This Week in Kirazli – December 2006

The weather holds fine and clear with day after day of warm sunshine.  It is unseasonably warm this winter, normally we could expect rainy days and the occasional storm but the cold fronts swing north of the Aegean region and the whole of Europe is having it’s warmest winter on record.  The old men in the tea shops suck their teeth and mutter about the paucity of oil in the olives and warn of snow in January as payback.

The nights are cold and clear and astonishingly bright with stars.  Standing on the project terrace last night with my back to the olive wood fire and the stars curving above me, Orion striding north across the sky, I am dazzled and disorientated by the layers of light fading into the darkness.

The loudspeakers broke on the mosque this week and the Iman made the perilous climb to the top to sing the prayer in person.  As he proceeded around the minaret crying the prayer to all quarters of the compass he waved happily to everyone he recognised in the village below!  We all waved back.

Sezai made sherbet this week, a pale yellow, lemon based concoction which he claimed was completely alcohol free and which he foisted on everyone.  Fortunately nobody believed him as the alcohol content was equivalent to repeatedly frozen vodka.

In the UK our politically correct government bans Christmas decorations in the workplace so as not to offend our Muslin population.  In Turkey the 99% Muslim population happily bulk buys Christmas trees and plastic Santas, tinsel and stockings and the wife of our Chief Engineer petitions for Christmas presents for herself and their baby daughter.  Christmas is a midwinter festival of peace and love as much as anything else and Turkey likes to be involved in any party – Muslim or not!

Hamdi is encouraged to vary the menu at the Kofte house and introduces cheese omelettes because right now I can’t eat another kofte for at least six weeks.

As the work on our project progresses old faces turn up to join the work crews and there is much kissing and happy handshakes as we recognise people.  This week the Grim Renderer, who led the plastering crew on our last project, returned to assist the stone masons.  The Grim Renderer is nearly 7 foot tall, a respected and hard working individual not known for his sense of humour but honoured for his work ethic.  A rare smile appeared on his face as he was welcomed to the site and he folded his lanky body down to kiss Phil on each cheek.

It is hard to believe it is nearly Christmas.  I sit outside on the studio terrace above the project writing this on a table rigged up from an old door.  Just across from me the mosque is brilliant white in the sunshine.  Sezai’s battered old tape recorder is playing something that sounds like a cat being strangled and Sezai himself is supervising the men on the project, stepping in to assist in anything potentially dangerous!  Phil and Metin are chivvying along the village plumber and starting the excavations for the septic tank. Across the village the terracotta roofs are lit all shades of orange and umber and thin threads of smoke rise from the bread ovens into the clear air.  The village is quiet as the mandarin harvest continues out in the fields.  The mandarins this year are fantastic, so sweet and easy to peel and the scent of citrus oil pervades the air as everyone wolfs a kilo a day.  This is a good place to be right now.

posted 13-01-2007