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.

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

Once more round the sun and it’s that time again to look back at the top of the pansy crop. For some reason, matters medical and mortality caught the imagination this year. On a happier note, stepping back in time to renew old acquaintances and bear witness to vows ’til death they do part also proved popular. So ladies and gents, I give you…

A Manifesto for Life | Back to Bodrum | Perking the Pansies | It’s All Double Dutch to Me | Victoria  Wood, RIP | Scarred for Life | Postcards from Gran Canaria | See the Tree, How Big It’s Grown  | A Pain in the Arse | David Bowie, Starman

And then there were the year’s three most popular images. Really, have you no shame?

 

 

 

Back to Bodrum

Back to Bodrum

Picture it, May 2012, a stone cottage in the centre of old Bodrum Town. With the house cleared and our bags packed, a young lady popped by to say farewell and to make a confession. Heart all a-flutter, she said,

I’ve just met a boy I really like. He’s called Celal but I’m worried Dad won’t approve.

The young lady in question was Esi Onursan. Readers may know of her mother, Annie, author of Back to Bodrum, the wonderful blog about the everyday life of a Bodrum returnee. As Annie herself put it…

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.

You can say that again.

bodrum castle4

Picture it, October 2016, a country pile on the outskirts of Mumcular…

…surrounded on three sides by an arc of dense pine-forested hills and on the fourth, a swimming pool overlooked a dusty olive grove. The house itself was centred round a striking dome-capped circular room, an architectural nod to the traditional yurts used by ancestral Turkic tribes as they migrated west from the Asian Steppes.

As I wrote in Turkey Street.

Esi was about to marry Celal, the boy she thought her father wouldn’t approve of. It was the perfect day for an alfresco wedding. Mother Nature, an unpredictable old bag during autumn, smiled benevolently. The guests gathered, the I dos were brief but perfectly formed and the newlyweds were drenched in petals of purple bougainvillea. Esi glowed and Celal beamed. Breaking with tradition, the village world and his wife were not invited. No doubt, tongues will wag for months to come. Instead, the congregation was selected, Brit-style. Annie provided a generous table and bottomless wine cellar. We ate, we drank and we made merry with friends old and new under the canopy of a small copse delicately decorated in lace and silk. Speeches were pointed and poignant. This was a bittersweet wedding. Esi’s father, Teo, wasn’t there to give her away. He had died a few months earlier.

But not before giving his approval.

Here are a few images that caught my eye from the hundreds on Facebook.

To Have and to Hold

To Have and to Hold

The bells rang out for a family wedding so we brushed down our mothballed suits and headed across country to Hertfordshire, one of the well-manicured counties ringing London. We dropped off our man bags at the Old Bull in tidy Royston, jumped in a cab and were chauffeured at alarming speed along twisting lanes (our driver was Turkish) to the little hamlet of Shingay cum Wendy. Apparently there are quite a few cums in Hertfordshire.

The matrimonial venue was South Farm, a working farm with a sumptuous events venue attached (or the other way round – I couldn’t quite tell). Either way, it was picture-perfect handsome, a riot of iridescent green and precision planting that wouldn’t look out of place at the Chelsea Flower Show.

The pigs and chickens shared a well-groomed paddock and they made for an amusing distraction as we sipped the free-flowing fizz. Being a devoted townie, it’s the closest I’ll ever get to rural life.

I didn’t take any snaps of the ceremony, I left that to the official paparazzi, but I can report that the I Do’s were suitably solemn and intimate. The bride, our niece, was as pretty as a picture and clearly head over her white heels. Young love restores my faith in humanity.

It wasn’t exactly flaming June but the sun did pop out for a while, just in time for the photo call. Mother Nature managed to hold her temper until the reception before adding a surreal snap, crackle and pop to the bonhomie in the newly-restored Tudor Barn. Cocks crowed during the speeches and the bride blushed as the groom gushed. Liam and I were placed on the uncles’ and aunties’ table next to the bar. Clearly, our reputation had preceded us.

There were more PhDs in the room than at a Nobel prize-giving and when the party kicked off, classic rock was their soundtrack of choice. By 10:30 pm, sated and two sheets to the wind, we bid our farewells and left the trendy young brains to pogo the night away to Bowie, Oasis and the Boss. Oh, to be in my twenties again – perfect figure, perfect skin, perfect liver. And staying power.

Marriage Equality in Northern Ireland

You could have knocked me over with a feather boa when, in 2013, it was a Conservative government that introduced the law to legalise same sex marriage. Let’s face it, those dyed-in-the-wool, true-blue Tories aren’t exactly noted for their enlightened social policies or support for civil liberties. The passage of the Same-Sex Marriage Act through Parliament was far from smooth; lots of hysterical talk from barren barons and men in frocks about the end of the world and the divine sanctity of wedlock. But the legislation was passed, God didn’t lift a finger and the lights stayed on. Hallelujah.

Marriage is a devolved affair in the UK so the 2013 Act only applied to England and Wales. It didn’t take long for the winds of change to blow through these damp little islands. The Scottish Parliament legalised same sex marriage in 2014 followed by the Isle of Man this year. The Channel Islands will bring up the rear in 2017. So who’s letting the side down? Those hell and damnation Presbyterians in Northern Ireland, that’s who. Last November the Northern Ireland Assembly voted narrowly in favour of marriage equality but the Democratic Unionist Party vetoed the motion by using something called a ‘petition of concern’, a mechanism established by the Northern Irish peace settlement to protect the rights of minorities. Ironic, don’t you think? A shameful abuse of power, I call it.

NI Marriage Equality Poll

Those dour old dinosaurs really need to step out of their orange lodges and into the light. Public opinion in Northern Ireland is firmly behind reform and who would have thought only a few years ago the people of the Irish Republic would have voted so convincingly for marriage equality? But then, they are no longer held in the medieval grip of the Catholic Church, thank the Lord.

Liam and I formed a Civil Partnership in 2008 and then converted to marriage as soon as we legally could. My mother is Northern Irish and proudly so. I have family connections across the province. We now have the ludicrous situation where our marriage is, or soon will be, legally recognised throughout these islands except for one small corner, all because of a band of crusty old bigots in orange sashes on the wrong side of history. As if the people of Ulster haven’t suffered enough.

Change will eventually come. The writing’s on the wall. I invite you to help it along by signing the latest petition here.

Cheers!

Dirty Weekend

Dirty Weekend

What better way to celebrate our ‘salt’ wedding anniversary than a trip to the seaside for a dirty weekend? We were chauffeured to Gorleston-on-sea in decadent style by a pair of old Norwich rascals (you know who you are), necking fizz all the way in the back of their Mercedes Benz. Our luxurious room with a sea view came courtesy of my sister and the celebratory bottle of red on the Cliff Hotel terrace came courtesy of Liam.

Mother Nature, a contrary old bag round these parts, was in a bright mood for a change so we were all set for fun on the sand and frolics in the boudoir. The rest I leave to your vivid imagination.

Alas, we were four months too late to catch a performance of ‘Sindaz’ the adult panto, giving a whole new meaning to the line, ‘he’s behind you’.

SindazSo we squandered a few quid in the penny arcade instead. And what did we get for our coppers? A cuddly toy, obviously. We called him Gallstone.

Gallstone

An Old Wives’ Tale for Valentine’s Day

My mother (an old wife with a tale for every occasion), told me if I noticed a robin flying overhead on Valentine’s Day, I would marry a sailor. But I if saw a sparrow, I would marry a poor man, but be very happy. If I spotted a goldfinch, my beau to be would be filthy rich. For my considerable sins, I spied vultures circling.

Only joking, obviously!

Happy Valentine’s Day, Liam