My Pal Phil
Saturday May 15th saw the passing of that legendary Bangkok man about town, Philip Pascoe. He died of a heart attack in a hospital in Udon Thani although the full circumstances of his demise remain the subject of some conjecture.
To many Bangkok veterans he will be recognised as the large curmudgeonly old geezer who regularly occupied the seat next to the toilets in the Tilac bar. He would often be seen in this location he referred to as pole position. More often than not he would be observed with a three-day old copy of the Daily Mail doing the crossword puzzle whilst the girls danced in front of him.
I owe an apology to Union Hill and Bangkok Barry as I did not comprehend just how unwell he actually was when they informed me of his illness. In penitence I thought I would pen this submission in tribute to the old bugger. I know he would appreciate it as he enjoyed writing obituaries himself.
Phil knew most of the principle characters on the Bangkok scene and was even old enough to know Bernard Trink. On occasions when I would complain of Phil’s latest act of parsimony, Union Hill would defend him on the grounds that Phil was the oldest guy he knew.
I must confess most of my reminiscences of Phil involve stories of his thriftiness and his amazing ability to “skin a fart for a baht”. He knew all the bars that had cheap beer or the locations of free buffets on every day of the week. He was also famed for being the only guy who negotiated a credit note for a barfine from a Bangkok gogo bar after a disappointing starfish experience.
He had knowledge of the Bangkok bus routes that no farang should ever posses.
Phil was an Asia man of long standing. He had lived and worked in many Asian countries but considered Bangkok his home for 30 years. He first came in 1983 to the Kingdom as South-East Asia sales manager for Chubb Locks and Safes, a UK enterprise with a long tradition. Phil was extremely knowledgeable, highly respected and was successful in that position. Always a resourceful fellow, after his retirement he kept himself employed taking on various consulting jobs, detective work or anything from which he could earn a few honest shekels.
I first met Phil in the UK some 12 years ago on one of his occasional visits to his daughter, Claire, in the fair city of Sedgley. I had worked with Claire, had been friends for some time and lived just around the corner. She was eager to introduce her father to me and we hit it off immediately. I recall his inviting descriptions of the delights of Bangkok but as I was married at the time it held no attraction to me then. Two years later my circumstances had changed and I was persuaded by him to make a visit and thus began my own fascination with the Kingdom of Thailand.
I have many memories of being with Phil both in the UK and in Bangkok. The UK highlight was the wonderful day of his daughter’s wedding. It was the only day I can recall he remained on his best behaviour for a full day.
He was a big-hearted fellow who would never knowingly do or wish any one any harm, but he could be a most aggravating bugger at times. There were a couple of occasions when I would have to pacify someone driven to violence by Phil’s sometimes annoying manner.
I remember taking him to the Hawthorns to see an important Albion match that would give us promotion to the Premiership. It was a great atmosphere and our seats were amongst the most ardent of Albion supporters. I had to threaten him to shut him up when a group of shaven headed Baggies fans took issue with his imprudent comments about what Arsenal would do to us the following season.
Although he frequently took the art of penny-pinching parsimony to new heights, he more than compensated with a generosity of spirit. He was always an entertaining companion and he had a wicked and dry sense of humour. I recall wearing a new (rather garish) shirt I was quite proud of. After an hour of conversation he paused, looked at me over the top of his spectacles and remarked in the manner of a Victorian headmaster “Young man, I have been meaning to talk to you about that shirt all evening”.
But it was the times in Bangkok that are the most memorable to me. In 10 years I have visited 12 times and there we always spent some time together in the environs of Suhkumvit. On my first visit he introduced me to Scottish Jim and Dr David and on subsequent visits to Bangkok Barry and Union Hill. These two scoundrels became the nucleus of Phil’s group of pals. It was Phil who also introduced me to the Stickman site, so he has a lot to answer for.
Although he would often berate me for grammatical errors, repetition or my lack of discretion, he enjoyed my aphorisms about Thai girls in West Bromwich Albion shirts (small youth size) and my reference to one girl having pussy lips like Harry Rednapp’s eyelids clearly amused him. He always took a fatherly interest in me and I think he was secretly pleased I was a regular contributor to the site. I know he took a similar pride when Bangkok Barry or Union Hill posted contributions.
Phil also wrote a number of submissions over the years. They were always witty, informative, very well-written and grammatically correct. His trip down memory lane and history of the Nana Plaza penned in 2005 are worthy of perusal as are some of his travel reports. The most notable contribution was the amusing observations on Motoring in Thailand penned jointly with Union Hill which can be found on Submissions page 8, 13/9/2005. Phil was also a regular winner of Stick’s weekly “Where was that photo taken?” competition which involved a free drink in a small bar in Soi Cowboy at the time.
His big-heartedness was often demonstrated by the times his experience was called upon by the British Embassy (in an unofficial and unpaid capacity) to assist British nationals finding themselves in distress or extreme difficulties whilst in Bangkok. I know a few people like my pal Dr John who were indebted to Phil when they initially arrived in the kingdom to work. Phil’s advice, guidance and generosity in sharing his invaluable contacts certainly eased their integration into their new lives in an alien culture.
His cycling played a large part in my memories and we would often collect his bicycle he had left chained to the railings at Asoke junction after a night in Soi Cowboy. His cycling brought him into contact with dogs, a group of creatures he detested, specifically the canine variety. He got into scrapes with them all the time when out cycling on the mean streets of Bangkok. On one occasion he was bitten he had to have an anti-rabies injection. In the true spirit of thrift he opted for the extremely cheap serum made from horse fluids rather than the potentially more successful one made from human serum. I recall him telling me about a friend who had 2 prize dogs of some fantastic pedigree. His friend regularly expounded the virtues of these dogs and how they were the master race of their breed. One day a cobra got into their compound and killed them both. Phil’s comment was an illustration of his irreverent wit "They were these fantastic prize dogs…but the snake wasn't to know that."
Although a regular at Nana Plaza since its opening in 1988, by the millennium he had switched his allegiance to Soi Cowboy. Sitting one evening in Rawhide he told me he had given the name to this bar when the proprietor had initially suggested Long Gun 2 as its name. Recent years saw him associated with pole position by the toilet in the Tilac but on my early visits his venue of preference was Dollhouse. We would also frequent Tilac (in its pre-renovation days) when the happy hour at Dollhouse concluded. It was following the renovation of Tilac that it became his spiritual home…at least during happy hour. He had become a permanent fixture and all the girls knew him. Sitting in Tilac one evening one of the girls approached him distressed at a text message she had received from one of her sponsors. The message enquired “What has happened to the 12,000 baht I gave you?” Phil took the phone from her and sent the reply “ALL GONE SEND MORE.”
It always amused me that even though he had lived in Thailand for 30 years he had not become jaded and would interrupt the conversation if a pretty girl passed nearby with a “Look at that one there.”
On my last visit Barry, Union Hill, Phil and I had a long dinner at the Nana Hotel so by the time we got to Tilac we had missed the happy hour which really put Phil out of sorts. He threatened to go to Rawhide instead declaring “If I have to pay 140 baht for a beer I may as well see some tits.”
Phil also liked to select my women for me and would often advise me if he felt I had made a poor selection but in fairness he never wrongly directed me. I recall on my second visit he took me to Tilac and spent all night shooing away all girls from me, saying he had been grooming a girl in readiness for my arrival. When the delightful Poot finally arrived I barfined her with indecent haste. She was an exceptionally graceful specimen and I have probably not been with a more striking creature in all my subsequent visits.
For a couple of years the Big Mango bar in the Nana Plaza was a popular location amongst the Stickmanites. It was in this bar that Phil first introduced me to the sainted Stickman. I also recall it was the venue for the highly successful get-together of contributors to the site organised by Stickman. Phil knew most of the congregation and had an irreverent anecdote about all of them.
The boo-sa bar in Soi 7/1 was another fund of good memories. One bar Phil could not take to was Country Road in Soi Cowboy where I would invariably take my current squeezes to, as he considered it a poor man's karaoke. We occasionally frequented Patpong but did not explore much beyond Safari or Queens Castle 2.
Pattaya was also on our radar. I met Phil there whilst on a couple of his detective jobs undercover. He recommended the Opey which became my hotel of choice. He introduced me to the civilised Palmers Bar and the delightful Hippo restaurant in the Welkome Inn Complex which is sadly no more. We also frequented many less salubrious establishments such as the Buffalo bar.
Phil was married three times. He had two daughters, Caroline and Claire, from his first English wife. He also had Nick and Nadia with his first Thai wife, the only woman I feel he ever truly loved. He was very proud of his children. He married his second Thai wife around 2000. I will reserve comment on this lady other than to observe she was a real fruitcake, a papaya short of a som tam. Phil adopted her daughter and he idolised the child. I believe she was a source of great joy to him in the last year.
I think it prudent that I do not expand on that episode but I do believe his decision last year to give up his apartment in Bangkok and move to the Isaan to be with his adopted daughter contributed to his untimely demise.
He will be sadly missed for his larger than life personality. I will miss his amusing weekly emails to me. I will even miss his partisan comments about Arsenal and his myopic opinions about the English Premier League. Tilac will never be the same without him. Coming to Bangkok won’t seem the same for me now. His passing marks the end of an era.
Thanks for the nice memories of Phil. He really was a fabulous man, so warm of spirit. Many of us miss him.