A Hampstodian in Pattaya!
Anyhow, now that that's all established, I can tell you I am no longer, physically at least, a Hampstodian... I am a Pattayan. Where, you may ask, is Pattaya? Its two hours South of Bangkok, Thailand... topographically, geographically, demographically a dead ringer for Bournemouth! If you haven't visited Bournemouth at least 12 times you shouldn’t be reading this magazine! But I digress....
And now the scene is set, what actually is the point of this article? Why am I ignoring my beautiful 26 year old girlfriend (who’s happily lying on my King Size ...err... bed, that is, watching yet another pointless cartoon movie), and instead writing something nobody’s asked for, that might never be read, in the hope that I may actually finish it, email it to this site and its no doubt ruthless editors, with a heartfelt covering note. Err...plea, that it is considered worthy of half a page or so? Answers on a postcard please, although the rhetorical situation is that........ Well, whilst I don’t really know, I do have a few inklings ... bear with me please on this mini-journey of self discovery......!!
In this City of sin, joy, sex, rock’n’roll, beach, sun, sea, cheap accommodation/food/women, god knows it's worth having some kind of non-hedonistic pursuit such as writing'. That’s one answer! 'Just for the helluvit!' is another, and I suppose the undeniability of my having totally underachieved in my creative aspirations and my wish to try and make amends to myself is probably the closest to the truth! And there we go... self discovery achieved in less time than it takes to get bitten by a 100 hovering gnats on the Heath extension.
I tried to do both those things (make self amends, that is.... and not get bitten by 100 hovering mosquitoes) three nights ago at a sort of beach bar sunset party. There were maybe twenty of us expats...though multinational... all teatotalling it and throwing slightly superior glances toward the U.S sailors getting arseholed in the adjoining bar to the tunes of Nickleback and ZZTop.... (I did think with incredulity that THESE? are the defenders of the free world?) When, for the first time in over 10 years, I picked up a plugged in acoustic guitar and played.... an Eagles tune, a Doors classic and a couple of crowd pleasing Quo greats.... and , blow me down... people actually enjoyed it, joined in , and forgave my 'painful finger' breaks and occasional erroneous chords! My girlfriend ... Nutt is her Nickname - more on Nicknames later - was impressed, nay, glowing with pride. And, I was able to give a young girl in our party (...well, young to me... married and probably late 20’s!) who was coyly sitting on her own, facing away, and playing to herself, some very wise advice. She said "oh, I’m just learning, only been playing a few months, not very good..." I nodded sagely “It took me 15 years to have the guts to just play ... in front of whoever's around ... rather than hide away in fear ... I wish I'd done it when I was learning...." And this accomplished two things.... firstly, I owned, voiced and acknowledged a deep regret, and secondly, it helped another person avoid the same mistake, as she immediately joined me and the other two players and did her best! Good on her. At the end of the evening, she thanked me... it felt good!
So, back to me and my departing the shores of the UK and embracing this most unique corner of Asia! WHY? As with so very many expats, it started with satisfying, enjoyable holidays which I didn’t want to end, which indeed, year by year lasted longer and longer and which increasingly confirmed that well known in these ere parts truism that the only place in Thailand I DON'T like is the departure lounge at Bangkok airport! And believe me, the massage and duty free facilities therein render it a serious departure lounge....! I just knew I wanted to live here! HOW? It really just was a question of making the decision, believing that 'where there’s a will there’s a way' and changing long held attitudes as to life's priorities. Look I'm 53... I’m happily divorced, I've had (and lost) many businesses and lots of money, my children are grown up, I survived years and years of drug abuse, and I just decided I wanna do what I wanna do !! It really helps that a man can live well here on 1000 pounds a month. Yes 1000 a month will rent you a condo, motor scooter and girlfriend, and buy you food and entertainment! The rest...i.e. environment, relaxation, weather, excitement etc ad infinitum, cannot be bought anyway! So, I figured I’ve got enough to last a good 10 years... I mean what is the point of worrying about beyond that? Ask me in 11 years and I may have an answer for you... or, I could be dead. WHEN? 18 months ago, the holidays stopped and the living began, and I now know there is no why and how, only WHY NOT, HOW COULD I NOT and WHY THE F--K DIDN’T I DO IT YEARS AGO!?
I mentioned earlier nicknames. In Thailand, a nickname isn't just something embarrassing or belittling given by your mates at school or beyond, it is a second name, chosen by your parents, and written in your birth certificate, by which you shall forever be known! My girlfriend, for instance, her name is Panadda ...yes, a lovely name (spoken with the emphasis on the last syllable, as is the Thai generality), but her Nickname is Nutt. Not so exotic, granted, but easy on the tongue, and certainly better than...say, fatso, xof (don’t ask!), ginger... I rarely use Panadda, but do so generally when I tell her off, tell her I love her, or introduce her to new people.
And how refreshing are these Thai girls, Nutt included! In my time, I had relationships of one kind and duration or another, with many Hampstead ladies, and I now realise what a demanding, ungrateful, issued up, superficial and vacuous bunch they are... actually vacuous is not a bad thing in a woman, I’ve decided of late, so delete that! By comparison, Thai women are an absolute joy... they are loving, loyal, easygoing, pliable, very sexy and always grateful. Yes, they love a Westerner with money, and you could have all the money in the world, but if you didn’t have and show respect and above all ' a good heart ' they’d let you go! Nutt used to work in my gym as a cashier... (It’s more than a gym, it’s a tennis, social, fitness, leisure club and spa, with several pools and a massage suite....and all this for 300 quid life membership!) And for working 6 days a week, 5am to 2pm (or longer at the simple behest of the management), she earned a princely 120 quid a month! Now, she could live on that ... a studio room in the equivalent of a Gospel Oak council block, and noodle soup and vegetables aplenty, plus a modicum of simple entertainment and a small deposit into her distant family’s bank a/c could all be managed ... AND SHE WAS HAPPY, with a smiling disposition to which I was instantly attracted ! Six months into our relationship and I asked her to stop work; I'm giving her about 150 quid a month, and everyone’s happy! EVERYONE’S HAPPY, and at such little cost! She doesn’t want to control or change me, we allow each other a social life with our own sets of friend... and the two sets do overlap occasionally for a movie, meal or tenpin bowling, she still keeps her shared studio room (though rarely uses it) and EVERYONE’S HAPPY ! I don’t have to listen to her political or philosophical views, as she doesn’t have any, only to her simple life’s principals ....and simple is the word (in the nicest possible way, truly!). I only have to take care of her and I have, in return, a wonderful, life enhancing uncomplicated partner, who, in her own sweet way, takes far more care of me. Do I have to offer the Hampstead woman comparison? To do so would insult your intelligence!
If there’s a nanny state in Thailand, I haven’t noticed it. If there’s inflation or unemployment, youthful crime or disrespect, I haven’t noticed it. If there’s anything here I’ve grown to despise about England, I JUST HAVEN’T NOTICED IT, as I’m in the privileged position of being an expat in a land where me and my money are welcomed with open arms. The roads aren’t the best, but do I really care? In the Kingdom Of Smiles! Where endless symbiotic relationships render everyone I meet.... happy? Do I f--k!
I will no doubt be seen many times wandering the pleasant byways of N.W.3, but only during my four two week visits a year ... after all, I’m not completely irresponsible!
The Fox - A Hampstodian in Pattaya
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