It is only on the very odd occasion that a submission is posted on the site in which someone has taken umbrage with something I have said in one of my habitual ramblings. Over the years I have sporadically received rebuke ranging from mild admonishment
to abuse of a quite personal and vitriolic nature. I am always bemused that my rosy cheeked capers could warrant the slightest interest never mind prompt such fervent reaction. I am however never unduly concerned as most of my detractors employ
the soubriquet “Anonymous” and invariably one of those thoroughly decent chaps on the site will spring to my defence with a suitably eloquent rejoinder.
Over the years a number of stout fellows including Farang Dave, Thai Gary, Bangkok Barry, LP and even the beatific BKKSW have defended my virtue. More recently Thomasso joined the ranks with a nicely penned accolade to my scribbling in response to a submission taking me to task. I must admit to remaining exceedingly appreciative of the support I receive from these and other wonderful blokes.
I also receive the occasional abusive email. They are mainly from individuals who detest my self deprecating style or take issue with the running gag about photographing Thai girls in West Bromwich Albion shirts (small youth size). The epithets they employ usually include “sad old tosser”, “wanker” and “degenerate”. As none of these descriptions are totally inaccurate, I pay them no heed. In truth I feel disappointed that those guys still do not get the joke. I recently posted a submission which was a light hearted and whimsical essay about my (harrumph…limited) experience of ladyboys. I received a note in response that was so vigorously and passionately caustic I felt compelled to share it with my gentle reader.
Just how goddam old are you? "Deliciously exhausted" or "taken her leave"? It sounds like you're my fxxxing dad's age!!! Are you one of the motherfxxxing losers I see in Pattaya that is such a fxxxing total misfit in their own country that they have to come to Pattaya just to get laid by some ugly hoe? My fucking God you sound like a complete jackass!!!
My answer has to be yes, guilty as charged.
I suspect the author of this note is a thoroughly decent fellow, doubtless with a very attractive Asian girlfriend, the sort of bloke, who if he actually met me would most likely get on with me. I could not understand why my harmless and inoffensive jottings could prompt such an intense reaction but I imagine he was primarily offended by the anachronistic syntax I employ, which is perfectly understandable.
Now I would hate for you to think I am some overly sensitive shrinking violet who quivers at the slightest censure. You will recall I have frequently been the subject of fatwas from the paramilitary wing of the institute of fat wenches who have threatened to sort me out….well at least they will once they have eaten the box of chocolates and Eastenders is finished. You will also remember that militant activists from the Morris Dancers Guild once left a severed hobby-horse head on my pillow in response to derogatory comments made about them in a submission.
I must admit I am finding the gratuitous use of the term loser becoming quite tiresome. I see it used indiscriminately in all walks of life, not just on this site. How does one define a loser? Is it merely someone who does not match up to their personal standards? If you don’t live in a detached property, drive a Mercedes or have a beautiful woman on your arm, are you automatically a loser? Are you a loser if you are not fortunate enough to enjoy the security of long term and safe employment? Does travelling to Thailand to enjoy soft-bodied Thai women as an alternative to the western women one encounters who resemble Olive from “On the Buses” immediately define you as a loser? If so, then it’s a fair cop, your honour.
I do however feel the people who indiscriminately use the derogatory term loser for anyone they perceive as being different or less fortunate than themselves are demonstrating a meanness of spirit. I suspect they are also labouring under a delusion impelled by an overly active self confidence. I would remind them that Dame Fortune is a fickle mistress and if they looked closely they would realise how fragile the illusion actually is. There but for the grace of God etc.
Christmas has come and gone for another year. The advent of Christmas usually means I have to stop drinking alcohol for a few days. This may seem a strange observation for a self confessed pisshead to make but the season of goodwill in Britain has always prompted a draconian police campaign to catch drivers who have been drinking. It would appear every second car on the road is a police vehicle stopping motorists which seems a very poor use of a limited resource but symptomatic of the malaise that is modern day Britain. If you recall the riots earlier in the year the British police were severely criticized for the delay in reacting to the crisis. It actually took 3 days to get the police out of their cars persecuting motorists and on to the streets to face the rioters. It was suggested that the politically appointed Police chiefs did not consider defending life and property as their main function when motorists present such a lucrative and easy target. But I digress.
Generally I hate the Christmas and New Year celebrations and its contrived bonhomie with a passion. But this year I was determined not to be such a miserable bugger and to make an attempt to enjoy the proceedings. A few weeks previously my oldest friend Michael passed away unexpectedly. From humble beginnings he rose to become professor of the business school at a leading Paris university. He was my best friend for 50 years and a constant inspiration to me. His untimely demise aged 56 bought home to me how fragile is our grip on this mortal coil.
I completed the contract at the foundry in Essex and returned to the West Midlands the week before Christmas. I arrived at my flat to find two official looking letters sitting on the mat. One was a tax bill from the previous year. It came as no surprise that the amount I owed was almost exactly the figure they had given me back as being overpaid the year before. You may recall I blew that windfall on a trip to Thailand last Easter. The other was a letter from the Local Authority benefits department claiming I owed them over £7k in wrongly paid benefits which I had to repay immediately or face legal proceedings.
It was the week before Christmas; I had no income, no transport, and was not enjoying the best of health. No longer could I even claim benefits. I could lose my flat and a bunk at the homeless shelter beckoned. If the Local Authority has their way I could soon be serving time at her Majesty's pleasure with my arse used as a pleasure park receiving swollen goods from old lags. Maybe it was time to put my head in the gas oven….however I found I had no gas on the meter.
Now I do appreciate it is in very poor taste to joke about the serious subject of suicide but I have experienced some ups and downs in the past 10 years and humour has been a way of dealing with them.
The divorce from my first wife in 2003 saw me lose my house and I ended up living in the backroom of my mother’s home. I had reached my lowest ebb then but subsequent trips to Thailand and marriage to a Thai lady gave my spirits a reprise. However losing two jobs and the Thai wife in 2008/9, followed by bouts of unemployment and austerity, bought on the black dog of depression. With the help of friends and a natural resilience I successfully fought my way through this dark period. So feeling the worst was finally behind me, in the past year or so I have developed a fresh perspective on life and became far more relaxed and pragmatic about life’s expectations.
It was the week before Christmas, there are millions of people in a worse situation than me and I had far too many things to do to let this latest adversity affect me unduly. After sending a letter of appeal to the local authority my next task was mobility, getting my aged Mondeo back on the road as it had not been moved for six months. Over the next few days my pal at the local garage set about repairing it and giving it an MOT certificate whilst I ran around in a hire car arranging insurance and road tax. In the evenings I sang at three Christmas concerts with my male voice choir. By Christmas Eve I had returned the hire car and was once again driving my trusty 12-year old Ford. I was back where I was a year ago.
That evening I visited my local pub “The Welded Wallet”, met up with some pals I had not seen for months and sang a few seasonal numbers on the karaoke. Christmas Day I had a quiet dinner with my elderly mother and watched endless repeats on TV. Boxing Day I met up with my two sons and saw West Bromwich Albion hold the mighty Manchester Citeh to a goalless draw (which was the first time this season Man City had failed to score). That evening I went to the casino we use as a working men’s social club and met up with my brother and the Borg collective that is his family. We monopolised the karaoke all evening and I returned to my flat in the early hours agreeably inebriated and at peace with the world.
I woke the next morning with the black dog upon me. It had come upon me swiftly and unexpectedly as described by the poet John Keats; “When the melancholy fit shall fall sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud”.
The feeling of despair was so totally overwhelming it is impossible to articulate. Having had previous experience of the condition I knew there was little I could do other than (as when the urge to do hard physical exercise comes upon me) to sit quietly until it passes. Anyone who has experienced it will know the last thing that you want to hear is being told to ”pull yourself together” so I avoided all human contact that day and did nothing but wallow in my own misery. I cried at everything even marginally emotional on TV. I later used UTube to watch all the pieces of music guaranteed to bring me to tears. I list them as others may share my taste. Tonight (Ensemble) from West Side Story, Joyful- Joyful featuring Lauryn Hill in Sister Act 2, On my Own from Les Miserable’s, You are the New Day by the King Singers and Sir Charles Hubert Parry’s Anthem I was Glad (which was the music used as Kate Middleton walked up the Aisle for her wedding to Prince William). I finally went to sleep as limp as a wrung dish cloth. The next day I woke refreshed and set about the process of recovery.
When the gloom is upon you even simple domestic tasks become onerous so I set myself some very simple daily targets initially, then hourly ones as the days progressed. These included mundane duties like cooking a meal, putting the rubbish out, vacuuming my bedroom, mopping the kitchen floor or even answering emails from my Thailand friends. By the Thursday I had sufficiently recovered my equilibrium and met my youngest son for dinner at the Thai restaurant. As always his company raised my spirits and I was ready to face the New Year festivities.
As if I was not already in enough trouble, in the past few months I find myself involved with a Thai lady. I had previously reported that I frequent a Thai restaurant in a nearby town. The place is friendly and welcoming, my sons and I have been regular
customers since its opening and have become good friends with the Thai family who own it. A few of my close friends also patronise the establishment and it has become a good meeting place at weekends.
I also reported some time ago I had asked the proprietor if she knew any Thai women she could introduce me to. She expressed a reluctance to introduce me to any of the Thai women she knew in the UK. She explained that because she now considered me and my sons as close friends she would not wish any of them on me.
However some months ago she informed me that there was a Thai lady she knew who was coming over to the UK for a few months holiday. She would be staying with her cousin Sa and her English husband Alan. She felt we would get on and had no reservation in introducing her to me. As it happens I knew Alan through the cricket club. He had a successful engineering business and lived in an impressive property on the edge of town. In fact I had already met the lady in question in the restaurant when she was staying the previous year. Alan fleetingly introduced me to her then but I doubted she would remember me.
Arrangements were made and I met the lady the following week. Noi is in her late 40s and the oldest Thai lady I have been with. She is slim, petite and is still an attractive and graceful lady. She had been widowed twice, once in her youth with a Thai man and in later years with an English husband. She had lived in the East Midlands with her husband for several years before retiring to Thailand for his final years. She retained their property in Hua Hin where she now lives for half the year.
On our first meeting we got on very well. Having lived in the UK for a few years gave her a good command of English and an understanding of the British way of life. Despite this she retained the sense of sanuk (fun) that is a major attraction with Thai women. With an enquiring mind, a ready smile and a cheery disposition, I was smitten and acknowledged my jasmine fever remained incurable.
Because I was working in Essex in the week and had a full agenda on my return at weekends, for the initial weeks I only saw her on Friday night and then at the Thai restaurant. Her joke that I was her Friday man prompted extending the arrangement to taking her out on some Saturdays. Now I was somewhat out of practice with entertaining a Thai female. The few English ladies I have taken out in the past couple of years have entailed visits to the theatre or classical concerts which I believe has little interest to the average Thai woman. So trips to lively pubs, the casino (which impressed) and a few karaokes (which amused) were the order of the day. In an expression of commitment I have introduced her to my sons, my brother, and my friends and also taken her to a couple of my choir concerts.
One evening she asked me to accompany her to the social club near to where she was staying. She told me she had been going to the club with her cousin Sa and her husband Alan for a couple of years and whilst the regulars had always welcomed her they often teased her that she never had a male companion. She asked me to go with her one night to show them she could still pull one. The evening I went with her they had an accomplished pianist playing for a variety of singers. If someone opens a fridge door I would do a three minute spot, so I got up and sang a couple of Matt Munro numbers. My rendition of Portrait of my Love has made many a matron moist. The gaffer at my local often complains at having to sponge down the seats following my performances on Saturday evenings. Noi later admitted she was pleased that my actions as her escort had impressed the natives.
As with many Thai women Noi is both captivating and infuriating in equal measure. I have found her a most entertaining companion and an exotic alternative to the English females I have recently squired. I must admit whilst I found those English ladies pleasant enough I had been somewhat indifferent to their corpulent charms and had avoided intimacy with them even though it had occasionally been on offer. One lady in particular was quite offended that I wasn’t begging her for sex but I felt if I had poked her it would have meant passing the Rubicon and I would never have gotten rid of her. The philosophy with western ladies of a certain age (despite their allusion to feminism and liberation) remains “Until you commit….you can not have it”. I was convinced the sense of wellbeing I had been enjoying was because I was no longer impelled by the carnal imperative or the need for a relationship, which was quite a liberating experience. It is a sobering thought that I have not had sex with a white woman for almost 10 years and if I exclude my first wife it has been 28 years.
On the other hand I would have shagged the arse of the fragrant Noi within a heartbeat. I even spruced up my flat, dusted off my cache of Viagra and purchased a new West Bromwich Albion shirt (only joking) on the off chance I would get her up there sometime. However in the two or three months we were stepping out no intimacy occurred; she would not even let me kiss her goodnight when I dropped her off at the end of the evening. At first I thought she was playing hard to get but as time progressed I concluded she either found me boring or just did not fancy me. We continued our contact for a time but I began to lose my enthusiasm. I could not fail to feel she was using me to entertain her and generally pass the time in the absence of anything better being on offer.
Now I will admit I am fundamentally a cheap charley and reluctant to spend money on someone I felt was not interested in me. Although I found her company a pleasant diversion I had begun to enjoy the single life, I was uncertain about the potential disturbance a female would present to my new-found independence and wellbeing. I am perhaps also getting old and set in my ways. The waistband of my trousers is imperceptibly rising towards my chest and tucking my shirt into my underpants feels disturbingly comfortable. I have been seen eying beige cardigans in the high street shops in a covetous manner. I have begun to sing along to music I hear in elevators.
I was also acutely aware I did not have the financial security sufficient to retain a woman, particularly a Thai woman where financial consideration predominates. All men with any experience of Thailand are aware of the idiom “no money, no honey”. But a more accurate expression may be, “There is honey to spare…once you “take care”. The perception is that any association with a Thai woman involves “taking care”, a concept that is often stretched to include an extended family and maybe a whole Isaan province. This remains firmly the mindset of many western men, often gained through bitter experience.
Interestingly, astute Thai women are also extremely aware of this perception. On the evening I was in the Thai restaurant with my youngest son, my Thai lady friends in sensing I had began to distance myself from Noi felt compelled to counsel me. They assured me that she really liked me; she had told them I was fun to be with and hoped the relationship would develop. I was particularly relieved at not being considered boring. They were also at great pains to explain that Noi had no dependants to support, was financially independent so there was no question of “taking care”. I was pleasantly surprised, not just that Noi was interested but that Thai ladies intuitively understood the mindset of men of a certain persuasion.
There is no doubt I do have a real difficulty with commitment. If I am completely honest I suspect I had made such a huge emotional investment in my last wife Nat I feel I have no affection left to give. Perhaps I am now incapable of commitment or more likely “khun kidt maak maak”…..I think too much.
I resolved to remove my head from my anal orifice and stop being such a prize Pratt. I phoned Noi the next day and took her out for dinner that evening. She seemed genuinely pleased to see me. The next evening was New Year's Eve and I went to a party with her and her cousin Sa. It was at the house of a European couple who were Thailand aficionados so the buffet included some fiery Thai and Isaan delicacies. It was a most agreeable evening and much preferable to suffering the Auld Lang’s syne in an overcrowded pub with people I didn’t give a knob of goat shit about. We have continued to meet once or twice a week and are comfortable in each other's company. I know she will return to Hua Hin soon so I have decided to relax, not worry about where the relationship was going and just enjoy the moment.
I should explain why I was in trouble with the benefits office and why the sword of Damocles was suspended above me. During my last bout of unemployment finding myself without the proverbial pot to piss in, I threw myself on the mercy of the UK state welfare system. After jumping through the obligatory bureaucratic hoops and doffing my cap as appropriate I was eventually awarded an allowance to cover my rent and community tax in addition to £46 per week job seekers allowance. It kept the wolf from the door and was greatly appreciated. Although I have contributed for over 35 years I have never considered the British welfare system to be my entitlement but it is a wonderful safety net when in difficult circumstances.
The British media is always full of tales of the largesse extended by the UK Welfare system to asylum seekers from the Middle East and to cutthroats from the Balkans. In this political climate it is understandable that certain claims for benefit are investigated with the vigour of the Spanish inquisition. It came as no surprise that my claim received such special attention. It would be churlish and politically incorrect to suggest this fervour was because I was a white Englishman….wild horses and the archangel Gabriel would not force me to make such a scurrilous allegation.
It transpired their investigations revealed the existence of a Building society account in my name that contained assets well exceeding the £16k limit for claiming benefit. I was called in for an interview under caution. I was genuinely shocked when they told me of this money; I had no knowledge of its existence and certainly had no access to it. I professed my innocence and proffered the defence that if I had that much money at my disposal I would not be living in a one bedroom flat, driving a 12 year old car or living out of a suitcase in any god forsaken town I could find employment.
It emerged it was my mother who had opened the account. When my father passed away in 2008 she redirected some of his money into a Building society account in my name (and had done the same with my brother). I had no idea she had done this and the money remained firmly in her control. The investigating officers at the Benefits office refused to believe this and I remained under threat of criminal proceedings.
Why my mother did this remains a mystery but I strongly suspect it was on the advice of the “mythical Edna”. It is a common phenomenon that all elderly ladies have a particular lady friend who is their Oracle and the source of all knowledge and the font of all wisdom. These legendary ladies have opinions on everything, from the treatment of ailments, pension entitlements and what every one should be doing with their money. This mythological creature is usually named Edna. Whenever I have discussed anything with my mother her customary response is “well Edna said…” Even professional advice from my solicitor Kevin or my accountant Ernie is measured against the template of Edna’s wise counsel.
Knowing the origin of this disputed account I was in a position to prepare a case for my defence. My solicitor pal hired the services of an Asian lady who was once the Local Authorities top claims investigator. She was made redundant by the service and now earns her living helping claimants to appeal decisions such as mine. I was confident this Gamekeeper turned poacher would help keep my annular orifice safe from the threat of tattooed miscreants in the prison showers.
Where do I go from here? I can not deny I face a few difficulties. I have no job and can not even throw myself on the welfare system until the dispute with the benefits office is resolved. To compound my problems, in tandem with the Benefits office, the
Local council have decided I also owe them £1200 in disputed community tax benefit payments. But rather than await the outcome of due process they recovered it by the direct debit route and sucked it from my account. This has completely depleted
the savings I had to pay the installment on my income tax liability. I was now penniless.
My fallback position would be to leave my flat and move back into a room at my mother's home. My mother has already recommended this. This would save me about £600 a month which has been suggested would fund 2 or 3 trips to Thailand if I had an income. But I am reluctant to do this until I absolutely have to. I am sure many British readers will remember the TV sitcom “Sorry” staring Ronnie Corbett as a 50 something man still living with his tyrannical mother. I can not but feel it would be the ultimate admission of failure. A 56 year old man living with his mother would most definitely define me as a loser.
As luck would have it, my mother (feeling guilty about the pickle she got me into) has lent me a few quid to pay my income tax bill and tide me over for a few weeks. I will get through my current difficulties and like Mr. Micawber I have no doubt before long I will find employment of some description. It will be most probably involve living out of a suitcase in a strange town again, working 12 hours a day in soul destroying tedium for a parsimonious opportunist who will demand his pound of flesh and my undying gratitude for employing me. I have been practicing doffing and wringing my cap and exclaiming “god bless you governor, you are a fine gentleman and no mistake” in a suitably obsequious manner in readiness. I do appreciate this is the destiny for millions of people in the world but having experienced it several times in the past few years, forgive me if I can not get enthused about repeating it. I must declare I feel tired and worn out and the fire in my belly is dwindling. I have been operating in second gear with a six month horizon for quite some time. I am desperately in need of something to inspire and motivate me.
If there was any justice I would be seeing out my twilight years as a lecturer at a national foundry college teaching a new generation of foundry men and cast metal engineers. I can visualise expounding gems of wisdom to eager young students and boring them rigid with my interminable anecdotes. Instead my recent career has involved leaping from ice floe to ice floe from a melting iceberg that was the British cast metals industry. With no British foundry industry there is no National Foundry college. With British manufacturing migrating to India and China with indecent haste the demand for my skill set is rapidly diminishing, like the slide rule maker just after the development of the cheap pocket calculator.
I began this essay bemoaning the use of the term loser but appear to have spent the rest of the dissertation confirming the suggestion. I would like to confess I am not entirely the sad old tosser I portray myself to be but appreciate the difficulty with this. This situation is entirely of my own making. Through a long series of self indulgent and candid (if not at times indiscrete) submissions over the past few years I have put the minutia of my life on display. My life has become the Stickman equivalent of Jim Carey’s "The Truman Show". It had been proposed by numerous friends that it was only being a misery that essentially kept me going, so I created this melancholy voice as a vehicle for my humour to amuse the gentle reader. Whilst a very small minority take them at face value I have always been delighted that a very large number of astute and perceptive Stickman readers immediately understood the joke and enjoyed my ramblings for what they are.
January has come and gone and my job search continues. Surprisingly my professional reputation remains relatively intact. I trained many of the technical managers in the industry and it appears I still have a network of friends in the trade. I recently went to a meeting of my professional institute with the intention of networking. It happened to be the prestigious technical quiz where about 20 companies compete annually. I met an old colleague who is now Quality Director of a large engineering company. He had a member short so dragged me into his team. With my contribution they actually came third. I won a bottle of whisky (and his gratitude) but more importantly he told me about a foundry he was dealing with who was giving him supply problems. They had used a consultant but he was struggling with the gravity die process and to use my friend’s words “did not know his prick from his thumb about casting”. He suggested I could solve most of their issues. The next day he contacted them, suggesting they engage me in some capacity to help them. Nothing has actually come from this yet but it certainly lifted my spirits.
If I ever doubted the power of networking, out of the blue I received a note from a friend I sit on an educational trust with. He told me of a team of consultants from the USA who were searching for an engineer with experience of the permanent mould and gravity die casting process. They were recruiting for a Chinese foundry and were experiencing difficulties finding someone with the requisite experience. I had to go through an endless chain of UK consultants but eventually made contact with the guys in the US. The assignment starts in March and is at a large foundry in the city of Kunshan which is 2 hours drive from Shanghai. The project involves upgrading their technical capabilities and training the workforce. I sent my resume and was promptly accepted by the Chinese. The project is only for a couple of months, the compensation is modest and will involve living in a dormitory apartment on the factory site but it presents an interesting challenge and is probably the kick up the backside I need to get me going again.
If there are any Stickmanites who know anything about Kunshan or can provide an insight into Chinese culture or give me any tips that will help me in my dealings with them, it would be much appreciated.
It had not escaped my attention that Shanghai is only a three and half hour flight from Bangkok. The opportunity for a visit to the land of vertical smiles whilst I am already in Asia is awfully compelling. Now I fully appreciate that in my current circumstances the last thing I should be contemplating is a Siamese sojourn. However the thought of promenading the salacious sois of Suhkumvit with a huge grin on my face and meeting old friends is far too attractive to dismiss. A few days stopover in Bangkok before (and after) my Chinese assignment may be just what the Doctor ordered.
The die is cast and the Thai Airways flight is being booked as we speak. I shall arrive at the Mother ship that is the Nana Hotel on Friday 9th March. By 1930 hours I anticipate I shall be putting myself outside a cold beer in the Golden Bar on Nana Tai.
You are welcome to join me.
I cannot help but think that your future lies outside your homeland. I am sure your skills and experience will be in demand in various places around the world. The trick is finding where those places may be. Good luck!