Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Turkish Delights

Of course one of the best things about Turkey is the Turkish Delight. I am a  greedy little Edmund at heart when it comes to rose-flavored lokum and I would easily betray a lion and a whole bunch of fauns for a small box of the stuff.
Actually it's not only the Turkish Delight that pleases the eye as Istanbul sweet shops have windows crammed full of delicacies.
I mean regard the pictures above. How can one possibly walk past these and not be tempted. In fact Rita and I got very tempted one night and ordered a a profiterole bowl each. No. No. No. Such piggery can only lead to bad things! Fortunately  years of excessive gelato over-eating had me trained when to stop before my eyes bled chocolate too.

Monday, 27 February 2012


Much loved Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk has a book called 'Snow' so really I shouldn't have been surprised to see Istanbul in a snow storm frenzy on the third day of our trip. Fortunately Rita and I missed the early morning blizzard on account of being hungover from a wild evening of backgammon and raki-infused cheesy dancing with some local Turkish fellas. Suffice to say neither of us rose early to admire the snow white sky and when we did finally rise neither of us had the most joyous of heads.

Still nothing cures a night-o-seed like a delicious bowl of lentil soup and oven baked bread at the Rumi Cafe in Sultanahmet. 
Feed the seed! Feed the seed!

Obviously the only thing to be done when one is feeling a tad shady and it is blowing a gale outside is to go shopping at the Grand Bazaar. I bought my first backgammon board here back in 1996 for the princely sum of 5 pounds. The prices may have changed but the colours, the smells, the 'hey where you from?' has not.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Blue sky day

So the second day in Istanbul was one of those blue sky days that make you grateful your parents had sex. Even better there was a small garden full of joyous, playful cats which I could watch (and surreptitiously feed) as I had breakfast. Not that I think the Turkish mind if you feed the cats anyway. They all look very plump (the cats that is) and are extremely friendly  which suggests that they are well-treated even when homeless. Example: Regard the cat on above who was given free rein of a very trendy ( and not cheap) shop near the Galata Tower.

Anyway we started our blue sky morning by visiting the Blue Mosque. This is the fourth time I have been to this mosque but I never grow bored of its wonderful lights and the vastness of its dome. I like the fact that it is still functioning and it feels lived in and warm.
What amazed me was that they told me I didn't have to wear a headscarf. This is the first time I have been to a mosque and they said it was optional. Curious

After the Blue Mosque one must of course indulge in the Byzantium splendour of the Hagia Sofia.


Whenever I see this magnificent building I always feel like I am on Planet Naboo (you know - sector capital of the Chommell Sector near the Outer Rim territories ) and that  Queen Amidala is going to invite me in for tea. No Queen today but there was a cat in the main hall basking in her own golden glory. I think she was enjoying the heat from the light ...and the attention. In fact she attracted more interest than all the late antiquity architecture surrounding her. Fair enough heh heh.


Still the church-cum-mosque-cum-museum is a very lovely building and further photographic evidence of attendance was obviously required.


The blue sky afternoon saw Rita and I take to the Bosphorus on a boat cruise which was a little breezy but full of friendly traveller folk and some rather loud Turkish pop.

We then ended the day with an inspection of the local fish market...


which was being overseen by a couple of gulls

their extended families
and an inner-city rooster!!!

Saturday, 25 February 2012


So I had the most incongruous start to my Istanbul sojourn with the arrival of six devastatingly handsome French men on my 6 a.m. tram to the train station. One of them even asked me if I spoke English, which given their French-icity, was probably even more incongruous than their collective beauty.  As I am not one who is normally entranced by French men ( unlike the rest of the English speaking world) you can understand how unexpected this was for me.
The rest of the trip was uneventful apart from a small metro mix-up at the other end and a general inability to read maps.
Once we were unpacked and had admired the spaciousness of our room ( swinging cats - not advised!!) , Rita and I headed to The Pudding Shop to eat.. Unfortunately the meal was very greasy.

Rita awaiting the grease feast

After we went strolling down to the Bosphorus which was lined with men fishing from the Galata Bridge. I have an inexplicable fear of fishing rods so crossing this bridge was rather challenging for me but the joy of being in Istanbul made me super brave and bold.
The Bosphorus and me - Is this my new home? ! ?

We then climbed the Galata Tower for a view of Istanbul at night. Actually, I lie. We didn't climb it. There was a lift. But I did climb this tower back in 1996 before elevators were invented so a little past kudos to me.

The evening finished at the Kybele bar which has the most wonderful array of lamps and plush velvet couches in which to sink one's weary bottom

Friday, 24 February 2012

Eastward bound

So I am off to Istanbul (not Constantinople) tomorrow with Lovely Rita Meter Maid. ( Poor Rita every time I hear her name I think of this song. So does Phil  a colleague of mine at work. Curse those Beatles and their rhyming prowess.) I am very happy to be going on holidays and to have a bit of a gal adventure to boot but I feel a sort of anxiety about Istanbul. Nothing unusual about that I suppose - when don't I feel anxious? But I think  perhaps I am hoping for too much from this city and what it is exactly I am hoping for I am not entirely sure. Still it will be good to get away, it will be good to eat fresh rose-flavoured lokum and it will be good to be in a town where the cats run free and the Doy-Doy restaurant still prevails. Hopefully I'll be able to squeeze in a few games of Backgammon while I'm there too. I am quite good now - when the dice are with me and my opponent is sloppy.

A whirling dervish stone I painted

Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Stumpy Elf

Today I learned I should never go shopping in a post-operative/pre-menstrual state as it only leads to wild spending. Well, not as wild in the way of Ms Hilton  you understand but sufficiently wild for someone who really should save up to buy pop-socks. The worst part is I have come home with a bag of  un-coveted Estee Lauder skin care products which wouldn't be so bad but for the fact that I had actually nipped out for a bag of bagels. Honestly you would have thought the women at the cosmetic counter had just averted a major international crisis the way they sighed with relief when I allowed them to point their skin-defence missile mirrors at my 'dry, non-elasticised' skin. In my defence I don't think I looked that bad but for them I was on the brink of a major disaster and only a lovely pink bag full of assorted creams could save me from ... myself - I guess!!. The funny thing is  - as they primped my face with creams, foundation, powders, eyeliners, lipstick and blush  - I knew exactly what they were doing. I knew where this was heading and yet I was powerless to stop them. 

I know why it happened though.  
I am an excellent self-shrink.

It's because I feel like a stumpy elf right now. A feeling which has been brought about by the fact that since my little operation ( and yes it really was little apart from the depressing bit where my doctor said 'come back in 3 weeks to see if we need to do more') I have had to wear a compression bandage followed  by compression tights followed by normal leggings to keep said tights up which leads to a rather stumpy effect when one wears dresses and moon boots. And I realise calling myself a stumpy elf does not aid my inner self-talk which in turn leads to Estee Lauder bag purchases when a bag of bagels would have probably equally sufficed. 

Of course this picture really doesn't do justice to my stumpy elf appearance as there is nothing either stumpy nor that elfish about it ( apart from the ears maybe)  but it's the best I could do on short notice.
I wonder what my Estee ladies would think of that - heh heh.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Mental Note: hide the knife

Tomorrow I am having a small operation on my leg. I am a little bit worried about it largely because I didn't manage to go shopping yesterday for groceries and I am concerned that when I get home there will be nothing in the cupboard and I will have to chop off my good leg and eat it.

I shall hide my Swiss army knife tonight as a preemptive measure!!!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Student Dangers

So tonight I am going to a student's house for dinner.
I hope she likes me better than this one did!!!

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Fancy a coffee on the terrace!!!

Brrrrrrrr!!! It is cold here right now. Everything is frozen - even the streets. It reminds me of China when I was there ten years ago. I visited a hanging monastery out near Datong and I don't think I remember ever being as cold as I was then.

Hanging monastery

After that D and I went to another town, Pingyao, which was probably one of the most atmospheric Chinese towns we visited but we stayed in a freezing place with incredibly stinky drains! ( and I am quite the appreciater of stinky drains so they must have been bad!!)
believe me - I was cold
It is probably not as cold here in Basel as it was back then but it is still relentless and bitter and uncompromising on the face. O, for a cuddle from Slaven Bilic to keep me warm!!!!

At least in a couple of weeks I am going to Istanbul for a change of scene for few days ( or perhaps longer - who knows!!). Although I believe it to be very cold there right now too.  I am looking forward to hearing the call to prayer in the morning . I like it.  I like the sound . I like the idea of people calling out to God. Can you hear me? Are you there?  I also like the fact that when I hear it  I know it is still very early and I don't have to get up yet.
But I still have a lot to do before I go: teach many monsters, swim many laps, have an ambulatory plebectomy. No rest for the wicked huh!

Monday, 6 February 2012


HOMS - corncobs at midnight, early dawn camel rides, streets filled with families enjoying summer nights, dancing men, women in sparkling shoes, apple-flavoured shisha, laughterkindness, hospitality...peace

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

no regrets

I found the article in The Guardian on the regrets of the dying very interesting. I suspect it is true and I imagine this happens very often but I do think there is a great challenge in living in the way that you wished you had lived. In particular having the courage to live a life true to yourself and having the courage to express your feelings. I think for many people these things are easier to regret than actually live. Living them often leads to times of great doubt and fear (sometimes even misery)but if you can do it, if you can find the courage,  you will be richer somehow. And though you may fall into great troughs you probably find greater peaks too.

     I actually found the article comforting somehow because even though I suffer a lot sometimes, I believe it is because I am trying to have the courage to live my life and express myself even though it hurts.

Of course I fail a lot but hopefully sometimes I do succeed.