Funny old word – ‘Worth‘! Or ‘wurff’ as in ‘Nah, mate. ‘Snot wurffit!’ as we old Sheppey ‘Swampies’ were wont to say. And ‘were’ because for several decades J has consistently and persistently stepped in with the appropriate, gentle correction à la all those years as a special needs teacher. These days my enunciation has to be impeccable if I expect to manage to string more than two sentences together without a gentle interruption. Sorry, correction.
(For Mainlanders Sheppey has always been the stuff of nightmares and the butt of jokes – ‘Population never changes – every time a child is born, a man leaves.’ That sort of stuff.)
But I digress. These days ‘worth’ seems centred around money value and yet when you check with a dictionary, even in these mercenary times, ‘money worth’ is preceeded by ‘a person of worth’ as in ‘excellence of character or quality as commanding esteem’. Or, ‘your/its worth to the world is inestimable‘ as in ‘usefulness or importance, as to the world, to a person, or for a purpose’.
And it’s ‘worth for a purpose’ that this post is about. Up here at the cabin our life is gentle, simple and we like it that way. Not a lot changes apart from the cloud formations, the patterns of the seasons and light on the lake. Suits us but boring as hell for you lot. I mean, who wants to read about how the cold snap buggered up the fruit trees this year? Or how well the grape vines are doing? Once maybe, but after that you’d be better employed watching paint dry!
‘So, get on with it!’ I hear you groan. ‘What’s ‘worth for purpose’?’ ‘My pond,’ I shout. ‘My wonderful, life-giving pond!’ This year has seen dragonflies and damselflies in their hundreds emerging and going off and doing whatever these beautiful, amazing creatures do when they change from being a real version of ‘Alien‘ into glittering jewels of light.
Crocathemis scitulum – Dainty Bluet ovipositing
Finally, because not everyone loves what I love, I have a prince for you;
Alan, enjoying a quiet life (with gentle and worthwhile corrections)
As I sit here nursing a swollen and throbbing digit I’m trying to remind myself that not everything in nature is a nasty, aggressive little piece of shite! I’m talking about wood wasps of which there are many and varied types. All of them, in my opinion, serve vitally useful functions and have their place in the grand scheme of things which does not happen to include inside any place I happen to be! J calls my passion for ‘getting’ them obsessive-compulsive behavior, I call it pay-back time for the bugger that thought my bed was a good place to rest up!
Anyway, some of you will know that my well-worn knee joints have curtailed my walking this past year and a half. Lately the creaking and grinding has been less pronounced (I recommend juniper oil for lubrication) so it seemed like a great idea to join J on one of her country jaunts. She kindly agreed to travel at the pace of my knees and I also wanted to catch up on my ‘wandering about’ photography.
What follows is a small selection of what Mother Nature has to offer above 1200 metres:
from our teeming garden pond:
and wandering the trackways:
meanwhile, back at the pond:
So, life is beautiful and full of wonderful nooks, crannies and creatures to smile at and enjoy – apart from politicians, money-changers, haters and those nasty little yellow and black buggers that is – for all of those there’ll be no more jam jars, tissue papers and no more ‘Mister Nice-Guy’!
J and I have just enjoyed the pleasure of an episode from the on-going mini-drama series called ‘Dealing With A Turkish Usta and/or Patron In Respect To An Appointed Day and/or Time’ (usta = craftsman). Don’t worry, it wasn’t a painful experience and, in fact, it resurrected many other fond memories from the exponential learning curve that is dealing with these real-time Harry Houdini‘s.
Anyway, let’s go back more than twenty years to the time when the paint was still wet on our new home in Okçular. We had just bought a new washing machine, a Beko-Arçelik. ‘So,’ we asked the vendor, ‘when will it be delivered?’ ‘Thursday.’ he said, ‘no problem!’
We were so excited! ‘Great,’ we said, ‘we’ll wait in!’
And we did. 5.30pm rolled around and no sign of a delivery so we called the vendor who reassurred us that it was coming. Time moved on with another phone call and another jolly reassurance.
By 10.30pm we’d had enough – we were fed-up and it was bloody hot! Whilst I lay naked on top of the bed sheet, J had dragged out a bit of spare bedding and was laying naked on the front balcony. Before you start gasping at her wrecklessness, there are no street lights and we have no neighbours.
At fifteen minutes to the ‘witching hour’, having both managed to drop off, we were startled into adrenelin-fueled alertness by a great flashing of lights and trumpeting of a demented ice cream van on meth and a cheerful chappie bellowing ‘Mr Alan, Mr Alan, Arçelik!’ The promised delivery had arrived – and on the day promised! The sight of J naked and crawling backwards off the front balcony is one that haunts me to this day!
I relate the above by way of a counterbalance to the innumerable times we have been told by the smiling usta ‘Yarın’ (tomorrow), when we pressed for a date/time to deliver or look at a job that needed doing. It took years before we cottoned-on that ‘tomorrow’ here in Turkey does not equate with tomorrow anywhere else on the planet. ‘Tomorrow’ here means ‘you’ll never see me again if I can help it’!
And so, bringing this ramble up to date, let me tell you about this latest episode. J and I are up at our cabin in the mountains and we decided that we really needed to do something about insect screens that I’d lashed-up three years ago from some old mosquito netting and some lengths of elastic. They were not only filthy, they were rotting!
We found a guy who perported to make and fit windows and the associated bits and bobs. As we tried to discuss our requirements and hand over measurements he stared at us foreigners open-mouthed – it’s very rural here and he may have never seen one, let-alone two, in the same place at the same time! He then began to rush around tidying things up before rushing off to the kitchen. ‘I do believe he’s doing the washing-up’, whispered J just before he re-emerged with two glasses of tea. Now we could talk about what we wanted.
As we explained our requirements, mostly to his arse as he rummaged about in and on top of cupboards and drawers, he made frantic phone calls before rushing out of the office. When he returned he was blowing dust and debris from a sample model of what was a very posh version of a screen from what we had originally envisioned. It must have been something in the tea because we were a pair of pushovers as he opened and shut the screen accompanied by a cloud of dust and the odd dead fly!
We agreed on colour and price. ‘And delivery?’ we asked it being Monday. Thursday being market day we were assured that the job would be complete before then and we could collect the screens on that day as I was doing the fitting (a decision based on many experiences). We paid a small deposit to show good faith and went on our way. Thursday morning arrived and so did we. No screens! There was a long, rambling explanation that involved a brother, Denizli and Germany amongst other things. We were assured that they would be ready and delivered to our cabin tomorrow (‘yarın’ again). We sighed and left, our expectations minimal.
Next day came and our lack of expectations appeared to have been on the money. Oh, ye of little faith! At 9.15pm there was a great revving of engine and scrabbling of tyres outside and there they were. No ladder, no lamps, electric drill to hand and two screens short of a full set! Another long, rambling explanation and a promise that the other two screens would be ready and delivered ‘yarın’. Oh, and a request for a bit more money to see them over till then! Twenty plus years and the pair of us still suckers for the big brown eyes and the sheepish smile. We gave them a bit extra, what else could we do?
Anyway, to put this ramble to bed, suffice to say that they were good for their word and they even turned up before it got dark and we were stuck into an episode of ‘Breaking Bad‘! We are very pleased with our hi-tech screens and just as delighted with yet another episode of dealing with the usta aka ‘I Should Co-Co!’
By way of an afterthought to my last bit of waffle, and it being too cold to do more than a couple of hours of meaningful toil outside, I thought I’d bore and disappoint you a bit further. Especially if you too are stuck indoors by the weather or ‘man-flu’ and were feeling in need of some excitement in your life!
The job of taming the rampant hedgerows results in plenty of poles, stakes, peasticks and countless scratches, thorns and bruises! That which remains will be turned into potash for the garden.
The last blurb was all about making you green with envy at these beautiful surroundings. This one is about making you green with envy that your allotment has only got a view of Arthur ‘Two Sheds’ Jackson’s plot. I do encourage you to wander off to the link I’ve offered you to the official ‘Monty Python’ (or ‘Monty Pie-THON‘ as they say in the good old dis-United States of part of North America) script site.
Our fruit trees are in flower or bud and the duck is enjoying the pond so all seems well with our narrow view of the world.
Finally, a photo of the rhubarb we sowed as seeds last year. At this rate it will be worth stowing a couple of packets of Bird’s Custard Powder in the baggage if we ever travel back to the UK for a visit.
We arrived back up here at the cabin a couple of days ago. There’s always stuff to do but this time of year is special with buds and blossoms bursting out all over the place. Spring is wiggling her toes and stretching.
Of course we are keen to see how the fruit and nut trees are doing; how the onions and garlic has fared through the often sub-zero months of winter. And can you imagine our delight that seven crowns of rhubarb have survived from the seeds we planted last year.
J has been busy planting and hoeing and I had repairs to make to the watering system after the Rock Martens decided to indulge in a bit of guerilla warfare whilst we were away in the low-lands. All-in-all everything has passed muster.
Now, this area is known to the locals as ‘Payamlı’ which is the old name for badem in Turkish or almonds in English. There are only a couple of almond orchards here because the locals all forage the hedgerows which are awash with these beautiful and bountiful trees and now is the time when they are in full blossom.
So, here’s just a couple of reasons why we love being here:
Turkish, bok, -ku slang1. shit, crap, excrement, dung, ordure, feces, etc, etc; this according to my copy of ‘Langenscheidt’s Standard English-Turkish Dictionary’ (First Part); an erudite description of the word in question considering its place between the covers of this aptly-named tome dedicated to understanding between peoples.
Would that the bok that squits from the mouths of our political ‘leaders’ could be added to the steaming heap! The ‘system’ that drives our world drives me to despair – I expect that it does the same for you. With that in mind here’re a few images from a recent sunny day’s wander from our house to Kocadere Valley and back. As the human race slides towards oblivion, taking countless other species with us, may your spirits be lifted together with whatever glass they happen to be in.
Alkanna mughlae probably the rarest plant you’ll ever see
Finally, in the finest traditions of ‘stiff upper-lipmanship’, British phlegm and excitingly cheap tickets for the maiden voyage of RMS Titanic . .
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!
in goes the garlic
Yorkshire Prawn Cocktail
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!
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)
So, are we happy at the thought of spending some time wandering and exploring at the other end of the rabbit hole?
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.
‘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
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!
one of two places on Earth that (supposedly) resembles Mars
with medicated mud-pack
A world where images are turned upside down and where a unique species of fish lives, that would also be really nice.
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‘!
in good company
with beautiful wild flowers
and Martian cabbages
very welcoming local ‘Martian’ bureaucrats
Alan Fenn, following the White Rabbit!
ps you might think that I’ve forgotten to tell you where the entrance is . . I haven’t!
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
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. And 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!
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.
Boffer pretending he knows where it is at
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!
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.
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’!