One of our earliest Random Nomads, Jack Scott, drank deeply of the cup of expat life. He and his civil partner, Liam, moved to their version of paradise: Bodrum, Turkey. This decision enabled Jack to become a writer, parlaying his popular blog, Perking the Pansies, into a book, which was published about a year ago and reviewed on this blog. After so much success, why have the pair traded in Bodrum for Norwich, in East Anglia? Yes, that’s right, they’ve repatriated!
In the beginning there was work and work was God. After 35 years in the business, the endless predictability made me question the Faith.
I wrote those words on the 8th October 2010 — the opening sentence of my debut post on a brand new blog, Perking the Pansies, about a couple of silly, cynical old queens who decided to jump the good ship Blighty and wade ashore to Asia Minor.
For a minority report, the blog’s done rather well. Then there was a book. That’s done rather well too. Remarkable. Both crept up behind me unexpectedly, without hint or herald. Sometimes I wonder if we should have listened to the early advice from our playground peers; maybe we should have kept our backs to the wall. Too late now.
At the time, we had a plan — well, a plan of sorts. We would stay in Turkey for a good few years, slowly descend into memory loss and erectile dysfunction (both disguised by a haze of alcohol) and eventually paddle back to Blighty for the liver transplant and the Grim Reaper’s call.
It was not to be. I wanted to do author things and keep the pennies (and believe me I do mean pennies) rolling in. I could do neither in Turkey. Added to this, serious family issues beckoned us back from paradise and we wanted to do our bit.
Decision #1: Leaving Bodrum
When we first announced our intention to up sticks and become “repats,” we were taken aback by the reaction in our little corner of expatland.
There was a strong sense that some gang members felt badly let down, betrayed even. It was as if our decision to leave reflected badly on their decision to stay.
Some even suggested that we’d soon be back, presumably with our tail between our legs and begging to re-join the fold.
You see, our particular expat ghetto was meant to be the final destination, a place to retire and expire. We were breaking the unspoken rules.
Ironically, when we first left Blighty for our place in the sun, our friends and family, the people with whom we have the deepest roots, simply wished us well and promised to visit.
Decision #2: Picking Norwich
So, the first big decision was to leave. The second was where next to lay our hatboxes. We were adamant that we wouldn’t revert to the world of coffees-on-the-run, nose-to-nipple commutes, kiss-my-arse bosses and treadmill mortgages. So, London was off the agenda.
After much heated debate and pins on maps, we settled on Norwich, a small cathedral city in Eastern England, a two hour drive northeast of the Smoke. Our choice was met with a wall of incredulity, both at home and away. To be fair, all I really knew of Norwich was the classic seventies game show “Sale of the Century”, Bernard Matthews gobbling turkeys at his farm in Norfolk, and the acronym (k)Nickers Off Ready When I Come Home, first used in the BBC Radio show “Just a Minute” in 1979. (I’ve often used the latter in text messages to Liam, but that’s another story…)
By common consent, the former Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia is full of inbreds fiddling with their siblings and marrying their cousins. That’s the myth peddled by the urban pretentious. In reality, Norwich is a sparkling jewel hidden in the rural flatlands of England’s gobbling breadbasket with more art houses, wines bars and fancy restaurants than you could shake a stick at. As the most complete medieval city in England and home to a thriving university, Norwich is where the old and the young are blended in perfect harmony.
We were delighted to join the north folk of Norfolk as neo-Norwichians (not to be confused with Norwegians who, as Vikings, did a bit of raping and pillaging in this flat part of our Sceptred Isle).
Our time in the sun was a magical experience. We don’t regret a single second, not even those cold winter days huddled under a duvet and fighting over the hot water bottle as torrential rain battered the house. Thank you, Turkey. Thank you for breaking the umbilical cord between wages and lifestyle, and teaching us to make do with less. Thank you, for giving me the time and space to write. Thank you, for handing me a story on a plate. One day, we may return. But, for now, there will be no going back on going back.
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Readers, any thoughts on, reactions to Jack Scott’s rule-breaking move back home? Can you relate at all?
STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s episode in the life of our fictional expat heroine, Libby. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)
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Images (clockwise from left): Jack Scott; Bodrum, Turkey, courtesy Yilmaz Ovunc (Flickr); Perking the Pansies book cover; Norwich, England, courtesy Roger Wollstadt (Flickr).