Perking the Pansies
Jack and Liam move to Turkey

All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor

This is a preview to the chapter All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor from the book Perking the Pansies by Jack Scott.
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The house was infested by flies. It was a plague of biblical proportions and lasted for days. Liam and I lay in bed like the last of the great white hunters, armed with cans of insecticide spray and taking pot shots at the bugs as they encircled us. By morning, the floor was carpeted with the wreckage like a scene from the Battle of Britain. At least the much anticipated mozzie threat, like Saddam’s WMD, had been wildly exaggerated. There was a definite benefit to living along one of Bodrum’s busy thoroughfares. The weekly bug-busting van that toured the streets at night draped the entire house in mustard gas, nipping the nasty nibblers in the bud and exterminating all other life forms, except for the satanic cockroaches. I can only assume that God designed these little darlings to be completely indestructible; the true heirs to a post-apocalyptic world. I found one of the three-inch armadillo aliens clicking in my flip-flop. I felt sick.

Liam hardly helped the situation with his “Ah, look, ‘ees all on his own,” and “‘ees only a little cockroach, Jack.”
“Only a little cockroach? I’m gonna throw up. Get rid of it.”
The bug from hell ran rings round Liam. When it was bored of playing, it stood its ground, wiggled its antennae and looked right back at him and his inadequate broom. My useless husband seemed more interested in opening diplomatic channels than splattering the thing to death. Finally, he captured the creature inside a downturned tumbler. He passed sentence and decided on a public drowning.
“Get on with it! What are you, a bloody Buddhist? Just kill it!”
Liam carried the mini monster to the bathroom with the help of an old newspaper and attempted to slide the beast into the pool of disinfected death below. His hands shook (through excitement or guilt, I will never know) and the rim of the glass decapitated the bug against the pan. In a single stroke, the head was cleanly guillotined from the roach’s torso. Like a scene from Alien, the headless bug refused to die and writhed around the pan for minutes. It was the stuff of my nightmares. Sometimes I longed for East London.

In between insect battles and edifying nights with Sophia, we spent days exploring our new town. Bodrum was a town of two distinct halves, divided by the imposing crusader castle. Like London, the east end was the rougher. It was typified by Bar Street, a procession of cheap and cheerful bars and hassle shops, patronised by tourists who were boarding in that part of the town or had ventured in from Gümbet, Bodrum’s smaller ugly sister. Conversely, the west end was super swanky and wantonly expensive. The exemplar bar was Fink, a lavish watering hole dominated by an enormous sparkly-red overhanging chandelier, the most photographed lampshade east of Versailles. The opulent inn was frequented by the filthy rich with money to burn and, like most of the rich-bitch bars, guarded by a platoon of huge, brooding bouncers, greasy-haired body-builders with low IQs and inflated egos.

We both preferred the east end by day; totty watching was more fruitful and the drink prices more palatable. Our big find was Café S Bar, a friendly little tavern opposite the town beach. A rainbow flag hung proudly alongside the ubiquitous Cross of St George, Cross of St Andrew, Irish tricolour and Welsh Dragon. Everyone was welcome regardless and it was the perfect place for a jar or two as the sun set over the castle. On our first visit, the US Navy was in town and our imaginations ran riot. We felt absolutely certain that the bar would be a hot bed of homoerotic horseplay. A bunch of tattooed drunken sailors with exotic sexual tastes picked up in various ports of the Orient would be strutting on the beach stripped down to their standard issue green boxers. As we approached, Ozzie the burly bar owner emerged bare-chested and tight-trunked, spear in hand, and goggled and snorkelled for underwater action. Things were looking up. He waded into the shallow waters with all the drama of a Jacques Cousteau film crew, out to impress the jolly tars as much as to spear the catch of the day. We took our seats alongside the throng of Yankee sailors and prayed for maritime heaven. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. The entire crew was a disappointing bunch of dull, overweight geeks, talking into their laptops and over-dosing on pints of Diet Coke. When the tar opposite said grace before tucking into a plate of chips, we knew our perverse fantasy was precisely that and headed off in search of pastures new.

We happened across Meyhane Sokak, a narrow lane off the bazaar and home to a cluster of small bars exclusively frequented by Turks. The place overflowed with good-humoured trendy young things swaying to the deafening Turkopop. We squeezed onto one of the tall bench tables lining the lane to enjoy the tequila-slamming crowd. Our neighbour on the congested bench seemed particularly taken with Liam and popped a cherry in his mouth. The forward cherry popper was the manager of a celebrated Turkish pop band we had never heard of. We were invited to meet the boys at a neighbouring club but decided against it. Next up were four young Turks, two boys and two dolled-up chicks shoe-horned into impossibly short shorts. Ladies of the night, out for some early trade, no doubt. To our eternal shame, we completely misjudged the four European Turks visiting Bodrum. Conversation flowed as quickly as the alcohol and before long, the only British punters as far as the eye could see were embraced by the growing throng with open arms. The atmosphere was electric and strangely sexually ambiguous. A pair of over-preened beef cakes cruised the crowd outside the bar opposite and a clutch of fey gays were in camp conclave on an adjacent table. Maybe we had finally reached the end of the Yellow Brick Road.

The next morning, we received an early wake-up call from Charlotte. Irfan’s love boat was sailing in an hour and there was room for two more. We leapt out of bed and took the morning dolly to Yalıkavak. Leaving our shoes on the quay-side, we carried our hangovers across the wobbly gang plank. Charlotte was already on the boat, wrapped in a floral sarong and hidden behind a huge pair of oval sunglasses. We hugged and she threw a tired smile. “Hello, sweet peas. I’m glad you came.”

Captain Irfan was busy packing away provisions. He was a huge commanding man, as broad as he was long, a circle of flesh with tight afro hair and a uni-brow as thick as a leather queen’s tash. His rough rating’s hands made light of the rations for the voyage and we were soon ready to cast off. As we did, Nancy appeared from the cabin like a burlesque warm up act. Irfan’s concubine had poured herself into a tight florescent green swimsuit, low at the cleavage, high at the thigh and leaving very little to the imagination. The old seadog’s gun sight followed the bronzed bust line and remained fixed on his target until it moved to the bow to sunbathe. Not a word was spoken.
“What’s up with the silent love birds?” I asked Charlotte.
“Another woman.”
“There’s always another woman. Isn’t that the deal?”
“This one’s sticking around.”
Nancy was furious. An ugly German heiress had invested in Irfan’s gulet and expected regular payment in kind. She was determined to be the only mistress in town but Nancy was having none of it.
“It’ll be all frosty glances and icy exchanges,” said Charlotte. “Expect the perfect storm.”
An hour later, we dropped anchor and everyone went to the side of the boat to see what godforsaken place Irfan had dumped us in. We were floating in a deserted bay lined with a scrappy shingle beach. The desolation was beautiful. There was no sign of life on the coastline but the crystal clear waters were teeming with shoals of turquoise fish. I decided to impress the gathering with my well-honed diving skills. In puberty, between adolescent squabbles with my mother and discovering the wonder of Ziggy Stardust, I had joined a local diving club. I might have been a serious contender but became waylaid by hormones and Playgirl. Hangover or no hangover, I fluked a perfect splashless leap into the bay, feet together, toes pointed and limbs arrowed like the old pro that I was.
“A classic,” said Liam. “In a fat old man abroad kind of way.”
The generous spectators offered a perfect row of tens. Nancy and I sploshed about like an Esther Williams double act while Liam went on marine safari, wrapped in an ill-fitting snorkel that left him coughing and spluttering every time he submerged.

The setting was magnificent, the weather was perfect, but the mood was subdued. Alan and Charlotte hardly spoke, to each other or to anyone else. I guessed there were few words left to say. They had lost Adalet and that was that. Their dream was over and the best they could hope for was to escape the wrath of the authorities. Alan fished off the front of the boat, a broken man staring out to sea; his wife dozed in the shade of an awning above the captain’s deck.
After a simple lunch of sea bass, pasta and salad, Liam decided to liven things up by breaking out the booze. We had to get some perspective. Nobody had died. Here we were, healthy, solvent and free of work, cruising the Aegean with good friends. We would support each other. We would survive, and we would have fun. Irfan hit the rakı and flicked on the tunes. Liam leapt to his feet to join him in an unrehearsed belly dance, writhing around the deck and beckoning Charlotte and Alan to join in. Liam’s dance technique, woefully inadequate to the hard beats of the Freemasons, was oddly suited to indigenous rhythms. As Irfan whirled, he shed his bleached polo shirt and revealed a silver chest and huge pendulous nipples that could have supported a fully laden washing line. Nancy seized her
chance to inflame Irfan’s jealousy by grabbing Liam for a sensuous boogie, stroking his chest and squeezing his buttocks in time to the beat. Liam hadn’t dallied with a member of the fairer sex for twenty-five years. He would need a roadmap and instruction manual to hit the winking target.
Charlotte laughed. “Irfan doesn’t really get the gay thing. He just gets sex. It’s the any-port-in-storm mentality.”
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"The book includes a list of colourful characters, British and Turkish...almost Dickensian in their eccentricity, humour, melancholy, self-delusion, kindness and..."

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