Of Golf And Elephants
Some 6 years ago I had the good fortune to meet my Thai wife while I was working in Malaysia. My friend Dave and I had been out for a round of golf and as luck would have it, after jolly time at the 19th hole, I was invited around to Dave’s house
for more beer and a Thai meal cooked by his good lady and her friend who was staying with them for a short holiday.
We arrived at Dave’s house reasonably merry and still soaked in sweat from 18 holes of golf in the tropics. His dog immediately started to hump my leg as I was introduced to my future bride to be. It was embarrassing but it proved to be a good icebreaker as we all ended up having a good laugh at the dog’s and my expense.
My future darling gave me a million watt smile and a respectful wai once she stopped laughing. She spoke a little English and we were able to get initial pleasantries out of the way without too much further difficulty.
Dinner was fun and we all ate and drank heartily with the dog chained up outside, no doubt keeping an eye out for any hapless mammal crossing his path. Dave and his wife had to go shopping the next day and I had planned to go and tackle another round of 18 holes, I was still very much a beginner at this stage and sadly I cannot use this excuse any more. I asked my future darling if she would like to join me for a not too serious round of golf and received another million watt smile and an affirmative answer.
She had never played golf before and it was very much a case of the blind leading the blind on the course the following day. She is 5’ tall and I am 6’2”, so I gave her my 7 iron and we hacked our way around the course together. Every time she missed a ball or flubbed a shot, this was frequently by the way; she would laugh heartily and carry on regardless. Yes dear reader, I did show her how to hold a golf club with my arms around her as often as I could get away with it, with as much propriety as I could muster given the situation. I probably had a very similar expression on my face to that of the amorous dog from the night before.
We visited the 10th hole for refreshments after the game, 9 holes was enough for the first date and she indicated that she would like to play golf again if it was ok with me. As I had a few days off work we agreed to meet the next day and give it another go. Just to clarify, at the time I was 45 years old and she was 41.
We have been together ever since and have played golf all over Thailand, Malaysia and now the Middle East. She has had her own clubs for some time now and has become a good golfer; to this day when she flubs a shot she still laughs and enjoys the game. She sure has taught me a thing or two about keeping a cool head and heart. We married 3 years ago and I count myself amongst the luckiest of men on the planet to have found a true soul mate. I was married twice before, unfortunately or maybe fortunately depending on how you look at it, these relationships did not work out for one reason or another.
So what does this have to do with elephants? In the early part of our time together she needed to go back to Thailand to extend her Malaysian visa. I had only been to Thailand once before so we decided to go together and on the next weekend, drove up to the border and on to her hometown.
Another close friend of hers, who was married to an English gentleman, was having a birthday party that weekend and had booked a restaurant for the event. We were of course invited and at around the appointed time duly arrived at the venue.
Everything was laid on and the party was gathering momentum when we arrived. It was an air-conditioned restaurant and due to the numbers of people attending we were asked to smoke outside. This was well before it became the current loosely adhered to law in the areas inside and outside Bangkok. So the party was flowing in and out of the restaurant during the course of the evening.
The English gentleman and I were the only westerners at the bash and fortunately shared common interests i.e. beer, golf, smoking and lovely ladies. We hit it off well and have been friends ever since. He was standing in the doorway finishing his cigarette. I had just completed mine and was part way inside when he called me back out, he had a funny look on his face and frankly I did not know what he was up to.
I went to the doorway and found a mature elephant there; it was playing a mouth organ in its trunk, swaying its head from side to side, lifting its feet dancing and barking like a dog. The closest I had been to an elephant before this was looking over the fence at the zoo. As you can no doubt imagine I was somewhat gob smacked by this and any time I tell this story people look at me as though it’s a wind up and wait for the punch line.
Elephants live a long time and they eat a lot, this was how this handler earned a living and fed his elephant. It had previously been a working elephant in the jungle but with the Asian financial crisis and the increase in mechanization it had become redundant and unemployed. I did so admire the handler’s enterprise and the intelligence of the elephant. Needless to say we had a good laugh at this amazing spectacle and gave the elephant’s handler a 100 baht so we could feed the elephant some bananas.
Subsequent to this I have been bailed up by an adolescent elephant, in a market in Bangkok that would not let me pass until I bought it bananas. The handler had trained it to do this and did nothing to stop the animal as it forced me into a corner trumpeting and demanding sustenance. I did not like this, it was not charming or funny and frankly I was intimidated, yes I paid up, let's face it Asian elephants are smaller than their African cousins but even half grown they are still bloody big!
I avoid elephants in the streets after the above experience as I would not like to meet a clumsy one or one having a bad trunk day. I will however always remember fondly the enterprising handler and his entertaining elephant during my first visit to Southern Thailand.
P.S. I am also fairly wary of dogs as well!