I spent much of my teenage years in Tooting, a rough-round-the-edges strangely-named suburb in South London. My late, lamented old pal, Clive, was raised there in a modest terraced house, and we enjoyed many a fun-filled Saturday afternoon hot-gossiping and talking silly schoolboy sex to a seventies soundtrack of Elton, 10cc, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin and Bowie.
But as we discovered recently, the Tooting of yesteryear isn’t quite the Tooting of today. It’s still decidedly rough-edged but with a wonderful multi-cultural blend of spice and street cred drawing in an eclectic crowd, the young and the cool rubbing shoulders with the long-established South Asian community. It’s no wonder Tooting is now known as ‘curry corridor’, with a mouth-watering menu of restaurants. We quite fancied an ‘Indian’ but changed tack when we wandered through Broadway Market to find that the old stalls flogging fruit and veg, frilly knickers, tat and knock-off, have been largely supplanted by international street food vendors, sit-down eateries and uber-trendy bars.
We settled on artisan pizzas at Franco Manca washed down with vino and limoncellos, then boozy-cruised to a bar for espresso martinis. The evening ended with a couple of large glasses of fruity red at a ramshackle Portuguese bistro. Heads thumped the next day.
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.
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…
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.…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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.…
A light dusting of the fluffy white stuff generally brings the entire nation to a shuddering halt and a lot of huffing and puffing over the airwaves. But, as we’re already under house arrest, this year’s avalanche has made little difference to our daily lives – except for one thing. Our Sainsbury’s supermarket delivery was…
I was badly shaken and much stirred to hear of the murder of fellow author, Lindsay de Feliz in December. Among her many qualities, Lindsay was very social media savvy and developed an impressive following. Her evergreen blog chronicled the many ups and considerable downs of her fascinating life in the Dominican Republic with her…
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…
Wishing everyone a healthier, safer 2022 and a new normal more like the old.
I reached the grand old age of sixty last year. This year was Liam’s turn and I’d planned a succession of treats – for me as well as for him – in old London Town. First up was a dinner date and gossipy catch up with an old pal in a fancy French restaurant in Chelsea, the trendy part of town where I gladly misspent much of my youth – ‘Days on the tills and nights on the tiles,’ I call it. The King’s Road is my memory lane and Liam joined me on my trip down it.
Next day I whisked Liam off to Covent Garden for a full English followed by a stroll. Once London’s main fruit and veg market with an opera house attached – think Audrey Hepburn as the cockney sparrow flower girl lip-syncing to ‘Wouldn’t it be Loverly?’ in My Fair Lady – Covent Garden has long since evolved into a major magnet for tourists. And there were tourists aplenty, finally returning from home and abroad after lockdown.
Here’s the queue for Burberry. All that fuss just for a posh handbag.
We decided to take in some street opera and pavement art instead.
Our Covent Garden jolly continued with a ride around the London Transport Museum. In many ways, the story of London Transport is the story of London itself. The city couldn’t have spread like it has without the constant innovation needed to enable Londoners to go about their business. If trains, tubes, trams and trolley buses are your thing, it’s an Aladdin’s cave. We loved it.
After a brief power nap back at the hotel, we jumped on the Tube for a real indulgence – a performance of Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre. The musical tells of the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of the (to me) lesser known American ‘Founding Fathers’, delivered in song and rap. The deliberately delicious twist is that most of the cast – including Alexander himself – is black or mixed heritage. Adorned with every gong going, the show is slick, brilliantly staged and tuneful. The rap is used as dialogue and is lyrical and clever. It’s a masterpiece, a work of genius.
The evening concluded with more posh nosh and a final snifter in our favourite dive bar in busy, buzzy Soho. The long weekend was a whirlwind with the perfect ending. We finally got to meet Fred, our newest great-nephew.
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 contemplated smiling but thought better of it.
‘You’re Jack Scott, aren’t you? I’ve been reading your blog.’
‘Oh,’ I said, blushing like a pubescent teen caught coming out of a backstreet massage parlour. ‘I suppose I should apologise.’
‘Actually, it’s rather good.’
Liam rolled his eyes.
‘Well,’ I said, ‘would you mind telling him that?’
She grinned at Liam, almost in sympathy, paid the cashier and pulled the ﬂap down over her trolley.
‘Thrilled to meet you both. You’ve caused quite a stir, you know. And don’t worry, I’m not about to stalk you, but I hope we meet again. We’re practically neighbours after all.’
Turkey Street, Jack and Liam move to Bodrum, Chapter 27, The Exiles
That was the very first time I met Annie, a vetpat of distinction. It wasn’t to be the last. This is Annie in her own words:
“In early 1982 I boarded a Turkish Kibris flight to Izmir – my destination was a 29 foot sloop in Bodrum’s new marina. At 22, my belongings fitted into a worse for wear sailing holdall. In 2012 I made a similar journey from Heathrow to Bodrum. Thirty years have passed and Bodrum has changed. There are plenty of very good blogs detailing the ex-pat journey through modern Turkey. The aim of this one is to catch sight of past Turkey through my experience of re-settling in modern Bodrum.”
Annie Onursan, Back to Bodrum
Erudite and creative, Annie has recently taken up painting with watercolours – first with greeting cards and now with larger works – inspired by the natural world and the timeless rural life that surrounds her. It turns out she’s good, very good. Here’s a sample.
I spotted Annie’s first larger piece – ‘Watching’ – on Facebook. I loved it, really loved it. Sneaky old Liam contacted Annie and snapped it up as a surprise birthday gift. It now hangs proudly on our wall – an Annie Onursan original, from her village to ours.
Annie is a member of a local arts group called the Bodrum Art Collective. Check out their website here.
There may not be fairies at the bottom of our garden – they live in the house instead – but we are now proud owners of a handsome garden gnome. This is what the Encyclopaedia Britannica has to say about the diminutive mythical creatures:
Gnome, in European folklore, dwarfish, subterranean goblin or earth spirit who guards mines of precious treasures hidden in the earth. He is represented in medieval mythologies as a small, physically deformed (usually hunchbacked) creature resembling a dry, gnarled old man. Gob, the king of the gnome race, ruled with a magic sword and is said to have influenced the melancholic temperament of man.
Harsh, but it could be me, I guess, especially the small and gobby bit. No doubt I’ll be gnarled one day too.
Little statues of gnomes are popular garden ornaments across the realm – from cute to quirky, silly to satirical, naughty to the truly naff.
But only two people in the world have a handmade bespoke gnomic effigy of Joe Jacobson, the Welsh professional football player, in full Wycombe Wanderers strip. It was a surprise (and deliciously surprising) birthday gift from the luscious lady who owns the second Joe gnome. If Wycombe Wanderers ever make it to the Premier League, it could be worth a bob or two.
As for the cards I received this year, there seems to be a pattern developing. What are they trying to tell me?