Review of the Year, 2011

Happy New Year to pansy fans one and all from a stormy, rain-sodden Bodrum. In the best tradition of the New Year and all those cheap-to-make review and top ten TV compilations I give you:

Perking the Pansies Top Ten 2011

An eclectic mix of the mad, the glad, the sad and the bad, the old, the bold, the sold and the gold. It’s interesting how few of these posts are actually related to expats directly. The list represents around 20% of all hits to Perking the Pansies (out of about 500 posts). Fancy that.

  1. Amy Winehouse, RIP
  2. Now, That’s What I Call Old
  3. Are We Mad?
  4. Pussy Galore
  5. Gay Marriage in New York
  6. Expat Glossary
  7. Publish and Be Damned
  8. There’s Hope for Us All
  9. Happy Birthday Perking the Pansies
  10. Sisters Are Doing it for Themselves

I wonder what 2012 has in store?

This is in store right now.

Where Have All the Women Gone?

Liam’s back from Blighty, exhausted and in need of a little TLC. Naughty Nancy picked him up from Bodrum Airport while I warmed the house with candles, decanted the red and prepared a homecoming meal. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my culinary skills leave a great deal to be desired, but there is one simple dish I can cook without causing an international incident. It’s a one pot number of chicken thighs, tomatoes, peppers, red onions, and spices brewed in red wine. I just bung it all in and hope for the best – a winter warmer on a chilly night.

A winter warmer was needed. Liam brought the dodgy weather back with him – cold, wind and rain. As we sat down to chomp on my juicy thighs, we reminisced about our first winter in Yalıkavak. When we first rambled into the little town on one of those sunny midwinter days, things felt foreign, in more ways than one. ‘Jesus, where are all the women?’ I remember Liam asking. He was right. The scarcity of women in public was a complete shock to the system and a standard feature of Turkish life that we would never fully come to terms with. Okay, during high season, the female population was augmented by foreign bikini babes with their jugs out for the boys, and by the occasional painted lady of the night looking to make a quick rouble. Out of season though, things were a different affair entirely. Yalıkavak became a man’s world. It took us a while to acclimatise. Eventually, we uncovered the fairer sex hidden away in the fields, ringing the tills at supermarkets, dishing out the dosh in Turkish banks or playing happy families on a Sunday stroll. It was a real culture shift for the boys from the Smoke.

Check out my book

Perking the Pansies – Jack and Liam move to Turkey

The Faithful Retainer

We enjoyed mezes and drinks in Sofiye’s lush garden and we were in joyful, mellow mood. Towards the end of the evening Sofiye’s maid emerged from the kitchen having washed up and wiped down. She joined us at the table to eat a modest meal of pasta and salad. She asked Sofiye about Liam and me and Safiye asked us how she should reply. ‘Honestly,’ we said. We studied the maid’s mystified expression as she grappled for several minutes to make sense of the information. We thought it cruel to persevere so we settled on cousins, and she seemed calmed by the clarification since village people like to keep it in the family.

The teetotal maid became quite intoxicated by the laid back charm of the evening and, with reckless abandon and without warning, whipped off her head scarf to reveal dark, silky hair fashioned into a single squaw-like platted ponytail which she draped across her left shoulder. Excited but anxious, she looked to the assembly for approval. We gave her an ovation. Sadly, it was but a brief moment of sovereignty. She replaced the head scarf as we left to totter home down the lane.




Love Thy Neighbour

After an long, exhausting day at the beach we returned home to a bit of a do. Our shared courtyard was ablaze with candles and Bubbly Beril was busily dressing her patio table. Moments later, the flamboyant Sofiya floated through the garden accompanied by a younger woman slapped up like Coco the Clown on a bad hair day. Beril turned to Liam and explained in broken English that she was throwing an impromptu al fresco dinner party and we would be joining them.  In five minutes. The menu was a generous selection of calamari and un-filleted fish.  This was Liam’s worst nightmare – he simply can’t do fish bones and tentacles are an absolute no no. I watched my husband attempt to keep his gag reflex in check, but he struggled. Eventually, he resorted to stashing cuts of rubbery squid in the pockets of his bermuda shorts. Oh the shame.

The evening was an eclectic mix of insults and complements, with Sofiya acting as the unofficial translator. Her companion was half cut from the start. She sat po-faced and aloof, only opening her mouth to demand more rakı. My attempts to engage her in a friendly tête-à-tête went largely unrequited. When she did speak it was to brag about her English – a result of a ten year stint in Texas (or Teksars, as she called it). Her pidgin dialect seemed little better than my Turkish, but I let it go. The miserable Coco became more and more inebriated. As her tongue loosened, the reason for her truculence became crystal clear – I was the problem. She unleashed an unprovoked broadside in my direction about foreign residents not speaking Turkish. Caught on the back foot, I attempted to placate her with a humble apology and a promise to do better. Dissatisfied, she continued to snipe. After an hour I could take no more and asked Sofiya to intervene  – she did so with grace and tact, as I would expect from an ex RADA girl. Sofiya’s friend delivered a theatrical but fake apology topped only by my own fake acceptance of it. She withdrew to the opposite end of the table to sulk and sup.

I do accept that my lack of ear for languages will hinder a meaningful engagement within my host community. However, to be dressed down by an old sop who, after spending 10 years in the USA, could hardly string a few simple words together in English was a bit rich.

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Enchanted Jack

Last month the fabulous people at Displaced Nation asked me about:

  • My most enchanting experience this summer
  • My least enchanting experience, and
  • Tricks of the trade for dealing with the unforgiving heat.

I feel a little trilogy coming on.

Displaced Nation Trilogy – Part 1

Bodrum is the most secular and modern of Turkish towns. Normal social rules don’t apply here. It’s where people come to escape the conformity of everyday Turkish society. However, scrape the surface and you will find magic of a different kind. We were visiting our friend Jessica – a thoroughly modern Millie and a gorgeous Bodrum Belle to boot. Jessica lives just a few hundred metres behind the swanky marina with its luxury yachts and raucous watering holes. Her home is set within a traditional quarter of whitewashed buildings huddled together along narrow lanes. As we approached her door, we noticed an elderly neighbour dressed in traditional livery: floral headscarf, crocheted cardigan and capacious clashing pantaloons. She sat cross-legged in a shady spot of the garden and seemed to be plucking a fleece. Liam and I are self-confessed city boys and asked Jessica what the old lady was up to. Apparently, she was preparing the wool for hand carding, straightening and separating fibres to weave on the spinning wheel she kept in her house. The amazing woman hummed as she plucked, happy under the cool of an ancient knotted olive tree and doing what women have done in Turkey for millennia. Now you don’t get that in Blighty.

Part Two tomorrow – Disenchanted Jack

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