It was my imminent migration to Australia that did it. My recently-divorced (from me) ex-wife came to stay before I left for Melbourne in order to spend a little time together before we parted for good.
The idea was that she would stay with me until I left; we made the assumption that it would take up to six months to sort out my affairs. This, rent free, period would also give her a little time to get a bit of money together for a trip
home, and enable her to send some money home for her Mum.
Eight months on she is still with me. When it came down to it, I found myself unable to run out on my son. He is 14 now and I believe that my place as a parent, and hopefully as a friend, is here with him. So I stayed, and so did she.
When she left, we were fighting like cat and dog; pretty much on sight. We still fight, but I think only in the same way as any couple living together would.
Of course, I’ve spent some time thinking about what went wrong, why we were at each other's throats all the time. This is only my view, I'm sure she has her own, but it's an honest one and I believe it worth putting
it on record as possibly the final chapter in an interesting tale.
The U.K. has the 4th strongest economy in the world; we are in pretty good shape as a country. When she arrived here, I had two properties; one small house that I lived in, and a small flat that I rented out. Both had substantial mortgages
but I, and my country, appeared to be in rude financial health.
At the same time, I was bringing home quite good money. I have never hidden things at home, so I am fairly sure that she saw in the region of 200 thousand baht a month coming in and immediately decided that I should support her, her mum,
the buffalo and everyone else out there.
Of course, what she failed to see was the bills. She had no notion of just how expensive living in England is. Most of our fights early on were over money.
The nuts and bolts of our fall out are really, I suspect, pretty regular stuff so I won't go over them. A couple of things are relevant though, so I will put them on the record here.
Firstly, I got my divorce and a contract between us which, whilst never having been tested in court, should make me immune from any future raid on my property.
Secondly, and just as important in my eyes, she went out into the big wide world and found out just what it does cost to live here; I think she found a little respect for me when that happened.
Now, fast forward a couple of years. Throw in a couple of Thailand trips for me, complete with pics of girls I met there, and that brings us up to September 2004.
She was very, very, down when she came back. She had been working long hours in a Thai restaurant and renting a room in a house with a friend. Immigrants in England seem to always earn minimum wage, less than five pounds an hour.
For a forty hour week, her top line would be in the region of 180 pounds but tax and insurance would bring it down to 140 or so. Take out fifty quid a week rent, thirty or so for food and anything up to a staggering fifty a week for a mobile
phone bill and you quite quickly conclude that there is not much left over. She was living hand to mouth and getting nowhere.
When she arrived back with all her worldly goods I made her welcome. She brought a pleasant touch of femininity to my bachelor lifestyle and the house fairly quickly became a warm, family home.
Her English has improved, my patience has come along quite well and she gets along fine with my son. It is good to have a woman about the place.
We now never discuss the subject of money winging its way to the boonies outside Bangkok. It happens, I know it does, but it is entirely her business. I know that she empties her bank account for her Mum on occasion but I am never asked to
Work wise, she is in a similar situation here; minimum wage and long hours at the weekend. The difference is that she pays no bills, and we have managed to get her phone bill under control.
I don’t know where we are going here; I'm not in love and thinking rest-of-my-life thoughts. I am coming to admire her more and more though.
She will never fit here, in England; she will always draw looks and comments, particularly when we are out together. I think that she will only be truly happy at home, in Thailand, with her friends and family.
We will buy her some land this year, out near her mum. Hopefully, we can develop it over the next few years and give her something to show for her efforts. She has a fairly simple dream of a little house and a few chickens; she wants to grow
her own vegetables and I actually want to see her happy.
I am not sure that we English are any good at welcoming foreigners into our ranks. We are smug and self-satisfied; we let them in but want them to know that they are lucky to be here and should be grateful.
I think that marriage in itself is tough, mixed race marriages are even tougher and when you come from as diverse backgrounds as we did, marriage is a minefield that you may well never make it through.
I hope that we can give her what she wants sometime soon. I also hope to reverse roles and spend some time living in Thailand. Maybe then I will be able to understand what it feels like to be a foreigner trying to fit into a society that
does not really want me.
I have always believed that we, English, have one of the more successful multi-cultural societies in the world. That may well be the case but, if it is, then God help simple Thai girls that find themselves in one of the less tolerant places
around the world.
The visa situation seems to have eased of late, getting your wife here should be easier. Getting your girlfriend here is a distinct possibility and I would see that as a good option, she might hate the place so let her have a look first.
Thailand is widely perceived as the 'World's Brothel'. Many people here will assume you have married a hooker; thick skin will help (maybe I am just paranoid).
Be prepared for some real surprises, shop assistants assuming all foreigners are thieves, for instance.
Thais, I believe, are not well travelled. Expect a culture shock of epic proportions.
Patience is truly a virtue, and quite possibly the key to the whole exercise. Unfortunately for us, I am not a virtuous person.
My life would be far poorer had I never stepped off that plane in 1997 for my first Thailand trip. I'm sure I would have a few less grey hairs, and a bit more cash in the bank though, had I not met my wife a couple of years later.
I've said it before but some things are worth repeating. I have no regrets over this, a nine-to-five existence would be slow death to me; I will take chances, and live with the aftermath, every time. Life, in my humble opinion, is for
living. At least when I am old(er) and grey(er), I will have a tale to tell, and will never be left wondering 'what if?'
You're another who it would be interesting to hear from again, in time.