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.
Here 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.
K’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 learning 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