Tuesday, 25 July 2017

It's a Dog's Life

My personal chef and walker is questioning my sensitivity. She is telling all who will listen (which isn't many as we are still stuck in the middle of rural nowhere) that she had to wake me up when the 6.6 earthquake hit on Friday morning. She wants to know why I wasn't waking her up with minutes to spare and leading her out of the house, rather than her dragging me out by my collar.  She has shown me cctv footage of street dogs in Bodrum running anxiously around the harbour, quoted 4th century BCE accounts of Greek dogs howling before seismic activity and claims that a whole Japanese town of 90,000 inhabitants was evacuated before a 7.9 quake on the say-so of its animal residents. "Dogs' hearing is so sensitive that they can pick up the sound of the earth moving prior to the destructive convulsion" she says. All I can say is that she better start trimming the hair bunging up my lugholes then.  In my defence, I spend my whole day protecting her from danger.  I bark loudly and frequently at every squirrel, dove, sparrow, bee and hornet that invades my courtyard and all get for my trouble is "Shut up Jake" often accompanied by words too rude to print.  No wonder I was fast asleep in the early hours.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Shaken not stirred

I could say 'this morning I am picking up the pieces after last night's 6.3  (or 6.8 depending which report you read) earthquake'. It wouldn't be a lie - a large iron candle stick fell over and broke this plate, so I do have some pieces to collect (and re-stick -because my mother gave it to me and I use it a lot) but I would be egging the pudding. Any earthquake measuring over 6 is of course bad news; It is very scary, especially types that try to pull the walls of your house apart and approach with a roar.  It took a while for my heartbeat to return to normal and I stayed outside counting the aftershocks.  After a few minutes, thanks to Facebook, I could relax in the knowledge that friends and family were unharmed but two people did lose their lives on the island of Kos. The change in sea level damaged plenty of boats, cars and property and a few mosques have fallen or have damaged minarets. I'm sure many people have more bits and pieces to pick up and mend than I do.  I hear from a friend that one can almost get drunk from the fumes wafting from the swanky alcohol shop on Bodrum's harbour front (order wider shelves now). The roads are jammed with folk heading back to the cities. Now this does confuse me - you flee a town which has just survived a major earthquake mainly due to its policy of building two storey structures, for a city with skyscrapers - also built on a fault line. Each to his own.  BUT the gist of this ramble is - everything is pretty much ok, which is why waking up to this headline makes me angry:

Screen shot from Daily Mail 22/7

Like my broken plate, it is not untrue but I find it totally disproportionate.  I was on Marmara Island in 1999 when an earthquake killed tens of thousands - That was a 'Killer Earthquake".  And just to be correct - it hit the Aegean not the Mediterranean. But I understand that they are both difficult words to spell, so in the middle of the night 'Med' was probably the easiest option.

We are still rumbling by the way.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Cows on the Coast

This post is for Deborah Semel Demirtaş whose 'Artist on a Marginal Coast' blog I enjoy reading. She's recently wrote about cows by the sea and I promised to send her some pictures of cattle that graze the Swedish coast.  I'm always wary of cows and these ones stare intently at me every evening as I pass by, but so far I have only briefly interrupted their nibbling. Occasionally they rush wildly up the seashore so I know that one day I will have to avoid a charging cow and I had better start researching defence techniques.  All suggestions welcome.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

There is no cow on the ice

I've had a few messages asking me if all is well as BacktoBodrum has been uncharacteristically off-air for two weeks. I can happily reply that 'Ingen ko på isen' - 'there is no cow on the ice' which will immediately reassure all my Swedish friends that there is nothing to worry about. I've been visiting Skåne, Sweden, enjoying how different life is there to my existence in Bodrum - not better or worse - just poles apart. 

Things that are different

I've eaten more licorice in the past week than in the last two years (ie since my last visit). Sweet, or chocolate flavoured but even better - salty - I wonder whether a licorice shop would work in Bodrum?

Giant blueberries, gooseberries, endless raspberries and who could resist a fruit called 'cloudberry'. I discovered that a handful of fresh red currents mixed into lightly picked cucumber is the best accompaniment to baked herrings. 

Cinnamon buns
OK, I can make these at home but buying them warm from the Bakery for breakfast is almost as good as taking home a fresh crispy simit.  

Road Safety
Swedes step out on to pedestrian crossings without even looking, so confident are they that cars will stop. Please don't try this in Bodrum.  I'd prefer you didn't do it in front of me in my first few days - I'm already struggling with speed limits that go from 40 to 70 to 30 to 20 in a less than a kilometre and a car that brakes for me if I'm too near to the car in front or shouts at me if I stray too far to the right or left. .  

Bicycles everywhere
As above - car drivers acknowledge their presence; again - don't try this in Bodrum in Summer.
(One question - if Swedes are so health and safety conscious - explain the candles on the head on 13th December) 

Big wheels of it offered with every meal, but very difficult to store - I would have to build a special Ryvita cupboard if I could buy it here. 

Place Names
I childishly delight in visiting Paarp on my way to Boarp and then on to Bastad.  (I know there are little circles on top of some vowels that change the sound, but can't be arsed to find them) 

Whipped cream with every dessert
Not so sure about the green cakes. 

Rosa Rogusa grows everywhere and has a heavenly scent.  Locals consider it a weed and prefer less rampant varieties to grow up their houses, but I love this Beach Rose and stop at every opportunity to literally smell the roses and hope to be figuratively doing the same, and writing about it, now that I am home. 

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Cheese in a bag

How do you like your cheese? Can I suggest serving it out of a hairy goat's skin bag? If you haven't tried it you should. Tulum peynir (cheese matured in a goat's skin) is my favourite Turkish cheese. If you enjoy a mature cheddar, this is the cheese for you. Finding a cheese that was actually made in an animal skin is quite difficult now, but the cheeses matured in more commercially suitable tins or plastic vessels are almost as good. I'm not keen on cheese made from goats' milk as I can always detect that 'farmyard tang' which lingers after the first bite, so I try and find tulum cheese made from sheep's milk.  Take time to pick the one that suits you.  Cheese stalls on markets or supermarkets will let you taste before you buy, so work your way through the display until you find the one that tickles your tastebuds. İzmir tulum is my favourite; not too hard or crumbly, it is easy to slice thinly and has a full flavour. Teo loved Bergama tulum; the older the better, with a sharp aftertaste that could bite back - ideal for a rakı meze.  If you are looking for a cooking cheese, tulum will serve you well. It melts quickly and a little gives a lot of flavour. It also grates well and is a good substitute for Pecorino or Parmesan in pesto.

As pine nuts and Parmesan are so expensive in Turkey, my go to recipe for a pesto that doesn't cost the earth is: 
A cup of sunflower seeds, lightly toasted. 
4 cloves of garlic 
Two handfuls of green basil
A cup of olive oil. 

Combine these four ingredients in a blender or pestle and mortar until you have a rough paste, then add a cup of grated tulum cheese.  Keep a bowl on hand in your fridge to use in pasta or spread it on toast, baked aubergines, peppers or courgettes. 

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Bayram or Bedlam - Boon or Blight

Detail of Bodrum mosaic by Neslihan Zabci Erdal
According to the news, 220,000 cars arrived into Bodrum for the three day Bayram holiday, I made the mistake of driving in on Friday so they may have counted me too, I didn't stay long and thanked the mad whim in 1991 that made us build a house out in the countryside - way off the Bodrum peninsula.  I can at least provide a quiet hideaway for friends and family that want to avoid the traffic jams, loud music and influx of city manners (or lack of them) that take over our South Western bit of Turkey.
I'm sure hoteliers and restaurant owners will be heaving a big sigh of relief as they have at last had full hotels and tables, but if I can offer one piece of advice in this blog, it's to check the dates of religious holidays before you book a trip to Turkey and make sure yours don't coincide.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Things that go bump in the night

While Europe boils, we too have been having unseasonable weather - but no one is complaining because it has been cooler than normal and we've had late rain which is a boon for farmers and gardeners. I am neither but have been enjoying the unusual pink clouds that have been floating past the village. 

I wasn't sure how I would cope with living in the middle of nowhere by myself; daytimes are fine and I'm getting used to the solitary evenings.   Jake is not as laid back as I am, he takes fright at every bird that lands in the vines and squirrel that scurries up the pines, so he is frantically barking most of the night.  He probably thinks his name is now 'Shut Up Jake' as that is what he constantly hears from me.  I woke up at 3am a couple of nights ago to a frantic dog and was about to shout at him when I too heard the banging of metal gates.  I knew they were locked, but this sounded like someone attacking them with a battering ram.  Phone in hand, making sure I had the gendarmerie number on speed dial, I turned on the lights and looked out - nothing.  Assuming that the barking and lights had put off any would-be intruder I went to bed and read a book.  I'd just dropped off again when the whole rattling kicked off again and still no one.  It was almost light now so I went outside  and found the culprit. It's amazing that such a small animal, intent on getting through a metal gate, can make so much noise.  I put him out but in the morning he was back inside again so he obviously only knows how to enter, not exit. 
I've named him Theresa May. 

Friday, 16 June 2017

Rowing ın Bodrum

I've been out in the countryside so have missed some of the exciting new things going on in Bodrum.
This has to be the best one - B.A.Y.K  (Bodrum open sea sailing club) have introduced rowing to their waterborne activities and have been offering free 30 minute try-out sessions in Bodrum Marina. (still a couple of days to take advantage of this if you are nearby). Both experienced and complete novices are welcome and hopefully a Bodrum rowing team will soon be in-training.

The Aegean is not know for its flat seas and these craft are specially built to cope with waves.
I was quite sad watching today's rowers start their lesson as Teo, my husband, was always keen to start rowing but there were no clubs near here - it has come too late for him, but let's hope there are some Bodrum folk who are just finding out that they have a talent for rowing which could have lain undiscovered.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Cooking for one

It is quite difficult to drum up enthusiasm for cooking when there is only one person in the house, but the markets are so full of great ingredients this month, it would be a shame to live on omelettes or cheese on toast which seem to be the go to quick meals for singletons.  

On Thursday I bought a bunch of small beetroot with leaves, red onions and a kilo of samphire and used them to make three meals.  I first peeled and thinly sliced one onion, put it in a bowl with half a teaspoon each of sugar and salt and rubbed the slices well until the juices started to run.  This method takes the bitterness out of the onion and leaves crisp sweet slivers. I then cut off the stalks from the beetroot and put them to one side and put the beets into a roomy saucepan of water to boil for 15 minutes, I then added the stalks to the pan and 5 minutes later added the leaves for two minutes and drained the lot together and cooled under running cold water.  In the same pan I poured a litre of water from the kettle and added the whole kilo of samphire.  While the samphire was cooking -about 10 minutes, I slipped the skins off the cooled beetroot and cut them into eighths, cut the stalks into eatable lengths and squeezed the moisture out of the leaves.  These all went to a large salad bowl.  Drain the liquid from the onions and add those too and once the samphire is cooked (test it by seeing if the green part will squeeze easily off the inner spiny skeleton) drain and run under cold water and then holding the root in one hand, use thumb and forefinger to slid the green stems off the hard white 'branches'. Add this and a good slug of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to the salad bowl and stir well.  

This base will keep in the fridge for a few days and if cheese is added on day one, tuna and olives on day two and hard boiled eggs and anchovies on day three, it doesn't feel like you are eating the same meal three times. If you can't find samphire, lightly steamed broccoli or cauliflower can be used instead. 

Tuesday, 6 June 2017


Renewable Energy Systems. It sounds good on paper.  Does it look good? This is a picture of my house although you will need a magnifying glass to find it. These turbines won't directly affect me as I can't see or (hopefully) hear them from my garden but they are already changing how we live in the village. Yesterday I was driving home when a cement mixer, going so fast that it was almost obliterated in dust, nearly ran me off the road.  As it approached I pulled over and frantically waved my arm out of the window. The driver screached to a halt and backed up. Uh oh I thought, what's going to happen now. He wanted to know what was wrong.  I told him he was going too fast for such a narrow road. He said sorry, but he thought the mixers had the road to themselves.  I told him he was wrong; cows, sheep and the occasional camel and their drivers used the road. School buses and moped users used it. Dogs were walked along it and it was my way home. He again said sorry but it brings it home how the builders of these turbines have no concept of the life that has to continue around them. These hills were home to the Lelegians well over two millennium ago. We're any archaeologists on site when the massive holes were dug for the foundations?  Will the pine trees survive when the blades start turning and reduce the moisture in the air?  Will the amount of energy each turbine produces in its short lifetime justify the amount of energy needed to build, transport and erect it?  Wouldn't a solar energy plant be more appropriate in an area where it is sunny nearly every day but not nearly so windy? Would it not have been at least polite to consult local community leaders before the project went ahead?  
My only consolation is that they are better here than on the Bodrum peninsula where some are to be sited dangerously close to villages.  The sad fact is that despite protests and court cases, the construction in these contentious sites is still going on.