Turkish coup

I was due to give a talk at a conference in Ankara yesterday. I made a video for the conference, finishing it just a few hours before the attempted coup.

I have now posted this online and added a brief introduction. I am pleased it has attracted some attention, and one particularly brilliant person added the following:

The military coup was not handled with a precise hand. It was a sloppy grab at power and hopefully Turkey won’t forget the collateral damage. And instead of letting it justify more death and destruction, will use it as a motivator for peace and civility.

I kind of want to get some things about debate off my chest. I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but modern debates often suffer from a type of information overload. I should probably point out that I am from the USA, so I have a very limited perspective on European events. I think if you asked any common person in any system, they are well aware that politicians shift focus and are masters of rhetoric designed to conceal any information they desire to conceal. But this isn’t really what I mean by information overload.

It seems to me that any “viral” idea or claim can become popular without any evidence or relevance in a post internet era. I see this constantly on social media and have been both a victim and a perpetrator of spreading some of these fallacious and incorrect views.

It was interesting to see that happen with the EU referendum. Claims that could not be substantiated and debate that was more nationalistic than informative spread much quicker because people got more caught up in the message rather than the truth.

So debates often end up being events where experts try to clarify why certain ideas or views lack evidence. But in these modern debates the side with the confident leader that recapitulates their views with impunity often ends up being more popular. I guess what I am trying to say is that people are more concerned with how people perform, in a sort of theatrical way, instead of challenging ideas and views.

This ended up being more of a rant than I wanted it to be, but I would love to see you do a video on effective debate as mentioned above. And thanks for the great content.

He is right in so many ways. How Erdogan deals with the army will determine the rest of his Presidency and the future of Turkey, but it will also send out a message to other states controlled by a powerful military. Personally, I see no real distinction between what happened on Friday night and what happened in Nice- both events seem to me to be a form of terrorism and innocent men, women and children mindlessly killed.

A gift at the end of Ramadan!

Turkey has been variously criticised by the EU and pilloried in the recent Referendum debates, but as Ramadan ends, it has announced that over 3 million Syrian refugees are to get automatic Turkish citizenship: this goes much further than Merkel’s demands for harbouring returned migrants and it is a statement of solidarity with the dispossessed that should make the whingers in our own referendum debate hold their heads in shame.

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The care for victims of warfare is a feature of all three of the great religions that come from the middle east and it has been shocking how slowly we have dragged our feet while still whittering on about Christian values.

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As Ramadan finishes tomorrow, therefore, we can celebrate with some satisfaction that at last there is a proper response.

More worryingly, there is news coming from Athens that former German Transport Minister, Peter Ramsauer, part of a delegation headed by the German Vice Chancellor, and already linked to allegations of anti-semitism, apparently told a photographer, I understand, both in German and in english, “don’t touch me, you filthy Greek”. I suppose his bilingual effort was to ensure no one thought this was an accidental bit of racism.

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Peter Ramsauer is known to want to refuse Greek any further bailout money, and he is also famous for making a fuss, rather like the French have occasionally done, about borrowed english words used in modern german, so it is odd he should have translated his bilious comments, if indeed he ever uttered them. He went on to facebook yesterday to claim that he had said nothing. It is all the fault of the photographer “who later appeared to be obviously Greek” and who had pushed him. I wonder how this photographer can have appeared so obviously greek at a later stage? had he not appeared so Greek earlier? The good Dr Ramsauer would be well advised to avoid using the word “obviously” in all instances- as a rule of thumb, if something is “obvious”, it does not need to be mentioned and if it is not “obvious”, then the word is inappropriate.

I had dinner a few nights ago with a German minister who is married to a Greek. Both deeply charming! I wonder how Herr Ramsauer deals with that couple in the vaulted corridors of the Reichstag? The story of this exchange makes some of our own British bigots look positively cuddly.

Civic pride and what we can learn from Istanbul!

In 2006, the Turkish government, run by the AK PARTİ (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi) under the leadership of Erdogan began a process to import tulips back into Istanbul.

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Today, there is such an abundance of tulips, that splashes of colour scythe through the city like a parade of multicoloured  dervishes, spreading the scent of Spring. I have been to Istanbul most years since 2004 and I have seen for myself how this transformation has taken place.

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The tulip is just one example of a horticultural revolution that says Istanbul is proud of herself. That pride is evident of course in the colours of the flowers but it is also evident on the faces of the people in the street, the ordinary people who go about their lives feeling better because they can see- and smell- that the Council really cares!

It is actually a fairly simple plan, but I will come to that shortly.

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The tulip was introduced to Turkey from Iran where it grew wild. It is a traditional image on the tiles that decorate some of the greatest mosques around the city and today it has been adopted as a symbol on the Istanbul logo.

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The cultivation of the Tulip became a mania in the Ottoman period, so much so that one particular epoch is called “the Tulip period” and at that time, rare bulbs sold for remarkable sums of money. Trade was international and soon, that mania had passed to Holland, the setting, for example, of “the black tulip” , a novel by Alexandre Dumas. My mother always said she had a black tulip bulb in the safe: I have no idea but it sounded very exotic.

I grew up in a small Market town in Lincolnshire where my mother was involved in the local tulip bulb industry. Spalding was so industrious and the ground so similar to that of Holland that, when I was a small child, the town held its own Tulip Parade to rival that of the Dutch mega-parades in Zundert and Keukenhof. Sadly, the flower parade in Spalding ground to a halt last year. But I loved the imagination that went into making these amazing floats; I loved the fact that they were decorated overnight, and, really, only lasted a couple of days (it’s actually very Buddhist!); and I also loved the complete sensory effect of the flower parade- the noise, the colour, the smell, the excitement, the overpowering beauty and the pride it gave to our small town.

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The mother of all tigers from the Keudert Flower parade!

Check out this archive flim:

I well-remember this parade!

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THE DAVENTRY PARK PROJECT:

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Here in Daventry, I have been campaigning for a restored Professional Park scheme. I am, of course, inspired by the wonderful images from my childhood in Spalding. But I am also inspired, perhaps more so by the practical approach taken in Istanbul by the city Council. I have been talking to members of the Council over the last year with a view to designing some children’s books to celebrate particularly the history of the Fatih district, but I have also been impressed by the overall scheme the council has followed to refresh the city. I intend to talk to Councillors about their scheme and also about how they sourced materials, especially the outside gym equipment which is so striking a part of the overall vision, and I think it would work here in Daventry too!

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I think there are three specific things that the AK party have done:

  1.  the training and courses set up in horticulture by the City in association with local universities and colleges, providing garden design and employees for the future.
  2.  the celebration of festivals and history that also involves research into plants of the past. It is because of this that the tulip has been so revived, but there are also “Monument trees”, that are replanted and tended, restoring the vistas of the past and improving the way the city looks today. It is partly this vision which ironically both inspired the protests in Gazi square to “save the trees” and also inspired the developments that threatened to redevelop the area. The compromise seems to involve some transplanting/replanting and rethinking. For all the negative image this protest created, it shows very clearly that our environment is something people care deeply about.
  3.  The city has established open-field gyms, taking exercise out into the parks and democratising sport in a very real way, giving access to children, the disabled and the elderly. I will be going to Istanbul soon to try to find out how the technology was developed for outdoor sports equipment taht would withstand a climate that is no less changeable and erratic than our own.

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If my vision of what we could do in DAVENTRY is shaped by my childhood in Spalding, my practical proposals follow what has already happened in Istanbul. What we can see there is that this sort of revitalisation works. It is a positive force in society and we can do something similar here in Daventry.

Gazi Ahmet Pasa Camii

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Finished picture:

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This is a mosque in Fatih district in Istanbul, in the area that is named after the Column of Constantine, called “Çemberlitaş” and built by Sinan.This is part of the traditional and authentic Constantinople Proper and is enclosed by the wall, and close to one of the main sites where the wall was breached by the Turks in the conquest in 1453.

This is one of the background images we shall use in our film “Following Lear” It is also an image we are using in a series of cards we are preparing for the Istanbul council.

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(22nd April: the ottoman troops drag their ships across the land to attack the bay and made the wall of the Golden Horn vulnerable to attack. This was followed 7 days later by building a bridge between Ayvansaray and Sutluce. On the same day, the emperor rejected an offer of peace. It was a month later before Ulubatli Hasan erected the Ottoman flag on the Byzantine wall in Belgradkapi and towards noon on 29th May, the city fell and the Emperor was killed. The first act of Fatih Sultan Mehmed II was to turn Hagia Sophia into a Mosque.)

The pictures above show the progress in drawing. The pictures below show the interior and architectural plans

Istanbul, Gazi Ahmet Pasa Mosque 3 northwest balcony Istanbul, Gazi Ahmet Pasa Mosque floorplan from the age of Sinan

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Galata Bridge Galata Köprüsü

Just completing work on Galata Bridge in Istanbul

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This is a bridge over the Golden Horn built in 1994. The market below was opened in 2003.

Here is the latest version:

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and here is a picture that I began about 3 years ago and have started to work on again: this is a scene also for the “Following Lear” project and shows the Albanian Coastal town of Durres

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Who was Pierre Loti?

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When I first went to Istanbul, I was taken to tea at Pierre Loti’s by Necati. We have been back there many times since and each time, it is assumed that I must know of Pierre Loti because he is such an important writer. Well, that may not be quite the case. I think the significance of m. Loti and the preservation of his home on the hillside overlooking the grave of Necati’s father, is less a matter of literary genius and more because he supported the Kemalists and earned the patronage of Atatürk.
Personally, I find it a bit sad that this man is lauded in Istanbul to the exclusion of another man like Edward Lear who drew at least two pictures of the Pierre Loti graveyard even before Loti had built his wooden house there. It is these pictures that we have tried to emulate in our own work and that are posted below. Here, meanwhile, is my copy of one of the Lear drawings:

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Loti is nevertheless an interesting if odd man. A French navy man through and through, he found his way to the far east, and began writing, publishing books about Polynesia, Tahiti, Senegal and Breton fishermen. A novel in 1887 called “Madam Chrysanthème” is essentially “Madam Butterfly” and is acknowledged (together with claims by John Luther Long, a Philadelphia lawyer, who wrote a story on something he claimed had happened to “his sister”) as one of the sources for both Puccini (1904) and Messager (1893). Loti himself had a temporary Japanese wife so the story is fairly autobiographical and Pierre is just as unthinking as Pinkerton. Later Loti wrote an impassioned paper against the British Raj called “L’inde” and was involved in quashing the Boxer rebellion in China in 1900.

His praise for Atatürk and support of the “Kurtuluş Savaşı” or Turkish war of Independence (which took in disputes with Greece, Armenia and the Ottoman throne and that really lasted from 1908-1923 but was sealed by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 and the abolition of the Sultinate, the abdication and exile of Mehmed VI on the British warship Malaya which went to Malta) is qualified by a fairly blistering attack on Turkey towards the end of his life. But the people of Istanbul love the cafe so Pierre Loti, like El Cid, I recall, has moved out of history and into some sort of mythology. No one reads his novels, but we all drink his tea.

Here are pictures of the graveyard that surrounds the Pierre Loti cafe:

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Pierre lotte 2 gravesa flat

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And here is a picture of Pierre Loti dressed in a Turkish fez (presumably just before Atatürk outlawed it in 1925 with the “hat law”)

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Finally, here is one of the most bizarre pictures, called an “academic image” but I cannot see why.

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Fountains near the Byzantine wall

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Here are some pictures showing progress on a scene we are finishing for the Edward lear film. This shows the Fatih gate which is that part of the wall that first gave way to the Turkish assault of 1453. Next to the fountains here is a museum with an astonishing diorama showing the actual bombardment of the city by the Turks. Here is a copy of the picture that Edward Lear painted. This is unusual among the Istanbul collection because it is in colour, so probably worked up by Lear a few years later.

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Here is the completed picture we have just finished.

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and here is the companion piece showing the walls a little further down.

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