But in Turkey we can’t do it like that…

I consider myself a very calm and patient person.  Some may say laid back, but occasionally the feet paddling furiously under the water take over the whole swan.

At the beginning of our course in Antalya, there was a definite theme of ‘but in Turkey it doesn’t work like that…’ or ‘but you don’t understand, in Turkey we can’t do that…’.  A discussion on moving classroom furniture into groups was no exception.  This had been an ongoing topic through several of our sessions as we tried to convince the participants of the merits of group work.

I think the last straw was probably when one participant told me that they couldn’t change the furniture round in their classroom as they share the room with other teachers and their colleagues would complain.

I tried to reason that my children in England moved the furniture around all the time when I needed to have a big floor space or needed them all sitting in a circle.

To no avail.

The answer came back that the children would take too long to move the furniture.  I agreed that they would need training, but again, my example of my own class where the children had been trained to move the furniture in a very short space of time, fell on deaf ears.

Like any good teacher I like to think that I change my tack when things aren’t working, so faced with the wall of disbelief that it could be done, I decided that a practical example was needed.

I chose a YouTube video of the BBC News music that lasted two minutes.  It is great music, as it has a very clear end-point that the music builds up to and the children get a sense of urgency (especially when it is played at full blast in my classroom!).  I then asked the women’s group to move all the tables from rows into groups as soon as the music started, while I videoed the ‘action’.  It was just like a birthday party from thirty-five years ago when we played musical chairs.

I started the music.

The women leaped into action and moved all the tables into groups.

They sat down.

The music was stopped.

Twenty seconds.

But one example isn’t enough.  I then asked them to move the tables back into the plenary style layout we had started with.  The music was restarted, and a further 25 seconds of chaos ensued.  Everyone had a purpose though, and everyone was involved.

Forty-five seconds.

The best part of this was that I had the video to show to other participants.  Now armed with my clips and an answer for the anticipated questions or issues that would be raised, I showed the video to the participants.  I conceded that it may take a little longer than forty-five seconds for the children to move the furniture, but I also pointed out that there were only eleven participants rather than a class-full.  I also conceded that it would take some training, but the participants all agreed that even two minutes of class time used for moving the furniture would be worth the gain from the added interaction the students would get with each other.

So the participants learnt that they could move their tables during a lesson and have them back to ‘Victorian-style’ at the end so as not to upset their colleagues.  They also got to see the power of video as a teaching tool, the power of music as a driving force for activity and had something tangible they could take back to their school to show colleagues and administrators and other nay-sayers.

The final two parts to the suite of videos included a video of row-based questioning (and hands-up) in a traditional style, juxtaposed with group based discussion to show the improvement in talk that the grouped arrangement of desks allowed for.  The participants could then clearly see the benefits of planning for student-student interaction, as they could see the number of ideas and amount of speaking it generated compared with their traditional style classroom.

I knew I had met my objective when during individual feedback at the end of the course the initial ‘but in Turkey…’ participant said that he was going to show his colleagues back at school how they could arrange their desks.



The Köftebus is coming… [to the tune of ‘the Vengabus’ – provide your own backing track]


Well – if you don’t know the tune, I bet you’ve ‘spotified’ it now – I shall be using that in class when we come to nouns converted into verbs – like ‘to google’!

We were telling our participants about our trip to the köfte van.  Everyone got very excited about us tasting traditional Turkish food, and seemed to be quite impressed that we were willing to try food from the side of the road.

One participant in particular was grilling us (pun intended!).

“Did they have onions?” he said.  “I only like köfte  if they have onions!”

I guess we’d better give you the whole story: on one of our evening sojourns to get an ice cream, we spotted a van driving along the road.  We knew it couldn’t be a dragon, because fire comes out of the front of a dragon, not the back.

The van was driving along with the back of the truck opened up.  On the bed of the truck was what I presume was a gas fired grill with charcoal on top in the back, and a big red sign saying köfte swinging from the back too.  It alarmed me slightly that there were naked flames right between the hybrid tank and the petrol tank, but there seems to be a much more laissez-faire attitude towards things in Turkey, and I supposed that he knew what he was doing…

Anyway – he drove right past us, at not an unsubstantial speed, and we thought that would be the last we saw of him.


Ice creams in hand, we strolled back to Antalya International University where we were staying and where the course was being run.

As we rounded the final corner, we spotted Köfte Man again, this time parked at the side of a junction with one of the main dual carriageways into Antalya.  The van’s bed had been opened up to create an awning, the fire had calmed down, and a table, table cloth, rug, table and patio chairs had appeared as if from no-where!


We took a few photos, and thought no more of it.

The next evening there was a bit of a disagreement over food in the dining hall, which I won’t go into here, but it ended up with Anette and I not really getting an evening meal.

We hatched a plan, and waited for the cover of darkness.

The University is on a very busy road, and the night before we had almost got run over walking along the hard shoulder, despite shining my phone in torch mode in front of us.  It seemed to turn the drivers into moths – they were suddenly attracted towards us, even though we were on the hard shoulder, and at times walking along the storm-curb.

For this reason, we had scoped out another route to the ice cream vendor the night before, and took a route that went cross-country to get to the ice creams.  We passed another köfte van, but felt loyalty to the first, and kept on towards our goal.

I always think that street food is a trick we miss out on in the UK, but I guess sitting at the side of the road on a patio chair on a rug would not be quite the same beside the A1(M) at Doncaster.  Even if they did serve the best köfte I’ve ever tasted.  I know my experience is limited, and I have little to compare it to, but it was just what the doctor ordered.

Anyway – the next day we recounted our adventure to the participants.  They were impressed with our of-the-beaten-trackness, and our köfte-fan-participant’s eyes lit up. Which takes us back to the beginning of this  anecdote.

However – it doesn’t end there…

A couple of weeks later I found another köfte van in Taksim Square park in Istanbul.  It would seem that there is adventure to be found near every köfte stall – this one was run by two entrepreneurial kids that seemed to be about 10 or 11.  I only had a 50 TL note, so handed that over.  They suddenly became very engrossed in something, and ‘forgot’ to give me my change.  I also had to pay for the köfte, then pay separately for the water I had asked for – in Turkish I might add! – not sure why they couldn’t add the two together, but there you go!

I posted a picture on Facebook.  The same participant got in touch and ‘liked’ the picture.  His only question was: ‘Did they have onions?!”

Testing the definition of flexibility

One day to go before we travel on for our second course in Denizli, and it has happened again.

Anette and I have received an email to say that we are not going to Denizli, but that the venue has been changed to Antalya.  I think I jinxed our trip by planning to go to the Pamukkale travertines on one of our days off.  If I hadn’t planned in advance, we’d probably still be going to Denizli!

Anyway, here we are, three trainers, crammed into a Fiat Panda (which also has a hybrid fuel tank in the boot, somewhat limiting luggage space).  Andrea is off to istanbul, whereas Anette and I are off on another jaunt.  We were supposed to be flying to istanbul, changing after a 6 hour stopover, and flying to Denizli,where we would be met, taken for dinner, then driven to Antalya – it made no sense though as the drive alone would take 4 hours minimum.

So now we find ourselves on a flight to Antalya.  A slight panic at the airport as I didn’t realise that istanbul has two airports – for a moment there was that sinking feeling followed by a frantic rummage through info I had been sent, which revealed that we were not heading to Ataturk, but Sabiha Gokcen.  On the ticket it says istanbul, but on the boards at the airport, it does not!

We arrive at our accommodation to find that they had thought we were married – a hasty change of plan and we now have two rooms in the girls’ dormitory.  It’s a long time since I stayed in this sort of accommodation, as even at uni we had our own individual rooms, and although I am not sharing with anyone, it feels strange being in a room with 4 beds in it.

We set off in search of ice cream, only to find that our new host – Antalya International University – is in the middle of nowhere!  We go on a trek in search of a shop, as my suitcase decided it would like an extra night in istanbul, and I need toothpaste and other essentials.

This was our first experience of the Kofte Man – but that is a story for another time.

How to survive without aircon – basically, you don’t…

Our personal accommodation is great, the course accommodation is good, now we just need some participants.

No one had mentioned to me that when the course is supposed to start on a Monday, it may actually start on a Tuesday.

Or a Wednesday.

It feels very different to how things would run back home, but that is all: different.

These people have given up their holidays, usually at short notice, to come and be taught how to improve a job they are already doing.  Some of them have been told to attend, many are not sure why they are attending.  Hopefully by the end of the two weeks we can show them that it has been worthwhile.  It will be an uphill struggle I think, as we have to justify our existence to them, but the course content is good, the four of us trainers are feeling energised, and they have the bonus of having four trainers for two groups.  Most other courses have one trainer per group, so it gives the four of us time for preparation and planning that would normally happen in the evenings.  It also gives us time to adapt sessions to meet their needs, as right up until the session before, each of us can be adapting.

Which leads me on to the air conditioning.

Our training room and the office are the only rooms with air conditioning.  The trainers’ room is like a fridge, which is great, and the training room is fairly cool, but a compromise between the Turkish, who are used to the heat, and the Europeans who are not!

The only downside is that the training room does not have an Interactive Whiteboard that works; or at least one that the laptops can be connected to.  And I need an IWB for my session.  Cue complaints.

For the vocabulary session I would really like to show them an IWB lesson, but that means being downstairs in an un-air-conditioned room.  I promise the participants that it will be a maximum of 30 minutes, in a room which it has to be said is not stifling.  I also point out that it is 5 degrees Celsius back in the UK so this is a bit of a bigger temperature extreme for me.  Plus, I am in a shirt, proper trousers, socks and shoes.

Anyway, with much huffing and puffing and glances at each other, the participants are shepherded into the room with the IWB for 26 minutes.  No one fainted, no one collapsed, but they did take all the cut-up resources that I was planning on using again, which in my mind indicates that it was a good session.  You don’t steal resources unless you think you may use them again.  And with the four of us leading two sessions at a time, there’s plenty of time to cut up more resources.

1-0 to Stuart.

‘No problem’ [shoulder shrug implicit]

Well – an eventful 24 hours…  We had an email yesterday to tell us that we were no longer travelling to Diyarbakir – something about military flights?!  Anyway, the upshot is that the situation in that area of Turkey has changed significantly and it is no longer viable for us to be running teacher training there.

My instructions were to fly to istanbul and then await further instructions…not totally reassuring, but if the worst comes to the worst I decided, I could stay in a hotel in istanbul.  (by the way, I know that istanbul needs a capital I but my computer won’t do a Turkisk capital ‘I’ with a dot – otherwise it would be pronounced something like Ustanbul!)

Anyway, our instructions arrived, and I dully went to the Turkish Airlines counter.  There, we changed our flights to Gaziantep, unfortunately travelling via Ankara rather than direct, as there were no spaces – another interesting aside is that according to the Internet in the UK at the very moment we were trying to rebook, there were still spaces, but according to Turkish Airlines there weren’t – interesting to say the least!

Anyway, a couple of hours wait and our flight to Ankara was due.  We had half an hour in Ankara before catching the Gaziantep flight, the last of the evening.  As we were waiting in what felt like the dungeon of istanbul Airport, we began to get concerned as despite having very little Turkish between us, we managed to work out that our flight was delayed by 30 mins – leaving no time at all to catch the next flight.

We spoke to a guy on the desk at the gate who either only knew one phrase in English, or there genuinely was ‘no problem’.  To be fair to him, only the English would assume that he SHOULD speak English, and we didn’t even try to use a dictionary or online translator.  Anyway, it transpires that there was a problem, namely that our next flight had already left when we finally landed in Ankara, and our only option was to be put up in an airport hotel by the airline, ready to fly to Gaziantep the next day.

Via istanbul.

So at 4am we had a hasty breakfast, and headed back to the airport, sans baggage, as we had been able to leave that at the airport the night before.  We arrived at istanbul and connected with our flight to Gaziantep with no further issues, but part of me mourned the fact that we could have stayed in istanbul rather than take the flight to Ankara and we would have been able to go out and about!

And so, twenty-four hours after leaving Manchester, we arrived in Gaziantep.  A quick call to our local organiser, who had thought as we were foreign we would be flying in to the international terminal…an interesting concept, and one I have pondered on several occasions on the flights in Turkey, usually every time we taxied past the VIP terminal…and then we were off.  After consultation he decided that we would be best to meet the other trainers first, scope out the course accommodation, then head to our hotel.

We also stopped of for lahmacun on the way, my first experience of it, although Anette who I am travelling with is German and often went for Turkish food when she lived there.

And so finally to our hotel.  I think we lucked out as our hotel is lovely.  Clean, tidy, well equipped (although I am not sure I shall be needing 4 pairs of slippers that are too small anyway).

And so to bed…

Back to preserving

Well it’s been a while – mainly due to work circumstances, but I am now a bit more on an even keel and back to some writing.

I’ve changed jobs, and although I’m now back in a school teaching Year 5, it has taken me a while to find the right balance of work and fun…but I’ve managed it!

Today has been a great day – snow outside, a walk with the dog, and then back to the kitchen to prepare the lemons that I enthusiastically bought with the idea that I would try some lemon preserving.

A new cookery book for Christmas, and I thought I should try it out – I’d tried preserved limes before, but this time I’d seen a recipe that uses lemon slices.

Not being one to follow recipes slavishly, I decided to do one jar of preserved whole lemons, using my recipe from before, and then a jar of slices.  The mandolin that has been sat in my cupboard not doing a great deal was brilliant for slicing the lemons thinly, and I used practically the same recipes for both the whole and the slices – bit of smoked paprika, sea salt, and thyme.  Oh and time too – took about 30 minutes for the slices to sit there and look pretty.

I’d got a few limes still left over from the last batch – they have been in the fridge for a good 6 months now, and still look fine – I’ll do my usual trick and let Telsa try them first – so I thought I’d put them in a lamb tagine.  I got the tagine pot from Marrakesh a few years ago, and think that it just adds a bit of je ne sais quoi to the dish when you put it on the table.

So – spherical shallots (peeled but left whole), a bit of garlic sweated in a pan, lamb browned, potatoes browned, then the lot put in the tagine.  a teaspoon of smoked paprika, a teaspoon of ras-el-hanout and a teaspoon of za’atar.  Then I de-glazed the pan with a bit of water and poured this over all the spices in the pan until the water came up to the rim… a bit of a suck-it-and-see sort of tea, but I am sure it will be great.

I had obviously been missing the cooking, because I then got out the smoker and decided to smoke three crowns of garlic – never done this  before, so I will let you know how it goes, but how difficult can it be?!

I was at my nan’s house yesterday, and we went to her favourite farm shop.  The produce looked so inviting, and I have missed the chance to engage with ingredients now that I am working much longer hours.  However, the smoked garlic was £1:75 a crown, as apposed to pennies for the regular garlic, so I thought I’d have a go.

The house smells lovely at the moment – I have experimented with hickory chips.  It has another 25 minutes to go, and I am so looking forward to using it – I am only a bit gutted that I didn’t do the garlic first so that I could have put it in the tagine!

Even a foodie needs a night off

I have had a craving for roast chicken for the last week or so and tonight it has come to fruition.  I have given the complicated recipes a miss, and am roasting a chicken.  It’s not all easy-peasy (or even easy-broadbeany!) though, as I walked home through my village’s community garden tonight and picked some of the produce there.

Tonight’s offering consists of the following, all from the garden:

  • broad beans
  • purple, orange and yellow carrots
  • some special sort of garlic, the name of which escapes me (all I remember is it is French)
  • rhubarb

It meant that the carrots that were in the fridge went to Kippertastic the dog, and I got the nice ones!

Would you believe that the garden is going to seed because no one is picking any of this?!  My own abortive attempts at having 1/4 of an allotment were due to lack of time – but this garden is going to waste as people are not going in there and helping themselves.  

At the Monton Festival, I bumped into the people from Incredible Edible.  They have taken over a flower bed just down from the ‘main drag’ and have planted salad and veg plants there with a notice for people to help themselves.

No one seems to.

I was talking with one of the volunteers who runs our community garden, who had said to me ‘just go and help yourself’.  But this is easier said than done.  If you are a non-gardener, it is incredibly intimidating to ‘help yourself’ as you are not sure what to do – just harvesting alone is a mine-field.  Do you pull the whole thing up, do you twist, do you break…and if you take something, particularly from our community garden, are you going to be taking things that are ear-marked for the community luncheon or for use in Tideswell School of Food?  

I grew up with parents who gardened (and still do), and I know the basics of harvesting.  And still I panic.  The veg grown in the community garden looks different to what I am used to – it has no cellophane for a start, and isn’t on a plastic tray.

Perhaps we are not starting basic enough for some people with these initiatives such as Incredible Edible, or Tideswell Community Garden.  We need to get over the fear surrounding growing your own food, but we need to take baby steps.  Perhaps it starts with someone showing you how to pull rhubarb, or which bits to take of the Swiss chard.  If people are going to help themselves from such projects, then we need to take the fear away from eating produce straight from the ground.

Supermarkets have not just de-skilled us in growing our own food, we now need a field guide in order to work out how to pick produce that is right under our noses and ripe for the picking!

ramblings of a Derbyshire foodie