With low eastern skies the colour of Milk of Magnesia, I’ve been pining for the hazy days of last summer when we were giants of the steam age, quite a result for a hobbit like me. It was the hottest August bank holiday in years when we rode the Dinky toy Bure Valley Railway to…
…experience a nostalgic trip by steam on Norfolk’s longest narrow gauge railway which runs between the historic market town of Aylsham and bustling town of Wroxham, at the heart of the Norfolk Broads…
… as it says in the blurb. We choo-choo’d past lush, glowing pastures. Our green and pleasant flatland had never seemed quite so green or quite so pleasant. For the spotty trainspotters among you, here are a few snaps to put you in the picture.
And, as per, Liam had to do the
silly arty video. It’s enough to make you travel sick. No, really, it is.
Ours was to be a two-centre beano, or so I’d been promised. At the end of the line, Liam had intended to press gang me onto a double-decker pleasure boat to cruise the Norfolk Broads. For the uninitiated, the Broads are a network of flooded medieval peat excavations popular with those who like to mess about in boats. As much as I love a landscape of reed-beds, grazing marshes, rare wildlife and wet woodland, it was the on-board bar which really drew me in. Sadly, the rest of Norfolk had the same idea and we couldn’t get a ticket for love nor money. We settled for a bottle by the Bure instead. Daffy, the nosey duck wasn’t too impressed by the vintage. I don’t blame him.
Recently, I received a solicitous email from an ‘admirer’ who wrote:
You look nice and charming, to be honest, I can’t pass your page without saying HELLO to such a gorgeous person like you. I am really very sorry if my message upsets you, but i just can’t stop looking at your profile on Facebook.
My name is XXXX, I am from Callaghan, Texas, USA, I live in IOWA city, not that far from City center, i am gay and what about you?
Usually this kind of thing comes to me via Facebook. And most contacts are from young ladies who haven’t checked my profile despite it virtually screaming ‘poofter’ at them. Delete and block.
As this was an email, curiosity got the better of me and I Googled Callaghan, Texas. According to Wikipedia, it’s a small ranching community near the Mexican border. Images of strapping cowboys flooded my mind – sweaty chaps in chaps, saddle-sore after a hard ride and in need of a good rub down. It was my Brokeback Mountain moment.
I’m not daft. I know the message was either from a scammer or some Third World likely lad trying to climb out of poverty. And who can blame him? Whoever he is, he brought some brightness to a dull day. Sadly for him, I’m not in the market for a new model nor am I sugar daddy material. I just don’t have the ‘handbag’ for it as they used to say in Polari. My adoring ‘Texan’ was consigned to spam. Sad face.
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’.
On Christmas Eve my thumb began to ache and throb. I drank through the pain. By the Feast of Stephen, it resembled a medieval pox. The image doesn’t really do justice to the horror of it all. Though angry and weepy, it hardly seemed serious enough for a mercy dash to A&E: the busy medics have quite enough to do over the festive period without me pitching up with a silly sore thumb. So what’s a boy with a pussy digit to do? Well, a call to our local surgery the next day provided the answer.
“The nurse can see you later today,”
said the helpful receptionist.
“Nasty infection. A few pills will soon sort that out,”
said the lovely nurse.
“Oh, and it might burst in the meantime,”
And so it did. I took the pills and drank through the pain.
There’s one evergreen Christmas custom in the Scott-Brennan household that gets rolled out every year – thumbing through the Radio Times for festive televisual treats. Liam likes nothing more than ringing his must-sees with a red felt-tip pen. It’s a quaintly old-fashioned ritual in today’s online, on-demand era. The magazine, first published in 1923, has a loyal but ageing following. I wonder how long it will be before both go the way of the dodo. The advertisers know this too, judging by the loose leaflets that drop from the magazine pages – funeral plans, will writing services, equity release schemes and special furniture for special needs. It’s enough to make me think I’ve already got one foot in the grave. On the other hand, those rise and recline chairs do look comfy.
Perking the Pansies has recently passed its seventh birthday. It’s quite a milestone, I think. Most personal blogs are lucky to make it beyond the terrible twos. I still write it because I still enjoy it and I’m chuffed that enough punters still pop by to catch up on my news and views, rants and rambles. You make a fading fairy very happy. As it’s the turn of the year, it’s top ten time once again. So, ladies and gents, and those who are both, neither or someone in between…
The glitter ball goes to (drum roll please):
Sticky Fingers and Sticky Knickers
And the runner up is:
Tits with Chicks
The top two promised smut but delivered something altogether more innocent. I do hope visitors weren’t too let down, but this does demonstrate the value of a good headline, the ruder the better or so it seems. The also rans are an eclectic pick ‘n’ mix of danger and disability, dotage and death, beards and biography, civic history and doing the right thing.
The Story of Norwich | John Hurt, RIP | Life After My Saucepans | Praying for Time | A Message from My Husband | That Sinking Feeling | Seven Signs of Ageing | I Beg Your Pardon
Sticky Fingers and Sticky Knickers
Tits with Chicks
The Story of Norwich
John Hurt, RIP
Life After My Saucepans
Praying for Time
A Message from my Husband
That Sinking Feeling
Seven Signs of Ageing
I Beg Your Pardon
In these social media-obsessed times, the most shared post was Home Sweet Home, an image-rich homily to little ol’ Norwich, published while Liam and I were away livin’ the vida loca, Greek-style.
And the most popular single image in 2017 (ever, in fact)?
Do we ever learn?
And the most popular old post in 2017?
Gran Canaria, Sex Emporium
Apparently not! 😀
Happy New Year to one and all.
It’s Christmas Eve and, after a year of sensible eating, tomorrow we’re looking forward to calorific grub (thank you M&S), artery-hardening afters, saturated snacking, a barrel of vino, and a little peace and tranquillity. The latter two seem to be rare commodities these days. Whatever Christmas means to you, may your day be merry and bright. I’ll leave you with Norwich’s festive Tunnel of Light. Unassuming by day, by night it’s a dazzling riot of twinkle and glow – a bit like me.