From the Formicary – a VERY LARGE Komodo Dragon Visits the Neighbour
My name is Martin and I’ve been legally married to Ant for thirteen years. A success. Clearly it’s already been established that marrying a Thai will result in the colonisation of your life by geckos and occasionally komodo dragons (see). A goodly portion of your life will be occupied by small and large lizard issues. Sometimes the occupation takes the form of reflecting on the past including stuff that happens to those that you know of. So it was that seeing the official news that homelessness amongst farangs in Thailand is becoming a problem, I reflected (for some time) on the story of Mel and Gary.
By the way I do not lie or exaggerate.
Ant owns a house in Jomtien. The house is very, very near to the ancient Pattaya Floating Market that poets and social commentators have written so much about since the 15th century. It can be seen from our (sorry Ant’s) house.
It is strange that Ant owns the house although I paid the substantial balance owing on the property. It is the general nexus of capitalism that the person who buys something owns that thing. Not in Thailand, mate. Property may be theft but legal theft of property is all, all too easy in LOSS (the Land of Smiling Scams).
Mel and Gary were our neighbours. They lived opposite our (sorry, Ant’s) house.
Gary was in his mid-50s. He had been in the British army, and upon leaving he became a postman. His father owned a house in West Ham, London. On his father’s death Gary inherited the house. He sold it and with the proceeds plus severance pay from the Royal Mail purchased… no, not an annuity…(well sort of)…NO! You’ve guessed it, yes! An open-air bar in, in …wait for it…yes! Pattaya!
Gary had no experience of running anything (except a bath). But hey, what could go wrong?
Well, I’m not a cynic so this must be a one-off occurrence. He said that the cashier (who was not his legal wife) cheated him. Bar proceeds went missing, strange characters got free drinks (he thought just perhaps they were friends or relatives of his not legal wife), the police benevolent fund always seemed to have a noble cause that needed supporting and the girls were lazy. Can you believe it? Surely not possible, his story MUST contain exaggeration don’t you think?
Gary sold the bar.
Perhaps because of his army training, Gary was not to be defeated; outnumbered, he executed a tactical retreat but did not surrender. He met Mel in the Bamboo Bar in Pattaya. He bought her a car (Gary could not drive, so it seemed like a good idea). He purchased her the house opposite ours (sorry Ant’s). What could go wrong?
Gary had not legally married Mel but surely he had shown his commitment to a long term relationship? Who has bought you a house and new car? It has never happened to me.
Here I am reminded of something written by Dana, (good authors get referred to, don’t they?) The story was partly about Boom Boom, an old friend, who he met sitting on an upturned white plastic bucket and how she later (before completing their contract) complained about Mr. Dana being stingy.
It should be remembered that Mel had metaphorically been sitting on an upturned insecure white plastic bucket prior to meeting Gary. If nothing else surely Mel would show Gary some gratitude and respect for turning her life around? Wouldn’t you think? OK, not showing fawning subservience but inwardly recognising gratitude to a fellow human being? Wouldn’t you think?
Gary was not a hansum man – even less teeth than I have now and thinning hair were two of his better physical attributes. Mel was 20 or more years his junior. My friend Mike who was staying with us thought she was Miss Thailand (I didn’t, but hey so what).
From my sniper’s vantage point living opposite, I was in a good position to monitor Gary’s daily movements.
Gary would rise late – off to the local shop in dressing gown and slippers, returning with two large bottles of Chang. Mid afternoon and now shaven and clothed, off again returning with two large bottles of Chang. Early evening, off again returning with two large bottles of Chang. Increasingly by mid evening (then increasingly by mid afternoon) he visited us. Mike and I bought the beers. No problem. Really no problem – he was clearly in reduced circumstances due to the battle of the bar (you must help a wounded warrior of the Thailand campaign).
His life was thus – not even visits to that sorry stretch of sand a mile or so away, that is Jomtien beach. His life was the hundred yards between his (sorry Mel’s) house and the local shop. But so what – it was better than the hundred yards between a house in West Ham and a local off-licence. INCOMPARABLY BETTER. Even in reduced circumstances it was a life that could be maintained and sustained with relative happiness (who could ask for more? Really, who could ask for more than some happiness?)
We were back in Britain when the komodo dragons visited Gary (sorry Mel’s) house. We learnt of the event on our next trip to our (sorry Ant’s) house.
You know what happened next but a train wreck must be watched till the impact.
Details are not exact, some say that Gary had had to return to Britain because of visa issues….whatever. On his return to the Land of Smiles …you know…but imagine it…imagine it being YOU.
Yes, Mel had (legally) sold the house (perhaps at a knock down price for a quick sale), packed the car with the help of several Thai guys and gone…perhaps she had become nostalgic for her life on the white upturned plastic bucket.
Gary had phoned the police but what to do?
The police took Gary away.
OK, Gary was a lucky man. After all, he did still have the shirt on his back, the bag that he had returned from England with and I guess his army pension. But think about it – what would you do next? I have NO idea what I would do!
The neighbours say that they had seen Gary several times at the end of the soi looking at that which he (sorry Mel) had once owned. A ghost.
I know nothing more of Gary’s story. What can be said of it?
Another bargirl (freelancer) behaving badly and he should have known better than to be involved with her? A Thai throwaway line about black heart? Not enough I think.
Here was a case where a decent man who had worked and served his nation (and here I refer to his work as a postman) and just wanted some small amount of small happiness. In seeking his own happiness and as part of seeking his own happiness, he had helped another human being from a life sitting on a white upturned plastic bucket to an incomparably better life.
If Mel (Ms Thailand) was not happy with her lot she could have simply left (perhaps in the car that had been bought for her) and returned to the upturned plastic bucket patiently waiting for her. But to leave another human, a member of one’s own species with practically nothing after they had been decent to you? This is species alienation. This IS a side of Thailand – sheer short-sighted, greedy, calculated, selfish unadulterated arrogance. Perhaps under-pinned by the misshapen belief that Thailand and Thais are superior and the inferior others deserve what they get – no holds barred where the Geneva Convention does not apply. Think about it. Would you, as a human being, do to Gary that which was done to him? Perhaps you would! Oh dear, species alienation.
Too much Thailand bashing?
Well, and here they can be no argument, Mel’s behaviour is underwritten by Thai law. What Mel did was legal! Yes, legal! She committed no crime in the progressive, democratic, forward looking, smiling Kingdom of Thailand. Caveat emptor – what you buy is not yours in the Land of Smiles.
Ant sometimes says (when she is not bemoaning her comparative lack of fortune in having married me),
“Why you not put my name on paper for your flat London?”
I say, “Ok, we do when you put my name on house Jomtien.”
The subject is only sometimes returned to.
So, what next? More gecko and komodo dragons I guess.
That’s not all folks!
We haven't had many of these sorts of stories recently but I don't think that should be taken to mean that this sort of thing is not as prevalent as it once was. With so much good info online, and so many foreigners aware of the dangers, it's sad that this still happens. But it still does, and I guess it will continue to do so.