Tag Archives: transition

Much ado about nothing

I sometimes wonder if we should find a new focus for this blog.  We started around the time we moved out of our flat in Northolt (because we had sold it).  We wrote about our  move to Selçuk, our adventures with bureaucracy and buying our new home.  We wrote about all the surprising and mostly wonderful things about daily life here.  We wrote about our travels, our walks, the wonderful food, the scenery….

We’ve not been here in Selçuk for two years yet (though we’re getting close).  We know we have a lot more to learn about this country, its culture and, especially the language.  But day to day life has become more…. Well, quotidian, day to day, routine.  Not boring.  There is always something to see here, but there’s a limit to the number of times we can blog about the storks wheeling overhead, the wonderful smell of orange blossom and wisteria (even though it makes us sneeze) and the concrete pump coming back to put another layer of concrete into the ever-rising house across the street.  We could moan that it’s likely to block our view of the castle when it’s finished, but our neighbours need a bigger home and having good neighbours is more important than having a good view of the castle.  As long as we can see some hills, the swallows and plenty of sky we shall be content.

So, our life has become more routine and we have found time for our hobbies, both old and new, which do take up a lot of our time.  One of the advantages of being retired is that we have so much more time for our hobbies.

But so much less to blog about.  Unless we go walking or travelling and we don’t do that every day.

Winter is Coming

Our preparations for winter are falling into place, and given the recent and rather sudden drop in temperature just in time.

We got a local electrician to sort our TV.  They left us their contact details some months ago when they came to install our Digiturk (TV) system.  Thanks to their extremely efficient and reasonably priced service the dish now has a double cable, one to the front and one to the back.  All we need to do is disconnect, move, and reconnect the digiturk box depending on where we want to watch TV.  Now, when winter arrives we can sit snugly in the front house and have loads of channels, most of which we never watch.  Seems sensible…  CSI every evening if we want….  We also have loads of DVD’s to help the cold nights pass.  We picked up the Borgias series 2 and Game of Thrones series 1 on our trip to the UK, eye candy for the long dark nights.

We needed to get a plumber to do a couple of tasks, a tap that did not work and a new cistern along with the parts that fit inside.  We made use of a contact from a friend, a plumber she said was good.  It turned out that we could not just replace the cistern, we would need a completely new toilet.  The work is now done, he was efficient and very good value.

We need to get antifreeze put into the solar water system.  A member of the family across the road from us works for a solar power installation company, so we’ll ask them to do it.  We’ll probably get charged much the same – it is not expensive, and at least the money will go locally.

We need to get a glazier to fit a new window pane.  A pane in a double glazing unit is cracked.  Again, an old friend should be able to help, she is married to someone who installs double glazing.  Not exactly the same but they will know someone who can fit new glass into a double glazing unit.

We have a little over metric tonne of firewood stored away.  Thanks to friends who helped us last winter we know where to get good quality firewood.  Our neighbours say we should get some coal because it is more economical, burns slower and hotter.  There seems to be mixed feelings about using coal, not everyone seems to think it is a good idea.  We shall look into this, see what options there are and how good the coal is.  We can order coal from the same people who deliver our calor gas and drinking water.  They recognise our phone number and know where we live.

There is a theme – Personal contacts.  Having a relationship with people who provide a service is very much how things are done here.  We are gradually building up our lists of contacts, builders, carpenter, electrician and so forth.  There has been a certain amount of trial and error, last year at first we initially bought wood which was not so good, we were very much new to it all and learning our way.  (Oddly those same guys bought wood round to us this year, having assumed we would buy it – we didn’t).  We still are learning our way but we are getting better at it and much less reliant on others to point us in the right direction.  Hopefully we will, someday, be in a position to help others as we have been helped ourselves.

And Finally – Getting a Turkish Driving Licence – Episode 4

It has taken a long time but yesterday we got a call from the police to say my driving licence was ready to collect.

We are not 100% sure what the rules are about being required to have a Turkish driving licence, like many things here the rules seem to change and there are many views as to whether it is necessary or not.  We know people who are still driving on a foreign licence after living in Turkey for many years and we know others who have obtained a Turkish licence.  The last time we were stopped by the police it was asked for and they accepted our explanation that we had applied and it was with the police, the previous time we were stopped it was not asked for.  The reality is that having one means if we are stopped and someone decides my UK licence is not sufficient we will not go through vast amounts of hassle and potentially being stranded with a vehicle and unable to legally drive.

There are additional benefits.  Unlike the UK licence it is for life, not until some age specific point where it would need to be reapplied for.  I also get to keep the UK licence which could potentially be useful.

So today we took ourselves off to the police station, and now, almost exactly three months from when I started the process, I have the licence.  Episodes 1, 2 and 3 give further details of the process.

For the record a breakdown of the cost, this is for a motorcycle licence, one for a car would be more expensive.  25 lira – dossier with all the forms
50 lira – Translation of UK driving licence
65 lira – Noter, for notarised copy of translated licence
6 lira – photos
5 lira – Belediye ID check
15 lira – blood group test
20 lira – eye test
96.35 lira – processing fee
79.75 lira – for the licence
A total of 337.10 lira

Driving Licence – Episode 3

Yesterday, whilst sitting on a dolmuş in Izmir, waiting to be transported home with the latestIkea haul, we got a phone call from the Trafik Polis, asking us to come to the office in the morning to take the process of getting Ashley’s driving licence forward.  This morning we walked down there.  They had a letter confirming Ashley as the holder of a UK licence.  It was all in Turkish and we weren’t actually shown it but Hilary did make out the letters ‘DVLA’, Ashley’s name, the date his licence was first issued and the categories of vehicle he is entitled to drive.  Much paperwork was done.  The computer was consulted and…

We were sent away to get confirmation of Ashley’s blood group, the blood test was necessary, if we’d had any proof of Ashley’s blood group they would have accepted that instead, and to pay a fee (97.75 lira) at the tax office.   As Hilary suspected, a licence covering motorcycle only is cheaper than the one you need for a car.  Tax office was easy.  We went straight to the vezne (cash desk) and, as ever, everyone was really helpful and nice.  Paid.  Got receipt.  Off to the ABC private clinic.  Ashley had blood taken, tested and a card written out and stamped.  Time taken – less than 10 minutes.  Cost – 15 lira.  This was a bit of running round town.  But it’s all really straightforward.  None of the people we dealt with other than in the polyclinic had spoken English to any significant degree, but all were incredibly polite and helpful.  We think that speaking and understanding Turkish, even minimally, is extremely helpful when undertaking any sort of bureaucracy here.  Yes, we think that is pretty obvious.

Back to the Emniyet…  Papers taken.  Computer consulted.  Paperwork filled in.  We were asked for a photocopy of Ashley’s fingerprints.  Well, we didn’t have one.  So his fingerprints were taken on an electronic machine (no inky fingers!).  This was signed and stamped and is now in our files…  They kept a copy and gave us a copy.  He has signed his licence and paid a further fee (79.75 lira ish) for the licence itself.  We will be phoned when it is ready for collection.

So, the step of sending off for confirmation of Ashley’s driving licence took a long time – two and a half months.  The process appears to involve requesting information about Ashley and his licence from the British Consul, the Consul then requesting this from DVLA, and then it being passed back to the police, and at some stage being translated into Turkish.  During the wait we dropped in a couple of times to ask how things were going and got sent away being told we would be phoned when they were ready.  Clearly we were being impatient, the police indicating that more than two months was not unusual.

Hopefully the final steps will be a lot faster.

Being Retired

We have both in our own ways been thinking about being retired, why we retired early, what being retired means and the changes it has made to our lives.  This is my take – Ashley.

I went through a long and serious illness, almost died, was on medication with horrendous side effects for almost a year.  It raised all manner of thoughts around mortality, what I wanted to do with my life and what I would like for Hilary.  Wishes started to be made.  I wanted to enjoy my life more, I wanted the same for Hilary and I did not want either of us to work until official retirement age.  Life and being able to enjoy life together became far more important than work.

When we started thinking about early retirement I knew that taking would mean a huge hit on the NHS pensions, a hit that would have implications for the rest of our lives.  No matter what we would never have the sort of money we had got used to in the UK, we’d move from comfortable NHS professional salaries to pensions less than the UK minimum wage.  As we looked at the money and assets it slowly started to look possible, we would have to cut our cloth differently, but we could do it.

It worried me we would drink too much, we don’t.  It worried me we would be bored, we are not.  It worried me that being in a foreign country we would feel very isolated, like outsiders, away from friends and family.  Of course we miss seeing family and friends and would like to see them more often, but communication is maintained.  We were making massive changes to our lives, and despite all the planning it was very much like jumping of a precipice.

Now it has been a little over a year, we have made the transition, not so much from the UK to Turkey, but from employment to being retired.  Being retired is not about being on holiday all the time, we are not.  Equally it is not about doing nothing with our lives.  We keep ourselves pretty busy, we both have creative projects, and we have established a fairly good and healthy routine.  We can still have holidays, I think this is important and emphasises that our normal life is not a holiday.  We can still have a motorcycle, do many of the things we enjoyed and continue to enjoy, I think it is good not to lose these, to maintain hobbies and interests.

We are a lot less stressed.  It took some months for us to really let go of the stress from the UK and the many worries around making the move.  In particular I worried about the financial plan, had we got it right, now I am far more relaxed about this, I know that our resources are sufficient.  Work stress was very high at times, and increasingly I was finding that I no longer wanted to put up with the increasingly insane bureaucracy of the NHS and objectionable government policies.  Stepping away from work was a very good thing.

Our quality of life is far better.  We have both lost a little weight, a good thing.  We keep ourselves reasonably fit, no fixed routines, some walking and swimming depending on the weather and season of the year.  We have started to develop some good social contacts here, this said I think we do need to widen our social contacts, and I need to improve my language skills.  We eat fresh food every day, almost everything comes from the local market and local butcher.  I doubt the eggs, cheese, yoghurt and the rest are pasteurised but they are incredibly fresh.  We don’t buy or eat processed foods.  We eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, a little meat, and way too many olives.  We are able to do a lot more of what we want when we want, I know this sounds selfish, but there is something really positive about not being tied to a work routine.

We took two huge decisions to take early retirement and move to Turkey.  In a sense they go together, we could not have taken early retirement and stayed in the UK.  I think for us they were very good decisions.

One Year On

Today, now, we have been living in Selçuk for one year.   It has been a very interesting and a very good year.  We have been fortunate; the local expat community (as it is) has been welcoming, polite and helpful.  Our neighbours are pleasant.  The officials we have dealt with have been polite and helpful, and largely forgiving of our limited but growing Turkish.  The house purchase and everything associated with it went smoothly and as per agreements.  We guess partly good fortune and partly doing our homework.

Some things we have learnt.
●  We have masses of free hot water in summer – when we don’t need or want it, and less for free when it is cold and wet.
●  Cheap firewood is just that.  Cheap.  It usually requires more chopping and is often damp.  The effort required to chop it in the cold damp of winter is really not worth it – unless part of some keep fit regime.
●  Wood stoves are awesome but the chimney needs to be regularly cleaned and a carbon monoxide alarm is a very good investment.  Don’t clean the chimney and the alarm will go off at the most inconvenient time possible.  Still – better than the alternative.
●  Handmade bespoke furniture from the local sanayi (industrial area) costs much the same as decent stuff from IKEA.  There is still IKEA for some things.  Get curtains made locally, they will be precisely the size wanted, extremely well made, and relatively inexpensive.  Koçtaş (B&Q) is good for tools, especially power tools, not kitchens, bathrooms etc.  For all else there is local hardware store.
●  Bureaucracy can be painfully slow – same as anywhere else in the world.  Don’t take it personally, it isn’t.  Most (if not all) officials want to be helpful, it is not their fault if you cannot understand what they are saying.  If taking on something complex research it first, get some idea of what is involved.  Consider taking someone who can translate.
●  It will come at 6pm, tomorrow morning, next Thursday….  Is akin to mañana.  It will arrive when it does – get on with your life.
●  Don’t throw it away – it can probably be mended.  If not, your neighbours might want it.  This applies to everything except clothes.  If you must throw it away, don’t worry about putting metal, plastic, glass or anything else into the bin.  It will get recycled.  This beats those dreaded colour coded bins and boxes.

We probably could add some more but we are off to celebrate our first year here.

One Year On

One year on.  50 followers (includes us and both our mothers).  170 posts.  Just over 10,000 views.

Not a great deal by blogging standards but far more than we expected when we started this blog one year ago today.  We started this as a way of keeping in touch with friends and family in the UK, Ireland, Canada, the USA and further afield, and in the hope that it would help us make new friends here in Turkey.  We started it as a way of recording our experiences as we forged a new way of life for ourselves.

Several friends from our old life keep in touch via the blog.  We have met people here through this medium – one or two face to face and many more through cyberspace.  Cyberspace friendships are not new to us – we have friends on six continents and probably would have friends in Antarctica were it inhabited.

We try to make the blog useful, we’ve catalogued our experiences with bureaucracy here in Turkey (and the hit statistics show that this does interest many people) though, I think, most hits are for the food and the travel.  We are, however, far from writing an instruction manual on how to live in Turkey, a full on travelogue or a recipe book.  There is no way we are going to get a book out of this blog.  But that was never the intention.

Perhaps, if we were more focussed, we would get more hits, but we didn’t start this blog for focus…

We think we have got a better readership than we deserve so thanks to everyone who reads this blog and follows it.