Archive | August, 2014

Six Days in Istanbul: DAY FOUR. “Either I conquer Istanbul or Istanbul conquers me,” Fatih Sultan Mehmet

30 Aug

I suppose technically the fourth day in Istanbul began on a rooftop club, which I cannot recall the name of for the life of me. At one point the bar was on fire, as I may have mentioned before, but this was all bartender theatre; yep, they were that good. Amusingly, that behemoth of Turkish pop cheese, Tarkan, was much in evidence that evening with his tune “Simarik” (a 1997 Turkish No.1), which I heard at least three times! My friend Jeff must have sent me the link to that song’s youtube clip at least as many times as that. I scoffed, suggesting my chances of hearing this crap on holiday were virtually nil. Ha! Eating my words now eh!  I actually quite came to like it, in a grudging way. Tarkan is essentially a Turkish Robbie Williams by all accounts, so I’m not going to praise his music that much (which says a lot for my view of Williams), but when you’re on holiday it’s amazing what music you end up dancing to! Interestingly, sat outside the Hostelworld cafe talking to a twenty-something Turkish girl a day later, and she was far more interested in Portishead playing a local festival in August (Midtown Festival) than Tarkan (who I mentioned and got a wry smile in response!) Continue reading

Six days in Istanbul: DAY THREE. “Istanbul was not an anonymous multitude of walled-in lives…but an archipelago of neighbourhoods in which everyone knew each other”, Orhan Pamuk

25 Aug

Day three of my Istanbul adventure was a prime example of why, as a solo traveller, you should be prepared to deal with things going wrong. Well, not ‘wrong’ exactly, just not exactly as planned. So, you know, it’s about being able to deal with that and not have an almighty melt-down because you’re on your own in a foreign country and the one big thing that you’d pinned a lot of your holiday aspirations on just doesn’t happen. Continue reading

Six Days in Istanbul: DAY TWO. “If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul”, Alphonse de Lamartine

23 Aug


I suppose nothing prepared me for Sultanahmet, the historical centre of Asian Istanbul. Istanbul is a unique kind of city, straddling two continents and providing what I think is a perfect blend of Eastern Europe and the Middle East. In-between is the River Bosphorus, and The Golden Horn, one of the world’s great natural harbours, which has served this great city for over two thousand years. Now, I mentioned a smell I noticed on my first night, and yes, it’s definitely the smell of Istanbul. I’m still not exactly sure what it was; a combination of spice, smoke, heat and even the odd sewer. Who knows?? I actually liked it, because the bottom line is, Istanbul did not smell like Manchester or London. Continue reading

Six days in Istanbul. DAY ONE: “…in the coffee shops of Istanbul, people will know and love us in our multidimensional glory, dream of us the way they dream of San Francisco and New York”, Mary Schmich.

21 Aug

Galata Tower: seemingly very easy to miss, even when floodlit like a Christmas Tree at night, towering over the neighbourhood.

To pay homage to the old song by The Divine Comedy, ‘when your life’s in a mess, take the Orient Express!”….except I didn’t, it just sounded reasonably witty. So no I didn’t. I did, however, end up at the last stop for the now defunct Express: Istanbul.

Plus my life wasn’t that much in a mess. Nothing other fellow human beings haven’t been through before. But I think it deserves mentioning, that this is some months after the worst Christmas and New Year I’ve ever known (two deaths, one especially significant, and a following romantic relationship breakdown, which I now know was also significant). I suppose, months later, I just felt like getting the hell away from what I suppose I now saw as a right mess, to somewhere a bit more far flung than Spain or even Greece (although I do love both places). I needed to experience something, stretch my horizons a bit and maybe also reflect, but a long way away. However, friends and family were not available as potential travel companions while I was on leave, so I thought a solo excursion could be a great idea. But, at the same time, as I was travelling on my own, I didn’t necessarily want to culture shock myself with a week in rural Peru or a sabbatical in Yemen. You’ve got to take these things in easy stages. So Istanbul, in Turkey, seemed exotic and foreign enough without sending my usually high stress levels into outer space with worry about whether I was going to get by with no language or culture in common.

Continue reading

Borrowed words: Russell on Robin.

12 Aug

I suppose in the context of this blog being my words and creative effort, this entry might seem a bit of a cheat. But with every article I read from him, I come to like Russell Brand even more (and I couldn’t like him much less than those long gone days when he hosted Big Brother’s Little Brother).
The death of Robin Williams has been a huge talking point on-line today, and I suppose I’m humbly admitting that I share Russell’s sentiments and that he’s worded it far better than I probably would have done, so I don’t have to. But I will say this: any man who could bring such laughter and happiness to us all, deserves to be spoken of this fondly. Also, for some of us, he’s just always been there, from our childhood memories of Mork and Mindy, through his signature roles in Good Morning, Vietnam and Mrs Doubtfire, to his astounding dramatic turns in later films like One Hour Photo, proving he was far more than just a comedy performer. Sadly, the diseases of depression and anxiety still haunt many of us, and in extreme cases are an awful catalyst for the type of tragedy we see here. Those who say that Robin was selfish or that they have no sympathy for his actions, are missing the point. Williams wouldn’t have had a choice in the sense they believe he had, and I’m sure his family and friends will be far kinder to his memory than those harsh purveyors of judgement.
Over to Russell Brand’s words on an unforgettable performer:

Istanbul, not Constantinople!

4 Aug

This is ostensibly a blog about creative arts, particularly music and film. But occasionally I do like to submit something a little more personal, which hopefully doesn’t drift too far from the blog’s remit.

First, I’d just like to mention how much I’ve been listening to music in a cathartic sense, which I suppose I often did anyway, but especially this year. 2014 started with a huge life changing event (as much as I’d like to play it down as one): the loss of a close loved one, which came soon after the loss of an old friend. There’s also been another kind of sad goodbye, but I know that person is headed on a different path to find a happier place, and my love and luck go with her, so in that respect there is some consolation in it. People sometimes come and go out of your life like that, and it’s truly bittersweet, no matter how much you convince yourself it’s for the best.

Those are the hard, cold times when actually, the last thing you often want to do is play your beloved music loud. But earlier this year, the voice of support and understanding would come from the most unexpected place. Not from one of my favourite bands, but elsewhere. For me, hearing Adele’s Bond theme “Skyfall” helped. Seriously, stay with me on this one! (Don’t be fooled however, I did play some rather heavy angry rock very loud indeed, and some truly depressing indie dirge as well). But as for the Adele song, the lyrics seemed to present an empowering message in the days before a funeral, at which I gave the eulogy. And since then, that’s been the message to myself for this year: “to stand tall and face it all”, and embrace, rather than deny, any creative suggestion that comes as a result of it. So, I’ve started writing more, and pushing for more fulfilling professional avenues. I did a painting recently as well, but honestly, you don’t want to see that; it was terrible. Oh god, yeah, really crap. But I enjoyed doing it, so that’s alright isn’t it!

Anyway, the more specific thing I want to talk to you about, now I’ve got all that emo stuff out of the way, is that in two weeks I take off to Istanbul in Turkey, one of the world’s historically greatest cities, and one of the modern world’s biggest; a tantalising blend of old and new. I’m still trying not to call it Constantinople, which I bizarrely insist on calling it, despite the fact it hasn’t officially been called that by anyone in a very, very long time. I’m going on my own, in a brave move to maybe discover more about the city, that I might not find in a group excursion, but also to discover more about myself and what I am capable of. I’ll also be taking in the city’s music, art and general culture (which will be feeding into these pages). On the first Friday, fourteen full hours will also be spent on The Other Tour, a radical and exciting personalised tour to discover the ‘real’ Istanbul, away from the tourist routes. I am promised lunch made by the tour guide’s mum (yeah, really), a boat trip, a Turkish bath and some Turkish dancing (I’ll perhaps be pissed on Raki by then). But I will of course, be entering the apparently magnificent Hagia Sofia and Topkapi Palace, and even seeing the hotel where Agatha Christie regularly stayed. There will be no Murder on the Orient Express, but there will be plenty of excitement I’m sure. All in all, it’ll be the Serendipity3864 site’s almost live experience, from Istanbul!

Maybe I’m trying to escape a challenging year, but I’m already richer for the gains and experience of coming through some tough times. In the last twelve months I’ve also added some more letters to the end of my name, so it just goes to show: even when things are tough, we can still achieve so much. You don’t give up, you get up!

I’m well up for an adventure now. Join me in late August!