Perking the Pansies

Perking the Pansies

Our hobbling tour of Bodrum was something of a boozy whirlwind and confirmed I can’t do multiple piss-ups anymore. It was season’s end with flight prices to match, but the interminable limp through Stansted was a brutalising experience when compared to our little local airport. Working to a slum-it budget, we bagged ourselves a hotel in Bodrum for eleven quid a night, breakfast included. Nothing much worked in our barrel-scraped digs but the family-run gaff was clean and convenient. This was the first time we had set foot on Turkish soil since we called time on our Anatolian adventure in 2012 and we were determined to make hay. Naturally, the wedding of the year was the main event but we also wanted to share a jar or two with some of our old muckers, so we pitched our standard on a Bodrum Beach and waited for battle to commence. The onslaught came in waves and after nine hours of friendly fire, talking ten to the dozen about everything under the moonlit sky, we staggered to the nearest taxi rank. A huge hand to all the Bodrum belles and beaus who really made our day. You know who you are.

These images are as blurred as our vision was by the end of the evening.

Of course, no trip back to Bodrum would have been complete without a reunion of the Sisterhood…

… the antidote to the VOMITing sickness that afflicts the many Shirley Valentines who wash up like driftwood on the beaches of Turkey. Many of the Sisters are reformed VOMITs who’ve been through the ringer, some more than once, but have emerged to tell the tale stronger and wiser. The Sisters stick together (like birds of a feather), because men are rubbish.

Expat Glossary

So after a day trip down memory lane along Turkey Street (more of this later), we joined the Sisterhood in Musto.

Musto was top of our list and sat in a prime location on Marina Boulevard opposite the smart shopping parade. Its handsome young owner, Mustafa the Magnificent, was second cousin to our landlady and a generous and convivial host. The eponymous Mustafa learned his trade at Sünger, his uncle’s legendary pizza parlour, a place that had been dishing up margheritas to the sailing squad since the early seventies. Unlike some of his rivals, Mustafa never resorted to pressganging people in from the street. He courted the emigrey crowd with Italian seasoning, palatable wine, affordable prices and generous yolluks. It was a formula that attracted swarms of discerning diners, even out of season.

Turkey Street

mustoMusto has expanded considerably since our last visit, though I’m pleased to say the menu and ambience remain special. Back in the day, regular meetings of the Sisterhood always kept the pansies perked, particularly during the chilly winter months when Bodrum life was as a slow as pond water. Thank you Doc, Jess and Victoria.

There was a distinct autumnal nip when we got back to Norwich and the heating went on for the first time since the spring. A day or two later, Liam departed for London on family duties so I sank into the sofa to watch an ancient episode of Midsomer Murders on ITV3 with my carcinomic ankle resting on a Swedish pouffe. I was unsettled. We thought our trip back to Bodrum would be our swansong. Now I’m not so sure. Despite challenging political times, Turkey has worked her magic all over again. Blimey.

bodrum-beach

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.

Under the Tuscan Sun – Reprise

Under the Tuscan Sun – Reprise

With Liam away on family duties and me at a loose end, I made a brew, raided the biscuit barrel, put my feet up and channel-hopped. Mine’s a glamorous life. Quite by chance, I happened across a Sunday matinee of Under the Tuscan Sun. The last time I saw the film was also a Sunday afternoon but that was in 2011 and we lived in Bodrum. And Liam had just returned from family duties. Warming waves of nostalgia rolled over me and my eyes glassed over, not just because of the weepy but also for memories of our Turkish days.

Under the Tuscan Sun

The film even gets a brief mention in Turkey Street and I posted about it back in the day. I think the post holds up surprisingly well…

Under the Tuscan Sun

It’s All Double Dutch to Me

It’s All Double Dutch to Me

A couple of weeks ago I popped over to the low land of dykes, bikes, canals, tall thin blonds and tall thin buildings. I’ve been to old Amsterdam many, many times before. Back in the day, Amsterdam was a blesséd escape from finger-wagging, buttoned-up Britain, and a place where I could feel totally free. I won’t regale you with ripe tales of how I expressed that freedom – this is a family show, after all. Needless to say, it rarely involved a cultural troll round the marvellous galleries of the Rijks Museum.

Here’s an ancient image of me in the naughty Nineties on one of my gayfests.

scan0047

I’m standing on the Homomonument, a memorial to those persecuted for their sexuality. Opened in 1987, the monument takes the form of a large pink triangle jutting out into the Keizersgracht canal. It’s a potent symbol: the pink triangle was the badge of shame gay men were forced to wear in the Nazi concentration camps during World War Two. And we all know what happened in those places.

This time I was there on business. I was attending the 2016 Families in Global Transition Conference (#FIGT16NL), a gig that brought together people from far flung corners, all concerned with issues affecting global families. The current refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East added an extra layer of complexity to this year’s august jamboree.

Why me? You may well ask. I’m neither an expat, nor a family in transition (not anymore anyway). In fact, I was there as part of my work with Summertime Publishing and Springtime Books, specialists in expat titles. And I was asked to lead a social media workshop for writers. It was a bit of a hit, I’m told. I even got to sell signed copies of my books in the FIGT bookshop – and was more than chuffed when they flew off the shelves and soon sold out. Clearly some people like a dash of camp with their esoteric.

Here’s me flapping my hands about in the social media workshop.

FIGT Workshop

And me on the right grinning inanely in the bookshop.

FIGT Bookshop

After a hectic few days navigating through the talkers, walkers, cars, trams and manic cyclists on a mission coming at me from every which way, I landed back at Norwich Airport at ten to nine in the evening. I was home with a large glass of Pinot in hand twenty minutes later. Now that’s the way to travel.

If you’d like to know more about Families in Global Transition and their valuable work, check out their website. In the meantime, here are some pretty pictures I took of the pretty city.

The conference pictures are courtesy of FIGT.

Top of the Pansy Pops 2015

Top of the Pansy Pops 2015

It’s been a stonker of a year. In partnership with Summertime Publishing, I launched Springtime Books to provide a publishing platform for expat writers and in May, I wrapped up the saga of our emigrey days with the release of Turkey Street. The book birthing was particularly painful. Eighteen months later than planned, I fretted my comeback would be as welcome as another Spice Girls reunion, but the pain eased as the reviews dropped onto the mat. Against the blogging odds, Perking the Pansies continues to trip along nicely with a bevy of fans old and new. Somehow or other, I’ve just exceeded my 1,000th post and 10,000th comment. Not bad, I suppose, for some silly old nonsense. For all these things, I’m nothing if not grateful.

Here are the top of the pansy pops for 2015 – a fine diet of gay pride; righting an old wrong; butts of steel; relationship highs and Turkish lows; murderous intent and loose ends finally tied; the dreaded curse of middle England; bad tempered café society; and a little cottage industry to keep us out of the workhouse.

London Pride | Pardon Me | Catching Crabs | Istanbul Pride, Turkey Shame | Death Duties | Turkey Street Uncovered | Happy Anniversary, Liam | Whinging Brits | Give Us a Quiche | Springtime Has Sprung

As for the most popular image of 2015? Typical!

Rowers8

Here’s looking ahead to more pansy adventures in 2016. Happy New Year to one and all.

The Rainbow Awards 2015

The Rainbow Awards 2015

Runner upYesterday, I received an early Christmas present and very nice it was too. I awoke to the news that Turkey Street, Jack and Liam move to Bodrum was runner up for the prestigious Rainbow Book Awards 2015 (best LGBT Biography/Memoir). I’m stunned. I entered ages ago with rock bottom expectations and so the announcement has left me rather speechless (most unusual for me). All in all, not bad for a bit of camp old nonsense about a place few have heard of from an unknown ex-pretty boy with his best years way, way behind him. The judges were generous with their praise:

 

One of the best non-fiction books of the year.
 
Delightful…brimming with atmosphere, interesting characters, and wonderful central ones.
 
Fast and funny… sophisticated dialogue.
 
The characters practically leap off the page.
 
The language is beautiful.
 
Playful, witty and poignant.
 
Full marks. It’s that good.
I guess they liked it. Check it out here.

Turkey Street: Jack and Liam move to Bodrum – Review

A big hand to insideoutinistanbul for the thoughtful review of Turkey Street. I’m chuffed!

Turkey Street: Jack and Liam move to Bodrum – Review.