Walking through M&S to buy a snack, I was attacked. Uncomfortable from eczema, I made an unfounded deduction that I might suffer an intolerance to wheat and dairy. Presumably, M&S would serve snacks for this dietary requirement. I was contemplating this idea, walking to the food section, and passing a group of people standing to my right. In unison, they jumped at me. Or rather, tumbled towards me. I jumped back just in time to see the mannequin’s arm smash off the ground before me. It also had a rather cracked head and it’s hat had fallen off. The second mannequin sprawled across it as the third mannequin started talking. The third wasn’t a mannequin. An old man had stumbled backwards into the display and caused it to topple.
People rushed around to help the man as others, trying to be useful, quickly hauled the mannequin’s back to their moulded feet. A woman’s voice boomed over top of the confusion, “Don’t touch him. Don’t move.” She took control of the situation and started to check the man was OK. It hit home that I had no first aid training and no idea what should be done in a medical situation. As it turned out, it was nothing more serious than the man stumbling backwards into the step that the characters were mounted on and tripping. I scuttled off to buy some cashews. Dairy free, gluten free.
That was the prelude to my single Christmas shopping trip. What followed was a very enjoyable Christmas with my two families. It was the first Christmas I had spent with them in three. On Christmas day I played golf at the castle in our village and nearly got taken out by a wayward golf ball.
Istanbul beckoned for New Year. Despite taking more than 30 (maybe 40) flights in my adult life (I avoid it when possible), I still have a dislike of flying. As we passed through cloud, I nearly jumped out of my seat to the amusement of others around me. Visions of planes exploding or dropping out of the sky regularly haunt me on flights. I shut my eyes and gripped hold of the arm rests for the rest of the ascent and as ever, braced myself in crash position during descent. The worst landing I ever had was on an Ethiopian Airways flight in which the front of the plane actually seemed to bounce. I was grateful to land safely once more; although the idea of crash landing and surviving on an island (thank-you Lost) does seem rather appealing. The UK-Turkey flight path doesn’t really permit the occurrence of this situation.
Arriving in Istanbul, the first destination was my friend’s house for the night. Unfortunately the lock on the main door of the apartment block didn’t open and we spoke through glass for several minutes before his Dad came down to help remove the bolts and create an opening. This was followed by delicious food (there is a lot of delicious vegetarian food in Turkey) from his parents who then proved a great help in driving around the city to meet a landlord and finally to my new home. On the downside, apparently in Turkey, one doesn’t clean an apartment when leaving and we were greeted by cigarettes, dirty dishes, and even a condom in the bin amongst other pleasantries. The front door didn’t lock, the balcony door wouldn’t unlock, and the boiler was dysfunctional.
That aside, new year was fun. We ran down the streets, grabbing card hats from the floor as 2013 was welcomed in and watched the fireworks from as close as we could get. The squares and streets were literally packed with millions of people so that it was completely impossible to traverse them. An unusual cultural experience was that of seeing all the Turks wearing Santa hats for New Year. Christmas is non-existent here, thus I guess they found an alternative time to indulge.
People were everywhere. Istanbul is busy at the best of times but this was beyond comprehension. Screaming bodies sprawled through streets, uncaring of traffic and on more than one occasion, almost got wiped out. One small girl and her mother missed becoming bus road-kill by a matter of inches. I have never seen such disregard between drivers and pedestrians. On one particular street, people swarmed cars and began jumping around them, dancing, and rocking the cars. The drivers tried to get away but couldn’t have done so without running people down. Couple this with the ridiculously high number of police arming the streets, it was only a matter of time before a collision happened. I looked up just in time to see a car ram into a policeman who was walking in the same direction. It hit him with enough speed to lift him onto the bonnet and braked hard enough for him to land back on his feet. To my eyes, the hit was intentional. However, the driver looked rather shocked when he realised that it was a policeman he had hit. Needless to say, he was pulled to the side of the road amidst swarms of people and we disappeared into the night.
Another Turk danced and mocked a group of armed police, attracting a huge crowd within seconds. He was quickly removed from his stage and usher away down a side street which vapourised the crowd in as much time as it took to form. After hours of walking the streets and seeing the parties, my cold bed beckoned. Trailing only a winter night I spent in South Korea with no heating, this was arguably the second coldest night of my life. The landlord informed me the following day that no-one was working on New Years Day, but my friend found a handyman on the street. After inspecting the boiler, he confirmed that it didn’t work. My friend tirelessly helped out and after two nights of no heat and three days of no showers, the apartment has fully working doors and heating. I am EXTREMELY grateful to him.
Last night I sent a couple of e-mails and tomorrow I have three job interviews. I haven’t had a face to face interview for over two years.
I think that I might just stay here a while.