It’s been a double celebration of our birthdays. We were feted in style by a succession of festivities sponsored by a select sample of the Bodrum Belles and Gumbet Gals, and topped off by a birthday bombshell. Blighty-life friend and part-time thesp, Clive, flew in for the occasion on a surprise visit. Liam was suitably startled and unusually speechless. Our days were awash with lavish fizz and food, calorific cakes with candles, and generous bountiful gifts.
Dear Clive is a flimsy sleeper and needs total sensory deprivation. He couldn’t quite fit the isolation tank into his hand luggage so had to make do with a Virgin Atlantic mask and earplugs the size of suppositories. Thankfully, Clive managed to get his beauty sleep (despite the dogs, traffic, call to prayer and a plague of flies) and awoke each day rested and raring to go. Liam and I drank the house dry while a sober Clive looked on with amiable amusement. When the white was spent, I resorted to sucking out brandy from the fruit cake Clive had lovingly baked and slipped into his luggage.
After a solid week of liquor decadence and wringing our livers out in the sink, the show is now over. These two ageing queens are resting their drunken bones. Until next year.
Last night, the heavens opened and we were entertained by a real snap, crackle and pop of a storm. What is it about Turkish raindrops? They seem so much heavier than the Blighty variety as they fall to the ground like cluster bombs. As we watched the spectacle from our balcony, our courtyard became littered with adolescent olives and the road outside was overcome by a river of brown sludge that sloshed against our garden wall. We unplugged our fancy electricals as a precaution against the strobe lightning, positioned towels at vulnerable points around the house and hoped for the best.
At least the town’s first autumnal wash did douse the semi-parched garden. At the beginning of the summer, our neighbour took sole charge of our joint plot and made a valiant effort to keep it well watered. His initial enthusiasm eventually waned to half-hearted resentment; he seemed very pleased with the biblical downpour. We were less enthusiastic. Midway through the tempest, our roof sprang a leak and our fuse box, which is illogically located on an external wall, tripped. Compared to some, we got off lightly. We’re planning a joint birthday shindig this month; our birthdays are two weeks apart. At this rate it will be illuminated by candles and guests will be entertained by transistor radio while they sup warm white wine and dance around strategically placed buckets.
Hot on the heels of Clive’s double came Ian’s extended fun fest. The function room of a posh gastropub overlooking Victoria Park in East London was the host for the opening episode. Squally showers did nothing to dampen our spirits as we partied the afternoon away entertained by faces old and new. Drinks were plentiful and complementary and the bash bounced along to the naff sounds of Eurovision. The annual song-fest is a huge but harmless addiction for Ian and his partner, Matt. At the close of play it was back to their Bow penthouse for more liquid refreshment and more Eurovision. They wisely invested in their top storey pad just after London won the Olympics and their balcony directly overlooks the grand stadium. Since it is easier to win the lottery than secure a seat at the opening ceremony, I know where we’ll be on opening night.
Our Euro adventure ended with a final flourish in a French farmhouse a few miles outside Bordeaux. Ian rented a four bedroom pile that oozed rustic Gallic charm and invited along his nearest and dearest to sample his hospitality and clear out his wine cellar. The weather was kind and we had two boozy days of wit and repartee around the bracing pool. Ian and Matt played the gracious hosts with the most with understated panache and saintly patience. Our glasses were never empty as we sank the Bordeaux in Bordeaux and the table was always set for endless fine French fare. The final night’s jollity had Clive and Angus dancing a rumba in the kitchen and me doing something rather obscene with a banana. When Clive makes it as a full-time thespian he’ll be the odds on favourite to win Strictly Come Dancing. ‘Not with my arthritis,’ he yelled from the wings. I’m sure the Bow Belles were glad to see the back of us when we departed, if only to get some rest. I was carrying my liver home in a jiffy bag.
Apart from celebrating our niece’s nuptials and spending quality time with our folks, the main purpose of our extended excursion to Blighty and beyond was to rejoice in the half centuries of my two oldest friends, Clive and Ian. Their birthdays are a day apart and they decided to revel in style, each with a two centre commemoration.
Clive’s was up first with a posh meal in a posh eatery in posh Islington attended by a select group of friends and family, including his consort and civil partner, Angus. The superior banter was lubricated with bountiful booze and nourished by top notch nosh. Clive’s second soiree was at Duckie, the legendary avant-garde club night for those seeking something a little bit different from the usual Saturday night set menu (hard house and South American waiters with chest implants and spaced out expressions).
Coincidentally, it was Duckie’s 16th birthday bash, so they too celebrated in style by hiring the ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall for the evening. The compere dished up a hit and miss medley of arty-farty cabaret which I must confess was more miss than hit, a bit like watching someone’s end of year drama college project. The evening had a British tribal theme – punks, mods, new romantics, blokes in bowlers, housewives, Greenham Common wimin – you get the idea. We went as seventies clones – check shirts, tight stone washed 501s, coloured hankies and joke shop handlebar tashes – more Frisco than disco. We danced the night away to period pop courtesy of the resident DJs, the Readers Wives. I pogoed to God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols, which seemed appropriate given the venue. My cheap fake tash dropped off in the process.
As the evening drew to a close, we tottered across Hungerford Bridge to the Strand and boarded our night bus home. Of course, we sat on the top deck like a couple of tourists. The passenger list was like London life in miniature. Two young men sat canoodling at the front on the bus, nothing pornographic you understand, just a fine romance. A mixed-race straight couple sat in the seat behind in animated exploratory conversation. He’d obviously just picked her up (or vice versa). Two gangsta-looking types in chunky chains sat behind us talking not of drug deals but of share swaps. A gaggle of girls giggled at the back. The good-humoured Clapham omnibus led me down memory lane through the south London streets of my salad days. We arrived home safe, sated and sozzled.
Charlotte and Alan invited us over for dinner in Yalıkavak. Charlotte used us as guinea pigs for her latest culinary acquisition, a lavishly produced padded vegetarian cookbook. The meal was splendid. As usual, we journeyed by dolly and, as usual, it was chock-a-block. It was a lively excursion. We were entertained by an animated row between the driver and an unseen female passenger at the rear of the bus arguing about the distance covered by an indi-bindi (short hop fare). Her loud and persistent protests were met by a robust stern-ward defence by the driver who feverishly waved about his official fare chart. Since he was paying little attention to the road ahead, he was oblivious to the small scooter carrying four individuals slotted together like Lego that weaved ominously in and out of the traffic around us. A disaster was averted by an evasive wrench of the steering wheel prompting a sudden lurch of the bus. All in a day’s work by a dolly driver.
In honour of Karen’s visit we decided to throw a bit of a do, our very first. We were a tad anxious. We didn’t want to transgress the unwritten social rules that must be obeyed. We sought the advice of catering Guru Chrissy on the food situation. She assured us that nibbles and a cold platter would be acceptable for a cocktail party. Guests will know to eat beforehand.
Our début soiree was well graced. Liam and Karen prepared a delightful spread of cold meats, cheeses, mezes, breads and objects on sticks. Karen mingled amiably with la crème dispensing easy urbane charm. We had our first delicious taste of Charlotte’s mother, Lucia, a seasoned older lady with a twinkle in the eye and a racy past. The more Lucia imbibed, the more her carefully cultivated middle class Donegal brogue degenerated into Bogside. Towards the end of the evening, we showed a DVD of our civil partnership ceremony – a calculated risk but one that went down a storm. Eyes welled, even those of macho Chuck.
Bernard got incredibly pissed very quickly and fell into the car at the end of the evening. He wasn’t fit to drive but managed to arrive home without running down any street dogs or wrapping his flash BCSD car around the trunk of an olive tree. Drink driving by emigreys is depressingly commonplace. Chrissy telephoned the next day and explained why Bernard had got so drunk – he didn’t eat because there wasn’t any hot food. ‘If it had been my party,’ she loftily pronounced, ‘I would have served a lasagne.‘ What a bloody cheek.
Valentine’s Day took an unusual twist this year. Chrissy invited us to her place for a romantic dinner for four. We were instructed to wear something red or pink for the occasion. Obviously, as gay men our wardrobe is dominated by different shades of pink. We feebly complied for a quiet life. The table setting was a glittering display of fussy pink and lilac chintz, hearts and flowers and enough tea lights to power a small city. The food was great. Bernard is a good cook. However, the happy couple bickered loudly in the kitchen between courses. Cupid had taken the night off.