The Mongering Philanthropist Part 13
The story to date
Our hero won a few quid on the UK lottery but disillusioned with British womanhood made his way to Thailand. Following a series of misadventures he settled into life in an Isaan village where he found himself investing in a small hotel then a bronze sculpting and casting enterprise.
In the last episode the first artist’s workshop proved to be a success and had bonded the commune. Phai’s acceptance of our hero’s mild philandering proved he could still be surprised by Thai women.
Part 13 A little matchmaking
With the departure of our guests I was hoping for a quiet couple of weeks to catch up on a few things. I phoned Gerald back in the UK and told him our first artist workshop had been a success. He reported that there was a lot of interest mainly generated by the BBC programme a few months ago but he felt we may have to be a little creative in what we offered to repeat our initial success.
Through his own contacts from teaching at the University he had undertaken a programme of visiting all the major art schools and colleges in the UK making presentations about our Sculptor’s Workshop and retreat. He was getting some serious enquiries everywhere he went. He reported that many people were interested and suggested a two week course but wanted to tie it in with a beach holiday for a third week. Gerald had years of experience in marketing and felt if we priced it appropriately we would have a package that was sustainable and would sell. In fact he was confident he could sell about six courses this year and already had a party of young artists who wanted to arrive in two or three weeks time. I could see the merit in his idea and said I would have a chat with Jow, Phai’s brother in law who was a travel agent. I promised Gerald I would contact him the next day.
Jow and his wife Acheron were coming for dinner at Phai’s that evening. Jow was a taciturn individual, successful in his profession but often difficult to tie down. Acheron had recently begun working for Changerong art castings looking after the administration. She was an attractive lady in her 40’s with a permanently wicked twinkle in her eye and was a valuable asset to our team. She also kept Jow onside with our venture. Over dinner I mentioned Gerald’s enquiry and could see I had his interest. He thought for a moment then declared “There wouldn’t be enough money to tie in Phuket or the islands and we certainly don’t want to send them to Pattaya but Hua Hin would be a good option. It has a decent beach, great fish restaurants and entertainment but doesn’t have girly bars. I know a couple of good hotels I am sure I can do a deal with”. He gave me a figure per head to sort flights, transfers and a week in Hua Hin. It sounded reasonable but thought I could negotiate with him when I had definite bookings.
The next day I contacted Gerald to offer a two week sculpture course with a week in Hua Hin and gave him a price per head he felt he could sell. Within a couple of hours he called me back and told me to expect a group of six, two couples and two girls, all in their mid 20’s. I later briefed Ratana and left her to discuss the details with Gerald and Jow.
The next day I had a phone conversation with Wanaporn my Thai solicitor who reported he had now received two months of my management charge from Changerong Art Castings and Chez K which was now in the bank account he kept for me to ensure my residential status. He was inquisitive about how I had set up the accounts package for the business and I explained how my friend Kae had done it. He remarked he had interviewed her a few weeks ago for a job but she seemed very shy and hesitant. Now he knew what she had done for me he observed that maybe he should reconsider and interview her again.
Later that week Beverley contacted me to tell me the architects Hampton, Johnson and Wood had sent the first order to produce the tooling and an initial 10 castings off each for their most popular statuettes, two dancers an eagle and a stork. The order was worth nearly £100k but she cautioned they had baulked a little at our prices so we may need to rethink our strategy if we wanted further orders. Beverley was going to see them that week to get a feel for what we were up against.
Although Phai’s daughter Ratana was like a daughter to me I had less contact with her sister Mali. She lived in an apartment in Udon and had been very busy in her job in a Computer Aided Design office which provided a bureau service for the Japanese and Chinese suppliers to the growing automotive industry in the province. However most Sundays she would return home for dinner where her vivacious personality illuminated the house. One afternoon whilst I was sitting on the porch with a beer she joined me and told me of a new 3D CAD imaging system she had seen which linked with a 3D printer which could make models from polystyrene foam. She told me her bureau were using the technology for making prototypes models so the auto designers could handle and check fit before proceeding with full production by plastic injection moulding or die casting.
I was acquainted with modelling techniques like stereo lithography; I had seen 3D printers that could even deposit resin on sand in layers creating a mould without a pattern. Mali was a bright girl and very inquisitive. She asked if these foam models could be invested and burnt out from the moulds like we did with our lost wax process. I was conversant with using polystyrene foams as a consumable pattern but had not seen the technologies integrated which seemed promising. I could see an opportunity for making models like the statuettes for Hampton Johnson and Wood. If we could capture the images digitally we could scale up and include the contraction allowance when the bronze solidified. This could address the perennial problem known as surmoulages in the art world. I complimented her on her insight, promised to seriously examine it and suggested we should talk with Chan and Pravat about it.
Ratana and my son Richard had often commented that Pravat was besotted with Mali but was always slightly intimidated in her presence. The thought of the powerful Pravat being scared to approach a girl he had known all his life was amusing and somewhat endearing. I decided to step in and fabricate an opportunity to get them together.
I asked Mali to come with me to Chan’s house while the idea was fresh in our minds. She took me on the back of her motorbike which was an experience in itself. On our arrival my friend Chan took the top off a bottle of Singha and handed it to me. I could see Pravat in the garden so called him into the house. I sat Mali and Pravat down and asked Mali to relate her ideas to him and his father. I explained I needed them to work together over the next few weeks on researching this and suggested they clear a few evenings and then present a report to Chan and me. I saw Pan smiling as she knew exactly what I was up to.
When we were on our own later Pan told me she had watched her son yearning for Mali whilst Mali seemed oblivious to his interest. However Pan was of the opinion she was perfectly aware of his interest but was waiting and hoping for Pravat to make a move. I expressed the opinion that Youth is definitely wasted on the young. Pan laughed and said she hoped my little plan would work.
A week or so later they presented their report to Chan and me. Mali had even obtained a small sample of a SLA Foam which Pravat had invested it in ceramic, burnt it out and cast it like a lost wax component. He showed me his result, it was nowhere as good a finish as our conventional products but he had proved it could be done. We praised them for their efforts and felt this technology was something we should seriously explore although we could not yet afford it. I affirmed I was impressed with how well they had worked together and suggested they continue to research the 3D technologies for us. The next week Ratana teased me about my matchmaking efforts but reported that there was definitely a relationship blooming with Pravat and Mali at last.
Sundays also saw my son Richard bring Ploy and Lawan for dinner. Ploy was a sweet natured girl who worked hard at the hotel. She had become part of Kul and Kwan’s family and Nong now considered her a sister. Phai had told me Ploy was highly appreciative of the opportunity for the new life Kul and Kwan had given her. Ploy and her delightful daughter were always welcomed by Phai and her family and those weekends when Ploy had to work Richard would still bring Lawan. Just turned two she was a bright affectionate child loved by everyone. We all suspected that Rich would eventually marry the enchanting Ploy and adopt Lawan as he had already started a trust fund for the child’s education. The anticipation of planning their wedding was the only source of mild discord in our community with Phai wanting to plan the nuptial ceremonies and Kul and Kwan insisting it was their prerogative.
Rich was enjoying teaching in the school and helping with the artist workshop but knew that he would have to return to the UK one day to start a career. He was aware living too long in Thailand would compromise his resume. He did confide in me that he intended to return to England with Ploy and Lawan when Lawan was five years old so he could get her into the British education system. He and Ploy were happy to marry but neither of them wanted the expense and palaver of a big wedding or having to find a house. They were content to continue their current living arrangement and save money until they moved to the UK. He planned to take Ploy to Bangkok, obtain papers from the embassy and get married surreptitiously in a civic ceremony later in the year. I suspected the ladies of our community would not let them escape a celebration so easily.
At the end of the month we collected our second artist group from Udon airport. This party were all in their mid twenties and much younger than the previous group. The group constituted two English girls from Coventry and two young couples from Birmingham. On the journey to Chez K introductions were made. Kathy and Sharon were art students who had been at college with Alan and Lisa and they had decided to come away together as a gap year project combining studies with a holiday. Robert was Lisa’s brother and had persuaded his fiancée Kate to come along on the trip.
We followed the programme of the previous workshop but by the middle of the week it was clear they were getting restless. So I despatched my youth gurus Rich and Ratana to collect them and take them into their lively bar in Udon Thani which they thoroughly enjoyed. It was a lesson learnt that younger guests needed entertaining. On the second week the girls in the group were enthusiastic about working with molten metal whilst the lads seemed terrified. I concluded the boys were just a couple of petal dicks and to complicate things Robert could not eat Thai food. We repeated the trip to Nong Khai, and a Morlam festival but also took them to a few western bars near the central plaza on the following evening. At the end of the week we saw them off to Bangkok and their third week in Hua Hin.
The post course celebratory dinner at Chez K was a little more subdued than the previous one. We all agreed this last group were pleasant people but they were not as enthusiastic about the course, and were more difficult to please than the previous party. Ratana reported that being a slightly larger group we had made a little money but agreed we needed to modify the programme to cater for younger guests. I felt it was a good learning exercise.
The next group included two young artists recommended by Diane from Hampton Johnson and Wood, an elderly couple from Edinburgh and a middle aged lady sculptress who wanted to see some of her work in bronze. The party was completed by the return of an old friend, Charles the heir to the Boston banking empire. With the middle floor of Chez K occupied we put him up in the guest house apartment opposite where I had stayed on my first visit. He told me the offer by Nong to share her apartment on the top floor was tempting but the guest house was more convenient and less distracting. I was inquisitive about his return so quickly and he promised to enlighten me the next day.
The two weeks were interesting. Samantha and Theresa the two artists were initially quite reserved and standoffish but Ratana gave them a lot of attention and a couple of lively evenings with Charles in Mikes bar seemed to thaw them. By end of the two weeks they had completely entered into the spirit of things and I was sure they would give a good report to their employers. The Scottish couple Hilda and Albert had bought with them a ¼ size clay statue of their beloved Labrador dog that had recently passed away. Chan guided them through the moulding process and by the middle of the second week they were very pleased with the bronze statue they had created.
Geraldine was an accomplished artist who had already several exhibitions of her work. In her late 40s she was a thin wiry lady with boundless energy and a permanently dishevelled appearance. She had one of her abstract sculptures shipped over from her North London studio and originally wanted to see it converted to bronze however after Chan demonstrated some of the techniques he had developed with Jenifer on the first workshop she abandoned her original plan and begin to work on some new imaginative pieces. She was a prodigious worker and by the end of the week had five unique and quite exquisite clay statues. At the end of the week she declined the journey to Hua Hin and stayed an extra two weeks to work with Chan converting these works into bronzes. The final results were most impressive and we all shared in her pride as we packed them in a crate for return to her London studio.
Seeing Charles again was a delight, I had found him an engaging fellow on his last visit. He told me he was just beginning to settle into his new role in the family business but was frustrated that his father would not give up the reins yet. So he had been using the freedom to develop a few ideas of his own. One was to develop their banking interests in Asia. They had branches in Singapore and Shanghai and he planned to open offices in Bangkok and Hong Kong as the excuse for being in Asia, but first he wanted to make his mark with a big gesture at the Boston HQ. He intended to commission a large bronze statue and install it prominently in the foyer of the bank’s headquarters. It was to be of the four generations of his family. His concept was a full sized statue of Charles, his father, grandfather and great grandfather who founded the company during the time of Roosevelt’s new deal. When he explained the scale of his idea I cautioned him it could cost almost half a million dollars. He smiled and exclaimed “Money is not an issue, I want to make a statement, and I want to let everyone know that whilst I acknowledge my predecessors… I have arrived”.
With the organisation of the artist workshop in the safe hands of Ratana (assisted by Richard) and with Chan comfortable in his joint role as Ajarn and artist I turned my attention to the foundry operations. Pravat was definitely growing into the role of running the lost wax foundry and statue assembly which now employed five people. The workload was healthy as they were getting work from many directions due to the synergy between the workshop and the foundry.
In a recent chat with Gerald he described another avenue he was exploring. Many of the artists who wanted to place commissions to see their work in bronze suggested they visit to supervise the process themselves. He thought this would fit comfortably with the current concept of the artists retreat. He also informed me that Beverly had made contact with another interior design company recommended by Sir Norman by the name of Mien and Moody. They specialised in hand made wallpapers but purchased ornate door handles, light fittings and miscellaneous hardware in surprisingly large quantities. They had been buying from India but were unhappy with the quality and had been supplied cheap brass instead of bronze on a couple of occasions. Although this was a notoriously over mature market they had seen the quality we had produced for their competitors and were keen to do business with us. He believed some of the range would require production by the lost wax process but most could be produced in greensand. They estimated the business could be worth £250k over two years.
I then gave the sand foundry my attention. We had started the sand foundry initially to create capacity for the studio and investment foundry by producing some of the commercial work. The main customer for this section remained the Chiang Mai entrepreneur they referred to as the Chinaman. He had increased his business with us and recently asked we produce a range of small temple bells which suited the sand foundry. We were busy but with the bench contract for Hunt Lunt and Cunningham coming to an end we needed to replace that business.
We were beginning to get enquiries for commercial and engineering castings particularly for chandlers and marine applications but we needed to use sand cores to produce the internal shapes. Although Andreas could always get cores made for us I felt we needed our own coremaking facility eventually. I also considered we needed a facility to cast larger castings as our moulding machines used an 18”x16” mould flask which limited the component size we could make. I had discussed with my engineer pal Alec installing a 30 tonne sand silo to receive dry sand by tanker delivery and a continuous screw mixer to mix resin bonded sands, but our first priority remained improving our melting facility with an electric induction furnace sometime.
Another personal goal was my desire to give some underpinning technical knowledge to Pravat and Nok, so once a week I ran teaching sessions for them introducing them to basic metallurgy, solidification theory and science of foundry technology. They were enthusiastic students and when I saw Nok drawing cooling curves on the foundry wall explaining the principles to Som and Tik a few weeks later, I knew I had lit a fire.
I took a trip to Chonburi to see Andreas and place the orders for pattern equipment for the door handles and light fittings from Mien and Moody. I always enjoyed visiting Andrea’s workshop, he was a most engaging fellow and it was always pleasing to see whatever projects his skilled team were working on. “While you are here” he said to me “Come and have a look at these parts I am machining for a company in Rayong”. He showed me a selection of small bronze gratings, grids and plates explaining they were for a new petrochemical plant on the Eastern seaboard. They were originally being made at a foundry in Ayutthaya but there were price issues so the customer had been looking at finding a Chinese supplier. He picked up two grid castings passing one to me. “This is an example of the parts the Chinese made.” I could see they were rough and poorly defined with lumps missing. I remarked “this is as rough as a bear’s ass”. He then handed me the part made in Ayutthaya. “These look much better”; I said and asked “how much do your customers pay for these?” When he told me I exclaimed “We could make them for that” Andreas laughed and declared “I would have bet money that you would say that.” I continued “I can see their problem is they are made using resin bonded sand systems which is expensive, but they probably don’t have the skills or machines for greensand. Our moulds are cheaper than resin sand ones because we reclaim 95% of the sand and our clay binder is a fraction of the cost of a resin binder”.
Andreas observed “I am losing money with the stuff from China because at least 40% are rejects and I have to sort through them”. I thought for a moment then asked “if I offered to make them for 10% less than the price from the Ayutthaya foundry, do you think your customer would be interested?” Andreas smiled “I can certainly ask and to be truthful I would rather you made them as you give me the pattern work and I can always find you if there were ever a problem, whereas I have no idea about the Chinese supplier”. He continued “there are five parts with an immediate requirement for 1000 off each and a follow up requirement later in the year”. I was keen; they would fit in our moulding flask and would keep our sand foundry busy for a few months.
That evening I went into Pattaya with Andreas. After dinner in a pleasant Germanic restaurant in the north of the city we take the baht bus down to Walking Street. Andreas is good company and we explore a few bars ending up in Heavens Above at the top of Soi Diamond. Andreas clearly has a regular arrangement with a lady there so we say our farewells. I make my way to Secrets bar where I had booked a room for the night. As soon as I enter I am joined by my friend the long legged Mo and we catch up on our respective news. I also bumped into my pal Bennie the Ocker philosopher making one of his rare visits into Walking Street. It was good to see him and he quickly updated me on his latest projects with the orphanage and handicapped children. I told him about my ventures in the Isaan which fascinated him. He immediately suggested it would be a great place to bring some of his disadvantaged kids for a short adventure. I recalled his words of wisdom about our duty to always help others less fortunate and went along with his ideas with little argument. I hadn’t realised what I had let myself in for.
The next week I received a phone call from Andreas, his Rayong customer was willing to try us out on the gratings. I cheekily suggested we went halves on the pattern equipment for the first part and to my surprised he agreed. I then requested he give me as much draft and taper on the patterns as the tolerances would allow.
The next month Bennie came up to the foundry with some of the boys from the orphanage. They arrived in two minibuses with a group of adult volunteer helpers who pitched tents around our rustic refectory building. There were 12 lads aged between 8 and 13 and most had minor disabilities but it did not affect their joy and youthful exuberance. Whatever is said about the Thais I have found them to be very tolerant of disabilities.
It was arranged that those helpers who could not sleep under canvas would spend the nights at Chez K for a reduced rate. This did not include Bennie who as a hardened old ocker happily slept in a sleeping bag outside the tents despite my offer to stay with Phai and me. Pan had established herself as camp mother and had roped in the other ladies to help with the catering and organisation. A huge buffet awaited the lads on their arrival which they devoured with great enthusiasm.
Phai had organised some traditional Thai games for the boys, the one called “snake eats tail” involves the children forming a line behind the mother snake as she defends the tail to prevent the father snake from eating it. Another game I had seen the children at Phai’s school play was “tiger eats cow” entailed the lads forming a circle to protect the cow from a lad who takes the role as a tiger. It also involved lots of animal noises being made.
Later in the afternoon when their shift finished Pravat, Nok and the guys from the foundry joined in the revelry and organised some more rowdy activities which included tyre racing with sticks and old bicycle tyres. They also organised a boisterous football tournament until it became too dark to see the ball. Nok lit a camp fire which they all sat around listening to Pravat telling ghost stories until the lads finally rolled into the tents totally exhausted.
The next morning after a hearty breakfast the boys trooped into the studio where Chan had arranged a demonstration of clay modelling. He had cleared a space and prepared a large mound of wet clay. The lads spent the first hour rolling around in the wet clay to great shrieks of delight. Once their exuberance had subsided Chan set them to work creating models of animals and birds which they entered into with youthful enthusiasm. At lunchtime we got the lads out in the field and I hosed them down to remove the clay which had totally coated their bodies. This led to an impromptu water fight with the water pistols Phai had distributed to them with the instruction they should soak me, which they did with great relish.
I had noticed Pravat working quietly on the band saw earlier that morning but he was very secretive as to his purpose. After lunch Pravat revealed his work, a dozen wooden guns with a simple trigger that would fire elastic bands. The lads followed Pravat like the pied piper into the adjacent field where Nok was waiting with a big box of rubber bands. They divided the boys into two small armies and let battle commence. Pan and Phai were aghast as they watched the boys shooting rubber bands at each other with great joy. But when one of the younger boys began crying after being hit in the face the ladies decided to act. Phai stepped in and confiscated the weapons admonishing Nok and Pravat for being irresponsible. The sight of Pan chasing the mighty Pravat with a huge yard broom was a sight to behold. The look of fear on his face as his mother got a couple of good blows in was a source of great amusement to everyone watching.
After supper the lads all sat in a circle around the camp fire whilst Nok regaled them with tales of his time in the Thai army which included stories of him parachuting into Myanmar to fight rebels in the mountains and bravely defending a temple on the Cambodian border. As his stories got increasingly incredulous the body count would have embarrassed the director of a Sylvester Stallone or Steven Segal movie but the boys were totally enthralled.
I asked Pravat about Nok and Thai military service and he explained every Thai male is expected to do military service at age 18. The year he was eligible the district had supplied their quota of volunteers so Pravat was excused duty. However a couple of years later the district had failed to find enough volunteers so draft officers had performed the conscription lottery, unfortunately Nok drew a red ball so had to serve 18 months in the army. I commented that from his accounts he had experienced an interesting military career. Pravat laughed “I know Nok spent all his time in the vehicle workshops in Korat but we should not spoil his stories.”
The next morning Ratana arrived with a box of paints and brushes. The lads enthusiastically began painting the now dried clay models they had made previously. Chan Pravat Nok and I finally gave a demonstration of metal casting but only after following strict safety precautions insisted upon by Phai and Pan. Stood behind a sturdy Perspex screen and with Pan, Phai, Ratana and Acheron holding firmly on to them the lads watched with awe and wonder as the sparks from the incandescent metal illuminated the foundry building as we poured a series of moulds. Afterwards Pravat retrieved the confiscated wooden guns (with the trigger mechanisms removed) and told the boys to paint them. The level of artistry and passion they employed to make their guns look authentic would have impressed a military historian. Later that afternoon they took their new weapons into the field for a battle only a young boy’s imagination could invent. All the helpers joined in providing combat noises and no doubt reliving their own military fantasies.
The next morning the camp was dismantled and with tearful farewells the lads were herded on to the minibuses. I was hugged by one of the younger lads, a cheerful little scamp who answered to the name of Ling. He told me next time he came he was going to bring me a rubber tree as a present. I was moved by his consideration but asked why a rubber tree? He explained he had seen Chan use latex rubber to make his moulds so if we planted rubber trees we could get our rubber for free. I knew it takes over 12 years for a rubber tree to mature enough to yield latex sap but nonetheless I told him I thought it was a wonderful idea and thanked him. The huge happy smile he gave me as he jumped on the minibus will stay with me to my dying day.
The next week the pattern equipment for the first of the petrochemical plant grids arrived. Nok and I mounted them on the moulding machine and we discussed how to tuck the sand to get an even compaction. The first mould lifted from the pattern as clean as a whistle which was a testament to Andrea’s patternmaking expertise and Nok’s rapidly developing moulding skills. By the end of the week we had produced a sample batch we were confident to send for approval.
Chan was excited about the project for Charles but it was turning out to be somewhat of a challenge. The commission involved starting from scratch and creating original statues. This was feasible for Charles and his father who were still alive and able to pose for Chan but with his grandfather and great grandfather amongst the choir invisible they presented more of a problem. Fortunately there was a full size marble bust of his great grandfather in the board room in Boston and a ½ size bronze bust of his grandfather at his father’s home. However getting accurate dimensions to copy these would either involve moving them to Thailand or Chan travelling to the USA.
It was Mali who came up with the solution during one of those lively Sunday dinners with all our extended family in attendance which included Charles. Chan was discussing our dilemma with Charles when Mali suggested capturing the images of the statues digitally. I knew a little bit about scanning technologies and its limitations and mentioned the perennial issue of data “clouding”. Mali gave me a look that suggested she considered me a relic of the Stone Age and explained if we used a CMM (Coordinate measuring machine) with a STL format the triangular surfaces generated would minimise these problems. Seeing my uncomprehending expression she laughed “no problem you not know all thing, I will contact USA bureau of our company tomorrow. They will scan the statues and capture the data on a STL file then send to our Udon office”. She continued “We can make 3D model on our rapid prototyping machine”. With a final “Can do no problem” it was clear she considered the issue closed and she would make the arrangements. I looked at my friend Chan who merely raised his eyebrows and smiled.
By the end of month I felt the desperate urge to return to the UK. I knew my interests were in safe hands but I felt I was turning native. Outside of my immediate friends in the wonderful community I lived in I had concluded that many of the other Thais I had dealings with were thieving conniving hypocrites. I found the endemic corruption I regularly witnessed most exhausting. I was worried that I was beginning to accept this was normal behaviour and I needed to get back to the UK and renew my perspective. So following the customary tearful farewells from Phai I returned to England in time for the British spring.
I stopped over in Bangkok on my way home and booked into the Nana Hotel as usual. It was mid afternoon when I arrived so I popped my head into the Golden bar. I had text my old friend Kae that I was coming and was pleased to see her waiting for me. She was dressed in tailored cream slacks and a simple classy silk blouse that she wore the first time I saw her over a year ago. She always presented an understated elegance that still seemed completely out of place with her surroundings. She greeted me with a Thai kiss putting her cheek against mine and sniffing deeply at my ear. The Thai kiss is a gesture that you feel touches the depths of your very soul. She was clearly excited about something but waited until I had settled on my stool and taken the skin off my beer before telling me her news.
With a huge smile on her face she excitedly began” I went for another interview yesterday with your friend Wanaporn and he has offered me a job as a clerk in his law office” I took her hand and exclaimed “Wow that is wonderful news, when do you start?” with a squeal of delight she announced “I start next week and I finish job with bar today already” Ignoring the convention about public displays of affection I swept her up in my arms and gave her a huge hug. I asked her were she wanted to go to celebrate. She astounded me by replying “I want to go with you to your room” when I recovered from the surprise I remarked “but you never go with customer” She gave me a smile and replied “you are not customer anymore you are my good friend” I directed her towards my room with somewhat indecent haste before she changed her mind.
Once in the room she explained she now felt very good about herself but realised just how she lonely she had become. She desperately wanted some human intimacy and as I was the only person who had shown her any kindness she wanted to make love with me. She admitted she was still shy about her mastectomy which I fully understood. I suggested she may be more comfortable if she kept a tee shirt on during our intimacy. I suggested I shower first then she shower alone. I gave her a shirt to wear that I said would protect her modesty. I showered quickly and let her take her time with her ablutions. She finally emerged from the bathroom wearing a West Bromwich Albion shirt (small youth size) which although covered her upper body as she desired, barely covered her lower parts. She looked quite delicious with her slender coltish legs and appeared more like an 18 year old than the 38 she actually was. Her mudgeon was neatly trimmed rather than shaven which looked delectable. I was very gentle and considerate with her but when I introduced Mr. Tongue to her dithery bit she responded with gasps of ecstasy. When I finally entered her she was as tight as a mouse’s ear precipitating an early conclusion to proceedings. She stayed the night with me talking of her plans and dreams and our subsequent lovemaking was tender and affectionate. As she slept in my arms I could not fail to notice how delicate and vulnerable she appeared.
Was the experience worth the long wait I had encountered? Of course it was …and then some. The next morning she helped me pack and came in the taxi to the airport to see me off. I wished her well in her new life but told her I hoped she would not forget me completely and occasionally let me know how she was doing. I was genuinely happy for her as I had a real affection for her. I mounted the plane with some warm thoughts about this last trip.
When I arrived back in the UK my pal Devin phoned me telling me he had important news to impart. He always had a sense of Drama but I agreed to meet him.
The next morning I get the Jag out of the lock up garage I keep it in when I am away and drive to Devin’s office in the town centre. I am greeted by a big smile from Danielle the beautiful receptionist. As I sat in the boardroom Devin’s demeanour indicated he had a bombshell to drop on me. Seeing my worried look he began “You remember that worthless strip of land I bought last year that I have been using for car boots and weekend markets? I did recall it and remarked “yes it seemed a strange decision at the time” I saw a faint smile begin to appear as he said “Well the new hospital nearby desperately needed the land for car parking space so I sold our strip to them for a cool four hundred thousand pounds” I was speechless for a moment but recovered enough to recall he only paid £80k for it and laughed. “You jammy bugger, you must have had some inside information to make a killing like that”.
He leaned back in his chair and began to explain” A few years ago I was doing some conveyance work for the Local Authority and got sight of the plans for the new hospital. Even then it was obvious they had seriously underestimated the amount of land they would need to purchase”. He took a sip of his tea then continued “I indentified a small plot of useless scrub in a strategic position as a future ransom strip. I bought it for £40k; it had no apparent worth so my purchase stayed under the radar. However I really needed the adjacent field to get access to the road to be of any value and I was fully stretched. That was when your money became a godsend as it allowed me to buy the second strip I needed.” He paused for dramatic effect “I actually got my initial investment back from the weekend markets and car boot sales but with the new hospital finally being built I knew eventually they would need our land.
“A few months ago the hospital authority finally woke up to the fact they did not have enough car parking space in their plans for the hospital to become the major regional facility. Last month they approached me with an offer I initially refused, but when they offered £400k for a piece of land we paid £120k for and is only really worth half that, I snatched their hands off”. I was totally lost for words but Devin broke the silence” I suggest we reinvest £200k of this into our business but I think we should take a profit of £100k each from the windfall. In fact I have already deposited it in your bank account”. I smiled and inwardly reflected this had come just in time although I was not quite destitute my finances were definitely becoming a little stretched.
At the end of March it was the Cricket club’s annual banquet and dance which was the highlight of the social calendar. This year we booked a table and I invited Sir Norman and his wife Suzie as our guest of honour. Our table constituted Devin, his wife Liz, Angela who ran the Grey power agency with her husband Pete and Gerald. Gerald was enigmatic when I asked who he was bringing along as I knew his ex wife would be badgering him to take her. Although they had been divorced a few years she had the delusion she still owned him. I also invited Danielle our delicious receptionist but when I asked who she would be bringing she astounded me by telling me my eldest son Matt would be her escort. When I later quizzed him how he had managed to land such a catch he told me they met at our offices and they used to chat when he was visiting Beverley about the schedules for the bench contract.
At the last two banquets I had taken beautiful exotic companions. The first time it was Cindi my Indian princess and the second time the tantalising oriental Orchid. I now had standards to maintain so this time my obvious choice was the delightful Dr Beverley who accepted my invite without hesitation.
On the evening it was noticeable the best looking couple in the room was Matt and Danielle who looked like a young Audrey Hepburn in a little black number. I must declare my Beverly also looked ravishing in a white cocktail which showcased her flawless dark skin and drew almost as many admiring glances. Sir Norman looked resplendent in a white tuxedo accompanied by his wife Suzie. Suzie had been a model and still retained a trace of her good looks if they were a little overblown these days. We all expected Gerald to bring his ex wife so I was delighted to see he had spurned the harridan who had caused him such misery and bought along Jade one of the little mixed race poppet’s from the lap dance club I had introduced him to. Jade looked lovely in a cream coloured tight mini dress. It showed off her slim figure to great effect. I sensed she was a little overawed by the surroundings so I went out of my way to make her feel welcome and comfortable.
Suzie was performing her usual prima donna act complaining about everything and making a spectacle of herself but after a while everyone ignored her childish behaviour. However when she made a couple of unnecessarily snooty remarks to Jade, Beverley tore into her calling her an ignorant, self centred, hideous old hag. This was completely out of character for the cultured Beverley but I was pleased she had defended the sweet natured Jade. When she finally realised we were not impressed by her odious pretensions Suzie finally behaved herself. I had noticed Norman said nothing during these exchanges and I had a feeling she had finally worn out his patience. I suspected his attitude and perspective had changed since he had been bitten by the Thai dragon. After an hour Suzie feigned a migraine and returned to her room.
Once she had gone the evening was a great success, the food excellent the band entertaining and the company exceedingly convivial. Beverley was attentive and charming to me but I could not fail to also notice the electricity between Norman and her all evening. I suspect my affair with Beverley was coming to an end and Norman was about to replace me in her affections. I did wonder what role Sir Norman would be playing in the role play games Beverley had a penchant for. Maybe he would be a marauding warrior knight and she a wanton damsel waiting to be ravaged. I would be sad to lose Beverley, she was a treasure and I would certainly miss her active imagination but wished her well. I could only hope Norman had all his affairs in order and his doctor had given him a clean bill of health before he embarked on an affair with the spirited Beverly.
Over the next couple of months I kept fairly busy. I accompanied Gerald on some of his college visits and spent time with Beverly on some exciting new projects. I also did a little consulting work for the Grey Power agency with a small Aluminium foundry but it was not particularly onerous and still had some time on my hands. I did a few hours a week as a visiting lecturer at the local college and spent a few pleasant weeks catching up with my family, meeting up with old friends and making some new ones. I felt the corner had turned in my fortunes. I was only living half the year in the UK so the £30k I was earning was the equivalent of a £60k income. I was a relatively wealthy man and living in the UK seemed a totally different place with a bit of money in ones arse pocket.
I also found I was receiving a fair amount of interest from women who now appeared to see me in a different light. I found myself being introduced to some elegant and entertaining women of my own age. Katherine was a retired headmistress skinny and energetic, Yvonne a stylish widow of independent means and Penny a chubby doctor with a keen sense of humour. I got the impression they were not looking for a husband or even a lover but merely male companionship for social activities. I actually enjoyed squiring them to the theatre, concerts or dining out once a week. There was no pressure to impress other than a little mild flirting and I could relax in their company.
Unexpectedly it was not just women of my own age who were showing interest. I was receiving attention from a few younger females but I deduced they merely saw me as a potential sugar daddy. Most disturbing was the 28 year old daughter of a friend who came on to me quite blatantly and saw no problem with my age simply because I had money. I must declare most of them were quite vacuous; they had a long list of requirements they insisted upon in a man but were clearly willing to compromise on these simply because I had money. What was amusing was many of these women would criticize Third world females who they saw with older western men as prostitutes or opportunists. I must admit the phrase pot… kettle…. black comes to mind. I concluded the same mercenary instinct exists in women all around the world it was just a question of degree and opportunity.
I maintained close contact with Thailand. Phai would phone me every evening just before she went to bed. Ratana would email or phone me every morning and even Kul would phone me once a week to impart the local gossip. After two months in the UK I was beginning to miss my friends in the kingdom. Much as I was enjoying my current sojourn in blighty I was inquisitive about the various projects being undertaken. I was missing my youngest son and my new family; it was time to return home.
To be continued