Perking the Pansies
Jack and Liam move to Turkey

In the Beginning

This is a preview to the chapter In the Beginning from the book Perking the Pansies by Jack Scott.
Please note this text is copyright protected.

In the beginning there was work, and work was God. After thirty-five years in the business, the endless predictability made me question the Faith. Liam, on the other hand, was neither bored nor unchallenged but routinely subjected to the demands of a feckless boss, a soft and warm Christmas tree fairy with a soul of granite, Lucifer in lace. He feared for his tenure. I feared for his mental health.
“Happy Birthday, Liam.”
Our favourite Soho brasserie was illuminated by flickering antique oil lamps and the occasional beam of light from the kitchen. The restaurant was swollen with rowdy after-hours workers, swapping gossip and feasting on hearsay. We had squeezed into a small recess by the window, dribbles of condensation trickling down the glass and obscuring the view to the street beyond.
Liam ripped off his Armani tie and draped it across the back of his chair.
“Thanks, Jack. Forty-six and fully-functioning tackle.”
“I’ll drink to that.”
Our waiter intruded. “Have you decided?”
“Yes, Cato,” I said. “We’ll both have the special.”
The cute Colombian turned on his heels and sashayed off towards the kitchen. Liam retrieved his tie and rolled it absently around his fingers.
“You do know that’s Italian silk?”
“It’s just a shackle. An over-priced, over-hyped, ridiculous little shackle.” He closed his eyes and massaged his forehead with the tips of his fingers.
“Good day at the office, darling?”
“Just pour the wine, Jack.”
Liam folded his tie, placed it neatly on the table and stared into my eyes with unusual intensity.
“Jack, you know I love you, don’t you?”
“Sure I do.”
In the three years we had been together, Liam had been irrepressibly affectionate. We had recently married, an affirming fanfare of family and friends crowned by two glorious weeks in Turkey. I had never felt more loved.
“Look,” said Liam. “I’ve got something to tell you.”
Cato returned and fussed over the table setting for what seemed like an age, adjusting the condiments like chess pieces to make room for the oversized plates. He placed the white linen napkins on our laps and started to fret over my cutlery.
“That’s fine, Cato!”
Liam shuffled uncomfortably, and Cato and his impossibly thin waist minced back to the kitchen.
“I thought you liked this place?” I said. “I thought you were happy?”
“I do. I am.” He forced a smile.
“This is you looking happy?”

Our food arrived along with a fresh bottle of wine and a sulking waiter.
“It’s the job,” said Liam. “It’s driving me insane.” He took a fortifying swig of wine. “I told that bitch of a boss where to stick her profit margins. I’ve done it. I’ve quit.”
Liam had spent the last two years working for a cut-and- thrust, slash-and-burn private sector company, vainly trying to coax the unemployable into work. He sought stimulation and challenge and got both in spades, along with a gruelling twelve hour day. I reached over the table and held his hand.
“Jumping ship’s fine, love. As long as it’s onto dry land.”
“But, you’re my dry land, aren’t you?”
Cato returned every now and then to check on my mood and replenish our glasses, his distracting buns quivering like two piglets in a sack. As Liam and I chatted, the windows started to de-mist and we caught glimpses of the drab winter coats and scarves scurrying along the icy street outside.
“The worker bees of London,” said Liam. “Just look at them.”
I got the point. I’d worked in social care for thirty years, gently ascending a career ladder to middle management, middle income and a middling suburban terrace; comfortable, secure and passionately dissatisfying. We talked with growing animation through the starter, main course and deliciously calorific death by chocolate dessert, about the evils of work, and how our jobs were ruining our health.
“What the hell are we doing?” said Liam.
“The same as everyone else love, treading water.”
“That’s it? Thrashing about in the shallows?” “Better than drowning.”
“I’d rather take my chances.”
Jacques Brel belted out Jackie through the restaurant speakers and Liam considered his next move.
“We’re stuck in a rut, Jack, a big fat suburban rut. There’s more to life than matching bathrobes and strategically placed scatter cushions.”
“You’re drunk.”
“As a skunk.”
“So what would you have us do? Sell the semi?”
“Yeah, why not?”
“Because it’s our home, that’s why not. What would we do? Walk the streets and queue at the soup kitchen? Live in a cardboard box and wait for Godot?”
“Now who’s drunk? Let’s just do it.”
“For fuck’s sake, Liam, do what?”
“Something different. Somewhere else.” He paused. “More than tread water.”
I peered at Liam through my wine glass, his face distorted like a reflection in a hall of mirrors. The booze was coursing through my veins and I was feeling more receptive by the bottle. Cato appeared through the crowd carrying a tiny birthday cake lit by a single pink candle. A perfectly formed forty-six was neatly iced onto the delicate vanilla sponge.
“Happy Birthday, Señor Liam. Feliz Día from the House.”
The pre-occupied diners around us gave Liam a half-baked hand. We laughed and I thanked Cato for his thoughtfulness.
“Perfect timing, my little camarero. Another bottle and make it quick.”

We awoke to the sound of heavy rain pounding against the rattling sash windows. The radio was blaring and the central heating was firing on full. Liam leaped out of bed, returning with a pot of freshly brewed French roast and a jug of water. He was annoyingly bright.
I mumbled into the pillow. “Leave the packet.”
He perched on the side of the bed and stroked the back of my neck.
“If that’s a prelude to anything requiring movement, forget it.”
“Look. I’ve been awake half the night thinking.”
Liam began to recall our wine-fuelled debate in remarkable detail. “What if we actually do it?” he said. “What if we sell up and head for heat and hedonism?”
I rubbed my eyes and reached for my glasses. “Well?” said Liam.
“It has its attractions.”
“That’s it? It has its attractions? Wake up, Jack. Let’s bugger off to Nirvana.”
My brain struggled to find first gear and slipped back into neutral. A squad of sadistic dwarfs was pick-axing the inside of my head.
“It’s not that simple, Liam. If it was, everyone would do it.”
“Repeat after me, Jack: work is the root of all evil. Imagine life without the turgid meetings, kiss-my-arse bosses and nose- to-nipple commutes.”
“Imagine life without money, Liam. Poverty is the root of all evil.”
I took a pill and downed another glass of water.
“We’ve equity in the houses,” said Liam.
“Not enough. It wouldn’t last.”
“Oh come on, nothing lasts.”
Liam leapt up and pulled open the curtains. The rain had petered out and winter sunshine streaked through the windows. He was resolute.
“We could rent.”
“Yes, rent. A bargain basement by the sea.”
“A beach hut in Bognor? I don’t think so.”
“Even if we had more time together?”
“Especially if we had more time together.”
“And more sex.”
“God, it gets worse.” “I’m serious, Jack. If….”
I cupped my hand over Liam’s mouth. “Pour me that cup of coffee and let me think.”

Later in the day, revived by full-fat croissants and intravenous caffeine, we lay next to each other on the super-sized bed, staring at the ceiling and calmly hatching our audacious plot to step off the treadmill and migrate to the sun. Liam convinced me that anything was possible; all we had to do was decide where. He fancied France but I was less than keen. I once stayed at a rancid carbuncle in a godforsaken village in the middle of the Dordogne. The only other hotel guest was a dead rat floating in the kidney-shaped cesspit they called a pool. When I checked out the next morning, the propriétaire and his finger-sucking sister offered me an extended stay in return for a ménage à trois. I politely declined their kind offer. As I left the foyer, a pack of rabid dogs launched an unprovoked offensive on my suitcase, presumably attempting to retrieve the warm saucisse I’d purloined from the hotel breakfast table. One of them, clearly starved of accouplement, decided to mount the case and squirt his jus d’amour over my Samsonite. On a visit to Normandy, I had a life-changing incident in a roadside convenience, an experience that rotted my espadrilles and permanently damaged my sense of smell. The revolting hole in the ground was overflowing with an aromatic pee soup, liberally spiced with putrid garlic, topped with stool croutons and bubbling up like a witch’s cauldron. It had clearly been used by every Tom, Dick and Norman in town, more than once. A brisk wind up the English Channel would have carried the offending stench to Sweden and given surströmming a run for its money.
“You know what they say, Liam. The French have clean kitchens and dirty toilets. The English have clean toilets and dirty kitchens. I know which I’d prefer.”
I had a soft spot for Spain but the place was already teeming with Brits on the run and anyway, Liam had a principled aversion to bull fighting. Gran Canaria – Spain with a gin twist – was little more than a duty-free brothel in the Atlantic and was overrun with naked Germans waving Teutonic tackle around the X-rated sand dunes. Italy was home to the Vicar of Bigots and sleazy politicians, Portugal had fado but precious little else, and Greece was an economic basket case on the verge of civil implosion. As we dismissed each country with outrageous prejudice, we knew that anywhere in the Eurozone was probably beyond our means. The pound was poorly and the ailing patient was getting weaker by the day. Everything pointed in one direction, and it was Liam who finally voiced our biased decision.
“You get a lot of bang for your bucks in Turkey.”
We had just returned from Bodrum, a chic and cosmopolitan kind of place attracting serious Turkish cash, social nonconformists and relatively few discount tourists. Liam loved it and after many years visiting the western shores of Anatolia, I needed no convincing. We were agreed. It was Turkey or nowhere.

Several hours of feverish planning passed. Scribbled Post-it notes and an annotated map of south western Turkey guided us through a long and impassioned debate. We briefly entertained the notion of living in Kaş on the Turkuaz Coast. We had honeymooned there and fallen under its captivating spell. The sparkling Bohemian jewel was surrounded by a pristine hinterland and had mercifully been spared the worst excesses of mass tourism. Its glorious isolation was also its downfall. The resort was a wilting two-hour drive from the nearest international airport, was effectively closed out of season and lacked those dull but essential full-time services we all need in the real world: banks, supermarkets and an upmarket drag bar. We cast our eyes along the map. The coast running south-east of Kaş had been colonised by Germans and Russians and the string of concrete resorts running north – Fethiye, Marmaris, Altınkum and Kuşadası – attracted legions of beer-soaked karaoke Brits. Bodrum, the bookmaker’s favourite, won by a mile. At this point, we got stuck – hopelessly stuck – in the quicksand of reality. Planning the fantasy was thrilling and cathartic but ultimately hopeless. Despite our best efforts to make all the pieces fit, practicalities and a whole range of insoluble conundrums got in the way. Liam called them technical hitches and doggedly refused to concede defeat. I admired his pluck to bet against the odds. All I had to do was sell my East London house, just as prices were in free fall. All he had to do was agree a financial settlement with his ex on their jointly-owned property in Kent. Thus far, that particular knotty problem had proved more difficult to resolve than the Arab-Israeli conflict.
“I’ll speak to Robbie,” said Liam. “You never know.”
I did know. Robbie wouldn’t give an inch. It fell to me to end the delusional pipedream.
“It’s not just about us, love.”
Liam collapsed on to the bed and buried his face in the crumpled map of Turkey.
“Your mother,” he mumbled.
“Your parents.”
“I know, I know, they need us.” “And we need them.”
We lay on the bed in silence, running through the endless permutations in our heads. After a while we fell soundly asleep, wrapped around each other and dreaming of the impossible.

"It's like Scott's perpetually dipping into his wallet to buy the next round...."

More Reviews
Share on Facebook Tweet This
Buy this book:
Visit the
Perking the Pansies
Join Jack Scott on Google+
Get a Book Preview website