Thursday, 31 March 2016

No, No, No.

Here am I, producing a blog that sings the praises (mostly) of our beautiful town and what happens?


What can I say.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Jakes's Progress




Euromos theatre
Having friends to stay is always a pleasure, especially ones that reconnect me to my lost iPhoto files (Thank you Simon). It is also good excuse to get out and about and revisit nearby sites. Jake is always up for a trip to some old stones and I like to think he's becoming  a canine authority on the differences between Hellenic and Roman theatres and the transition from Lelegian hilltop fortifications to Carian towns.  He certainly appreciates drinking rainwater from a 2,500 year old bowl and in the last picture he is contemplating the natural state of the unexcavated  theatre at Euromos and wondering whether he'll still be around when the rest of the cavea is uncovered.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Mehmet Sönmez 1944-1998 Bodrum Blue

For many Turks who live in big city apartment blocks, Bodrum is a Shangri-La: a fantasy of blue sea, white-washed sugar cube houses and tumbling magenta bougainvillaea.  Artist Mehmet Sönmez should probably be held responsible for 90% of these fantasies.  He moved to Bodrum in the 1970s and his paintings of the town were turned into postcards which circulated the globe for 2 decades.

Copies of some of his most famous works can be seen in Oasis Shopping Mall until 16th April.  The opening of the exhibition yesterday, was like a flash back to Mehmet's favourite bar, the Hadi Gari, all of us 35 years older (but I have to say everyone still looking good).  Mehmet would have easily recognised us all although no one would have called him Mehmet, he went by his nick-name 'Asker' (soldier).

This vision of Bodrum still exists if you look in the right places but it's rapidly being overwhelmed by insensitive development.

In the last few years of his life Mehmet was not happy with the way Bodrum was developing and produced a series of paintings called "Critical Bodrum" which I haven't been able to find on the internet.  I heard lots of stories last night about how Bodrum was so wonderful 30 years ago, and I feel very privileged to have lived in Bodrum before it expanded but it's worth remembering that in this Utopian past, Dursan's bicycle, shown in the pictures above, was stolen 3 times and recovered before it was nicked for good. Bodrum is still a great place to live and we still need to lock up our bikes.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Wisteria - A scent from the past

Troubled times in Turkey coupled with an elderly Mac desktop that has not only eaten my photographs and won't cough them up but also appears to have not been communicating with my posh, expensive back-up system for a while, have forced me into a blogging quiet patch.  So today I'm concentrating on immediate pleasures that can be captured with an iPad, and a glance back to 3 years ago when we all had less to worry about.  I'm not usually an envious person but I have always wanted a wisteria plant and would cast covetous glances at the masses of purple blooms that cascade over houses and fences on my daily walks.  I was under the impression that wisteria took years to grow and always cursed my lack of forethought at not planting one when I first moved to Bodrum. Two years ago I bought a small wisteria in a pot and planted it behind our house in Bodrum, not expecting to see any flowers for years.  I'm not green fingered so can claim no part in producing the profusion of flowers that hang over our garden wall today, but it's a joy to sit and look up at the tumbling lilac flowers. It almost gives me the courage to have another go at sweet peas. 

Friday 12th April 2013

It's heating up in Bodrum and my daily walks are getting warmer and warmer.  As summer approaches, the late Spring scents are particularly strong in the morning and as I head down to the harbour, there is one particular aroma that sends my thoughts tumbling back to the 1970s.  I pass an untended mandarin garden that is in full flower but its negligent owner has not bothered to collect all the fruit so there is a heady scent of blossom with an underlying hint of overripe citrus. It's a dead ringer for Aqua Manda, the ubiquitous whiff of my early teenage years.  If I close my eyes, I'm 14 years old, in a Laura Ashley flowing dress with massive puff sleeves and a multitude of tiny buttons, trying to emulate a medieval damsel or Babs from  Pan's People. 

On the way back home I pass this fence full of wisteria which is another blast from the past as I was also a fan of Mary Quant's Wistaria perfume oil.  I must have been older when I wore this as I had to take the train to London  to stock up; Rugby being too provincial to sell Mary Quant.
My sense of smell seems to evoke much stronger memories than sight or sound and whip up a more intense feeling of nostalgia.  I'd love to hear about the aromas that take you back to your youth.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Mixed Messages

What a mixed up, contradictory country I live in. 

A giant billboard erected by the Forestry commission telling us that blue and green make Bodrum beautiful.  Across the bay three hotels in various stages of completion on land that locals were promised would not be built on.  

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

In the Army Now

A guest post from my daughter Esi. 

We moved to the UK when Esi was 8 so she only spent 3 years in Turkish Schools. While in England, she lost the patriotism that is drummed into Turkish kids but last week, on a visit to see army recruits at their passing out parade, she reconnected with her innate Turkish pride.

A full month after my prospective brother-in-law was conscripted into the army we got the chance to see him. We woke up at 7.15am, packed our bags and left for Manisa Kırklağaç.
The road from Bodrum was so quiet and peaceful, not a sound of a car horn or modified exhausted to be heard. I was hopeful for a wonderful drive up to Aydın to pick up my fiance Celal's parents. We stopped on the way for some lentil soup and salad for breakfast (sad to say I am currently on a new diet that doesn't allow me to have dairy or eggs... so no cheese or a hard boiled egg for me!) By the time we arrived at Çine, we were greeted by Celal's parents and there was a rush to get everything packed in the back of the car. They insisted we take supplies to people who wanted them, so the back of the car was full of olive oil, vegetables and village eggs. Great, I thought to myself, we have now started a farm delivery service... Sadly the silence of Bodrum seemed far behind us as we hit traffic towards Aydın. The plans changed again when it was decided to see my brother-in-law's wife. Anyway after seeing her we set off towards Izmir. Even though we are in the car, looking out onto the greens and newly blossomed almond and peach trees, I couldn’t help but think how beautiful Turkey is the further North we went once away from the cities. Celal’s parents and I were singing along to some Turkish songs and enjoying the view and talking about what happens in the army and listening to Celal and his father sharing their army stories was magical. They both had very different experiences, same scenery but different jobs. Celal's dad was on foot and Celal was in tanks. Listening to Celal really made me realise that the army was not always a proud memory for men. As much as he loved the friends he made he also had bad experiences that not a lot of men feel comfortable speaking about. 
As we arrived at Manisa we decided we had time to go see where my brother-in-law was and visit him for some dinner. As we parked the car I almost burst with excitment. This was my first time walking into an Army camp. Sadly for Celal, it brought back some bad memories and it took him a long time to walk to the entrance squeezing my hand so tight I thought my fingers were going to break.
Walking into the army block I heard men shouting. I couldn’t hear what they were saying but it sounded something like a commander saying "we are" and the soldiers saying "yes commander" I felt butterflies in my stomach. We waited in the visitors lounge for my brother -in-law to come through the door. Normally I do not gawk at people but I could not help myself but watch the soldiers march past. I saw my brother-in-law walking past with a gun, marching with dignity and a cheeky smile to say hey I see you.
After taking the guns back he ran over to us and gave us all hugs (apart from his dad who is like a plank when it comes to affection) We all sat down and he told us stories of who is who and what the commander had told him about assignments and training. Rain, wind or sun they had to wake up at 3am and gather around to hear what they were doing that day. It was amazing to see so many 20 year olds in one place. Some short, some tall, some chunky and some skinny, a few with glasses. As time went on we met some of my brother-in-law's friends and said hello to their families and slowly slowly people became one. I, on the other hand, felt like an outsider as people knew exactly what was going on in the army and I had no idea. My father did army service and so did my cousin and uncle but I do not hear any stories about their past experiences so I had no clue.
After a wonderful nights sleep in a nearby hotel, we all went to the army camp for my brother-in-law's 20 Tören (swearing on the gun). Thousands and thousands of people were arriving and I was shocked. We had to walk about for 1 hour from where we could leave the car up the hills of Manisa Kırkağaç to get to the army camp. I was horrified. In the pouring rain we all got SOAKED! We finally arrived and took our seats right at the back. We waited about half an hour for the soldiers to come out but it was well worth the wait. In this particular army there were 15 sections. I didn't know how many soldiers would be in these sections. 1 came out... 2 came out...and already up to 200/300 soldiers had arrived. The march went on and on and on and all I could feel was my heart pumping, hearing their feet stamp on the ground and lots of shouting. People were clapping, mothers were crying, wives were screaming out their husbands' names. It was very emotional. 
We saw my brother-in-law. He was in the 12th section, 3 rows back, first on the right. I recognised him straight away because sadly his ears gave him away... The march went on for a good 45 minutes before the senior soldiers came out dressed in their very handsome uniform, cap and gun tucked under the arm with a sash full of badges. The tallest of the tall Celal whispered in my ear thinking I would know who these professional soldiers were. After the fancy soldiers came out the national anthem began. Soldiers shouting so loudly I could barely hear the sound track. At this point almost half of the people standing in the audience were crying with hands on their hearts and the other half taking videos on their phone or ipads. After the national anthem, row by row soldiers stepped up to put one arm by the gun and the other on their partner's shoulder/hip (depending on how tall they were) and say "Önce Vatan, Her Zaman, Her Yerde" meaning "First Country, All the Time, Everywhere". This took up to an hour as there were so many people. Celal then told me that there was at least 2000 people in this section, maybe more.
Then BANG BANG BANG! At the top of the towers, 3 soldiers with guns, all at once fired into the air. I can safely say in the future if I go to another one of these ceremonies I will have to wear a diaper. But the rush was fantastic. After the guns went off it was the end of the parade and soldiers went back to their quarters to get changed to go home to family for 2 days. Then Monday will be the day that they get assigned to their new units
I know it's a long story but I can honestly say there was nothing like being a part of my brother-in-law's laws journey to manhood. I am proud to be a Turk (and English). We are strong. People think Turkey is a horrible place at the moment due to what's happening on the borders, but after this trip I have faith in my country.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

George Bean

I’ve been sorting my bookshelves and came across my George Bean guide books.  In the 1980s and 90s, these volumes were my constant travelling companions. In the age before the Wikipedia and Google Maps, George Bean guaranteed that I found my way to almost every archaeological site on the Aegean and Mediterranean  coasts because he had walked, driven or ridden there himself.  In the early 80s, turning up with a copy of “Turkey Beyond the Maeander” under an arm would be the signal for elderly gentlemen seated in the kahves to make that universally accepted Turkish hand-flapping gesture meaning “come hither”  and  recount how George,  Uzun Boylu,  The Tall One (he was over 6ft 5 tall) had stayed in the village and how Ahmet, Mehmet or Ali had taken him up to the Kale on the hill and this was cue for every one else to  join in the conversation emphasising how polite he was.  His wife Jane tells a story illuminating George’s innate niceness;  They were staying as guests in a village house and a goat stew was brought out. Jane and their other travelling companion were unable to even take a mouthful of the stew; it was so rank, but George unwilling to offend his hosts who in true village fashion were putting them up for 3 days and refusing to accept any payment, ate 3 portions.  He spent the whole night outside in the privy and was unable to visit the local worthies the next day.
George Bean was a teacher of Ancient Greek at St Paul's in London before he was sent to Izmir by the British Council in 1944.  He was seconded to Istanbul University and was head of the Classics Department. He travelled widely and as a fluent speaker of Turkish was able to question villagers and discover and map hundreds of ancient sites that other foreign scholars had not been able to find.  His great frame did not suit him to travelling in Turkey, bus seats and beds were always too small and his travelling companion J.M. Cook writes that the luggage space at the back of local buses was the only place George would fit.  But in his good natured way, he took everything in his stride and being a natural sportsman, once reaching the 3rd round in the doubles at Wimbledon and captaining Surrey at badminton, he was fit enough to walk where local transport didn’t exist.  Once sleeping on a village roof, he forget where he was and getting up in the night to visit the outhouse, stepped straight off the edge and buckled his knee.  The next day he had to be carried down a steep hill by a strong village youth.  

George’s last travels in Turkey were in 1977 and his last volume was published a year after his death.  His books are still of great use to travellers and I’m sure there are still a few who would welcome the opportunity to remember  “Uzun Boylu” over a glass of tea.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016


A walk along a beach on the Southern shores of the Bodrum peninsula is a thought provoking activity these days. We no longer see refugees in Bodrum but their presence is revealed by the shoes, clothing and rubber dinghies washed up on a few beaches. I don't know when these marble sculptures were placed on the sand but they are extremely unsettling as they face Europe, just a few miles away. Boats made of marble and looking like stone coffins.

I was in Greece recently and was upset to hear educated Athenians hold forth on how the Turks are herding refugees into boats to be rid of them.  All the time I listened I was mentally battling the urge to put them straight and thus declare my Turkish allegiance. When I heard for the fifth time that Turks were doing nothing to stem the flow and just wanted the EU money, I threw in the towel and gave them the facts. Road blocks are active all the time to stop refugees reaching the coast. The Coastguard boats are out every night and bring back 100s of men women and children every week. In Bodrum alone sometimes 300 are brought back in one night and every one is then seen by the local police and a doctor.  Local captains have formed their own association to patrol the coast and rescue those in danger. The cost of this is borne locally. Human rights lawyers hand out pamphlets telling the Syrian refugees what they are entitled to in Turkey (free health care, free pharmaceuticals, free education and Turkish lessons as long as they register in a designated municipality) and give out telephone numbers where help can be found.  Local volunteers provide dry clothes, food, sanitary goods and toys but despite this the majority of families still risk the crossing because hope lives in Europe not in a Turkish refugee camp.  Some try again and again despite nearly drowning on a previous trip. And the EU hasn't handed over the money.

When I got back to Turkey I saw this cartoon on Facebook, shared by a Greek speaking acquaintance, copied I assume from a Greek magazine.  It came with no text but speaks for itself.

It seems that this disaster is becoming an exercise in shifting the blame while those that sell the weapons and create the power vacuums are sitting safe and sound.

Bodrum Humanity Association  Offering help to all those in need in the Bodrum area.