Readers' Submissions

Extracts From The Diary of Dr JA Earnshawe (Part 1)

I came across this site totally by accident as I was researching stick insects in preparation for a course I am to teach on metamorphosis. I saw that the proprietor of the site, a Mr Stickman, was urging his readers to submit articles so that authors would then become eligible to attend a forthcoming writers' meeting exclusively for past contributors. My wife is frequently urging me to extend my range of acquaintances, and I saw that my attendance at such a meeting would be a sensible means of doing so, although as you will see, I am quite satisfied to stay home in my apartment after work.

I think it is appropriate to provide some personal information about myself at this stage. My name is John Arthur Earnshawe, I am 57, married and by profession an Assistant Teacher of Biological Sciences at a well-known International School in Bangkok. For some reason I am known to my students as Kii Mong, and my colleague, Cummings, in Physical Sciences, is known as Pla Muk – I do not quite understand the meaning of these nicknames, but I believe they are not entirely terms of respect or affection.

As I was saying, my wife Nok and I manage to pass most of our evenings together alone, although occasionally, Cummings may drop in without ceremony, and although my dear wife and I are pleased to see him, we usually pass our early evenings quite nicely together without company. It is a great comfort for me to know that although little Nok prefers to spend most of the day sleeping, she likes to go out visiting later in the evenings. She may not return home until rather late, sometimes not even until the next morning, but I don’t mind, she is young and must be given the freedom to meet people of her own age. I am a homely man, but I married a young and beautiful wife – not a butterfly in a gilded cage.

As you can see I live a very contented, but perhaps a rather dull life, so that the content of my proposed article to Mr Stickman, had me at a complete loss. I was pleased to note that his site is not one of the many dubious places in which detailed accounts of the sex exploits of individuals are recounted, a subject in which I neither have expertise nor interest. I feel it is convenient at this juncture to point out that my although my wife, Nok, is 19 years of age and from the north-east region of Isaan, she has not, nor has ever been, a bar or gogo girl, nor has she worked in associated trades such as massage or worked in a 7-Eleven. In fact, we met under quite the normal circumstances in which a man may meet his future intended: in a discothèque held in a reputable hotel, while dancing to the latest gramophone records.

As I considered the content of my article it suddenly occurred to me; ‘why not submit extracts from my diary?’ I have often seen the diaries of popular celebrities on sale in the Robinson‘s Department store. I don’t see – just because I don’t happen to be ’a celebrity’ – why my diary should not be equally as compelling.

Now for my diary extracts. I will begin in the early part of the previous year.

Spring Term 2005, England. Thursday, 3rd February

This has not been a pleasant day. Every biology teacher, but especially an unmarried and sensitive biology teacher, dreads the day he must take the lower set to explain human reproduction for the first time. At this time every year I get the a feeling of abject helplessness. The whole thing is simply ridiculous. Why can the main principles not simply be grasped from analogy by a description of the reproduction system of rabbits as it was in my own school days? It would not be so bad if Einstein (as we call the general science class year 7, set 6) would only concentrate and cooperate. Yet they are too prone to let their minds wander, to be led astray from what are the fundamental principles to minor side issues:

‘This morning,‘ I said to them ‘we are going to do Reproduction’.

When the laughter had died down I laid down the ground rules: that we must never be personal, use obscene or slang terms, and most importantly; must never suggest that a homosexual life-style is anything other than abnormal (as instructed by the infamous clause 28).

But I might as well have been talking to the wall. Out came the usual: ‘What is a blow job Sir?’ and the perennial ‘How do gays do it Sir?’ and the exasperating, ‘Are you a virgin Sir?’

Of course I came down like a ton of bricks on the recalcitrants: ‘Shut up Einstein’ I said for the umpteenth time. It is a constant vexation to me that these pupils seem to be amused by the same things I hear every year.

In four years time I will be retired, and although I have had quite a satisfactory life I always feel I have missed out on something. I hope I am not having one of those mid-life crises I am always reading about in The Guardian. Last week an ex-colleague of mine, Cummings, who left the school ‘under a cloud’ two years ago (if rumours are to be believed, which I do, involving some sexual misdemeanour with the Head's PA in a broom cupboard), sent me an email describing his new life in Thailand. He urged me to visit him and see it for myself. At the time I received his communication I dismissed it out of hand. There is no place I could think of that I would least like to go. Yet I have to admit some parts of his communication unsettled me. If Cumming is to be believed, the pupils in Thailand seem to actually respect the teachers. Sex education is limited to the analogy between human reproduction and that in a similar mammalian species. Wasn’t there also an innocent remark made at school which painfully unsettled me? Perhaps it is time I did take a wife, and according to Cummings, Thailand is the one place where a balding, bespectacled and rotund old has-been (as he described me in his usual disparaging way), who is otherwise in the prime of his life, may just have a chance. But I would have to be mad to even think such thoughts.

Easter Holiday 2005, Newcastle International Airport Saturday 19th March

This is madness, the strangest thing I’ve ever done in my life. At 1223 hours I leave for Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport, Terminal 2 (with one stop: Schiphol, Amsterdam). All my colleagues and family believe I am going to China to see the Great Wall. The inevitable fuss and innuendo I would have received by telling them I was in fact visiting the highly stigmatised Thailand (not without reason, I believe), would have been too much to take. They think I’m ‘losing my marbles’ as they put it, because the only time I’ve been out of the country is the time we took a wrong turning on the biology field trip north of Otterburn, when I believe we may have inadvertently crossed the Scottish border.

Its not that Cummings has talked me into to it, although I doubt I would have had the courage to travel without him being there to ‘show me the ropes’ so to speak. Really this term has been very difficult. The lure of teaching to a place where I can be at last listened to for a few minutes, let alone respected, is too much to resist. Sometimes it seems that every time I open my mouth some idiot speaks. Of course, the fact that Cummings also hinted that he was to introduce me to some respectable acquaintances of his – including ladies – was also a motivation, albeit a minor one.

Another reason for my change of heart is that for some years I have had a little discomfort in the private area of my lower body – I believe as the result of sitting too long on a cold step when I was younger. (My mother always warned me against this habit but at that time I dismissed her notion as an old wives tales. How wrong I was! ) Our National Health service is in severe decline, but I would seek attention at my local surgery were it not for the receptionist, Mrs Warthog, a neighbour of mine, who, although she has many positive qualities, discretion does not appear to be among them. Whenever, I meet her in the street she is all too keen to give me intimate descriptions of the various maladies of the neighbours with which we have mutual familiarity. Out of politeness, I pretend to listen – but I’m not really a gossip person. I have no reason to believe that Mrs Warthog would treat my own complaint with any greater professional confidentiality than she does with those of my neighbours.

It was encouraging to hear from Cummings, therefore, that he had a recent minor operation (for a hernia, I believe), done at very short notice while in Thailand. Apparently, there is no waiting list, and he was discharged within hours! Fees seem to be very reasonable, and according to Cummings, the professionalism of the surgeons is of an extremely competent standard. I will certainly be having my own complaint treated during my vacation if it is at all possible.

Cummings has been very kind and booked me into a well established and reputable hotel in a quiet residential area. I

am to stay there for 10 days. He has also arranged a prospective meeting with the principal of the school in which he is currently working. Although I never really knew Cummings well when we were colleagues, him being a little brash for my liking, I never believed the rumours that went around about him at the time he left the school.

The flight to Amsterdam has just been called. How I wish that I had packed my anti-diarrhoea capsules in my hand luggage.

J A Earnshawe BSc PhD

Stickman's thoughts:

A very nice start indeed….looking forward to future chapters in your adventure.