Top of the Pansy Pops 2021

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.

A Tale of Two Villages

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 … Continue reading A Tale of Two Villages

Forever Young

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. … Continue reading Forever Young

Get the Bloody Jab

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 … Continue reading Get the Bloody Jab

Queer as Folk

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 … Continue reading Queer as Folk

Nothing Beats a Good Story

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 … Continue reading Nothing Beats a Good Story

A Final Farewell

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 … Continue reading A Final Farewell

Bring Out Your Dead

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 … Continue reading Bring Out Your Dead

And For My Next Trick

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 … Continue reading And For My Next Trick

Jack in the Bottle

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. … Continue reading Jack in the Bottle

Oi Speak Narrfuk Oi Do

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 … Continue reading Oi Speak Narrfuk Oi Do

Wishing everyone a healthier, safer 2022 and a new normal more like the old.

A Tale of Two Villages

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.

‘Women at Work’

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.

Twelve Camels For Your Wife

I often get asked to review books. I usually politely decline. But sometimes something grabs my attention and this is one such time. A great title helps and this is a great title – Twelve Camels For Your Wife: An Englishman’s Lifelong Love Affair With Turkey. This is what I thought.

Author George Dearsley isn’t the first Brit to fall for Turkey and he certainly won’t be the last. But his account of a longstanding love affair with the country is a real delight – an astute, beautifully-penned story of an Englishman abroad. What starts as a madcap road trip to Japan in a royal blue Bedford van, twists and turns, anecdote by anecdote, into an entertaining and touching tale of a courtship with the land he now calls home. It made me feel so nostalgic for my own times past. There are some very funny and well-observed scenes about things that many expats will instantly relate to: the unfathomable bureaucracy, the language mishaps, the surprising customs. And there are some wonderful turns of phrases (‘We came, we saw, we conkered. The area was awash with chestnut trees.’). But it’s his depiction of the Turkish people, the friendships he makes along the way and ultimately his affection for a small village 40km northeast of Selçuk (‘There were many more horses and donkeys than cars’) that tugs at the heartstrings. Funny, insightful and poignant.

Spamalot

I’ve been plagued with spam comments ever since I started this blogging malarkey – nearly 370,000 so far. Just like Domestos and germs, my spam filter kills off 99.9% of ’em so I don’t have to. I used to get an eclectic mix of spam – the collective weaknesses, desires, vices and foibles of humanity laid bare, blended with endless machine-generated auto-babble. These days the slut and smut stuff is mostly absent, and I generally just get pseudo-clinical gibberish, all targeted at a single post from way back in 2012. Here’s an example:

Decrease of a stage of hemoglobin at males up to 120g/l, at girls up to 110g/l is possible. This can imply dependence on male breadwinners, abandoned opportunities for paid work, and exhaustion that extracts a physical and psychological toll. The former is shown, for example, in exams for cutaneous sensitization, whereas the latter is proven in impairment of the power to resist infection erectile dysfunction for women Correlation of preoperative depression and somatic percepRecommendation #2: tion scales with postoperative incapacity and quality of life afer Collecting data concerning the preoperative characteristics and lumbar discectomy. In the course of therapy, the following duties are solved in every particular affected person: fi reduction of exacerbation; fi selection of adequate primary remedy; fi reduction of the danger of development of complications; fi decreasing the danger of side effects in the course of the course.

The post in question is Goodbye to the Turkish Living Forum. It caused quite a stir at the time, I’m pleased to say. Has the post been deliberately targeted? Who would do such as thing? Who knows. But anyone searching online for the forum will often find my ancient post on the first page of Google – the sweet spot for any website – just below the entry for the forum itself. Perhaps all these spam attacks are keeping it there? Happy days!

Mad Dogs and Englishmen: Part II

Having escaped the unwanted attention of the men in black, John and I found ourselves lost and hopeless by the side of a dusty lane. What happened next?

We trekked along the road for about fifteen minutes, not really knowing whether we were heading towards or away from home. By early afternoon, the heat was suffocating, relieved only by the dappled shade of an occasional pine tree. Our ankles throbbed – our fashionable flip-flops had long since lost their allure.

Suddenly, we heard rumble, rumble, crack, crack, vroom from behind us. A car was looming towards us at full speed, engine roaring, trailing a smoky flume. We screamed like girls and threw ourselves at the kerb, John stumbling into the baked-mud gutter snapping the thong of his flip-flop.

I shouted across to John as the car sped past. ‘You okay?’

‘Yeah yeah, I’m fine. Wish I could say the same for these crappy flip-flops.’ He slotted the thong back into its socket.

Meanwhile, the car skidded to an abrupt halt just ahead, cloaking it – and us – in a cloud of petrol-smelling dust. Out leapt a slightly-built, middle-aged man in baggy suit and cloth cap, an unlit cigarette drooping from his mouth.

‘That’s it,’ said John. ‘We’re done for now. We’ll be kidnapped and sold into white slavery.’

‘John,’ I said. ‘This isn’t the Barbary Coast.’

The driver beckoned us and we took a few steps forward. ‘Where you go?’ he said.

I hesitated. ‘Turkuaz Villas.’

‘Come! Come!’ he said, masterfully. ‘We go.’

‘See, John. Nothing to worry about. Your taxi awaits,’ I said, giving an exaggerated sweep of the hand as we approached the car. We peered into the muddied old Fiat. It was rammed with a multi-generational clan – grandma in the front, three kids and mum clutching an infant in the back – all staring back at the curious yabancılar.

‘We go where, exactly?’ said John. ‘The glove compartment?’

‘What glove compartment?’ I said, looking at the twisted wires dangling from beneath the dashboard.

And that’s when poor grandma, dressed in traditional weaves – floral headscarf, crocheted cardigan, clashing pantaloons and socked clogs – was bundled out of the car. No dignity was spared.

‘So where’s she going?’ said John. ‘The roof rack?’

Grandma just smiled and squeezed into the back, the driver shoving her in from behind. Grunts and giggles ensued as the occupants resettled like loose vegetables in a shopping bag.

‘Come! Come!’ the driver said again pointing at the front passenger seat. We obeyed. John climbed in first. I followed.

‘Watch that gear stick,’ I said to John. ‘Don’t want to lose your virtue, eh?’

Tightly wedged against the door, legs plaited with John’s, I fumbled behind for a seat belt. There wasn’t one. Our cabbie jumped in, lit his cigarette, pressed his nose up to the soil-streaked windscreen, started the car and sped off, heading God knows where.

John kept his eyes firmly shut as we tore along the pot-holed road, flying over bumps and speeding into hard bends. It was like a scene from Wacky Races as our crazy driver swerved round a leisurely tractor, waving at the toothless farmhand at the wheel and barely missing a startled goat, which darted into the scrub with a pissed-off bleat. It was at that point I decided to take off my glasses; at least then I wouldn’t see the Grim Reaper coming. Meanwhile, our fellow passengers partied in the back, talking across one another and sniggering – at our expense, I suspected – along the lines of these stupid Eeenglish. I could see the joke. They’d found us stranded in the middle of nowhere frying under the midday sun in fancy flip-flops – Mad Dogs and Englishmen and all that, as famously penned by that grand old queen Noël Coward. Yep, stupid English was about right. Our driver threw himself enthusiastically into the jolly banter, looking back so many times and for so long, I nearly found Jesus.

A few minutes later we were deposited at Turkuaz Villas and rolled out, shaken and stirred but otherwise undamaged. I pulled out a wad of cash from the side pocket of my cargo shorts and examined the zillions of lira, placing my thumb over the last three zeros to get a vague sense of its worth. I held out some notes to our hero as payment for saving us (from ourselves). He just shrugged and brushed his fare aside. Then, with a parting wave, he leapt back into the car and motored off into the distance with grandma and four little faces waving back at us through the rear window.

That was the day I fell in love with Turkey.