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, quit their jobs and move to a small town in Turkey. Join the culturecurious gay couple on their bumpy rite of passage in a Muslim country. Meet the oddballs, VOMITs, vetpats, emigreys, semigreys, debauched waiters and middle England miseries. When bigotry 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, move to the heart of liberal Bodrum and fall in love with 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 a senseless murder. Perking the Pansies will make you laugh out loud one minute and sob into your crumpled tissue the next. "An entertaining story, told with wit and insight." Paul Burston, author, The gay Divorcee “Scott pulls no punches. A good read from the new boy on the block.” Jane Akatay, journalist “An insightful tale of life abroad from the pen of a serial people watcher. Expat Jack lays his characters bare along with his heart and soul.'' Kym Ciftci, On the Ege Magazine “Jack and Liam bring a certain je ne sais quoi to the souks and heap a plate of dry British wit on their Ottoman misadventures." Charles Ayres, author, Impossibly Glamorous “... hilarious, saucy, witty, heartwarming and incredibly moving.” Linda A Janssen, Writer and Co-Author, Turning Points, Adventuresinexpatland "Perking The Pansies is not so much about Jack’s Adventures Through The Looking Glass, but more about Who He Found There – a refreshing change from the many memoirs whose authors are constantly center-stage." Kate Allison, The Displaced Nation
© Jack Scott 2012
Asia Minor, a Continent in Miniature Just imagine the absurdity of two openly gay, recently married, middleaged, 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. Turkey is a country 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. 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 nature and fought over, won and lost by conquerors across all of recorded time. Traditional Türkiye is the true crossroad of civilisations, the evidence of which lies casually underfoot, a land where kinship and community reign supreme. New Turkey is the reinvigorated rising regional power and ephemeral playground for pallid-skinned, sun-starved North Europeans gorging themselves on imported bacon, cheap 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 my experiences in our foster land and the extraordinary people - the sad, the mad, the bad and the glad - who we encountered along the way. I called my dispatches witterings and shared them with my wish you-were-heres. As the witterings grew, high and low drama unfolded around us. So began a roller-coaster journey that amused, moved, surprised, shocked, and ultimately changed us forever.
THE CRÈME DE LA CRÈME Extract
We grabbed a drink and bravely resolved to mingle. I occupied an empty seat on the terrace next to butch bra-less Brigit from Brisbane whom I rashly assumed to be a lesbian. Maybe it was the navy-blue polo shirt, manly pants and sensible moccasin lace-ups that gave the game away. Or perhaps it was the crash helmet haircut. I threw myself into conversation and our chinwag seemed to trip along quite nicely.
© Jack Scott 2012
‘You have a girlfriend in Turkey?’ I asked. Brigit’s face froze. I looked for signs of life. Eventually her eyes began to roll, slowly at first and then with such speed I thought they might spin out of their sockets. Gradually, her features contorted into a position I had seen so many times before. The classic, well-practised and obviously faux, how-very-dare-you look. ‘Strewth!’ spat Brigit. ‘Son of a bitch!’ With that, butch Brigit thundered off into the house and ignored me for the rest of the evening. This was my first social gaff of the evening, though in my defence it was an easy mistake to make. Liam came to my rescue. ‘What the hell did you say?’ ‘I implied she drank from the furry cup.’ ‘Tell me you didn’t.’ ‘Well, if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it is a bloody duck.’ My next social intervention met with much greater success. I sidled next to Charlotte, a vivacious, energetic brunette with a sun-kissed complexion and a bouncing cleavage that heaved in rhythm to her filthy laugh. We hit it off immediately. Botticelli Babe Charlotte and her tall debonair silver-haired husband were ex-pat veterans. Alan and Charlotte had sold up in England and built their dream home on a hill overlooking Yalıkavak. It was obvious we shared similar values and I sensed a friendship might develop. ‘So how did you two hook up?’ enquired Charlotte. ‘Now there’s a story.’ ‘I’m all ears, sweet pea.’ ‘It was a gay pub near Trafalgar Square. Halfway to Heaven.’ ‘Only halfway?’ ‘We didn’t go all the way for weeks.’ Charlotte shrieked, drawing the attention of the sedate throng. ‘Liam took up pole position, perched on a bar stool like a hormonal cockatiel, preening himself every now and then in an imaginary mirror. He was every bit the suave business type, tailored suit, crisp white shirt and three buttons undone to tease the punters.’ ‘A tart, you mean?’ ‘Yes, a tart. The man was sex on a stool. I felt that instant rush of attraction.’ ‘It’s the same with my George.’ ‘George?’ ‘Clooney.’ I smiled. ‘The arrogant bugger let me dance around him for ages without so much as a come hither for my trouble. In the end I thought sod you and cut my losses. As I headed for the door he glanced up and threw me a broad smile.’ ‘A goodbye smile? A sorry you’re leaving smile? A good riddance to bad rubbish smile?’ ‘It turned out to be a can I buy you a drink? smile. I had a double. The rest, as they say, is history.’ ‘That’s just lovely sweet pea. I met Alan when he came round to fix my dodgy boiler. He knows how to clear out a girl’s pipes, I can tell you.’ We screamed.
© Jack Scott 2012
THE EMIGREYS Extract
Water was still trickling down the drive that led from Tepe Houses to the coastal road below. We staggered gingerly down the slippery concrete slope and waited for the dolly. We chatted frivolously - about how the fast-encroaching oleanders looked like a scene from Day of the Triffids, how words like gusset and moist made us howl with laughter for no apparent reason and how we really should eat some fruit before we keel over from terminal scurvy. The chit chat and fresh air lightened my mood and it was good to have the sun on my back again. Twenty minutes passed. The bus was late. Just at that moment a beaten-up VW Beetle rumbled towards us, screeched to a halt and came to rest by the overgrown verge. A diminutive white head leaned out of the window, its features disguised by blinding winter sunshine. ‘Merhaba gentlemen. Lift into town?’ said the head. It spoke warmly in impeccable and refined English. Liam smiled and attempted some unintelligible Turklish. ‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘That would be wonderful.’ We clambered into the stranger's car. Liam sat next to the driver and I made do with the cramped back seat in the company of four shopping bags and a box of kindling. The ethereal sound of Tosca wailing on the castle ramparts serenaded us from a crackling speaker and a pleasant whiff of jasmine incense wafted over me. I stole a glance at our Good Samaritan. Dazzling white hair fashioned into a bun framed the radiant face of a Turkish woman in her sixties. She was poise personified, stylishly dressed in hodden grey with delicate silver jewellery complementing soft green eyes. The tin can car, on the other hand, was an utter wreck, littered with spent water bottles, crushed carrier bags and empty cigarette packets. An old set of gilded worry beads swung to and fro from the rear-view mirror, fighting for attention with a tiny statuette of the Buddha and a plastic icon of the Virgin Mary, both stuck on to the dashboard with Blu-tack. ‘Hoşgeldiniz! New in town?’ ‘Just moved from London,’ I said, unable to contain my enthusiasm. I was instantly beguiled by our unlikely chauffeur. ‘Oh, my dears, I adore London. So cosmopolitan, so cultured, so...me.’ In a moment of instant rapture she closed her eyes and only came to when the car clipped the kerb. Liam searched for a seatbelt while I clung on to the hard rear bench. ‘So why here? Why Turkey?’ she asked. ‘Well we—’ ‘I'm afraid the seatbelts broke off years ago, dear.’ ‘We’re just resting,’ continued Liam. ‘And where better to rest than this?’ ‘It is lovely here. I’m sure you’ll get along very nicely, very nicely indeed.’ We bounced along the coastal road like an armadillo on speed, swerving to avoid the crater-sized potholes and rocking backwards and forwards on the soft suspension. ‘Your English is quite beautiful,’ I said. ‘Thank you. How sweet of you...’ ‘Jack.’
© Jack Scott 2012
‘Liam.’ ‘Delighted. I'm Safiye but you can call me Sophia. All my English friends do. And this is Helga.’ Like idiots, we looked around the car for companion, assuming a toy poodle was hidden in the rubbish. The penny dropped. ‘Oh, the car,’ I said. Sophia beamed. ‘I'm an Istanbul girl but Helga is resolutely German. She’s like Wagner dear, goes on and on. We met in Köln thirty years ago. Thirty glorious...’ Sophia drifted off again and Helga switched to autopilot. Liam snapped Sophia out of her suicidal trance. ‘You know London well?’ ‘Yes, dear. I lived in Chelsea in the sixties, a magical time. The parties, the beautiful people…’ She paused, patted her up-stretched hair and stroked her left cheek. ‘I was a RADA girl, an actress and model. They say I was beautiful.’ ‘You still are,’ I said studying her reflection in the rear-view mirror. It seemed the appropriate response and wasn't too far from the truth. Sophia was a handsome woman. ‘Why thank you, dear. Bailey thought so too. David was such a clever man. Shame he was such a letch. Had a queer thing about parrots too I remember.’ Liam sniggered. Sophia continued regardless, clearly relishing the trip down memory lane. ‘The Shrimp got all the best gigs. And that dreadful Penny Tree. Size nine feet and a face like a gerbil. And she still made it to the cover of Vogue. ’ ‘You knew Jean Shrimpton?’ I said. ‘I flew her to Istanbul. She fell in love with the place. Everyone does you know.’ ‘It’s an incredible city,’ said Liam. ‘We’ve been several times.’ ‘Yes, dear, I can see why it would suit you. These days I prefer to winter in Bodrum.’ The car suddenly hit a sharp turn and veered right to avoid an oncoming tractor. The Buddha parted company with the Virgin Mary and slid off the dashboard. ‘He always does that. Those two just can't get along.’ We all laughed. Ain't that the truth, I thought. A minute later we arrived at Yalıkavak's otogar and tumbled out of Helga. Liam tendered a few lira for the fare but Sophia feigned offence and waved the money away. We thanked her for her kindness and said our farewells. ‘You are most welcome. I have a feeling we shall meet again. Görüşürüz, see you soon, my dears.’ With that, Tosca plummeted to her death and Sophia and her faithful old Fräulein sped off towards Bodrum.
HOME ALONE Extract
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.
© Jack Scott 2012
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.”
© Jack Scott 2012
Jack Scott A diminutive, myopic, washed up ex-pretty boy with his best years behind him living in Turkey with a distinctly perverse and frivolous view of the world.
Jack Scott was born on a British army base in Canterbury, England in 1960 and spent part of his childhood in Malaysia as a ‘forces brat’. A fondness for men in uniforms quickly developed. At the age of eighteen and determined to dodge further education, Jack became a shop boy on Chelsea’s trendy King’s Road: ‘Days on the tills and nights on the tiles were the best probation for a young gay man about town.’ After two carefree years, Jack swapped sales for security and got a sensible job in local government with a pension attached. By his late forties, passionately dissatisfied with suburban life and middle management, he and his Civil Partner Liam abandoned the sanctuary of liberal London for an uncertain future in Turkey. In 2010, Jack started an irreverent narrative about his new life and Perking the Pansies, the blog quickly became one of the most popular English language blogs in Turkey attracting 170,000 hits. Within a year, Jack had been featured in the Turkish National Press, had become a resident columnist at On the Ege magazine, had published numerous essays and articles in expat and travel magazines and contributed to the Huffington Post Union of Bloggers. As the blog developed a head of steam, a growing worldwide audience clamoured for a book. Jack duly obliged and his hilarious (well, he thinks so) memoir, Perking the Pansies hit the streets at Christmas 2011. He continues to waste time as a freelance writer and currently lives in Bodrum.
Perking the Pansies is available to buy on Amazon, all other leading online stores and at any good bookstore near you. More information at jackscott.info
© Jack Scott 2012