Tag Archives: Fethiye

A Dog’s Life

We’ve not really posted much for a while, and there’s been a good reason. Something tragic happened in our little family and it’s taken time to come to terms with it.

We didn’t want to blurt it out but neither did we want to ignore it, and writing about other events in our lives just didn’t seem important.

Now, as we enter a new chapter, it feels like the right time to explain.

Our two dogs, Fidget and Fifi, weren’t perfect and it’s fair to say they gave us some challenges. But they were also our ‘Princess Pups’ – they enriched our lives and we loved them dearly.

Fidget

Fidget

fifi

Fifi

When we lost them back in May, it hit us all hard. Small though they were, the hole they left was huge. Without going into too much detail, high winds brought down power cables into puddles left as a result of a nearby pool being drained. On a walk one morning, the pups reached the live puddles first….

Anyone who’s lost a pet knows how traumatic it can be. It didn’t help that we were all apart at the time – Steve and Emma in the UK for Em’s exams, and me at home alone. We all agreed we couldn’t even think about another dog, that we needed time to get used to being at home without ‘the girls’ bouncing around.

Then I saw the photograph on Facebook. ‘Dave’ was a young German Shepherd who was found by holidaymakers. He was in a bad way and only had the use of three legs due to a break in the fourth that had fused as it mended. He’d been living on the streets and, although they were looking after him, they were leaving in a few days. ‘Dave’ needed a home, somewhere he could rest and recuperate.

I felt torn. Part of me didn’t feel ready to take on another dog, but I kept returning to his picture, looking at his face. “Help me,” his eyes seemed to beg.

After a couple of days I mentioned it to Steve and we agreed we would take him in, albeit on a temporary basis. Two days later, we brought him home. He was quiet and unsure of himself, but so gentle and trusting. He didn’t know how to play and was unaccustomed to treats. He didn’t like having eye drops administered – he had an infection – but he didn’t make a fuss while we did it. He’d sit patiently outside the door waiting for food. He accepted a collar and lead, but a short walk up the lane was quite enough to tire him out.

That was three months ago. And now?

The new boy in our lives - darling Dillon.

The new boy in our lives – darling Dillon.

He’s enjoying two walks a day of 5-6km each, and half the time he’s up for more. He loves shoes and regularly steals them off the racks outside the front door – he doesn’t chew them, just hides them in his secret stash. His favourite game is ‘fetch’ with a squeaky rubber ball, though more often he runs off with it to do a victory lap of the garden. He’s started to use his bad leg to walk and play, and can even jump easily – if not gracefully – into the back of our Land Rover. He loves other dogs and people; he’s kind and friendly and has the sweetest temperament, as well as a cheeky, mischievous streak. Essentially, now he’s safe and cared for, his body can use its energy to recover, rather than just survive.

We’ve renamed him, as ‘Dave’ just didn’t seem to fit. He’s now ‘Dillon’ – or Dill. We always said we’d have a dog called Dill – and anyone who remembers The Herb Garden will recall he was Parsley’s best friend.

He’s carved out his own niche in our home and our hearts, so much so that we’ve decided to adopt him for good. We did wonder if we were doing the right thing – not because we don’t love him or aren’t certain we want him, but because, in our little backwater, he’s not popular with the villagers.

His breed, the way he looks, means he’s automatically regarded with fear and suspicion. The locals are convinced he’s a vicious killing machine that will decimate their flocks and probably rip out their children’s throats. Even though he’s always on a lead and barely gives livestock a passing glance as we go by, a couple of steps towards them has people almost leaping into the bushes to escape this fearsome menace.

We do worry, when we walk him, that he’ll sniff out poisoned meat and eat it without us noticing. Somebody could even come to our house when we leave him – though we don’t, very often – and feed it to him through the gate, or even shoot him. It happens, sadly.

But we’ve decided that we’re his best option and we’re delighted he’s going to be a permanent member of the family. The girls are forever in our hearts, but there’s space for him too.

It’s good to have a dog again.

Don’t Call Me Baby

Angry baby

I was sitting on a beach chatting the other day with friends who are not resident in Turkey but who visit regularly. Naturally, the conversation sometimes turns to the challenges we face living abroad and, although I can’t remember now which particular one I was addressing, I know I was elaborating on differences between life in Turkey and the UK.

Suddenly, in a pause, a compact, dark-haired lady sitting nearby interjected abruptly, asking: “So you live here?”

“Yes,” I replied, smiling, expecting the usual questions about what it’s like to reside in permanent sunny splendour, surrounded by beautiful scenery and such lovely people.

“How long for?” she added. And, suddenly, I knew what was coming.

“Just under two years now,” I said – and waited.

“Oh, well, you’re just a baby then…” And BOOOOM!  She was off, relating stories of her own about her 18 years in country and very deliberately putting me in my place as an inexperienced incomer.

I’m not sure why it happens but I think it’s maybe because, as a resident of a country where so many head for their annual holiday in the sun, you sometimes find yourself the subject of some fascination. After all, you are living their dream and they want to know what it’s like. Start talking about it, and you can soon find yourself the centre of attention. Personally, it’s not something I’m particularly comfortable with but I’ve come to realise that others crave it.

I’m by no means saying all ex-pats do, but some seem to believe their years in Turkey are a badge of honour which ought to be respected and they don’t want to see a relative newbie steal their thunder.

Usually I shrug inwardly and leave them to it. In the early days then yes; sometimes the interest from holidaymakers we’ve met was flattering. But now, if anyone asks about my life here, I try to keep my answers brief. It’s partly because I don’t want to stamp all over people’s dreams with tales of the reality; they don’t want to hear about freezing cold houses in winter, flaky internet, unreliable water and electricity supplies and life with no Cheddar cheese. But I’m also aware I’m still learning every day myself and one of those lessons is that there might be someone with more time under their belt than me lurking somewhere nearby ready to pounce – and sometimes, as on this occasion, I find it irksome.

I’ll happily listen to good advice and I recognise there are plenty of people who have lived here much longer and know far more than I do about the potential pitfalls. But being patronised always puts my teeth on edge and I found being called “just a baby” particularly presumptuous.

The thing is, although I may have only lived in Turkey for a couple of years, I have lived overseas before. My work has also taken me abroad many times, even to a couple of war zones. But this particular lady seemed determined to pigeon-hole me as a romantic fresh from the UK, still wearing rose-tinted glasses with nowhere near the experience necessary even to talk to tourists.

It’s by no means the first time it’s happened. If you live in Turkey, I suspect you’ll find as we have that there is often someone itching to tell you how little you know, how naïve you have been or how much better they have managed or adjusted to life here. The trick is working out which ones are worth listening to.

Of course I don’t have all the answers and probably never will. I’ll freely admit we’ve made some howlers and learned a few things along the way. But isn’t that what life is about? I certainly feel I’ve as much right as anyone to tell a few funny stories to anyone who shows an interest.

But do me a favour. If we meet and I ever describe you as “just a baby”, slap me. Okay?

“Do You Want To Phone A Friend …?”

Remember Chris Tarrant? I do … and let me explain why.

Genial and quick-witted, there was a time when it seemed Chris was everywhere. Radio shows, games, books and of course perhaps his most famous role as host of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. And that’s why he sometimes pops into my mind when I try to speak Turkish.

Why? Well, in the show, if you didn’t know the answer to any of the questions Chris fired at you, you had three “lifelines”. You could ask the audience, you could go 50/50 and eliminate some of the wrong ones or you could phone a friend. And, if I’m honest, I’ve done the equivalent of all three while trying to make myself understood in Turkish.

As an example, let’s use our attempt to buy some tempered glass for the wood-burner after the last sheet detonated rather dramatically in the middle of a family evening in front of the telly the other night.

We looked up “glass” “fire” and “wood-burner” and set off for the shop in Fethiye and, on arrival at  the workshop, found three guys in conversation, the middle one stopping to raise an inquiring eyebrow. We’ve done more than a year of Turkish lessons now and I had been reasonably confident we’d be able to say something like: “Hi, we need two sheets of tempered glass for a wood-burner.” Sadly, despite the preparation, nothing came out.

Try as I might, I just couldn’t marshal the words into a sentence quickly enough and, as I became increasingly aware of the long pause, I panicked. I pointed at some glass, I said the Turkish word for “fire” and hoped that was enough.

But no. The shopkeeper replied with some quick-fire Turkish and all I could do was look at him helplessly – and that’s usually where Chris Tarrant steps in.

“Do you want to use one of your lifelines?” he asked in my head, when actually, what I wanted to do was just make myself coherent. “Do you want to ask the audience?”

I looked hopefully at Bec. Nope. No help coming from there. The other two guys in the shop had wandered off and there was no chance of catching their eye either.

“Do you want to use your 50/50?” Chris was asking. I fumbled with my phone hoping the translation app was still open so I could show the shopkeeper the words we looked up earlier in the hope he could make sense of what we’re after from that. It wasn’t.

“Do you want to phone a friend?” inquired my imaginary Chris, although in the real world, it was actually Bec with her own mobile in her hand.

“Hmm?” I asked dazedly.

“Do you want me to call Bayram? He’ll be able to explain what we want …”

“Oh. Right. Yes. I suppose so.”

And minutes later there was a telephone conversation going on between the shopkeeper and our bilingual friend while I stood ashamed that, yet again, I couldn’t string a sentence together in Turkish – or at least not one that I was confident would make any sense.

After over a year of trying to learn a new language, I’m okay in the markets, bars and restaurants and I can even manage rudimentary car maintenance phrases after a series of issues with our Land Rover. But it’s when you enter a new scenario or when you’re dealing with officialdom that linguistic shortcomings become far more evident – and it can underline just how far you still have to go.

We’re fortunate to have a teacher with endless patience and a sense of humour too. Indeed, Bülent seems to find the stories I tell about how I’ve struggled this week quite amusing. But, then we’ll settle down to run through where I went wrong.

Besides, as Bülent points out, if we added up all the time we’ve spent in lessons together, it only comes to just over 100 hours, which is about three weeks if we worked on a nine-to-five basis. Is it really realistic to expect to be able to speak a new language fluently in such a short time? Probably not.

It’s true the effort you make to speak even rudimentary Turkish is appreciated by locals, and reciprocated in their smiles and even in the price you pay in the lokantas and at some of the market stalls. It is definitely worth the effort.

Nevertheless, I suspect it’s going to be a while before I’m free of Chris Tarrant.

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It’s Harder Than You Think To Do Favours For Sailors …

On more than one occasion since we moved to Turkey there have been occasions when we would have been totally lost without the intervention of our neighbours, Tommy and Mehmet, so when I heard there was a lot of work to do on their family boat over the winter, I was quick to offer my assistance and collection of power tools in return.

Used for tourist trips in the summer months, the Deniz Bey sails daily from the beach at Ölüdeniz, taking up to 30 people on trips along the spectacular Anatolian coast. However, every winter, the effects of wind, sun and sea need to be redressed – which means several weeks in dry dock for sanding, varnishing and painting.

Volunteering, I imagined a few afternoons plugged into iTunes, brandishing familiar equipment acquired from my dad or – often on impulse – from DIY superstores in the UK.  But despite admitted recent failings as a “proper man” in the eyes of the average Turk (Time To Man Up …) I’ll admit I was still a bit disappointed by the questioning looks that my offer inspired.

“Can you paint?” asked Mehmet.

“I think so,” I replied. “I have my own sanders and I did decorate quite a bit of our house in England myself.”

Perhaps it was the small smile from Bec – who has never quite forgotten the “Incident Of The Flooded Bathroom” back in 1995 – or maybe it was the absence of experience on boats, but Mehmet still looked doubtful.

Nevertheless, a few days ago, the call came: “Stiv? Is Mehmet. I work on boat while the weather is nice today. Can you help?”

“Of course,” I said. “I’ll get my tools out of the shed….”

“No need. I have tools. I come to get you.”

Half an hour later another new experience began. Unexpectedly, I found myself on the back of a scooter (without a helmet) being bounced savagely along a narrow mountain road en route to the boatyard in nearby Fethiye.

I’m a balding man of 53 but, nevertheless, on arrival what hair I have resembled a clown on a bad day. I also had to surreptitiously shake the cramp out of a leg before I could even begin to make my way to the dry docks.

Once there, I realised that, far from spending the day on nice, safe decks, I’d have to get used to the idea of working 20ft up on rickety planks, suspended between makeshift scaffolding mostly made up of elderly stepladders.

In short, it was hell. It takes a certain skill to wield a heavy-duty sander above your head when you have no handholds, a yawning drop beneath sucks at your heels and dust cakes the inside of your mouth and nose. I missed bits, which Mehmet had to point out before he could add a layer of varnish, and I must have been slow because there were plenty of times when he seemed to be watching and waiting.

Other boatyard workers passed beneath. There were shouted conversations with Mehmet, which seemed to end with looks in my direction and a little laughter. But, after what seemed like hours of torture which left my fingers tingling and shoulder muscles aching, it was time for a lunch-break.

It turned out even that was a challenge. If you’ve tried kokoreç then you’ll know what’s in it. If not, let’s just say I discovered sheep intestines are probably an acquired taste. Then it was back to several more hours of back-breaking work in the midst of a forest of masts and rigging, the shrill sounds of drills and sanders – and more Turkish banter.

The thing is, I loved it. I have spent most of my professional life in an office or at least in front of a keyboard, typing – but this was something completely different.

It was hard, yes. I was also aware of being a stranger in a tight-knit community which gathers in the boatyard every winter. But it was an experience – and one I have repeated more than once since.

A couple of weeks later, and now I get nods and handshakes. Indeed, the boatyard boss has shown me around and given me his card. It’s not like I’m ever going to be a professional – Turkish laws prevent that anyway – but it’s been fun helping out and should the Deniz Bey ever need me, I’d be happy to step up to the mark again.

Just don’t ask me to eat kokoreç though…

Mehmet on the boat

Mehmet ready to start work on board the Deniz Bey

A Sign Of Embarrassment

Sign

A red-and-white sign at the top of our lane reads “Çıkmaz Sokak” and, as we knew “sokak” translates from Turkish as “street”, it was a natural assumption that adding our house number would give us the first line of our new address.

The rest was a little less obvious. With no postal deliveries made to individual homes in Kayaköy, we sort of got the impression you could more or less make up your own and if we’d gone with “The Lane Behind Cin Bal Restaurant, Follow It Until You Fall Off The End”, nobody would’ve raised an eyebrow. It seemed the only important bits were the name of the village and the district number; as long as they were included, our post would find its way to the local shop for collection.

The first indication that things are not quite as simple as that came when we were going through the residency procedure.  Our ever-helpful neighbour Tommy had volunteered to take our application forms to the village head man for the necessary sign of approval – but he was soon back:

“You have not filled in forms right,” he said. “This is not your address,” he added, pointing to the line faithfully filled in 47 Çıkmaz Sokak.

“Oh but it is … There’s even a new sign saying ‘Çıkmaz Sokak’ at the end of the road,” I said.

“I know. But it is not your address…” insisted Tommy. “You have to go to belediye in Fethiye and get it changed.”

“Eh? If it’s wrong – which I don’t think it is, by the way – can’t I just fill in a new form and start again?”

“No,” said Tommy gloomily. “Head man has seen it now so we must start with getting new address…”

We won’t bother with the details of what happened next. Let’s just say, after two days of form-filling, traipsing from one official building to another and smiling hopefully at stern-faced officials, the whole tortuous residency procedure was complete and the seals were put on our (ultimately successful) applications to live in Turkey. (If you’d like a bit more on that particular episode you could always read an earlier blog, The Day We Ran Headlong Into The Language Barrier).

However, the issue over the wrong address still baffled us – at least until our latest Turkish lesson at the weekend.

We’re on to verbs and teacher Bülent was explaining the verb “çıkmak”, which means “to exit” or “to leave”.

“Ah… So that means our road is the one which leaves the village,” I said somewhat triumphantly.

“No. Not really,” said Bülent. “‘Çıkmaz’ is not the same as `çıkmak’. I know it looks similar but ‘çıkmaz sokak’ means what you call a ‘dead end’ in English. Or maybe ‘no through road’.”

Yep. That’s right. For six months, I’ve been happily telling people we live at “No 47 No Entry”. Suddenly, all those odd or slightly pitying looks made a bit more sense. Tommy and the head man weren’t being obstructive either. By not really explaining why I had to change my application form, they were just trying to protect me from some future embarrassment.

I would like to end by recording my thanks to both – and by continuing to resist a powerful urge to crawl under something and hide.

In Praise of Wood Burners … Or Not

Wood burners are great, aren’t they?

After a long day, there’s nothing quite like flopping down in front of a cheery glow, watching the flames dance in intricate shapes while you sip a decent glass of red. Warmth radiates from the hearth and, while you wiggle your toes just a little nearer, the dog yawns and stretches luxuriously before settling again with a small sigh…

At least that’s the image most of us would have and it’s probably one the salesman would play on back in the UK where we already have central heating anyway. The thing is, in Turkey, most homes don’t have such luxuries. After all, it’s mostly blazing hot so why would you need to spend a fortune having a boiler and radiators installed, right?

Um … wrong.

Temperatures here this week have been below freezing more than once and, even when they haven’t, the sun has often been conspicuous by its absence. That means the log burner isn’t a luxury or an indulgence. It’s the most efficient and cheapest source of heat – but it also needs feeding. That means, as the summer season finishes in Kayaköy, the locals disappear into the woods with chainsaws.

At first, I quite liked the idea of self-sufficiency. We already had a huge pile of wood in the orchard so, rather romantically thinking of myself as Pa in Little House on The Prairie, I was looking forward to wielding a newly-acquired axe to cut it all to size. I reasoned that as long as I used dry days to wander down to the wood pile and chop enough for three or four nights, we’d be fine. There would be more than enough to last us through the worst of the winter.

It turns out I was wrong about that too.

I had no idea that a wood burner could have such a voracious appetite. Even before Christmas our stock was almost gone and I was wishing I’d used the warmer, drier weather in early October to head for the woods with everyone else. With no chainsaw of our own, we had to call in help.

“Yes. I fetch for you. How much you want?” asked our ever-helpful neighbour, Mehmet.

“Oh, I don’t know … As much as you can carry I suppose,” I replied, thinking he must know someone with a tractor and trailer.

Just two days later, I heard the toot of Mehmet’s scooter and, incredulously, watched him wobble down the drive with the first load of branches and small logs balanced between the fairing and seat.

“Er… thanks Mehmet, but I think I’ll be needing more than that,” I said, trying not to sound ungrateful.

“Yes, yes. I have more cut in woods. I bring it,” he said cheerily, disappearing after the few minutes it took to unload.

He was as good as his word too – even though he had to resort to the family car when the abused scooter’s drive shaft expired under the fourth load. Still, the replenished wood pile looked much healthier and I had no reason to doubt Mehmet’s assurance there would be enough to last a couple of months.

Turns out we were wrong about that too…

Just a fortnight later with the weather becoming increasingly hostile, we were getting dangerously close to the bottom of the pile again and I had to accept we were going to have to request a bulk delivery.

Reluctant to ask Mehmet to sacrifice another vehicle in the woods, we made the trip to Saffet’s place in nearby Hisarönu – a shop which not only seems to stock stuff impossible to find anywhere else but in numerous colours too.

“Yes, no problem… I can have a tonne delivered to your house; a mix of soft and hard wood,” Saffet confirmed. “You want it in bags?”

“No, that’s okay. Just get the guy to dump it on the drive. I’ll shift it under cover myself,” I said, still clinging to the Little House On The Prairie dream.

Three days later, after taking the delivery just as the light began to fade, I found myself moving a massive pile of logs from the drive to the lean-to next to the house by hand, in driving rain and gale-force winds in the dark…

Like I say, wood burners are great, aren’t they …?

Log burner

You can’t beat a decent log fire … or can you?

SP

Anyone for a Turkey dinner …?

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to relinquish your chair, dear boy,” said the gentleman in the fedora sitting opposite in a rich English accent which could have been cultivated in the halls of Eton.

“You see, there is absolutely no way on earth I could entertain the idea of eating an entire meal with my back to the door.”

“Gunfighter?” I asked with a smile.

“No, dear boy. Just something I learned in Morocco,” he replied without a hint of mirth.

As we duly swapped seats, I was thinking this was hardly a conventional introduction to the village’s ex-pat community  – albeit an intriguing one.

But then what had I been expecting? If I’m honest, I’m not sure…

We’d seen groups of Brits gathered in bars and restaurants of course, and we’d even been told by Turkish friends that if we wanted to make their acquaintance, then they always seemed to meet in the same places and at the same time every week.

From a distance, others we’d seen in bars and restaurants up and down the harbour in Fethiye during the summer looked to be close-knit groups; mostly retired, mostly deeply tanned by years in the Mediterranean sun and, I’m afraid to say, emanating that slightly superior attitude that as a race the British tend to use, particularly towards people in the service industry.

So when it became evident that most of Kayaköy’s ex-pat community would be attending the same (and only) restaurant in the village laying on a traditional turkey dinner on Christmas Day, I’ll admit to being a little apprehensive.

But despite the slightly unorthodox introduction, I needn’t have worried. Aside from his slightly Coward-esque demeanour, I found my closest fellow dinner guest entertaining, charming and a fascinating raconteur. Another retired couple sharing the same corner of the tiny “lokanta” also proved to be kind, patient with our lack of experience “in-country” and generous to a fault.

Indeed, in such an intimate setting, it was easy to forget the temperature was mid-20C outside, that tinsel and Christmas trees had been scant to say the least and that not a single TV ad so far had tried to persuade me to buy a three-piece suite.

We pulled crackers, read out dreadful jokes, ate far too much and, after a thoroughly enjoyable few hours, waddled out the door after bidding our hosts (both Muslim and Christian) a merry Christmas.

As we left, I glanced across to the tea house next door – a bastion redolent of Turkish tradition, card games, backgammon and cigarettes – which hardly seemed to register our paper party hats and slightly raucous farewells.

Sensing that indifference, it would’ve been easy to suddenly feel a long way from home; for family and friends in the UK to seem a long way away – and I can’t deny we have missed them.

But, instead, that sudden realisation of juxtaposition, the sudden contrast, underlined many of the things which inspired us to try life in a different country in the first place.

Christmas is about family and friends, about reconnecting. But it’s also about giving thanks for what we have – and, at that moment, I was grateful all over again for that sense of adventure which brought us here six months ago.

Christmas dinner

The rest of the Parsleys tucking into a traditional turkey dinner. Merry Christmas!

SP

Did The Earth Move For You …?

It was late – just after midnight – and the rest of the family had gone to bed.

I wasn’t that tired myself and I’d reasoned it was probably better to stay up reading with the dying embers in the wood burner rather than climb between the covers and spend an hour contemplating the darkness.

I had actually become pretty engrossed in the story anyway. The hero was in peril, locked in battle with his nemesis on the high seas – so it was quite an appropriate moment for my armchair to start lurching backwards and forwards.

Thinking it was one of the family come to tell me I really ought to be sleeping, I made an impatient gesture without looking round. The rocking continued for a few more seconds and then ceased.

Finishing my paragraph, I looked round ready to ask why a simple few words were not enough to attract my attention to the time of night – but there was nobody there. Come to think of it, I hadn’t heard the sounds of anyone coming down the stairs either.

Puzzled, I even looked beneath the furniture to see if one of the cats had somehow managed to get beneath the chair – but then it dawned on me. I’d probably just experienced my first earth tremor.

We’d been told they are actually quite common in the part of Turkey where we live. After all, our home is in the coastal region of the Taurus Mountains and a fault line passes quite close to Fethiye, although some distance out to sea.

Nevertheless, feeling the earth move beneath you for the first time – and in the dead of night – is a little unsettling. Inevitably, the next few minutes were fraught with expectation of another quake – but there was nothing. In fact, as the dog didn’t even stir from her slumber, I even began to doubt what had happened. However, a quick glimpse at Facebook soon changed that.

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Our house is in the shadow of the Taurus Mountains which divide inland Turkey from the Anatolian coastline.

The ex-pat forums were full of OMGs and earthquake hashtags. It seemed the tremor, measuring 5.3 on the Richter Scale, had been felt pretty widely across the region. Cutlery had jangled in drawers, light fittings had swayed but, happily, there were no reports of damage.

While I was scrolling through the rapidly expanding stream of comments, our daughter suddenly appeared on the stairs.

“Did you just feel something, Dad? I’m sure my bed just shook….”

“Yep. That was your first earth tremor,” I said with as much nonchalance as I could muster.

“Oh … Right. Night then… “

As I got ready for bed myself, my new dilemma was whether I should be impressed by our daughter’s apparent insouciance or whether I should be waking the house, jabbering about escape routes, torches and pre-prepared “grab bags”.

I was still mulling it over when I fell asleep.

Since then, there have been a few more less-violent tremors. Indeed, friends have told us you get used to them after a while and only to worry if you spot locals hugging trees.

Nevertheless, I now keep my clothes, my shoes and a torch close to the bed at night.

SP

It’s Not Unusual – But I Blame Tom Jones

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The “ghost village” above Kayakoy

Perched on the side of the mountain overlooking the valley, Kayaköy’s “ghost village” attracts visitors from all over the world.

The population exchange in the early 1920s saw the original Greek settlers repatriated to their homeland, with the empty homes they left behind offered to Turks sent home in turn from Greece.

However, deterred by rumours of poisoned wells – and as they were farmers more used to level plains anyway – few moved in; gradually, over time, the old town was left to decay until an earthquake devastated the area in the 1950s.

Timber was in short supply so the local authorities allowed indigenous Turks to take what they could from the empty buildings. Today, just the walls still stand as a testament to a turbulent era described beautifully in the book Birds Without Wings.

The story has helped to ensure that, every summer, thousands of visitors head for the mountains above Fethiye to see the ruins for themselves.

And with tourism booming in Turkey, it’s not surprising that there are now at least two dozen bars and restaurants dotted along Kayaköy’s winding lanes, catering for both tourists who stay in local accommodation and the day-trippers who arrive on quad-bike safaris, on coaches or even on horseback.

Most establishments offer “gözleme” – traditional Turkish pancakes – and, of course the famous “kahvaltı”, a generous breakfast of salad, cheese, olives, eggs and spicy Turkish sausage, nuts, dried fruit and honey, often finished off with melon and sweetened tea.

After a few months here we already have our own favourite haunts – just as we did back in the UK – and a couple of nights ago we were enjoying a drink with friends in a restaurant where a group of ladies in their 50s had stayed for a week of yoga classes. The 12-strong group was saying its farewells before heading home to the UK and it had been a restrained and refined affair.

But then someone swapped the gentle background piano music for a spot of Tom Jones.

Perhaps there had been some over-indulgence when it came to pre-dinner cocktails or the sauvignon blanc, or maybe it was simply the balmy Mediterranean evening – but it wasn’t long before there was dancing and, by the time Tony Christie took over with Amarillo, even the waiters were being encouraged to throw a few shapes.

To cut a long story short – and to protect the innocent – an hour later we’d all gone through a bit of traditional Turkish dancing, Abba, Adele, some Elvis and the inevitable rendition of Pharrell Williams’s Happy – and there was little sign of anyone wanting to go to bed.

The sight of the normally super-efficient maitre-d’ gyrating on the bar and whirling his tie around his head, a normally-reserved and shy member of the waiting staff stripping off his shirt for a particularly energetic Turkish dance and the host’s rendition of Zorba the Greek (a couple of times) are going to be with me for a while.

I have no clear recollection of how it happened but I found myself pouring drinks behind the bar so a few more staff could do a bit of dancing and then being left to blearily jab my finger at the sound system to keep the music playing.

By all accounts, the next day, all was back to normal; everyone was at work and apparently none the worse for wear.

I wish I could say the same but, for me, although one night of spontaneous excess was great fun, it also felt like something of a watershed in our own relocation. We were part of an evening which, for one reason or another, we’ll all remember.

That means, for the first time, we have an experience in common with members of the Kayaköy community – even it is a little embarrassment that, just for a couple of hours, we all forgot we’re not 20 any more

SP

The Day We Ran Headlong Into The Language Barrier…

Before we came to Turkey we were determined to make an effort to learn the language. We reasoned that if we wanted to integrate into village life, then being able to communicate without resorting to the usual pantomime of sign language would be important.

We made friends with the owner of a Turkish restaurant in Yorkshire and tried to visit once a week to practice the pronunciation of a few rudimentary phrases we thought might stand us in good stead. We bought phrase books and – although one evening with friends descended into an inevitable and puerile quest for rude words – made enough progress to be able to count to 20, say “hello”, “yes”, “no”, “pleased to meet you”, and even “Can I have the bill please?”

The thing is, once we arrived in Turkey, every attempt to use the language seemed to be greeted with accented but perfectly understandable English. Communication, it seemed, wasn’t going to be the problem we thought it might be …

But that was before we encountered officialdom.

If you’re a foreign national and you want to live in Turkey, then you need a residency permit – and that’s when you’re likely to come across bureaucracy for the first time.

I’m sure Turkey is no worse than anywhere else. Every nation has to have its established procedures and each one must seem equally convoluted to an immigrant. But here, anything official is definitely conducted in Turkish and, having been lulled into a false sense of linguistic security, suddenly, all our shortcomings were exposed.

Despite help from our Turkish friends who patiently tried to explain what was happening (thankyouthankyouthankyou), I’ll admit I lost count of how many offices we visited – or even why. All I can remember is sitting in front of a procession of desks while council officials, the village headman, tax officers and even policemen argued – sometimes vehemently – with our interpreter about details on the multitude of forms we’d filled in.

Perhaps the worst moment was when, during one encounter with the “belediye” – the equivalent of the district or county council – I noticed grins among the Turkish families waiting their turn at the desk as, without looking up, the official dealing with our case started waving our forms above his head, muttering something aloud which I took to be some sort of jest.

I thought smiling might at least help to portray my forbearance of the procedure, or at least that I was trying my best to co-operate – but the gimlet eye and sudden stiffness in the bearing of the officer suggested otherwise.

I still have no idea what our offence had been. Maybe there was a detail missing or a box not ticked … but, for an awkward ten seconds, it seemed our applications were in jeopardy. An interjection from Ahmed, our driver and interpreter, seemed to diffuse whatever faux pax we’d committed and minutes later the official’s stubby finger was tapping a final form I had to sign – but it felt like a close-run thing. The disdainful and pained look the official threw me as we left said it all.

After that, even the appointment at the harbour-front offices of the Fethiye passport police seemed more amicable. There were still no smiles, but at least the silence and the regular thump of an official stamp on a piece of paper felt reassuring. All we can do now is wait and hope our applications are successful.

If you found this blog and thought it was going to be an idiot’s guide to residency applications in Turkey, I can only apologise. I’m afraid I’m still none the wiser about the proper procedure myself.

However, if you are about to embark on a residency application, I’d thoroughly recommend having someone who speaks fluent Turkish alongside you at all stages of the process.

As for us, Turkish lessons have now begun in earnest with two-hour sessions booked for every Saturday. So far, we’re not much further forward than the Janet and John stuff – but at least we’ve made a start…

SP