Perking the Pansies
Jack and Liam move to Turkey

The Emigreys

This is a preview to the chapter The Emigreys from the book Perking the Pansies by Jack Scott.
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“Get out of your pit,” Liam yelled from the bottom of the stairs. “The sun’s out and I’ve got a serious case of cabin fever.”

Our glorious Indian summer had been violently deposed by an unannounced contest for meteorological supremacy between apocalyptic tempests and dazzling sunshine. The battle had sired a family of stunning, perfectly cut rainbows, each one prompting Liam’s ear-splitting rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The heavenly discord lashed the house with horizontal rain and peppered the walls with hailstones the size of conkers. We feared the End of Days.
I threw back the duvet, toppled out of bed and pulled back the curtain. Sunlight streamed into the room illuminating the floating flecks of dust that had taken up permanent residence in our IKEA-appointed boudoir. We had never lived in such a dusty environment and the endless cleaning of knick-knacks had already become an integral part of our daily routine. I dragged my sleepy carcass into the en-suite, gazed into the mirror and tried to pull my face back into place. How the hell had I turned into that? I poked and prodded every bit of loose flesh and attempted a temporary face-lift using my fingers as scaffolding.
Liam entered the room bright-eyed and irrepressibly cheerful. “Nice look.”
“I need reinforcement.”
“Too late, love. The horse has bolted. You’ll have to make do with a сafetière for one, village bread and tasteless white cheese from the Pretty Boys. Eat. Drink. Wash. Dress. The dolly leaves in an hour.”
I grunted lamely, hankering after the modelesque cheekbones of my misspent youth. I hadn’t slept well. Several nights of pounding rain, thunder and intermittent electricity had taken their toll. I was tired and permanently cold. What had happened to the warming Aegean sun? Our small supply of logs had all but disappeared and the grate was filled with a week’s worth of ashes. Fearing premature electrocution, we had barely ventured out and survived a week on a diet of bread, cheese and vats of wine. To make matters worse, Clement’s scary soirée, Abigail’s Party without Demis Roussos, still weighed heavily on my mind. I peered back into the mirror. Deep breath, Jack. Early days.
Liam brushed aside my melancholy.
“Come on, Abdullah, I’ll treat you to a spot of lunch in town. And maybe a sherry or three. Let’s make hay while the sun shines.”
“Any more irritating clichés up your sleeve?”
“Sure. A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine. Rise above the storm and you’ll find the sunshine. A day without sunshine is...” He paused.
“Actually, what is a day without sunshine?”
“Night, I imagine.”
“Night. Here comes the…”
“Okay. You win. And don’t call me Abdullah.”
Liam ruffled my hair and smiled the kind of smile that could melt a polar ice cap. I hugged my tone-deaf chanteuse and grinned back at the mirror. Things could be worse. I could be working for a living.

Water was still trickling down the drive that led from Tepe Heights to the coastal road below. We staggered gingerly down the slippery concrete slope and waited for the dolly. We chatted frivolously – about how the fast-encroaching oleanders looked like a scene from Day of the Triffids, how words like gusset and moist made us howl with laughter for no apparent reason and how we really should eat some fruit before we keeled over from terminal scurvy. The chit chat and fresh air lightened my mood and it was good to have the sun on my back again. Twenty minutes passed. The bus was late.
Just at that moment a beaten-up VW Beetle rumbled towards us, screeched to a halt and came to rest by the overgrown verge. A diminutive white head leaned out of the window, its features disguised by blinding winter sunshine.
“Merhaba, gentlemen. Lift into town?” said the head. It spoke warmly in impeccable and refined English. Liam smiled and attempted some unintelligible Turklish.
“Thank you,” I said. “That would be wonderful.”
We clambered into the stranger’s car. Liam sat next to the driver and I made do with the cramped back seat in the company of four shopping bags and a box of kindling. The ethereal sound of Tosca wailing on the castle ramparts serenaded us from a crackling speaker and a pleasant whiff of jasmine incense wafted over me. I stole a glance at our Good Samaritan. Dazzling white hair fashioned into a bun framed the radiant face of a Turkish woman in her sixties. She was poise personified, stylishly dressed in hodden grey with delicate silver jewellery complementing soft green eyes. The tin can car, on the other hand, was an utter wreck, littered with spent water bottles, crushed carrier bags and empty cigarette packets. An old set of gilded worry beads swung to and fro from the rear view mirror, fighting for attention with a tiny statuette of the Buddha and a plastic icon of the Virgin Mary, both stuck on to the dashboard with Blu-Tack.
“Hoşgeldiniz! New in town?”
“Just moved from London,” I said, unable to contain my enthusiasm. I was instantly beguiled by our unlikely chauffeur.
“Oh, my dears, I adore London. So cosmopolitan, so cultured, so... me.”
In a moment of instant rapture she closed her eyes and only came to when the car clipped the kerb. Liam searched for a seatbelt while I clung on to the hard rear bench.
“So why here? Why Turkey?” she asked. “Well, we…”
“I’m afraid the seatbelts broke off years ago, dear.”
“We’re just resting,” continued Liam. “And where better to rest than this?”
“It is lovely here. I’m sure you’ll get along very nicely, very nicely indeed.”
We bounced along the coastal road like an armadillo on speed, swerving to avoid the crater-sized potholes and rocking backwards and forwards on the soft suspension.
“Your English is quite beautiful,” I said. “Thank you. How sweet of you...” “Jack.”
“Liam.”
“Delighted. I’m Safiye, but you can call me Sophia. All my
English friends do. And this is Helga.”
Like idiots, we looked around the car for a companion, assuming a toy poodle was hidden in the rubbish.
The penny dropped. “Oh, the car,” I said.
Sophia beamed. “I’m an Istanbul girl but Helga is resolutely German. She’s like Wagner, dear, goes on and on. We met in Köln thirty years ago. Thirty glorious...”
Sophia drifted off again and Helga switched to autopilot. Liam snapped Sophia out of her suicidal trance. “You know
London well?”
“Yes, dear. I lived in Chelsea in the Sixties, a magical time. The parties, the beautiful people…” She paused, patted her up- stretched hair and stroked her left cheek. “I was a RADA girl, an actress and model. They say I was beautiful.”
“You still are,” I said studying her reflection in the rear view mirror. It seemed the appropriate response and wasn’t too far from the truth. Sophia was a handsome woman.
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