Wednesday, 29 February 2012

With Knobs On!

A house with two pisceans living together is not going to be a very organized place. We float along in different directions not really planning anything but seeing where we get to.  As followers of John Lennon's philosophy  "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans"  it seems sensible to avoid over organization.  Our attitude to kitchen design has followed a serendipitous  route.  Until Huseyin Usta knocked down our old kitchen in a flurry of dust and rubble, my husband was still hoping that we could get away with just a new sink.  Twenty years ago, when we last built a kitchen,  we engaged a designer in İzmir and ended up with a kitchen made in Germany and Italy and I think it took several months from conception to the first boiled egg.   This time we didn't even draw a plan. Everything except the sink was sourced on the  Bodrum to Ortakent road. The cabinets were built by a carpenter originally employed to provide a loo door.  His friend laid the tiles beautifully.  A Farrow and Ball paint chart enabled me to have the exact chalky colour I wanted mixed in Koç Taş.  From wreck to finish, the whole job took 18 days. It would have been quicker if we hadn't taken our time choosing the work surface and as for knobs: there is just too much choice, but decision made, the last one was fitted this morning.

Adem, the carpenter, who came to fit one door and ended up building a kitchen.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Kitchen Memoir. Part 1.

Our Bodrum kitchen is tantalizingly close to being finished.  Until two days ago, we didn't have a sink, so I was doing the washing up in a bowl on the back step.  As long as it's not raining, I can put up with any manner of unsophisticated kitchen scenarios, having had plenty of practice. My first paid cooking job was 32 years ago in Shropshire, cooking for Birmingham University undergraduates on their annual compulsory dig. Most of the students lived in caravans on site but all the food was cooked in the old farmhouse kitchen. Vast amounts of mud are inescapable on British archaeological sites (a good reason to bolt to the Mediterranean and exchange mud for dust), and the kitchen floor was always muddy, so I wore my wellies continuously, even when cooking. The ancient electric cooker had two or three large pans of soup, curry or stew constantly on the bubble as we turned out over 30 meals, three time a day.  I was kept busy chopping, then stirring and frying, often leaning against the cooker as I was on my feet all day. I was under the instruction of Diana, my favourite lecturer's lovely wife, who worked out the menus and bought all the supplies. Coming in after a Cash and Carry run, Diana grabbed a metal ladle and dipped it into the curry to check the taste.  Suddenly she was turned into a screaming banshee, throwing the ladle of food violently over her shoulder so it splattered on the wall behind.  I was quite new to cooking and Gordon Ramsey style kitchen rants had not yet been televised, so I was a bit put out at her adverse reaction to my recipe. It was only after she had regained the power of speech and had been helped  to her feet, that we realised that I had been cooking on a live appliance. Only my wellies had grounded me and prevented my first cookery job from being my last.

Jenny and Annette in a trench with Malcolm looking on.
My first diners. 

Information on Castle Farm

About Martin Carver who directed the excavation

Friday, 24 February 2012

Spring has Sprung .

We all seem to be enjoying Spring weather today. For those of you in GB it's unexpectedly warm and for us in Turkey, it's very welcome but a bit late in coming. Everywhere I went today, Nature was bursting out in beautiful bright greens, pinks, lilacs and reds.  It's a shame that there is so much rubbish around to spoil the show. 

There is no excuse for the amount of litter at the road sides.  The dustmen come twice a day and no one is more than a few hundred yards from a bin.  

Thirty years ago, the countyside was untouched by ugly plastic.  Drinks came in glass bottles with a hefty deposit. Any bottle, carelessly discarded was quickly collected up for the dosh. Cheese came in large cans which were re-used as plant pots, water carriers, storage containers or watering pots.  Every garden had a row of tomato or pepper plants growing in old food tins of all sizes.  
Working on yachts, we spent quite a lot of our time in the Greek Islands and had access to duty free bags and  plastic water bottles. We never had to throw these away. There was always a queue of Bodrum housewives competing for these useful items to use on their weekly shop or to put milk in.  1 litre Gin and Vodka bottles were always in demand to store drinking water. This could lead to confusion.  Once, at the party of diplomat friends, we were all enjoying our gin and tonics when one guest (who in their obituary will be referred to as a 'bon viveur') took the host aside to point out that we were all in fact drinking water and tonics. The friends' staff had filled all the old bottles with water and on the pre-party inventory check, it was assumed that there was plenty of gin in the house.  I hadn't even noticed and was even feeling a bit tipsy. Now spirits are so expensive here, I might try filling a few bottles with water and seeing if I can kid myself again. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Blessings of a Good Thick Skirt - I Should Ra-Ra

I love this book by Mary Russell: a collection of tales about inspirational women, braving their way around the most inhospitable corners of the world.  I aspire to their 'sally forth and sod the consequences'  attitude.  When I first arrived in Bodrum, I had very little in my holdall and I wouldn't have included a thick skirt.  I was an Eighties girl and my favourite clothes were my two ra-ra skirts.  I hoped they made my waist look narrow and hid the chubby thighs that had been the bane of my teenage years. They probably made me look like a backing singer from Wham or an extra in a Duran Duran video, but I was oblivious. I wore those two skirts to death and then I discovered Yılmaz the tailor; a sartorial epiphany. Yılmaz's tiny shop was down a narrow ally in the centre of Bodrum. You could take any item of clothing to him and he would reproduce it for the equivalent of a couple of quid. He measured everyone just the once and kept their measurements in a notebook. I had ra-ra skirts in every colour under the sun, I was especially partial to big flowery prints that should have been covering a sofa not my bum.  Bodrum market was called the kumaş pazarı, the material market, and there were plenty of stalls selling fabric that had originally been destined for the export market.  Designer names such as Sanderson and Jane Churchill were on sale for a few pounds a metre. Where have these stalls gone? This week's Tuesday market had only one fabric stall and there was nothing worth looking at twice.  I suppose the factories are now more careful where their bales of cloth end up or maybe these fabrics are now made in China. I miss Yılmaz, but it's probably a good thing that his shop is no more.  I might have been tempted to have just one more ra-ra skirt.

Monday, 20 February 2012

From Bust to Boom

On a wander around Metro last week I did a quick survey and about a third of the grocery items were either imported or made under licence in Turkey.  In 1982, the economic austerity program introduced by the 1980 military government was in full swing.  The strict monetarist policy, which included the promotion of exports and a rigorous restriction on imports, resulted in a drop in inflation from 130% to 29% over two years. Turkey forgot about its home market and concentrated on selling everything abroad.  Today's supermarket chains were far in the future and shopping was done in the weekly market and small bakkal,  (grocers). Bodrum was at the very end of most distribution routes and supplies were erratic. Choice was very limited. One week there would be no tea, the next no sugar. There was never any coffee and acquiring a jar of Nescafe became a quest akin to the search for the Holy Grail. The frequent power cuts necessitated parrafin lamps in each bakkal and gradually the paraffin fumes would infuse the dry goods giving the biscuits an unusual and alarming taste.  My nearest bakkal was run by two brothers and I would try out my expanding Turkish vocabulary on them with varying results. After two days confusion over buying bread I consulted my dictionary to find that instead of asking for two loaves (ekmek) I had been trying to purchase two men (erkek).

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Angela Culme-Seymour

I opened The Times today to read the obituary of Angela Culme-Seymour. I met Angela in 1983, when she was already 71 years old, although she was very cagey about her age. Still tall and elegant, she lived with her last husband Bulent Rauf in the biggest house on Bitez seafront. Going to visit Angela was like walking into the pages of an Evelyn Waugh novel. The house was full of Bulent Bey's students of the "Esoteric" who were beautiful young people with an "Hon" somewhere in their name and Angela's friends who would gossip wonderfully about British aristocracy and especially about the size of Princess Margaret's bust.  Angela was a talented water-colourist and I'd often see in her large straw hat, perched on a stool, painting road-side wild flowers . I visited her once in Dorset where, in her late eighties, she was still painting and selling her work to greetings card companies.
When I was quite new to Turkey and eager to learn, Angela languidly handed me a copy of Lord Kinross' biography of Ataturk saying, "Take this, you might like it. I was married to the author once." The mind-boggling details of Angela's love-life are detailed in the link below so I won't repeat them here.  It always amused me to hear the locals call her "Melek Hanim " as she definitely was no angel.  One comment will stick in my mind for ever. Discussing her many lovers and husbands, she was asked why her marriages didn't last:
"Because of my uncontrollable infidelity" she replied without batting an aristocratic eyelid.

The funeral of Angela Culme-Seymour will take place in Scotland on Tuesday, 21st February

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Big Brother

I'm not going to voice any political comments on this blog. I'll save them for the dinner table over a glass of wine but one of the biggest changes in the last 12 years is the amount of "surveillance" in every day life. My identity card number now defines all aspects of my life.  It usually doesn't bother me too much as I try to keep my head down, so why was I so unsettled this week when I had to give my fingerprints before I could get a new driving licence?  In the past I didn't like going to Muḡla to give blood in order to get married: was annoyed at having to get my husband's permission to start a business, and nipping down to the notary to record every purchase and sale seemed excessive,  but  I accepted it without much heartache. The finger-printing came across as overly intrusive. It may be because  I associate being finger-printed with being suspected of a crime.  The nice police lady suggested I keep a copy of my prints as I will need them frequently in the future. For the life of me I can't think why.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Free Wheeling

This year's resolution is to aim towards parsimony rather than extravagance so, with this in mind, on Sunday, I unpacked my trusty Raleigh Pioneer, donned my bicycle clips and set off on the 6 km journey to Mumcular. I had intended to go to the market, but the attraction of an electric blanket and a hitherto un-heard audio book on my headphones resulted in a late start. The bright sky soon clouded over and before I was half way it started to rain. I was tempted to turn back, but having given in to temptation once that morning, I thought I'd better serve my penance and keep going. We also had nothing in for lunch and the car was in Bodrum tending to the builders. By the time I got to town, there were a few stalls still selling so I filled up one pannier with veg and filled the other at DiaSa supermarket. I love DiaSa. We now have no need to go shopping in Bodrum, as the guys in Dia are so helpful. Last summer I asked if they ever sold Schweppes tonic, and a day later it was there in spades . Despite the crate I bought, it's still there now as I don't think many Mumculites are partial to G & T. When I inquired about brown sugar for Danish pastries, they got that too.
On the ride back, the sun came out so I decided to record my trip and got my bike to pose beside a water container.  Back at home, I was extremely pleased with myself on several counts:
1. I managed 12 kms without falling off.
2. I could still walk
3. I had saved at least 3 TL on petrol
4. I hadn't been able to buy any non-essential, fattening treats because there wasn't room in the panniers
5. I hadn't been killed by a dolly minibus or a twelve year old driving a tractor.
6. If I kept this up I would be saving £35 a month on Gym membership.

After an hour or so, I started to get a very strange pain in both my calves. Fearing embolism or worse, I looked down to investigate to find that I was still wearing my bicycle clips.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

No Bog Blog

I shouldn't have called the plumbers "wreckers".  Total misnomer. Far too gentle. I thought they were  just changing all the water and waste pipes but in two hours we had no loos, basins, or kitchen.  Even the new toilet that went in last week was out. The latter given  pride of place in the living room while the others were relegated to the garden. The photo below is not out of focus or distorted. This is a picture of the dust in the kitchen. 

My daughter and I abandoned ship and had to plan the rest of the day around toilets in Bodrum.  I can live without water but no lav is not on so we gathered  up our duvets and headed back to the village. We'd had a good supper in Musti's, met some old friends and were happy to be back home, until I tried to turn on the heating in the bedrooms...nothing happened. Usually this wouldn't have been too bad but that night the temperature hit below zero for the first time in years.  The beds hadn't been slept in since August.  Moral of the story:  If electric blankets can be carried all the way from Dorset to Bodrum in hand-luggage, do not leave them behind on a trip of  36 kms.

     A purple anemone frozen white by the frost

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Water Works

As our grannies warned us  - if your waterworks are compromised, life is miserable.  Our Bodrum house was built about 25 years ago and has metal water pipes. Or I should say, had. The years of Bodrum's hard water have taken their toll and the only thing holding the pipes together is the plaster around them. They all have to be changed and as I write a team of wreckers, sorry plumbers, is filing in through the front door to sort us out. They are turning the water off for 3 days and on Monday we'll have plastic pipes and hopefully no more leaks. I should be used to water cuts. Bodrum would go days without supplies and we'd have to walk down to the sea with a bucket to take back water to flush the loo. By the mid 80s, the canny householder would build a concrete tank in their garden, ours held 20 tons of water.  One day I heard a strange sound coming from the tank. I opened it to see our water meter whizzing round like a dervish as air was blasting out of the pipe.  I was in such a panic that our water bill would break the bank, that I forgot to close the cover. Some hours later, my husband , not noticing the lid was up, tossed a treat to our dog Brian, missed the dog and threw a lamb bone straight into the water tank. I learnt a few more Turkish swear words that day and if you ever need to empty and clean a 20 ton water tank, let me know. I'll give you some tips.

Fire - Give us a Break

We drove out to the village yesterday. Those friends who have spent time with us in the country know that we live in front of and beside the forest.  We arrived yesterday to find that we now live a bit further away from the pines.  It was a shock at first to see a wide bulldozed scar running around our garden wall and nearly all the pines next to us uprooted.  We hope it's a fire-break, not the start of a six-lane motorway. The earth looks raw now but in a few months it will  green up and we'll get used to it. Between 2006 and 2008, 70 fires started in our region and 1000s of hectares of pines and olive trees were lost along with the bee hives and wildlife that exist alongside them.  A few years ago we were on holiday during the big Mazı fire and watched the flames rage just one hill behind our house.  I shall be thanking the Forestry Commission for their work, it will allow me to sleep a bit sounder in the tinder dry months of July and August.

This was a narrow path through the trees

The trees came right up to this wall. They left just one lonely pine.

I'm sure the locals will be along to make use of these tree roots
Forestry workers' ponies

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Gale Force

The storm last night, with gusts of 110kmph,  reminded me of my first year in Bodrum.  Our flotilla of boats were moored stern-to, side by side in Bodrum marina; 32 yachts in all.  There was only a small sea wall in those days and and the Southerly Lodos wind blew straight into the harbour.  The only way to keep the boats from crashing into the concrete quay was to jump on the first boat, loosen off the aft lines,  tighten up the anchor chain,  turn on the engine and gently put the boat in gear, then jump across to the next one and do the same until the whole fleet was motoring against the wind. By this time the sterns were about 3 meters from the quay. A strong guy had to be on hand to temporarily haul in the last boat so that we could jump back to dry land.  In 1982 I could leap on and off boats with ease, often carrying a week's shopping.  Now I struggle to jump a puddle.  If I were a car, I would have my shock-absorbers changed.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Perfect Day

Today was one of those perfect winter days that gladden the hearts of all Bodrumites. Sunday dawned with a bright sky and promise of sun.  We set off to Yahși Beach, borrowed a dog on the way and had a lovely long but windy walk. Yahși has changed beyond all recognition.  It used to be a narrow rough beach, used as a road, with camp sites and the occasional hotel between the gardens.  Google it now and you'll see non-stop hotels and restaurants with an impressive promenade.  I prefer it now, it was a bit tatty in the 80s.
The joy of living on a peninsula is that there is always somewhere with a sea view to escape from the wind . Today, the normally windy Turgutreis was sheltered enough to sit on the front without jackets.  Whenever it gets really cold and wet in Bodrum, you can guarantee good weather will be just around the corner.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Let me eat cake

As a result of an unaccustomed amount of time on my hands, and as a panacea for the many pitfalls that overcome those who take on building projects in Bodrum in winter; we are eating a lot of cake.  A homemade creation in the cake tin is one of those little luxuries I promised myself when I stopped working.  Unfortunately, it doesn't stay in the tin very long.  I've just shipped all my clothes from England to Turkey and I want to be able get into them in the summer, so I've been reviewing my cake recipes and seeing if I can knock off a few hundred calories without spoiling the taste.  I'm experimenting by using pekmez, instead of oil and sugar. For those who don't live in the Near East, pekmez is grape syrup produced by boiling grape juice, or occasionally mulberry juice, until it thickens. It is known as petimezi in Greece and mosto d'uva in Italy. It is a good source of iron and calcium so I'm sure it must be better for us than white sugar.  If you can't find it, I think maple syrup would work just as well.  There is still a little oil and sugar in this recipe but much less than the original.

Heat oven to 170 °C.
Beat together 4 eggs, 1 cup pekmez, ¼ cup oil, ½ cup sugar,1 tsp cinnamon, 1tsp vanilla sugar.
When well mixed, (I use an electric mixer for about 5 minutes) add 1 cup sultanas, 1½cups flour, 1/2 cup oat bran,  2 tsp baking powder and 2 cups  grated carrot and stir well.
Pour into a greased 8 inch, loose bottom, cake tin and bake on a low shelf for 1 hour.  I cover mine with a silicon baking sheet for the first 30 minutes to stop the top cooking too fast.  The cake is done when the top of the cake bounces back when touched. It may take between 50 minutes and 90 minutes, depending on your oven.  I think it tastes better than the sugar and oil-heavy version.  We haven't the will-power to find how long it keeps in the tin.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

No comment

Nobody likes criticism, even when it is intended for our own good. Turkish institutions are particularly sensitive in this area,  Those of us who put our thoughts on the open billboard of the internet should be aware of this. Looking for information on moving back to Bodrum, I joined a couple of English language forums based in Turkey.  The majority of posters are very helpful and are happy to use their accrued knowledge to help answer questions from those new to the country. I found a reliable shipper through one forum's recommendation and I learned of the new SGK laws from these posts. On this latter subject, the combined knowledge and investigative powers of the British expats in Turkey seemed to be one step ahead of the  British Consulate web-site.   However, on all forums, the world over, there is a core of posters who lack a self-edit button and forget that we are living (or holidaying) in countries where the freedom of speech, that we accept as our right, is in its infancy.  Last week, through one of the forums, I  joined 3 Brits to do a bit of volunteering at a local council run installation.  My first day was my last. No, I wasn't that bad! The director had become aware of uncomplimentary posts about her staff on an English language site and decided she didn't want any more foreign help for the time being.