2018 and All That

2018 and All That

The world may be going to Hell in a handcart but the Pansies keep on blooming – year in, year out. I keep them fed and watered and I’m grateful to those who pass by to admire the display. As the New Year dawns and more dark clouds lurk on the horizon, it’s a good time to look back at the pansies that perked the most in 2018. Life is a Cabaret, Old Chum, romped home by a mile. Who knew a drag show in a circus tent could strike such a chord?

As for the also-rans, it’s the usual eclectic bunch – as befits my random rants and ramblings from daily life: cowboys, cross-dressers, the curse of modern parlance, movie misses, gym bunnies, Hellenic heaven, and stories old and new from the Land of the Sunrise.

Life is a Cabaret, Old Chum | Can I Get, Like, a Coffee? | My Brokeback Mountain Moment | Heal Thyself | Pretty in Pink | Do You Have a Tale to Tell? | Is This the Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy?A Hard Act to FollowOld Money, No MoneyPostcards from Crete

There’s No Place Like Home was the most shared. Similarly, in 2017, it was Home Sweet Home.  So I guess there really is no place like it.

And what was the most popular post from years past? For the second year running it’s that 2012 camp classic, Gran Canaria, Sex Emporium. It’s the title that won it. Shame on you.

With 2018 all wrapped up, we’re off to the Ivy for some posh nosh and to see in the New Year. Wishing everyone peace and prosperity for 2019.

From Crack to Smack

Liam’s busted ribs are mending slowly but surely and the pain has eased. At one point, I was considering putting him on the liquid morphine left over from my arterial bypass a few years back, but it’s well past its ‘use by date’ and I didn’t want Liam to go from crack to smack. A casualty of his temporary incapacity was a planned jolly to North Yorkshire. Since Liam could neither travel nor drink, our merry night in Leeds followed by a little festive fun in Knaresborough was off. My disappointment was partially redeemed by a recent five star Amazon review for that book I wrote seven years ago. Amazingly, it still sells, though less so these days. The reviewer simply wrote:
Fabulous read!
Thank you, Susan Pritchard. Have a fabulous Christmas. 1526749898

Do You Have a Tale to Tell?

Do You Have a Tale to Tell?

It’s been ten years since Liam and I jumped ship and waded ashore to Bodrum. Ditching the profitable careers did little for our bank balance but a great deal for our work-life balance. Four helter-skelter years in Turkey taught us to live better with less – about 75% less, in fact. Our Turkish ride also gave me an unexpected tale to tell and tell it I did – first in Perking the Pansies and then in Turkey Street. But enough about me. What about you? Do you have a tale to tell?

Delicious Bodrum belle, Angie Mitchell Sunkur, recently parachuted into Norwich for a surprise visit. She was a welcome tonic and over a few gins we got talking, as you do, about the good old, bad old days. It reminded her of a soiree with some buccaneering belles and beaus where, as the wine flowed, so too did the stories – stories of fun and frolics, sadness and adversity, love and commitment, courage under fire – stories to amuse and to move, stories that should be heard. It’s a rich seam.

‘It would make a good read, don’t you think?’ she asked.

I jumped at the chance. I am a bona fide publisher after all. Angie knows people, lots of people, so she flew back home to collect the recollections. She’s doing a sterling job and we’ve got a fair few already. But we need more. We’d love to publish an anthology of expat life in Turkey – stories long and stories short. I’ll handle all the boring bits – editing, design, production, publication and distribution – I know people.

So do you have a tale to tell? 

We’re interested in hearing from Turkey expats and regular visitors past and present. Drop me a line at jack@springtimebooks.com and I’ll tell you more.

Old Money, No Money

Old Money, No Money

This is the second article originally published at On the Ege Magazine back in the day. I’ve rescued it from the bin to re-post for posterity. Why? Because I can.

Old Money, No Money

We were summoned by a Turkish neighbour for moonlit drinks. Her name is Sophia, a slightly batty older lady who speaks fluent English with a cut glass accent. Sophia has been threatening us with an invitation for weeks by rapping on our window, poking her hand through the grille and startling our visitors. Our immediate neighbours, Vadim and Beril, were also invited so we all scurried along Sentry Lane together. We approached an ornate set of heavy double-doors and rang the bell. Sophia flung open the doors to reveal a gorgeous candlelit courtyard bursting with a copse of mature fruit trees – avocado, pomegranate and lemon – laid out before a pretty, whitewashed old Bodrum house. Liam was immediately drawn to a candlelit niche in the stone wall, partially hidden by the thicket. The recess contained a small statuette of Our Lady, a replica of the original from Meryemana (the house of the Virgin Mary, near Ephesus). Liam resisted the knee-jerk urge to genuflect.

As a foreign student in the sixties, pedigree’d Sophia had acquired her regal inflection at the Royal Society of Dramatic Art. Her career in the arts was cut short by marriage to a Turkish diplomat whom she loved intensely; she travelled the world as the ambassador’s wife until his premature death a decade ago. She still grieves him, but that doesn’t stop her flirting outrageously with Vadim. His protests that he’s a one-woman man get a sceptical response from Sophia. In her experience, it’s perfectly normal for Turkish men to have a harem of women on the go at any one time, a modern twist on the old Muslim custom of taking more than one wife.

Drinks were plentiful and complemented by bountiful mezes freshly prepared by Sophia’s faithful old head-scarfed retainer she calls ‘my Kurdish woman.’ We were serenaded by Vivaldi and classic crooners – while the hired help fell to her knees and prayed with gusto next to the stereo, disregarding completely the irreverent chatter emanating from the terrace. This bizarre spectacle illustrated, as nothing else could, the polar extremes of Turkish society.

As Dean Martin’s honey tones dribbled from the speakers, Sophia pulled me from my seat for a slow smooch around the terrace.

Although she tended to dominate the conversation (in both English and Turkish), Sophia was a gracious host and the evening was a civilised, bi-lingual diversion. Sophia is old money through and through. She seems taken by us though; we’re completely baffled what ‘old money’ sees in ‘no money’.

Turkey, a Land for All Seasons

Turkey, a Land for All Seasons

I was weeding out my files recently and came across a few articles I wrote for On the Ege Magazine back in the day. Memories of glory days long past came flooding back. Sadly, the magazine is no more. So to preserve my witterings for posterity, I’ve decided to re-post them. Feel free to switch channels now. This first post features the cycle of the seasons, a national obsession for us Brits.

Turkey, a Land for All Seasons

The parade of storms that recently rolled into town was a reminder (if one was needed) that Turkey is a land enjoying proper, melodramatic seasons. Here on the Aegean coast we spend six months too hot, six months too cold and six months just about right. We first arrived in Turkey to find our new foster home bathed in a glorious Indian summer and we were lulled into a false sense of meteorological security. Within a month, the pitiless winter was upon us and we were woefully unprepared. We were mugged by a posse of violent electric storms processing over the horizon, a savage spectacle crashing ashore and trapping us inside for days. The rainbows, though, were stunning.

Turkish winters mean business. Prodigious pulses of horizontal rain cluster-bomb every crack and cranny, forcing water under every window frame and beneath every threshold. Towels are requisitioned to ebb the relentless flow. Staying warm is a challenge. Think pre-central heating childhood days when a bed was too cold to get into at night and too warm to get out of in the morning. We sprint to the loo for a morning pee, wear sexless layers and revert to copulating under cover. They don’t mention that in the guide books.

Video courtesy of Euro News. This was the now legendary flash flood that overwhelmed Bodrum in 2015. Miraculously, the old stone cottage we used to rent survived the onslaught with not so much as a dribble. 

The short, sharp winter gradually gives way to a wonderful warm renaissance. Spring in Turkey is a magical time of  year, nature-wise. The hills seem to blossom overnight with a riot of flamboyant flora blanketing the usually arid scrub. We awake from our enforced hibernation, dust down our flip-flops and freshen our speedos. Smiles get broader as trousers get shorter. It’s a brief respite before the unforgiving sun burns the landscape back to its usual two-tone hue of dull green and ochre.

As the mercury marches inevitably upwards, summer slaps us about the face like a merciless wet flannel. By August, varnish peels off window sills, the upper floor of our house becomes a fan-assisted oven and sofas radiate heat like embers from a dying grate. We move slowly, a pair of damp vampires only venturing out between the hours of sunset and dawn – except when we get the chance to mess about in boats, that is.

This too passes and falling temperatures herald our Goldilocks season – not too hot, not too cold. At last, the wilting wilts. We retake possession of our town and watch the hordes climb aboard the last flight home. Bodrum in autumn is in an easy, relaxed mood. Hassle from the press gangs reduces to bearable levels and itinerant workers join the long caravans travelling back east to their winter pastures. Beware, though. Nothing lasts. Winter waits menacingly out at sea.

But What Are They Eating?

But What Are They Eating?

Author Shelley Workinger runs a blog that provides a unique approach to book promotion – food and the consumption thereof. My expanding waistline is evidence enough of my love of all things culinary, so I bit her hand off to get featured.

Turkish cuisine is justifiably famed as one of the world’s greatest. The Sultan’s table overflowed with extravagant bounty from the vast Ottoman domains that once stretched across three continents. The empire may be history, but food – preparing it, eating it, sharing it – is still of enormous cultural importance to all Turks regardless of status and income. So it’s small wonder the simple act of eating plays a starring role in both of my memoirs, Perking the Pansies and its sequel, Turkey Street. Here’s a soupçon…

More…

My Life Abroad

Since 2011, the people at Blog Expat have been shining a little light on expatland by interviewing bloggers from city to steppe, temperate to tropical. They’ve assembled quite an archive over the years. So when I heard they were to publish an anthology of their best stories, I thought it was a good idea. And when I heard they were to include me among the chosen, I thought it was a great idea.

My Life Abroad, a Selection of Expat Stories was published in September 2016. All the participants received a complimentary copy of the book which was a generous touch. Mine dropped on the mat a few weeks back and naturally I gave it a good thumbing. No one could question the book’s scale and ambition. There are abridged versions of 55 interviews and all continents apart from Antarctica are represented. Oddly, though, the contributors are kept anonymous, presumably to protect the guilty.

Every piece is prefaced with an jokey illustration. My own story has two men in summer attire framed on one side by a Shia cleric and on the other by a woman in a burka. Of course it could be a bloke in drag. That’s the point of a burka – you can’t tell. Now, most Turks are Sunnis and I’ve seen more Saudi-style full body bags in Harrods. In my interview I wrote…

Some people show breath-taking ignorance of the Islamic world, tarring all Muslim countries with the same negative brush. No, we aren’t subject to Sharia Law. No, gay people aren’t routinely lynched by rabid mobs of mad mullahs. No, women aren’t forced into marriage as soon as they hit puberty and dressed head to toe in black poly-cotton sheets (well, not in Bodrum anyway). Turkey isn’t perfect but it isn’t Iran.

So I’m hoping the cartoon is intended to be ironic.

Despite the potential faux pas, many of the stories are fun, thoughtful and well worth buying a bookmark for.