Extracts From The Diary of Dr JA Earnshawe (Part 8)
The Hilton Hotel, Bangkok. Friday 25th March 2005
The police have kindly brought me to my new accommodation in a more up market hotel than the one I had heretofore resided. Actually, I wasn’t meant to be here at all – but a kind gentleman I met in the police cell pulled a few strings for me. I can take the leisure that these surroundings afford me to think over the past day and set out how it all came about.
After refusing to pay a bribe yesterday evening, I was brought to Lumphini Police Station. The station commander, who is one of the most humane of his profession, hoped I would not be displeased, as what he was doing was only his duty, observing that he must be obliged to lock me up until the next morning. My cell, a concrete box about the size of a bathroom, was furnished with a wooden bunk bed and a bucket. I settled down carefully in the top bunk, fearful that the whole flimsily construction might collapse.
After about an hour of solitary confinement, I heard the rattling of keys in the lock. Slowly, the heavy door creaked open. I could hardly believe what happened next; a very attractive lady appeared at the doorway! She sauntered in, swinging her hips as if on a catwalk, staring at me with not a little curiosity – seeming to be particularly interested in my monk’s attire. Under her intense scrutiny I self conscientiously pulled down the hem of my robe to cover my knees.
‘Well hello honey,’ she said in a deep American accent. ‘What brings you in here?’
‘I was charged with sexual indecency,’ I stuttered, ‘while impersonating a monk – but it was all a terrible misunderstanding – I can explain everything.’
‘Sure – that’s what they all say,’ she said, settling herself into the bunk below me.
‘No, really,’ I objected, sensing her skepticism, ‘I had only just escaped from a monastery and my eyesight pills had the most extraordinary effect on my amorous propensities.’
‘Say!’ she said with some surprise, ‘I take back what I said – it all sounds so believable – the judge is sure to swallow that one.’
‘Do you really think so?’
‘Sure – want a cigarette?’
‘No thank you – I don’t smoke.’
‘That’s a pity – looks like it’s gonna be kinda dull I here,’ she said rolling her eyes provocatively.
If I’d had a cell to myself I believe I would have been more comfortable. However, during the course of the evening, no less than five Thai men were also accommodated within this tiny space – all of whom seemed to make themselves perfectly comfortable on the floor. I began to think the over-crowding was not much better than the monastery, but at least here I had a fairly comfortable bed.
Later in the night I got up to use the toilet, (I say toilet – really it was just the bucket in the corner), but would you believe it – there was no toilet paper! Not only that but when I got back to my bed I found it had been claimed by the Thai men. I would have made a complaint but they looked very comfortable together. It really is incredible how so many of them can cram into such a small space. I suppose they get enough practice on the Sky Train. I sat in the corner by the door. I just couldn’t get comfortable and the concrete floor was no doubt playing havoc with my hemorrhoid problem.
At last a friendly white face was brought in. He looked rather like a gangster; however, he seemed pleasant enough – a cockney fellow – and we had a good chat, exchanging stories of how we came to be in our present circumstances. Apparently, the poor chap was locked up for nothing more than selling coke!
‘It seems rather harsh that you should be imprisoned for something that is quite legal in our country.’ I told him.
‘Where you from mate, Brixton?’ he said. ‘Have you ever snorted a line of it?’
‘No, but I once drank a can of it. I prefer Dandelion and Burdock myself.’
‘I wish I‘d stuck to Dandelion and Burdock’ he laughed. ‘Anyway, I got a call from a guy who wanted a few kilos – good stuff he wanted, uncut, 100% pure. Well, not to beat about the bush – it was set up. It was all a sting by the little guys in brown.’
‘I once had a similar experience – when I was picnicking at the park with my sister. They are a confounded nuisance.’
‘Yeh, a bit of a nuisance alright. Of course, it could have cost me my life – summary justice – happens all the time. Instead I got of lightly – only100 years of suffering at the ‘ilton.’
‘Haven’t you tried calamine lotion?’ I suggested, ‘it cleared mine up in no time.’
‘Wot you talking about mate?’
‘Yes, weren’t we talking about ants?’
‘Not to my knowledge mate.’
It was hard to believe that the selling or even possession of coca-cola seems to be a grave offence in Thailand. I think he must have been exaggerating the seriousness of his crime, because it seemed that in the morning he was going to be transferred to the Hilton Hotel. He said that he would be staying there for the rest of his life.
I told him, ‘In my opinion Thailand is a good place in which to take retirement and your choice of hotel seems to be very wise. I wouldn’t mind changing to the Hilton myself – I‘m a bit fed up with my place, the food is awful.’
He laughed. ‘You’ve got a great sense of ‘umour mate, but you wouldn’t find the food very tasty in the ‘ilton, in fact, if you wanted to get a taste you’d have to fight the cockroaches and rats for it first.’
We continued in this manner for some time, trying to outdo one another with bizarre inventions of the ‘hardships’ that we had to ‘endure’ in our respective hotels – although I was a poor match for his chirpy cockney humor.
After he told me about the ‘floggings‘, ‘torture’ and ‘executions’, he had me in absolute stitches, and I had to concede defeat, saying to him. ‘OK I agree that your hotel does sound rather grim, but I still wouldn’t mind trying it – as they say “a change is as good as a rest.”’
‘’ow did you come to be ‘ere?’ he asked.
‘It’s rather a long story.’ I confessed. ‘To be quite honest, I was accused of indecency. But I was really incarcerated only on principle – because I refused to indulge in any corrupt practices.’
‘It doesn’t do to have too many morals in this place mate.’
‘I am hopeful to be released before this evening as I have a date with a young lady at 8pm. She is the one I am determined to win at all costs.’
‘At all costs?’ He said. ‘In that case you have to consider that your quickest way out of ‘ere is to put your ‘and in your pocket. If it was as easy for me – I’d be out of ‘ere in a shot.’
‘Not at all’, I said ‘virtue will bring its own rewards.’
‘Not in Thailand it won’t mate.’
We were quiet for a few minutes and then he rather oddly asked, ‘Got a snout mate?’
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but I rather wished I hadn’t – it is awfully smelly in here.’
I know – someone ‘asn’t ‘alf let rip in the bucket. But what I meant was – ‘ave you got a smoke – a fag?’
‘I’m afraid not. I don’t smoke, but I believe the American lady in the corner has some cigarettes.’ I told him.
‘Do me a favour mate, and ask for one for me will you?’ he asked. ‘I’m absolutely desperate. I would ask myself but I’m always a bit scared around trannies.’
‘I never even noticed she had one.’ I remarked. ‘I wonder if she can tune in to the BBC World Service for the second reading of the classified football results.’
I suppose some people are afraid of new technology such as transistor wireless sets and gramophone records. I embrace it all myself and have recently bought a new cinematograph projector from Mr. Foley’s electrical store.
I went over to where the American lady lay on the bottom bunk and found she had dozed off. I crouched by her bed and gently shook her. ‘Excuse me,’ I said,’ I’m sorry to wake you but my friend is desperate for a fag. Would you kindly oblige him?’
She stared at me for a minute in confusion, then glanced across at my new friend before asking, ‘Well, is he going to come over here, or does he want me to oblige him over there honey?’
‘There is really no need, if you just give it to me, I’ll give it to him myself.’
‘Give it to you?’ she remarked in apparent confusion at my simple request. ‘Let me see if I got this right: now you want me to oblige you?’- then you will go back over and oblige him?’
‘Yes, I believe that’s more or less correct – if you can help, it will be most appreciated.’
‘Tell me honey, you seem a little old for me, but in what way would you like me to oblige you? I mean what is it exactly that you want me to do?’
‘As I said, I just want a fag.’
‘Would any fag have done? I mean, I just happen to be conveniently here and all.’
‘I suppose so, I don’t know much about these thing myself but I think when you are down in the dumps you get these cravings for your old habits – I could really murder a spot of tea myself – and, you know what its like, I’m just trying to keep his pecker up that’s all.’
‘Is his pecker up now?’
‘No, he is really down at the moment – that’s why he needs a fag you see. He’s been locked up for selling coca-cola and got badly stung by ants. But tomorrow he’s going to begin his retirement in a rather posh hotel.’
‘You’ve completely lost me honey.’ she said. ’Do me a favour will you? Go over and give it to him yourself – just let me get some goddam sleep will you?’
‘But give what to him?’ I said. ‘You haven’t given me anything yet.’
‘You’re one crazy son of a bitch. Now go away before I give you something you weren’t countin on.’ she said in a most insulting fashion.
‘I will,’ I said, keeping my temper under extreme provocation, and briskly pulling myself to my feet with the aid of the stanchion supporting the top bunk – not realising the extra weight would be enough to send the whole thing crashing down on top of her.
It can’t be suggested I was in any way to blame for this accident. Thai people are admittedly small – but five of them in one bed is ridiculous. Anyway, the beds can’t have been very strong to disintegrate into so many pieces.
With the help of the numerous policemen who rushed in on hearing the screaming and resulting chaos (in riot gear – would you believe!), it took us some time to untangle and remove the disorientated heap of bodies as well as the numerous pieces of bed from the American lady. I am not a young man and not really used to lifting people – some of them seemed to be quite lifeless. I am thankful to say that not all needed hospital treatment (and I believe only one was actually dead), and after a couple of hours the cell was more or less back in order – although with fewer prisoners and one less bed of course.
However, in the confusion I forgot to ask the American lady if I could borrow her trannie! I was keen to listen to the football results so I had no alternative but to waken her again.
To my mind her reply was absolutely inexcusable. No doubt she was sleepy and a bit uncomfortable – we all were sleepy and uncomfortable in here. But all I asked was a civil question: ‘Have you got a trannie?’ The least she could have done was given a civil answer. But surely her suggestion – that I must have experienced some kind of carnal relationship with my mother – was simply unreasonable.
I have half a mind to make a complaint to the senior officer of the station in the morning. But no doubt I will let the matter drop. I am not a vindictive person.
When I got back to my cockney friend he had an interesting proposition to make to me:
‘I’ve been thinking mate. You know you were saying that you wouldn’t mind a kip in the ‘ilton yourself?’
‘I would rather,’ I said excitedly, ‘but I don’t know how long they intend to keep me here.’
‘Wot did you say you were in for mate? Sexual indecency? Ardly a crime at all in Thailand. In fact I’ve ‘eard they ‘ave plans to make it compulsory. I tell you wot – I bet your mates will be ‘ere first thing in the morning – they’ll cross a few palms with silver and Bob’s yer Uncle, Fanny’s yer Aunt, and you’ll be off seeing whats’ername at 8 tomorrow night.’
‘That is rather an incentive to be out of here.’ I confessed.
‘Look mate – what’s gonna impress a lady, the Bangkok ‘ilton or that godforsaken gaff you’re cooped up in?’ he asked.
‘I see your point.’ I admitted. ‘Do you think they would consider transferring me to the Hilton too?’
‘Not a chance mate.’ He said emphatically. ‘It’s fully booked.’
I was absolutely despondent. ‘Oh dear, I thought it might be.’
‘Don’t worry about that mate – I might just be able to arrange it for you. I ‘ave a favour to call up from a friend among the management here. You’ve been decent company tonight – given me a few laughs and that. I could just possibly pull a few strings for you. One turn deserves another – know wot I mean? ‘elp you out a bit.’
‘Thank you, I would be extremely grateful if you could.’
‘My pleasure mate. Of course, there’s no way they would let you cross the threshold of the ‘ilton dressed like that. But there is a way. Just leave it to me.’
On his rather surprising suggestion we quickly exchanged clothing. I must say it was a relief to put on trousers after so long. Not that they were exactly on. After a bit of a struggle I got them part of the way towards my hips, but on leaving the shirt hanging out it covered the exposed parts admirably. The cockney put a pillow inside the monk’s robe, and shaved his head with razor he had tucked down a sock. His transformation was remarkable – although I wasn’t quite sure what he was exactly transformed into.
‘But what about you?’ I asked in astonishment. ‘You look absolutely ghastly, – surely they won’t let you into a luxurious hotel dressed like that? A friend of mine was once refused entry to the Dorchester simply on account of his not wearing a tie.’
‘Its OK mate – I’m a regular at the ‘ilton – I ‘ave many friends in there, they’ll turn a blind eye to ‘ow I present myself, but to not to a stranger like you.’
‘I quite understand.’ I said, ‘anything to get out of that dreadful hotel I’m staying in now.’
‘Look mate,’ my cockney friend explained, ‘when the sergeant calls your name out, you wait ‘ere – and I’ll go and explain to the screws that you are coming with me. Then when my names called out – it’s ‘ardin’ by the way – you come out. Now, you got that?’
‘Yes I think so Mr. Hardon’ I said.
‘It’s HARD – ING’ he said, ‘for once approaching Queens English.
‘I have a good friend called Cummings, another called Foreskin and now I have a Hardon!’
‘I’d be quiet about that mate if I were you before our ladyboy friend in the corner hears you and comes over to relieve you.’
Next morning everything went according to plan. Hardon went out when Earnshawe was called, and when Hardon was called, I went out. I was whisked off to my new accommodation under a heavily armed guard – a little unnecessarily in my opinion since I was being released anyway.
The grey façade of the Bangkok Hilton looked rather bleak – fortress like, and sinister – something about it filled me with foreboding. Some joker with doubtful taste had written on the wall outside that the institution had put 883 people to death since 1996! The security seemed a little too formidable for my liking. Obviously the hotel was located in a very rough area of the city and needed many guards needed to keep people out.
If the external features of the hotel had looked repellant nothing could have prepared me for the austere conditions I found within.
J A Earnshawe BSc PhD
Really nice, as always. Foster and Earnshawe are two classics!