Saturday, 26 September 2015

Scary Turkish storms and Turkish Bayram

Did I say Cirali was quiet?  Well, not now.  Turns out this week is a national holiday for a big Muslim festival and the place is absolutely packed with Turkish families. Many small children running around the place.
    Here, the festival is called Kurban Bayrani. We call it Eid Al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice. Derya, our landlord, invited us to go along to the mosque early in the morning, where he was helping to distribute sweets to the children.  Unfortunately I overslept but Philosopher went. He said it was very interesting. The children each got a carrier bag full of goodies. Derya also told us that he had paid for an animal sacrifice - it is done in a slaughterhouse - and the meat should be given to the poor - but he said there were no poor people in Cirali.
     Here are some of Philosopher's pictures of the sweet-giving ceremony.
Gathering round for the distribution of sweets

That's Derya in the front in the middle

A sweetie mountain
Going home with the spoils...
     We have lots of opportunity to practice our limited Turkish.  There are no other English people here at all.
     Yesterday we met Derya's mum, a wrinkled little lady in traditional Turkish clothes. Given the ages of her children, she could well be younger than us. Strange. In the past, it amused us to see three generations of Turkish women going into the sea.  Granny would wade in up to her knees, fully dressed in shawls and baggy trousers.  Daughter would swim in an industrial strength one-piece swimsuit, and grand daughter would follow, wearing a skimpy bikini. Now, the grannies have disappeared and all wear similar swimwear, except that occasionally we see a young woman in an all-over Islamic swim outfit. Fortunately, that is still very rare.

       So, the storms.  We gather we were lucky here, in our old haunt, Bodrum, they had flash floods and cars swept away.  The first thunderstorm night we were quite scared, it was so violent. The thunder was deafening, the lightning continuous, and the rain torrential.  This carried on for over an hour.  I got up and looked out of the door.  Our orange grove had turned into a soggy paddy field.         Cirali is built on a narrow strip of largely reclaimed flat land below towering mountains.  Philosopher and I had scary visions of torrents sweeping down the mountains to wash us out to sea - bit like Boscastle.  I also have bad memories of being trapped in dreadful floods in Stratford-on-Avon in 1998.  However, when we woke up the next morning the water had disappeared and the sun was out.  This pattern carried on for three nights, with roaring wind added to the mix on the last night.  Everything was damp and clammy, and sleep-deprived children wailed fretfully.
        We managed to get every morning on the beach, but by lunchtime the clouds were rolling in again. We had two humid walks, one to revisit the ancient city of Olympos, just up the beach. Fortunately, good weather returned later in the week.
         Following photos are of Cirali animal and bird life - particularly the friendly chicken family that hang round our house, Mr Cockerel and his three wives. Battleaxe would like chickens, but we have so many foxes in Hastings. These Turkish birds have amazingly strong, muscular legs and big feet, reflecting their outdoor lifestyle.


         The nearby pool on the beach is full of frogs - a playground for dogs.

      There are lots of wild tortoises - on the way to Tekirova last week there was one making its ponderous way across the road. I got the driver to stop and jumped out to rescue it before it was run over.  When I picked it up it thrashed its legs trying to claw me, and whirled its head around on a surprisingly long neck trying to bite. Ungrateful.
          Home later today..... And a final scary cat, begging for food in a cafe in the village.


Thursday, 17 September 2015

Cirali, Turkey - Year Three!

Cirali has developed in our absence, and seems to have jumped forward since our holiday last year. The main village street has been paved, there are more shops, a cash point, and most surprising, rows of umbrellas and sun-beds are colonising the beach supposed to be reserved for the breeding turtles.  There was no sign of the wire cages that are used to protect their nests. I was alarmed to see this, but Derya, our landlord, assured me that 7000 eggs have hatched this year, and the turtles have now all left for the sea...... 
   Sadly, development does not necessarily bring more business, many Russians are staying away due to their economic situation, and Brits seem to be afraid to venture to Turkey.  People don't seem to realise that this is an absolutely huge country. One is far more likely to encounter desperate Syrians and disaffected Kurds in Hastings.
   We have been here nearly a week out of two weeks, this week overlapping with old friend +Shaun McKenna.
    This time, we are staying at the Yavuz Bungalows, right on the beach, next door to last year's crazy hotel, the Olympos Lodge. This is a lovely place at a quarter of the price, with once again, little hut bungalows in an orange grove.  Our hut, 'Hera', is spacious, with an excellent shower.  The family and staff are very pleasant, and the beach-side restaurant area serves breakfast, lunch and evening meals if required. Usual chickens and peacocks wandering round. Battleaxe would recommend this place to anyone wnating to come to Cirali.
     Here is our little house, and the view from the food/bar area to our bit of beach.

     It is beautifully quiet and peaceful. We did have a large Russian family move in opposite, who soothed their baby (and I don't exaggerate, you can ask Philosopher) by playing it martial Russian music. Felt like we were taking the salute in Red Square. However, they left after two days...

     Most of the time we have had a quiet, hot beach life, lying on our sun-beds and snorkelling around.
    The other night we ventured out to Tekirova, a purpose-built resort town about 20 miles away. The shops are full of very expensive blingy jewels, very high quality fake designer bags, and astonishing clothes that could only appeal to prostitutes or drag queens - much glittering Lycra, furs, snake skin etc. Once again, hoping for affluent Russians.  Shaun wanted a 'Hermes Birkin' for a friend at home - shops were full of them.  I succumbed to an only moderately blingin' 'Chanel' number. I think we were almost the only shoppers in town, and our progress was accompanied by a chorus of cries from desperate shop keepers.

       Yesterday we went to sea on a lovely big old gulet, the 'Antik Olympos'. I imagine she was a pensioned-off holiday gulet from somewhere like Fetiyhe.

       Usual routine of cruising along the coast with frequent swimming stops. Being a big boat, ours could only stop quite far from the shore.  We had to be ferried out to the boat on an inflatable dinghy - heaven knows how those poor refugees manage to go miles in the open sea in those things. At the first stop we were told there were natural mud baths on shore, so we all swam in to look.  I rejected the murky looking fly-ridden mud pits, even if they were going to convey eternal youth. Swimming all the way back to the boat was like swimming back to Cirali. Then when you reached the boat it was really hard to haul yourself up onto the ladder and over the side onto the deck.  We had a lovely day but by the end I was exhausted.  Here is a snorkelling Battleaxe, and misty mountain views.

      Shaun is off home tomorrow. One final Scrabble game tonight, and a meal in one of the classier restaurants along the beach.  I have a bit of trouble with my low-fat diet, but so far all is well. I have to have my gall-bladder removed when I get back to England. Ugh.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Coastal Currents- Open Studios and sensational Barefoot Opera

Our old friends Sue and Alex came down to stay for a few days, and we did all sorts of dynamic things....
     The first day we went for a long walk round Hastings - West Hill, Alexandra Park, Bohemia, Summerfields Woods and back to town. Stopped in the West Hill Cafe to admire the views of the Old Town and the sea, then for a pint in the North Star in Clarence Road, and lunch in the General Havelock pub a must-see for any lover of Victorian tiles. This is an excellent walk - I have described it in a previous blog post. That was back in 2012, I see, and again it was Coastal Currents time, and that was when we originally saw the Claire Fletcher picture... see later. What a coincidence....
      Next day we all went down to the Old Town, and first thing, stopped for a coffee at the relatively new coffee shop at the front of the Laindons Bed and Breakfast, in the High Street. It's a risky business, letting Battleaxe loose in a new coffee place.....  On the positive side, the quality of the coffee, when it appeared, was very good.
Coffee at the Laindons

      The cafe-space is very small, just two long tables with metal stools or bench seats, but we got a good people-watching perch right by the window.  Downside is that the coffee took ages to arrive and the service was a tad erratic - it would have been OK if it had only been us there. The two blokes behind the counter worked hard, but as Alex commented: 'capital investment had not been aligned with customer take-up'. To put it more simply, their coffee machine was too small, and they could only produce one cup at a time. On our way out, the blokes showed us their roasters (Oooh Mrs), in which they clearly took great pride, and as I said, the coffee itself was excellent.
       Our friends went off to Bexhill, and Philosopher and I tackled some nearby Open Studios. We started with Oak Passage above George Street, and encountered a parade of really spooky, frightening little men with crabshells on their back and heads, by Jo Redpath. We like the studios as spaces to look around as well as the contents on view, and Oak Passage is an excellent example of both space and content.  We saw excellent sea paintings by, I think, Anna Pontonutti.
Interesting... but horrible. Jo Redpath

       Then our annual visit to Incurva to visit our family fly-press. This year it was looking suitably oiled and ready for use in the jewellery workshop.  Leigh Dyer was friendly as always. What a talented man he is. Someone was demonstrating hammering a leaf out of red-hot metal - reminded me of childhood ponies and blacksmiths.
Annual hello to the Fly Press
       Next, Roebuck Street and some really beautiful, but far too expensive, furniture at  Dutch Designs.
       Along Rock-a-Nore, and first to the Black Winkle Studio, where Claire Fletcher and Peter Quennell are based.  I love the way Claire paints gentle, touching, child-like fantasy without getting sentimental. Some of her stuff almost makes me feel tearful. I already have one of her paintings, I got it when I was ill in 2010, and we still lived in Birmingham. It shows a child perched on the top of a South Downs hill - Devil's Dyke?  Child's arm is round a huge dog, looking at the scenery.
      I saw another painting I really liked back in 2012 at her beach hut, and seriously thought of getting it, but somehow didn't. Then a few months ago, it, or another version as Claire thought, appeared at Rye Art Gallery. I looked at it longingly on several visits, but it was expensive... But we walked into the studio today, and there it was, leaning against the wall, so we bought it - much cheaper than Rye. It is a peaceful, rather poignant scene of two children playing in the far distance, on the beach in Hastings, with a dog walking out towards them. The light on the sand is lovely. Here it is, hanging in our bedroom beside the earlier purchase. Not a good photo, I'm afraid.....
Claire Fletcher paintings - new on the left, and old

      Peter Quennell's work is totally different - rather weird scenes made with found objects and little plastic toys. I quite liked this Medusa - I think I'll add it to the Battleaxe of the Month picture collection to go on top of this blog.

      In the evening we all went down to St Mary-in-the-Castle to see Donizetti's L'Elisir D'Amore, put on by Barefoot Opera. Neither Philosopher or I had seen the opera all through before, and we knew nothing about Barefoot Opera, but we thought it would be an interesting night out for the Brummies as St Mary's is such a fine old building.

      For non-Hastingas, it is an incredible building, one of the most impressive buildings we have, dating from 1825, partly built into the cliff. Here are inside and outside views.
St Mary-in-the-Castle
      The opera turned out to be fantastic!  Set was minimal, and the production was informal. The 'orchestra' consisted of piano, accordion, double base and a part-time clarinet - part-time because the bloke also sang the part of the quack Doctor in the opera. Very good he was too, as were all the the others without exception. All the performers are young, at the start of their careers, and incredibly energetic and enthusiastic. We particularly liked the Goan baritone, Oscar Dom Victor Castellino, who as well as having an excellent voice has the most brilliantly expressive face.
     We laughed and clapped throughout most of the performance, as did the rest of the audience - I have not seen anything as enjoyable for ages, and Battleaxe would totally recommend future Barefoot Opera productions.
      So, no more Coastal Currents, I'm afraid, we are off to Turkey tomorrow for two weeks.
      However, talking of clarinets, Battleaxe has just won a bursary from the WI to start clarinet lessons. Have had one sitting idle since we came to Hastings, and will now have to play it....

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Bottle Alley in Hastings - deco delight or derelict disgrace?

The Coastal Currents Arts Festival is underway, and Bottle Alley has been transformed into an art installation. I thought I'd take a break from cleaning the kitchen (yes, really, a rare occurence in Battleaxeland) and go and have a look.
     Non-Hastingas may ask, what is Bottle Alley? Well, if like us, you'd lived far too long with crumbling sixties Birmingham concrete, you'd expect a very dodgy pee-smelling subway inhabited by cider-bottle-flinging street drinkers.
      To be honest, Bottle Alley is not that different. It's a very long covered walkway that runs along the seafront from the Pier up towards St Leonard's, below the raised promenade. It is so long, that looking along it from the end, the perspective almost reaches a vanishing point. It got its name from the inner walls, which are covered in a mosaic of broken glass bottles embedded into the concrete. It is actually a splendid piece of modernist/deco architecture.
Mosaic broken bottles

View along Bottle Alley

Sidney Little
       The remodelling of the sea-front in the 1930's, including Bottle Alley, was one of Sidney Little's most significant projects. Little, 'The Concrete King' was a true visionary. He designed the enormous, now demolished, Bathing Pool, created an entirely new water supply and sewage system for Hastings, and later worked on the design of the Mulberry Harbours in WW2. However, we should probably be grateful that his most ambitious plan, which would have involved the demolition of much of Hastings town centre, came to nothing.
        Once, Bottle Alley looked very elegant, as this 1935 postcard shows.
Bottle Alley in 1935
        Today it is certainly dodgy. Battleaxe is very intrepid when it comes to stomping around on her own at night, but even I might be a little intimidated by Bottle Alley.  Little's innovative underground car park, which fills the gap between the raised promenade and the town centre, is even dodgier - the exit routes always seem to be occupied by quite cheerful, but undesirable, street drinkers.
        Bottle Alley is desperately dilapidated. I read that £160k has been set aside by the Council to repair it, in line with general improvement of the seafront and the re-opening of the Pier, but from what I can see it would be a massive, and very expensive job to restore it to any semblance of decency and safety.  Great chunks of the supporting columns have fallen away, the ceiling is scabrous and leaky, and rusting ironwork can be seen everywhere.
Crumbling ceiling

Rusting ironwork
        So, I thought, the art can only be a good thing. Cheer the place up, bring it to people's attention, attract visitors etc.

        A group of local artists have decorated all the columns with black and white images. It's a great idea, and was quite interesting, but to be honest, it didn't totally float my boat. I'd have preferred a bit of colour. Some images form some sort of connected sequence if viewed from the right angle, like this wolf in New York, but getting the right angle is hard. To see this, I had to bend right down near the ground, dangerously close to a choice deposit of dog poo.

        Other images reminded me of those adult colouring books that are all over the shops right now. Has anyone ever tried one?  I can't really see colouring as a valid way of wasting time, even though it is supposed to promote mindfulness, reduce stress etc. Give me a large G & T any day. Anyway, someone could go down to Bottle Alley with their crayons and get stuck in.
         Finally, here's a picture of Little's underground car park - the first ever, I understand. Another structure worth protecting. The shelter/seat on the surface above is actually a ventilation shaft for the car park.
Carlisle Parade underground car park

Shelter/seat/ventilation shaft