Wednesday, 5 June 2013


It seems ironic but I just realised this blog currently has a more relevant title than ever.

Whilst I set this up to take a light-hearted look at tiny, unnoticed things that generally made me smile, we now find ourselves in a period where citizens of Turkey are fighting against their media's cloak of invisibility.

Is still think  #occupygezi is the most powerful website, just photographs regularly updated with real-life actions in Turkey.

The hashtag #occupygezi is being plastered all over Twitter, and videos such as this police brutality and it all started with a tree are popping up all over Youtube to describe what is actually happening.

I think this is great; the people of Turkey are beating the silence protrayed by the Turkish media. They just want to be heard, and there are so many of them!

Now, after several days, let's hope that something constructive comes of all of this...

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Inevitable riots

I'm amazed and impressed by those standing up to the government in Turkey, right now. Marching across the bridge in defiance of public transport bans. Fighting for what they believe. 

This has been coming for a while, the tension between the public and the increasingly authoritarian government finally reaching breaking point.

Updated photos at here show the extent of the violence. The news is not being particularly well documented by the Turkish media.

Below, on a slightly separate note, is a picture of the police reacting to some incredibly mild-mannered protests outside our office several months ago. A small group of about 15 well-behaved, middle aged workers were marching in protest of job cuts. The authorities felt it was necessary to send hundreds of tear-gas-wielding riot police to mow them down using a water cannon and staged attacks. 

When I showed this to my Turkish friends, they were not at all surprised.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Earthquake Knowledge

Wearing underwear in bed. 

Despite all the warnings, the seminars on Earthquake procedures and measures to help in the aftermath of a major earthquake, the horror stories of the tragic earthquake in '99, the only thing I ended up changing in my approach to Earthquake measures was to start wearing pants or shorts in bed. Just in case.

What a terrible ex-pat.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Shady showers

I joined the MAC gym in Kanyon shopping mall. Yes, the fancy gym, the one with the live DJ playing music to run to, a semi-basketball court, saunas, hamams, massages and sun-decks. It's expensive, but it's near where I work, so I splashed out.

Anyway, it's the showers have caught my attention. They are lit from below by spotlights embedded in the ground which you tread on.

It's cool; it means the ceilings are free of services so they're finished with the exposed concrete slab - which we see elsewhere in the gym - maintaining the gritty/modern/industrial style that the interior designers have specified elsewhere.

Of course, spotlights on the ground cast shadows upwards and therefore, whilst showering, you'll look up and see a wonderful silhouette of your manhood cast across the concrete ceiling, wiggling around for everyone else in the changing rooms to see like some perverse batman-signal.

God knows what kind of super hero is supposed to respond to that, though.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Astounding Astoria

Istanbul's toxic blend of carbon monoxide, concrete chemicals, nargile smoke and dust mix together to create some spectacular sunsets and bring unexpected beauty to areas of the city outside of Sultanhammet.

In this example, even a photograph of the Astoria at Gayreteppe can look pretty, if you ignore the building to the right with the Macdonald's poster on it...and the Astoria.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Turkish ingenuity

Back in  England we expect rainwater to drain to the sides of the roads, down through drain holes and into the sewers below. 

Of course we do. The roads are deliberately constructed with a camber - a convex curvature in the tar-mac maintaining height at the road centre. 

Science part over.

In Istanbul, the roads are nice and flat. 

Of course they are.

During the rainy season large puddles form across the roads. Steeper local streets turn in to white water rapids, stairways into cascading waterfalls, and main junctions become urban, traffic-heavy lakes.

Most of the time this is simply a nuisance. If you've chosen the wrong pair of shoes you might find yourself sitting in soggy socks for a large part of the day. 

For these guys working outside of our office one morning, it's a genuine hassle.

They were trying to do repair work on subterranean telephone systems and, to avoid working under a soaking wet waterfall from another nasty road-lake, they collected mud from nearby plant pots and constructed a miniature, inverted dam around their man-hole, keeping the potentially dangerous water at bay.

Of course they did.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Musical Metro

"Bing bong" sings the ticket machine as you swipe your card.
"Bah-da Bah-daa", it's neighbour replies.
"Bong bing!", cries out a third.
"Da-dah", the first retorts.
"Boop boop", "Do do doo", the other machines join the choir and together their mad symphony fills the metro station tunnel.

But what do the lyrics actually mean? I have no idea. There's no apparent pattern, no code. Does each card prompt a different noise?

Most of the noises mean that your card is accepted, so let's just assume that this is a cheerful song, one from the heart of the musical metro station welcoming you through it's ticket machine vocals.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

"is that all?"

Of all the complexities I have experienced while attempting to learn the Turkish language, the arrangement of sentences, the suffixes, suffixes and suffixes, it is the word "başka" that always trips me up.

I don't know why, but I keep forgetting that başka means "anything else?" And not, "is that all?".So I regularly experience an awkward few seconds of silence at checkout counters having responded "evet, yes" to that tricky başka question. The checkout assistant/shopowner and I stare at each other like bemused chess-players waiting for the opponents move.

I sometimes end the silence by saying back "baska?" (which, surely, is very rude) but this actually tends to resolve the matter as they piece the puzzle together and realise that I'm just a stupid foreigner. Then they wish me goodnight in perfect English.


Thursday, 14 March 2013

Chatty fast food

A phone call:

'Hello sir, I am calling from Yemek Sepeti,'
'Sir, do you have any other question for us, sir?'
'"Other"? What? No. No I don't. You called me.'

Yemek Sepeti; apparently they like to call just for a chat.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Congratulations, Taramasalata!! (Galatasaray)

So Galatasaray beat Schalke last night, then.

Or maybe it stayed 2-2, putting them through on aggregate. Or possibly ended 3-3 or 4-4.

All I know is that Galatasaray made it through to the Quarter finals. 

I guessed this, partly because as I went to grab some bread from the shop next door the shop-owner, for once, didn't notice me and therefore grunted at me entirely in Turkish, his gaze fixed determinedly on the tiny TV monitor in his shop. It didn't matter, I know numbers and "goodnight" in Turkish anyway. The tiny score on the tiny screen was 2-2 as I left.

But I know the result thanks to the informative car-horns which rang out throughout the night, taking me back to 2008 in Shoreditch, North London when Turkey (surprise, surprise) inexplicably made it through to the semi-finals of the European Championships, somehow getting past a superior Croatia. 

Up and down Kingsland Road, a twenty-something strong convoy of Turk-packed cars drove, blaring music, waving flags, beeping horns etc...I believe it's called celebrating, something we English football fans are not so used to.

We loved it. Living in North London (and when England don't qualify) you have to make Turkey your honorary team for the tournament, even if only to get cheaper kebabs from the local takeaways. And the kebabs suddenly get even cheaper when you come in cheering on "Tur-Kee-Yeah!" as your neighbours have laboriously taught you, and mentioning names like Nihat and Semih, which you have learnt entirely for the purpose of cheap/free doner meat and chips.

So last night, as Galatasaray fans celebrated their famous win (or draw, I still haven't looked the final score up) last night, rather than being kept awake by the noise I found myself feeling more at home than ever.

(I like that Google tries to correct "Galatasaray" to "Taramasalata". Nice try, Google)