A postcard from Istanbul | Nov 2019

I’ve visited Gallipoli – a site sacred in the Aussie ziegiest as the birthplace of the Anzac legend and for its perceived role in the formation of our nations values. It is also rich in its connections with my home port town of Albany. One of the iconic images of the Anzac story is of the vast Imperial and White fleets anchored in it’s beautiful natural harbour, their ships ladened with men, women and materiel set to sail to Western Front of the Great War. It’s rocky headlands and barren islands the last Australian soil many of them would see. In recent times a statue of the leader of the Turkish troops has been erected overlooking the harbour and the Attaturk Channel named in his honour – a symbolic gesture respect for ones past foe and a celebration of peace.

I’ve shared tea and baklava with my Kurdish host, listening as he gently and passionately shared the plight of his people. I’ve been moved as he spoke with deep emotion of his desire for peace and justice, for love and respect.

I’ve visited a hamam – a relaxing and slightly disconcerting experience. The gentle bathing ritual, the soft stroke of the mitt across my cheek, evoking a rather odd feeling Proustian memory of being bathed as a child.

I’ve had my eyes opened to the burgeoning Turkish hair and beard transplant industry. It’s popularity writ large in the many angry-looking scalps and chins, soaked in bloodied bandages, roaming the streets.

I’ve mourned the loss of my dear friend Tom Shackles. The calls to prayer throughout the day – a sound so familiar to him – regularly bringing to mind fond memories of his firm handshake and his bear-like embrace; his words of encouragement and wisdom; his genuine, heartfelt and practical desire for justice for those on the margins; the generous hospitality and side-splitting laughter shared with him, Lyn Shackles, David Shackles and Elle Shack around table, trangia and campfire; his example of manhood, with all its joys and failings lived honourably, honestly and well. All bringing tears of grief, and a wry smile at the way he would have turned the mention of manhood into some form of innuendo, accompanied by Lyn’s exasperated sigh of “Oh Tom…”

Now I turn my back to the Bosphorus and commence my leisurely “Orient Express” westward – taking trains from here to the rail gates of Frinton on Sea.

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