Thursday, 31 December 2015

Let it snow

A lot of my 2015 has been spent in airports so just to finish the year, I spent 7 hours of 31st December in an airport lounge and nearly 4 hours sitting in a plane on the apron as the snow collected around us.  
It would be churlish to complain, after a year when families risk their lives to cross from Turkey to Europe and spend days in wet clothes waiting to be registered if they succeed, a few hours sitting in the warm, while others assess whether my travel can be safely attempted, is a luxury that I wish we could afford to all humanity, not just the chosen few. 

Monday, 28 December 2015

Christmas In Reverse Order

Archaeologist Ayşe Temiz leading the protest against the new jetty 

Boxing Day was spent in an appropriately pugilistic manner, protesting against a blot on the landscape.  The struts of an illegal jetty in front of The Halikarnasus Club have been spoiling the view of the castle from the Kumbahçe side of Bodrum for too long and despite the promise of their removal being dangled as a carrot (pre-election) by local political parties,  the stakes are still there. This was annoying enough but when news came out of the blue that permission was about to be granted for the (illegal) jetty to be built, the residents of Bodrum were out on the streets to show their displeasure.  We've just heard that the tender to rebuild has been withdrawn today, so fingers and toes are crossed and will be until those ugly posts start being pulled up. 

The beach was definitely the place to be on Christmas day - warm and sunny with not a breath of wind. As we sipped our mulled pomegranate juice and munched our imported cheese, a woman swam leisurely past, a sight common enough in the Antipodes on 25th December, but not here. 

I can't say much about the Christmas Eve Mayor's party as we only popped in for a short while and left before the host arrived.  A combination of 2 head colds and smokey braziers is not a comfortable one and we didn't want to spread our unseasonable germs around, so we arrived on the dot of 7pm.   I couldn't  help but notice how amazingly prompt people arrive at a party when the drinks are on the house.  It's a pity we can't get such a good attendance for the Consulate information meetings! 

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Season's Greetings

Winter Solstice, Bodrum

I don't know  how many readers of this blog celebrate Christmas, but to all those that do,  I wish you a  happy one.  I have handed over my red, Christmas pudding-adorned apron to my daughter as we are eating the festive meal at her flat tomorrow. I am only responsible for the meat. As it's a normal working day in Turkey, we shall eat in the evening, when my son-in-law-to-be arrives home from work, but we plan is to spend the afternoon walking the dog on the beach, with a flask of mulled pomegranate juice and some choice cheeses to remind us of the date.
After 12 years living in the UK, where I often produced a Christmas dinner at work before I went home to do it again for family,  you can not imagine the bliss I feel at having no deadlines and no pressure to perform at Yuletide.  I have spent less than 2 hours shopping for food and presents, got stuck in zero traffic jams and trawled around no multi-storey car parks looking for a space.  If anyone here tells me that they miss Christmas in the UK, my jaw drops in astonishment.  
This Christmas Eve afternoon I had the pleasure of listening to Prof. Dr Rüstem Aslan, Director of the Troy Excavations giving a lecture  about the recent excavations and the new museum being constructed on the site and in the evening will wander down to the Mayor's drinks party for foreigners living in Bodrum, usually a Boxing Day day event but two days earlier this year.    Archaeology and wine - a good start to the season. 

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Calendar Girl

I have finally become "Miss February".  Panic not, no clothes were removed.

On my first day back in Bodrum at the end of November, I was walking with Jake past the Private Hospital, just down the road from our Bodrum house and noticed an advert for a Photography Contest. I think I've previously mentioned that I joined the H3A photograph workshop this year so I decided to look through my "homework" pieces to see if there was a suitable picture to submit.   I found a couple of shots that complied with the "rule of thirds" with which I'd only just become acquainted and after fiddling with their size,  downloaded them onto the competition website. Each time I tried, I got a "jpeg false" reply, so gave up and completely forgot about the whole thing.  So it was a lovely surprise to get a phone call saying I had come third, won 500TL and a mini check-up at the Özel Bodrum Hastanesi.  The prize was presented by the Hospital Director over coffee and cakes last Thursday. So I apologise for a bit of trumpet blowing but I was well chuffed to get into the top three.

Tuncay Özdal (2nd) M Uğur Alpay (1st), BtoB and Op. Dr. Abdullah Servet

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Christmas 1983

Wandering around the Maritime Museum last week, I noticed a small photo of a familiar face.  

In September 1983, my boyfriend, dog and I were given notice to leave our rented house in Tepecik, Bodrum. We had to be out the day before Bayram, despite this falling mid month, and we searched high and low for somewhere to go.  If you think the rental market is difficult in Bodrum now, it was even worse then and on national holidays, every single spare bed and mattress in the town was sold to a tourist. Many would arrive in Bodrum and end up sleeping in their cars; we only had a bicycle, so that wasn't an option.  I can't remember how, but Boatyard owner, Erol Özyurt heard of our plight and offered us his house in the middle of Bitez citrus gardens. It had no electricity, no bathroom and an outdoor loo but we were overjoyed to accept his offer.  There wasn't a track to the house and we had to cross a small (at the time, a torrent later in the year) stream and a few fields to get there. Guests would have to be met and guided in or else be lost wandering for ages.

Lon and Deniz being shown the way through the orange trees
Within a week, we had put in electricity poles, dug out the alaturka loo in the garden (although it took us a year to actually put a door on it), added a water heater and shower and we were set to spend 2 happy years living amongst the trees, only leaving to buy our own house.  I'm not sure how I would cope now with having to put on wellies and grab a torch to go to the loo in the middle of the night, but then it was an adventure and what most of my friends were having to do too. Going through old photo albums, I found this picture of a Boxing Day party, and realised that I'm in regular contact with these friends still and my mother often recalls that warm sunny December day.
So, as I passed his photo in the museum, I offered up a big thank you to Erol Bey for being so generous  in offering us a home and making my first Christmas in Turkey a beautiful one and the first of many.

Boxing Day 1983

Friday, 11 December 2015

Bodrum Encapsulated.

There is a compact museum in the centre of town that catches the flavour of the Bodrum I fell in love with in 1982.  The Deniz Müzesi / Maritime museum honours the essence of the small seafaring village that grew out of ancient Halicarnassus and morphed into the international hangout we live in now.  Boats are celebrated and boatbuilders are given the reverence that they deserve. Bodrum was so cut off from the rest of mainland Turkey that the sea was the main highway - the "boat" was essential. In this museum, beautifully made nautical models of all different types are on display. Whether for fishing, sponge diving, transporting goods or pure pleasure, you'll find an example here.  They are so well made that I wish a cohort of tiny folk would raid the museum one moonlit night and sail these Borrower-size vessels off towards the horizon.  

The importance of the natural sponge to the local economy in the mid half of the 20th century is acknowledged and the faces and names of long-gone sponge divers are recorded for their descendants to view with pride.

Not all our divers are "long -gone',  see Bodrum's last sponge diver

The trailblazer  of Bodrum's artistic, poetic, touristic and literary future: Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı, a.k.a The Fisherman of Halicarnassus is recognised with a display of some of his personal items (with more to come soon)  and his books are on sale in the museum shop.

The museum curator is Sema Sagat, who has taken the collection and concept from a temporary display in a tent outside the castle,  to this permanent site just opposite the PTT on Bodrum's main road down from the Bus Garage.  (Look out for the massive Eucalyptus trees, planted by Cevat Şakir, outside the entrance)
The building has been shut for most of 2015 for urgent restoration but is up and running now and
should be a mandatory destination on any Bodrum itinerary.

Open Tuesday to Sunday;  
November to May - 10am to 6pm.  June to October 11am to 10pm. 
Admission fee 5 TL (under 16 yrs - free. Over 65 yrs - half price) 

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

A Festive Tipple

The upcoming festive season, an upset stomach and a friend's birthday have contributed to this post.  I have an iron digestion so am not used to being laid low by tummy trouble, but I spent all of Saturday in bed, only crawling out to take the dog for walks. I have my suspicions about a piece of sushi I had to be sociable (never understood the attraction) but will point no fingers as I may have caught a local bug.  Sunday wasn't much better and I missed a joint walk up to Pedasa with a local archaeologist, which was a real shame but luckily Roving Jay went along (despite eating from the same sushi plate so my indisposition must have been from a rogue germ) and we will hopefully get to read about the visit soon.
I wanted to take along something festive to writing group on Monday as it is our facilitator, Martha's birthday week.  I wasn't up to baking so I decided to brew up a mulled pomegranate juice. It is very simple to make but I admit the squeezing is a pain. It is best done in an old fashioned pull-down orange juicer, but an ordinary push down one will do, if you cover yourself and all surfaces before you start. If you live in Turkey, take a jug to your local juice stall and get it done well away from your kitchen. If you are in the UK, I'm sure Waitrose sells fresh pomegranate juice by now.

In Turkey, we have sweet and sour  pomegranates, you need the sweet for this recipe, unless you are prepared to add a lot of sugar.

Put half a litre of water in a pan with:
6 cloves,
6 cinnamon sticks,
A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into sticks
The peel from 4 oranges
12 cubes of sugar

Boil until the water is reduced by half.

Juice the four oranges and add to the water and bring back to just under simmer,

Add  1 litre of pomegranate juice and bring back to just under simmering point.

Taste and add more sugar if necessary.  You may need 4 or 5 more sugar cubes

You can sieve and serve this now, but it tastes much better if you cover the pan and leave the spices to infuse for a few hours then warm just before serving.

It makes a great alternative to mulled wined and if you are careful not to boil the juice you will still retain a lot of the vitamin content.


Thursday, 3 December 2015

Bilge Kaltakkıran 1932 - 2015

It was a beautifully bright and warm day today. A fitting day for the funeral of a man with a wide sunny smile who was a founding father of the Turkish Tourist trade. A larger than life character who was one of the first to encourage us Brits to visit Bodrum. A man with a silver tongue who managed to get us here despite a 5 hour bus transfer . A man who eventually swapped his London house for a large white villa overlooking the turquoise Aegean Sea, where he and his wife, Rita, could enjoy the Bodrum that he'd been promoting for so many years.  Rest in Peace Bilge.

I mentioned Bilge in my first ever blog post and later on in July 2012.

1982 4th Jan 2012

In March, 1982, I flew to Izmir on my 23rd  birthday, accompanied by Carolyn. We had both been employed to work on a  flotilla of small yachts in Bodrum's brand new marina.  We were met at Heathrow by Bilge and Haluk, Turkish businessmen in their early fifties who met us at the check in and introduced themselves as representatives of  the company we had just joined. This was news to us and we weren't sure why we were travelling with them  but they were convivial company and as the complementary wine flowed on the flight we noticed that everyone else on the flight seemed to know these two gentlemen by name. We soon learnt that Bilge owned an travel agency with a very up-market address in London and Haluk owned a hotel in Izmir.  We landed to the North of Izmir at the  military-run airport, and were met by Haluk's driver.  It was during the drive to the centre of Izmir that Carolyn and I started to get a bit nervous at being in a car with two "mature" Turkish men, who we'd only met 4 hours before, and appeared to be on our way to a hotel with them. That hadn't been in the plan. We had assumed  that we'd be taken straight to the boats that were wintering in Kusadasi. My unease increased as Bilge started telling us about Haluk's fantastic  penthouse apartment above the hotel and  how we would enjoy the views of Izmir and then added that they had some video tapes with him that were impossible to get in Turkey and  he was looking forward to viewing them on Haluk's new VHS player. At that, Carolyn and I looked at each other in wide eyed panic.  The word yacht "hostess" started to take on a completely different connatation.  What had we signed ourselves up to?  How could we have been that naive.

Izmir1982  5th Jan 2012

Our arrival at the Anba hotel gave us an insight into how royalty feel when they travel; our bags were whisked away as we were ushered through the reception. Unfortunately we weren't in the right frame of mind to appreciate it. Our only attempt to stem the inevitable sale into slavery and a life under a red light was to cling on to our passports which involved a mild tussle over our hand luggage with a porter as he tried to obey his boss's orders and divest us of all our bags. Eventually we were shown up to a room on the first floor which was the first relief of the evening. However after a shower and change we were summoned up to the penthouse.  Supper was being served there. Should we go?  Would it be madness to accept or churlish to refuse? We decided that as there were two of us, we'd go up, also we were starving as the meal on the flight had been inedible.
The penthouse was very plush for the early eighties. A fantastic selection of meze were on trays in front of the TV.  As we piled up our plates, Bilge was keen to get started on the videos, he'd been waiting all week to watch them.  Carolyn and I tensed, ready to make a dash for the door but as the tape whirred for a few seconds,  the familar strains of Match of the Day's theme tune piped up and we all sat and watched the last Saturday's Arsenal and Chelsea matches.

As I arrived in Istanbul last week, I was remined of Haluk and Bilge as all the Turkish businessmen on the flight had dutyfree bags from Heathrow with goodies they had brought back from England.  They probably all have Sky Sport now and can watch which ever match they like but there are still things from the UK which are valued.  My first arrival at Izmir was  a good lesson as Haluk and Bilge were perfect gentlemen and I was always treated with total respect when employed  in Turkey. I ended up working for Bilge for 2 years in the mid 80s and I'm still in touch with the late Haluk's son. The hotel is still open and I intend to make a trip back there this year for old time's sake.

(Note for 2015. The Anba Hotel has now been pulled down and a new smart chain is going up in it's place, but still in Haluk's family).

Rent a Wreck  11th July 2012

Posting about tractor rental reminded me of my own foray into the car-hire world. In 1984, I got married and decided a life on the ocean wave was no longer for me so took a land-based job.   Bilge, the gentleman I mentioned in my first two posts, offered me employment as sole rep for his villa rental business.  The villas were mostly in Aktur near Bitez, which was one of very few established villa sites.  It looked very pretty from the outside with Bodrum's ubiquitous purple bougainvillea tumbling over the white-washed villas, but the owners had strange (to the 1980s British market) ideas on what constituted acceptable holiday furnishings.  Most had filled their houses with the tatty outcasts from their Istanbul and Ankara homes. One had used his old office furniture and expected his guests to eat at a desk. Looking at the design magazines today, they were 30 years ahead of their time.  Bilge decided to offer all his clients free car hire and instead of doing a deal with Avis or Hertz, bought 12 ancient Fiat 124s which he called his "Recycled Ferraris" These would be parked outside the Bodrum office on transfer day and handed over to the clients as they got off the bus.  We would then drive in convoy the 10 kms to Aktur. (Bear in mind when reading this that the clients had enjoyed free booze on the 4 hour flight over and had just endured at least 5 hours on an un-airconditioned bus).  These cars were already 10 to 15 years old and not all would make it through the week, or even the trip to the villa.  Most of my time was spent ferrying mechanics to stricken cars all around the peninsula. In the days before mobile phones I'm amazed at how often I was called out to change tyres. Occasionally a wheel or two would fall off and I'd have to go out a rescue a family in my jeep. Visitors to Turkey were a game lot in those days, true travelers rather than tourists and we had very few serious complaints but had to put up with the full whammy of British dry humour and sarcasm.  The most memorable being the client who walked into the office with a steering wheel in his hand asking if this was my idea of a anti-theft device. 

Monday, 30 November 2015

Back in Bodrum

We've moved back into the centre of Bodrum town just before November turns to December.  The evenings in the village were getting a little chilly and the heavy dew over the countryside made the mornings just a bit too damp to be enjoyable. Now we are back in a south-facing, seaside town we are much warmer. It's amazing how 35 kms can make so much difference to temperatures.  

Jake is adapting to being a town dog again.  He has already dragged us down one alleyway where last winter he spent many happy lunchtimes eating crispy fish heads. Unfortunately the restaurant has closed and turned into a tequila bar; attractive to neither dog nor owners, so we will have to find another eatery with a dog-friendly patron and chef. 

We shall continue to see which shops and offices are canine friendly.  We got shouted out of the Population Office last year, but Jake was welcomed into the Town Council building and Property Tax office.  He was also invited into the Paşabahçe glass and crockery shop in The Avenue Shopping Mall ın Konacık but both of us decided this wasn't a good idea; far too many expensive items on low shelves just waiting for one swipe of a shaggy tail. 

"Are you sure this is a good idea?"

The Billabong sports shop in Oasis Shopping Centre were very accommodating but Marks and Spencer made him wait outside, so I know where I'll be buying my socks this year. 

As much as I love living out in the sticks, it's great to be back in town, two minutes walk to the baker, butcher and market.  The car can stay parked up for weeks and there's plenty going on in the run up to New Year to keep us busy and hopefully give me something to write about. 

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

A Corner of the Castle.

If you visit Bodrum castle in November, there is a strong chance that you will have most of the exhibits to yourself.  The cruise liners have finished docking for the year and just domestic flights are landing at Bodrum airport. Only the very determined visitor will be travelling around museums and archaeological sites.  It is therefore the best time to explore our most obvious monument and perhaps pay attention to the smaller, less showy displays.
“Packaging” is not a very compelling subject, but one that we should take more care over. Our beaches and coves are full of discarded plastic bags and bottles and our lanes littered with discarded cans and containers, an ugly sight but fast forward 3,000 years and these remnants of our throwaway society will be the archaeologists’ data. Going by my early archaeological training, they will probably deduce that we worship at the shrines to Pepsi and Coca Cola.

The first exhibit one encounters on entering the courtyard of Bodrum castle is a display of ancient packages.  Amphora - the word derived from the Greek ‘amphi’ meaning ‘on both sides’ and ‘pherein’ meaning ‘to carry’ - come in many shapes and sizes but to be defined as amphorae they must have two handles and be portable.  They can be large or small, round or slim, squat or tapering, short or long-necked and with a narrow or wide mouth,  (sounds like I am describing the human race). An amphora should not be confused with a large storage jar too heavy to be carried, this is commonly known as a ‘pithos’.

We have been making clay amphora since the Early Bronze Age (approx 3,000BC) and they have been used to carry wine, milk, olive oil, honey, meat, poultry, fish, cheese, cereals, pulses, fruit, herbs, nuts, sugar, kohl and gum arabic and they are always a happy discovery for the archaeologist as these clay containers are recognisable by both date and provenance, for example, amphorae from Rhodes were stamped with a rose design, Kos used a crab and those from Knidos have a bull.  A pile of amphorae on the seabed is often the first indicator of an ancient shipwreck, the woodwork of the ship having long since decayed.  A ship might have carried up to a thousand amphorae, transporting goods from one side of the Mediterranean to the other. The display in Bodrum Castle shows how easily the pointed bases of the containers stacked inside the hull. 

The projecting base also acts as a third handle when tipping to pour out the contents.  The shape of the amphora would be instantly recognisable to the consumer and could be changed to attract new custom when demand dipped; we shouldn’t assume that the advertising industry is a modern concept. 
The durability of the amphora would suggest to our minds that they would be constantly recycled but evidence suggests that used oil amphora were considered a problem and often smashed and either left around the countryside or piled up outside ports. Waste packaging disposal is not just a nuisance of our era.
Wandering up and down the display of amphorae in the castle, I would rather my oil and wine came in these attractive clay containers and at about 6 gallons a time, my biceps would be considerably more toned had I had to fill my goblet from an amphora rather than from a wine bottle.  

Monday, 23 November 2015

What kind of whisk?

We took a break from gardening to spend an afternoon in Milas and I have a few posts in the pipeline about this unassuming town which was once the capital of the Carian region. However gardening is still consuming nearly all our time as we make use of the beautiful weather, so I'll leave you with this picture and see if you can work out to what use this whisk-like object is put.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Bonum vinum laetificat cor hominis

 "Good wine gladdens a person's heart." -- Latin proverb

"Iyı şarap kalbini neşelendirir" --  Latince atasözü 

This blog is nearly 4 years old and this is the first time I've mentioned the vineyard 45 minutes walk from our house. There's a good reason. Despite walking past many times and chatting to the owner at various social events, we hadn't ever ventured inside. Considering the number of 75cl empty bottles I bag up and take out every week, this seems a serious and unexplainable oversight.  It took a visit from  a friend from my university days who, unlike me, recognises a good vintage when she tastes one, to inspire us to visit. 

Mehmet Vuran is the brains behind the establishment. He has planted several different grape varieties on his family farm and runs a hobby winery, i.e. all the produce is for home use or entertaining friends, he doesn't sell his wine. He opened a bottle of zinfandel for us and knocked us out - I get to try some serious wines when I'm at work and I can swear that Mehmet's wine was as good as any of the $75 plus wines I've tasted this year, in fact better.  I would have loaded up with enough cases for the rest of the year if I could have, but this wasn't an option.  

Helen, wine tasting in Pınarlı Belen. 
Mehmet kindly gave us a bottle to take away and we've kept it in the cupboard as it needed an appreciative audience to share it with us.  The opportunity came on Sunday and our label-less bottle got decanted into a vessel suited to its quality.  Second tasting was just as good as the first. 

Beautiful decanter thanks to Claire and Chris

So the good news is that fantastic wine is being made locally in the Bodrum area. The bad news is that you can't buy it. But the better news is that Mehmet's wine has received such good feed-back from vintners all over the world that he is considering turning his vineyard into a commercial enterprise. If he does, I'm thinking offering my services if he opens a cafe - as long as he pays me in wine. 

Mehmet writes a brilliant blog Garova Günlüğü, if you speak Turkish, it is a mine of information on agriculture, viticulture and local lore, if you don't, it's worth looking at just for the photographs. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

November warmth

We are still being blessed with warm, sunny November days and on a walk through Dereköy today, I passed these massive pumpkins in an orchard of citrus trees and couldn't resist stopping to take a photo.  The mix of oranges, greens and sunlight captured for me the essence of a perfect November day. 

Apart from feeling good, November smells divine as the loquat tree on our terrace is in flower. The blooms aren't much to look at but their scent is heady. It drives the bees wild and as I step out every morning I first hear frenzied buzzing before the perfume hits me.  It's a great way to wake up.

There wasn't much left in the garden and a bout of unaccustomedly energetic gardening has left the flower bed pretty bare.  I collected all the last blooms to make the largest bunch of the year only to find that I didn't have any big vases and had to leave the flowers in the sink until I found a bucket to accommodate them.
I'm sure that posting this is an open invitation to the gods to send us rain but at least I can look back in a week's time and remind myself how blissful November can be.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

An Autumnal Dessert.

Somethings take a bit of getting used to and for a born and bred Brit, sweet pumpkin is one of those tastes that seems strange on first acquaintance. If you hail from the USA, you will have grown up with pumpkin pie and wonder what I am talking about, but most of us from the British Isles find pumpkin just a bit too vegetably to be eaten for dessert. But it didn't take me long to acquire the taste and now Kabak Tatlısı is one of my favourite puddings. (I will be taken to task by some because the definition of pudding is a dessert with a creamy consistency but where I come from, pudding is what we eat after our dinner). Baked pumpkin is the perfect colour for autumn and takes no effort to make which is great when we are busy outside getting the garden ready for winter.  I buy my pumpkin ready cut from the market, I can watch the stall holders prepare it so I know it's fresh, then all that is needed is to transfer it to an oven-proof dish, pour over a cup of sugar, leave for 4 hours or overnight until the flesh has given up it's liquid and dissolved the sugar, then pop in a 180 C oven for 45 minutes until soft. Cover with a lid if you like your pumpkin in syrup, cook uncovered if you like a stickier sweet, but stir every 10 minutes so it is well coated.  I recommend Özlem's Turkish Table recipe, but admit to grating half a nutmeg over my dish before putting it in the oven, which gives it a hint of a British comfort pudding. A good dollop of clotted cream or Turkish kaymak adds some serious calories, but with all the shovelling and earth moving going on in the BacktoBodrum flower beds, they are well earned.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

A Pleasant Homecoming

It's always nice to get home, especially when one lives in a town featured in many holiday brochures, but for once my actual journey back to Bodrum was very agreeable. My usual trip starts with a 7 am embarkation at Hydra Port, then a noisy and anxious 2 hour hydrofoil ride to Piraeus; the anxiety is not misplaced as these metal tubes, laughingly named 'Flying Dolphins', are not the most reliable form of transport. I have, in the past, spent two hours wallowing outside Athens' main harbour being subjected to ear-splitting metal-crunching noises coming from the engine room.  If all goes well, I catch the X96 bus to the airport and if the traffic is light, get to check-in with 30 minutes to spare. If the traffic is bad, I'm biting my nails the whole way.  The metro is more reliable but goes into central Athens and then out again so takes longer than the bus. By the time I arrive at Departures, I probably don't look my best!  Sometimes the sea is too rough and schedules are abandoned, leaving those of us with planes to catch, on the quay. The only option then is to take a bumpy sea-taxi ride to the mainland, which is a bit like being on a roller coaster with someone throwing buckets of seawater over me, and then hail a taxi to Athens airport. I've had to do this a few times and I always get a 'John Wayne' driver. If you've travelled anywhere east of Rome, you will recognise this term. The driver propels his vehicle as if he is an extra in True Grit; left shoulder forward, left hand holding the  reigns  steering wheel, right shoulder back and right hand either swinging worry beads (older driver) or sending texts and looking at Facebook (younger river) and seemingly only one buttock on the seat, thus he is facing his passenger rather than the road. Disconcerting at the best of times, but nerve racking on narrow mountain roads. When I arrive at check-in after a 3 hour drive with John Wayne,  I am covered with a salty crust and a bit green around the gills.
This time my flight was booked for Thursday 5th November.  All ferry staff were on strike on the 2nd and 3rd, but were due to return to work on the Wednesday. This being Greece, the first ferry out of Hydra was on Friday afternoon.  BUT, instead of having to travel with an unknown  lonesome cowboy, a fellow staff member was driving up to Athens airport on Wednesday, so I had a lovely safe drive in a new Audi, with chance to stop en route for a meal overlooking modern Epidavros.

I was booked into The Sofitel at the airport and was expecting the usual airport hotel experience. I'd stayed at the Thistle Terminal 5 at Heathrow 10 days before and been glad that I hadn't been planning any feline oscillation. I'd checked in late and left before dawn so hadn't been subjected to the depressing decor and claustrophobic room for long enough for it to affect my mood.  The Sofitel was completely different - a proper 5 star hotel, with plump pillows, comfy beds, impressive bathrooms and completely soundproof, airy rooms. There was a rooftop pool and spa, if only I'd packed a swimming costume.  I was hoping my plane would be cancelled. On Thursday morning I lazed in bed reading The Times on my iPad, had a long shower and even managed to put on a bit of makeup before I pulled by bag the 200 meters between hotel and airport.   As I arrived in check-in, I looked so unlike my normal self, I doubted I'd get through passport control.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Cooking up a storm

I don't want to let October disappear without a post.  A busy week in Scotland helping to organise an 18th birthday party and now a week cooking  in Hydra, have kept me away from my blog.  I have really missed catching up on friends' blogs and even missed sitting down to write my own.  This is the longest I've left it to its own devices and it's encouraging to see that even when I don't write anything new, Google is still directing folk towards the site.  I aim to be back in Bodrum at midnight on Thursday so expect some new posts after that.
Meanwhile, I'll get back to my stove as gale force 8 winds whip around the house, giving the few restaurants that kept open after the mighty flood in Hydra last week another reason to pack up their tables and close up for the winter. 

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Enjoy the Day

I'm off to Inverness on Monday so am making the most of this week's glorious weather. The pool is freezing now our evenings have cooled down, i.e. it's the same temperature as the sea in Southern England on the hottest day of the year, but I am enjoying a chilly swim every day in the probably misguided belief that cold water immersion is good for my health. I'm feeling very lucky to live where I do, despite events in my last post.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Ankara - 10/10/15

Young lives blown away for others' principles. Souls walking in hope, eager to push for peace, meeting together with all the enthusiasm of youth, naively certain that their force for good can change the world, or at least the country they live in.  Then, boom - just twice - a few seconds that shock us all; a brutal affront to our idea of Turkey and being Turkish, leaving us devastated and shrouding all good thoughts with a blanket of despondency and hopelessness.  How can we bloggers continue to write after an event like this? Three days of mourning have been declared and the country grieves and rages. I mourn but refuse to give up my posts. At the worst of times we should actively seek relief in the beauty of nature and minutiae of daily life however trivial they seem. To give up looking for good is to acquiesce to the terrorist. I will continue to write about the beauty of the changes of season, the glorious sheen on a newly picked olive and the subtle purples of a wild thyme flower. Shattered bodies can't be repaired but we can restore our broken morale and refill our reserves of optimism, despite the craziness going on in the corridors of power.  It is observing, appreciating and writing about the small details of life in Bodrum that keep me positive in difficult times.  Look on it as therapy!

Friday, 9 October 2015

Red October

An October sunset is a good reason to eat out early. Find your West facing table at 18:30 and you have half an hour to watch the splendid light show.  These pictures were taken from the Mandalya Restaurant in Güvercinlik. With the clocks not going back in Turkey until Sunday 8th November, it will feel as if we have two weeks of more evening time to enjoy the reds and golds.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Laurence's legacy

This photograph was taken in 1994. Hazel, Laurence and I had climbed to the top of Theangela, the nearest Lelegian site to my house. Laurence had a battered copy of George Bean's 1971 edition of 'Turkey Beyond the Meander' to guide us and we'd parked my car in the village of Etrim and headed straight up. The three hour climb wasn't much fun and Hazel had a sore ankle, (when she got back to the UK, her doctor couldn't believe that she'd been climbing mountains with a fractured bone) but we felt very proud of ourselves when we got right to the top. Just after this photo was taken, an ancient Fiat 124 drove past us and we discovered that we could have driven the whole way up a track at the back.  This wasn't my last trip with Laurence up a mountain in search of antiquity, we managed several more before he died at the unfairly young age of 41 in 2002.  Our first joint hike had been in 1980 in the Halkidiki in Greece. We borrowed a car and set off on a action packed 48 hours to see how many sites we could tick off in our guide book. Laurence got sunstroke and developed a life-long hatred of water melons and I decided that I loved water melons and was going to spend more time in this part of the world and not go back to the British Midlands. So when Helen, a fellow University of Birmingham archaeology graduate and frequent travelling companion of Laurence, and I found ourselves climbing to the top of the Hellenistic theatre in Stratonikeia, despite having run out of steps and having to clamber over mud and dislodged masonry, we could only blame one person. Laurence; he must have made us do it. He was probably having a good laugh at our ungainly progress. (I had to descend most of the way on my bottom as the sides were really steep.)

It was worth the climb as the recently excavated Augustus-Imperial temple comes into view as one crests the lip of the top cavea, and despite visiting this theatre many times, this was my first view of the ongoing temple restoration.  

In homage to past trips with Mr L. Bowkett, we discovered that the main road to Yatağan  passes directly behind the temple, which, being well signposted, could have been reached without a climb, but as Laurence would have said - where's the fun in that!

Related posts: Stranonikeia    Old friends    Concert at Stratonikeia

Monday, 5 October 2015

Autumn mists and wood collecting.

This summer, unusually high temperatures have been accompanied by almost uninterrupted low pressure, making the air feel heavy and oppressive, so it is a relief that October heralds the arrival of fresh misty mornings that make the first dog walk of the day a pleasure rather than a chore. October also sees the start of firewood collecting and Jake and I often meet a two legged mobile wood stack on our morning ramble.
We don't use an open fire or a wood burner but did have five felled pine trees in our garden and several villagers had approached us about taking the wood off our hands.

Rather than offend anyone by accepting one offer and refusing another, it seemed easier to donate the wood to the ladies in the village who have lost their husbands. The felled trees were inspected and the third day of Bayram was chosen as the best day to cut up the tree trunks, as plenty of family members would be available to dismember and transport the logs. (I'm not sure how happy they were at being volunteered for this duty on one of their rare days off, but they all came along.)

Our garden has never seen such intense activity as three chain saws buzzed and three vans were repeatedly filled and emptied. We kept back just one large tree trunk which will go off to the saw mill and hopefully will one day grace our terrace as a bench, table or planter to remind us of the massive tree that towered over us for years. 

Related posts;  Up, up and away,  Mornings