Saturday, 31 May 2008

Colonising Margaret's house

Last Monday night, I went to the latest Historical Association lecture, Due to start at 8, I duly turned up at ten to, and discovered people milling around outside the venue – the man with the key hadn’t turned up. So, Margaret kindly offered her house in substitution. Fifteen of us, including Prof. Adrian Roscoe, the speaker, went in a convoy up the road and took over her lounge. The talk, Empire, literature & historiography: some African angles, turned out to mainly about colonisation, covering a spectrum, which included Roman Britain, Pilgrim America, and the scramble for Africa. It was surprising the things I remembered from university, and I mentally checked off many books and authors mentioned, which are stored at mum & dad’s. My favourite uni. professor, Dr Jeremy Krikler, with whom I did both degree & master courses with components on colonisation, had a different perspective of African colonisation to the very British Professor Roscoe, so provided cause for thought. Other thoughts were that I have neglected my interest in history recently, and now want to resume studying. Thoughts of the PhD titles I wrote several years ago have resurfaced too. Due to knowing many of the colonisation concepts and ideas, I would have liked more of the talk to be on the African literature, and was disappointed that Prof. Roscoe only touched on oral history and then moved on, which is a field I am interested in. Overall, a very good talk, and one that didn’t make me feel stupid as others have. After the talk, Margaret laid on tea, coffee and an assortment of cakes. Ignoring the fact I don’t have room for 15 people to be seated in my lounge, all I could have managed at short notice would have been 3½ stale digestive biscuits and the tea or coffee in shifts due to a shortage of cups. It made me appreciate Margaret stepping in to save the talk.
Prior to that, I had been very busy. I had my first two Italian lessons; the grammar is very similar to Spanish, but the pronunciation is very different and difficult. On Tuesday, some friends & I went to see the live comedy show Whose line is it anyway?, which was very funny. A week last Friday, I was treated to lunch in Darcy’s, and having eaten too much we went for a walk along the beach. It was too hot and humid to walk, so we went to my friend’s house for a dip in his pool. Lovely! That evening it was off to Alessandra’s for dinner. It’s apparently an Italian tradition to have pizza with friends or go to the movies on Sunday, which for us here in the Middle East means Friday, and she is keen to continue it here. We didn’t have pizza, but a lovely 3 course meal, and was a great way to finish off the weekend.

The week continued to be busy after the lecture with a conference on Wednesday night, which I ducked out of half way through. Yawn! Then, Thursday evening was sad as I went to the first of many leaving events planned over the next 2 months. Many of my friends are teachers at the end of contracts after 2 or 3 years here and consequently are leaving. This week it was Rob & May, who I know from my Nizwa days, and a large group of us went to the Crowne Plaza for dinner and drinks in the pub. After, it was down to Rock Bottom for a funky house night with a guest dj from the UK for a few more drinks and a dance. Finally, last night Alessandra & I went for sundowners; a couple of large Pimms each. Unfortunately, she had to leave to go to a leaving do; it’s that time of year L, but I was joined by John for dinner. I don’t think my budget for this month is going to do too well, as I’m halfway through it already and have a week off mid-June, although I’m staying in Oman so shouldn’t spend too much. Famous last words? I think it’s another history assoc. lecture next week, and the last ROSO concert until after the summer on the 11th, so I guess I’m staying busy.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

My favourite Istanbul pic

Shoe shine, originally uploaded by travelingsuep. © Sue Pownall

Sunday, 18 May 2008

How do you know when a gecko is dead?

Back in mid-April, I was shocked by a gecko in my bathroom, but was surprised not to see it later that day. However, the day before I flew to Istanbul, I spotted its tail poking out from behind a cabinet in the lounge, so I knew it was still around. Now, after returning from Italy yesterday it is in plain view on the underside of a floor cushion. It is hanging upside down, one foot off, and with its back just off my Bahrain rug. The worrying thing is it hasn’t moved in 32 hours, so the question is how do I tell if it’s dead? Will it fall off, feet up? Or will it just remain with its 3 feet stuck to the cushion?

After Istanbul, I went to the Calabria region of southern Italy viewing houses. The seaside town of Scalea had a 4k beach, but isn’t really me (although I can see myself visiting). However, I went inland 13k into a national park and absolutely loved it: the mountains, the greenery... Even when I went back for a second visit, on a grey day that followed a storm, it was still beautiful. I have my eye on a property there, as a holiday home/base, but won’t say more at the moment as I don’t want to jinx it. I met some lovely expats whilst there, both residents and holiday homers, but there are not so many you don’t have to speak Italian. I’d hate to be somewhere where you only socialise with expats; bit like here really. That said, in my week there, I still had a couple of boozy meals out with them. Great company, and wonderful food.

Last night, I spoke to an old friend, who I haven’t seen for about 7 years or spoken to since I was in Spain. We chatted for ages, and I felt the time wasn’t an issue, mind, as we did end up at one point talking about the weather maybe it was? He’s fit, and handsome (I haven’t seen any photos in a couple of years, so maybe he’s fat, but he sounded good), and has the dubious title of being the man who broke my heart. I had planned to go to the States later this year, but don’t think it will be possible now because of funds. Shame!

Monday, 12 May 2008

24 hours in Istanbul

Yea! a lay over of 24 hours in Istanbul... a city at the top of the to-go-to list. First stop on the mad schedule was the Roman underground cisterns, which was awesome! spoilt only by my pet hate - piped music. Next, it was across the road to Hagia Sophia, unfortunately the dome was under scaffolding so the full impression was lost, but was still impressive. I wasn't sure why I walked up to the upper gallery as I'm still getting back to fitness from the op., but it was worth it. I didn't go to the Blue mosque this trip, but it provided the background to many of my photos. From Hagia Sophia I went to Topaki Palace, via a welcomed sit in an outside cafe - bit chilly, but then anywhere is compared to Muscat's 42c and it started to rain just after I left, but that didn't dampen the excitment... However, the fact that all the school children in the city were in the palace on a school trip did, the noise was incredible, as were the queues for the treasury rooms. However, paying a 2nd entry fee in order to get into the Hareem put the smile back. It's unmissable! Beautiful, peaceful... so many positive adjectives can be used; I loved the whole Hareem complex.

Got lost in the winding streets going back to the hotel to check in, then it was off out to the Grand Bazaar. It took great willpower not to buy any ceramics, definately a weakness of mine. Back at the hotel, they have a fabulous rooftop bar/restaurant were I had to have a small gin & tonic in order to enjoy the views across the city and Bospherous. I finished off my Istanbul experience with a show of traditional Sufi music complete with whirling Dervish. The music I found quite haunting, whilst the whirling Dervish I wouldn't describe as mystic, partly because it's a tourist exhibition I guess, but it was definately calming to watch.

The next morning my taxi driver thought he was in the F1, which was to be held that weekend there.. gulp. Then, when I was in the airport waiting to fly to Italy, half an hour sooner than expected, I picked up Orhan Pamuk's The White Castle. It's his 1st novel about an Italian captured by pirates to be a slave in Istanbul - seemed appropriate reading for this trip. It's beautifully written, no wonder he's a Nobel prize winner. I'll write about my time here in Italy later in the week.