Monthly Archives: July 2014

A Rant About Ants

Before we moved to Turkey I did some swotting up on what sort of wildlife we might come across and was a little surprised to read that leopards and bears still roam the more far-flung parts of the country. There are plenty of snakes too and even crickets and grasshoppers whose size and vivid colour would allow them to blend in without effort in your average Toys R Us.

But despite jumping spiders which would put Jessica Ennis to shame, hornets which Bec and Em swear are the size of sparrows and beetles which drone like helicopters in flight, our most relentless natural adversaries have been the ants.

First of all, I never realised just how many different sizes they come in.

Of course, there are some pretty big ones in the garden, efficiently fulfilling the roles of both nature’s refuse disposal team and undertaker. I’ve already witnessed them dismantling and spiriting away the body of a full-grown cricket in just over 24 hours.

But there are others who seem to lurk somewhere, waiting for the minute sound of a breadcrumb hitting a tiled floor. That’s the signal for an organised expedition, scouts identifying the exact location before the main force marches in, a busy line soon connecting kitchen with a nest somewhere outside.

And it’s not just the floor. These little blighters don’t stop at cupboard doors and even air-tight Tupperware boxes are no defence, particularly if the contents are sweet or sugary. It seems a species has evolved which is so small it can penetrate them without much effort.

At first, it seemed a shame to disrupt those meticulously planned marches by sweeping the advanced squadrons into a dustpan, depositing them back in the garden and then waiting for the rest of the line to report that the food source had disappeared.

But it seems that’s not how it works. Those left behind simply become scouts and scurry around the house looking for something else – a bit of Whiskas biscuit dropped by one of the cats, a tiny blob of salad dressing, a sliver of apple from breakfast which slipped down the back of the dustbin – and then the whole line quickly reforms and marches relentlessly across the varied terrain of carpet and floor tile to a new destination.

We tried upturned Velcro, salt, lemon-scented spray and even gaffer tape left sticky-side-up across the line of march but they soon worked their way around all of them.

In the end, we had no choice but the nuclear option. A tin of Raid was purchased from the shop in Hisarönü and deployed at the most likely ingress / egress point under the front door; we haven’t seen any ants in the house since then.

But, somehow, I’m not entirely convinced we have achieved a lasting victory. I think they might still be out there plotting. We may have won a battle but I’m not sure we’ve won the war …

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Puppy Love

After an exploratory shopping expedition to Fethiye the other day, Bec and I returned home to discover we had a new member of the family.

Apparently, our landlord was a little worried our daughter Emma would be missing her friends from England and might be a little lonely, so he’d popped round with a puppy – a delightful little ball of chocolate and coffee-coloured fur.

To her credit, Em had already half-demurred, suspecting we’d go all practical on our return and – albeit reluctantly – decline the gift.

But the look in her eyes, to say nothing of the unspeakable cuteness of this apparent and unlikely mix of sausage dog and Doberman, was enough to melt our hearts.

With only a perfunctory attempt at sensible debate, we’d agreed the puppy could stay and our smiling landlord returned to his truck, waving like a benevolent granddad as his red pick-up rolled down the drive and out through the gates.

But, as the dust settled, suddenly we were transported back to the day we returned home with our first-born; we hadn’t a clue what we were supposed to do next.

Where would it sleep? What do you feed it? Do we have any toys? What the hell are the cats going to think? But, most importantly, how do you prevent a weeing and poohing machine from littering the house with unpleasant surprises?

Neighbour Tommy’s advice was as you might expect from a culture which seems to struggle to comprehend the English sentimentality for pets.

“Leave it on balcony with water and food. It be fine,” he said, resorting to a resigned “You English …” when we explained there was no way we’d leave her outside.

An hour on the internet and some advice from dog-owning friends on Facebook put us on the right track – followed by another expedition on the bus to the pet shop in Fethiye, which left us about £120 worse off.

The last few days have been a bit of a blur, fitting work, home chores and friends around the new addition to the family. In fact, I suppose it’s true to say our life here in Turkey has taken a lurch in an unexpected direction as we’re now a little less free to do as we please.

But, as Fidget (that’s what we decided to call her) lies in her basket at my feet as I type, woofing softly in her sleep, I can’t say I’m sorry.

The priest who married Bec and I told us, when it came to having kids, there wasn’t really a “right time”. Maybe it’s the same with dogs…

SP

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Fidget – the latest addition to the family

Snakes Alive …. Briefly

I’ve always had a bit of a boyish fascination with snakes – so when one turned up on our balcony the other night I was actually quite excited.

Without taking any daft risks, I got as close as I could to take a couple of pictures and then summoned our daughter, Emma, so we could both watch together as this beautiful grey-and-black creature with its delicate ace-of-spades head explored the veranda, its tongue flicking in and out as it tested its environment.

Bec was out at the time helping our new neighbour Tommy welcome guests to his holiday accommodation so I thought it best to text a warning of our visitor so, when she came in, she wouldn’t step on it in the dark.

But, within minutes, a reply came back urging us to stay indoors; this snake was a killer and Tommy would be round urgently to protect us.

Apparently, my text whipped up a bit of a storm in the Ozturk household as brothers were dispatched for a gun and ammunition while Tommy hurriedly finished off his welcome procedure. At one point Bec said it seemed the whole clan would be descending on our property with pitchforks and flaming torches to rid us of the beast.

In the end it was just Tommy – but he was tense and serious, urging Bec inside immediately on their return before demanding precise information on where I’d last seen the snake.

“This one bite you, hospital would be no good,” he warned, stalking round the patio with a torch in one hand and shotgun in the other.

To be honest, a moment later when I spotted the snake, gliding gracefully through fallen vine leaves and heading for our boundary wall, I was reluctant to point it out as I knew what was coming next.

Two blasts with the shotgun, and our snake was suddenly very dead.

Of course, Tommy was right when he pointed out that, if it had made a permanent home in our garden, Emma could quite easily step on it by accident one day or perhaps one of the cats would be tempted to try it out as a plaything.

But a bit of me was batting for Team Snake – and I can’t help feel a little guilty that it was me who summoned its swift and ruthless executioner.

 

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Our visitor before its unfortunate demise

Time to Man Up ..?

It’s been a week since we arrived in Turkey and there are two things to which I have already had to resign myself.

Firstly, I am now mostly called “Stiv” not Steve.

Secondly, I suspect – in the eyes of the average Turk – I’m not very good at being a bloke.

Society here is, let’s say, a little more chauvinistic than back in the UK. It’s still a secular country so I’m not suggesting women are kept from education or forced to wear the burqa. It’s just that it seems, traditionally, the man is expected to do certain things which, over time, I’ve let slide.

For a start, I don’t usually carry a wallet. I’m too adept at losing them so, when it comes to shopping or meals out, I tend to defer to Bec when it comes to bank cards or cash. Friends in the UK have joked that I’m like royalty – but I’m not sure how the Turks see it.

Several times now, at the end of a meal or in the shops, waiters and shop assistants have turned to me expectantly, anticipating that I’ll be the one settling the bill. A shrug and a gesture with my hand has usually been enough to indicate who the cash or card-carrying member of our family is – and, almost without exception, a look follows which is hard to define. I suppose it’s more momentary consternation than anything; the look you might get, for example, if you were sitting among a group of Rolling Stones fans and admitted you like Justin Bieber.

The same happened the other day when the landlord came round unexpectedly for the rent. As Bec was out, I had to admit I didn’t know where she’d put the Turkish lira she had set aside – and, again, there was that momentary puzzlement.

But, this time – casting an eye over my shoulder as we spoke at the doorstep  – our landlord could also clearly see a basket of laundry and evidence someone was doing the ironing. There was a moment’s awkward silence while he seemed to struggle to decide if I really was doing household chores or if Bec was hiding somewhere.

In our house, there’s always been a division of labour. I’m not that fond of cooking so Bec does most of it and, in return, I’m washer-up in chief and ironer.

But, as the landlord returned to his car, spoke to his driver and they both glanced up for a second or two before starting the engine and driving away, I got the feeling that’s not necessarily how works here.

In Turkey, women have the vote, dress as they please, run businesses or take executive roles in commerce – but, in subtle ways, it seems there may still be some roles defined by gender

As a result, I think I may have to learn to carry a wallet – and iron like a ninja…

SP