Lydia Barends (3/4)

Lydia Barends runs a small guesthouse, Dirimguesthouse, on a mountainside in western Turkey, where she lives with her dogs, cats and donkey. “Apart from being sociable and good companions, the animals are also very useful, because the dogs guard the house, the cats catch mice, and the donkey keeps the grass short and accompanies me to the forest when I fetch wood.” This month, Lydia tells Flow about her life.

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Running a guesthouse came about as a result of a burnout. I used to work as a holiday guide every summer, and before that, I spent a few years supervising tours through Turkey and hiking trips in the north to the Black Sea, where I then lived. It was through my work as a holiday guide that I came to the west coast. The job didn’t really suit me, but it did give me security. When you work abroad, you can’t afford to be picky, and I like talking with people, solving problems and organising things. But the arrival of mobile phones and the Internet changed all that. I became the boss, whatever that might mean, and then my work suddenly involved a lot of report writing and running around with three phones. I carried on like this for a couple of years. At night, I would sit at my drawing table, venting my frustration in the form of cartoons. And then I had a breakdown.

The only thing I could – and wanted to – do was to stay at home with my pets and draw for it was thanks to my drawing that I had managed to weather the storm. But the haste of the previous years did not simply leave my system overnight; I still rushed everything and everywhere. First, I drew like a man possessed, putting together a comic that was 70 pages long. Furthermore, I was still running around all over the place, working in the garden, mowing the grass and digging channels with a pickaxe. I did everything until, eventually, I could no more. What was so notable, however, was that my fellow villagers did everything at their own pace and leisure, like the man who came to help cut the grass that was several meters high. He cut it down with long, steady strokes, and every now and then, he would stop to sharpen the blade of his scythe or to light a cigarette. And it was then that something began to dawn on me…

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After a year, the fog lifted a little and I was calmer. My mother came to visit and she brought a pair of binoculars with her. One rainy winter day, we noticed the garden was filled with cute little birds that had red heads and yellow markings on their wings. Goldfinches! That was the start of a wonderful discovery. In the spring, variegated bee-eaters sat on the telephone line, while a variety of unusual birds came and went among the high cypresses. I regularly saw a long-legged buzzard gliding through the orchard and I even found one stranded in my garden one stormy day. Life was suddenly full of birdsong – I used to listen to music, but now I simply want to hear the birds. My drawing table stands by the door, which is almost always left open, and I regularly grab the binoculars to scan the sky. Jumping up and down with joy in the garden on one’s own because you’ve seen a beautiful bird is nice, but sharing your pleasure with others is much nicer. Which is why – with an extra bedroom and bathroom in my place – I decided to open up a guesthouse.

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