Monday, 26 January 2015

Two bits of good news one here and one from the UK!

I don't want to tempt fate by mentioning it, but so far we have had all services since they returned just over a week ago. It is great to be warm, to have water, to be able to heat the water for a shower, use the phone and have internet connection.

Our first bit of good news is that the builders came in to look at the considerable damage caused by a leak in the bathroom pipework. We were dreading the cost of correcting it. We have now discovered that our insurance covers the work, which we are delighted about and the guys have been in and found three leeks in the pipework, which they have mended and we are now waiting to see if the floor starts to dry out or if there are more that haven't yet been discovered. So at the moment we have one of the bedrooms and it's en-suite in complete disarray while we play the waiting game.

The bathroom has no toilet ......

.... and no sink

and the bedroom has only half a floor!

I think this is the time of year I like the least, or that I find the most frustrating. The garden looks at it's worst, but the weather is not conducive to getting outside to improve it. The odd sunny days are lovely to see and we rush outside and do a bit, but then the rains return and we are stuck inside again.

We failed in our intention to finish hard landscaping the back garden last year, but should definitely be able to finish it this year. The raised beds are all finished and the paving is all laid now, the barbecue and outdoor oven are in the process of being built. I am so looking forward to them being up and running. Once we have finished building them, then the last wall can be built and it should then start to resemble the courtyard garden that we envisaged. We have had to leave this wall until last as it is much easier to cart in concrete, paving slabs etc. before building it. We have high hopes that by the summer we will finally be able to start enjoying al fresco dinners in our lovely new garden.

I have a way to go with the planting yet, but hopefully with the building nearing completion there will be a little more money available for me to be able to spend on plants instead of having to spend any spare pennies on building materials.

After the severe cold spell several plants have been frost damaged and we are waiting to see if they recover or if it is a permanent goodbye. The biggest potential loss is the lemon tree. We were told that it is not possible to grow lemons up in Uzumlu because of the colder temperatures, but we tried anyway and had nurtured our tree through two winters by wrapping it in fleece and plastic in the cold weather. This year we had lemons on it for the first time, but it has been damaged by the frost so fingers crossed that it survives. I also have three young avocado trees that I have grown from the stones from bought avocados we have eaten. We did plant an avocado tree in the garden about five years ago, but lost it the first winter, so I have kept these in pots and consequently moved them into the house so at least they are safe from the frost.

But the really good news is that after a 17 year courtship, my daughter's partner whisked her off for a surprise weekend in Amsterdam, where she was wined and dined and then taken to the love bridge where they attached a padlock and he dropped down on one knee and proposed to her in front of all the passers by. How romantic is that! It may have taken a while but at least the proposal when it did come was planned and carried out in style. All their relatives and friends are delighted, with some saying "About bloody time!" and some saying "Are you sure you really know each other well enough for marriage?"

The soon to be Mr and Mrs Halsey in Amsterdam

Padlock fixed to the love bridge in Amsterdam

Personally I couldn't be more pleased. They are planing to get married in September next year 2016, so I have just over 18 months to save for the trip and to lose a lot of weight. I need to look my best - Mother of the bride and all that!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Life is back to normal again

Following on from our week of having power cuts, no water and no internet, on Thursday the power went off yet again. After a short while it came back on and with it the Internet returned. However, by the time we had moved the table back into the kitchen that we had moved in order to be able to plug the computer into the ethernet cable, the power had gone off again. We had no power for most of the day finally it was restored early evening and for the first time in over a week we had all services working together. Consequently yesterday I was able to heat the water and joy of joys have a shower for the first time in days - bliss!

This morning we have the other missing ingredient - the sunshine! How lovely to see that again. It is currently only 10 degrees on our terrace but the wind has dropped and after the recent weather it feels quite warm outside.

It will be fantastic to be able to get outside again. We are expecting a tonne of wood to be delivered today, so David's job will be stacking that in the log store. One of my jobs for the day is to hoover the pool to clear all the debris that the recent high winds have dumped in it.

Every year so far we have had to empty the pool in the spring and refill it. Obviously in the early years when we just came over for holidays it was refilled every year, as it was not worth maintaining it for a maximum of 6 weeks use each year. In those days we used a maintenance company to care for it and they did a really good job. However, when we moved here our budget did not run to this luxury, so we had to take the job on ourselves. As neither of us had ever had a pool before it was a terrifying prospect but a necessity.

We moved here in April 2012 so we arranged for our previous maintenance guy to come and fill it and set it up for us. He was supposed to show us how to maintain it. But I think a combination of his poor English and our non existent Turkish coupled with the fact that he wanted us to fail as he was upset to be losing the work meant that we didn't really understand what we should do. Therefore it wasn't very long before that fact started to show, with the water turning green it looked more like a pond - not conducive to wanting to swim!

It got so bad in the end that we had to pay another pool company to come and show us again. Because David returned to England for almost three months that summer the pool maintenance fell to me and it was a daunting prospect but I soon got into the swing of it and by the time he returned I had a pretty good system going.

By spring 2013 it was clear that the pool needed re-grouting and as we were busy with the preparations of our wedding we paid a company to come and do this for us. Unfortunately the job they did was not at all satisfactory, so last year we emptied it again and did it ourselves. That is the 'Royal we' of course as this was actually David.

Previously in the winter months we have just left the water alone knowing that we would change the water in the spring. This year I have been hoovering it fairly regularly in an attempt to keep it cleaner. So far I am managing to keep it looking fairly presentable so it shouldn't be too hard to sort it in a few weeks to bring it back into action again.

A lot of people half empty there pools here during the winter months. We have heard horrible tales of people's animals drowning because they have fallen in their pools and because the water was low they were not able to get themselves out. As all of our dogs and most of the cats have at some time fallen in the pool we leave our pool full throughout the winter rather than take that risk.

We are hoping that because we are using the same water it will make a difference to the water temperature, in that it will warm up sooner. The new water is really cold and takes several weeks before you can get in it without a shock. Hopefully the sunny spring days will warm the water earlier. That's the theory anyway. We will see how it goes, coming to live in Turkey is a sharp learning curve.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

A funny old week for the services

When the electricity came back on Friday afternoon after a 17 hour cut, we thought our problems were over - wrong! The electricity went off again in the evening and was off through the night and for most of Saturday too. We can tell when the electric comes back on because the fridge gives a kick and starts to hum and the phone/internet equipment all starts flashing, this happened several times but before we could so much as even reach for the kettle, it was off again. This went on for hour after hour until we finally became immune to these tantalising moments, so when it did finally come on to stay it was several minutes before we could believe it was true.

Then we lost the Internet connection for the best part of two days. Currently the Internet is back but without any wifi so I can only connect by using an ethernet lead, This has meant that to use the computer I have had to move our dining table out of the kitchen area and put it beside the cupboard in the sitting room that the the router sits on, take the cable out of our internet phone and put it in the computer, which of course then has to be put back in the phone if we need to make a call. Plus of course we have no idea if anyone is trying to call us while the phone is out of action. Not very satisfactory but the world stops going around if we have no Internet. 

Not having any transport and living quite a way outside the village, we only tend to go out if we really need to go somewhere - especially in the winter. So we do not often get to see other people very much. We therefore, rely on the internet to keep us in touch with what is going on in the area. We are lucky in that there are several Facebook pages dedicated to both the village and the Fethiye area in general and by using them we can see what is happening outside our little bubble.

But also as I mentioned above we have an Internet phone system that allows us to call friends and family in the UK and the US without charges, so although we can revert to our Turkish land line we would only use that for important local calls.

We do not have an all singing all dancing mobile phone with internet so we can only connect to our blog when we have it on the computer which is also a nuisance.

Then there is the television for which we are also reliant on an Internet connection. You don't realise how reliant you have become on all the modern technology until in a moment it is whisked away from you.

Anyway, making do with the computer in the wrong place and losing our table in the process, we carry on until the problem is fully resolved.

On Monday morning our water suddenly stopped. This is a situation we are quite used to here, usually happening at the very moment when I go out to water the plants in the garden in the summer. Consequently we have loads of bottles of water spread around the house for this very purpose. They are in each bathroom for flushing the toilet and washing. They are in the kitchen for washing up etc. and then we have a large bottle on the water cooler for drinking. For normal water service cuts these get us by easily and we thought we had this eventuality covered. But this time we have been off for just over three days and the water had long since been used. 

Luckily it has been raining so we had resorted to collecting rainwater by putting large funnels in the top of our water bottles and spreading them around the garden and that just got us through. The water came back on around an hour ago and we have already refilled all of our water containers in case like the electricity it is just a brief show before it goes off again. It is ironic that with so much rain and water laying everywhere that nothing comes out of the tap.

But this is Turkey and these things happen here. We have learnt to chill and go with the flow. Does it put us off ,living here? No way, we still see our cup as half full rather than half empty. In just a few weeks we look forward to another glorious summer and outdoor living stretching ahead of us again. We  certainly are looking forward to that.

Friday, 9 January 2015

High winds, freezing temperatures and the dramas continue

After discovering yesterday that we had a problem with our solar panels - in that water was pouring off the roof - the maintenance guys arrived by early afternoon to investigate what had caused the problem. In typical Turkish fashion they placed a tall ladder on the icy paving and in the most horrendous windy conditions climbed onto the roof without a thought of health and safety to have a look at what was going on. The terrible wind was so strong that it kept dragging both the ladder and David who was attempting to hold it still for them, along the paving.

Anyway, luckily the verdict was that the panels apparently have a bung on them which is designed for this very purpose and in fact had done exactly what it was supposed to do by popping out before the panels were damaged. Obviously they had to replace the anti-freeze and refill the panels, but about 20 minutes later they were up and running again and at a cost of only 65tl (under £20) - result!

The problem with the bathroom as we expected looks a lot more expensive and the guys are going to come back after their spate of weather related call outs to have a better look and cost it for us. He thinks it is likely that a drainage pipe from the bathroom is leaking and causing the problem so we have to wait to see what happens with that one.

So after a fairly miserable day we sat down early evening to eat our dinner and watch TV and at 08.15 pm the electric went off. We waited until 10.00 sitting in the quiet by candle light and I finally gave up hope of it coming back on and retired to bed with my hot water bottle and kindle. The high winds continued throughout the night.

This morning I woke at 07.30 am and it was so cold that it took me until 9.00 am to find the will power to get out of bed. Looking out of the bedroom window I noticed that even more screening had come of the railings in the high winds - great!

Downstairs I discover that we still have no electricity, the entire house is freezing and to add to the misery we also have no water! David in his wisdom had announced yesterday that he was going to turn the mains stopcock off for the night in case the panel bung went again in the night. We had a 'discussion' about this as I did not think it was a very good idea. However, apparently after I had gone to bed last night David had done just that. When he went to turn it back on this morning (before I was up) he found that it had frozen in the night and therefore trying to turn it back on he managed to snap the handle off!

Here we are then frozen and no water again and of course no internet. We have central heating in the house fired by a wood burner in the sitting room. But of course we could only let it tick over because with no electric to drive the pump, we can't let the water in the back boiler get too hot. We do have back up heating in the form of ufo infra-red heaters and our air conditioning system which will also blow out hot air. But of course they all need electricity to run. Another lesson in living in Turkey in the winter, we will buy gas heaters before next winter as a back up too.

The maintenance men came very quickly to our call out and replaced the broken stopcock handle, so by mid-day we had water back and by boiling water in a saucepan were able to have a cup of coffee or two. Another thing for the shopping list a gas hob kettle!

To great excitement and whoops of joy the electric came on at lunchtime, then immediately dashed our hopes of being warm again by going off 30 seconds later. Finally after numerous phone calls to Aydem and calling out the local electrician we now have power again. We were off for 17 hours, the longest spell we have ever had.

Greater women than me probably take all this drama in their stride. However, I am afraid that being cold is the one thing in life that makes my horns grow and I become a nasty, mean minded misery. Luckily David has lived with me for long enough to know to humour me and not take up the gauntlet that I constantly throw at his feet. He is a good man.

At least for now we have heat, water and my good humour back and the temperature has crawled up to a balmy 6 degrees, maybe things are set to improve.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Not a good start to the year

One thing we have noticed here is the uncanny accuracy of the local weather forecasts. Weather change is often predicted some weeks ahead and is almost always spot on, with temperature changes, storms etc. proving to be forecast correctly almost down to the hour of the day.

With this in mind we thought we had prepared properly for the cold spell that was forecast for this week. We made sure we had plenty of wood for the wood-burner that runs our central heating, we had a local company come and put anti freeze in the solar panels and to lag the bare pipes on the roof. David has been to the builders merchant for pipe insulation and has put this round all the lower level pipework - which tends to be outside here.

So when as predicted the cold spell arrived earlier this week we were sitting smugly, cosy in our lovely warm house without a care in the world. It was therefore quite shocking to discover this morning that water was pouring out of the solar panels. We have rung the excellent local maintenance company that we use, but understandably busy they can't get here until later on today so currently we have no water as we have had to switch it off at the mains. Now we await the result of their visit with trepidation to know the cost involved in putting the problem right, when they can do it and how long it will take.

This is not the first problem we have had recently with water. We have discovered that there seems to be water leaking into one of the guest bedrooms, and because we rarely use it, it was not discovered until half the wooden floor had gone rotten. Presumably the fault is somewhere in the adjoining en-suite bathroom which of course is fully tiled. So that probably means taking up the tiles to even find the fault. We are definitely living in dread of what that is going to cost us to put right. So for any one coming to stay this year better bring your wellies!

Big problem to sort in one of the bedrooms!

The high winds during the night have blown off a lot of the screening I put on our railings last year, so later I need to go out and see if I can put it back or whether it has to be replaced.

My screening flapping in the wind

The dogs are fed up because it's too cold for them to spend much time outside. The cats are huddled around the house in the warmest spots they can find. I'm even making hot water bottles for our old girl with renal failure as she seems to feel the cold so terribly.

Cingene snuggled up in her bed on her hot water bottle

To top it all a digger has arrived this morning in the field at the front of the house and is digging all the hedging up directly outside our property. A lorry is bringing loads of earth so presumably the plot has now been sold and we will soon be having new neighbours.

It really is bitterly cold outside, currently -1C on our terrace at lunchtime, but the strong winds are making it feel an awful lot colder. The winds are blowing the water in the pool around and in the back garden we even have ice on the pond. From what we hear it is considerably warmer in the UK and that doesn't happen very often. Just as well as I may be having to go back to earn some money to pay for all our repairs.

I do not think I shall swim today .......

..... and there is ice on the pond!

All in all the fogies have had better days. Normally we do not drink much alcohol but we have already had a brandy in our coffee this morning. Purely for the medicinal effects you understand - for the shock and the cold!