We have been in the UK and Ireland. Hence quiet. Seeing family was great. Gaelcon was great. But it is good to be home.
It’s odd because the clocks went back whilst we were away – it now seems to get dark far too early and we are not used to the sun going down before we start cooking dinner. The weather here continues pleasant. Thundery showers were forecast for today but have not yet happened. It’s misty and difficult to see the more distant hills, but Selçuk is still a beautiful place.
Sadly the kitten who adopted us has not turned up. He went missing about a week before we left for the UK.
About all we have done since we got home is shop (there’s a market in Belevi on Sundays), cook, wash and clean. Hoping to be back to normal in a day or so!
Most evenings it is staying above 18C in the house without any heating, so we decided we no longer need the wood soba. It if gets cooler (and there probably will be some cold nights) we have plenty of other heating options, but we can dispense with burning wood. Today we cleaned the flue, a messy task, soot gets everywhere, and put the remaining wood away. As a result of using a wood stove the walls need a wipe down and a lick of fresh paint, this will get done over the next week or so.
Whilst we were cleaning the flue and packing wood away our neighbours decided it was a good day to gather in their garden and cook outside, their first such event of the year. We therefore had to stop work late morning to eat gözleme and be social, and then mid-afternoon another enforced break for kısır and coffee, followed by reading of the coffee grounds. Apparently we are going to come into lots of money, go travelling on a plane and a boat, attend a wedding and so on. Odd that, we are going to a wedding on Saturday, and we are planning a trip to Greece in the summer which would cover the boat part. It goes to show the coffee readings are never wrong!
The swallows have returned, more are arriving every day. For the last few days there has been one on the wire outside our house. It might be one of the pair from last year, they nested next door and raised several broods. Today there was a pair, singing together, investigating the nest from last year. It is good to hear them, good to see them, and good to know the rising number of flying insects is going to be hunted and eaten.
It was not the worst of all possible times for the gas to run out. We were not expecting people for dinner. We were, however, just frying the chicken when the gas started to stutter then went out. It was around 20:00 on a Saturday night. The gas supplier was closed. They do not open on a Sunday. It’s fortunate that we have a two-ring gas stove in the back house and that had not run out.
Hilary had to run between houses with a hot pan full of chicken schnitzel… Fortunately the rest of the dishes were cooked during the afternoon.
Sunday’s breakfast soup had to be warmed up and tea made in the back house. Sunday dinner was prepared in the usual place and taken to the back house for cooking.
First thing on Monday we phoned the gas… Tea and soup were made in the front house today!
Either we use a lot more cooker gas in winter or the cylinders are not evenly filled. Most seem to last about two months but the one we got last April was good till October…. In winter we have tea on the stove for hours, cook beans, and stews. In summer we probably use a lot less gas.
They say that natural gas is coming, piped in from Izmir. It may happen in time, like the Metro which is also meant to be coming. In time. But until then we are subject the vagaries of gas bottles and Murphy’s Law.
It is getting really cold at night and the soba has started to get smoky – these two things seem to happen at the same time. Maybe it is a combination of the flu being icy cold and having a build up of soot which slows the flow of hot gases and smoke. Left it would get more smoky, and then dangerous since carbon monoxide would start to become present in the smoke. It goes without saying that we have carbon monoxide and smoke alarms, in our view anyone who has any device with an open flame in their home should have these. Even so, it is far better to keep the soba working safely.
So before it got any worse it was time to pull everything apart for cleaning and to remove the soot from the flu. Cleaning the soba and flu is not a pleasant task, but it is essential. We have a round wire brush on an extendable pole which is just about the ideal tool, but it is a messy job, soot gets everywhere. Of course it was bound to need doing the day when we have people coming over in the evening…..
Before we left for the UK we found ourselves thinking about new furniture for the roof terrace. What we wanted was a table and chairs, something for eating and entertaining on. Ideally something reasonably sturdy, weather proof and not plastic. We did not find much in Selçuk, so we ended up looking in Kuşadası. There are loads of places along the Soke road, many specialising in bamboo furniture, there is also Koçtaş (B&Q), and a variety of furniture shops doing mostly interior furnishings but some doing garden and patio lines. Initially we looked at Koçtaş, easy to do since it can be done online, and familiar. We looked at some of the bamboo stuff, it was all very light and it gets windy on the terrace, we had visions of furniture flying down the street.
Searching around we came across a really nice, well made, sturdy, hardwood round table and chairs – a great size, comfortable for 2 to 4 people and will do 6 at a squeeze. With a little bit of haggling we got the price down only to marginally more than a not vastly dissimilar but more flimsy hardwood dining set from Koçtaş, albeit with four chairs rather than 6, and the table is smaller though a better size for us. We settled on the price, explained we would be in the UK for a few days, it was agreed we would leave a deposit and when we got back we could call, they would deliver, and we could pay the balance at this time.
Yesterday afternoon we made that call. We were told they would deliver today. This morning we had a follow up call at 9am to say they would be with us within 2 hours. An hour later our furniture arrived and was carried up to the roof terrace for us. It fitted where it was expected to fit and we think it looks good. It has certainly been worth shopping around, doing some haggling, and stepping away from the familiarity of UK chains. Once again we are amazed at the brilliant customer service.
The delivery of new furniture prompted us to finish tidying the roof terrace which has been rather neglected over winter. We started doing some bits a month or so ago, but then stopped for all manner of reasons. Finished now – ready for summer. Time for tea and baklava.
Following on from springlike intimations… Yesterday it was sunny so, as part of our preparations for spring, we went up onto the roof to complete the painting of the roof terrace. This involved completely emptying out the hut-on-the-roof so we could get to the walls. We were able to inspect the full extent of the damage the cats have done to the beds up there. Fortunately we found no dead cats. They fight – there was a lot of blood – we were seriously psyched up for an encounter with a dead cat. But it didn’t happen.
We got rid of a lot more stuff. Old wood, mostly. None of it stayed anywhere near the bins for long. Rather worryingly nothing happens when we turn on the tap on the roof. Hopefully this will not lead to a major plumbing job. It will, however, be difficult to hose down the roof terrace if it continues to be non-functional.
We finished the painting, the roof terrace looks a lot better. Soon we should be able to make more use of it.
Well, the snow went, then we had two, glorious days that felt like spring. Yesterday was greyish but not especially cold then, latish in the evening, there was a tremendous clap of thunder. The lights went off for an instant, the internet went down for about ten seconds, then everything was restored. And it poured with rain. It rained heavily (with occasional thunder) on and off all last night. Neither of us slept well.
This morning we decided that it would not be a good idea to do the laundry and that we would have to go into town in the rain as we needed to do a bit of supermarket shopping. We set off with umbrellas but we didn’t need them. The weather stayed dry. By the time we got home again it was almost sunny. We went up onto the roof to set right some things that had been knocked about by wind, rain and cats. Then we decided to do the washing after all. It doesn’t take long. The weather stayed fine whilst the machine ran and the washing was duly hung on the line on the roof. Then we came in, made a couple of phonecalls on Skype and noticed that the sky was darkening. We bought the washing in with seconds to spare before the downpour. We started to iron the pillowcases to dry them (they were almost dry). Then the power went. It stayed off for about thirty minutes. It’s just gone again, though it wasn’t raining or thundering, but that time was only about ten minutes. We have sheets and pillow cases hanging over the shower rail. I guess they will dry out eventually.
It seems the sudden or unpredictable changes in weather and power supply matches many other aspects of living in Turkey such as regulations around visas, health insurance, importing goods, and so much more. It keeps life interesting……
For more than a week we have been having problems with our soba. It started smoking due to a semi blocked chimney and it seemed that pretty much everything we tried failed to solve the problem completely.
We cleaned out the chimney removing lots of soot, we got a rotating cowl, we burnt a pack of the chimney opener stuff in the soba, but no matter what we did, nothing seemed to solve the problem. The carbon monoxide issue was solved, a very good thing – the alarms remained silent, but it remained smoky and did not seem to be drawing air. It had become a source of much frustration and we had become quite guarded and anxious about using it.
This morning we took it all apart again and discovered that despite all the attempts at clearing the chimney it was partially blocked again, and with what appeared to be big granules of soot. At first we were at a loss to explain how this had happened, we had only been burning wood, it was cleaned out a week ago. The explanation could only be the chimney opener stuff, that what it does is turn fine grains of soot into loose larger crystals which are meant to then fall down the chimney or be easy to sweep out. With us having a long horizontal piece of chimney it could not fall out and instead formed into large lumps.
Having discovered this (and after a walk and tea with a friend on Pamucak beach which was lovely in the winter sun) we got some more cleaning tools and set about getting the chimney clear. We got covered in soot and had to do a lot of cleaning up afterwards.
We can now report that we have a properly functioning soba, and despite outside being a chilly 4°C at 7.30pm and due to drop further overnight, we are comfortably warm and looking forward to a snug night at home.
Having a Soba (wood fired stove) for heating is great, it warms the room well and is very comforting. Currently we are burning peach wood, it smells good, but so we are told burns faster than olive wood. Our peach wood also contains insects which along with wood dust and chips get into the house, not really a problem but the area near the soba where we are keeping the daily wood supply gets pretty messy. There is also a certain amount of ash that gets into the room, mostly when we are emptying the soba in the morning. We have been managing fine with a broom, brush and dustpan. Our neighbour has a vacuum cleaner and we suffered from vacuum envy every time she used it. Being retired and having time on our hands does not mean we need to forsake work saving devices, so today we invested in a vacuum cleaner. It’s not a Dyson. We used to have a Dyson back in the UK, but this neat little LG number is bagless and has a cyclone. It says so on the box.
Housework in Turkey is a whole different kettle of fish. We can’t actually claim to be houseproud. We lived like a students for many, many years, finally getting our act together a few years back when we were sick of living in total chaos and wanted to be able to find things. We don’t think we got actually houseproud, but the flat in West London was tolerably clean and tidy.
Here in Selçuk it’s totally different. For a start, various parts of the place we are renting has been rented out to various people. Our landlady and the lady who helps run the place in her absence have done everything possible to keep it clean and shiny but parts have been closed up and parts have been rented out on short term holiday lets and, by all accounts, prior to that, to some rather strange people one of whom took a knife to the washing machine. So, predictably, there’s been a lot of initial cleaning, as there always is when you move into a new place.
The shops have a variety of cleaning products, many of which are familiar; others have pictures which indicate a rough idea of potential usage. Then there is Por Çöz which appears to be some sort of highly corrosive agent. The instructions (in Turkish) say don’t mix with bleach and have various other precautionary notes. Investigation revealed that one of the ingredients is sulphuric acid and/or nitric acid. It’s been banned in the States. Çamaşir suyu is invaluable. The name sounds like it should be laundry juice but it is bleach. Which, of course, must never be mixed with is Por Çöz. There is also Yağ çözüsü (literal translation is grease solvent) which is what is used to clean kitchens, bathrooms and ovens. There are many different brands of this and the one we used in the oven this morning was very effective.
The two main ongoing cleaning issues are dust and limescale. The water hardness is somewhere off the scale, we are used to hard water but the local water takes some beating.
The dust: You can get the place spotless and, turn your back on it for ten minutes, and it’s deep in dust again. The dust here is incredibly fine and it blows about. Then it settles in the places it is least welcome. Like every surface inside the home and the terraces and the stairs.
The limescale: Por Çöz is recommended for getting rid of limescale on metal, glass, ceramics and porcelain. We understand this, we have some basic knowledge of chemistry. It will also get rid of our skin so would need to be used with caution. Obviously not allowing anything, especially glassware, to drip dry will help a great deal. We do however dread to think of the state of the limescale in the pipes and washing machine.