Back from Istanbul (and back to blogging)


After Istanbul, like after all of my travelling, I’ve come back with a better perpective on life and on London. As much as I love this city, it is even more obvious that, in London, there is a coldness and a distance between people.

I am writing this as I am sitting on the Bakerloo line to meet a friend in Little Venice. People do not look at each other, but not just on the tube…everywhere. On the street, at work, in the pub… The main question that comes to mind is ‘why’? …Do people feel that looking at someone else might be perceived as rude or invasive (the most common explanation my London friends have given to me when I expressed my thoughts on this issue)? That would be strange, though, considering it’s such a multi cultural city. Could it be that people feel scared of what they might see if they look up? Or do they simply not feel the need to do so?

If that is so, then how is it possible? Curiosity is intrinsec to human nature, just like interaction with fellow human beings. Some cultures, as it seemed to be the case in Turkey and in Italy (my home country), take it at times to the opposite extreme, and people are often showing their ‘curiosity’ so much to become invasive and irritating.

Surely a balanced compromise must be possible. Interest in other people is not only legitimate but necessary and healthy! It keeps us connected to the world around us and it makes us a part of it. A friend was recently commenting on how she’d never notice a good looking man whilst on her way to work, as her focus is entirely on the day and tasks ahead. She said that to explain why she thinks people in London appear ‘distant’ to me.

There are surely times when I’m oblivious to others if I’m lost in my own thoughts. But I don’t think I am generally capable of involuntarily blanking out people around me. In fact, when I’m thinking about something, I project my thoughts on the people around me and imagine what they would do, what they might think. It sort of helps me to get a perspective on things. I like feeling aware of my surroundings and this includes wondering where the lady sitting next to me, who’s wearing a thick black fur coat, might be going to ..or what the slim blond girl sitting opposite to me might be reading whilst tapping her new Converse shoes.

Yet when I look up at her purposefully, we never meet eyes. Wait! Something funny has just happened: just as I was writing this last comment, I looked up quickly and – yes! – the blond girl was looking at me and smiling! Maybe she thought I was weird, or maybe she thought that it was nice for another person on the tube to notice her existance and show interest in what she was doing.

My purpose was to challenge her sense of curiosity. Surely, when two strangers meet eyes, it means that some healthy curiosity for other people must still be there!

Below is a small selection of photos from Istanbul (a beautiful city). Enjoy & I promise my next blog post won’t be in six months!

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Sultanahmet Parki

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Sultanahmet Parki, view over the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)

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Monkeys in a cage on a pavement in Gedikpasa Caddesi (Sultanahmet District)

ImageSunset from Topkapi Palace

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Topkapi Palace, inside the Hammam

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The Koran, Book Bazaar (Bazaar District)

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A wall in Yerebatan Kaddesi

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I Found a Key


Autumn in London always carries a magical, theatrical atmosphere with it. The unusually warm months of September and October are now sliding away and Guy Fawkes’ fireworks and a mild fog are announcing the first days of cold.

The anti-capitalists’ tents are still outside of St Paul’s, although there are rumours that many are empty at night. The theatrical feel that I get of London is a constant theme from the smallest streets to Buckingham Palace. It goes from fascinating to creepy.

Covent Garden, with its street artists and spectacular displays of lights and themed art installations, is an open-air stage. Yet it is not rare to see homeless people grotesquely sleeping under a pile of dirty blankets right on the side of glittery high street shop displaying piles of fancy clothes and shoes. Their shivering bodies illuminated and defined by white neon lights from the shop windows; make the cold penetrate even more deeply inside me.

My favourite theatre seats in London are the front seats on the top floor of double-decker bus. Not the London Eye or the Oxo Tower. They only give you a limited perception of London’s grandeur. But from the bus seats, you see everything, including what you wish you could not see. The young businessmen are happily enjoying their pints at the pub while an old beggar is sipping his beer can just around the corner. You see a beautiful woman covered in pearls and diamonds walking besides a pale guy kneeling down, while looking for some food or drugs in the waste bags along the pavement.

And London is all that, breathtaking beauty and unbearable dismay. Modernity and decadence. Ostentation and poverty. The fireworks are crackling and illuminating the sky with various tones of pink, green and red as people are getting on their tip toes in Theobald’s Road to see Gray’s Inn spectacular display. They only last for a few minutes, but those minutes are the theatre play for the night.

Tonight, as I got home after the fireworks, I was tidying up my room. Suddenly, my eye caught a glimpse of something shining on my carpet. I moved my desk chair, and there it was: a key. A tiny key, just about the size of a bean. I have no idea of how it got there and why, but I know it looks like the magic of London has unexpectedly entered my room on this cold night of Guy Fawkes.

Feel the London Vibe


You know your plane is landing in London when outside the tiny window you see pouring rain and a marvellously green landscape. Just about the time to wait for your suitcase, change into something warmer that you notice a few shy rays of sunshine peeping through the clouds.

 

You take a seat on the tube and no one appears to notice the girl with green hair who’s forgotten to wear a skirt. Nor is anyone bothered by the man taking up two seats due to his extra-huge size.  The newspaper read by the lady next to me reports in details the remarkably wrongful behaviour of two policemen who parked on a double yellow line to shop in Tesco’s. In Italy, this news wouldn’t even feature in a minor last-page column.

 

As you step outside, the wind makes any efforts to comb your hair entirely useless but gives you wings to walk. You soon smell food from the local Thai restaurant which blends in with the smell of McDonalds’. If you don’t like it, don’t worry because just round the corner you’re in Italy or, if you prefer, in France. But make sure not to hesitate while walking or you’ll literally get run over by crowds of people.

 

As you make your way through the crowds, you get a first glimpse of the vast green areas. Just a few steps, and you’ve stepped into the countryside – now you can just relax lying down on the greenest, cleanest and softest grass.

What Next?


It’s been a seriously long time since I posted on my blog. I’ve been missing it, but as other bloggers will know, once you lose the ‘rhythm’ with blogging, it falls out of your routine and it gets harder and harder to get back to it. Of course, the real reason why I didn’t post was that I was finishing my Master in Laws. Finally, after many sleepless nights writing my thesis, last friday I have graduated and now I have another qualification to add to my CV and – hopefully – a better chance to achieve my career goals.

Unfortunately, I am really not the kind of person capable to sitting back and enjoying my latest achievements. I am already busy and anxious – as well as excited, of course – about my next move. Getting ready to move back to the UK is a pretty daunting task as I need to find a flat and reconnect with my friends in London. It’s hard to leave home after having recreated a cicle of friends, being used to being close to my family and getting reaccustomed to the Italian lifestyle. This time, going to London, will be different as I am surely less idealistic about what I can find over there, but at the same time I feel prepared about what to expect. I suppose I am becoming more realistic. Does this mean I am getting old?! 😉

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be able to settle anywhere. I think I am made to be constantly on the move. I am too curious (impatient?!) about things around me to settle anywhere and every time I move it is a new  – scary – challenge. Is it so hard to find a place where you find all you wish? I believe that travelling is rather a process of self-discovery. We move to find new answers, only to discover we come back with more questions and doubts. So, right now my question is: what next?

No Need To Be Serious


Even on a short work / study trip to Den Haag (The Hague) – generally associated with serious people, serious places and serious thoughts – you can find abundant occasions to smile.

While I was there, I found many things around the streets especially sculptures, which put a big smile on my face and made me laugh. Just perfect to get into the best positive mood while on my way towards a library or a tribunal!

In a street near Scheveningen, I saw a small house which had red gates oddly decorated with what looked like a ‘Winter Theme’ (yes, in June!): white owls, snowmen and other strange (fake) stuffed animals.

Now…what is t-h-a-t?? If you think this is odd, wait for the next picture. I was walking in the same area and, as I stopped checking my map, I felt eyes staring at me from a close-by window. As I turned to check who it was…this is what I saw:


Creepy, but funny! I think the shop-owner had a very good sense of humour, although I am not sure how well he was able to sell his products through this sales technique. But the best conclusion to my trip was this wise sign hanging in a chocolate shop in Brussels:

Have fun – wherever you are – and keep on smiling! 🙂

What I’ve Learnt from the Moot Court / Mock Trial


Ten days after the Moot Court, I can now sit back and think of what I’ve learnt from this experience.

1. I really enjoy legal advocacy.

I guess I knew it before, but the Moot Court has really made it clear to me that I love the thrill of legal speaking in public despite the amount of stress involved beforehand. The minutes before I had to stand before the judges, my heartbeat was truly amazing me. I felt like there was a horse race going on inside me! I guess this should lead me to conclude that I should not stress so much, however this is not really something I can entirely control. I am sure that with experience, this amount of stress will decrease. Yet, I strongly believe that the stress is partially what enhances the ability to put a lot of effort into legal advocacy and increases the chances of showing the court that you are really into the part.

2. Something unforeseen will always occur.

Despite being only a mock trial, it is nonetheless impossible to foresee exactly everything that will occur. This reflects well what happens in real trials, although surely they involve a way greater amount of unpredictable circumstances. Unforseen circumstances may play in favour or against you, you never know, but the trick is theoretically to always try your best to turn them into something positive for your case.

3. Competition rules.

At the end, legal advocacy whether it is for a real or a mock trial, cannot be simply described as a ‘game’. People turn extremely competitive and they will do just about anything necessary to prove they are better than you. In other words, the trial can turn on personal competition and establishing good relations between various parties would be extremely helpful (when possible). Everyone is – at different degrees – ruled by a desire to compete.

4. You experience the Moot Court through the lenses of your role.

Depending on what role you’re covering in the Moot Court / Mock Trial, you will experience it in a totally different way to your colleagues in different roles. In my case, I was Legal Representative of Victims and this meant being something in between the Prosecution and the Defence. In a way, I was supporting the Prosecution, however my role had a completely different focus. On another day, I acted as witness for another Moot Court and this gave me an entirely different perspective yet again. As a witness (even if not a real one), you feel like you’re under the spotlight while being examined by all parties and by the judges. Moreover, it is hard to realise if your answers to questions are helpful to one side or another (unless, of course, you know the legal case). I would recommend anyone pursuing the career of lawyer to attempt taking on the role of witness during mock trials, because you will really benefit from a useful and insightful experience.

4. The end of the Moot Court is a big relief.

No matter how much I enjoyed the Moot Court experience, I can’t deny that the end of it meant coming back to life! Yet I can’t wait to do it all over again and I am sure there is still a great deal to learn in the profession, which is a never-ending learning process.

Pre-Moot Court Thoughts


So, tomorrow is the Big Day: for those of you who have trained as lawyers or are lawyers, you know perfectly well what a Moot Court is. Two simple words that mean a whole lot to lawyers and lawyers-to-be.

It is that moment that exciting moment upon which you’ve gradually built on your expectations, whether reasonable or unreasonable. It is that day when you will finally put into practice your oral skills and ability to convey your knowledge of the law and your ability to argue before a Court. Pardon me, before “this Honourable Court”!

It is the day when you’re confronted with competitive yet often aggressive or intimidating teams, who each want to shine and prove their abilities. I feel so tense yet I am also so excited. Overall, I am sure it’s going to be really fun. Sometimes I feel like I need a reality check and step back into the world to put into perspective the tensions accumulated from the preparation for the Moot Court. Afterall, it is a competion, meaning it’s only a game.

During tomorrow’s Moot Court, I’ll be a Legal Representative of Victims in an International Criminal Court Trial on war crimes (allegedly) committed in Afghanistan. I’m really excited about my role because it allows to present to the Judges a different perspective on the case to that offered by the Prosecution and Defence. It focuses on people and on their importance. It serves as a reminder to everyone that, ultimately, no matter how much the law is discussed in the Courtroom, the case still relates to real life: real people, real injuries and real suffering. On Friday, instead, I will be acting as a witness for the Defence during a different trial on similar facts (for another Moot Court team).

Looking forward to writing about this week’s experience after it’s all over and I will be able to breathe a sigh of relief ! 🙂