Imagine the absurdity of two openly gay, married, middle aged, middle class men escaping the liberal sanctuary of anonymous London to relocate to a Muslim country. I chronicled our exploits with the mad, the bad, the sad and the glad in a blog for the whole world to ignore. Then came the book which became a critically acclaimed best seller. Its success opened out a whole new career for me, firstly as an author, and now as a publisher. Who'd have thought it? Certainly not me.
In June 2012, we ended our Anatolian affair and paddled back to Britain on the evening tide, washing up in Norwich, a surprising city in eastern England, then to the wilds of Norfolk as the only gays in the village. I’m sometimes nostalgic for our encounters with the hopeless, the hapless and, yes, the happy go lucky. They gave me an unexpected tale to tell and for this I thank them.
Let’s face it, if you’re plugged into the modern world your privacy will get compromised all over the place. It doesn’t seem to matter what privacy settings you tick on Faceache, the Tweety thing, Instapout or those endlessly annoying cookie notices, your personal information will leak like a rotting condom and sold on to the highest bidder. I’ve got used to the tedious online ads for stuff I’ve already bought, pointless cold calls from India, threatening emails from crooks, futile come-ons from ladies of the night, blah, blah, blah. But then this popped into my mailbox.
Is this for real?
It’s bad enough some trigger happy redneck is selling dodgy gun licences without the boring bits getting in the way like proper training or checks, but the failure to spell ‘amendment’ correctly is just criminal. Tut! Tut!
My irreverent, irrelevant ramblings reached the grand old age of 10 in October last year. It passed by without notice. Blog years are like dog years so all things being equal, Perking the Pansies should have been sent to the knacker’s yard yonks ago. The fact that the pansies continue to thrive is a testament to those who still take the time to pass by after all these years. It makes this old nag very happy. How long will it continue? Dunno.
But what is certain is that the book that emerged from the early days of the blog changed everything and took Liam and me in an entirely different and totally unexpected direction. And that book – Perking the Pansies, Jack and Liam Move to Turkey – reaches its own 10th anniversary next month, and that hasn’t passed me by. The fact that after a decade it still sells at all is a minor miracle and rather humbling. I thank you.
“A bitter-sweet tragi-comedy that recalls the first year of a British gay couple living in a Muslim land. Just imagine the absurdity of two openly gay, recently married middle aged, middle class men escaping the liberal sanctuary of anonymous London to relocate to a Muslim country. Jack and Liam, fed up with kiss-my-arse bosses and nose-to-nipple commutes, chuck in the towel and move to a small town in Turkey. Join the culture-curious gay couple on their bumpy rite of passage.”
I reached the grand old age of sixty last year. This year was Liam’s turn and I’d planned a succession of treats – for me as well as for him – in old London Town. First up was a dinner date and gossipy catch up with an old pal in a fancy French restaurant in Chelsea, the trendy part of town where I gladly misspent much of my youth – ‘Days on the tills and nights on the tiles,’ I call it. The King’s Road is my memory lane and Liam joined me on my trip down it.
Next day I whisked Liam off to Covent Garden for a full English followed by a stroll. Once London’s main fruit and veg market with an opera house attached – think Audrey Hepburn as the cockney sparrow flower girl lip-syncing to ‘Wouldn’t it be Loverly?’ in My Fair Lady – Covent Garden has long since evolved into a major magnet for tourists. And there were tourists aplenty, finally returning from home and abroad after lockdown.
Here’s the queue for Burberry. All that fuss just for a posh handbag.
We decided to take in some street opera and pavement art instead.
Our Covent Garden jolly continued with a ride around the London Transport Museum. In many ways, the story of London Transport is the story of London itself. The city couldn’t have spread like it has without the constant innovation needed to enable Londoners to go about their business. If trains, tubes, trams and trolley buses are your thing, it’s an Aladdin’s cave. We loved it.
After a brief power nap back at the hotel, we jumped on the Tube for a real indulgence – a performance of Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre. The musical tells of the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of the (to me) lesser known American ‘Founding Fathers’, delivered in song and rap. The deliberately delicious twist is that most of the cast – including Alexander himself – is black or mixed heritage. Adorned with every gong going, the show is slick, brilliantly staged and tuneful. The rap is used as dialogue and is lyrical and clever. It’s a masterpiece, a work of genius.
The evening concluded with more posh nosh and a final snifter in our favourite dive bar in busy, buzzy Soho. The long weekend was a whirlwind with the perfect ending. We finally got to meet Fred, our newest great-nephew.
We queued up at the checkout with two bottles of Majestik and a tub of Cadbury’s Celebrations, attracting the curiosity of the shopper ahead of us. She was loading her groceries into a large tartan shopping trolley, her eyes darting quickly between me and Liam as if she had suddenly recognised long lost friends. I contemplated smiling but thought better of it.
‘You’re Jack Scott, aren’t you? I’ve been reading your blog.’
‘Oh,’ I said, blushing like a pubescent teen caught coming out of a backstreet massage parlour. ‘I suppose I should apologise.’
‘Actually, it’s rather good.’
Liam rolled his eyes.
‘Well,’ I said, ‘would you mind telling him that?’
She grinned at Liam, almost in sympathy, paid the cashier and pulled the ﬂap down over her trolley.
‘Thrilled to meet you both. You’ve caused quite a stir, you know. And don’t worry, I’m not about to stalk you, but I hope we meet again. We’re practically neighbours after all.’
Turkey Street, Jack and Liam move to Bodrum, Chapter 27, The Exiles
That was the very first time I met Annie, a vetpat of distinction. It wasn’t to be the last. This is Annie in her own words:
“In early 1982 I boarded a Turkish Kibris flight to Izmir – my destination was a 29 foot sloop in Bodrum’s new marina. At 22, my belongings fitted into a worse for wear sailing holdall. In 2012 I made a similar journey from Heathrow to Bodrum. Thirty years have passed and Bodrum has changed. There are plenty of very good blogs detailing the ex-pat journey through modern Turkey. The aim of this one is to catch sight of past Turkey through my experience of re-settling in modern Bodrum.”
Annie Onursan, Back to Bodrum
Erudite and creative, Annie has recently taken up painting with watercolours – first with greeting cards and now with larger works – inspired by the natural world and the timeless rural life that surrounds her. It turns out she’s good, very good. Here’s a sample.
I spotted Annie’s first larger piece – ‘Watching’ – on Facebook. I loved it, really loved it. Sneaky old Liam contacted Annie and snapped it up as a surprise birthday gift. It now hangs proudly on our wall – an Annie Onursan original, from her village to ours.
Annie is a member of a local arts group called the Bodrum Art Collective. Check out their website here.
There may not be fairies at the bottom of our garden – they live in the house instead – but we are now proud owners of a handsome garden gnome. This is what the Encyclopaedia Britannica has to say about the diminutive mythical creatures:
Gnome, in European folklore, dwarfish, subterranean goblin or earth spirit who guards mines of precious treasures hidden in the earth. He is represented in medieval mythologies as a small, physically deformed (usually hunchbacked) creature resembling a dry, gnarled old man. Gob, the king of the gnome race, ruled with a magic sword and is said to have influenced the melancholic temperament of man.
Harsh, but it could be me, I guess, especially the small and gobby bit. No doubt I’ll be gnarled one day too.
Little statues of gnomes are popular garden ornaments across the realm – from cute to quirky, silly to satirical, naughty to the truly naff.
But only two people in the world have a handmade bespoke gnomic effigy of Joe Jacobson, the Welsh professional football player, in full Wycombe Wanderers strip. It was a surprise (and deliciously surprising) birthday gift from the luscious lady who owns the second Joe gnome. If Wycombe Wanderers ever make it to the Premier League, it could be worth a bob or two.
As for the cards I received this year, there seems to be a pattern developing. What are they trying to tell me?