The evening of Clement’s supper soiree had arrived, and we waited in our still empty house until quite a few of his guests had turned up before venturing next door. We approached his house with some trepidation. Neither Liam nor I are that good in crowds of strangers and as new kids on the block, there was an added frisson to the occasion. With a cordial welcome, Clement led us like condemned lambs into the body of the kirk. There assembled were the congregation, ‘the gang’ Chrissy whispered, la crème de la crème of the ex-pat community.
We grabbed a drink and bravely resolved to mingle. I occupied an empty seat on the patio next to butch, Brigit from Brisbane, who I rashly assumed to be a lesbian, and threw myself into conversation. Our tête-à-tête tripped along nicely until I innocently but unwisely enquired “Do you have a girlfriend?” With a glacial glare she rebuked me with “I don’t know what you mean” and ignored me for the rest of the evening. Oops. This was to be the first of many social gaffes, though in my defence it was an easy mistake to make given the lack of make-up, masculine attire and boyish hair do. Well, if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it is a bloody duck.
My next social intervention met with much greater success. I sidled next to Charlotte; a vivacious, energetic kind of girl with a bouncing cleavage that heaved in rhythm to her filthy laugh. We hit it off immediately. Charlotte and tall, debonair, silver haired husband, Alan, are ex-pat veterans having lived in Turkey for eight years. They sold up in England and built their dream house in Yalıkavak. It was obvious we shared similar values and I sense a friendship developing.
Next up was lovely social worker Nancy, Charlotte’s best friend visiting from London. Nancy is a shapely, sassy lass of Turkish extraction who speaks Turkish with a Cockney accent. Nancy has abandoned a barren and loveless marriage in search of romance and orgasms. She is having a passionate but stormy affair with a local skipper.
Liam hovered nervously in the background and spoke mostly to Chrissy. She dished the dirt on everyone in the room. Last to arrive were Susan, who marched in with a confident gait, and husband Chuck. Susan is a pretty Fulham girl in her 50s who had been clearly gorgeous in her youth. Chuck is a well built, striking older man with tattoos and warm blue eyes. Feisty and independent, Susan told me she ran away to Istanbul in her teens where she met and married a philandering academic many, many years her senior. The marriage ended in divorce. She then tried on a second older Turk for size. They too divorced. Following her dalliance with the Turkish branch of Help the Aged, Susan left for the New World, settling in LA where she owned a coffee shop and developed a curious mid-Atlantic accent.
Yankee Chuck’s chequered youth perfectly matches his seventies porn star looks. Susan and Chuck’s eyes met across the Gaggia coffee maker; they fell in love and married. Despite (or perhaps because of) his colourful past, Chuck has become a reformed character, virtually tee-total and a bit of a born again puritan. Susan, on the other hand, likes a drink. We were left with the distinct impression that, despite many pretenders to the throne, Susan is truly the queen bee in these parts.
After a few hours of polite inquisition, we decided to withdraw. We walked back to our holiday let for a final shandy on the balcony to debrief. All things considered, we survived the ordeal relatively unscathed. But, are we the ‘right sort?’ we wondered. “Well, we’re not talking Monte Carlo” Liam sighed leading to a more fundamental question to ponder. Was this disparate group of people thrown together purely by chance really our sort? And so, we surmised, the stage is set, the cast assembled, and we made it through the first act without fluffing too many lines.