Who am I?

We are all composed of multiple components, our sense of self informed by so many experiences in our formative years. Ask the question, “Who am I?” of others and from each you will get completely different answers. Some will answer that from a class perspective, some with religion in mind, still others considering ethnicity. A few might speak of my character, or some minor achievement. Most, I suspect, would simply shrug their shoulders.

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Tinman

Tracy Chapman’ album, A New Beginning, had a profound impact on me in 1997. It diagnosed many an ailment of my heart and helped set me on a path of reform. Often played on repeat, it prepared the ground for all that was to follow. It tilled the fertile ground into which those seeds could be planted. I’ll be forever grateful for that.

Squanderful

I hate binning tech. I consider it squanderful, both of the resources used to produce it and of the money with which it is purchased. But computers — unlike my grandmother’s Kenwood Chef which remained fully functional after sixty years of continuous use — have a problem: software evolving with ever-increasing complexity, which renders the hardware obsolete in a few short years.

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Golden oldies

What does dad know? That know-nothing kitted his kids out with a Mac Mini each at the height of their great home-learning adventure last year, complete with great big LCD monitors and peripherals. Everything they’d need to complete their homework and coursework over the next five years. But what does he know? Nothing it seems, for his eldest insisted on replacing their M1 Mac and 27″ monitor with a school-loan Lenovo notebook with an Intel Celeron CPU, 4GB RAM, HHD with 20GB free space and cramped 12″ display. Better in every way, except, well, for getting any work done. Thank goodness the kids know best.

Grannies

I’m not really into great eulogies, describing the Queen as the only constant in the lives of our generation through turbulent times. That’s the role of grannies generally. Perhaps, in that respect, she was the nation’s grannie. Yes, but a very privileged grannie, whose moderately small family received hundreds of millions of pounds of state benefits — sorry, grants — annually for seventy years.

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Commodity

Follow those who ask no payment. Over and over, our Book repeats this refrain. Follow right guidance… the word of truth…

Yet on the contrary, we have turned guidance into a commodity to be bought and sold, marketing it with cringey videos. Guidance is yours… for a hefty fee.

Religion appears to be a lucrative enterprise for the astute businessman. But I say: don’t follow the entrepreneur offering to save your soul in exchange for a subscription.

The path is simple. You just have to take it up. “And why should I not worship He who created me and to whom you will be returned?” It’s not a commodity; it’s a way of life.

Ambition beyond abilities

Some might look at the leaders of state and say, “There’s hope for us yet.”

However, I look at them and say, “That’s why I stayed in my lane.”

Ambition beyond abilities is killing us. Find what you’re good at and be content with that — for the sake of all.

Slip up

Amazing how the tiniest slip up can set you back all afternoon. How just a silly error can take hours to rectify. Once more, my daily work is a metaphor for my life. Foolish mistakes which reverberate for years. Today’s blunder at work only took three hours to undo. If only the errors I made in life could be fixed that easily.

The return

Everything feels… weird. The house so… small… and quiet. But my workstation… so… biiiggg! My dual-monitor setup… two 24″ monitors side-by-side feels like overkill after a month nodding between laptop display and an ancient 19″ VGA screen.

Of course, in a day or two, I’ll get used to it again and it’ll be as if nothing ever changed. And our house… already my beloved is telling me she’s so glad to be back in her humble home… at peace… calm… her heart at rest.

The light is different… the atmosphere too. I’ve spent the last two hours before work tidying, cleaning and dusting, and brushing away the cobwebs. Soon I’ll feel at home again too. The place just needs a lick of paint and then it’ll be as right as rain. Speaking of rain… we’ve missed that too.

Tiny

Our poor kids… the first thing they say on their return home: “It’s tiny!”

“What’s happened to the stairs?” exclaims our daughter, “They’ve shrunk!”

Our lad charges up them to his room. “What on earth have you done?” he cries, rediscovering his box room, even smaller than he remembers it.

“I built you a nice big house in Turkey,” I laugh. “Maybe now you’ll be grateful.”

“I want to go back!” he sobs.

Beautiful

If it is said, “Istanbul is a beautiful city,” I must retort, “It may be a city that contains parts that are beautiful.”

Areas popular with tourists and elites may rightfully boast of culture, history and wondrous architecture, or classy waterfronts and spacious parks.

But, alas, Istanbul as a whole — the sprawling megatropolis of greater Istanbul  — known to all others is anything but beautiful. It is hot and dusty, filled mostly with ugly towers rising out of crowded districts, connected by grid-locked motorways.

As home to sixteen million people, could it be any other way? I have visited two neighbourhoods today, travelling between them by taxi. The first of them, a once-poor neighbourhood increasingly wealthy. Nearby, expensive apartments with cutting edge designs, apparently mostly owned by Gulf Arabs.

The second of them, a very poor neighbourhood closer to the centre, which in the twenty-years I have been visiting has always been poor, and has never seemed able to lift itself out of its poverty. There are other districts I used to visit, more middle-class and affluent, but I haven’t been back in years.

If there is beauty here, then it must be in the personalities. We have met a few of these. As for the urban sprawl: that’s hard to embrace. But perhaps, in the end, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As it always is.

Two opinions

My niece is very nice. She says such sweet things. We’ve watched each other growing up. Me as her auntie’s English husband forever shy; her as a hardworking student.

At out Istanbul wedding twenty years ago, she became our accidental bridesmaid. That was my doing; she must’ve been about seven, and I insisted we buy her a fancy white dress, knowing her parents were living through hard times.

Now she’s a qualified teacher, confident and brave. When she greeted me on our arrival earlier, she felt moved to sing my praises. Though I know I don’t deserve them, I just smiled. “Tell that to our dear daughter,” I laughed, “she will tell you I’m the worst dad in the world.”

Two young ladies who have watched me closely, with differing intensity over different periods of time. Perhaps our daughter offers the truest critique, no holds barred. Teenagers don’t filter their opinions through diplomacy; they just say it as they see it.

So these days I’m always angry, and an ignoramus who doesn’t understand anything. A less flattering evaluation than the one proffered by our niece, but perhaps it is true. Certainly I’m more likely to defer to our daughter’s critique, rebuking myself for these shortcomings, than take seriously our niece’s glowing assessment.

Perhaps the true measure will be asking our daughter’s opinion again in her mid-twenties. Will anything have changed by then? Will she at last see some good in me? Only time will tell. Who knows what the next decade will bring?

Güneşli

We travelled over a thousand kilometres this morning, but still I felt compelled to wander down to Güneşli central mosque on our arrival for Friday prayer.

Technically, on such days, I could let it pass and just do the shortened travelling prayer instead, but the pull is sometimes hard to ignore. We’ve been visiting this Istanbul neighbourhood for two decades, in which time we’ve witnessed a lot of change.

It used to be a very poor district, but with increased investment and gentrification, all that has changed. Driving through its streets, gazing up at luxury apartments all around, you can’t help thinking to yourself, “Para para (money money).”

But we’re not here for that. Regardless of what’s different, some things stay the same: the hospitality of my sister-in-law and our niece, now all grown up. We will enjoy our brief sojourn here before our final voyage home.

Grump

For all the comforts here, the thing I really struggle with is lack of personal space. From the first day to the last, every plan of our own has been steamrollered by others. For this, I will be glad to return to our little home and quiet life, if the Most Merciful wills. Today’s plans — our last here — already obliterated by the crowd that arrived three hours ago, and who may yet warble on for hours more. If I sound a grump, it’s because I am.

Thief

These days, I don’t do well with this thief, nor with those virtues that would undermine it. I have a rage these days, which flies out of me when faced by mundane tests.

The antidote in these moments is supposed to be patience, contentment and humility. Instead, I fail this test daily, losing my cool in the face of disrespect and poor behaviour.

I am like a coiled spring, suddenly unwound. It’s true what my family says: I have lost my patience, no longer the calm man they used to know.

Somehow I must find a way to reset and reform, to become more mindful, and to overlook the constant provocations. Somehow I must find a way to restore the calmness I was once known for.

Guests descend

Guests descend, always. And always we’re the hospitable host. But not today. We’ve been here six weeks. We’re setting off at sunrise tomorrow morning. Today we’re busy packing up home. Today is not convenient for us.

But even so, relatives who say they couldn’t visit us before now, insist on dropping in to see us. They will only stay an hour or two, they proclaim, persistent in their plan.

And so guests will descend, although we will have nothing to offer them as we will have given away all our food, and they will have nothing to sit on because we will have covered up all our furniture.

But still we will be hospitable hosts, however grudgingly we receive them. They say it was not convenient for them at any point over the past six weeks. We say it is not convenient for us today. But always the guest will win.

Two places

Today, my last day working here. Tomorrow, our last day here at all. I will find it difficult to say goodbye to these comforts. My beloved: she is ready to return, for she has had a trying six weeks, waiting on her mother. But our kids: they protest, reminding us how much they hate England; they wish they could stay here permanently. Their return will be something of a trial for them.

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Angry man

My anger… this rising temper… I don’t think it has much to do with external stimuli… something which did or did not happen.

The main cause… and this was known to be a risk… was restarting treatment after neglecting it for such a long time. So if my family notice a sudden change in my character and mood… this is probably a good indicator of what’s happening.

The alternative is the calm man they’re used to… largely calm due to lethargy and fatigue. I actually prefer that state, but it has drawbacks… those intense blues… and the weakening bones.

So that’s your choice… angry man with energy and positivity… or calm man who feels like shit. On the other hand, maybe you could help… calm down yourselves… stop constantly winding everyone up.

I’m stuck with this condition. Yours? You just have to grow out of it. Quickly, if you can. Or just get used to the daily fireworks.

Call to prayer

I’m a practising Muslim. I observe the five daily prayers. Ordinarily, I look forward to the call to prayer. But even I wish the village mosque would turn the volume down on their minaret sound system. Better still, just turn it off completely, for there really is no need for the village mosque to be in competition with the town; the whole of the valley can hear that one perfectly well. Sometimes, I feel we have completely missed the point of our religious practices. Call people with wisdom and beautiful speech, not by blasting them to pieces with a megaphone.

Our humble home

“We’ll miss all this space, won’t we?”

“We will,” says my wife, peering back at me, “but I think I’m ready to return to my humble home.”

“Are you?”

“Definitely. I love my little house. It was our first proper home. I miss it too.”

I suppose I’ve got used to these new comforts — and the space — but it’s true: that’s our real world, for now.

This is just our dream world, for a few weeks at a time. Escapism. A dream to grasp hold of. A vision for the future, perhaps, if the Most Merciful wills.

Until then, we must return to reality… and, yes, soon enough we will be settled once more, still living within our means.

My place

In my youth, there were many who decided I had to be put in my place. At university, one was my so-called brother in faith, a fearless activist and latterly failed politician, whose intimidation culminated in me being pinned to the wall by my neck. My crime, perhaps, to have been a white convert, all too reminiscent of other white converts he had encountered previously, or to have been too shy and timid to satisfy his macho rendition of faith, or simply because he had heard the rumours about me, whatever they were.

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