Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Was it really January when I last posted on this blog? Where are the voices of protest at my absence? The disappointment? The concerned enquiries ? Hellooooooo!

So as a kind of protest against your lack of protest I am going to write a post. If you see what I mean..

My absence has been partly because I started work on a book (a task to which I hereby pledge myself to return) but more because I diverted into helping restart the Kültür Evi (Culture Centre) in Kalkan of which more later.

On the bigger stage it has been an eventful five months; in Turkey a game-changing referendum won by the narrowest of margins, in the UK several grim terrorist outrages giving birth to a sinister new development in the twisted world of political terrorism the ”rampaging vehicle”; albeit a threat not completely unfamiliar to those who drive the roads in Turkey.

We have also seen the fall of May in June after her failure to capture the public outrage when an  appalling and preventable fire in Britain’s richest borough saw many of Britain’s racially diverse, poorer citizens burnt to death in their tower block homes. An event that has given further Momentum to the political pendulum ‘s swing in the other direction; Jeremy (no longer Hasbyn) Corbyn’s political life has been lived out in the inner city borough of Islington so he is no stranger to such estates. Totally in his comfort zone he was able to give the rabbit-in-the-headlamps cum scary matron PM a lesson in how to relate to Britain’s urban underclass.

There are lots of wonderful ironies about the rise and rise of Islington Jezza but my favourite is that he divorced his second wife, Claudia Brachitta, because they could not resolve their differences over their children’s education; Claudia preferring a grammar school whereas Jezza wanted the local comp; it was an Islingon comp you will recall that sung the chorus in Pink Floyd’s Brick in the Wall – you know, the one that goes “We don’t need no Education”. So it was probably that one Jezza had lined up for Corbyn Minor. Beautifully symmetrical then that his one time girlfriend and political lieutenant Diane Abbot spent her political life railing against privilege and hypocrisy(vitrifying Tony Blair for cherry picking the State System) and then sent her only son to £10,000 per annum City of London School to protect him away from local bad influences.

It is his ironclad adherence to youthful principles, setting him apart from 99% of the population, that is, I guess, attractive to some people, especially the young,; particularly beguiling in the snake and ladder world of politics where you can go from a safe pair of hands to Maybot in a matter of days; remember the youthful insouciance of Nick Clegg and his deftly staged hand in the pocket for Leaders Question Time in the 2010 elections? That’s the youthfully insouciant Nick Clegg who just lost his Sheffield seat to cheers from fellow Lib Democrats.

But enough of politics. Anyway I am no longer a voter anywhere. Having shipped out of the Auld Sod, I can only watch events here and there with the slight detachment of the disenfranchised.

So the Culture Centre (Kültür Evi) then.

The Kültür EviThe Kültür Evi is one of, if not the, finest historic buildings in Kalkan and was once the residence of the district governor (Kaymakam). The Kalkan Kültür Evi has always hosted art and craft exhibitions through the summer months but became somewhat rundown. This became very clear when the previous manager left and my friend Fatoş was asked to step in. She sought my assistance with the project (I don’t know. Maybe she did not know anybody else?) and the Kaymakam gave his blessing.

So with the encouragement and support of the Kaş Governor and local charitable funding we have had the building repaired and redecorated. To date we have organised a successful Children’s Day festival and we have put on a couple of art exhibitions. But we are keen to develop the Centre as a hub of activity for the benefit of the town and of the somewhat battered tourist economy. Put your hand up if you think Kalkan needs more going on than just bars, clubs and restaurants.

So we are raising money to help us get started.

Firstly we want to have a Juice and Smoothie Bar there serving a great range of healthy and creative drinks. However, besides a significant financial investment this will also require planning, training and set up. So as a short term measure we will install a small café. This will have the double benefit of allowing the Centre to stay open day and evening for its exhibitions as well as creating a meeting point for people. Next year we hope to upgrade the facility. Also by then we will have set up a charitable association or dernek, like the well established KAPSA

Open air cinemaSecondly we want to set up a pop up cinema in the nearby, small public space overlooking the harbour, so that we can show films and digital events (Glastonbury’s last night would be fun) reflecting in a very broad sense Turkish and International culture, in line with the mission of Kültür Evleri across Turkey.

In the longer term we would like, and already have in principle agreement from both the Belediye (Town Hall) and the Kaymakam, to install a permanent theatre for films and performances at a site further around the bay. The pop-up cinema would be a quick way to test the idea and get something going this season. The idea already has the backing of neighbouring businesses, so it’s time to get going.

As I have been advised that a general appeal is unlikely to get much of a response, I thought I would do one. Here we go;

I cannot guarantee to succeed, nor can I guarantee that there will not be pitfalls along the way  (not least deciding what is and what is not appropriate to screen) but I would really appreciate your financial support in getting this under way.

The sum is not large; 8,000 TL (£1.8k) along with what we have should be enough. We will use the money for a sound system, screen and projector”

My thanks to my neighbour (from Istanbul) in Islamlar for his immediate donation of 500 TL to get us going. Anybody else who is willing to contribute please contact me through Facebook or by email chrisdavies_01@hotmail.co.uk and I can advise you options for transferring lira or sterling.

Help Kalkan  fight back

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Holiday in Turkey? Yes!

Kuşadasi – you bet your assy

Ölü Deniz  it’s just the biz

Next to Godrum, there is Bodrum

Jumping Jack Kaş it’s a gas

Yeşil Üzümlü, er…

That’s right, we are bigging up Turkey. Those who visit, live in or have invested in Kalkan on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast have taken it upon them selves to start waxing about the joys of Turkey as a holiday destination in an online group Holiday in Turkey? Yes

It’s a good job somebody is beating a drum because I do not see much of an attempt by Turkey’s government to rouse up and reassure the world, despite visitor numbers last year being down by some 30 – 40%.  And there is a great story to tell, although I want to add a different perspective. Let me first, however, repeat the points made better by others in the group:

Turkey offers great value for money; at just short of 5 liras to the pound you can eat in the best restaurants (and they are good) and still get change from £20 per head and an average family restaurant will come in well below that.

The climate is great and the standard of accommodation is high.

This is a great country for activity tourism; you can go on canoe excursions, boat trips, walks, swims, jeep safaris, mountain visits, quad bikes, pony trekking and so on.

There is a treasure trove of ancient sites for those who like to walk in the footsteps of Roman legions on their holidays. Stand quietly amongst the ruins of the amphitheatre at Pınara or Xanthos and you will feel the ghosts of ancient Likya. Just 15 minutes drive from Kalkan are the substantial ruins of the ancient city of Patara, complate with the restored Assembly Building of the Lykian League: the first known democratic parliament.

Perhaps most importantly you will get an amazing friendly welcome and, despite the economic pressures bearing down on tourist business owners, very little hassle or pressure.

But I want to mention something else; Turkey is just too important for the West to walk away from.

What other country in the Middle East has sustained democratic government for ninety years? Or can boast six state funded regional ballet and opera companies, offering regular quality performance of works by Handel, Mozart and many others? Find another country in this area that gives women full political rights under its constitution and has done so for 80 years?

The Republic of Turkey is still a place where western democratic values are cherished by many and where people can live their lives as they want to live them and express themselves freely.

BUT Turkey’s attachment to the West is under heavy challenge from the current government and its undisputed leader President Erdoğan. The sale and enjoyment of alcohol is being stealthily eroded. The freedom to celebrate Western and ınternational festivals and holidays like New Year are being questioned. Even when 40 party goers at Istanbul’s Reina Night Club were massacred on New Year’s eve this year, some in Turkey said the victims had brought it on their own head, prompting the Head of Diyanet (Religious Affairs directorate) to state that it is wrong to divide people according to their life-style.

So the West needs Turkey onside. Teresa May has recognised that and made Turkey her first stop after America.

Turkey holds some of the world’s most difficult borders and is the buffer between Europe and states like Syria, Iraq, Iran. We need a strong, secular and free Turkey and we need to understand and support its struggle to understand and bridge East and West. Walk away from it and we leave a void that will be filled by forces almost certainly at least suspicious, if not hostile, to the West and Western values.

So enjoy a fabulous holiday with all that Turkey has to offer, which is everything, at a modest price too.

Equally importantly allow yourself the self-satisfaction of knowing that in holidaying here you are supporting those campaigning for Freedom, Tolerance and Women’s Rights.

I will drink to that.

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Yule

No I do not know what it means either but you can always look it up. Personally CBA (you may need to look that up too – Urban Dictionary).

If that sounds like a sorry-arsed, f**k you sort of introduction to a blogpost I guess I must apologise; Thing is it is Christmas. And in my later middle years (I like that one) I have gone off the whole thing. I am more “Bah! Humbug!” than rosy Pickwickian, crackling log fire, mistletoe, festive cheer.

Life is rich in ironies; when I was a twenty year old, long haired student, in an ill-judged moment I agreed to go to Morocco for Christmas with a friend. We thought it would be, well coool man. Know what I mean?

“What are you doing for Christmas, man?”

Long pause (there were always long pauses those days).

“Going to Morocco, man”

“Wow! Far out thought man!”

“Yea. Train down to Marrakesh!”

“Marrakesh man. Wow!”

“Dig, yeah”

Collapses from effort of sustained conversation.

In the event 3 days in we pretty much ran out of money and hunkered down in Fez. Christmas Day was major non event heightened by the single sad sign in a single sad shop window wishing customers “Joyeux Noel”. Still remember wishing I was home and not hungry and tucking in to Christmas dinner. And here I am 45 years on retired in a Muslim country , loving the fact that Migros will be open on Christmas Day and it will all be a non-event.

What goes around..

Actually not all of our foreign resident community are as Scrooge-like as me and many decorate their houses and put on Christmas dinners. But me? Non merci.

The rot started to seep in quite a few years back. I think there came a point when I thought why are there Christmas crackers in the shops in October? And then the whole thing began to look more and more like a retailfest. Then there’s the whole pc Winterval thing, and the fact that everyone already has so much stuff that buying more just seems like a criminal waste of resources and I always preferred everybody else’s present and also..that’s ENOUGH MOANING!

No but, really, I remember when I was a child indulgence was a glass of Emva Cream and our Christmas stocking contained things like Brazil nuts and tangerines (tangerines? You were lucky Gessiah. We ‘ad potato peel. Aye that were fact and we were grateful forrit)

Alright, maybe it wasn’t that great! Just pour me a glass of Mateus Rose and pass me my rose-tinted spectacles.

Ottoman castleActually Special K and I will be heading off to Antalya’s spectacular old city (Kaleicin) for three days over the Winterval period. We have booked in to the gorgeous Tuvana Hotel, one of Kaleicin’s many boutique hotels created from Ottoman era mansion houses (konak). And they are putting on a Christmas Eve menu which reads like a banquet, complete with Campari and Soda sorbet between courses and unlimited wine, rakı or beer for £35!!! It is the only restaurant I have come across outside Istanbul which is entitled to use (and does) the term fine dining.

However, and here’s the thing, the Antalya Devlet Opera ve Balesi is putting on Franz Lehr’s The Merry Widow as its Christmas Production on 24th. So while Special K and Friend Lynn, who is actually a widow, settle down to a feast, I am thinking off slinking off to get a fix of Turn of the Century Viennese glitz.

It’s a genuine dilemma for me because I love fine dining and unlimited wine but I have a pash for Turkey’s State Opera and Ballet companies. Last week we went to see a production of Carmen (best seats in the house for £5) and the audience was like for a rock gig; Sculted handhardly anybody over 30. It fills me with hope for the secular, modern, open-minded republican Turkey that is locked in eternal struggle with a more narrow minded, religious and conservative Turkey that is out there too.

Comfortably seated in the Hasan Işcan Kultur Merkezı  surrounded by todays Young Turks in tight denim and trim beards and the ghosts of the fathers of the Republic in full evening dress, I feel strangely at home.

So I do not know which side of me is going to win out, culture or vulture?  Maybe I can get back in time to join Kim and The Widow while they are still merry and get the best of both worlds.

New Year’s Eve will find me, Special K and friends celebrating at the excellent Mussaka restaurant where I am playing with fellow rockers Cengiz, Selçuk and amazing singer Marianne.

A Merry Christmas (I suppose) and an excellent New Year to everybody

“Yurtta sulh, cihanda sulh”  Peace at home, peace in the world – KS Atatürk.

That will do nicely.

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A Few Tender Mercis

Coming outA quick post to acknowledge a few debts after the 2016 Kalkan (Mouse) Island Swim which is the sixth one I have organised and participated in. It was distinguished by a great turn out on the beach and very warm support from everybody despite an evident drop in visitor numbers. Much of the town seems to be closing early. Why?

Kalkan in October is so lovely, with day after day of blue skies, perfect temperatures and warm seas. Time to stop building more and more villas and start developing visitor attractions. What happened to that Likya Food Festival? Well the swim next year will be bigger and better. But more of that later

This year we had the pleasure of being taken out to the Island and escorted in by AKUT the Turkish search and rescue voluntary organisation who established a local Kaş Kalkan branch last year helped by funds from a very successful 2015 Swim. They did a great job and it was a relief to me to be able to hand over responsibility for safety and logistics to Bircan Tolunay, AKUT’s head honcho.

A nod at this point to the elegantly named John Fedrryxxzwictz, whose vision and dynamism it was that got AKUT off the ground in the first place before handing over the reins to Bircan. John and his organ are a great asset to the town.

OnbaordLet me also thank our Esteemed Sawbones Dr Cem, who leant his excellent boat Carpe Diem (the medical profession love a bit of Latin) to transport all the swimmers out to the rock. He is also a great asset to the town, particularly if you do not know the Turkish for “My haemorrhoids are giving me hell” as his English is genu prima (it’s not just medics who like a bit of Latin).

Diverting briefly, the other half of the Antalya Rhythm Snakes, my bass player friend Cengiz, told me a great story; In France a couple of decades ago they mounted a publicity campaign for a haemorrhoid cream using Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire. Initially thay played a large chunk of the song but eventually as the campaign gathered momentum they only showed the tube of medicine and played the opening notes Daah du du dah du daah! Instant recognition and it spawned a whole raft of gags.

Thanks also to The Lovely Alicia and Colonial Ken who paddled their own canoe, as it were, tried to keep us in the right direction and handed out water, honey and flapjack (when Ken was not sampling himself that is: a bit like giving Bunter the key to the larder).

IMG-20160901-WA0000Thanks are definitely due to Ahmet who allowed us to train from Indigo Beach Club and use their facilities throughout the season and even discounted the price of his excellent coffee for us. Adam gibi adamsin, Ahmet and you run a great beach club.

Thank you the Kaş Kaymakam for giving permission and arranging for the coastguard to pass and ensure no complications with outgoing tour boats.

Thank you to Peripatetic Pete for wandering around and photographing every aspect of the swim and posting it as an album which, when I last looked, had attracted 171 views, which is 170 more than I got when I posted a picture of myself posing over the bonnet of the Dacia Duster in my Speedos .

I have sprinkled this post with some of his work. May his lens grow ever longer.

Thanks to our partners for helping out on the day and being there to welcome us in and putting up with the disruption of our training schedule.

A nod to Joules whose idea it was to swim the distance in the first place and who recruited me to swim it with her for the first time in 2011.

Fliss

Thank you and well done to our swimmers: Jim, Devrim, Mustafa, Amanda, Stephen, Fliss, Jackie, Ergün, Solihin, Alex along with Selin and Eşref swimming for AKUT and regret for the one that got away after doing all the training too; we hope the move to Cyprus is a success Ilkay.

A BIG thank you to all who have sponsored us with contributions from £10 to our largest single contribution of £500. I do not have an exact figure but I am confident that we will reach 24,000 Turkish Lira including 4,000 from the stalls and beach collection and the rest from individuals’ sponsor money.

The money will go to Kaş4kids to be used to provide support for needy families in Kalkan, Kaş and surrounding areas.

Every dog has its day and every idea its moment. It is over two years since I had an initial discussion with Gwen and Richard of Kaş4Kids about establishing a Kalkan branch. Then Kalkan’s Princess Chris Williams, recovering from an affair of the heart with Venetian heart throb Paulo and looking for a new purpose, stepped up to take on the executive role. It took a while for the right premises opportunity to emerge but thanks to her energy and commitment and the support of a small band of helpers, we now have a thriving shop under the otogar (making it possible to get kitted out for less than 40 Tl then step out and marry your beau in the forecourt without straying more than 50 yards) and a campaigning organisation that can translate cash in to practical help where it is needed.

One of the joys of this year was to see the smile on the face (or faciem as she is a doctor too and probably likes a bit of Latin) of the tireless Chair of Kaş4Kids, Munise, when she spoke at the swim reception.

Like so many places we have our divisions; cliques within the foreigner community, rivalries within the business communities, Turks by ethnicity, Turks from Foreigners, Kaş people from Kalkan people, Kaş ıncomers from Kaş born and bred and so on. But there was a great atmosphere on the beach and we are demonstrating that Kaş and Kalkan can work together.

Our swimmers are a mix too, Turkish and foreign residents, as well as those coming from abroad and we now have a club page run by the tireless Devrim, who is urging us to enter the Datcha Swim Marathon in FEBRUARY (warm then!) and the Dalyan one in APRIL (just as cold)  before having a crack at the Meis-Kaş swim in June!

And then of course we will be back for next Autumn. I will be posting the date soon so that those who need to book holiday to participate or just come and support can do that. We are considering raising a substantial sum for a very exciting project for the town so more of that..later

In the meantime remember that old Latin oxymoron Festina lente  or “Make haste slowly!”

 

All ready    Coming out 2   Solihin   Mustafa and Jim

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2016 Mouse Island Swim 8th October

IMG-20160901-WA0000When I first started this swimming malarkey in 2011 with friend Joules Garrod, she promised me the body of a racing snake if I accepted the challenge. Six swims on and racing snake? More boa constrictor with half digested sheep.
Never mind! I am beyond such earthly concerns. It has generally been fun and I have made some great friends, which tally gets added to every year. It has also raised some very useful money for a variety of local causes; for one young man a new prosthetic leg, for the family of a very ill child crucial finacial support, for a local school a new basketball court and, last year, start up funds for a local branch of AKUT Search and Rescue organisation.

Talking of AKUT, they will provide logistic support and safe passage on the swim as well as  registering three of their own swimmers to participate under their own colours and raise sponsorship for their organisation. A good arrangement all round.

Our Island Swimming Team will swim this year for Kaş4Kids, a local charity that is active throughout the KaşKalkan municipal area; we now have our own charity shop sited in Kalkan and under the sharp eyed management of none other than dreamy princess Chris Williams, who has coloured the pages of this blog before, particularly the tale of her pursuit of amorous (and imaginary but do not tell her) Italian hunk Paulo. Wounded in the chase she now confines herself to charitable pursuits and the odd encounter with a tall, slim bottle of Angora.

And in pursuit of charity she is pretty formidable. I made the mistake of betting 100  TL over the date of some event, on which I was – yes, rare thing I know – WRONG. The other party charitably refused to take my note but the wily princess, also I suppose charitably, snaked out a mitt and trousered the note for….charity.

I, to this day, fail to understand how Paulo got away.

Paulo, mi amigo, stai attento! Stai molto attento

Enough of insulting my friends! Kaş4Kids is a registered charity and does great work in service of the neediest local families, including a programme to distribute winter shoes amongst the schools of the area where the headteacher has identified a need. And that is quite a considerable number I can tell you. They also supported 18 students last year with the costs of their university accomodation, amongst many other things. So if you are feeling charitable and you have a personal connection you can support one of our swimmers with an individual contribution.

Participating this year, besides the incoherent, delusional  author of this blog, will be, in order of physical distinction:

Gentleman Jim Lumley as fast in the water as he is at the card table
Ilkay Utaş   Izmirli by birth but nearest thing Islamlar has to Sarah Jessica Parker
Stephen Bentley Marketing Supremo and now on track to be the Sir Philip Green of the emergent UK Hamam towel business
Mustafa Özen  Lock up your daughters
Felicity Davie the only person to have swum the Mouse Island Kalkan sea passage and conversed the entire way, mainly to herself
Solihin Thom  inventor of the zig zag stroke. He swims 2 km to every one else’s 1 and still comes in ahead
Devrim Çelebi our photographer and archivist. She can post a group selfie on the web before the rest of us are out of the shower (see above)
Amanda Magrath a dark horse who is training stateside but will be there on the day
Ergün Duran of Need Architecture who needs no introduction. Also knows more about ladies’ bags than he needs to

So there we are; 10 takers and a finer group of people you can easily find in your local penal institution. And that really is enough insulting and abusing of my friends.

If you want to make a general donation, because you do not have a particular connection to one swimmer or if you know several and do not want to be pursued by all of them, you can can make a group donation in sterling, without charge, via my UK bank account

C Davies
HSBC Bank
Sort code  40 02 26
Account   01466739.

Please quote your name and the word swim as a reference. I will post all donation amounts and enough of the reference so that you can identify your donation for purposes of audit.

Unfortunately I cannot set up a Just Giving page as you need UK charity number but you can use this PayPal button to my PayPal account. PayPal will deduct a 20p fee + 3.5% of the amount, thus 55p from £10.00




Thank you for your support

If you wish to make a donation direct to Kaş4Kids in Turkey, I can supply you with the necessary information. Just specify GBP, USD, Euro or TL and email me on chrisdavies_01@hotmail .com

If you can make it to Kalkan Beach on 8th October we expect to be in sight 11.30 so arrive around then, cheer us in and then join the after swim party.

It has not been a great year for Turkish tourism so let’s make October a great month and especially Saturday 8th

With your help, the 6th Annual Mouse Island Swim should go swimmingly.

.

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Overheated

20160810_144939Did we really ever look at weather forecasts? It is that time of eternal sunshine again. And a cloud of Smug hangs over Islamlar. We mountain dudes look down on the sultry heat of the coast from our breeze ruffled hilltop homes, swimming pools still refreshingly cool and air conditioning rarely if ever required.

Not that I want to knock the coast; we have a rental home down there in Kalkan and it is a great place to holiday. Just want to sing the virtues of Islamlar as a time-honoured summer retreat. Come November, when the evenings are still balmy in Kalkan and we are lighting fires, coastal dwellers get to look up smugly at cloud covered mountains.

Kalkan has been suffering because many of the British holidaymakers, upon whom the tourist economy is virtually completely dependent, have turned their backs on Turkey in its time of trouble. With headlines in some papers predicting Armageddon complete with pictures of SAS soldiers on standby to mount Entebbe style rescue missions for UK citizens, that is not surprising.

Were you to come here, however, hoping to be snatched, slung over his shoulder and airlifted by a burly, masked soldier prepare to be disappointed.

I don’t predict a riot.

Life rolls on as normal except even the most popular restaurants can probably accommodate you impromptu and you can even find a parking place in town. The political storm that has shaken Turkey following an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow President Erdoğan’s government has left this corner of this very large country fairly untouched. It will continue to play out, of which more later, but airlifts Saigon style from blazing buildings? Don’t think so.

Business people are pinning hopes on a September recovery and I suspect they may get it. Accommodation in Kalkan is apparently fairly well booked for September whereas in July and August bookings are 50% down. As long as the mass circulation dailies have other stuff to write about, like “UK August A Sizzler” or “UK August A Drizzler” we may be allowed to get on with nursing our wounds. “A period of silence from them”, as someone said of somebody “would be very welcome”.

Islamlar village meanwhile has not seen a downturn in tourism. Far from it; the nature of tourism has changed here in the mountains and Turkish visitors are coming in droves. Largely speaking they are of the conservative sort and the locals have been building villas to suit conservative taste. This means a villa with plenty of chrome and glass, then a pool with a magnificent view and last touch is to put up a frame work all around the pool and terrace, hang up huge privacy drapes and..er..block out that magnificent view.

Religion? No thanks, I am trying to give it up.

Local tourism is certainly bringing welcome income to the mountains (although for our splendid and renowned restaurants the average drinks order for a couple has dropped from a two G & Ts and a bottle of wine to a bottle of water).  With a huge increase in the volume of building too a gold rush was looking inevitable but fortunately the authorities have now started clamping down with some eye watering fines issued last year. Not a moment too soon either. However, Islamlar’s success does underline the need for Kalkan to try and diversify its visitor base and attract a more varied range of tourists to enjoy its undoubted charms.

So that coup, what is it all about?

Well if you are struggling to understand it all you are not alone.

Istanbul rallyHowever, nobody is putting their hands up and regretting the coup did not succeed so a kind of unity has broken out. This is loosely around the banner of Protecting Democracy. And there have been and still are democracy rallies in towns and cities around the country every night. A huge one (between 1m and 3m depending on who you believe) took place in Istanbul 3 days go (click on picture).

But where is it all heading? Towards an Islamic state under an all powerful President? Or are there grounds for cautious optimism that a newly evaluated secularism could hold the balance between rival İslamic factions? I found this comment by a Turk (Ömerli) on an online article in the Financial Times about the same big rally and it seemed a useful summary.

“Certainly there are enough grounds for skepticism (sic) as well as more optimistic scenarios. Much will depend on Erdogan and here one really must stretch the bounds of credibility to see him emerge as a unifier. Then again one could not have believed such a rally was possible so despite all our nay saying friends below who wish the worst we remain cautiously optimistic having, of course, little choice. In the meantime it was sad to see how little western support Turkey got from beating back the coup but I guess all pretense (sic) at supporting democracy and its principles is long out the door of the sad spectacle that the EU has become.”

Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican CHP party, actually addressed the rally which marks a new departure for Turkey, although as well as endorsing the opportunity he regretted that the Kurdish party, the HDP, have been excluded.

So this is an important moment for the world and especially Turkey, which has acted as a buffer state between Europe and much of the Middle East for nigh on 100 years. Viewed optimistically, a president who once said democracy was “like a train that you get off once you reach your destination” may have had a moment on the road to Damascus; a realisation that he has the opportunity to embed a free, modern and prosperous Turkey under a secular democracy that is safeguarded not, as previously established by Atatürk, by the military  but by the commitment of the people. The very people who proved their courage and vigour in coming on to the streets and defeating guns and tanks.

Only time will reveal the true state of affairs. This may look like foolish optimism in a couple of years. But I am a foolish optimist. Always have been.

In the meantime for those of us who live here I would say hope for the best but have a Plan B! For those of you who love Turkey from a distance, come and show your support by making your next holiday right here on the Turquoise coast. Fill up the taverns, restaurants, hotels and villas and help restore prosperity to this entrancing corner. The world needs Turkey and Turkey needs the world.

On 8th October for the 6th time I will be swimming the 5.5km from Mouse Island to Kalkan beach as part of a dozen strong group of Turkish and foreign residents and visitors. We will be raising money for new charity Kas4kids, supporting the local needy especially in their quest for education for their children. If you want to see us land on the beach and celebrate, be in Kalkan on Saturday 8th October. If you want to donate from afar I will set up a PayPal button on my blog page and tell you more about the work of Kas4kids in a future post.

Here’s to a new and democratic dawn for Turkey under a secular sky.

Spread the word. Turkey is back in business

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Turkish attempted coup; latest

2016-07-16 14.39.14In a bizarre twist it appears that the mastermind behind the latest attempt to wrench power away from President Tayyıp Erdoğan and the AK party he leads was a long haired white Turkish Angora cat with sinister eyes.

Prime Minister of Turkey Binalley Yieldorun, in a statement made outside the Turkish Parliament, a historic building that used to be the seat of the Turkish government in the republican era, claimed that, “Despite absurd rumours that the attempted coup was a manufactured piece of theatre to disguise a naked power grab, we can now reveal that the entire treacherous conspiracy was masterminded by a white long haired Turkish Angora (or Ankara) cat, the same breed that also sat at Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s side in his mountain retreat as he plotted his ultimately failed attempt at world domination. His traitorous lapdog (sic) lackeys can expect to face the severest consequences of our judicial system.”

The fiendishly clever, although deceptively gentle looking mog, lives in exile in Pennsylvania USA from where he runs a network of schools and affiliated organisations across many countries.  Now at an advanced age he spends large amounts of time supine but deep in thought on a shelf underneath a painting of goats, believed to be an ironic reference to his hated adversary, Turkey’s President and Supreme Ruler.

There are many reasons to suspect the long reach of his velvet claw in the planning of this latest outrage not least that the strategic thinking behind the putsch is more reminiscent of a domestic pet than experienced military commanders. In addition a statement read out on national television channel Türkiye Radyo Televisyon (TRT) included a demand that street animals, long a feature of Turkish city life, be given two meals a day and be registered to vote. It is believed that their vote could have been crucial in foiling any future referendum on changes to the constitution and the final embedding of a presidential system that is now predicted to follow the failure of the coup.

With the rounding up of soldiers and agents of The Mog who carried out his evil will, the attempted takeover appears to have come to nothing. Supporters of the President poured out on to the street in answer to his appeal via social media and in response to calls from the mosques which ran through the night; “We may still be a secular republic but it is the holy duty of all citizens to support the government” the Senior Imam said in a slightly confused statement.

As the President has also summoned all citizens to come out again on the streets tonight to show support for democracy the situation continues to unfold.

The future may not look bright and if it is orange it is the Guantanamo variety rather than the fizzy drink but hey, the sun is still shining here on the Mediterranean coast, the sea is still blue and I shall be on the streets tonight; although more in support of my right to enjoy a glass of rakı than for Turkish democracy which is looking like a horribly busted flush.

Şerife

 

 

 

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Bella Italia and Other Stuff

Under the Second Amendment the American Constitution granted all citizens the right to bear arms.

Under the Magna Carta all free English men were granted “the right to justice and a free trial”.

20160528_115100And somewhere in their founding statutes all Italians must have been given the right to hang out their washing on the front of their buildings.

How else to explain the fact that wherever you go – even in one of Italy’s most beautiful towns on the Italian Riviera – you will find a line of laundry obscuring the delicate frescoes and stucco work of belle epoch mansion blocks. Satellite dish, never! Rubbish, not a scrap! Dog mess, even less! But a line of laundry is as Italian as salami di Milano.

The Special and I took a week’s break last month from our arduous Mediterranean retirement to return to Rapallo in Liguria on the western coast of Italy . We stopped overnight on the return trip from UK last year and were much taken. Besides there were rumours that Latin lover Paulo, who abandoned our own Princess Christina after stealing her heart last year, was in town and I needed to have words with him.

2016-05-28 21.36.06It was a great week. You cannot turn a corner without gasping at the startling beauty of the buildings and settings. Italian landscaping and Italian architecture, leveraging the awesome beauty of the mountainous Mediterranean coast.

Sitting atop, looking loftily down on the chic resort town of Santa Margarita and resonating five star pomp and grandeur is the Grande Imperiale. Around the bend the Continental offers a view straight through its marble foyer on to the  shimmering turquoise Med.

Wind down the hill, here stands elegant wrought iron, there classical stone work, villas with magnificent gardens their majestic trees rising from green sward, headily fragrant jasmine and neatly shaped shrubs and blooms, the work of a thousand hands. Then the view opens on to the bay with its crisply painted Art Deco bathing stations; visions of cocktails, canapes and Bright Young Things partying in the dying fall of the Great War, determinedly unseen the ominous shadows of a resurgent Fascist Germany.

“I say Freddy old thing, what do you say to a swim?”

“Anyone for tennis?”

Ah nostalgia! Ain’t what it used to be.

The Italian Riviera still has something of that Roaring Twenties feel about it. An insouciant splendeur that has not faded unlike Paulo, the beast. Was that him in velvet with the chihuahua (yes, I did have to check the spelling)? No! we see it is not him at all! But there stepping out of the Alpha Romeo, a new squeeze on his arm! Cannot be sure but something tells me, yes! The heartbreak. But he is gone. One day, Christine ma pauvre. He will be back for you.

Seven days soon pass. We loved it, the Special and I, but sometimes it takes a trip away to appreciate what you have at home. It was lovely to come back to the joys of an Islamlar summer, the fresh vegetables and fruit that are the main stays of our diet, the bright sunshine, blue skies and the warmth of Turkish people. Perhaps most importantly the very sociable nature of life here. Coming up for our sixth year and life now has a wonderful rhythm to it.

We are training for the island swim again. This will be the sixth time a group of Turkish and foreign residents swim from Mouse Island to Kalkan beach. We plan to swim on 8th October and to raise money for newly established charity in Kalkan, Kas4kids. All funds go towards supporting hard up families in the greater Kaş area and trying to remove the financial barriers to education that poorer children face. The swim takes around 3-4 hours and we land on the beach together to a great welcome from locals and holiday makers.

This year we have about 13 enrolled to date and the swim has become part of the calendar. Well done to my friend Joules who challenged me to do the swim with her in the first place.

Mind you, Kalkan seems subdued this year. Visitor numbers are seriously down and many businesses are struggling to make ends meet. The exception seems to be the cobbled street behind the main street which runs from Moonlight down to the Botanik Garden and White House Pansyon. The street has come alive since Salonica started up last year and a number of promising businesses have launched this year. I have to mention my friend Süleyman’s smart new restaurant Pera and the elegant Old Town boutique hotel and café at the end.

Talking of elegance, Kalkan’s built environment after a week in Italy seems a bit sorry at times; the old town and harbour, however, are the best visitor assets Kalkan has and it is good to see them rejuvenating. Western style tourism is under threat from the random violence of militant Islam but Turkey’s own government seems to have its face set against it too. In particular attitudes towards the sale of alcohol seem to be hardening. It is all part of a larger picture wherein the President and his party the AKP are grinding away the pluralistic, secular Turkey that was Kemal Atatürk’s gift to the world and slowly moving towards a religious government under an executive president, effectively a dynastic kingdom.

Read beautiful Turkish writer Elif Şafak’s article in the Guardian if you think I am exaggerating.

If, like me, you do not fancy ending up in prison for “insulting the President” or some such nonsense, here are four mildly subversive things you can do.

  • Have a glass of rakı and a little dish of lebleb (roasted chickpeas). Greatly beloved by Atatürk rakı was his constant companion. Before the AKP came to power in 2002 a bottle was 8 lira, it is now 70!
  • Go watch an opera or a ballet. Ismet Inönü, a great hero of the Independence War and of the Turkish Republic was a passionate lover of opera and the man behind the establishment of the six regional state opera and ballet companies. They are being slowly strangled. “Not part of our culture” as the AKP like to say.
  • If you are a woman, have a good laugh in public (the Deputy Prime Minister thinks that you should not)
  • Read anything by Elif Şafak, e.g. the Bastard of Istanbul – she was sentenced to 14 months (fortunately suspended) for writing it

Join me in a glass of excellent Turkish red wine made from unpronounceable grapes and a few arias from The Barber of Seville.

Just trying to bring down the government..

And hang your washing on the front of your villa.

Seems to have worked for the Italians

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Spring

 

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

 

T. S. Eliot should have spent April in Islamlar, although the Waste Land might not have had such a powerful opening. Those first lines always blow me away, invoking the bleak battle fields of Belgium and France; the numbingly arid mudscape broken only by an occasional shellburst red poppy.

2016-04-11 11.57.45Here in Islamlar the contrast is extreme; bees and butterflies buzz diligently around our magnificent flowering lavender, spring water tumbles down the mountain, trees heavy with white and pink blossom sway in the breeze and blue sky segues into the azure of a distant Mediterranean. The bleat of an occasional goat blends with the song of a nightingale and soon the red squirrels will be scampering over the trees, mesmerising our little black cat.

Lingering over breakfast by the pool it is hard to break the spell and start the chores. Does it matter that some days I seem to do very little? What is this life, if there is not time.. and all that?

The largely trivial nature of our life in retirement is counterpoint to the dramatic nature of events breaking around us. Turkey seems to be rarely out of the news and not generally for positive reasons. That said though, and I may be wrong (nah!!), the Western World seems increasingly aware of the importance of Turkey as a buffer state between Europe and the violent, anarchic countries that the Middle East seems to breed.

The question is how President Erdoğan fits in to the jigsaw. Previous perceptions of him as a force for stability have been jeopardised by his reckless reopening of hostilities with the Kurds. Meanwhile the Western World, and Obama in particular, are increasingly seeing the Kurdish Peshmerga as vital to the effort to destroy the so-called Islamic State. Furthermore Erdoğan’s intolerance of criticism and readiness to dismantle newspapers and make widespread use of the arcane charge of “insulting the President” as a way of intimidating opponents can only deepen concern.

And talking of spring was there not talk of an Arab Spring? A wind of change blowing away despots like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and ushering in the….uh…Muslim Brotherhood. Whoops! Cue the Egyptian army. Out too went Gaddafi and in came…uh…(consults notebook, scratches head)… time to change the subject.

Think I will stick to my Islamlar Spring. The natural world makes sense in a way that the turbulent politics of the Middle East really does not. Like Voltaire’s Candide I am concluding, in the face of the grim complexities of life, that Il faut cultiver notre jardin.

The Special, aka The Constant Gardener, has never deviated from that point of view. Having created a tranquil Mediterranean arbour in our back yard at Villa Gizem she is transforming our 2000 m2 in Islamlar from baked scraggy topsoil and abandoned builders’ spoil to an oasis of colour and shape, a sort of ordered disorder. And overcoming many an obstacle on the way I should add. Grass seed has been carried off  wholesale by ants and then there are the cats who see a nice dressing of compost and seed as a comfortable toilet experience.

2016-04-11 11.46.47K’s Cunning Plan has been to plant wooden kebab sticks angled upwards like medieval cavalry defences. Looks bizarre but seems to have worked. And then there was l’histoire du lavender! Lavender is plentiful in Turkey but  we brought three French lavender plants from Akbel market which have produced sensational long flowering plants. This kind of lavender is not common in Turkey. The mission to buy more of these has become a mini drama in its own right.

Drawing a blank at Izmir Fidancı in Akbel (from whom, however, we did buy a dozen of the wrong sort of lavender as part of the learning2016-04-11 11.50.06 experience)  we broadened the search to Fethiye, Antalya and finally an all out assault on the Turkish Internet, which I am getting quite adept at using. Armed with the knowledge that it is Karabaş Otu that we are looking for, I succeeded in purchasing 30 from onlinebahcem.com. Will the delivery van find us at the best attempt at an address I could manage? Only time will tell.  In the meantime Izmir Fidancı from Akbel came good with the order I had forgotten about and we felt obliged to purchase a further 20 of the right(ish) sort of lavender. So we now have 60 lavender bushes in transit or in situ and we only wanted six originally. Maybe Middle Eastern politics is not so complex after all.

Meanwhile in the neighbouring metropolis of Kalkan businesses are slowly preparing for what is likely to be the worst season on record. After a phoney war lasting several months during which the prevailing attitude amongst the business communıty was “It will be fine in a while. People are holding off booking but there will be a late surge. Just wait and see” the truth has sunk in.

The British are not coming!

Neighbouring Kaş, which attracts Turkish tourists in large numbers will be fine but Kalkan is still heavily dependent on European and in particular British guests. And for understandable reasons the British have been frightened off Turkey. The season will turn on those who own property here coming out and a shrunken band of visitors who know Kalkan well and understand that its geopolitical situation make it an unlikely target for terrorism.

So pools will be filled at the last moment and restaurants are in no hurry to open. Watch out for

Vanilya Those who appreciate Esra’s home cooking will want to support this liitle bistro on the Kalamar road again. She lost her partner in a tragic domestic accident last winter and I so want her to have a good season

Salonika Newcomer and success story of 2015. Situated on Kalkan’s new hip street, Süleyman Yıldız Caddesi behind the high street.

Pera A newcomer for 2016. Joins Salonika, Old Town Hotel, Iso’s Place and Botanik Bar on Süleyman Yıldız Street. Owned and run by Süleyman once of Fener restaurant, Pera should have all the ingredients of a great restaurant. Good food, good wine list, a warm welcome, service and ambiance.

But actually good bloody luck to all the restaurant and business owners of Kalkan. They will need it.

“Peace at home, peace in the world”

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

 

 

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The Best of Times the Worst of Times

Whoever said “Writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair”, pretty much got it right. I can always find something else to do: ride the bike, play the piano, chop wood, eat, drink, irritate, fascinate or amuse Special K, stare vacantly in to space and so on. And now the internet has made a fulltime profession out of work avoidance. There is always another link to follow (but not that one haha).

Fact is, most things are preferable to concentrated mental effort. When did you last do it? Come on, truth! Which is why it has been a long time since I posted. But I have felt the slıghtest of stirrings from the Muse – a bat squeak, no more. Also today is the first truly dull day in a month; clouds swirling around the house, intermittent rain forecast for the whole day and I have to await a delivery of wood. So here I am. Seat duly applied.

Diyarbakır SurIn my defense I could also point to an uncomfortable dislocation between the pleasantly mundane nature of everyday life here in our Mediterranean resort and the tempestuous dramas swirling around us; the thousands of refugees in flimsy craft battling on the seas washing our shore, drawn like moths to the guttering candle that is Europe, Land of Milk and Honey. Then too the nightmare war zone that Kurdish regions of Turkey, especially in and around Diyarbakır, have become (click on picture of Sur to enlarge) and of course the war against IŞID, DAESH, IS or whatever you want to call the attempt to found an Islamic Caliphate across Iraq and Syria. Shi’ite happens.

Let us not forget either the YPG and the PYD (backed by Russia and attacked by Turkey) and countless splinter groups fighting in Syria. Anomalies abound as America lines up with Russia against its NATO partner Turkey, whose president seems hellbound on taking on the Russian Bear, as if it does not have enough on its plate.

All of which makes it difficult to write a post about life here that is entertaining (what do you mean you did not realise?) without appearing fatuous.

Actually because we are only a 20 minute ferry crossing from the Greek island of Kastellorizo, the plight of refugees has a resonance here too. Many expat folk from Kaş and Kalkan have been volunteering to help on the island. Until recently volunteers were the only show in town as the UN and major NGOs had not been involved. It is easy to forget that the Greek islanders are victims of the refugee crisis too, as their winter population of a couple of hundred or so sees 3 times that number of migrants and refugees arriving weekly. With the tourist season a few weeks away the local administration has started playing hardball, evicting everybody from the temporary sleeping quarters.

A week later the clothing distribution centre funded and run by charitable efforts from Kaş and Kalkan burnt to the ground. An unlucky coincidence? Well we shall await an official view but I know which way the balance of probability is pointing. If that proves to be the case, it is an angry, futile and malign act but the underlying despair of locals is genuine enough.

But this is the Near/Middle East not Worthing. When shit happens it tends to take the toilet with it. I have been been away for a couple of chaps’ weekends (cannot quite bring myself to say boys’) recently, taking advantage of the return of “Nice South African” KR to these shores and the winter presence of errant builder and Sarıbelen Wild Man TS (in their best interest I have withheld Ken and Trevor’s names). We recently spent a couple of days in Izmir doing mad stuff like a chamber concert by the State Opera Company in the municipal concert hall. Woooah!

Izmir was Smyrna in Ottoman days, a polyglot port city peopled by Turks, Jews, Armenians and Franks in large numbers but with the majority group being of Greek origin. It was thus ceded to the Greeks by the Great Powers at the end of the First World War but went up in flames when the victorious Turkish Nationalist army under Mustafa Kemal marched in after four more years of war. If you have the time watch this 11 minute reel shot by a British Pathé camera man who happened to be in the area at the time. It is awesome and horribly compelling. When I am in Izmir I am always reminded that Turkey is something of a tinder box even if there are periods of calm.

Whilst on the subject of chaps’ weekends, did I tell you about our couple of days in Antalya? Well we decided to go and see the Picasso Exhibition but one of us (no names) needed a box of shotgun cartridges and various other bits so nipped in to a gun shop en route. Twenty minutes later we go in to the town hall’s exhibition room and through security.

“Beep! Beep! Can I see inside your bag, Sir?”

“No!“think I “Mr T and his dickhead ammunition is going to get us locked up!”

But this is not Worthing and we are politely asked to deposit the bag of lethal hardware in a locker and they hope we enjoy the exhibition! Carrying live ammunition around? No worries. Just do not disrespect the President.

Başka? What else?

Well the tourist season will soon be upon us although with a whimper rather than a bang it would appear. Bookings are horribly down and there are a lot of anxious business people wondering what sort of a living they are going to make this season.

Not the time to open a new restaurant then so no surprise that “Lucky” Süleyman Buran is……….opening a new restaurant.

Mr. S is my good friend who always supported our annual charity swim when he was managing Fener Café, built our love nest in Islamlar when he started his building firm Likya Yapı, so now I shall be supporting him in opening his new Meyhane in what is becoming Kalkan’s most happening street.

I could tell you that this street is called Süleyman Yılmaz Caddesi but more helpfully it is the little street that continues on from Moonlight Bar, behind the High Street; very Greek looking street where Salonika started up and thrived last year.

Former Ottoman Glories BuildingSüleyman’s place will be, like Salonica, a Meyhane although not a pure version as it will cater for European tastes as well as Turkish rakı drinkers. The proposed name is Pera, the old Ottoman name for Beyoğlu. Pera was the fashionable centre of European Istanbul with, at its heart, the Grande Rue de Pera, renamed Istiklal Caddesi after the republican revolution. The Pera Palace was the final destination for many travellers on the Orient Express and much frequented by Agatha Christie herself along with Ernest Hemingway, and other literary and fashionable types.

Good wines (featuring indigenous grapes which are hugely undiscovered and undervalued), beers and spirits will be complemented by great food especially small mezze dishes, similar to tapas. And importantly it will have a buzzy, intimate atmosphere (unless it is empty of course). The street is one of the few streets in Kalkan which has a strong sense of its history and potentially bags of style. Botanik Garden bar is at one end along with the White House pansyon and now recent arrivals Paul and Helen have opened boutique newcomer Old Town Hotel opposite.

The harbour and old town are the jewels in Kalkan’s crown and it is so important that they are protected and sensitively developed. Turkey does not have a good track record in this regard. As an alternative to the harbour, this narrow cobbled street overhung by pretty wooden balconies and ıncreasingly invested with cafés, bars, meyhanes and bistros is going to be the place to go.

People talk about Kalkan being an upmarket resort. It is true that it is not in the mould of the worst of mass tourism resorts BUT big screen football, all day breakfasts, large amounts of tattooed flesh on display in shops and restaurants etc. are not hard to find. I have no gripe with a little of that (apart from the displays of flesh off the beach) but Kalkan needs to be promoting cultural, gastronomic and activity tourism. It has all the assets but with bookings down by 80% at the moment, its future is on the line. It needs vision and direction.

So I am right behind anybody who is risking their money in new ventures right now. The Pera will have a big screen and it may show the odd game but it may also show late night performances of classic films, opera and iconic performances (Pınk Floyd Live at Pompeii) from the world’s best venues along with other Turkish and international performances if there is a demand in summer. In winter it has ambitions to be a cultural and social hub for Turkish and expat locals,  offering a warm ambiance and wide ranging programme of events.

We are also scouting for the best artwork from Kaş and Kalkan’s talented artist community to display and sell.

If you have thoughts about what you would like to see in a restaurant: amazing mezze you have tried, drinks (fresh mint tea is a must), thoughts about the name or any creative ideas please post a comment.

Kalkan will come through this difficult period and what does not kill you should make you stronger. However, it will require a surge of creativity, talent, energy and boldness from the business community and support from those who would and do visit. It needs to reach out beyond its narrow base of British fans so that it has a broader visitor base for the future. If Britain coughs Kalkan catchs a cold and that ain’t healthy.

Let us hear it for the creativity and dynamism that underpins this little Mediterranean jewel and make sure it does not become another victim of the arrogance of governments and the murderous ambitions of fanatics.

Şerife!

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