Friday, 29 June 2012

It's a Wild World

Nature is fighting back. It's been twenty one years since we decided to tame a piece of virgin land by creating a house and garden and diverting the natural flora and fauna. Occasionally there is counter attack. I mentioned the mosquitoes last week and now we have discovered a mouse or two in the house.  In an effort to get rid of the rodents, we put a couple of sachets of poison in the kitchen. This had no effect on the mice but attracted thousands of ants who called in all their mates to try and carry away the toxic tea bags in a version of ant olympics. We hastily replaced the poison with a sonic deterrent but the ants didn't go away, in fact I think we have opened an ant disco: they are queuing up at the doors. Any minuscule crumb carelessly cast aside becomes a writhing mass of tiny bodies.  The big ants have taken over outside. I was hanging up my smalls when I felt a sharp pain in my big toe and looked down to see blood spurting over a large black ant that was still chomping at my foot. Kicking that aside, I bent down to grab some more washing and narrowly missed picking up a small brown scorpion.  A timely reminder to shake all towels, shoes and costumes that have been drying outside.  Not all our neighbours are tiny.  Last night when I went out after dark to shut up our workshop, a very close loud grunt and rustle had me running back inside for a husband and torch. I then sent him out first, and as he wildly waved the torch and emitted calls worthy of an alpine yodeler, we heard our porcine visitors running off to the nearby fields.
Putting the finishing touches to this post today, my vision started to go blurry and my left eye began to twitch.  Ever the hypochondriac; brain tumour, stroke and Bell's palsy flashed through my mind before I got to the bathroom mirror... An ant was crawling over my eyelid!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Poisonous Beauty

When we built our house we planted a row of Oleanders along the retaining wall. The trees, now 20 years old, are a riot of white and pink flowers and the scent that pours from them is a mix of apricot and vanilla pie, almond essence and a hint of baby's talcum powder.  I only wish we had planted more and surrounded the whole house. The plant is ideal for our climate: drought resistant but able to survive a frost down to -10 degrees C. The only draw back is that it's toxic to mammals. Sheep, horses and cattle can die if they eat enough of the leaves, but animals know to stay well clear. Bees feeding on the oleander flowers are said to produce hallucinogenic honey, but I've never got my hands on any.  There is an urban myth that a pack of boy scouts used oleander twigs to roast their marshmallows over the camp fire and all were found dead the next day. No official records exist of such an occurrence but it shouldn't be ingested by humans. Herbalists use a poultice of the leaves for skin disorders. I wouldn't recommend trying this at home, as the sap is very irritant if you get it on your skin.  Research is underway to prove the efficacy of the plant extract in strengthening the immune system and the medical properties of Nerium Oleander are well known in the Muğla region where I live.  Dr. H. Ziya Özel, chief doctor at the State Hospital in the 1970s, claimed he used an extract of Oleander to cure cancer patients and he was famous in our county for many years, alternatively lauded as a genius and despised as a charlatan by the national press.

I just love it for it's perfume and colour and if it is proven to be a medical marvel, we'll be seeing lots more of it.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Mosquito Mayhem

Mossies have always been a pest in Bodrum and I've learnt to cover up or retreat indoors at dusk to avoid them.  In the village we weren't too affected by the little blighters because the frogs in the pond, geckos in the house and bats swooping over the pool, kept numbers down to a manageable quantity.  So I've been surprised by the number of itchy lumps appearing over my body in the week since I came back from Scotland.  My husband is also uncharacteristically itching and scratching.  Something is definitely amiss.  I was watering the garden yesterday morning and felt a dart in my arm and caught sight of the perpetrator for the first time.  A tiny black and white striped mosquito, quite unlike our usual bigger brown variety.  A visit to google-land identified this varmint as an Asian Tiger Mosquito and the bad news is that they don't wait until dusk, they bite all the time. They are a recent introduction, thought to have come in with imports. So while our bats, geckos and frogs are taking five, these immigrants are drinking our blood.  It's a toss up which is the most unhealthy - slapping on DEET day and night or risking the long list of diseases these blood suckers carry.  I shall come back from my next trip to Scotland with a consignment of Avon's " Skin so Soft." The burley, tweed-togged gamekeepers up there all swear by it to protect them from the midges. The idea that under their kilts and plus-fours, those tartan lads have skin as soft as a baby's bottom cheers me up no end. 

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Bodrum wants its mayor back

Bodrum residents are furious that their Mayor, Mehmet Kocadon, is still in gaol having been refused bail. The smiling face of Mr Kocadon is festooned all over Bodrum and a Facebook page supporting him has gained over 16,000 followers in the 18 days since his arrest. Usually, when a high official is arrested, everyone keeps quiet until the facts gradually emerge, but Mr Kocadon is such a liked and respected character in Bodrum that the remonstrations started immediately.  He is incarcerated in Mugla gaol, 2 hours drive from Bodrum, but is being visited by a stream of well-wishers including Yarimada Newspaper which reports today that he is in good spirits, keeping fit and joking that he is having a rest. Growing up with a surname that translates as "Huge Pants" must have instilled a useful amount of resilience and optimism which he is calling upon now. It must irk though that Bodrum is at its best ever with its new wide pavements and ban on shopkeepers and restaurateurs hassling tourists, while the architect of these changes resides in the clink. 

Monday, 18 June 2012

Lashings of Ginger Beer

I was always impressed at Julian, Dick, Anne and George's success at procuring ginger beer from random farmhouses on their adventures and this probably influenced my decision to get brewing.  I now have lashings of the stuff in my fridge. My first attempt using dried ginger resulted in a very refreshing brew.  Not really ginger beer but a zesty ginger and lemon drink with a light fizz that was perfect for sipping in the pool when the temperature hit 40 degrees yesterday. I'll definitely make it again. The second attempt has turned out closer to the original I remember from my childhood.

100g grated ginger root
4 lemons 
400g sugar
1 tsp yeast
4 litres water

Put the ginger, lemon juice, slivers of lemon peel, sugar and 1 litre of water into a large pan and bring to the boil for 5 minutes. Add the remaining 3 litres of water and test the temperature. It should be around 25 degrees.  Sprinkle the yeast on to the top of the liquid and leave for 5 minutes, then stir in.  You can either pour this liquid into a bucket, cover with a cloth and leave for 24 hours to ferment or pour into a 5 litre bottle with an air lock on top as I did.  I left mine for 48 hours and then bottled it in plastic screw top bottles. It's very important to sterilize everything that touches the liquid and use plastic bottles rather than glass as the mixture can get quite explosive. I left the bottles at room temperature (i.e. very warm) for 6 hours then put in the fridge to stop fermentation.  

This second batch has quite a kick and is much more fizzy. If I'm using the hydrometer properly, the brew is about 4% proof.  With the amount of ginger beer the Famous Five consumed, they must have been constantly sozzled. Does this explain why George was always such a grouch: she must have had a sore head every morning. 

Saturday, 16 June 2012

How not to make Ginger Beer - Bodrum style.

I've arrived back in Bodrum, as befits the title of this blog, but I seem to have left my brain in the U.K. It may be the sudden onslaught of temperatures in the high 30s or the shock to my system of employment after being gainfully unemployed for 5 months, but I have mislaid my usually super organised self. An example of this scattiness follows: I decided while I was in GB, that I would develop some brewing skills on my return to Turkey, so I bought some cider yeast, camden tablets, a couple of bubble airlocks and a hydrometer and added them to the bacon in my case.  As I passed through Bodrum on my way back to the village, I picked up some lemons and fresh ginger and popped in to say hello to my daughter.  What's better than home-made ginger beer on a hot day? (Lots of things, but I have always had a not so secret desire to be one of the Famous Five and I want an excuse to use the word "lashings"). Back in my village kitchen I had my preserving pan at the ready, the bubble locks fitted into 5 litre water bottles, the sugar weighed out and..... no ginger - I'd left it in Bodrum. - duh! Determined to brew something, I substituted dry ginger powder and carried on.

2 tblsp dry ginger
400g sugar
Juice and rind of 2 lemons
I added 4 litres of water to the above and boiled it together for 5 minutes.

I then read the instructions on the yeast which said I had to wait until the liquid was 21 degrees before I added 1 teaspoon full to the pan.  When the outside temperature is 37 degrees and the kitchen is 28 C, how do I get my ginger mixture down to 21 degrees?  I'll tell you how not to do it. Don't put it in on the top step of your swimming pool.  In my defense, I've never been very good a physics and assumed that a heavy pan, full of 4 litres of water would sink down to the step.  It doesn't, it floats.  Luckily it didn't tip over.  In the end, I gave up and put the yeast in at 30 degrees.  

After 24 hours fermenting, the beer is in plastic cola bottles and you and I will have to wait until the next post to find out if it's drinkable. 

Monday, 11 June 2012

Bobby V.I.P.

I like small airports, the sort that are all on one floor, with a minimum of doors, desks and shops. I'm in one now: Inverness. It’s tiny and  I’ve just been informed, maybe unreliably, that it won an award for being one of the best small airports (In the world or in Scotland?)  I always find staff much more helpful and friendly in small airports. When it opened, Dalaman’s first airport used to be like Inverness; the staff were very amiable and, as a travel rep, I knew all the check-in staff, passport and customs police. Foreign Tourism was in its infancy and we were all making up the rules as we went along. There were no prohibited areas and reps were welcome on both sides of passport control. In those days, not many of the staff in Dalaman airport  spoke English and as I had a rough grasp of Turkish, I was often called in to help out . One day, I was invited to the Airport Manager’s office, where I was greeted by two policemen. While I agonised about what felony I’d committed, the airport manager asked if I would be willing to greet a VIP visitor. The head of Interpol was arriving. I was happy to help, but as I had 40 guests of my own to meet, I couldn't see how I could be in two places at once. "No problem", they said, "he’s arriving on the same flight". I was handed a page board and as I waited at the bottom of the steps for the plane doors to open, I noticed on my arrivals list that this important policeman was in fact one of my own clients. The gentleman and his wife were allowed off the plane first and, not being accustomed to high fliers, I couldn't help being a bit disappointed. The portly, crimplene trousered gentleman wasn't my idea of a mega crime buster and he seemed surprised by his celebrity status.  As I presented his wife with a large bunch of flowers, I explained that the Mugla police chief was providing a police driver to take him to his villa and hoped to visit later in the week to take him out to lunch.  My VIP was overjoyed.  “Well, I never expected this“  he said."I always write and say I’m coming but I usually just get to visit a local police station”. As we walked to passport control, I probed a bit further and the genial  bobby produced a copy of the letter he’d sent to the Mugla Constabulary.  My new friend was the chairman of the West Country Police society, not quite police chief of the Western World but he got trip in a Turkish police car.

Bacon in Bodrum

In the 30 odd years of traveling back and forth to Bodrum, one item in my luggage doesn't change - dead pig. Despite the arrival of large supermakets, proper bacon is still a luxury in Turkey and I probably wouldn't get a very good welcome from my nearest and dearest if I didn't have a couple of kilos of porky delights in my bag. There are shops in Bodrum selling English bacon and sausages but having tried them once, I wouldn't go back. So my first morning back in England has been spent catching up with emails and cruising Mr. Sainsbury's meat aisles. I'm writing this using a blogger app on a Samsung S for the first time. If it comes out as complete gobbledy gook, I'll have to live with it until I get back to my desk top. Here goes...pressing publish...

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Cut Off

You may have noticed that my last 3 posts are a bit lacking in the editing department and rather varied of font.  I'm surprised they even got to see the light of day. I'm staying in a house with no internet  or mobile phone connection. To get on-line, I have to tuck my laptop under my coat and take an evening walk, unlock an unoccupied house and sit on the stairs to use the wifi signal.  Because this comes by satellite, web sites often don't download and my email server refuses to talk to me. I get a very rude message, saying the website is too busy to show my page. Getting a post published takes about 60 minutes. This all makes me greatly appreciate my Turkish server. I live outside an isolated village, where the cows and donkeys are taken to the pond  every day and 80% of the population is involved in agriculture  and yet I can sit on my terrace and download a book in 3 or 4 seconds, watch the latest edition of Newsnight or listen to The Archers. Here in Scotland, I can do none of these things.  It's probably good for me: I was getting a bit obsessed about how many viewers were dropping into my site or who was saying what about it.  I'm missing my new blogging friends, I've only been able to glance at a couple of their sites in the past 12 days. Strangely, Facebook is the only site that is easily available so I've seen pictures of the jubilee flotilla, know that Bodrum's poor mayor was taken away in handcuffs and been surprised by a photo of my husband, 30 years younger posted by someone I've never heard of, all without any follow-up news.  In 3 days I'll be back in the real world: I wonder how long it will be before I'm sucked back into the blogosphere.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Bodrum's New Airport Terminal

I  flew from Bodrum airport’s new terminal last week. Open only a week, it seemed to have all systems up and running and, apart from the long queue to check in to the Easy Jet flight, all else was quick and efficient.  Everything is very, very shiny. Don't take off your sunglasses on entering as the glare from the floors is blinding and wear shoes with decent grip, because the marble floors are so polished that in smooth leather soles, with a good run up, you could probably slide from the security gate to the first airline desk.  A group of children were busy testing this theory as I waited to check in. Overall, the terminal wins my vote of approval. The staff were very professional, with good English  and even the cafe wasn't too expensive.  My memories of recent Turkish airport catering are not flattering; "way over-priced" and "inedible" are the adjectives which fly to mind. The new terminal restaurant hadn’t opened but the cafe had a selection of hot and cold buffet style dishes, and sandwiches.   All the  food looked and smelt more appetising than the reheated junk food on the Easy Jet flight. Hopefully these prices aren’t an”introductory offer” and the new management will realise that if they offer reasonable food at fair prices, they will sell much more. In the early days of tourism, I don’t remember the airport food being over-priced at Dalaman airport, but there again, in those days they never charged tour company staff anyway. Life really was one long free lunch on transfer days.

As I walked from the departure lounge to the aeroplane without leaving the air-conditioning or encountering stairs, I almost became nostalgic for the hot walk from the building to the plane steps, breathing in the smell of fuel and melting tarmac. Gone are the days when you were greeted with piles of luggage and have to find and touch your case before it would be loaded. There always seemed to be one case left on the ground. An unsuspecting tourist who didn't understand the system, would be waiting at the baggage reclaim at Heathrow for a bag that was having an extended and often permanent stay in Turkey.