Living in Spain, warts and all

Battered and Fried

I was not put on this earth to be decorative.

As children, both my sister Sue and I were extreme tomboys, eschewing dolls and prams for footballs and model spaceships. And we were dangerous.

Such was our reputation that the headmaster of our primary school, at first assembly of each new term, would routinely ask, “Which of the Cassidy sisters is in plaster this time?”

So there you have it. My maiden name was Cassidy. In the summer of my eleventh year, just before I was due to move up to my first grammar school, I managed to break my leg on roller skates. I was, therefore, christened by some perceptive (if not a little out-dated) wag with the nickname ‘Hopalong’ – and so I remained throughout my school days.

For some reason, Fate feels duty-bound to type-cast me forever. I am widely-known as being accident-prone, although in my defence I have to protest that often my injuries are not my own fault – that I am more unlucky than clumsy (although I may be that, too).

I mean, a spider bite (Bitten by Spain) is hardly an act of ineptitude on my part, although drilling a hole in my own leg (Tractors and Drills ) does admittedly fall into that category. And I will confess that I do sometimes take risks, like groping my way along the top of a high wall in the dark, in the wet, in heels ( Falling Rain) and clambering across a steep roof to recover a pathetic cat (Rescue!).

However, it is also true that often I am at the mercy of events that are foist upon me, rather than attributable to me.

Last week, I almost managed to modify my nose for free. I was looking after Ollie, the blue and gold macaw that resided with me for a year or so before he was adopted by Linda and Trevor, who have worked wonders with him and have turned him into a real cuddly bird. The trouble is, he is now so very friendly that he wants to be in someone’s arms all the time – not a possibility when I am trying to clean his flight. So as he swung down from the roof to grab me, I feinted sideways … into the end of a metal perch, face-first, and almost sliced off the tip of my nose.

There was a fair bit of blood, and a resulting effect of having been slashed by a lion. It elicited some raised eyebrows when I ventured forth into public places, but it has settled down now to a mere couple of fine lines that can be covered with a small trowel of concealer.

Not good enough for Fate. I have another parrot boarding with me this week. Mr. Pedro, I have already had cause to mention (The Good, the Bad and the Snuggly ), hates me with a vengeance. Despite constant protestations from Chris, his owner, who assured me when she left him this time that he hardly ever bites now (!), this parrot would kill me if he could but find the opportunity.

This morning I went into the flights to change water and dole out breakfast to all the parrots. In Pedro’s flight, I keep my distance – I wouldn’t even consider an attempt at handling him, as I find two hands are generally not enough and I cannot sacrifice one of them. Further, I enter that particular space bent double, to keep my face firmly pointed down and out of reach of his perch, since he has been known to swing upside down in an attempt to take out my eyes. A face full of parrot does not appeal.

Generally, I find that this works, provided I am quick with the removal of the food bowls.

Today, he was having none of it. As soon as I was in and at his mercy, he actually flung himself bodily off his perch and landed on the back of my head. There, he dug all his claws into my scalp to make sure I couldn’t shake him off, and proceeded to bury the point of his upper beak under the skin, while grinding away with the flat edge of the bottom beak in an attempt to scalp me.

The scalp is a thin piece of skin stretched tautly across the skull. When it is split, it bleeds profusely. I could feel blood running through my hair, but I didn’t dare raise my hands to dislodge my stowaway, for fear of macerated fingers. So I had to grit my teeth and bend further so that he was actually hanging upside down from the top of my head. Then I was able to brush him against a lower perch until he disengaged from my tattered skull.

This occurred almost twelve hours ago. The wound is still weeping dismally, and I am feeling sorry for myself. All ‘ aaah’ and ‘poor you’ expressions of sympathy will be welcome.

This all happened at stupid o’clock this morning, a time at which I am routinely having to heave myself out of bed these days. The cool and changeable weather we were dealt in April has given way to meltdown this week, and I have to get out to water the baby vegetable plants in the huerta before the sun gets to them. I also have to feed and water the parrots and my own pack of hounds before ascending from the house to the kennels to see to residents at around 7am.

Who said I came to Spain for the relaxed lifestyle, the mañana mañana attitude? What went wrong?

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Of dog kennels and goats

We had our fiesta de inauguración for the kennels on Sunday, following a week of frantic activity involving the procurement of vast quantities of food and drink, and the mobilisation of friends with fistfuls of paper to spread the word.

It was, general opinion has it, a great success. We had advertised that gates would be open from 12 noon to 8pm, so of course our first visitor arrived a quarter of an hour early and the last turned up at 8pm on the nose, by which time we were beyond tired and ready for a serious bout of doing absolutely nothing – but hey! In between, we had a good show of visitors, some with their dogs along to check out the accommodation, and we registered a cluster of clients and actually took some bookings on the day, too.

Checking out the kennels

My plans, which had run like clockwork through the preceding week, collapsed like a vampire exposed to sunlight into a pile of dust on the morning of the open day, and I have to thank our dear friends Avril and Iain for slaving in the kitchen getting all the food prepared and out to the tables as John and I fielded the early visitors. Likewise, I am indebted to Andreas, our intrepid builder, who put on his barman’s head and manned the beer pumps for a good part of the day.

Kitchen wallahs

Pedro, our obliging though noisy neighbour, kindly demonstrated the sleeping accommodation for us, after the umpteenth visitor had asked if we would take winter bookings for homo sapiens given that the heated beds and the wood-burning stove would surely render the kennels warmer than the normal unheated Spanish property.

Testing the beds ...

The weather was very kind to us, despite dire forecasts of a rainy day – we enjoyed blue skies with patchy clouds of teased cotton wool and the temperatures were probably ideal. A small problem arose mid-afternoon as the wind suddenly got up and whipped all the serviettes and half the sandwiches away to flap madly across the valley like white bats, but apart from that we were pretty blessed.

Some people covered a fair distance to support us during the day, including friends from our previous hunting ground some 80km away here in Spain. But we were most honoured to be joined by the unsurpassed blogger Mo of Spainstruck fame and her hubby Ramón and adorable daughter Sara. Mo has been an e-acquaintance (which is a bit like an imaginary friend – someone to whom you speak via the ethernet but never expect anyone else to see) for about a year now, and she shocked me rigid when I put up the general Facebook invite to the open day and she informed me that they planned to drive in excess of four hours to attend!

And attend they did. Now, Mo was one of the very first people to read the second edition of Bitten by Spain (the book) which was published recently by Summertime Publishing. Which means that she arrived knowing far too much about us and feeling as though she was already familiar with the motley crew of animals, el Cabrón, Pedro next door and all other characters that appear in the book. So I found myself in that strange state of anxiety whereby I was petrified of being a total let-down: of having talked us all up so much that the reality is a wash-out, an anti-climax, a nothing.

However, we fed her plenty of wine and a Thai banquet so I think we may have got away with it. In truth, it was an absolute delight to have met them in the flesh, rather than through Mo’s blog, and we hope very much to return the compliment and travel up to Alcalá de Henares some time soon.

Clara turned up on my doorstep on Monday. Still anxious to show us her appreciation of our efforts to apprehend her thieves (The Hills are Alive…), she wanted to give us a trailer-load of steaming goat excrement. Now this might strike you as odd – but last year, we had to buy the same from a local farmer and it cost us 100€, which surprised us considerably at the time but proved, upon investigation, to be the going rate, so her gift is in fact a generous one.

But it wasn’t enough for us to accept it with our profuse thanks – we were also summoned to the goat farm for a grand tour. I have previously put off this visit a number of times, for several reasons: 1) I don’t eat meat, apart from chicken and fish, and so I don’t find a livestock farm to be a particularly attractive venue; 2) Clara can talk the hind leg off a donkey and therefore a visit to her enclave as a captive audience would be likely to take a considerable chunk out of a day; and 3) it stinks. Nonetheless, on this occasion we were not given much choice, as Clara insisted with an emphatic “Venid! venid!”

They boast over 1000 goats and sheep on the farm. I have to confess that I can’t tell one from t’other – they all look like some kind of hybrid of the two to me. A goodly number of the goats were eating from huge trenches full of old oranges, lemons and red peppers, a process which appears to be a close approximation to perpetual motion to me – food goes in the top end, and farts come out of the bottom in a constant stream.

Other goats were inside a large holding shed waiting to be hooked up to the milking machines. Clara showed us the milk vats – 800 litres of milk are collected per day and are then sent off to become cheese, and she tells us the milking process takes about three hours each day.

The next shed was populated by some seventy-odd three/four-month old lambs, still young and clean enough to be considered cute and cuddly. “They’ll be off soon for meat,” she announced. Bugger – I really didn’t want to know that.

The last shed, when the door was opened, contained a smell that hit the sinuses like a huge bottle of smelling salts – the eyes watered profusely, the pain was akin to having red hot needles shoved up each nostril and into the frontal lobe, and the throat automatically closed off to prevent terminal damage to the lining of the lungs. This shed housed the tiny lambs and kids, just a week or so old, and was therefore kept warm – the effect was like putting a sodden nappy in the oven (definitely not to be tried at home). How those poor wee things were still standing – and breathing – beats me! They must have a far sturdier constitution than I.

We escaped two hours later, when Pedro, Clara’s husband, appeared with our gift loaded into the front bucket of his tractor (a proper grown-up tractor, not a wee distractor like ours). Clara clambered up onto the running strip and they took off for our vegetable patch looking for all the world like the Clampetts.

So we now have a rich and fertile (if a little dubious in the olfactory department) plot that John then prepared for the planting of all our vegetable plugs, which I fully expect to reach hitherto unheard-of size – which matters, despite all rumours to the contrary.

I wrote piece this a few years back – long before the other issue of “Thinking of opening a compliant business in Spain?” reared its ugly head …

I thought it was time to resurrect it!

Thinking of renovating or building in the campo?

Then you may need to consider the following points – from one who has been there, done that, failed dismally…..

(1) The reality check

OK – so you have trawled extensively around various bits of Spain in the economy hire car to discover the mountainside or valley or olive grove that most closely resembles the picturesque setting for your dream home that has been plastered inside your eyelids for many a year. Having avoided untold pressure from various agents specialising in rural properties, you have finally found The One.

Is the situation of the property or land really tenable? Are you happy to replace your shock absorbers every year traversing the potholed and rock-covered camino that leads to it? If you intend to build, is it accessible for lorries to bring materials to it? Are you prepared to use a car each time you need bread and milk, and to pick up your post from an apartado de Correos, or to collect from a more civilised meeting point anyone who needs to get to you? Is it legally for sale?

You can ask to see the Catastro entry to establish who owns it. Not a bad idea to attempt to speak to the owner, too, if humanly possible – the estate agent will be adding a large amount to the sale price for himself, which may mean that you pay much more than the value that will eventually be entered on the escritura. Is the entire area fully represented on the escritura? Historically, much smaller areas than actually exist have been entered, to reduce contributions. If there is a property on the land, does it appear on the escritura (or even on the Catastro)?

If not, insist that it is entered before you consider buying (this one is a case of “do as I say, not as I did”, I regret to say). This process requires the measurement and certification of antiquity by an architect and a valuation by a tasador, plus a visit to the Notary, and does not come cheap If you intend to renovate or build, is it likely to be feasible? You need to know something about the local requirements and restrictions.

For example, in my area (Bullas, Murcia) you will need a parcela of at least 20,000m2 in order to even consider the building of one house. Is the parcela in an area set aside as National Park or otherwise protected? My (illegal) house is sited in an area considered to be non-urbanisable because it is in an area of natural beauty– something we didn’t know when we started it. It doesn’t matter that the parcela we bought, which occupies the south-facing slope of a river valley, was full of rusting car parts, dead dogs, old beer cans and a rubber plantation of condoms all lurking in shoulder-high overgrowth before we turned it into something much more beautiful. Be very careful, and …..

(2) Trust no-one

Except a very good and knowledgeable interpreter if you don’t speak the language, and possibly even if you do. Estate agents here have no obligation to be accurate, fair, or even truthful, let alone qualified or affiliated with a professional body. In my experience, truth is to many agentes inmobiliarios what a bicycle is to a fish. You are likely to be misled, misdirected, misinformed and be told downright lies – even the solicitors and the Notaries have been complicit in this, especially if they are local and (likely) related to the estate agent, builder, vendor…..

While I don’t usually subscribe to the notion that it is best to use English-speaking people to carry out all that is necessary to achieve your desired ends, I would highly recommend seeking out a firm of Solicitors from the UK but firmly based in and knowledgeable about Spain. As Brits, we suffer very much from the expectations that arise from having lived in a country where processes are prescribed, and we believe that in paying a professional here in Spain our interests will be guarded and all necessary procedures will be carried out on our behalf.

Certainly not so. Having sold our first house in Spain and bought our particular little piece of heaven here late 2005/early 2006, I am still struggling, in 2010, to remove my name from the Catastro for the first and get it onto same for the second because I only discovered mid 2007 that this was not done at either point of sale. I’m still not even clear who should have done it, in the time-honoured Spanish fashion of not being able to elicit a clear answer from anyone on the subject.

Ask your Solicitor to detail the processes for buying and for applying for permissions to renovate or build, and check that they are happening.

(3) Be prepared for a long wait

The “mañana, mañana” attitude holds never more true than in dealings with the Ayuntamiento. They are hopeless. Even after we were told by way of a denuncia, that our house-building was illegal (point 1) and that the paperwork our builder and architect alleged to have had in place to commence the work was, in fact non-existent, it took three years to obtain a resolution and the fine from the Ayuntamiento – and even then because I made such a fuss almost daily in the Oficina Técnica that they hurried it through just to get rid of this “crazy English woman who won’t be content until she has given us many thousands of euros to settle a fine”.

Our builder and his architect, by the way, had disappeared off the face of the earth at point of denuncia, leaving us to face the music.

(4) Sourcing the tradesmen

So you have your parcela and your planning permission. To source the tradesmen, insist on seeing their work and talking to their previous clients. Word of mouth is not enough. Be sure that they will be compliant with your requirements, including materials and methods. Anyone who has lived in Spain will know that their methods are a continent apart from the ones we have always known – and, while some are better, some are definitely sub-standard. You may find that some builders are not entirely up to speed with current regulations regarding, for example, sewage disposal treatment units rather than the old concrete soakaways, or solar tanks for hot water. Make sure that you do your homework so that you can keep a tight check on their compliance.

Know what you want in terms of insulation, windows, electrics, plumbing, waste – and demand that it is done to your satisfaction. Be actively involved in decision-making (they hate this, by the way, but it pays off). Do not pay before you are satisfied, or before the job is complete and functional. Above all, BE THERE.

(5) Befriend your Spanish neighbours

They are likely to be your biggest allies in times of trouble. If nothing else, it may at least minimise the encroachments on your land that could otherwise arise (“oh, actually, this particular field is mine … yes, I know it’s shown on your escritura to be yours, but it is an error, and everyone here knows that it is really mine…”).

Be aware that you may need to fork out extra to prove your entitlements. Are you sufficiently deterred? If you still believe, as I did, that you will only be happy once you have realised this particular dream, then go armed and prepared.

Above all, the very best of luck to you.

Believe me, it is worth it, if you have the stamina.

The kennels are now open for business at last (YAY!!), although I still have some additional papers to submit.

One such piece of paper is a contract for cleaning. I actually have that in my grubby paw now, having exchanged it for four crisp 50€ notes. It was handed to me, along with a thick maintenance book, by a technician who at the same time placed four black mouse traps full of poison at strategic positions in the three barn zones that are not a part of the business, and in the kitchen, which is. Whether or nor I approve.

He also tells me that he has sprayed some sort of insecticide, although where, I didn’t witness.

Further, he has totally disinfected the loo. Which is brand new. And use of which I can count on one finger. He went in with a ghostbusters pack on his back, but no mask, and emerged a few minutes later instructing me to keep out for five minutes, for my own health.

No problem, I hear that from John all the time.

So – good money for extremely old rope? But at least it satisfies yet another requirement of the iltmo ayuntamiento, and leaves me just two itsy bitsy things more to sort: the plan of the fences, and the fianza (deposit). Until they up the ante again, of course.

I did hear mutterings about disabled access when the three wise men of the oficina técnica were here to inspect. They were debating the possibility of giving me grief about the step into our reception area. In this PC world, it wouldn’t surprise me at all – although I am, in all honesty, unsure quite how many people are going to drive their limited mobility vehicle into the campo with dog and wheelchair on board.

Then, of course, we would by extrapolation be asked to fill in all potholes in the camino so that the same wheelchairs can slalem down the camino to the river without upending (or at least, not until they reach the bottom).

I mentioned in passing earlier this year (Three deaths, a murder and a plethora of paper cuts) that I have a mangled thumb. This came about late October last as John and I were insulating and lining the roof of the kennels.

John was perched on a ladder guiding a sheet of plasterboard (2440 x 1220mm, if you’re interested) into place while I was stood below winding the lifter. This particular piece of machinery is one of those simple but indispensable tools without which the job would involve ten times the struggle, twenty times the sweat and a hundred times the swearing, and we were immensely grateful to have it onside.

The job required some fifty sheets of plasterboard in total. We were, typically, within striking distance of the end of it. Then, as I turned the winder for the final push to hold this particular board up to the rafters, the cable broke.

The whole platform, together with its load, came crashing down about my ears. My right hand, which had been on the winding handle, was thrown into the wheel, which spun violently in pace with the descending platform.

It took a mere two seconds, at the end of which I was bent double floundering in a sea of intense pain and nausea. John shouted at me. This, I have to say, is his usual reaction. As a firefighter, he is a qualified trauma technician and is the one who has to deal with some unspeakable injuries in the course of duty. But when it comes to any sort of damage to me, he keeps his distance and yells at me.

Always full of abject apologies after the event, he confesses that he cannot deal with injuries I might sustain and he shouts because he is scared.

That’s OK, then.

Anyhow, the thumb. I went to A&E for x-rays, but was informed that it was just tendonitis – that I had to take anti-inflammatories and wear a thumb support. I did this for several months, but nothing much seemed to be improving. My thumb is still swollen and distorted – I cannot straighten it, I cannot clench it, I cannot open jars, write, or pick anything up without dropping it again. It’s a mess, in a word.

So I then visited the GP, who sent me back to hospital to trauma, who then sent me for an MRI scan this past Tuesday.

Upon being called, I entered an antechamber, to be met by the radiologist who told me to strip off completely and don one of those see-through paper gowns with no back ties. I looked at him askance. I’ve heard bad jokes that start like this. Undress? For a poorly thumb?

Yes indeed. Unaccustomed as I am, I was unaware that my entire body would be thrust inside the huge torpedo of electromagnets and so needed to be, to all intents and purposes, naked. My hand was locked tight in a small box by my side – so small that I emerged with additional bruises, in case it wasn’t already uncomfortable enough. A pair of headphones were stuck unceremoniously on my head and I was instructed in no uncertain terms not to move. Not a muscle. Not a twitch nor a flutter.

No pressure, then. I’m lying there trying my damnedest not to breathe, but in fact I’m almost panting because I’m a tad claustrophobic and I am not enjoying the confines of the tube in the slightest. Then began the immense cacophony of noise.

Zip-zip-zip-zip-zip CRASH! rumblerumblerumble … ye gods, I can see the need now for the headphones. Twenty minutes of this (not long, he’d stated) was going to feel like an eternity.

But then, given my current inability to satisfy my need for nightly rest, I must have drifted into sleep.

Only to be startled back to the present by another sudden particularly loud and intrusive explosion of noise. Now I don’t know about you, but one of the parts most likely to move when I am rudely awoken is my hand. Then the headphones crackled into life. “Deborah!!” I heard his voice, tinny yet undeniably furious, “You must stay completely still. It’s ruined – we’ll have to run it again!”

So my twenty minutes stretched to forty-odd, and I lay there desperately trying to stay alert this time but unable even to pinch myself.

At least I fared a  little better than Marcos, though.

Marcos is our Podenco/Irish Wolfhound/bull mammoth/donkey cross, named for the saint on whose day he came to be mine four years ago. At the outset, he was a large and fluffy puppy. As he’s grown, he has become more and more hirsute, and his shaggy coat has become pretty disreputable with knots and snags and various embedded pieces of tree.

So I decided it was high time for a trim. I have in the past attempted to carry out this operation myself, but after the total ruination of several sets of John’s hair clippers, I have come to the conclusion that they are not man enough for this particular job, so I booked him into the veterinary clinic for professional grooming.

“A good trim,” quoth I, “To remove all the tangles and make him look tidier.”

OMG.

MARCOS BEFORE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARCOS AFTER

Pobrecito!

Thank the gods it’ll grow again …

Much to my own great surprise, I loved this book. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

When I started reading, I took an instant dislike to Sarah, the main character. Her introduction portrays a woman suffering from a degree of immobility and pain resulting from an old accident – petulant and irascible in turns, and clingy and manipulative with her long-suffering daughter, she is exactly the sort of character for which I have little time and much scorn. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to stick with it.

The acuity of Jae´s writing pulled me in, however. Her style is exceptionally clear, well-constructed and honest.  And as I became more involved with the slowly-building picture of Sarah’s past, and her arrival in the ‘now’, my attitude changed, just as I feel it was meant to do.

As her journey of self-discovery continues, so does Sarah’s analysis of her relationships with those around her. This analysis is insightful, clear and sometimes brutally honest, but beautifully written throughout. I particularly liked many of the short, sharp philosophies that were expressed, and found myself nodding in accord with many of them.

A fairly surprising journey to Spain by Sarah brought me to my home ground, and I read with delight the masterful descriptions of places and atmosphere that flowed from Jae’s pen.

The finale was just as it should be, because I like to close a book feeling content with the outcome.

Impressed as I was, I have bought this book a number of times over to gift away. An exceptional first novel.

Jo Parfitt is mistress of the pen and of the word. With 27 non-fiction books to her name, including cookbooks, guides for career management, coaching for creative writers, even computer handbooks, she has inspired many budding authors by “sharing what I know to help others grow” and with her ‘brainwave to bookshelf’ tutorials.

Sunshine Soup is her first novel. It is, by her own admission, the book that has scared her the most to write. God! There’s no hope for the rest of us mere mortals, then!

The book is most definitely an expat book, though the narrative flows around fictional characters rather than the more usual memoirs. So rumour has it, anyway – it is very hard not to suspect that there is a large piece of Jo in Maya, the main character, with her in-depth knowledge of Dubai, her abiding love of her therapeutic kitchen and her propensity to encourage people around her to flourish.

I started the book knowing nothing of Dubai. The visuals drummed up by Jo’s compelling descriptions brought it to life for me, and give a very solid background setting for the very real characters that are splashed across the canvas.

The issues of being an expat wife, trailing spouse, or whatever label is currently fashionable, are very clearly stated. With Maya, it is the wrench of leaving behind a business partnership into which she had poured energy and devotion, and the subsequent realisation that she will not be allowed to work in her new life. The coming to terms with the lack of direction, even in her own home, where she feels guilty about the undertaking of any task to which the housemaid lays prior claim. The loneliness of being a freshly arrived alien, whose kids go off to school to sink or swim without her assistance.

With Barb, it is the self-created trap of the furious filling to the brim of  her time, just to avoid her own company and empty moments that would give room for reflection on sad events and on her fulfilling partner-role. Her heavy-handed involvement in and organisation of just about all things available for input makes her the dependable one, the one who is always there, always strong – quite a formidable character, but everyone has secrets, and their own Achilles heel, and she is no exception.

With other characters, Jo delivers further insights into the various and myriad difficulties that come hand-in-hand with the life of the expat wife.

There were  two aspects of the book that I especially liked. The first is its ability to encompass the viewpoint of the working spouse, too – Maya’s husband, Rich, as the shaker and mover in the expatriation, also has a tale to tell of his own problems in his new environment.

The second is the glimpse we are allowed into a couple of Arab relationships, as their unfolding stories intertwine with the expat narratives.

All in all, a colourful, honest, and sensitive while informative book that I enjoyed thoroughly.

Oh,  and by the way – as a bonus, Jo generously shares with us the mouth-watering recipes served up through the narrative. Love it!

‘Just imagine the absurdity of two openly gay, recently married, middle-aged, middle class men escaping the liberal sanctuary of anonymous London to relocate to a Muslim country’.

Thus opens Jack’s book and blog, both of the same name and both of which tell of the ecstasies and the agonies of his expatriation with hubby Liam.

The relocation, purely and simply a total kick-back against the chafing demands of predictable office life (and, in Liam’s case, against the personification of furry handcuffs in the form of his boss), was, after some consideration, to Türkiye.

The choice was heavily influenced by Budget, who accompanied them at the negotiating table whenever and wherever. It was Budget who insisted that Turkey would allow Jack and Liam a better chance of fiscal survival than, say, Spain – even though Spain would probably have been the more sensible choice over a Muslim country, albeit a moderate one, for gay men with a propensity to shout, “I am what I am!”

Actually, many of Jack’s challenges did not, in the end, come from Turkish attitudes, although a homophobic murder and the snatching of a small child are of course immensely challenging. No – his biggest source of problems were to be found amongst the expat community. Here, Jack has excelled – he has compiled a whole new lexicon of terms for the various shades of expat. I won’t spoil the fun by naming them, but Jack’s somewhat scary caricatures of expat types are both undeniably spot-on and hilarious.

In fact, most of Jack’s writing is very funny, apart from the few areas of pathos. He observes people pithily, taking no prisoners. But he also writes descriptive passages with mastery, painting landscapes and creating moods excellently.

I thoroughly enjoyed Perking the Pansies – it is one of those books that I was sorry to have finished, and I look forward with immense anticipation to the follow-up.

Nice one, Jack!

 

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