Mrs Smith.

An ordinary woman. An extraordinary woman. Miss Hilda Craven was born in 1892 and lived to the age of 102. She was ruled over by seven different British monarchs, and lived through two world wars. She saw the first step into space, the development of electricity, atomic power and the digital age. While the world was turning on it’s head and changing beyond recognition Hilda … Continue reading Mrs Smith.

Istanbul. The Süleymaniye Mosque.

Istanbul offers disappointment in only one regard – the amount of scaffolding, tarpaulin and building work that engulfs the city. Even from our flat in Kadikoy we could see the scaffolding around a minaret of the Blue Mosque and decided we didn’t want to visit. ‘Go to the Süleymaniye Mosque’, Senem told us, and so we did. The Blue Mosque could not have been any … Continue reading Istanbul. The Süleymaniye Mosque.

The Humble Sīmīt.

Sīmīt are everywhere in Istanbul. Simple, sesame-encrusted bread rings. Some call them the Turkish bagel. Sold from stationary red-painted government-owned carts, and from men who roam, swirling them on a stick, carrying them in baskets, setting them down on makeshift trestle-tables, or balancing them niftily in wicker trays on their heads – they are impossible to escape. Arranged in impressive towers and pyramids, the jengo … Continue reading The Humble Sīmīt.

Istanbul – Topkapi Palace.

The Harem. Ugly Beauty. We were standing at the heart of four hundred years of Ottoman intrigue. If I half closed my eyes I saw black eunuchs and concubines, diaphanous fabrics, ewers, jewels, court musicians and the sultan’s dwarves. When I opened them I saw selfie-clicking tourists and tunnels of thick polythene sheeting hiding no-go areas. Not so much the soothing sound of water fountains, … Continue reading Istanbul – Topkapi Palace.

Istanbul. For One Month.

We’re living on the Asian side. Our flat is on the fourth (top) floor of an old building. No elevator. Winding stairs that seem to never end. Past shoes outside doors. Once a person sitting smoking. And sometimes rubbish that needs to be thrown away. We know we’re almost there, as the stair well becomes lighter, and the seagulls screech louder. Their claws, tatter-tap-tap on … Continue reading Istanbul. For One Month.

Grandma’s House In Bran.

My mum burst out laughing when I told her I was tired. I could almost hear her thinking. ‘You tired? You don’t do anything’. Or as another friend recently put it. ‘How is it going with your walking from tea-shop to tea-shop’? I don’t blame them. I do lead a life of Riley. But sometimes life on the move becomes too much. Our ‘Orient Express’ … Continue reading Grandma’s House In Bran.

The Budget Orient Express.

The Orient Express. The very name conjures glamour and intrigue. Black tie donned counts wearing monocles. Countesses with cigarette holders and gold-capped front teeth. Servants and trunks. Finery and frippery. Decadence and dosh. But we were not on the real Orient Express. We were hurtling across Europe on a budget; travelling from Paris to Istanbul – hoping for some of the luxury at a fraction … Continue reading The Budget Orient Express.