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Perking
the Pansies
Jack and Liam move to Turkey
Jack Scott
First Published Great Britain 2011 by Summertime Publishing
© Copyright Jack Scott
ISBN: 978-1-904881-64-3
Jack and Liam, ...
Preface
ASIA MINOR, A CONTINENT IN MINIATURE
Just imagine the absurdity of two openly gay, recently married, middle-aged, ...
Chapter 1
IN THE BEGINNING
In the beginning there was work, and work was God. After thirty-five years in the business,
the...
challenge and got both in spades, along with a gruelling twelve hour day. I reached over the
table and held his hand.
“Jum...
Liam began to recall our wine-fuelled debate in remarkable detail. “What if we actually
do it?” he said. “What if we sell ...
I had a soft spot for Spain but the place was already teeming with Brits on the run and
anyway, Liam had a principled aver...
Epilogue
BELLE ÉPOQUE
A year in the making and our voyage had barely started. What began as an exhilarating
journey into t...
“The book's originality lies more in it's honesty about the grubby
reality of expat life that conventional travel literatu...
Perking the Pansies - Jack and Liam Move to Turkey
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Perking the Pansies - Jack and Liam Move to Turkey

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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. Meet the oddballs, VOMITs, vetpats, emigreys, semigreys, randy waiters and middle England miseries. When prejudice and ignorance emerge from the crude underbelly of Turkey’s expat life, Jack and Liam waver. Determined to stay the course, the happy hedonistas hitch up their skirts, flee to laissez-faire Bodrum and fall under the spell of their intoxicating foster land. Enter Jack’s irreverent world for a right royal dose of misery and joy, bigotry and enlightenment, betrayal and loyalty, friendship, love, earthquakes, birth, adoption and murder. Suburban life was never this eventful. You couldn't make it up.

A bitter-sweet tragi-comedy that recalls the first year of a British gay couple living in a Muslim land.

Published in: Education, Travel, News & Politics
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Perking the Pansies - Jack and Liam Move to Turkey

  1. 1. Perking the Pansies Jack and Liam move to Turkey Jack Scott
  2. 2. First Published Great Britain 2011 by Summertime Publishing © Copyright Jack Scott ISBN: 978-1-904881-64-3 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. Meet the oddballs, VOMITs, vetpats, emigreys, semigreys, randy waiters and middle England miseries. When prejudice and ignorance emerge from the crude underbelly of Turkey’s expat life, Jack and Liam waver. Determined to stay the course, the happy hedonistas hitch up their skirts, flee to laissez-faire Bodrum and fall under the spell of their intoxicating foster land. Enter Jack’s irreverent world for a right royal dose of misery and joy, bigotry and enlightenment, betrayal and loyalty, friendship, love, earthquakes, birth, adoption and murder. Suburban life was never this eventful. You couldn't make it up. A bitter-sweet tragi-comedy that recalls the first year of a British gay couple living in a Muslim land.
  3. 3. Preface ASIA MINOR, A CONTINENT IN MINIATURE 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. The country in question is not Iran (we had no desire to be lynched from the nearest olive tree by the Revolutionary Guard) but neighbouring Turkey, a secular nation practising a moderate and state-supervised form of Islam. Even so, Turkey provides a challenge to the free-spirited wishing to live unconventionally. Openly gay Turks in visible same-sex relationships are as rare as ginger imams. There are more parallels between Britain and Turkey than many realise. Both are historic nations once united under Ancient Rome, fiercely independent and suspicious of a new pan-European empire formed by a Treaty in modern Rome. Both are anchored to the edge of Europe but chained to it economically. Both have a political and cultural heritage so immense that they transformed the world. Both have emerged from the long shadow of an empire destroyed by world wars and both are trying to forge a modern role in a rapidly changing world. Türkiye means ‘land of the strong’, an old Turkic/Arabic compound. Anatolia translates as ‘sunrise’ from ancient Greek. Both poetic epitaphs are fitting depictions of a vast land blessed with striking physical beauty, wrought by the brutal force of Mother Nature, and fought over, won and lost by invaders across all of recorded time. Turkey is a nation familiar to many Brits: the beer-swigging tattooed tourist seeking cheap fun in the sun with chips on the side, and those of a more scholarly hue who wonder at the unparalleled scale and depth of Anatolian culture and history. Traditional Turkey is the true crossroad of civilisations, the evidence of which lies casually underfoot, and a land where kinship and community reign supreme. New Turkey is a reinvigorated, rising, regional power, the ephemeral playground of pallid-skinned, sun-starved Northern Europeans gorging themselves on expensive imported bacon, cheap local plonk and one-upmanship. Islamic majesty sits uncomfortably alongside bargain bucket tourism. It was precisely this compelling contradiction of the captivating and the comical that lured two culture-curious gay boys out from under the cosy duvet of laissez- faire London life. This book began life as a monthly email commentary of our experiences in our foster land and the extraordinary people – the sad, the mad, the bad and the glad – we encountered along the way. I called my dispatches ‘witterings’ and shared them with my wish-you-were- here’s. As the witterings grew, high and low drama unfolded around us. So began a rollercoaster ride that amused, moved, surprised and ultimately changed us forever.
  4. 4. Chapter 1 IN THE BEGINNING In the beginning there was work, and work was God. After thirty-five years in the business, the endless predictability made me question the Faith. Liam, on the other hand, was neither bored nor unchallenged but routinely subjected to the demands of a feckless 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. “Happy Birthday, Liam.” Our favourite Soho brasserie was illuminated by flickering antique oil lamps and the occasional beam of light from the kitchen. The restaurant was swollen with rowdy after-hours workers, swapping gossip and feasting on hearsay. We had squeezed into a small recess by the window, dribbles of condensation trickling down the glass and obscuring the view to the street beyond. Liam ripped off his Armani tie and draped it across the back of his chair. “Thanks, Jack. Forty-six and fully-functioning tackle.” “I’ll drink to that.” Our waiter intruded. “Have you decided?” “Yes, Cato,” I said. “We’ll both have the special.” The cute Colombian turned on his heels and sashayed off towards the kitchen. Liam retrieved his tie and rolled it absently around his fingers. “You do know that’s Italian silk?” “It’s just a shackle. An over-priced, over-hyped, ridiculous little shackle.” He closed his eyes and massaged his forehead with the tips of his fingers. “Good day at the office, darling?” “Just pour the wine, Jack.” Liam folded his tie, placed it neatly on the table and stared into my eyes with unusual intensity. “Jack, you know I love you, don’t you?” “Sure I do.” In the three years we had been together, Liam had been irrepressibly affectionate. We had recently married, an affirming fanfare of family and friends crowned by two glorious weeks in Turkey. I had never felt more loved. “Look,” said Liam. “I’ve got something to tell you.” Cato returned and fussed over the table setting for what seemed like an age, adjusting the condiments like chess pieces to make room for the oversized plates. He placed the white linen napkins on our laps and started to fret over my cutlery. “That’s fine, Cato!” Liam shuffled uncomfortably, and Cato and his impossibly thin waist minced back to the kitchen. “I thought you liked this place?” I said. “I thought you were happy?” “I do. I am.” He forced a smile. “This is you looking happy?” Our food arrived along with a fresh bottle of wine and a sulking waiter. “It’s the job,” said Liam. “It’s driving me insane.” He took a fortifying swig of wine. “I told that bitch of a boss where to stick her profit margins. I’ve done it. I’ve quit.” Liam had spent the last two years working for a cut-and-thrust, slash-and-burn private sector company, vainly trying to coax the unemployable into work. He sought stimulation and
  5. 5. challenge and got both in spades, along with a gruelling twelve hour day. I reached over the table and held his hand. “Jumping ship’s fine, love. As long as it’s onto dry land.” “But, you’re my dry land, aren’t you?” Cato returned every now and then to check on my mood and replenish our glasses, his distracting buns quivering like two piglets in a sack. As Liam and I chatted, the windows started to de-mist and we caught glimpses of the drab winter coats and scarves scurrying along the icy street outside. “The worker bees of London,” said Liam. “Just look at them.” I got the point. I’d worked in social care for thirty years, gently ascending a career ladder to middle management, middle income and a middling suburban terrace; comfortable, secure and passionately dissatisfying. We talked with growing animation through the starter, main course and deliciously calorific death by chocolate dessert, about the evils of work, and how our jobs were ruining our health. “What the hell are we doing?” said Liam. “The same as everyone else love, treading water.” “That’s it? Thrashing about in the shallows?” “Better than drowning.” “I’d rather take my chances.” Jacques Brel belted out Jackie through the restaurant speakers and Liam considered his next move. “We’re stuck in a rut, Jack, a big fat suburban rut. There’s more to life than matching bathrobes and strategically placed scatter cushions.” “You’re drunk.” “As a skunk.” “So what would you have us do? Sell the semi?” “Yeah, why not?” “Because it’s our home, that’s why not. What would we do? Walk the streets and queue at the soup kitchen? Live in a cardboard box and wait for Godot?” “Now who’s drunk? Let’s just do it.” “For fuck’s sake, Liam, do what?” “Something different. Somewhere else.” He paused. “More than tread water.” I peered at Liam through my wine glass, his face distorted like a reflection in a hall of mirrors. The booze was coursing through my veins and I was feeling more receptive by the bottle. Cato appeared through the crowd carrying a tiny birthday cake lit by a single pink candle. A perfectly formed forty-six was neatly iced onto the delicate vanilla sponge. “Happy Birthday, Señor Liam. Feliz Día from the House.” The pre-occupied diners around us gave Liam a half-baked hand. We laughed and I thanked Cato for his thoughtfulness. “Perfect timing, my little camarero. Another bottle and make it quick.” We awoke to the sound of heavy rain pounding against the rattling sash windows. The radio was blaring and the central heating was firing on full. Liam leaped out of bed, returning with a pot of freshly brewed French roast and a jug of water. He was annoyingly bright. “Paracetamol?” I mumbled into the pillow. “Leave the packet.” He perched on the side of the bed and stroked the back of my neck. “If that’s a prelude to anything requiring movement, forget it.” “Look. I’ve been awake half the night thinking.”
  6. 6. Liam began to recall our wine-fuelled debate in remarkable detail. “What if we actually do it?” he said. “What if we sell up and head for heat and hedonism?” I rubbed my eyes and reached for my glasses. “Well?” said Liam. “It has its attractions.” “That’s it? It has its attractions? Wake up, Jack. Let’s bugger off to Nirvana.” My brain struggled to find first gear and slipped back into neutral. A squad of sadistic dwarfs was pick-axing the inside of my head. “It’s not that simple, Liam. If it was, everyone would do it.” “Repeat after me, Jack: work is the root of all evil. Imagine life without the turgid meetings, kiss-my-arse bosses and nose-to-nipple commutes.” “Imagine life without money, Liam. Poverty is the root of all evil.” I took a pill and downed another glass of water. “We’ve equity in the houses,” said Liam. “Not enough. It wouldn’t last.” “Oh come on, nothing lasts.” Liam leapt up and pulled open the curtains. The rain had petered out and winter sunshine streaked through the windows. He was resolute. “We could rent.” “Rent?” “Yes, rent. A bargain basement by the sea.” “A beach hut in Bognor? I don’t think so.” “Even if we had more time together?” “Especially if we had more time together.” “And more sex.” “God, it gets worse.” “I’m serious, Jack. If….” I cupped my hand over Liam’s mouth. “Pour me that cup of coffee and let me think.” Later in the day, revived by full-fat croissants and intravenous caffeine, we lay next to each other on the super-sized bed, staring at the ceiling and calmly hatching our audacious plot to step off the treadmill and migrate to the sun. Liam convinced me that anything was possible; all we had to do was decide where. He fancied France but I was less than keen. I once stayed at a rancid carbuncle in a godforsaken village in the middle of the Dordogne. The only other hotel guest was a dead rat floating in the kidney-shaped cesspit they called a pool. When I checked out the next morning, the propriétaire and his finger-sucking sister offered me an extended stay in return for a ménage à trois. I politely declined their kind offer. As I left the foyer, a pack of rabid dogs launched an unprovoked offensive on my suitcase, presumably attempting to retrieve the warm saucisse I’d purloined from the hotel breakfast table. One of them, clearly starved of accouplement, decided to mount the case and squirt his jus d’amour over my Samsonite. On a visit to Normandy, I had a life-changing incident in a roadside convenience, an experience that rotted my espadrilles and permanently damaged my sense of smell. The revolting hole in the ground was overflowing with an aromatic pee soup, liberally spiced with putrid garlic, topped with stool croutons and bubbling up like a witch’s cauldron. It had clearly been used by every Tom, Dick and Norman in town, more than once. A brisk wind up the English Channel would have carried the offending stench to Sweden and given surströmming a run for its money. “You know what they say, Liam. The French have clean kitchens and dirty toilets. The English have clean toilets and dirty kitchens. I know which I’d prefer.”
  7. 7. I had a soft spot for Spain but the place was already teeming with Brits on the run and anyway, Liam had a principled aversion to bull fighting. Gran Canaria – Spain with a gin twist – was little more than a duty-free brothel in the Atlantic and was overrun with naked Germans waving Teutonic tackle around the X-rated sand dunes. Italy was home to the Vicar of Bigots and sleazy politicians, Portugal had fado but precious little else, and Greece was an economic basket case on the verge of civil implosion. As we dismissed each country with outrageous prejudice, we knew that anywhere in the Eurozone was probably beyond our means. The pound was poorly and the ailing patient was getting weaker by the day. Everything pointed in one direction, and it was Liam who finally voiced our biased decision. “You get a lot of bang for your bucks in Turkey.” 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. We were agreed. It was Turkey or nowhere. Several hours of feverish planning passed. Scribbled Post-it notes and an annotated map of south western Turkey guided us through a long and impassioned debate. We briefly entertained the notion of living in Kaş on the Turkuaz Coast. We had honeymooned there and fallen under its captivating spell. The sparkling Bohemian jewel was surrounded by a pristine hinterland and had mercifully been spared the worst excesses of mass tourism. Its glorious isolation was also its downfall. The resort was a wilting two-hour drive from the nearest international airport, was effectively closed out of season and lacked those dull but essential full-time services we all need in the real world: banks, supermarkets and an upmarket drag bar. We cast our eyes along the map. The coast running south-east of Kaş had been colonised by Germans and Russians and the string of concrete resorts running north – Fethiye, Marmaris, Altınkum and Kuşadası – attracted legions of beer-soaked karaoke Brits. Bodrum, the bookmaker’s favourite, won by a mile. At this point, we got stuck – hopelessly stuck – in the quicksand of reality. Planning the fantasy was thrilling and cathartic but ultimately hopeless. Despite our best efforts to make all the pieces fit, practicalities and a whole range of insoluble conundrums got in the way. Liam called them technical hitches and doggedly refused to concede defeat. I admired his pluck to bet against the odds. All I had to do was sell my East London house, just as prices were in free fall. All he had to do was agree a financial settlement with his ex on their jointly- owned property in Kent. Thus far, that particular knotty problem had proved more difficult to resolve than the Arab-Israeli conflict. “I’ll speak to Robbie,” said Liam. “You never know.” I did know. Robbie wouldn’t give an inch. It fell to me to end the delusional pipedream. “It’s not just about us, love.” Liam collapsed on to the bed and buried his face in the crumpled map of Turkey. “Your mother,” he mumbled. “Your parents.” “I know, I know, they need us.” “And we need them.” We lay on the bed in silence, running through the endless permutations in our heads. After a while we fell soundly asleep, wrapped around each other and dreaming of the impossible.
  8. 8. Epilogue BELLE ÉPOQUE A year in the making and our voyage had barely started. What began as an exhilarating journey into the unknown soon became a raw test of endurance. We survived the fall of the Raj, separated the wheat from the chavs, distanced ourselves from the emigrey closets and cried a river over Adalet. Charlotte and Alan had been hung out to dry and still didn’t know who dished the dirt. The senseless murder of an innocent man came close to capsizing our boat. But the turbulence that swirled around us only served to bring our sainted existence into sharp relief. Through it all, as if fixed at the eye of the storm, Liam and I remained solid, together and optimistic. Lady Fortuna favoured us. It was, beyond question, the best year of our lives. In twelve concentrated months, our lives had been touched by the good, the bad, the foolhardy and the heart-wrenching. For a while, we wondered which category we fell into, but then the truth slapped us about the face like a wet towel. We could have our place in the sun, but not as fully paid up members of the embittered emigrey imperials. They might dump their unwanted pasts at check-in and blame Blighty for all their woes, but we weren’t about to join them. Nor could we become plastic Turks. Our dismal language skills and very obvious union precluded it. No, we occupied the space in between, neither fish nor fowl. We were content with that. For now. We had made a decadent choice to retire early, against the advice of many. Our financial health had been compromised but our emotional health had soared. There was no going back. Besides, we were fond of our exotic foster country and her many puzzling paradoxes. Dire warnings of imminent religious zealotry had proved premature but we would keep a watchful eye. Our move to Bodrum Town had changed us. We were happy in the Bohemian oasis with its progressive vibe and liberal tinge, though we did wonder what the town really made of us. A message from a Turkish-American Bodrum Belle gave us hope. “There will be envy among your neighbours that there are two very polite gay yabancilar who pay on time and are courteously living in the family’s stone house, both of which have already singled you out from many. Whilst the older generation counts the pesos, you are setting a path of freedom for some of the very trapped sons (and daughters). If it were easy, you would not be doing it.” Dina Street Turkey is a magical land graced by a rich culture, gorgeous people and an intrinsic love of the family. A respect for difference won’t destroy that. It’s okay to be queer. It won’t bring down the house, though it might bring in a little more style. At times I think we’re floundering about like idiots but now and then I think we’re making a real difference. Time will be the judge. In the meantime, rising inflation and falling interest rates may yet force us to perk our pansies elsewhere. I hear Bulgaria is nice.
  9. 9. “The book's originality lies more in it's honesty about the grubby reality of expat life that conventional travel literature prefers to gloss over.” Time Out, Istanbul "At turns, hilarious, saucy, witty, heartwarming and incredibly moving." Global Living Magazine “Funny and insightful and poignant all at once.” Rainbow Book Awards “Empathetic, respectful and pretty acute.” Hugh Pope, journalist and author Find out more on www.jackscott.info

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