Sunday, 23 June 2013


Yesterday I decided to go to the Prince's Islands (Adalar) which are near Istanbul  on the Sea of Marmara. I had originally thought I would go to Büyükada, which is the largest of the group, but the ferry boat out there was very crowded and everyone on board seemed to have brought along their own special aroma so I decided to disembark at the first island - Kinaliada -instead.
Now Kinaliada is not the loveliest of all the Prince's Islands ( more on that later) but it served its purpose perfectly -  beach for a swim/ sea breezes to enjoy. I started by strolling halfway around the island until I found a cute cove to lounge at for a while. There were quite few expensive-looking boats moored out on the sea and the local bar played fittingly upbeat songs by Adele and Whitney Houston to get us all in that sunshine mood. (You know you've had a bit too much sun when you start crying on your sun-lounger!) Anyway I then decided to walk around the rest of the island ( you can call me  The Circumnavigatrix) which was very pleasant if not  little hot - thank goodness I had a mini-pack of Oreos with me. There was one stage, however, when all I could see was vast ocean, a winding road and blinding sun and I started imagining myself licking morning condensation off the local foliage should I get lost for the night.
Of course, given the island has an area of 1.3 km squared, I soon found civilization again and happily ambled back down to the port.

Now the Prince's Island are famous for their lovely architecture and lack of cars but as I said earlier this island is probably not the best example of such things. The only other island I have been to is Heybeliada which was definitely more aesthetic on the building front ( as can be seen from surrounding pictures.)

But I can't fault Kinaliada. It got me out of Istanbul, it got me walking and it gave me a swim. Essential things for a weary ladydee, who is feeling a little low on her mo-jo.

Friday, 21 June 2013


When I  lived in Switzerland I was lucky enough to have a number of lovely neighbours. Bona Fide Swiss folk who opened their doors to me at Fasnacht and Sylvester - or just to share cake and a chat in their homes.
So it is with great sorrow that I learned this week of the passing of one of them - Susie.
I loved Susie. She was wonderful. Always ready for a chat about whatever was on her mind: the weather,  men, even her preference for Frey's chocolate. She used to make me smile at some of the things she said - the kind of things you only earn the right to say when you have graced the planet for eighty or so years. She was kind too. Helping me when my bag was stolen, looking after my spare keys, checking the post, always telling me how happy she was to have D and I living in the building.

I am sad that she has gone. I would like to have given her one last hug.  But I know she was weary. I know she wanted peace.

Peace be with you my lovely Susie. And thank you for crossing paths with me.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Standing folk

So last night Taksim Square played host to The Standing Man.  Tonight it is playing host to the Standing Men.

and ....Standing Women

and...Standing Mevlana readers 

and... Standing Police... of course.

 Although I suspect they may be standing at cross-purposes.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Day off

No school for me today. 

Normally there is something joyful about a random day off but it is hard to be gleeful when you are surrounded by men with sticks. Unless of course the men happen to be Jedi Knights - that would be different, obviously .
I feel sad for Turkey right now...people fighting for their freedom to protest, freedom to express themselves. But I think it is important never to forget Syria, fighting for their lives across the next border. They need to be remembered desperately right now. They were like the Turks once. Marching peacefully for more freedom from their Government. Now look at them. My poor shattered friends.

The sound of pots

Last night I sat on the side of my street and watched a column of police march up to Taksim Square. My street goes all the way from The Bosphorus up to the square so by the time they passed me they were all looking a bit sweaty and puffed.  The street was fairly empty apart from Three-Paw ( who remained as enigmatic as ever), myself and the police but there were women hanging out of every second window, banging pots as the police marched by. It sounded like one enormous spoon banging on a tin of Seafood Platter. In an alternative world a thousand cats would have come running to this sound -  thinking it was dinner time.
In an alternative world that is.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

No music

in Taksim Square today.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

I know I know..but I can't help it

Honestly - the cat just makes me laugh!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Chasing the blues -piano style

On Thursday night I went to Taksim Square to hear Davide Martello soothe the masses with an electric piano recital. What a clever man - dragging a grand piano into the middle of the square. Why would anyone want to fight when there is lovely music to be heard under a summery Istanbul sky.
It was a surreal experience though.
People sitting on the pavement, clapping and swaying to the music (a combination of contemporary Turkish songs,  classical pieces, John Lennon's "Imagine" and Christ de Burgh's "Lady In Red" for Ceyda Sungur -Gezi's Park's very own lady in red, I suppose.)  Young police men in combat gear leaning on their shields enjoying the music too. Fathers with their sons on their shoulders - the fathers listening to the music while their sons talked animatedly to the policemen about the joy of law enforcement ( from a 4 year old's perspective no doubt.)

The scene was exquisite both in sight and sound.   It actually hurt my heart to be there.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Afternoon stroll

A stroll around Gezi Park today.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

I don't like Tuesdays

This morning as I went to work I got to experience a little bit of Turkish hospitality - police style.  I knew it was only a matter of time. Taksim Square was not going to remain a people's paradise forever.
Even before I reached the square I could tell the situation had changed. No more fairy floss and  cucumber sellers bobbing down the street...just a nest of police around Ataturk's memorial pegging gas at people, including me, who were making their way to the metro station. As I ran into the station a large cloud of gas followed me and I ended up cowering with strangers behind a kiosk until the pain on our skin became too bad and we made our way down to the metro line.  I can't get used to the pain of the gas ( and I would rather not to be honest) but I find myself becoming more resilient somehow.

When I came back home at the end of the day the square looked war-torn.

Look at the top of my street - you have gotta love the infallibility of Ronald!

It just seems so surreal, so destructive, so broken.

Monday, 10 June 2013

The world at the top of my street

You know it has been a  strange kind of world at the top of my street for the past week. A bit like climbing The Magic Faraway Tree and discovering a new world complete with Saucepan Man banging pots and little elves playing drums and dancing to Elfish songs. A bit like Maleny Folk festival from many years ago.
Me in Taxim two days ago
There were even folk selling fairy floss and balloons for the children and their families.


And other folk playing drums, while men and women danced. No one drinking, just dancing and singing.

Campers in tents filled with teddy bears.

Food stalls, T-shirt sellers, Kebab -twirlers, even a library. 

  A bit of flag-waving on upturned cars.

And the like 

Oh and a bit of defiant fist-power as well!

You know as with any protest there are definitely unsavoury elements and the level of graffiti on the buildings and mosques has been saddening...but it has been a fascinating experience seeing people come together and create this world in the heart of a city.

Fascinating and yet worrying.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Carnival mask....not quite :-(

Last night I was teaching my Monday monsters when all of a sudden we heard the sound of banging pots in the streets around the building. Apparently an Istanbul-wide pot-banging fest had been planned for 9 pm to express support for the protesters. It sounded like a mountainside of Swiss cows on a copulation binge but it was heartening to hear all the people speaking out albeit with wooden spoons, saucepans and whisks. I wasn't sure whether my students would want to talk about what was going on but they were very keen to discuss everything they knew. I think they thought 'poor yabunci' (foreigner) she doesn't understand anything whereas I probably have learned more from international media than they have from their own.
Right now Taksim Square has an almost carnival feel to it. People selling watermelons, waving  banners, making music. My street has been blockaded with old gates, slabs of concrete and other building debris.

The carnival will end though.
Of this I am certain.

In the middle of the night I woke up with burning skin.
There was gas in my bedroom from out on the streets.

I hadn't wanted to buy a mask. I thought it was being overly-dramatic...but I bought myself one day.  

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Pazar: Sunday

Sunday morning and Three-Paw has the street again.

The rest of Istanbul belongs to the people.

Police excluded


Kebabs are welcome though!

And kids!

But poor Istanbul , she has taken a bruising.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Cumartesi : Saturday

Last Thursday afternoon I walked home through Gezi Park  after my lessons at the American hospital. I always walk through this park after my lessons. It's a nice little green lung with shady trees, lounging, happy dogs and men frying köfte to feed passers-by.  On Thursday it was a little more busy than usual. People had congregated in small groups to play tavla, read books, sing songs and chat. Young people, old people, people in suits,  men with pony tails that L'Oreal would most definitely asserted were 'worth it'.  It was a peaceful, happy place. Some had erected cute tents and were cooking tea on small fires. As I left the park I saw a bus of young serious-looking policemen arrive, they disembarked and disappeared into a fenced off area near the park.
Istanbul, it seemed, was as quirky and contradictory as ever.
Fast-forward Friday  and that happy little gathering was no more. Instead the streets where I live ( and yes unfortunately I actually do live right next to Taksim Square) were thick with gas and the sound of  chants and blasts.  Helicopters were circling overhead and my street was filling up with disoriented people clutching their eyes and their faces, hurt but not defeated. I went out looking for Three-Paw who seemed undisturbed by the gas but a little perturbed by the masses. Still no amount of coaxing could encourage him into my house ( my accident really must have done a number of him). At one stage I even grabbed him but he was of the opinion that the streets were far safer than the-house-of-the-morning-head-smasher. Or perhaps he really is just a street cat after all and I have to learn not to project my fears onto such a wise and all-knowing beast. Either way,  eventually I had to retreat inside, my skin and eyes on fire.
I went to bed around 1 am to the sound of circling helicopters, random  blasts and the banging of pots by my neighbors. (Apparently they bang pots out their windows to show solidarity to the protesters passing below them. I am such a great assimilator I even joined in a bit of pot banging as well.)
When I woke up the street was quieter, Three-Paw was even lounging on a step much to my enormous relief. (Cats I have discovered really do not seem to mind tear gas and dogs like protests because they can run along side the protesters on one giant walkies.) Anyway I decided to go up my road to get some water and soon discovered that not only were all the shops closed but the street was deserted apart from a column of police and a few burning bins. I was quickly dragged into a doorway and offered water and lemon spray while the police marched by and 'cleared' the street once more.  Just down the road I could see black acrid smoke billowing out of Taksim Square and the familiar smell of tear gas.
When the trouble passed I went back down my road and decided to head for The Bosphorus. I didn't want to sit in my apartment like a caged bird all day. Over the next few hours I encountered various armies of marching folk, a nest of police buses and the odd whiff of gas and smoke. But as the day progressed the spirit seemed to change. People started marching towards Taksim Square. The police did not stop them. Old people young people, couples, dogs. These weren't anarchists or extremists just people trying to speak their minds.
Later in the evening - and the whole of Istiklal Street and Taksim Square belonged to the people once more. They seemed perversely determined to consume as many beers as they could  but not in a drunken way...just in a I-am-choosing-to-have-a beer kind of way. There was a not a police person in sight. Istiklal Street looked destroyed. Glass everywhere, torn up pavement, graffiti...but filled with people walking and chanting and eating ice cream, enjoying the freedom they feel they have earned. Had they got their freedom? I wasn't sure yet. There were no police about but how long would they be able to mass in the square without supervision.
Finally I went home, relieved it was quiet if not fully at peace.
I think my watching friends were happy for the quiet too.