Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Baby, it's cold outside.

It's snowing in Istanbul and a very brisk Northerly wind is blowing all the cold air down to us.  We are living in our embarrassingly dilapidated Bodrum house. It was a in a bit of a mess when we bought it 17 years ago to use as an office and then hardly lived in at all while we were out of the country.  Progress has been made this month and the house is now water-tight and warm everywhere except the bathroom, which has no heating at all. With night temperatures just over freezing point, the morning shower  is bracing.  We have plenty of hot water, but a great deal of will power has to be summoned up to turn the hot water off and make the dash to the warm bedroom. I think this is the first time in our married life that we've had a cold bathroom.   Our first little house in Bodrum had a wood-fired water boiler inside the shower room. It took half an hour to get a good blaze going under the water tank, which brought the shower room itself up to about 40 degrees. Then hot water could be syphoned off from the tank and mixed with cold. It was our own tiny Turkish Bath.  It was also quite smokey and the ash had to be cleared out every day, a job which left me needing a shower!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

A Rocky Road

In 1982, despite working for a sailing company, I spent quite a lot of time on the road traveling between the marinas of Bodrum and Kuşadası.  I enjoyed these bus rides as I had a chance to see inland Turkey and get a glimpse of the places I would spend the next 18 years visiting, although I didn't know that then. I spoke only a few words of Turkish relating to drink and food, (in that order), couldn't ask any questions,  so drew my own conclusions from what I saw.  Frequently on the roads I noticed circles of  stones,  placed, with care it seemed,  to make the passing cars swerve to miss them. The bus driver would mutter under his breath  as he had to swing the bus into the path of oncoming vehicles to avoid the stones. I was a recent archaeology graduate who had been working in Greece and Italy and this may have influenced my interpretation of these rocks.  I decided that  they were probably sacred sites (number one archaeological answer for everything) or the scene of a fatal accident and the drivers were saying a prayer as they passed by.  Just as the Greek and Italian drivers did as they passed way-side shrines.  I believed this for a whole season.  I only learnt the prosaic reason  for these stone circles when  the mini bus I was traveling in to Milas stuttered to a stop.  We all trouped out and stood by the side of the road  and I watched the driver collect big rocks and place them round the van.  A small boy was sent off and half an hour later he returned with an open cheese-tin of diesel and we were able to carry on our journey. Leaving a circle of stones behind us.
I haven't seen any stone circles in the road since I've been back in Turkey.  I suppose all the new Renaults and Fiats don't break down and as there is now a petrol station every few hundred meters, no one runs out of fuel any more.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Calling Home

I came across an old purse at the back of a dusty drawer and, along with several 5,000TL coins, I found two jeton.  In the days before mobiles, we had an excuse for not calling home. At least an hour had to be set aside for the purpose.  You couldn't just dial the number and chat, you had to book your call at the Post Office. The present Bodrum PTT is in pretty much the same position as the old one and it was usually heaving, quite often with queues spilling out of the door. Once you got to the desk, you'd hand over the number for the operator to dial and then wait until told which phone booth to go to. A good handful of jetons then had to be fed into the slot as you talked; not easy as they are grooved and will only go in one way. Any attempt to do this was doomed to failure unless completely sober. Quite often, after all the jetons had all disappeared, the call was abruptly cut off.
Home phones were also in short supply. It took over a year on the waiting list before there was any hope of being connected up. In fact, phone lines became a commodity sold on the open market. There was always someone in a hurry for a line who was willing to pay several times the face value. Which probably explains why, on return to Bodrum after twelve years, we found we had four lines in our name until our hasty trip to the Telekom office.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Oranges are not the only fruit

In 1983, we were chucked out of our little house in Bodrum, with just 7 days notice as the landlady turned up in our (her) garden with other plans. Reading Jack Scott's brilliant blog and book, perkingthepansies.com I see that rental agreements on the Bodrum peninsula are still as precarious today as they were then.  Our misfortune was that we were homeless a couple of days before Kurban Bayram, the biggest holiday of the year and every hotel, pansiyon and spare room in Bodrum was full. One of the local boat builders took pity on us and said we could rent his house in the middle of Bitez mandarin orchards. The house had three rooms but no electricity, no bathroom and an outside alaturka loo. It also had no direct access. We had to walk from the main road, over a stream and through two gardens, carefully avoiding the 3 meter wide, open well. We agreed the rent at the equivalent of £6 a month as it stood. We spent a romantic candle-lit few days over the Bayram and by the end of the next week had electricity poles up and lights. We spent two years in the house surrounded in spring by citrus blossom; the best scent on earth, and in the winter we kept colds at bay by consuming a month's worth of vitamin C every day. I made loads of marmalade while I lived in Bitez and always spent  hours preparing the oranges. I haven't made it since until this weekend and thanks to the "wonders of the internet" I found a recipe that told me to boil the oranges for a hour first, then de-pulp and cut up the rind. Brilliant idea, it took less than 10 minutes to get the fruit ready.  It was a bit of a let down having to get the turunc (sour oranges) from the market not the tree, but the marmalade tastes just as good as it did 29 years ago.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Health,Wealth and Happiness

In the 1980s, health, wealth and happiness were intrinsically linked.  There was a hospital in Bodrum, but you had to be desperate (or dead)  to use it.  (It was conveniently just past the Mausoleum) . I once ventured in and a porter was vigorously mopping the entrance, unfortunately there was more blood in his bucket than on the floor. I exited, green faced, before I added to his problem. If we needed a doctor or hospital we went straight to Izmir and paid what was asked. Those who couldn't afford the private fees, didn't see a doctor.  I know many families whose life savings were wiped out with one bout of illness.  Happily, things have changed. We now have a serviceable state hospital in Bodrum and private hospitals which can be accessed by state financed patients and a new local  GP system, just like in England.
By the end of January, everyone over the age of 18, has to sign up to the new SGK scheme and, if not in employment or education, pay a contribution based on their household income. According to the press, those that haven't signed up by 31st January will be fined.   For the first time in Turkey, everyone should be eligible for state funded health care. As with most things, rumour is rife and facts are difficult to grasp.  The ex-pat residents are especially confused as to whether they will be fined if they don't sign up. Having just arrived, I decided to make sure my family were covered and looked up the address of the SGK office on the internet.  There was no map and the address meant nothing to us, so we rang up on Monday to ask for directions. A harassed young lady on the other end of the phone couldn't help us, she had just been transferred to the office  and didn't know where it was! 
We did get there in the end and after two visits are now signed up.  No fine for us. 

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Red light

I am so obviously a Newbie in Bodrum.  It's almost as if I have a "JUST OFF THE BOAT" sign on my head.  You'll pick me out immediately if we cross paths in Bodrum. I'm the one standing at the traffic lights waiting for the green man to flash while everyone else streams across the road on many differing tangents.  I'm even more obvious because the lights at my nearest crossing only have a green and red man working on one side, so for half my journey I have to stand with my head twisted back and up trying to see the signal behind me. We didn't have traffic lights in the eighties and 50% of the car drivers in Bodrum still think that we don't. Nearly every time I cross when I should, at least two or three cars dodge around me.  I divide drivers into 4 categories:
1. The "I'm so important/rich that traffic lights don't apply to me"
2. The "It's only just gone red so I should go through or else the driver behind me will think I'm a wimp"
3. The "The driver in front of me went through on red, so I will too"
and 4. It's red so I'll stop. (Probably a woman with origins outside Turkey  or a man with a foreign relation in the car or there is a traffic cop on the corner)
As it's only January and traffic is light, I know I am only setting myself up for mental illness by being bothered by this. Roll on July. If you see a demented woman at the Tansas cross roads with a Large School Patrol Lollipop do say hello.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Name calling

I had to visit the Telecom office last week. The usual sitting in a  queue with my number in my hand, watching guys come in and go straight to the desk I'm waiting for. But I'll leave the art of Queue Jumping for another time.
I was christened "Anne", a name that shouldn't cause any problems, but as I handed over my Identity Card the moustache sitting opposite me started to twitch and a with a smile, he looked up for confirmation. "Yes, I know" I said wearily. Anne in Turkish means "Mother". Occassionally it has been a blessing in disguise. Several times I've been stopped by the speed cops. They've taken one look at my driving licence, shown it to their mates, had a giggle and either forgotten why they stopped me or haven't felt able to fine someone who reminds them of their mum.
It could  be worse. I had a friend who started teaching English in Istanbul.  He soon decided to move on.  His name was Don.  Going into class and introducing himself as "Mr. Underpants" more than once a day was more than he or the students could stand.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Camera Obscura

I  went in search of the first house I lived in in Bodrum and it is still there. So many things have changed in Bodrum in the last 30 years that's it's a pleasant surprise to find  something unchanged.  The house looks unimpressive and it was too small for my 6ft 3in boyfriend (now husband of 28 years) but it had a magical secret. One of the wooden shutters had a tiny hole in just the right place to turn the whole upstairs bedroom into a pin-hole camera. Every morning we could lie in bed and watch the cats walk along the wall outside and the camels deliver sand and stone to the house being restored next door, all upside down in full colour,  spread out on the back wall.  

Sunday, 8 January 2012


Being a beginner at blogging, I'm following the "one thing leads to another " method of deciding subject matter. Yesterday's Bardakci Bay leads to the myth of Hermes and Aphrodite's offspring, Hermaphroditus. This beautiful young man was bathing in the pool of sweet water at Bardakci, when the water nymph Salamacis tried to seduce him. So angry was she when he refused her advances that she flung herself into the pool and wrapped herself around him, calling on the gods to join them together for eternity. Thus the first Hermaphrodite was created just outside Bodrum  The story goes that any man bathing in this pool will be feminised.  Guys, have been warned

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Sweet water

One character missing from the Bodrum scene is the boat man who rowed from Bodrum to Bardakci and back several times a day. Bardakci had the only tatli su spring near Bodrum but in those days there was no road between the two. He carried the water in used olive and cheese tins with a rough wooden handle attached to the top. He was a tiny chap but wiry and incredibly strong.  I was fascinated by his feet, which were enormous compared to his height and I don't remember ever seeing him wearing shoes.  When he got to the quay in front of Rasit's cafe, he would shoulder a milkmaid's yoke and attach a tin to each side and scurry off in a very smooth trot, not splashing a drop, to deliver the water around central Bodrum.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Drinking water

Having drinking water delivered in 20 litre plastic bottles is very convenient but they are not a very attractive addition to the kitchen, especially perched on top of a water cooler.  Bodrumites used to keep their water in testi, large unglazed amphora style pots which would sit outside the kitchen door. Being unglazed, the surface of the pot would be damp and the constant evaporation outside would keep the water inside cooler than the ambient temperature. I am assured by those of a more scientific mind than me, that this is the basic theory of refrigeration.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Izmir 1982 (2)

Our arrival at the Anba hotel gave us an insight into how royalty feel when they travel; our bags were whisked away as we were ushered through the reception. Unfortunately we weren't in the right frame of mind to appreciate it. Our only attempt to stem the inevitable sale into slavery and a life under a red light was to cling on to our passports which involved a mild tussle over our hand luggage with a porter as he tried to obey his boss's orders and divest us of all our bags. Eventually we were shown up to a room on the first floor which was the first relief of the evening. However after a shower and change we were summoned up to the penthouse.  Supper was being served there. Should we go?  Would it be madness to accept or churlish to refuse? We decided that as there were two of us, we'd go up, also we were starving as the meal on the flight had been inedible.
The penthouse was very plush for the early eighties. A fantastic selection of meze were on trays infront of the TV.  As we piled up our plates, Bilge was keen to get started on the videos, he'd been waiting all week to watch them.  Carolyn and I tensed, ready to make a dash for the door but as the tape whirred for a few seconds,  the familar strains of Match of the Day's theme tune piped up and we all sat and watched the last Saturday's Arsenal and Chelsea matches.

As I arrived in Istanbul last week, I was remined of Haluk and Bilge as all the Turkish businessmen on the flight had dutyfree bags from Heathrow with goodies they had brought back from England.  They probably all have Sky Sport now and can watch which ever match they like but there are still things from the UK which are valued.  My first arrival at Izmir was  a good lesson as Haluk and Bilge were perfect gentlemen and I was always treated with total respect when employed  in Turkey. I ended up working for Bilge for 2 years in the mid 80s and I'm still in touch with the late Harun's son. The hotel is still open and I intend to make a trip back there this year for old time's sake.

(Note for 2015. The Anba Hotel has now been pulled down and a new smart chain is going up in it's place, but still in Haluk's family).

Wednesday, 4 January 2012


In March, 1982, I flew to Izmir on my 23rd  birthday, accompanied by Carolyn. We had both been employed to work on a  flotilla of small yachts in Bodrum's brand new marina.  We were met at Heathrow by Bilge and Haluk, Turkish businessmen in their early fifties who met us at the check in and introduced themselves as representatives of  the company we had just joined. This was news to us and we weren't sure why we were travelling with them  but they were convivial company and as the complementary wine flowed on the flight we noticed that everyone else on the flight seemed to know these two gentlemen by name. We soon learnt that Bulent owned an travel agency with a very up-market address in London and Haluk owned a hotel in Izmir.  We landed to the North of Izmir on the  military-run  airport, and were met by Haluk's driver.  It was during the drive to the centre of Izmir that Carolyn and I started to get a bit nervous at being in a car with two "mature" Turkish men, who we'd only met 4 hours before, and appeared to be on our way to a hotel with them. That hadn't been in the plan. We had assumed  that we'd be taken straight to the boats that were wintering in Kusadasi. My unease increased as Bilge started telling us about Haluk's fantastic  penthouse apartment above the hotel and  how we would enjoy the views of Izmir and then added that they had some video tapes with him that were impossible to get in Turkey and  he was looking forward to viewing them on Haluk's new VHS player. At that, Carolyn and I looked at each other in wide eyed panic.  The word yacht "hostess" started to take on a completely different connatation.  What had we signed ourselves up to?  How could we have been that naive.