Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Itchy Trowel Syndrome

I wasn't a very good archaeologist. I preferred the theory as most of the practice involved getting wet, muddy and cold with little chance of warming up in the old caravans or disused schools and farm houses that we went back to after a day pickaxing and wheelbarrowing.   I didn't really start to enjoy the digging until I worked on summer digs in  Greece and Italy. When there is the choice of a post-hole in pissing rain and a Corinthian column in the sunshine, you can understand why I decided to stay in the Mediterranean for 20 years.  In the last two weeks though, I have started to develop a strange affliction I call "itchy trowel syndrome". We have been exploring Theangela and Bargylia, both un-excavated sites and there are so many tempting corners of dressed stone sticking out at odd angles,  I'm beginning to wonder where my trusty trowel is hiding. ( I remember seeing it in the workshop about 20 years ago!) I wouldn't dream of giving into the temptation as unofficial "excavation" in Turkey is a serious offence but I'm thinking of finding out if Turkey has a similar archaeological volunteer program to Europe and seeing if I can spend a couple of weeks on a dig.

I'd love to know what's going on under here

or here. 

I hope Theangela is on someone's excavation list because we saw plenty of evidence of illicit digging, there were several pits like this one.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Brian Sewell - South from Ephesus revisited.

One of the joys of my recent "retirement" is sorting through my very dusty bookshelves and coming up with a gem I had forgotten I owned and having the time to sit down there and then and start reading.  I can remember buying Brian Sewell's "South from Ephesus" quite soon after it was published in 1988 and loving the honest impressions of South West Turkey.  At that time I hadn't seen him on the TV or read his magazine columns, but was seduced by the painting of the Gümüşkesen in Milas on the back cover.  This volume is a selective record of 10 years of Sewell's visits to Turkey from 1975 to 1985, covering the coast from Ephesus to Side.  It's not a guide as such, more a running dialogue of history, archaeology, anthropology, art, geography and sex that you might enjoy if you were lucky enough to have an extremely well informed travelling companion.  He bounces from the Carians to The Renaissance as he wanders or stumbles around befriending local dogs, cats and villagers. We are now accustomed to his dismissive, grumpy delivery, but I was quite shocked by it in the 1980s. He obviously loves the country but won't be sidetracked from describing it's  drawbacks, even when accompanied by a car and driver donated by the Turkish Tourist board. Especially when, as he can't stand the guide who seems to have no interest in the archaeology, is incapable of pre-booking a damp-free hotel, shouts at waiters and is more interested in his carpet commission.  Sewell's description of an over-weight belly dancer's contortions while submitting  her audience to extortion on a damp New Year's Eve in Bodrum is an image that is still making me cringe.   I love his description of getting lost trying to find Gerga as we did the same although, unlike Sewell, we did eventually find the site and didn't fall into the river. This book has been out of print for a while so I was extremely pleased to get an email from Amazon announcing it's  availability.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Gone Fishing

Sundays in the country usually start with a bang.  Several bangs.

Allow me to elucidate. I am referring to the sound of gun shots echoing over our house as hunter-gatherers from the town cast off their soft shoes and don stout boots and camouflage jackets and stalk anything that flies, crawls or runs through the trees. 

This morning there was silence.

I briefly wondered what had diverted the predators from their rifles then forgot about it and enjoyed the stillness. 

Having rained most of the night, it was a beautiful day today; about 22 degrees C with not a breath of wind and clear enough to see the mountains the other side of Milas. We decided to go for a walk by the sea and chose a forest path that winds along the coast to the north of Güvercinlik.    

As we reached the sea, it became obvious that everyone intent on catching food for the the table had put down their guns and picked up fishing rods.   Either in small boats or sitting on the shore, there were hoards of amateur fishermen.  I learnt a new word  "Rastgele" or "Rasgele". I'd seen it as a boat or restaurant name and now know that it is a friendly greeting wishing fishermen a good catch. 

With the light at just the right angle I managed to catch how clear the water is in front of this fisherlady. 

At the end of the path we met the professionals. Friendly as all sea-going people are, they chatted, posed for photos and insisted on giving us 2 kilos of mackerel and bream. I felt a bit guilty walking back past all the amateurs as we'd bagged a large catch without a hook or rod between us.

Thursday, 15 November 2012


pronk |prô ng k; prä ng k|verb [ intrans. ](of a springbok or other antelope) leap in the air with an arched back and stiff legstypically as a form of display or when threatened.ORIGIN late 19th cent.from Afrikaansliterally show off,’ from Dutch pronken ‘to strut.’

I was listening to the BBC Today program discussing children being taught to spell in English primary schools. As well as real words, the kids were also expected to be able to spell made-up words which had the presenters rushing over themselves to make up silly words, one of which was "pronk". Being Radio 4, it didn't take long for the tweets and texts to flood in explaining that "to pronk" was to jump up vertically, all four feet leaving the ground at the same time, a la lambs, kittens and antelopes. As I listened, I looked outside to see Jake do an amazing "pronk" almost up to the shoulders of my six foot plus husband. The image and word are now firmly imbedded in my memory for future Scrabble and crossword use. 
I'm afraid Jake is not in the mood to pronk today. To fulfill a promise I made to Karen at TAG, we took him to to be neutered on Tuesday.  It would be unforgivable to let a rescue dog be the reason for any more unwanted dogs on the street. The staff at Pethane were great, but we weren't quite quick enough with the plastic collar so the turquoise antiseptic transferred to his face.  As it's indelible I better start coming up with witty responses to explain why our dog has a blue face.  All suggestions gratefully received. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

Olive leaf extract

I discovered a new health hazard yesterday while walking the dog - olive tree-bashing poles. Sundays are a popular day for heading out to ancestral olive groves and whole families pile into cars and trucks, sticking their 4 meter long poles out of the windows. The drivers then bomb along the village tracks forgetting they have a lethal weapon projecting sideways. After narrowly avoiding being swatted, we took to walking in the fields.  
I've already processed one jar of windfall olives and we're eating them now, another bucketful of green olives is brewing in the kitchen, the rest will hopefully stay on the trees another month until they turn black. Olives trees only fruit every second season and we don't have many producing trees this year so I've turned my attention to the leaves. In the early 20th century, a bitter compound called oleuropein was discovered in olive leaves and in the past 20 years this substance has undergone considerable research. Initial results show positive results in boosting the immune system against both viral and bacterial attack, promoting increased energy levels, strengthening the cardiovascular system and helping ease aching muscles. As the winter cold and flu season is approaching I've decided to try a bit of self medication and produce my own olive leaf extract. The easiest method is to collect a handful of leaves from trees that haven't been sprayed, chop and infuse in almost boiled water for 5 minutes, strain and drink. The leaves can also be dried and made into tea. I admit it's not a very pleasant taste, but it improved with a teaspoon of honey. The second way is to steep the leaves in alcohol or glycerine. I popped a few handuls of leaves into a blender then pushed them into a clean glass bottle and filled it up with vodka. I'm turning it every day and keeping it in a dark place and after 6 weeks I should have my tincture. Half a teaspoon morning and night seems to be the recommended dose, although tests at over 100 times this amount showed no harmful effects - (maybe not from the olve leaf - but the hangover from the vodka wouldn't be too pleasant). If I can avoid being knocked out by a passing olive pole, I'm hoping to have a healthy winter. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

And the winner is...

A couple of weeks ago, an obscure grammatical question was posed by Alan on his blog Archers of Okcular.  It was the sort of question that only pedants or those with too much time on their hands would be able to answer and (I'm not proud of myself) I was able to supply the solution immediately. Alan very generously offered his book or a T-shirt as a prize.  I went for the book. "Okçular Village - A Guide " turned up in my mail box yesterday and I've already read all 112 pages. Hats off to you Alan, this is a great read.  The Kocadere Valley, where Okçular is sited, was also threatened by a cement company's mine almost exactly 10 years after our village was similarly attacked and Alan, putting himself in considerable personal discomfort if not outright danger,  played the major roll in fighting off the developers and ensuring that his valley gained special protected status.  I assume the idea to write this book was generated by the huge relief one feels when one's home is saved from the teeth of commercial monsters. Divided into 4 sections, the handy pocket sized volume gives a general history of the area, the people, walks and a detailed description of the flora and fauna. I was delighted to read the life stories of oldest inhabitants, some of whom were born before the Republic of Turkey existed.  The history of the man in the field in 20th century Turkey is sadly under-recorded and this is a welcome historical resource. 

Even though I live 3 hours drive away, the lists of birds, plants and reptiles will come in very handy as I'm travelling around.  I also now have a very good incentive to get in the car and drive down Dalyan way and try out some of the walks.
The attachment Alan feels to his adoptive home and neighbours shines through in this book and Alan donates all the income from sales to projects that improve the lives of the villagers.
This Okcular Book Bazaar page gives much more information on the scope of the enterprise and has a mail order link.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Digging Deep.

The bulldozers have now left our bit of forest and we've had a few days of peace, but we are very aware that our quiet existence could end any time despite the promises of the forestry department.  Hopefully, any company might think twice before they try to redevelop this bit of nature: our village has a badass reputation to live up to. In late 1995, sitting on the terrace as the sun went down, we noticed that all the trees around our garden had red crosses on them. Hubby went off to the village to see what was going on and came back with gut-wrenching news.  A cement company had leased the forest behind the village and was going to cut down all the trees and strip-mine the whole area for dolomite. The access road to the mine was going to go around our house.  There had been no warning of this, no planning meetings, no surveys and not one member of the village had been consulted. The owner of the cement company had a relative in parliament and the mine was a done deal.  The first company men started to arrive in their jeeps, swaggering around as if they owned the place and got their first surprise - a volley of rocks. Jumping back into their vehicles, they sped off.  The owners turned up to negotiate. They would pave a village road - the villagers were not interested. A new school was offered - who would want to bring up their children in a mine?  The Turkish Green Party leader, Bilge Contepe,  and the most effective local environmental activist, Saynur Gelendost got involved and found us a wonderful  young lawyer Nurcan Akça who suggested we commission an environmental survey to see if we had any endangered flora or fauna. On a local level, we were busy painting banners and involving radio, TV and newspapers and collecting stashes of large rocks at each end of the village to dissuade any one heading for the forest. (I offer a belated apology on behalf of the village to the Bodrum motor cross club who, choosing the wrong day to ride through, must have wondered what they'd done to deserve a pelting of rocks by a group of very angry headscarved ladies) Semkay

A group of women wound themselves in the cloth used to wrap corpses and tied themselves to trees. The protest continued all winter until the inevitable confrontation happened in April 1996. The company enlisted the jandarme to protect them as they tried to bring their equipment into the village. The main road was blocked with petrol-soaked tree trunks and the whole village turned out to face the military police. We put the children in the mosque for safety and the women stood at the front facing the armed jandarmes. Shots were fired and arrests made, and finally the soldiers forced their way through. Six villagers spent 56 days in gaol but the rock throwing  and disruption continued. 

Eventually the environmental report found rare plants in the forest above the village which gave the lawyer a reason to open a court case to stop the mine.  Finally realising just how much they had underestimated the resolve of the villagers and tiring of the sabotage and constant difficulties in getting to the mine, the company found another village who fell for their bribes and left us in peace, although it was 4 more years before the mining licence was revoked in court.
Sorry for the poor quality of the pictures but they are firmly stuck in my album so I had to photograph them rather than scan.

Thursday, 1 November 2012


Slightly old news, but Mehmet Kocadon was reinstated as Bodrum's mayor on Wednesday 24th October and was back at his desk  on Tuesday after the long Bayram Holiday.   It took him 35 minutes to get the 100 metres to his office as he had so many well-wishers to greet.  This is great news for all his supporters and hopefully he can now be allowed to continue with his plans for Bodrum.  He was also greeted by 5 goats,  all dolled up ready to be killed in honour of his return, but he is reported to have said that there had been enough blood shed and asked for them to be spared. Good man!

(From Mehmet Kocadon's Facebook page) 

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