Monday, 17 September 2012

Tenement Building Lists

Penned in as Edinburgh is by sea and rock a large part of the urban housing is made up of 'high density' tenement buildings. I use quotation marks because contemporary high density – especially in places like Tokyo and the once upon a time high density of when these were built is a vastly different thing- yes these are multi-story, multi-occupancy buildings- but it is actually a pretty nice place to live and you could probably house a Japanese business man in our box room and he would call it a palace.
I mention this for no particular reason other than to explain that when I use the term tenement building to explain where I find myself living these days I do not wish to conjure up images of slum dwellings/ high rise/ housing estate ect.

Edinburgh tenement buildings and parkland

It is a home day today. A rare day at home for me and a day for packing up to head home for my mother. It is a pottering day of packing, writing notes, returning from shops, opening packages, drinking cups of tea.
Our lunch outing today was with a woman my mother met when she came to their caravan park in Nowa Nowa – she came for a day or two and stayed for ten. The meeting gives a funny circularity to her last full day in Scotland.
We had breezy sunshine when we headed out but now we are home and the rain clouds have come in. The Pentlands appear and disappear in the cloud out the window as the rain falls. Sitting up on the third floor is nice and snug and the wet outside makes ideas of any last minute outings unpleasant. We will not get to the castle today, or up Arthur's Seat, or to the library, gallery or museum. That is just fine.

Sounds in the tenement:
Cars going by on the wet road
a violin
mobile phone beeps
pages turn and a pen scratches
mother packing
hammering across the road
light rain on the windows
crockery clunks

Silence in the tenement:
the plants grow
books gather dust
today the piano is silent
Tenement stairwell

Smells in the tenement:
my thriving mint plant- I am very proud of this weed like plant's big healthy leaves. My best effort so far at putting down literal roots here in Scotland.
spilt oil based house paint in the cupbourd making me a little high this morning.
more laundry drying.
the Spanish boy is cooking and as his pots bubble away and occasionally boiling over fill the house with tasty smells.

Today is the day to seperate out the essentials to be packed from the non essential:
rain bonnets – No
dried fruit – No
new shoes – Yes
books and books and books – Yes
Turkish teacups- Yes
Turkish teapot- Yes

Today is a day for sorting a months accumulated papers, photos, receipts, ticket stubs, postcards, clothes and books. It is for getting rid of the sand in pockets and saying goodbye. 

Rover and mum arting about in Glasgow

Monday, 10 September 2012

In the maddning crowd

A crowd can be a crush, a hassle, a bustle. Someone else’s crowd can be all too much. It can be stuck in traffic, no place to sit. Unknown bodies pressing in and stealing all your oxygen.

My life has been somewhat crowded of late. Throughout the Summer months every room of our flat has been filled with an ever changing array of bodies as rabbits friends and relations kipped over. Luckily my time living in backpackers hostels last year has made me (mostly) much more tolerant to sharing my living space with an ever changing array of folks.

Edinburgh itself is a crowded place in August. The festivals jostle in upon each other and festival attendees are out on the town en-mass. The city has a great vibe, there is art, theatre, dance, comedy, Shakespeare, dance, writing... the list goes on. Whatever flavour excites you there is probably someone doing a show about it.
My festival crowd

The crowd on The Mound

You cannot go anywhere without having a flyer thrust in your face for somebodies one man- improvised- comic- tragic- dance- choir- circus- lesbian type show. The spruiking itself is an art – the better you do it the more chance you have of luring an audience.

It's great – unless you want a quiet drink or an unobstructed commute from home to work. This has been my first Edinburgh festival season- and I've enjoyed it, seen some familiar faces and some new acts. Comedy and books were my pick this year with a very tasty side of Flamenco thrown in for variety. It was great, except for when I was trying to have a quiet drink and inching through crowds in order to get home from work.

Getting away from the flat and Edinburgh for a week in Istanbul was spectacular, warm, invigorating, but still crowded.

For a start unlike the last time I flew into Istanbul- when I was accompanied by nothing but the memory of friends recently made and left behind- this time I travelled with the boyfriend, my mother and her partner. Quite an intense crowd indeed!

Funny thing I re-discovered when we arrived in Istanbul - the overwhelming crowds mobbing Edinburgh are just a regular Thursday nights promenade down Istikal Street. Re-living the bustle of Istikal with the four of us walking at different paces and getting distracted by different things added a whole other dimension to the crowd. Last time I thought I was lost, this time we had to work on not losing our crowd amongst the crowd.
Everywhere we went, whether it was hanging out at the base of Galata Tower, catching the ferry over to the Princes' Islands, or hunting for a bargain at The Grand Bazaar the the crowds made Edinburgh festival time look tame.

Rover mum at the Grand Bazaar
Rover and mum on packed Princes' Island ferry

Even the usually solitary occupation of going fishing is done en-mass in Istanbul. In the city lapped every which way by the Bosphorus you might think a solitary fishing position would be possible. But anywhere that you could possibly conceive to throw in a fishing line there would be one. Not that anyone seems to mind, the fishermen- and an occasional fisher-woman were quite happy combining fishing and socialising.

Fisher folk on Galata Bridge

Most cities, viewed from afar are a mass of crowded buildings. Sprawling as Istanbul does along the Bosphorus if you take a ferry you get a very clear picture of just how big and crowded Istanbul is. The Princes Islands are about 90 minutes away by ferry- and all the way there the spectre of the city follows you. The horizon never clears of buildings crammed in together.
Istanbul viewed from Heybeliada
Istanbul - European side looking towards the Asian shore

A crowd allows for one of my favourite activities- crowd gazing- you pick a spot and sit and watch the world go by. It is a great way to experience a place, peoples similarities and their differences. One of the things I found myself watching out for on this trip was the way different women dressed and held themselves. The endlessly referred to melting pot of Istanbul gives you plenty of contrasts – singlet wearing hippy girls, hair dread-locked, eyebrows pierced bump along beside demurely dressed brightly head-scarved women, who chat with girlfriends and sisters enveloped in black- whose kholed eyes are the only fragment to reveal what lies beneath.

Crowd watching on a ferry trip my mother and I observed a family playing charades. Younger brother and sister (too young yet for a head scarf) acted while a black burqa-ed woman guessed at their clues.
At the airport the Saudi men were crowded by their wives, what must that be like?

Having your own crowd means you can go for a swim and there is someone to watch your bag and someone to notice if you float away. Unlike my solitary swims last time I was in Turkey this trip allowed for coasteering with a buddy.

A crowd can mean company, familiar faces gathered in a room or on a boat. It can be a party, someone to chat to about your days adventuring, someone to dance with, share a beer with. A crowd can be your crowd.