Saturday, 28 September 2013

Back to Hastings - life resumes. Fruit, fat cats and fat coats

Well, here we are, back still sunny Hastings. 
     Usual grim journey back from Turkey. Ishan, our landlord, had thrust a huge bag of fruit from the orchard
Turkish fruit mountain
into my hands as I was leaving.  Couldn't dispose of it because his dad drove us to the airport, and it ended up trundling with us through security... I put it in the overhead locker on the plane and when I went to open the locker to get something during the flight the bag had tipped .... I just managed to stop a cascade of huge pomegranates, outsize oranges, giant lemons etc. tumbling out and bowling off down the aisle. Thank goodness it was me who opened the locker first....
     Arrived back at Gatwick at 1am and then had to wait another hour in the baggage hall because the lorry bringing our bags from the aircraft broke down... We had arranged a taxi to pick us up. Our driver was very strange indeed. As we drifted in and out of sleep he talked non-stop about his rare and incredibly valuable collection of koi carp, his secret missions in the army, making seven tier wedding cakes as a master chef, driving Paul McCartney....or maybe I dreamed it all.
     Went to fetch Digby from the cattery the next day - he had morphed into a huge fat balloon. Clearly, they love him and spoil him rotten. I could scarcely carry him in his cat box. He is now on a diet, and is
Fed up?
very cross about it. Here he is, giving us dirty looks from the tumble dryer. Philosopher and myself have also put on a few pounds - diets all round.
     Anyway, we had a lovely holiday. We are planning to go back to Cirali but not to the same accommodation. We felt it did not give us enough privacy and the breakfasts were just an ordeal - so much food was put in front of us we could scarcely stagger away from the table. Still it meant we didn't need lunch, and the restaurants in Cirali village were incredibly cheap, so we didn't spend much money.  Well, we are fine ones to talk about money - for next year we are booking ourselves into the Olympos Lodge, a boutique hotel at the far end of the village.... it looks fabulous....
    Our first week back has gone quickly -  Writers' Group on Monday, Philosopher's sister and her husband came for the day on Tuesday, went to Battle and then Tunbridge Wells for the day, to get a new winter padded down coat.  You can't beat them for yomping around windy Hastings. They are very warm and light, but too many of them make you look like a huge fat barrage balloon, particularly if they are cinched in at the waist - Battleaxe fashion tip - avoid that look.    
New winter yomping coat
Tried on loads and loads including some very fancy expensive ones in Fenwicks, but settled for a far more practical Jack Wolfskin number from Cotswold Outdoor. It is actually virtually identical to the one I threw away last spring after many years of wear.
     Had a good look round Fenwicks at the winter clothing ranges but somehow I can't get into thick stuff yet.  The weather is fabulous, sunny, but with a little coolness in the air.
     We had lunch sitting outside at a new branch of Côte Brasserie which has opened since we last visited Tunbridge Wells.  They do an excellent value two courses for £9.95 special. It felt very Parisian.
     Today we went to neighbour's Macmillan coffee morning, and then walked across to the West Hill, where a friend of Jill's from Writing Group was running a stall at a little vintage fashion fair. Chatted there for a bit and I bought a sinful handbag.
    Then walked down to town, did a bit of shopping, had nice lunch and beer in the Havelock ( I thought I was supposed to be on a diet...), and caught the bus home - phew - another hectic Hastings day!
    Have just written a Bombastic Battleaxe blog post on local artist Louis Turpin.  Our big excitement just before we went away was buying one of his paintings - you can see it on the blog.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Cirali - Chimaera flames - and flaming hot.....

Second update from Cirali, Turkey.

There are surprisingly beautiful coloured stones on the beach.  Being me, I have collected loads...
      The other night we went to see the Chimaera flames, which burn on a mountainside near here.  Our neighbours, Lynne and Peter had hired a car for the day, and drove us up there in the evening.  I say drove, but you can only drive to the bottom of a rocky track, which according to the notices is a 1km walk up to the flames, but in reality, is nearer 3km. We were already hot and bothered because we had driven down to the far end of  our beach and the car got stuck in the soft sand....fortunately we all managed to push it out OK but at some cost to bodily cool.
     The Chimaera fires, here in what was ancient Lycia, have long been thought to be the source of the Greek legend of the fire-breathing monster of the same name, slain by Bellerophon, riding Pegasus. They have burned for at least 2,500 years, and no visit to Cirali is complete without a sight of them.
     We only had one torch between the four of us.  The going was steep and treacherous, the heat and humidity overpowering... The path was as steep and difficult as any Cornish coast path, and nobody in their right mind would fancy tackling one of those in the pitch dark and 30 degree heat.
     Anyway, we eventually dragged ourselves up, literally dripping with sweat.  The flames looked suspiciously large to me, as if they might have been boosted with a bit of gas, but we also saw smaller, more authentic-looking flames flickering out of  little crevices in the rock.  There is also an ancient temple up there to Hephaestus, Greek god of fire and metalworking, who forged the weapons and magical armour for the gods on Olympus, and also made Pandora. Too dark to see it.
     We have also been on a cable car trip
up nearby Mount Olympos, at 7760 feet,
one of the highest peaks in the Taurus Mountains. Expensive, but worthwhile.  The cable car has only recently been built by Swiss engineers at presumably vast cost. We were thinking about the bravery of the developers - hacking a 7 km road up the lower slopes of the mountain through rocky forest, building a complex of carparks, cafes etc at the bottom station, cabins that take 75 people at a time up to the summit of the mountain, where there are viewing decks, more cafes, shops, loos etc.
     Our only other outing was a walk to the ruins of the ancient Lycian city of Olympos, spread along a river mouth at
the other end of our beach, with towering pinnacles of rock all around it. Unusually for Turkey at this time of year, the river had water in.  There were ducks, and a fishing heron.  We went at dusk - it was beautiful, but felt very spooky to me, and a tiny bit menacing.
     Mostly, though, it is beach, swimming and snorkelling, reading, snoozing and trying Cirali's many restaurants - very cheap, fortunately.
      Philosopher was bitten by some horrible horsefly thing which had  hidden in his towel, or it could even have been a scorpion.... Thank goodness it has got better, but was very painful.
      Today, after years of fruitless scanning of various Med seascapes, and even looking vainly out to sea at St Leonard's, they finally appeared - dolphins, circling a shoal of fish, about 100 metres from the shore. We just told Ishan, and he said he had never seen them in his life...  
Watching for turtles at dawn...nest is under the cage. No luck.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Cirali..... Turkey update

Here we are in Cirali, Turkey, a little village miles from anywhere- about a two hour drive from Antalya.  We've been here nearly a week already.


     Journey was uneventful - usual disagreeable Easyjet experience. We were in the two seats by the window, then came a woman, her husband across the aisle and then a young couple - presumably family.  They drank solidly for the whole 4 hours.... The woman's tray table was covered with empty mini bottles of vodka and empty tins, then they got a litre of duty free rum and drank's the airline I blame for letting them have it. They weren't actively vile but got louder and more raucous as time passed.
     Drove for about 1.5 hours through the night to Cirali, fortunately leaving the Easyjet horror persons well behind, presumably in Antalya, which appears to be a surprisingly big city.  Clearly, Turkey has boomed and mushroomed in recent years - we belted along what was clearly a newish motorway before lurching down five miles of steep lane to Cirali.
     Our place, Baraka House, is about 50 metres from the beach, and consists of five little bungalows in a fruit orchard, with a house in the middle where we get breakfast etc.  The family seem very pleasant and give us enormous breakfasts.  Most of the food is clearly home-produced, including masses of fruit, excellent jam and the saltiest cheese I have ever tasted. The orchard is full of citrus fruits and pomegranates - I will look like one shortly, except they have now given me a bad stomach..    
Many chickens scratch about in the orchard - I can see them now, hopeful for crumbs, just by me as I write.  They have long muscular legs and big feet with long claws, like jungle fowl. Their eggs have dark orange yolks, and hard, hard shells.  There are also hedgehogs and wild tortoises.
     Talking of wildlife, a few last turtle eggs are apparently still hatching on the beach.  The nests are protected with wire cages.  According to Ihsan, who runs our place, you have to get up at 6am to see them.
     Cirali is bigger than I thought, but much of it is scarcely visible - lots of wooden buildings hidden in the trees. There is a strip of garden restaurants along the back of the beach, and a street with various low-key shops, and towering up behind, spectacular forest clad mountains. The beach is very long -
about 3km, so there is plenty of space. Walk along the beach and you get to the old Roman city of  Olympos - the village, plus, presumably, its hippies in treehouses, is hidden up a river valley.  
      Cirali seems to be popular with youngish Turkish couples of quiet disposition, a few, mostly Turkish families, a few Germans and very few English.  We have one English couple with us here.  Many of the locals speak very little English - our rudimentary Turkish has come in useful.
     We went to Phasaelis, an ancient Lycian/Greek/Roman port hidden in a pine forest.  Even though it was a low key provincial outpost it still had a grand processional street, a theatre, agora, baths etc., all well preserved.  But here, inscriptions on the columns are not about imperial triumphs but about locals winning wrestling contests 'without their backs touching the ground'. 
     The big attraction of the place for us is swimming - the town had three harbours, and the inner, military harbour, still with much of its Roman quayside, is as warm as a bath, and you can snorkel around the fallen stones and columns.  Day  trip boats anchor in the outer harbours, and Turkish gulets still have the lines of ancient ships - I could see back to Alexander the Great, striding ashore in his golden breastplate, followed by his coterie of beautiful, curly-haired young men. They came to honour the philosopher Theodectes of Phasaelis, and to see the broken lance of Achilles, kept in the temple of Athena.  Unfortunately they got drunk on local wine instead.
    It is hot here - our bay is very sheltered, and further south than Gumusluk, our old haunt - but bearable.  

Friday, 6 September 2013

Off to Turkey - and ghostly goings-on

After months of scorching Hastings we are off to even more scorching Turkey for two weeks, so this may be the last blog post for a fortnight.
Cirali, Turkey
     We are going to a little village called Cirali, near Antalya.  For ten years we went to Gumusluk, a village on the Bodrum Peninsula, but unfortunately, as time passed the village got busier and busier, despite being protected as the site of the ancient city of Myndos. Where, at first, the hills round the village were empty, over time, estates of white villas appeared, encroaching ever closer.... But we met good friends there and had some great times.
     When, after seven years, we decided to return to Turkey, I did days of web research. Apparently Cirali is one of the few remaining undeveloped areas of the Turkish coast.  It has one of those protected turtle beaches, where turtles crawl ashore to lay their eggs - we may just be in time to see the last of this year's babies hatching and struggling their way down to the sea. . Also, more protected ancient sites, this time, Olympos, just round the bay...
     We are staying in a beach bungalow at Baraka House - it receives rave reviews on Tripadviser, so we will see....
     My only fear is that it the place will be a bit hippyish - I read that nearby Olympos village is full of backpackers living in tree houses.
     We were put off holidaying young backpackers by our experiences when we went to India. In Goa we encountered many - I remember one particularly unsavoury crew - a group of girls, clad only in knickers and Doc Marten boots, striding across the beach, watched, not surprisingly, by a group of transfixed local men. The girls joggled their tits and shouted aggressively at the men:  'Get an eyeful of this then you perverts...'. Respecting local customs and culture? I don't think so....
     So, what else? Busy week, mostly doing stuff for the Writers' Group - a meeting, and a Committee Meeting. The Animal Writes anthology came from the printers in proof form. Philosopher proof-read it and it has now gone back to be produced.
     On Thursday evening I went to join my WI Book Group for an early-evening meal in the Old Town, followed by a Ghost Walk. It was all very jolly.
     Funnily enough I had seen an advert in the Observer for volunteers to help lead the walks, and it looked quite tempting, so I applied.  Tina, who runs the setup, told me I would need to attend a walk to see if I would like to do it, and of course, I was going on the WI one anyway. It was good fun, largely because we were a group of feisty shrieking women, and a bloke kept jumping out at us from round corners, obviously much enjoying scaring us and making us shriek all the more. He appeared first as Alasteir Crowley, then Sweeney Todd, then a Black Death victim and so on, which must have involved many nifty costume changes en route.
     However, I felt the two women who did the talking were perhaps a little bit solemn and it wasn't clear whether it was supposed to be serious history or a good spooky laugh. They included historical stuff which wasn't about ghosts, and missed some prime haunted sites, e.g the Stag Inn and its mummified cats etc. They didn't make it quite spooky enough, I felt - but then I think us lot were out for laughs.....
     I don't think I'll volunteer.... I'd want to ham it up too much and the walks are actually quite long - fine on a summer's evening but not so good on a wet night in February. Also, you might get a group who were serious ghost-hunters, looking for vibrations or whatever - I couldn't be doing with that.
     Hot summer may be over, I think... rain now.  But we have had some fabulous weather.
More Turkey? No, Bexhill this week.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Kent and East Sussex Railway - a lovely day out

Well, here we are at 1 September. Weather is still lovely, but with the slightest hint of autumn freshness in the air. It's been a fantastic couple of months, and here's all about yet another classic summer day out... on the Kent and East Sussex Railway.
Pale summer light at Bodiam

     It was a very hot still day, with that flat white high summer light. We drove to Bodiam and parked at the Castle, using our National Trust membership - yes, Philosopher and I are members.... We started with a coffee and a scone in the tea room, as you do, in the company of about 30 ravenous wasps - has anyone noticed that there are suddenly hundreds of them? Then walked up to Bodiam Station.
     We saw the Edith Cavell van in a siding - as well as carrying the body of Edith Cavell it also carried the body of the Unknown Soldier from Dover to London in 1920. Oddly enough I saw a programme about war horses on TV the other day that showed a team of six black horses, who had all survived the Western Front together, pulling the Unknown Soldier to Westminster Abbey.
     Anyway, we found a wonderful old geezer with a long white beard in the ticket office.... The tickets were not cheap, £14 each for the return trip to Tenterden, but we thought it was worth it.
Smuts in the eyes...
     I love steam engines. There is family history here - my Dad worked as a trainee engineer at the Great Western Railway works in Swindon in the 1930s, building and working on some of the greatest steam locomotives of all time, including the 'Kings' and 'Castles' classes.  But even without that, I just love engines - the smell of the smoke, the sounds, and the big fiery presence of the things...
     Anyway, ours puffed, clanked and whistled into view - a nice Southern Region tank engine.  We clambered aboard and off we went.  I found a window to lean out of , eyes screwed against the smuts, to see the engine pull the train round curves - as always, all the other windows were occupied by blokes (and nerdy blokes at that...) - do no other women like steam engines?
     The KESR is a classic low-key rural railway - lovely old stations with roses on the fences, trains bucketing over wonky rails, old signal boxes and signals, level crossing gates pulled open and shut by bent old men, engines taking in water from little water towers - too Hornby for words.

     We arrived at Tenterden just nicely at lunch time, and strolled up to the high street to sit outside for lunch at the White Lion.  Pint of beer and a very good steak baguette - another lot of wasps though.
     Then a brief cruise of the shops before walking back to the station.
     For my next trick, I want to learn to drive a steam engine, so called in to the office for details of the train driving courses.  The Introduction to Engine Driving costs £250 - it will have to be combined Christmas and birthday - and they have no spaces until mid-1914.
     A vintage train took us back to Bodiam - a little1917 engine with a big funnel and an array of very old carriages.
Luxury travel...
     We had a sumptuously upholstered compartment all to ourselves with a proper leather strap to hold the window up. We sat opposite each other by the window like in the painting 'The Travelling Companions'.
     Needless to say as soon as the train was out in the country I felt compelled to take all my clothes off. What else is one to do? Sat enjoying the breeze with nobody to see except the sheep in the fields.....apart from Philosopher, of course, who was appreciative.
     When we got back to Bodiam we had a cold drink in the Castle pub before driving home.
1917 engine
     All very good.