Sunday, December 28, 2008

Scandinavian Skyline, our handicapped minds and beautiful Sigur Ros

Around 1 AM, I was craving for a hot dog or something of that sort. I was a bit weary, I had long and curly hair back then and the next morning I was going to develop a migraine attack because of some bad wine that waited under direct sunlight for 4 days. Before heading back to the tent, I raised my head and looked up into the sky. I looked around into the thousands walking, jumping, falling around. Everything seemed to be in slow motion. All faces merged into each other and the clouds were barely moving above my head. One side of the sky was navy blue; whilst the other was getting only dark. Within a couple of hours sun would have already started from one of the sides. The air was pure fresh. L. was not bothered with my whining attitude:

"But there are also good things about the north. The sky is always so huge, isn't it?"

She was right. Skies mattered to me. Especially when I let my soul tear my body apart and go on orbital journeys into far away lands where friends and family lived, knocking on their plywood doors, slowly creeping on their mahogany floors, having a cup of tea with honey and coming back.

and there was at least the next best thing of the north... Sigur Ros... the shadows of tall Scandinavians and hybernating fiddlesticks... Those were the most amazing moments of early summer days in Scandinavia. The recent Sigur Ros performance in Alexandra Palace, London was as good enough to bring back the endless shades of sky-blue and elvish chanting melodies.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Credit crunch and empty airport terminals

I had a share of extensive travel during September and October earlier this year. It was interesting to see empty airport terminals during some of these travels. A claim could be that the credit crunch has had a decisive affect on the decrease on number of travellers. It could also be the case that these terminals were not serving full capacity on the bizarre days and times I used them, or that the people have become more environmentally conscious, but I think the reasoning behind credit crunch is somewhat realistic and even so more dramatic when one is exposed to such sights as the following:

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

Or these pictures from a terminal at the Geneva Airport

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Stories of a Visa Application - Part V: The Old and Watery Eyes at the Armenian Cemetery

As you celebrate Christmas, Istanbul's having its first snow (sleet) of the year. I leave the application centre and seek solace at the Armenian Cemetery across the road. They do not let me in, claiming that it is forbidden. The guard probably thinks I'm one of the millions of ultra-natoinalists. After all, the 'leaders' of the state managed to divide this country.

I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic. It will probably take a month's time before I get the results. I had a last glance at the pictures on the wall of the application centre before I left: Tower Bridge, Houses of Parliament, London Eye, the Gherkin, the Vauxhall Junction and a picture from Scotland. All those places I know by heart, where I was a week ago, that we drove around, cycled through, wrote each other postcards beneath...

I made a mistake: I did not obey the manifestation on my immigration limitations. I came back to my family and friends and to my beloved country when I was told to stay there and proceed with my re-application. I risked my future residence, leaving behind a bunch of loved ones in that city. All else is some buildings, mountains and rivers that one can find anywhere.

Now I am at the hands of the politics of one of the greatest world empires that died long ago. I am also at the hands of their 2nd hand diplomacy in Istanbul, and at the hands of the sick bureaucracy of my very own country. Everything is ambigous as has always been the case on this land. The land of ambiguity. This is what people of here have long been feeding upon.

That was the reasoning of the guard at the Armenian Cemetery when he arbitrarily decided it's forbidden for me to enter. What he is repeatedly failing to see in his old and watery eyes of colour of burning black coal is that... that it is time to move on...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Stories of a Visa Application - Part IV: Right Back on Track?

Fast forward to Part V:
Come Monday.

Morning: Hardly wake up to my mother's insisting wake up call. Go to the bank. Put through the request. Go back home.

Noon: Call from the bank:

- It is settled, you can come and collect the letter.

I go, collect the letter. It is only in Turkish, so I request an English one to be written, too.

I download the application form once again, fill it, and start making my application envelope.

In the meanwhile, D. is alert. There is no great news from that part of the world, but as far as bank account is concerned, I might not even need it. She's mailed me the laptop charger, though. That's also good news.

Evening: I feel like it is happenning. No more hard thoughts. Have a nice evening, meet a bunch of people, go see a gig, get a nice message.

Come Tuesday.

Morning: I am lazy and up late. So, skip here to the afternoon.

Afternoon: I go collect the English letter from the bank. At that very instance I realise that both the Turkish and the English letter and the bank account name look very ambigous, rather insecure to me. I have a funny feeling. I will not yet reveal here what it says, but it just doesn't feel right. It does not really state what is up with the account but it is rather a mixture of some names. Is this what the bank is trying in order to help me?

Feel shit. Meet a bunch of friends and share the pain with them... Sad thoughts of having to leave here so soon, yet again. Not much energy left to change plans...

Evening: I wanted to cross-examine this bank account and how much it belongs to me by going into a random branch and try to carry a transaction. It is too late, the banks were closed. So, after a fine evening, I go on the Internet and find out that the joint account shows up in my list of other bank accounts. Good relief. I can't try a transaction because it is past 23:00. Gotta wait for the morning.

2 tasks before I feel secure tomorrow:

1. Try a transaction with this account

2. Get another letter stating what transactions I can carry individually on this account.

All else sort of dealt with.

The rest is to show up at the appointment, get a feeling of whether my application looks strong here. I do not want to risk my future in the UK tomorrow with a weak attempt once again. A fucked up situation, a worst-case scenario of going back to London earlier than expected should be a priority over leaving a life there behind.

Moral of the story so far:
In times of hardness and scarcity, the one who will suffer the most will always be the one who has already been suffering. One whose rights of travel, work or live abroad was limited will have even more limited opportunities. There are many those are much worse than me, and the least I can do now is to be reminded over and over again that they are suffering even worse at what they are trying to get to. What we can do the least is to remind ourselves that each and every one of us are responsible of what the others are going through, and those with more power are those who are potentially more responsible. And those who seek power shall always keep in mind that it is just another element that changes hand with every passing moment and we are just intertwined with the complexity of mutual and multi-dimensional dependencies that are all bunches of limitless variables and some "randomish" probabilities.

Let's see what tomorrow literally brings...

Stories of a Visa Application - Part III: R:112, G:66, B:43

Fast forward to Part IV:

I had arranged according to my schedule for the 2nd trial for the visa application back home:

Get home Thursday night, go to the bank first thing Friday morning, enquire about the joint account between me and my mother, get a letter from the bank. If any problems arise, settle them by Monday, prepare all other documents and go for the visa application that I already scheduled for Tuesday 10:00 AM.

Nothing went the way planned...

Turkey was not far behind than the UK in changing its laws, especially in the banking system. Never mind what the Prime Minister and the other ministers have been saying about how the global credit crunch did not affect Turkey much, despite the truth that Turkey has also been hit hard. What is happening is that Turkey may feel the depression a little later than countries like the US or the UK, and that is the time Erdogan is trying to win until the local elections, to be held at the end of March 2009, in order to keep his party's popularity.

Thus, the banking regulations have been ever more tightened in Turkey, giving me a huge pain early on Friday morning, 19.12.2008, to finalise the transaction for the joint account between my mother and me. Remember that I have to show I have had £2,800 in a "personal bank account" for the last 3 months now.

I call a few friends to ask them once again what procedures they went through. Over and over I hear that the regulations have changed. Bummer! It changed in the UK just before I left it. Apparently it changed here again just as I came back.

From Noon till around 3 PM, I sit in the living room, completely devastated. I do not want to go back to the UK right away to make my second application from there before my visa runs out, 05.01.2009. I have to make quick decisions. Instead, I start writing down my story. It keeps my mind fresh...

I call the Home Office in the UK and ask them a bizarre question:

- Can I send my visa application to you from a UK Post Office but physically be somewhere outside the UK?

- No, you have to remain in the country while your application is in process.

My idea of sending my passport there and apply as a UK application, avoiding the £2,800 deal does not work.

Then, I start enquiring my chances of going through with the bank account deal via a bank outside Turkey. My sister's account in UAE? D.'s account in A. or G.? A few more phone calls, some more motivation messages but nothing in concrete.

I left my laptop charger back in London, I am running out of money in my cell phone, I am spending the Friday going through hell...

I call the Visa Application Centre in Istanbul and get some more puzzling messages. Then I send them an email and head back to the bank. Now at around 5:10 PM, they tell me they can arrange it on Monday. Maybe...

I go to the nearby Vodafone and find out that I can switch my phone line to them and keep my same number and even get some free call minutes and SMS. I go buy some necessary stuff and make a few phone calls. I take out some money and start planning for the evening. It feels like there is some progress.

Finally at around 7 PM, I decide to end the day's debates and leave it for Monday. I re-schedule my visa application appointment to Wednesday, 24 December, at noon time.

I go out, meet a bunch of friends, stay out long withouth having to think where it would be open at 3 AM because it is a 24-hour city. I leave the shitty day behind. I am tempted to call it an almost "Black Friday" but the small hopes of progress in the evening make it a bit more brownish:

A shitty brown-day. Red: 112, Green: 66, Blue: 43 coded.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Quote of the day - Günün Sözü (iki lisanlı bir yazı; a bilingual entry)

Vize hikayelerine küçük bir ara.

Biraz önce Time Out Istanbul'un Kasım sayısında, Istanbul 2010 Avrupa Kültür Başkenti Projesi'nin Yürütme Kurulu Başkanı Nuri Çolakoğlu ile yapılan söyleşiden bir şey okudum:

"2010 Avrupa Kültür Başkenti ünvanına layık olmaya çalışan AKB Ajansı ve Nuri Çolakoğlu, kente kalıcı güzellikler bırakma peşinde...

NÇ: Gençlerin asla hatırlamadığı bir çağdan beri Ayasofya'nın ortasında duran iskele kalkıyor. 16 senedir o iskele orada. İskele kalktığı gün gidip Ayasofya'da yere yatacağım, şöyle 15 dakika kubbeye bakacağım. Çünkü unuttuk kubbesini."

En son kimleyi hatırlamıyorum ama, gerçekten de bizim çağlarımızdan olanların aralarında veya turistlerle yaptığı muhabbetlerde bu iskelenin varlığından söz edilir ve Ayasofya'yı iskelesiz görmüş olan veya bir göreni tanıyan pek zor bulunur.

Bu makaleye, dün gece yaşadığım ufak ama büyük bir değişikliğin farkına vardıktan sonra rastlamış oldum. Şehrimizdeki tek modern metro hattına 7. ve yeni bir durak olan Şişhane durağı eklenmiş. En azından metro haritasına. Her ne kadar metro gene alışılmış son durak olan Taksim'de yolculuğuna son verdiyse de, bu beyaz arkaplan üzerine yeşil tonla eklenmiş Şişhane istasyonu ifadesi yüzümü güldürdü. Metronun ilk açıldığı, orta okul, lise günlerimizde Levent'ten metroya binip Taksim'e gelerek Cuma akşamları sinemaya ve çıkmaya gittiğimiz günler aklıma geldi.

"Londra'dayken buraları fazla düşünme, İstanbul hep aynı" diyenlerin aksine, İstanbul başka çok şehirde göremeyeceğimiz bir hızla değişiyor. Ya da en azından arada bir dışarıdan bakan bir göze böyle görünüyor. Ve umarım bu değişiklikler İstanbul'un ebedi güzelliğine gem vurmaz...


A small break to my Visa Application Stories.

I just read on the November issue of Time Out Istanbul, from the interview with Nuri Colakoglu, the Chairman of the Executive Committee for the Istanbul 2010, European Capital of Culture Project:

"I am more concerned with the changes we can make to have permanently good effects on Istanbul... Removing the scaffolding that has been standing from ancient times that young people cannot even remember in the middle of Hagia Sophia. Been there for 16 years. The day it is removed, I will lie down in the middle of Hagia Sophia and watch the dome for 15 minutes. We fogot about the dome already!"

I don't remember who it was most recently, but it has always been a funny remark of discussion between many young Istanbul locals and among tourists that there is hardly anyone among our generations that has seen or known anyone to have seen the Hagia Sophia without that gigantic scaffolding in the middle.

I just ran into this article after finding out another small yet big change in Istanbul last night. On our one and only modern metro line, a new station, Sishane, has been added to the metro map as the 7h station on the line. Although the train terminated at its usual Taksim Station, it nonetheless put a smile on my face to see this first extension with a green font on white background, remembering the high school days and the first days of taking the metro from Levent to Taksim after leaving school on Friday to head for movies and on...

Despite all who claim "don't worry about Istanbul in London, it's all the same here", this city is changing with a speed not seen in many other places. Hope it stays as one of the most beautiful places...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Stories of a Visa Application - Part II: Rejection

Fast forward to Part III:
On 25 November 2008, I received a letter from the Home Office. Here is what it said:

"In view of the fact that you have claimed 75 points under Appendix A of the Immigration Rules, but the letter you have provided from the London School of Economics and Political Science does not confirm that you have been awarded your MSc degree, the Secretary of State is not satisfied that you have provided the specific documents as required under Appendix A of the Immigration Rules... Therefore you do not satisfy the requirements of the Immigration Rules for this category and it has been decided to refuse your application..."

What a blow! But how expected it was. My premature application was rejected and I felt disgusted at the Home Office, then reconsidered my thoughts, then got disgusted at the LSE not being able to provide me a proper document and also at myself as having gotten a rejection by applying a bit too early.

The same letter advised that I could not appeal to this decision as I still had a valid Student Visa until 5 January 2009 and that I should re-apply within the United Kingdom before 5 January 2009 once I got my University Degree.

After being depressed for an evening, I stood up against the shitty weather of London and the shitty circumstances and decided I would re-apply. I sent a few emails to the LSE Registry who were the correspondence for getting me a proper letter for the application but did not hear anything useful from them. I went as far as to send an email to the Director of the school about the inconveniences I had to face and how I though the Students Service (where Registry is located) has an effect in it. I actually got an official reply from the Head of the Students Service on 15.12.2007 saying that they apologize for how they misled me and confused me with the emails we have exchanged back in October when I asked help for them. Well, too little too late for me, I had already made up my mind to go for a second application.

The shittiest thing about this second application was going to be the fact that when I applied in December, I would be stuck in the UK for all of December (see previous chapters for a similar potential problem I was trying to avoid by applying in October in the first place). I started to get used to the idea that I would spend the Christmas and New Year's in the UK. F. was going to come for a 10-day tourism trip to London, S. said she would come down around the New Year's to entertain herself and I started to believe that maybe I could get through this depression with a different New Year's agenda, in London.

In the meanwhile I had been working quite heavy at my research work at the Urban Age, helping a compile a document for an urban design briefing competition held by the Paris Municipality. On 3 December 2008, a week after my Degree was officially announced, I printed out the Application Form once again whilst working on a late night shift for the deadline of the document.

!!! Vıtally significant note: As I started filling in the Application Form for the 2nd time, I immediately noticed some changes from the 1st one. At the "How would you like to pay the Appliation Fee?" section, there was a missing part: The words writing "If you are exempt from Fees please proceed to section A21" was missing !!!

Some research on the Home Office website revealed that there has been change of laws on 27 November 2008, and the dual state of the UK had removed the exemption from application fee for some citizens of some nations, includıng Turkey (please refer to this exemption note from an earlier chapter). This changed the rules of the game and the circumstances under Sub-Heading 5 of the Applicaton Procedure and now I would have to pay £400 for my application within the UK or £205 for an application made from Turkey.

Considering I did not want to spend Christmas and New Year's in London, that I would save £200 in application and more by not renting a room for December and living for cheaper in Istanbul in the meantime, I decided to go back to Istanbul to make my 2nd application.

There were some things to consider with this new idea:

1. Exemption Fee: Now I would pay a £205 application fee compared to £0 before, but at least I wouldn't pay £400

2. Proof of Funds (Maintenance): This would be the tricky part. Now I would have the 3-month backtrack of a bank account with my name in it instead of the earlier 1-month deal before the 31 October. And what is more important is that, applying within the UK I would have to show £800 in my bank account, but a huge £2800 when applied in Istanbul would be waiting for me. I've had the £800 in my English bank account already but I would only have the chance of submitting a joint-account (with my Mother) to show a £2800 in Turkey. This proves vital for the rest of the story.

After a few telephone calls around 3-4 December, I decided I could do the application in Turkey with my University degree papers in hand, and a joint bank-account provided with my Mother. After getting used to the idea of spending New Year's in London, I booked a one-way ticket to Istanbul and re-started getting used to the idea of spending some nice time with my friends in Istanbul.

I would be back home on 18 December 2008, and having completed the online application, I would attend my Visa Appointment on 22 December in Istanbul and hope for a succesful visa application, to be finalised some time around mid-January.

I took the British Airways 16:05 flight from the impressive Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport on a very mild (11 Degrees C.) London evening. As we passed through the clouds into the upper sky, the orange lights of the setting sun in the far west shone into S.'s eyes as I started dreaming about the night lights of Istanbul...

Stories of a Visa Application - Part I: First Attempt

Fast forward to Part II:
I sent my Post-Study Work Visa Application to the Home Office on 31 October 2008 around 17:20, on the day of the deadline for 1-month of proof of evidence for funds (Maintenance) (please refer to the previous chapter). Not only I have sent the post 10 minutes before the Post-Office closed, implying another 'last-minute Turkish strike' attempt, but furthermore, I had to send in a premature application. This means I had a 'weak application' regarding some of the documents I sent in. Let me reveal how this has happened so:

I decided to make use of the 31 October 2008 deadline because it meant I only had to show my bank details for 1 month. I had to show I had £800 (refer to Maintenance and how it relates to where I apply from in the previous chapter) for at least a month. After returning to London on 2 September 2008 after my summer holidays and Thesis research in Istanbul, I put money into my personal UK bank account, and therefore had enough money for the last 1.5 month or so.

Otherwise, if I missed the 31 October deadline, I would have had to show sufficient funds (£800 when applied within the UK) for 3-months. This would mean I would have to wait until December 2008 to complete the 3-month period. Here is another important note:

!! My current visa (as explained under 'Visa Application Procedure') runs out on 5 January 2009. It means that I can stay in the UK and apply for this visa before 05.01.2009 or I go back to Turkey and apply for the visa before 21 November 2009, which is the end of 1-year after I get my Award degree. !!

Waiting until December to apply had 2 problems for me:

1. It is too close to the end of my current visa,

2. It means I have to stay in the UK for all of December as the application process takes at least 3 to 6 weeks.

So, providing my Maintenance proof, the Application Form and all other application documents, I had 2 other boxes to fill: The UK University Degree; and the Application Fee.

Let us learn a bit more about the Application Fee:
Again, depending on where and how you apply, there are various different fees:

1. If you apply within the UK you have two options:

A. Send your application via post and pay £400 as an application fee.
B. Get an appointment at the Visa Application Centre, apply in person and pay £600.

2. If you apply from Turkey, you can fill in an online application form and get an appopintment at the Visa Application Centre and apply there in person with the £205 fee.

!!! Another important note: There was one sweet rule eligible for citizens of some nations such as Turkey, Croatia, Armenia, etc.. who have ratified the European Social Charter. The rule is that the citizens of these countries did not have to pay application fees.

These countries are obviously far from random. This is, basically countries who are not part of the EU but are somewhat attached to Europe by means of social and economical rights. Do not think that this is a privilege that
these countries have been given by Europe. It obviosuly comes with many responsibilities as well, one of which is manifested and known well by Turkish citizens; the abiding rules of the European Court of Human Rights over the Turkish Legislation with regards to cases dealing with social issues.

However, on 27 Novebmer 2008, the dualist state of the United Kingdom decided that they lift this exemption and make a note of this please, because this is an essential information that will be referred back to in the next chapter !!!

The other thing I had to deal was the UK-University Degree. This is where it got all tricky. I completed my program at the LSE on 2 September 2008. That was the date I handed in my Thesis. Apart from the Thesis, I had completed all my exams and other duties back in June 2008. So, as a decent human being I would expect to get my grades by some time in September or October. Of course, the awkward English (or LSE) system decided that I would get my results only in November. So, this is a problem when you want to apply by 31 October.

At this moment I happened to come across a web page on the LSE website where they said they could give me a letter that helps me with my application. A letter not confirming my degree but telling the Home Office that I will get my degree.

This letter never came about. Through extensive e-mailing I was only told that I could not get this letter before November. I fought and fought and fought to get a decent letter in the end on 30 October and so were all my documents ready with the exception that my Degree document was a bit weak.

I was confident at the Post Office on the evening of 31 October 2008 at 17:20. I made a big application concerning my life and sent away my passport for an indefinite time. I walked out of the Post Office into the dark and chilled evening of Brixton. I called D., told her that my application was sent on time and we started discussing about the night plans for the Halloween Party.

The wait had begun...

Stories of a Visa Application - Context

Fast forward to Part I:
This story mainly takes place in the countries of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; and Turkey. It is the story of Omer Cavusoglu's (born 03.08.1985, Istanbul) application for the UK Post-Study Work Visa and spans through the period of October 2008 and onwards.

The Visa: The Points Based System Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) (INF 25); in short, the Post-Study Work Visa, was introduced in the UK in 2008. It is somewhat the updated version of a previously similar scheme, that was called the International Graduate Scheme (IGS). It allows for non-British and non-EU immigrants who have completed a University Degree (Undergraduate, Master's, PhD.) in the UK to earn a 2-year long work and residence permit. As far as I know, this is one of the greatest advantages of studying in the UK as in many other countries your chances of extending your stay depends solely on finding a sponsor through finding a job, whereas the Post-Study Work Visa is intended to give you up to 2-years of permission to find this job after completing studies

The application process: There are two ways to apply for this visa:

1. Apply within the UK: You can apply for this visa whilst you are still in the UK, before your current visa runs out. In my case, this means I can apply for this visa within the UK before 05.01.2009.

2. Apply from outside the UK: You can apply for this visa from the country of your home residence. In my case this means I can apply for this visa from Turkey.

In either case, the applicants are eligible to apply for the Post-Study Work visa within 1-year from when they receive their UK-University Degree.

I have received this degree on 21 November 2008. Therefore, regardless of where I apply, I have until 21 November 2009 to do so, in order to obtain this type of Visa.

The application pack: This consist mainly of the following:

1. The Application Form: For applicants within the UK, this is a 47-page document, a lot of which consists of answering 'No' to questions like 'Have you ever tried to assault the Queen of the UK?', 'Have you ever thought about becoming a terrorist?' which the British formalise as 'any deeds that would suggest that you are not a decent citizen'. Apart from these funny bits and all other regular visa application information, the Form is quite straightforward and easy.

2. The UK-Degree: This is the Degree you obtaion from your University or Institution that states What you studied from When till When, in Which city and country and How were you awarded this qualification. Obviously, the Who question is also answered as your name proudly stands scattered around this Degree paper:

Omer Cavusoglu obtained his MSc. in City Design and Social Science from the London School of Economics and Political Science on 21 November 2008. He has completed his course requirements, commencing on 1 October 2007 and ending on 1 October 2008. Bla bla bla bla....

3. Proof of evidence for your funds (Maintenance): The most tricky, cruel, blasphemical, troublemaking part of the application. The qualities of this Sub-Heading is directly related or affected by the decisions you make (or you are forced to make) for where you make your applicaton. The procedure is as follows:

You have to prove you have (and have had) sufficient funds in a bank account that clearly states your name. The general rule is that, on the day of application, you have to prove you have had the sufficient funds for at least 3 months. This means that if you are applying on 15 December 2008, your proof of evidence must consist of a Bank Letter OR your Account Movements OR Account Pass Books stating you have had sufficient funds on every single day between 15 September 2008 and 15 December 2008.

!! However, because Post-Study Work Visa was only introduced recently, the Home Office allowed until 31 October 2008, that those apply before 31 October had to show only a 1-month of sufficient funds. This was a special clause but a very important one. Keep this small note in your minds as it is essential for the story and I will refer back to this quite often. !!

The Amount of the Funds: Depending on where you apply, the amount of funds you have to prove for this 3-month period varies:

A. If you apply within the UK, you are obliged to show you have had £800 in your bank account for 3 months.

B. If you apply from outside the UK, you are obliged to show you have had £2,800 in your bank account for 3 months.

This section B is also extremely vital and I will refer back to it quite a lot of times, too.

4. Rest of the Documents: The generic documents you have to include for almost all applications such as Photos

5. Application Fee: Yet another very essential element of the story. This will be discussed in detail within the story. The basic information you have to bear in mind is that this is just one of those regular Application Fees you have to submit with your application and is non-refundable whatever the result of your application is.

From here on, I may pass on to the Story.

Stories of a Visa Application - Introduction

There are many things I have been looking forward to share in this space.

My recent experiences at the Manu Chao concert in Kentish Town(16.12.2008); some useful information on reports I have written about Istanbul and Haydarpaşa for my research work (17.12.2008); the Twisted Christmas event at the Barbican Centre (11.12.2008); a visit to Liverpool, the European Capital of Culture City for 2008 (07.12.2008) and some insight into the 'Digital Cities' exhibition at the New London Architecture; and there have been many commitments (eg. BoltArt December issue) I have been postponing due to some ambiguities in my Visa Application process for a new work and residence visa in the UK.

Having just arrived back in Istanbul to try a different route to get this visa, I have been confronted with more bad news in the last few hours.

Therefore, I have decided to dedicate this space, for the time being, to write about what I have so far been through in this visa application process. This will both help me keep track of what has happened (which may be useful if I ever decide to sue the State of UK), and help whoever is interested to learn about this process in detail. I hope it is also useful for people to become aware of some practical details of what sort of pain many people go through, confronted with visa regulations, rights of travel, and any other circumstance regarding immigration.

There will be new text each time I get an update on an essential input.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Life is when you look down the drain at N+2 years of age at the bathroom of your girlfriend's flatshare (which is a fragile bathroom of a 4-girl flatshare I remind you), and think "I never thought I would even end up in this X city of this Y country of the world, and have a girlfriend of a completely 'opposite' but yet so affiliated culture when I was only N years of age"...

So, the calculation is:

2 years down the road, and you end up in a completely random sewereage entrance point that you didn't imagine of, and you're happy with your 0.5 alcohol concentration in the blood and the friends in the 5 m2 British kitchen modern design 2m. away from where you are, having a happy conversation surrounded by architecture put initially up for an Southeastern Asian household.

In essence... It's all about beauty of life.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

aus Berlin

Warschauer Strasse'de bir gecenin ardindan, 22.10.2008 - saat 03:00 sulari, Frankfurter Tor civarlarinda bir yerlerde, ne ictigimi hatirlayamadigim minik bir barda doldurdugum bindunya kafa'yla yazilmis bir seyler...


Hayat inanilmaz bir sey. Sag gozunun ucunda Fernsehturm'un diyagonal isiklari. Karsinda Sovyetik bir blok, neoklasiksel facade ile. 6gen cizgili sokak lambasinin arkasinda, 8 katli bir bina, 35 metre eninde, neredeyse butun Karl-Marx Allee ve kesinlikle Strasse der Pariser Kommune hakim. Ufak balkonlari ortasinda, Viyana'nin palasina benzer ideolojik ve estetik kaygisiyla. Mini mini komik cumbalari var 20 yil once Dogu Berlinlilerin ucuz dikis makinalariyla nakis islerken pencere kenarinda cekirdek citlettikleri cunku DDR sosyalizmi hic bir zaman cinsiyetleri denklestirme derdinde degildi 5-yillik devlet iktisadi planlama programlarinda. Komik minik bulutlar parca parca uzaklasirken gecenin karanliginda, der Himmel uber Berlin'e bakarak aldim ilhamimi...


Some bullshit I've scribbled down my some 0.20 Blood alcohol concentration in the middle of the night in east Berlin. Sorry, it's only in Turkish for the time being...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Slaughtered Lamb in London, Farringdon

On the first day of the Kurban Bayrami (Eid al-Adha, The Festival of Sacrifice), one of the major Islamic holidays, millions of animals have been sacrificed, in some places, rather very unhygienically or unaesthetically. Families migrated across towns, villages, neighbourhoods in cities to come together, gather for lunch and evening meals and give each other presents and some "pocket money".

On a completely different agenda, ironically resembling the main activity of the Kurban Bayrami, I went to a pub called "Slaughtered Lamb" on Great Sutton Street near Farringdon in London last night. It is a well looked-after, cosy and large pub where people gather for evening meals and drinks, before heading home or to one of the most popular clubs of London in the area. However, if you go down the stairs in the pub, just before the toilets, on your right side, you would have the chance to walk into one of the coziest live music venues I have ever seen in London.

The downstairs of Slaughtered Lamb hosts many events, mainly produced by the London Electroacoustic club. The music room consists of a small bar, a small stage, 5-6 large leather couches, and 2 wall-side niche-like seating spots. The walls are made of bricks, painted black across the room. Together with the black leather couches and the dim light, the colors are quite dark inside, but the atmosphere is far from anything depressing.

On a very mellow evening, with only an audience of handful of people we saw two consecutive acts. Sam Beer is a folk singer/songwriter based in London, playing his harmonica and acoustic guitar, singing shyly into the decent crowd, and is recording his first album.

The second act was the cheerful, beautiful Alice McLaughlin who could not keep her feet still nor sit in her small chair, and stood up after the first song, singing the rest of her tunes dancing and jumping around on the carpet. She has, in the past, appeared as a guest singer with Oi Va Voi, a UK based Yiddish band with Hungarian origins. Alice's vocals were something extraordinary in the sweetest sense, added to her humble gestures through her show.

Both downstairs and upstairs of Slaughtered Lamb offer for a very nice evening-out, even on Mondays. It is one of those pubs in London, named after god knows what, but the experience of the place will probably keep you far from some sacrifice of animals elsewhere.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


As of yesterday, a (un)fortunate series of events unfolded in such a way that I decided to go back to Turkey (for at least a good month's time) around mid-December.

Here's a copy from an email I sent to a friend that might help reveal the secret:

The "lovely" London School of Economics has disappointed me greatly.

I wanted to apply for the Post-Study Worker scheme (Tier 1) to get a residence/work permit and I made the application before the 30 October 2008 deadline, by when the Home Office (the guys who will give me the Visa) only had a 1-month backtrack of my bank account (to prove that I have money to stay in their country). Otherwise they have 3-months backtrack and I hadn't had sufficient funds back then to cover a 3-month period (I didn't have money in my bank account counting 3 months back from October).

Therefore I urged LSE (actually almost begged them, emailing back and forth for 10 days, emailing them even from a remote village in noth Slovakia) to provide me a letter by 30 Oct. 2008 saying I completed my courses, I passed them and I'll get my diploma (they don't even have to tell my grades). I know that this request of mine was put before their official release of grades but on the LSE website, at a "Post-Study Work Visa" section, they were saying that they could provide such a letter if our Board of Examiners (people who read our essays, exams and Thesis who are objective, meaning Prof. outside the LSE) met by 30 Oct (and for my Department, they met 17 Oct.) This means by that day they finalise my grades (not officially stamped but my degree is finalised).

Anyhow, they gave me a shitty letter instead of a letter that confirmed I passed (I even suspected for a few weeks that they didn't give me a letter because I faield) and the Home Office (guys who give me the visa) refused my application. To my further dislike, 2 days ago, LSE prepared that fucking letter saying "Omer has passed his courses on 1 November 2008 (2 days after I applied!!) and will receive his Diploma). And this is so disgraceful because, actually I already learned all of my grades officially already 1 week ago!!

This meant I'd apply again now, and spend all of December stucj here (because my passport would be kept there), but i found out yesterday that on 27 November 2008, they changed a rule! An imporntant one!! Nationals of Turkey, and some other countries that have signed the European Social Rights Charter are exempt from paying visa fees (they are considered almost as EU members because they abide by Human Rights rules set by a European Commission, and right of work and right of travel are amongst them).

However, because the UK doesn't abide by all European laws (they want to stand out in the crowd, only that they don't know they're not a world-wide respected empire anymore), I think they took an initiative to lift this exemption and rip us off £400 for each application, considering the financial crisis they're going through.

This means that, now, if I have to apply again, I pay either £400 (applying within the UK) or the Turkish Lira equivalent of £205, if applied in Istanbul. Considering the fact that, it is cheaper back home, and that I would be saving up on renting (because I was about to move houses this Friday but hadn't paid any rent or deposit yet) and that over the Christmas and new Year's, I will bore myself to death instead of finding any jobs (come on, who will sit at recruitment desks of companies in a city like London that is sinking to the depths of the economical world?), I decided I'll go back home in 2 weeks time and apply from there...

I know, this is a bit confusing already, but such is my life! If you want to hear the story again, clarified by vocals and my body expressions, then we'll have the chance to go for a coffee or beer soon in London, or in Istanbul..

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

BoltArt -- Yeni bir guncel, gorsel sanatlar tanitma ve tartisma platformu

Yaklasik iki ay once, New York'ta yasayan lise arkadaslarimdan Merve Unsal'in, Guney Cuceloglu ve Ozge Ersoy'la birlikte kurmayi planladiklari bir blog sitesi uzerine email almistim. Aylik olarak guncellenecek ve bunyesinde sergi yazıları, proje tanıtımları, denemeler, röportajlar ve fotoğraf projelerine yer vermeyi amaclayan site, kurucularinin tabiriyle "görsel sanatlar, performans sanatları, tasarım, mimari ve sanat felsefesine duyduğumuz tutkumuzu Türkçe olarak paylaşabileceğimiz online bir platform yaratmak için" Ekim 2008'de hayata basladi.

Kasim guncellemesiyle birlikte ikinci parti yazilarin yayilandigi site bir yandan yeni yazi ve yazarlarla icerigini zenginlestirmeye calisirken, bir yandan da web icerigini ve tasarimini gelistirerek karakterini oturtmaya calisiyor. Yazilarla, yazarlarla, site ile ilgili goruslerinizi bildirmek ve guncel konularda fikir paylasimlarinda bulunmak icin i ziyaret edebilirsiniz.

Not: Merve'nin nazik daveti uzerine, Ekim ayinda yazmam gereken ama mesguliyetlerim yuzunden aksattigim bir yaziyi da sitenin Kasim guncellemesinde okuyabilirsiniz.


For the English readers:

I received an email about 2 months ago from a high-school friend Merve, who has started a blog site with two other friends, Guney and Ozge, all based in New York. The blog site, aiming to create a discussion platform around topics of visual and performing arts, photography, architecture and art theory, is updated montly and includes exhibition reviews, project briefs, articles, interviews. It has been running since October 2008.

Unfortunately the material within the site is only available in Turkish, hence this Turkish blog. If you are learning Turkish, or interested in the language, or a keen admirer of random words and letters, or are just someone who enjoys looking at some images, then please go on and check out the site.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Write. Weekend.


Thursday. Meet in Bethnal Green. Take a bus, take a train. Small quarrel. Arrive Alexandra Palace. Clear skies, fantastic views of London over the hill. Get over the fight. Smoke. Get high. Walk in. Watch Sigur Ros. They blow your mind. Distortion, melancholia, heavy drums. Rain effects onto the stage. Listen to Sigur Ros. Get even higher.

Friday. No work. Rent a car. Start driving, small tension. Move out of the house. No new house. Dump the stuff. 2 rounds to move houses, take the whole evening. Increasing tension. Settle the tension, go to sleep.

Saturday. Leave house. Take housemates, go to Broadway Market, fetch food, drop the housemates. Leave for the road.

Take A3. Incredibly beautiful skies. All colours on clouds and trees. Arrive in Portsmouth. Walk on the waterfront. Play arcade games in the Pier. Win tickets. Buy a bubble maker. Portsmouth, bombed-down city, regenerated port, modern architecture, Saturday evening loneliness. Freezing cold.

Leave Portsmouth. Change drivers. Drive 100 miles. Arrive Exeter. Call the hostel in the forest. No vacancy. Call a hostel in the city. Check-in, drop luggage, explore Exeter at night. Go to a gay club, dance half and hour. Leave. Walk around the old town. Cute, small, young population. Saturday night out people. Walk back to the car. Check the nearby pub. Live music over. Drink 2 whiskey-cokes each. Man in the pub, take 2 steps back, fart out loud into the pub. We are disgusted. Man fart again. Silent but even stinkier. Leave the pub. Go to sleep.

Sunday. Leave the fart-town, Exeter. Take M5, leave for Bristol. Change plans. Arrive in Glastonbury. From fart-town to hippy-town. Walk around. Attend a baptism ceremony in the church. Go to a hippy-cafe. Have brunch. See hippies on the street. Leave hippy-twon Glastonbury.

Arrive in Bath around 13:30. Beautiful town. Simply beautiful. Drive around. Park in the centre. Go to the Spa Centre. Last entry at 19:30. Have 6 hours. Start wandering around. Victoria Gallery, Prior Park, riverside, Guildhall Market (closed on Sunday), and a delicious vanilla-chocolate-chunk-fudge. Bath on 7 hills. Walk. Tension. Increasing tension. Walk. Fight. Get over it. Have dinner.

Go to the spa. Steam room, hot showers. Go to the rooftop. A rooftop pool with hot water, and a night skyline of Bath whilst swimming. See the tower of the Cathedral in swimming suit. Back to the Steam room. Leave Bath. Change drivers. Terrible migraine attack. Drive 2 hours with a migraine attack. Back to London. Take a pill, sleep like a baby.

Finish. Monday. Back to work. Think over the weekend:

Angelic Sigur Ros, exhausting house move, walk along the waterfront in Portsmouth, farting man in the pub in Exeter, hippy brunch in Glastonbury, rooftop night-spa in Bath...

Friday, November 14, 2008

the boy with the wind and girls

It was not the bitter wind he minded. He had one of those edgy faces, thanks to the climate of where he came from. White, but not threatening. He put up the purple-colour dominated on the wall to my left, had a quick look at me, a shy one, and decided not to disturb my peace. I would not let him put up one behind me anyway. I could not be bothered, and I did not like the ad he was putting up: The school’s beauty contest 2008.

The last time I had put up posters for an event was 4 years ago. Some gigs, some festivals and some film screenings. Back then I was responsible for the Treasury of the Music Club of my university. That was almost simultaneous with my presidency for the Cinema Club. People were joking about me transferring money from the Music Club, and that was one of the wealthiest in the school, to the Cinema Club, to which I had a much bigger affiliation. All I was doing, however, was to put up some posters for some gigs, some festivals, and some film screenings.

She was lying on my lap, and has started to shiver a little from the cold blowing wind. I went on to tell her the story of the white guy. He came from a land where almost anyone he knew could easily win this beauty contest here at this school. Only if they had the money to dress up and shine themselves. They were quite unlike the party crowd here. Back there, they were never shy of hitting on boys, maybe to receive a small kiss that they’d go on to tell their best friends in the long nights spent together in decaying housing blocks, whose walls seemed ever to topple on them like greyhounds. The girls back home, he thought, would easily kick the girls’ asses here. And they had tight asses back home.

The girls were not shy hitting on boys back home, but he was shy today, putting up the posters of the beauty contest early in the morning wind. The grey of the weather was no less disgusting then some concrete memories, but he had a different problem. Here, you could put up any posters and would only be warned to be doing so. The sheer lack of physical confrontation by someone who did not like what you did made everything look so simple but yet so unconvincing and meaningless. He had not left the grave masses back home to join the insignificants in this city. This hurt his pride.

The girls here were no prettier but made him feel uncomfortable at the cellar parties of the first Friday nights of the school term. The music sounded unreal and the masses moved only in chunks, chunks that did not invite him, chunks of girls who never touched him. A guy passed by him as he was putting the poster under the sign “Directors and pro-directors”. He could only read the word “Ich”. Germany did not remind him of a glorious past.

I bent down over to her: “Now he is getting really tired of this. As more people flock into the campus, he will already start thinking about the class, starting in half an hour. Look, he is so uncomfortable. He does not want to have any posters left in his hand. The others in the class do not approve what he is doing and this is less a reputation he is willing to make at the school. Now, he is desperately looking for an empty spot on the walls to get rid of the rest. That other Asian guy posting up Deutsche Bank ads is not helping him at all. He is disgusted. The edges of his face turn icicles”

I took the last bite of my morning sandwich. She said she was getting cold and we were ready to leave already. I dropped a tiny peace of salami onto her head. She did not mind much. The smell of the fresh morning meat blended with the scent of her coconut shampoo. On another day, it could have blended even better with the grease of her 2-days of unwashed hair. I would not mind. But today was a clean day. The boy with the posters turned the corner on to the adjacent street. I would not be surprised if he dumped the rest of the posters at the mail box of the Post Office. Beauty spread around the world. His harsh figures on his face turned a little greyish as the sun showed its face through the clouds and the shades of the impressive Victorian building fell on his face.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Looking through cheap accomodation in Istanbul for the work I'm doing the whole day, the sun set in the grey London sky. It's been raining constantly since the last week, and the last 2 days have been horribly windy and thunderous, and cold.

I am reminded of the mild autumn evenings of my childhood and young age Istanbul years. Nowadays I wear even more lightly despite the weather being much colder and wet in London. But back home, I would love the cold for its curiosity and hate it for its loneliness and threat.

I would wander around the streets of Harbiye or Taksim, running away from the familiar crowds of the main street. Side streets, narrow streets, street after street, flooded with water and filled with mud. People would look brown or ash-colour like the cigarettes they smoked and heavily in thought whilst making their way home.

Around 5 PM, like right now at the current hour in London, the smell of the burnt coal would migrate from the lower valleys of Dolapdere and lower Elmadag upwards into Taksim-Harbiye axis. The typical middle-aged Turkish men would look slightly tired if they had climed up the hill, and I would gaze through them to see some more innocence.

Now, I just came across a picture of a doorman at a cheap hotel, whilst researching for work.

I will share this tiny, skewed resolution of the young man. It fits the curious context where a total stranger finds mild winter comfort. In a very, very small scale...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

We remember..

“Beams up G.”

“Beams down G.”

“Beams up immediately G., as soon as the passing car is away. And slower on the turns please, it is slippery and these narrow roads can be dangerous in the dark!”

I had maybe a 10 cm. between my knees and G.’s driver seat. P. had a little more comfort on his side of the back seat, but I was already too busy drinking the mixture of 4 different red wines with that delicious port wine. I was not afraid of the road. We could handle G. I was afraid of the wine that could give me a headache next morning. Thankfully, it was the right mix.

The bloody GPS did not do us much good. We were drawing circles round and round somewhere in the country side. G. felt the anxiety. I opened a window. The smell of evening cow shit and fresh air... I took a deep breath. Shame there was no weed in our possession. There was cow shit and a good mix of wine. A car whizzed by our trunk 50 Mph as G. took a sudden turn to the right, disregarding basic traffic rules. We were almost bashed to the pavement. We calmed him down.

“No rush G. Thanks for this great wine mix and the road trip anyway!”

We parked a mile outside the town. Roads were closed down to vehicles a few hours ago already. A nice stroll down the hill where we parked the car prepared us for the action. The main problem was the rain. I don’t like umbrellas, I had no hoody jumper and my short-short hair only helped the rain dribble straight onto my back like rivers downstream with no barriers or dams to stop them. I did not even have a chance to shiver as a thunderous firework lit up the rest of the sky.

Now, there, we got excited.

We rushed into the city, surpassing the younger crowds by an old pub and stood by the side of the main road. People paraded down in costumes of vikings, witches, prophets, the deceased, the butchered, the butchers, crucifix; all in an order of militaristic perfection, threatening us standing too close to them on the edge of the road with their torches blasting in front of our nose. A natural hair-dryer, only if I had more hair. Red and orange dominated the scenery, and the massive house made a corner at the edge of the street where the parade faced us and turned into the uphill road. The edge of that massive house with its white painting reflected the purples, blacks, violets, maroons of the make-up, the costume and facial expressions of the parading group. This was a well-organised entertainment.

“Thanks, G.”

There were 5 bonfire events after the parade, spread evenly around this small town of few thousand people. That few thousand was multiplied a 10-fold tonight for the special evening, remembering Guy Fawkes or the Parliament that never blew up. Whichever you like. We went to the bonfire by the riverside.

A 20-meter high, 15-meter wide pile of woods. When it was burning, we were the closest to it. From 30 meters distance, there was no way you could face the ‘biggest oven’ I have thus far seen in my life. A girl next to me asked for a lighter. She could easily have touched her cigarette on my face and smoked me up.

Cracking sound of the woods joined the cheering crowds and the plop-plop of the pouring rain. The mud on our shoes and our jeans... Never minded. A New Zealander, a Venezuelan, a Brazilian and me.

Before midnight, we needed to head back. As we were crossing back over to the other side of the river, fireworks began on another part of the town. We stood still on the tiny bridge, joining another couple, 3-4 local teenagers and 2 guys in their coloured jackets. As the patterns of the fireworks danced in the sky, the reflections on the small stream at our feet shook with ease in the smallest of waves. A parading dance of lights on the water. Beaming lights, cracking fireworks. We remember the 5th of November.

Special thanks to G. and the others for the blasting entertainment.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Never leave Berlin

Continuing geographically and thematically from an earlier post, I will tell a recent story from Berlin.

Berlin has played a significant part of my life's last-minute adventures. Apart from my first trip there (which is the one briefly mentioned at the end of the previous post), I always had funny encounters of travel. Once I was flying back to Istanbul from Berlin whilst doing my Exchange study in Aarhus, Denmark and after a 8-hour bus ride into Berlin I almost missed my flight because I had one too many beer in a bar with a new friend I made during the bus ride. Following that, my last two visits were marked by missing my flights back to Istanbul because of the same pattern: The S9 train to the station would break and the taxi I would take from there on would never exceed the speed limit and I'd miss the flight. Needless to say, I never allowed enough time for bad luck in these occasions and was responsible for missing the flight. This last time last week, the story was different:

My 4th visit re-established my love of the city. Whilst trying to make the most out of it, I was out in the east part of the town in Warschauer Strasse until around 2.30 AM. I got back to my friend's house in the west at 3:30 AM to fetch my stuff and have a 1-hour sleep. At 4:45 AM I was at the bus stop to get to the S-Bahn to take the famous S9 again. I was on time, everthing went smoothly and at 6AM, I was at the check-in desk for the 7:15 AM flight. The lady at the check-in desk gave me a knocking surprise:

"You are too early in fact. Your pilot is sick and the flight is re-scheduled earliest for 12:00".

With a 1-hour sleep early in the morning, I was not in the best mood to handle any bad jokes. After not believing her (why should I not believe the check-in staff), and asking some other officials, I had to accept this fate. Thankfully, I found a good companion to chatter until we set foot at London. However, despite all my good attempts of leaving Berlin on time, I failed once again to reach the desired destination at the appointed time.

This time I did not ask for it, but Berlin was simply trying me once again:

"Are you sure you want to leave me?"

Monday, November 03, 2008

"Of Time and the City": A Terence Davies take on Liverpool

The National Film Theatre (NFT) at the BFI Southbank is arguably my favourite cinema theatre in London (see, for example, here (in Turkish)). The venue sits beautifully on the South Bank of the River Thames, directly connected to the city centre via Waterloo Bridge and the nearby favourite Hungerford Bridge. It is the primary venue for the London Film Festival, as well as the BFI (British Film Intitute) Headquarters, the BFI IMax Cinema and is part of the wider South Bank arts complex consisting mainly of the Southbank Centre, Hayward Gallery, the National Theatre. The frontal BFI Southbank cafe opens right into the Jubilee walkway under the Waterloo Bridge and a stroll around there is a great joy, with an occasional stop at the 2nd hand, cheap book stalls located in front of the cinema.

If BFI Southbank is a decent depiction of many of the qualities of London, then it is arguably a prime venue to host films portraying homelands of many other cultures. BFI Southbank usually holds film series of famous filmmakers (recently, Wim Wenders, Coen Brothers), actors, countries, film cultures or genres. 3 major film halls (NFT 1, 2 and 3) screen for large audiences, while the Mediatheque and Gallery cater for a much smaller crowd in the shape of screenings of experimental films or video. More video installations or exhibitions can be visited in the decent gallery, BFI Southbank Gallery, which currently holds a Pierre Bismuth and Michel Gondry exhibition.

One of these special events was the screening of "Of Time and the City", the first-ever documentary by the famous British filmmaker, Terence Davies (1945 - ). The film was screened on 2 November 2008, on a nice, partly-cloudy London Sunday afternoon. After the screening, Terence Davies came up to the stage for a conversation with the head of the BFI and the audience.

"Of Time and the City" is a documentary about Liverpool. It is rather a subjective documentary through the eyes of Terence Davies who was born in the city and lived there until the age of 28 (1973). Davies had never done a documentary before, and this was his first film after being away from the industry for 8 years. This was rather a special commission, in part with the Liverpool '08, the European Capital of Culture, project. In stead of depicting a Liverpool of what most non-UK citizens associate the city with; the Beatles, Liverpoool FC, Liverpool dock-workers, Davies has followed a quite dramatic approach, almost denying the existence of these institutionalised aspects of the city and taking a very personal approach to it.

Majority of the picture consists of archival footage, bought from BBC, Liverpool Council and many other sources. There is very few contemporary footage, a few scenes of city-life of today, shot by Davies. Other than that, Davies's main involvement has been to prepare a working script, cutting through the scenes and installing the soundtrack. It is quite unique in the sense that, a contemporary document on Liverpool, especially given the current Liverpool '08 project make so less use of contemporary images or references to widely-accepted cultural notions of the city, as described above. But, this is precisely what makes the film more interesting.

A strength of the film lies in the poetic nature of it. Terence Davies uses his own voice as the voice-over narration and extensively reads into the images from literature. Homeros, T.S. Eliot, classical music, hymns from church music and his own poetry blend with the recurring black and white, and color images of life in and around Liverpool.

The film begins with a graphically filling shot of an empty theatre hall, drawing its curtains into a grimmy Liverpool scene. Church images, loud hymns and extremely sarcastic narrative of Davies flow in. It is this extreme sarcasm that creates the working tensions and the conflicts of the film. Archival sound from a BBC Radio show from the 1960's, or jokes that Davies makes about his time and his city are not completely graspable for non-UK, or even non-Liverpool audiences. At the Cannes Film Festival, the UK side of the theatre at the film's screening was reportedly giggling while some were puzzled. However, the conversation with Davies after the film at the BFI clarifies many questions.

There are extensive references to religion and Davies' conversion from a devout Catholic into an atheist. As a life-time skeptic, Davies' was challenged further by his father (died when Davies was 7), after whose death, Davies started to indulge in conflicting realities of life. At a very early age, he discovered interest in the same-sex and came out as a young gay man in the mid 1950's, having to wait 12 years (from ages 11 to 23), until homosexuality was no more illegal in the UK (1967). The years 7-11 play a significant role in his development where he was taken the films quite extensively and the 'awakening' to the non-existance of god, and turning an atheist simultaneously with discovering homosexuality seem to be main elements of why Davies chose ballet over Beatles or classical music over hooligan chanting of Liverpool fans.

He is the youngest of 10 children. I don't know about the others in the family but he may as well be the most enthusiastic and entertaining. It is easy to see the fragility in the man when he blushes as he is applauded by the full-house crowd of the giant NFT 1 Theatre, or in the use of gestures, the non-stoppable movements of his hands and arms in excitement when he tells a story from childhood. He told about a funny incident he has recently encountered, in order to give an example of the "northernly humour" that he cherished a lot about the Liverpool culture:

He has recently given a lecture at Harvard. Harvard gave him a jumper with the "Harvard" text over its chest. Davies was wearing this one day when he was back in Liverpool. A street beggar saw him and stopped by him asking:
"Hey mate, do you have some spare change? I am going to go to Yale".

It is much more than to Davies that these funny incidents came across his way. Although not peaceful with his childhood traumas and his sexuality, this is a man, grasping the world, and 'his city' of his first 28 years with full enthusiasm, arms and eyes open wide. And there comes the "Of City and the Time", maybe a slightly difficult piece to get into in the beginning, but a sheer joy of classical music, folks on the hill, decaying housing estates, the Cathedrals and fighting for a place in the Liverpool crowd of 1960's and early 70's.

I suggset the 70-minute long film screened with a 20-minute cut from a Terence Davies interview. It adds so much more to Liverpool and the city, knowing this interesting and remarkable person.

Further reviews on the film can be found at the following links:

Friday, October 31, 2008

Locked-up luggages and Spanish punctuality!

George Orwell writes about his days in the Spanish Civil War in his little book called "Fighting in Spain". He was in the front with a (Anti-Stalinist) communist POUM party in Huesca and was defending the party's headquarters in Barcelona. All in all he has fired a few dozens of rifle shots in the winter of 1936 and spring of 1937, hardly caused any casualties, got a bullet through his neck and wittily wrote about as much the accounts of the Spanish Civil War he saw with his British eyes. His comments on the nature of the interactions taking place in Spain are quite sincere and warm-hearted. But it is his sarcastic remarks that make this little book an amuzing take on a serious subject.

Early on in the book, he introduces some key characteristics of Spanish people and it is the "punctuality issue" I want to share. A passage from pg. 13 reads:

"Every foreigner who served in the militia spent his first few weeks in learning to love the Spaniards and in being exasperated by certain of their characteristics. In the front line my own exasperation sometimes reached the pitch of fury. The Spaniards are good at many things, but not at making war. All foreigners alike are apalled by their inefficiency, above all their maddenning unpunctuality. The one Spanish word that no foreigner can avoid learning is mañana - tomorrow (literally, 'the morning'). Whenever it is conceivably possible, the business of today is put off until mañana. This is so notorious that even the Spaniards themselves make jokes about it. In Spain nothing, from a meal to a battle, ever happens at the appointed time. As a general rule things happen too late, but just occassionally - just so that you shan't even be able to depend on their happenning late - they happen too early. A train which is due to leave at eight will normally leave at any time between nine and ten, but perhaps once a week, thanks to some private whim of the engineer-driver, it leaves at half-past seven."

For anyone familiar with a Spanish or a Mediterraenan setting, this should be quite telling. Anyone familar with me or some of the stories I have written should also know by now that I push the limits to reach the deadlines on time. This is out of necessity rather while if I miss these deadlines I might have to pay penalties. When I have the appoint my own schedule, of course as a general rule of conveniancy, I happen to be out of tune, too. I would like to share a personal account on the former though, a deadline I had to make. Because this example is from Spain, it may fit with the context.

In the summer of 2005, I went to Spain for 3 weeks for language courses: 1 week in Valencia, 1 in Salamanca and 1 in Sevilla. After the classes ended in Sevilla, I met a friend on my last day in Spain in Madrid. We met early in the morning and I left my luggage at the train station. The locker room at the train station would close down at 8:20 PM (don't ask me why not 8 PM) and my friend was supposed to leave Madrid at 8 PM from a bus station close to the train station. So I thought: "I'll drop her and fetch my luggage from the train station".

As planned, after dropping her at the bus station, I realised to my inconveniancy that the train station was not so close by. I started running under the summer heat and after 10 minutes of non-stop running on the large Madrid boulevards, I made it into the station at exactly 8:20. The security told me they locked the place down! They told me to get permission from the station manager. I was in a dire situation. Same night at 1 AM I had a bus to Valencia, from where I would take a 6:30 AM next morning flight to Berlin, from where I would take a 10 PM flight to Istanbul. I needed my luggage.

I spoke fluent Spanish with high adrenaline and the station manager gave me the permission, but he told me that only the security guys could let me in, and I had to once again convince them! Going back and forth, I was able to win their sympathy, and at 8:24, I was warned by the security:

"But you made it here 4 minutes late!"

"But I was already here at 8:20. You saw me!"

"No, you were late. We will let you this time but you should never forget: Us Spanish, we are extremely punctual, just like the British!"

As you may have guessed, even they laughed at their own comment few seconds later. I would like to dedicate George Orwell's "Fighting in Spain" to these hillarious Spanish train-station security men.

P.S. Needless to say, later on in the evening I visited a hostel I stayed a year ago, and I was too relaxed only to take a taxi to the bus station where my Valencia bus left half an hour before the bus. Although it was only a 10 minute drive, Madrid streets on a Saturday night in midsummer was flocking with people and noone cared if the traffic ran or not. Well, I made it into the bus 1 minute before it left...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

London love

Last Friday, I was at the Trafalgar Square for the free screening of "London Loves" at the London Film Festival. It was a blissful atmosphere, people sitting on the stairs across the Nelson's Column, watching short films about London from the archives of the British Film Institute (BFI), whilst setting evening reflected through the hands of the Big Ben. Films from as early as 1910's, and themes as the last run of the South Bank tram of London (1950's) added to the special atmosphere I shared with my company.

Today, I had a miserable start to the day. I could not get any work done yesterday and today my hopes were shattered as I realised I lost the power adaptor for my laptop. I went to the school to look for it but it was gone. After dealing with few necessities, I researched for the cheapest option to buy a new one. On eBay I came across a guy who sold them from his shop in London, so I gave him a ring and decided to cycle to his place to buy it from him. And as I bargained I even got a £2 discount.

I had left my bicycle in the school for the last 23 days and thought it would be a good idea to test it anyway. I did not mind the fact that the weather was 6 degrees Celsius at the moment. I got used to cycling in the cold when my spit used to freeze back in Denmark. Once again, marvels of London treated me with a nice cycling experience.

I fell in Love with London once again as I passed over Blackfriars Bridge and looked on both sides of the Thames.

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The biting cold of the air did not hurt me at all. I fetched my power adaptor and decided to cycle all the way back home although I knew it would take quite long and I was hungry.

I feared London when I went through a totally dark and cold street, enclaved by two gigantic grey housing estates somewhere in Walworth.

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My blood froze as I gazed at "X (couldn't see what it was) Christianity Church, European Headquarters", a factory like building at the other end of the previous street. A comical depiction of commitment.

Main road junctions around south London smelt of burning coal. People ask me if I miss Istanbul. I miss the mild winters of my country, the warming smell of winter labour, burning coal and turd following the wind miles away. The harsh loneliness of candle-lit houses, and a bowl of hot soup.

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Mahatma Gandhi Industrial Estate by the rail tracks by Herne Hill amused me.

Muhammad No. 1 mosque, squeezed into a white building under the flyover rail tracks with a red-and-white inverted crescent and star flag made me think. Think of prayer. Denial. Betrayal. Freezing weather and warmth of sucking on hot blood...

The world was revolving like the usual in fact. My moments of inspirations fed my veins through constant change in typologies of street layouts, from light to dark and car traffic into dead end streets. At a traffic light at Herne Hill I happened to block a car for 5 seconds before I realised my position. I moved away and the lady driver had a cynical look at me. I was freezing and almost fainting of hunger by that point. The only swear I could come up with at that moment to throw at her came between my teeth rather in a whispering tone, first in Turkish and then in English: "pussywater" I called her.

Image by Madhu Pillai at

Somewhere in the distance, the red lights of the tower at Crystal Palace kept shining. I barely made it home without a complete body burnout.

This was my series of "London Loves", quite detached from the Trafalgar Square experience the Friday before, but yet with full of similar passion.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

exasperating but entertaining London weather (and Snow in October!)

As we walked out of the house, a brilliant fresh air filled our lungs. My favourite weather: Bright sunshine, clear blue skies with some white touches, and 6-9 degrees temperature that refreshes your brains and shivers your body to life. This was literally a cool setting.

The aim was to get to the Turkish Consulate by 13:30 for me to apply for an extension of my passport. A change of routes, I thought, would be a good idea. Took the train to Battersea Park Station and had a random stroll around the park where I had never been before. The cotton-soft concrete chimneys of the Battersea Power Station shined with a decaying glory under the sun whilst the torn-away walls of the building tried to immerse some vitalising energy. She saw them for the first time from real close. Battersea Park was hosting families with children, and families with a hound of dogs. A small pond there, a tiny botanic garden here, and we found ourselves by the Thames.

Following the river, we crossed over the Chelsea Bridge. It was already 12:00, we'd been traveling and wandering for 1.5 hours and had not eaten. Before fainting, a Lebanese shop around the poshy Sloane Square helped recover. The traffic around Knightsbridge was stuck and after jogging on the wrong street, we ran into the Consulate just around the time. A very Turkish way. It was 13:29. To my surprise, they only accepted applications until 13:00 and 13:30 was the closure time. I got some useful information to check back on Thursday. We sat on the bench to relax, the weather was getting slightly cloudy but still great.

Then the dimmer skies as the sun sets earlier these days. The pages of the books turned brownish and it was the time to head to the riverside again, to cross it over the bridge and have some dinner.

It was almost scary how many men in black suit crossed the London Bridge with us at the same time. It was around 6 PM, and all the City white-collar workers added to the grey of the city but could not destroy the enthralling Thames.

Here is a nice hint: "Fishbar" on Borough High Street just before the London Bridge Station has the best doner in town (maybe even anywhere). The wraps (durum) are well-priced and extremely filling and tasty with the sauce!

As soon as the dinner was over, it was pouring down like it never rained before!! The clear skies had cracked wide open with clouds that seemed to come from nowhere and we were soaking wet from head to feet within 2 minutes! That is London!

I went to see "The Feature" in the London Film Festival at 7 PM by the South Bank. It was a good reiteration of the 'festival air' I had been missing for some time. My humble comments here cannot make justice to this film that reminded of my enthusiast towards Paris - New York avant-garde of the 1960's and the Andy Warhol produced or affected experimental films running for 3 hours with random shots of flying cocks, sex orgies, naked musicians that I relentlessly watched at the Istanbul Film festivals in the high school years. In fact, London strips you off from the amusement of never-to-be-reached retrospective phantasmagorical visuals of earlier decades, and gives you a good mind-fuck already with the financial and urban struggles you have to go through to survive in this city. Maybe the following links can rather tell you more about the film:

What I actually want to relate to the subject of this blog is not the 177 minutes I spent in the cinema hall in a constant phase of sleeping and waking, but the experience of the London truth as soon as I left the building!

Yes, incredible to my eyes and exhausted brain, it was snowing! Snow in October in a city that rarely gets any snow at any time during the year! This was truly something remarkable. Especially considering how I had labelled the weather as 'mountain weather' in the morning due to its coldness but clear skies. Now, it was real winter as early as October with some cars even accumulating bits of snow. This was shocking but yet entertaining!..

Once again, London was surprising and this was a really 'cool' day.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


She asked:
"Do you have a cheesy song that you can play?"

We had just driven past a heavy-industry site. Gigantic, short and chubby cylinder chimneys fumed large amounts of grey smoke into the navy-blue skies. I felt that a cold-blooded Pink Floyd song, something like "Welcome to the Machine" could suit the mood, and she asked for a cheesy song. She was driving and I got to choose which tune to play. I put on something and she did not seem to mind it despite the fact that it contained romantic touches.

We had to leave the highway because of road construction. She swerved into the country roads. I could not tell whether she was getting frustrated by this or she was enjoying the shaded valley roads covered by green trees that looked to protect us from the fragile skies that could break on us at anytime. The road map signalled a few small towns where we could hit the highway back but the road signs could not do much help. We had been driving for the last 3 hours already and it seemed as if these side roads would not end. She did not mind. In such times I always came up with uneasy songs that would fit the potentially depressing environment. The soundtrack of a moody guy, as one may describe. She came up with a cheerful request because the world was always going to go on revolving just like the tyres of the car beating the roads into the night. This is how she nicely said 'fuck you' to the world.

I had managed to break the radio of the car the first evening, long before I managed to burst the hose of the water-tank for the engine, burn out the engine and practically break the rest of the car. It was before all of this that I was translating the lyrics of some heartbreaking songs from my language, too. We also talked about me having not broken a single bone my life. I guess I was always too cautious... Or rather too busy breaking softer parts of my body instead. All broken and shattered once, it seemed as if all could be fixed at once with a little help from a cheesy song.

She got cheered up with the song I picked. I decided I did not have to try and fit the 'mood'. After all, we were rolling down the road. The evening outside started to succumb into the fluorescent lights along the way. Now I was behind the steer and the street lamps welcomed us in. We were driving into her city and it felt good.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A daily newsfeed (for a change)

Some recent news that came across my way:

1. When my "Post-1945 Diplomatic History of the World" teacher asked me to pick a final-paper subject for the end of the term, I was growing interest in the events that took place in the 1968-early 1970's era. Diplomatic history suggested that I research some politician from the scene. That was around the same time when I got the chance to see Oliver Stone's (Born on the 4th of July; JFK; Comandante...) "Nixon" movie. Manic Street Preachers had also published their latest album which included the single "The Love of Richard Nixon". At a time when Turkey went through financial crises and had a local Che Guevara in Deniz Gezmis, when Ecevit faced US pressure on banning poppy seeds production, when Vietnam War was taking a twist, and etc.. Richard Nixon's input to US Foreign Policy seemed like a good subject to study. I wrote my longest essay of University years (only recently beaten by Master's Dissertation), touching upon the infamous Watergate Scandal.

Nowadays, a neotechnic, small-scale Watergate appeared at the expense of Republican vice-pres. candidate Palin's e-mail account. Here's the news, without furthet comment:

2. Long-running friend of mine, Deniz Gozler has started her own blog website (in Turkish) and I ran into a news article about an Iranian car company, Khodro, producing cars 'suitable for female drivers'. I am hoping that the Turkish Government will contribute to this great idea (!) and support companies that introduce suitable cars for 'dolmus drivers'. In fact, if they really want to help the Turkish citizens, they may as well introduce 'roads for non-taksi, non-dolmus drivers' with 2 separate lanes for 'bicycle users' (because at least 1 of those lanes will be abused). Here's the Iranian genius:

3. Greece has always been a source of envy for young rebellious minds of Turkey. We have spent university years reading about how the Greek students revolted against the government trying to introduce a law that would allow students of private schools (non-university) to be considered as equal-chance candidates on the job market. Since Greek universities are all public (except for these public schools subsituting as universities), this debate can be discussed in the terms of "buying yourself a diploma in the business-market" against a "democratic freedom of market-opportunities for some students who did not choose the 'public' way". Public-private sphere has been contested with greater action and youthful energy in Greece, thanks to powerful workers' sydnicates and organised student groups, whereas in Turkey, talking and yawning dominated action. Nowadays, a new strike is in place in the debate of closing down the Olympic Airlines in a move to privatisation. The following link includes a news-video. Watch for the young French guy, who does not seem to be particularly interested in what some of his revolutionary Sorbonne mates find comradeship in Mediterranean friends:

Sunday, October 05, 2008

City nights

I checked the time 4 times. The first 3 worked perfectly. 00:00, 01:01 and 02:02 were what I saw. At 02:02 we decided we'd down our last drinks and start heading home. My 4th check happened to be around 03:10. But I was then beyond caring about the perfect quadruple. I was happy I did not fall asleep in the night bus, maybe among the few night bus rides I never fell asleep. And guess, thanks to what? Thanks to Ronald fucking McDonald...

Liverpool Street (Station) will always remain as one of my most significant personal landmarks of London. It happens to be at the edge of the City of London, and the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Hackney and even Islington. It is where the financial heart of the world pounced, it is where the gentrifying urban regeneration spread from. It is near where Jack the Ripper cut off lungs and intestines, it is where black death once spread faster than foreign direct investment. If you are ever to worship the 'capital(ism)' just drop by the Liverpool Street Station, think about its past and present, take a 360 degree twist, see the Gherkin, the Tower 42, Broadgate Tower, Barbican Estate, remind yourself about the Bank and St. Paul's and dissolve into the London undergrounds under the clouded mystery of what this troubled city beholds.

Now it is this bloody Ronald McDonald that steals the scene from the rest of the mediocre 'high-velocity-food' scenery. I only missed 3 flights in my life. 2 were from Berlin Schonefeld, the other one a couple of weeks ago from London Stansted. Because the Stansted Express from Liverpool Street Station got delayed... I can't even take the piss out of this 'holy' place. This is where me and S. and F. and their St. Martin's friends oriented ourselves to find our night buses...

When you happen to end the night around East End, you usually take your night bus back home from Liverpool Street Station. If you hadn't already eaten a kebap around somewhere in Shoreditch, you might as well join the crowds at the 24 h McDonald's at the Liverpool Street Station whilst waiting for your bus. It is the Double Cheeseburger (memories from early teenage years) and the Vanilla Milkshake (memories from Summer 2007 Athens) that saved grace and kept me awake in the 1 hour night bus ride to Streatham Hill. Road to global obesity is paved with cheddar cheese and finely chopped off cow meat. Join the Delicatessen hype.

J. shared with me some of her personal thoughts of some people that mattered in her life. I have to admit I was happy to establish this faith. I did not neither find it awkward to share my bits of my sincerity. A few pints trundled down the throats with bonheur and bona fides. As we moved out of the last pub London reminded me of its magisterial character. No matter what you do in this city, you'll get wet. If it ain't for some clumsy guy spilling bear all over you, London's gonna shower with you drizzles whilst blowing cool wind into your guts. If you don't like it, jump across from the island. If you're fine with it, then dwell with it. Whatever you choose to do, just try and stay fit. Or else, someone's gonna beat the crap out of you around here...