Bodrum, Turkey, April 2012. What is going on with this crazy weather? A real snap, crackle and pop of a storm has just rolled across the horizon. We’ve been assaulted by hailstones. Big buggers, they were too. Mad Mother Nature needs to be sectioned. She’s clearly lost the plot and is a danger to herself and the poor boys trying to complete the urban refit before the season is in full swing. Let’s also spare a thought for the Teutonic early birds with their knee-length shorts and sensible shoes who have taken flight to the nearest covered refuge.
We had a German in order to install lights and a put up a few pictures. I could have done it myself but we just don’t have the right equipment. My little girly cordless drill doesn’t leave even the smallest dent in the thick stone and concrete walls. The German is an interesting chap. Stocky and bald he wouldn’t look out of place in XXL (The huge London gay club for fat boys and chubby chasers). Even though he bats on the majority team he told us about his ménage à trois with his best (male) friend and the friend’s (female) partner. He didn’t elaborate on who did what to whom but there was no penetration involved, apparently. This information was volunteered with absolutely no prompting from me. As he screwed our pan rack to the kitchen ceiling he mentioned that he once constructed a love seat in his bedroom to spice up the sex life with the missus. I’ve seen a leather sling or two in my time, but I’m not too familiar with the love seat concept. Whatever it is it didn’t work. They’re now divorced.
My faith in our distant Nordic cousins has been mercifully restored by the arrival of Joel and Mikaela, a sweet couple from the northern pinelands of Mother Svea. They own a Tepe house on the level beneath us. Joel is a tall, slim, handsome older man with silver hair and a laid-back charm. His wife Mikaela is the archetypal Aryan beauty, a blue-eyed blond bombshell. Their warm and kindly disposition is a welcome respite from the grumpy old Danes next to us. They invited us in for tea. Their grand villa is a picture of understated Scandinavian chic. We chatted away for hours, a delicious smörgåsbord of wit and wisdom.
I recalled my first visit to Stockholm when I was a hormonal adolescent. The little local grammar school I attended laid on the most incredible journeys designed to broaden horizons and expand the mind. One early morning in 1975 twenty or so sweaty boys boarded a train at Victoria Station and headed for the coast. We sailed on the morning tide to Flanders where we began our grand passage across the great North European Plain.
First stop Berlin. It was the height of the Cold War and we spent two days exploring the cruelly divided city, escorted through the wall at Checkpoint Charlie. Onwards east, our carriages were pulled by an ancient steam locomotive that choo choo’d through a flat, monotonous landscape. As we neared Poland our party was raided by a detachment of East German border guards brandishing Kalashnikovs. The mean-looking, chisel-chinned troopers in tight beige uniforms rifled through our belongings and ransacked the couchettes. Perhaps they were looking for Levi jeans. Calm was quickly restored and we continued our incredible journey. A brief stop in Warsaw precluded an excursion to the city. We continued on across the Soviet border to Smolensk where the entire train was silently raised from its bogies and placed onto a new set of wheels to fit the wider Russian railway gauge.
Second stop Moscow. Tsar Brezhnev was on the Soviet throne and we were tightly chaperoned by an over-painted woman in cheap scent. She was tailed by the KGB. Shops were empty save for Russian dolls, and strangers approached us in Gorky Park wanting the clothes off our backs. Moscow was drab but the metro was palatial. The Kremlin was magnificent and Red Square was vast and windswept. Lenin in his marble tomb looked like a Madam Tussauds’ dummy. The comrades around us looked fed up and miserable as they shuffled dutifully past the macabre exhibit.
Third stop Leningrad that was. The Venice of the North was a more visually pleasing spectacle with imposing baroque architecture painted in multi-coloured delicate pastels. The majestic enormity of the Winter Palace containing the Hermitage Museum was too vast to comprehend. As if Peter the Great’s grand imperial capital wasn’t grand enough we embarked on our fourth stop, a day trip to Novgorod, one of the most celebrated cities of medieval Rus. This ravishing city is twinned with Watford of all places.
Fifth stop Helsinki across the Gulf of Finland. This picturesque and verdant city reminded me of a mini-St Petersburg. Our whistle-stop excursion was all too brief.
Sixth stop stunning Stockholm where we expected to see a sex shop on every corner. It was the sexual repressed seventies when buttoned-up Brits were convinced that emancipated Swedes were at it morning noon and night. We were disappointed.
We steamed back to Blighty across the cold northern seas in a Ruskie rust bucket that saw service in World War Two. We shared the wreck with a party from an all-girl’s school in Scarborough. I watched the boys chase the girls and wondered what all the fuss was about. Our teachers allowed us to take a drink at the bar. Perhaps this is where my gradual but certain descent into alcohol dependency all began.
Final stop Tilbury Docks and back to earth with a bump. Three weeks for 150 quid which my parents saved for months to pay. All in all a fantastic adventure that was a little lost on a bunch of post-pubescent fourteen year olds whose main preoccupation was masturbation.
PS Perking the Pansies has few followers in modern Russia but I spied a lone flasher in Novgorod the other day.
The Turkish scooter fraternity rarely wear crash helmets. For the few that do, Second World War style German helmets have become this year’s latest must have accessory. Young men foolishly speed along the pot holed rain-soaked roads like extras from ‘The Great Escape’ suicidally weaving through the traffic in reckless abandon. I doubt these fashion hats offer much cranial protection as they look a trifle flimsy and the riders seldom bother to fasten the chin strap. These boys have a death wish. I can’t see the craze catching on across the water. The Greeks have long memories of real life German military bikers washing their boots in the sea on their side of the Aegean in 1941.
We took breakfast at the hotel, a predictable and unadventurous spread with cereal that looked and tasted like ‘Go Cat’. The only other guests were a troupe of Teutonic trekkers dressed in sturdy sensible shoes and beige pack-a-macs preparing for the day’s hike. I watched in silent awe as lunches were deftly packed into tuppaware with all the efficiency of a BMW production line. Vorsprung Durch Technik.
Our final jaunt was to Miletos, located in an altogether more agreeable stretch of terrain. We meandered through the Menderes delta passing through cotton fields and jobbing agro-köys arriving at the remains in time for a late lunch. Regrettably, Liam and I were rather ruined-out, so we took tea in a rickety café to admire the imposing amphitheatre from afar leaving the muscle boys to scramble alone. Their stay was prematurely curtailed by a scourge of ravenous mosquitos. They took fright from the site frantically flailing their arms around like Tippi Hedren in ‘The Birds’.