Nine Years On
A previous Stickman contributor said something to the effect that no-one can really comment about whether Thailand used to be better than now if they weren’t actually there to experience things for themselves. For younger people though, I’m sure this is irrelevant – it continues to be a fantastic place, and whenever I’m in Thailand I always visit Samui where I spent six weeks on my first trip in late 2005, and the fun and frolicking on the beaches, in the bars and in the nightclubs, is exactly the same now as it was then. However, Samui is more a resort for the hedonistic type of holidaymaker, and is more expensive than most places in Thailand, so maybe it isn’t a very good example.
I discovered the Stickman website shortly after I returned to the UK in early 2006, and within a few weeks had submitted my first piece describing my time with a Thai lady who I met on the second day of that first trip. We’ve been together ever since, and she’s just completed her seventh year living in the UK, where she’s established herself very well – although I’d be the first to admit that her first year here was extremely difficult for us both, and we nearly didn’t make it. The turning point came after a (nearly) tragic incident, when her eight year old daughter who came to the UK with her, suffered a serious accident at school. She needed a life saving operation, and we desperately drove 120 miles to the children’s hospital where she’d been taken by ambulance, to the nearest paediatric surgical facility. We were there with her for nearly three weeks while she recovered, our having rushed there with only the clothes we stood up in. Somehow, this shared traumatic experience brought the three of us much closer, and things have gradually got better since then.
Although I read a newspaper only once a week, I religiously visit the Stickman website every day, and there is always a pang of frustration for me when no new readers’ submissions are published on any particular day. (I know, send a piece in yourself then!) Sunday mornings are looked forward to because of Stickman’s weekly report. My respect for Stickman as a person rose considerably, when one day in February 2011, I read of his experience in ‘Cyberbullying and Karma’ about a nut case who tried to destroy both him and the website. It wasn’t so much about what happened as it was the way Stick dealt with it, and of course the final and satisfying outcome. I then realised that some time earlier, I had quite by chance been referred to the ‘nut case’s’ website from a forum I had come across when browsing. Somehow the whole site felt dirty and distasteful, and I never went back there, and made myself forget all that I had read. I’m glad I did that, because it was clear that Stick’s website, and his way of doing things, has an integrity that you don’t find everywhere.
Paradoxically, I don’t really feel the need to meet Stickman in person. This is because I am happy with the friendships and relationships I have already, and from one or two things I have read over the years, I see that Stick is very careful (and wisely so) about the people he sees and the friendships he maintains in Bangkok. Of course if I bumped into him by chance I would be happy for a beer and a chat, but it’s enough to know there is at least one person with integrity out there, and Bangkok’s loss will be Auckland’s gain, or wherever else he is planning to be.
I have to say that in reading so many reports about Farang-Thai relationships over the years, I have always referred back to my own marriage to a Thai, and have wondered how it has survived thus far. I can’t give any advice to others about this, only to say that my own method has worked for me up to now. My wife is NOT different, she holds most of the prejudices and strange (to us westerners) beliefs and habits that most Thai women seem to possess, one way or another. I have learned not to confront her about any ideas or behaviour I find unacceptable, and as time has gone by I have also learned that there is often a strange logic and sense about many of the things she does. She has quite a controlling nature, but has gleaned more from what I have not said than what I have said, that I will not allow this to go too far. We are both far too independently minded to allow the other too much leeway, but I can appreciate that in any emotional exchanges couples have, the male is unlikely to be the winner. I choose my battles carefully!
Conversely and like it or not, she has become a little more anglicised and accepting of the people and the way things are done in the UK. There’s a lot less of the ‘when in Thailand’ remarks. Most importantly, she has not limited her friendships to only other Thais in the UK, but has several British friends too. At the outset, she was also rather contemptuous towards some members of my family, but as time went by, and with extreme patience from yours truly, things improved, and she helped take care of my father in the final two years of his life. I would say her grief when he died earlier this year was perhaps greater than my own.
Finally, a word about change in Thailand. It is inevitable, and will happen for many reasons, no matter how many would wish it otherwise. I am not put off a possible future of living in Thailand by knowing this. One reason is that the deterioration of society may be happening faster in my own country than it is in Thailand, but this is very much a personal view and you can disagree if you wish. I have never judged things by simple economics or what standard of living I can attain with such and such a level of income; to me, these are ridiculous reasons if they are the only ones used to judge. The level of harm being done to the people of the UK by the present administration is unforgivable, and if enough people vote them back in again it would mean for me that it is not a country in which I would wish to stay much longer, even though I was born here.
I do wish you well Stick, in whatever you do. If at some far future date you decide to return to Thailand and take up the reins of the website once more, then I doubt there would be a single objection. But somehow I doubt this will happen.