Monday, 31 August 2009

A thankyou

Just a short post to say thankyou to "The All Pakistani Girl" for this award.  It's very much appreciated.

Do visit her's lovely.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

It's the weekend.....

.....but it's just another day for me.

I can remember, when I was working in the UK, the anticipation I felt on Fridays of a couple of days away from the grindstone....and feeling a bit deflated on a Sunday evening with Monday morning looming...particularly if it had not been a particularly satisfying weekend.

This was of course towards the end of my career, just before taking early retirement.  I was Deputy Manager (but at the time acting Manager) of a residential home for people with mental health problems, and having worked my fair share of weekends, not to mention Christmases, I was at last responsible for the rotas, so made sure I had a few weekends off.

I have worked since I moved to Turkey...on and off...but soon realised that weekends don't really exist for many working people here.   The hours are's not unusual to be expected to work a 16 hour day, seven days a week for very little pay.  You won't find a part-time job, unless you can do some serious negotiating with the boss, and then part-time is considered to be 8 hours a day, with a day off...if you're lucky.

This year has been a grim one as far as jobs are concerned.  I've mentioned how difficult it has been for Mr Ayak to find work.  He's been working in a hotel for around a month now....approx 16 hours a day...7 days a week....for 10 ytl per day (around 4 pounds).  Even though it's only about an hour's distance from home, his car is still out of action, and  it would cost him about 30 ytl to do the round trip by bus...just for an evening..only to return very early the next morning.  He knows there is no point complaining that what he earns is half the legal minimum wage...because bosses just ignore this fact...and anyone who doesn't accept it will just be asked to leave.  There are always plenty of other men ready to take their place.

So he stays in personnel accommodation, which normally consists of several men sharing a room...and eats personnel food..which is usually pasta, rice or vegetables....pretty basic stuff.

I'm used to him being away for work, he has had to do it many times since we've been married, but I notice his absence more since moving here, because there are so many little jobs to be done at home that I can't manage.  But also because I feel a bit isolated here, and miss the friends I made in other areas.   Although I have to admit, it's early days yet, and I always have had those feelings when moving to new doesn't last because I make friends easily.

The job should finish sometime in September...then he'll be home.  His boss has offered him a job in Istanbul for the winter, but he's very reluctant to take it because he's not happy about me being on my own for so long.  At the moment, if there was some sort of crisis and I needed him here...he could get home quickly...but if he's in Istanbul it would be out of the question.

Well life goes day is much the same as the one before...but for those of you embarking on a weekend that is different from the rest of your week....Have a good one!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Where does all the rubbish go?

I often wonder if the Turks invented recycling. It appears to be second nature to them to find a good use for things that would normally end up in the rubbish bin.

In most gardens or balconies you will see flowers planted in old cooking-oil cans instead of flower pots. These large cans are also sliced in half diagonally..attached to a broom handle, and together with a brush made from twigs, used by the street-sweepers to pick up rubbish.

Plastic carrier bags are used as bin liners. In fact they must be used for all sorts of other things as I've yet to discover, because it's not unusual to see them washed and hanging out on the line to dry. I've seen children tie plastic bags to a piece of string and use them as makeshift kites on a windy day.

There is not an excess of packaging of goods here, unlike other countries. We don't have a lot of ready meals. Most food is prepared from scratch. Any packaging that exists will be put to good use once it's empty. For example, the Nutella-type chocolate spread here comes in a glass jar with a plastic lid. The empty jar is used for storage...or in the case of one of my a drinking vessel. She has a set of them now which she uses for tea or coffee. I know this to be true because the remains of the label could still be seen on one that she was drinking from the other day.

In most towns and cities, rubbish collection is very efficient. There are large wheely bins dotted along the streets, which are emptied by the rubbish trucks every day. There is very little thrown in these bins in the way of waste food. There is very little in the way of food wastage at all. The Turks generally can't afford to waste food. What little there is leftover, is usually placed on the ground beside the bin for the stray cats and dogs. Although the cats also jump in to the bins to scavenge. It's not unusual to be startled by half a dozen cats jumping out of the bin just as you are disposing of your rubbish.

Any plastic bottles and cans that find there way into the bins are usually removed by men (and sometimes women) who collect them up in their small hand-made carts. I assume they make money out of this...although I've never asked anyone where it all ends up.

You may sometimes see bags of old and unwanted clothes and household items sitting next to the bins. It's not considered the done thing to give your unwanted items to those in desperate need. The Turks are a proud race and don't like to be seen accepting charity. So they are left by the bins for anyone who needs them and usually disappear during the night.

When we moved to this village three months ago, one of the first things I noticed was that there were no rubbish bins to be seen anywhere....and no trucks ever call to collect rubbish. But I have to put my rubbish somewhere, so I bought a large plastic dustbin with a lid and placed it outside the gate. It has attracted some attention...people stare at it when they walk past..some even lift the lid to see what's inside. So as well as being the only people with a toilet inside the house, we are now the only ones with a dustbin.

So where does everyone else's rubbish go? I don't know where they store it, but every so often they will light a bonfire and burn it. As Mr Ayak is away, I've avoided doing this. I'm not good with bonfires. They have a habit of getting out of control and I don't want to risk burning the house down. Therefore, I've managed to find some large plastic refuse sacks, and everytime Mr Ayak manages to pop home for a night, he sets off the next morning with a couple of large sacks (the last time on a motorbike which was quite difficult) and drives 5 km out to the main road to find a bin in which to dispose of them.

It's not an entirely satisfactory arrangement as far as I am concerned, but I'll have to get used to it. These people have managed their rubbish for centuries...who am I to change it?

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

BILLY..4 months old and First seaside holiday

Billy was 4 months old on Sunday. His mum and dad took him away for a long weekend at the seaside.
I'm still continuing to communicate with him most days by webcam. As soon as we log on and I speak to him I get a lovely smile from him! I think he recognises my voice.
I'm not sure whether he'll recognise the REAL me when I see him at the end of October....but I hope so.
I am such a proud Grandma!

Friday, 21 August 2009


I am writing this post at 5 am, and I'm very tired because the heat and a couple of mosquito bites kept me awake until about 2.30 am.

I had completely forgotten that today is the first day of Ramazan (Ramadan in other countries)..the Islamic holy month of fasting.

It's not that I take part in this ritual, but I have no choice when it comes to being woken up at around 3.30 am every morning for the next month, by the customary drummer who tours the village, slowly banging his drum until he is sure everyone is awake. This is to give them time to eat a large breakfast (sahur) before the call to prayer at around 5 am.

In the past the fast (oruç) was supposed to start as soon as the Imam holding one piece of white and one piece of black thread could tell the two apart in the daylight. Nowadays it's more scientific...televisions announce the exact moment to start fasting..along with the first call to prayer from the mosque. I often wonder why, in the 21st century, the ritual of the drummer isn't done away with, and people just use alarm clocks...but that's just me being selfish and not wanting my sleep interrupted. It's a custom which I'm sure will continue until the end of time.

Strict muslims take fasting very seriously. Nothing must pass their lips from sunrise to sunset. No water (difficult in this heat). Ramazan takes place 11 days earlier each of course it's inevitable that it will occur during the hottest part of the summer, at some time. Apart from refraining from eating or drinking, they mustn't smoke, or even lick a postage stamp or take a headache tablet. Sex is also forbidden during daylight hours.

Not everyone needs to fast. Some people are exempt...children, the sick, pregnant women,the elderly or travellers. Menstruating women are not supposed to fast but have to make up the missed days later.

The break of fast meal at sunset (iftar) is somewhat of a celebration, and a time for family and neighbours to get together. Often another huge meal is eaten before bedtime, so it's not unusual for people to gain weight during Ramazan! Temporary tents are set up in cities around the country for the poorer members of society to be given an iftar meal.

We foreigners are not expected to take part in fasting, but most of us, out of respect, would not dream of eating, drinking, or lighting up a cigarette in public during daylight hours. In any case I'd feel a bit conspicuous as well as embarrassed at partaking when everyone else can't.

Naturally, people are not at their best when fasting. Tempers are often frayed and people do become a little light-headed and clumsy. I learnt from a very bad past experience, never to get my hair cut during hairdresser at the time was tired, hungry and bad-tempered and my hair suffered as a result.

So I have a month of the drummer waking me up far too early...followed soon after by a visit by the in-laws. Isn't life wonderful? ;-)

Tuesday, 18 August 2009


I am very happy to accept this award from Gaelikaa. It's an honour to receive it from someone who writes such a wonderful blog. Thankyou.

The rules are: list 5 things you are addicted to. Then pass the award on to 5 more bloggers.

So here goes:

1. Chocolate...particularly Cadburys...which I can't get here.

2. Custard...which I can't get here...but a friend just sent me some in the post.

3. Books....which fill my suitcase on return trips from England.

4. may have noticed!

5. Coffee and cigarettes...I know that's two things but they go together wonderfully...and I indulge in both far more than I should.

And now I have pleasure in giving this award to the following bloggers. I know some of you may have already received it, so don't feel obliged to try and think of another 5 addictions. Please just accept it because I think your blog is wonderful.

Gaelikaa (Right back at you...but can't leave you off my list)


French Fancy

French Leave

The Background Fairy

(As I still can't manage to do links on'll have to find links to the above blogs on my Blog List....sorry!)

Communicating with difficulty

I've always been useless with foreign languages. I did French at school and German a bit later on and can remember almost nothing.

I learned some time ago that my Portuguese friend and blog follower, Astro, speaks many languages fluently and I am so much in awe of her. I don't know how she does it. Perhaps it comes easier to some people, or maybe it's a gift.

After 11 years living in Turkey, I should be fluent in the language, but I'm nowhere near. My vocabulary is reasonable but I can't for the life of me actually put a coherent sentence together.

In the early days I tried to teach myself Turkish with the aid of books and tapes. I once had lessons from an ex-pat in Bodrum. It didn't last.....I just couldn't retain anything. And my "teacher" was German, so what little I remembered came out of my mouth in a German accent.

If I was so hopeless at languages in my youth, it doesn't seem likely that I will suddenly be blessed with the art of learning a language at this stage in my life.

It hasn't helped of course that Mr Ayak and I always communicate in English. Except if he wants to swear...when he'll do it in Turkish because he doesn't know enough English swear words! do I cope? I just get by. Shopping isn't a problem. I can remember names of food and household stuff because I use them every day. Items I don't remember, I just look them up in the dictionary and write them on my shopping list. Apparently my pronunciation is very good, so if I write down what I want to say, rehearse it before going into a shop, then I am understood. The problem with that is that because it sounds like I can speak fluently, the person I'm addressing then babbles away in Turkish to me. I understand some of it or I get the gist of what they're saying but my mind goes blank when I am expected to respond. It's so embarrassing at times.

In all the other areas where we have lived, I have always had at least a couple of English speaking friends, and we have often muddled through together. Somehow I feel less inhibited about using Turkish if I know someone is in the same boat as me.

This village is a whole new kettle of fish. The dialect is very strange. I mentioned before that even Mr Ayak finds it difficult to understand what they're what chance do I have?

I know what the early morning shepherdess says to me every day, because I've had weeks to work it out...she says the same thing each time. If I'm invited into a neighbour's house for tea, it's fine because there are always several women there and I can just listen and smile and nod in what I think are the right places.

Monday afternoons have become a bit of a trial. It has become a weekly ritual for my next door neighbour to call for me to go to market with her. She chatters away and quite clearly is asking me questions, some of which I don't understand. Thank goodness I have the Turkish phrases "I don't understand" and "I don't know" firmly imprinted in my brain. But I'm never made to feel stupid by her, or by any Turks with whom I try to communicate, because they are so patient. They will repeat and repeat, with a good deal of sign language, until I've grasped what they are saying. If it's eventually established by my neighbour that I just don't get it ...she just smiles and gives me a hug. Isn't that lovely?

With Mr Ayak being away, and having no other English-speaking people here to talk to, I have had to try so much harder. Maybe this is what I needed all along? Being thrown in at the deep end may just do the trick...given time and a great deal of effort.

Monday, 17 August 2009

The joys of the webcam

It's a wonderful invention isn't it?

I was so amazed when I first used one. I just wanted to talk to everyone. Of course the novelty wears off after a while, and like all technology, we just take it for granted.

Naturally, it's not such a good thing when someone wants a video call with you and you're not looking your best. And there are times when you don't want someone on the other end to see your expressions for one reason or another. It could be that you perhaps disapprove of something they say and you are then faced with having to keep a smile on your face and hide your true feelings...not always easy. And there are times when you may feel unhappy, and you don't want the person you're talking to, to see the sadness in your face.

However, there are times when it's the only thing that will do when you can't actually be with the person you are talking to. I realised how important this would be when I returned from England earlier this year after the birth of my grandson. I knew I wouldn't get to see him again for 5 months, and I was so sad at missing these important months of his life.

But, my daughter's laptop has been out of action all this time, and in spite of several attempts to get the webcam on her old pc up and running, it failed miserably.

Finally, on Friday her laptop returned...repaired...and suddenly I was able to see Billy at last. Oh how he has changed! He laughed and smiled at me and it really tugged at my heartstrings. Now whenever possible my daughter will give me a glimpse of him each day. I wonder if he actually knows it's me? I wonder if, when I see him in October, he will realise that I am the Grandma who talks to him through his mum's laptop screen?

It's not ideal of course, because I can't reach out to give him a cuddle...but it's so much better than not seeing him at all!

I'll leave you with a few recent photos of Billy..who just becomes more gorgeous every day.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Tales from the Bathroom

I don't have a lot of luck with bathrooms.

Bathrooms in Turkey come in all shapes and sizes and the facilities vary enormously.

They are often large because it's normal practise to have plumbing for washing machines in them, as well as sockets for electric plugs. The Turks have no concept of the danger of mixing electricity with water, and think nothing of plugging in an electric heater to keep them warm whilst they are splashing about in the shower. And the showers don't normally have screens or curtains either...and often no shower base...usually a hole in the floor for the water to drain away.

There was the bathroom in Gumusluk... with just a shower and no hot water. The one in Turgutreis springs to mind because of the problems with the lavatory cistern. It leaked every time you flushed. We got a man in to fix it (I am reluctant to call him a plumber) who fixed the leak, but an hour after he left the leak was back, plus another one. The second "plumber" fixed the leaks, but soon after he left it wouldn't flush at all. I know nothing about plumbing, but in desperation, I dismantled the entire cistern...laid all the pieces out on the floor, then proceeded to put them back together again. More by extreme good luck than solved the problem. Although don't ask me how...and I'd never attempt it again.

One of the apartments we rented in Side used to be a pansiyon (B & B), so every room had an adjoining bathroom (including the sitting room). As we had more than enough bathrooms for our needs, I used this one as a kind of store cupboard and I also put my washing machine in there. There wasn't plumbing for a washing machine in this particular one, so I attached the inlet hoses to the washbasin taps, and I just stuck the outlet hose into the lavatory. Always remembering, of course, to close the lavatory seat when the washing machine was in use, to prevent the outlet hose leaping out and splashing soapy water everywhere.

Oh and how could I forget the bathroom in our temporary accommodation in Ceyhan (those of you who have followed my journey may remember this one)...a tap coming out of the wall...very rarely any water...and a squat toilet that had no flushing mechanism.

Our apartment in Avanos had an enormous bathroom. I should have been a little suspicious about the fact that when the landlord was showing us around, for some reason he couldn't unlock the bathroom door. We just took his word for it that the bathroom was good. However, when we moved in we discovered that the only fixtures in this huge bathroom were a washbasin and a tap coming out of the wall...oh and plumbing for the washing machine. No shower or lavatory.

In our house in Goreme, the previous tenant had replaced the squat toilet with a normal one. The problem being that it wasn't facing forward in the small narrow room, but sideways on facing the there was absolutely no room to sit on it except sideways on. Two "plumbers" later and a lot of mess...and the toilet was facing the right way. The shower room was separate in the house, and extremely cold. The pipes froze up in the cold Cappadocian winter, and even when they thawed out, the shower room walls and ceiling were covered with at least an inch of ice, which I had to break with the broom handle. Needless to say we didn't have many showers during the winter.

A couple of days after we moved into the second of our apartments in Selcuk, I had problems with the bathroom door handle. It was the round type that you locked on the inside by pushing a button in the centre of the handle. I noticed it was a little stiff and difficult to open and close, so I didn't close it whilst I was using the bathroom. Mr Ayak returned from work that day, hot and sweaty, and set off to have a shower. I warned him..twice as I recall...about the door handle and advised him not to close it. So what did he do? Yes...he closed it, and when he'd finished he couldn't get out...the lock had jammed. There were no windows in there, no other way out. So we spent the next hour on either side of the door, me armed with the toolbox, and Mr Ayak armed with anything he could lay his hands on...toothbrush, razor, cotton buds, etc....trying to remove the handle.

After a great deal of effort (and a fit of giggles on my part which didn't go down well) we removed the handle, which left a hole in the door about an inch in diameter...but it still wouldn't open. So I passed the tiniest screwdrivers and other tools through the hole to enable Mr Ayak to remove the locking mechanism...bit by very small bit...until at last the door was open. ...with Mr Ayak sweating so profusely that he had to have another shower.

In our current house, I noticed shortly after I moved in that there was a very small leak from one of the shower taps. It got a little worse, and I stupidly mentioned it to Mr Ayak...who armed with his favourite tool...the hammer...set about fixing it. Not only did he break the tiles surrounding the taps, but he also damaged the taps. New ones purchased and a man to fix them and all was well. Sure enough a while later the leak appeared again....and again Mr Ayak "fixed" it with the hammer.

Well now, of course, Mr Ayak is away working, and the leak has got steadily worse. To such an extent that I have now had to switch the water off at the mains. I spoke to Mr Ayak on the phone and much as he would like to get home to fix it, I'm relieved to say that he can't get away. He has however promised to phone around to try and find a "plumber" to fix it as soon as this space.

As I said...I don't have a great deal of luck with bathrooms.


My neighbour arrived a short time ago with a man in tow...who had been telephoned by Mr Ayak this afternoon. He has just repaired the took him 5 minutes! Now I'm really beginning to wonder if it was necessary for Mr Ayak to break the tiles and the previous taps with his hammer after all? It's a good job he's away at the moment or he would really get a piece of my mind!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Did I tell you about the time I ........

Having now made 60 odd posts on my blog, it seems an opportune moment to mention my memory.

There comes a time in life when the memory really isn't as good as it should be.

I used to have a brilliant memory. I could remember everyone's phone numbers and addresses and reel them off at the drop of a hat.

Nowadays they are all written down in an address book, and stored in my mobile phone. For goodness sake...I can't even remember my own mobile phone number...and I've had the same one for about 8 years!

I used to happily go shopping knowing that everything I needed was in my mental list. Now the list has to be written down. And of course there are times when I forget to take the list with me, which results in my buying stuff I don't need and forgetting to buy the essentials.

You know when you have become a senior citizen when you start repeating yourself. I'm afraid I do this very often these days. I've lost count of the number of times I am telling my daughter about some occurrence, only for her to say "'ve already told me that". She of course is honest enough to tell me. I'm pretty sure others experience my repetition but are too polite to
mention it.

And then there are times when I go from one room to another to get something but on arrival have forgotten what it is I needed. Or I put something somewhere "safe" safe that I can't remember where it is.

I'm sure many of you will recognise this's just a sign of the brain cells wearing out I guess.

I know it's normal, and I'm not overly concerned about it. But I do feel such sadness and sympathy when people tell me about their relatives who are suffering from some form of dementia, or Alzheimers. I can't imagine how difficult and frustrating life must be for them.

Blogging helps of course. It keeps the brain cells ticking over. The old adage springs to mind "If you don't use lose it". dear readers...just a warning. If I post something here that I have already written about...just humour me please! But because I appreciate honesty...please feel free to tell me!

Now...where DID I put my cigarettes?

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Service with a smile..... and çay of course!

I popped into Milas this morning to deal with a few overdue chores. I needed to have a skirt taken in. The last time I was at the hairdressers I noticed a terzi (tailor) opposite the salon so I set off in that direction.

There are female tailors who make womens clothes and do alterations. And there a male tailors for the men. I have used male tailors in the past as they make very good trousers. Turkish tailors are amongst the best in the world, and they are very very cheap.

Anyway the terzi's shop was closed, but my hairdresser and his staff spotted me and came out to see if they could help. I explained what I needed done to my skirt and they promised to give it to the terzi when she arrived, and telephone me when it was ready....but before I left they insisted I sat down and had çay with them and share their breakfast. It's very rude to refuse Turkish of course I had to accept!

Half an hour later I set off for the bank, and decided to try to get my specs fixed on the way. I had them made in the UK on my last visit. Since then they had become very loose, and one of the tiny screws was missing. I popped into the first optician shop that I came across,where they spent the following 20 minutes replacing the screw, tightening the arms, and adjusting them to fit perfectly...not to mention giving them a through clean. And of course whilst I waited I was offered çay and a comfortable armchair. So with my perfectly fitting specs on my nose, I got out my purse to pay...and was immediately informed that there was absolutely no charge and it was their pleasure to be of service.

The bank was very busy, so I took my numbered ticket and sat down to wait, whereupon a young girl appeared with a tray of çay for the customers.

If you are shopping in Turkey you really have to have a strong bladder. Every shop you visit will insist you sit and drink çay. It's impossible to walk served...and walk out again without being offered çay.

To round off this very pleasant morning, I went to check my postbox, only to find a package from a friend in England...6 packets of Birds custard.....wonderful!

And a cup of coffee...I've had enough çay for today!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

"Early one morning, just as the sun was rising......"

Early morning is my favourite time of the day. I've never really been a night person...oh maybe for a while in my youth when I had a lot more energy. Even then I was always amongst the first to leave a party. I like evenings at home and going to bed early. On the very rare occasions that we eat out, my choice is lunch rather than dinner.
I get up shortly after the first call to prayer before sunrise. I let Beki out of the enclosed balcony where she sleeps, and Poppy from her specially-built house, for a run around the garden. I feed them, make myself a coffee and sit on the terrace and with the dogs at my feet, we watch the sun rise. I always feel so invigorated and ready to take on anything the day ahead throws at me.
Around this time one of the women from the village brings her flock of sheep along the lane past my gate, and up to the top of the hill to graze for a couple of hours. She says the same things to me each day..."good morning..isn't the weather lovely?......your house looks very nice!.... have a nice day!" Beki stands at the gate barking at the sheep when they come too close...and the woman thanks me because Beki's barking is encouraging the sheep to get a move on up the hill.
A little later my neighbour comes out to feed her two cows, two goats and a donkey. The donkey makes me laugh...the strange noises she makes when my neighbour appears. My neighbour informs me that she is talking to her....I believe her...they seem to have quite a conversation going on!
So after my second cup of coffee...the sun is beginning to get hot, and I make a hasty retreat back into the house.....knowing that I can look forward to this wonderful experience again tomorrow.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Continuing the Turkey journey...Selçuk

You may recall (if you have followed the journey on my blog...sorry I can't do links to the posts...I will learn one day I promise!) that I did the 17 hour journey with my furniture and belongings and my dog Beki, from Goreme in Cappadocia to Selçuk. Mr Ayak and I had been apart for 18 months and because I had given him an ultimatum, and he had kept his side of the bargain, we were getting back together again.

Mr Ayak had rented an apartment in readiness for my arrival. It was around 7 am and I hadn't slept for nearly 3 days. The apartment was large and airy, but that was about all it had going for it. The top half of every room was painted bright yellow, the bottom half bright green, with an awful border in the middle, which was hanging off in places. The exceptions were the bathroom and kitchen which were tiled in neutral colors. Imagine my curtains and sitting room furniture in shades of burnt orange, terracotta and beige, fitting in with this decor...yuk!

Mr Ayak was in a new job so had to leave me to unpack. The furniture was unloaded and brought in, and to my horror I discovered that the men who had loaded it in Goreme had put the soba (wood and coal burning stove) pipes on the sofas and armchairs and they were now covered in thick black soot....impossible for me to clean by hand.

On his way to work, Mr Ayak found a man who he sent to the apartment to steam clean the furniture. It ended it up very wet and took 5 days to dry out. He was so thorough that he removed some of the original colour in places, but at least it was clean. So I started the unpacking. Mr Ayak sensed my dismay at the decor, particularly the sitting room, so when he arrived home he was armed with paint and brushes, and stayed up all night painting the room beige.

Gradually over the coming months, I painted the hall ,during which time Beki stepped in the paint tray and covered the floor and herself in beige paint...don't you just love dogs? Finally I painted the bedrooms in neutral colours and it all looked so much better.

The landlord and his wife lived in the apartment below (just two apartments...theirs and ours) with their 6 year old granddaughter who had been abandoned by her mother, and their 27 yr old wheelchair-bound son. The landlord was a heavy drinker and physically abused his wife, as well as keeping her short of money. Many times I found her in tears, along with a few bruises, and all I could do was to give her a hug. To attempt to get further involved would, I know, have left me with egg on my face.

When winter, and rain, arrived, we discovered more problems. The building had a flat roof which hadn't been sealed properly, so as a result our ceilings were damp. The bathroom and kitchen were the worst affected...they were black with mould. One night we were woken up by an almighty crash. We leapt out of bed to investigate, only to discover that the hall ceiling had collapsed...there were lumps of plaster and bricks everywhere. How lucky we were that it hadn't happened during the day, when one of us may have been injured.

After much complaining to the landlord, he got builders in to repair the damage. And of course I had to re-paint the hall. We had been complaining for some time about the state of the ceilings in the bathroom and kitchen, but it fell on deaf ears.
It was very difficult to sleep at night because the balcony adjoining the bedroom at the back of the house was very close to the balconies of the houses behind us. Because it's so hot in summer, neighbours would be on their balconies until the early hours...sometimes all night...drinking tea and chatting loudly...and boy are the Turks loud!

During this time the landlord said he was going to increase our rent. We already knew that we were paying more than the place was worth and we argued the point. He wouldn't back down until we finally reached a compromise. I would clean and re-paint the ceilings, and the rent would remain the same for the next year.

However, a few months later he started asking again for more rent...and we had finally had we moved a lovely apartment on the other side of town. And that was where we had problems with neighbours (which I wrote about at the beginning of my blog) and which encouraged us to take up the offer of this house by my father-in-law.

It wasn't all doom and gloom in Selçuk. It's a lovely town and I made some good friends during the two years there. We keep in touch and a couple of them have already been to visit me here.

So I set off for England on 11th April for the birth of my grandson, and returned on 25th May to the house in the village near Milas, which I now call home.

That more or less completes the Turkey journey to date. I still intend to see a lot more of this beautiful country, but just in short bursts. It's finally time to put down roots.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Why do you Blog?

Reading authorblog's series of posts entitled "Sunday Roast" where he interviews bloggers made me stop and think this morning about why people blog.

When I first moved to Turkey I kept a diary, in a series of exercise books. I found it interesting to look back over them at the problems and experiences I had encountered.

Unfortunately, during one of our many house moves, I lost them, and never bothered to start again.

I've only been using the internet for about 3 years now and it was only fairly recently that I actually discovered blogs. In fact I'd heard the word "blog" bandied about but never knew what it meant, or had the inclination to find out.

Two of my "followers" actually encouraged me to start and I'm very glad I did. It's like writing my diary all over again.

I always enjoyed writing. I loved doing the assignments when I did courses with the Open University some years ago.

I always thought I'd like to write a book but I don't have the discipline necessary for that. Blogging means I don't have to structure what I write. I don't need to plan the beginning, the middle and the end of my story. I can just switch on my laptop and write whatever comes into my head. And it never reaches a just goes on and a diary. And it's a perfect way of getting it all off your's very therapeutic.

The added bonus of course is that, even though I do this mostly for myself, I have gathered followers along the way, which means I have also discovered their blogs, the reading of which is another enjoyable pastime. blogger friends... please tell me...why do you blog?

Country Life

It's two and a half months now since I moved to this village. I'm still adapting to country life. It isn't always easy.

Anyone who lives in the country will know that it isn't as peaceful as people imagine. The 2am dawn chorus I mentioned earlier is quite a shock to the system. I've discovered there is a repeat performance at around 5am....the right time of course...but until this morning I hadn't noticed it, having probably slept through it until now.

There's background noise everywhere. When you live in a town or city, it's traffic. Here it's tractors and animals.

Then theres the noise from a woman who lives just down the hill, who I learned has a severe mental health problem/borderline learning disabilities, who collects cats. She is married to a man who has similar problems...but is also deaf. Which is just as well as she shouts and laughs very loudly in between calling out for all the cats in the vicinity to come and be fed. Her's is a sad story. They once had a son who died. I don't know how old he was or how he died, because no-one will talk about it. But this tragic event was the start of her collecting cats as a way of dealing with her loss. I'm much encouraged by the fact that the people of the village take care of this couple, making sure that they never go without anything they need, or doing jobs for them that they can't manage.

You never see young men in this village. As in villages all over Turkey, there's no work for them. They mostly set off at the beginning of the season for the tourist areas...not always a positive thing in my opinion. Their simple lives are affected by a totally different way of life. It's hard for them to settle back into village life in the winter, so they just sit it out until they can get away again the following year.

Mr Ayak is also working away from home at the moment. As I mentioned before it is within driving distance but his car is still out of action, and in any case he earns so little that it's not
sensible to waste money on petrol getting to and from work.

So he has been away for almost two weeks now. He sent me some money via the Post Office which I collected yesterday, and even though it's not a huge amount, it's a relief to be able to buy food and pay some of the bills.

But there are little jobs piling up here which I need him to do, things which I can't manage and there's no-one I can ask to do them for me. I'm struggling with simple things like shopping because I have to get a bus into Milas, make sure I don't buy more than I can carry as I have the difficult walk up the hill to the house once I get off the bus.

But mostly I miss him. Of course I am used to not seeing much of him during the summer months, and he's worked away a fair amount. But it hits me because I feel more isolated here than I did when I lived in towns or seaside resorts. I would normally look forward to his return at the end of the season, but he told me last night that the man he is working for has offered him a job in Istanbul for the winter. Part of me wants to say "please don't take it" but my sensible side says that because he has been out of work for so long, he has no choice, and he is luckier than most to be given the opportunity.

A lottery win would be really welcome right now!

Don't get me wrong. I don't regret moving here. It's beautiful and it is absolutely the right place for me.

But true happiness always comes at a price.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The Dolmuş

A dolmuş is a privately owned vehicle, with seating capacity of 14 which runs to and from towns and outlying villages.

Dolmuş means "stuffed" or "full" as they often don't run to fixed schedules, but when they are full. Mainly because the fare's very cheap, and the owner/driver isn't likely to earn very much with one or two passengers.

And boy do they fill them to capacity! They will stop anywhere on route if you flag them down. Even when full, they always manage to squeeze in another passenger. The traffic police have been known to stop the driver if he is overloaded with passengers, which means that those standing have to get off..regardless of where they are. It's not unusual for the dolmuş driver, on seeing a traffic police car ahead, to shout for those passengers standing to get down. They immediately respond by ducking down until the police car is out of sight.

There's a lot of shuffling about and swapping of seats on the dolmuş because even in the 21st century, it's still frowned upon for a man to sit next to a woman, so when a new passenger gets on, people move about to accommodate them. And chivalry is not dead here...a man or child will always stand to allow a woman or elderly passenger to have a seat.

Paying your fare is a little precarious. You tap the shoulder of the person in front of you..hand them your money and it's then passed forward to the driver. If you need change, it's then passed back to you via the same route. All this happens while the driver is driving. You can imagine the potential for accidents.

A dolmuş driver is a rare breed. He is a patient man and very accommodating. He is happy to stop for a passenger who spots a family member en route, so that the passenger can have a quick chat with the relative, or hand over a gift of some kind, before continuing on his journey (this happened while I was on the way to Milas yesterday...he even waited for the elderly relative to cross back over the busy road before setting off again).

He'll gladly stop for you to pop into a shop for bread or cigarettes, and if someone en route from town to village wants to send something to a relative, he'll obligingly act as delivery man.

It's not unusual for him to make a diversion off his main route, to drop a child at home or at school, to prevent an elderly passenger from having to walk too far. And he really gets to know his regulars very quickly. After my first trip on the local dolmuş, he knew exactly where to drop me off from then on without my having to tell him.

He will allow people to board the bus with almost anything. On market days it's impossible to get into a seat without first climbing across bags of shopping, sacks of potatoes, and anything else that you happen to have bought in town. When I lived in Gumusluk a man once boarded with an entire bathroom suite...toilet, washbasin and shower base...and no-one batted an eyelid.

I've made many new friends on a dolmuş. Only last week when I arrived back in the village from Milas, two Turkish ladies got off the bus at the same place as me. Their houses were on the way up the hill to my house. Instead of the usual 10 minutes it takes me to get to the top of the hill, I arrived home 2 hours later, having been invited in to one house to catch my breath, and drink water, then to the the home of the other lady to drink Turkish coffee whilst we got to know each other.

Mr Ayak hates the dolmuş...he thinks they are overcrowded and smelly...which of course they are especially in the height of summer.

Me? I love them!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Someone please tell them the timing's all wrong!

Why do the Turks ALWAYS re-surface the roads with tarmac in July and August when the temperatures are at their highest? It happens everywhere I've lived in this country.

Why do they decide to repair the water pipes in the village during the hottest part of the summer? This necessitated cutting off the water supply for 8 hours yesterday....and for 8 hours again today.

Why do we always get power cuts just as something good is starting on television...or I'm almost at the end of a long email and haven't saved it....or there's something baking in the oven and it's only half-cooked? And it's nearly always dark and I can't find the candles or a torch.

And cocks crow at dawn everywhere else don't they? Not here...the dawn chorus starts at 2'o'clock in the morning. And all the dogs, cows and donkeys join in. Why is that?

The water supply came back on too late for me to water the garden last night. I fell asleep sometime after midnight, only to be woken by the dawn chorus at 2am...which kept me awake for an hour.

The call to prayer at around 5 am reminded me that I would need to get up to water the garden before the sun had completely risen. And that I would need to have a shower, use the washing machine, and fill some containers with water before it's disconnected again.

You know I love this country...but sometimes I just wish that they'd get the timing right.