Monday, 16 July 2018

Sweden today


When it has been so hot and dry for so long that the earth is like dust.  We have just had exceptionally large price hikes in potatoes and a onions in Turkey; I suspect the 'cheap' potato  that will be planted here tomorrow will need a lot of rationed water to produce a crop this Autumn if it doesn't rain soon. 

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Out in the sticks

I've been away in Sweden for the past two weeks, staying on a fledgling vineyard. Internet has been intermittent and most hours of the day filled with commitments so my poor BacktoBodrum blog has been ignored. The weather in Sweden is quite incredible; it's been hot and sunny since May which means that the trees are full of ripe cherries - a first in the 6 years I've been visiting, but the Bjare peninsula is suffering from severe drought. An s.o.s message went out last week to all mobile phones warning that the usually pure tap water is now unsafe to drink and should be boiled.  

I had no idea Swedish wine existed but now I've tasted one of the first bottles produced from these young vines, I will look out for it.  It's delicious. 

Saturday, 30 June 2018

The sun rises . The sun sets and we all die.

We are pretty good at accepting the first two but will do anything to avoid confronting the third. 

Two years ago today, the sun set on my life as a wife and rose the next day on Annie, the widow. Knowing it was going to happen - I'd had a couple of weeks to get my head around the inevitability of it - didn't help and  I have to be honest and say that the twenty four months since haven't soothed the pain either.  The so called five stages of grief appear to be a handy box to compartmentalise feelings that have no intention of easing into gradual acceptance. When your loved one dies, they take a lot of you with them   but the gap is filled with their own image/spirit/essence . Teo is rarely out of my thoughts. When he was alive I'm sure I could go for days without him entering my head. Now I feel as if half of my brain has been diverted and the efficient, reliable manager of pre-July 2016 is now a liability. It is like surviving a terrible car crash that leaves horrendous internal injuries that no one else can see but you feel the wounds every hour of the day and can't concentrate on anything. 

I was looking for a nice photo to put on Facebook to mark the second anniversary of Teo's death and scanning through the snaps made me realise that we had lots of different interests and spent plenty of time apart.  He was happiest thrashing a ball around a court,  I preferred lazing on a yacht with friends. Most of the photographs of us together are taken when we are doing nothing much.  Walking the dog, sitting in the garden, tackling the daily crossword and no matter how busy the bereaved keep themselves, the sad reality is that we have no one to do nothing with.  (Or should that be ' we have no one with whom to do nothing '- Teo would have known, his grammar was much better than mine) 

If you are annoyed with your spouse because they are doing nothing - go and give them a big hug and do some nothingness together.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Bougainvillea instead of BacktoBodrum

I'm not the only person who has had problems with their blogger account this month.  I haven't been able to persuade the ghost in the machine that I am really 'BacktoBodrum'.  While in Greece, it refused to accept my password - the one I have always used since the beginning yet when I try to change it and the use my current password it says  -'You have recently used this password please try another' so it knows who I am really, it's just playing silly games. I am now signed in with my gmail account on my desk top so know I will have problems again when I try to access the account on my iPad.

To mess up a common saying - a rest is as good as a change so I may be resting for a while longer rather than change the name of the blog.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Peppers on paper. Peppers on the plate.

I'm still in Hydra, glad to be out of the crazy Bodrum Bayram traffic, with plenty of time on my hands.  Luckily I packed my travel watecolour set so I've been able to make use of my free time to add to my collection of cards. Peppers are abundant at this time of the year and every day has found a plump specimen posing in the late afternoon light.

 Proud pepper

 Falling peppers

Reclining peppers

I'm beginning to see human characteristics in each member of the Capsicum family that I paint so it probably about time I return home to human friends and family and abandoned this solitary 'One woman and her dog'  island life. 
Having made friends with my 'sitters' it seems cruel to eat them, but they are the basis for so many delicious Aegean dishes. 

(The yellow pepper at the top is my 'Shy Pepper')
Red Pepper and Walnut Meze 
4 large red peppers (Bell or long)
1 bulb of garlic
1 cup walnuts
1 red onion
1 tsp chili pepper flakes 
1 tblsp pepper paste (optional) 
1 glug of olive oil

Heat the oven to 190 degrees C
Cut the peppers in halve and remove seeds, peel and cut the onion in quarters. Remove as much papery skin as possible from whole garlic bulb and cut off the top so the tips of the cloves are showing. Lightly oil a baking tray and put all the veg on it in the oven for 30 minutes.  Check after 20 minutes to make sure everything is softening without burning. 
Remove tray from oven and cover with a tea towel and allow to cool completely. 
Dry fry the walnuts over a low heat until they start to release a little oil but don't let them burn. 
Remove the skin from the peppers - it will come off easily once cooled under cover. 
Put the walnuts, peppers, onion and a glug of oil into a blender and mix to a chunky paste.
Squeeze the body of the garlic to extrude the aromatic roast garlic paste and add to the mix. 
Add salt and pepper to taste, pepper paste if you have it (I couldn't find it on the island) and a few chili flakes. Mix again and taste.  I add a tsp of chili but you may prefer just a pinch. 
Serve as part of a meze drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice,  piled on top of a baked potato, as a pasta sauce or as a dip with drinks.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Monumental Lentil

It is not unnatural to hope that our children will follow in our footsteps, enjoy the things we enjoy and learn from all those days out when we dragged them around art galleries and local monuments.  It's not unnatural to hope but it's highly unlikely to happen. My daughter had clocked up more archaeological sites by the age of 10 than most people see in two lifetimes - has she voluntarily visited any as an adult? Not to my knowledge.  However something must have rubbed off in the 19 years we spent living in the same house because she is turning into a very good cook, with a flare for presentation that is probably learnt from the pages of Instagram and Pinterest  rather than the home kitchen.
She is cooking up tasty, thrifty meals that taste as good as they look.

I've christened this one 'Esi's Monumental Lentil'  in the hope that she might be reminded of all the wonderful ancient sites around Bodrum when she cooks it next.

1 cup red lentils
3 cups water
1 ½ cup of fine bulgur
1 onion
1 tbsp Tomato paste
2 cloves of garlic
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes

Extras – lettuce and lemon to serve, parsley and fresh green onion.

Place the lentils and water into a pan and cook them till soft.
Turn off the heat and add the bulgur to the lentils and mix, put the lid of the pan back on and let it sit for half an hour.
While waiting on the bulgur lentil mixture, you can start on the second half by sauteing one onion and the garlic together in a tablespoon of olive oil.
Once onions and garlic have softened,  add the tbsp of tomato paste into the mixture and stir till the tomato paste has covered the onions and garlic then turn off the heat so as to not burn it.
Check on your bulgur and lentil mixture to see if the bulgur has absorbed the water and become soft, if not add a small amount of boiling water and wait a bit longer.
Once everything has cooled down add both mixtures together, then add in the red pepper flakes, cumin, salt and pepper together and mix with hands squeezing it through the fingers to create a smooth paste.
At this point you may want to add in some fresh parsley and green onions to the mixture for taste.
Once mixed to a paste you can then roll it in your hands and mold until you get a small sausage shape; pile up on a plate and serve with lettuce and lemons, some tzadzikki/cacik and steamed greens. 

Monday, 11 June 2018

Hydra - Noon

After the tranquil photos of Hydra's mornings and evenings - this is what the harbour looks like mid-day. If you are planning a visit, make sure it includes at least one overnight stop or else you will find yourself part of the day tripper crowds that mill around for a couple of hours asking the price of everything, buying very little and taking photos of themselves rather than the stunning scenery. 

Monday, 4 June 2018

A New Life for a British Bike in Bodrum

Teo's bike in it's new home at The Su Hotel Bodrum

In 1981, my late husband Teo was living at the end of the King's Road in London, frequenting the World's End Pub and commuting to the City on his newly purchased Holdsworth Bike. We hadn't yet met, but I too visited that pub quite a lot on my trips to London.  When he decided to move back to Turkey the next year, he was allowed a tax-free  consignment of household goods.  Not having any such things in his newly divorced state - he headed off to Peter Jones at the other end of the road and bought a container load of white goods to make sure that his prized bike made it's duty-free way to Bodrum.  I think I noticed the bike before I noticed the tall, good looking man atop it. It was a one-off in the tiny town that was 1982 Bodrum. 
He carried on riding this bike for the next 34 years. After he died, I put it in the shed where it stayed for a year - not unloved but unrideable for anyone under 6ft 3.  
A Facebook university friend George was keen to take on its restoration but transporting the bike back to the UK was problematical. Then Zafer Küstü, patron of The Su Hotel in Bodrum took on the challenge and the bike was about to get a makeover. 
Holdsworth Bikes were painted according to their year of manufacture and 1981 was Ice Blue Metallic.  Zafer persuaded a paint shop to match the colour exactly and found an internet source for the original Holdsworth transfers which had long ago faded and were about to be painted over.  All the gearing on the bike was made in Italy and by a strange quirk of fate, there is a collector of Italian vintage bike parts living 15kms from Bodrum in Turgutreis.  Another lucky coincidence finds two UK vintage bike specialists who holiday in Torba, 10 kms the other side of Bodrum. They gave the newly renovated bike a once over and corrected any mistakes.  And finally, just to prove that the bicycle is where it is meant to be, Zafer and his wife Christine have a tall, good looking son Barış, who makes this bike look worthy of its name, its first owner and its kind restorer.

Photos coutesy of Zafer Küstü. 

Thursday, 31 May 2018

End of May

There are 3 hours left of May and I am feeling very guilty for abandoning my blog.  It has been a busy month, which has grazed 4 countries; spending too little time in each.  It has however been a very productive month - My small Bodrum town house feels much bigger - and so it should - it now has an extra bathroom and an impressive sun room, neither of which were even an idea on the 1st of May.

These are the builder's photos, I didn't have chance to take any. Furnishings will have to wait until September but with the backdrop of light blue plumbago, fragrant melissa, orange bougainvillea  and multi coloured lantana, it's going to be a joy to relax in whatever I choose.

Jake had 6 days to enjoy the new room and for him it was a revelation. He can monitor the activities of the local cats without having to risk their sharp claws. 

My 10 days in Sweden were also quite fruitful.  Apart from the job I was paid to do, I managed to try out a new water colour style and paint a few cards. I was very grateful for the full length blinds in my room - they were ideal for hanging my work.

And now we are back in Greece.  Ferries are not Jake's favourite mode of transport and we had to take 3, but he was so good  that complete strangers came up to us to compliment him on his behaviour. 

On board - on the way to Kos.

Although as I write this he is barking fit to bust at the three mules braying outside our studio. Time to go and quiet the affray before we make ourselves unpopular.

Friday, 18 May 2018

A question for semanticists

I've been speaking the Turkish language in one form or another for over 35 years but there are times when I'm stumped.   This sign went up outside the football pitch. I understand what it means and would translate it as 'Even if monkeys fall from trees, Bodrumspor won't go down' or 'Whatever happens, Bodrumspor will not be relegated', but I have no idea how the last three words make sense of this meaning. It literally says 'Monkey falls from tree,  Bodrumspor falls to father.'  It shows that the meaning of speech is not just derived from the meaning of individual words all put together but I'd love someone to explain the derivation of this saying.

(It celebrates Bodrumspor, the town football team, saving itself in the last game of the season from being relegated back to the third division, after its disappointing first season in the second. The women's handball and basketball teams did much better - both coming top of their divisions.)

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Yum or Yuk

It shouldn't work but it does.  Smoked fish flavour salty licorice.  Don't worry friends. If I've promised to bring you back licorice, I'll stick to the traditional slightly sweet versions but I'm putting a few bags of these in my suitcase.  

Sunday, 13 May 2018


I like a deadline. I get very little done without one. The closer the better - luckily I found a building team with a similar outlook.  Last week I decided to turn a small downstairs loo and corridor into a bathroom. Uğur (first on the left in the picture) came to measure up. I only had ten days in Bodrum so the work would have to be finished by Saturday 12th May, that gave him 9 days to knock down walls, rebuild, plaster, lower the floor, change the electrics and plumbing, tile walls and floor and put in a door and window and plumb in the new fittings including a radiator.   He didn't bat an eyelid - no problem. So we started and it looked like we were going to be finished with a day spare when the plumber said he'd seen a car he wanted to buy and he was just going to get it - no problem again we thought - but the car was in Hatay. Route planner tells me that this is a mere 1,121 kms from Bodrum, so he was gone for a while - until about 7pm on Saturday which was why my planned early night on Saturday (I had to catch the airport bus at 3:45am on Sunday morning) didn't happen but my bathroom was finished by the Saturday deadline.  This is the team photo at 10:50pm when the job was declared done. On time (just),  on budget and high quality. ( They also filled in the cracks in the living room and kitchen caused by the earthquake and replastered and repainted  a couple of damp patches, and  pruned two of my trees for me as a favour) . They managed this while building the sun room on the front terrace and knocking out my front door and making a bigger one.
This is a telephone number I'm keeping and will happily and confidently pass on to anyone with refurbishment plans in or near Bodrum.

Friday, 11 May 2018

A discombobulated dog

Pastel drawing by T Onursan

The dog is confused. For as long as he can remember, he has started and finished his daily walks through the back door. His lead hangs on the coat rack next to this door. It is one of the certainties of his life. Now his owner has opened the house to builders and apart from all the activity on the front terrace, she has had the downstairs loo wall knocked down and the backdoor bricked up.  Being Turkey, having builders in the house is an excuse for every neighbour to turn up to inspect the work and throw their opinions into the general mess and confuse the dog even more - Why are there so many unknown people in the house?   Jake's back door is now part of a shower room but this is hard for a canine brain to compute so he is still looking for the exit. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

BacktoBodrum Building

Bye bye beautiful Bouganvillea

The Turkish Lira is in decline, who knows how much value it will lose this year. Despite being offered a mind-boggling 38% a year interest by my bank (as long as I kept the TL invested for 3 years), I will put my faith in bricks and mortar and invest in my Bodrum house.  Last year I glassed in a balcony and spent many happy winter days sitting in 25 degree C heat while my living room was under 15 degrees, so a sun room on the front of the house seems a good idea.  I've been considering it for a while but one thing held me back - I didn't want to cut down the magnificent bougainvillea that has been growing for 27 years and had become a self supporting tree.  But I got over it and 4 days ago, work on the extension started. Builders Uğur and Onur wielded the saw and braved the spikes to take down the prickly monster and found that there was one branch very close to the soil which could be left and would allow my bougainvillea to grow again.  They were very keen to make sure it doesn't get too tall though as it will block the new-to-Turkey internal roof drainage system of which they are so proud.
Uğur and Onur are under there somewhere

Day 1

Day 2 Ahmet finishes the roof despite getting sunstroke on day 1

Friday, 4 May 2018

Greek sunshine on a grey London day

Paddy Leigh Fermor on a boat with a goat

While I was in London for Özlem's Book Launch I scheduled my visit to the 'Charmed Lives in Greece at the British Museum to coincide with a talk by Sir Michael Llewellyn Smith - British Ambassador to Greece 1996 to1999 - on Patrick Leigh Fermor; one of those characters who seemed to fit in enough deeds of derring-do to fill 4 lifetimes as well as leaving behind a literary legacy that will keep future generations entertained for centuries. 

Hotel by the Sea  John Craxton 

It was a cold, wet day outside but once through the doors of Exhibition Room 5, the Greek sun shone out brightly through the canvasses of John Craxton and Nikos Hadjikyriakos Ghika and warmed us up a treat.  I'm lucky to live on a sun-blessed peninsula, but if I were ever to move back to the UK, I would need a few of these pictures on my walls to keep up my spirits.

I love 'Reclining figure with Asphodels' but it did remind me that I no longer have any of these stately flowers in my garden since my neighbour dug up all the bulbs.  

I couldn't resist the book that accompanies the exhibition and carried it back on easyJet in my hand luggage, alongside 3 volumes of Özlem's cookery book. The chap sitting next to me kindly offered to lift my smallish case down from the overhead locker. It was only when I noticed his pained expression that I remembered its weighty contents.  I hope I didn't ruin his holiday. 

Sunday, 29 April 2018

A Cookery Dream

Özlem Warren's Blog  has been my go-to destination for recipe checking and inspiration for several years now.  I joined the chorus of her many friends urging her to put all her recipes in one place and write a book.  She has gone further than this and produced a cookery memoir that paints an aromatic picture of what it is like to grow up in a Turkish household that appreciates its Eastern Mediterranean culinary heritage. Özlem has written a book that is so lovely to look at that my copy will be kept on the coffee table, not on the kitchen shelf. 

Book Launch in Vout-O-Reenee's

Congratulations to Özlem for creating a work of art - on the page this time rather than on a plate, and to have sold over 700 hardback copies before the book has hit the bookshops, shows how many fans she has around the world.  

Three blogger-cooks finally get together. Joy , Özlem , and BacktoBodrum

Özlem is on her way to Turkey this week end for book signing events in Istanbul, Izmir and Fethiye. Details here.  We are looking forward to seeing her in Bodrum in September.