Perking the Pansies
Jack and Liam move to Turkey

Did the Earth Move for You, Darling?

This is a preview to the chapter Did the Earth Move for You, Darling? from the book Perking the Pansies by Jack Scott.
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I don’t how the empire builders did it. Those buttoned-up Victorians in heavy drapes must have been made of sterner stuff. One hundred degrees in the shade and we wilted like dainty daisies. We mastered the art of minimising all movement unless absolutely necessary. Liam’s only bound copy of his treasured string quartet was employed as a fan stand and we circulated hot air in an attempt to dry our clammy old hides. The searing heat was occasionally moderated by the mighty Meltemi Wind that blew down from the Balkans. It did so without warning and swept across the entire Aegean basin, gusting to gale force, scuppering sailors, sand blasting beach bathers and fanning forest fires. Eventually, we could no longer bear the glowing bed and the nightly rite of sleepless sweats. We decided to relax our aversion to air conditioning.
There has been much debate about the greatest invention of all time. Might it be the steam engine that drove the industrial revolution and the age of mass transportation? Or the printing press that spread the word to the people? Perhaps it’s the pill that liberated woman from the servitude of incessant child- bearing, or the chance discovery of antibiotics that began the age of health and longevity? Lee Kuan Yew, the man who ruled Singapore for three decades, claimed it was air-conditioning. Without it, he said, body-sapping Singapore could never have developed into the modern, dynamic, thriving city-state it is today. Given our recent exposure to a life in sweat pants, we had to agree with the Singaporean despot.

We procured a unit from a local store and a child arrived to install it the next day. The pre-pubescent boy stared at our 18 inch thick uneven stone and concrete walls in absolute horror. He shook his head and delivered his verdict.
“Hayır, no. Is crazy.”
Liam rang our landlady for assistance. The formidable Hanife arrived, quickly followed by Vadim and Beryl who were grateful for the distraction and desperate for another peak around the house. As the local great and good gathered round our marital bed and began a noisy and impassioned debate, we left them to it and put the kettle on. In due course, the Turkish Jury awarded nul points to the child and his woefully inadequate tools and the poor lad was cast out into the street.

More incapacitating nights of sleepless sweats ensued. We tried leaving the windows open. Barking dogs, crowing roosters, copulating cats and the call to prayer all guaranteed a full week of sleep deprivation. Liam took to snoozing during the day, snuggling up on the shady terrace, shut out from the world by industrial strength ear-plugs and a Turkish Airlines blindfold. The unmountable aircon unit was returned and replaced by a mobile contraption that could be vented out of a window. It was enormous, ugly and noisy but at least we would have relief.

That night, Liam and I berthed next to the engine room of a cross-channel ferry and by morning, contemplated hara-kiri. Our predicament was finally solved with the installation of a wall mounted unit in the ground floor extension where the walls were of standard girth. The gentle cooling hum delivered us from delirium and we lay on our backs in bed, road-testing our new toy. “Feel the love, Liam, feel the love.” A day and a night passed as we caught up on much needed beauty sleep but our slumber was rudely interrupted by a deep rumble beneath us. It felt like a truck the size of Poland had just passed the house. The windows rattled, the bed wobbled, the light fitting swayed and a portrait of John crashed to the floor. It was over in seconds. We leapt out of bed. It started up again, this time, stronger. We heard crockery smash onto the kitchen floor and fled semi- naked into the courtyard. Our neighbours sat cross-legged beneath the olive tree. Vadim looked up from his newspaper and saw the two English boys in their designer Y fronts, holding hands and looking at the ground in fear. “Deprem, Earthquake,” he said. “Küçük, small.” Beril giggled at her wimpish neighbours and went to make coffee.

For the remainder of the sticky summer season we slept cooled and content in the spare room, our sacred shrine to the God of Aircon, virtually abandoning the upper floor of the house. We ventured up only to watch the world go by along the harried street from the upper balcony or to retrieve laundry that had dried in a jiffy in the radiating heat. Breezy Turkey in August was like an open air tumble dryer and direct sun wasn’t strictly necessary. Not that there was much washing to dry; we went commando to avoid nether region sweat rashes. Liam suggested we should emulate the natives by getting a back, sack and crack wax. Maybe the local barber would oblige? I wasn’t terribly keen.

Weeks in, and our peaceful slumber was interrupted again, this time by an altogether different force. A handsome but hugely annoying drummer boy performed a deafening and irregular riff throughout the town, crashing and banging every morning like a drug-frenzied rock star right past our cottage. Okay, it was Ramazan and he was part of a time honoured tradition. I understood. I was über-sensitive to cultural difference, but why couldn’t the Faithful get up to feed their bellies with the help of a bloody alarm clock?
“I think it’s nice,” Liam would say as Keith Moon banged his way past our bedroom at 3am.
“Yes, Liam. You would.”
Beril loved the drummer, too, and would often rush to the street to say good morning and thank him for the hideous racket.

In the middle of Ramazan, Beril acquired a fluffy kitten and called it Bianca. Bianca was a cute little ball of snow white fur, but something about her told me she would grow into a pushy precocious bitch. Tabitha the Tart sensed her reign was about to come to a premature end; it was only a matter of time before she became felix non grata.

We took our seats in the grounds of Bodrum Castle. A concert arena had been constructed outside the curtain wall of the large turreted fortress. To our left, hundreds of gulets and fishing boats competed for space in the harbour and above them a crescent moon lit the dark sky. Sophia sat between us, clapping at the large open stage, impatient for the performance to start.
“Dance feeds one’s soul, darlings, and your souls are very hungry.”
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