More Postcards from Gran Canaria

More Postcards from Gran Canaria

Following last week’s delivery from the Royal Mail, here’s the second batch of postcards to land on the mat.

Mad Pedro

The staff in our global holiday village are delightful, particularly Pedro, our mad barman. He services us with charm and generosity and rings his little bell every time he gets a tip. It’s like a royal wedding at Westminster Abbey when we’re around and the bigger the tip we give, the bigger the drink we get. As Pedro said to Liam:

Ah, you Engleesh with your happy hour. It’s always happy hour in Pedro’s bar!

Loose Talk

Regular readers will know I’m a dedicated eavesdropper. Here’s a small selection:

And I’ll tell you one thing for nothing. As soon as I get home, I’m back on the tramadol.

 

 We went tut Benidorm in January. It were great. We ‘ad beach to ourselves.

Oh. How come?

It were rainin’.

 

Me son’s got an apartment in Bulgaria.

Nice. Wotsit like?

Cheap but those Bulgarians…you wouldn’t trust ‘em.

 

Of course, we normally go to Goa, don’t we Jean? All-in for a tenner a day – and that includes two packs of fags and enough booze to sink the Ark Royal.

A Yumbo Cocktail

We’re just a short mince from the Yumbo Center, the largest of the many tacky shopping and entertainment centres dotted about Playa Del Ingles. As I wrote back in 2012 after our last trip…

The Yumbo Center is the throbbing epicentre of gay Canarian low-life. The Yumbo is a naff treat for all the senses, a crumbling multi-layered open air shopping and sex emporium. It started to fall apart as soon as it was built (some twenty five years ago). By day, it’s an over-sized pound shop patronised by ancient slow-lane Germans in busy shirts and socked sandals. But, at the stroke of midnight, the racks of tat are wheeled away, the garish bars throw open their doors and the entire place is transformed into a gaudy cacophonous neon-lit cess-pit of drunken debauchery.

Gran Canaria Sex Emporium

It was one of my most popular posts ever. Can’t think why. Strangely, we’ve only ventured into the Yumbo Center once so far – and then only during the day to do a bit of shopping for that must-buy momento. The venues come and go but the place never really changes – apart from the newly installed lift for the mobility-challenged. It’s true, we did stop for a daiquiri or two – for old time’s sake and to survey the footfall. Our immediate neighbours were an over-waxed Franco-German gay couple with plucked brows, precision beards and perfect pecs. They could have been separated at birth. Must be like shagging a mirror. When they weren’t fiddling with their iPhones (to check Grindr, presumably), they communicated in Globalish*. Our barman was pretty. And pretty useless. Just like every gay bar around the world.

yumbo-centre

Geordie Shore

Mercifully, the heatwave has broken. I’d started to lose the plot and I was a hair’s breath away from garrotting the leathery old early birds who always get the brollies. With plunged temperatures, Liam bundled me out of the apartmentos for an excursion to Puerto de Mogán, a marina resort on the south-west coast of the island. We went by public transport, by far the easiest way to get around. Naturally, the bus stop was like a multi-national rugby scrum. You’d think people were fleeing a war zone. Why do we Brits bother queueing?

Set on a steep-sided valley, Puerto de Mogán is built in faux Spanish colonial style and very pretty it is too. But the epithet ‘Venice of the Canaries’ is over-egging the pudding a bit. There’s just the one ‘canal’ – more of a creek really. Still, we ate tapas in a lovely marinaside restaurant followed by coffee and cake in an inviting backstreet bakery. The port’s like a mini version of Bodrum in look and feel, particularly with the dripping, multi-coloured bougainvillea. Sadly, the relaxed ambience was marred by a gang of pissed-up Geordies stalking the streets and waving empty Peroni bottles. My dad was a Geordie. He’d be spinning in his urn.

Back to Bodrum

All in all, it’s been a splendid week, with batteries, scent and cigs (for my mother) recharged. Next trip: back to Bodrum for the wedding of the year. Now that really is something to write home about.

*Globalish is the cut-down version of English used by air traffic controllers, international conferences and dating apps which is totally lacking in elegance, colour, nuance or wit.

The Three Witches

The Three Witches

Comptons of SohoA while back, I took a little trip to the big city to catch up with old friends, a regular gig and a tradition going back years. It’s what we call the witches coven, a time to conspire, bitch and stir the pot without the distractions of coupledom getting in on the act. We leave our significant others at home to do the washing up. I’d like to claim it’s a carnival of sparkling wit and profound insight but the excess tends to dull the repartee.

I waited for the coven to convene in Comptons, a Soho bar of some infamy and a regular haunt of my dance hall days. I was early and ordered a pint. Little has changed at Comptons down the years but bog standard beer has been cynically replaced by premium ales with premium prices to match. Even by Soho’s inflated tariffs, the cost is extortionate; I’ve been on cheaper Ryanair flights. It was ever thus. Having a gay old time has always come at a price.

As ever, the beefy bar staff were useless. Getting served at Comptons is like a game of chance and what little change you get back is shunted towards you in a plastic tray, a kind of begging bowl for the minimally waged. Company policy, I assume. Us Brits tend not to tip bar staff but I suppose the ruse works with unsuspecting tourists. I scooped up my coppers and found a quiet spot to sip my beer, thumb through the gaypers and wait for my fellow witches to arrive. Before long, a young Asian man sidled up next to me and began a nervous conversation. From his awkwardness and stuttering babble, I guessed he was a Soho novice. To the uninitiated, even the oppressed can be oppressive and I knew from experience that being gay and Asian doesn’t always make a great cocktail. I was more than happy to put the young whippersnapper at his ease. As it turned out, he was an air traffic controller at Heathrow. That’s all we need in these paranoid times. A jittery air traffic controller with secrets.

Pith, Path and Poof

Anyone growing up in Seventies Britain will remember that the word ‘poof’ was the insult of choice for red-blooded males in their crotch-hugging loon pants, polyester tank tops, bouffant hairdos and BO. The abuse was often accompanied by a teapot impersonation. Oh, how I laughed. These days the word seems quaintly old-fashioned and has been (almost) consigned to history along with flock wallpaper, velour three-piece suites, fondue sets, beige teasmades with corn motifs and the curly perm.

Poof

I’ve often wondered about the origin of the word. A quick Google reveals a variety of explanations from a suitably camp French headdress to some fanciful tale about the sound of a fart; neither of which rings true to me. Now I think I’ve cracked it. Liam and I were watching ‘The Secrets of the Castle,’ a BBC show about the construction of a medieval fortress employing the building techniques of the day (I know, I know, we ought to get out more). One of the many absorbing details uncovered by the experimental archaeology was the old grading of sandstone into hard (pith), medium (path) and soft (poof). There you have it. Shirt lifters have always been considered a bit soft, never quite man enough to make the grade, butch-wise. Not that this was the case with Billy Moss, a prison officer I once dallied with in the Nineties. One warm summer’s evening we were enjoying a pint outside the Colherne Pub in West London, the grand-daddy of gay bars back in the day. As we supped, a delivery van passed by, stopping at a red light. The tattooed driver shouted over something rather unpleasant. Billy handed me his pint, swaggered over, squared up to the driver and said,

‘Come on then, mate. You want some? And after you can tell yer wife you got beaten up by a big poof.’

While I don’t condone the threat of violence, I must confess that the look of fear on the white van man’s face was a real treat as he hit the gas to make a quick getaway. I wonder where Billy is now?

The Last Taboo

Norwich Pride Lions
Out and Proud Lion at Norwich City Hall – Image courtesy of Norwich Pride on Facebook

The twilight world of the homosexual has emerged from the dark alleys of my fumbling pretty-boy years and gone very high street. Talented lesbians and gay men from every mince of life have broken out of the ghetto and now muck about in the mainstream without hiding their sexuality under a bushel or running scared of the sleazy Sunday scandal rags. No one cares what you do between the sheets – well, not in Britain anyway – and it just doesn’t sell copy anymore, not even in the Sunday Mail. No, hypocrisy is the sin that pisses people off the most these days. Even in the macho world of sport there are tentative signs that the love that dares not speak its name is whispering in the showers without causing a stir in the scrum or a tirade from the terraces.

All of this should cheer up the war-weary. Nobody ever won their rights by asking nicely and saying please and it’s taken hand-to-hand combat with the hard of hearing to get this far. Long decades of agitation have finally paid off.  There’s no room for complacency of course. There were 5,000 reported homophobic attacks last year and we must all guard against a moral backlash – think the Russian descent into religious conservatism as an example. But now that gay people have become so ordinary and everyday, what’s the point to an entire sub-culture dedicated to difference and enforced separation? Who needs a gay bar when you’ll get a hearty welcome down your local even when you’ve got your arm around the boyf?

Or will you?

This post briefly went out as a ‘ghost post’ a few weeks ago when I inadvertently pressed the wrong key and suffered a bad case of premature publication. Hence some of the comments. Oops!

The Biggest Cock in Town

On a recent trip down to the Smoke, Liam and I decided on a post-matinee snifter. We headed towards Trafalgar Square to the stage of our inaugural meeting, a chilly evening in the spring of 2006. The chance encounter is best described in my first book:

PtP_Excerpt

The rest, as they say, really is history.

As we hurried past the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery, we were confronted by the biggest cock I’ve ever seen, glowing bright blue in the late afternoon sunshine. It caused quite a stir, I can tell you.

Two cocks for the price of one
Two cocks for the price of one

The puffed up rooster, by German sculptor, Katharina Fritsch, is the latest temporary exhibit on the empty corner plinth of the Square. The work is intended to poke fun at the vainglorious imperial statues of puffed-up men (Nelson, George IV, and generals Havelock and Napier) that surround it. There have been many fleeting displays on the podium down the years, from the daft to the inspirational, the profound to the whimsical. The reason there is no permanent statue has been an open secret for years. The plinth is reserved for an effigy of Her Maj after she drops off her throne. Given her mother’s longevity (the last Empress of India lived until she was 101), the chances are they’ll be a more temporary erections to come.

Back in Norwich, the cock of the coop theme continued.

Coop

Personally, I’d rather win a week in the Maldives but then, this is Norfolk, the nation’s bread basket and home to Bernard Matthews, king of the gobblers. It’s a funny old world.

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New Year for Old Farts

We’re getting too long in the tooth for this exhausting New Year malarkey. The days are long gone when we would queue up in the rain, squeezed into sequinned hot pants outside some over-priced sleazy boyz club to take recreational drugs and shake our booties into the wee small hours, surrounded by half-naked sweaty men in tight jeans wrapped in fur and tattoos. Come to think of it, it doesn’t sound that bad at all. Sadly, the spirit is willing but the flesh is oh, so weak. Such unfettered decadence is best left to the young bucks who bring up the rear with stamina and a little lovin’ in mind. No, for us, it was a quick bite in town then back home to a warm hearth, Graham Norton and a bottle of bubbly, all capped off with the South Bank fireworks courtesy of impossibly blond London Mayor, Boris Johnson (a wolf in a golden fleece if ever there was one), Vodafone and good old Auntie Beeb. And fabulous pyrotechnics they were too. It’s always good to bring in the new year with a bang don’t you think?

2013 in Review

Perking the Pansies recovered from a difficult birth at the murderous hands of the Turkish censors, thrived through the terrible twos and survived the transitional threes, ending the year with 60,000 hits for the last twelve months. Thank you to everyone and anyone who’s passed by and glanced at my random witterings. Most blogs burn out after two years so I must be living on borrowed time.

As the sun sets on 2013, in the best Hogmanay tradition, I give you the year’s top ten – a pick ‘n’mix treat of bum cleavage, Turks at the barricades, a shot in the arm, a tender coming out story, a sexy rugger bugger, a book to send you to sleep, an old-time boozer, an olive tree planted in a foreign field and a scratched itch.

Plumber’s Bum

It was the picture wot won it.

Turkey Troubles

A revolution in the making?

Tom Daley: Something I Want to Say

Saying it before someone said it for him.

Gareth Thomas, Dancing on Ice Drama

Who said ice-prancing rugger buggers can’t read?

Life in the Old Blog Yet

With thanks to the nice people at WordPress who featured me on one of their big hitting sites.

Turkey, Surviving the Expats – Out Now!

Keeping me out the workhouse.

God Save the Queen’s Head

A Chelsea classic and old watering hole of mine.

From Little Acorns...

A small corner of Turkey that is forever John.

Seven Year Itch

A soppy tale from Liam.

Turkey, Who Will Blink First?

And we all know who did in the end, don’t we?

For some inexplicable reason, this was the most popular image of 2013, featured in Let’s Hear it for the Brides.

Nine Elms
The Thames at Nine Elms

And I shouldn’t forget the perennial favourites from previous years that keep coming back again and again like a bad case of thrush.

Gran Canaria Sex Emporium

Proving that ‘sex’ really is the most searched for word on Google.

Now That’s What I Call Old

A humble little post about a spectacular discovery in eastern Turkey that just keeps on giving while the archaeologists keep on digging  – 8,000 hits and climbing. Who would have thought?

Expat Glossary

Oft quoted and oft plagiarised (and not always with a credit, tut tut)

Goodbye to the Turkish Living Forum

The few spoiling it for the many. A real shame.

Turkey Street RecliningAnd what of 2014? All I know is that Turkey Street, Jack and Liam move to Bodrum will be out early in the year. Will it be as successful as the first one? Who knows? Not me. Whatever happens, come rain or shine, a happy and prosperous year to all my pansy fans. Thank you for staying the course and for your remarkable support. I’m touched but then, I have been for years.