Stout & Large Do...Istanbul - Day One

On October 3 I handed in my last ever Open University essay after six years slog – a 4000 word epic on the causes of spatial segregation in the modern urban environment and what can be done about it. I finished it close enough to the deadline that we had to jump in the car and drive to Milton Keynes to physically hand it over. The receptionist smiled when I asked her how many she’d had in so far that day, and pointed to a tottering pile of brown envelopes. “See all them?” she said. “That’s the third pile so far today...”

The question then was, where to go to celebrate? An original plan of flying to Seattle and heading up to mooch around Vancouver and Vancouver Island for a bit had had to be shelved due to Kate having a slipped disc in her back back in August (which she memorably characterises as being now composed of a series of cream filled meringue nests – great for dessert, not quite so brilliant for structural integrity and horse-riding). So short haul, long weekend...in the end Istanbul was the answer. Enough Islamic heritage to be exotic, sill in Europe (just) so it wasn’t a madly long flight, and it had also cropped up on pretty much every OU course I’d done: from world religion to cities and technology, from globalisation and notions of Islamic identity to modern problems of – ulp – spatial segregation and concepts of order and disorder...

So, what was it that stuck in our minds most about our first night in Istanbul. Was it the fabulous architecture and the Aga Sofia and Blue Mosque? Was it gazing out of our hotel window and seeing the lights of the ships move lazily along the Bosphorous? Was it the Call to Prayer ululating gently on the breeze [1]? Nope, it was the drain mirkin. We got back to our hotel after a beer or several and noticed that covering a small drain in the bathroom was a nylon square of fake grass with a few equally plastic daisies sticking out of it. It could only really ever be christened a a drain mirkin and here’s a photo to prove it.

[1] This is a lie. It’s less of a gentle ululate and more of a full throated roar – the sort that would drown out your average Motorhead concert. Our hotel was only 100 metres or so away from the Blue Mosque and the Imams there obviously liked their volume.

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