A male street trader selling headscarfs.

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"There's only one stop that bus is making", my friend laughed as we negotiated the crowds of Tehran's estrogen interchange that is Vanak Square. My reaction to this would only have been found on the inside as the ugly reality of what I'd seen 24-hours before revealed itself.

The previous day I'd stumbled upon this Islamic carnival quite unknowingly, in passing I donned a dumb grin, "Oooo, TV cameras, Oooo big bus, Oooo, lots of officially dressed people". I slowed down, deducing what type of guest was in town: there was just enough people for it to be the president, too many for a foreign notary and certainly too many for a news article. The bus was curtained, so I guessed that they were famous, but why so many empty cars parked around I pondered. I loitered, but it was too calm, I assumed I'd missed the precession and left in disappointment.

That night I'd popped out with my father, traveling by car we couldn't help but go through Tehran's notorious Jordan Boulevard – notorious among other things for being a road not unlike a catwalk. As we inched forward I noticed the traffic had slowed for different reasons to usual. One-by-one police officers glared in at the drivers subsequently ushering the women drivers to the side whereby further police and a blacked-out van awaited.

If a headscarf falls in a far away forest and nobody is there to see it, will they make a sound?

If a headscarf falls in a far away forest and nobody is there to see it, will they make a sound? I thought while I sat watching the the police decipher the morally correct with no great ease.

"My friend was cautioned", said one girl at work the next day, "yes mine too", said another. We all shared our stories and although this annual tactic is expected we all agreed that the level was way beyond what has been seen for the last few years at least.

A fellow blogger amusingly writes, '“The news is reporting that 93% of the population approves of the crackdown on hejab,” our cab driver told us. “If that is true, there is no need to enforce hejab,” I responded.'.

This self-serving statistic, true or not, is mentioned almost like things would be different if it was the other way round, but we live in the Islamic Republic and it's that time of year for us to be reminded.

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The hand-over - photographing the new phone with the old one.

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"Give me 30,000 Tomans now, I'll take your phone and I'll let you know when it's done and how much more you have to pay", replied the shop owner in all seriousness. Although my father had told me not pay more than 5,000 I certainly wasn't going to leave my handset with some random only to later have it held to ransom, and I certainly wasn't going to pay that much for a 2-minute fix. I gave a sarcastic reply as we walked away where my friends then informed me that my accent wasn't helping matters, "leave it to us", they kindly offered.

More room could be found in the floor-boards of a house and it might have also been a lot cleaner I thought as we scurried around the basement floor of an overly exposed shopping centre. We both knocked and were knocked as the pace of creatures slowed towards the half-filled window displays. Customer interrupted customer only to be interrupted by the customer who was interrupting another customer. Human heat united with display-lighting heat as potential customers sniffed and nudged at the windows while pointing out the various models available.

For a year I'd carried two phones in my left trouser pocket, one I photographed and was occasionally reminded of birthdays with and the other I excepted misdirected calls with

For a year I'd carried two phones in my left trouser pocket, one I photographed and was occasionally reminded of birthdays with and the other I excepted misdirected calls with. Partly for technical reasons and partly due to lack of effort I never got the superior handset unlocked from its UK network. As a splendid gift from my dear mother and sister I received a more superior model than the last (thanks again) yet this time around I'd arranged the unlocking prior to my receiving the handset. A childish joy befell me as I tossed the manual to the side and liberated my Iranian SIM card.

"'Inactive SIM', it says, you sure this was unlocked?" As I was to later find out, the Islamic Republic, in an effort to stop black market trading have called for all phones as of October 2006 to be registered. There are two ways* around this for me: the 'right way' is to find some office, bring the box, a receipt, my passport, my flight ticket and maybe money; the 'wrong way' is in theory less bother, or so I thought until visiting the basement of bull shitters.

"They don't even say anything, they just lift their head with a 'tut'", my friend exclaimed as we leap-frogged shop-to-shop. Aside from this response there was, "this phone is the only one that can't have this done", and, "50,000", "70,000", "90,000". The price increased with each shop that boasted the ability yet my desire to give up increased with every person informing me that this one specific phone can't be tampered with.

So it's the 'right way' for me now, yet I'm not expecting the process to be any less clear or frustrating.

*There is a third, which involves joining the recently introduced private network, IranCell, boasting many (long overdue) new features to the Iran market (MMS, WAP and the likes). This company have broken the monopoly and brought reasonable prices for SIM cards as well as putting a boot up the arse of state-run oversubscribed effort.

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Another nature spot sodden.

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"There's a lot of rubbish around here", my sister remarked as she held her video camera to the window while we made our way back from an outing to the east of Tehran for some tea and hubble-bubble. Damn, there's a lot of rubbish around here I thought to myself, looking left and right in shame. The semi-brown mounds cut with tarmac patiently saw our exodus as we repeatedly rearranged our convoy back to the city to conclude the weekend.

Plastic bottles, bags, cartons and wrappers seemed to keep an even distance from one another, sometimes self-consciously collecting themselves in a larger plastic-bags, maybe still deciding what next to do. "Damn, really lots of it", I regrettably agreed. Every improvised picnic since mass-production was still being enjoyed - less so higher up and more so near the roads - only good memories seemed to have been taken away.

"I was on Iran's Kish Island when first visiting, beautiful it was, white sand, clear water", I reminisced, "where the grass met the sand the Iranians had spontaneously created land fills". It was one of a catalog of moments I've witnessed. "There's a strange sense of commons with the Iranians", I continued, "inside the house they obsess about tidiness and cleanliness, yet when they leave the door the very same
parents instruct their children to discard any packaging wherever they may be". Often it's the open guttering (known as joobs) that brings the melted snow from the north to south of Tehran that bare the brunt, edging Tehran ever closer to a heart attack.

I'm sure the city blames the people and the people blame the city, like when friends complain while sat in traffic about how long their journey increasingly takes

"To be fair I guess it's difficult to distinguish where the bins are when so much of Tehran is in some state of repair", I joked referring to the pipes sticking out from the paths, pot-holes, open building sites and paving-slabs nearly all present -- yet mostly broken if so. "But it's interesting what this says about Iran and the Iranians", I speculated, "I'm sure the city blames the people and the people blame the city, like when friends complain while sat in traffic about how long their journey increasingly takes". But there can be no excuse for not taking one's rubbish away with them I thought.

"But you know, the people are rubbish, I mean they seem only aware of their own existence or enjoyment – and maybe that of their immediate family", I sighed confused at how coming from the 'West' I can say this. "Again, it's like the cars are their movable houses", I continued, loosely referring back to my comment about the inside and outside of the Iranian houses, "they are subject only to the laws of physics. I mean, if the car can physically go there, then is goes there - blocking the roads, going the wrong way and traffic lights goes unnoticed, it's the same with the rubbish".

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Persepolis, where we were lucky to not have rain upon our visit.

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"Have you seen or heard the news today?", I eagerly asked with each fresh local face that introduced themselves to the group. "You know, the fifteen British sailors, have you heard anything?", was my fourth question, and like the third it was also answered with a no. "Do you Shiraz people watch the news or read a paper?", no, they would also repeat.

On the seventh day of the Iranian new year I'd left for Shiraz for a six day trip where we would join a dear friend for a long overdue visit. I was honored to have the company of my sister who was in Iran for a two week break, enjoying the reversal of sibling responsibility, among other things. Most of the trip was spent keeping a respectable amount of tourist activity going but we happily contended this by adopting a dose of local lethargy. The laziness was made easy by the unreal volume of rain which concluded in the thirteenth and last day of the new year celebration (a day traditionally known for bringing Iranians out to nature) reaching torrential conditions.

"We'll be staying at the kid's house", my friend answered as we left Shiraz airport to drop our things off. This seemed to indicate that it would be another of his family's houses yet although I never dug deeper, I suspected this was not the case. We we're well catered for with a freshly stocked fridge and mountains of bedding, but the place bore little sign of being lived in before us. A small bundle of my friends belongings seemed to oddly fit with various cosmetics and girly things found around the house. Yet it was the empty, pink, lingerie package resting near my impromptu bed that invited the most questions.

The lack of explanation seemed to ask for a lack of questions and as we overloaded the cars with more people than chairs I kept my mouth shut, as with every swerve and near miss

Like the house I wasn't sure who owned each of the different cars we used during the stay. I was however informed that my friend is still yet to pass his driving test, which made me mildly more comfortable about us taking it in turns to drive them. The lack of explanation seemed to ask for a lack of questions and as we overloaded the cars with more people than chairs I kept my mouth shut, as with every swerve and near miss.

We did Persepolis, Eram Gardens, Imam Reza's brother's tomb (Shah e Cherugh), Hafez's tomb, Karim Khan's and the local amusement arcade. "You could have done twice that amount", a friend criticised, "it makes no difference to him, 'here's a stone a few thousand years old and here's a more modern one we call tarmac'", they joked. I wasn't complaining, there was no tick list and it's a good excuse to come back future.

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My sister standing in front of Hafez's tomb, Shiraz late at night.

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"Do you want to see Hafez's tomb?", our host asked late one night having just watched one of the 180-films on his hard drive. A late night expedition to one of the world's greatest poet's resting places seemed in keeping with the haphazard holiday activities and thus we went.

It was gone one O'Clock in the morning and to my amazement the place was in fact open and more amazing still, we were not alone in the expedition idea. Having circled the courtyard, taken pictures and jostled our way to tap the tomb, we stood back and reflected.

Not being too familiar with Hafez, I asked my friend to help explain a little more about him, sadly we didn't get too far before my friend's knowledge ran short. "C'mon, you have the apparatus for nightly romances, learn a little more about this fella and impress the girly tourists while they indulge their late night curiosities", I joked, getting into far too much detail about how he can achieve this.

Just as I was explaining how he should begin his romantic tours by picking and referencing a flower (that he should later give the girls as a gift ) the bedraggled man that had been edging backwards towards us, spoke. "Hey, are you guys English or something?", came an American twangy accent. And so began a random late night deep-one with a columnist of the Tehran Times.

This man turned out to be a walking encyclopedia with a dodgy dental arcade, obviously wearing the scars of his back-to-back rolly smoking

"I'm an American refugee", he joked as he filled us in on what brought him to be visiting this tomb at 2am. This man turned out to be a walking encyclopedia with a dodgy dental arcade, obviously wearing the scars of his back-to-back rolly smoking. I was absorbed, a little more so than my sister and friend who'd accompanied me, yet I made the most of the opportunity to pick his brain.

In roughly this order we'd discussed, Hafez, poets, heritage, anthropology, language, the United Nations, the WTO IMF and World Bank, America, Iraq, the dollar, the dumping of the dollar, 2012 and a small group of 'people' with an incredible amount of influence over human kind. At about that time a well groomed young man wearing a large CND necklace interrupted us, "I heard you talking English from over there, can I join in?". Things were not at a point where one can drop in and so we fell to silence. I didn't want to be rude but the conversation had gotten freaky, our refugee friend was well researched on some alarming topics.

This was not the only time I would be wrapped in deep-ones with a dentally challenged visitor to Shiraz. I wanted to go for a second meal at the famous Bathroom Restaurant yet both this and the second choice were closed leading us to a third option for our afternoon kebab. I chose table 13 as it was equidistant to other customers but the others wanted to sit at table twelve - maybe it was the fish tank.

I can't recall what we'd been talking about but halfway through my kebab a polite English voice came from the table beside us, I'd clocked this lone woman as German and was previously intrigued by her colourful dress. "You're talking English, are you English?", she asked, "it so nice to hear and English voice", she continued. She was Kiwi but lived mostly in the UK and began to tell us of her conversion to Islam and lone travels around the Middle East.

She re-piled her rice with each subject, possibly eating it or possibly displaying it between her one-up one-down dental arcade. And so began another intriguing discussion of travel, Iran, England, oppression, feminism, education, science, religion and submission.

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