Gay, resilient, easy to clean, good to look at, made to take plenty of knocks and with a life of give and take. Just the ticket for a hunky handyman in a checked shirt, and a steal at five shillings a foot. Could be my Grindr profile. Swipe right, anyone?
A decade has now passed since we closed the door on the stone house in Bodrum for the last time and brought our four-year Turkish adventure to a sudden end. And ever since, while the world has continued its grim descent into oblivion, we’ve just carried on regardless. Our Anatolian days taught us to think differently and live differently – making do with less and being all the happier for it.
After Turkey, we pitched our tent in Norfolk, a flat and bountiful corner of old England – first in Norwich, then Chedgrave, a village few people have heard of. To begin with, we rented, trying the city on for size. Our first lodgings were a 400-year-old former weaver’s gaff in flint and brick near Norwich’s University of the Arts. We loved it, giving us a taste for city life and its student vibe. But our antique digs were cold and draughty and, even back in 2012, cost a king’s ransom to heat. Gawd knows what the bills are like now.
After a couple of years, we decided to put down roots and buy our own slice of historic Norwich – a micro-loft in a handsome converted Victorian warehouse, a writer’s garret to polish off Turkey Street, my second memoir.
At the time, our savings were still in Turkish lira earning pretty good interest. Little did we know that the lira was about to take a dive – and lucky for us, we converted to sterling just in the nick of time. Only days later Turkey’s currency dropped off a cliff, and it’s been more or less in freefall ever since. Had we hesitated it might have been the workhouse for us, not some trendy city-centre apartment.
Five years later, we fancied a quieter life, with room to breathe and a log burner to keep our tootsies toasty. We put the micro-loft on the market and it was bought by the first person to view. Quite by chance, Liam noticed a tiny 1850s worker’s cottage for sale. We came, we saw, we bought. Five months into our village life, the world was in lockdown, and our cottage was the perfect place to ride out the storm. Our luck was still in.
Truth is, we only chose Norfolk because we needed somewhere we could actually afford and that was a relatively easy commute to London: there was family stuff to deal with. But as time moved on there was no longer a need for us to stick around the sticks. For a while, we toyed with God’s Own County – Yorkshire – with its big-limbed, hunky Heathcliffs. It certainly does have its moody blue attractions among the moors and mills.
But we’re rather taken with our East Anglian hamlet, with its broad Naarfuk brogue, big skies and chirpy birds with their squawky dawn call – loud enough to wake the dead in the churchyard next door. And we may be newbie Norfolk broads but we’re definitely not the only gays in the village.
The cottage is my nineteenth address. Will I make it to twenty? And will our luck hold? Who knows? But we do have a coffin hatch just in case the Grim Reaper comes a-knocking.
Not really. Our digs were great – comfy and well-dressed – and the staff were fantastic but, let’s face it, the point of any holiday in the sun is, well, the sun. There’s a bit of a clue in the title. And there was precious little sun in Tenerife.
“The sun’ll come out tomorrow,”
And it did for a couple of afternoons only to disappear once again behind a thick blanket of cloud. Talking of blankets, we put extra layers on our bed to keep warm.
There were no sunny coffee mornings on the terrace, no quick dips in the pool to cool down or sultry evenings on the sauce. We tried to make the best of a bad lot – drinking through it at various watering holes in buzzy Puerto de la Cruz with its trendy old town.
We were rather taken with the Fanny Bar
…and the murals
…and then there was the graffiti.
We even managed a day trip to La Orotava, a pretty inland Canarian town.
But in the end, when rain was forecast, we thought sod this for a game of soldiers and came home a week early. Still, as disappointing as it was, we try to keep a sense of proportion. After all, there are real soldier games going on in the world.
And there’s always Greece in July to look forward to, assuming our flight isn’t cancelled again.
This spells out TUI (get it?) and is the not so catchy slogan from probably Europe’s largest travel company. Sadly there wasn’t much crossing and dotting going on at Norwich Airport as we waited to board our TUI flight to Tenerife. But we were in the middle – the middle of a scrum of mostly pissed-off pensioners. The normally docile grey herd, who usually do little more than tut, had turned into saga louts frothing at the mouth. The drink hadn’t helped.
Why? Because after hanging around for hours, TUI cancelled our flight – adding to the huge number of recent flights scrapped at the last minute as millions of Brits try to migrate to the sun after a couple of turbulent years due to COVID.
‘Operational issues’, is all we were told. We didn’t know if this meant a wing had dropped off the plane or some trolley dolly had broken a nail. Nor did the harassed staff at the departure gate. They valiantly did their best to calm the crowd while being drip-fed (mis)information from TUI HQ. There wasn’t much to smile about.
Eventually, TUI put us up at the Holiday Inn where we were fed and watered – because they had to. Then in the early hours of the next day, we were bussed all the way to Gatwick – yes, Gatwick, London’s second airport – a distance of around 150 miles as the crow flies.
“This better be worth it,”
To banish our winter blues, we’d booked a welcome pre-Christmas perk to Tenerife for a much-needed shot of vitamin D. But instead of a restorative pick-me-up around a cool pool, we got scuppered by Omicron – the latest incarnation of COVID-19. So rather than take a risk, we put off those lazy days in the sun. What goes around has finally come around. Perking the Pansies will be off-air for a while, and we can’t wait.