempted fate by writing this post - the wind has now blown the clouds in and cardies and jackets are back on.)

Monday, 31 March 2014

What to think - How to think

There is an air of amazement among the recently settled foreign community in Turkey.  How can a government that is embroiled in scandal still pole an overwhelming majority of the vote?  How can a government that bans Twitter and You Tube and threatens to eradicate all social media still win the hearts of the people?  Lack of a strong opposition is a creditable answer but the education system in this country should take either a bow or the blame depending on your political outlook.  I decided to take my daughter out of the Turkish school system  early on when I realised it was an indoctrination rather than an education.  Learning is by rote. Points are gained by memorising. There is no room for creative thinking.  Kids learn to do as they are told and more importantly to think as they are told.   When you have trained your population this way it's easy to get them to vote for the guy who shouts the loudest. They've spent their whole lives doing it.  If he has also given them better living conditions how can you expect them not to.  They have not been trained to look for consequences or ulterior motives.

If you look at the map, you'll see why the present incumbent's claim that foreign interests are against him will be believed by the people living away from the borders.

What of Bodrum - this area has always been at odds with whatever government is in power.  It was, after all, where political exiles were sent to keep them out of the way.  It's very name is synonymous with free-thinking in Turkey and has been home to poets, artists, musicians, sailors and everyone for whom the desk-job was not an option.

A resounding success for Mehmet Kocadon, voted in with 52% of the vote for his second term as Mayor, the AK party fielding just 9% of the vote.   Three cheers from this household!

Sunday, 30 March 2014


On the day we go to the polls, here is a quick example of how fast things in Turkey can change.

The first picture was taken 3 weeks ago, on 9th March, in front of the football pitch in Bodrum.  

The down-and-outs are two of four who have been around for a while but the graffiti was new.  We are a mostly graffiti-free zone in Bodrum so I was  quite shocked to see it appear overnight.  I know I should be more upset at the homeless guys sleeping on the street but we've got used to them weaving in and out of the traffic, cigarette in one hand and bottle in the other, asking for money to buy more booze.  I wonder what they did today while the sale of alcohol was banned during voting. 

Three weeks later, this is the same wall.  The mayor sent a team to dig up the rubble, lay irrigation pipes, plant rosemary, oleander, sow grass seed and repaint the wall.  The vagrants can still sit on the steps and drink their wine, but hopefully a better solution can be found for their well-being.

I wonder what changes we'll be facing tomorrow?  

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Pine pollen - Nuisance or Miracle

It's that time of year again. Everything in the garden is covered in pine pollen.  Anything that was white or cream last week is now a streaky pale lemon colour.  The meter of rainwater in the pool is rather prettily swirled with yellow oily blobs, but I know the sticky tidemark will take a lot of scrubbing when the time comes.  When I first started sailing in Turkey, I thought that this oil slick was the result of yellow paint being thrown into the sea because I couldn't imagine nature creating such a viscous, unappetising water pollution.  For many years I've been openly cursing this golden powder that covers us, but using it as a good excuse to put off a Spring clean, as any work in the garden or dusting in the house is undone once the trees start producing.


Despite living with this phenomenon for over 30 years I have never thought to do any research - until this week and I've been completely amazed by the properties of pine pollen.  Am I the only person in the world who has been tipping this golden dust into the bin, while a 50g packet is selling for a minimum of $15?  Just think of the income I've thrown away.

Pine pollen has been used as an anti-aging food in China and Korea for 1000s of years but it's only recently that research has shown why.  This is a brief summary of the information available. The plant produces sterols that are close enough to our hormones to have a similar effect when taken by humans. It is an androgenic herb which will increase our four main androgens; androsterone,androstenedione, DHEA and testosterone. It contains Vitamins A,B1,B2,B3,B6, folic acid, D, E plus most of the minerals and over 20 amino acids, making it a complete protein.  It is claimed to increase immune and endocrine function, reduce sensitivity to pain, lower cholesterol, stimulate rejuvenation,  and act as an anti-inflammatory, anti- arthritic and anti-viral. Those interested in its testosterone increasing properties should make it into a tincture by infusing with alcohol. A commonly found recipe suggests adding the pollen to equal amounts of vodka at the new moon, leaving until the next new moon and then straining through an unbleached coffee filter.  Made into a cream it's said to improve eczema, acne and impetigo.  The rest of us can just add the raw pollen to our food.   So far I haven't found any dosages mentioned so I don't recommend trying this at home without further research.  Next year I won't be complaining at the mess, I'll be out with a large stick and bag collecting my own supply of "miracle dust".

Saturday, 22 March 2014

There are worse places to live.

There is one week left until the elections.  Twitter is banned which has made even the most anti-twitterer like me feel obliged to sign up to show solidarity. The streets are full of electioneering buses blasting out competing campaign songs which all sound like a nursery class on speed.. BUT.. the weather is fantastic, the beaches are empty, the sky is blue and I can't think of another place I'd rather be.

Friday, 21 March 2014

A Visit

I really enjoyed meeting the new British Ambassador to Turkey, Richard Moore, and his wife Maggie last week.  The total informality of the event was such a breath of fresh air in a country where those in office like to lord it over the rest of us.  I think both Maggie and Richard managed to chat to everyone there and then we settled down to listen to a short talk demystifying what an ambassador actually does, with a follow-up q&a session to clarify the new rules governing foreigners in Turkey. (A post I have been putting off writing for a month and I will continue to procrastinate as the department in charge hasn't decided how to implement the new law yet.)  The message from the British Consulate was a strong "we'll tell you as soon as the Turkish government tells us".  The best way to keep up with the news is the UK in Turkey Facebook page or Twitter, at least it was until last night when our great leader declared to a rally in Bursa that he would eradicate Twitter and he didn't care what the international community thought.  Soon afterward news began filtering through that Twitter was off-line in many parts of the country.  Last week, when asked about the threat to ban Facebook in Turkey,  Richard Moore dismissed the worry saying that it was an impossibility in this day and age.   I wonder if he is quite so optimistic today.

Maggie's guide dog, Star, is already an ambassador  for the canine world,  gaining access to places that a dog in Turkey can only dream about.  I suggested she should "write" her own blog.