After all the fuss and frolics of Yuletide, it’s now austerity season. Nights are spent nesting on the sofa, cushion fighting over the remote control. Thumbing through the DVD collection uncovered a lost gem, something we’d picked up from the HMV bargain bucket and forgotten about. ‘Sunshine on Leith’ is the re-telling of the timeless girl meets boy story, played out in the streets and pubs of Edinburgh and set to the music of The Proclaimers. It’s a foot tapping joy from beginning to end with some glorious set pieces that really show off the Caledonian capital’s neo-classical elegance. Mind you, it’s just as well I’ve stepped out with a few Scots lads in my time. Those less familiar with Scottish brogue are advised to turn on the subtitles.
It’s six months since Liam went under the knife to have Terry the Tumour extracted. Troublesome Terry was a lump beneath Liam’s ear and it just kept getting bigger. The doc reckoned it was benign but might turn nasty if left undisturbed. I was getting quite attached to Terry but, just like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby, Liam screamed, “get it out of me!” So out it had to come. I was hoping Terry would come home in a jam jar for a decent burial but off he went for an autopsy, never to be seen again. Still, the nice Italian neck surgeon was ‘very reassured’ by the result (that’s quack-speak for ‘we got it all out, Grazie a Dio!’).
It’s eighteen months since the arterial bypass to re-acquaint my left leg with a pulse. That worked a treat too though I won’t be tripping the light fantastic on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ any time soon. For a cheeky parlour game on a damp night, we compare gashes. Remarkably, what once looked like Liam had been garrotted is now just a neat mark along his jaw line. And he’s rather pleased with the unexpected partial facelift. As for me, I was slashed open from moobs to pubes like John Hurt in ‘Alien’ so I naturally assumed my beach bum days were behind me. But no. These days, all the boys would see is a thin, slightly discoloured line mostly hidden by tummy fuzz. Now, where did I put those Speedos?
Watching Mother Nature drench our windows brings memories of mad Turkish weather flooding back. People who haven’t experienced it first-hand simply don’t believe me when I say our Aegean winters were a real challenge. It’s the Med, right? How bad can it be? How about a split personality of hurricane rain, typhoon winds and cyclone floods followed in quick succession by crisp bright mornings and balmy afternoons of warm dazzling sun? Whatever the drama going on outside, inside was constantly cold and draughty. Despite our valiant efforts, we never quite managed to get the heating right and, in the depths of winter, most evenings were spent under a duvet. We dressed in fleecy layers and praised the Lord for the cosy Marks and Sparks slippers insulating our tootsies from Jack Frost snapping at our heels. Actually, I had never owned a pair of slippers before our move to Turkey and it came as some relief to find two small M&S outlets in Bodrum.
For the uninitiated, Marks and Spencer is:
A clothes and food retailer, the cornerstone of the high street and as British as the Queen, except Her Maj is German and most M&S products are imported.
As described in Turkey Street’s Turkipendix Two: A Word or Two in British.
Naturally, there’s an M&S here in Norwich, a large one too. It’s quite a draw for the county’s well-heeled grey herd in their waxed jackets and Jaeger. The store features a fancy vertical garden which, as you can see, takes some effort to prune. As for the old M&S slippers? I finally threw them out last year. Replacements not required.
We awoke to the sad news of the death of David Bowie from cancer. Bowie had a profound effect on me during my fumbling years. His pioneering music, his constant reinvention and, above all, his sexual ambiguity taught me that to be different was ok. It was a lesson I learned well.
Bowie released his latest album, Blackstar, on his 69th Birthday, just a few days ago. It was reviewed in the Independent Daily Briefing by Andy Gill who wrote:
It may be significant that this is the first Bowie album that features no trace of his face on the sleeve, with even his name abstracted to a series of graphic fragments; it’s almost as if he’s retiring from public view, deliberately turning away from his own past.
Prophetic words indeed.
Following a full-on Christmas with family in London – all fun and no ceremony – the drying out time before the New Year’s festivities was a welcome respite. What better way to recharge the batteries than a Monday matinee at the flicks, taking in an energising blockbuster in the form of the latest Star Wars extravaganza? Generally, I’m not a big fan of your run of the mill, mass appeal, CGI-packed Hollywood juggernaut – all video game and no story. And while I loved the three original Star Wars films, the subsequent prequels were terrible. I feared the latest reboot of the franchise might be too. But the Force was with us and we were richly entertained by a crash, bang, wallop of galactic proportions. With a witty script, some familiar old faces, engaging performances and edge-of-seat special effects, the old fashioned good versus evil epic bursts with menacing Third Reich imagery and triumph over terrible odds. There are some delicious new baddies and a Supreme Leader with more than a passing resemblance to Harry Potter’s Voldemort. Roll on episode VIII.
No doubt, merchandising will break all box office records judging by the window display in our local Disney Store.
It’s been a stonker of a year. In partnership with Summertime Publishing, I launched Springtime Books to provide a publishing platform for expat writers and in May, I wrapped up the saga of our emigrey days with the release of Turkey Street. The book birthing was particularly painful. Eighteen months later than planned, I fretted my comeback would be as welcome as another Spice Girls reunion, but the pain eased as the reviews dropped onto the mat. Against the blogging odds, Perking the Pansies continues to trip along nicely with a bevy of fans old and new. Somehow or other, I’ve just exceeded my 1,000th post and 10,000th comment. Not bad, I suppose, for some silly old nonsense. For all these things, I’m nothing if not grateful.
Here are the top of the pansy pops for 2015 – a fine diet of gay pride; righting an old wrong; butts of steel; relationship highs and Turkish lows; murderous intent and loose ends finally tied; the dreaded curse of middle England; bad tempered café society; and a little cottage industry to keep us out of the workhouse.
As for the most popular image of 2015? Typical!
Here’s looking ahead to more pansy adventures in 2016. Happy New Year to one and all.
‘Tis almost the night before Christmas and the old Pansies have decamped to the Smoke for a leg of turkey, lots of stuffing and absolutely no sprouts. Meanwhile, I leave you with a random selection of favourite Yuletide quotes.
There ain’t no Sanity Clause!
Christmas is the one time of year when people of all religions come together to worship Jesus Christ.
The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, DC. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.
I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.
The one thing women don’t want to find in their stockings on Christmas morning is their husband.
Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year.
A good conscience is a continual Christmas.
Christmas to a child is the first terrible proof that to travel hopefully is better than to arrive.
We all know Christmas is big for business so Christmas ads must be big too. John Lewis, that bellwether of the British high street, usually leads the pack. Its lavish TV offerings rarely fail to tug at the heart strings or loosen the purse, and this year is no different with a theme centred round the loneliness of old age. Like I need reminding that, childless as we are, our incontinent years might be a little bit crap. John Lewis has been criticised for spending so much on a TV campaign when they could have donated to charity instead. I’m all for bashing the corporate world for not paying their dues and not doing their bit. But in this case, the reproach is a tad misplaced. The campaign is supported by Age UK and has resulted in thousands of extra volunteers for the festive period. Besides, it’s our collective responsibility to care for the vulnerable, not a shop’s.
We also know Christmas is all about over-excited kids brainwashed into wanting bigger and better, faster and flashier. It’s all down to cynical marketing and playground peer pressure: pester-power is the biggest bang in the advertiser’s armoury. Or is it? Grab a tissue and watch this clever message from IKEA Spain. It had me in floods.
The moral of my story? Spend more time with your kids and spare a thought for the two old fairies at the bottom of the garden.
With thanks to John Lennon for the title of this post.