Perking the Pansies
Jack and Liam move to Turkey

Come Dine with Me

This is a preview to the chapter Come Dine with Me from the book Perking the Pansies by Jack Scott.
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Every morning I performed the sacred grate cleaning ritual. It was always the same: roll back the rug at the front of the hearth, remove Liam’s back-breaking cast-iron effigy of Ganesh, the Hindu Elephant God; relocate the dribbled candles from the side of the fireplace and scrape off the infuriating hardened wax; shovel out the still-warm embers from the resin stained grill (a grill so expensive, we figured it must have been fashioned from gold bullion and painted black); brush the killer dust into the ash drawer; pull out the drawer brimming with the charred remains of the lusty log man’s best wood; gingerly empty the contents into a plastic bag to avoid spillage; spill the bloody stuff anyway and spend the next twenty minutes clearing it up; replace the contorted candles and return the heavy holy elephant to his sanctified spot. Every morning Liam would come out with hilarious wise cracks such as “on your knees again, Jack?” or “I wouldn’t stay down there too long, Jack, Tariq’s behind you.”
One such morning, and just as I was brushing up the last of the spilled ashes, Liam had one of his dangerous brainwaves.

“My darling, Cinders, you shall go to the ball.”
“Cut the crap, Liam.”
“Okay, not a ball, a party.”
“Whose party?”
“Our party.”
“No way. Read my lips, Liam. No way.”
Every Delia, Nige and Fanny in the neighbourhood had wined and dined us over winter; we had rather taken advantage of our Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook position. Liam decided it was time to kill all the culinary birds with one stone. I thought it an absurd idea. “Cook for that bunch of mean cuisine queens? Forget it.” The competition had become fierce on the Come Dine With Me circuit and standards had reached such gastronomic heights that Liam’s lame Irish stew just wouldn’t cut the mustard. I was far from keen to enter the race, but Liam had a cunning plan. We would throw a cocktail party: savoury nibbles, cold platters and a whole lot of booze. We’d get them plastered and they wouldn’t notice the complete absence of effort. Careful not to transgress the unwritten rules of the emigrey social club, Liam checked out the cold food idea with catering guru Chrissy. “Absolutely fine, darling, everyone loves a drinks party. They’ll stuff their faces before coming.”

It was an arctic but starry night for our debut soirée and we had scrubbed the house for days. We emulated Clement’s votive candle look. A church-full of twinkling lights was tactically arranged around the living room.
“Catholic opulence the Pope himself would be proud of,” said Liam.
“Amen to that, sister.”
The sumptuous cold spread of cheeses, shop-bought mezes, off-the-peg cold cuts and bits on sticks was laid out on cream porcelain dishes. Casks of white wine were chilling out in the fridge. As I put the finishing touches to the table setting, lighting enough tea lights to power a small town, Liam launched into a motivational but mildly annoying pep talk.
“Let’s show this lot how it’s done, Jack. Paint on that smile and camp it up like a drugged up disco queen.”
“Fuck off, Liam.”
“You know how much they love your… gaiety.”
“Look, I’m fed up being the cabaret round here. Is it too much to ask for someone to make me laugh once in a while?”
We hugged and girded our loins.

Curiously, most of our guests arrived simultaneously, as if they had gathered outside for safety. They walked in two by two: imperious Clem wearing Mr Mistoffelees like a stole, handsome Chuck and bangles-a-clanging Susan, and commandant Chrissy with drippy Bernard on the usual leash. It was an instant party of predictable well-rehearsed chatter from the self-anointed top drawer emigreys.
Charlotte and Alan were the last to arrive.
“Darlings. Couldn’t get a babysitter. Sorry, can’t stay.”
We hugged the late arrivals and the crowd fussed around Adalet with Liam leading the charge. Charlotte and Alan looked the perfect parental package and their new daughter was blossoming. The bond was undoubtedly strong and my misgivings were fading into nothing. They were good, natural parents, and besides, Liam was utterly smitten with Adalet.
“Can I hold her?” “Sure, sweet pea.”
Frustrated father Liam, lifted up the little bundle and danced her around the room. His renowned language skills came into their own as the two of them sat on the sofa and exchanged animated baby-babble. I left the makeshift nursery and went to check on Alan.
“Suits you, this baby thing.” “Yeah, it does. Thanks.”
“Is she yours yet?”
“Not quite. The court case was adjourned.”
“That’s normal?”
“Very. This is Turkey.”
Chrissy dragged me off mid-conversation and led me onto the terrace. She had decided to wear thick plum-coloured lipstick and half of it was sticking to her teeth.
“You’ve becoming over-friendly with the caretaker, Jack.” “Tariq? Who told you that?”
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