Life is Fun! It's Christmas in Istanbul!

This is the gingerbread house at the Swissôtel. 
It is made out of slabs of real gingerbread, and lollipops. 

We've had a wonderful Christmas. On Christmas day, we went to the Swissôtel for lunch. The meal was magnificent and the service was excellent. The food was set out in a mouth-watering display and our table overlooked the Bosphorus - it couldn't have been bettered.

The food was beautifully displayed. This is just a fraction of what was on offer. 
(Notice the exquisitely carved water-melon and the ice sculpture.) 

Some of the desserts on offer at the Swissôtel. 

On Boxing Day, we walked by the sea of Marmara, played on the fitness machines, and watched Jessica having fun in the playground The sea was quite rough, but the weather was mild for the time of year. We are very lucky to have all these facilities close by.

David, Clare, Jessica and John, try out the fitness machines. 

Jessica enjoyed the playground. 

My birthday came and went. Clare and I shopped, we went out to dinner at Kirpi, and returned home for champagne and ice-cream. A most satisfying way to spend a birthday.

Jessica, David and Clare, wishing me a happy birthday. 

Clare and I have had great fun shopping, Jessica has been a happy girl and John has had a good rest, ready for the ofsted monitoring visit to his school. Now we are off to England to celebrate the New Year. Happy New Year to you all, and may this be the best year ever!

Me, practising to be a photographer.


The Goose is Getting Fat

Clare and Jessica in a festive mood.

Merry Christmas from David, Me, Clare, John and Jessica, here in Istanbul.

Clare, John and Jessica are here to spend Christmas with us. Jessica is so excited about Christmas. We have watched Father Christmas's message for Jessica online (thank you Jane), and we have tracked his progress through the world (thank you Suzi). Technology is amazing!

Clare and I have had such fun shopping in Istanbul. We are so lucky to be living in Bagdad Street, although I am not sure that David and John agree with us. Apart from the shopping there is always something going on that keeps us amused. Today it was the dancing Santas!

Santa and Mrs Claus dance the tango. 

Santa's band, courtesy of the local municipality.

Tomorrow we will catch a ferry to Europe and have Christmas brunch/lunch at the Swissôtel, overlooking the Bosphorus.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May the coming year be the best ever.

John shows us the festive lights in Bagdad Street.

On Wednesday, Clare, John and Jessica depart for England and I will go with them, as David is off to Australia on a teacher recruitment drive. This already promises to be a busy year!

By the way, if you had a poinsettia for Christmas you might like to read, "How to keep a poinsettia going after Christmas".


Christmas is Coming to Istanbul!

Our lovely weather in Istanbul has come to an end and winter has arrived. This week we will be getting ready for the arrival of Clare, John and Jessica, who are going to spend Christmas with us. Although this is a Muslim country, and Christmas is not widely celebrated, there are Christmas decorations in the shops and there is a Christmassy feel about. This is helped by listening to the Christmas Carols on Classic FM, our favourite radio station.

While we all put up the Christmas tree and pull out the decorations, here is a Christmas story for you: The Christmas Miracle. I wrote this after a conversation with Mother Isabel, one of the Carmelite Missionary Sisters of Saint Theresa. She was the Director of the Divina Providencia Children’s Home in Santa Tecla, El Salvador, when we were there. She was constantly worrying how she was going to feed the children in the orphanage, This story is really my Christmas wish for her.

Elizabeth Coughlan


What is a webinar?

I have attended two webinars recently. Both were in America (remember that I am in Istanbul). One was a meeting to view proposed changes to the Helium website (an online writing group that I belong to), and the other was on writing for the web (given by an American university). So, what is a webinar?

The word "webinar" stands for "web based seminar". A webinar is not merely a viewing platform, but is an interactive seminar, where participants can ask questions and get immediate feedback from the presenters. Both the ones I attended gave powerpoint presentations, although I understand that video can also be used. You can also see the presenters in real time as they speak. There were even buttons for applause and laughter! I tested them out before the university webinar began and got and instant response, "Thank you for the applause, and the happy start to our webinar, Ellizabeth."

It was surprisingly easy to log on and take part, but the great thing is that I can now go back and review the university webinar as many times as I like. I will definitely consider signing up for more courses soon. It's definitely the way to go!

We have had glorious weather in Istanbul lately. There are still people sitting out in the pavement cafés, it is so warm. Although, now that they have brought in a smoking-ban for restaurants, I suspect that no matter how cold it gets, people will still try to sit outside rather than do without a drag.

Over the four-day holiday, David and I have been for daily power-walks along the sea shore. We really are very lucky to have such a lovely place to exercise. I hope the weather stays fine for Clare, John and Jessica's visit over Christmas.

Elizabeth Coughlan


The Zimbabwe Chronicles Part 7

Our sojourn in Zimbabwe was rapidly coming to an end. At Tim and Flo's, we relaxed and watched rugby and cricket (yes, even I did!!!). I also had a chance to look at some of Flo's wildlife photos - absolutely stunning! On Saturday morning we went to look at Flo's latest project. She is renovating a house where her Harare offices will be based. Here is a photo (below). Next year I will take another when the house is complete. As you can see, it is a mammoth task!

That evening, Tim braaied for us again. It is so lovely to sit on his veranda on a balmy evening and relax over a few drinks and great food. He also cooked breakfast on the braai the next morning - delicious!

Breakfast on the veranda with Séan, Tim, David Theresa and Flo.

Tim and David enjoy their full English breakfast!

Eventually, the dreaded moment came when we had to leave. Tim dropped us off at the airport for our journey home, Getting through the formalities was very quick - there was hardly a soul there! The vendors in the departure lounge were crying out for business, but their goods are severely overpriced. I suppose, if you have been dealing in trillions, US$50 doesn't look like much!

David in Harare airport departures lounge.

Elizabeth Coughlan


The Zimbabwe Chronicles Part 6

The Chairman of the Board of Governors makes his opening remarks.

We were thrilled to be invited to Peterhouse Speech Day, especially when we discovered that the guest speaker was none other than Neil Jardine! We arrived in time for morning tea on the chapel lawn, and met many old friends before proceeding to the chapel for the ceremony.

Lunch in the Rector's Garden.

Rodney, June, Neil and Pru

Speech day was as we remembered it from all those years ago. The staff and dignitaries processed in, while the choir sang Vita Nostra. Then we all sang the national anthem, 'Siimudzai mureza wedu weZimbabwe', before the Reverend George Martin said the opening prayers ...and so it began ...it was almost as we had never been away! The Rector, Jon Calderwood, gave his report; the boys were honoured and prizes given; Neil made a cracking speech, followed by an excellent speech by Takudzwa Mandiwanza, the Head Boy; the choir sang, 'Bawo Thixo Somandla', a traditional song ...and suddenly we were singing the school hymn and it was all over!

Barry, Jen and Polly

Graham, Liz and Simon

Jon, with David.

Fortunately, we were among the guests invited to lunch at The Rector's Lodge, where we were all wined and dined in style. It was such fun meeting old friends and reminiscing. It was over far too soon and we had to depart for Harare where we were to stay with Tim, Flo and Séan.

This is the new block, opposite the chapel, in Peterhouse.

This is where we used to live when we were at Peterhouse.

Elizabeth Coughlan


The Zimbabwe Chronicles Part 5

Terry and Sue's home at Chitora

The next morning, surprise, surprise! No Zesa!! Breakfast was great though. Afterwards, we said farewell to the Inn on the Vumba and stopped off to say goodbye to Lynne, while Sue went to Brian's house to check things were OK after the wedding. Finally, Sue arrived with Lindsay and Brian and we were ble to say our goodbyes to all of them. (Lauren, Steven, baby Findlay and Brian William had left, with all their Aussie guests, for their African experience.)

Sue's lovely garden at Chitora

Sunset over Chitora.

We drove back to Chitora with Margy and Bernard to enjoy Terry and Sue's hospitality. Unfortunately, Margy and Bernard were leaving next morning, We were so sad to see them go. We, on the other hand, had a wonderful time staying with Terry and Sue. Every evening, David and Terry would run up the Kopje, while Sue and I went for a walk around the farm (or what is left of it after various people have claimed parts of it for themselves).

A view of the kopje.

Sue does a wonderful job for the local Africans. She has a virtual clinic in her house stocked with all sorts of medicines and bandages that are generally unavailable in the country (sourced from abroad at her own expense, and those of her friends and relatives). Many Africans cannot afford the hospital fees and so would go untreated for their ailments if it were not for people like Sue. The school that Terry built is now on land occupied by another person who does not want to be associated with it. Terry, and a neighbouring farmer, pay all the school fees of the 210 children enrolled there, as well as providing uniforms and all the resources. Zimbabwe would be a far sadder place without people like Terry and Sue.

Terry's tobacco crop is coming along nicely. The tobacco barns are in the background.

This is the grotto where Mum and Dad Coughlan, Sheelagh, and Jen Timms' Mother are all laid to rest. The stone on the right bears all the plaques, while the logs are seats for quiet contemplation.

Elizabeth Coughlan


The Zimbabwe Chronicles Part 4

Following the reception at Leopard Rock, the family and close friends all drove down the mountain again to Brian's house in Mutare. On the way down, we passed some zebra in the road - rather odd as they are not usually found up in the Vumba.

Once down at Brian's the party continued with Séan as barman - and a very good barman he was too! The tables were all set for the lunch, but the food was delayed as there was no ZESA - again! But we didn't mind, as we just carried on partying while we waited. Finally we sat down to eat and listen to the speeches before partying on again! Then came the cutting of the cake and time to dance. Everyone was in good humour and we only left to find our way back up to the Inn on the Vumba when the Aussies started jumping in the pool!

Lauren and Steven cut the cake.

Mmmm chocolate cake!

We're not too old to rock 'n' roll!

We danced the night away!

Elizabeth Coughlan


The Zimbabwe Chronicles Part 3

This is the only picture of me in my wedding finery, complete with fascinator! 
Here, David and I are with Ruth and her two daughters. Terry is in the background.

Gradually, everyone arrived at Leopard Rock and we made our way to the ninth tee, where the wedding ceremony was to be held. Steven and his brother, Mike, waited by the magistrate's table as the guests gathered all around. Finally, Lauren arrived in a golf cart, driven by Brian William and accompanied by Lindsay, who looked stunning in a long red dress.

Lindsay looking stunning.

Dennis walked Lauren down the aisle strewn with flowers.

Lauren looked beautiful in a chocolate-brown dress and carried strelitzias as her bouquet. The magistrate conducted the ceremony and everything went smoothly - except when Mike handed over the box with the rings. When Steven opened the box it was empty. After a moment of sheer panic, Mike said, "Oh, are you looking for these?" and took the rings out of his pocket. The rest of the ceremony went without a hitch and the MDC choir sang beautiful African songs in celebration.

Steven's moment of panic as he discovers the rings are missing.

Presenting Mr and Mrs Cox.

The choir sang beautifully

Afterwards, we all made our way back to the club house for refreshments. Brian William took pity on his old auntie and drove me back in a golf cart. We stayed at the club house socialising for a couple of hours, before the family and close friends drove down the mountain for the wedding lunch at Brian's house in Mutare.

Brian, Brian and Lindsay.

The reception at the club house at the Leopard Rock Hotel.

Elizabeth Coughlan


The Zimbabwe Chronicles Part 2

Following lunch at Chitora, we all drove to Brian's home in Mutare, where we found Brian, Brian William, Lindsay, Lauren, Steven, baby Findlay, a lot of Australians - and chaos. Flo immediately took charge of Findlay, while the rest of us tried to help in some way, but, Sue, the wedding planner, was rather stressed so we didn't stay too long. We left to visit Lynne instead. What a lovely person she is!

Flo amuses Findlay, while Lauren and Sue look on.

Karen is amused at the efforts to put up a shade tent.

Brian, Paddy, Tim and David sneaked off to watch the Grand Prix while chaos reigned!

Sue showing signs of despair!

Lynne with Sue

From Lynne's house on the golf course, we finally drove up to the Inn on the Vumba, where we were to stay. Unfortunately, there was no Zesa! ZESA stands for the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority and it has become a noun, as in, "There is no Zesa!" or, "When is the Zesa coming on?" So, dinner that night was by candlelight - very romantic! The electricity came on again at about 3 am, but was off again, just when we needed to wash and dry our hair the next day. Fortunately, Christine, the manageress, had promised to turn on the generator if there was no electricity.

Our candlelit dinner at the Inn on the Vumba. Along the left from front to back: Sue, Karen, Kathy, Flo, Tim and Me. From the right from front to back: Terry, Paddy, Bernard, David and Margy. Séan is missing, as he kindly took the photo.

Tea arrived at 6 am and David and Terry went for a run and a swim. I had a bath (no showers!!!) and washed my hair in the hope that Christine would hold to her promise. Finally, at 7:30 am the generator kicked into life and we all managed to get to breakfast at 8 am all ready coiffed.

After breakfast, we all dressed in our finery and, at 10 am departed for Leopard Rock Hotel and the golf club house, where we were all to gather ready for the wedding of Lauren to Steven.

Elizabeth Coughlan

Press Centre

Press Centre
I couldn't resist this one!