In the beginning there was work and work was God. After 35 years in the business, the endless predictability made me question the Faith. Liam, on the other hand, was neither bored nor unchallenged but was routinely subjected to the ephemeral demands of a capricious boss, a soft and warm Christmas tree fairy with a soul of granite – Lucifer in lace. He feared for his tenure. I feared for his mental health. It was the 30th May 2009, Liam’s 48th birthday, and we were enjoying a romantic meal in Soho. As the booze flowed the conversation turned to ‘What if?’ Thus began our Great Adventure.
We began to hatch our audacious plot to step off the treadmill and migrate to the sun. Turkey sprang instantly to mind since we had just returned from Bodrum – a chic and cosmopolitan kind of place attracting serious Turkish cash, social nonconformists and relatively few discount tourists. Liam loved it and, after many years visiting the western shores of Anatolia, I needed no convincing. All I had to do was sell my house just as property prices were in free fall. All Liam had to do was agree a financial settlement with his ex on their jointly-owned property, something that hitherto had proven more difficult to resolve than the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Against all odds, I sold my house and its contents to a God-send of a neighbour and, after some emotional horse-trading, Liam finally achieved a reasonable settlement on his own property. Implausibly, we both secured voluntary redundancy from work. In my case, it happened with such an indecent haste that I sensed they were glad to be rid of me. Well, the axeman was stalking the Town Hall corridors looking for prey. It mattered little since it all added to the purse. Our remarkable run of luck convinced us that someone was looking down kindly upon us. Liam attributed it to the Virgin Mary.
We turned our attention to where in Turkey we might settle. The obvious choice was the narrow western coastal strip tucked beneath the vast Anatolian Plateau as it is the most attuned to European sensibilities. Turkey beyond this is the genuine article, a magical land of sweeping landscapes, drenched in drama and culture but far too foreign and exotic for a couple of mature, bourgeois, gay boys from the Smoke.
Bodrum was the bookie’s favourite, an urbane, liberal oasis where we could live safely and unmolested. We briefly entertained the notion of living in Kaş on the Turkuaz Coast where we had honeymooned. Kaş is a sparkling Bohemian jewel, surrounded by a pristine hinterland that has been mercifully spared the worst excesses of mass tourism. But, its glorious isolation, protected by a wilting two hour drive from the nearest international airport, means that the town is effectively closed out of season and lacks those dull but essential full time services we all need to live in the material world: banks, supermarkets, hospitals and the like. We cast our eyes along the map. The coast running south-east of Kaş towards Alanya has been colonised by the Germans and Russians and the string of major resorts running north – Fethiye, Marmaris, Altinkum and Kuşadası – attracts legions of bargain basement Brits. It was no surprise that the odds on favourite won by a mile.