Midsomer Murder

I’ve been asked what the book is actually about. You’ll have to read it to find out, but suffice it to say, I learned some valuable lessons from David Steddall, the English Literature teacher at my South London grammar school. “A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end,” he would say. We’ve all heard the mantra. He seemed to like my essays, even if they were sometimes a little risqué in a post-pubescent, hormone-raging sort of way. His encouragement gave me confidence. He would often give me top marks and have me recite my work in class. Tragically, I failed* my Lit O Level. I just didn’t get the poetry and I was a lazy little student. Still, I’ve stayed faithful to Dave’s cause ever since and my book has a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s not a random series of observations like the blog. It’s the full story of our time in Turkey, warts and all. It’s not all light and frothy either. We’ve experienced some dark moments here:

Liam left exactly two months after we moved into the house in Bodrum. He dashed home on a mercy mission and I had no idea when he would be coming back. Üzgün’s death had thrown him off kilter and now he was needed in London.

The night before, we had dined al fresco to take advantage of yet another blessed, balmy evening. Liam’s gastronomic ambitions had reached such a pinnacle that we had less and less reason to eat out. The courtyard was a perfect setting. We reminisced about the days when, at the slightest hint of fine weather, we would rush home from work and grab the opportunity to eat in the garden.

We chinked glasses. “To the good life, Liam.”

It was a hollow toast. Üzgün’s murder had changed everything. He had been raped, robbed and murdered by three teenagers in a back street of Yalıkavak. His body was found in a dry river bed, naked, beaten and barely recognisable.

Liam got the call he had been dreading. He packed a suitcase and taxied to the airport to pick up the next available flight. I stayed awake for most of the night, texting Liam and trying to make sense of the mess around us. I camped on the balcony for hours, questioning my flawed understanding of Turkish society, balancing the highs with the lows and wondering if, ultimately, we had made one huge mistake. My head was a mass of interconnected thoughts and contradictions, each leading to a different conclusion and each stirring up an emotion that took me right back to where I started. I set myself a challenge. I would stay awake until the morning; by then I would know what to do.

The lights went out in Türkkuyusu just as they had done many times before. How could Turkey ever hope to become an industrial powerhouse if they couldn’t keep the bloody lights on? I stared into the darkened streets, lit only by the headlights of passing traffic. I wanted to speak to Liam but he was in the skies somewhere over Europe. I wanted to ask him why we didn’t go to Spain or why we left London in the first place. I knew he would answer, “because we’re different and different is good. Remember the pioneers. ‘Good As You’, they said.”

*I passed English Language with flying colours (along with history). Liam is trying to convert me to the joys of poetry. I fear it’s a lost cause.

Check out my book.

Happy Birthday, Perking the Pansies

When Liam and I came to Turkey, we intended to retire early, put our feet up and watch the pansies grow. With a ridiculous amount of spare time on my hands, I decided to amuse myself by starting a blog. Maybe it would delay my inevitable descent into alcoholism? At the time, I assumed I would end up talking to myself.  Twelve months, 400 posts, 2000 comments, 6,000 spams and 120,000 hits later, Pansies has just reached its first birthday. To celebrate this minor miracle I’d like to share what I think are some of the major milestones (Pansysteps).

08/10/10 – In the Beginning

Perking the Pansies was launched onto an unsuspecting public. God help them. I knew nothing about this blogging business, how it worked or what would happen. This was my debut post.

24/11/10 – Are You Mad?

I knew something was up when the blog exceeded 12,000 hits. Shit, someone was actual reading my inconsequential, irreverent ramblings. I started to understand blog promotion and search-engine optimisation, joined Faceache and that tweet, tweety thingy to build a virtual social network. Well, it beats actually talking to people.

04/12/10 – Clapped in Irons

My blog was banned by the Turkish Internet police just as it was taking off. I was expecting a knock at the door by a scandalised conscript in latex gloves, demanding to conduct an internal investigation. I nearly gave the whole thing up in despair.

10/12/10 – Pooing on a Paddle

After a frantic, fretful week, Perking the Pansies shut up shop at Google and moved lock, stock and barrel to begin life anew at brand new WordPress premises. Fear of imminent arrest subsided. This naughty little number was my first post on the revamped, re-launched site.

14/03/2011 – Hold the Front Page

Perking the Pansies was featured in the Turkish national press along with a select group of illustrious fellow jobbing bloggers.

01/04/2011 – Bubba’s Gobbler

Perking the Pansies reached 50,000 hits. This was my April Fools’ piece. It was partly inspired by thumbing through the gaypers in a Soho watering hole.

06/04/2011 – Perking the Pansies – Bound and Ungagged

The blog has spawned a little book which is about to go off to the publisher. The book covers some of same terrain as the blog but with much more spice, bite, depth, pace and pathos (Well, I hope so).

10/05/2011 – So You Think You Can Write a Pop Song?

This was the first mega post attracting big numbers. Pansies were bursting out all over the place. My pansymap ended up resembling a nuclear attack on Western Europe and North America. All very Cold War.

24/07/2011 – Amy Winehouse, RIP

This is by far my most popular post, 4,600 and still growing. I think it just caught the mood. It also caught the attention of some wanker who left a vile comment. I don’t generally censor comments. Free speech and all that. However, I didn’t publish his nasty little words.

17/08/2011 – I’m Coming Out

Perking the Pansies reached 100,000 hits and I exposed myself to the world. No, I didn’t get arrested or receive a congratulatory brick through my window.

Many happy returns, Perking the Pansies. Make a wish and hope you make it to the terrible twos.

Yankee Pranks

Grand Design

A Pansy flasher in Washington DC brought back happy memories of journeys across the pond. Over dinner I led Liam on a jolly romp down memory lane. He kindly indulged my remembrance. I’ve been to the States four times – to New York, Boston, LA and my first visit was to the District of Columbia at the tender age of 20. I had dallied with a travelling Yank who worked for the Federal Government and was attending a conference in London. He invited me to stay so I did. I had tired of my dull, dead end job as chief cashier and pound counter for Habitat in Chelsea and had in mind to do as millions of others had done before me and seek my fortune in the land of opportunity. I saved my pennies, quit my job, booked a one way ticket on Freddy Laker’s Skytrain to New York and off I went. I flew out of the Big Apple and down to DC.

Me, yes really

My Yank got a shock when I called. It seemed his invitation hadn’t been entirely genuine but he was good enough to let me stay for a few weeks in return for occasional sexual favours. Springtime in Washington is very agreeable and a riot of cherry blossom. The federal heart of the city is laid out in imperial style and built in monumental neo-classical majesty as befits the capital of the most powerful nation in history. The grand design is best appreciated from the top of the Monument, the world’s tallest true obelisk. Rameses the Great must have turned in his tomb. I did the obligatory tour of the White House and the Capitol and strolled along the Mall popping in and out of the various museums along the way. It struck me how everything was described in the definite article – The White House, The Monument, The Capitol as if no others exist. It’s a sign of a confident young nation with a touch of teenage arrogance.

Gay life in Washington was a world away from recession-ravaged buttoned up Britain with its grubby backstreet gay bars. It’s taken London 30 years to catch up. I loved it and it loved me. I was young and handsome with cheekbones that could slice cheese. My hosts lapped me up and I let them. I wowed the randy scamps in Rascals, a popular watering hole and pick up joint for federal employees near Dupont Circle. They just loved my accent, along with my uncut assets.

Is it still there I wonder?

Alas, I sensed I was overstaying  my welcome and my reluctant landlord feared I would claim squatters rights. My low-key patriotism also annoyed him. He rather expected me to be enamoured with all things American. I really liked what I saw but I had learned patriotism from my soldier father’s knee and have never been able to shake it off. After a few weeks living the American dream I pined for the old country and flew home on BA.

To this day I remain quietly patriotic, though not nationalistic. To be proud of where you are from is fine but to think you’re a cut above is not. This is a message some emigreys hereabouts would do well to hear. I wonder though, if I had settled Stateside, what would have become of me?

The Pretty Stripping Barman

My prophesy that the vicious storm heralded the abrupt end of our Indian Summer was a tad premature. The weather has reverted to its usual generosity. We decided to take full advantage by spending the evening in the village. Yalıkavak is deafeningly quiet as most of the tourists have left. We patronised our little semi-gay bar with the pretty barman who strips off when the booze kicks in. As usual we were minding our own business when we were descended upon by Kay and Barry from Burnley. For some reason Kay took a real shine to me and Barry got on swimmingly with Liam. I said I’d never been to Burnley. Kay said she’d never been to London. Hardly a fair contest, I thought. Barry chirped on about his self-confessed homophobia but thought we were alright. Our gratitude knew no bounds.

Also in their company were an elderly woman and her new Turkish munchkin husband who was thirty years her junior. Clearly, it had been her Elizabeth Taylor looks that first attracted him. He was very, very small and made me look positively statuesque. The wife told me she has a gay son who just can’t find love – probably ugly then.

We all left together at the end of the evening. I gave Barry a big sloppy kiss right on the lips which he drunkenly reciprocated confirming the rumour that the difference between a gay man and a straight man is about 5 pints. As we left, the pretty stripping barman whispered provocatively to Liam that we should return later for extras. We didn’t.

Cleanse, Tone and Clench

London life friend Ian emailed me to remind me of the good old days when we were both free and easy. Well, I was free he was very easy.  In days long past Ian was my regular dance partner as we filled our boots across half of Europe, and the main butt of my low wit. Socially polished, popular, sharp and loyal, his is the rare gift of insight into the human condition and I wonder what he would make of the overwintering exiles. In his email he recalled his envy at my popularity with the punters. My memories of our many trips around the dance floor are entirely different. His card was always fuller than mine as he had perfected his cleanse, tone and clench routine for the boys. Sadly, he mostly attracted those with less than a rudimentary command of English; the Third World was Ian’s specialist subject. Still, come the last waltz, I usually managed to secure a booking with some desperado who attracted me with the familiar you’ll do look in his eyes.