Falling in Love with the Light ...

Of all the things I wondered about on this land, I wondered the hardest about the seduction of certain geographies that feel like home - not by story or blood but merely by their forms and colours.  How our perceptions are our only internal map of the world, how there are places that claim you and places that warn you.  How you can fall in love with the light.

Ellen Melloy, Writer

Note, the photograph was taken on one of the Princes' Islands out in the Marmara Sea, Istanbul.

The Lovin Genova Blog

Sometimes, I write a blog post and it hits a wrong note.  If it stays wrong in my mind, I delete it.  Sorry about that ...

Nice news today is that the new Lovin Genova Blog, created by the Office for the Development and Promotion of Tourism of the City of Genoa, has one of my posts up.  It's titled, From The Outside Looking In.

Davide Chelli has written a beautiful post that takes you inside the Oriental Market, on Via XX Settembre in Genova.

Sardines ...

A high of 34 celsius is expected here in Antwerp today.  It started early and was already 29 when I biked to the supermarket at 9am.  It's lovely, I'm not going to complain ... It's just very. very. hot. for this crowded little city with the massive European highway passing through it.

Thunderstorms should crash over us tonight or tomorrow, and a 10 degree drop in temperature is expected.

It's summer.  It's like that.  Sometimes we have one.

When I have time, the search for exhibition photographs goes on ... and along the way I find shots like this one, taken in Istanbul.  It still makes me smile.  I called it sardines.

A day in the life of ...

I usually arrive here at my office desk around 8.30am and begin.  But it's a slow easing into my day, trying to clear email, catch up on any new (and inspirational) posts that have come in on my google reader overnight, and then there's facebook too.

But this morning, I deactivated that seductive thief of time. Facebook is gone for now.  I love the social nature of that particular space but it's too much when I really look what I have in front of me.

In 5 weeks, there is a huge business launch party that must be prepared, with accompanying workshop offer.  There is the book I'm putting together on Genova, using my photographs taken since 2008, and channeling my huge passion for that city.

The final touches are being put on the photography e-course but I'm also preparing a series of one-on-one photography coaching and wandering options, as well as more flexible times on journeys to other places for the website.

I'm interviewing Minske Van Wijk about her film in the days ahead.  I'm also writing for two other websites but details on the second site still to come. 

There is the continuing saga of manually uploading my posts from the old website to the new website.  Only 800 or so to go...

Actually, truth be told, I dream about arriving here in the office and saying to assistant, 'Hey there, how about you work on this project this week, and I'll develop this one.'  But that's not for now ... that's just a wee dream.

I really hope that your week is a good one.  And below ... a photograph I took back in those Istanbul days.

4 April, 2012: An update.  I lasted outside of Facebook for just 24 hours.  A huge filling broke and I was left with a need to distract myself while I waited for an emergency dental appointment.  Facebook, like google reader, brings interesting things into my world at times when I can't create for myself and waiting for a tooth repair did, so very much, interfere with my muse.

My tooth was repaired today but too late, I'm back in the Land of Facebook, although attempting to be measured in my time wandering there.



A Saturday in March ...

Yesterday was  a day of reorganising the space that we have here in the 3-storey tall narrow house.  Gert and I ended up working right through the day, simply because I had decided to create a space of no distractions ... a place to finish this book I've begun.

I have two novel manuscripts started too, and another of interviews with New Zealand climbers.  That one went through two very positive publishing meetings before being rejected.  Back then, the public wasn't so interested in the crazy beautiful lives of climbers and mountaineers.  Other publishers were suggested, those who might take the risk of low sales, but then my mum began dying, I had finally started university, and somehow the manuscript has become another thing that I carry.

There are poems too. A new one that came on the train that took me across Belgium a few days ago.  A  poem that I like, and I am my toughest critic.

But anyway, photography took over as my dedicated form of expression.  You can slip everything into an image.  Sometimes it's like a poem, other times it's a novel and tells a story but mostly there is the pleasure is not being sure of what you have captured until you are done.

So I have a writing space now.  A  huge IKEA table that serves as a desk, and enough shells and stones to break my current desk collection in two while maintaining a beautiful pile of beach treasure on both desks.  Facebook, phones and non- related books are all banned from the new space.

However, in moving my writing stuff, in taking my favourite images up there, in moving all of my books on Genova... I created what seemed like a huge space down here in the 'everyday' office place.  But even that was fun, moving that bookcase there, those images here, that scarf-hanger too. 

We had Paola and Simon over for dinner last night and they were curious to see these changes, the ones I had earlier mentioned being in the midst of over on facebook.  Well ... here in the everyday office space, I realised, when looking through their eyes, that these huge changes weren't really so obvious despite the fact that they had felt like a major upheaval.   My new writing space was approved of though.

So that's how we spent our Saturday.  Dinner was delightful ... aperitivo by Paola and Simon, an Italian rib and sausage casserole by Gert, followed by one of his delicious cherry Clafoutis.  Excellent conversations, good people ... a really excellent Saturday.

I'll leave you with one of those photographs that surprised me.  I saw this tap dripping in Istanbul, in one of the many ancient places there.  I photographed it, ignoring the hustle and bustle of people around me, in that city of 14 million people.  Today, I have it here next to me, in a 30x45cm format ... I have to rehang it later but just having it here, so close, made me really see it again.  I really love it but couldn't have imagined this capture at the time of taking because it was so beautiful and how do you capture beauty ...




Orhan Pamuk, Nobel Lecture, 2006

Some extracts: A writer is someone who spends years patiently trying to discover the second being inside him, and the world that makes him who he is: when I speak of writing, what comes first to my mind is not a novel, a poem, or literary tradition, it is a person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and alone, turns inward; amid its shadows, he builds a new world with words.

He can write poems, plays, or novels, as I do. All these differences come after the crucial task of sitting down at the table and patiently turning inwards. To write is to turn this inward gaze into words, to study the world into which that person passes when he retires into himself, and to do so with patience, obstinacy, and joy.

As I sit at my table, for days, months, years, slowly adding new words to the empty page, I feel as if I am creating a new world, as if I am bringing into being that other person inside me, in the same way someone might build a bridge or a dome, stone by stone.

The stones we writers use are words. As we hold them in our hands, sensing the ways in which each of them is connected to the others, looking at them sometimes from afar, sometimes almost caressing them with our fingers and the tips of our pens, weighing them, moving them around, year in and year out, patiently and hopefully, we create new worlds.

The writer's secret is not inspiration – for it is never clear where it comes from – it is his stubbornness, his patience. That lovely Turkish saying – to dig a well with a needle – seems to me to have been said with writers in mind.

...I believe literature to be the most valuable hoard that humanity has gathered in its quest to understand itself. Societies, tribes, and peoples grow more intelligent, richer, and more advanced as they pay attention to the troubled words of their authors, and, as we all know, the burning of books and the denigration of writers are both signals that dark and improvident times are upon us.

But literature is never just a national concern. The writer who shuts himself up in a room and first goes on a journey inside himself will, over the years, discover literature's eternal rule: he must have the artistry to tell his own stories as if they are other people's stories, and to tell other people's stories as if they were his own, for this is what literature is. But we must first travel through other peoples' stories and books.

An Abundance ...

Most days we have spent 10 hours out taking photographs, returning to the apartment to organise and process them but I have never managed to keep up ... having taken 586 photographs on Saturday alone.  My photo folders are overflowing and after a hectic 48 hours of good people, a beautiful hotel, a niece from New Zealand, 2 kiwis who lives here, a little too much red wine on a warm Istanbul night and amazing photographic opportunities, here I am, processing and trying to put things back in order, having not even had time to view the images taken at 6.30am Saturday out on the Bosphorous.

Istanbul is one of those cities where I can’t stop using my camera, it’s a passion, a compulsion and a pleasure but my body is protesting. 
I fly tomorrow.


I know people who know people ...

And as a result, this Istanbul journey can only be described as truly remarkable. 

Last night was a mix of marvellous coincidence and good friends.  I introduced friends and hosts, Lisen and Yakup,  to Hayden, the New Zealander of Zen Turkey.com, who has lived here forever.  Over dinner and drinks, information was exchanged that will benefit both and I was happy. 

Maybe it’s a kiwi thing but we love making connections, meeting new people, introducing people who can surely help each other while knowing that they will like each other too. Dinner over, we were sitting outside in old-town Sultanamet when Hayden’s phone rang and another voice from my Istanbul past arrived amongst us.


I had twice travelled to Eceabat, on the Gallipoli Peninsula and taken the WWI tour with TJ.  Like the lovely guys on Flanders Fields, there is nothing that TJ doesn’t know about the Commonwealth soldiers left behind in the war.

He runs tours there and has some nice places to stay. You can find TJ’s website here.


TJ was calling Hayden to say that he had just flown in from Australia and how about meeting for drinks.  Gert and I got to tag along too.  It was an excellent way to end a lovely day. 

Past Lives and Memories

I struggled with how to title this post but I knew it had something to do with the nostalgia inspired by scent and a yearning for familiar things…

I woke early here in this Istanbul world and decided to get up. I’ve been alternatively working on photographs, with an occasional detour out into a new book I’m devouring but don’t have much time to read - The Attack by Yasmina Khadra, is worth checking out if you’re looking for an interesting fiction about suicide bombers.

It’s too early for anyone else and there is the promise of hot fresh borek if I’m patient, so I quietly found a banana to eat while my Turkish tea stewed in the top pot.

The banana was ripe and breaking it open delivered me back, just for a moment, to my childhood of bananas bruised by their trip to the river’s edge in our picnic box.

Savouring that scent here in Istanbul, so very far from the world I grew up in made me stop to think about the way that scent has been taking me ‘home’ lately ... the way that smell has become something akin to an album of memories I carry inside of me.

You see, there is a particular soap I use occasionally, it’s one that transports me directly back to a childhood of happy visits to Nana and Grandad’s Invercargill house. And a colleague of mine delights me by smoking the same cigarette brand that Nana once smoked, a long time ago. Gidon is less than excited by this fact that he reminds me of Nana ... as he is younger than me.

Shampoos and conditioners pick me up and transport me but they come from so many periods of this strange life of mine ... there were those childhood toiletries, then there is that one I used in America, another was discovered in Istanbul and they too offer a surprisingly powerful journey into memory.

It’s like that these days but the house is waking now - remembering took longer than I expected and my tea-glass needs refilled. Soon there will be piping hot borek in my tummy and here I am, creating a whole new set of memories in this different someplace else.


Gozleme and Çay

Istanbul is being so good to us. 

Today Lisen and I interviewed a Roma fashion designer while we tried to choose, from a stunning array of dancing costumes, a gift for Miss 4. 

We began the day eating delicious gozleme at the organic market, had a tasty kofte lunch at Ayvansaray and, took incredible photographs all day because the people and the sights we saw were simply incredible. 

A stunning stunning day, here in the city of Istanbul. 

Huge thanks to Lisen and Yakup, the best host and hostess a person could wish for.

First Morning back in Istanbul

I’m writing this, 8am on my first morning back in Istanbul.  The air is a little chill after the blue-sky warmth of yesterday but I love it.  It’s fresh, people are walking by and across the road the pharmacist … the eczane, is opening his store. 

Istanbul is breaking open.  There are new leaves on the trees and yesterday, tulips in full-bloom lined the coastal highway we took back into the city. 

Did I mention how good it is to be back here?

Last night, Lisen and Yakup created a Turkish meze kind of meal for us.  A cold meal of many plates, to be accompanied by Raki … it was delicious, as is most Turkish food.

The sweet flavour-filled tomatoes were cut into wedges, drizzled with good oil, basil and salt.  There was a lovely potato salad with parsley and dill.  A cold red lentil and bulgar patty that was so very good.  We had a little Passchendaele cheese, brought in from the flatlands, served together with Turkish salami and a stringy Turkish cheese that is a huge favourite of mine.  Olives marinated in some lovely concoction of herbs and oil, hummus, a yoghurt and herb dip, bread – with another saucer of herb-enhanced oil for dipping.

This morning, as I write this, Lisen is cooking my most favourite of Turkish foods – borek - layers of thin pastry cooked with cheese and herbs.  My cup runneth over and we haven’t been here 24 hours yet.

And having written such loving descriptions of the food, you need to know that the food isn’t my big Istanbul passion.  I love the city even more and today I’m heading into the city that fills another part of my soul ...

We’ll be wandering in Taksim, with a visit to Robinson Crusoe – a favourite bookshop, the flower passage, Galata Tower for that 360 degree view over the city with the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea below. Galata Bridge and the fishermen leaning over the edge, the probably through into Sultanahmet with Haghia Sophia, the Blue Mosque.

Today is a day for full-immesion in this stunningly beautiful crazy-busy city I love.

If I were in Istanbul today ...

I looked up and realised that as long as this Belgian sky is blue, with jet vapour trails heading in every direction, I’ll never forget living in Istanbul. The vapour trails here take me back to the container ships, ferries, fishing boats, rowboats and every other kind of boat, jostling for space, as they criss-cross the blue of Istanbul's Bosporus.

It made me think ... what I would do if today was a day back in Istanbul? 

I would begin at Taksim Square . I am sure. I would wander along Istiklal Caddesi, remembering to listen for the ancient trams that roll up and down the centre of that walking street. I would detour into Cicek Pasaji (the Flower Passage), a shortcut through to the Fish Bazaar, enjoying the architecture inside, smiling but leaving behind the waiters who beckon and invite me to eat. At this point, it is always too soon to stop for food.

Once in the Fish Bazaar, I would turn left and head for the scarf shop, the one where I used to sit chatting with a Turkish guy, listening to his stories of how life was for him in that massive ancient post-modern city.

Later I would pop back out onto Istiklal and walk on until I reached Robinson Crusoe - my beloved Istanbul bookshop. I would linger awhile ... walking out, after an hour perhaps, with just one book I couldn’t resist. Then I would pass by the Pasabahce store across the street, not wanting to carry their beautiful Turkish glassware as I wandered.

At the end of Istiklal Caddesi, there is always the decision … should I follow the winding road down the hill or catch the world's oldest underground cable car at Tunel. Almost always I would opt for the walk, passing the Mevlevi Monastery where the dervishes whirl and mesmorize me whenever I watch them. And on down the hill, past the small music shops... past the blue window, and then unable to stop myself, I’d take a right turn and head for Galata Tower ... just one more time.

Paying my entry fee, I would step into the lift then travel on up the stairs to the 360 degree balcony. There ...there is the best view out over this city that I came to love. This girl from small town New Zealand looking out over the ancient beautiful city ... who could have dreamed it?

With the city behind me, to the left I would see the massive bridge that links the continents of Europe and Asia. Straight ahead - the ancient Topkapi Palace where, for 400 years, the Ottoman sultans ruled their empire - built 1465. There would be Haghia Sophia (Aya Sofya), one of the world’s greatest architectural achievements, built about 1,400 years ago, and I would wish I was already wandering inside her walls.

I would look out over the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea ... all mysterious names that meant nothing until I lived there and then, walking on round the tower balcony, I could look down at the Italian architecture of the area or further, or over to Levent and its post-modern skyscrapers ... so happy to be back in this city that I love.

Back on the street, the tower behind me, I would walk on down the hill until I reached Galata Bridge. I can never resist a looking into the fishermens buckets, filled with water and fish, happy to be in amongst the noise of the city ... the simit salesmen, the bait and water salesmen shouting their sales cries all round me.

I would reach Eminonu and descend down into the Pazaar, (market) wander a while in the place where the smell of fish cooking is the air. I would pass by the doner seller, watch people arranging themselves on the old ferry bound for Kadikoy and walk on, through the tunnel, to the Egyptian Bazaar. The Spice Bazaar too.

I would wander awhile, exploring the cheese and olive selections outside, always unable to resist visiting the stalls where the leeches are sold, watching the birdseed sellers, the people ... always the people.

But still there would be more. On up the hill into Sultanahmet, the place where some more of my favourite places are found ...Haghia Sophia is there, Yerebatan Sarayi (the Underground Cistern)- place of incredible beauty, and the Blue Mosque.

In need of some cay, I would walk back along the road to Cemberlitas and my favourite cafe. The waiter and I would catch up on each others news. He might ask me about the friend I brought last time, and I would ask about how busy they were and if the tourist season had been kind.

A potato gozleme and two cay before moving on ... wanting to spend a little time in the halls of the Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi) finding new scarves ... always the scarves but enjoying the banter with salesmen in this ancient labyrinth of 4,000 shops.

Once, I met a man from Afghanistan there. He had just finished his first year of training to be a doctor when the Taliban forced him and his family to flee. They moved through many countries until they made their home Istanbul. They were fluent in at least 7 languages.

He was a nice guy, with a store like an Aladdin’s cave, full things that I can’t begin to describe ... a surprise tucked down a small corridor that I have trouble finding each time I return. And perhaps that would be enough, although I would surely stop to say hi to Hayden - the Yeni Zelanda who arrived and stayed ... an Istanbul travel agent now.

Backpackers and travelers would come and go while we talked, booking their trips and so, I would head up to the rooftop bar ... drinking a cold Efes beer as I watched the ships queuing for entry out on the Marmara Sea. Then hearing the call to prayer go out of over the city, I would realise it was time to go home.

Going home was always much simpler ... the metro from Sultanahment to Karakoy, a short walk up to the underground cable car at Tunel, where I could sit as the cable pulled the passengers uphill on one of the oldest cable cars in the world.

I would stroll back along Istiklal Caddesi, amongst all the Turks who are just arriving as this yabanci heads home, going down into the underground Metro in Taksim Square, two stops to Mecidiyekoy ... and then up into the craziness of shoeshine men and flower-sellers, traffic and smog.

I would cut across the main road, under the highway overpass, then wend my way down into the place where I lived ... that little village-like suburb in the middle of Istanbul.

That is, if I had been in Istanbul today ...

The image below, garlic hanging on an Istanbul wall.