Postcard from Bulgaria

We got the hot gossip washed down with Bulgarian plonk we were hoping for. But that didn’t mean our entire trip was a non-stop booze-fest. In between top-ups, we did manage to drink in a bit of culture too, with a gander round ancient Nessebar, a pretty little town tumbling over a small Black Sea island joined to the mainland by a causeway. It’s full of old Orthodox churches and sprinkled with bars, cafés and places to browse for tourist tat and local handicrafts. The assault course of rough cobbled streets is charming but ladies and drag queens should leave the heels at home. Even the flat-shoed risk a snapped ankle.

Founded in the second millennium BC and originally a Thracian settlement called Mesembria, the town passed down the line to the ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Bulgars before eventually falling to the Ottomans in 1453. Our guidebook called this ‘the time of the Turkish enslavement’ – memories run very deep in the Balkans. Finally, Nessebar was incorporated into the new Bulgarian state in 1885.

Nessebar has a small but impressive museum exhibiting artefacts from down the many ages. Fallen Catholic Liam loves a religious icon and started to hyperventilate when we stumbled across a room full of ’em.

Thank you to our lovely landladies for putting us up and putting up with us – you know who you are!

Bulgaria Beckons

We’re parachuting into Bulgaria for a few days to catch up with a couple of former Bodrum Belles from our Turkey days. They upped sticks and left Turkey soon after we did. Whereas we washed up in Norfolk, they continued their foreign escapades by pitching their tent in old Bulgaria. It’s pastures new for us – though I did make it as far as Transylvania on a school trip back in the day – so we can’t wait. We’re expecting hot gossip washed down with copious amounts of cheap, full-bodied Bulgarian plonk. We were asked ‘red, white or any alcohol?’ We replied, ‘yes.’

So, until normal service resumes, here are some random summer images from the village.

Наздраве (naz-drah-veh). That’s ‘cheers’ in Bulgarian.

It’s a British Library Thing

Every year I get a statement from the British Library setting out how many times Perking the Pansies has been borrowed from UK libraries. This is followed some time later by a payment. It’s only pennies per loan but it’s nice to know my camp old nonsense isn’t gathering too much dust 11 years after it was published.

UK publishers are obliged by law to supply copies of their books to the national libraries of Britain and Ireland, so it’s no surprise that Perking the Pansies can be found at the British Library, the national libraries of Scotland and Wales, the library of Trinity College, Dublin and the libraries of Oxford and Cambridge Universities. What is a surprise is that the book can also be picked up at libraries in Greenwich and Wandsworth in London and libraries in East Sussex and Greater Manchester.

What’s an even bigger surprise is that the book is available to borrow in Antwerp (Belgium), Illinois and New York state (USA), Auckland and Wellington (New Zealand) and Victoria and New South Wales (Australia).

But what is my camp old nonsense doing in the library of Harvard University? Blimey!

Top of the Pansy Pops 2021

It’s been a queer year all told – locked and unlocked, masks on, masks off, masks on again, thrice jabbed, and a foreign foray thwarted. Unsurprisingly, 2021 pansy posts were a mixed harvest. I kept the memory of a treasured friend alive and ranted on about the unwelcome return of a nasty little word I thought had long been consigned to the dustbin of history. Then there were the lockdown tales keeping the home fires burning, sparkling art from rural Asia Minor and the interviews and reviews that came out of the blue.

2021 was also the year I acquired my very own looney toon stalker, Marsha the Troll, who regularly sends me rambling rants from the other side of the Pond – always incomprehensible, often threatening and sometimes with porn attached. I feel like a celebrity.

Here’s the cream of the crop for 2021 together with two evergreen posts from 2020 and 2014 bringing up the rear.

A Tale of Two Villages

We queued up at the checkout with two bottles of Majestik and a tub of Cadbury’s Celebrations, attracting the curiosity of the shopper ahead of us. She was loading her groceries into a large tartan shopping trolley, her eyes darting quickly between me and Liam as if she had suddenly recognised long lost friends. I … Continue reading A Tale of Two Villages

Forever Young

Last month saw us in London for a very special commemoration. An old friend died suddenly in early 2020 and it would have been his sixtieth birthday on 25th August. We couldn’t let the day go unmarked so we threw him a boozy late lunch in Soho attended by twenty of his nearest and dearest. … Continue reading Forever Young

Get the Bloody Jab

We just can’t wait to get back into the theatre – we’ve a glittering chorus of touring musicals queued up – from the modern: Six, Waitress, The Book of Mormon to the classics: Bedknobs and Broomsticks and The Sound of Music. Few trades have suffered from COVID more than the performing arts. The only sure … Continue reading Get the Bloody Jab

Queer as Folk

I was bullied from the moment I first flounced through the school gates. Nothing physical, you understand. That would be unseemly at a traditional grammar school with a 400-year-old charter granted by the Virgin Queen. Besides, beatings were reserved for the teachers to dish out. I suppose I hardly helped my cause by being a … Continue reading Queer as Folk

Nothing Beats a Good Story

I don’t get interviewed much these days. Back in my pansies heyday everyone wanted a piece of me; queuing up, they were. But now we’ve settled into county life, I’ve become old dog, old tricks, descending into idyllic rural obscurity. But then up popped a request from Nicola MacCameron, a voiceover artist at Mic And … Continue reading Nothing Beats a Good Story

A Final Farewell

We can’t complain. Village life is calm and cuddly. But when the easing of lockdown let us travel further afield for the first time in around seven months, we packed our bags and were off like a shot. The bright lights of London beckoned and not even lousy weather could dampen our spirits. Travelling across … Continue reading A Final Farewell

Bring Out Your Dead

Before the miracle of modern medicine and universal healthcare, life for most was plagued by illness or the fear of it. People croaked in their beds from mundane diseases that today we pop a pill for. Many a cottage stairwell was too narrow for a coffin so some featured a trap door between floors called … Continue reading Bring Out Your Dead

And For My Next Trick

We’re currently living next to a building site. A local developer is chucking up a few more bungalows, like the world really needs a few more bungalows – affordable housing for the cash-strapped, yes, more well-appointed dwellings with double garages for the well-heeled, no. It’s a lost cause and we’re resigned to it. While a … Continue reading And For My Next Trick

Jack in the Bottle

That flicker of light at the end of the lockdown tunnel is getting brighter. Our days in the sun (or beer garden) will soon return. Meanwhile, we continue to do what we can to stay safe and sane. I hear sales of jigsaws have gone off like a rocket. It’s not the sport for us. … Continue reading Jack in the Bottle

Oi Speak Narrfuk Oi Do

Anyone living on these damp little islands and anyone who visits them knows that Britain is a nation of a thousand and one accents and dialects. Homespun and imported lingo twists and turns through town and county. We may live in a global village and in a mass media world where ‘Globalish’ (the cut-down version … Continue reading Oi Speak Narrfuk Oi Do

Wishing everyone a healthier, safer 2022 and a new normal more like the old.

A Pansy Anniversary

My irreverent, irrelevant ramblings reached the grand old age of 10 in October last year. It passed by without notice. Blog years are like dog years so all things being equal, Perking the Pansies should have been sent to the knacker’s yard yonks ago. The fact that the pansies continue to thrive is a testament to those who still take the time to pass by after all these years. It makes this old nag very happy. How long will it continue? Dunno.

The very first post on Blogger!

But what is certain is that the book that emerged from the early days of the blog changed everything and took Liam and me in an entirely different and totally unexpected direction. And that book – Perking the Pansies, Jack and Liam Move to Turkey – reaches its own 10th anniversary next month, and that hasn’t passed me by. The fact that after a decade it still sells at all is a minor miracle and rather humbling. I thank you.

“A bitter-sweet tragi-comedy that recalls the first year of a British gay couple living in a Muslim land. Just imagine the absurdity of two openly gay, recently married middle aged, middle class men escaping the liberal sanctuary of anonymous London to relocate to a Muslim country. Jack and Liam, fed up with kiss-my-arse bosses and nose-to-nipple commutes, chuck in the towel and move to a small town in Turkey. Join the culture-curious gay couple on their bumpy rite of passage.”