Turkey may be one of the world’s less attractive nations in terms of political and social freedoms, but when it comes to pure geographic and natural beauty, it is breathtaking.
Every time I question why we live here (and, believe me, I did today after being fined 416 lira, plus half as much again in notary fees, and wasting two days of my time, for failing to invite the authorities to my wedding reception), an answer presents itself.
This evening, when I was pottering about in the kitchen, cooking up a really delicious chicken dinner from Diana Henry’s ‘A bird in the hand’, which arrived in my Christmas stocking (the book, not the dinner, unfortunately), I had to down tools and race out to the terrace to watch the bee-eaters. There were so many that their unmistakable call was magnified to a degree I would defy anyone to ignore.
At the moment – and until the end of May – we are plagued with the dreaded ‘olive flies’. They are one of the most miserable, nasty, head-biting, pain-inducing, pesky little blighters that have ever inhabited this planet. They make the hungriest, most industrious mosquito look like child’s play.
In our village, everyone has 100-year-old olive trees in their gardens, which are in full oily blossom at the moment – the sticky blossom is on the pavements, all over our car, all over our poor itchy cats and, apparently, all over Robin’s head, judging by the attention he gets from the flies (they hate me, thank goodness – must be the garlic or the Chanel No 5). The sea has horrid bright yellow slicks of olive pollen swishing up on every beach and against every rock. While I love olive oil, I hate olive trees – they ruin the landscape and the soil for everything else. I do know you can’t have one without the other, but maybe we could just buy olive oil from our very close Greek neighbours…
Our next-door-below neighbours have a dozen or so olive trees in their garden and, this evening, we were treated to the best show on earth just beneath our kitchen terrace – hundreds of Mediterranean bee-eaters (try to imagine the most amazingly colourful kingfishers, but with shorter beaks) swooping around in a formation that the Red Arrows could only dream of, homing in on the pesky flies leaving their trees at dusk. I cheered them on while Robin took the photos.
The bee-eaters visit us every year in May and October. Their call is so distinctive – like somebody blowing short bursts into many shrill whistles, and they resemble squadrons of Spitfires with their straight, blunt-ended wings and their propensity to hunt their prey in huge ‘gangs’. Living up to their name, they do indeed love bees and some of the local honey farmers shoot them if they become a nuisance. Very sad, but I guess everyone has to make a living, whether you are a farmer or a bird.
I hope you enjoy the photos, we most certainly enjoyed the show.