The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

BOOK REVIEW: “Perking the Pansies — Jack and Liam move to Turkey,” by Jack Scott

For some months, I’ve been a big fan of Jack Scott and his blog, Perking the Pansies. Judging by the readership numbers, I’m not the only one, but that’s unsurprising.  Apart from the fact that Jack is one of the nicest bloggers on the block, how could anyone not be enticed by his introduction?

“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.”

Imagine, indeed. Even when it transpires that the Muslim country is Turkey and not Iran —

“We had no desire to be lynched from the nearest olive tree by the Revolutionary Guard”

— newcomers to the blog can be forgiven for wondering, “Guys – what were you thinking?”

Finding Paradise

Thankfully, the imminent publication of Jack Scott’s memoir, Perking the PansiesThe Book, means that readers will no longer have to scroll through months of blog posts for the answer to that question. While the blog’s first post gives a brief account of how Jack and his husband Liam left London for Turkey, the book fleshes out the logistics in a far more satisfactory manner.

Most people “of a certain age” will identify with the events leading up to this dramatic change in lifestyle. A midlife crisis, a middle-aged realization that personal happiness and mental health are worth infinitely more than a big number in the bank account, plus a couple of pieces of golden luck to make it all happen – how many of us have dreamed of just this, to leave the rat race behind and live in our own little Paradise?

Paradise Lost

Naturally, it’s not as simple as that. In leaving the corporate rat race behind, Jack and Liam encountered a new one – the expat rat race. It doesn’t matter where you are an expat – if you’ve ever lived abroad among fellow countrymen with whom you have nothing in common except nationality, you will recognize the competitors in this race. Jack describes them in detail enough to make the reader wince in sympathy.

The truly awful landlady, Chrissy, would be one reason for many people to put their suitcases back in the taxi and return to the airport. A member of The Ignorati  —

“Those who live in utter ignorance of the history and culture of their foster land, shout loudly in English, and see the world at large through the narrow-minded pages of the Daily Mail”

— Chrissy, for me, conjured up the image of a younger Alison Steadman in full-on Mrs Bennet mode. (Later, when Jack likened a hideous expat soiree to “Abigail’s Party without Demis Roussos” I was thrilled to have my impressions confirmed.)

Another memorable character, Clement, I imagined as the likely product of a coupling between a James Bond villain and Noel Coward. Jack deliciously described him as:

“The dotty but loveable old maiden aunt who always pitched up at Christmas and drank all the sherry.”

While I could continue to reminisce about other people I met between the pages of PTP, I won’t. Suffice it to say that Perking The Pansies is not so much about Jack’s Adventures Through The Looking Glass, but more about Who He Found There – a refreshing change from the many memoirs whose authors are constantly center-stage.

Compromise in Paradise

Many readers will also recognize the doubts Jack had about his new life:

“Sad people, bad people, expats-in-a-bubble people. They hate the country they came from; they hate the country they’ve come to. This was my social life. This is what I gave everything up for. This was Liam’s bloody Nirvana. We were the mad ones, not them.”

But eventually, when rid of the expat posse, Jack has this to say of Turkey and its own people:

“Turkey is a magical land graced by a rich culture, gorgeous people and an intrinsic love of the family. A respect for difference won’t destroy that. It’s okay to be queer….At times I think we’re floundering about like idiots, but now and then I think we’re making a real difference.”

Oh Jack — if only all your expat acquaintances could say the same thing.

I’m looking forward to your next book already.

Perking The Pansies by Jack Scott is available from Amazon.co,uk

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s installment from our displaced fictional heroine, Libby, who is celebrating her mother-in-law’s departure before the holidays. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)

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7 responses to “BOOK REVIEW: “Perking the Pansies — Jack and Liam move to Turkey,” by Jack Scott

  1. Janet Brown December 14, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Ethical dilemma–I want this book and loathe Amazon. Oh dear…

  2. Jack Scott December 15, 2011 at 4:36 am

    Hi Kate

    Well I’m staggered. A stunning review. Much more than I could have hoped for. I love the fact you picked up the British cultural references. I’ll be posting it everywhere, sticking it on random trees along the road, handing it out on buses and stalking people outside supermarkets. Thank you. I really appreciate it.

  3. ML Awanohara December 15, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    @Kate @Jack
    I haven’t read the book yet, but I gather from Kate’s review that you’ve captured that special time when the expat life is still a novelty; when you, as a new arrival, are more of an observer than a full-fledged participant; and when a lot of what you see quite frankly horrifies you. That particular constellation of emotions brings back memories for me of when I first went to Tokyo.

    I remember thinking how much I cherished my outsider status — I never wanted to become “one of them.” But then, somewhere along the line, I became yet another example of an eccentric gaijin who’d been in Japan too long.

    At least I never became a “lifer,” as we used to call the expats who never went home because they’d married into the culture or become assimilated to the point where they were more Japanese than the Japanese and couldn’t imagine repatriating. (You could tell who they were from their glassy stares…)

    I assume you and Liam have an exit strategy in mind for when that happens, as it almost inevitably will? Or maybe that’s the next book?!

    • Jack Scott December 16, 2011 at 5:47 am

      There is a real issue of ‘stuckness’ for people who’ve been expats for so long that going back would be too much of a reverse culture shock. People often remark that ‘Britain isn’t the same anymore.’ True, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing thing (In fact, not a bad thing at all in my view). Yes, we have an exit strategy and well spotted about a second book (assuming this one goes well enough.)

  4. Pingback: High praise for Perking the Pansies « Expat Bookshop

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