A Very Merry Christmas from Istanbul

Presents under the tree

Clare, John and Jessica arrived the Saturday before last to spend Christmas with us. Unfortunately, Clare's suitcase (the one with all the presents in) failed to arrive (it still hasn't). Fortunately, Father Christmas was able to make a plan B.

This meant frantic shopping, not just for the Christmas presents, but also to clothe Clare, who only had the clothes she arrived in. The weather has been quite miserable - bitterly cold and sleeting - which is a pity as, up until Clare, John and Jessica arrived, we have had mild sunny weather.

Jessica left a plate of chocolate and nuts for Father Christmas, which she arranged especially for him.

Jessica enjoyed opening her presents on Christmas Day.

On Christmas day the sun shone and, after opening our presents, we went to the Hilton Hotel for Christmas Brunch. This involved travelling on a dolmuş (a small bus); a ferry across the Bosphorus; a tram; a funicular railway and a taxi. The lunch was amazing and well worth the travel as we managed to stay the course for three hours! Thanks to Skype we were able to talk to Jane in South Africa and Suzi in Australia, so we felt our family was together. Hooray for technology!

We were grateful for the sunny Christmas day, as, on Boxing Day, the rain came down again. Fortunately our apartment is warm and we can look down on the world going by outside in our very busy street. It was so cold and wet that we decided to defer my birthday dinner and ordered in pizzas instead! Today is dry, so the dinner is on!

As to my birthday, I went from being an insurable 65 to an apparently decrepit 66 (as far as insurance is concerned) over night, and yet I feel no different. In fact, 66 sounds wrong. How can I possibly be that old?

Just to prove I can be domesticated, I have just taken up the hem on Clare's new trousers!


Home Again to Istanbul

Happy to be home, even to a grey winter's day in Istanbul

Home at last! After a gruelling two days, I finally managed to fly out of Thailand. I should have flown last Saturday but, as everyone now knows, the People's Alliance for Democracy had taken over the airports and all regular flights had ceased. I was among the lucky ones, booked on a carrier that had made a plan! Turkish Airlines telephoned me on Sunday morning to say that I had a seat on a plane on Monday and I was to report for check-in at the Radisson hotel, Bangkok at 07:00 on Monday morning. Margaret rushed me to the bus station to book a ticket for that day. Most buses were full but I found a seat on one departing at 15:00 hours. We arrived in Bangkok at 00:30 hours, and I took a taxi to the Hotel. I had phoned the hotel to book a room, but they didn't even take my name as the hotel was virtually empty of guests and I could have my pick! I finally got to bed a 01:30!

The next morning I got up at 06:00 and grabbed a quick breakfast before going down to the lobby where we were to check in. It was crowded with potential travellers, all queuing at makeshift check-in counters. I was very impressed by Turkish Air's organisation, we were checked in and given our boarding passes in the hotel and then loaded into luxurious air-conditioned buses and driven to U-Tapao military airport. Unfortunately, the chaos at the airport meant that we had to wait for hours before we were finally allowed onto the plane, which finally departed at 20:15!!!

Chaos at U-Tapao Airport! There was only one baggage scanner for all these people (plus the thousands still outside the building)!!

However, the Thais had done their best in impossible conditions; there was entertainment, free water and market stalls, giving a festive atmosphere, and there was an air of camaraderie among the passengers. I met some wonderful people; there was a delightful lady from Hungary and her Italian husband, a young Austrian couple, a charming young man from Switzerland and the lovely Ursula from Poland, who looked after me as if I was her elderly mother. We were amazed, when we finally boarded, to find we were all sitting together! Ursula, who is a Buddhist, said it was Karma!

I am so pleased this mess has come to an end; mainly for the sake of the Thai people and their economy; it has been devastated and will take a long time to recover.

A big thank-you to Turkish Airlines for getting me back to Istanbul, where the sun is shining and the weather amazingly mild...

...and thank you, Ursula, for looking after me so well

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I couldn't resist this one!