Tuesday, 17 December 2013


 Last week we had quite a bit of snow in Istanbul. Obviously it caused major traffic problem and heaps of class cancellations which, in turn, lead to a rather heavy Raki night, the consequences of which were felt well into the next day.
I like the snow though. Big slushy piles all over Taksim Square, so much nicer than concrete. My little physically-challenged feline friends have been very  quick to adapt to total indoor living to the extent that I think Three-Paw may have lost her outdoor house to a large menacing white cat.

 Luckily one half of the Canadian sandwich decided to help me with the cat winter housing problem by building a kedi evi (cat home) out of a cardboard box, a plastic umbrella and a couple of discarded jumpers. As an ex street punk he has great survival skills and could probably macgyver a space ship out of  three pipe cleaners, a couple of ring pulls and a sheet of bubble wrap. Lucky Kedis.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

We be Winners

So last weekend I went to another quiz run by Cihangir..Cool for Cats to raise money for the street animals of Istanbul. This time I was joined by a few teaching pals so we made out own team called The Pirates ( after my little şanslı). The quiz was tough but we be the winners...woohoo...although of course the real winners are da animals :-)
The Pirates - aka - Another Canadian Sandwich
There were actually a few laydees in our team too but they left before the award ceremony.   Now we have very nice Cihangir..cool for cats..key rings and the animals have more food in their bellies.

Which is most fortunate because it is snowing quite heavily in Istanbul right now. 

At least The Pirate knows how to stay warm!

As does Three-Paw who has moved into my cupboard!

Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Museum of Innocence

One of my all-time favourite books is The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk.  Actually, at this stage of my life, it is definitely my most loved. I didn't know what to expect when I bought it but I was smitten from the very first line all the way to the very last one.  It even gave me a hankering for Raki! I think it is a combination of the book's setting in Istanbul (I can even see my street on the map at the beginning of the book), the evocative sights and sounds which he describes ( like the Russian tankers along the Bosphorus) and of course the beautiful story.
So today I decided to visit the actual Museum of Innocence which was created out of the book. You even get free entry if you bring the book which has an entry ticket stamped in it three-quarters of the way through the story.
I had been nervous about going, in case I was disappointed, but today seemed the right day to go so I put on my winter woollies and went off in search of Curkurcuma Street.
I was not disappointed.
From the mysterious side entry and the dignified man who quietly opens the door, to the wall of Füsan's cigarette butts, to the fakeJenny Colon handbag and the countless images of Istanbul, all the way to dear Kemal's bed on the top floor. It was magical. I actually cried when I first saw the wall of cigarettes and spent quite some time trying to decipher what was written under each one. There was even a bottle of Yakut Kavaklidere Red Wine in one of the display cabinets which I found endearing since  if I was ever to build a museum of my life I would probably put such a bottle of red in as well.

What I loved also though (along with the intricacies of the displays) was Pamuk's handwritten manuscript sheets on the very top floor. It inspired me and excited me and makes me want to write again.

I will probably visit the museum again some time but I am glad I went today. It was absolutely the right place for me to be.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Beware the Büfe

Yesterday I got food poisoned by a lunchtime Büfe. I suppose anything called a Büfe should really be steered clear of but I hurtled on into it anyway only to have it hurtle back out of me exactly four hours later. I was at the American Hospital when it began and my student's first response was that I should go to emergency. I find Turks resort to the emergency department a bit like we use GPs in Australia. Anyway, I declined to go because I knew exactly what this was and I didn't need a triage nurse to confirm it. The worst bit was I suddenly felt myself wanting to be ill while on the streets of Nisantasi, which is an upmarket area of Istanbul.
Now I am a neat vomiter. It is actually a gift I believe. 
When I was sixteen I suddenly became ill on a local bus so I promptly removed the red hat I was wearing on my head, threw up into it, and then alighted at the next stop with my hat politely ( although rather sloshily) folded over.  Unfortunately I did not have my red hat with me but I did have a plastic bag in my satchel which I normally use to carry dry food for cats. So I stopped by the side of the road, amongst all the well-do-to-do Istanbullis going about their Thursday evening business, and very neatly and politely filled up the bag. If there were awards for most stealth and orderly throwerer-upperer I would definitely be in the running.  Fortunately the food had not got into my blood stream so I recovered fairly quickly and was able to enjoy the sight of the pirate being spooned by my toy sheep when I got home.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Happy family ??

I have to confess that Three-paw has not taken to The Pirate in an all-embracing manner. She tends to growl and huff and eat all her food. Then again sometimes The Pirate morphs into a whirling-dervish/feline-pinball and bounces around the room which such velocity and one-eyed madness even I am a little bit afraid of her.

And, of course, there is her sudden desire to stalk the resting Three-Paw...

Sometimes there is peace though.

I realise my one reader may be feeling a little bored by my constant animal updates right now but I don't know how much longer I will have my little shipmate so i'm kind of her documenting her little life while I can.

Besides teaching is boring and there are only so many ways you can cook a kebab.

Monday, 25 November 2013

telly addict

Apparently you only need one working eye to become a telly addict.  Especially if there are birds on offer or a few hamsters on wheels.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Monday, 11 November 2013

Little man lost

I think I have lost Lucky's brother...and not in a good way. It's ironic really. Yesterday I gave him the last of his medication and he was such a fine fat little thing, running around like a little devil.  Last night I checked on him with his mother and they were together in their little abandoned room hidey-hole. Someone had chained a big hessian bag to the bars of their door entry and I thought to myself I hope my little friend doesn't go exploring in their because he might not get out.
So the morning came  and the bag was gone but so was my boy. I haven't found him all day and tonight only his mama is curled up in her box which is very unusual. Normally I see my boy all over the place. Maybe he is off hiding, maybe his playing, maybe someone picked him up and gave him a good home...maybe..maybe...but my heart says no.
Now when I look at little Lucky with her one eye, a part of me wonders what was the point of saving her if I couldn't save her brother as well. I mean of course there was a point but it all feels so arbitrary and unfair and sad.

I feel sad.
I am tired of feeling sad

Be safe my little man.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Quiz at the end of the rainbow

Last night I went to a quiz night to raise money for the street animals of Cihangir. I didn't really know anyone there so it was über terrifying to go but I had to do it for the kitties and the 5TL Organic wine. It was good  to sit quietly in a crowd of like-minded folk although I found myself sitting opposite an Australian girl who calls football " soccer" and loves rugby league. (Funny how people assume because you come from the same country you will instantly get along.) The organizer  of the night brought a special guest along called Rosie who has been looking for a home since she was found in bad shape a little while back.
The picture here makes Rosie look upset but she was actually very calm and loved the attention. The beautiful thing is by the close of night she had been adopted. Happy Ending! Let's hope my little friend has similar success.

Speaking of my little laydee, I felt bad leaving her home alone for the evening so I had her play date come in for some gallivanting and cuddles.

You know I do actually have other things going on right now, I promise. It is just the work is quite awful at the moment and I miss my little Basel classes immensely.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Play date

Sometimes I invite Lucky the Pirate's brother over for a play date. Generally there is a lot of piggery followed by mass destruction followed by an enormous nap. It also give me a chance to give Lucky's brother his medication (as he has his own infection.) His mama doesn't mind as long as I bring him back for their nightly cuddles. It must seem kind of strange to take a street cat in for a few hours and then take him out again but this is Istanbul and nothing makes sense. The truth is, Lucky's brother is a very tubby little boy who gets all of his mother's love. He is one of the more fortunate street cats. He is doing as well as he can out there so the best I can offer him is a meal, a few cuddles and some hours in a safe environment to run like a mad kitten who owns the world. Often I go out to check on him late at night and I find him sleeping on his mama in a box undercover. None of it is perfect but he's doing OK. And Lucky likes having a buddy to tear up the town with ( although secretly sometimes I think she is relieved when he goes home.) And I'm sure her brother gives lovely reports to his mama about how his little sis is doing.

Three-paw remains a most unamused Queen.


Monday, 4 November 2013

Pirate on deck

So Lucky the Pirate made it through Surgery Sea and is now on the Good Ship Galbraith for the time being. I went with my Turkish friend (N) to pick her up. N got tears in her eyes when she saw her but for me I wasn’t as sad as I was relieved.  Honestly, she was just in so much pain before and looked so terrible that seeing her with one bright eye and a little purring heart made me feel happy. To be honest I don’t even notice she is missing one eye anymore.
It is amazing how such a tiny creature can fill up the entire space of your room (and heart). There are still times when I still lose her in the room but I normally see a pair of ears and one eye poking out from behind a pillow or a corner of furniture.
She has even stopped swearing at me ( which is very un-piratey of her.) Never mind, Three-paw has taken to cussing in the manner of a most drunken sailor .

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Republic Day

Republic Day in Istanbul means...

.... lots of flags

...lots of boaty goodness ( with  flags)

...lots of police welcome wagons
In the afternoon I went to an end-of-kebab-season partay with colleagues. I decided to walk there with a fellow teach which obviously made us a pair of most impressive machines. Turks do not embrace the walk I find. 
It was actually a very enjoyable afternoon. Red wine, beer and baklava always help too.

mmm baklava

Turk at work...

Canadian sandwich

The whole motley bunch

hmmm would u really pay to learn from us???

Many red wines later some of us straggled down the hill towards Ortaköy to watch the fireworks...a mandatory celebration of any Republic Day.

P.S The Lucky Pirate remains in hospital so I still have no pictures. But here is her gorgeous brother I have named Herbey...because I am treating him for a similar sounding infection at the moment. He is a brave and beautiful boy who pluckily lives on his street with his mama but is now getting brave enough to let me cuddle him ( and inject antibiotics down his wee little throat.)

Monday, 28 October 2013

Lucky the pirate

Lucky the Pirate's sibling
I don't even know how to tell the following story especially since I still don't know its ending but I'll give it a go anyway. About ten days ago I noticed a mama cat with two kucuk bebek kedi ( little kittens) sleeping in a small grave yard that is by the mosque in my street. I couldn't reach them but I started leaving a little food through the wire.  Then I noticed that the little black one had a badly injured eye. Every day it got worse but I could never catch it  as these were true street babies who had never been touched by humans. I even went to the Eczane ( pharmacy) to buy special kedi ointment and talked with Kirim on how best to treat it. On Friday I finally managed to grab the baby (much to its great anger and fear) and one shredded hand later I brought it home to dress its eye. I could see on closer inspection though that this eye was well past drops as the swelling was now almost as big as the side of its tiny head.  I knew I would have to either take it to the vet or give it back to its mother but I simply couldn't leave it to suffer such a terrible infection so I took it ( swearing in a  shoe box) to my local vet. As soon as the vet saw the kitten he said she would have to lose  her eye ( for my pirate is a laydee, I discovered) if  she was to have any chance at life.  He was very nice and explained that plenty of street cats had good lives even with one eye and that it was fortunate I had decided to bring her in. Then he hit me with the cost of the operation and hospital stay and even though I knew I  really didn't have the money to spare I would have to pay it anyway. In between eye operations and my own health insurance dramas, Turkey has been a very costly experience for me. But I knew the moment I decided to pick up the baby our fates were entwined. The vet smiled when  I said yes ( not in a money bags way but more in a this-is-the-right-thing-to-do ) and my little one-eyed friend just swore and snarled.  They asked me to give her a name so I called her Lucky ( although D later suggested The Pirate). I joked that maybe she should have been called Unlucky but the vet said Oh no she is lucky.
That was last Friday. Today I went to visit Lucky at hospital. Her eye has gone and she has bright blue stitches across her eye lids. She is such a tiny thing it seems to take up all her face. She swore at me and hissed so I knew it was her. I haven't got any pictures of her yet. The only ones I have are of her mother and sibling but I figure I should wait until she is splendid once again. No one likes mugshots when they're sick.
mama and sibling
 I don't know what will happen next with Lucky. My flatmate barely tolerates Three-Paw so I can't see One-eye becoming a permanent fixture but these decisions can be made later. In the meantime I have decided to get mama and the other kitten used to being fed in a certain place so that when Lucky is better perhaps they will welcome her back. I really don't know what I will do but whatever it is I am sure it will be the right thing in the end. I know how much her mama would love to see her again. She is such a good protective mama.
I wish I was rich at times like this. I wish I could help all the cats of Cihangir and the people who help them too. For they are not rich people who help these cats,  just kind and generous-hearted souls.

So let's just keep our front paws crossed ( unless you're Three-paw of course) that Lucky grows strong and well in hospital and that I can find the right way for her.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Anigozanthos humilis

This is what happens if you plant some Anigozanthos humilis in a plant pot in Cihangir.

Aw - da Three-Paw

Saturday, 19 October 2013


Today I went to Asia ( I love saying that) and I had my first beer-garita.  I don't really like beer but I thought the garita would help. 
End result - a pair of spanking new, shiny red mock docks. They are actually a size too big for me but with some insoles and fat socks it's a perfect fit....and a rarver perfect price.
Happy face.

Later I took them along to some drinks with the teachers.

Me explaining to one of the teachers why I couldn't eat squirrel.  It's the face, Daryl. it's the face.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Hey stranger -beautiful friend

Last night I could not sleep. I could feel my heart in my throat and I knew as long as I felt like this I would not sleep. I got up for a while and went out on  Kazanci Street. I love my street in the middle of the night. Quiet  - apart from a few cats on their nightly jogs and a couple of teenagers having a kiss under the mosque. When I came back in I took solace from  the words of Orhan Pamuk, in particular The Museum of Innocence which is a book I love with such ferocity  that it deserves a blog entry of its own. Eventually I fell asleep only to wake a few hours later to the sound of heavy rain. I bolted downstairs to Three-Paw who rather gratefully let me carry her out of her plant pot across the road, which had become a flood, and into my room for some cuddles and warm air.
When I got up this morning I still felt weighed down but I worked on my writing  all the same. Then in the afternoon I bought myself a an eye pencil, the colour of which I discovered post-purchase is actually called eccentric diva. Oh dear. Not surprisingly this purchase did not cheer me up and I realised what I was missing was Hafiz. I have neglected him of late and sadly I do not even have his book here with me. Thank goodness for the internet though - and for Hafiz.

Be kind to your sleeping heart.

Take it out in the vast field of light
And let it breathe.” 


Thursday, 17 October 2013

Raki mittens

I was right about the weather. Today was miserable. Cold and wet. There is something about Istanbul weather that gets right into your bones. Even Three-paw balked at the idea of spending time on the street  and did a demented interpretative dance routine around my apartment which could only be understood as " Nooooo. Today I choose not to be a cat of the street. Tomorrow, however, I shall own it once again!!"
I would never recommend visiting Istanbul in the winter time. Sometimes you feel as if you will never warm up.

Raki helps though.

I was happy to see that Kirim ( Three-Paw's true daddy) was back from his Bayram holidays. He gave me apples from his parent's garden in Konya. I feel the cats are much safer when their daddy is back.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

And the winner is...

OK after very little deliberation I have decided that the Istanbul team of Besiktas is my football team for as long as I reside in Turkey.

Nothing whatsoever to do with its new head coach being Slaven Bilic or anything.

Heh heh - be still my beating heart.

The hunt for Bagdat

For the last couple of days I have been trying to get some writing done. I haven't done too badly actually, although a few late social ( shock/ horror) nights has meant that I have been getting up quite late. Still I have always tried to reach my scheduled target of writing hours - in between discovering if my oven works and giving Three-paw a bath! Yes my friends, she was briefly the shiniest cat in Istanbul . I wanted to stick her on a post and make her a lamp, she shone so brightly. A day later though she came back with black feet and a gummy tail.
Anyway today I decided I needed to go exploring especially since the weather is nice right now and soon I am sure it will not be.  So  down  I threw my mighty pen and on came my socks'n sandals instead. I decided I would go to Kadikoy and try and find the infamous Bagdat Caddesi (Street) which so many of my students have mentioned. I tried a few weeks ago to find the street and failed but this time I studied Google maps with the determination of a person who did not want to fail for a second time.
First of all, however, I went to take some food to a den of pretty much eyeless cats I discovered the other day but as I was walking towards them a silver, gleaming BMW suddenly turned up. Out popped a man in a suit with bags of food which he then started filling all the empty containers with. I nearly cried with joy as I watched him. The compassion I see on the streets here sometimes very nearly kills me.

I decided to take the ferry to Kadikoy as I love the journey. I love ordering a Cay ( tea) and sitting in the saloon watching the choppy waters which separate Europe from Asia.

Once there I began my bold march to Bagdat.
I did not succeed.
Somehow I ended up on a lovely stroll alongside boats and cafes instead. It wasn't a scenically spectacular walk but it was interesting and I liked seeing all the leafy boulevards and Asian cats. I eventually found a Kahve Dunyasi which I was able to appreciate though a mushroom fountain.  Kahve Dunyasi is the best friend of the coffee bean I do believe and they serve their cappuccinos with a chocolate spoon.

Buoyed by coffee I continued my hunt for Bagdat but ended up having to accept defeat once again. This leads me to believe that (a) it does not exist (b) Google Maps is wrong (c) I am wrong.
 I am pretty sure it is (c) actually. I just don't feel maps. I can feel the direction I need to go in but I can't read maps.
Never mind on my way back I stopped in the markets and saw some fish thrashing about in a bucket. I paused for a moment and seriously considered buying the whole bucket so  I could release all the fish. But then I had no idea where i was going to take them all and I also realised be there is always one more bucket. There is always one more cat, dog, bird, cow, goat etc.
Sad face.
I decided to head back to the ferry terminal instead which is when I realised I was being followed by a very shady looking man. I knew he was following me because he saw me across the street and as I crossed he started heading with purpose directly down to where I was. The thing that disturbed me was when I looked at him he looked straight back and he seemed determined. I ended up standing next to a family at some traffic light with my bag on their side while he came up next to me. The lights turned green to walk so I paused for a second while he marched straight forward. By the time he turned round to see if I was walking I had raced off to the left into a thick group of people (thick in size of course not mentality!). I could see him searching around the crowds trying to work out where I had gone.  It gave me a chill.
 Now though I am safely home. It was a good day really. Eclectic all the same.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


Today the streets were empty. Quiet. Like Christmas Day in Switzerland when everyone is at home or with their family and friends. I saw Ozman ( who runs the Kahve next door) with his family, all dressed in smart suits, walking up the hill. They looked lovely. It made me smile. I also had an ex-student text me to tell me they had just cut a cow. This made me smile less. I felt kind of booby-trapped though. I mean what is the correct response to this sort of news!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Iyi Bayramlar

This coming week is Kurban in Turkey. Kurban means ' animal sacrifice'. That is probably a sufficient enough explanation of what the festival entails. Fortunately I live in Cihangir, which is a boho sort of area, so the chances of coming across any kurbaning is quite low. Some of  my students wrinkle up their noses at the sacrifice aspect of the holiday although they are rightfully proud of the charitable outcome. I imagine if you asked a chicken or a turkey they would have similar feelings about Christmas.  My plan is to avoid any such uncomfortable scenarios by fraternizing solely with all the cats on my street  and maybe the odd passing dog.

Actually, it is going to be very nice to have the week off work and most of Istanbul empty. 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Exit strategy...better microchip the cat!!

So we have been instructed  not to engage in any classroom discussions or show any opinion on the following topics: religion, politics, Atatürk, the current government, Gezi Park etc. This follows an incident this week at school with a teacher who unintentionally found himself embroiled in a discussion about Atatürk under the topic  'the price of success'. You know it could have easily been me who ventured into the wrong area as students often  express opinions and look to you for discussion as well. Some of them are genuinely interested but others are just trying to bait you or other students. Now my classes will all focus on the glorification of cats, the joy of mint ice-cream and whether there really is a moment of anarchy every time  a traffic light blinks from red to green.
To be honest the whole incident this week, and the way it was handled, has made me realise that perhaps it is time to start planning that exit strategy after all. 

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The last day of summer

Even the dawgies lapped up the last of the sun!
Last Sunday ( Pazar) was the end of summer. I didn't know it was the end of summer (that's what hindsight is for: that and wishing you hadn't drunk all that Chandon like it was water!) but it was such a perfectly lovely day I should have known Istanbul was trying to tell me something.
I started my morning with a walk along one of the quiet leafy streets behind my street. Cihangir really is the most lovely of quarters and as I walked the street every single cat seemed to leap out from their posts to say 'Top-of-the morning-to-you-fine lady'. And these were not cats from my possè. These were newbies all out sunning themselves with grins on their faces and swishes in their tails. At the end of one particularly lovely street I found a cafe with a slight identity crisis (Kalimera Kahve - which is basically a combination of Greek and Turkish and means 'Good morning Coffee'). It made the best coffee though. Greek style with cinnamon on top. And as I sat their enjoying the taste I admired the bunch of white flowers an old man had given me in the street. He actually lives on the corner of the street with about a 1000 cats and a few dogs but he was so happy to hand me this ( slightly wilted) bunch I couldn't help but smile.
After my coffee I wandered for a bit longer and stumbled across a park and the most wonderful view of Istanbul. How could I have not known about this! Right in my own neighbourhood. Cok ayip! (Great Shame!)

That was last Sunday. Now it is grey, cold and the streets have that dark, wintry feeling to them.
But what a lovely end.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Back in the Stan

You know you are back in Istanbul when you hear a Christmas medley cranked up high at your local supermarket. Even the tomatoes were bobbing along.
Returning has been a mixed bag for me. I was incredibly sad to leave my parents ( and bad cat) and even as my plane came into land I couldn't muster even the smallest flip of excitement. Ok. Maybe the thought of Three-Paw gave my heart a little rhythm. And I am pleased to say she did not disappoint. I found her lurking at the bins and as soon as she saw me she started yelling and purring. Then she ran beside my luggage all the way down the hill, through the front door and up the stairs.  Later, as we sat outside together, she put her paw on my lap as if to say "You're back."
Actually I had a really lovely, warm welcome from my street in general. Many people waving and shouting out welcome. The local cafe / tea shop / real estate owners came out and gave me a kiss on each cheek. It surprised me to be honest. I feel very much alone here and I know that these people are not 'family' but they missed me enough to notice I was gone and greeted me with genuine warmth and happiness.


I would like to add that despite Three-paw surrounding herself with chicken bones in an obvious atttempt to make some sort of derelict ' you abandoned me' statement, she was actually fed a fresh packet of food every day I was away.

I would never have left my limb-challenged friend un-catered for.

Although today she did actually manage to catch a hapless bird with her one fat paw so I don't think the absent arm is that much of an impediment anyway!!

Friday, 6 September 2013


So my dad turned 75 today. I have decided not to write a blow-by-blow description of his day because, well, it is 'his day' after all and not every personal moment needs to be shared with the entire world, does it?
I can say though that I think he thoroughly enjoyed himself and that his special day included: a beautiful hotel sleepover, river views, much counting of river boats, some Storey Bridge hypothesizing, afternoon cream teas with champagne,  a slightly sloshed mama, a galaxy of sorts,  a lizard encounter, a bad cat reunion, a date with the pig, family and friends, a huge steak and some ice cream sparklers.

I am so grateful I was able to be a part of his birthday celebrations and very thankful to my siblings for helping me arrange the day for him.

Happy birthday papa!

And in pictures...