Life After My Saucepans

Fellow author and blogger Lindsay de Feliz gave up marriage and a successful UK career to follow her dreams as a scuba diving instructor in the Dominican Republic. She met and married her hunky Dominican man and went on an incredible adventure involving political corruption and being shot in her own home. Lindsay’s dramatic account of the events – What About Your Saucepans? – was published in 2013 and flew off the shelves. As the 11th anniversary of the shooting approached, Lindsay was back with the eagerly-awaited sequel. She asked me to review it and this is what I had to say…

As Lindsay de Feliz explains with unflinching honesty in her gutsy follow-up to What About Your Saucepans?, the Dominican Republic takes no prisoners. From the outset, we find the author ensconced in her dusty roadside house with Danilo, her Dominican husband, two stepsons, a dwindling back account, a growing menagerie of cats and dogs and swarms of voracious mozzies. Things start to look up when they move lock, stock and barrel to the superior sounding ‘Pink House’, even if the cooker has to be wheeled round to the new house in a wonky wheelbarrow. But when blocked showers, troublesome septic tanks, a stroppy local ‘witch’ and an unscrupulous vet who moonlights as a taxidermist all take their toll, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary tale about living the dream.

Life After My Saucepans is packed with warmth and infectious humour, even when the clan moves to a pile in the mountains that needs pretty much everything: walls, windows, doors and gates – not to mention an emergency wasp fumigator. We witness in full technicolour the ups and downs of life in Wasp House, the drama and corruption of Dominican politics, the expat women suffering at the hands of their polygamous ‘sankies’,  the lush, mountainous landscapes, the pig-roasts, the traditional Noche Buena feasts and a succession of madcap, local eccentrics. In Chivirico, a five-year old barefooted boy who proudly announces he will be the author’s bodyguard, we get a touching and poignant relationship that tugs at the heartstrings from the outset. And in the end, it’s the life-affirming human interest stories that make this book special. Lindsay de Feliz tells it as it is, warts and all, but it’s her affection for her adopted country and the people around her that shines through.

Life After My Saucepans is available to buy on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

My Life Abroad

Since 2011, the people at Blog Expat have been shining a little light on expatland by interviewing bloggers from city to steppe, temperate to tropical. They’ve assembled quite an archive over the years. So when I heard they were to publish an anthology of their best stories, I thought it was a good idea. And when I heard they were to include me among the chosen, I thought it was a great idea.

My Life Abroad, a Selection of Expat Stories was published in September 2016. All the participants received a complimentary copy of the book which was a generous touch. Mine dropped on the mat a few weeks back and naturally I gave it a good thumbing. No one could question the book’s scale and ambition. There are abridged versions of 55 interviews and all continents apart from Antarctica are represented. Oddly, though, the contributors are kept anonymous, presumably to protect the guilty.

Every piece is prefaced with an jokey illustration. My own story has two men in summer attire framed on one side by a Shia cleric and on the other by a woman in a burka. Of course it could be a bloke in drag. That’s the point of a burka – you can’t tell. Now, most Turks are Sunnis and I’ve seen more Saudi-style full body bags in Harrods. In my interview I wrote…

Some people show breath-taking ignorance of the Islamic world, tarring all Muslim countries with the same negative brush. No, we aren’t subject to Sharia Law. No, gay people aren’t routinely lynched by rabid mobs of mad mullahs. No, women aren’t forced into marriage as soon as they hit puberty and dressed head to toe in black poly-cotton sheets (well, not in Bodrum anyway). Turkey isn’t perfect but it isn’t Iran.

So I’m hoping the cartoon is intended to be ironic.

Despite the potential faux pas, many of the stories are fun, thoughtful and well worth buying a bookmark for.

 

Every Dog Has Its Day

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!

Turkey Tales

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

Under the Tuscan Sun – Reprise

Under the Tuscan Sun – Reprise

With Liam away on family duties and me at a loose end, I made a brew, raided the biscuit barrel, put my feet up and channel-hopped. Mine’s a glamorous life. Quite by chance, I happened across a Sunday matinee of Under the Tuscan Sun. The last time I saw the film was also a Sunday afternoon but that was in 2011 and we lived in Bodrum. And Liam had just returned from family duties. Warming waves of nostalgia rolled over me and my eyes glassed over, not just because of the weepy but also for memories of our Turkish days.

Under the Tuscan Sun

The film even gets a brief mention in Turkey Street and I posted about it back in the day. I think the post holds up surprisingly well…

Under the Tuscan Sun

Do you still have cleavage with just one breast?

I rarely mix business with blogging. I prefer to keep my irreverent witterings personal. But  sometimes something comes my way I just can’t let pass. Just recently, Springtime Books published a breast cancer diary called Do you still have cleavage with just one breast? by Sue Lawrence, a Canadian now living in the Netherlands. It’s gritty, brave, straight-talking and inspirational.  Many of us have been or will be affected by the evil that is the big C. Sue met it head on. The title says it all.

Here’s the blurb:

Cleavage LeftOn honeymoon and two months pregnant, Sue discovers a lump in her breast. This is her raw, unpolished diary as she navigates the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Brutally honest, she faces the overwhelming terror of the road ahead – for herself and her unborn daughter.

Her candid diary entries reflect the impact the disease has on her marriage and impending motherhood. It ends with Tips for Cancer Warriors – signposts and guidelines for those following in her footsteps.

This remarkable and compelling memoir will empower others to feel whatever they need to feel as they battle this disease – it’s their cancer.

The book contains so many memorable quotes. Here’s just a few:

Mastectomy bras resemble slingshots in white or beige polyester… they bring out the grandmother in you.

I find the cancer story slips out – like I’m an oozing, emotional slut wanting to share my pain with everyone.

Chemotherapy smells of rubber bands and it still sticks at the back of my nose. I want to retch. My hair fell out this morning… my bowels feel like they’re falling out of my ass.

Mark moments that are important to you. Go on a trip. Light candles. Write a diary. Stay in bed and cry. Ever the drama queen, I sent a photo of my cancerous breast down the Athabasca Falls in Canada and then had a Nipple Party complete with a documentary and book… Find your joy. And do it every day.

Sue’s incredible story is available in print and e-book at the usual places.  Here’s the link to Amazon.

The Accidental Writer

Katherine Hepburn is reputed to have said:

Death will be a great relief. No more interviews.

InterviewLike the late, great Ms Hepburn, I used to get probed by all and sundry when we were fairies in a faraway land. Alas, it all but dried up when we returned to the old country and became happy nonentities. So, when an invite dropped on the mat requesting my presence at Writing…Just Because, I re-sharpened my blunt quill with a meat cleaver and scribbled a whole load of nonsense about hard-boiled expats, the road to writing ruin and my days as an unrepentant eavesdropper.

You can catch my pearls of wisdom here.