• wollishofen wandering

    February 19th, 2018

    Wandering Wollishofen it’s hypnotic: the tick, tick, tick of its looming church clocks. Then, abruptly, it’s a jolt: the clang, bang, bong of the of the bells … awakened, it’s not: where am I? it’s, when am I? Wollishofen, a fragment, a drop, afloat in the municipality of Zürich, somehow maintains a serene, separate vibe. An echo of another place and existence. Viewed from the Eggpromenade while watched by its clock towers it is like time itself has stilled. Rolling pastures, barns, schools, playgrounds. Beautiful and eerie. Quiet, broken by a child’s delighted laugh, the bark of a loping retriever, the cluck of a hen. Afternoon sun streaking through rolling clouds and my fingers numb. What is it about this place?

    Perhaps, in part, it is the sense that I have been here before. Not just in the last year. Despite the lines on the clock I increasingly wonder if time is a lot less linear than it seems. How about you? Do you frequently experience deja vu? Remember the first time you looked into a mirror that was reflected in a mirror behind you?

    Commencing this week I want to start sharing some links and articles by some very articulate and entertaining people that make a deep impression on me and help me through the everyday anxiety of existence.

    One person I have been listening too a great deal recently, especially as I feel the absence of beloved ones and beloved places, is the philosopher Alan Watts. If you haven’t listened to Watts, I highly recommend you do so. First off, he has a wonderful voice, and delights in words yet also helps us to understand the limitations, even futility, of such symbols when we try to construct our reality using them. His  playful approach to the topic many of us (myself included) take far too seriously — that of what our lives mean. Here he talks about the delusion of spiritual attainment. It’s good for a bus ride, a taxi journey or any other moment you find yourself a bit adrift. I hope it leads you to listen to more and appreciate the quotidian wonder of just being.

    I’m currently reading A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. A big shout out to the bookseller at Orell Füslli who recommended it, and a reminder to me of why it’s great to go into a real bricks and mortar store and talk a living breathing person who gets your taste. There’s one of those annoying stickers slapped on the cover that says:  Now A Major Motion Picture, but the illustrations and text make it a very worthwhile print experience.

    Music-wise I’m really enjoying the works of Johnny Jewel and The Chromatics who I discovered thanks to David Lynch and his haunting third season of Twin Peaks.

    Lastly, a humble request: If you like this post, please share. It makes all the difference. Hope to see you and hear from you before next week.

  • what’s ahead 2018?

    January 22nd, 2018

    The last couple of years have been strange for just about every soul I know in this world. All the things we face: the pressures of time, the rapidity of change, the demands of work and looming above it with an oppressive shadow the threat to our very existence, which, thanks to some bizarre decisions made by electorates around the world, can sometimes seem greater than ever.

    Yet strangely, I’m still optimistic, even grateful. Why? Because you’re reading this right now. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your time. Just know that it’s a lot. Which is why I will do my best to update this page weekly, so that you can count on some fresh content. Please share your thoughts with me, on the stories you like and why you like them. Also feel free to send me some ideas. I’ve had a busy couple of years. Buying and selling a restaurant, moving from Istanbul and starting a new life in Zürich.  I plan to continue telling stories as long as I walk this Earth. And despite what some people might try and tell you, this is a beautiful planet full of amazing and inspiring people and places. So if there’s someone, or some place, out there with a story that deserves to be told, please tell me. I’m looking and listening.

    Also I have a new photography portfolio which is a beta site, so please head on over and take a look. I’d welcome a critical look with your thoughts, impressions anything that you like or dislike. I look forward to hearing from you and hope we can make 2018 a much brighter year than those that have recently preceded it. I also hope that if you like what you see here, you’ll share this page. Your help is appreciated.

  • basel creators: hadi barkat

    December 19th, 2017

    One of the things that is always satisfying about the season ahead, and the memories I have of those behind, are some of the amazing books I have read and the joy of relaxing and playing a raucous game or two together with family and friends. Recently I sat down with a man who has made the pursuit of a good read and an entertaining challenge his business. While working in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a successful CEO coach in the field of venture vapital, Hadi Barkat was also studying to take his Swiss citizenship test. Already responsible for his company’s gatherings and offsite entertainment, he employed the services of a game designer, and decided to brainstorm a way to turn his study into a form of entertainment.

    Out of this was born Helvetiq, initially a trivia game based on Swiss knowledge, and two years on, a fully fledged Swiss publishing house, committed to the world of French, German, Italian and English games and books, when its inventor decided to turn his side project into a full-time business.

    Helvetiq is very much a print publishing house: “The death of print is very much overstated,” Mr Barkat tells me, shuffling a deck of ordinary playing cards as we chat in the coffee corner of their their loft studio located in the annex of the Stellwerk building in Basel.

    Helvetiq, like its CEO and owner, seems very fond of turning learning or effort into play or entertainment. While about 60% of its output is in the form of games, Helvetiq also has many great books too. Yet even its titles often seem caught up in a sense of playful travel in how they approach their subjects, as with Monika Saxer’s Beer Hiking, which pairs the challenge of hiking and walking trails with the goal of drinking a unique Swiss craft brew at the end of one’s journey. Diccon Bewes’ Around Switzerland In 80 Maps is another example of what Mr Barkat considers a timeless idea.

    Another thing that stands out with Helvetiq is its craft. There is sense of agency here, both in the design and execution of its titles. No one is waiting around for the next big manuscript to plop through the door and land on the slush pile.

    “Two things we don’t do here: a lot of market research, or money-grab. You won’t see a colouring book from Helvetiq,” says the CEO, who believes copycatting is more work and a lot less fun. “Publishing is an art of starting a concept and seeing it fly.” Creativity itself is a path of discovery for Mr Barkat: “You have to be humble. I like to see where things lead. Some people plan every detail, and that works for them, but we can’t control too many things … to see where an idea leads can create more authenticity.”

    At any moment Helvetiq has approximately 20 new games and book titles in development and appears to thrive on seeking out and sharing experiences. Simple-to-grasp concepts are key. Yet simplicity is no hindrance to a rich experience in a roster of books and games that require a high level of finesse in their execution. Everything however, does seem to start with a persuasive, easily stated idea. Their books and games also seem to have a consistent illustration accented aesthetic, which also helps many of their titles pop out on the shelves.

    Helvetiq is another example of how print and paper remain not only highly relevant, but profitable in a world saturated with often over-hyped digital experiences. It also demonstrates how creativity is all about exploring unexpected paths to find rewarding destinations. So this Christmas if you’re looking to escape screen time and reconnect with a real life, three-dimensional experience for you or your family, take a moment to peruse Helvetiq’s catalogue. They put in the work so that we can play.

  • swissmas at bellevue

    December 15th, 2017

    If you are one of the bah humbug set and in Zürich, avoid Bellevue’s Zürcher Wienachtsdorf at all costs. There is so much Christmas cheer it could quite possibly kill you. We experienced it for the first time last year before we moved and were duly impressed by the show put on by Zürich in general, but with special mention going to the organizers responsible for Bellevue. So at the risk of imperilling anyone who loves to cringe at Christmas, here are some shots of all the mania from this year and last year. And anyone who needs gift ideas for me can also check out the cool stands by Lekka, Circle Sustainable store and Freitag among the many stalls with some pretty good swag. Just saying. So perhaps I’ll see you around for some mulled wine and some hot smoked salmon … thinking perhaps this Christmas thing might just catch on.

  • candle-making at bürkliplatz

    November 22nd, 2017

    As a child I was always getting into trouble playing with candles. My name was regularly cursed after several tablecloths ended up coated with thick gobs of hardened wax. What fun it was to dip my fingertips into the melted goo and feel it harden into a seal. I couldn’t resist. If only I’d had a chance to make candles instead of mess them up at the dinner table I might be a different person today. Or not. Anyway, right now, underneath a tent enfolding the music pavilion at Bürkliplatz there is beeswax candle-making, a meditative pursuit where kids can put their little mitts to good use making candles rather than trashing them. For a reformed candle-vandal such as myself this is great development. Perhaps I can even repay my debt to society by helping my daughter to light the way with these all natural mini crafts. It’s also a great way to make gifts and keep your kids preoccupied with a time-consuming but calming pursuit which they can take pride in. The staff on hand are helpful and will assist you in the finishing touches required to make the handiwork shine. The candles are weighed to determined the price, so practicing your candle-making a bit on some smaller scale attempts can be wise before you choose to create your deluxe masterpiece.

    For more information you can visit the city website here. Sunday afternoon was somewhat crowded but a nevertheless pleasant experience. Apparently this is a yearly tradition since 1969 and runs daily now from 10 AM to 8 PM this year until December 22. It’s one way to light up the end of the year.

  • daytime at union pacific …

    October 18th, 2016


    sign II

    Up Tables

    chemex pour

    Coffee supplies

    Ham n Cheese

    Up lounge


    Lunch Menu (October)ricerolls1


    Food board

    It was a long, long summer, as you know. The good news is, that, despite the stresses and strains, life is again returning to the city. It’s autumn and Istanbul is like that kid in the schoolyard that won’t submit to the bully. Sure it’s taken some hits. But it keeps on picking itself up. That attitude inspires us at Union Pacific. Our sign is properly mounted and lit up. We have a fantastic team led by the inimitable Chris James Maxwell, formerly of Cochine, who are plating up a great mix of flavours and experiences from the vast and varied shores of the Pacific. We have a fierce baker in-house whose skills with sweet or savoury are becoming legend. We have coffee from some of Istanbul’s artisan roasters. We have new items coming to the menu weekly (check up above). But most of all, what do we have? A great time.

    Like to travel? You don’t have to go far to begin the journey. Step on in. We’ve got places to take you.

    Union Pacific General Store & New World Eatery – Şah Değirmeni Sokak 6A, Şahkulu Mahallesi, Tünel, Beyoğlu,
    +90 212 252 7274.

  • High Summer – Atolyia

    October 3rd, 2015




    1S0A8553 copy

    1S0A0110 copy

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    1S0A0325 copy

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    1S0A0254 copy

    Summer, when it passes, leaves a certain hazy vagueness. A pleasurable dream reluctantly relinquished. The way the sun warms your limbs. The blueness behind your eyelids as you stretch laze beneath the sun. Some places in the world, they’re about to drift back into that dreamy state. Just before summer disappeared here in Istanbul, I was fortunate enough to complete an assignment for my client, Atolyia, as Kurban Bayram, approached. Hopping on and off a sailboat around the Islands shooting beautiful women in pestemals and beach wraps is not a bad way to spend a few days. Here’s a glimpse of some of the highlights.

    All styling by the inimitable Selin Sönmez-Tokgozlu.

  • all natural beauty from turkey – atolyia

    August 22nd, 2015

    Atolyia 1

    atolyia 6

    atolyia 7

    atolyia 4


    atolyia 5

    atolyia 9

    atolyia diptych 3

    Atolyia 2

    Here’s a small sample of photos from a lifestyle shoot I did here in Istanbul with some stunning all-natural textiles hand-loomed right here in Turkey for Atolyia. The shots, which are being used for mail-outs and for the media will also soon adorn their new website too. The collection, which is produced using traditional methods, includes blankets, throws, hamam towels (pestemals), cushions and goat hair kilims all of which possess the sort of amazing lustre you can only really find in traditional craft textiles. On the two-day shoot I was also so fortunate to work with the multi-talented, knee-slappingly funny Selin Sönmez, a great friend from my days at 34 Magazine, as my stylist. With the combination of great content and a superb stylist, the photo shoot was really a rewarding experience.

    Atolyia (previously Hamamist) has been enjoying big success lately, growing from both online retailing and wholesale operations and will soon open a shop in Sydney, Australia where two of the partners currently live. I’m really pleased and proud to help communicate the beauty of these unique products which are made using traditional Anatolian methods.

  • istanbul’s ultimate play area

    May 14th, 2015


    sof zorlu

    sof water attack


    It’s well known Istanbul doesn’t lack for shopping malls. What it does lack for, however, are good, free, publicly available leisure spaces for children. Yet every once in a while something really surprising occurs and you find much more than you expected. Such is the case with the children’s park outside Zorlu Shopping Mall. Other parents had extolled its virtues for some time but I didn’t realise I was in for as much a surprise as my favourite small person. I could go on and on about the clever design by CARVE and WATG LAND ARCHITECTS (but you can read about it here instead) and that it has several different thoughtfully prepared play structures, or that no smoking is allowed on the grass or around the play structures. The possibilities for climbing, crawling, jumping, sliding, exploring, are nearly endless — and more than one adult was unable to resist the gravity of the slide. But the most important case for the park is evidenced in the expressions you see above. And that the person pictured above also slept straight through the night thereafter until 07:10 AM. Just remember to bring at least one change of clothes. The water play zone is particularly irresistible for the little people. The squeals of pure delight still ring in my ears.

    sof at zorlu II

  • the moving museum – last week, last chance

    December 8th, 2014




    In Istanbul between Wednesday and Sunday this week? Give yourself a little gift.  Take a wander through THE MOVING MUSEUM which has turned a multi-storey carpark in Şişhane into an exhibition space. Open from 12-6pm it’s definitely worth the small entrance fee. I hope to see more novel uses of public space like this in the near future. This city needs the inspiration. And it’s a couple of short steps from the metro line. So, no excuses. Make a date before it’s too late.