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Adventures with lighting

We went to Koçtaş in Kuşadası again.  I think they may start to recognise us.  Hoping they won’t hide when they see us coming.  The purpose of our visit was to get some spotlights for the kitchen.  We’re in a strange situation here – renting with intent to purchase – but if the worst comes to the worst we can always take the lights down and take them to wherever we end up.  The lights, switches, cabling and plugs came to just over 100 lira.

Completed lighting

Finally working

One of the first things we noticed when we got them home is that one of the light bulbs (supplied) was missing.  This was irritating but not the end of the world.  We thought we would be able to source a bulb in Selçuk.  Ashley got out his power tools, climbed onto the kitchen counter and started to install the lights.  This was a little complex as they are supposed to wire directly onto the ring main and we wanted them to plug in.  A hacksaw saw to that…  I left him to it and got on with potting up some herbs then, during a brief internet break, I noticed that we had no network.  Heading to the front house I discovered that all the power in there had blown.  The back house was fine.  The trip switches on the wall looked fine.  No power.

We were fortunate to source an excellent electrician.  He said he couldn’t come till seven and was with us before 7:15.  He flipped the trip switch by the meter and all the lights came back on.  We dragged him into the house to see if he could work out what Ashley had done wrong.  He wired up the spotlights as Ashley had done.  The only explanation we could initially come up with was that he was a professional and Ashley was not.  He wouldn’t take any money for the work.  He didn’t drink but was not offended when I offered beer or a bottle of wine.

I was able to stir fry chicken with halogen bulbs shining directly onto the cooker.  Later on, sitting alone in the front house, contemplating bits of wire, Ashley realised he had wired the switch incorrectly.

Today we failed to source a halogen bulb that would fit our remaining lighting unit.  Instead we have two LED bulbs.   Ashley inserted the switch back into the working unit, which still works fine and doesn’t blow any circuits then he fitted the other unit above the worktop.  The light from the LEDs is different from the light from the halogens.  We don’t think this will matter greatly.  We have a choice.  We also still have the light in the ceiling fan which is softer to eat under.

Curtains now clearly below the AC unit

Now Ashley is lowering all the curtain rails.  I don’t think he can blow any fuses doing that.

I am very happy to have good lighting where I chop things with sharp knives and cook things with big flames (I do tend to cook with extreme prejudice).

Ashley adds:  Forgetting the basics of how electricity works was pretty dumb. When I went back and looked at bits it became obvious what I had done.  Wiring a switch wrongly is not the cleverest thing to do.  Today I completed the task without further mishap, then sorted out the curtain rails.  I am really glad I brought a selection of tools with me, these have proven invaluable.  I have also learnt more about how this place is wired and fused, this will be useful for the future.  I remain amazed at the helpfulness of people.  The electrician who was  called out wired this place when it was renovated some years ago, he fixed the fuse issue, showed me for the future, wired one of the spotlights and he didn’t want payment of any kind.

Changes, two months on – a retrospective

We always did eat well, even when living a stressful lifestyle, both working full time (and often over full time) we would cook from scratch every night (when eating at home).  But here it takes longer – often much of the afternoon and evening are spent pottering in the kitchen.  This can create difficulties – our neighbours invited us over to share the harvest from the fig tree in their garden, tell us that we should invite them back to ours and give us a chance to practice our Turkish – we were just relaxing into this when Hilary remembered the beans boiling on the stove.  She was able to explain this in Turkish but, we  guess, if our guests leave any of the barbunya tomorrow, a couple of portions   will be handed over the wall in a bowl.  Here we are able to cook with fresh produce in season without having to break the bank.  Best not even to ask if it conforms to soil association standards.  Here we can change our plans according to what is available and looking good on the market (the peaches, regrettably, are almost finished).  Here there is no need to rush.  And we can discuss what to eat for dinner tonight without all those frantic phone calls.

Here there is no Abel and Cole box half of which goes to waste and no need to worry about air miles.  We try to use the most local produce to reduce tractor miles.  No nibble boxes from Graze, a comforting luxury at the time.  No Waitrose.  No Internet orders for beer delivery, no Majestic for wine supplies.

We eat less meat than we did.  To be honest, we don’t find meat expensive out here.  In London we used to eat organic Aberdeen Angus from named herds and organic Welsh lamb etc etc.  We didn’t eat huge amounts of this but it makes Turkish meat look cheap.  And we do eat quite a lot of chicken (best not to ask if it’s farmed on a factory – though it tastes too good for battery chicken).   The eggs are incredibly fresh and frequently fertilised.

We are definitely sleeping better.  Oh, Turkey is noisy – we are often woken by the call to prayer, a tractor driving past, crows, cockerels, dogs barking, donkey braying, but we manage to get back to sleep.  The nature of our sleep is changing now that we are not bound by alarm clocks and the pressures of work in the NHS.  We have both started to dream again – not just fret and worry about situations.  There are anxieties of course.  It’s not all together easy settling into a new way of life and things can get very confusing.  We still get moments of blind panic but they are moments and they go away.

We have both lost weight.  Weight that was almost certainly due to eating on the run at work, to indulging in cakes, chocolate or a packet of crisps because that is all we had time to grab between meetings (or because someone decided to share their comfort food by bringing it to a meeting or into our office).  We do still snack, especially in the afternoons, but we can get sun dried figs that taste of honey.  Crisps and chocolate are a lot less tempting.  We do, occasionally, buy baklava.  We’ve found a place that does really nice baklava and we sometimes need to get some to share with guests, or hosts if we are out visiting.  We’ve not been very good about regular exercise – this was largely due to the heat – but now it’s autumn we’ve taken to walking again.  And, we think, the amount of housework that is needed to keep out the dust and the limescale contributes to fitness.

There are still quite a few bits and pieces to sort out – work we want to do on the house, bureaucracy, sorting out the finances etc, Right now we’re in the middle of arranging the shipping of our goods.  We’re not bringing a lot.  Books, photos, pictures, more clothes, some bits for the kitchen.  No furniture, just personal stuff.  This is expensive, but cheaper than keeping it in storage indefinitely.   But we’re approaching this at a slower, more relaxed pace.

We don’t have the sort of cash we had to throw around back in the UK, and we have resigned ourselves to the impossibility of bringing the Harley over.  But back in the UK we spent a lot of money to relieve the stresses resulting from work.  We do not have to do that here.  We have both noticed that each other looks younger, healthier, less stressed.   Hilary no longer gets into a state of blind panic when the telephone rings, Ashley is more laid back about phones and Hilary’s reaction to them.  We no longer have feelings of catastrophe when the internet goes down, the electricity is cut or the water stops.  Having technology is nice, it no longer rules out lives.

The wealth may have gone down, but the quality of life has increased.

Walks around Selçuk

We’ve taken a couple of very good walks this week.

For the first one, we headed upwards, behind our house and onto the hill where we watch the shepherd with the sheep and goats at sunset.  It’s steep.  We climbed that, scrambling in places, and stopping often to see if we could spot our roof.  It became clear precisely why we will never have a sea view, why our view of the castle can never be broken and why you can’t see our house from the hill on the other side of the tracks.  The house is part way down a little dip.  Just past the top of the slope we found a rough track which wound through olive fields.  There was surprisingly little birdsong, though Ashley did spot a greenfinch.  We saw a lot of tiny lizards and a chameleon.  The chameleon was crossing the road, very slowly, stopping and trembling with every step.  Then it climbed a wall.  We had plenty of opportunity to observe it change from road colour to wall colour and to take photographs.

We got some wonderful views of Goat Castle, the Kűçṻk Menderes valley, surrounding mountains and the sea (in the distance).  All this less than 15 minutes stroll from our own front gate.

Today we walked along the beach.  We got a dolmuş to Pamucak.  It dropped us right by where they are building the fake Roman galleons.  There is a carving there which has one of my favourite quotes ‘You can’t step into the same river twice’ – in both the original language of Heraclitus and in modern Turkish.

We turned right along the perfect sand and walked on the waterline as walking in that deep soft sand is very tiring.  We were approached by the owner of a beach business.  He has beach chairs and umbrellas and a little café.  He asked us where we were from and where we were living.  He lives in the same Mahalle as us.  We chatted for a while and said we might call in for tea on our way back.  We walked along all the way to the river.  We didn’t see any wildlife at all, just the beach with no one on it (except one naked sunbather) until we got to the wetlands behind the beach.  There we saw some ducks we were not able to identify (they were little round diving ducks), gulls and some kind of tern probably.

Today we forded the river.  Ashley left all the valuables with me and tried it out first then came back.  We took off our shoes and rolled up our trousers.  The water was not much over knee deep.  I’m really glad we did this as, after the rains, it might be too deep to cross, especially with identity papers, a digital camera, mobile phones and binoculars.

We continued to walk up towards Yoncaköy.  There was more litter on the beach here but also more wildlife.  We saw heaps and heaps of what we are pretty sure are Kentish Plovers (though, at our level of expertise, it can be hard to tell one kind of plover from another) and some kind of sandpiper.  We saw fields full of herons and ibis.

Found our way back to the road just before Yoncaköy and waited for a dolmuş back to Selçuk.  A quiet and shady stretch of road, surrounded by pines, not an unpleasant place to sit for twenty minutes or so, watching the cows cross the road via a special underpass.

Street Life

It is interesting here in Zafer, across the railway and up the hill from central Selçuk.  In the town are restaurants, a few bars, the museum, the archaeological stuff, tourist facilities.  There are also five supermarkets, banks, shops, and everything else needed for those who live in Selçuk.

Here, life revolves around the street.  Women sitting out chatting to friends, family, neighbours, sometimes busy making lace at the same time.  Children play on the street.  The woman across the street and a few houses down who cooks on her roof every night, earlier in summer she was making salça on her roof, now she sits tending a brick oven.  A woman a little further away who sits in a shaded yard during the day over a loom, weaving, another woman washing wool on her roof and drying it in the sun.  The coal or charcoal delivered in huge sacks over the last couple of days, a gift from the Belediye to those who will be in need of fuel over winter.   The bus which arrives for a teenager a few doors up who has learning problems so he can go to school.  The old lady who sits out, sometimes alone, sometimes she joins others across the street.  The man who arrives every Saturday evening selling fresh milk from the back of his car, unpasteurised and almost certainly still warm.  The tractor towing a trailer heavily laden with watermelons, driven by a farmer calling out to those who might be interested.  Another call, a man collecting unwanted items loudly announcing his presence.  Young men on motorcycles stopping outside windows having hushed conversations.  Deliveries of concrete and other building materials to expand or maintain homes, new rooms being built on a flat roof, solar water systems being installed.  Street weddings.

Our immediate neighbours, who we met over Bayram and got to know a little are Turkish speaking from Macedonia, supposedly retired here.  He worked as a builder in Germany and other places, they have a son at university, another doing military service and third at school.  She was fascinated by us when we arrived and watches over us, she seems to know all our comings and goings, and will no doubt watch over our home when we are away.

Here on the hill it is more like a village than a town.  We talk a little our immediate neighbours.  In time we will probably get to know others, for now to most we are probably strange Yabanci.  It is fascinating and feels a privilege to watch the goings on around us, to observe street life largely at present from the perspective of an outsider.

Got wood

Today we got about a metric ton of wood.  It was supposed to come yesterday between 12 and 1 (Turkish time) phonecalls were made around 4:30 and three bags of kindling turned up at 5:30.  We were told we would get the wood today between 10 and 10:30.  It arrived just before 12.  It came in a pickup truck and got dumped just outside our front gate, all over the road.  This, as we have been told and have observed for ourselves, is normal.  Now, we actually ordered 800 Kg wood cut small enough to go in the soba and to 100 Kg bags of kindling and the price quoted was 130 lira.  We ended up with three bags of kindling, a whole load of wood (about 80% of which is small enough to go in the soba) and the price went up to 150.

The wood is peach wood.  We are told that olive wood burns slower but the olive wood was finished.  The wood came in all shapes and sizes and some of it is green.  It remains to be seen how well it will burn and whether it will be enough to last the winter.

It took us two hours to drag the wood off the street and stack it up in places we hope are waterproof.  There is more wood than we can easily store.  We have not yet found a dry home for the kindling.  Whilst we were working several passing neighbours called out ‘kolay gelsin’ which was much appreciated.  This means ‘may your work go easily’ and is what you say to someone when you see them working hard.  I’m not sure how you are supposed to answer but a thank you and a grin seemed to go down quite well.  We cleaned the street when we had finished and this, we think, was appreciated.   Our neighbour tried to tell us something and we tried to answer but there was much incomprehension on both sides.  Later, when most of the wood was inside, we managed to explain that a lot of the wood was too big for the soba and he went away and came back with an axe.  Well, an axe head tied onto a very long piece of wood.  He demonstrated its use.  And he lent it to us.  We did manage to explain that we had to go to Kuşadası – he asked why – we said we were going to Koçtaş (Turkish for B&Q) and he said we could borrow it till the evening.  This was a huge step forward for us in communication!

It’s half an hour on the dolmuş to Kuşadası so it was nearly five thirty when we finally got home after our successful but non-wood-related trip to Koçtaş.  We then commenced some very untypically gender-specific tasks.  Hilary got stuck into the kitchen to prepare dinner whilst Ashley let loose with the borrowed axe.

This evening we rewarded ourselves with a pre-dinner beer on the roof terrace.

Turning the table

For one reason and another, we decided we needed a dining table for the kitchen/dining area.  We’re going to open it up a bit more than it is at present.  Anyway, we traipsed off down the hill and over the tracks to where the shops are and started to look for tables.  The furniture shops here are interesting.  A lot of them are combined with shops that sell TVs and white goods.  Some of them stock furniture from the larger Turkish chains (like Bellona and Istikbal).

We did see a rather nice tin table that would be good for the roof terrace (though I think it would heat up enough to fry an egg – a novel presentation for a brunch party).  Mostly, though, what we saw was rather showy MDF.  I’m not really into interior décor (Ashley notices more than I do) but I was indoctrinated by Heals, Habitat/Conran and Ikea.  The Istikbal/Bellona type of dining table is not really my thing (nor is it really within budget).  We saw some nice wooden (well, probably laminate) tables  at a local shop.  Most of these were expandable.  We then ran into a friend on her way to Tansaş who told us where the second hand shop was…

I’m pretty sure the tables we looked at were, originally, from the local shop we liked.  A lot of them were broken or had pieces missing but we were promised ‘montage’ and we reckon it will be easy enough to improvise for the part of the middle leaf of our table if we need to expand it.  It’s more than a metre square…

The men from the shop insisted that we toook four chairs as part of the deal.  They loaded everything into the back of their pickup truck and we climbed into the front to show them the way.  They carried the table in and assembled it.  They used power tools.  This cost us 100 lira.  Another example of the amazing customer service in Turkey.

When we moved the table where we wanted it (they would have done that but we needed to move a bookcase full of books first…) we realised that the table was rather high.  This was  when Ashley  discovered that he had carefully brought over his jigsaw but forgotten to bring any blades.  There was a pedestally thing which he took off then he countersunk the outstanding screws.  A scraper, apparently, functions reasonably well as a cold chisel.  The main thing is that it now a much better height.   It will seat four comfortably, six at a pinch and, once we work out how to substitute for the missing piece on expansion, probably eight.  And, of course, it will be excellent for board games in winter.

Now we just need a big table for the roof terrace and a small table for the breakfast balcony.  And some jigsaw blades.  We see a trip to Koçtaş in the near future…

Boss Cat

The cats around here are pretty mean and tough.  The fights are something special to watch and very noisy.  They provide us with endless hours of amusement.

This particular cat is evil.  This is the cat the other cats tend not to mess with.  No idea when he lost the eye, but it does not seem to bother him.  He continues to think he owns parts of our living space and approaches are usually met with threats and aggression.  Today he allowed photographs.  Now Gaddafi can terrorise the internets as well as the street.