Sunday, 27 June 2010

Flowing home

As we leave the hotel to head home after a fantastic holiday, Mesuda, the hotel's owner tells us not to worry that they are throwing water alongside the taxi-cab. "This is a Turkish custom", she explains, "which means 'may your journey be as smooth as water flows'". I liked that.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Too good to be true

Yes, there are places in the world where even Bradford is considered exotic...

Friday, 25 June 2010

Ten years younger

They also say that when in Turkey you should have a Turkish Shave. At least if you are a man. As it turns out I am a man, and I am in Turkey. So a few days ago I had a Turkish Shave.

I chose the friendliest-looking barber shop, which we had walked past several times on our way to and from the town. He enthusiastically waves us in, and offers us tea. I had read in the guide book at the hotel that the Turkish are especially proud of their hospitality and that it is considered rude not to accept tea when offered. So we accept. We drink tea as we watch the World Cup on the television. Portugal are beating North Korea 4 goals to nil. As we sip our tea, Portugal score a fifth.

Eventually, the barber gestures for me to lay my head back and the shave begins. He applies a smooth coating of shaving cream to my face, taking care to ensure that there are no gaps. Then the razor appears. Now, my concern with the cut-throat razor is, and always has been, the name. Cut-throat razor. I would have thought the last thing you want to be reminded of about a razor is what it is capable of doing when it is in the wrong hands! Fortunately, this particular razor is in the right hands as he deftly scrapes away the three or four days' worth of stubble that I had been growing in preparation for today's event. My face now feels as smooth as the rest of my body had felt after the hammam the day before. Anywhere else, and you might think that was the shave over with. But not in Turkey. Noticing that Rachel was looking a little warm while sipping her tea he picks up some lemon spritzer spray and sprays her face to cool her down, before doing the same to me. Next, large cotton-bud type things are dipped in lighter fuel and set alight. These implements are used to singe away any unwanted (and, no doubt, unsightly) ear-hairs. I didn't realise I had any, but I definitely feel them singe as they are gotten rid of.

At this point, by way of advice, my barber gestures to the cafe next door to his shop. "Omar's...", he says, "dirty. Don't go there." We hadn't planned to, but I had wondered why there had been a large picture of Omar Sharif in prominent place at the front of the cafe. I assumed it might have been because Mr Sharif himself had once eaten there. I doubted this now, especially if he'd been to this barber first. As I turn to look in the direction of the cafe, I notice the man turning the kebabs on the grill. He bears a striking resemblance to Omar Sharif. "Is that...", I begin to ask myself, but I stop myself. Of course it isn't. As we ponder over the dirtiness of the neighbouring cafe, and as I silently ponder the fate of Omar Sharif, North Korea concede a sixth goal.

As I turn back to look into the mirror ahead of me, I am taken aback by the sudden appearance of the tips a sharp pair of scissors at the end of my nose. He is now removing unwanted (and, no doubt, unsightly) nose-hairs. "Massage?" he asks. Before I can respond he is massaging my shoulders and arms. At one point, he even gets out a large electric massager to run across my back. The offer is extended to Rachel, who gratefully accepts her part in the proceedings. Meanwhile, Omar next door continues to turn kebabs in his decidedly empty cafe, and Portugal put a seventh goal past the Koreans.

"You look ten years younger!" the barber assures me, as we prepare to leave. I smile and ask him how old he thinks I look. "Ooh, 35?" he ventures. I give him a thumbs up, as though to indicate I am happy with that assessment. Not surprisingly, he takes my gesture to mean he has guessed correctly. "Yes, same age as me! 35!". I am surprised. I would have said he was nearer 45.

As we walk away, making sure not to make eye contact with the man in the neighbouring cafe, I feel thoroughly refreshed. And I feel confident in the knowledge that no unwanted (and, no doubt, unsightly) ear or nose-hairs are causing any offence. It then dawns on me. If he thought I looked 35 after my shave, and the shave made me look ten years younger, then he actually thought I was probably around 45.

Oh well, same age as him, I suppose. Same age as him.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Another bath like no other

I have never seen a bathroom with such a spectacular view. And probably never will again either. 'Tis quite amazing.

This picture is taken from the vantage point of the toilet. A 'poo with a view' if you will.

Monday, 21 June 2010

A bath like no other

They say that one thing you must try if you visit Turkey is a hammam. You and I might know it better as a Turkish Bath. Now it just so happens that the hotel in which we are staying has a hammam. And it just so happens that guests at this hotel are granted a complimentary hammam during their stay here. And it just so happens that we are guests at the hotel. And it just so happens that when we asked at reception about booking an appointment for our complimentary hammam, we were able to have one today. What I'm saying is, I had a Turkish Bath today.

I had no idea what to expect. Remember I had no idea I was going to be in Turkey today until just a couple of days ago, so no chance to read any of the guide books. I was entering un-chartered waters. Fortunately, I wasn't entering alone. Rachel was also hammam-ing, as were another couple.

All guests to the hammam have to wear comedy shoes. You slip these on like sandals but the wooden bases mean that no normal person could walk in them and look normal. The only way of propelling yourself forward is to shuffle. Or at least that was the case for me. Rachel, being a woman, after years of experience of propelling herself forward in a wide range of footwear seemed to be able to walk like a normal person. I looked across at the other couple who were also making their way into the hammam, and noticed they too were managing to walk like normal people. It was only me that was shuffling like a loon.

We propelled ourselves forward (I shuffled, Rachel and the others walked) into the hammam itself, a large marble-walled room in the bowels of the hotel. The first 15-20 minutes of a hammam, so I gather, is to sit and sweat and allow the pores to open. As we sat and sweated and allowed the pores to open, my mind began to wander. Was there anything I knew about Turkey? Anything from popular culture that might give me a hint as to what to expect from my hammam experience?

Then I remembered. Yes, there was a film I'd seen. A film that had something to do with Turkey. Midnight something. Midnight... Express. Midnight Express! Yes, that was it. I vaguely remember it as one of the first films I'd seen on video. Yes, in Midnight Express, doesn't the lead character go to a Turkish Bath...? Oh... no, it's not a Turkish Bath, is it? It's a Turkish Prison. And Turkish Baths and Turkish Prisons are not the same. At least I hope not.

The masseur makes his appearance. A stocky little man with a crew cut with a large tea-towel wrapped around his waist (it's actually called a pestamal). He gestures to the four of us as though to ask "who's first?". A few nods of heads seem to indicate that I am to go first. So I stand up and shuffle forward. He gestures for me to lie down on the large marble plinth in the centre of the room (the Gobek Tasi or Naval Stone). I ditch the sandals and oblige by lying face down on the plinth. I try not to think of the film Midnight Express. His job, I now realise, is to exfoliate. By exfoliate, I mean his job is to rub down my skin with a mitt that is made from the same stuff as a pan scourer. It was taking off the dead skin. There goes my first day's tan, I thought!

A tap on my back told me it was time to turn over on to my back. As I did so, Mr Masseur continued to scrape his brillo pad across my skin. As he moved from my legs to my upper torso, his face was a few inches from mine. Of course, being British, etiquette was uppermost in my mind. What is the proper etiquette in this situation, I asked myself? Do I make eye-contact or opt for a middle distance gaze? As I say, I'm British, so the middle distance gaze wins out and I choose a tile on the ceiling to focus upon.

Another tap, and I'm to sit up. As I do this a second masseur enters the hammam who, I presume, will begin to undertake the same torture I have just been through with the other guests. But no, I am being gestured to make my way over to the othe side of the Gobek Tasi and again lie face down. I do as I'm told. Immediately I prefer Mr Masseur no. 2, for he is the bringer of bubbles. Light, soft bubbles that somehow emerge from a pillow case. And lots of them. He proceeds to wash and massage me from head to toe. It is very, very relaxing.

A tap on my back and I know to turn over. Another interesting-looking ceiling tile catches my attention, saving us both (i.e., me) from any awkwardness. Another tap and I sit up to receive a neck massage that releases a knot or two that I didn't realise were there.

A final gesture brings me to my feet. My new friend rinses away the bubbles with cool water from a metal bowl that he pours over my head and shoulders. He then starts to make a quiet chanting noise that signals a change from cool water to ice cold water! Just as I was starting to like him, as well! It's cold but very refreshing.

By now, Mr. Masseur no. 1 was doling out his torture to Rachel. Although she seemed to be enjoying it. Just wait until you get to Mr. Masseur no. 2 with is pillow case of magical bubbles!

As we shuffle back to reception, I realise I am cleanest I have ever been. Ever.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Turkish delight

The wonders of technology. Blogging from my phone in the airport lounge at Heathrow! I'm amazed what is possible these days... But then again, to paraphrase Douglas Adams I still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

Rachel surprised me again. She had booked us a week's holiday to Turkey! And we leave in an hour. I am being very, very spoiled.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do!

H. Jackson Brown Jnr.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

40 years young

Today I am 40. I remember when my dad turned 40. Forty is my dad's age, not mine!

I've been preparing myself for a while: when I was 38 and people asked me my age I would reply by saying I'd be 40 next year. Was I wishing my life away, or was I simply accepting that middle-age was soon to be upon me?

Now that I am 40, I am inclined to agree with Arthur Schopenhauer (don't I always?) who observed that, "the first forty years of life give us the text: the next thirty supply the commentary." I just hope it's not provided by John Motson.

[Thanks to Byron for the pic.]

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Chomsky with dick jokes

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm a big, big fan of Bill Hicks. In my humble opinion, he is possibly the best stand-up comedian to have graced the planet. But as many of his fans will testify, he was so much more than just a stand-up. His routines cut through all the crap that is thrown at us day after day, and his comedy revealed the lunacy that passes for politics these days.

I say 'these days' even though he died 16 years ago. He was just 32 years old. The irony was that his routines from the early 1990s that dealt with US foreign policy, George Bush, and Iraq were just as relevant 10 years after his death. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have seen Bill when he performed live at the Neptune Theatre in Liverpool back in 1992 when I was a student. I had seen him on TV quite a few times before then and kind of expected to recognise most of his material. About 80% of the show was new material, much of it seemingly improvised or highly topical (it was the week after the Los Angeles Riots).

I am therefore, soooo looking forward to seeing American: The Bill Hicks Story tonight. There are many clips from Bill's shows available on YouTube. This one perhaps best sums up his philosophy:

The title of this post? It's how Bill referred to himself.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Tweet surrender

I've succumbed to twitter. If you are a fellow tweeter or twitterer, or whatever we're called, feel free to follow me to find out what nuggets of wisdom I'm likely to chuck out from time to time. In fact, please follow me, as without followers it's all rather pointless...

Follow spiritualjunk on Twitter

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Do unto others

It's so easy to forget.
What you give is what you get.

Ratt, 1985.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Bedtime reading

My bedtime reading of late has been a book called Waking from Sleep (oh the irony).

All in the Mind

Three trailers for the same film, Inception, due to be released in the UK on July 16. The film looks amazing, but just goes to show how a little variation in editing can produce quite different trailers. For me, it's this one that is the most compelling:

This slightly shorter one doesn't sell it enough:

And this one, almost twice as long, perhaps gives away too much:

Still want to go and see it though!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Real reason

There are things you do because they feel right & they may make no sense & they may make no money & it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other & to eat each other's cooking & say it was good.

The Story People.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


You got me good and proper! Those furtive text messages, the turning of the laptop screen away from my eyes and the obsession with the weather. All is now clear. In some ways I feel a bit stupid to have not sussed, but in fact I am pleased to have got the full benefit of the surprise. It's the aspect of a surprise party that makes it, well, a surprise party!

Those of you who have been paying close attention over the last few years of this blog will know that I turn 40 this year. As will those of you who actually know me. My birthday is actually later this month, so I was not expecting to arrive back at the house (after a very enjoyable afternoon shooting clay-pigeons for the first time) to find a whole load of cars parked outside!

"What are all these cars doing here?" I asked Dave who was in the car with me. "I dunno..." Dave said back, unconvincingly, "Perhaps the neighbours have got friends round..." he suggested. A good attempt, Dave, but it doesn't explain why I recognised Rachel's parents' cars and my mum and dad's car! There was nobody around, so Dave led the way round to the garden at the back, and...

Surprise! A garden full of folks! Family and friends raising a glass to... well, to me! It appears that my better (oh, so better) half, Rachel, had spent the last couple of months planning a surprise party for my 40th! It was the start of the best party ever... live music, Chinese lanterns, a wonderful cake (that's me in the picture at my computer, complete with Rubik's Cube!), and a magician. Yes, a magician! In fact, the whole night was quite magical.

Thank you to everyone who came, and to everyone who clearly helped Rachel with the organising and the secret-keeping (shame on you). And thank you for cards and presents. I've not opened any as yet... will save for my actual birthday later this month. A few more days of my 30's left, which I shall hang on to as long as I can!

But thank you most of all to Rachel. So much thought and effort paid off. Thank you baby... I love you very much x

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Get psyched!

Ever wondered what makes people tick? In which case you might want to sign up for a home learning course in psychology. But with so many to choose from, how do you decide which one to go for? It’s a good question. Luckily the answer is here.

If you follow this link you can discover other home learning courses offered by NCC Home Learning.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Are we human?

I love this song. Trouble is, I think the more I play it the more I think Rachel is beginning to dislike it.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Flashed Away

Oh, and if you were unhappy about the way Lost ended, you would have also been a little frustrated with the finale of Flashforward (nice little reviews here and here).

No answers there at all, apart from pretty much everyone experiencing their flashforward just as they had seen it (kind of). Apart from those that didn't. It ended with another blackout and of course another flashforward, setting it all up for a second series. The bummer is there won't be a second series as ABC cancelled the show. Ho hum.

Derren 'n' Lou

Derren's final encounter as part of Derren Brown Investigates took him to the US to spend a few days with Lou Gentile, a ghost hunter and demonologist. We were treated to a few ghost photographs which, for Lou, provided strong proof of life after death but, for Derren, provided strong proof that we are very adept at seeing meaningful patterns in 'noise'. Especially when we're highly motivated to look for them.

Much of Lou's 'data' were in the form of Electronic Voice Phenomena, or EVP. As part of an investigation of a haunted house, Lou would ask questions out loud to the spirits thought to be haunting the place, leaving a gap for the spirit(s) to respond. A digital voice recorder placed on a table recorded the questions along with any answers. Typically, no response would be heard back at the time, but when the recording was played back sounds could be heard in the gaps between Lou's questions. Many people, such as Lou, believe that these sounds are the faint voices of spirits trying to communicate from the other side. The difficulty is that these sounds, much like the ghost photos, usually require a fair bit of interpretation to hear what is supposedly being said. What Lou hears as a message from the dead, you or I (or indeed Derren) might hear as unintelligible crackle.

If these noises aren't voices from beyond then what might they be? A useful contribution to the programme was made by a forensic audio analyst who pointed out that the noises are likely to be an artifact of how these digital voice recorders work, particularly those that are voice-activated. As is often the case with claims of apparently paranormal phenomena, a more likely explanation tends to be quite mundane but is often overlooked by people wishing to believe that something supernatural is happening.

A rather poignant end to the programme was the news that Lou had died a few months after the filming. I wonder if he's been in touch yet?