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.
Liam 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!
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…
Eleanor 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.
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.
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
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:
On 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.
Katherine Hepburn is reputed to have said:
Death will be a great relief. No more interviews.
Like 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.
Not much of the news coming out of Turkey these days is positive – refugees, bombs, riots, censorship and the usual rhetoric from the imperious Erdoğan. The western media do so love to stoke up a drama. You could be forgiven for thinking the place is falling apart. Well, it isn’t. But the headlines are putting visitors off. According to some estimates, bookings by Brits are down by over a third. A glance at the travel agent’s window reveals the bargains to be had, reflecting a tourist trade going through lean times. It would be foolish to suggest there aren’t any problems but Turkey remains one of the safest holiday destinations anywhere.
It’s been four years since we returned from Turkey and we’re content with our lot in old Norwich Town. The slowish pace of life suits us well. But, we’re often nostalgic for our easy come, easy go days of Bodrum. During one particularly wistful afternoon in the boozer, Liam and I took a drunken stagger down memory lane. Over the last few years I’ve scribbled a word or two about my best bits of Turkey and I’ve even won writing competitions with my musings. So to cure me of my melancholy, Liam suggested I put them all together. So that’s what I’ve done. And very cathartic it was too. I’ve called it Postcards from the Ege, Jack Scott’s Turkey Trail.
Here’s the blurb:
With such an immense political and cultural heritage, it’s no surprise kaleidoscopic Turkey is such a feast – a prime cut of authenticity, seasoned by the West and spiced by the East. Jack Scott knows a thing or two about the country. He lived there for years and travelled widely – to Istanbul and along its south-western shores from Izmir to Alanya. In Postcards from the Ege, Scott shares some of his must-sees and personal highlights. Follow Scott’s trail. Come to Turkey.
The e-book has just been published on Kindle by Springtime Books. It’s a steal at a couple of quid and if it encourages people to sample the extraordinary land we used to call home then that’s all to the good.