Friday, 24 June 2016

Adversity is unavoidable, staying optimistic is optional.

It has not been a good day in the BacktoBodrum household.  In a home full of tennis and squash racquets where Nike reigned and we have the cups to prove it, (the latest only arriving on its shelf last September), the arrival of a wheel chair and walking frame is a humiliation and an insult to a life lived as healthily as possible. We held out against them but now welcome them with thanks as the only means of keeping going on our own for a bit longer. The day started badly for us, as I'm sure it did in 48% of UK homes, with the morning news.  This double whammy of bad karma had me searching through my picture gallery looking for something or anything to cheer myself up and I found it.

I took this picture on October 9th 2012 when bulldozers arrived beside our house and started digging up trees and opening up the forest.  We were newly arrived back from the UK and gossip was flying that we would be neighbours to a) blocks of flats b) a compound for a thousand stray dogs, c) an open prison and d) a helicopter landing pad.  Twenty years previously we had actively fought off an open-cast mine company but neither of us had the guts for another big campaign so we were resigned to take whatever came and decided we'd build a big wall and wear headphones,

And what happened.....

...this did. 

The Department of forestry built us a fire break and planted fire resistant fir trees,  which are almost a metre tall now,  interspersed with Oleander and a few fig and carob trees.  We are safer and have a better view.  I'm taking heart from this example; not giving in to negativity and holding on to hope. It might all come right in the end after all.  

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Bricks and Mortar ...or not.

'A little happy house is the strongest castle in the whole universe' 
Mehmet Murat Ildan 1965-
Turkish playwright/novelist

I don't see many stone built houses in villages any more; those I do find are usually abandoned like the one above. For the past 40 years, the preferred method of construction has been a reinforced concrete frame, filled in with a single layer of breeze block wall, good at not falling down during an earthquake and also good at letting damp through in the winter and the heat through in the summer - add the traditional flat roof and the winter rain will find its way in too. 

There are 6 houses under construction around our village now, a mini building boom, as that many homes haven't been built in the past 10 years but only 2 are using bricks and mortar, the other four are prefabricated.  

I remember visiting my great aunt in the early 1960s who lived in a 'prefab', and how the word was always whispered in a disparaging way even though as a child I found the strange shaped bungalow rather endearing, but 'prefab' seems to have now shaken off its shameful image and 'pre-built' houses are going up left, right and centre. 

Like my aunt's bungalow, these new prefabs have something of the children's toy house about them, but I'm reliably informed that they are well insulated, don't leak, and take less than a couple of months to complete. (My source was under the impression that I was a prospective buyer, so I welcome comments from anyone actually living in one.)

On my 6 km drive to the nearest town I counted 10 prefabs including the first 2 storey one to go up, each one in sufficient land to grow vegetables and fruit trees.  Not so pretty but a welcome sign that folk are coming to live on and work the soil,  especially as I have to sell our plot of land. Any takers? 

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Canine Cushions

Some of us match our cushions to our curtains and some of us have other ideas. 

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Choice Words

Turkish neighbours are usually very friendly, at least until they fall out with each other and swear vengeance, but even then they usually communicate by insult. Silence rarely reigns. When we started building our house in 1991, our nearest neighbour lived on the corner of the lane, a good 400 metres away and well out of sight from where we had chosen to build our house.  She was an old woman, wrinkled and weather beaten and long widowed, who would sit on her step and watch the world go by. I would greet her every time I passed on foot  and occasionally wave from the car and she would totally ignore me every single time.  I have continued to wish her good morning and good evening in the intervening two and a half decades but she has never once replied. I realIse that I may have looked strange to her,  a tallish blond  with funny foreign ways and a pampered pooch in the days when dogs had to work for their supper, and we had decided to build a house on what she obviously considered her side of the village, (her house being the only one on the left side of the road until we came along) but my neighbour, who is now next door but three, never let on to anyone why we had been sent to Coventry before we even moved in.  This evening, I walked past with the dog lead in one hand and a black bin bag in the other - the municipality has given us a rubbish collection service now and the bin is next to her house. My neighbour was on her step again, looking exactly the same as she did the first time I passed,  I smiled as usual and wished her good evening and shock, I got a good evening back!  I almost did a comical double take but she was still talking. "Is your husband dead?" she asked, "when did he die?"  No, he's at home, I replied. He's watching the football .   "I heard he died" she insisted. "No, no" I countered, lost for anything to add to this exchange and carried on to the bin.  As I passed her on the return, she wished me a good evening and I threw back "Are these the words I've waited 25 f***ing years for?  Of course that was only what was on my mind, my  lips just mouthed "Same to you". 
I've lived here long enough to know that tact is not a common Turkish characteristic. Did she finally decide that we had had something in common after all this time and communication could begin? As conversations go, I don't think it was worth waiting 25 years for. 

Monday, 6 June 2016

Appreciating Pines

It's quite hard to appreciate pine trees if you live with them.  Pines are pushy. They never let you forget they are there.  For a start they drop needles; which other tree's leaves are so pointed and intrusive that they push through socks, slippers, flipflops and hardened soles to dig into flesh. When I say 'drop' I mean chuck down kilos at a time.  I have just raked our terrace and filled and wheeled away 12 barrow loads of pine needles and there is still about the same amount left, hiding cunningly amongst the stones so I can't get them without taking all the pebbles off the surface.  Pines are also amazingly fecund. I come back to our village house after a few winter months and the terrace is filled with baby pine trees which have to be pulled up one by one if we are not to be engulfed triffid-style in a few years. In April, pines also blow out yellow pollen which turns to an oleaginous sludge when mixed with water and makes the garden look as if a phantom yellow paint splasher has been at work. I now know that this pollen is a miracle panacea should you be a gentleman a little short of testosterone, but I'm not, so I just get annoyed at the mess.  And as a final coup, if your garden is shaded by pines, you can forget growing anything else. A couple of years of pine needles will stunt the hardiest rose. 


There is only one way to appreciate a stately pine - lie directly underneath, preferably on a well cushioned lounger, not on the pine needle studded gravel and look up at the morning sun filtering through the highest branches and listen. As the sun warms the tree, each pine cone opens at its own pace with a muted crack - it's the sound of the tree waking up. And being the Aegean, as the day warms, the breeze rouses itself and swooshes through the branches reminding the cicadas that it's time to accompany the pine cone orchestra.
I forgive pine trees all their bad manners as long as I have my hearing but the moment I'm as deaf as a post, those pines will be off to the garden post factory.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Giant caterpillar

This meaty fellow fell into the pool today. We watched him slither in and pulled him out immediately but he had time to pose for a photo before he was sent back to the garden.  He is a quite beautiful, more like a moving cactus.  Does anyone know what he is? 

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Ancient Harbours


On Friday I went to a talk by Dr. Oktay Dumankaya, an archaeologist concentrating on ancient harbours, a branch of the study that doesn't get much attention.  Underwater archaeology tends to publicise sensational finds of wrecks and their contents without telling us where these ships moored and how they were watered and provisioned.  Dr Dumankaysa's research focuses mostly on breakwaters, the remains of which tell us how land and sea levels have changed over the centuries, which harbours had chained entrances and whether the harbours were busy in Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine or all four periods.  It is accepted that an ancient 'wave breaker' as breakwaters are called in Turkish, was at least 2 meters high as they acted as a continuation of the city walls to protect harbours from intruders; remains of the Gümüşlük breakwater are still visible (above). Imagine a 2 meter wall rising from the sea between the plant and the island in the picture below and as dusk fell a chain would be raised at the harbour entrance to the right, making the port of Gümüşlük (Myndos) completely secure.

The breakwater on Çavuş Island, opposite Gümüşlük, is now 12 meters below sea level which suggests a sea level change of 14 meters over the centuries.  Historical sources tell us that there were 500 earthquakes between 500BC and 500AD which explains why some harbours have sunk and some haven't.  Many ancient breakwaters have been lost for mundane reasons.  Skippers using a sustantial stone to tie up their yachts may have not realised that they were gradually tugging a 2000 year old relic into the sea.  Dr Dumankaya has witnessed ancient submerged quaysides being dug up by hotel staff to save their customers toes or to embellish a garden wall and until all these harbours are given protected status, there is nothing to stop this happening.