Ageing, Holidays, Hotels, Weather

Postcards from Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria was just what the quack ordered. We bonked, drank, slept, drank, ate, drank, swam, drank. You get the picture. We also giggled more than we’d done in ages – at ourselves and at the exhibits around us. Here are the postcards never sent.

The Barbarian Hordes

Few would describe Gran Canaria as pretty. The volcanic rock moored off the coast of Africa gets little rain and looks like an overbaked chocolate biscuit from the air. Closer up, it’s like a giant quarry on a tea break. Nevertheless, year-round sunshine, cheap booze and even cheaper fags (of both the smoking and shagging varieties) attract the northern tribes of Europe, all in desperate need of vitamin D. Our billet for the week is a welcome oasis set among the concrete with well-tended gardens, attentive staff and a refreshing salt water pool. The only fly in the sun lotion is the scarcity of parasols. This isn’t especially helpful as we’ve landed in a heatwave and are fairly keen to avoid third degree burns. Our continental cousins are notorious for reserving their sunbeds at the stroke of midnight so, to inject some fairness, our Spanish hosts stack and chain up (yes, chain up) the sunbeds overnight. Come dawn, it’s like feeding time on the Serengeti, a daily spectacle we witness from the safety of our terrace. We’ve decided not to play. Just like Brexit.

gran-canaria

Moobs and Boobs

Our fellow sun seekers are a mixed bunch – Dutch, Germans, Austrians, Irish and Brits, but almost without exception, they have one thing in common: fat. Acres of it. Europe has an obesity crisis. We eat too much and move too little (me included). And the more mature ladies do love to let it all hang down. Who says a burkini is such a bad thing? Not me. Their menfolk are no better, wobbling to the bar, moobs a-swinging. It ain’t a pretty sight. Rest assured, I only take my top off when I’m prostrate.

An exception to the pageant of lard-arses and bingo wings is an elderly German who is in remarkably good shape and wears the tightest of trunks. He swings low in an entirely different place. We call him Melonballs. His pool pal is a round, leather-skinned hausfrau with the gravelly voice of a 40 a day habit and hair like a cockatoo. Funny really. We’re sure Melonballs is the one who’s had a cock or two.

Windbags and Wankers

All over Europe there’s a certain kind of man of a certain kind of age who is loud, opinionated and stupid. It’s our misfortune to be trapped with a classic specimen, an Austrian wanker who has cornered every Brit round the pool and lectured them on the dire consequences of Brexit (for them, of course). He’s no better than that old windbag Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, whose pompous utterings nearly made me vote to leave the EU. The Austrian bore got short shrift from me. We call him Franz Ferdinand and are praying someone will shoot him. Not literally, you understand, but you get my drift.

More postcards next week…

Crime, Norwich

Our Rapacious World

Back in 2014, stencilled slogans appeared on the pavements along Gentlemen’s Walk in central Norwich. Highlighting the menace of domestic violence across the realm, there was nothing gentlemanly about the stark facts conveyed by the messages. This year, the initiative has been rebooted with a particular emphasis on rape.

Rape Statistics

Rape Crisis Helpline

Assuming Britain is no worse than any other country and considerably better than places where rape is legal within marriage or where it is used as as weapon of war, my brain just aches at the grim level of sexual violence across the world. Depressing really.

Bodrum, Books, Holidays, LGBT

Every Dog Has Its Day

Playa Del InglesLiam works like a dog and every dog must have its day in the sun. And where better to laze round a sun-kissed pool lapping up a large glass of chilled white than the island named after man’s best friend? So we’ve picked up a last minute bargain to Gran Canaria, flying from our very own little international airport right here in Norwich. Liam and I are well acquainted with the volcanic rock that is Gran Canaria. It’s been a firm favourite with the fairies for decades now.  It was in 2012 that we last rolled out the sun towels there. At the time I wrote:

Now I’m older, wiser and firmly married, I’m content to observe the boozin’ and cruisin’ from the safety of a bar stool and shady sun bed. Notes will be taken and reports will be written. No doubt the odd geriatric German will wave his crumpled old do-da at us on the beach, flopping out from a well-clipped grey bush. My wrinkly old British do-da will remain safely under wraps.

Jack and Liam Go to Gran Canaria

So you can imagine what it’s like. According to Going Local in Gran Canaria by Matthew Hirtes, that nasty old fascist, General Franco, banished gay soldiers to the island which may explain the island’s evergreen appeal to the rainbow brigade. A place of exile is something Gran Canaria has in common with Bodrum, a place which…

…has always provided refuge to the exiled and the unorthodox…

As I mentioned in Turkey Street.

And talking of Bodrum, we’re popping over in October to attend a wedding, so some good news coming out of Turkey for a change. Salud!

Bodrum, Books, Gumusluk, Turkey & Turkish, Writing

Turkey Tales

The gorgeous Jay Artale (aka Roving Jay) has just published her first collection of poems recalling her impressions of Turkey with warmth and wit. I was chuffed when she asked me to write the foreword. This is what I wrote…

Turkey TalesEleanor Roosevelt once famously said, “The purpose of life is to taste experience to the utmost.” I can think of no-one who has adopted this approach more energetically than Jay Artale, prolific blogger, writer, photographer, serial traveller and proud Turkophile. As ‘Roving Jay’ she bounds around the Bodrum Peninsula on our behalf and has produced two definitive and impressively detailed travel guides on the area; she has launched her evergreen blog, The Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide, plugging us into the beating heart of Bodrum and its hinterland; she has shared her dazzling portfolio of photographs, capturing the colour and intricacies of Turkish life; and now we have a collection of her poetry – something she describes, modestly, as an ‘interlude’.

When I first met Jay in 2013, she was on a brief pilgrimage from her base in LA to the Norfolk flatlands of her birth. From the outset, her thirst for life – and for Turkey – was obvious. Like many people around the world, Jay was pining for a different way of living and she had her sights firmly set on Bodrum on the southwest coast of Turkey. Now Jay has made a life-altering leap, and judging by this unique collection of poems, she has chucked herself in with her usual drive and aplomb.

That ‘yearning for a change’ theme opens this collection – with the reflective and double-edged Turkish Coffee is my Cup of Tea. It will resonate with anyone who has regularly holidayed in Turkey: people watching and sipping tea or coffee at a Belediye café is pretty much synonymous with Turkish life, something picked up later with “Tulip cups with steaming tea,” in Forget Me Not. And that, in many ways, is the allure of Turkey. Approached in the right way, it offers expats an opportunity to carve out a simpler, if hugely stimulating, way of life. As we hear in Moving to Turkey, “All that clutter… anchored us down,” and “How many shoes does one girl need?” Quite.

Jay leads us through the whole gamut of feelings anyone who has pitched their tent in Turkey will recognise. We get the reality check of Our First Winter (“Rising damp, mould on the ceilings, and regular power cuts,”), the sea views of Enjoy the Dance (“skies that fall into the sea,”) and everything in between. But what makes this book is Jay’s acute power of observation, particularly when it comes to Gümüşlük, her local village. Here we get “A tiny mosque and a barber’s chair,” in A Quiet Place to Write in Gümüşlük, and “draping rods with ekmek bait,” and “eyebrows twitch at harbour boats in Gümüşlük’s Fishermen. She’s not afraid to say it as it is either, describing her pores as she hikes in the hills above Bodrum as “working hard like Patpong whores”. There is even a less than oblique reference to my own Bodrum legacy lingering “like a fart.” Ahem.

I was surprised when Jay told me about her poetry, and that’s what makes her such an interesting person to know. She is full of surprises.

Turkey Tales is Jay’s third release and is FREE on Amazon Kindle for a short time only. Click on an image to find out more about Turkey Tales and Jay’s other titles.

Turkey TalesBodrum Peninsula Travel Guide Gumulsluk Travel Guide

Historic Sites, Norwich

I Believe in Fairies

An over-hot day (we do get them once in a blue moon) took us back to the Plantation Garden for a spot of afternoon tea accompanied by a folksy duet. I’ve posted about the sunken folly before. It’s a gorgeous sanctuary just minutes from Norwich city centre, adjacent to the imposing Cathedral of St John the Baptist. The centrepiece of the garden is the neo-Gothic fountain, all creepy and Harry Potteresque. At this time of year, spray rains down into a lily pond, breaking the sunlight into mini rainbows. It’s enough to make you believe in fairies.

Liam got quite carried away and took some footage with his smarty phone, assembling all the clips into a short video back at the ranch. I was hoping for enhanted. I got slapstick.

 

Ageing, Bugs, Norwich

Suck It and See

MosquitoBeing four floors up a converted Victorian warehouse means, with the exception of the occasional determined housefly or misguided bee, we’re rarely troubled by high-flying bugs. But the other day a lone mosquito came into land just inches from my line of sight. We eyed each other up for while to see who would blink first. The feeble little Brit-bug had no idea who he was dealing with. During our Turkish days, squadrons of stealthy mozzies dive-bombed dinner parties and bled us dry during our sleep. But gradually over four years, our leathery old hides developed welt-resisting immunity. The ugly sucker staring back at me was no match for its voracious Aegean cousins. So I extended my arm and said,

Go on then, suck it and see.

Now bug off.

Films

Absolutely Fabulous – the Movie

Was it? Well… yes and no. Naturally, we had to see it and naturally it was accompanied by a glass of fizz (that would be Prosecco – our austerity-era budget doesn’t quite stretch to Bolli). The history of transferring much-revered TV sitcoms to the big screen is littered with ignoble defeat. For me, the Ab Fab experience was more of an inconclusive skirmish. The plot was paper thin, just a flimsy device for the outrageous antics of Edina and Patsy. But then, the strength of Ab Fab was always in the characters rather than the storyline. I did find the endless rollcall of celebrity cameos a bit wearing and the humour, though funny in parts, more miss than hit.

Absolutely Fabulous

But I couldn’t help empathising with poor Eddy, way past her dump-by date and hopelessly floundering in a multi-media world she no longer understood. Maybe she should have sold the big house in Holland Park and retired to a converted cowshed in the French hills? A few years in Provence? There’s no story in that, is there?

LGBT, Norwich, Politics

Norwich Pride, Bigger, Better, Prouder

…finest Pride in the finest city.

Lord Mayor of Norwich, Marion Maxwell

Everyone is welcome here today and that is the spirit of Pride.

Chloe Smith, MP Norwich North

Norwich, I love you. You make me proud. Proud to be the MP for your city. Proud to drape this city in colours of the rainbow.

Clive Lewis, MP Norwich South

I couldn’t put it better myself.

The people of Norwich did us proud. And let’s not forget all those dedicated people who made it all happen. So I’d like to give a big hand to the #NorwichPride organisers. And thank you for the beer tent. You made an old lush very happy.

Images and video courtesy of everyone!