Seventh Heaven

I feel like the Buddha looks – smugly  happy, eyes half closed and with a nicely rounded belly that has followed a day of great expectation! That doesn’t read correctly, but you’ll get my drift.

It started with our very nice fishmonger at Ortaca veg market. After he’d safely pocketed the price of our çupra (sea bream), he went all conspiratorial on us. ‘Look, lady – taze karides (fresh shrimps/prawns), çok güzel!’ So we broke the first rule of survival in the commercial jungle and looked. Then we broke the second rule by agreeing with his pitch. And that was all he needed to start picking out the biggest and juiciest and arranging them under our noses on one of those styrofoam trays. ‘Not a kilo, a kilo is too expensive’, he said with his finest, unshaven smile. We ended up with 700 grams and considered we’d got away with a real bargain!

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in goes the garlic

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lightly pepper-flaked

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Yorkshire Prawn Cocktail

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sorry about the blur, I was all of a tremble!

I don’t know how you like your prawns, but J and I enjoy them with shells on, cooked in olive oil with loads of garlic and sprinkled with chilli flakes, a splash of lemon juice (and salt and pepper to taste, of course). We serve them from the pan with chunks of bread to soak up the juices . . Heaven! Or, as our one Buddhist friend would say, ‘Seventh Heaven!’

So, there you have it – Bof’s first ever ‘foodie’ blog post. Now for a glass of rakı and a couple of episodes of ‘Dad’s Army’ my just rewards for J’s hard work!

Alan Fenn, very contented in front of the fire.

Down The Rabbit Hole 2.0

Following the last posting and all the ‘Go on, tell us where it is’ and ‘Ah, ya will, ya will, ya will!’ via comments, pm and emails, here’s a few more shots of the bolt-hole taken at sunset, in the meadows and during the depths of winter. No give-away captions, I’ll leave you to work out which is which!

(salvaged from ‘Archers of Okçular November 2014)

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So, are we happy at the thought of spending some time wandering and exploring at the other end of the rabbit hole?

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I’ll let you be the judge of that – Alice with the Cheshire Cat, who once said, “If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.” … Cheshire Cat

As for ‘Go on, go on, go on!’ I say, in best Father Ted style, ‘I will not Mrs Doyle!’ Fans will understand.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Down The Rabbit Hole

‘Down the rabbit hole’ is, to quote Wikipedia, a metaphor for adventure into the unknown, from its use in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It is also a slang expression for a psychedelic experience, but that is a different story – or maybe not!

another salvage job from ‘Archers of Okçular’ November 2014

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J and I have been a two-man escape committee quietly seeking a rabbit hole to disappear down to escape the summer heat for some time. A place, in fact, that lends itself to a bit of ‘California Dreaming’ any time of the year.  To be able to vanish and then reappear in a somewhat different world has its appeal. A world that could be on a different planet, Mars for example, now that would be really rather nice!

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one of two places on Earth that (supposedly) resembles Mars

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with medicated mud-pack

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A world where images are turned upside down and where a unique species of fish lives, that would also be really nice.

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with very friendly alien creatures

Adding in a few ponds and streams to paddle around in and new tracks to explore would be really, really nice. If you then sprinkle the mix with the odd wild white rabbit being casseroled in a delicious, peppery sauce then, to my mind, you are talking ‘Wonderland‘!

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in good company

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with beautiful wild flowers

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and berries

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and Martian cabbages

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very welcoming local ‘Martian’ bureaucrats

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Wonderland!

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Wonderland!2.0

Alan Fenn, following the White Rabbit!

ps you might think that I’ve forgotten to tell you where the entrance is . . I haven’t!

Oh, I’m A Lumberjack

Being humble villagers J and I are entitled, along with our neighbours, to purchase our winter firewood direct from the chaps at the local forestry department’s timber yard at a huge discount! We paid up-front a couple of months back and three days ago we came home from hospital to find this lot sitting outside the gate.

Salvaged from ‘Archers of Okçular 08.11.2014

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Now, considering that I had just had my ticker check-up and J had had injections to help free-up her frozen shoulder, you might think that ‘getting in a chap to do the work’ would be the order of the day. Not so! Village life doesn’t work like that, especially if you value your street cred! Let’s face it, we have neighbours our age and some ten years or more older who are still out doing their thing with tractors, billhooks, cows and sheep, etc.  village woman1And they never walk back empty handed, they always have a load of fodder or half a tree over their shoulder. I mean, old Veli still gets sent up the trees to harvest the olives and he’s so old he doesn’t have a birth certificate!

So, village cred starts with a bit of dress sense – when we work we look the part. J dons one of her scarves and does the fetching and carrying just like any good village wife should do. I’m working on the ‘following ten paces behind’ bit – give it a little time! I don my working togs – old, worn shirt with holes and baggy cotton trousers that has J calling me ‘Rhinoceros B@!!@cks’! That’s true, I’m not making it up!

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village lady hard at it

Next comes tools and the need to look like you know what you are doing because every neighbour who passes will stop to chat and assess how we are going along.

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Boffer pretending he knows where it is at

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You can see their eyes taking it all in, usually followed by nods of approval if we’ve got it right or chuckles as they drive away if we haven’t. Finally, there is the need for ‘greasepaint’ in the form of sweat and grime – we usually have plenty and then some!

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end of day one

These past three days have been hard work reducing more than two tons of timber to fireplace sized bits and stacking them away in the wood store. Our fingers can barely hold a spoon and our bones and muscles ache.

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satisfaction at job jobbed!

Despite that we both feel pretty good (for our age). Tomorrow we are off with the local walking group for a gentle, season-opening ramble to the hot springs for a soak followed by a barby and a boat ride back to Dalyan. Then, on Monday we are wandering off to Burdur for a few days with a detour to stock up on some ‘vino collapso’.

Finally, here’s a bit of video if you’ve managed to get this far without dozing off. Taken on day three we are both showing signs of losing it – wandering about in a bit of a daze. I love the bit where J demonstrates her outstanding spacial awareness – we still can’t remember what we were looking for! J loves my display of sartorial elegance – Rhinos beware! The soundtrack is John Surman’s ‘Caithness To Kerry’ track from the album ‘Upon Reflection’ (ECM Records) – as he is family I don’t expect to pay royalties. Enjoy!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü where we are still ‘in with the in-crowd’!

Mists And Mellow Fruitfulness

J and I love this time of year – the temperature is perfect, it rains, the sun shines, the shades of green and brown are gorgeous as leaves fall and plants of every sort grow – thrusting their way through barren layers of summer and out into the sparkle of spring. The smells of leaf-mould and mushrooms and damp, rich soil – the twittering of ‘garden’ birds and the calls of buzzards and ravens. Everywhere you look and listen and sniff, stuff is happening. There is new energy – from Mother Nature and from us!

Salvaged from my mutilated ‘Archers of Okçular’ blog 28.10.2014 

An old friend has returned after a summer spent gadding about the forest chasing food and the ladies – now he just craves a bit of peace and quiet and his place in the sun . .

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. . Owl is home again for the ‘winter’.

J is composting furiously as the pruning mounts up ready for the macerating machine . .

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. . and ‘Yes, they really do get that hot!’ I’ve poached eggs in the compost heap before now, if you don’t believe me go here and check it out.

The colours of autumn are a delight to the eye and often it is the smallest of things that make the biggest impression – ‘suns’ glow . .

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. . and ‘stars’ twinkle . .

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. . and a Common Copper glows in the sun.

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There was even time and energy for a bit of ‘reverse lens’ macro photography fun . .

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. . staring down a Huntsman Spider

Finally, this being our so-called autumn, here are a couple of aptly-named flowers from this time of year – both are so delicate and beautiful and so worth taking a few moments to pause and enjoy.

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Scilla autumnalis – Autumn Squill

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Spiranthes spiralis – Autumn Lady’s Tresses

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This orchid is such a tiny thing, so easy to miss and yet close up the flowers appear to be made of crystalised sugar . .

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With the exception of the red berries, all the machines, creatures (human and non-human) and plants live in and around my garden!

Autumn. It surely is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

‘A Stitch In Time . .’

I hate shopping! Really! In fact I’ll go further and say ‘I really bloody hate bloody shopping!

Which probably accounts for the raggedy-arsed persona I project much of the time. The thought of having to wander around some Waikiki Outlet Store looking at endless racks of ‘classic cut’ or stupid, bloody ‘carrot cut’ trousers or slax whilst listening to endlessly looped, total crap warblers is just too much!

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Better to just ‘make-do and mend’, I say. So it was that for the umpteenth time my mother’s old sewing machine came out together with a worn-out pair of J’s jeans. She throws them out and buys new – I salvage from the bin and chop them up for patches as required and feel doubly smug about saving the planet!

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Anyway, as I was doing the job, I got to thinking about this machine and admiring its smooth, timeless lines and faultless engineering (for it truly is a gem).

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It will perform just about any trick that a modern, expensive, all-singing, all-dancing, electronic, plastic-fantastic machine can do. Not with computer wizardry but with inter-changeable, smooth-as-silk cogs and gears! The drive belt alone would not disgrace a Lamborghini! And the bodywork is all cast – no bendy plastic here, mate! After all, it is a Husqvarna built in Sweden back in the days when that country understood that quality engineering counted for something!

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‘So, how old is it, then?’ I hear you ask. Well, my mother bought it on hire-purchase in Malta on the 5th October, 1956 for £53/14/8 (or fifty three pounds, fourteen shillings and eight pence) with a deposit of £17/6/8 and six monthly instalments of £6/1/4!

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I still have the original guarantee, bill of sale, inspection note, instruction book and a little ‘thingamyjig’ for working out all the fancy stitches that can be created.

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I got to musing about how many of these wonderful bits of engineering might still be in daily use – probably not too many in this throw-away days. You can imagine my surprise when a search online led me to the ‘Husqvarna Automatic 21’ group on Facebook with 788 enthusiastic members – 789 now I’ve joined. It feels like I’ve come home!

Alan in Okçular

You’ve Got Some Gall!

My mother used to say that to me – a lot! Mind you, she was crippled up with arthritis so a bit of ‘Yah-Boo-Sucks!’ carried very little risk of retribution.

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Back then I fancied myself one of the All Blacks doing their thing to intimidate and humiliate the ‘enemy’. My mother, on the other hand, considered me a little gob-shite with a lot of gall and a turn of speed she couldn’t match.

As you check out the crazed bunch of bone-heads depicted above, consider this should you think of taking a twenty three hour flight to visit the ‘Hobbiton’ set from ‘Lord Of The Rings – the bone-heads have sisters:

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Anyway, this has nothing to do with what I thought I’d started with so it’s back to the mundane – ‘Galls’! Which is not, I venture to add, something a sane person would even consider muttering under their breath to these ladies.

Focus Alan! ‘Why galls?’ you might ask. And I would answer ‘Because galls are fascinating.’ Galls come in many shapes and sizes. They are mostly found on oaks and wild roses, they are mostly caused by varieties of little gall wasps of which there are around 1300 species world-wide with about 350 species in Europe and around 800 in North America.

Knopper Oak Gall Wasp
Knopper Oak Gall Wasp

What is amazing is that these tiny creatures will lay between a single egg and a small cluster in the joint between leaf and stem of the particular host that they have become genetically dependent upon. What happens next is still a mystery – either something is secreted with or on the egg which causes the plant to mutate and produce a growth. And here is what is even more amazing – every species of wasp causes a different type of growth or gall. Such is the difference that an expert can identify the species by the gall!

In the hedgerows surrounding our cabin garden there is a lot of scrub oak and to date I have found two different galls growing often on the same oak and even adjacent on the same twig.

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On the left is the Oak Marble Gall (often mistakenly called the Oak Apple Gall) and on the right is what appears to be a Rose Bedeguar Gall aka Robin’s Pincushion (named for Robin Goodfellow an English ‘Will-O-The-Wisp’ sprite) or Moss Gall which shouldn’t be on oak at all but wild roses. I won’t bore you with all the names of which wasp does what because if you are interested this stuff is readily available online. Suffice to say that the relationship between host and the interloper is symbiotic. The plant reacts to whatever enzyme/chemical is secreted and the grub feeds on the growth and not the body of the host. There appears to be no permanent damage to the host.

Below you can see the galls cut open to reveal the grub chamber. Under normal circumstances once the grub pupates and the wasp emerges it gnaws its way out of the gall and the cycle goes on.

 

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the pupating chamber of the ‘Robin’s Pincushion’
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and the grub
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the grub at the centre of the Oak Marble Gall

Don’t feel too badly about this couple of grubs sacrificed in the name of science/learning – galls are a ready source of nutritious snack for squirrels and martens. Speaking of which:

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This is one of the family of five that scamper about on the roof of our cabin at 6.30 in the morning.

So, there you have it. What the connection is between ‘gall’ and ‘gall’ I have no idea but that’s English for you! By way of compensation here’s what is arguably the greatest Haka ever by the All Blacks.

Alan – returned from the Land of the Undead!