Goat Herder Required, Apply Within

House-sitting and house-swapping are fantastic low cost ways of getting to stay in some amazing places. We have old friends in Turkey who live in…

…Gökcebel, a sprawling village in the foothills above Yalıkavak. Their impressive detached pile is surrounded on all sides by a well-manicured walled garden and patrolled by a trio of cats brought in from the bins. Just like its owners, the house is elegant, unpretentious and homely.*

They often exchange their village homestead for ruritanian French gites and posh Californian condos. All they ask (along with the place not being trashed, obviously) is that their soporific cats are fed and watered. Easy.

Now we’re in our new gaff, we might get in on the act. There must be people out there who wouldn’t mind laying their hat in a well-appointed micro-garret with all mod-cons minutes away from the delights of Norwich and her embarrassment of riches. Ours is a lock-up-and-leave loft, small but beautifully formed (like me). All we’d ask is that guests turn the lights out as they leave. I guess we’d have to hide the dressing-up box and battery-operated play things. Or maybe not.



Needham Place

Sometimes, this care-taking lark can be a tad more challenging. Take, for example, the menagerie owners in Hockwold cum Wilton (yes, that is a genuine place) who pretty much need a qualified zoo keeper to look after their duo of dairy goats (Simone and Ashia), a pack of terriers (Monty, Blossom, Scarlett and Sanya), a clutter of cats (Jarvis and KC), a brace of drakes (Flappy and Ballerina), a nest of guinea pigs (Hearty and Chubby), a clutch of  chickens (including randy roosters) and a small shoal of goldfish. Sounds a bit too much like work experience at Whipsnade for my liking and besides, I’d be terrified of killing something. Still, there are no shortage of goat-herders applying for the busman’s holiday. They’re fully booked.

Thanks to Roving Jay for the heads up on this one.

*From Turkey Street, Jack and Liam’s Bodrum Tales out soon.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Turkey is the land of the genuine fake. It can be a fun experience bartering with the ruddy bovver boys down the pazar to get a couple of lira knocked off the knock off. Sadly, much of what’s dropped off the back of a tractor isn’t made in Turkey. We’re talking cheap counterfeits from the Far East, particularly China. No one expects the goods to last, no guarantee given, no refund offered. It’s all part of the cut and thrust of travelling market life.

As cooler nights approach, attention turns to winter wear and keeping the tootsies snug and warm. I hear Ugg boots are all the rage these days. I’m not sure why. They look like something my granny used to wear (actually that’s not true, my grandmother was only ever seen in court shoes – she was poor but stylish, but I digress). Genuine Ugg boots are made by a reputable manufacturer Down Under using sheepskin that is humanely produced and a pair can cost up to £200 a throw. As a carnivorous leather wearer (shoes and belts, not chaps and thongs) I can hardly complain about the use of animals in the rag and shoe trade. Times are hard and because of the cost, many people may be tempted by cheaper fakes that are flooding the markets in Turkey, Blighty and elsewhere. Please don’t. Allegedly, some of the imitations are made from Chinese racoon dogs that are skinned alive for their pelts. Yes, you read right – skinned alive. This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase cheap and nasty.

Don’t believe me? Check out this article (be warned the images are graphic)

Want to do more? Sign the petition

Thanks to Jeanette for this.

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Gone to the Dogs

I love dogs. We always had dogs at home. Petra, Pepe, Rocky and the rest were all emotionally interwoven into the rich tapestry of my family life. When they died, I cried. I even wept when my hamster, Goliath, performed a fatal somersault off the top of the freezer though I confess my pain was short lived and Goliath was quickly replaced by Samson.

After we migrated we were taken by surprise by the volume of stray and feral dogs sniffing aimlessly around the streets. Liam’s often waylaid by a wet snout playfully jammed into his groin and we are often tempted to take Rover home, hose him down and feed him up. I’m not at all surprised that animal welfare is an emigrey preoccupation. The story of an animal-lover leading her pack to a Bulgarian Promised Land like a modern day Moses is but an extreme example of the canine devotion that seems to dominate the humdrum lives of many.

Animal welfare is a noble cause but so too is the care and protection of children. It distresses me to hear and read so little about the plight of the thousands of children in our foster land who lead brutal and miserable lives, trapped within abusive families, rented out by the hour or thrown onto the streets to fend for themselves. Take a look at the following articles if you can bear to know more.

Istanbul home to 30,000 street children

Rise in sexual abuse of minors

Child Labour


It’s easy to think that the problem is overwhelming and nothing can be done, an all too comfortable mind-set that is underpinned by the apparent dearth of children’s charities and non-governmental organisations working within Turkey. However, it is possible make a difference no matter how small. Why not sponsor a child in Turkey or make a contribution to Unicef?


Care for the animals by all means but care for the children too.