Monday, 30 December 2013

A New Bank in Town

There's a new bank in Bodrum. The name echoes my feelings about the current state of the Turkish Lira.

Oh Dear!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Christmas Virgin

This is my favourite photograph from this week's festivities.  It is Jake the dog's second Christmas with us and my daughter's boyfriend, Celal's first ever and I feel that Jake is trying to give a bit of advice to the Christmas virgin.  I know I shouldn't anthropomorphise, but I can't help it:

"Do you see those gold tubes on the table? Before you're allowed to pick up your fork you have to pull those until they explode. Try not to knock over the wine goblets as you do it (they're the best ones). Inside are the dumbest paper hats that you are expected to put on your head before you're allowed to eat. Yes they do look ridiculous but it's a ritual these foreigners insist on. The payback is that you get the best meal of the year. You will probably even get to eat the chocolate log, which they don't allow me near. By the way, there will be bacon. If you don't fancy it, take some anyway and I'll be waiting by your knee to dispose of it for you. Did I mention that they are about to eat an indecent amount of food, so how about you take me for walk down to the harbour to make some room for it" 

Sunday, 22 December 2013

D.I.Y. Christmas

This Christmas marks a landmark in our family. My daughter has moved out into her own apartment and for the first time in 21 years we got the decorations box out of storage and had to divide up the goodies.  She thought I should keep the angels, as I started collecting them long before she was born and I thought she should have all the red tinsel and baubles as she is brighter and more outgoing than me and red suits her.  We don't have Christmas trees but have made do, as we always do in Turkey, with a twiggy branch sprayed white.  This year we sprayed two.
This divvying up of Christmas paraphernalia has given cause for reflection and as someone who has spent roughly half my adult Christmas celebrations in the UK and half in Turkey I feel it's time for some comparisons.  One obvious omission  here is the lack of Advent. We don't light a candle on the first Sunday in December and the weather is usually too sunny to even think of winter but having visited the UK at the end of October and walked around a garden centre where Santa and his grotto were already set up, this is a good thing.  I can measure the number of times I hear Noddy Holder belting out his Christmas money spinner on the fingers of two hands here, whereas I would probably need the fingers and toes of a whole primary school in England.  I can comfortably start contemplating seasonal food preparation in the third week of December in Turkey and I won't have to have sat through the mandatory work Xmas lunch in the first week of December. (Is there anything worse than the false jollity of wearing a paper cracker-hat in the company of your work colleagues, eating dry roast turkey, at least 3 weeks before the 25th?)

Felt Christmas trees - What better way to decorate the tree.
The best thing about Christmas in a country that doesn't celebrate the Nativity is that we do it ourselves. When I first came to Bodrum, there were no decorations available, but plenty of pine cones, white spray-paint and sequins. Add red ribbons, hand-cut wooden snowflakes and bells and we didn't miss our fairy lights and baubles.  With the eruption of New Year celebrations in Turkey recently, all manner of flickering lights, trinkets and gaudy sparkles are now available in the shops but it's still more fun to make your own.  My daughter and I had a "craft bag" that was much mocked by my friends, but gave us great pleasure as we made Christmas pom-poms, chains, cards and crackers that you had to shout "bang" when you pulled.  So I was really pleased to wander around the Xmas market in Bodrum last week and see that the next generation of ex-pat mums has gone one better than us and is making cakes, mince pies, decorations and crackers that actually bang  to sell to each other.  This has to be better than  mega-supermarkets and chain stores goading us to spend more and more to add to their already obscene profits.

Ekim-Turquoise Secrets' beautiful Christmas cakes and biscuits

Angie's mince pies

The bi fit girls' Christmas floor show

If you haven't got a fir tree, decorate the next best thing. 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Slow Soup

Bodrum is just emerging from seven days of freezing temperatures, power cuts and dug-up roads, just the combination to make even the most mild-mannered a bit irritable.  Nothing could be done about the mini ice age that swept through, but for those reliant on electric heating - a better time could have been chosen for "power line maintenance work".  After 30 odd years, I accept (without ever understanding) that the roads have to be dug up each winter, but one year it would be nice for warning signs to be erected a few hundred metres before the massive hole blocking the road. I suspect that this is really a ploy to make Bodrum drivers practice reversing - a manoeuvre most spend their entire driving career avoiding.   
So when the odds are against me keeping both warm and my temper, I opt for soup.  Thick, homemade soup is an instant  cure-all.  I've read that chicken soup actually does reduce the length of a cold or flu, but for good chicken soup you need a roast chicken carcass, which isn't on hand when the electric oven is off, so we usually opt for lentil or leek and potato which can be cooked in 30 minutes on a single gas ring. I was confident that there wasn't a broth I didn't like until I came to Turkey and here I met my soup nemesis - Tarhana.  It's a difficult concept to explain to those not brought up with it as tarhana is basically a home made packet soup - a lot of work goes into it initially but once done it is stored in cloth bags (not the plastic you see in the picture) and used over the winter.  Recipes differ, but the general idea is that yogurt, wheat and flour are mixed together and allowed to ferment for 7 to 10 days producing lactic acid and this mixture is then dried in the sun and the resulting crust is crumbled to be rehydrated at a later stage. 

I came across these three types of tarhana at the Friday market; the first is "children's tarhana" - made with milk, yogurt, flour and onions, the second is "hot tarhana" made with yogurt, flour, onions, hot red peppers and tomato paste, and the third is "normal tarhana" made as before but with sweet peppers rather than hot ones.  To make the soup, a couple of tablespoons of dried tarhana are added to water or stock with a tablespoon of tomato paste and heated and stirred until thick.  My problem with the soup is that the fermentation process is an unstable procedure and the airborne yeasts very variable and I have often had a bowl of bubbling soup put in front of me which looks appetising but smells of something more akin to what the dog regurgitated.  It's an aroma that is difficult to get past if one is to enjoy the taste.  I have a bag of tarhana soup in my kitchen and I do make it for my husband who loves it, but I test each bag before I engage in soup making to weed out the ones with the whiffy bacteria.

I am very much in a minority of tarhana phobics. On Friday, the Bodrum chapter of the Slow Food movement served tarhana soup and dried "peksimet" bread at the weekly market and the soup was all gone in less than an hour. By the time I got there just before 11am, only a few crusts of bread were available for the photo call.

Monday, 9 December 2013

The Future View

Until very recently, Bodrum was not an easy place to access by land.  Several hours had to be spent on the road from Izmir or Dalaman before we eventually got our own international airport. One of the joys of the trek to Bodrum was finally getting to Güvercinlik and being able to see this beautiful blue sea and knowing that there were only 20 or so minutes left before the road would head downhill and the magnificent castle would come into view.  It  was a trip I never tired of as the deep blues and vibrant turquoise would lift even the heaviest heart.

The sea is still just as blue but I wonder how many generations will enjoy the same excitement as they drive out of  Güvercinlik.  The first 2 kms is already blighted by an ugly hotel construction that is several stories higher than legally allowed and has been a concrete shell for the past two years.

Further down the road, newly-built hotels feel it is their right to isolate  the view for the sole enjoyment of their own paying guests and we passers-by are left to look at stone or brick walls

or densely planted conifers. 

The entrances of these same hotels suggest that they are places where appreciation of nature is not high on the agenda...

... and where gilding the lily is the order of the day.

So I shouldn't really be surprised that just after the sign telling us that we are about to catch sight of Bodrum (a sign which in my opinion is also an unnecessary detraction from the view) ....

this construction has just sprung up.  I assume it will soon have walls to completely block the view. 

There are many examples of "golden goose extermination" on this peninsula but this has to be one of the best/worst. 

If you are wondering who The Fisherman of Halicarnassos is click here:

Monday, 2 December 2013

Turkey Consular Conference - A Customer's View.

Last week I was invited to the 2013 Turkey Consular Conference at the Ramada Resort Hotel.  I had no idea what to expect but an announcement on Facebook telling us that all British consular offices in Turkey would be closed for staff training on 26th and 27th November suggested that this wasn't going to be a cosy local affair.  It was in fact a meeting of consulate staff from all over Turkey with representatives from Athens, London, Malaga and Sharm El Sheikh also attending.  I was one of three "outsiders" brought in to give our opinions on present consular services and comments on suggested strategies. Those of you who read this blog frequently,  know that I'm at home rambling over an ancient site or stirring a bubbling pot in the kitchen - power-point presentations,  flow charts, "mission statements" and "visions" have never been in my vocabulary but I have to admit I enjoyed the presentations and got stuck in with suggestions on how to improve the service.  (If your consulate office has Skype available for client use - remember you read it here first).
What came across most strongly is that this particular group of individuals are all determined to  provide the best service for UK nationals in Greece, Turkey and Egypt and that they are reliant on feed-back from us Brits overseas to learn how to best tailor their services to our needs, so if you have any reason to contact a consulate please let them know that you will be happy to answer questions on the experience if asked.
We all travel more confidently knowing that the British consular system is there should we lose a passport or have an accident but the question was inevitably raised as to whether UK nationals who choose to completely relocate to another country should be entitled to consular help in that country. I personally think not, except for emergency travel documents, but would be interested to hear your views.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

It's Always Movember in Hydra

I don't know how many of you or yours have taken up the challenge to grow a moustache in November, but if you need a bit of inspiration for next year's growth, head off to the Greek Island of Hydra where a well developed tache is de rigueur.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

A Mighty Wind

While I was paddling through the flooded Bodrum streets on Monday, a mini tornado whizzed between  our village and the next, lifting up and scattering olive trees as it passed.

It's path was fortuitously narrow as it whipped across the valley like a giant chain saw leaving the trees next to the fallen ones completely untouched.

I was particularly saddened to see this garden affected as I remember the young olive trees being planted and they have lost 75% of them. Luckily the fruit trees were unharmed.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Rain stopped play.

My front garden on Monday.

On my first trip back to the UK after my first winter in Bodrum c.1983,  I bought a pair of knee-high rubber riding boots. I was extremely proud of them and especially loved the leather lining.  Did I have a horse?  No.  Did I ride?  No.  Were they the most useful foot-ware I ever bought? Yes.  I still have them and wish my legs were svelte enough to get into them.  They were the only boots that were high enough to ford the rivers that Bodrum roads turn into after a heavy rainfall.  I was under the impression that we now had super drainage around the Bodrum peninsula and that the days of the flash flood were over, but mother nature knows better.  On Monday between 77 and 85 kgs of rain fell in a hour (that's over 3 inches in UK terms) and the drainage systems gave up the ghost.  There are pictures of what looks like a tidal wave running down Bodrum's main street.  

Photo credit to Bodrum'un Bilinmeyenleri Facebook page. 
On Monday morning, I drove into town from the village with plans to visit the bank, help my daughter move house, enrol at the gym and walk to this week's writing circle.  I arrived early so I could fit in a walk around Bodrum with Jake.  We got to our car park just as the first rain drops started and then were stranded indoors for the next 3 hours as the water level rose steadily around our town house. The electricity went off, followed by my mobile phone network and smells started emanating from the dog suggesting that a trip outside should be sooner rather than later.   I had to don my much too short wellies and the dog had to practice the paddle that forever has been named after his species as we braved the weather for a toilet break.

My front path turns into a very attractive pond.
I did eventually get to the b-fit gym at about 6pm and signed up for the next 4 months. I should concentrate on the lower leg region to hopefully be able to squeeze back into my riding boots ready for the next downpour.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Is this the end of Indi-Bindi?

Even if you haven't a clue what "indi-bindi" means, you've got to feel a little upset that something with such a wonderful moniker is almost no more. According to the sign below, it is forbidden except at designated  spots.  "Indi-bindi" sounds good, it's a phrase foreigners pick up easily and slips off the tongue with satisfaction. But we've got to get used to a life without "indi-bindi".

"Attention Passengers! Indi-Bindi is forbidden except at bus-stops"
For the uninitiated, 'indi'  means 'got off' and bindi means 'got on' but it is so much more than the sum of these words.  For the purpose of explanation, I'll concentrate on the Bodrum peninsula, but the transport system I'm about to describe is nationwide.  You wouldn't believe it to look at Turkey now, but when I first arrived in the early 80s, very few people had cars; they didn't need them as public transport was well developed. Coaches for intercity journeys and jeeps for village to Bodrum trips. (It's still well developed - but now everyone wants a car) . The jeeps gave way to minibuses that operated on the same "dolmuş" system.  The minibuses waited in the centre of each village until every seat was filled and then they set off to Bodrum. As they pottered along anyone could get on or off as they pleased.  If you were waiting by the side of the road the accepted sign  that you wished to board was to stick out an arm horizontally in front and waggle your fingers up and down.  If you wanted to get off, you yelled at the driver and he slammed on the brakes.  'Dolmuş' means 'filled' and quite often lived up to that name.  I was once on a 12 seater heading to Bitez, with 23 heads on board when the driver spied a police road block ahead, swung the wheel to the right and took us bumping, yelling and swearing over 500 metres of rocky field before he swung back on to the main road nonchalantly ignoring the complaints of his bruised cargo.  It could never happen these days as the main road is totally lined with shops. Such a manoeuvre would take the bus straight into a supermarket aisle or shopping mall fountain.

Fast forward 30 years and the dolmuş system is alive and well but operating under rigid regulation. For a start, there are many more routes and minibuses - so many that I can't see how a living can be made except in July and August.  There is a timetable ! An anathema to the last century's drivers.  Even if the bus only has 2 passengers, that bus has to leave.  And to add insult to injury, passengers can't be picked up or dropped off willy-nilly en route, they have to stand at bus shelters  i.e. no indi-bindi.   In the old days, a driver would spy a potential customer ahead and drive like a maniac to overtake the two buses in front so that he could screech to a halt to collect the now very intimidated (if foreign) potential fare in front of the competition.  This practice has now been outlawed.  All well and good you may say - surely this is an organised system?   But if we'd wanted to live in an orderly country, we would have moved to Switzerland.
I watched a confused octogenarian trying to flag down a minibus in the centre of Bodrum as the drivers whizzed past.  A couple helpfully yelled out that he had to walk to the bus stop which was 100m ahead which he eventually did, but I felt his bafflement and the question "when did dolmuş stop picking up people?" hung in the air.
Luckily for me - "indi-bind" is still the rule in our village, at least until the bus hits the main road and we actually now have a service to Bodrum from the end of our road.  6 TL (roughly 2 quid) gets you the 35 kms to Bodrum (4TL if you travel regularly). I reckon our village is about 20 years behind Bodrum so we should enjoy our indi-bindi while we've got it.

p.s. I've always thought it should be 'bindi-indi' because surely you have to get on before you can get off.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Cream Teas and Baskets.

Cast a quick glance over these photos and I think you'll agree that the overall impression is of people having a good time.  This is why I count myself lucky to be a member of Bodrum's  H3A; a group of residents whose main aim is continuous enjoyable education. This learning can take the form of lecturers, travel, wine tasting, art classes, reading groups, opera visits, singing, creative writing, backgammon tournaments and more.  They are ever open to new experiences.

Following my two basket-making lessons in the summer, I hoped the group would be interested in a trip to our village to watch Raşit in action and on Sunday the idea came to fruition with 32 H3A members meeting on my terrace to hear a bit about our village's fight with the mining/cement company, walk along the edge of the forest to enjoy the view of the agricultural plain and watch Raşit make a start on a basket.

Helena modelling a finger protector/extender used when the harvest was literally brought in by hand. 
Raşit had tidied up his long defunct teahouse especially for the occasion and now finds he has a perfect workshop which may well end up as a village craft centre. There is already talk of some weaving  and wooden spoon turning afternoons in the Spring.

After witnessing a Turkish traditional craft, we finished with time-honoured British one - A cream tea.

Those not familiar with the concept were relieved to find that the cream went on the scones - they had been anticipating it going in the tea!

From Bush to Basket

Baskets Galore

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Lunching with Ladies

We are very lucky us ladies of the Bodrum peninsula: firstly because we live in such a beautiful part of the world and secondly because for the second year running, despite the downpour and clouds that were forecast for the day, the sun shone down on us as we lunched together at the Ramada Resort Hotel.  Cardigans and jackets had to be cast aside and sunglasses fished out of our bags as we abandoned our dessert dishes and headed out on to the terrace to enjoy the November sunshine.  This was the 14th annual ladies lunch; arranged as an end of season get-together for the busy working women of Bodrum to give everyone a chance to reconnect with old friends and make a few new ones.  Jane, the brains behind the day, is my daughter Esi's Godmother and this year Esi helped give out the 15 prizes for the entrance ticket raffle.  Last year I won a massage, this year my luck was in again and I'll be nipping along to the swish new AciBadem Hospital for a free check-up. I wish I had as much luck with my premium bonds.

Last year's Ladies Lunch

Thursday, 14 November 2013


Walking the dog on Monday, I couldn't help but notice that everyone was out in the fields either cutting back old growth, ploughing or  sowing seed. This made me feel doubly guilty as I came back to our garden to be faced with a raised bed that has been promised great things over the past year but has only had a watering system installed, which has made the weeds very happy but has done little to improve the garden.  So the computer was abandoned and I spent Tuesday digging over the heavy clay and Wednesday planting 11 small rose bushes.  (Why 11? because I bought 10 and was given an eleventh rose bush and a lavender plant on top).  I hope the liberal application of mature manure and lots of water will  produce the long anticipated rose bed.

After completely relining and retiling our leaking roof last week, lots of other little jobs are lingering but have been put on hold until we can visit the D.I.Y. store. My neighbours seem to manage very well without  throwing cash at problems.  If they need a gate, they build one with whatever is to hand.

Who says ladders have to be straight?

I was especially impressed with this impromptu scarecrow that went up on Monday to protect newly scattered spinach seeds. As the breeze gently lifts the skirt it does look like a ghostly farmer seeing off the wild boar.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Back to Bodrum

It's been ten days since my last blog.
(hints of my brief convent education here!) 
 This is the longest I have gone without at least posting a photo. 
When I left you I was in Dorset, eating too much of my Dad's home made bread. 

Then 5 days in the Scottish Highlands 

trying to photograph goats and rainbows and eating no bread at all. 

A night in Athens, shame everyone was on strike, and the bakers were all closed by the time I got there.

A few days in Hydra, where no one needs to strike as winter is an excuse for doing very little.
The sesame bread rings were impossible to resist.  

And now home with a busy week coming up; the second writing circle meeting, the annual ladies lunch and a H3A group coming to our village to watch basket making and eat cream teas at my house. 
 I'm sure I'll have plenty to blog about very soon and I shall be eating cake rather than bread.  

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Dad's Beatroot and Apple Bread

An attachment to beetroot must run in my family. My father makes a mean loaf and his favourite recipe is apple and beetroot. I'm in Dorset with my parents for a couple of days so have had a chance to witness the production of this super loaf first hand. The dough looks a bit strange as it's rising; the damp pink is more reminiscent of the butcher's slab than the baker's counter but after 30 minutes in a 180 degree oven the crumb turns a rich gold. If you're looking for a light slice, that stays fresh for 4 days, add a bit of fruit or veg to your usual recipe.

500g strong white flour 
30 g butter
1 packet instant dried yeast (10 g)
1 small apple peeled and grated
Half a tennis ball size beetroot, cooked and grated. 
2 tblsp sugar 
 1 tsp salt  
2 tblsp olive oil 
250 ml warm water 

Rub the butter into the flour and add the rest of the above ingredients. Knead well for an elastic dough and leave in a warm place to double in size. Knock back and allow to rise for a second time, then knock back again, divide in half and put into two well buttered loaf tins. When the dough has risen for the third time, pop the tins straight into the hot oven. I've eaten more bread in the last two days than the last two weeks. It's the saving of my waistline that I'm off to Scotland tomorrow.
Happy Baking