The day in the church cycle when darkness falls. Usually a nighttime service where the candles are extinguished and lamps doused one by one. I thought the time suited these photos of the beautifully austere Hagia Irene in the grounds of the Topkapi Palace, one of the few Byzantine churches never converted to a mosque, although it hadn’t been used as a church for some time.


All photos March 2018



In the middle of what is now a fairly busy roundabout in central Istanbul is the Valens aqueduct. Kids try out their bikes with half a set of stabilisers in the park around it, and tucked round the back is a small street and a chicken keeper who looks suspiciously at any visitors.


On the park side, there’s also this: a frankly unbelievable monument to Sultan Mehmet and the biggest spread of gold on a statue this side of the Albert Memorial.

All photos March 2018.

Topkapi palace


The first time I read about the Topkapi Palace I was an eighteen year old doing some rather nervous work experience in a museum, and being asked to look for examples of Chinese porcelain ripped off by western factories and then Indian or Turkish knock offs of the Dutch sort.


Clueless would be a polite way to describe it, although the curator I was working to firmly gave me a list of Sotheby’s catalogues and monographs – one of which mentioned this unpronounceable Palace that for some reason I decided must be Hungarian – and off I went. A lot of photocopying and post-it noting later I wasn’t much the wiser.


A few years and some truly bad, trashy historical novels later I couldn’t have you told you anything more except that my mental picture was probably of dark stone, gloomy rooms (had I heard that it’s now empty and been unable to envisage a building without furniture?) and was somewhat sceptical that I was really going to enjoy it.


So thank you Becca for recommending that it was still least a half day trip. These photos from an afternoon’s wander are pretty much the order in which we came across things, so if you feel eye-crossing set in at the glorious tiles, then I’ve done my job.


As you can see, the building had a good deal of the Rococo about it, and also elements of chinoiserie – maybe in the sense of outdoor pavilions and also the whimsical names given to them all.


I’m afraid I can’t any longer remember what room was what: the library, the closet of the sultan’s turbans, the moon light or breakfast divan, the grand council room, but who cares (my inner historian just did a Munch face there) when you can see this?!

All photos March 2018.

Little sister


The so-called “little” Hagia Sophia / Aya Sofia (also once known as the church of saints Sergius and Bacchus) is tucked down a little side street and doesn’t seem to be hugely visited, but I thought it was actually much nicer than the big sister 🙂

All photos March 2018.

Awakening of the insects

The traditional Chinese lunar calendar was divided into twenty-four solar terms (jieqi), and like the strict rules governing the seasonality of Japanese haiku themes, each one had its own mood, poems and sayings. In early spring, usually early March, there is the awakening of the insects, a time of life and hope:

Spring approaches, bringing timely rains

Early thunder, erupting from the east

Hibernating animals, hidden but shocked awake.

Plants and trees, across the land, slowly open up.

Tao Yuanming, 4th century



A taster for the Royal Academy’s exhibition this spring on Charles I and his art collection, where I’ll be hoping for more Van Dykes like this one. Thank you Becca for flagging it up to me.



How beautiful is this statue from the antique collection at the Rodin Museum? Rodin collected Greek, Roman and Egyptian art for over 20 years and left it to the French state as part of his own works’ bequest.

Burns Night

Hooray for a chance to eat haggis and cut a caper at a ceilidh!


If all tartan dresses could be like this I’d wear them more often.


Also, whilst following Kate Strasdin’s Instagram feed this year I’ve noticed that the outfits that appeal the most are those with colour and pattern (sure), but where the shapes might be quite simple and the detail is in the tailoring and use of a single fabric cut against itself to form a pattern.