Perking the Pansies
Jack and Liam move to Turkey

Tales of the City

This is a preview to the chapter Tales of the City from the book Perking the Pansies by Jack Scott.
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We flew the emigrey express to London, rather pleased to be heading back to Blighty. The plane was a banquet of assisted blonds whose tinted tresses camouflaged a sea of solar-haggard sour facades. They drank, ate and whinged in perfect unison. Behind us lay a loud-mouthed drunken imitation of Archie Moon cuddling a half empty bottle of Bells. It was a top drawer flight. Liam was plugged into his iPod and munching through a pack of chewy-caramel balls that cost more than the airfare. We parted at Gatwick. Liam headed off to North London and I remained south of the river to lodge in the deluxe loft of my old friend Karen.

Karen was my very own Mrs Madrigal and my Mrs M had real class. The walls of her elegant home were dripping with original canvases, some of them worth more than my pension pot. They’d hung there for years, valued for the right reasons, covered in dust and waiting to be straightened. Objects d’art from around the globe perched precariously on window-sills and dangled from bathroom ceilings. I had constant nightmares about playing catch with the Clarice Cliff vases after a night on the tiles.
“Don’t worry, Dolly,” she would say. “They’re only pots.”
“How’s that will of yours going?” I would say. “Remember your poor old fairy friends who don’t have a Clarice Cliff to piss in.”
“Dolly, you’re rich where it matters. That’s what counts.” All that was missing from life at number ninety-eight was the occasional spliff taped to my bedroom door. I was working on that one.

My time in Blighty blossomed into a social renaissance and I was awash with invites. Strawberry blond aspiring actor Clive invited me along to dinner at his stately town house in Islington, the epicentre of liberal London. Clive created away in the kitchen, while his partner, soap mogul Angus, served up the sauce. It was a civilised and sophisticated affair graced by other London life friends. I sat next to Debbie, the voluptuous chief buyer for Fenwick’s, a woman who travelled between the fashion capitals of the world in search of the latest must-haves. The girl from The Welsh Valleys had done good: she was now Miss Mortgage Free of Kingston-upon-Thames. The manager of a gay ‘lifestyle’ shop (“Okay, it’s a sex shop”) sat opposite. In days long past, Ian was my regular dance partner as we filled our boots across half of Europe. He was also the main butt of my low wit. We reminisced about the bad old days when I was free and he was incredibly easy.
“I envied you,” he said. “You envied me?”
“You were more popular with the punters, my dear.”
“Think you’ll find your dance card was fuller than mine.”
It was Ian’s cleanse tone and clench regime that pulled the tricks. Still, come the last waltz, I always managed to secure a booking, even if it was with Manuel and his gammy leg.
“Everyone looks attractive to the well-oiled, darling. How’s Turkey?”
“Wonderful.” “You’ll stay?”
“Of course. Probably.”
Ian’s partner, banker Matt, sat opposite Debbie. Despite the recession, he’d recently secured employment with a City institution where the staff knew what wine to drink with what. “It’s the only qualification required of a banker these days,” he said. “That and faux contrition.”
The night of the chattering classes frolicked along handsomely. Fuelled by the entire contents of Clive’s wine cellar, we tripped through politics, high and unbelievably low culture, Eurovision, the banking crisis and pensions reform, all glued together by enough gossip to feed a year’s supply of The National Enquirer. I took every available opportunity to boast about our new life as gay mavericks abroad: the igloo with a view, pink Gollum and his sinister familiar, the lusty log man, the haunted waiter at the quayside çay-house, alarming levels of fascism in the spine-chilling world of the emigreys, the questionable joy of Bobbi’s quiz nights and the tiny baby rescued from life in a Turkish orphanage. A lot had happened in a few short months.
“So you’re enjoying it?” asked Clive. “Enjoying’s not quite the word I would use.” “What word would you use?”

Liam’s father opened the front door of his suburban house in North London.
“Ah, Doreen. Would you come in?” Liam Senior leaned over and kissed my mother.
“You old rogue.”
“I am that. Get inside, there’s a brandy waiting. Come in
Jack, come in.”
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