But What Are They Eating?

But What Are They Eating?

Author Shelley Workinger runs a blog that provides a unique approach to book promotion – food and the consumption thereof. My expanding waistline is evidence enough of my love of all things culinary, so I bit her hand off to get featured.

Turkish cuisine is justifiably famed as one of the world’s greatest. The Sultan’s table overflowed with extravagant bounty from the vast Ottoman domains that once stretched across three continents. The empire may be history, but food – preparing it, eating it, sharing it – is still of enormous cultural importance to all Turks regardless of status and income. So it’s small wonder the simple act of eating plays a starring role in both of my memoirs, Perking the Pansies and its sequel, Turkey Street. Here’s a soupçon…

More…

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.

 

Something Nasty in the Air

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.

Perking the Pansies

Perking the Pansies

Our hobbling tour of Bodrum was something of a boozy whirlwind and confirmed I can’t do multiple piss-ups anymore. It was season’s end with flight prices to match, but the interminable limp through Stansted was a brutalising experience when compared to our little local airport. Working to a slum-it budget, we bagged ourselves a hotel in Bodrum for eleven quid a night, breakfast included. Nothing much worked in our barrel-scraped digs but the family-run gaff was clean and convenient. This was the first time we had set foot on Turkish soil since we called time on our Anatolian adventure in 2012 and we were determined to make hay. Naturally, the wedding of the year was the main event but we also wanted to share a jar or two with some of our old muckers, so we pitched our standard on a Bodrum Beach and waited for battle to commence. The onslaught came in waves and after nine hours of friendly fire, talking ten to the dozen about everything under the moonlit sky, we staggered to the nearest taxi rank. A huge hand to all the Bodrum belles and beaus who really made our day. You know who you are.

These images are as blurred as our vision was by the end of the evening.

Of course, no trip back to Bodrum would have been complete without a reunion of the Sisterhood…

… the antidote to the VOMITing sickness that afflicts the many Shirley Valentines who wash up like driftwood on the beaches of Turkey. Many of the Sisters are reformed VOMITs who’ve been through the ringer, some more than once, but have emerged to tell the tale stronger and wiser. The Sisters stick together (like birds of a feather), because men are rubbish.

Expat Glossary

So after a day trip down memory lane along Turkey Street (more of this later), we joined the Sisterhood in Musto.

Musto was top of our list and sat in a prime location on Marina Boulevard opposite the smart shopping parade. Its handsome young owner, Mustafa the Magnificent, was second cousin to our landlady and a generous and convivial host. The eponymous Mustafa learned his trade at Sünger, his uncle’s legendary pizza parlour, a place that had been dishing up margheritas to the sailing squad since the early seventies. Unlike some of his rivals, Mustafa never resorted to pressganging people in from the street. He courted the emigrey crowd with Italian seasoning, palatable wine, affordable prices and generous yolluks. It was a formula that attracted swarms of discerning diners, even out of season.

Turkey Street

mustoMusto has expanded considerably since our last visit, though I’m pleased to say the menu and ambience remain special. Back in the day, regular meetings of the Sisterhood always kept the pansies perked, particularly during the chilly winter months when Bodrum life was as a slow as pond water. Thank you Doc, Jess and Victoria.

There was a distinct autumnal nip when we got back to Norwich and the heating went on for the first time since the spring. A day or two later, Liam departed for London on family duties so I sank into the sofa to watch an ancient episode of Midsomer Murders on ITV3 with my carcinomic ankle resting on a Swedish pouffe. I was unsettled. We thought our trip back to Bodrum would be our swansong. Now I’m not so sure. Despite challenging political times, Turkey has worked her magic all over again. Blimey.

bodrum-beach

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.

Reflections of an Army Brat

Attending the annual Families in Global Transition jamboree in Amsterdam last month (#FIGT16NL) got me thinking about my own minor experience as a ‘third culture kid’ (TCK for short) – children and young people who are raised in a culture different from that of their parents for a significant part of their developmental years. For good or ill, we live in a world of mass migration and the term can apply to anyone along the #TCK continuum – a child desperately fleeing a war zone clinging to a hopelessly overcrowded dinghy or children flying business class hanging on the coattails of an executive parent. Such things present their own emotional challenges, though I’m sure we all agree the plight of a refugee child is way off the scale.

I was born in married quarters and was an army brat for the first ten years of my life. My Dad was posted here and there and I attended four different primary schools, three of which are still molding young minds. The fourth, Mountbatten Primary School, Terendak Camp, Malaysia, is long gone. Malaysia was my one and only experience of living abroad as a child. I have no deep or wise words about our semi-colonial tropical idyll except to say I had a ball. I ran around Mowgli-style half naked and shoeless, climbed exotic trees (and fell out of a few), got stung by nasty red ants, crashed a homemade go-cart into a concrete monsoon drain (I still have the scar to prove it), played Chinese hopscotch with our maid, built a den out of army-issue packing crates under lofty coconut trees, learned to swim and got all my badges, tasted my first vanilla milkshake and played I’ll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours with the girl next door. The only cultural dislocation I remember feeling was when we arrived back at RAF Northolt in West London. It was a cold and wet November day and I didn’t like it one little bit. And I never got to play Chinese hopscotch ever again.

Here are some old, well-worn and torn snaps – Mum in her best sequined frock and Dad looking dapper in his dress uniform, me with my little sister just after she was born, an undersized me posing with my oversized scooter, me with my best friend and a strapping Aussie lad (right) who tried to mug me out of my pocket money and made me cry, and a really hazy image of Mountbatten School I found on Digger History.

All in all, not a bad gig.