Sunday, 11 December 2016


Poor Besiktas...I cannot count how many times I have walked that road where the latest bombing atrocity just happened. Macka Park was my stamping ground, a  rare green lung in a city already choking with cars, with people, with despair.

When I speak to my Turkish friends, they are not afraid. They are angry. Furious even.  And I agree with them. I could probably circle a date in the calendar from last year when the wheels were put in motion for last night's carnage. Turkey is being destroyed.  My poor beloved lady. She makes my heart race like no other city on earth, save for Damascus - a disturbing pattern is forming here I fear.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

A Year On

You know I am very mindful of this blog not being about only my cats. Much as I love them and they are my family here, I hate it when I only get sent cat gifs or cat stories like I have no other passions. So I have to be careful not to feed that narrative but today is not one of those days because today I feel Three Paw must be celebrated.

You see this time a year ago Three Paw was admitted into intensive care with a series of illnesses that were never fully explained except via an impressive dent in my wallet and a gaggle of grey hairs. The lack of a clear prognosis was probably not aided by one of the vets giving her a dog test for panleukopenia instead of a cat test which meant the results were inapplicable anyway. What I do know though is that it was a problem with her pancreas and her liver as well ( she was always a bit heavy-pawed on the Raki), possibly brought on by an infection.

I ended up leaving a new job just so I could nurse her and spent the next seven weeks feeding and medicating her by a tube five times day. I remember wondering at the time if I was doing the right thing. Was I making this animal suffer because I couldn't bear to let her go. But she always used to look at me straight in the eyes and I knew I could read her and that she trusted me as well. I was plagued with self-doubts but I felt in my heart I would know what to do or she would tell me somehow. And even though she couldn't eat, her body never rejected the food. She always took herself to the bathroom and every night she rested her paw on my chest.  All of the time whispering: 'Don't give up on me just yet.'

A year later and I know I did exactly the right thing. Just watching her today ambling in the garden, with florets of purple flower-heads caught in her fur. Eating both breakfast and lunch, purring when she is groomed.  She is much frailer now, and who know how longer we will have together, but we weren't meant to give up back then and she made that very clear. Besides she would never forgiven me for not giving her the chance to lie under olive trees and chew on sweet grass.

Most of the time I wish I were still in Istanbul but the one thing I know is that if I had stayed, she would not be here.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Happy Adoption Day

This day three years ago I finally caught a little black kitten that I had seen cowering behind a tombstone by Cihangir Mosque. She had an appalling eye infection so big it looked like a peeled grape was hanging out of her socket. I remember reaching out and grabbing her and thinking if I can take her to a vet they will know what to do. The vet, a friendly fellow with black, cascading curls,  had confirmed she would lose the eye. 'Don't worry,' he had said.'She'll be fine back on the streets, just give it a week or two.' And I remember looking down at her, smaller than my hand ( which by the way is even smaller than Donald Trump's) and I knew I could never put her back on the streets.
Happy Adoption Day my Pirate you funny, little thing.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

a grocery bag of love

I have not been happy of late. In fact, apart from when my parents visited, I cannot really remember the last time I was happy with a feeling of  peace in my heart. Maybe 2013 when D visited me in Istanbul and we sat in the Pera Palace and drank cocktails together. Or before then in Basel when the morning sparrows sang. The last months though it  seems to  have been very hard indeed. I have hardly any work (7.5 hours a week - unlivable in Italy), no running hot water for over week now and a gnawing feeling of anxiety and  a deep-seated sense of loss. So this morning I lay in my bed thinking whether I would even get up. Maybe just lie in my onesie all day until the cats began to chew off my toes. 
But then I made myself get up because I know that I must do so in order to keep moving. 
At about midday there was a knock at my door and one of my colleagues was standing there with two bags of shopping and a monumental hug. It is an incredible feeling to have someone turn up after nights of great blackness and terrible despair.  Just out of the blue. Letting you know you are loved. And my lesson from that is to people everywhere. Don't underestimate the power that you have to help people around you. For in that moment of great love I felt  like I was the luckiest person alive. So lucky I feel ready to face the full stream of a cold shower.

I have attached a picture of me and my mum on our recent holiday to England because it makes me happy to think about it and that is infinitely better than being sad. 

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Forgotten how

It seems I have forgotten how to blog. Or perhaps I am too tired. Too defeated. I miss it though but how do you start writing when you have lost all your words. I go to bed thinking maybe tomorrow. But the next day comes and it is all just the same. I didn't realise I could feel this bad for this long.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016


And slowly all those fragments she had worked so hard to put together began to fall away again. And she wondered if she had just been asleep. And things would never come together. That had been the dream.

But then her one-eyed friend, whose pluck and girth kept growing with each day, said "O come now, let's just give it one more try."


And she showed her a pot of most beautiful things.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

15 July 2016

GEZI Days in 2013
From where I am sitting I have a sweeping view of emerald Tuscan hills,  quilted with olive groves and vineyards. I can hear the six o'clock church bells ringing from the numerous churches in my village and every villager I pass has their 'summer' on. But I am not here. I mean my body is ( with all its generous Chianti-inspired curves) but my heart and my mind are far, far away.

In Istanbul. In Turkey. With my friends. With my ex-students. With the waiters and the taxi drivers,the woman in my local fruit shop, the young soldiers, the old men playing tavla, the Nisantasi ladies and the simit sellers of Kadikoy.

And with Y.

I love Turkey despite how harsh she is and to see her being torn about like this makes my heart sink into itself.

I hold great fears for her now. Even greater than the ones I had  yesterday.

My beautiful friend.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Benim Canim

On Friday I woke up feeling low. I don't know if it was because of dreams I couldn't remember or the fact that the weather was so grey and downcast for yet another day.  I sat at my computer for a while, trying to write (I am determined to finish my novel this summer - there have been some developments in this area but it is too early to say anything) but my mind kept on wandering to Istanbul where the weather reports said the sun was shining and no doubt the Bosphorus was throwing diamonds to the sky. I thought about Ramazan, which is starting very soon, and  how I will miss the pide and the feeling on the streets as dusk begins to fall.
Then, almost like a miracle, I found out that one of my ex-students from Istanbul was going to be in Florence on Saturday and suddenly I felt this joyfulness. We ended up meeting Saturday night where we shared wine and dinner on Piazza della Signoria and somehow staring at the Tuscan sky with a Turk by my side felt very, very fine.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Big as a cherry

BEWARE: Tick haven!!!
When I was small I used to sit in the back of my parent's car singing 'it was as big as a cherry la la la la' with the Saltzman brothers. It always gratified me that these brothers would sing along because the song was all about me. Well, about a tick my mum found on the back of my neck while at a Sunday school picnic. It had been there a while because I remember playing with it in bed and I  only told my mother at the picnic because (a) all the caramel paddlepops had melted and (b) I wasn't getting enough attention. It was quite the sizable beast and everyone was suitably aghast. The doctor suggested I not host a tick for quite some time after.

Well, I have finally played host again. This time on my hip. I didn't even notice it for a while because I thought it was a scab. Then when I noticed it still wasn't healing, I realised my scab had legs. Unfortunately I did not go about its eviction in the right way so there is still the tiniest speck of its head hanging in my hip. It is a little itchy and red but I don't believe it is infected so I am kind of waiting for it to get pushed out like a splinter.

The joys of rural living. Snakes - 3. Ticks - 1.

 I am waiting for a wild boar to tear through my backyard. Hopefully it will snag me a truffle on its way and I can retire on its riches.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016


Fireflies have started appearing in my garden. Beautiful, fragile things, flitting between the olive trees. Like fireworks for ants. I love them. Often I sit outside in the grass and watch them dance about me until it is time for bed. Apparently Tuscan children try to catch them in jars and their parents give them coins for the ones they manage to catch. It isn't easy work and they release them in the end ( thank goodness) but it does conjure up a wonderful image of children playing and laughing amongst the cypress trees

I often see fireflies on my walk home when I am too late for the last bus. I have a rather steep climb up to my town but have found a short cut through an olive grove which literally buzzes with these beautiful creatures whenever I pass through. Even though the walk can be exhausting at the end of a long day, when the moon is full and the fireflies dance it makes it all worthwhile.

Last Saturday evening I had to do just this after I missed my connection from Florence. I had been at an all day writers' conference in the city and my feet had simply lost their rhythm by the close of the day.  The conference was the usual mix of awkwardness and enthusiasm which seems to colour these things but it was good to identify myself with my writing again.  It's time to ride that pony again.
One thing that became very apparent to me though was that I need to start working on my blog again (oh and I need to finish some stories.) I did manage to meet with a publisher ( who doesn't accept unsolicited manuscripts but had read some of work and  said some really wonderful things) and the first thing she said to me was ' you need to get an agent.' I found this both insightful and amusing since she made it sound like something you just pick up at your local grocery story.

'Um a bottle of red wine, three tomatoes...oh and one agent please. Preferably a good one!'

A good agent though, I suspect, is a bit like a firefly. A beautiful, lively things that can bring such joy into your life...but damn hard to catch.

Time to get some bigger jars.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

New blog

I have started a new blog to document my time in my new town. It is called It is not meant to replace this blog at all but I thought if I started a somewhat more detached account of my move I might find it easier to write while I work out how to write on this blog. Suffice to say I am already very behind in this other blog as well..but baby steps, baby steps.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

How to begin

Well spring has arrived and perhaps it is time I got back on my blog.

 It is difficult though to know how to begin so I am going to ease myself in gently with a pretty picture or two.