Monthly Archives: December 2011

Happy New Year

This time last year we were living and working in London.  Now we are retired and living in Turkey.  We are still coming to terms with the differences this has made to our lives.

Just to round off the year, some updates on a few former posts.

Spending Christmas here has been odd.  It has been strange not seeing family and friends.  Not doing the things we have done for many years, family gatherings, evenings out with work colleagues, drinks with friends.  Spending more time on our own.  It has been pleasant to meet up with others here, the social rounds, drinks, nibbles, dinners, that sort of thing, along with a lot of chat.

The wood we bought turned out to be insufficient.  More wood arrived yesterday.  ‘Half a trailer-load’.  On first impression it was slightly more expensive but much better value, it is however rather wet.  On the positive side we have yet to find any rotten bits with live ants.  Ashley has the task of getting it all into the store over the next few days, at least there is no rush because it will not get rained on where it is.

Yesterday we learned the Turkish for machete and revised the Turkish for axe.  Our language skills are slowly improving.

The pickles we made have worked out very well.  We are still eating the first batch of beetroot pickles.  The red cabbage should be ready as should the second batch of beetroot.  We will make more next year, our own pickled cucumbers and chilies rather than eating the ones we bought locally.

In the New Year Hilary has resolved to take Pilates classes (yes, they have Pilates classes in Selçuk).  She spent 10 lira on a pair of tracksuit trousers today and that will be wasted if she doesn’t take up Pilates (or something similar), unless she takes to wearing them around the house to keep warm.

Hilary is also going to start a new blog – this will show a photograph each day from 2012 paired with a similar exercise she undertook in 2010.  We will link to that tomorrow when it is open.

Oh,  talking of photos…  Saw this on the market this morning.  Our guess is the unfortunate creature is destined to become someone’s New Year’s dinner…

Our stuff should now be in Izmir.  We are expecting to be contacted by our shipping agent next week to tell us we need to go to customs in Izmir pay duty and get it all cleared through.  With any luck it will not be a big expense, and soon after our stuff should arrive here.

Hopefully we’ll be able to combine the trip to Izmir with looking at some motorcycles.   We plan to get a motorcycle in the near future, to be able to go touring in the spring.  We are both missing having the Harley, it needs to be replaced.

Anyway, motorcycles, pickles, sorting health insurance, resolutions, Pilates, and other things are for the future.  Today is New Year’s  eve, our first in Turkey.  We never really did much with it when we were in the UK.  We would stay in, eat too much, drink too much, open a bottle of champagne at midnight.  It will therefore be much the same except we have wine rather than champagne.  Whatever you are doing, wherever you are, have a good new year and a prosperous and healthy 2012.


Where falcons nest

We went for a walk today.  We took the same route as we often take – this walk takes us about two and a half hours.  We’ve posted a lot of pictures of this already and today was not a day that would be easy to capture with a camera.

As ever, we saw a great deal of wildlife, some of which we could identify and some of which we couldn’t.  Despite taking notes.  What is, however, beyond doubt, is that many of the cliffs around here are ideal homes for falcons.  Which kind of got me thinking about falcons especially since we have seen one or two here.

Cliffs where falcons nest

Back in May this year, after we got back from a trip to Selçuk, we took the bike to Symonds Yat for a long weekend.  That place (which is on the Welsh border) is spectacularly beautiful and we were reasonably lucky with the weather.   We did a lot of walking.  We walked up to Symonds Yat rock where there were a team of volunteers from the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) with telescopes showing people the cliff where the peregrine falcons were nesting.  We saw them fly in and out.  A couple of days later, walking alone near the base of those cliffs we got a much better view.  We felt kind of privileged to have seen these beautiful birds.

From a falcon's point of view, the tower block is a cliff

From a falcon's point of view, the tower block is a cliff

A few weeks later, having sold our flat in London, we moved briefly into a studio flat in Baron’s Court – just around the corner from Charing Cross Hospital (part of the Trust I was working for at the time).  There we learned that there were a pair of peregrine falcons nesting on the tower block.  They had two chicks with them – just like the falcons at Symonds Yat.  We got to watch them almost every day.  They were particularly active on my way into and home from work.

This makes me think about how oblivious people can be to things that go on around them every day.  It reminds me of one of my favourite items in Neil Gaiman’s Books of Magic – the Mundane Egg.  It reminds me of the importance of appreciating things we see every day.  It reminds me to remember to see infinity in a grain of sand.

Maybe this is coming back to me now because I am living in an unfamiliar environment which is slowly becoming more and  more familiar.  I do not wish to lose my sense of wonder.

Things to do with beetroot

Or Pancar here in Turkey.  It is plentiful, dirt cheap, wonderfully fresh and utterly delicious.  Here it comes with the leaves, you can get them cut off if you want, but why, as there are things to be done with the leaves and stems?   We  might be biased of course since we adore beetroot.

Maybe this is us but we can’t be bothered trying to get a red clear soup, if we want soup with beetroot we make Borscht.  If we can’t get sour cream to add on top yogurt works just fine, especially the thick and creamy sort.

Beetroot is easy to cook, boil for 45 minutes to 90 minutes depending on size, allow to cool, peel then slice or chop into chunks.  Sliced boiled beetroot is delicious, a spoon of yogurt on top of the slices is good, or sprinkle a few drops of wine or grape vinegar for a sort of pretend pickle.  For proper pickle, slice some boiled and peeled beetroot, put in a pickling jar, pour over boiling pickling vinegar, close and leave in a cool dark place for 2 weeks, there really is nothing more to it.  Beetroot roasts really well, peel and chop into chunks, drizzle over some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with a little cumin, mix, and roast for about an hour, simple and delicious.  Why not try mixed roast root vegetables, potato, beetroot and carrot springs to mind?  Beet stems if young and tender go well in soups and stews, as of course do beet leaves, both impart a wonderful colour.  The leaves stir fry really well, treat much the same way as spinach or chard.

We are always happy to receive other ideas for using beetroot.

Enjoy.  Afiyet olsun.

Overnight in Chios

We had the long-awaited phone call from our shipping agent earlier this week to tell us that our stuff is arriving in Izmir next week and for import purposes and customs regulations we need to leave and then re-enter Turkey.   Crazy regulations, our stuff needs to arrive within one month of our last arrival into Turkey.   We asked him ‘when’?  He said ‘this weekend’.  Not the best of timing in view of this weekend including  Christmas.  So we went to Chios (Greece) and got back today, in time for market.

Çeşme in the rain

Armed with tickets, passports and the rest we arrived at a windswept Çeşme.  This did not really prepare us for the crossing.  It was dramatic. The boat was being thrown around in the swell and gale, the sea pounding on the hull and windows.  There were people being seasick, others frightened.  The view out of the cabin windows was seawater flowing off them.  Two young Turkish men decided they needed to don lifejackets and refused to take them off despite much reassurance that all was safe.  A 45 minute roller coaster ride.

Anyway we got to Chios safely, got a face full of seawater walking along the harbour into town, and after some exploring found a place to stay (typically we ended up in the first place we saw, having spent half an hour exploring different options – none of which were open).  Safely installed in a room which would have had a sea view if it hadn’t been dark and blowing a gale, but did have heating, we decided food and a drink would be a good plan.

There was a pleasant looking bar a couple of doors away from our hotel.  We went in.  It was warm, had a good atmosphere and charged 3.5 euro for a small beer…  We had a small beer each.  Moving on, by sheer luck, we found an excellent restaurant where we had a very good meal (mezzes and stifado with rice and beer) for a reasonable price.  Whilst we were eating a Turkish couple related how they had been booked onto the ferry back that evening but it wasn’t running.  A little worrying but we didn’t let it spoil our enjoyment of the meal.

We failed to find another bar on the way back to our room.  We stopped in a supermarket and stocked up on beer and wine for the evening then headed back to the room, past several welcoming looking bars we had managed to miss before.  Still, if the prices in the first bar were anything to go by, we didn’t do too badly.

Chios in early light

Dawn over Chios was dramatic.  We went back on a slightly larger boat and without any drama.  It was still windy but nothing like the previous night.

Photographs of 2011

I am thinking that it would be a good idea to post one or two photographs each month, ones we like or feel are particularly good.  Something to start in the new year.  For now, some pictures from the last few months, from when we moved to Turkey.

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Four and a half months

We have been living in Turkey for about four and a half months now.  It seems a long time since quitting the NHS in July of this year and yet our arrival in the blazing heat of August seems far more recent.  In the time we have been here we have achieved most of the many tasks we set ourselves and learned a good deal of how things work here.

We have Residence Permits and all that goes with them.

We have bought a house.

We have sorted out most of the finances.

In achieving these there have been many trips to officials to have documents translated, to have documents notarised, to have copies made of many other documents, forms to sign, solicitors to deal with, translators, and so on.  There has been hand holding at times by others who have better command of the language and / or the bureaucracy, and times when we have managed on our own.  We have encountered many officials, all of who have been helpful and polite.  Everyone who has helped us has been great, has smiled, been polite.

On top of these big tasks we have phone, internet, mobile phone in our names, registered a UK mobile phone, and many other smaller tasks completed.  We have also started to make some changes to our new home, moved the washing machine, freed up space in the kitchen, had the damp course and drainage done at the back, started to make alterations to the roof terrace.   The house we bought is feeling like home now.

There are still some bits to do.  We are in the process of sorting out health insurance.  Our stuff will arrive in Izmir at some point and need getting through customs – just heard about this, arriving next week.  So we’re hoping to have our 15 boxes either before the end of this year or fairly early next.  It takes stuff time to clear through customs.

Then there are two large tasks.  The concrete steps up to the house and the concrete in the courtyard needs to be replaced, the surface has suffered in the weather and the steps need to be changed to a ramp.  Once this is done and the gate altered slightly we have somewhere safe and off road to store a motorcycle.  Hopefully by early spring we will have a motorcycle and dealt with the mass of paperwork and bureaucracy which goes with motor vehicles.

Looking back, things have not always gone to plan, but have been achieved in the generally anticipated time frame.  Many familiar things are done differently here, partly familiar and then all of a sudden different.  It is easy to trip when suddenly hit with the difference, and even easier without command of a common language.  It is all too easy to fear, to suspect, to question motives.  It is hard to go with the flow, with “this is Turkey”, to accept the differences, to trust the unfamiliar.  It has been hard, it has been very rewarding.

We have done well, will do even better.   And soon we’ll have the bike.

Bah and Humbug

A few days back I (Hilary) completed the Christmas shopping.  I did it all on line but still found it stressful.  More so, in a way, as I couldn’t actually see what I was getting though at least I did not have to brave the crowds, crush and carols.

I freely confess that I do not like Christmas.  One of the things I like about living in Turkey is that I don’t have Christmas impinging upon me from every side from half way through October.  Sure, there were New Year decorations in Bornova Forum which included decorated fir trees and reindeer but I know for a fact that Ikea started selling these in Sweden two months previously.

Christmas is, of course, still happening.  And it goes without saying that we will miss family and friends with especial poignancy at that time.  But I will not miss the stress.  And I will not miss the constant pressure to be ‘Christmassy’ which has very little to do with the meaning of the festival itself.

I do not miss having to get up in the hours of darkness and being in an office through all the hours of light.  I will not even miss the wonderfully empty tube trains on the journey into work between Christmas and New Year.  Or the 08:00 meetings which are inquorate due to people being on annual leave.

More than anything I will not miss the need to explain to people why I don’t like Christmas.  I have nothing against the festival itself, I’m not keen on the pressure to spend, spend, spend, but my real issue is the pressure it puts on families to be ‘proper families’ – an ideal of happy families that is not possible in the real world and which makes so many people feel like inadequate failures.

And, of course, those who do not have families or even a home.   The illusion of a ‘family Christmas’ promoted by commerce and the media is not a lot of fun for them.  And, remember, this starts in mid-October.

We wish all of you the Christmas / Yule / Solstice /Canukah /New Year celebrations that you would wish for yourself.    Me, I’m hoping for a quiet day and waiting for the sun.