Postcards from Corfu

Postcards from Corfu

The A Gays

We chose simple and we got sublime. Our billet is a modest studio (A1 for the A Gays) overlooking a sparkling pool.

The Little Terrace

All we have to do is drag our tired old carcasses the few yards from bed to lounger – perfect for the R&R we crave. Most days we laze about dipping and sipping, reading and dozing. We deliberately booked the week after schools went back – to avoid over-wrought brats who scream and splash. We hadn’t wagered on the toddlers, though. We’re being diverted by the neurotic antics of four nervous grown-ups dancing round Lola, a tiny tot wearing a kamikaze-style sun hat and what looks like a suicide belt. Lola’s only word is ‘NO!’ and she repeats it a lot.

Elleana the Great

Our landlady is a magnificent Corfiot matriarch called Elleana – not one to cross, we think. Liam has charmed her with warm talk and a few well-practised words in Greek. It’s done the trick. She keeps a well-stocked bar which we’re eager to drain. Corfiot wine is surprisingly quaffable given it’s stored out the back in three-litre plastic bottles.

Elleana’s gaff is protected by a shaggy guard dog. He likes to call round for a sniff, frisk and lick. We’re not sure of the make or sex but we call it ‘Hector’.

The dog

Wasps around the honey pot

The vine harvest has brought the last hurrah of the season for squadrons of wasps. Puny by comparison to their angrier British cousins, they’re more annoying than menacing and are only really interested in sipping from the glass Liam keeps topped up by my side. I’m happy to share. Several have drowned during the mid-afternoon Bacchanalia. A leathered Brummie reclining at the far end of the pool keeps insect spray to hand. Every so often we hear ‘pssssst’, ‘pssssst’, pssssst’ then she returns to her chick lit. We call her ‘Ms Raid’. The wasps may be irritating but the mozzies are less voracious than expected. Either that or our four years in Turkey have turned our blood to poison.

The Youngest Gays in the Village

The resort is serene and spartan – just a few tavernas and pizza parlours – and most of our fellow visitors look like they’ve been pickled. It’s a novel experience being (almost) the youngest gays in the village. The locals are friendly and obliging, if a little frayed after a long hot summer. Liam was nearly laid low by an upturned beer crate. Fixed to the pavement with duck tape, it was there to cover a big hole.

Jack on the Road

Overheard

As many know, I’m a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) eavesdropper. Here’s a few random throwaway lines picked up on the radar as we gadded about:

What’s the wever tomorrer?

‘ow do I know? Do I look like a weather cock?

She’s very end of season, that one.

No, Joan, I don’t ‘ave a pair a woolly knickers.

For maximum effect, such quotes are best recited with a northern accent.

It’s all Greek to me

Sunsets are spent playing cards and Scrabble accompanied by the hard stuff. As the light gradually dims, we resort to mini-torches to read the letters. Liam tries to cheat with Greek and thinks I won’t catch on in the dark.

Wine that glows in the dark

 

Déjà vu

Our soporific Ionian idyll delivers unexpected familiarity. Closing my eyes, I’m transported back in time to another land of barking dogs, crowing cocks, randy crickets, loose cattle, manic drivers, ripe drains, pine-clad hills, goats, potholes, bugs and a nightly spectacle of glorious sunsets.

In the end, who could tell the difference between a grandma riding a donkey in Greece, Bulgaria or trotting through a Turkish village?

Turkey Street, Chapter 13, Blesséd are the Meek

As I observed in a book I once wrote. Ok, headscarves, hassle and the call to prayer are missing and they don’t play cricket in Bodrum but you get my general drift.

Coming soon… Postcards from Albania.

Albania

 

Man About the House

We’re always grateful when old friends spend their hard-earned cash on a pilgrimage to their country cousins, particularly as this invariably means the expense of a hotel stay. Cute as it is, the micro-loft is way too micro for topping and tailing, especially for those in their midriff years who prefer private douching facilities for those intimate moments. Just recently, we’ve had an embarrassment of callers. First on the Norwich trail were a couple of old drinking partners from the Smoke who last graced the city with their designer wear in April. As future exiles to Catalonia, we knew they were partial to a tapas or two, so when a new tapas restaurant called East Twenty Six opened to rave reviews we thought we’d give it spin. The setting was impressive but, sadly, the food was not. We drowned our sorrows in a nearby late night boozer, a place that was once Norwich’s only Irish-themed pub. Delaney’s has now been gutted and relaunched as St Andrew’s Brew House. Whereas Delaney’s oozed fake Oirish ambience with a landlady from Hell, the Brew House now boasts an über-trendy micro-brewery and has been branded to within an inch of its life. Very Shoreditch, apparently.

The next day, like ships that pass in the night, the old reprobates from London exchanged brief pleasantries with our next callers who had driven up from the coiffured hills of Sussex. Jacqueline and Angus have been friends of mine for donkey’s years and brought with them their coffee-coloured Labrador for a spot of dog-walking around the city. After an exhaustive saunter and with Ruby safely tucked up in the loft with an assortment of dog biscuits, dinner was courtesy of Jamie’s Italian. It was delicious. But really Jamie, that much for a bit of pasta?

Angus is a hands-on DIYer with an impressive collection of tools and when I mentioned we were having a bit of bother with a sticking flush, he was at it like a rat up a drain pipe.

A little WD40 will soon sort that out.

And it did. It was good to have a man about the house.

Goat Herder Required, Apply Within

House-sitting and house-swapping are fantastic low cost ways of getting to stay in some amazing places. We have old friends in Turkey who live in…

…Gökcebel, a sprawling village in the foothills above Yalıkavak. Their impressive detached pile is surrounded on all sides by a well-manicured walled garden and patrolled by a trio of cats brought in from the bins. Just like its owners, the house is elegant, unpretentious and homely.*

They often exchange their village homestead for ruritanian French gites and posh Californian condos. All they ask (along with the place not being trashed, obviously) is that their soporific cats are fed and watered. Easy.

Now we’re in our new gaff, we might get in on the act. There must be people out there who wouldn’t mind laying their hat in a well-appointed micro-garret with all mod-cons minutes away from the delights of Norwich and her embarrassment of riches. Ours is a lock-up-and-leave loft, small but beautifully formed (like me). All we’d ask is that guests turn the lights out as they leave. I guess we’d have to hide the dressing-up box and battery-operated play things. Or maybe not.

 

 

Needham Place

Sometimes, this care-taking lark can be a tad more challenging. Take, for example, the menagerie owners in Hockwold cum Wilton (yes, that is a genuine place) who pretty much need a qualified zoo keeper to look after their duo of dairy goats (Simone and Ashia), a pack of terriers (Monty, Blossom, Scarlett and Sanya), a clutter of cats (Jarvis and KC), a brace of drakes (Flappy and Ballerina), a nest of guinea pigs (Hearty and Chubby), a clutch of  chickens (including randy roosters) and a small shoal of goldfish. Sounds a bit too much like work experience at Whipsnade for my liking and besides, I’d be terrified of killing something. Still, there are no shortage of goat-herders applying for the busman’s holiday. They’re fully booked.

Thanks to Roving Jay for the heads up on this one.

*From Turkey Street, Jack and Liam’s Bodrum Tales out soon.

Happy Birthday, Uncle Sam

Turkey StreetThere’s a tense stand off in the Scott-Brennan household. The air has cleared of gun smoke leaving a wreckage of words scattered round the cutting room floor. It happened last time for my first book and it’s happening again for the sequel. Just when I thought I’d got the bloody thing done and dusted, Liam slashes it with his big red pen. It’s all to the good in the end but the tortuous journey is littered with out-takes that have cut me to the core.

My post before last was about our good fortune with neighbours in recent years. I deliberately left out Clement, our first neighbour in Turkey because, well, we were rather pleased to see the back of him. Now poor Clement has been left out of the book too. Still, nothing gets wasted. It just gets recycled, like most of my rubbish these days. So Ladies and gents, as it’s American Independence Day, here’s the neighbour’s tale, a painful cut from Turkey Street, Chapter 13, Happy Birthday, Uncle Sam.

Clement's Tale

 

 

 

 

The Birds

The Birds

Our little quarter of old Norwich is like a retirement village, jam-packed with sheltered housing schemes – from modern red brick to post-industrial grand. We’re surrounded by the old folk of Norfolk, placing us in pole position for the next vacancy. It reminds me of our fright nights in off-season Yalıkavak when we first dipped our toes in Turkish waters. The difference is that round here there are no randy cats or baying dogs to keep us from our slumber.

Our silent nights are a world away from the Saturday night fever that unfolds just a few streets along. Lazy days are regularly disturbed by the street-wise pigeons who coo, poo and screw on the narrow ledges of the buildings around us. The bonking birds cleverly confound the spikes and nets intended to keep them from their lofty urban roosts and happily bestow their blessings on the passers-by below. There’s good luck splattered everywhere. It’s a scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds.

We only have one immediate neighbour. We’ve nodded hello in typically British reticent style. She must be very learned and well-read judging by the constant stream of Amazon deliveries. I must butter her up and generate more commission through my website, it could be a nice little earner. As a fellow blogger and author once remarked “Jack, you’re such a tart, on so many levels.” If the cap fits.

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Bodrum Life

Bodrum’s radical urban overhaul is almost complete save for a few rough edges that will be completed next year (or sometime never). I took afternoon liquid refreshments at Bodrum’s organic deli, a great place from where to people watch. Their natural fare is even more delicious during happy hour when a glass of white costs only 4 lira a shot. The tubby waiter with precision hairdo, George Clooney eyes and Russell Crowe features serviced me silently with charm and grace.

I watched Bodrum life pass by in all its ambling majesty. The strolling likely lads with their grand gelled tresses and baffling stares promenaded along the promenade, stopping to check their reflections in the porthole mirrors of Helva Bar. I watched the Helva bar boys wash down the floors in anticipation of a profitable night’s innings from the urban elite and the Ukrainian prostitutes who silently ply their trade among them. A rainbow of cars cruised by from Nissan tanks to clapped-out Fiats. Happy-clappy kids played hide and seek in the play school playground opposite. Sunny Cabaret was provided by Bodrum’s resident drunk (I thought that was me), who frothed at the mouth, toyed with the traffic, harangued unsuspecting tourists and talked to the street animals like a modern day Dr Doolittle. I staggered home to the tune of the Hi-De-Hi public address system and another power cut in the full knowledge that our Turkish expedition would soon come to an end. To quote Old Blue Eyes, “Regrets, I have a few.”

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For Whom the Bell Tolls

Living as do at the heart of old Bodrum Town, we are both regaled and disturbed in equal measure by the glorious non-stop cacophony that surrounds us – the silly-speed mopeds farting down the street, the earth-quaking Turkopop vying with the impatient horns from every four-wheel Nissan tank, the catcalls from the randy rooftop pussies, the amplified ezan bouncing about in surround sound, the discordant cock-a-doodle-doos from the roosters in every courtyard and lonely mongrels barking incessantly until they’re hoarse.

One of the charming aspects of town centre living is the twice daily water-man who heralds his arrival by ringing his little bell. He’s a hairy giant of a beast who effortlessly swings his 19 litre bottles around like a Herculean water carrier. It’s enough to make a boy go weak at the knees. For a while, we were waterless. Our dusky su-seller’s familiar ding-a-ling was missing from our noise-scape. Maybe he was ill or away visiting relatives? A week went by before, one afternoon, we saw him silently pass by our window. Liam rushed out, empty bottle in hand. “Where’s your little bell?” he asked. “Finish,” was the shrugged response. “Many complaint because of noise.” Liam struggled to understand above the roar of the traffic. “But I like your little bell,” he said. Su-man smiled the warmest of smiles and shook Liam’s hand. “I know, my friend. I know.” It’s a real shame. We miss our big man’s little ding dong.

Now for the tenuous link. Sit back and feast on Ding a Dong, Teach In’s Eurovision Song Contest entry for the Netherlands some time during the Seventies (judging by the outrageous glam drag).

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