Monday, 31 March 2014

What to think - How to think

There is an air of amazement among the recently settled foreign community in Turkey.  How can a government that is embroiled in scandal still pole an overwhelming majority of the vote?  How can a government that bans Twitter and You Tube and threatens to eradicate all social media still win the hearts of the people?  Lack of a strong opposition is a creditable answer but the education system in this country should take either a bow or the blame depending on your political outlook.  I decided to take my daughter out of the Turkish school system  early on when I realised it was an indoctrination rather than an education.  Learning is by rote. Points are gained by memorising. There is no room for creative thinking.  Kids learn to do as they are told and more importantly to think as they are told.   When you have trained your population this way it's easy to get them to vote for the guy who shouts the loudest. They've spent their whole lives doing it.  If he has also given them better living conditions how can you expect them not to.  They have not been trained to look for consequences or ulterior motives.

If you look at the map, you'll see why the present incumbent's claim that foreign interests are against him will be believed by the people living away from the borders.

What of Bodrum - this area has always been at odds with whatever government is in power.  It was, after all, where political exiles were sent to keep them out of the way.  It's very name is synonymous with free-thinking in Turkey and has been home to poets, artists, musicians, sailors and everyone for whom the desk-job was not an option.

A resounding success for Mehmet Kocadon, voted in with 52% of the vote for his second term as Mayor, the AK party fielding just 9% of the vote.   Three cheers from this household!

Sunday, 30 March 2014


On the day we go to the polls, here is a quick example of how fast things in Turkey can change.

The first picture was taken 3 weeks ago, on 9th March, in front of the football pitch in Bodrum.  

The down-and-outs are two of four who have been around for a while but the graffiti was new.  We are a mostly graffiti-free zone in Bodrum so I was  quite shocked to see it appear overnight.  I know I should be more upset at the homeless guys sleeping on the street but we've got used to them weaving in and out of the traffic, cigarette in one hand and bottle in the other, asking for money to buy more booze.  I wonder what they did today while the sale of alcohol was banned during voting. 

Three weeks later, this is the same wall.  The mayor sent a team to dig up the rubble, lay irrigation pipes, plant rosemary, oleander, sow grass seed and repaint the wall.  The vagrants can still sit on the steps and drink their wine, but hopefully a better solution can be found for their well-being.

I wonder what changes we'll be facing tomorrow?  

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Pine pollen - Nuisance or Miracle

It's that time of year again. Everything in the garden is covered in pine pollen.  Anything that was white or cream last week is now a streaky pale lemon colour.  The meter of rainwater in the pool is rather prettily swirled with yellow oily blobs, but I know the sticky tidemark will take a lot of scrubbing when the time comes.  When I first started sailing in Turkey, I thought that this oil slick was the result of yellow paint being thrown into the sea because I couldn't imagine nature creating such a viscous, unappetising water pollution.  For many years I've been openly cursing this golden powder that covers us, but using it as a good excuse to put off a Spring clean, as any work in the garden or dusting in the house is undone once the trees start producing.

Despite living with this phenomenon for over 30 years I have never thought to do any research - until this week and I've been completely amazed by the properties of pine pollen.  Am I the only person in the world who has been tipping this golden dust into the bin, while a 50g packet is selling for a minimum of $15?  Just think of the income I've thrown away.

Pine pollen has been used as an anti-aging food in China and Korea for 1000s of years but it's only recently that research has shown why.  This is a brief summary of the information available. The plant produces sterols that are close enough to our hormones to have a similar effect when taken by humans. It is an androgenic herb which will increase our four main androgens; androsterone,androstenedione, DHEA and testosterone. It contains Vitamins A,B1,B2,B3,B6, folic acid, D, E plus most of the minerals and over 20 amino acids, making it a complete protein.  It is claimed to increase immune and endocrine function, reduce sensitivity to pain, lower cholesterol, stimulate rejuvenation,  and act as an anti-inflammatory, anti- arthritic and anti-viral. Those interested in its testosterone increasing properties should make it into a tincture by infusing with alcohol. A commonly found recipe suggests adding the pollen to equal amounts of vodka at the new moon, leaving until the next new moon and then straining through an unbleached coffee filter.  Made into a cream it's said to improve eczema, acne and impetigo.  The rest of us can just add the raw pollen to our food.   So far I haven't found any dosages mentioned so I don't recommend trying this at home without further research.  Next year I won't be complaining at the mess, I'll be out with a large stick and bag collecting my own supply of "miracle dust".

Saturday, 22 March 2014

There are worse places to live.

There is one week left until the elections.  Twitter is banned which has made even the most anti-twitterer like me feel obliged to sign up to show solidarity. The streets are full of electioneering buses blasting out competing campaign songs which all sound like a nursery class on speed.. BUT.. the weather is fantastic, the beaches are empty, the sky is blue and I can't think of another place I'd rather be.

Friday, 21 March 2014

A Visit

I really enjoyed meeting the new British Ambassador to Turkey, Richard Moore, and his wife Maggie last week.  The total informality of the event was such a breath of fresh air in a country where those in office like to lord it over the rest of us.  I think both Maggie and Richard managed to chat to everyone there and then we settled down to listen to a short talk demystifying what an ambassador actually does, with a follow-up q&a session to clarify the new rules governing foreigners in Turkey. (A post I have been putting off writing for a month and I will continue to procrastinate as the department in charge hasn't decided how to implement the new law yet.)  The message from the British Consulate was a strong "we'll tell you as soon as the Turkish government tells us".  The best way to keep up with the news is the UK in Turkey Facebook page or Twitter, at least it was until last night when our great leader declared to a rally in Bursa that he would eradicate Twitter and he didn't care what the international community thought.  Soon afterward news began filtering through that Twitter was off-line in many parts of the country.  Last week, when asked about the threat to ban Facebook in Turkey,  Richard Moore dismissed the worry saying that it was an impossibility in this day and age.   I wonder if he is quite so optimistic today.

Maggie's guide dog, Star, is already an ambassador  for the canine world,  gaining access to places that a dog in Turkey can only dream about.  I suggested she should "write" her own blog. 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Country Comes to Town

My 'country bumpkin'  credentials are a bit suspect as I spend the wetter 4 months of the year in town. If our architect had been open to my suggestions of a damp course, cavity walls and a ceiling lower than 6 meters, I could have been writing this from the village but the price of heating an un-insulatable barn of a living room makes moving out in the winter more cost effective. Despite all this (and being born almost in Birmingham) I am a country girl at heart.  When I first arrived here, Bodrum was a village surrounded by smaller villages and hamlets, now Bodrum is heading for city status and all the coastal villages are towns.   The village way of life is still going strong, but is only found inland, away from the hotels and holiday villages and so is a mystery to the majority of Bodrum visitors.   Bodrum Kent Konseyi leader Hamdi Topçuoğlu wants to rectify this and last Saturday organised a "Village Fayre" in the centre of Bodrum inviting 19 local villages and one from Datça to showcase their wares. My neighbour Raşit was there with his baskets and wooden spoons and a basket of morel mushrooms picked from the forest behind our house.  The 20 villages produced varied displays of  carpets, kilims, crochet lace, soap, pasta, scarves, knitted bouquets of roses, bottles of olives and pickled vegetables,  honey, sweets, olive oil, goat's cheese, herbal teas, carob pods, pottery, bunches of lavender and wild asparagus and a camel. I wanted to stay for the folk dancing but Jake had a problem with the camel.  He's usually a well behaved dog and we can take him nearly everywhere with us but he has taken a dislike to camels.  He started barking which drew all the stray dogs to our side to join in so I thought it better, having taken a few photos, to beat a retreat.  After all, I'm lucky to be in a position to enjoy all these village activities in situ, I hope others were encouraged to go out and see what life, non-dependent on the tourist,  is like.

Basket making - From Bush to Basket

Friday, 14 March 2014

Women in Bodrum - The Oral History Group

Wedding photo 

As a nod toward International Women's Day on 8th March, an exhibition of photos opened in Bodrum to give a glimpse into the lives of women in the last century and this month's Oral History meeting concentrated on only the ladies' recollections.  I have to admit that I didn't enjoy this meeting as much as the one in Mumcular (Click here to read) as the audience seemed more intent on following their own conversations than listening to the speakers. I couldn't work out why they were being so disrespectful until I started to watch the chatterers and realised that they were fixated on the screen behind the speakers' heads which was showing a loop of photos from the exhibition, then the penny dropped. They were seeing photos of people they hadn't seen for decades and of course couldn't help themselves but give a running commentary.  Hopefully the organisers won't make this mistake next time. What I managed to hear of this week's talk did emphasise how cut off the villages around the Bodrum peninsula were in the 1950s and 60s.  There was only one jeep a day into Bodrum, the menfolk would often be employed as fishermen or sponge divers and would be away from home for weeks  so the woman in the villages had to be self reliant.  The local teacher was a much more important part of the village than they are now and would do much more than just teach the children. One retired teacher explained that she had been the only village first-aid post, learning how to treat scorpion bites with a razor blade and ammonia, bandage up damaged limbs and on one occasion reattach an ear!  One of her ex-students was in the audience and reminded her that she had also cut the children's hair.  In return there would be a steady supply of fresh eggs, butter, milk and vegetables to the teacher's living quarters. 

A retired bank employee who started her career in Bodrum in 1966, wistfully looked back at her days behind a desk where cash was kept in a drawer with no key and security wasn't an issue.

Another speaker only in her 60s told us that she's been engaged at 13, married at 14 and had her first child at 15, but that her husband was a good man and that she'd been blessed with a very happy life.
After the meeting I went and had a second look at the exhibition, some of the faces I recognised and wished I asked more questions when I first came to Bodrum.

The exhibition is at  Trafo, by the castle, for another week.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

To Stop or Not.

When I moved back to Bodrum after a 12 year break, I vowed to rise above petty annoyances and niggles and enjoy the Turkish weather, food and folk without getting upset about  behaviour I perceived to be illogical or antisocial.  Twenty-six months later, I think I can say that I've kept my promise to myself by turning my back on anything that would have wound me up in the past.  With one exception - the Bitez roundabout. It's been open for less than a year and I managed to avoid it for months but my daughter has just started a new job very close by and despite trying to ignore this confusing obstacle, I now have to negotiate it quite regularly.  It's been several decades since I took my driving test, but I'm sure that the sign above still means "give way", so I am confused and unnerved when, as I slow down to join the roundabout, every other car whizzes on by, pipping their horns at me as I prepare to stop to let the cars on the roundabout pursue their right of way.  I aways expect a mighty crash.  So is the law different here?  I went along to the Bodrum police station with the above photograph to find out.  The officer on the door was a bit confused why I wanted to know if I hadn't had an accident but had a look at my photo and said that he thought the sign meant slow down  and wait if another car is coming.   I agreed and asked why I was the only driver doing so.  He looked hard at me, raised his eyebrows slowly and slightly tipped his head to the right.  I understood that anymore questions would be futile and anyhow I had just realised that I was at the wrong police station and I really needed to ask the traffic police.  A weekend went by, during which time I found myself back on this roundabout just as the car, three in front of mine, smashed into another which should have stopped.  From the way the "guilty" driver rushed ranting to the "innocent" driver, it's obvious that the word "give way" is ambiguous here.  Yesterday I dropped in on the traffic police who were really friendly and helpful and confirmed that the law gives cars already circling roundabout the right of way.  They also voiced frustration that there is nothing they can do, except pick up the pieces when someone is injured (they do not come out to an accident  if there are no injuries) but suggested I write to the governor to ask for extra signs and a campaign to educate drivers.  One of the civilians in the police station said that roundabouts hadn't been covered when he took driving lessons and as he was extremely young, I  have to assume that goes for most of the driving population.
So if you've hired a car and are driving in Turkey for the first time, be aware that roundabouts need 100% concentration; be prepared for every eventuality and try and avoid everyone else.  It's a bit like the inverse of the dodgems at the fair.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Election Countdown

We are well into the last 4 weeks of campaigning for the local elections. There are two front runners to be the first mayor of the New Bodrum "Big" municipality - both current mayors of Bodrum  and Konacik. All the stops came out on Sunday with parties to celebrate the official openings of their election offices.  Holding the meetings at the same time forced the fence-sitters to choose to be seen at one or the other.

I hope Mehmet Tosun's photo standing in front of the windmills of my last post  suggests he is going to do something to keep them standing. 

Mehmet Kocadon's campaign is backed by before and after  photos of   how Bodrum has changed during the past 5 years 

Bodrum has certainly been spruced up along the seafront and I'm sure that another 5 years will see the sanitisation spread inland.  All the flower beds, marble pavements, outdoor gymnasiums and matching sunshades are fantastic but I do miss the haphazard tattiness of old Bodrum.  I'm feeling churlish even saying this, but the "touristic face" of Bodrum is beginning to resemble the inside of the many shopping malls that are proliferating in Turkey today.   For anyone else missing old times, click and watch the intro of "Leylekli Melek", filmed in Bodrum in 1978 - persevere a few minutes more for some superb 70's macho moustaches and medallioned, hairy chests. 

You Tube -Bodrum 1978 - Leylekli Melek

Photos c/o Eski Bodrum Facebook site

Thursday, 6 March 2014

New British Ambassador to Turkey

“Meet Ambassador Richard Moore

Our new Ambassador, Richard Moore, will be touring Turkey next week on official visits and would like to meet members of the resident British community at a series of meetings organised by our Consulates in Mugla Province.  This will be an opportunity to hear the Ambassador speak with a short question and answer session followed by tea and coffee with Richard, his wife Maggie and members of our consular teams.  Later, you will also have the chance to be updated on the latest issues affecting British nationals in Turkey by our consular staff.

You are cordially invited to the following meetings:

Tuesday 11th March  15.00-16.00   Ecesaray Hotel  Fethiye   
Wednesday 12th March  14.00-15.00   Grand Azur Hotel  Marmaris
Thursday 13th March  11.15-12.15   Marina Vista Hotel  Bodrum

Please note, whilst we will try to accommodate everyone, space may be limited at some venues.”
RSVP  or your local British Consulate Office. 

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Bodrum Windmills and the Wind of Change

There is a high, narrow peninsula dividing Bodrum town from neighbouring Gümbet. Its crest, crowned by a line of windmills, has long been a favoured dog walking, flower picking and romantic liaison spot for Bodrumites. It has an unrivalled view of the castle on one side and of the rapidly proliferating hotels and holiday flats on the other.  About 25 years ago there was a big fuss when a hotel (Club M) was built facing the Greek island of Kos on the end of the peninsula and now there is another fight brewing as a local family has started to build on land facing the castle.  Much has been written about the change in the degree of planning protection which has allowed this construction to go ahead and I won't add to this, but while everyone else is worrying about losing the view of the windmills to new construction, I'm hoping that someone will step in to restore the dignity of these "giants", all but one of which are crumbling, covered in graffiti and surrounded by broken glass. 

Gümbet                             Panoramic view from the first windmill                          Bodrum 

In 2012, there was talk of a municipality restoration project which involved cafes and walkways, but no mention since.  One owner of two of the windmills has had his redevelopment plan rejected  and I wonder how long these basic structures will remain upright.  Maybe this controversial development of expensive, single storey stone villas will have a silver lining and those buying into the "Bodrum dream house concept "  will feel obligated to have the rubble-strewn, windmill-topped land behind their luxury homes cleaned up for another generation to enjoy.  

The rear windmill has been saved from destruction

Club M to the left of the picture and the proposed houses in the middle.