Americans, Britain, Expats, Family & Friends, Politics

Something Nasty in the Air

The good people at Displaced Nation asked me to join a motley crew of expats, repats, and otherwise displaced types to discuss Brexit and the presidential carry-ons on the far side of the pond. Gawd knows they asked me but I chucked my two-penneth in anyway. Obviously, it was a virtual panel. We didn’t actually get together to navel-gaze over our americanos, more’s the pity.

Trump and Farage

Our verdict was delivered a few days ago. Sadly, though, a few of my best lines were left out…

Back here in old Norwich, ‘to trump’ means ‘to break wind’ in local parlance. There’s definitely a whiff in the air and it ain’t pleasant. And what happens when the bad smell doesn’t deliver?

Don’t know why. Maybe Yanks just don’t like fart jokes? Anyway, you can read the full piece here.

Americans, Armed Forces, Bars & Restaurants, Bigots, Equalities, Istanbul, LGBT, London, Norwich, Politics, Religion, Turkey & Turkish

Pride 2016

The marching season is in full mince and after the slaughter in an Orlando gay club, Pride has a special resonance this year. Cutting through the noise, it now seems the carnage was the work of a closet case whose religious beliefs fried his brain. He happened to be a fundamentalist Muslim with shameful stirrings but could just as easily have been a fundamentalist Christian with the same sense of self-loathing. That’s the trouble with blind faith, those who fall from grace sometimes lose the plot. Ironically, some from the religious right don’t know who to condemn more, the man or his victims. And, the Second Amendment is a godsend to the trigger happy. Jesus wept.

My beautiful picture

On this side of the pond, London Pride was heralded by a flypast from the RAF’s Red Arrows and a rainbow flag flew over Parliament. It’s hard to imagine that happening in many capitals around the world.

Predictably, Istanbul Pride was banned again this year. To avoid the brutal oppression of 2015 when everyone was swept from the streets by tear gas and water cannon, Istanbul’s Governor gave plenty of notice. Last year, the holy month of Ramadan was the excuse. This year it was the threat from ultra-nationalist groups. Or maybe the powers that be just didn’t like it. Come the day, a few brave souls turned up anyway and were met by riot police and…well, you can guess the rest. And that was followed a couple of weeks later by an attempted military coup to ‘protect’ human rights and ‘preserve’ Turkish democracy. Since when was democracy ever preserved by soldiers in tanks? Was the coup real or not? Conspiracy theories abound but it was real enough for those who died as a result. Whatever the truth, you can bet your bottom lira life will start getting tougher and rougher for those who won’t or can’t toe the party line. Get thee to a mosque and to Hell with human rights.

Norwich Pride is on the 30th July and the only aggro expected is from a few nutters whispering hell and damnation from the wings. Even the zealous are painfully polite in these parts (as befits the ‘second kindest’ place in the kingdom, according to YouGov research). We’ll be there to wave our rainbow flags accompanied by a couple of old reprobates from the Smoke. We’re praying for a bit of sun – minus the fire and brimstone. I hear we’re to have a beer tent this year, thank the Lord: a first for Norwich Pride and a major step forward in my humble opinion. Cheers!

A happy pride season to one and all, whoever you get down on your knees for.

Photo courtesy of UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Americans, Books, Guest Posts, Istanbul, Turkey & Turkish

Learning Turkish

I get regular requests from people asking to guest post here at Pansy HQ.  Generally, I politely refuse because the subject matter just doesn’t work for me – too commercial/ too dull/ too libellous/ too weird/ totally irrevelant (delete accordingly). Occasionally, though, something falls on the mat that rings my bell.  This is such a post. Why? Because it’s from someone who’s written a fascinating memoir about Turkey and the post is about the agony of learning Turkish. I failed pathetically to grasp even the barebones of the language. Liam fared much better.  So, ladies and gents,  please give it up for talented bilingual Yankee author, Ann Marie Mershon.

Who would have thought I’d live in Turkey? It evoked an image of mustachioed Bedouins galumphing out of the desert on camels—and I could barely find it on a map.

No, thank you.

An American teacher, I yearned for adventure, an escape from a world that was imploding on me. A painful divorce had left me on the perimeter of social gatherings, keenly aware of my image as a divorcee. Not really a pariah, I felt like one.

Ann Marie's DogThis excerpt comes from the preface of  You must only to love them, lessons learned in Turkey, which recounts my trials and joys adapting to life in Istanbul. Smarting from a recent divorce, I had decided to establish a new life overseas, intending to find a teaching job in Paris or Salzburg. Through a number of possibly serendipitous events, I landed in Istanbul instead (with my little dog). So began my love affair with Turkey and the Turks.

Actually, it wasn’t a love affair right off, as I battled loneliness and the frustrations of language as I navigated my new world. It was probably to my disadvantage that I lived on the remote and very English-speaking campus of Koç Lisesi (20 miles east of Central Istanbul), but the school kindly offered free Turkish lessons for foreign hires and there were a number of Turkish administrators living on campus. They also offered service busses to get us into the city on the weekends. which was a godsend.

I’d prepared for my move by purchasing and diligently studying a book called Teach Yourself Turkish. Each new lesson brought more questions than insights, but I forged on, thinking I’d learned the basics before moving to Istanbul. At least I knew tuvalet (toilet), bira (beer), and şarap (wine). What more could one need? Well, anlamadım came in handy (I don’t understand).

I thought I’d learned numbers, but once I tried to buy something in Istanbul I realized that Turks talked REALLY fast. Gosh, what was that word that meant slowly’? My first forays from campus into the Turkish world were riddled with anlamadims and yavaşes.  I guess that’s typical.

Turkish class on Wednesdays after school was helpful, but I needed more conversation and less grammar. My GOODNESS, the grammar was overwhelming. I wished that our charming teacher had first explained the basics of Turkish. Here’s what I think they are:

  • Every sentence begins with a subject and ends with a verb with all the modifiers in between.
  • Most languages have six possible verb endings (first person singular and plural, second person singular, etc.), while Turkish multiplies that by four. They like to vary those six endings with four variants order to harmonize with the verb. Twenty-four basic verb endings. ARAUGHHH!!!
  • There are a few letters that are confusing but you get used to them: c sounds like j, and ç sounds like ch, ş sounds like sh and the only silent letter is ğ, which is sort of a placeholder in a sentence.
  • The beautiful thing about Turkish is that every letter ALWAYS makes the same sound – hence, no need for spelling bees in elementary school. If you can say it, you can spell it.

You must only love themIt took me years to learn more than the rudiments of Turkish, and I’ve come to an amazing realization. The best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it. When I finally lived off-campus in a sweet apartment up the hill in Arnavutköy, I began to truly learn Turkish. I had no choice if I wanted to survive, as few people in my little community spoke English. I chatted with the checkout person at DIA, I sat talking with the electrician as he fixed my hair dryer, and I met a boat captain who often invited me for a cup of tea on his back deck. It was a delight. The Turks helped me learn their language, just as they help us whenever we’re in need. It’s just who they are.

You must only to love them is available through Amazon.

About Ann Marie

Ann Marie Mershon

Ann Marie Mershon is a Minnesota writer who taught high school students in Istanbul between 2005 and 2011. She kept a weekly blog while she lived there. She also published a guidebook with Edda Weissenbacher, Istanbuls Bazaar Quarter, Backstreet Walking Tours. She now lives on a lake near the Canadian border with her husband and their two dogs. Visit Ann Marie’s website at annmariemershon.com.

Fancy a free print copy of You must only to love them? Enter the Goodreads giveaway here (May 1-May 16 – US residents only). Or for a free e-book, enter here (May 10-17).

Americans, Equalities, Ireland & Irish, London, Marriage, Marriage Equality

What a Gay Day

Freedom to MarryYesterday, the US Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage in all 50 states and America joined a select group of nations that have introduced marriage equality. The map I’ve featured from Freedom to Marry illustrates the situation around the world before the Yankee vote. In these damp little islands of ours, only Northern Ireland is holding back the tide, Canute-like. The fire and brimstone lot who dominate the Northern Ireland Assembly are in good company – kiddie fiddling priests, the British National Party, Ex-Soviet republics and religious fundamentalists of all persuasions who fine, flog and hang. The dusty old Ulstermen will lose the fight in the end. It’s inevitable. Reason and sanity are against them. Today, the streets of London are paved with gold sequins. It’s London Pride, a grand celebration of everything that’s been achieved. Doubtless, black cab drivers will cuss and bemused tourists will think they’ve landed in Oz. Sadly, we can’t be there to join the party.

Americans, Books, LGBT, Repatriation

Who’s the Daddy?

When I first started this blogging lark way back in 2010, I began to attract cyber-friends from across the blogosphere. Yankee repat, Charles Ayres, was one of them. Right from the off, Charles was a great supporter of my literary pretensions (blog and book) and was one of the first to review Perking the Pansies. He’s one of those virtual pals I know I would enjoy getting drunk with in the real world.

Charles published his own expat story, Impossibly Glamorous in 2013 and has now followed this up with a sequel, ‘San Francisco Daddy’ under the name Charles St Anthony (he thinks it sounds like a posh Yves Saint Laurent scent; it reminds me of a cheap hairdresser I once dallied with). Here’s what I made of it…

San Francisco DaddyCharles St Anthony used to be big in Japan. That was until that earthquake in 2011 which proved that Mother Nature was the bigger bitch. So what did Charles do? Kicked off his heels and chucked himself down the evacuation slide. Inexplicably drawn to tectonic faults, he parachuted into San Francisco. While waiting for the Next Big One, he wrote his brilliant autobiography, Impossibly Glamorous, keeping the wolves from the door with a series of less than glamorous dead end jobs. Gay men never grow old they just grow body hair and Charles joined the party by ditching the waxing and growing the whiskers. Transformed into a ‘bear’, he embarked on a series of romantic liaisons as dead end as the dead end jobs. San Francisco Daddy: One Gay Man’s Chronicle of His Adventures in Life and Love, is Charles’ brutally honest account of his tales of the city. Charles has lost none of his well-honed observational skills or self-deprecating caustic wit. The book is a delight to read. Did Charles land the dream job and the dream man in the end? You’ll have to download San Francisco Daddy to find out.

 

Check out San Francisco Daddy on…

KindleUK

KindleUS

Americans, BBC, Films, Norwich, Rain, Weather

My Old Lady

My Old LadyA foul afternoon of driving rain pushed us through the doors of Cinema City to catch ‘My Old Lady’, starring Kevin Kline, Kristen Scott Thomas and the incomparable Maggie Smith. We sat in the back row and watched the film above the nodding heads in fifty shades of grey. Kevin Kline plays a penniless, ex-alcoholic, never-to-be-published New York author who inherits a rambling run down Parisian apartment from his philandering father. He thinks he’s in the money but finds out that he’s also inherited a sitting tenant in an equity release arrangement, French-style; she can’t be evicted and he must pay rent to her. Step forward Dame Maggie as the feisty old madame with her foot in the door and Kirsten Scott Thomas as her brittle spinster daughter. It’s a salutary tale of how your parents fuck you up (along the lines of the Philip Larkin poem) and how not to let the truth get in the way of a fine romance. Set in the trendy Marais district of Paris, the BBC production oozes cool Gallic va va voom laced with arty pretensions. The film has had mixed reviews but we found it well worth stepping out of the rain for.

Americans, Arts & Theatre, LGBT

Joan Rivers, RIP

2010 Sundance Film Festival - "Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work" PortraitsI was really saddened to hear about the death of Joan Rivers. She was a one-off, a no nonsense, shoot from the hip, tell it as she saw it kind of gal who fought hard against massive odds to crawl her way to the top at a time when a woman’s place was either in the kitchen or the bedroom. And she was a great supporter of gay rights long before it was a trendy bandwagon. Many years ago, I saw Ms Rivers in concert in the West End. Her Gatling Gun wit left the audience shell-shocked. I laughed so much, I hyperventilated. During her untouchable years as the elder stateswoman of American comedy, the great and the good queued up to be insulted by her because if you hadn’t been dressed down by Joan, you were a no-body. Her very last public rant was about the recent upsurge in violence between Israel and Palestine. It was not her finest hour. Joan Rivers deserves to be remembered for more than that.