Perking the Pansies
Jack and Liam move to Turkey

Clement's Closet

This is a preview to the chapter Clement's Closet from the book Perking the Pansies by Jack Scott.
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The pitiless Turkish winter was upon us and we were woefully unprepared. We were mugged by a posse of violent tempests rolling across the horizon, a savage spectacle of light and sound that crashed ashore, trapping us inside. Every day, one perfect storm after another caged the house with forked lightning, and raindrops cluster-bombed the windows. Every day, Liam screamed like a girl and then denied he had. The site took a pounding. The magnificent bougainvillea gracing the front of the house was stripped bald and lashed about like a cat o’ nine tails, a wind-weary palm tree finally surrendered to the elements, and terracotta pots smooched across the terrace like cheap plastic fakes. Tariq struggled to keep up with the satanic demolition. The sea and sky were united in an unbroken dirty greyness, disguising the horizon and cloaking the Greek islands in the far distance. It was the wettest winter Asia Minor had experienced since the Great Flood. Things inside the house weren’t much better. As the days passed, we quickly realised that all Turkish houses leak, have no insulation and precious little heating. It was as if the entire nation had decided that winters didn’t really exist. We were learning the cold, hard way. Our light and airy double-heighted living room became a damp and draughty Welsh chapel on the Brecon Beacons. Fearing frostbite, we reclined in double socks, mummified ourselves in high-tog duvets and vied for possession of the hot water bottle. Memories of childhood came flooding back: pre-central heating days with a bed too cold to get into at night and too warm to leave in the morning. We sprinted to the loo for morning pees, donned layers throughout the day and resorted to copulating under cover. Comfort came in the form of alcohol, sex and endless games of backgammon. One evening, we managed to combine all three.
Chrissy rang every morning, presumably to check that we hadn’t upped sticks and paddled back to London on a life raft. She ended every call with an unconvincing assurance that the peninsula was experiencing its mildest winter for years. “Not seen the like” she would lie, or “lucky not to be in Britain, they’ve had snow.” Right. On Ben Nevis maybe. The house was colder than a penguin’s arse and she knew it.

The frequency, volume and velocity of the rain meant that walking into town was a high risk activity. Most of the local roads turned into shallow canals and our flimsy shoes began to rot. Liam decided to search online for home-delivered wellies. It was a fruitless exercise in more ways than one. Mail deliveries were a hit and miss affair, entirely dependent on the whim of a part-time postman. This was a man so remarkably inept that he left a box of live chicks at our door, even though it was addressed to a farm just outside Muğla. “He’s always drunk,” Clement helpfully explained. Liam detested the cold. He decided to blame everything on our huge supply of Turkish guide books, most of which had promised him a wonderfully temperate Aegean winter. On the day the chicks were delivered (“I wanted wellies”) he constructed a pyre outside our front door, doused it in barbecue fluid and threw a match at it. The ceremonial burning of the guide books raised the attention of Tariq, who observed from afar, too scared to interrupt what he thought to be a sacred Christian rite. Tariq’s shapeless beige shorts and rumpled tee- shirt were no more. His new winter apparel, ankle-length, black baggy pantaloons and a bright Christmas jumper, was stylishly set off by a transparent cagoule and a bobble hat.

One particularly damp morning, Clement paid a rare visit, clasping a large parcel under his arm like an over-sized clutch bag. Mr Mistoffelees slinked in close behind, purring darkly and leaving a trail of muddy paw prints through the house.
“Hello, chaps. Awful weather.”
Liam was sweeping rain water out of the lounge. “Can’t say I’ve noticed.”
“Hi Clem.”
“My name is Clement, Jack.”
“Sorry, Clem.”
“You think you’re funny, Jack. You’re not. Tariq asked me to give you this. The postman left it at the bottom of the hill.” Clement looked across at the darkened hearth. “You’ll need more logs for that fire. I’ll take you to the timber yard this afternoon.”
“Thanks,” I said. “You’re more useful than you look.” Clement smiled and picked up a small blue machine from the dining table.
“I’m afraid to ask,” he said. “What does it do?”
“Measures sperm count,” said Liam.
“Ignore the comedian. It’s a blood pressure monitor.”
“Is there a problem?”
“Not anymore, no.”
The inexorable rise in my blood pressure had miraculously reverted to normal, despite my continued dependence on booze and fags. This was further proof that work was bad for my health. Not to be outdone, Clement explained that he had a special, ‘untreatable’ blood pressure condition.
“I could drop dead at any moment.”
“Please don’t,” said Liam. “I’m rubbish with corpses.” Clement gathered up Mr Mistoffelees and cradled the beast in his arms.
“Come, my pretty. Time for din dins. See you later, chaps.”
The creepy couple floated down the hallway. As they left, a gust of wind caught the door and it slammed shut.
“Clem’s pussy is something else,” said Liam.
“There are no words.”
“I can think of a few. How old d’you reckon?”
“Ancient,” I said. “A living antiquity, virtually Cleopatran.”
I ripped open the package and an assortment of English magazines dropped onto the floor: cutting edge political commentary, glossy Sunday supplements and the latest copy of Heat. Liam snatched the latter and retreated to the sofa for a minute of high culture under the duvet. There was an accompanying note, a delightfully witty missive from Blighty life friend, Jacqueline. She mused about the UK recession:

‘… the biggest crisis in the public purse since Good Queen Bess inherited an empty treasury from Bloody Mary. According to The Times, 75% of the great British public think that the fiscal deficit can be resolved by efficiency savings alone. Well, let me tell you, slashing the Town Hall biscuit budget won’t do the trick.’

Clement returned as scheduled and drove me to the timber yard. It wasn’t entirely an act of neighbourly altruism since he lusted after the log man, a swarthy lumberjack with bulging biceps and enormous rustic ruffian hands. That afternoon, the lusty log man delivered and neatly stacked the consignment at the side of our house. Clement supervised flirtatiously, lingering closely to imbibe the intoxicating blend of testosterone and sweat. Mindful of Clement’s untreatable hypertension, I kept the smelling salts handy. Tariq hovered in the background, paying cursory attention to the lusty log man’s log-laying skills. He seemed far more interested in watching me.
“Never leave me alone with that man,” I said to Liam. “He gives me the willies.”
“I think that’s the point, Jack.”
The lusty log man laid out the logs and Clement invited us for tea.
“Oh God, do we have to go?” said Liam. “What’s with all the ‘Hello chaps, awful weather’ shit? He thinks he’s Jilly bloody Cooper.”
“He’s our neighbour. He’s been helpful. He’s lonely. Be kind.”
“I’m not going.”

We drank tea wrapped up on Clement’s balcony and watched the sun dip into the horizon. In a vain attempt to raise the hackles of his pretentious neighbour, Liam slurped his tea like a navvy. Mr Mistoffelees leapt onto Clement’s lap and demanded attention, writhing impatiently until his master tickled his ribbed underbelly. Conversation turned to sex and Clement cautioned us that even though a bit of rough (and the rougher the better, judging by the lusty log man) had been his preferred choice of plaything for many decades, he didn’t like to be labelled as gay. Mr Mistoffelees, sensing Clement’s rising heart rate, escaped onto the balcony floor. We waited for the punch line. It didn’t come.
“Oh... I see,” said Liam turning to me for some kind of inspiration.
“There’s no way,” Clement indignantly declared, “I wish to be identified with the promiscuous homosexuals of Soho, parading their depravity for the whole world to see.”
As one of those promiscuous Soho homosexuals, I rather took offence.
“Oh come on Clem, as long as it’s consensual and doesn’t frighten the horses, who cares?”
I had touched a nerve and Clement remained poker faced. A light went on in my head; Clement was so far back in the closet, he was mincing through Narnia. Maybe the poor man was terrified that our candour would somehow cast an unsolicited light on his nocturnal activities? Maybe this was a thinly veiled warning to watch our step? In the interests of good neighbourly relations, we solemnly pledged to keep his secret: we figured it wasn’t much of a secret to keep. Clearly, Clement couldn’t see what the rest of the world could see.
Liam thought it politic to calm the mood and changed the subject.
“We love living here, Clement.”
He smiled. “Me too.”
“The locals have been amazing.”
Liam went on to relay our dolly tales and the story of Sophia, the avant-garde VW Beetle lady, who had given us a ride without a second thought to her personal safety.
“Precisely!” boomed Clement. “Precisely!”
Liam had unwittingly stumbled upon another subject to launch the old man’s blood pressure into orbit.
“Exactly why I moved here boys. Quite so, quite so!”
Clement jumped the good ship Blighty when his fear of crime reached hysterical levels. He was terrified to venture out after dark. The place was full of mugging junkies, beggars and ne’er-do-wells, all loitering menacingly at every corner.
Liam looked at his watch and rehearsed an excuse to leave.
“It was awful,” said Clement. “I just had to get out. England isn’t what it was. Our dear country’s been ruined by Messrs Blair and Brown.”
I looked at Clement incredulously. “Christ, Clement, where did you live?”
Clement leaned across the table, peered over the top of his gold-rimmed glasses and whispered in my ear.
“Windsor, Jack. Windsor.”
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