Dont buy the Sun.

Dont buy the Sun.
Hillsborough Justice campaign - Remember the 96.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Back to where it all began....

Now that the vacation is over, and Large Villas is effectively up and running, economics and ambition return to the agenda. Economics, in that if I ever hope to go to Turkey again (or anywhere else other than the £1.20 bus ride to the city centre), cash must be raised. Ambition, in that I have no desire to find myself destitue in my old age (if that lofty place is ever reached).

In respect of the above, YWNA has returned to the old job hunt - this time looking for a position that is part-time, one that will compliment adequately my Educational path. I search through the local paper for jobs, under the caption "Education". It immediately becomes apparent that I need to progress much further in my degree before applying for jobs, as I simply do not understand most of the adverts. The following text may illuminate this point:

Advice and Guidance (Attendance Support)

£16,367 pa, pro-rata (Actual Salary: £14,370 pa)

We are looking for a Advice and Guidance officer to join our highly customer focused team in Learner Services.

You will provide information on all aspects of attendance to a variety of stakeholders.

Obviously, as a veteran of UK Government-speak, I think that I can unravel this drivel, in that I think the job described consists of telling people that they should go to school regularly otherwise they wont learn how to write elegant, jargon-free, jibberish-liberated prose, but I do not understand why anyone would get paid for doing this, and that uncertainty gives me pause for thought - there must be more to it.

Obviously, I have not yet progressed far enough in my degree to do this job yet, so I look for less advanced positions within education as a start. I type "Cocky watchman" into the search engine, but alas, I draw a blank. It is only later that I discover that nowadays 'caretakers' are called 'Facility Management Developers'.

I sigh, and Google "How long do my cats stitches take to heal". Obvioulsy, I have a lot to learn.

Turkish Vacation _ landscapes

Another week of cat wrangling - a week in which Calli yet again proved beyond doubt that human notions of superiority (at least in the braveness department) are ludicrous - but at least it has allowed me to continue to work on photographs from our recent vacation. THe album posted this time is called 'Landscapes - Sort of'.

Having some difficulties with downloading, so the link below will have to be clicked to obtain the album. I think.

Turkish vacation Landscapes

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Photograph of The Day

Gradually sorting through my photos getting them ready for that Pulitzer Book. I call this one "Being Slightly Slower Uphill Than Friends on Account of Being Scared of Scorpions, Snakes, Sunstroke, Altitude Whilst Having Crappy Knee".

This was a great day - more on this later.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Flowers of Romance

"This.........", says Grasshopper, sitting at approximately sea-level, grid reference about 36 12' N, 29 38E, on about 13 July, 2009 at two thirty in the afternoon, ".............this......" she reiterates, "is the best peach I have ever had in my life.

On about the 17 July, 2009, approximately 1600hrs at about seven thousand feet elevation, roughly 36 32' N and again at 29 38E, Grasshopper is sitting on a rock. " this.......mmmmm.....this is the single best peach I have ever had in my entire life ".

It is unclear what we expected from Turkish vegetation - its not really something one spends a lot of time thinking about. If I'd been asked prior to my vacation I might have mumbled something about "erm vines and stuff", but in the hinterlands of Dalaman and Kas, a veritable Fruitopia exists. Not only do the shabby plastic greenhouses that spread by the acre across the river valleys provide some of the tastiest produce to pass our collective lips for a long time, but it seems like every village is self suffient in watermelon, parsley and basil (although not recommended in combination).

Flowers too, are everywhere - jasmine, clematis in the towns and villages, planted whereevr they can grow. Gardening in Turkey must be hazardous - white scorpions and green snakes among the hazards but even the smallest houses feature something, even if its just a few basil plants in old olive oil cans.

It is not just human agriculture either, hillsides scorching in the midday sun, that, by rights should be the sort of depressing monoculture of ugly, waxy evergreens favoured by English town planners are full of wildflowers.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Reflections on a vacation ....Watney's Red Barrel.

It is the last night of our vacation in Turkey and self and RHB are practicaly alone, wandering the echoing marble corridors of the International Comfort Airport Hotel in Antalya. We parted from our friends a few hours ago, envious and scared - envious that they were going back to Kas, and scared that we would never see them again as they head out into the certain death that is Anatalyan traffic. The hotel is magnificent, and would normally be way beyond affordability for us, but the Credit Crunch hits here too, so prices have dropped. It is still not the type of place we are comfortable in, and not just financially. On check-in, a porter who is way better dressed than I have been in years, picks up our bags before we can say anything, loads them onto a ludicrous wheeled golden contraption that looks like the frame of a covered wagon, and pushes the thing fifteen paces to our room. He snatches the card key from me, and slides it down into the lock. The next few minutes are entirely atypical of our time in Turkey. Firstly, I try to hold the door open for him while he tries to do the same for me, and no courtesies are exchanged during the process. Next we get involved in a minor tussle as we both grab for the bags, similarly without the smiles and good humour we've become accustomed. Then he follows us into the room. He looks expectantly at me. I suddenly realise that he wants a tip, so I flip up my t-shirt, looking for my money belt. It has slipped down into my shorts, and takes some retrieving, but after providing him with only a momentary glimpse of my crotch, I fish out a couple of coins, amounting to about 0.75 of a Turkish lira, and give it to him with a big grin and a mumbled "trisha's green" (which is my pathetic attempt at "Thank you" in Turkish). In return, he stages a look at the tip I have given him as if he is a failed actor rehearsing "Look of Utter Disgust" from the "Crap Actors Manual" and walks out of the room. We spend the next few hours lolling on the bed, half-watching and half-dozing through the first television we have seen for months, fascinated by the "Fashion TV" Channel, and wondering why Sacha Baron Cohen bothered parodying it.

After a sleep, we swim in the hotel's ridiculous marble pool while feral cats drink the chlorinated water, then wander the corridors, surreptiously slurping the few bottles of Efes beer that we earlier bought from a gas station. Occasionally we catch glimpses of hotel staff, or hear doors bang behind us, but as we walk down long corridors, eating sesame sticks and with our wet flip-flops slapping on the marble, the place seems completely empty. On the second floor, there is 'Nightclub Starburst', empty, chairs stacked untidly across the dance floor, gold lame curtains everywhere. Posted, as it is, on a lonely spur of the airport road, the hotel feels competely remote - a kind of hot weather version of the hotel in the movie "The Shining". It is the perfect place for us to reflect on our vacation.

Our base was the town of Kas, about 180 kms west of Antalya. Kas is definitely a holiday resort, but at this time of year, the heat (which averages between 32 to 38C) and the fact that it is a three hour drive on perilous coastal roads. combined with development restrictions in the town, mean that it it mostly Turkish people who stay there. Nestled among 3000ft mountains, the local beaches are mainly pebble, and the lack of casinos, nightclubs and rave bars possibly add to a disinclination to visit the place on the part of exactly the type of people we have come here to avoid. Of course, the perptual irony of tourists commenting on "how nice it is that there's no tourists here" is noted, discussed and sometimes ignored throughout our holiday. In the foothills behind Kas, there's still enough "real" life, in the form of small villages and agricultural towns to get a flavour of what the local people are actually like when they're not trying to sell you a fez.

Red fertile soils, heat, steep valleys studded with sharp, sharp rock, and the wall-of-sound of cicadas are the backdrop to practically all our activities. It is different enough from everyday life in the UK that just 'being' would constitute enough of a holiday, but Western as we are, we feel a ceaseless need to "do". In our case, we consider ourselves slightly atypical tourists, in that our "doing" consists of hiking, biking, swimming and kayaking rather than the shopping, drinking and tourist-guided excursions to rug factories that are the mainstay of many Turkish holidays.

But there's still a risk in how we choose to holiday, in that landscapes, even spectacular landscapes are just dirt and rocks and trees. Climate zones, weather and cars are repeated round the world - in many ways the landscape is Arizona, or Nevada, the car we hire is the same Toyota we left in Canada, and CNN is ubiquitous. My cellphone reaches England instantaneously, our bank cards (mostly) work in the ATM's, and Kas has about six internet cafes all featuring Google as the search engine. The risk in our case is what really makes a place different are the lifestyles, opinions and habits of the people, and how they live with the landscapes, and despite my party's differing style of tourism, in our ceaseless quest to import the things we "do" (whatever that involves), we could still miss this.

On our last day in Turkey, in Antalya, the point is illustrated. We have driven to Antalya to await our flight, and are all regretting it. Antalya is horrible - tower block hotels, pink-facia nightclubs, road markings. Nevertheless we need to eat, so we find a restaurant by the beach, and sit at an empty table. A menu is lying on the table and my friend picks it up.

"Looks good" he says "They have 'pide', Nel!". This is a bit of a holiday 'in-joke'.

Nel looks at the menu and there are all the dishes we've grown accustomed to 'pide', menamen', 'kebap'. The waitress approaches our table and hands us four menus, but these are a completely different menu from the one we first picked up - its all cheeseburgers, steaks, chips, and it is half in Russian, half in English. We are momentarily puzzled, and dismayed, so my friend enquires:

"What's this?" he asks, pointing to the original menu we'd picked up.

The waitress looks wary - "Turkish menu" she says.

We all grin widely "OK! That's the one we want!".

She smiles broadly, we all try our version of "Trisha's green!" and order. In a moment of sentimentality (rare among the Liverpudlian culture I come from - NOT!), I reflect on my travelling companions proudly. We may well be tourists, and we may well have sought out our Western European "doings" in coming here, but we have not missed the point.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Turkish Delights

Well, I had to didnt I? I mean what other title could I give entries about our vacation in Turkey.

As mentioned there are hundreds of photos I took. 99% of them are rubbish, although like every other amateur photographer, I am more than capable of convincing myself that the Pulitzer is just around the corner.

Anyway, just for the record, we stayed in Kas, a Meditteranean fishing port 180 kms away from the nearest drunken English/German/Russian/Dutch night-clubber. Kas is selling itself as an adventure destination these days, and getting there certainly was, as we had decided to drive. But as I took so many photos, I'll start with a gentle introduction in the form of a few panoramas showing some of the landscapes we encountered.

Firstly the mountains round Gombe, a small village about an hour and a half north-north west of Kas. We climbed this day to about 6000 ft (although exact elevations are hard to tell due to lack of good contour maps) and found this massive meadow. As usual, a click on the photo reveals more details, but the real surprise was to find that these Turkish pastoralists who still spend the summers in these high pastures tending goats, sheep, cattle and bees. A bit of a magical place, with a river flowing through and a way of life relatively unchanged for a very long time.

Secondly the village near the sunken city of Kekova

This was the end call of a sea kayaking trip, a village only reachable by boat. Although almost totally given over to tourism these days (at least during the summer months) it was spectacular and unspoilt. A Crusader castle stands on the hill above the village and, as with most of this area, it just reeks of history.

The final panorama is of the view from the top of the ancient Lycian city near Tlos. I've given two versions of the same view mostly because while one shows the landscape of the area quite well, the other is better for detail of the architecture. At this place Roman, Byzantium, Greek, Lycian and Ottoman forts and baths and amphitheatres, acropolis and necropolis all pile on top of eachother. It is incredible to be in the middle of five thousand years of history without an interpretive panel in sight.

The strongest impression I got from these places was the ease with which the history and the people mixed in these places. I know (from reading) that there are conflicts within Turkey on how the land is used, especially in areas where tourism threatens long-established ways of life but it did seem that in most of the places we visited, there was an easy relationship between local people and the history that they lived among. Rather than being a sort of fairground attraction, or having to establish "Conservation Areas" with signs everywhere, the land was still used - crops were sown around two and a half thousand year tombs, goats grazed on ancient monuments, and there was none of the preciousness that accompanies so many archaeological sites in the UK. Many people would take the view that these places should be preserved, wrapped in cotton wool and fenced in, but in Turkey the history felt more alive because the land was still being used.

Final selection for today is a brief video clip. The soundtrack, which was at first spooky and beautiful, is of the call to prayer from the mosque in Kas. We got used to hearing this every night and morning until it became a soundtrack. As usual, cats feature prominently.


There are cats, and then there are cats. For example, there are Turkish cats, roaming the villages and hills, living off scraps, reproducing madly and costing no-one a penny. Then there is Calli, our previously 5lb cat who has now ballooned to a massive 7lb monstrosity, and has yet again decided that it has been too long between visits to the vet.

Turkish cats are undoubtedly cute, take these adorable kittens for example:

Then there is this wily old hunter, perfectly camouflaged and photographed in the little village of Kalekoy (which means "castle village"), a village unreachable other than by water.

In the larger town of Kas ( pronounced 'cash') groups of opportunists gather in the knowledge that some of the older women feed scraps from the pot as evening falls.

Whatever survival mechanisms these cats employ, one thing is sure - none of them are as valuable, if value is measured in terms of veterinarian bills, as Callisandra Vella, Queen of Large Villas, whose new look is featured below. I would also speculate that none of the Turkish cats would put up with wearing a blue-ish cape if they were Calico - its just so outre.

Calli's new look is the result of her unfailing ability to get into trouble. Usually when this happens, either self or Red are on-hand to climb up ladders, wipe off fox excrement, dig her out of holes or nurse her through the results of her urge to chase pigeons. On this occasion, we were at Stanstead Airport, returning to the UK when I, turning on my phone to check the time, received a frantic phone call from Pte 1st Class Walters, our friend and house sitter.

"Dont panic" says Walters "there's been an accident".

Immediately I felt like enquiring what Calli had done, and immediately I was not disappointed as Pte 1st Class Walters proceeded to explain that Calli had managed, in her usual impetuous manner, to get between the front door and the door frame, on a very windy day, just as she (Walters, not the cat) was admitting herself to the premises. The door was caught by a sudden gust of wind , the tail was trapped and slightly damaged. Despite that we had inadequately described to Walters the cat's propensity for self harm, action taken by said person was immediate, appropriate and entirely correct, so the cat was whisked off to the vet for some minor surgery, which involved a modification to Calli's tail in the longitudinal dimension.

We panicked not and taking advantage of the ludicrous fact that in the UK it is less expensive to rent a car than get the train from London to Hull, we drove home where Calli presented her new look.

Those of you who imagine that I spent an entire vacation taking photographs of cats will be disappointed to learn that I took some other shots as well, mostly of flowers, drunken holiday makers and old buildings. However there were quite a few of these shots, and I've just started editing, so it will take a few days for me to upload. More on Turkey to follow.