Tuesday, 22 December 2015


Today I cried.
It had been a while coming. Maybe five years even.
It happened in the vet's office. My new vet. I changed vets because the old vet gave dog tests to my cat which created all sorts of false positives and misdiagnosis. My new vet can be very abrupt but he was reasonably competent with Three Paw's problems even if I had to push him every inch of the way.  Anyway today I went into to get my cats' travel documents prepared as I am going to try again to leave even though a strong part of me feels like I should stay. I am travelling to the EU and there is an Annex IV document that must be filled out by the vet within ten days of travel. He told me it wasn't necessary. ( I know it is.) I told him to humour me and fill it out anyway and he said he would not because Turkey was different and he is not able to fill it out. But I know he is ( and must) because any licensed vet can and he is licensed. I couldn't believe it. Everyone else who has travelled from here has been able to get a vet certificate before they fly and here I was with the only vet who would not budge.

So I cried. And it wasn't a few tears of frustration. It was shoulder-shuddering, blinding tears that make you need to hold yourself in case you collapse. He sat there impassively going 'don't cry' and I couldn't believe this was happening. I am exhausted. I am physically, emotionally and financially spent. There is so little left in me right now and I can't help wondering when will this all end. If you make your own luck in this life, then I am making only bad luck. And the things is I do get it. I know in this world right now with terrorism, war, cancer and fire, my problems are a hill of beans. But I am drowning in my hill of beans right now and I don't know how to make it stop. Every time something hits me I pick myself up and keep trying. Quietly. Often without ceremony. Tears behind closed doors but a ready smile and a helping hand outside. Even the other day I came across one of the cardboard collector boys lying sprawled on the pavement. Blood bubbling out of his mouth. People walking over his body or just staring. I knelt down beside him and tried to clear his airway and I am shouting to people call an ambulance/ hospital. Help me to help this man. And no one even reached for their mobiles. To them this cardboard boy is nothing. The poorest in this society, eking a living out of scavenging for cardboard in bins full of rot and food. Finally I stopped a bus driver and he pulled over and came to my aid. The boy came to and we got him to sit up and drink some water. When it was finished I disappeared around the corner and I cried.

And I am not writing about this because I am some sort of hero. because I am not. All I did was care. but how much longer can I continue to cope and to care. How many more times can I fall down or see someone fall around me. Even a prize fighter stops getting up if they have been hit too many times.

Is this what a cry for help looks like? I don't know. And even if it is, how can anyone help me. I am alone in this great hole I seem to have fallen in and every time I try to crawl out of it I feel like I am bringing more dirt in. And blocking the light.

Am I supposed to express these feelings here. Probably not. Perhaps I am embarrassing myself here with my desperate words but I don't feel embarassed. I just feel done.

Monday, 21 December 2015


If you ask an Istanbulli which Princes' Island to visit they will generally say Buyukada or perhaps Kinliada if you want to swim. I am pleased by their lack of wisdom for, as I have said before, Burgazada is the gem on that Prince's crown and the less people who bespoil her beauty the better. 

I decided to visit her the other day because even in wintry isolation she is a splendid place for an amble and some  raki. Truth be told, if Three Paw (the miracle doy) hadn't made it through her latest affliction, I had planned to carry her and a shovel over to bury her among the pines.

The weather was glorious. Cold in the shadows but perfect for striding between trees and walking with street dogs.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Star Wars: No spoilers

Last night I went to a midnight screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I hadn't expected to be able to buy tickets last minute but this is Turkey and not the USA etc. The cinema wasn't sold out but it was healthily packed in the middle and as I sat in my seat waiting for that first stirring blast of  theme music I felt like a kid again. And yes, I did let out a little yay when it started ( Turkish audiences tend to be mute) and I did wiggle in my seat and clap my hands/clutch at my heart as the story unravelled around me. I was totally absorbed and after the last few months I have had, it was wonderful to escape to a galaxy far far away at least for a few hours.

I have loved Star Wars ever since I saw the first original movie on our old black and white television set at home. I loved it so much that when it came on again the following year I tape-recorded the dialogue since we did not have a video player. I used to play the tape recording over and over again while marching my mini-figures through cardboard box space stations which I had lovingly created. And let me be honest, Luke Skywalker was my first ever crush and he even obligingly responded to my love letter to him with a signed card that said 'Dear Joanna -Forcefully Yours.'

I am not going to write anything about the movie plot here for fear of accidental revelation (no greater crime in the galaxy) but I am delighted to say that the film had that same old, beat-up feeling the first three originals did. Glorious scenery, epic space station shots, beautiful lightsaber duels and that strong sense of mythology I so love about Star Wars. George Lucas did some unforgivable things with his later installments but I will always be grateful to him for creating this wonderful world in the first place.

I liked the new characters too. I thought I would feel like they were usurpers, stealing from Luke and Leia and Han but they were strong and watchable and uninhibited. And even better, Star Wars finally has a hot villain with anger management issues and a magnificent snout. Hooray. He is a true villain too, flawed and tragic but with a capacity to act with such calculated evil it breaks your heart.

I remember the first time I felt drawn to a cinema villain. That uncomfortable moment when I felt oddly allured by Amon Goeth in Schindler's List. Of course I quickly realised it was just Mr Fiennes and his magnificent snout that had enticed me me rather than a Nazi war criminal so there was a bit of relief there. I think I might  have a thing for flawed fictional  men. Even Sergeant Brody, who was a mixed fun-bag of bad,  in Homeland got me a little hot under the collar. Actually, perhaps it is not only fictional men. I can think of a couple of relationships with troubled souls I have had. Perhaps it is why I am so single now.

Maybe it is time I return to my childhood self who loved Luke Skywalker ( a good man) so very much. Perhaps then balance will return to my own little galaxy.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Fish Hooks

I have a phobia against fish hooks. I think it started when I was a child and the boy sitting next to me told me about the time he got one stuck in his hand and had to have it pulled all the way through to get it out. Since then, nothing frightens me more than a fish hook flying through the air like a guided comet. In fact once I even chose to sit on the alligator/ snake/ piranha/ spider-infested bank of the Amazon River instead of sharing a dug-out wooden canoe with a man on a fishing mission. I remember sitting on the bank, being ravaged by mosquitoes, feeling vulnerable and a little panicky but infinitely more calm than being in the boat.

I mention the fish hooks because today I took a stroll across the Galata Bridge which is really made up of flying fish hooks and not much else. I was feeling exuberant and plucky because I had just had a very successful meeting with a man called Husseyin at the Istanbul Animal Export Office in Karakoy. Encounters like this, where tea is drunk and friendliness abounds, makes me love Turkey so much and I felt like for the first time since I arrived back under the cloud of Three Paw's illness that there was a little light on my face.

After, I  strolled around The Bosphorus for a while  and then sat at a cafe and waited to see if another of Putin's war ships would come cruising past.

I can't take credit for this photo. A colleague caught it the other night on his way home from work. 

Saturday, 21 November 2015


I am back in Istanbul. My attempt to leave has been thwarted. A costly attempt it was too but money comes and goes. That's what they say.

But love - it will always win.

I didn't take Three Paw off the street only to leave her when she needs me most.

And now I am back, I know I am ready to leave.

I didn't realise it until she brought me back to Istanbul - my beautiful, gorgeous friend.

I love you Three Paw.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

My Girl

My Three-Paw is in hospital and I am not with her. Anyone reading this blog and who thinks -'she's only a cat' can stop reading now and never come back. She is my girl. She is my family. And nothing feels more terrible than being in another country, unable to comfort her or really see what is going on.
I feel as if everything about this move I have made has been ill-fated. From losing 1300 euro in a rental scam to feeling such intense loneliness ever since arriving and for not having my girls with me because the stupid place I am staying won't let me. Every day I go out trying to find a home to bring my girls to and what if it all ends up too late for Three Paw. The last time I saw her she sat next to me purring and rested her paw on my thigh just as she did all those times back on the streets. Before she moved in. Before we were bonded. But I think perhaps we have always been bonded. I hope tonight she can sense our bond and know that there is nothing I want more than to bring her home to me...and see her ..and listen to her...and be loved the way she loves me...and I her.

Be strong my beautiful girl... I am finding you a home with a garden...come and see it won't you. Come and lay in the sun with me again.

One thing I do know is that she has a whole team of peeps behind her, championing her all the way. That's the kind of girl she is.

Thanks be to Kerim ( her daddy), Ozge, Fatih, Ezgi  (her team of vets) and above all Nathalie ( her mama on the ground) for every breath they take or have taken to love and help her.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Election Day looming

It probably sounds kind of sad but I don't have any energy to write about where I am right now. I feel like my head and my heart and, hell, even one of my feet is still in Istanbul. Perhaps if I could only click my heels together I could fly back home. My friend (aka - nice skirt lady) sent me a collage of a trip we took to the Princes' Island earlier this year so I am adding it here for a bit of colour.

 I love the ghost of pirate through the curtains.

I miss my laydees like mad right now. This morning when I skyped Three Paw  she turned her back and faced the window -  so the missing is not mutual.

Election Day is looming in Turkey. I think about it constantly. In a sense the way seems very clear. There are two paths to choose. Anything in the middle would surely lead to Election Day # 3. Who knows what will happen - I hope for the best but I fear the worst.

Thursday, 22 October 2015


In this picture I am wandering under the old city walls that surround Sultanahmet. Behind me are strewn cobbled streets, colourful wooden houses, tea houses and minarets. In front of me is my lady Bosphorus, gazing out towards Asia.

I remember this day perfectly and, in particular, looking at the blue waves licking the rocky shore. I remember thinking how they had come from other lands and how they would return over and over again.

I thought of my Shams.
And of Rumi.

“Lovers don't finally meet somewhere. They're in each other all along.”

And so  now I know that this city has always been in my blood. 

And I know too that when I dip my toes in the shallows of foreign water, I will be dipping them in my Lady once again. For we we will never be apart. Her waters and my blood are one and the same.

Even though I miss her. And my heart is broken now.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Breakfast in the Tash

This morning I woke before the sun and the sky outside was a milky velvet  hue. I only ever wake before the sun when my heart is unsettled and so I was soothed to hear the morning call-to-prayer. He even sang one of my favorite ditties, the one with a mournful yet tuneful tone. Pirate came up to my ear and rested her head under my chin and purred her way through her full repertoire as well.
How blessed am I!

Later I had breakfast in Besiktas with my friend, Didem. Actually I also had coffee with another friend, Dina, as well so obviously I was a socially-exhausted beast by the time I got home. Both women are wonderful Istanbullis. I envy them, in a way, to be wedded to this city by their birth.

I will miss Turkish breakfasts. They are the best in the world. And where I am going sadly does not honor breakfast with the same gusto. They are good about lunch and dinner though.

But I think the Turks are right. You should have the breakfast of a King (or Queen.) I look forward to many more in my life. And many more here in my beautiful city by my glorious lady Boss.

Obviously the only thing to do after breakfast is more coffee at my beloved coffee shop - La Chat Noir.  I met a little kitten there who climbed into my scarf and cried. 

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

JJGalbraith memorial walk

Today was a beautiful day. After errands in the morning, I went on one of my JJ Galbraith memorial walks. I'm not sure whether memorializing one's walks is narcissistic or pessimistic but I have been doing it for over ten years now so let's just call it a quirk. I have such named walks in Brisbane, Basel, London, Florence, Damascus and Istanbul. The walk I took today I  have written about before so I won't go into breathless detail. All I can say is it started with a metro ride to Vezneciler whereupon I stopped in at a student cafe for a 3 TL gozleme ( pancake) before wandering through the grounds of my most treasured  mosque - Suleyiman. As I walked, I trailed my fingers across Istanbul's ancient skin: overs walls and  wooden doors, old gates and pillars. My feet kissed her worn pavements and my head strained for the heavens.

I then passed through the Grand Bazaar where I had tea with Aydin, a bazaar shop owner I know, and my eyes glistened equally with joy and missing at the sight of  sparkling alley ways , the endless sound of  clinking tea glasses.

Later I met my favorite ex-student, Aliye, in Istiklal to drink wine. As we walked arm in arm, stroking each other's hair, I felt this deep sense of peace that I had finally come home. Over drinks we talked about Ankara, cats, the perils of gynecological surgery from the surgeon's point of view, Danish beer, Macedonian Raki and the fate of Jon Snow.

Then on the way home I cried.

This Sunday I am leaving Istanbul  - at least for the time being. My cats are staying here while I fly like a canary deep into a future cave to see if there is a life I can create for us all somewhere else.  If there is, my laydees will follow. If there isn't, I shall return.
For some reason I feel at pains to stress that this coming departure has nothing to do with Turkey's political situation. Because it doesn't.  I am not afraid here. I don't feel unsafe. I feel bonded to my city and if anything the current situation makes me want to stay more than go. But other plans have been made over the summer and it is time for me to see if they are truly what I want. As I have said many times before, my reasons for leaving in Istanbul are steeped in the practical not the emotional.

I don't feel this is goodbye though. I actually feel like our story still has much to follow.  I mean how can you not want to live in a city with signs like these :-)

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Wounded tiger

I haven't commented much on the current situation in Turkey of late. Largely because it wouldn't necessarily be prudent and also because I don't think my yabunci ( foreigner) brain can honestly say it has a grasp of all the layers of what is going on.

But I believe I know enough.

I know that  there is a  wounded tiger in its midst,  a cancer if you will, bent on destroying everyone and everything that stands in its path.

Saturday's massacre at a peace march defies words.  The fact that tear gas was employed immediately afterwards defies humanity.

The Turkish flags now fly at half mast. Fluttering in the October breeze like an endless crimson tide.

May those peaceful hearts so cruelly broken sleep in peace tonight.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Istanbul: Not all turds and tears

So I finally caught all three little kittens and they are currently receiving treatment at a vet clinic. They are wild little things, just like Pirate was, but it is nice to think for at least one week of their life they will have a warm bed and full bellies. Once better they will be returned to their street mama where they will also be reunited with their other two gorgeous siblings. I can't think too much about this next part of their story - it just makes me sad.

I have an ally, at least, in the shape of my elderly neighbor, an Armenian film director. He invited me to a cocktail party being thrown by a  Cinema Club he helped found but honestly I reeked of basement so badly I just couldn't face the glitter. He loves animals though and together we bond in the stairwell over the plight of this furry family.

But as the title says it is not all tears and turds in Istanbul right now. I went for a lovely lunch and stroll with two colleagues during Bayram last week. 
We started in the Syrian restaurant over in Yusufpasa. Best food in the city, I swear. Then we ambled up towards the Grand Bazaar, stopping in a traditional tea-house which I have known since my very first week here in Istanbul. Neither of my companions had ever been there but they loved it. It is always nice to share a hidden gem. 

After we strolled through the Hippodrome in Sultanahmet. Saw a girl get hit by a car which was driving on the pavement. The men who witnessed the accident didn't want to touch her, saying a woman needed to help her. May I never split an artery in this town with only men about! Fortunately an ambulance came eventually and the girl was taken away. She was conscious and talking which was good but her leg was badly twisted. 

Our journey then continued down the twisting back streets where all that is beautiful about Istanbul can be found in abundance.

And of course the cats.

Finally, we passed under the now defunct Orient Express railway line and then under an old city wall arch out to the sea. 

 The coastline was jagged and rocky and awash with Turks ( all men) soaking in the last of the summer sun.  We sat here for a while and exchanged superlatives about all that we could see, feel and hear.

Finally we made our way back round towards  the Galata Bridge and wished each other an Iyi Aksamlar ( a good night).

Istanbul, she'll break your heart and then heal it with her very next breath

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Basement horror

I spent most of today wallowing among spent cat turds, mud and congealed-who-knows-what in the basement of my apartment block. I sat in it, I fell in it, I squatted in it, I banged my head against a streaky wall so hard I got dizzy. It was the kind of room that a serial killer ( a la Silence of the Lambs) would have coveted and possibly even killed for. It was a miserable long day and I will admit to crying on the stairs on more than one occasion.

And the reason. A family of 5 feral kittens and their extremely feral mother. At least three of the kittens have bulging eyes just like my Pirate once did and I simply couldn't sit there and not do anything. I feel like rescuing Pirate means nothing if I fail these little lives instead.

It was almost impossible though and the mother would attack my limbs with such rage ( and love for her kids) I wanted to walk away. And yet, of course, I could not.

By the end of the day I had managed to catch two of the infested little creatures.  Not complete success but not failure either. Tonight they are being cared for at a vet where they will remain for the next days before being returned to their mum. I wish I could give them a safe home forever.

Istanbul has broken my heart.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Bloodmoon Basel

Look at my beautiful old home town, Basel, under the blood moon. I wish I could go back to her, back to how she was. I had such a lovely job there, financial security, good health care, adorable students, kind friends and above all a home filled with love.

I had stability and a future which I can no longer find.

But I can't go back now even though for me financially it would be my best chance to salvage any sort of future security.

No. Alas, I cannot.

Too much blood spilled there.

And I am still spilling it today.

Saturday, 26 September 2015


O look, Istanbul has decided to throw an art and culture Bienali in honour of my return. The theme is Tuzlu su ( Saltwater) which is apt given it could mean my tears at leaving my folks in Australia, my tears at the thought of leaving Istanbul, tears of joy when Istanbul delights me or quite simply my good friend - the Lady Boss.  There are lots of little installations set up all over the city but the ones I chose to visit are on Buyukada ( Big Island) which is about an hour ferry ride from the European side of Istanbul. And the best bit is the displays are free and in English. Actually, the second aspect I think is a bit of a shame. I mean it is nice for me to be able to understand what is going on but is not very inclusive for all the Istanbullis who do not have a command of the language. Such a pity. One of the hardest things in my classes here has been to engage my students in discussions about art. It doesn't tend to rate for a lot of them to the extent that when I have asked them to tell me their favorite painting in the world they often simply say the portrait of Ataturk hanging in Ankara. That is not to say it isn't a fine portrait but it is not really what I mean when I ask them about art.
And yet the incredible thing is my most favorite painting in the world is done by a turkish painter - Osman Hamdi Bey.

Anyway  Buyukada was very pleasing. I got to lay down in the hull of a moored ferry on a bed made out of ropes and get hypnotized. I saw a great video montage about Trotsky. And my favorite was this set of sculptures  set out in the sea just off the island.

Crazy, gorgeous ideas.

I loved the juxtaposition of these absurd animals against the mad skyline of Istanbul

There was even an emu!

Of course I had to join in.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Along our Roads

I have always said to students that if they come to Australia for a visit, forget about the cities and the endless sprawl of suburbs. Come for the landscapes, the seascapes, the animals. And every time I am home and I experience the beauty and might of Australian nature, I feel vindicated in my view. Whether it is being swooped at by a magpie or laughed at by a kookaburra, walking among eucalyptus or marveling at the relentless power of the ocean, it all leaves me feeling exhilarated and very much alive.
This time around I have been lucky enough to visit the coast on a couple occasions. I went with my sister to Mooloolaba on the North Coast for two nights and the thing that I loved most was really how little it has changed since I was a child. Sure the shops have got a bit more ritzy and I prefer wine with my view instead of frozen coke but there is something reassuring about seeing a place remain in its core unchanged.

I perhaps have changed a bit. Especially when wild waves suddenly come thrashing across the rocks. My near drowning last year has given me a very healthy respect of the water which perhaps as a child I did not hold to the same degree.

It was good to be able to spend this time with my sister. Strolling paths we had walked twenty years before, pointing out places we had stayed with mum and dad. Part of me wanted to be able to peer through the window of the Tropicana Inn and see us all there as we were back then. Horribly burnt, choosing videos, playing Trivial Pursuit. It made my heart ache to see the Inn still standing there, unchanged but for a coat of paint, and yet all of us changed, older, so much further down the road of our lives. How grateful I felt that we were all still walking our roads even after all that time.


Ha ha... Aslan strikes again

Monday, 7 September 2015


Happy Birthday Papa...thank you for driving me everywhere since I can remember, burping the alphabet, calculating tunnel-to-car ratios, loving cupcakes, reading to mum in bed, fixing door locks with band-aids, for giving me such thick hair, for sharing a glass of bubbly in the evening, for calling Sooty 'Chook Cat' and Badger 'a pelt in waiting', for hugging me tightly and letting me go, for defending me against Bad Cat, for singing like a soloist in the church choir, for encouraging me to write, for sending me pig-themed postcards when I was 15 years old, for our trips around Switzerland and the Lake District, for lunches at university when I studied there, for letting me deface your whiteboard with lewd cartoon when I was aged 4, for being kind and patient, for mansplaining, for Longreach and Winton  and exploring dinosaur plains...

For everything really.

He kind of went a bit ISIS on the cake but he didn't touch the bottom!!!

Here's to 77 years enriching our planet.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Outposts of Beyond

Back at the Tavern trying to sort out my life. It's hard to search new job/ new home/ how to move pets/ how to save yourself from (further) inevitable financial ruin at the local pub but the internet at home just does not seem to want to work with my new computer. I suspect it is something to do with the way I have set up my machine  but until I understand what all those cloudy shapes are at the bottom of my screen, I can see no other solution.

Some good news, I guess. My story 'The Weaverman of Askhan Bazaar' has finally made it to print.  A nice, glossy mag that I can touch. It even garnered a nice blogger review which I found especially touching. When strangers go out of their way not only to read your work but make an effort to comment, I feel such gratitude for their enthusiasm and time.

Here is the review.

The Weaverman of Askhan Bazaar,” by Joanna Galbraith, is a beautiful tale, written in a flowing, lyrical style, all wrapped around an intriguing premise involving words, the colored threads they leave behind, and the lost art of weaving them together. Galbraith also adds a dash of humor to this story of an old man and a young girl learning their true worth from each other, and she merges all of these elements into an exceptionally pleasing read. This is a good one for those who like to ease into the heart of a story, learning a little more about the people and places involved before being immersed in their conflicts. It also delivers on the magazine’s promise of interesting settings. It’s easily my favorite of the issue, and well worth reading — and then reading again.

And you can read it in full here.

But you know what and this is the hard bit. I wrote this story back in Switzerland. Sure it had some heavy editing while I have been in Turkey but I can't really say it represents a breakthrough.

I feel strangely deflated.

But I suspect that is due to much more than this.

Saturday, 22 August 2015


So since arriving back home for my yearly parental pilgrimage I have been hit by the flu-bat followed by the world's most archaic internet link. Finally I am able to walk to the end of the road without wheezing so I have taken refuge in the local tavern in search of internet and good wine. Success on both counts with the most cheerful bunch of locals thrown in for good measure.
Pa and me
I really have not done that much since my return but I did go to The Exhibition (known locally as The EKKA) the other day. As a child this was one of the highlights of my year: fairy floss, dagwood dogs, strawberry sundaes, donuts, cupee dolls, showbags, sideshow alley, the biggest pumpkin, best-in-show dog, cattle, horses, petting zoo, manure underfoot, fireworks, gruesome police exhibits.) I actually hadn't been for over twenty years so it was a bit exciting to return with my dad and sister.


I particularly enjoyed this photographic effort by my dad - just in case you couldn't work out where we were!
I have to say that twenty years on it seems cleaner than I remember but all the staples were still there plus my new found appreciation of the Cattleman's Bar. The fruit and vegetable display was a bit lacking though  I have to confess. A lot of Anzac themed entrants using the brown of onions and potatoes to capture war uniforms. Very apt but  rather drab. The best was probably the Girl Guide's entry which had an explosion of colourful fruit among trenches and a red baron circling overhead with a swastika affixed to it.

Best bit of show though . Racing pigs obviously.

And diving pigs, of course.

And the littlest piggy went WHEEEEEEEEE!!!

Truly, I have to believe that the piggy enjoyed it. I am sure they were smiling and oinking as well.

Afterwards we visited the  animal petting zoo and I have to tell you the little pigs really did smell of bacon which is why I can never ever eat them.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Old Sultanahmet

A bar in Sultanahmet with a view out to the Marmara
Over the past few weeks I have been exploring around the back of Sultanahmet more. Normally people associate this area with tourism which is a wise assumption given the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Hippodrome etc are all in this area. But there is also a local neighbourhood as well. Filled with tea gardens, childrens' parks, laundromats, hole-in-the-wall bakeries and glorious, green leafy streets that catch the sweet breath of the Lady Boss. The deportation center for foreigners is also in the middle of here. A grand looking building with barred windows where men hang out their arms all day and night, shouting down to loved ones, friends even strangers.  I wonder how many people in there are waiting to be sent back to somewhere far worse. At the end of the building there begins a long line of noisy restaurants. What must it be like to sit behind those bars all day and hear a cacophony of clinking raki classes, tinkling cutlery and Turkish musicians singing ballads about loss.

Life is absurd and often very cruel.

Tomorrow I head to Australia for a month to see my family. I feel anxious about leaving my girls behind but unlike Monsieur Depp I do not have a private jet on which to smuggle them. I am sure they will be fine. And I need to go home. I need somewhere quiet to plot my life.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

On the scales

 Today I picked up my paycheck after some wrangling over dates. I then went down to say goodbye to my drivers because they are the people I will miss the most. I enjoyed our Turklish/Kurdlish  conversations on girls, food, politics, holidays and bad bosses. After, I went to Kylyos on the Black Sea for a dip which was well-needed. The problem with the dip is at the end you have to do a sweaty hike back up to the bus followed by a nauseous twisty ride down to the metro which tends to colour the memory of the beach somewhat. It was still lovely though especially looking out to all those tankers waiting in the Black Sea for their nod to sail The Lady Boss. So sinister and exotic.
Look carefully and you can see them in the distance - promise!
I spent a lot of time thinking today and even thought it is painful for me to say it I do believe that if I were to balance the scales on my decision to come to Istanbul, I don't think it was the best one for me. Of course, hindsight is a beautiful thing and so I don't write this in a defeatist way but rather as an intention. For what I want to do is draw a long watery line across the sand today, step over it and take new steps. This is not to say that there haven't been some truly incredible things about my time in Istanbul. I mean the city itself I do love ferociously. And my laydees with their missing parts, I love them too. And Turkish breakfasts, hamam soap, the view from Suleiman's mosque, ferry boats, street animals, bargain t-shirts, Raki, The Pikap, bal kaymak, sutlac, Ataturk being everywhere, The Tortoise Trainer, Istanbul nights, hilly walks, dolphins at dusk, yok and uflamak. So many beautiful, eclectic, wonderful things. But I also come out of this experience having lost my passion to teach, feeling lost for words ( as a writer - I have published NOTHING here nor written anything of any worth) and even my confidence as a woman seems somehow to be lost a little. And perhaps the saddest part is I have also lost confidence in my ability to make good decisions and so as I now try to step out again and make new decisions for my life I feel crippled and distrustful of myself.
I remember the very first night I arrived in this city and was staying in the hole of a hotel the school had put me in. a truly fetid, ghastly place. I cried in my room but I couldn't or perhaps wouldn't do what a voice in me was telling me to do which was to get back on that plane. Take a different chance.
That chance is lost now so even the saying 'live and learn' rings hollow because I cannot learn ( nor live either) in that way anymore. But somehow I have to try and make a good decision now and the truth is I have no faith that I can. 
So may I, in these coming months, find wise, kind and good counsel both in the well deep inside myself and those with whom I choose to surround myself. 
Now is not a time for fear.
As my Persian boyfriend Hafiz once said. 

“Fear is the cheapest room in the house.
I would like to see you living
In better conditions.”

Monday, 27 July 2015

Shifting times

In other news a bomb warning has been issued for my metro, Osmanbey, which is at the bottom of the street. Nothing specific just one listed on quite a short list. This has been a truly terrible week for Turkey and I feel that things have definitely shifted...and not in a good way. It is so complicated to try and explain what I think is going on ( and probably also unwise) but today was the first day I found myself looking around at the people nearby me. Watching, wondering, planning my exit. 

An impenetrada

Trust pirate to stick her tongue out!
Right now I feel like I have so many topics I want to talk about, it is like a big disjointed mess. Heh Heh, kind of like how I think most days.
First of all, it is 'H-O-T warm' as my dad used to say (much to my mother's annoyance.) My room borders on unbearable because it is west-facing so it literally cooks all afternoon and then takes until dawn to cool down again. Last night I was miserable. Sweating like an ogre in my bed. I had to kick my laydees out just so I could sleep with the window open. I can't let them have free access to my window because it leads to the terrace which is four-storeys up and despite what people say about cats landing on their feet, I don't fancy their chances, especially those with three paws.
     Actually, the terrace has caused me a lot of vexation since I moved in because I simply cannot trust the laydees out there on their own. And Three-Paw proved me right just the other week when she decided to make a leap of faith from the railing ledge to the neighbour's roof whereupon she ambled right up to the peak. I missed the actual leap because I had gone inside for a split second but when I came out she was gone. I was horrified. I called to my flatmates to ask if they had seen her but very quickly I realised that she had left the terrace somehow.
I climbed up onto a chair so I could see onto the roof and sure enough there was her ample silhouette way up high. I have to say I wanted to cry. I mean she had made the leap of faith across the four-storey drop in an upward direction but trying to do it back the other way with only three paws I knew was going to be problematic. ( She, of course, had not thought this far ahead.) My flatmate gallantly offered to climb onto the sloping roof but I knew she would probably run from him if he tried to grab her and she is the most squirmy cat I have ever known in my life. So instead I was hoisted onto the roof (fueled by adrenalin and raki) and I crept up to the peak of the roof, my eyes on the prize not on the great sloping height. Three Paw, as I predicted, did not bolt from me in fact I think she said something like ' Hey mama, check this out. So cool and high and away from dat Pirate !!'
Anyway I grabbed her, incredibly tightly due to her squirm factor. It was not a pleasant experience for either of us and as I carried her back down to the roof edge to hand down to my waiting flatmate I was shouting to him that when he took her he was going to need to take her very firmly. The problem with a three-pawed cat is when they drop out of your arms they really drop, especially when they are missing their front arm. The potential for injury is great.  Luckily  he took her (with a few minor scratches) and then I came back down from the roof as well.
I was shaking. This was not something I would ever want to repeat.
I knew I would need to build an Impenetrada.  Not just to stop Three Paw's excursions but to prevent Pirate from haphazardly falling through the railings on one of her merry chase-that-fly dances where she sees nothing but the fly she is determined to catch.
So I dungareed up and went to a hardware store (the horror the horror) and bought myself some mesh and binders. Now I have and created a netting round the terrace railing with my own nimble hands. It isn't perfect. It's not going to stop the wiliest of beasts but should be enough for a cat with three paws and another one who isn't really interested in climbing far as such but likes to fly across the terrace in pursuit of bugs

And so far so good. I mean I still hover like a helicopter parent when the girls go out there but I feel a little more at ease and secretly proud of my handy-woman ways.

I would so hire me .-)