Out Of The Formicary (7) – Someone Said To Me, “You Know That You Could Be In Love, With Almost Everyone.”
This is essentially another ‘what I did on my holiday’ submission. My intention had been to submit once a week from Thailand. That did not happen. Each ‘episode’ was either fully written in the time period it is related to or written up from notes made in that period. To make full or any sense of the ‘episodes’ it is (I’m afraid) probably necessary to first read this.
On the 12th February Pa and I were going to Cha Am.
Cha Am was not a random choice (unlike my choice of travelling companion) – it had been decided before boarding the Jet Airways “Sloop John B” at Heathrow Terminal Four nine days previously.
The choice had been made because of the recommendation of it by my good, good friend Manny and because it was somewhere I had not been to with Nang.
However tempting it is to ‘live’ in memories, (I am constantly tempted) it must, in my opinion, be deemed necessary to make new memories – even if they turn out to be memories of ‘bad stuff’.
To feel and remember any ‘stuff’ is better than not feeling or remembering anything – that time will come to all of us eventually! And that’s not just my opinion – John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes, (ˈkeɪnz/ KAYNZ; 5 June 1883 – 21 April 1946) agreed! The great man’s most memorable quotation, contained in his “Tract on Monetary Reform, 1923” is, “In the long-run we are all…” (Finish the quotation yourself! Hint. The final word in the quotation is not, “Albanian.”) The medical ‘community’ (I hate that term) concurs.
I was already remembering the last nine days:
1. Of being on a journey across a large part of the face of the globe in the ‘Sloop John B’ (including ‘the experience’ of Bombay airport – and yep I still know it’s not called that anymore). A journey my great-grandparents could not have undertaken, a journey my grandparents and indeed parents would have seen as impossible for them, a journey that my son and I did take (yep, I have a son). A journey that he cannot take again. My son is now BIG in the environmental movement in the UK (if I told you his name you could ‘Google’ him – I am, in my small time way, impressed by that. I am not going to tell you his name). He is against air travel. I joke with Ant (my legal wife, remember her? I do, with caring and love) that every time a plane falls from the sky, “He’s at it again. Bad boy.” Anyway it’s all to do with making a hole in the ozone layer – I’m of the opinion that this must be a good thing as surely planes could get to their destinations quicker (without the need to stop in Bombay) via flying through the hole, in a similar way that worm holes in space hold the prospect for speedier space travel. He told me it’s not as simple as that. Ho hum…we have not had contact for several years. But we did go to Thailand together in simpler, less complex times (2006). Nang (yes her again) was very proud because people thought he was her son (as unlikely as that is, given that he is seven foot plus while she was less than three feet tall (probably an over and under estimation… but still). Anyway a good time was had by all. Memories – one memory leads to another memory.
2. Of simply being in a different culture with all of the confusions and surprises and loss of cash that entails.
3. Of being in ‘the Mothership’ – the worlds’ premier hotel has a micro-culture all its own (in my opinion)
4. Of being with Auy for two days (and nights) and now mercifully not being on the verge of going to Cha Am with her (as had been the original plan).
5. Of not having had a night of wild, psychotic tumblings with Koy (as had been my plan).
6. Of being in Ekamai (again).
7. Of being about to go to a new place – Cha Am with Pa! And creating new memories.
Foreign travel does not, in my opinion, ‘broaden the mind’ – it simply empties one’s wallet quicker than would have been the case had one stayed ‘at home’ – the upside is that the rate of acquisition of memories is far greater when ‘travelling’ than when sitting in one’s living-room watching the TV.
The taxi arrived on time and off we went.
Once beyond the concrete canyons the journey became as dreary as most road trips in Thailand are. (As always, in my opinion) Thailand is a land of ‘smoke and mirrors’, all too often an ‘emperor with no clothes’, an empty vessel, a land of self-inflated national ego (not sustained by the objective reality but underpinned by the readiness of farangs to give into the all pervasive cultural bullying of the myopic Thai population!!)
True, the fields had palm trees, coconut trees and stuff that was ‘exotic.’ But exotic to whom? Me? “Yes”. To Thais? “No”. Did the exoticness make it more beautiful than views of patchworks of wheat, oilseed, and fields of cows or sheep? NO! Not more beautiful but simply different (and dreary). Occasionally there would be glimpses of towns – you just knew they would be the usual dreary stuff – dusty concrete.
OK, OK, Thailand is a ‘poor country’ – Thailand is not a ‘poor country’ any more (again a myth sustained by the Thai population to defend their cultural inadequacies).
The journey was enlivened by the exotic driving of other road users.
But mostly I remember the journey because of Pa’s behaviour.
I AM A SMOKER. Yep, I know it’s wrong and I fully deserve to have three of my four limbs severed (my right arm can stay because it’s bloody useless anyway) and the remaining lump of me thrown to ravenous wolves, but there it is. In my space: my home, my hotel room, my car, I will SMOKE. In your space: your home, your hotel room, your car. I will not SMOKE (unless invited to – without the invitation you will (mercifully) not see much of me). I was in a taxi – not my space. BUT I now have a back-up, electronic fags. For me one (of the many) attractions of the glorious habit is the ‘holding’ of the cigarette – smokers will understand (!) so an electronic fag will temporarily suffice. I smoked the ELECTRONIC cigarette.
Pa’s shrilling became more and more intense, a scarf was produced and held to her mouth, coughing and sputtering was accompanied by opening a window of the taxi (which the cab driver put a stop to). Inwardly I was in convulsions of laughter and took more and more delight in smoking, outwardly I feigned not to notice. Sod her.
This cameo performance confirmed to me that which I already suspected, that for some (not all) smoking is not a matter of health or the smell of smoke, or fire hazard but has become some kind of half-arsed moral issue. I can only guess that as genuine thinking about morality: what is good or bad, worth striving to achieve or striving to avoid etc declines, so it has to be replaced with certainties involving trivialities: of smoking (and holes in the ozone layer).
Oh well, all good laughs have to come to an end. We arrived in Cha Am.
I was not overly impressed. But there was sea to see – better than the view from my living room window.
The view from my living-room window in Kilburn, London.
Anyway, I knew there would now be ‘fun and games’.
On the recommendation of my good, good friend Manny I (we) were to stay at ‘Tony Guest House.’ There was no reason why a Bangkok cab-driver or Pa should know where this is in Cha Am. A local was asked. We ended up at ‘Tony Hotel and Restaurant.’ I knew this to be wrong but enquired about nightly rate anyway. 3,500 baht (or something). I declined. Pa shrilled because I had not accepted, but there was a hotel that she knew about – 900 baht but she didn’t know where it was. The taxi driver was similarly helpful, a hotel for 700 baht, but he couldn’t quite remember exactly where but we could drive around (and around and around… and around) and look. No thanks.
OK, phone Manny (he was in Thailand, in Isaan, building a house). He knew where we were in relation to the desired location. His phone was handed to his significant other and mine to Pa and the taxi driver in turn. Directions were given in Thai – communication. The call ceased. “Ok. We go?” I said cheerfully. “Go where?” said Pa. “I know hotel 900 baht, ok?” said Pa.
I phoned Manny again. Ok, I and he handed our phones to no one. So I walk thirty-nine yards down the soi to where it joins the beach road, beckon the taxi to follow. ‘They’ reluctantly do so. Turn left and walk maybe fifty yards, beckon the taxi to follow. ‘They’ reluctantly do so. Another fifty yards and there I am – ‘Tony Guest House’, beckon the taxi to follow. ‘They’ reluctantly do so.
I thank Manny, ‘Mission Impossible’ completed.
Ok, “Three nights?” “Yes” “600 baht a night?” “Yes.” Deal done.
Travellers’ Tip # Number Seven. I unreservedly recommend ‘Tony Guest House.’ 223/31 Raamchit Road, e-mail Tonyemail@example.com. It has all you can expect for 600 baht for two. It’s 300 for one person if you book on line. What makes it special is Mel (Cat) and her side-kick. Truly decent, non-intrusive helpful people who don’t speak English (why should they!). Their smiles are real god dam it.
Check-in, to room and shower. Then out.
A Wednesday is not the best time to arrive in Cha Am. It is the day the beach is cleaned, so no deck-chairs or colourful parasols, it’s all rather bleak. The 12th February 2014 was a Wednesday.
We walk maybe 500 yards having turned right on leaving Tony’s – my good leg is really hurting. I want to stop and eat, every time we pass a restaurant I say, “We stop here?”. I am ignored by Pa. Then Pa says, “I want eat. You must pay – you know that.”
Right. We eat.
We return – my leg is really, really hurting. With some relief we go to bed. With some relief no coupling.
The next day, a day on the beach – Pa fully clothed.
Cha Am beach, afternoon 13th February 2014 (honest!)
That night I was wrestling with the nature of hooker and hooked relationship. OK, it is mediated by the cash nexus but, given that we were to be together for one month, should we not be making a better fist of getting along with one another on a simple human basis? I thought so. Pa clearly did not think so.
The shrilling about smoking had reached levels inaudible to human hearing. I was only aware of it because dogs for blocks away were barking and glasses were shattering. Moreover, she hogged the TV remote control to facilitate the viewing of Thai soap dramas. (No, no… it has been scientifically proven that Thai soap operas will cause the brain to turn to mush within minutes of exposure). I retreated to the bathroom for an hour! And smoked.
What? Surely this could not, apart from anything else, reflect the power balance of the hooker and hooked relationship. So, back from the bathroom with the resolve to ‘have another go.’
But then, after a while of silence, Pa said, “You owe me 4,000 baht.”
It transpired that the conversation by the pool at the ‘Mothership’ had not been a conversation – there had been no communication. Pa had not understood that for her this was to be an (all) expenses paid months holiday. She expected 2,000 a day on top of expenses. This made her behaviour more and more inexplicable! 2,000 a day for shrilling, remote hogging, fully clothed sun-bathing, endless tales of her hair-salon (yea right) and bemoaning the fact that she was fat (she was not fat) and…no coupling (desultory or otherwise).
I demurred. There would be no 2,000 baht a day. I revisited the pool-side conversation. No recall.
“I phone cashier bar” said Pa with some anger.
The cashier was phoned.
“I phone police” said Pa with great anger.
OK, “Phone the f*%king police.”
It was 10.30 at the night.
“Look, here is 3,000 baht – if you get out NOW.”
I can think of no greater insult than someone paying me to go away. For Pa? I don’t know, sod it, she’d got 3,000 baht for two days of hard, hard work + two day’s living expenses minus the cost of a bus back to Bangkok and the cost of a room for the night in Cha Am.
Where she stayed that night I don’t know (and frankly don’t care), perhaps she remembered the location of the 900 baht hotel, more probably she booked into another room in ‘Tony Guest House’.
Over the next two days I received many calls from Pa but my amazing £5 phone has many features – including the facility when called to ‘Accept’ or ‘Reject.’ I always pressed ‘Reject’.
Farewell Pa and good luck with the hair-salon.
Now it is undeniably true that my choice of partners is very similar to my choice of taxis – I get into the first that comes along that is vacant. Indeed someone said to me, Markin “you could be in love with almost everyone.” While it is true that ‘I think that people are the greatest fun’, I feel my being with Pa disproves the proposition of being ‘in love with everyone’ or perhaps it proves the statement of ‘almost everyone’. Who knows? Not me.
But I do know that the sum total of memories had been increased.
(Sorry but…) That’s not all folks.