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.