Thursday, February 26, 2009


A window on the tv; dark wood panelling, tall, Georgian;
A background row of semi-d's with neat gardens;
Familiarity a dagger, sending me slicing back,
On a blank-eyed trip to youth and freedom.

Creeping silent and subversive, sowing resentment and discontent,
The everyday moans screech like nails on a blackboard.
Housework - a curse; cooking - a torture;
Children - wild; no matter how well-behaved.

Spare me the daily effort of understanding.
Spare me the loneliness of a second culture.
Let me home to no need for translation.
Let me home to a break from being different.

Olive trees and hot sunshine, stuffed vine leaves and baklava,
Exotic to the girl I used to be,
The norm for the woman I have become.
Hard to renounce even for a brief hiatus.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's arrived!

I've spent the last few months in a swelter of Rudalls, Roses, Prattens, Cotters, Doyles, Cronnollys, McGees, Burns, and a list of other names. These are not in fact a list of pubs I frequented in my youth, but flutemakers.

Sometime in the last six months or so, I realised how much I miss music. I don't listen to much, or rather don't pay attention to the music that's played around me. Himself generally listens to Turkish folk music, Turkish pop is played as background music everywhere and the occasional English pop song pops up now and again.

As a kid I played piano, not very well, but I enjoyed it. Actually I enjoyed it more once I gave up lessons and began to play from sheet music I bought myself. I had a tin whistle too, bought after hearing a concert given in the Old Head Hotel in Louisburgh, Co Mayo (unless my memory is playing tricks, always a possibility). I'm not sure who the player was but I was fascinated. In school I learned recorder.

When the idea of playing again came up, the instrument had to be portable. It would be preferable to be something I could play Irish music on, remembering sessions in Falcarragh and also thinking of introducing the kids to Irish music. The Irish flute seemed to fit the bill. The sound is terrific, haunting or lively as you wish. I could use it for trad, or for songs, or even possibly for Turkish folk music.

So after researching for months I finally bought an anonymous flute off ebay. It's not made in Pakistan which is a plus. And I have to wait a little longer. It has my parents house, so I'll wait and research until they visit in a month's time.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Something to do in your spare time

Hobbies have always been important in my family. They’ve always been something worth the effort. So Dad played tennis, and now plays golf too. He also volunteered in the tennis club as a barman for years. He gave up Sunday mornings for league matches, played in the evenings with friends and took part in table quizzes in the club. Apart from helping keep him fit, he also amassed a range of Waterford Crystal, pewter mugs, tennis balls, golf balls, sport socks and the odd bottle of wine from various competitions and raffles. Mam didn’t do much when we were young but then started playing tennis again, took up golf and bridge, and joined two choirs. As kids we played tennis, then took up hockey in secondary school, were in the brigeens and guides, and also played the piano and tin whistle. The whole family also went swimming once a week. Being social and active was something encouraged.

But while my sister and brother took up kayaking and climbing in college, I gave up hockey after my second year. And since then I haven’t had any hobbies. It’s not to say I haven’t been busy but between moving to Turkey, learning the language, being pregnant and raising young kids I haven’t had much time to devote to myself. I did start yoga when I was pregnant and have continued it to an extent, but it’s all self-taught with books and DVD’s (much like my Turkish actually!). And now I’m going to learn to play the Irish flute (more on that soon).

There’s another factor at play here though. My in-laws don’t have hobbies either, unless you count crocheting trousseau for themselves or their daughters. Any hobby would have to be done in the slivers of time allowed by the hazelnut farm and running the shop. Some of them are hunt occasionally, my nieces and nephews did some sports in school and some learned instruments but I don’t think any have continued past school. There is a sense that in general hobbies are for kids, not for adults, which could be generalized to Turkey in general. Hobbies require money and time, both of which have been in scarce supply for a lot of the population in the past. When every hour must be worked to put food on the table, when you don't have any spare time, hobbies tend to be neglected. That is slowly changing now, but the proportion of adults with hobbies is still lower than Ireland by a long shot.

This all leads to a slightly skewed view of hobbies and their value. A hobby which produces something useful is valued far higher than one that ‘just’ makes an individual happy. The end product has a definite value which makes it easier to justify spending money and time on doing it. A set of shelves is more worth than a flute in that regard.

I have slipped into this mindset sometimes, even though I don’t agree with it. Any activity that increases a person’s peace of mind is worth it. Whether that’s meditation, playing music, skiing, tennis, golf, hunting, blogging or building something, doesn’t matter.

A hobby’s greatest value is the fact that it helps us cope with stress and that is definitely worth the effort.