Peeking Above The Parapet
I am aware that the clock is ticking for Stick's departure and I can sense a mood of mild panic for certain contributors to get submissions in before the party ends. I have always found writing my Stick submissions to be extremely cathartic and cheaper than therapy. I still have a few issues I need to resolve before Dr. Stick closes the surgery door for the last time. <Don't worry. I should be around until early 2015 – Stick>
I will acknowledge my melancholy missives are not to everyone's taste. I suspect like Marmite you either love or hate my contributions. However I am informed many readers enjoy my tales. They are repetitive, sometimes slightly misogynist, often annoying but have been described as peeking into a loony friend's diary.
The catalogue of my adversity with English women has become the stuff of legends and a byword for calamity. My misfortunes are recited in the four corners of the globe, questions are often asked in parliament, sagas are told around the camp fires of Mongolian yak drovers, Kalahari bushmen regale their children with stories of my tribulations. The four horsemen of the apocalypse consider me an inspiration. Or maybe I exaggerate slightly.
When a local restaurant contacted me on Shrove Tuesday that they had all the ingredients for a giant pancake but just needed a big tosser I was mildly offended.
I must confess I had felt a little down of late, it was not the debilitating black dog of depression I experienced a few years ago but more the small brown puppy of introspection and languor.
It is always a series of small things that bring on the mild melancholy. The first was a demand from HM Revenue and Customs for tax owed which had to be paid by the end of July. It would appear they expect you to pay income tax every year which is most unreasonable. This wiped out the small amount of money I had accumulated for a Siamese sojourn so it was good bye to said sojourn.
The second was hearing a number of my middle class friends expounding that they had now paid off their mortgages and their pension schemes had come to fruition. This was hardly endearing to a chap renting a modest slightly run down one bedroom flat in an extremely run down rust belt town. There were lots of little repairs needed around the flat and my vehicle at 14 years old was showing real signs of wear. Although I am somewhat inured to my reduced circumstances, it does not engender a feeling of well being. I appreciate almost everyone had been adversely affected by the meltdown in 2008 and the subsequent recession but my income is half what it was 20 years ago, never mind 6 years ago.
I had also been despondent about my work history. In the six years since the great crash of 2008 I have had six short term jobs and included a two-year spell on the dole. In fact I have had 18 jobs in 20 years which did not look good on my resume. It was getting that the last thing I needed was any more experience. However I am happy to report the last two years I have been employed in the education of foundry engineers and ironically that wide and diverse experience has finally been to my benefit.
But other than that it is only being miserable that keeps me going.
Although seeing the departure of my last few quid to the taxman, I had not completely lost hope for a trip to Thailand. There was the possibility of a short teaching project in India which could still fund it. It involved teaching a programme of casting technology two days at one centre then travelling 1,000 miles to the other side of India to present another two days. The project was to be in July and being financed by United Nations money but as usual had far too many fingers in the pie.
I was to do the job for a rate then my institute put on a margin, the local college who subcontracted it to us (because they had no one competent) would put a margin on. Somehow there was an Austrian intermediary who would also take a cut. An Indian academic institute would take a cut to say nothing of numerous officials with their nose in the trough. It is worth noting that no one in this gravy train made any contribution or added any value to the process. I knew the project would be challenging as the end client would have a list of requirements additional to the contract and Indians will always want value for money but it would be up to me to alone to deliver.
I resolved I was not going out to India (where there is always the danger of losing your life through your anal orifice) for £50 a day. I insisted on a rate of £250 a day which is reasonable and considerably less than the general rate for this type of foreign assignment. Of course by the time every one in the chain had added their own margin I reckon the end client was presented with a quote of £2000 per day which was far too much for the nature of the project. Not surprisingly the project was cancelled. I expressed my annoyance at the greed and stupidity of every one in the chain explaining that whether they added a 30% or 200% margin, 100% of bugger all is still bugger all. I do despair at the idiocy of those involved.
As this was my last option to fund my trip to the Kingdom I had to finally cancel my plans. Maybe it was time to finally put my obsession with Thailand to rest.
The deferring of my Thailand trip provoked the thought I am never going to have sex again. I had not experienced any intimacy since May 2012 in Bangkok on the way home from China. I had not even had a date with a white woman in the UK for some time; in fact it was almost 18 months ago. You may recall the tale, she was a lady pianist. We found we had numerous interests in common and I felt the date was a success. The next day she texted me informing me that she enjoyed my company but did not feel a spark between us. I replied if that if I had known she was expecting a spark I would have tasered her.
In my last missive I mentioned my best pal was having a mind altering extra marital affair with an exceptionally beautiful woman 15 years his junior. With the confidence such good fortune imparts, he felt the compunction to offer me advice about my failures with women. I feared the worst.
No matter how well intentioned it is, there comes a time in life when you don't want or need to receive any more advice on women. I have been subjected to a ubiquitous list of platitudes and wise counsel from countless sources for many years. I knew in precise detail all my faults and what I do wrong, so the last thing I needed was more constructive criticism or advice.
I was a little bemused by his enigmatic comment that I was “fishing in the wrong pool” but his remark I was not meeting women of my own level pulled me up sharp.
After years of abject failure with British women and a similar lack of success with UK based Thai women, this sounded extremely ominous. With my low level of expectation I felt I could not go much lower than the circles I was moving in. I could hardly bear to imagine the shrivelled old hags that would be at my level and expressed my horror to him.
He laughed and explained what he actually meant was I was not meeting women with my level of intelligence. I was relieved but disappointed at being told the blindingly obvious. For all my many faults it would be false modesty to say I was not mildly intelligent.
I also had an overpowering feeling of déjà vu.
When you find yourself divorced in middle age the initial urge is to replace the lost wife with an enhanced version of her and hopefully one who will give you sex more often. You are programmed by the expectations of western society and middle class culture. You want a nice woman near your own age that looks acceptable and dresses appropriately. With a reasonable education she follows world events and can hold her own in intellectual discussion. She has integrity, is not extravagant and wasteful. You want her to have social skills, be able to use a knife and fork and drink without losing control. She should share your values and aspirations and can fit in with your social circles. Hopefully she can also contribute a few quid to living expenses.
The first shock you receive is these women do not exist. More accurately they do exist but are certainly not available to you. Most are already married to men of status. Many are divorced and living in a three bedroom semi with the money they got in the divorce settlement from their previous husband. They no longer want the unpleasantness and inconvenience of a relationship with a man. If they do, they are invariably seeking a man substantially younger than themselves. The second shock is because of this at 55 the only western women you can interest are 65 year olds.
I spent a few years joining activities like choral societies, mixed choirs, theatre groups, yoga classes in fact any associations I considered I would meet intelligent educated middle class women. The result was most disappointing I found even if you shared common interests or similar education these women were not immune from the feelings of entitlement engendered by contemporary western culture. They remained under the delusion that George Clooney or Colin Firth were waiting for them.
I did however get more than my share of attention from ladies in their 60s and 70s. Unfortunately Postmenopausal English women tend to look like overstuffed mattress and have permanently pinched expressions on their faces. They like don't like sex (blowjobs? Dream on!), they organise the tombola at the church fete; drink nice cups of tea, refer to almost everything outside their narrow terms of reference as disgusting. They are prone to martyrdom, have numerous ailments and often smell of lavender and liniment. They have strident opinions on most things irrespective of knowledge of the subject. They will not entertain any social discourse on pain of death between the hours of 1900 and 2030 whilst Emmerdale, Coronation Street and East Enders are on TV.
I will confess in the absence of alternatives I did take out a couple of elderly ladies and experienced a few amusing incidents. There was one lady a few years older than me who after I had spent a significant amount of money entertaining her over three weeks finally allowed me back to her house. I worked very hard on her sofa getting her aroused. I had her sagging left tit in my mouth and was easing her substantial panties down when she asked me if I had a power drill. I quickly determined she was not suggesting some kinky sex play but throughout my amorous efforts she had been thinking of the maintenance jobs around her house that needed doing.
I suspected that once the menopause has dried up their fannies, all older women really want is a companion to drive them to the shops, doctors' appointments and mow the lawn. I concluded if I wanted a woman to jump my bones occasionally I needed to look elsewhere. At that time I resolved to persist with the Thailand option.
That was some years ago and so return to the recent conversation with my friend. His comments would probably prompt me to make an audit of my life again, a futile process I seem to repeat every six months. He was perfectly correct that I was never going to find a woman who was intellectually challenging in the karaoke pubs I was frequenting. I recall an observation made that the middle class meet their future spouse at the office whilst the working class meet their partners in pubs.
I had recently taken my pal to a couple of the hostelries I frequent and I could see the shock and horror at the rough nature of the establishments I patronised. As a professional man who moved in more genteel social circles it was definitely a jolt to his sensibilities. It was this experience that prompted his well intentioned attempt at advice.
I must explain since my first divorce and the decline in my circumstances I had moved towns and effectively left the middle class, an institution I had previously been a member of for 20 years. Although I had not cut myself off completely from my middle class links and still attended certain events with a circle of friends I had known since childhood, I saw no great advantage in extending my participation in middle class activities beyond those close friends. In my reduced circumstances I perceived myself as their charity case which I appreciate was grossly unfair to a group of friends who genuinely cared for my welfare but a feeling of defeat does not enhance rational thought.
Although I occasionally enjoyed the social intercourse of intelligent company and some charming females I was still not meeting any ladies who were available. My pal commented that he had seen me perform at social functions and remarked I was charming witty and extremely entertaining. I did have to explain that whilst I accept I can perform as required it is never to any avail as none of the women I impress are ever available.
He also expanded upon his fishing in the wrong pool remark. He speculated that the area we lived in did not help and suggested living in the Black Country conurbation with the local women engendered a morose resignation. He tendered his experience of women from towns on the periphery of the conurbation like Stratford, Shrewsbury Worcester etc where he met a wealth of attractive charming middle aged women in the course of his profession. He felt they saw his down to earth pragmatism and dry Black Country humour as an interesting alternative to the local hooray henries and rugby club oiks. His theory was compelling but I remained unconvinced it was applicable to me. I had lived and worked in many towns around the country in the past ten years. I had not noticed geography to make the slightest difference to the intrinsic tendency for middle aged British men to be totally invisible to British women.
I did not want to appear negative to my pal's very well intentioned observations but one definition of insanity is doing the same things over again but expecting different results. After years of fruitless effort trying to meet a nice English woman there comes a time to let go of any aspirations in that direction in order to maintain one's sanity.
I did concede for some time now I had been hiding myself away in an alternative world of working class hostelries. A couple of years ago I realised I was “Billy no mates” in my adopted home town so made a concerted effort to correct this. I began singing in the karaoke and participating in pub quizzes in an attempt to make friends locally. My endeavour was moderately successful and I gained a circle of acquaintances that provided company. My social life consisted of a circuit of pubs singing a couple of numbers engaging in inane conversations about nothing and probably drinking too much. Subconsciously I had been aware this existence was pointless and unproductive but had not felt the urge to articulate it.
Like a visiting anthropologist my pal had observed in my desire to avoid loneliness I had dug myself into a deeper rut. I refuse to disparage the community I had joined they were all decent hardworking folk struggling to get by in a difficult world. They were friendly people who enjoyed simple pleasures but whilst everyone had made me welcome I could not fail to feel they considered me as an oddity. I was the scholarly old gentleman who occasionally won the pub quizzes and was always good for an amusing tale or a song or two.
I will admit the vast majority of the women above the age of 30 in these pubs are almost clinically obese. There is even a noticeable absence of discernible waistlines amongst the younger females. It was good for me that I was no longer invisible and most of the females would talk to me but I will confess a degree of frustration at the superficial nature of most conversations and short attention spans I experience. If a dialogue lasted more than three words their eyes would glaze over. I joked with them that they had to remove their bras to count to two. But most disquieting was the lack of any ambition or aspiration beyond surviving the daily grind or getting bladdered on a Friday night. Like Charles Handy's boiling frog metaphor I had failed to notice my own metamorphosis…..I was slowly turning into one of them.
Now if this story was in an uplifting novel the hero would be inspired to gird his loins pick himself up and re-enter the fray with a flurry of action and purpose.
In truth I have neither the energy nor the inclination to re reinvent myself as a dynamic go getter. I am probably a lost cause and too far gone down the path of destitution to rejoin the middle classes. Although not altogether comfortable sitting between two worlds and not fitting in with either, I am appreciative that there are millions of people less fortunate than me. I have been content with my lot so remain unsure how to proceed. I can not fail to observe if my pal hadn't decided to give me a poke I could have remained in blissful ignorance happily ambling along until the grim reaper came to collect me. I now feel compelled to act and it is most unsettling.
There remains a single light on the horizon. With the establishment in September of the new National Training centre offering regular employment and an increase in my earning potential it may provide the platform and motivation for a renaissance in my fortunes. If I can be bothered that is.
Of course there always remains the Thailand connection. Ignoring the luckless episode with my Thai wife as a mild aberration I have had some delightful experiences with Thai women. Over the years I had met a few Thai ladies from Thai Love Links. I had met up with some of them on my Thailand trips which offered a diversion from my mongering activities. They included nurses, teachers and shop assistants. Over the years there had been some attrition in the list. Nan had met a young French man, I lost touch with Anna, Rose decided I was a waste of her time, Su married a policeman from Newcastle and Sa recently got engaged to a chap in Chester. I had not refreshed my inventory as my trips became less frequent. In fact there was only one lady who still conversed with me regularly. In 4 years we had progressed from TLL to the more intimate MSN.
Phai is a teacher from Yasathon in her late 40s, and although we had chatted for some years we had never actually met. She is friendly and sweet-natured and we would chat amiably every week. Last week she popped up on MSN and I could sense an unusual coolness in her. When I enquired how she was I received the tirade “You never contact me…it is always me who contacts you” I thought to myself is this a five minute argument or the full half hour? Sensing she was angry at me for some perceived sleight I asked what the problem was. After a small delay she remarked “I have found new man, my friend introduce him to me because I am tired waiting you” she continued “He is Swedish man who will take care me”. I told her I was genuinely pleased for her which surprised her somewhat. I hadn't realised she held a candle for me and I thought she fully understood that I could be little more than a pen pal. This probably confirms what an unobservant tosser I am.
It also confirmed how futile my activities on TLL actually are. Although I do have contact with interesting older Thai ladies living in Thailand, in reality I can do little about them from 5,000 miles away.
I very rarely get any interest from Thai ladies living in the UK. I have been ambivalent about UK based Thai women of late as my last two experiences were quite painful. Nee was a Thai lady in her 50s, I spent months entertaining her to little avail until she upgraded to a better option. Dee was in her 40s and used me as her personal taxi driver and supplier of twice weekly dinners. We never kissed and would have remained in the dreaded friend zone till infinity if I hadn't pulled the plug after a request from her for money to buy a car.
Contacts on TLL from UK based ladies are as rare as rocking horse droppings so it was a pleasant surprise to receive a message from a Thai lady living in a city in the West Country. Ever the optimism we exchanged notes for a few weeks until I took up her invitation to meet. She had lived in the UK for 8 years, was separated from her English husband and now worked as a chef in a prestigious hotel in the city.
She suggested we meet in Bristol to see the Harbour festival. I didn't trust my aged vehicle for the journey so travelled on the Saturday morning by train. I couldn't find a budget hotel as they were all full so booked a room at the Radisson. At £180 a night it was a bit rich for my usual taste but in for a penny in for a pound I thought.
At 54 Pan was essentially an elderly Thai lady but when she smiled she lost at least 10 years and was quite attractive. She had booked dinner at The Edge, an impressive Thai restaurant next to the hotel. The food was very good, I let her order and typical of a Thai female she chose seafood and ordered enough dishes to feed an Issan village. The bill came to £80 but as she was delightful company I did not mind.
After dinner we strolled around the waterfront area amongst the thousands of festival revellers. We found a lively pub and discovered she was quite a chatterbox and fun to be with. There is something enchanting about Thai females in general. Maybe it is their often child-like sense of fun and innate femininity. She did not take much persuasion to come back to the hotel with me and slept in my arms. Although she remained fully clothed and no intimacy occurred I enjoyed the closeness. I found her reticence understandable; she was a conservative Asian lady so I would not expect any impropriety on a first date. In the restaurant she had dressed demurely in a blue dress which gave her elegance. She later changed into a summer top and skirt which made her appear young and vibrant. I joked I had been with two ladies, a classy older lady and the other a young exciting girl which seemed to delight her.
The next day we took breakfast in the hotel then went for a stroll around the lively harbour area. We took a bus to a city centre shopping arcade and enjoyed a pleasant if expensive lunch in a Sushi bar. She came to the railway station with me to see me off. On the journey home I reflected on the weekend and considered it a success. We clearly enjoyed each other's company. She even laughed at some of my jokes, a good indication that she actually liked me.
There is a sensitive subject I would care to share with my reader. With me not enjoying any sexual activity for sometime there is the pervading dread that “if you don't use it …you lose it”. An apprehension I probably share with many readers of a certain age. For the sake of my sanity my sexual desire has been in hibernation for some time now. I must report that my weekend with Pan, although no physical intimacy occurred and she slept with me fully clothed she definitely awoke my slumbering libido. I had a noticeable tumescence most of the weekend and although I probably couldn't bend an iron bar around it, for a man of my age it was most encouraging. I have felt uncharacteristically rampant since meeting her.
The next day we exchanged a few text messages that confirmed she had enjoyed the weekend and was keen to see me again. I asked her what she had reported to her friends and she replied “I told them you are a lovely man but you smoke.”
A little disconcerted I respond “I want to quit but can not promise I will be able to within the week.”
She responded with an unexpected tirade about how she hated the smell and it makes her sick etc. She expanded her theme by explaining how she finished with her husband because of his smoking. I couldn't let this go and tendered the observation that she had left her husband after he lost the house in a doubtful business venture and found a new girlfriend. We did not continue the conversation as the battery on her phone went flat.
Now before I receive a mountain of mail haranguing me and sermonizing about smoking, I am patently aware of how unpleasant the habit is and confess it is the bane of my life. I could understand her standpoint. My only defence (excuse) is it has been a comfort in difficult times and I have lacked sufficient motivation to quit. As an aside, my pal Codefreeze recently told me about how his brother became a veritable babe magnet almost overnight when he quit smoking which certainly gave me food for thought.
I beg the reader's indulgence for a moment to suspend their abhorrence of smoking and think beyond the immediate issue. I put it to the house that with any woman (particularly Thai women) things are never quite what they seem. In a world of smoke and mirrors I always suspect a subtext to any statement from a female.
I believed in this case the subtext was… I enjoy you coming down entertaining me and spending money on me but can not be bothered with the sex bit so I am using the smoking as an excuse for not having to engage in any intimacy. Now I will admit maybe the mistrust from my recent experiences had turned to paranoia. I have an almost pathological aversion to falling into the dreaded “friend zone” with a woman being taken advantage of, spending money and time with never any hope of ever getting into her panties. I don't need any new expensive friends; I have enough mates that I don't have to spend £100 a week to keep amused.
I did a quick calculation; the weekend had cost me almost £400, if it took 3 more trips before I enjoyed the mildest intimacy I could have spent £1600, a figure that would have got me a flight to Bangkok, 10 days in the Nana Hotel and 5 or 6 quality tumbles with girls from the Plaza. Now I appreciate this is academic as I don't have £1600 and any subsequent visits to see her would involve budget hotels and a few sensible economies. By then I would have determined whether we would develop a relationship or if I was destined for the dreaded friend zone.
I am willing to acknowledge I was perhaps being a little unfair to the lady but I was disappointed. I really liked her and genuinely thought we could develop a relationship. Later that evening I sent her an email explaining that I could understand her aversion to my unpleasant habit. I expressed my disappointment as I felt we liked each other but stated if she felt so strongly about it and could not find a compromise, it was with regret that I had to say goodbye to her.
The next day to my surprise I received an email from her asking I forget what she had previously said.
I'm so sorry that I disappoint you on Monday. I just told you my past in the last 5 years. I also very like you …… more than to be problem with your smoke.
I like your personality you are really gentleman. Don't worry too much about smoking. I still happy with you, you can see that when we together.
I'm only to shy to kiss in the first visit. we never know each other before. Maybe because I'm getting too old…!!!
I'm really happy that you come down and spend lots of time with me last week. XXX
I'm not looking for a rich man but i looking for good man who like to look after me. And i will look after you too. When find you I'm really happy. xx
Yes you right..!!! Me too I'm not getting younger. But i love to keep young for you.
Looking forward for you to coming to BBQ with us. hee hee here is young Pan…!!!
I never fail to be dumbfounded by Thai women but was pleasantly surprised to receive her note and have resolved to see her again in a few weeks time. I am not entertaining any great expectations but I am certainly looking forward to meeting her again.
You know what?
Sod rejoining the middle classes, they can keep their intellectual pretensions and deluded womanhood. From today I will focus my energies on feminine Thai woman and quitting smoking.
Watch this space.