After an initially bloody start, when the summer refused to come and Islamlar remained mired in cloud and cold day after day, things have come good.
As our friends on the coast swelter, we enjoy the cooling breezes and drier heat of the mountains. You can still carry on with your life up here without ending up in a muck sweat within five minutes. Oh yes! The needle on the Smugometer is inching up towards Patronising and indeed may reach Gloating within days.
Revenge, however, is a dish best served cold and winter may bring a large portion, suitably chilled. But for now…
So how does it feel to have moved to the mountains?
Right now, right gentle breezy, birdsong easy, pine shade and blue pool dreamy now, it feels very good. But I guess it is one step at the time.
We have not for starters made any impact on the village. And things happen real kinda slooowwww in a Turkish village. My Islamlar friend Hasan told me the story of an old man in the village who went to Germany when he was twenty to work. He only stayed a few months and returned to Islamlar. He is still called Alman (Turkish for German) and his son is called Küçük Alman (Alman Junior). And his grandson will probably still labour under that monicker all a result of that mini adventure in the dim, distant ancestral past.
I am sure, if we lived long enough to still be here (whoops! Just split my infinitive) in thirty years time, we would be the Newcomers on the Hill or similar.
I would, though, love to know what makes the village tick. I mean the local population only numbers two or three dozen but there are two tea shops. When I say tea shop btw we are not talking Bettys of Harrogate, think village bus stop meets Wİ stall. Now as far as I can see the two hangouts have separate clienteles. Are they divided along political lines like the Communists and the Catholics in the little world of Don Camillo’s rural Italy? Or family? I thought there was only one family in Islamlar but maybe there are two.
Or board games? The Backgammon players and the Okey players? Or perhaps, like the reason for Alman’s name, the rationale for the two teashops is buried in some distant history which nobody knows of anymore.
It just is.
So where should I go for a cup of tea? Am I aligning myself with a particular faction if I go to A rather than B? Would I be better off going to neither and be judged just another citizen of planet foreigner?
Dilemmas! Life in a village, you see, can be complicated. For a man anyway. A woman in a teashop is unheard of so the Special does not have to resolve this one. Maybe I should just stick to the tourist places, grin and wave inanely as I sail between the two groups: one to the left and one to the right of the main road running through the village.
Well, we shall see how things proceed.
For the moment we are content to hang out in our Mountain Eyrie, which by the way is fantastic.
I have to pay tribute here to our builder Süleyman Buran, previously the manager at Fener Café Restaurant and a very well known and respected Kalkan face. Süleyman has always had a winter business fitting bathrooms and kitchens but decided to get out of the catering business altogether and establish a building business that could sustain him and his gorgeous family for the whole year. So we gave him the opportunity to quote and he came in with the best proposition.
Now cost is not always the best determinant in choosing a partner in any domain (except possibly Love where it is always best to go for a bargain. Only kidding!).
Actually the first thing I liked about Süleyman was that he was the only one who arrived at the site and said “Wow. What an amazing place. So beautiful!” Enthusiasm was not one of the criteria but actually it suddenly seemed really important. As Mrs Thatcher said of the ex KGB man “I like Mr Gorbachev. We can do business together.” Süleyman not only speaks excellent English he gets English people, which is quite another thing altogether. We felt we could do business. We had a Gorbachev moment if you like.
We had drawn up a basic spec but we needed someone who could ınterpret what we wanted and design it with us on the hoof as we were not going to use an architect. So what started as a 10k job ended as a 50k one because we added little things like a swimming pool and 200m of stone walling…oh and removing and renovating all the shutters and what about a roof over the terrace and a solar water system and…and.. Süleyman did not once say STFU.
His thoughts of course remain his own.
Mind you it was not all sweetness and light. We had Moments. Like when we came up to see progress and found that there was a massive Triffid on the roof, dwarfing our attractively shuttered little mountain home. WTF is that? The Special goes in to shock. It is the solar hot water system and the chaps from Yeşilköy, or wherever, have persuaded Süleyman that the best location is on the apex of the roof lofted on to a massive iron tripod and angled to capture all of the available sun. In which respect they were undoubtedly correct and their impressively ugly installation would have given us 20% more hot water. The downside being our forever house looking uglier than a rustbelt Belfast shipyard.
But Süleyman does get the English mentality and down it came. Now less efficient but a lot more pleasing to the eye we hardly notice the installation and we still get plenty of free, hot water.
Poor Süleyman hit every problem going in his first year, especially with the worst and longest winter in memory making building up here really difficult. Even the hard as nails Kurdish stonemasons had to stop work for a day and recuperate in Kalkan because the weather was too cold and frozen puddles did not thaw from noon to night.
One of the big problems was dealing with local painters and decorators who skip on the all important preparation, dilute paint to the consistency of milk and splash it (how they love a roller) at breakneck speed everywhere; over door fittings, floors, borders, electric points etc. You have to supervise vigilantly, which is why local Turks spend all day on site when they have the builders in, making sure everything is done to their satisfaction. It was a tough learning curve all round but it was worth it when a friend of mine, who has been bloodied by several encounters with bad building work, visited recently and said “Amazing. Proper work. Straight grout lines. I did not know you could get work like this done here.”
He did not see the blood however.
But we have come through with a fantastic house much of which is due to Süleyman’s gentle guidance, advice and suggestions. We went from an old hose pipe staked out on the mountain to the side of the house and the words “Could we have a swimming pool in this shape here?” to this..
The new front terrace with its sturdy roof is a great place to dine with shade for most of the day
And I have to mention Fantastic Ferruh from Fethiye who made all of our freestanding furniture (run out of fs now).
He has an amazing place on Fethiye’s sprawling main trading estate where he makes the most wonderful furniture. His workshop and warehouses are full of woody delights and antiques. He can put any finish on including a more contemporary distressed white which shows the grain of the wood. He is also an amazing man who did 8 years hard porridge in the Junta’s dungeons for his left wing views in the late seventies, when Turkey was a very troubled place. Plus ça change!
His furniture is classic
Oh and guess what?
Who watches over my every move from the hallway wall? Casts an evil eye over any intruder?
That Spawn of Satan, Ole Turkey Lurkey has moved in too
Courtesy of Kalkan’s Number One artist