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.