Sunday, December 5, 2010

I ate my head


It's time for a Turkish language post. Let's do 2 good 2 bad.

Good:

It's incredibly regular. I love it. All the grammar works how it should, there are these fantastic all purpose suffixes that are consistent and work a treat, they're usually simple to boot (we have 'in' 'on' and 'at', they only have one equivalent for instance). There is no grammatical gender which is a godsend in terms of vocabulary - how anyone remembers all that shit for French and what have you is beyond me. Actually they don't have *actual* gender either - one word does service for both he and she. Which I think might be a step too far, but on the other hand makes playing the pronoun game a damn sight easier. ;-)

Bad:

It is an agglutanising bitch. Which means that instead of using more words to describe a grammatical situation, you just bung endings on to one word instead. "One of the ones that apparently might not have been able to have been explained" would be "Açıklayamayabildiklerinden biriymiş". (I think.) The first word, the only bit that actually has any independent meaning is the first four letters, "açık" which means 'open' - all the rest of it is just endings on endings to get you to your intended meaning.

That example is a little contrived to be fair - but honestly not by much. To give you a live example as it were, I'm currently reading a children's book aimed at 10 year-olds, which has in its first sentence '...geleceğimizi şekillendirecek olan tüm kültürel birikimlerimizin temel taşı sayılması gerektiğini söylemekle işe başlayayım dilerseniz.' Again generally it's only the first and second syllables of any of those words that actually carry the meaning, all the rest is glued on.

Anyway, this is Bad because it means you have to have a pretty good idea of what you want to say before you start saying it, you can't ah and erm and hum your way through a sentence word by word like in English. This is my single biggest difficulty (that and not actually making much of an effort to practice my speaking...) and basically means that in speech I am still pretty much stuck at tarzan turkish - I went there, it was nice, I was happy.

However, this is also

Good:

because it means that actually, once you've got the hang of how the endings work and learnt a few of the starting words, it means you can read reasonably well just by guesswork. Whereas English has got a word for pretty much every situation - and often several, from French, German, Greek you name it routes - Turkish pretty much just builds things up from a very simple word you probably already know. So, for instance, 'can' means life, soul, heart. From this you get

canım - dear, love (literally, my life)
canlı - alive (with life)
canan - beloved (one who is loved)
candan - sincere (from soul)
canciğer - intimate (soul-lung/liver. Erm...)
cankurtaran - ambulance (life saving one)
canlanmak - to come to life (to be made live)
canlandırmak - to personify, play the part (to make something be made live)
canlandırıcı - animator (a person who makes something be made live)

Those are just the ones listed in my concise dictionary, there's bound to be more. Anyway, point being, all those endings are easily recognisable and so given context and a bit of logic, you can work out a hell of a lot of meanings without going for the dictionary, whereas a turk reading the english equivalent wouldn't have a hope.

Bad:

The sheer volume of day to day speech that is figures of speech and non-literal. This applies to English too, although I don't think I'd ever noticed before trying to translate it. This means that you're not just having to learn how to translate your english concepts into a foreign language, you're having to remember how they put it too. It really does feel like I'm learning a language from scratch sometimes, not just how to translate.

So for example, I might want to say:

'I had a crap day yesterday. I stayed up late to watch a film, but it wasn't any good. Because of it I didn't get to sleep until late, so this morning I was late too and I had to run for the ferry. Then when I got there my akbil had run out, so I missed the ferry! Christ, I nearly had a fit. Oh well, never mind.'

If you translate this literally word for word into turkish, they will not have a clue what you are talking about and you will get some very funny looks. However, if you say

'My day yesterday was from shit. I stayed up late to watch a film, but it didn't go to my pleasure. From its face I didn't lie down until late, so this morning I stayed late too and my need to run for the ferry remained. Then when I got there my money didn't stay on my akbil, so I made the ferry escape. My Allah my god, I ate my head. Anyway, give nothingness.'

it will make perfect sense. :-)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Trabzon

I've got in the habit of putting my photos on facebitch, but that's evil, and means that not all of my potential audience gets properly bludgened about the face with photos of me looking pissed/pissed off in a succession of bus garages and restaurants, SO I thought I'd wop a few on here. Muwah ha haa haaaa. Plus I've got not a lot of note to write about, and am feeling marginally embarrassed about the last minute-of-silence post, so thought I'd de-bump it or whatever the terminology is with some photo bulk.

All of the below are from the trip I went on for last week's mega bank-holiday-a-thon. This time (to get in my obligatory bit of didactic spiel on things you aren't actually interested in) it was for Kurban Bayramı as it's known in Turkey, or Eid al-Adha to most of the world; either way that's Feast of the Sacrifice in English. (Or Islam's Festival of Death to the less charitable and/or animal rights conscious bloggers out there...it's a whole big live sacrifice thang.)

Anyhow, it was 4 1/2 bank holiday days off work, which because it fell Monday pm to Friday this year happily meant that most employers including mine couldn't be arsed with the half day Monday, so everyone got the full week off work with the weekends either side. Reeeesult. So this was enough time to justify the journey to the other side of Turkey, specifically Trabzon, S's home town on the north east black sea coast of the country. So. Are you sitting comfortably?



^ Setting off



^ On the coach to Trabzon. Bit of a way by bus, 2pm til 6am I think it was, but then turkish coaches are aces. They are constantly giving you free coffee and juice and cake, and stuff like tvs in the back of the chair are pretty standard. I was particularly enamoured of the fact that this bus had a channel for a camera pointed out the front at the road, so you could get an unimpaired view of the lunatic turkish driving. (I am not being an uncharitable blogger here, they are lunatic. You know that phenomenon whereby as traffic builds it also slows and soon enough you end up with a traffic jam? Well, here it just doesn't happen. Everyone keeps going merrily along at 90kph, just with a vanishingly small gap before the car in front.)



^ Shortly after arrival, maybe 8am - the view from one of S's hangouts - a cafe by the sea where she'd drink with her buddies...sort of Crooked Billet equivalent I guess.

Aya Sofya, Trabzon version. Which was nice and all, but you know, you've seen one Byzantian church...but this one did have one particularly cool feature. Because for a long time most of the people coming to Trabzon were Greek sailors for whom it was the end or start of a long and dangerous journey, this church was where they'd go and pray thanks for, or to ask for, a safe journey. And consequently hidden round the back of the church are walls and walls of inscriptions/graffiti that these sailors have carved into the stonework - pictures of their boats, and writing, which I guess read something along the lines of Panagiotis woz 'ere, 1400.


Me with kebab. Of course.



Trabzon and sea with haze:


Inland, black sea mountains with sunset (and camera flare)


Actually you know sod it I've got loads of fairly dodgy photos of the boootiful countryside, but frankly you're not interested and if you were just image google Trabzon, you're bound to see better. Instead look at these weird wooden things below. There's some tenuous fossil connection in the area where these were taken and so I think these are meant to be dinosaurs. I *think* they are intended to look like they do, but you can't discount the possibility that this is a genuine best attempt at accurate representational sculpture...





and my personal favourite - the sign is 'Welcome'



Lovely. And this gurning wooden baffoon is looking at this view:



You'd think he'd have a bit of decorum, wouldn't you?

Anyway. That's it I think. Once again I can't think of a suitable way to sign off. So here are some Turks for you, on a rock. On a rock, on a rock, got them sitting on a rock.



That was blatantly more dodgy landscape photos wasn't it? Ah well. It was very nice.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

10th November, 9.05am

I am also enjoying living according to a different set of rhythms. The sort of cultural backdrop that you are barely even aware of because it's always there. Thinking about back home, well I remember starting with the New Year hangover, then there's nothing much until the Easter and seasonal general rebirth vibe; then you've got the Boat Race, London Marathon, and the Grand National to take you through spring into summer, where it's Test Cricket, Wimbledon, the summer bank and school holidays; then back to school time, then it's Halloween, Guy Fawkes Night, next thing you know Christmas hype is gearing up again and it's a bipolar acceleration of enforced jollity and worsening weather, til you're through the whole year again in blearing familiarity.

It is dead interesting, and really rather pleasant, to be inside a whole different set of routines. The bank holiday rota is of course different, and then there are the religious holidays which I guess culturally are the Christmas equivalents - we've got a week long one next week and the grins and letting off steam in the office is definitely gathering pace.

And then today was a moment straight out of left-field that was really rather wonderful.

Atatürk, Mustafa Kemal, the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey, and the object of no small amount of hero-worship by all colour of turks, died on the 10th of November, at 9.05am. Today shortly before this time I was in my office, which is a 3rd floor building with just the coast main road and a set of ferry terminals between us and the Bosphorus. I was settling into my normal morning routine of coffee and emails, when one of my colleagues said, hey come to the window for a bit, you ought to see this.

What?, I thought. Normal day, rush hour traffic, taxis buses and cars locked in their usual battle of death for the extra metre on the road and the 3 seconds it saves them, commuters running late jumping off the boats, flooding through to the tram for the next stage in their hurry to work.

And then the sound started. Ferry horns, that low fog horn doooooooth sound I'd recognise anywhere. Then some other notes joining them from all sides, I'm not sure where, maybe the mosques' tannoy systems or a broadcast from elsewhere, then within seconds the cars had picked up on it and started sounding their horns, and then in complete synchrony they all slowed, stopped, the drivers got out of their cars and stood motionless by their open doors.

Commuters who had been walking shoving jostling along all stopped, stood, bowed their heads, cigarettes ignored and allowed to burn down. The noise, which had built up to the sort of noise you imagine a cathedral organ making with a sack of spuds on the pedals, then died down again. Boats in the Bosphoros cut their engines and drifted.

Nothing moved.

And then, with as much consensus as with which it had stopped, everything started again. We all took a breath, a colleague wiped the start of a tear away, and we all went back to our desks, and started work.

(I apologise if that aimed at overly poetic and ended up with trite, but honestly...it was quite something.)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A meze table of non-sequiturs

I can't be bothered to write a proper post. There's lots of topics I probably could turn into proper posts if I could be bothered, but I can't. So here some of them are, shrunk down into little bitesize appetiser portions. (The lack of bothering also extends to editing - I'm pretty sure much of the below is syntactically dodgy. For which I apologise. But not that much. Ner.)

If you are entertaining in Turkey, particularly with a multi-dish sort of affair like mezes or breakfast (which is a multi-dish sort of affair here, all individual pots of jam and cheeses) the terminology is that you are preparing a 'table'. I like this. Every story I hear of some host or other outdoing themselves in their hospitality involves what a marvellous table they've prepared. I always have an image of someone sanding down a wooden table leg.

I got sucked into girl logic the other day whilst shopping. I generally don't do haggling cos of the generalised shopping loathing and life being too short, but it's been pissing down with rain here recently and I have no casual shoes apart from sandals, so I had to buy some new ones, plus had nearly run out of my month's salary so money was of particular concern. I managed to bargain down some shoes which were already much reduced due to being end of line efforts found in a bargain type shop. Was so overjoyed at getting the bloke to agree to take the note I was waving at him without insisting on more that I didn't actually check the shoes fit properly. So now I have a very nice pair of very quality very cheap shoes that I can't actually walk in.

S's new hobby is turning out to be really handy. She goes out fishing for the afternoon, which not only has the not-insignificant upside of having a soothing effect on whatever the latest work disaster motivated mood is, not only gives me space for piddling about on the internets and playing guitar loudly and wailing along in accompaniment in unselfconcious peace, but also means that she brings home a nice big free bag of fish for supper. I have a theory that there is some conservation of stone-age lifestyle at work here - we may have moved into a place with central heating and therefore are not going to have to spend this winter gathering wood and then burning it for heat, but by gods we are going to hunt and catch our food.

I spend too much time on internet forums.

My turkish is getting better. Slowly, slowly, slowly. I can't believe how slowly. I am also surprised, although I don't bleedin' know why, at how binary a process it is not turning out to be. When first coming I had this idea in mind that in x number of months I'd be able to speak turkish, like they'd be a markable point before which I didn't know what was going on and after which I did. Of course not, plonker. It's an extra few words a day I'm recognising in daily talk, it's 45 minutes on a basic newspaper article instead of an hour, it's realising that - despite knowing full well I am understanding a fraction of what's being said and that I'm speaking in a horrendous bill and ben mockery of turkish, I have nonetheless negotiated entire situations successfully with the correct end result in a foreign language.

And on a final and serious bummer note - talking domestic politics with Turks is an incredibly frustrating affair. Some of the views expressed can make your head spin, coming from what seems to be such an obstinate and entrenched world view as they do. And then someone blows themselves up in the crowded central square of Istanbul on a sunny Sunday where republic day celebrations are planned, and you remember that the context here is not the same as back home, and maybe begin to understand a bit.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The fall and rise of Reginald Kelly


It's been an interesting couple of weeks.

It started off with me having somewhat of a wobbly, probably simply because it was about time for one, combined with a bit of anti-climax and general wreckedness after visitors leaving (brother & mates came, we drank, I misinformed them as to which was the poo-fish which was not, it was all good). Also my work visa came which is excellent news, but instead of feeling relieved as I should have done, this carried some sort of feeling of grim reality and trappedness to it - my job being not exactly being the most stimulating and rewarding occupation. Whilst I am very grateful for it and even more grateful for the fact that they went and made it legit for me (boss's words on hearing it had all been sorted was "So great, you're legal! You're more legal than me, actually! Hah Har Har Haarrr!" Riiight.) it's still a bit depressing to be making photocopies and tea whilst my colleagues back home are likely zooming up the career ladder. (That's if Osborne hasn't had them all shot yet that is.)

Added to that was a general malaise along the usual no friends no hobbies wot a mess I'm making of this Turkey business front, and I was, to put it mildly, a bit mardy. This culminated last weekend, when S, bless her, decided that the best thing to do to cheer me up was to hold a breakfast party, and invite pretty much everyone we know on the island. We spent all morning cleaning and cooking and what have you, but when the guests started arriving I started wibbling a bit, with the the turkish and the hubbub and the mixing of circles. (There was late night island drinking buddies, my english class crowd, their parents, some random greek S had befriended on a boat...) Anyway it was all just a bit much, I couldn't hack it so disappeared into my room A la Kevin, and gibbered at myself at my inability to withstand a simple social situation here.

So that was all a bit crap. Then, the next week, there was a refreshing shift from imagined problems to some real ones. S was having trouble with one of her workers, and it all got a bit unpleasant. She ended up going to one of her fishing buddies, who I think is something of a big man on the island, for some moral support. With a hint of other sorts of support waiting in the wings if required. (I didn't really get a lot of what they were talking about, but I'm pretty sure at one stage he said something along the lines of "we're not the mafia, you know" which, well, if you're feeling the need to make that point...)

But, it all worked out in the end, to thank him S cooked a dinner of the fish she'd caught the night before with his help (picture below), then to thank us he took us fishing again. They were insistent that I learnt too, so with a little help on the baiting and unhooking, I caught my first 4 fish with nowt but a line and some bread ;-)


Anyway, perversely the whole episode had a positive effect on my mood in a sort of shaking up fashion, and then rehabilitation was completed by a top night out I had on Friday with some people from work.

There are two main packs in the office. You've got the boss and the proper consultant/sales people. All of whom are the best example of Istanbul's westernised, modern, cosmopolitan and if you ask me, up themselves types. I've been out with them a couple of times with reps from the UK companies we work with, and it's been awkward as anything, all displays of sophistication and artifice.

Then you've got the admin people - which is where I'd be counted - secretaries and admin and the office 'boy'. (This seems to be a particularly turkish concept - a grown man in full time employment who basically just does menial/caretaker tasks such as fetching people glasses of water, keeping the toilets stocked up with bog roll, and going and getting the staffs' cars to save them the inconvenience of walking 30 yards down the street themselves. Utterly, utterly unnecessary if you ask me, and all feels a bit upstairs downstairs.)

This lot are a good crowd, and despite the fact that I can't actually hold a proper conversation with any of them due to language issues, feel like I get on better with them overall than the suits out front. And on Friday we all went out, and it was wicked. Meze, rakı, live music, dancing, singing, a complete lack of self-conciousness, and crucially for self-esteem stakes me out on my own, standing on my own two feet, spending a whole night socialising in turkish. (Badly, I'm sure, but that's not the point.)


The evening was admittedly topped off with a bit of a cock-up. But a fun one - I fell asleep on the last boat home, and woke up at the wrong island with no more boats left. Which made a change from Oakwood or Morden...I was forced to phone the sea taxi, which wasn't cheap but SO. MUCH. FUN. - I felt like James Bond, being zoomed along across the waves at the dead of night in my own personalised boat.

And then yesterday I went shopping for a winter coat and shoes, and instead came home with this:



Which is making me very happy. My neighbours, I suspect, less so ;-)

So I'm good, it's all good, things are good. Give it another month and I'm sure I'll be sour again, but for now I'm just enjoying enjoying it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Glass Closet

Which is the best way I can describe my current situation of being not-quite-out, but on the other hand making absolutely no effort whatsoever to keep myself 'in'.

I'm sorry for the homo post, I normally wouldn't cos you know, in the 21st century here and now who really cares? Well the answer as far as this ramble is concerned is, turks *might* do, but the extent to which they might do I really can't make out, and it's a source of some curiosity on my part.

It is really, really, bizarre, y'all. I remember when starting at Shitwark, spending the first couple of weeks at work tiptoeing around the what are you doing at the weekend conversations with 'housemate' and 'friend', until a little bit in felt ok with the people there to start morphing it to 'girlfriend' and 'missus'.

Here, well I don't know. I don't feel like I've reached that point yet. I do know that they are bloody miles behind the UK in many equality issues, including some really very basic ones like years of educational difference between your average boy and girl, attitudes and language about others and races that would make your eyes pop out, and less a class structure so much as an acceptance of the fact that some people are very, very poor, and that's just how it is.

So my understanding is that gay rights is right down the list of things to worry about. But from what I've read and heard, it seems that gayness is very much not ok. I've read stories about people coming out at work and being completely ostracised, there seems to be this bizarre ambivalence about transsexuals and tranvestites in which they are on one hand completely accepted and even idolised as part of the entertainment spectrum, I'd argue more so than in the UK even, but on the other hand on the street are casually beaten up and even murdered and it's seen as justified because they may have been corrupting, i.e. talking to, their eventual murderers.

So in the context of all this, I don't exactly make a point of rainbow flag waving.

BUT. It's very odd. Like I say I make no pretence whatsoever about my life. Everyone on the island knows me and S come as a 2, everytime one of us bumps into someone they ask how is the other one, it's common knowledge that I'm here because of her. Ditto at work. And in all these situations, there's enough in the way of drunken physical affection, forgetting-self uses of endearments, and general wop-you-in-the-face-we're-clearly-going-out-with-each-other signs that in London at least I wouldn't feel like there's any need for a coming out because I would have thought it would be obvious.

And yet. And yet, people at work are still asking me if I'm married, if I want to get married, have I met any nice turkish boys yet. S's mum is still, hilariously, trying to set her up with blokes. The island folk I think are a bit more clued up, but I can't be sure - there's only really 2 or 3 that definitively know, and the rest I think are bumbling along in some surreal version of don't ask don't tell.

Anyway, it's weird. I know I'm not exactly the best homo advert in the first place, having avoided telling my nearest and dearest for most of my life, but having finally come out in England it is feeling very, very odd, to be somewhat, inadvertantly, back 'in', and for this not-insignificant part of my life to become again a taboo subject.

Hmm.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Travel bingo

Last week was the end of Ramadan, which means a 3 and a ½ day public holiday, and another chance to go skipping off on an extended weekend away. (Honestly, there’s a hell of a lot written about the religious/secular divide in this country, and with good reason, but as far as I’m concerned the 2 sides can keep on with their bickering so long as it guarantees us the current glut of bank holidays – we get time off for all the big religious holidays, plus a nice little secular/republican set...there's Republic Day, Victory Day, Ataturk Has A Particularly Good Poo Day...so it’s all good. Keep at it, insanely divided nation!)

Anyway whatever the excuse, this time as we had a full Wednesday pm to Sunday stretch to play with, we could go a bit further afield, and since S had been missing Greece a lot and I'd never properly been we were headed off there. We ended up going to an island in the north of the Aegean called Samothraki, cos, you know, we don't get enough island experience in our day to day life or anything.

It was a beautiful place, and I may do some facebook based photobragging at some stage, but here I’m just going to set down what was involved in getting to and from there. This is more for me than for you - it is quite tedious, so personally I recommend you skip it. I just wanted to remind myself really, before it gets lost in the rakı haze. See, I keep whinging on about how I could be getting more out this time abroad in terms of personality change/growth (maaaaan), but here at least is a little something I've learnt.

I remember my first trip away with S, which at the time I branded The Isle of Wight Bus Debacle, and pretty much vowed it would never be repeated again. Because you see we didn’t book coach tickets in advance, or have our schedule planned down to the minute on the local bus services, and in general winged it. Which I found intolerable and stressed me out no end...I am actually of the opinion this is probably a valid way of feeling in the UK, with its insane last minute ticket charges and generally overstretched transport system. But whilst a valid feeling, it's not one that makes for particularly enjoyable weekends away.

However in Turkey it is a bit different. Here it really doesn't pay to sort things out in advance, here you really can wing it, and as I maybe mentioned before, here you can ask people for help without them looking at you like you'd asked for a lightly grilled stoat. (RIP, Douglas Adams.) And so after many Turkey travel experiences of this ilk, where we've made not enough of a plan for my liking and yet still reached our destination without anyone's limbs falling off or anything I have, most definitely, mellowed.

And I reckon this trip's travel arrangements, and my mostly* good humoured acquiesence to it, represents something of a graduation from this Turkish/S School of Enforced Flexibility.

* Mostly. There may have been one leeeettle incident of quivering spitting rage ;-)

Anyway, the tedious details are something like this.

Weds – leave work early, off home to pack bag on assumption we are going to Greek city of some sort. Get back to Istanbul, am informed of island plan by beaming S who is with fishing rod, but sans tickets. Pop off to train station, what do you know there are cancellations on the overnight sleeper train going our way which leaves in a couple of hours, just enough time for dinner. A perfect start.

Weds night , Thursday morning – sleeper train to Greece, arrive at coast town 5 in the morning, mooch about til the ferry ticket place opens at 9, happily there are tickets and a ferry in the morning, mooch about til ferry leaves at 11.

Thursday day – arrive to Samothraki, try to hire car, fail (no credit card), mini-sulk then discover the joy that is island hitchhiking. There are only a handful of roads there anyway, and not-unconnectedly about a 1 in 3 chance of getting a lift exactly where you want to go if you can get someone to stop for you. So we manage to do a hatfull of sights on the first afternoon just by flagging down the poor locals.

Friday, Saturday – more of the same, getting lifts around and waving frantically at the knackered municipality bus whenever it deigns to put in an appearance. I try to hire a pushbike from one of the scooter hire places, fail, then talk to someone in a shop who talks to someone in a bar who talks to his mate who wanders off to get his own bike and hires that to me. Aces.

Sunday – Off back home. Which is to say:

- 10.30am leave hotel, fail to get an easy lift for the first time as it is evidently religion o-clock; everyone is off to church in their Sunday finery and spurning the chance to do their good deed for the day by rescuing two helpless holiday makers from the pissing rain. Eventually are successful, in to the port town, mooch about waiting for the ferry.

- 3pm get into port town on the mainland and spend an hour or so trying to find a way of getting to Istanbul or, at the very least, to the Turkish border. We are informed, wrongly, by a succession of cafe punters (understandably) and paid transportation staff (less so) that there are no trains, no local buses, no intercity buses, no nuffink; and whilst they could call a mate of theirs for a taxi to take us to the border , it would set us back 40 Euro. I’m about ready to hop in but S, being more experienced in the ways of mediterranean misinformation than I am, asserts that there must be *something* else, so off we wander in search of it.

- 5pm are successful and find a local bus service going to a border town, for a mere 5 Euro – score.

- 5.30pm bartering for a taxi from border town to actual border. I do my best ‘we could always thumb a lift’ mime and S uses her smatterings of greek, and a not-entirely-faked display of disinterest and disdain, to secure a 2 Euro – count it! – discount.

- 6pm border run taxi from Greek side of border to Turkish side – you can’t walk and normal taxis don’t go through, but our 1st taxi guy spots one of the special ones on the way, overtakes and we flag him down to take us through.

- 6.30 – 7 on the other side of the border, a succession of debates with tour coaches and Ali Bloggs Public, trying to get someone to take us to the next town along. Fail, about to give up and call another taxi, when S manages to get us an offer of a lift from the local police. They were finishing their shift and on their way back home anyway, so said we could come with. Slightly surreal half an hour trip with a bunch of nice smiling young Turk police officers, with their non-metaphorical guns in their pockets and non-metaphorically pleased to see us to boot.

- 8 back in something approaching civilisation, being a recognisable turkish town, and so manage to find a proper coach going our way which will get us into Istanbul that same night. Very debateable about whether we will be able to catch the last ferry, but not really anything faster at this point, so again off we go.

- 11.30-something - finally back in Istanbul, but only in out-of-town bus garage thereof. Bloody miles away from anywhere, wrong continent for getting back to Heybeliada, rapidly running out of night. Plump for another taxi rather than the shuttle bus laid on by the coach company, which turns out to be a good call because, through a combination of the ring road being reasonably clear at that time of night, and insanely fast Istanbul cabbie driving, he manages to whip us round the city to our asian ferry port in time for...

- 12.10 a ferry back home to Heybeliada.

So 1 bike, 1 train, 1 bus, 1 coach, 1 police van, 3 cabs, 5 ferries, and innumerable free rides, not a single arrangement made ahead of time, and nonetheless a successful weekend away. And only one major hissy fit on my part. (Oh, go on then, 2.)

The upshot is, I feel I have now learnt Flakey Transport Tolerance; and am feeling smug about it. Forgive me that.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Upstairs downstairs

Well Trabzonspor lost in the end. Very disappointing match actually - the Monday before they caned Fenerbahce playing attacking skillful confident football. Against Liverpool, they gibbered and stuttered and in fact bore a striking resemblance to England in a major tounament - all hesitancy, schoolboy errors and a lack of any sort of sense of urgency. Pity, it would've been a good one.

And I watched it with the Trabzonspor supporters lot, as well. In a stifling 4th floor bar in central Istanbul with no air conditioning, and, get this, NO DRINKING. This is one of the few things I genuinely am struggling to get used to here - watching football sans pint and pint fuelled fellow viewers. Most of the football watching here goes on at cafes, so it's all tea, quiet sober murmered observation and COMPLETE BLOODY LACK OF ATMOSPHERE. If you ask me, which since it's my blog, I am deciding you are :@)

This is off-topic. I meant to tell you about my new flat. Look at my new flat!



That's this sort of walled in balcony area - we've got a lounge too but this is our current lounging home in nature if not name, what with the pleasing breeze and two full sprawl length sofas and general holiday caravan vibe to it.

Other bonuses about this place, in ascending order of wonderfulness, are:

1) Convenience - we are down the bottom of the island, ie in the town centre such as it is, ie two minutes from everywhere. See that yellow spike sticking up behind the houses in the below shot? That's my commuting boat, that is. All of about 50m distance from my front door.



2) A combi boiler ie running hot water on tap when wanted, allied with a proper shower. Calloo callay!! This is a stormer - much though I was proud of my recently developed ability to wash myself by crouching in the bath using nothing but a kettle full of hot water and a bucket, I am prepared to forsake the sense of pride for the joy of a proper standy-up shower. Which is to say, in happy addition to the hot water, our new bathroom has the shower head holding fixture thingy at the 'proper' head-and-above height. This is in contrast to the almost universal tendency in Turkish bathrooms to have it, if it exists at all, at about thigh level. There's probably some well thought out cultural cleanliness reason for this (have I mentioned the fact the turkish is generally a freakishly clean society? No? Well it is, I am not, relative filth wizardry squared.) but I'm buggered if I can figure out what - you are left either standing with the hot water heating your knees and below whilst the rest of you shivers, or some bizarre one-handed shower contortions, or sitting on the floor of the bath which combines the awkwardness and the cold factors.

But no more! Wiggedy.

3) and it's a doozy, no live in landlady. This is a result the likes of which I can't describe, so I won't.

Only theoretical downside is lack of view, but it's not exactly a riches to rags affair. I mean, a typical view from Upstairs is like this:



Nice, admittedly, but then compare that with one from Downstairs:



I think I might just about cope. ;-)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Go Trabzonspor!

I'm eating a bacon sandwich, and drinking a nice can of beer, on my lovely new balcony. (Bang smack in the middle of Ramadan. If it wasn't for the fact I'm almost certainly booked in for the christian version of hell already, I'm sure this would be enough to send me to the muslim fiery place. By the way, Ramadan turns out to be not as big a deal as I thought it was. Lots of people observe it, lots don't, and as far as I can work out mutual respect seems to abound, so my vague fear that I might be obliged to run off to a toilet to scoff down mars bars to keep myself going turned out to be unfounded.)

Bacon! Mmmmm!!!

And then in a little bit I'm off to watch Trabzonspor play Liverpool in round 9, phase D, iteration XIV of the Ridiculo European Cup. (It is still a cup, isn't it? They haven't replaced it with a 48 piece china set on the grounds that a cup was too straightforward yet, have they?)

Anyway they won't win, but it should be a decent couple of games. And in the freak event that they do, I am looking forward to S trying to replicate the 'kolbastı' - 'armstomp' - folk dance that the supporters, and for that matter the players too, of trabzonspor seem to break into whenever a dose of local pride is being called for. ;-)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mosquitoes, and other irritants

You know, I'm typing this whilst eating beans out of a can. I'm trying to persuade myself that because it's not Heinz but Fasulye Pilaki it counts as exotic and cool, but well, I suspect beanz meanz sloth whatever way you look at it ;-)

The reason for this wilful behaviour is that 'er indoors is outdoors, staying overnight at a job. So I am having a mini-batchelor night, listening to my obnoxious alt country, drinking beer and as I may have mentioned, eating beans out of a can.

Anyway, mosquitoes. Or gnats. Or, to my immense pleasure, 'pointy flies' in turkish.

We've got a wood behind our house, and from there I imagine, come swarms and swarms of the little bastards. We have been fighting a losing battle with them, plugging in anti-gnat plug thingies and slavering ourselves with insect repellent nightly. To mostly no avail. They seem to delight in dodging the window barrage of anti-bug smell, or at least holding their noses over the threshold, and then moseying on down to find a nice ripe spot to bite on THE UNDERSIDE OF MY TOES.

However, I think I've found a solution. Nearly. I have recently been using a fitted sheet as a cover (faaar too bloody hot for anything more substantial in any case) and its elasticy bits wrap me up from head to toe. I wrap the top end round my head even, with just a twist round one of my ears to anchor a hole for my nose and mouth to poke out, for breathing purposes.

So of course the little bastards now just nip me nightly on the nose. But whatever, it is a vast improvement and I will take achilles-style 98% level of immunity over head to foot bites any day of the week.

Sooo...this incredible dose of inanity is a result of the fact that I have Very Little News. Still. I seem to have moved straight from the "oo it's scary I don't know anything I haven't got a job or any money and I'm too scared/lazy to go anywhere anyway" phase to the "Yeah, whatever, foreignhood, whaaatever, I *live* here yanno I'm not a two-week tourist so what's the hurry to go and do/see stuff" phase, without passing go or collecting 200 new turkish lira inbetween.

So not a lot to blog about. I was vaguely hoping to have some sort of interesting 'finding myself' moment by now, but seem to be lacking. Unless you count finding yourself eating beans out of a can, which, I think, you probably shouldn't. (In fact, I have come to suspect that the sort of person who is capable of 'finding themselves' probably doesn't need much in the way of encouragement, and would probably manage it working in a chip shop in Blidworth for a year. On the other hand the sort of unromantic souless automaton like me, however, probably ain't going to find themself anywhere, historic/holiday islands between two continents and cultures included.)

The only other thing of possible note is that we might be moving. The landlady has come to stay for the summer, which was always part of the deal but predictably has all gone wrong with bill disputes and personal fallings out and I don't know what. Quite literally I don't know what, as the bulk of the more emotional arguing goes on in unintelligible yelling turkish (yes, yes, I know I'm always making excuses for my lack of understanding. It sucks, I suck, I'm depressed about it, NEXT) and teenage style leaving handwritten scrawled notes for each other.

Anyway the whole thing, as well as making me feel a little sad about the possibility of leaving here which has all in all grown on me, crumbling walls and eccentric utilities (and gnats. Er...) and all, is also making me think back. And I'm remembering the horror that is an unsatisfactory houseshare, but also it's making me think back with immense gratefulness and no small amount of nostalgia to the good 'uns. So, after all that - thankyou, bitches who know who they are. Miss you guys!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

And now for something completely different

Well the last one was a bit earnest and wordy, so I thought that I probably ought to balance the tone with some frivolous holiday snaps. (I apologise in advance for the blatant showing off of my apparently idyllic life - I could quite happily bitch about the drawbacks but I will save that for private correspondence. You lucky people you.)

These few from a bit of a ferris bueller's day off I had a while ago. I had a shocking cough and been up all night coughing, so by about 5am decided that I was going to call in sick. Went outside to get some fresh air, and it was misty and fuzzy and sunny and slightly unreal in that early morning way - was bootiful. Below is the suburbs opposite us, which on a clear day is all concrete urban sprawl.



Me looking a bit spaced out, breakfasting on garden plums. (Of which we've got gazillions - S has been making plum jam, plum vodka, plum pickle, plum plum plum I just like saying plum.)



Later that day, after finally getting some sleep, decided that I was well enough for some convalescence on the beach. (Another glorious side effect of having a job I don't care about - I probably would've hauled myself into work in council days...) This is our beach of choice...



...and this is S on the way down to it. She has said a couple of times that she thinks she was a mountain goat in a previous life, due to her ease at clambering about on crags.



To be accurate, she actually said that she was a mountain ghost in a previous life - she has a head block about these two words and I derive too much amusement from the situation to correct her ;-)

Anyway, enough of all that. The other big development in my life is the Great Move Upstairs. I may or not have mentioned that our house is very large, but only the basement/ground floor is fit for inhabiting. Well, the landlady has come to stay for the summer - FUN! - so in a bid for some privacy and space we've moved upstairs to the slightly less salubrious floors.

It's actually not bad. Bit scruffy round the edges, but then to be fair so am I.



Actually - very scruffy round the edges.



But no matter. Like I say, it's amazing what a bit of sunshine does. In winter, this would be grim, damp, and drafty. As it's summer however, I feel like some trendy bohemian whilst drinking my wine and looking out the window from my bed to this view:



Duuuuude.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Society, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dolmuş.

I just wrote loads of pretentious stuff on the breakdown of society in England as compared with Turkey, but then realised that it was pretentious, besides as I have neither any sort of social studies qualification nor any rounded experience of anything outside the two major cities of the two countries, I'm not really best placed to be making sweeping statements about such things.

So, let's just cut to anecdote and be done with it.

I was on one of the interweb boards that I pretend I don't frequent the other day and there was a debate going about the announcements you get on London buses - "This is the 298 to wherever, the next stop is, Awkwardly Pronounced." The argument was over was it an unnecessary annoyance to the majority seeing/regular passengers for the benefit of the few blind/newbies, and should the latter just ask; or is unfair that certain sectors of society should be put at a disadvantage and be reliant on the good will of others (if it indeed exists in the first place - 'public transport in London' and 'goodwill of others' not a couple of phrases you'd naturally put together) to conduct their daily existence.

In Turkey, hoo-ah. It's not so much that goodwill extends to the hard-of-whatever here, so much as the fact that everybody helps everybody All The Time in these little ways - and as a result it's just no big deal to anybody.

There are a gazillion examples of this, of people just on a day to day basis being kind and helpful to strangers and generally spreading the love. But to take just this specific detail of transport as an analogy, let me tell you about the turkish institution of the Dolmuş. These are these genius things which are basically taxis except they go along popular routes (think for eg Southend High Street after chucking out time along London Road) and are SHARED. At the start of the route people get in until it's full, and then off you go, dropping people off along the route and picking up others as and when they wave you down.

Many of these are mini-bus sized. So you get in, sit wherever. At no point does anyone actually do anything as formal as *ask* you for money, just at some stage in the journey you sling some cash in the general direction of the driver. If you're behind him you give it to him personally, if not well you give your money to a passenger who is nearer than you, and they pass it on up the bus to the driver, who sorts out the change and passes it back again. If you don't know the price, you ask. When you want to get out, you ask.

It is all very, very simple. And utterly unimaginable back home. For a start, people willing to give up their space to share a taxi. Second, not having a pre-known established fare that is written in nice accessible fashion and with its own fecking twitter feed. The lack of ticketing to give formality to the transaction. Third, oh my god actual human contact in the processing of the exchange - no oyster beep eyes front lets make this as impersonal as possible. Fourthly the imposition of like, having to actually ask to get out. We'd have an individual bell each, no doubt.

Anyway, that's just a very very small example, but really this sort of thing is everywhere. What I'm trying to get at - people here seem to be capable of being in the presence of other people and interacting with them and it's not the end of the world.

And it's *nice*. My british reservedness is probably too engrained for me to fully do as the locals do, but it's a relaxing feeling being in that sort of environment anyway. And I am thawing slighty - I'm more likely to ask directions, or is this the right boat, or make small talk to strangers here, despite the dodgy turkish, than I would in my own backyard.

Anyway all this prompted my beard stroking musings on 'society'. Which, like I say, I am underqualified to write about, and probably really means big things like employment percents, and childcare arrangement statistics, and the effect of disaffectedness on anti-social behaviour, and I don't know what. But on the microscale, what I reckon is, that if there is such a thing as society - it probably ought to include being able to ask the person next to you where to get off the bleedin' bus.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Woiking. In Toikey.

Well well well, my little readeroos, by which I mean 3 of the patricks and someone, inexplicably, in Portsmouth.

It's all been a bit quiet here lately, hasn't it? Because I have mostly been working weekdays, and mostly been sunning myself/dealing with the move upstairs in our comedy mansion, which I may post about a bit later if I can face it, on weekends.

The job is a pretty basic office admin vibe in a insurance/investment management small business. And in and of itself is not at all interesting - I spend my days emailing and scanning things, basically. But there are some interesting little side issues that are keeping me entertained.

For one, the culture shock involved in going from my Seven Year Council Hell, to this. But I can't work out how much it's the public sector to private sector jump that makes it feel so different, and how much is England to Turkey.

The focus on sales, and Winning!, and Office High Fives! (seriously), I suspect is the former. The big boss is a Turkish David Brent, basically, who greets me everyday with a booming "Hello, my Friend!" and probably doesn't realise how much of a berk that makes him look. (In turkish there's not a separate word for colleague, per se - you talk about your work-friend, or just friend. So in turkish it sounds perfectly natural when someone says "have a good weekend, friends", but when you translate it to english it sounds. Well. Oh, also, on the same note - it is a standard phone sign-off to say "I am kissing you". Which, again, is a nice sentiment in turkish but is all a bit borat on translation.)

But there are also, to me at least, some very dodgy looking stuff going on as regards proper practice. Now, for all the bitching I hear here about how things here are not always as straight and narrow as some places, you could ascribe this to the location. I don't know though - it may be us with the dodgyness, but we work with UK based companies who I think must be at the very least turning a blind eye.

It seems to me like a tiny tiny window into the whole banking/financial mess - basically there are enough people out there who profit from pushing things to their feasible limits, and enough other people who profit from not picking them up on it, that it seems to be in everyone's best interest to walk along hand in hand and beaming at the letter of the law, whilst the spirit of the law is hogtied and yelling from the basement.

Anyway. Mini-compliance rant.

There is also the slightly weird effect of it being a turkish-language office. My job is, thankfully, in english - but everyone there, and all the daily conversation, is turkish. Which I'm in two minds about whether is a good thing or not.

On the one hand, it is a tremendous blessing not to be able to understand all the banal office chat crap. It was one of the things about enfield that drove me utterly potty - the same, same, same predictable conversations that you couldn't help overhearing. Bosses making stupid decisions, colleagues banging on for hours at a time about some fucking tv show they saw last night, nightmare bitch boss from hell (no, I still haven't let that go) phoning up some poor sod to give them her daily dose of bile.

I'm sure all the same goes on here, but merciful relief, it being banter-background-hubbub-turkish, it is well beyond my comprehension abilities.

On the other hand, I can recognise my own name when I hear it, so I know that THEY TALK ABOUT ME. Which is very weird. Thankfully, not being the paranoid type most of the time it doesn't bother me. But when I'm having a bad day it can be a bit much. "What are you saying guys? Are you bitching about my lousy turkish, distinctly scruffy work appearance, or accusing me of stinking the toilet up with my arse-poison? [all perfectly valid critisicms, granted.]"

Anyway. Gary. Fortunately it's all welded to the larger joy of not caring a hoot about the job at all, which is a bizarrely freeing feeling. I turn up, do something tedious, then go home again, in return for which they give me money. So job is, quite literally, a good 'un.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Garden

Did I mention that the large and splendid house I live in is set in the grounds of a large and splendid garden? No? Well, have a butchers.



Yes, that is a pine tree in my back garden.

This garden is making me very pleased. When we arrived it was distinctly jungle like, and hadn't been looked after for years I don't think. But bit by bit we've been tidying, clearing, digging it over, and planting stuff. Well - I say 'we'. Have to say the missus, and at one stage her mum (her mum came to visit. It was terrifying.) rather took the lead on a lot of it, and spent a couple of afternoons in particular uprooting vegetation furiously in insane yes-we're-descended-from-amazons stylee. See for example exhibit below, which went from something resembling this



to this



in the space of about 45 minutes. I can't compete, so I don't. ;-)

Anyway, the upshot is that we're growing stuff. It's all a bit haphazard - see below for my pride and joy, the tomato jungle, which I love despite being pretty sure that this isn't what they're supposed to look like. My ma did say that you have to either remove the tops, or the sides, but I can't remember which and too scared of removing any part that may actually squirt out tomatoes, so I'm just letting them do their thang, free range, and just keeping my fingers crossed something useful will result.



But I'm very excited nonetheless. It's also amazing what a bit of turkish sun will do for your apparent gardening skills - we didn't do any of the faffing about with compost and potting and stuff which I remember my parents doing, just bung the seed in the ground, wait around for a few weeks, and lo and behold up it springs. (Or in any case, up *something* springs. Some of what I've been watering could well be weeds - I have no idea what most of these plants are supposed to look like, so I'm playing a sort of long-term guessing game as to whether we're going to spend summer mornings breakfasting on freshly picked homegrown parsley, or, yanno, thistles.)

Anyway, it's all very pleasant. I seem to have run out of useful garden photos though (I imagine there will be more if anything recognisably vegetable-like occurs) so I'm going to finish with an off-topic one from the nicer end of the island. Quaint score, lots.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

It simply *is* cricket!

Technology is a marvellous thing. I am currently watching the 20Twenty online, whilst following the match on over by over, and blogging. Yes the stream has a lot of adverts on it, but they're all in Foreign, so I really don't care.

Aussies are currently 24-3 off 6, LOOOOOSERS! (I have to get that in now, before they completely turn it around and we're humiliated.)

In other news - I have a job! Of sorts. I am not completely sure it's not going to go tits up, but we shall see. Anyway, hurray huzzah etc.

I am also quite enjoying the fact that in response to the UK political situation (we're all doomed, to terminal indecisiveness if nothing else) I don't even have to say "I'm leaving the country!" indignantly, having already done so. Score.

45-4! Losers!!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Decisions, decisions

This topical post was brought to you courtesy of that faintly melancholic state in which you drink through a hangover...it might get deleted post haste, so enjoy whilst it lasts.

General election, eh? Golly gosh, it's actually quite exciting. Which I don't think it has been since '97, and I remember my genuine excitement then to be lying in bentles (what was the field opposite school called? By the firestation? Where we'd go to 'av a faaaaag?) under a "new labour sky" before it all went pete tong. Anyway, exit polls seem to be saying Tory but no overall control, and coalition government, which from my days at the various councils that shall not be named, is Bad News - nothing useful ever gets done because the whole thing descends into the mechanics of doltish politiking and point scoring.

Over here there's also big vote news, no general election but they've been working on a reform of their constitution for a long time, which is now being voted on, and it's been massive massive news. The current constitution dates from the last coup time, which was 30 years ago or so, and it shows (are you part of the establishment that don't like the majority party in government? Why not petition to get them shut them down in court!) and so the reform is a Big Deal. The politics here is treMENdously complicated - nothing so simple as a left/right split - and to be honest I can't make head nor tails of it. But it does seem to be a genuinely exciting time, and this reform thingy seems to be a once-in-a-generation affair. Feelings are running high - fisty-cuffs in parliament and hitler comparisons flying about the media. So again, it's all good stuff.

In other, more facile, news - both turkish & english footie leagues coming to an end, again both genuinely exciting races coming down to the last match. (Trabzonspor, my adopted team, petered out spectacularly in the league after flattering to deceive - think Man City - but won the fa cup equivalent yesterday, so that was good fun. Particularly the 'us going mental in a central istanbul bar packed with Fenerbahce supporters' bit...)

And for me - well, voting has begun on the 'shall I stay or shall I go'. After toughing out the shitty months of cold and lack of dough, the sun is shining, the missus has got work so wolf is kept from immediate door, I'm feeling a lot more at home here, the turkish is coming on fine, Friday night contentment, house and garden and island are all a genuine pleasure now. Etc etc.

But on the other hand, by any of the criteria that I laid down before I came out here, it's a fail. No job, no friends, no hobbies, no sports teams. (Can't blame these on anybody but myself. But it's like the whole joining a gym and thinking that because you're paying for it you'll go. No, it turns out that even post-emigration, despite my hopes that being somewhere new may force my character to change into someone who actually pulls their finger out of their arse once in a while - I'm still a lazy shite.)

So. I said I'd give it 3 months and assess, and it's been 4 now. What to do, what to do.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

To the tune of "tis the season"

I'm so bored of writing CVs
tra la la la laaaa, la la la laaa

It gives me the heeby jeebies
tra la la la laaa, la la la laaa

For my jobbo, it to follow
tra la la, la la la, la la la

Evry day a different version
tra la la la laaa, la la la la.

[collapses is a bitter and twisted heap]

By the way, here christmas seems to be just seen as a nice jolly celebratory thing rather divorced from its religious or indeed midwinter roots, and as a result I guess, carol tunes have too, and are used pretty much indiscriminately. S's mum has got jingle bells as her ring tone. Odd.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday night in the Heybeliada 'hood

I love my little computer laptop notebook legtop whatever the hell it is thing. It is small and sleek and works perfectly well, and survives off the dodgy electric here, and has a nice clicky keyboard. And to think, was almost suckered in to buying a mac! Ha, big expensive stupid things [enrages half of friends and all of family].

But S has just got her laptop back from the fixing shop, and I've got laptop envy, the screen is about nine times the size and has got a cd/dvd mouth what mine ain't. Jealous rage.

Anyway, no matter. Here, lookee, a snapshot into Friday nights in our manor. (I love the fact that I can use that expression and have it very nearly be true. Smiley face.) This was about half an hour ago, now I'm half heartedly watching some godawful dreadful film thriller with the college boyfriend boring beefcake one on buffy season 4 trying to be all mean and threatening. It blows! Oo, he's just said "get the fuck out of my face!" Bless, I just want to pat him on the head.


It's quite pleasant. I'm feeling all domesticated. Computers whirring indoors and tomatoes growing away in the garden (more of this later, when not battling the symmetry deadline) and everything in general, functioning as it ought, ah happy days. If I had a beer it would be nigh on perfect, but - FUNNY THING - the alcoholic late night beer runs have rather dried up these days, what with them taking half an hour and involving a 1-in-8 climb. We do have a bottle of some very suspicious looking cooking wine, but I think it's probably not drinkable. There's a turkish name for horrible plonk - "dog's dead" and I think it probably falls into that category.

Ramble ramble ramble. Right, I'm going to stop this uncoordinated poorly thought out stream of conciousness rubbish, it's getting out of hand. Bye bye!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Survival of the sweetest


Heybeliada (and Istanbul, and Turkey in general I think) goes in for street cats and dogs in a big way. I'm not sure they could accurately be described as 'strays', as most seem to have a very clear stomping ground, and a very firm idea of where they get their grub from - usually a combination of rubbish bins and the benevolent public putting out scraps.

But on the other hand they most definitely aren't anybody's pets. Actually, when I first came here on holiday it was something that really jumped out at me, (Literally!! Ah ha ha!!! No, not literally at all - read on.) all the cats minxing insolently about and packs of dopey looking dogs sat in the middle of the road.

All these street creatures, great and small, are dead laid back though. Which came as a relief, about the dogs in particular what with me not being the biggest fan and all that. (In my experience big scary dogs are big and scary, and small yappy type dogs are just...unnecessary. They yap too much, y'all! And on occasion sick on you, or shit. How is that cute?)

But this lot here are all of a nonchalent bent, and whilst they might follow you up the street a bit or make a half-arsed attempt to sniff at your backside - they're obviously not *that* fussed, and at the slightest discouragement give up and slouch away again.

I reckon there's got to be an element of town based natural selection going on here. As I understand it, going back decades at least and I think centuries, the authorities from time to time make an attempt at sweeping up the streets and dealing with the dog population once and for all. But - if they're not much bother and don't harm anyone, they presumably fall down the list of things for the municipality to worry about. So for dogs, there's got to be an evolutionary advantage to being docile.

For the cats, well it's a bit more complicated. They seem to fall in two camps - scraggy, feral, nimble on their toes around the dustbins streetwise scrappers. Or sleek, sweet, and dumb as fuck charmers.

We seem to have acquired one of the latter - look at the poor little sod below, trying to stretch his legs and nose out into the sun to prolong the basking. (I don't have photographic evidence, but believe me - he was still in the same spot half an hour later, by now completely in the shade, waiting for the sun to go back on 5 billion year's habit, and move back in the sky to where it was. Bless. Idiot.)



Anyway. This one hasn't exactly been encouraged round our manor, so much as not-quite-as-vehemently disencouraged as the other nasty furballs that turn up whenever we have a barbeque. The others get a chasing, or an olive stone or two chucked in their general direction. But this one - it has to be admitted, on purely aesthetic reasons - gets tolerated. It's got a name and everything - Kuş burnu - literally translates as 'bird nose', but means rosehip. (Which earns me nothing but disapproval from the neighbours, I'm sure - when I come home it bounds up to me in the misapprehension it's going to get something from me - mistaking me for the softer touch, S, no doubt. Anyway, in the process of saying hello/fuck-off, scrounger, there's a lot of "what's going on, Kuş, how you doing, Kuş" etc etc, which no doubt the nosy neighbours take as my dire turkish not being able to distinguish between cats and birds...)

ANYWAY, the point of this ramble is to bring you on to some quite vile truths about (my) nature. S found a bunch of kittens in one of the bins yesterday - most of them apparently nosing around for food, but this one below just sat there dazed and confused. So she rescued him and brought him home.



How cute! Even I was impressed. Daw, how cute. BUT. and this is the crucial point - not cute enough. Like I said she found it in the rubbish and it looked like it, it was all claw-y, and screamed incessantly, and despite being obviously weaned, with big teeth and all, couldn't work out what to do with the food we put down directly in front of it.

So we did the reasonably decent thing, and gave it milk and food and all that shit, and gave it a basket and blankets to sleep in outside, hoped against hope that it would work out how to, yanno, eat and drink by itself, and not go wandering off after dark.


But there was a lot of squawking in the night, and when we woke up, no cute little kitty. Bastard must have died. Anyway, this is my point - if it was just a *bit* more cute, we might have brought it in. If it weren't *quite* so dumb, it might, like its brothers and sisters in the rubbish bins, have worked out how to scrap for food, or at least stayed where it was put once it had failed to strike out on life on its own. As it is - aw, I can't believe I'm actually feeling bad for the little fluffball, but I am - as it is, I do believe it got ate.



RIP little kitty. Don't sic the RSPCA on me, everybody else.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Norse Gods Stopped Play

Did you know, my biggest bro was going to come and see me this week? He was due to fly out this Thursday just gone.



I am beyond peeved.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Money! It's a gas.

Look!




I earned that. Someone paid me that, for services rendered. No, not those sorts of services. You dirty minded thing you. For teaching English, la. Which for all my blustering about how it was not what I wanted to do, is not actually that bad, and since it does apparently transmogrify old rope into CASHMONEYS it is not, frankly, to be sniffed at.

I might do something frivolous with it, like pay the electricity bill or something.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Easter


Is it Easter this weekend? I had no idea.



Have some form of egg for me. Preferably not one of the big molded milk chocolate ones, but something in the dark chocolate ouvre. Or some mini-eggs, I love me some mini-eggs. Or oo, one of those birds nest cakes with mini-eggs on top! I love those.

Ps this utterly redundant post was brought to you courtesy of the fact I just noticed that I have a nice symmetrical record of 4 posts a month, and my vague even-numbers-only! peccadillo kicked in sufficiently to not want to spoil it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

General update

I was going to say 'Random' then, but after the overuse of the word in the early 2000s by yoof (and me) it still leaves a slightly bad taste in the mouth, and I couldn't bring myself to. Despite the fact that what follows is...assorted, various, multifaceted, unconnected, um ahh rrrrraaandom.

I went to a Greek class the other day. (Which strikes me as a bit of a distraction from my primary purpose of learning the language of, yanno, the country I actually find myself in.) See, there's this community group jobby on the island that runs voluntary courses for those who want it. I've volunteered myself as their English teacher, but thought for shits and giggles I'd go along to the Greek. IT'S WEIRD. Plus, despite being all snotty and 'yes I know the letters because I used them in science', completely lost, because everything's pronounced different and anyway, every time you glue letters together you get a different sound. Six different two letter combinations to make the sound 'ee', for instance, which is just unnecessary if you ask me.

So screw that for a game of tin soldiers. Anyway, I will still be giving English classes. Had my first lesson yesterday, which was a bit of a farce as only two people turned up because big Istanbul derby match was on. (Imagine Arsenal/Spurs, except with either one of them in with an actual shot of winning the league.) (Ha! Gooner baiting. Ha!) But reasonably enjoyable nonetheless - corrupting my charges into horrible bastardised London English with no discernible 'r' sound. Aces.

Anyway, should be good. I don't get paid, but am doing it out of the goodness of my heart [ah ha ha hollow laughter of course bloody not] because it would be good cv points in the increasingly likely situation that I can't get accountancy work (have sent, like, a *gazillion* applications and heard nowt) and end up teaching english. Gah.

Anyway, whatever. Piccies!

The sun has finally put its hat on here THANK FUCK, and so it's all looking rather nice. The following from wander round the island:

Sun dappled wotsit, With Lampost



Greek cemetery (what's with the greek theme all of a sudden. ?)



Generic Heybeli prettiness


And some from house and home:

When I was working at Southwark, they had this jargon about 'new ways of working'. Basically seemed to boil down to banishing you home and using your own heating and electricity instead of theirs during the day. Anyway, this is S's version - she was bored of spending her whole time on the computer indoors. So...


Then it got cold, so she rearranged. Poor little computer, look at it all left out in the dark.


Here is some fish being barbequed, having been recently bought (note - BOUGHT not SOURCED. Because that is the apt and sensible word for when you, like, *buy* shit.) flipping and jumping from the local fishmonger. Not at all unusual our end, but these, THESE, I gutted myself. Ha! Ra, you'd be proud of me - although I'm sure the sainsbury's techniques involved more in the way of knives and hygiene, and less in the way of ripping innards out with bare hands. Badly.


And finally, oh go on then, a nice hazy sunny unfocussed "oo lookee at the skyline!" Istanbul one. (I'm boring myself now with these ones, and so promise to stop soon. But lookee!)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Drunk and disorderly


Saturday just gone there was a mini-party at one of S's friends house. Not a party really, just a few of us, and a lot of meze and raki. Early on, one of them asked me what I thought of the turkish, what my impressions so far was. I trotted out some cliched tripe about how everybody is different, about how you can't judge a nation by dint of the few people you've met, generalisations are unfair, yada yada blah blah bore.

After that we proceeded to down something like a bottle of raki each, chaos ensued, two days later I've just made it through the resultant mansized hangover - and I'm about ready to go back on that. Here then is what I think of the turkish: like the british they can go a bit bleeding bonkers upon drinking too much; unlike the british they don't seem to have developed coping mechanisms for the morning after.

You see, after a mostly pleasant time, the evening had veered off into drunken idiocy territory. Words were said, hissy fits were had(*), injuries of the beery nature were sustained, combatants were held apart and counselled to "Leave it Gary, it's not worf it!"(**).

(*) and for once it wasn't by me. Hurrah!
(**) this may not have been the exact wording used.

So when I woke up the next day, I was thinking to myself blimey, what a night - but to be honest was giggling somewhat. It was kinda funny, actually, the amateur dramatics included. But bloody hell, the others would Not Shut Up about it. Whose fault was it that the badness occurred, who started it, what could've happened, and so on and so forth until my head exploded.

I couldn't understand it - we were all ok, all alive and in one piece, a few bruises to remember the night by maybe but nothing to write home about. The worst thing I thought about the night was that someone lost their bag - but it turns out the next day that she had found it again. So, you know, jobs a good 'un.

But this attitude not shared by my friends, who were all varying degrees of distraught. The fighting had admittedly started over a particularly petty issue (although personally I suspect A Girl is actually behind it somewhere...), so I suppose a bit of "did it really kick off over that?!" chat is to be expected. But really I couldn't understand why they couldn't just chalk this one up to the party gods, and forget about it.

On reflection however I'm wondering (***) if this is just a British habit, and when you think about it, not a very nice one. That anything can happen when you're drinking and it doesn't matter, it's all explained away by saying 'we were drunk'. I don't know, what do you think this attitude is - useful pragmatism or unhealthy denial?

*** I'm writing like Sex and the City, aren't I? How vile, I do apologise.

Perhaps a teenagerhood spent chucking yourself and your friends down the stairs in sleeping bags and a motorcycle helmet isn't, as I've always thought, a natural and good piece of harmless fun, but a mark of dysfunction.

Nah, bollocks, that time *was* funny. But you take my point?

Anyway, whatever. This post is getting increasingly introspective and tedious, so I'll stop now, and show you a photo of the kebab I had to deal with the hangover instead. (Continuing my fine tradition of *literally* telling you what I had for tea last night.)




Monday, March 8, 2010

Quickie don't get excited. Like you would.

You know I said there were a limited number of ways that butter could be packaged?

Well, apparently not:



I am very pleased with this. It looks like a cross between the simpsons aliens, and a nice buttery popsicle*.

And no, I haven't got a job yet. TAKING PHOTOS OF BUTTER IS *VERY* IMPORTANT, AND CLEARLY TAKES PRECEDENCE!

*I am not american. I have only the vaguest conception of what a popsicle is. However, it seems to me that the appropriate style when blogging is to use only american pop-culture references. This is a sad state of affairs which I must correct post haste. Right, Grange Hill, egg and chips twice, middle order batting collapses, Jeremy Paxman, Accrington Stanley, who are they?! Ah, much better now...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Photobucket

PS I'm considering changing the name of this blog to 'Photobucket is a big pile of shit'

İstanbul in the snow; and the origin of the term House Work: Part 2, in which it is cold, and Our Hero axes things


So anyway, it had been cold.

I get the impression weatherwise that İstanbul has a wee-southern-jesse sort of relationship with inland and east Turkey, in the same vein as London and t'North. It apparently normally gets a few days snow each year, but usually its never very deep or very long lasting, unlike the rest of the country.

But this winter was by İstanbul standards a particularly cold one. Even so I was feeling relatively blase - yeah the outlying areas of the city got a decent few feet, and the accompanying traffic etc chaos. But the centre wasn't that deep, and crucially the ferries were running ok so we weren't going to be stranded on the island or anything.

So Monday we head home. Both a bit curious about what the island would be like - a few days ago we'd been chatting to a guy in a cafe, who said that even when the rest of İst got snow, the islands tended not to. He couldn't remember the last time it'd settled.

When we got there, well it most definitely had settled:

Photobucket

One entertaining walk up the hill to our gaff later, we set about ascertaining the fuel, wood, food and water situation, Withnail stylee. The house is fucking freezing - its a summer house really, so not exactly built with insulation in mind. As such the inside was about the same temperature as out. And of course no central heating. (Later we find out that this is the coldest night they've had in 31 years. Minus 9 in İst, probably not quite that cold on the islands but had to be well below zero.)

Fortunately we do have The Most Beautiful Stove, so when we got home first priority was firing that up.

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I am deeply in love with this stove. Wood goes in the left hand side, heat pukes out in all directions, the right hand side is oven space, and the top is for cooking on. It's all very aga, darling. Here I am (another day I think) roasting chestnuts, for the extra christmassy feel:

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Anyway, so on that day whilst getting this going, and some baked potatoes and soup on the go, we discover that the pipes have frozen. So, no water either then. I think at this point, after getting the food down us, we just think oh sod it and go to bed.

Next day I'm up early to go to school - the island is looking rather beautiful. Pine wood and snow and all very midwinter feeling.

Photobucket

Everything a bit warmer, too - warm enough in fact for the outside part of our pipes to defrost, and then yay verily, burst. I miss this bit but S wakes up to a nice ice-cold fountain all over the garden. She turns the water off, joins me in town, and we stay there again that night.

Next day back to the island with one of S's workmen in tow, who fixes the outside pipe, but sadly the part running inside is still frozen solid. I hoped, anyway - by now was beginning to panic that it had burst somewhere on its way indoors, too.

(S, by the way, in the mysterious ways in which her mind works, has decided that this evening would also be an apt time for an alfresco fish barbeque supper. You know, with the freezing temperatures, and no running water with which to wash down the fishy guts muck, and all. I don't have a photo of this, but if you can imagine one of those New York winter scenes of the bums standing round a burning trashcan you won't be too many miles off what we looked like. I would be the one scowling.)

The next day, Thursday, is a day off school for me. Still no water indoors, but fortunately now working fine out of a tap in the garden, and weather sunny and not raining at least. So we spend most of the day on domesticity, and the basics involved in keeping warm, fed and clean(ish). There was a *lot* of traipsing in and out with buckets of water. It turns out, that when mod cons are taken away, that crikey house work is actually, like work.

Also a fair amount of axing, which was more fun. This is me getting down with my butch bad self.

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Anyway. It was all good fun and all, but bloody hell was I relieved when the next day the pipes finally cleared and lovely, gorgeous, running water came out of the taps. Am considering adapting some pagan ritual on the coming of spring and life-giving warmth, to include a bit on the glorious god of indoor plumbing.

(My ma by the way, did provide me with some much needed perspective on this, pointing out that it was only 30 years ago or so in UK when it was all outdoor toilets and no central heating for a lot of places. She didn't exactly use the phrase 'you spoilt young modern things, in maaaaaa day' but would've been fully justified in doing so...)