NOT an end of year round-up

What a year – I promise this is not just another end of year round-up. Although admittedly I may be forced to recall certain events but will steer clear of an almanac style list in date order.

January… that was a joke by the way (insert polite titter here)

Some years go by with barely a ripple of great excitement, disappointment or unexpected adventure. Often years meld into 2, 3, 5 and before you know it you have lived half a decade or more of unremarkable life events but with the usual roll-call of births, weddings and funerals; such is the usual circle of life. Our years may be garnished with a little or a lot of things like new jobs, travel and maybe even be infused with a little bit of romance. By its very nature romance is often associated with earlier unhappy or muted endings that may eventually lead into happier beginnings with someone else. Yes some years go by with barely a ripple but some just start crazy and get even crazier for one reason or another. This last year was one such year for me.

A bad situation

But this isn’t about me… Wars that people had began to forget about just rumbled on with most victims, as usual, innocent civilians. Syria, Yemen, the endless war inside the British Conservative party, which all got so much bloodier and pointless. Brexit is now so dead in the water that it has begun to sink headlong into the oceanic abyss, where it was going to drag the rest of us until it eventually lands on the murky bottom to be devoured by the ravenous carrion crabs that wait down there for dead and dying things. The other 27 Euro leaders have scented the blood of Theresa May and all of the other clowns who driven by self interest and downright racism and ignorance have started to scuttle back into the woodwork where they came from. The EU will, quite rightly, not give another inch – or should I say centimetre – to help May sell her dead dog of a deal to Parliament. It is my hope and the hope of the vast majority of people in the UK that by this time next year Brexit, with all of its associated chaos and staggering waste of energy and money will be a distant memory, a stern lesson learned from the humiliating reality check we are now living through. A thing only referred to in hushed tones.

I built a boat – a beautiful big canal boat that ended up costing me a more comfortable summer because I had to fit it out in London in the unusual extreme heat of 2018. Imagine working inside a steel hulled boat in 35C! But now it sits completed, majestic in its winter mooring waiting for me to take it on its first cruise in the coming spring. I do love my boat but Never again!

new boat

Trump continues to confound predictions of an imminent departure because of impeachment or a direct indictment from the special counsel Robert Mueller. Despite Donald being as bent as the proverbial 9 bob note and continuing to display the IQ and temperament of a petulant 9th Grade school boy, somehow his ‘base’ or ‘the deplorable’ as they have come to be know still managed to help him hang onto one of the houses of power in the November midterms. He as usual declared it as a massive victory , as if he had gained seats instead of losing so many he lost control of Congress. But I wonder how he will review his victory once impeachment proceedings against him get underway and most of his family and business associates begin to fear the approaching knock at the door from the Police.

Trump - Prison in a Year

In October I became a Grandfather for the first time – a title that gradually gets easier to slip from the tongue. It dates me of course, but I am now of an age when vanity begins to take a back seat to more important events in one’s life. Sadly the premature death of a dear friend also coloured much of last Autumn and resulted in not just grief but an all too familiar situation, when a blood relative (who shall remain nameless) decided greed and her own needs were more important than her dead daughters wishes for the stable future of the granddaughter she professed to love. These were important wishes that she said she was happy to help fulfil right up until the moment she discovered a large insurance payout.

Money talks

So if this post carries one message it is this: Make sure you have a will, a written and appropriately witnesses Last Will and Testament that people will find when you are gone. But most importantly if you want something special or some protection or guardianship of your children to be assigned to someone else, someone other than your next of kin then PUT IT IN WRITING in a document that will stand up in court. My friend could not have expected to die in her 30’s and although she was suspicious enough of one particular relative to at least record her wishes in conversations and emails with myself and others until she could get around tosigning a notarised document – because she didn’t do this the whole sorry thing quickly descended into an unnecessary nightmare, that few of us who were touched by it will quickly recover from.

Anyway, although this wasn’t my annual round-up – let’s make some promises for next year:

Let’s talk more but chat less
Let’s call more and text less
Let’s meet more but Skype less
and Let’s get out more and vegetate in front of the TV less.

I hope you had a good one and wish you all good luck for a happier, healthier and yes let’s hope a quieter New Year for 2019.

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Bad to Worse

Three months ago I set off for London to fit out my new canal boat. It doesn’t seem a long time but for a number of reasons it sometimes felt like an eternity. So much had happened in that small window of time that it is hard to know where to begin. Perhaps it’s easier if I just take up where I left off, which was my approaching transformation as a novice buying the shell of a boat to a person now capable (most of the time) of cruising along the canals of Britain. I also spoke about the up and coming election in Turkey, called more than a year early because of the countries rapidly slowing economy, which to no one’s surprise was won by Recep Tayyip Erdogan in June.

new boat

My plan had always been to fit out my boat in the relative cool of an English May. However, for various reasons the delivery slipped repeatedly so I didn’t fly to London until the end of that month and arrived during an afternoon of light rain. That was to be the last rain I would see until I left the UK almost 10 weeks later. The boat was finally delivered to me at a marina in Watford in the 3rd week in June. But by then June had proved to be unusually hot and prone to heatwaves… certainly not a good formula for heavy lifting and fitting out work inside the hull of a steel wide-beam riverboat. The heat pushed into the low to mid 30’s on many days and the surface of the canal quickly bloomed with a thick pondweed that even the coots and moorhens struggled to push themselves through. Some places where we stopped were also plagued by flies. So by the time I left London the Grand Union Canal felt more like some fly blown tributary of the Amazon or the Congo than the main riverboat artery through the capital.

inside new boat

Still as with any difficult project worth doing it eventually came to an end. Despite the tens of thousands spent trying to feed the fit-out in a just in time way and the layout changes and adaptations made and sometimes remade just to keep things moving – I am very happy with the result. I now have a wonderful floating home in England to escape to anytime I feel like a change from the tensions and drama that more and more reflect on our ability to enjoy living in an amazingly polarized Turkey. A Turkey where it seems you either love or despise the President and his party, with very little room in the middle for the very few who declare they remain politically uncommitted.

Predicted by many economic commentators the ongoing slide of the Turkish economy towards recession on the back of a rapidly devaluing Turkish Lira and soaring inflation was not unexpected. It was, as I said the main motivation for Erdogan calling the elections almost 18 months early. However, what has caught many out is the speed of that slide. In the week following the election the pound was sometimes trading at about 5.95 lira but less than a month later the exchange rate had crashed to almost 9 to the pound. The main cause – or so it seems – was an American pastor who few people had ever heard of not being released because Donald Trump wanted it to happen. The currency took a small hit as the rhetoric was ratcheted up on both sides. But it only went into freefall when Trump sent out one of his early morning toilet tweets imposing trade tariffs on Turkish aluminium and steel.

TrumpDogan

Like so many things Trump says and does this did not have its desired effect and resulted in even more entrenchment on both sides. It also gave Erdogan a golden chance to deflect some of the blame for the deteriorating economic situation in Turkey – which is actually as a result of reckless fiscal policies that so overheated the economy prior to the election. Instead the blame was levelled at the usual suspects of unspecified ‘outsiders’ or ‘the west’, or on some banking conspiracy and finally Trump – all of which was repeated and amplified by most of the cowed and now almost totally government controlled media machine in Turkey.

Lira and dollar notes

Eventually, the crisis passed and the currency slowly made a modest recovery but it was way short of where it was pre-crisis. However, it didn’t take long for contagion from the collapse of another emerging economies currency to hit the lira hard. And yet the average man in the street doesn’t blame bad fiscal policies or the crash of the Argentinean peso, which are the main reason for this week’s lira sell off, but once again they point to some amorphous plot from the west fed to them by government compliant news channels or newspapers. So while they will soon probably blame a hapless Trump again, despite him not tweeting about Turkey from his bathroom in weeks, I have yet to see one TV news item or newspaper headline in this country that is brave enough to apportion the blame for the looming crisis where it truly belongs – much closer to home.

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