Sunday, 28 December 2014

Winging it

Today I am going to begin with the end.   On a ferry from Kadiköy back to Europe, at dusk, when the sky was simmering with sea gulls and low-slung clouds.  The air was icy, meaning that most Turks were sitting in one of the lovely retro-wooden cabins below ( Turks do not do cold!) so I took the opportunity to sit of the roof deck above. There were only a few of us seasoned souls up there: a man in a black overcoat and another in what looked like a santa-inspired pullover replete with white hood.

Anyway the santa man suddenly started to chuckle as the boat pulled out of Kadiköy. I may have even heard a little wheeeeee as we went and then out of his bag he pulled a loaf of bread which he began to throw to the birds with such gleeful abandon, it was like he was a bandmaster performing an encore at the proms. Soon the other man in the black overcoat came over to join him.  Laughing and throwing his arms to the sky before quickly racing below deck to buy even more bread so they could conduct this mad orchestra of birds all the way back home to Europe. Soon I was laughing and wheeing  with them too. It was one of the most infectiously joyful experiences I have ever had!

You know when a day ends like this whatever came before doesn't matter so much.

Monday, 22 December 2014


Now I have passed the festive season before in some fairly un-Christmassy places - China at the Shaolin Temple with hundreds of kids karate-ing in formation, Morocco where Damien endured the worst bout of food-poisoning from the unkindest clown in Fez,  even Egypt and a poor Egyptian kid being made to dress up as Santa and glide down the Nile. But in the end somehow it was still always Christmas. Unfamiliar and yet still sweet. I remember carrying a small Christmas tree around China for a few days so we could set it up in out unheated rooms, drink cups of noodle soup round it and wrap gifts in toilet paper.

Turkey, I suspect is going to be another one of these occasions except I honestly cannot feel anything in my heart at all. It is  like a giant sheet of grey sellophane has been wrapped around the city, muting the lights and the trees and even the oddly be-jewelled reindeer I see decorating the streets. A strange sort of feeling but survivable of course.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Wedding Night

Today is Mevlana's  (Rumi's) wedding night. It marks the day he died and was reunited with his Beloved, The Divine.  I wish I could be like him. Whirling, unencumbered, so my hands touch the stars and my feet feel no weight.

Today I believe I am the very opposite. My feet feel heavy and my hands can only clutch my face.

I love Rumi though.

It is hard to choose which of his poems I like best.

“I will soothe you and heal you,
I will bring you roses.
I too have been covered with thorns.” 
― Rumi

“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.” 
― Rumi

“I know you're tired but come, this is the way.” 
― Rumi

“Every object, every being, is a jar full of delight.” 
― Rumi


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Yeni Ev (New Home)

Last week I had a mail from someone who expressed surprise I was in Istanbul because my blog is currently in the far reaches of the Australian outback. Fair point. So while I am determined to finish my Longreach odyssey because it was such a great trip to take with my parents  I suppose I should actually write something in real time just for the sake of records – like if I disappear or something!  Yes. I am back in Istanbul. I have a lovely new home which I really like and Three Paw has also given it her seal of approval. I found her a place with a terrace so she could enjoy the outside air but so far she has shown no interest in going outside. In fact when I invited her out onto the terrace the other day she gave me a cross-eyed look that said something like..Mama, really do I have to... I be bed cat now! And true to her word she much prefers to pass her days lounging on the numerous beds and couches dotted around the apartment or hanging by the kitchen bin  - some old street habits die hard! I am sure The Pirate will enjoy it too although I am hoping to give Three-Paw a little more of a holiday before that happens because my little black fiend is really quite awful to her and it hurts my heart sometimes to watch her try and 'play' with my dowager empress laydee.

    Both my flatmates are teachers and drummers .  I wonder if I should take up ménage a trois ( by that I mean the triangle) so I can join in.  I hadn't really wanted to share I must confess. I wanted my own place but I really couldn't ask for two easier buddies to share air with so I am quite content. The neighborhood is also very interesting - full of pastry shops, luminescent fruit stalls and moustachey men eating borek.  And I keep on running into people I know so it feels more like a community or an episode from Cheers


I think that is all the good news I have to impart. On a much less happy note my Christmas Day plans have been scuppered at the last minute. I was really looking forward to the day and everything had been planned down to the movies, the stuffing and the afternoon constitutional walk but sadly it is no longer to be. It is difficult to re-calibrate my brain into making a new Christmas plan but if all else fails I can swap fish-shaped gifts with Three-paw under a bin somewhere .

Friday, 19 September 2014

All aboard the rooster

I forgot to mention the night of bush tucker and ballads we had immediately after the boat cruise. I can't quite think why I forgot to mention it because it was certainly very memorable and it was great to see my mum have a giggle. It was run by the company I mentioned in the previous post Kinnon & Co. They are actually farmers first and foremost but recent droughts have forced them to think of other supplementary income so they do not lose their land.  As they so wittily explained they had seen all these grey nomads ( retired folk) constantly passing through town and thought they might be easier to milk than their cows during the dry times.  Ha ! I think they are wonderful. Their humour is irreverent and a tad un-PC a times but they are hardworking, sincere folk who genuinely try to give us city slickers a taste of the outback and the heritage that perhaps we have never really understood. Mum was especially taken by the rooster carriage which I assure you  ( despite how it looks) did not cause the chicken any discomfort whatsoever. Actually it was gorgeously happy bird who liked nothing more than wandering round, scrounging for a pat or a cuddle.

Thomson River

Even though the Outback is generally better known for its drought-swept landscapes, roadkill and men in Akubras, there is actually a river just outside Longreach called the Thomson River. It can cause extensive flooding in the region from time to time but now is one of those dry patches where everything has turned to dust.

The river, though, is lovely in a lazy, meandering way and a wonderful outfit called Kinnon & Co offer dusk paddle boat trips along her wandering shores.

What a beautiful sight

Three cruise beasts enjoying the views, some cheese and fruit and some elderberry cider.

No emus or brolgas out here but some very keen pelicans hoping for some food from the boat. Regard the coolibah tree to the right. Makes me just want camp on down beside it and boil my billy.

Of course the whole point of a dusk cruise is the sunset and the sun  this evening did not disappoint.

But then again when has the sun ever disappointed.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Flying Docs

Of course one cannot admire QANTAS without also admiring the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia.

 A couple of jolly doctors!!

One of the most fascinating things was to listen in to a couple of recordings of real calls between the doctors and outback stations.  The best one was about a snake bite. I have always read about what to do with a bite ( bandaging/ splinting/ immobilizing/ not sucking the poison - I  mean truly, I really don't know how that last one ever got any airplay) but having a doctor calmly explain each step was actually very useful and I feel much more confident about frolicking in my parent's backyard sans boots-impenetrada than I ever did before. 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


 Today dad and I visited the QANTAS Founder's museum  in Longreach. Now  I was once informed that QANTAS actually stood for Queers And Nymphos Trained As Stewards but I can safely reassure you  that this is most definitely incorrect and it actually stands for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service. I know, I know.  I really should have known that but there is a lot I should know and don't and probably even more I do know that I shouldn't - like how many Tiny Teddies can fit up the average nostril etc.
Anyhow I found the museum very interesting and really began to appreciate just how  important a regional air service must have been for the outback all those years ago. It is kind of sad to see  the state of QANTAS today when you consider its pioneering beginning.

Just call me Cap'n

If I were to choose a favorite character from QANTAS's early days I would have to pick the engineer Arthur Baird. Clever, rugged, good with his hands. I could smell the oil and sweat oozing off him even from the grainy black and white pictures. Honestly, I really didn't know I had thing for sudoric engineers until this day. Then again the museum is on the torrid side of the Line of Capricorn so that may explain something.

I've added a bit of plane porn here for those who like it.

Outside the museum is a huge jumbo jet you can take a tour of if you wish.  As I would prefer not to know what first class looks like, I gave the 20$ tour  a miss.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Interesting factoid

Did you know that the Tropic of Capricorn passes through Longreach.  Very exciting. When I was thirteen I remember straddling the Meridian line at Greenwich and finding it most auspicious.  The Capricornian Line was just as thrilling, although I couldn't decide where I wanted to linger more.

Torrid or Temperate Zone

Monday, 15 September 2014

Emu parade

Now as my one reader may recall back in 2012 I went for a fambly holiday to Norfolk Island and was rather taken by the feral wet hens (FWH) that roamed freely in the paddocks. Alas, there have been no such sightings here in the outback  although I did see two chickens have a good waddle and cluck down the main street before disappearing behind a pub.

 Instead though I have discovered a mob of emus that parade the gardens and streets of Longreach in quite well thought-out formations.

  Emu Parade!!!

They even managed to arrange themselves (along with some passing kangaroos) into an impromptu tribute to the Australian Coat of Arms. Those emus...genius I tell you

 The bird action does not stop there though.  I  saw some brolgas too and while I must say they lacked the patriotism and formation aplomb of the emus, they had rather lovely red bonnets on their heads.

Sunday, 14 September 2014


So finally after 25 hours on the train we arrived at our aptly named destination - LONGREACH!!!!!!

                                                        Papa at the station

Now Longreach is generally regarded as the home of  QANTAS although the first QANTAS board meeting was actually held in a town nearby called Winton.  

                Clearly this kangaroo has decided to endorse the Longreach QANTAS claim 
  with a bit of strategic product placement.

The town is also the home of the Stockman's Hall of Fame

and a very colourful bakery!

Today's theme was blue - I also saw a rather indigestible green!

Our home in Longreach was a very spacious cabin on the outskirts where we could admire the tail of  the QANTAS Museum jumbo jet from the comfort of our own verandah.

Regarding the tail!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Spirit of the Outback

So my wonderful parents planned a surprise trip for the three of us while I am in Australia. Even my mother, who is the world’s worst secret keeper, managed to ‘ keep mum’ ( ha ha) until I got here. I did, however, manage to glean that the holiday involved a train trip thanks to the blurtings of a local dentist nurse, a nice Anglican woman  and a painter I met in the Kenmore toilets.  Brisbane, you must understand, is really quite small and I think my parents had managed to tell every soul of their plans except me - of course! 
Apart from the train aspect of the trip though I had no idea which way we would be heading although due to  basic geography I was able to deduce it had to be north, south or west as east would surely end abruptly in the Pacific Ocean. 

It has turned out to be west. Fantastic. The Outback.  I have never been to woop woop in the truest sense of the word. 

Now clearly the only way to go to woop woop is on 'The Spirit of Outback'  and while I was all geared up for a bit of rough second-class pleb action, my parents sweetly bought me a first class ticket so I could hang with all the grey nomads and have rum and coke from a real glass.

Lounging in my crib!

Afternoon tea for us firsties!!!

And then  a little later it was time for the driver's afternoon tea which he thoughtfully shared with the birds.

The first part of the trip took us through the sunshine coast hinterland. Lush green foliage, pretty little stations ....
                                                but by morning time the scene had  changed.

Beautiful, harsh,  tortured too. So many dead cattle and sheep.  Ravaged by drought so even their bones remain contorted in the shape of their last breaths. Truth be told, I don't think farming belongs in this world. I saw plenty of kangaroos and emus too but they seemed far more adapted to this unforgiving and endless sweep of land.

At Barcaldine the trained stopped to load some goods  so I went out with dad to stretch my legs. Barcaldine is the home of the Tree Of Knowledge which is bound to moisten the eye of any Australian with a left-leaning heart for two related reasons. First, it played a significant part in the Australian Labour movement leading to the birth of the Australian Labour Party. Second, this magnificent silent witness to history was callously poisoned in 2006 so that all which remains now is the preserved shell of the tree which has been turned into a memorial.

The Tree Of Knowledge

 Now why  anyone would ever deliberately poison a tree is beyond me but then given the current conservative government's environmental policies I suppose it is hardly surprising!  Fortunately some seedlings from the original tree were rescued and are being nurtured in a building nearby.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Rite of Passage

So now that Three Paw is safely ensconced with The Pirate at the pad of the the world’s best punk papa .... I am back in Australia visiting my folks. I must confess that I am mightily enjoying the fresh air. It took a few days for me to convince my nostrils that it was ok to inhale. I kept on taking these somewhat abridged sniffs of air until finally my nose realised that the worse smell it would encounter would probably be my own feet.  Reasonably pungent but not quite fetid. 
It feels good to replace the smell of millions of people with smell of eucalyptus and the sound of a million car horns with the sound of  a million birds.  Mind you I  did get dive-bombed by  a magpie the other day for the first time in my life.  I have never actually had  direct beak-on-skull action  before. Not even through my childhood when I would walk along the country roads and hear the ominous ‘woomph woomph’ of the birds’ wings as they came in to attack. I felt a little offended that  a magpie should finally attack me now but have decided to accept it as some long overdue rite of passage.

I must say though it is nice to be somewhere that I can understand all the signs J

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Kazanci My dear sweet home

Tonight is my last evening on Kazanci Yokusu. To celebrate I am eating kirmizi  mercimek corbasi from my favourite Lokantasi with a serving of chicken for Three Paw.... when she wakes up!!

So many adventures have been had on this marvellously  eccentric street which slopes all the way from Taksim Square down to my gracious lady friend -  The Bosphorus: Gezi park, tear gas, minor earth tremors, gas explosions,  numerous hospital visits, kind neighbours, grumpy fruiterers, beautiful cats, sultry nights, bitter snowy days, Three Paw, The Pirate, Simit, The Lion, Mama, Kerin the Animal God, Ozman 1 - Kahve owner, Ozman 2 - Crimean cafe owner, Jimmy the boot man, Mr Kissy - the Emlak man, Esre the pet shop owner...etc

                                                                  Towards Taxim

Closer to my lady friend

The world's grumpiest fruiterer - cats are his nemesis - ha ha ha!

Lovely poor Jimmy the boot man - never stops working 

Someone said to me today that I was a little anti-social. We were talking about the expat community here in Istanbul and it is true that I have not really made an effort to immerse myself in it..but when I think of my street, when I think how every day I am greeted as I leave my home and upon my return, how when my electricity gets cut off people hot wire it back on for me, how I was able to watch the world cup and break Iftar during Ramazan with the old dudes next door, how when Three Paw is missed I am asked for updates..I think my slightly reclusive self has done quite well. I have been blessed enough to weave a few threads in the beautiful tapestry of this street and I am all the richer for it.
And let's not forget my two girls I take with me. I can remember clearly meeting both of them. Three Paw trashing it out by the bins. Poor little pirate, smaller than my hand with an eye so infected it was twice the size of her head.
And now little Simit who I will leave on the street - for now anyway. But I have made provisions for Love, Attention  and Food for him while I am away and who knows what will happen on my return to Istanbul.

Tomorrow though I am Besiktas bound ( before a visit to Australia. Home of Slaven Bilic , The Pirate and da Punk.. and Three Paw.