what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

True Confessions

The weather has finally broken here in the mountains. At 09.00 it is still gloomy with mist encircling the house and the neighbours’ houses just eerie blots. Even the cat chooses to lie abed! A time for surfing, thinking and writing….So, for once, let me just follow the drift of the surfing (amidst my soup-making – bean, carrot, leek and celery!).

First I updated, as I usually do, some recent blogs – not least adding to my recent blog on caricaturists this magnificent record of every single Honore Daumier print and painting he ever did 

The superb blog of a couple who are spending two weeks in about 50 countries and who have, during October, been in Scandinavia was then accessed. Great on places and sensual experiences….
And then one of my favourite blogs - glamour granny travels - whose author travels serendipitously; was until recently based in Turkey (see below); and landed yesterday (par hazard naturellement) in Genoa.

An historical overview of FBI Director relations with American Presidents over the past 50 years really brought home again  how tenuous that country’s claim to democracy really is – with parallels with that ofcontemporary Russia 

An article about Turkish PM Erdogan reminded me of my love of that country – borne first of a memorable week-long official visit I made to Istanbul in 1984 or so  (courtesy of OECD) and then of several later trips, not least a motor tour from Bucharest in summer 2002 of the Aegean. For my first trip, I arrived late at night at Pera Pelas Hotel - made famous by both Ataturk (whose room is still kept as a museum) and by Agatha Christie! And woke early in the morning to the specific smells and noises of the Orient (sadly the smells seem to have vanished in later visits). I was there –with about a score of other European municipal leaders – to share our experience of governing metropoles with the Turks. Of course my experience of a declining West of Scotland economy (of just over 2 million people) seemed to have little of relevance to a chaotic and expanding metropolis of 10 million people – but who would give up the opportunity, for example, of being ferried around the Bosphorus in the Istanbul Mayor’s personal boat?  And our institutional arrangements were interesting – with one powerful Region having 19 autonomous Districts and four Health Boards. I quickly became friendly with a Turkish journalist who had a personal network with the (still heavily repressed) democratic Turkish opposition. For a week I led a double life – during the day being part of the official power system; in the evening meeting dissidents of various sorts. 
Because of her contacts and support, Gul was treated like a princess in these latter places. Inevitably I fell in love with her – the concoction of context and high-boned beauty was just too heady. On one memorable evening she took me in a taxi across the great bridge into the Asian side for a romantic dinner in a famous fish restaurant – where we pledged allegiance after only a few platonic kisses. 
Sadly we lost contact – once in Prague a decade later I had a mysterious message which promised a reunion in that romantic city – but it never happened. So there, dear reader, you have a rare confession…..heavens…where will this lead??
Like many Brits, I have contemplated living in Turkey – particularly Istanbul – I find them the most incredibly friendly people. And hope next year to make another long, car trip there to explore the many exotic parts of the country which Glamorous Granny writes (and photos) so well

For those wanting more depth analyses, Perry Anderson’s seminal essay still remains one of the best, serious  introductions  - one of several great pieces he has done on modern states. Those wanting more reading material on the country could look at this list. And also this one. A decade ago, I came across both the interwar poems of Nazim Hikmet and the writings of Orhan Pamuk about which I was initially enthusiastic but have latterly become ambivalent

Finally a good update on the Scottish situation on which I gave a brief overview of the past few decades earlier this year.

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