Saturday, December 06, 2003

Thýs traffic doesn't half kick up a blanket of smog! Ýt's a good thing so many Turks smoke, as it's all that keeps the air breathable. Had fun at the Maltepe bazaar yesterday. At 2.12 pm, the place ýs full of pýrated software, electronic games and DVDs. A shout goes up at 2.13, and by 2.14 a host of stalls have dýsappeared behind rollerdoors and tarpaulýns. By 2.30 all ýs as before

The Turkýsh papers are growýng cross wýth Europe. Certainly, it is hard to argue Turkey is not effectývely being isolated by europe's suits and uniforms. First UEFA abandon all Turkýish venues from the European Cup, then Britain refuse all civilian visas from Turkey, then NATO has moved its executive get-together from Ýstanbul to ostensýbly safer climes. The story is doing the rounds that British papers are reporting that passengers on a British Airways flýght panýcked when they observed seven Turkish passengers praying. Leaving aside the fact that, were Ý a religious man, Ý'd be given to the odd in-flight supplication to the heavens, saýd Turkish passengers insist not a prayer was uttered throughout. More stupýd self-defeating orientalism from the great and the good ...

Not much else to report. Most people Ý know have been brought low by theýr annual cold and the standing few are bravely standing in for them. Ýt seems one does not ask such favours here - if your colleagues decide you are sick, even tired, they summarýly send you home and lift your load. As Australians sprýnkle their congress with 'mate', so do the Turks wýth 'arkadas'. 'Arkadas' literally means 'one who covers my back' and here that's exactly what it's taken to mean. Uncommon pretty to watch it is, too. The only thing about which Ý have ever agreed wýth Honest Johnny was his insistence that 'mate' be constýtutýonally honoured in the land. Of course, Ý doubt he meant a word of it, but Ý was made angrier still by the coterie of power-dressed ersatz feminists who came at him on the issue. 'Mate' they gravely asserted, was the battlecry of the patriarchy - effectively condemnýng every woman who has mates who stand up to pee as a witless lackey to perfýdýous Man. 'Týs the curse of the Australian lefty to endure some dodgy fellow travellers.

Anyway, Ý've some fellow travellers of my own, and it is time to step ýnto some pide together. The word for 'fellow traveller' ýn Turkey is 'yoldas', and, yes, ýt also does duty here as 'comrade'.

I may be quiet for a few days now as duty hollers.

Oh, and carn the Australýan yoof team! 3-2 over B-R-A-Z-Ý-L!! Hope bloody Blatter was watching ...
Thursday, December 04, 2003

Ankara is, for the most part, brand new. Attaturk hurriedly began building the minute he had a nation-state for which to build a capital. No complaints, mind, but methinks he built it a skerrick on the small side for the four millions who inhabit the place now. Crossing the road here is only for those with sharp senses, immaculate timing, nimble feet and a goodly dollop of that Turkish fatalism. Were I but a decade older and slower Ý'd be obliged to spend the rest of my life on this side of the road. That said, what's left of the old bit of Ankara (or Angora, as it used to be) is all of 3200 years old. The Hittites, King Midas' Phrygians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Caliphs and the Ottomans have all left their mark here - much of it in and under the castle that overlooks Ankara. Ýts walls are built out of any old block that came to hand at the time, including Roman statues, summarily beheaded and turned sideways.

The news of the day makes for thin pickings. More than 150000 cancellations have hit the economy hard, and Ý haven't once heard a foreign voice here in the three days Ý've spent dodging Ankara's fleets of angry Renaults and Fiats. So Ý've been Turking it up a storm. One thing - one of the many things - Ý like about Turkey is that everything has a political significance. Politics is lived through the people here, not confined to a few homogenised and pasteurised institutions. My moustache matters because ?'m gravely assured social democrats have particular moustaches, definitely not to be confused with the foliage sported by those of other persuasions. The same with the football teams and televýsýon statýons - and the same with the pubs. On Monday night, my arkadas and Ý took my moustache into a socialist pub for pre-match drinks and into a Kemalist pub for the big match itself. Galatasary were creatures of rare beauty on the night, and strutted all over a workmanlike Juventus. My little pod of proud nationalists expressed their joy loud'n'long, and my ears were ringing as Ý took my wobbly legs bravely out into The Traffic That Does Not Sleep.

Everyone Ý meet seems pleasantly surprised with the new government, and on first impressions Ý can see their point. Prime Minister Erdogan responded to the ?stanbul bombings in firm and measured tones, pointing out that he wouldn't countenance phrases like 'Jewish terrorists' or 'Christian terrorists' and that Ýslamic Turkey should not have to put up with 'Islamic terrorists' - for him, they are 'religious terrorists' at best. Good on him. The Turks are livid about the changing of venues for European championship matches (Galatasary had to play Juventus in Germany, and so must Besiktas meet Chelsea there) and the British decision to refuse all civilian visas in Turkey. They don't guarantee more outrages will not occur here, but point out that no-one else is in a position to guarantee that either. That is, after all, the content of 'globalisation'. Ý cop these diatribes - invariably delivered over drinks my interlocutor has insisted on buying for me ('you are a guest in my home') - in sad agreement. Would Chelsea be playing in Germany if London had been bombed, I am moved to wonder. Did Britain refuse Americans visas after S11, I don't even begin to wonder ....

Oh, and ? went to the post-office today. Two things Turkish post-offices don't sell are envelopes and stamps. So this blog constitutes the sum-total of my communication with the outside world for now.

Gule gule, yoldaslar!
Sunday, November 30, 2003

Thirty hours of squirming from buttock to buttock and fantasising about cigarettes, two twenty-minute sessions of stamping from foot to foot whilst actually smoking cigarettes, and three showings of 'Pirates of the Carribean' later, yours Not-At-All-Dismally-Just-At-The-Moment drags contentedly at a Maltepe, sips delicately at a cai and blogs adjectivally at you from throbbing Taksim in (insert all adjectives here) Istanbul. The street behind me teems with chain-smoking amblers, fishmongers, purveyors of costume jewellery, mobile phones and pirated VCDs - all going industriously at it as if the rubble behind them hadn't been a consulate a week before. The only thing that's changed is that these finely honed salesmen aren't selling much. Each and every taxi driver proffers long, articulate, damning and usually unsolicited discourses on the political economy of their plight - neither a good word for the bombers nor the 'coal?t?on' ... just the shrugging realisation that yet again the designs and interventions of others have thrown a spanner in the Turkish works. Shrugging, because these are a fatalistic people. You get that way when shit keeps happening, I dare say. Always Turkey comes back and always Turkey takes another hit. The ups and downs that inhabit the memory banks of a 46-year-old Turk must make for jagged drama indeed compared to the gentle undulat?ons that shape my grasp of the past.

Did my share of culture-bathing and rubber-necking yesterday, but did take time out to catch 'Master and Commander'. I loved the ambience and the look of the film, and it's worth a look for those alone, but the backbone of the O'Brian books is the mutually complementing and warmly edifying relationship between the intriguingly-rich-but-humanly-not-quite-whole characters of Aubrey and Maturin, and on that account the film is pretty thin fare - thinner even than one might expect of a two-hour action pic . Rusty's Jack carries off the Errol Flynn portion of the remit and does okay at the benevolent-despot bit, but he's done better than this, for mine. Oh, and a point would have been nice. In short, I am certainly at least as deeply disappointed as I am resolved to buy the DVD.

Well, I'm off to catch the Fenerbahce/Besiktas derby now. Tomorrow, a venture across the Bosphorus and the day after that off to Ankara, where I should have more reliable access to a computer (and be more used to the Xq!?? keyboard) and perhaps a thought or two worth the bloggery.

Iyigunler, yoldaslar!
political economic and cultural observations in the register of dismal dilettantism

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