Perking the Pansies
Jack and Liam move to Turkey


This is a preview to the chapter The VOMITs from the book Perking the Pansies by Jack Scott.
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We spent several weeks batting away invites to candle-lit suppers and fondue parties, determined to get a taste of the real Turkey. Liam was wedded to his Turkish for Idiots phrase book and practised whenever he got the chance. This might involve ringing a local estate agent and pretending to sell a house (“Yes, it’s huge… shit, what’s Turkish for ‘septic tank’?”) or dragging Tariq onto the terrace and bribing him with Yankee fags. These episodes were generally short-lived and always ended in tears. “It’s impossible. We may as well live in bloody China.”

Spring was finally in the air and there was a spring in our step. The warming rays stirred us from the benign boredom of winter hibernation. Shorts were aired, sun creams checked and flip flops dusted down. Mosquito season approached alongside and this was dire news for Liam. Relentless and voracious, Turkish mozzies just loved to feast on his flesh, dive-bombing like merciless kamikaze pilots to fashion another medieval pox victim.

Selma paid the occasional visit, usually to collect the rubbish when Tariq was otherwise engaged, but sometimes just to say hello or tell us about an event in the village. One spring morning she caught me on the terrace. She was clutching an official- looking document I assumed to be yet another unexpected bill. Whatever it was, she wouldn’t let go. Liam flip-flopped out to see what the fuss was about. “It’s a school report, you fool.” Turkish for Idiots had done its job and we scanned the report. Selma had gained top marks in every subject.
“Tebrikler,” said Liam. “Well done, Selma.” He shook her by the hand and smiled. Clever girl. So much for the ill-educated girls of Turkey. Selma blushed, delighted with the attention and skipped off to find her father. The young lady from Hatay loved to share her success with the eccentric foreigners at the top of the hill. As always, we were touched. We would treat her to exotic English confectionary. We would scour the local market for Cadbury’s.

The Thursday Pazar in Yalıkavak was an open air melting pot of punters, peasants, spivs, hawkers and pickpockets. Bazaars were big business and the whole enterprise was a huge travelling circus of peripatetic traders, moving from town to town every day of the week. We headed for the edible bit, a dizzying array of fresh fruit and veg, aromatic herbs and spices, exotic cheeses, home-made yoghurt, the odd chicken in a basket and stacked pallets of sweet and savoury lokum (Turkish delight). We avoided the non-edible section with stall after stall of tatty household goods, poor quality fake designer wear, overpriced linens and the hard-sell carpet traders. Turkey was the land of genuine fakes. Bartering with ruddy bovver boys to get a lira knocked off the knock-off was a gruelling ordeal. Much of the tat dropped off the back of a dodgy tractor and wasn’t made in Turkey anyway. The goods didn’t last, no guarantee was given and no refund was offered.
“Hello, chaps. Divine tomatoes.”
The head of Mr Mistoffelees poked out of Clem’s tartan shopping trolley. His master squeezed the fruit and leered at the stall-holders as he went. “So much better than the English variety.”
“How’s Clem?” I said.
“Honestly, Jack? A little troubled.”
“Oh? What’s up?”
“More like who’s up. It’s Chrissy.”
Liam took refuge among the fruit stalls.
“You know how she is – unbearably negative.”
“Can’t say I’ve noticed, Clem.”
Clement couldn’t cope with any kind of negativity. It brought him down, he told me, way down into a spiral of doubt and depression. Consequently, he had decided to ‘filter’ Chrissy out of his life. Clement’s melodramatic tidings left me rather unmoved though I could see his point. Chrissy had taken to calling us two or three times a day, usually to impart unsolicited advice or to bitch about somebody or other.
“Can you believe it, boys?” she would say. “You’d think she’d had enough of shagging peasants.” Or, “She paid more for those tits than most people spend on a car and they’re still lop-sided.” Even Liam, with his infamous tolerance of neurotic women, was at breaking point though his current concern was avoiding Clement. He embarked on a serious spending spree, splashing out on vegetables we didn’t need, anything to avoid talking to our haughty neighbour. As far as he was concerned, Clement was already at the top of the emergency filter list.

A lone street dog lumbered up from beneath one of the stalls and smelt cat in the air. Mr Mistoffelees hissed and writhed. The dog torpedoed through the crowd and horrified locals parted like the Red Sea. Stalls went flying, shrieking covered ladies recoiled and a medley of spring vegetables – onions, potatoes, avocados and radishes – bounced along the cobbles from all directions. The terrified cat launched himself from the trolley and rocketed to the safety of a nearby fig tree. Satisfied that Mr Mistoffelees had been seen off, the mangy mutt trotted nonchalantly back through the market, tail wagging in victory. Clement and I tripped through the scattered debris to retrieve Mr Mistoffelees from his leafy turret. Clement stood under the tree and opened the flap of the trolley. His faithful familiar inched down the branches and leapt back into the sack. Clement crouched down to stroke the head of his panting puss.
“Nasty dog. All gone now.”
Liam appeared from behind the cheese stands and fake- hugged Clement.
“Just the person,” he said. “We need chocolate. Cadbury’s chocolate. For Selma. She passed all her exams. Any ideas?”
Clement had some ideas alright but not ones Liam wanted to hear.
“Call me old-fashioned, Liam, but I don’t approve of educating girls.”
“You don’t?”
“By educating girls, one only encourages greed.”
“Does one?”
“They get above their station, they start wanting more.”
“Do they?”
“It’ll be the death of this country like it’s been the death of ours.”
“Will it? What about the boys?”
Clement beamed. “Ah, boys are different. It’s about family values. Women are born to stay at home and raise children.”
“That’s their job?” said Liam.
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