Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas wrap

Their man in evening dress
Well, that's Christmas done. Everyone has their own expectations of what Christmas should feel like, and we failed to find any resonance in Marmaris of what we know as Christmas. In Scorpio bar on Christmas eve, where an Irish balladeer called Davey gamely strummed his way through the carol book as a warm-up to what an Irish balladeer does best (and Van Morrison's Brown-Eyed Girl was not the pick of the set, if that's possible), our Australian mate Kevin snapped this shot which sums up our Christmas in Turkey. Have your baubles and your tree, by all means, but we'll keep our man, Ataturk, in the frame too. Your cult, our cult.

Our man in new Christmas fleece

The marina, though owned by Turks and run by Turks, put on a Christmas lunch on December 24. The menu, posted several days earlier in prominent spots i.e. the toilet and shower blocks and marina office, boasted two pork dishes. We haven't eaten pork for months though there's bacon for sale (as well as other western delicacies like bran flakes, HP sauce, Danish blue and baked beans) at the "import shop" which has opened recently at our end of town. In my childhood, the best part of the Christmas table was the ham, which my mum studded with cloves and baked with an orange juice and breadcrumb crust. I try to make it the same way in our home and we slice it thick, with the topping crumbling off a thin layer of fat. The marina's answer to my Christmas wish was a sad-looking platter of thinly-sliced, processed ham, and a dish of shrivelled thumb-sized sausages. The thought was there, but the turkey was the way to go. Delicious too!

We shared a table with Joan and Bill, who at 87 and 86 respectively, are the oldies at the marina (don't say what you are thinking). They came to Turkey 19 years ago, and live aboard their small gulet. They  still take her out cruising in the summer months. Joan was a dancer in the West End, then she became a professional performing skater.  Bill was once a photographer but at heart he's an entertainment man too. He grew up in a circus family. Bill and Joan once owned a circus in South Africa. They have a good lion procurement story. They've run arcades and cinemas in Britain too.  Joan complains about being hard of hearing, and Bill is in and out of hospital with gammy knees, but have they lived! Joan is a bit off colour, but she said the vodka she won in the "lottery" (everyone a winner) would keep till summer. Alex won the hamper but they'd enjoy it more, we thought - we're off to Budapest in a couple of days to celebrate the New Year. (I won one of the prizes everyone else secretly wanted - a free hull-polish. Alex was thrilled.)

Kevin and Mei

Joanne and Dale's grandson Keifer and dad Geoff

Sue and Ed

Ready to eat
I cooked on Christmas morning, which was the best way for me to keep thoughts of not being with our family at bay. Any way you do it, if you're not with your children on Christmas Day, it always catches up with you somehow. We passed a few pleasant hours aboard Angel Louise, with Ed and Sue and Randal and Ruth. I told them I was learning more about American cuisine from being in this Turkish marina than I had ever known. Ed and Sue served something they called ambrosia salad, which is a mixture of fruit and marshmallows mixed with whipped cream, alongside the roast of beef and mashed potatoes and gravy. I'll have to think about that for a while. Randal made a pecan pie which is close to heavenly food, I think.

Randal and Ruth 

The Christmas table on Angel Louise

Marmaris town has looked so pretty these past few days. Alex could play for hours with the light and clouds. I could play for hours with the cats which seem to own the town. I draw the line at having one aboard though it seems that at the marina, the cats choose which boat they want to live aboard, and then wait for the people fall into line. We met Ed and Sue on their bikes yesterday coming back from the supermarket. They had bought cat food. "He's not coming inside," Sue said.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Jangling bells

Marmaris castle seen from across the water at Netsel marina

There is something discordant about Marmaris this week, and I'm not talking about the call to prayer (I'm sure that in one of those minarets there's a learner muezzin, because what's coming out of the speakers sounds ghastly, even by the usual atonal standards). Marmaris is a Turkish town but it has a western skin, if I can put it that way. Lots of what goes on in town feels familiar to us. On Thursday there was a big media splash made by the opening of a new arts and culture centre. This weekend, Marmaris women's service clubs have set up their trestle tables in the Netsel marina shopping centre. It's fund-raising time.


By Marmaris standards, the Netsel shopping centre is high end - this is where you come to buy your Lacoste trench coat, your Stephanel cashmere or your top of the line sailing clobber. There's even a stand-alone diamond shop. But today, the tone was distinctly homely.

Zehra (left) teaches us Turkish

Alex and I joined families and friends who were strolling between the clowns and the food stalls, eyeing off secondhand clothing and hand-made trinkets, eating as they chatted, chatting as they bought. There were as many women behind the trestle tables as there were paying customers. It was all very neighbourly and, as I say, quite familiar. Think pre-Christmas fete.

Weirdly, that's exactly what this was.

There was a Santa, a decorated tree and Christmas carols piped through the shopping centre sound system. I get that it's nice to raise money for your favourite charities at an annual fete, and that the end of the year is probably a good time to do that, but I don't get the Christmas theme in Marmaris at all. I picked up a supermarket catalogue from Migros yesterday, and there, in the opening spread, were Christmas trees, decorations, wreaths, Santa lights. Too strange. Who is all this for? Certainly not for the few liveaboards in the Netsel marina, so I can only guess the expat British and other European (Alex goes to a German chiropractor) population of Marmaris is much larger than I have reckoned on.

Still, when I'm wished "Happy Christmas" by locals, I feel kind of awkward. I reply "Happy New Year" and that brings a smile. The Turks celebrate New Year in a big way, so I expect once December 25 is over, we'll get back on track.

Speaking of celebrations, last weekend's potluck dinner at Sailors Corner went off with a bang. There are some handy cooks out there in pontoon land. I missed out on the pecan pie made by Randal, captain of the good ship Dora Mac, but as luck would have it, Alex and I will be sharing Christmas lunch with him and Ruth (she's Jewish, but she knew all the Christmas carols at the potluck singalong) aboard Ed and Sue's boat, and he's undertaken to make another pecan pie. We saw him in the bazaar today carrying a new pie dish - "I'm hoping this will improve my crust", he said.

Ruth opens the lid on my pilaf

Mei and Sue

I drew something woolly in the Christmas gift  department

Dave and Gwen beside the fire at Fellini's
This blog is looking dangerously like a retirees' Facebook page, I know, but I include a record of how we spent the night when, contrary to Mayan expectations, the world didn't stop. The temperature did drop to minus 1 degree C as the winter solstice passed however. My mother tells me the pohutakawa blooms around Auckland are the best in years but the blazing fire at Fellini's restaurant last night did feel seasonal, if you catch my drift.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, Alex and I will get on our bikes again and ride up the valley to the market at Beldibi.  I like it when he starts to like the things I like, and markets are definitely getting under his skin. Last week we bought rosehip jam (I'd never heard of such a thing before). I also laid my hands on some fresh coriander and fresh ginger - gold. The challenge is not to buy more than you can fit in your bicycle basket. Believe me, it's not trivial.

Rosehips make interesting jam

We're both crazy about persimmons and quinces

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Crunch time, Christmas time

Each morning on the VHF net, there's a chance for people to say 'hi' or 'goodbye'. These days it's almost always 'goodbye'. Christmas is closing in on us. Usually it's just people leaving their boats, but this week we also had boats leaving without people. The trans-Atlantic transport vessel Maersk Texas finally arrived in port last weekend and loaded about seven boats, mostly 50 to 100 feet long. It was quite something to watch them being lifted, and hanging in mid-air while their steel cradles were welded on the deck beneath.

For us this Christmas, Enki is home. You know you're "home" when you come to the end of a week and can't remember a thing you've done. Or alternatively when the week is punctuated not by Ruins but by feeling ruined. That's the pre-Christmas frenzy at Netsel marina I'm talking about. I don't know how it happened, but somehow Alex and I have become social butterflies. Out of the cocoon, so to speak.

Skyping with Sam
Our comings and goings among the liveaboards and cruisers of Marmaris Bay, a population as tight and parochial as any village community, doesn't make for easy translation on Skype though. It's all a bit honky, as Americans say. But we have no problems with honkiness in the right dosage on cold, dark, wet nights.

Every Tuesday night there's the Happy Hour at Pineapple restaurant, which you already know about. For those with an unhealthy interest in British pop culture pre-1990, there's a quiz night on Thursday at the Scorpio bar (that's when you get to meet the ex-pat Brit landlubbers, if you so desire). Yacht Marina (the other big marina in Marmaris Bay) does a Happy Meal on Friday night to which all Netselsiders are cordially invited. That leaves a few other nights to fill with food, drink and games (Scrabble, backgammon and a wicked Caribbean game called Joker which Sue and Ed, our friends from Iowa, have introduced us to). Some people watch television and/or DVDs on their boats, but we haven't yet crossed over to that particular dark side. 

Ed Kelly checking the lines on Angel Louise

In 2012,  the "tree" is rosemary
And now, as if I didn't have enough reasons not to finish my Yachtmaster theory course, there's the Festive Season to slot in. Tonight we're heading off to a Potluck Dinner at Sailors' Corner, a cosy enough room at the end of the fuel dock which we liveaboards have been allocated by the marina management (kindly, I think) for whatever purpose we choose - it's a library, a classroom for Turkish lessons, a domestic science lab for "stitch and bitch"(for which read Women at their Traditional Work), and now it's decorated and furnished in Full Festive Mode with tree, streamers etc . We're taking gifts tonight to exchange, as well as food, and I believe we'll be singing carols from printed sheets to guitar accompaniment (is this sounding like summer camp?). 

Guess who services the winches on Enki?
Alex and I could probably do with a night off. Last night we took the dolmus (shared taxi) out to Yacht Marina, lured by live music in the bar and the delightful company of Serge and Charlotte, a French-Swiss couple with Kiwi passports (their boat is called Kuaka - Maori for godwit) whom we met at last Saturday's "cocktail" at Sailor's Corner. The happy meal was forgettable, but the company was quite the reverse - we were too slow to grab a seat at Serge and Charlotte's table, so we teamed up with an American couple with strong Alaskan and national defence connections (have I piqued your interest?) and a Pole with no artistic pretensions at all, but a sly, dry wit. 

There have been fun and games on the water too. At the beginning of the week we had a bout of filthy weather, and the boat on our starboard side was skating around its mooring and banging against the dock when we got home from the Pineapple.

The marina staff keep a round-the-clock watch and as soon as Alex let them know that we had a frisky neighbour a couple of men in a rubber duck were alongside within a couple of minutes to make her fast again.

The next morning the sun came out again and Ahmet, who is in charge of boat security, put a diver down to check the mooring lines and chain running along the sea bed near us. He wasn't happy with what he was told. So we've changed address - the far end of K pontoon for those looking for us, squeezed between two large motor boats. Could be better, but could be worse.

The stainless steel work which Alex organised a month or so ago with Ergun, from Erinox Marin, began to come together yesterday. Ergun's a smart guy, and he's done a great job making up a new self-launching bow roller for our big brute of a Rocna anchor (above), and an articulating pole for the new D-400 wind generator (so it can be lowered easily onto a dinghy or dock). More on that when we stick the gizmo on top of the pole and wire it up.

Ergun (left) and one of his men

This morning Ergun and his crew attached two 130 watt, 24 volt solar panels to Enki's flanks, and while again the quality of the stainless work is high, I did a double take when I saw the size of the panels. Humungous.

Yes, I know. We chose them, but it's one thing to work out the most efficient/ cost effective solution to your power generation needs, and quite another to see that solution vandalise your boat's elegant lines.

Ergun has left the job un-finished to give us time to adjust to Enki's facelift. We can go smaller, but at a big loss both in power generation and in hard currency (we'd have to find a buyer for the big panels). I suspect we'll cave into ugly, though it pains me to say so. 

Monday, 10 December 2012

Creature feelings

I recognised the figure on the poster even before I saw the artist's name. When I was in Warsaw in 2006 with Sabina researching her book, she'd taken me to meet an old friend, Magdalena Abakanowicz. I hadn't thought of Magdalena for some time. Sabina died last year, and those many months when we worked together in her study, which had an early Abakanowicz textile work on the wall, are a closed chapter. So it was a strange and wonderful thing to unexpectedly encounter this great Polish sculptor's work at Akbank Sanat gallery on Iskiklal St and to introduce her creatures to Alex.

In 2006, Magdalena had just returned from Chicago where she'd been setting up a permanent installation of her monumental sculpture Agora (a word which means much more to me now than it did then) in Grant Park. She lived on the outskirts of Warsaw (I hope she still does) where she could afford the space she needs, something much more obvious to me since my daughter has become a sculptor. In her studio she showed us a mould of one of her signature humanoids. It looked enormous. Sabina was a dynamo at 79, but in a physical sense she couldn't hold a candle to Magdalena who at 76 was still creating battalions of 9-foot tall bronzes. She'd installed 106 in Grant Park. 

While she and Sabina were catching up, I wandered around the garden getting to know more of Magdalena's creatures. They definitely share a family resemblance. The squashed faces (below) are earlier pieces, but they're related to the pointed animal faces. You don't doubt that.

One night Magdalena and her friends met Sabina and her husband Kjeld, and me, for dinner at Ale Gloria, a fabulously theatrical restaurant which is below ground level in the posh part of Warsaw and famous for its strawberry set design. We ate so many mushrooms (it was autumn). Magdalena was queen of the night and I, in the wings, felt as though I were on a much bigger stage than the one I usually played on. I hope she's enjoying her run in Istanbul (her show closes in Jan 30).

We didn't deliberately set out to canvas the art "scene" in Istanbul. Far from it. We wouldn't have known where to start - though the Istanbul Modern seemed like an obvious place. It wasn't in fact. At best, its collection is an interesting survey of Turkey playing catch-up for the past 150 years with Western art movements. There's nothing there to set the pulse racing. Even when you send your best and brightest painters off to Paris to study (as the sultans and even Ataturk's mob did), you can't order up a cultural bypass. To our untrained eyes, there was more to like about the lusciously Oriental paintings in the Pera Museum - like this one below, by the Swedish painter Georg Engelhardt Schroder, of the Ottoman envoy Kozbekci Mustafa Aga who was sent to Sweden in 1727 to recover money owed (he was unsuccessful). The most interesting thing in a frame at the Istanbul Modern is the view of the Bosphorus.

We decided against going to the big-ticket Monet exhibition at the Sakip Sabanci Museum. I never thought I could have enough Monet, but...

At the Pera Museum, we wandered in a daze around Flash-back, a show of individual early works and joint works by Yannick Vu and Ben Jakober, a married couple so cosmopolitan and accomplished that you scarcely felt of the same species. 

Yannick Vu and Ben Jakober created a gigantic Leonardo's Horse (model above) for the 1993 Venice Biennial. Their moment of glory. Perhaps you had to be there. It's hard not to compare it with the old stuff though. Look at the horses on this Lycian tomb from the 5th century BC, one of many beautiful sarcophagi hauled back to Istanbul by the archeological museum's founding impresario Osman Hamdi Bey.

And if it's not horses, its faces. Alex's camera is always drawn back to faces and to eyes, ancient and modern.

Alexander the Great
Signing off from Istanbul, with love