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Thursday, 23 September 2010


Walking through Navarinou Street in Central Athens yesterday, I stumbled upon a makeshift memorial: tied on a scaffolding with a white ribbon was a bunch of wilting flowers, with a short message: "Our beloved Dad, you left your last breath at this spot. We will never forget you, your daughters."

Around the spot, stylish coffee shops were just opening and expensive boutiques advertised their wares. Life carries on.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Athens, and my old school

Last Saturday, the day after Eid, I flew to Athens to visit my parents. Since no airlines fly directly from Athens to Tehran, I flew via Bahrain. The flight from Tehran to Bahrain left at 5.30 am and got to Bahrain an hour and a half later. Then I had a stopover of over 3.5 hours and another 4-hour flight to Athens.

Athens is cool and pleasant this time of the year; schools opened today, so an unusual buzz of activity reigned in the neighbourhood this morning. I went to my nephew’s school for the school year opening ceremony, but nothing much happened afterwards, so the children were let out half an hour later, to start in earnest tomorrow.

The building housing this primary school used to house my old school. On this site the old building of my school used to be a two-storey aristocratic mansion with a double staircase. This was demolished in the late seventies and a modern building took its place in 1979, when I was in year 10. Despite the new building, my school only remained open for another two years. It closed down in 1981, and all its students were transferred to the state high school across the road.

Today was the first time I went inside the playground after almost thirty years. The two old palm trees I remember since I first crossed this threshold, six years old in sky-blue overalls and lunch box, still stand tall on either side of the school gate.

A Taxi driver with a difference

Last Friday was Eid Fitr, the feast celebrating the holy month of Ramadan. During this time the schedule of normal life was disrupted, hence my longer than usual absence from this blog.

I have written elsewhere about Tehran’s taxi drivers: some are polite, others grumpy, some talk a lot, others only exchange laconic words with their passengers, but most share a stoic attitude towards the city traffic, which can often drive you crazy.
But one particular taxi driver must stand out. His taxi follows a set itinerary (see Among the Iranians) between Haft Tir Square and Seyed Khandan Bridge, near my house. I stood by the kerb waiting for a taxi, when he pulled up in front of me and a young man in military uniform got out from the passenger seat. I thought he was getting off there, so I got in. As the soldier sat in the back seat and I settled in my seat, the driver thanked the soldier for moving to the back; it turned out that the driver had made that request.
I thanked them both
Then I recognised him: this was the second time I happened to board this taxi. He is an interesting character, evidently in love with his job (very rare!) and with people. As soon as I sat in the passenger seat, he gave me a folder to look at: it was full of newspaper and magazine clippings about him and his taxi, and comments by all sorts of people, Iranian and foreigners, who have boarded his taxi. When I got to my destination, he offered me a boiled sweet and wished me a nice afternoon. His name is Dehbashizadeh and keeps a blog (in Persian) at