Ten Lucky Years

A decade has now passed since we closed the door on the stone house in Bodrum for the last time and brought our four-year Turkish adventure to a sudden end. And ever since, while the world has continued its grim descent into oblivion, we’ve just carried on regardless. Our Anatolian days taught us to think differently and live differently – making do with less and being all the happier for it.

After Turkey, we pitched our tent in Norfolk, a flat and bountiful corner of old England – first in Norwich, then Chedgrave, a village few people have heard of. To begin with, we rented, trying the city on for size. Our first lodgings were a 400-year-old former weaver’s gaff in flint and brick near Norwich’s University of the Arts. We loved it, giving us a taste for city life and its student vibe. But our antique digs were cold and draughty and, even back in 2012, cost a king’s ransom to heat. Gawd knows what the bills are like now.

After a couple of years, we decided to put down roots and buy our own slice of historic Norwich – a micro-loft in a handsome converted Victorian warehouse, a writer’s garret to polish off Turkey Street, my second memoir.

At the time, our savings were still in Turkish lira earning pretty good interest. Little did we know that the lira was about to take a dive – and lucky for us, we converted to sterling just in the nick of time. Only days later Turkey’s currency dropped off a cliff, and it’s been more or less in freefall ever since. Had we hesitated it might have been the workhouse for us, not some trendy city-centre apartment.

Five years later, we fancied a quieter life, with room to breathe and a log burner to keep our tootsies toasty. We put the micro-loft on the market and it was bought by the first person to view. Quite by chance, Liam noticed a tiny 1850s worker’s cottage for sale. We came, we saw, we bought. Five months into our village life, the world was in lockdown, and our cottage was the perfect place to ride out the storm. Our luck was still in.

Truth is, we only chose Norfolk because we needed somewhere we could actually afford and that was a relatively easy commute to London: there was family stuff to deal with. But as time moved on there was no longer a need for us to stick around the sticks. For a while, we toyed with God’s Own County – Yorkshire – with its big-limbed, hunky Heathcliffs. It certainly does have its moody blue attractions among the moors and mills.

But we’re rather taken with our East Anglian hamlet, with its broad Naarfuk brogue, big skies and chirpy birds with their squawky dawn call – loud enough to wake the dead in the churchyard next door. And we may be newbie Norfolk broads but we’re definitely not the only gays in the village.

The cottage is my nineteenth address. Will I make it to twenty? And will our luck hold? Who knows? But we do have a coffin hatch just in case the Grim Reaper comes a-knocking.

A Pansy Anniversary

My irreverent, irrelevant ramblings reached the grand old age of 10 in October last year. It passed by without notice. Blog years are like dog years so all things being equal, Perking the Pansies should have been sent to the knacker’s yard yonks ago. The fact that the pansies continue to thrive is a testament to those who still take the time to pass by after all these years. It makes this old nag very happy. How long will it continue? Dunno.

The very first post on Blogger!

But what is certain is that the book that emerged from the early days of the blog changed everything and took Liam and me in an entirely different and totally unexpected direction. And that book – Perking the Pansies, Jack and Liam Move to Turkey – reaches its own 10th anniversary next month, and that hasn’t passed me by. The fact that after a decade it still sells at all is a minor miracle and rather humbling. I thank you.

“A bitter-sweet tragi-comedy that recalls the first year of a British gay couple living in a Muslim land. Just imagine the absurdity of two openly gay, recently married middle aged, middle class men escaping the liberal sanctuary of anonymous London to relocate to a Muslim country. Jack and Liam, fed up with kiss-my-arse bosses and nose-to-nipple commutes, chuck in the towel and move to a small town in Turkey. Join the culture-curious gay couple on their bumpy rite of passage.”

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 Pen, to drag me barking out of retirement. How could I refuse? This time, though, Liam got in on the act.

Nicola

“What do you enjoy reading?”

Me

“As a child of the media age, I tend to take my fiction visually. Most of the books I read are non-fiction – memoir, history, social commentary or politics – and then usually around a pool. That’s when I have the time. So I asked my husband, Liam, who is much better-read than me.”

Liam

“There are some wonderful books set in a ‘foreign’ setting. Sebastian Faulks’ gripping novel ‘Birdsong’ features an Englishman who moves to France before the outbreak of the First World War. ‘A Woman of Bangkok’ by Jack Reynolds is a thrilling and atmospheric classic set in Thailand. There are so many. What matters most is the story. Sure, the setting can add something – sometimes it becomes a character in its own right…”

Unusually, Liam got the last word.

“…but nothing beats a good story.”

Read the full interview here.

Do You Have an Expat Story to Tell?

I don’t normally mix business with pleasure but I’m making an exception this week. Regular readers will know about the cruel murder of fellow expat author Lindsay de Feliz in December last year. We – that is Springtime Books – published her memoirs and we thought hard about a fitting tribute. And, so, with the help of a number of generous donors and freebies thrown into the mix by our own team, we’re launching the Lindsay de Feliz New Writer of Expat Memoir Award. It’s a bit of a mouthful, I know.

A mouthful it may be but the lucky winner will receive a bursary to cover the full cost of a full publishing package – big picture edit, proofread, design, production and distribution for worldwide sale – the full monty.

The competition is open until the end of July 2020, and the winner will be selected in September 2020 by a panel of expatriate authors and writers from the Dominican Republic.

Interested? Click below to…

Knocking Up a Mock-Up

Regular pansyfans may recall that Springtime Books (that’s me and my partners in crime) are working on an anthology of expat stories about Turkey. A huge thank you to those who’ve contributed so far – the book is building very nicely. We’ve already got a fabulous, diverse selection of personal tales and reflections – from Istanbul to Gaziantep, from ‘Chickens in a Buick’ to ’Finding My Tribe in Turkey’, some humorous, some touching and all capturing a personal snapshot. All this means there’s a unique book in the making.

So do keep your contributions coming in (see Turkey Anthology – What’s Your Story? for more info.) We’re about halfway there. I know many of you have some amazing personal stories to tell and, as this book is a ‘thank you to Turkey from expats past and present’, it would be particularly good to have some up-close-and-personal accounts of how Turkey and its people have affected you, touched you. Don’t worry if your idea isn’t fully-formed, just get something down on ‘paper’ and we can finesse it later.

The book is still untitled but to help visualise what it might eventually look like, I’ve got our designer to knock up a mock-up. It’s just an idea at this stage to be taken lightly but does hint at the kind of look and feel we’ll be going for.