Tag Archives: Turkey



I can hear my readers screaming: Gag that woman! Christmas 2017? Noooooo – we’ve just staggered away from December 2016. Please!  Enough already!

Keep calm. Don’t panic. Make a nice cuppa tea and when you’re feeling calmer, continue reading. Okay. Everybody  take a slow deep breath and we’ll  analyze what makes (most) Festive Seasons less than ideal.

There’s so much to do isn’t there?  The shopping, the  decorations, the enormous lunch, the gifts, the hordes of relatives; the washing up; the clean-up; the family rows that sometimes last for decades. And, last but not least, Uncle George. Every family has one. I can see you nodding your heads. The awkward relative  your conscience prods you to include. And then you wish you hadn’t.

Where to begin?  Here’s my #1 tip:

  1. Shopping: start now in January at the January Sales. I’m pretty sure every country has them. Big money-saver. Bung your bargains into a plazzie bag, write the names of the recipients on the plastic with Magic Marker, and stow in a dedicated, secret  carton in your garage.
  2. Failing the January Sales, make a big diary note around September to start attending monthly Craft Markets and keep a sharp eye out for Church Bazaars. You will discover unique handmade items, often at very reasonable prices.
  3. Immediately after Christmas scoop up markdowns of  gift wrap, tags and bags . Pop into that box in the Garage. Ka Ching! Saving money!

#2 tip : Decorations.  Buy a Christmas wreath, attach to the front door and when somebody moans about the lack of decorations, tell them firmly that if they want more decorations, then they’d better get cracking and provide some, because this is the year you’re on strike. Trust me, the world will keep on turning without tinsel.

#3 tip:  The Enormous Lunch.  Announce around October that this is the last year you will be hosting The Christmas Lunch, and furthermore, this year,  it will be a Bring & Share Banquet.  Circulate  the menu and insist that the diners commit , in writing, to one major item e.g. the turkey. You will provide the venue, crockery, cutlery, one edible item,  plus  coffee/liqueurs/choccies afterwards.

AND, the cherry on top – once assembled around the festive board, hold a lucky draw , the winner of which will be the host of next year’s Bring & Share Banquet. Propose an enthusiastic toast to the lucky winner.

#4 tip: Buy a dishwasher.  Yes, you do need one. Don’t listen to anybody telling you they use a colossal amount of water, they don’t. Or that they will ruin the family silver : actually, yes, they will, which is why you will use perfectly good stainless steel cutlery. Ditto the same dire effects on the bone china. Take that heirloom 60 piece Royal Albert dinner service to the nearest antique shop and flog it. You have other crockery, for goodness sake.  The proceeds will help pay for the dishwasher.

#5 tip: Secret Santa : Hold a draw around October where your Xmas Lunch  guests will draw the name of one person, for whom they will bring one gift, to the value of …  Fill in the magic number:  not more than X.  End of story. Your garage trove of gift bargains is for your nearest & dearest, or people like your hairdresser. You cannot live without a good hairdresser. So give him/her a prezzie.

#6 tip:  Uncle George/Aunty Maud:  Using part of your loot from flogging the heirloom silver and the  EPNS gravy boat, cunningly book a table for the old fossil for a slap-up Christmas dinner at a local hotel. Naturally you will book taxi transport. You will of course break the good news in the form of a fictitious Raffle prize? Anonymous Benefactor?   This way he/she  can’t possibly totter through your front door on December 25th. Fingers crossed.

#7 tip: Buy a large diary now, yes, on 2 January, and map out your Defense Plan for the next Christmas jollies. Work out your strategy, diarise, execute, and relax. Oh, and a P.S. Don’t think you can get away with running your diary system on your mobile phone. Bad idea. They tend to get lost, stolen, dropped and broken. But your hardcover diary stays safely at home, and the Magic Strategy is preserved.

#8 tip: One last essential pointer. At the next mammoth bottle store sale, stock up on a couple of bottles of your favourite relaxant – sherry? (very seasonal), brandy? (warming and cheering) gin? (good for  cooling G&Ts for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere) . Hide your haul in the Garage Box, and start medicating around 15 November.  You should be in a relaxed frame of mind for the upcoming festivities.

Finally: for mercy’s sake,  do not lose that Diary!






The Museum of Innocence by  Orhan Pamuk

A  LONG, meaty read. I had to work hard to finish the book.  Due to my sore neck I had to spend hours lying on my bed, so I could read for hours.  Luckily, or else I would not have finished it. Our Book Club chose the book because it was by a Turkish author and we hadn’t read any Turkish books in the seven years of our existence.

The blurb described the novel as “a work of romantic love”  –  if this was romantic love, then it isn’t my version. The blurb went on: “ a haunting novel of memory, desire and loss … with fascinating insights into a society tugged between East and West” : a much more accurate summation.  Especially the East/West conflict.  I enjoyed the descriptions of the city (Istanbul and the  Istanbullus and  traditional Turkish life, and I enjoyed the stories about the outdoor cinemas held in gardens, on balmy nights, under the mulberry trees)  but the main character – Kemal –  I  could cheerfully have attacked with an axe, after reading every other page!  Under the heading of MEN.  He behaved so badly towards his lover Fűsan; however,  in retaliation, she made him suffer for years.

I could not believe my eyes when I read the  last sentence in the book : “Let everyone know, I lived a very happy life”. This, as the ending TO a book about obsessive love, after pages and chapters detailing years of misery, loss, and fixation!

I liked the little touches e.g. Lemon, the canary. This bright yellow little caged bird belonged to Fusan and was probably one of the happiest brightest characters in the entire book! If not the only gleam of brightness in the book.

On thewhole, the Turkish men came across as chain smoking hard drinkers – several of them dying in their early sixties, of heart attacks.  The women were also portrayed as  smoking constantly . Because Turkey is the home of Turkish tobacco, I suppose this was not unsurprising or unrealistic. But what was a surprise to me was the portrayal of rich, upper class society.  I never thought of Turkey during the 60s/70s as having the Filthy Rich that are portrayed in this novel.

My first book by this Turkish Nobel Laureate. I might try some more.

Snow by Orhan Pamuk

I decided to try another of Pamuk’s books. This earlier novel is a great deal shorter, but more complex,  than the first one I read.

The blurb says that when the book came out in 2002 it angered Islamists and westernised Turks alike and promptly sold 100 000 copies: it seems to me that any books that irritates absolutely everybody must be doing something right!

Reading Pamuk is like visiting another planet. Although the books are translated skilfully into smooth English, there is a foreign-ness about them, an otherness, a picture of a radically different culture that underlies the characters, the events, the background.  Pamuk is not writing about tourist Turkey : the Turkey of Istanbul, semi-westernised, picturesque tiled domes, crowded bazaars, leather goods and woven carpets.  No.  He is writing about something entirely different, the far north-eastern city of Kars. I had to haul out my giant atlas to locate Kars, it’s in the middle of nowhere, en route to the Iranian border. Pamuk is writing about provincial Turkey, where poverty, unemployment, dirt, hopelessness, government surveillance, plots and counterplots,  spying, arrest and torture, infuse the lives of the Turkish, Kurdish, radical Islamists and Attaturk secularists residents.

The city is drowned for three days in a mammoth blizzard of snow, cut off from the outside world, cut off from sanity almost, as events develop.  He’s writing about a familiar theme: when the world of traditional old-style Turkey collides with the wicked West, but this time he throws nationalism versus Islamic reformers into the mix as well. The poet Ka returns from exile in Germany to write an article about the rash of suicides carried out by the ‘headscarf girls’ who return to head-covering thereby incurring the wrath of the secularists.
Ka falls in love with the beautiful Ipek, daughter of the hotel owner,
whose other daughter Kadife is in love with the dangerous Islamist
revolutionary Blue, one-time lover of her sister ….  the plot writhes and twists like a demented snake.  Meanwhile the political ferment explodes into a Ruritanian  revolution that takes place during a bizarre theatre performance.  The wildly improbable theatre troupe of two provide a modicum of comic relief at intervals, notwithstanding the fact that Sunay, the actor/impresario stages a dramatic and extraordinary climax to the events in Kars.

Despite all this tumult and turmoil, the snowy landscape inspires Ka to write eighteen brilliant poems structured on the diagram of a snowflake. He writes down the poems which arrive perfect and complete, as if he is an amanuensis, but for who or what is never revealed.  Apart from falling in love, Ka regains (fleetingly) his lost faith when he visits a famous Sheik in the city.
As a counterpoint to Ka’s adult love for Ipek there are the religious school teenage boys passionately in love with the headscarf girls, to whom they have never spoken, but for whom they are prepared to sacrifice their lives in noble gestures of pure idyllic love. Can you imagine any Western teenagers behaving like this?

Finally, the novelist inserts himself into the story, under his own name (just as he did in the Museum of Innocence) he seems to feel he has to explain why he is telling us the story of the poet Ka. This strikes me as an odd  approach.  I wonder if he does it in all his books? Clearly I shall have to read more to find out.  Question is: do I have the strength?  These two books were not an easy read.


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