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 was quite something.)


  1. nice. :-)

    by the way .. it;s now been three months on the road and we are now ready for visitors!

    glad you're well - catherine

    (ps and from Liz in spirit.. she is meditating) ommm. we NEED to leave INDIA before this gets out of hand!!!

  2. ps - i love that this comes up as 'one said...'