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.

Image by

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.

Image by

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.

Image by

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...

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Brick Lane is on fire

I got a little drunk last night. No surprises. Around Angel. I could not be able to cycle back to Streatham Hill from Angel, it would take me about 1.5 hours and it was cold and late. A friend from high school that I had not seen for years made a generous offer, opening her house to me, saving me from a miserable night. A beautiful house it was. We made detours walking there in the late hours of the night. Last night I was not good with my orientation. Surprise. Last night you could see the stars over London. At one instance I went out of the house where the party took place, saw the stars and sent a message to couple of people. He replied, but she did not. A Turkish guy came by my side, I told him about the stars. He called his "sweetheart" and told her that you could see the stars over London last night. He got a sweet reply. I got a little more drunk.

I woke up. A cup of coffee gave me the kick-start. I got on my bike and cycled down to Shoreditch. Breakfast on Brick Lane was the idea. B. did not pick up my call in the beginning. At my 3rd attempt, he decided to wake up, but 15 minutes later he told me that he could not get his ass off the bed. On one of the side streets on Brick Lane, at the corners of Code and Pedley Streets, someone put a large waste bin into fire. The dark smoke filled the side street and clouded over the adjacent rail tracks. I went into a bookshop, got myself a postcard. Then I went into a croissant-coffee shop, fetched some breakfast. I smiled at the girl at the counter as I put my order. She returned with a really nice smile. I talked to my sister on the phone, and walked by Spitalfields City Farm, said "hi" to the mules.

The ambulances rushed into the fire scene. A shopkeeper shouted across the street: "Fire is good. If you didn't have fire, could you smoke all that shit?" I smiled at him and cleared the pieces of ash from my red jacket. I checked back at the fire spot. It was put out and people seemed to be a bit more relieved. Some of them looked indiffirent, some looked proud to be on the scene at the right time. I looked like I was interested.

Rain started to drizzle. I got on my bicycle and rode through Commercial Street. When I needed to turn right towards Bishopsgate, a car stopped duly to make way for me. I smiled at the driver, he noticed. It took me an hour from Brick Lane to get back to Streatham Hill on the pedals, and I sweated like a mule.

P.S. London, you are confusing me.
P.S. 2. I need a small digital camera if I need to have better 'captures' of you, dear London.