Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Cirali, Turkey - a return visit

A rather ragged update from Cirali, our WiFi is a bit erratic. The place looks much the same, quieter as it is later in the year, still cheap.....

      I have just finished breakfast at the hotel in the company of Philosopher, two dogs, approximately 15 chickens, and Duckie, my favourite duck. We are staying at the somewhat up-market Olympos Lodge.  It costs about five million pounds a night more than last year's abode, but we thought we'd treat ourselves.

     I thought our little Cirali place last year was big on domestic creatures, but this hotel has even more. We have a flock of peacocks outside our bedroom - they do not have much personality. This is particularly gormless white one. 

     The hotel is very pretty, set in a big garden, and our rooms are little buildings scattered round it. We were seduced by its charms last year and booked it even though it is at least three times more expensive than anywhere else in the village.
       It is, how can I say, a little eccentric.  You only find things out bit by bit, by trial and error - both good things, like they make all sorts of eggs to order at breakfast, and bad things, like the dogs will steal your shoes if you leave them outside the door. I took the remaining one of Philosopher's  to Reception, and (very nice) Ayeesha said 'Those crrrrazy dogs! They always do this!'  The boys were sent to find it, and it reappeared unharmed. But even then it was the English honeymoon couple who told us to bring our things in.....
        At breakfast, everything is there, but it is very labour intensive. Fresh orange juice - Squeeze the oranges yourself. Nuts? There are the crackers.....
         In our room, which is a tasteful pure white expanse, we have no storage, no bedside tables, no waste bin, no mirror that you can dry your hair in.... Baskets of pinecones, shells, an arty light picture of silvered palm leaves on the wall that buzzes when it is switched on. The shower has knobbly pebbles on the floor and sharp pointy shells on the walls.
         But it is pretty, and very peaceful.  Shaun is staying just up the beach in probably the cheapest place in Cirali.  We didn't know if he would hack it but the family who run the place are very good to him
     We have spent most of our time on the beach. As well as big padded sunbeds with thatch shades, the hotel beach has lovely palm thatched gazebo structures, ideal for our pale English skins. They seem happy for Shaun to share the beach also. 

     Yesterday we had a day out. We were driven many miles down the coast to a place called Demre.  I felt sick. Then we went on a boat, quite large and fortunately quite empty - past the sunken city at Kekova Island, and then we stopped for coffee at a great place called Kale. Inaccessible by road, it is built on an ancient city site on a steep hillside. Much romantic bougainvillea tumbling down ancient walls.  Shaun was very taken with the place and saw it as the rightful setting for Shaun The Writer. 
After a good lunch and too many swimming stops we visited the Church of St Nicholas in Demre. We gave it a miss and went instead to a pharmacy where I had to mime car sickness to get some tablets. The place was full of tacky ikon shops. I read that the site is the most visited place in the whole province, attracting hordes of Russians.
     Then we went to ancient Myra, which was very interesting. Fortunately, being end of day as and end of season, the place was almost empty, so we could explore and even declaim in the theatre in peace. There are amazing rock tombs up the cliff behind the theatre, but not accessible. Disregard the tent dress - it is good for the beach.

     We have also walked along the beach to ancient Olympos.  They have tidied it up, put more notices about and made more ruins accessible to the public since last year.
     Fortunately, am feeling much better from my bugs - still got residual cough when I lie down in bed.  Duckie is pulling at the hem of my dress. No, I know this is not a duck.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Hastings Battleaxe is laid low - quick rant and catch-up before departure to Turkey

Low indeed. Have had some terrible flu/chest/sinus thing, and have done very little. Have got strong antibiotics now, and am hoping that I will feel a bit better before we leave for Turkey tomorrow. 
     We are going back to Cirali - see last year.  This time, however, we are staying in the Olympos Lodge Hotel, the swishest joint in the village, and our friend Shaun McKenna is coming with us.
      Have missed loads of things here. The Coastal Currents Festival passed me by. All I saw were these strange and beautiful feather sculptures in the crypt of St Mary in the Castle, by someone called Kate MccGuire (why so many c's?).
Beautiful feathers
      Open Studios, women sawing legs off the chairs they were sitting on? Someone launching himself out to sea in a giant paper boat? Mermaid's tea party? Missed them all.
      Then there were the Heritage Open Days - I wanted to see the Alexandra Park Greenhouse. Not this time.
       So what has been going on? Well, it is Scottish voting day today. Don't even talk to me about that Referendum. What an utter waste of time and money. How completely ridiculous is our government. Why they ever got us into this, with such a stupid yes/no vote, with a simple straight majority result, and the rest of us having no say in what we want to happen to the UK, just beats me. Why do those silly Scots think they are the only ones who Don't Have a Voice at Westminster?  Do we in Hastings? No.  Quite why anyone can get worked up about such petty outdated nationalism when there are grave problems just about everywhere else, and our public services are collapsing round our ears, beats me.
      That's that rant done then. Fluffy Kittens, Philosopher says.
      Oh hang on.... What's this? I saw yesterday that the winner of the 2014 Jerwood Drawing Prize was an audio installation. Someone reading aloud about a pot. What?  Eh? How?  A few months ago I heard from a senior Jerwoodista's own lips that drawing was 'making marks in space'.  Does sound make marks in space?  Sound waves? I didn't even get Fluffy Kittens from Philosopher this time.  He put his fingers in his ears and went 'na na na'. Not surprising really, it is even less interesting than Scotland.
       Enough Battleaxe ranting. Finish with something nice.
       We have altered our back garden to make a Mediterranean bit. Philosopher made a wall down the middle of the lawn for a raised bed, and made the sundial out of an unused bird bath. I did the seating area, we put down lots of gravel, and it looks quite good. Here it is. It needs lots more planting but that will have to wait until after holiday. It is as dry as anything here - no rain for weeks, and worse still, little forecast for our absence.
New Mediterranean garden
        Talking of Fluffy Kittens, what is that sticking out of the artfully tumbled Cretan Urn?
Digby cooks himself
       I'm surprised Digby doesn't cook in there, but he likes it.
       I'll try and do a blog from Turkey - depends on the WiFi. At the moment I feel almost too sleepy to totter onto the plane. The antibiotics have turned me into a zombie.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Tall Ships at Greenwich - Battleaxe voyages down the Thames

Over the last week or so, around 50 tall ships passed up the Channel on their way from Falmouth to Greenwich, for the 2014 Tall Ships Festival.  Here in Hastings, we had our telescope ready in the verandah, but unfortunately the weather was hazy every single day, and we didn't see a single one.
     However, at the weekend we had a lovely couple of days in London, firstly, visiting 'Art and Life', an exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery featuring the work of Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood, Alfred Wallis and the pottery of William Staite Murray. It was all quite maritime, preparing us for the visit to the Tall Ships the next day.
     We travelled all the way from London Bridge to Dulwich on the bus, passing through my old haunts of Camberwell and East Dulwich. Camberwell looks much the same as it did 40 years ago, but East Dulwich is so gentrified you would not know it was the same place. All artisan chocolatiers and organic bakers.
      That night, we stayed in the Premier Inn by Tate Modern, which was fine, except we had a room right on the top floor by some noisy fan outlet. I went down the following morning and told them at Reception that we had not had the excellent night's sleep they promise, and my money was refunded then and there.... amazing. We will certainly stay there again - and ask for the same room. No seriously, I was impressed by the customer service.
Night view from Bankside Pier
       There is a river-bus pier right by Tate Modern, and on impulse, we decided to take a boat down to Greenwich. All the years I lived in London, and all the times I have visited since, I have never been on a boat on the Thames.  Our City Clipper boat emitted great belching clouds of diesel particles, which I guess would be one downside of increasing commercial boat traffic on the Thames. Still, I don't quite know why that Boris hasn't introduced the London equivalent of the Venetian Vaporetto.
      Anyway, it was good fun. We cruised under London Bridge and then Tower Bridge, and down past Canary Wharf, stopping at various piers along the way.
The Shard and HMS Belfast

Under Tower Bridge...

Tower Bridge recedes

The Tower - The Traitor's Gate
Canary Wharf
        Both of us were astonished at the incredible number of Docklands apartment blocks, mile after mile of dull, not very attractive waterside developments. They looked just like Brighton Marina/Birmingham Brindley Place/Eastbourne Sovereign Harbour and a hundred other similar places. Could they not have tried a little harder with such a world-class site?
Uninspired Docklands development
       We arrived in Greenwich just in time for the start of the Sail Past, which was fortunate. The place was absolutely heaving, but our boat neatly dropped us off at a place where we could stand by the railings in front of the Old Naval College and get an excellent view. We saw many ships pass by, very impressive, but we felt it would have been even better if more of them had their sails up. There wasn't any wind, so I would have thought it would have been possible, but I know absolutely nothing about sailing, can't tell me barque from me brigantine....
Romantic ships
        Many of the ships were surprisingly new, used for up-market holidays or sail training for young people. Lord of the Rings Fever seemed to have afflicted some of those responsible for their names. We saw Tolkein, Loth Lorien and Queen Galadriel.
        After watching the ships for about an hour, we got hungry, forged our way inland until the crowds thinned out and found a pub with nobody in it for beer and steak sandwiches. The caught the boat back up-river again. It was all most satisfactory.
We sail away from Greenwich


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Lamb House in Rye - a literary ladies outing

All the time we have lived here, we have never visited Lamb House in Rye. Philosopher was a tiny bit sniffy to hear that I had arranged to go with a group of friends from the WI Book Group, particularly as he reads, and enjoys, Henry James, and I have never managed to struggle through more than a couple of chapters.
    I can't see us tackling any of his books at the Book Group either, but clearly Lamb House is essential literary sight-seeing.
    We went to Rye on the bus - supposedly for the scenic benefits but we women all chatted solidly throughout the journey there and didn't look out of the window at all.
     Of course, we started with coffee and cake, today at the Apothecary House, one of my favourites in Rye. The front window seat is an excellent people-watching spot. I don't think I mentioned this place at all in a post I did a while ago on Shopping in Rye. Recently, it seems to have improved in all areas, less waiting, serves better coffee and cakes, but there is no outside seating and it must get very hot inside on sunny days.
Apothecary House - excellent people-watching window
     Then we wandered up to Lamb House. By this time the sun was out and it was a lovely late summer day.
Lamb House
      Lamb House is heavy with literary associations. First, of course, Henry James lived there from 1897 to 1916. His presence attracted many other literati, including H.G.Wells, Ford Maddox Ford, Joseph Conrad, Stephen Crane, Rudyard Kipling and Edith Wharton. They either visited, or in some cases, settled nearby. After Henry James, the house was home to E.F Benson, and then to Rumer Godden. See more on the local history site.
      Rumer Godden wrote 'Black Narcissus', the book of one of my favourite films. I just loved that mad Sister Ruth. Made by Powell and Pressburger in 1947, apparently part of it was filmed in Leonardslee Gardens, near Horsham.
      Currently, a BBC re-make of Benson's 'Mapp and Lucia' books is underway, featuring Lamb House in its original fictional role as 'Mallards', the home of Miss Mapp. We had to postpone a planned earlier visit to the house because it was closed for filming. (Note to readers: if you want to visit the house, go before it shuts for the season at the end of this October. Once the new telly series begins, you won't get near the place).
       Now, I may have struggled with James, 'The Master', but I loved the Mapp and Lucia novels. I think they get a bit neglected these days, but they are honestly, very funny.
      Apparently, for the new telly adaptation, they made a temporary reconstruction of Henry James' garden room, where he did his actual writing, with its bow window facing down the street. It was unfortunately bombed in 1940.
Old photo of Lamb House showing the Garden Room. Apparently Henry James is sitting on the doorstep.
      The old walled garden is surprisingly large, very peaceful, and lovely. We could have had our coffee sitting out there, but as it was we settled down for at least another half-hour of essential chatting.
Lamb House - the garden

Lovely Rye roofscape beyond the walls
      The house now belongs to the National Trust. You can only see three rooms of the house downstairs, but they contain plenty of interesting things, including facsimilies of some of James' letters. He had a fine waspish style. I took photos of some.
Lovely round window

View towards the church from the parlour

One of James' manuscripts

Good letter!

A dictated letter - easier to read
      He also was a technology early adopter, and had the first telephone in Rye installed in his Telephone Room in 1912.  It is interesting to wonder who he could have phoned up. Maybe Rudyard Kipling at Batemans? We have the manager of Batemans coming to talk to the WI about Kipling next year, so I can ask him.
      After our visit to Lamb House we had lunch at Hayden's - I am particularly fond of their Welsh Rarebit. Then back on the bus - we all enjoyed our outing.
Pretty view across the Marsh from the garden at Hayden's