Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Traditional Christmas

We started a tradition bound to continue yesterday; we bought a battery-operated toy that broke within five minutes!
In hindsight there were omens, the cheap yellow plastic, the suspiciously delicate appendages, and worst of all 'Quality Toy - Made in China' in font size 4 on the back of the package. It came out of the box intact, survived putting in the batteries, climbed 4x4 style over the cushions and then lost its treads. Replacing them several times in the following five minutes became tedious and we discussed how we could permanently fix the problem; put the rubber treads in the fridge to shorten them; put them in hot water; glue them to the wheels. Alas while these talks were underway Little Boy Blue tore the treads apart in his curiosity.
Not to worry there was another vehicle to play with. Attaching a trailer to it was fiddly and ultimately pointless as the attachment broke. Still the Brown-eyed Girl played with it, pausing briefly to scream at Little Boy Blue when he wandered close with a 'gimme' look in his eye. She retrieved the box and polystyrene packaging from within the piles of wrapping paper and has played happily ever since, leaving a stream of white confetti in her wake.
Terrible to be so stereotypical...

Friday, November 23, 2007

In the Tranquil Garden

Peace reigned in the garden of the little blue house. The toddler sat on the swing hands holding firmly on the ropes, his woolly hat and winter coat at odds with the bright sunshine. A slight breeze rustled the leaves of the trees, a mere breath compared to the usual gale. I pushed the swing several times giving it enough height for me to do my chores. Behind the house I disturbed two chaffinches sitting on the woodpile, they chirped and fluttered wildly as they made for the safety of the trees. Having gathered the wood and kindling I pushed the toddler again, reaching him before he called for me.

After months of drought, the rains of October had brought life back to the grass which sprouted an uneven carpet of green. Outside the garden wall the olive trees were laden with fruit, glistening in the sunshine. This time I left to hang the clothes, returning when the toddler’s shout disturbed the birdsong. Finches, bluetits and great tits all clamoured to be heard as flocks of sparrows glided by. Even the hum of cars on the main road below the field seemed to harmonise, giving a bass note to the high shrills of the birds.

It came as I pushed the swing with the empty clothes basin under my arm. From the south, from out of the sun’s glare it came between the olive trees along the ridge. I shielded my eyes and saw its pointed nose and wingtips. The wingtips were lighter green then its smooth underbody. Silently it flew above us, probably no more than 20 metres up. As I turned to watch it fly beyond me the noise hit. It seemed to reverberate in my chest before roaring in my ears, loud and inescapable. The toddler screamed as the neighbour’s dogs howled in unison. Dropping the basin I held him where he sat on the swing watching the jet as it lifted its nose and rose vertically above the houses. It climbed and climbed until, just as it was about to flip over, its wing dipped and it began a graceful curving dive. The sound died away to a deep roar that echoed along the horizon as the jet disappeared behind the houses.

Beneath his coat my son’s heart beat a staccato rhythm as his shaking subsided.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Out of Date

I don't get downtown that regularly but when I do, I inevitably call into the newsagents near the clock tower. He stocks a few English-language newspapers and a small selection of English books. So pausing briefly in the chill wind yesterday I made the snap decision to choose Turkish Daily News over Today's Zaman. TDN is the oldest English language daily in Turkey with 46 years of publishing behind it. They recently published 'Gold Fever in Turkey', my article about the hypocrisy between gold consumption and mining in Turkey.

Once inside I browsed the books, while trying to keep my toddler from pulling everything off the shelves. He took a great liking to 'Galatasaray Destani' and insisted on trying to read three of them at once. I grabbed a book and headed to the counter where I paid, but only after having bought Newsweek too. With them under your hand at the counter, it's impossible to leave without picking one up, especially as you wait while the newsagent carefully puts a bookmark into the book you buy.

So after picking up the preschooler, waiting for DH to finish work, getting home, bringing in the laundry, lighting the fire, fixing the dinner, eating the dinner and making the tea, I finally got to look at the newspaper.

First thing that struck me was the top left corner 'Flat transition from page to big screen', a review of 'Love in the Time of Cholera'; I'm sure I read about that recently. Skimmed the main headline, 'Childhood not Child's Play'; they're always putting headlines about the social make up of the country, only last week there was a poll about the middle-class. Anyway I continued through the paper, skimming here, reading there until I got to David Judson's editorial about the paper's success since they moved their base to Istanbul last year. Half way down the first column I realise he's talking about Nov 20 being the day of their big move. Now very briefly the thought crosses my mind that they've published the editorial on the wrong day; Judson in the paragraph previous admits to publishing a photo of Imran Khan, who turned out not to be. But no, they couldn't make a mistake that big, could they?

No, they couldn't. It took me until page 14 but I finally figured out that I'm reading Tuesday's paper having bought it on Wednesday! Not only that but I had read Tuesday's paper online, hence why that review seemed so familiar. And when I looked at the bookmark the newsagent had given me, it had a calender from 2006 on the back! Talk about feeling the eejit!

So I may stick to reading the paper online from now on, though I can't resist the smell of newspaper ink and cannot quell the hope that one day I'll find a paper like the Irish Times in my local newsagent.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Expats in cyberspace

A few years ago I read an article asking for submissions for 'Tales from the Expat Harem'. It had been written directly to me, regardless of it being published in a national newspaper. Within a week I wrote a piece and sent it in. It was rejected, but Anastasia Ashman suggested I come up with something different.

After several rounds of editing and several months of delays, the book was published in Turkey in September 2005. 'Tales from the Expat Harem - Foreign Women in Modern Turkey' edited by Anastasia Ashman and Jennifer Eaton Gokmen was simultaneously published in Turkish by Dogan Kitap. In February 2006 Seal Press published the American edition.

Through the whole process I never met either of the editors or any of the other contributors. I couldn't make it to Istanbul for the book launch or any of the signings for personal reasons. But we still produced a book together!