Thursday, November 06, 2008

A very Istanbul day

'Mr James', my wonderful ground floor neighbour whispered as I exited the building.

Perihan's kitchen window is right next to the apartment entrance. Nothing, but nothing, escapes her.

'James, come. I spoke with your landlady last night.' They are good friends.

'Oh yes, I'm late two days with the rent. I know.'

'I told her your fridge is broken' (It's not).

'Well, thank you.' This is Perihan's way of looking after me. She keeps in contact with the landlady and over tea and baklava reminds her what a good rent-payer, charming person and superb cat-lover I am. And then she works a few angles to further populate my apartment with furniture I don't need.

Truth is, my freezer doesn't really function so well these days. It ices up. I'd never noticed it or, at least, it had never bothered me until Perihan one day let herself into my apartment to move a pot plant that another neighbour suggested I'd placed to close to the edge of the balcony. I guess Perihan must've had a peek around because she then went on to admonish my cleaner for such oversight. I rarely even use the freezer and bought Swiss chocolate for the cleaner to let her know I wasn't bothered about the chunks of protruding ice that keep my ice-cream squishy. That was weeks ago.

I thanked Perihan for the possibility of new white goods and then remembered the actual conversation I'd had with the landlady daughter a few days previous.

'I want to talk with you about painting the apartment (it's beige), changing the light fittings (no word in any lexicon can appropriately describe their hideousness), and install new floor covering in the bedrooms (previous tenants have introduced questionable marks and a nice iron print). Oh yeah, the curtains have got to go (my cats have kind a ripped then into an Alexander McQueen monstrosity).'

After placating her gently, insisting I was more than willing to pay the costs, she promised to get back to me with a decision.

This afternoon I received a text message requesting I ensure keys were with the downstairs neighbour since two hefty lads with a wheelbarrow were on their way to deliver a bed.

A bed is not a fridge and is not a general passe-partout for minor renovations.

Puzzled? I think I was.

Returning to the apartment later in the afternoon, Perihan had already been informed of the new mattress.

'Don't worry, go and teach your lessons James, I'll be here to collect it.'

Which is great because this woman could single-handed re-organise Middle Eastern affairs and is possibly the very reason Arab and Middle Eastern countries are so frightened of pursuing equality among the sexes. If this octogenarian is anything to go by, women should actually be in charge of the entire region.

My lesson completed, I fell down some stairs and returned tired, bleeding and sore to the apartment, anticipating a minimum eight hour slumber on my new firm spring-loaded sleep-inducing mattress.

Disappointment was total. I sat down but recognised the stains immediately. This was my mattress (and that of many previous tenants, none of whom bothered with a protector sheet). I went downstairs.

'I know my dear. I was waiting here for hours and they never showed up'.

It turns out that Perihan, running late for her husband's own appointment at the hospital, stayed back until it was clear: something was amiss.

'I called your landlady. She was in a cafe... I said, what are you doing sitting in a cafe Ilknur? I'm waiting here for the mattress for this lovely boy James and I have to get Muharrem to the hospital'.

Well, it appears that while sipping her latte somewhere off in la-la land, she simply forgot. Forgot. So today the fridge I fleetingly hoped for, the painting, floor coverings and lamp fittings I requested became the mattress that never was.

I sank back onto the suddenly old, stained and sagging bed to nurse my aching elbow and knee, glared at my offensive light fittings and wondered 'why do I bother?'

I'm definitely, definitely paying the rent late this month.

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