Back from Istanbul very very late last night. It's an interesting city, with some lovely people, though it's probably not one we'd rush back to. But I'm certainly glad I've seen it. Here are some highlights in no order:
1. On our first walk through the city, someone tried to persuade us to come to his leather factory later that night. My mother warned me about men like that ... so we lived to tell the tale.
2. New birds spotted: laughing doves, hooded crows, alexandrine parakeets (and the first of the terns not yet in the UK).
3. The 5.30am call to prayer is the most haunting and mesmerising sound I've ever heard. I love it. I love the whole concept of a five times a day call to community prayer and there should be more of it. It makes me feel both centered and relaxed at the same time. Marvellous stuff. I'm hooked. Can I persuade the Anglican church to take a valuable lesson from Islam? I can but hope, but bring it on ...
4. I also love the apparently easy juxtaposition of religions in Istanbul. It's an eye-opener.
5. It was our first time in Asia (Istanbul has an Asian side). Goodness, how European it feels. At least in the city.
6. We found a Russian-speaking TV channel showing only curling. It almost made it interesting.
7. One morning, we were filmed eating breakfast. I wait for the movie ...
8. Putting on a headscarf makes me go all obedient and 1950s servile - is it something in the material??
9. I bought a lovely Turkish rug. It's lovely lovely lovely. And I love it. Just under the amount for customs duty too, hurrah!
10. The Topkapi Palace has the largest diamond and emerald I've ever seen. I think I'm in love. With jewellery. It also has Abraham's cooking pot, John the Baptist's arm and skull (which begs the question of the fact that his skull is also in Rome ...), Moses' staff and lots of hair from the Prophet's (May his name be praised ...) beard.
11. The Dolmabahce Palace has an incredible chandelier - 4.5 tons. It's wonderful.
12. I like cisterns - they're great. I could probably happily live in one. Especially with water, fish and in candlelight.
13. I now have a book all about harems, so I am the expert. Should anyone ask.
14. It's very hard to get my head round the fact that you don't put loo paper down the loo - it's just doesn't seem right somehow ...
15. On the last day - which was free - we walked 8 miles round the city, and found some rather dodgy areas.
16. The old Orient Express station forecourt is used as a job centre for men - I didn't realise this and it took me a few minutes to work out why I was the only woman in the place, which was why everyone had gone quiet and was staring at me. Creepy.
17. Attempting to speak Turkish ain't easy but naturally they appreciate the effort. One waiter taught me to say "You are lovely" which cheered this mid-40s woman greatly. A little safe flirtation is always welcome, of course.
18. People in Istanbul were only allowed mortgages in 2007, which explains why most rent.
19. London looks fabulous from the air by night - a glorious pattern of orange lights.
Other news of the day:
1. My poem, Moonflawed, has been published by Ink Sweat & Tears webzine and you can find it here.
2. My short story, A Safe Bet, has been accepted for publication by Cynic Magazine.
3. I've had rejections for two short stories and another publisher has rejected The Gifting. Ah well, some people just can't tell a good thing when it's there in front of them, sad to say ...
Today, Lord H and I have been birdwatching at Pulborough Brooks, which has been great - if cold and rather wet. Much like Turkey then ... And I've finished Sally Varlow's The Lady Penelope (our upcoming University book group read) - it's actually rather good when it gets going. An interesting insight into the court of Elizabeth I and the lost life of Penelope, one of her famous courtiers. Well worth a read - I'm looking forward to meeting the author when she attends the group later this month.
Today's nice things:
2. Turkish carpets
3. Being at home
5. Moonflawed being published
6. A Safe Bet being accepted for publication.
Anne's website - it's really lovely, you know ...