Extracts From The Diary of Dr J A Earnshawe (Part 5)
A Reputable Hotel, Sukhumvit Rd, Soi 4. Wednesday 22nd March 2005
This morning I awoke with a shocking headache. It felt as if my abdomen had become heavily charged with molten larva. I discovered some confusing scribble on the back of an envelope that I must have written before I turned in. I cannot make hide nor tail of it myself, but will include it at the end of this entry for the sake of completeness.
At 8pm yesterday, Cummings came along to my hotel with the Walker chap – Head of Chemical Sciences. Walker seems to be rather a colourful fellow, with ginger hair, yellow teeth and a shiny red nose. He is more abrupt in manner than the class of colleague I am used to working with. I imagine it is much more difficult to get the right kind of professional in a foreign backwater than it would be back on native soil. From the way he barged into my hotel room and began helping himself to drinks from my mini-bar, one wonders if he has had any experience working with any chemical other than ethyl alcohol.
Cummings introduced him to me as ‘Whisky Walker.’
‘I don’t know how I got the nickname,’ he complained, ‘since whisky is the only drink I don’t really like.’
‘Well, you seem to be liking it now,’ I pointed out.
‘Yes, I like it,’ he said, ‘but I don’t really like it – not in the way I like rum, gin and brandy,’ he explained, ‘but you don’t have any.’
Although he had been working in Thailand for many years Walker had not lost any of his regional accent which was littered with expletives. How this man could possibly be teaching in Thailand was beyond comprehension. I could barely understand him myself.
With tumbler in hand, he began to wander around, impudently examining my personal belongings, before pausing at a photograph on my writing desk. He picked it up, and with an unhidden exclamation of dissatisfaction, turned it face down then finally placing a paper-weight on top of it.
I addressed him directly, making no attempt to keep the contempt out of my voice.
‘What do you mean by your handling of that photograph?’
He then made a very offensive remark that made the blood boil in my cheeks.
‘Man, anyone’s entitled to be a skank hoe, but surely that bint’s abusing the f******g privilege.’
I was tempted to strike him immediately, but instead, I stood in front of him, clenched my fists and demanded to know what he meant by such an outrageous comment about my sister. Fortunately for him, he saw he was in a perilous position and retracted his remark at once.
‘Sorry man – I didn’t know – I see the likeness now.’
We began the evening by having a meal. The restaurant, selected by Cummings, was rather a bad choice in my opinion, because it served only foreign food and the waiter couldn’t even speak English! The menu was a complete anathema to me. What happened to good old roast beef and Yorkshire pudding? I could not eat the dish of watery rice and tentacles, that Cummings suggested I would find to my taste. I am not really a tentacle person, so remained rather hungry. Cummings tucked into a huge crab and Walker ate nothing, but continued to drink at an astonishing pace.
‘Eating lowers my capacity for drink.’ he explained, draining yet another glass.
During the meal, Walker continued to be a thorn in my side. Although he did have one or two amusing anecdotes about his time in England which he recounted during the meal.
‘I was once at the football, in the old Joker Park, and they had put us away supporters underneath the Makems. A shower of f****** bottles rained down on us from them all the game. This big bloke standing by looked down at me, crouching and covering me head, and said “don’t worry man, you’ll only get if your names on it.”
‘I said, “That’s the worry man, my names Jonnie Walker.”’
He turned to me and said, ‘I don’t know how you stood England so long. The cost of booze and all that.’
‘Is that why you left for Thailand?’ I asked.
‘Yes maybe so, but I had to get out a bit sharpish like. I disgraced myself with the Deputy Head.’
‘It was after I’d had a skinfull at lunch, and had a bit of a kip in class in the afternoon. Through my sleep, I heard the bell ringing to end the lesson, although I didn’t know that’s what it was – I thought I had dozed off in the pub and with the bell and all, took it that everyone was running up to the bar to catch last orders. I frantically tried to plough my way through the crowd of kids, when I suddenly I saw the Deputy Head at the front trying to find out what all the commotion was. She said, “Whatever is wrong, Mr Walker is there a fire?”
‘Still in a bit of a stupor I shouted out, “There will be one in me f*****g throat soon – just get me a f*****g bottle of brown will you before it shuts?”
‘Obviously, I’d over stayed my welcome in that school.’
Cummings remarked, ‘A similar thing happened to me – but I disgraced myself with a woman – not booze – the Heads Personal Assistant. A rather tasty piece, almost worth losing your job for. I have to say came here primarily for the women.’
His eyes were lit up as he continued, ‘Thai women are the most beautiful in the world. But the women here are the same as the food,‘ he grinned. ‘You never get satisfied and have to keep going back for seconds.’
Walker laughed lewdly, but to show my disapproval of such vice I maintained a dignified silence. This was an absolutely disgraceful revelation from Cummings, a married man. It is true that his wife has remained back in England, but there is absolutely no excuse for such blatant philandering in her absence. However, I had to admit privately that there was some logic in his remarks on the transient nature of things in this country. Of course, I am not referring to women. I wouldn’t know. But it is certainly true that I will require another operation on my haemorrhoids before long.
I also took a dislike the rather immature sexual innuendo and easy familiarity in which my future colleagues addressed one another during the meal. I had to explain several times to ‘Roger’ and ‘Johnnie’, that I would not join in with such free and easy informality and insisted upon the appellation of Earnshawe, although Cummings continued in the annoying habit of referring to me as ‘old boy’ – even though, I believe, he is actually a year older than I am.
‘And what brings you to the Land of Smiles Earnshawe?’ Walker grinned.
‘Well I drink very moderately and do not believe in the pursuit of carnal relationships outside of the bond of wedlock.’ I explained. ‘So I’m not leaving England due to anything that happened in a broom cupboard.’
‘Sounds like you have already have initiated some adventures in our Heads’ broom cupboard.’ Walker interrupted. I ignored Walkers facetiousness and continued, giving Cummings a look of censure for his lack of discretion towards my misfortune during my interview.
‘Actually, I was rather influenced by progress reports sent from Cummings after his expatriation. Particularly, in his thoughts on how well-behaved and respectful the pupils were in this part of our Empire. The good weather is another splendid attraction. And then…’ I hesitated, and felt myself colouring a little, ‘..to be frank – I have had some interesting knowledge of Thai ladies, which has given me reason to be encouraged that I might not be at such a hopeless disadvantage in my matrimonial prospects as I would if I remained in the England, where the ladies are perhaps a little more discerning.’
‘Ah!’, they both said at once.
‘So, you want a bit bum-bum do you?’ Walker asked mysteriously.
‘We might be able to fix you up there old boy.’ Cummings explained. ‘Tomorrow night in fact. Why not pop along with us? We are going to step out to a ball.’
‘Every Wednesday night we put on our dancing shoes.’ Walker interrupted.
‘Yes, no excuses old boy. You haven’t far to go – in fact its held on the ground floor of your hotel.’
‘Only one thing though,’ Cummings continued, ‘we all have to dress up on a Wednesday. Every week it’s a different theme, tomorrow it’s Robin Hood and His Merry Men. I’ll be the man himself, Jonnie will be Will Scarlet,’
‘And I’ll be as merry as usual.’ Walker interjected.
‘And you,’ Cummings continued staring at me now, his mouth widening into his characteristic inane grin, ‘of course, you have to be Friar Tuck. You won’t even need to shave your head or use any padding.’
‘Yes, you are already a fat baldy old b*****d.’ Walker unkindly pointed out.
‘Take no notice of him,’ Cummings said, ‘The important thing from your point of view is there’ll be more than a few Maid Marion’s to choose from.’
I was reluctant to commit myself to going to a masquerade ball. But Cummings and Walker were making it sound very tempting. Walker was very persuasive;
‘It’ll be all right for you, man. Roger and me will have to walk down the Sukhumvit like two f*****g fairies – me in red tights and him in green tights – all you have to do is take the lift down in your monks robe.’
Now I was beginning to warm to the idea. They gave me details on dress hire which would entail a trip on the Skytrain. That in itself would be an interesting experience.
I excused myself for a call of nature. On my way to the gents, I couldn’t help but contemplate one particular interesting prospect of tomorrow’s ball. ‘There’ll be Many Maid Marrions,’ Cummings had said. My heart quickened. Perhaps I’ll find a maid for marrying at last, I reflected.
Which was a rather a clever pun, I thought to myself.
As I entered the lavatory, feeling rather pleased with myself, it was suddenly brought to my attention that, although a giant wall mirror can create an impression that a small room is more spacious, it can also mislead the unwary into believing they have more freedom to walk than they actually have.
I collided with the mirror, catching my undamaged spectacles in one hand and the piece tooth that had detached from my central incisor in the other (again my reflexes sharpened by my martial arts training coming to the fore). Unfortunately, as I recoiled from the impact, I found that someone had foolishly placed a large waste bin in a rather unfortunate position. I fell backwards, and indeed, into it, causing my spectacles to fly from my hand across the room, striking the mirror and immediately shattering. I was left wedged firmly, sitting in the bin and unable to free myself. I was in this ludicrous position for several minutes, with only my limbs protruding from the top, when Cummings and Walker eventually found me.
Rather than immediately assist me, they pretended not to notice my obvious distress and walked into the toilet, ’Hello old boy having a rest?’
I was ready to turn in after my little accident, but Cummings was keen to go on to the theatre. Walker indicated that he didn’t actually give a hoot where he was as long as he could continue drinking. As for myself, I didn’t want to appear to be a wet blanket on their merriment, so I agreed to come along. My spectacles were rendered totally dysfunctional by my collision, and because I am rather short-sighted, I relied rather heavily on Cummings and Walker for guidance throughout the rest of the evening. As for my newly acquired gap in my teeth, they both said it would suit my Friar Tuck character even more.
We got to the theatre by taxi, a lively street surrounded by market stalls with a lively trade in tourist trinkets; such as plastic Buddha’s, elephants and various sausage-shaped ornaments. I followed closely behind my two companions, being unable to see clearly more than two feet in front of me. We walked up the steep carpeted stairs into the darkened auditorium. On the way to our seats, I passed a big bell hanging near the stage and couldn’t resist giving it a little tinkle. It gave Cummings and Walker quite a fright, although everyone else seemed to enjoy it.
Rather than that of a theatre, the atmosphere was more reminiscent of a cabaret club, with tables and drinks being served during the performances, and the audience surrounding a small central stage. Of course, I couldn’t see precisely was going on, but it sounded like a musical hall show with modern dancing and popular singing. That sort of thing isn’t really to my taste, and it was not a great disappointment to me that I couldn’t see it, but Cummings appeared to be very well entertained and stared widely at the performance. As usual, Walker tended to ignore everything around him and focussed his concentration solely on dispatching his beverages.
When I was asked what I wanted to drink, I could think of nothing but food. I had been in Thailand for four days yet I hadn’t eaten a proper meal, and tonight was no exception. Unfortunately, no snacks were available from the waitress.
‘I think I will nip out for a pie at the interval,‘ I said.
‘The only pie you’ll get in here is a hairy one.’ Walker slurred. As usual I hadn’t the foggiest what he was talking about.
Cummings narrated the performance to me as if I was a blind man.
‘The butler is now in the conservatory with Miss Peacock and he’s just got his lead piping out,’ he explained. I could hear Walker giggling like a school boy at this. I suspected Cummings’ commentary did not exactly match the performance on stage, which from the combination of lively music, blurred images and audience reaction, seemed to be more of a variety show than a detective play.
Not before time, Cummings said to me quickly, ‘Somebody’s coming round with food, stand over there and they’ll pass it across to you.’
He manoeuvred me to the exact position and told me to cup my hands. Suddenly a peeled banana flew towards me. Even though it was quite slippery, I managed to hold on to it. I was so famished I devoured it immediately, upon which there was a sudden gasp, followed by a mad cheer from the audience. At first, I believed this response was only coincidental to something that was happening in the performance. But then, I realised I was actually being called on to the stage, as I was urged forward, at first by Cummings and Walker, and then by the rest of the spectators, finally a waitress led me to the steps where I found myself among the performers, my knees quaking with not a little trepidation..
It was with some understandable foreboding that I walked on to that stage last night. My past chronicles record some unfortunate experiences at audience participation events. In Blackpool, I was hypnotised, and spent four days imitating a duck before I was relieved of my trance. The deep fixation was brought on and off by the ringing of a bell, much to the amusement of my school community. Another time, my watch was taken from me for use in a magic show, and was immediately smashed inside a handkerchief with a hammer. At the end of the show, the magician was very sorry for returning it to me in pieces, he said he couldn’t understand why his trick hadn’t quite come off. So I lost a present from my Uncle Richard – which was of great sentimental value to me.
Now I was on stage in Thailand – without my full powers of vision – and I didn’t really know what to expect. First, I was led to a chair and I was told to sit. Next, I was instructed to hold up a balloon. Suddenly it burst and a loud cheer rang out. This was repeated with several more balloons – all were successfully popped by a volley of well aimed darts from several yards away. The audience roared as each balloon was dispatched with incredible accuracy. A young lady appeared to be projecting the missiles from low down – it seemed remarkable, but she seemed to be throwing them by reaching down between her legs while leaning backwards, almost doubled over.
The second trick in which I assisted, involved a variation on the old conjuring trick of disappearing and reappearing strings and scarves and so on. In this one, I was asked to pull a long chain of strung-together razor blades, from some kind of a hole in which they had mysteriously disappeared. Before it was done, I was instructed to hold up a piece of paper for the artist, which was then slashed with one of the razor blades, but I observed the objects that appeared from the hole were only thin plastic replicas.
Although I don’t approve of cigarette smoking, there was a short interval while the conjurers had a smoke. I could see the orange glow, and many smoke rings coming towards me and passing over my head. After this, I was asked to hold another piece of paper while it was written on, again the artist faced away from me and held the pen from behind, between her legs as she bent over backwards.
The finale, involved the pouring of beer from a beer bottle into a glass. I couldn’t quite make out what was happening, but as I heard the bottle being opened, the audience winced (no doubt she did it with her teeth), and as the beer was being poured I distinctly heard Walker shout in frustration, ‘That’s a f*****g waste of good beer.’
Afterwards I was so grateful that the glass of beer was handed to me. It was jolly hot sitting there under the lights that I drank it off rather quickly. It was very refreshing, if a little warm. From the audience reaction – incredulous laughter – I got the impression I wasn’t supposed to have drank it. However, I think it was alright to do so because the young magician just smiled as she took away the empty glass.
At first, there was only myself and the two young ladies performing the tricks on stage. But when a troupe of dancers appeared, I thought that it was perhaps my cue to leave, and got up from the chair. To my astonishment, I immediately crashed down full length and face down on the floor. Somehow my trousers had come loose and had fallen around my ankles.
What happened next I recall only very vaguely. My performance on stage had started quietly, but soon it was all chaos and bewilderment. I believe I must have had some kind of concussion as I tripped, but I vaguely recall the dancers began sliding around on masses of soap suds someone had foolishly sprayed on the floor. I tried to stand again, but of course, I lost my footing on the slippery surface and immediately went crashing down among them.
I remember the audience, including Cummings and Walker, almost hysterical; my companions clearly yelling loudly among the laughter and cheering, with ribald encouragement. I slithered around trying to right myself, but quite unable to get a grip and causing more and more embarrassment to myself, the dancers and the theatre, but somehow it was all getting worse, because in their attempts to help me, more my clothes were somehow becoming separated from my thrashing body, as I slid among the mass of the ladies trying to reach the top of a mass of twisting flesh, and just when I thought I had done so, even more bodies seemed to pile on top again. I was slowly but inevitably losing the fight for my freedom, my breath and my dignity.
Eventually I became totally incapacitated. Oxygen depletion had led to exhaustion, and I just gave up the struggle and allowed myself to be thrown around the stage like a limp naked rag doll. The crowd had remained in a fixed in a state of mass hysteria; they probably did not realised my perilous condition. I had drifted off into a kind of half-pleasant half-terrifying unconsciousness, with vivid hallucinations – similar to those I experienced during my recent haemorrhoid treatment – except, instead of nurses, naked dancers covered in white foam featured most strongly. There was so many of them, and all around us a wild audience bayed for my destruction. I was a unarmed Christian in the Coliseum at the mercy of throng of gladiators. I couldn’t see the audience but imagined they all had their thumbs pointing downwards.
And that is all I remember of last night. I woke up this morning relieved the events must not have happened beyond my falling from the chair as I stood up from the stage I must have been knocked out and carried back here by my kind colleagues.
No firmer evidence need be presented on the extent of my concussion than this unintelligible scrawling that I found upon awakening:
I was bitterly sorry about and wrongly so about Jonnie boy. Sorry. Bitterly. The fact of the matter is I was called on stage and lost my clothes and though I am now a celebrity and all but always no matter what will remember Jonnie is still my old chum. My very best. And I love Roger, and Jonnie did I mention Jonnie? I met him tonight and already he is a great is my chum and all we came back and drank whisky and sang with all our hearts for our beautiful green and pleasant land and did those feet in ancient times walk upon them? Or not? Of course we all did.
We had whiskies and we all sang – mother of the free land of glory god save our queen we all hugged together then Foreskin came back, my old Australian pal came back and we all had whiskies and sang waltzing a billabong with me and Matilda. I bear no grudge to Jonnie he will to meet my dear skankter and I will him to be my brother-in-law to him my husband he said. Goodnight. I am tired rather now.
J A Earnshawe BSc PhD