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Losing Direction

  • Written by Ishiro
  • January 7th, 2015
  • 12 min read



This morning I dug out an old CD by Ricky Skaggs – "Country Gentleman – The Best Of Ricky Skaggs" and on it I found so many songs that transported me back to Bangkok in early 2000. It was like being there all over again with Natalise in our apartment in Sathorn – yet, in other ways, it was very different. Different insofar as I was looking at things with deep introspection of how events unfolded and what were the contributing factors that caused things to come undone.

Many readers may find similarities with this recounting of events – and, although the end result was not something I had chosen to occur, I can still look back with smiles and a few tears – and feel the magic of that period in Bangkok and of the early times shared in Australia together.

For me, Ricky Skaggs is the epitome of the country music genre – a master guitarist and mandolin player – who has a voice that stands head and shoulders above all in his field. His recordings and live performances are rich in pedal-steel accompaniment along with sympathetic fiddle breaks that tug at the heart-strings. He sings of life as it should be – but I sometimes question if the sentiments expressed are more of wishful thinking than of true reality. It would be wonderful if his wishes were to become the normal behavior of all. One particular song – "Old Kind Of Love" – just about captures all that I feel from that period – written by Paul Overstreet.

Not long after we took occupancy of our apartment, I was forced to make a trip back to Australia to generate more AUD – and I was away in Oz for around 2 weeks. Nat stayed in Bangkok in the apartment and I made sure she had adequate finances to tide her over until I returned. Each night at 10 pm Oz time, I would call her and we would chat for a half-hour – both of us expressing the feelings of missing each other. Sometimes, she would play another Ricky Skaggs song – "Cryin' My heart Out Over You" – on the CD player over the phone – always resulting in both of us shedding a few tears. Back in Oz, I stayed at my daughter's town-house, where she and her partner were always supportive.

Back in those days I always flew with Qantas/BA because my daughter works for Qantas and I got staff rates, being family. However, I changed my mode of travel to Thai Airways International – somewhere around July 2000 – and I have always flown with Thai ever since. It was always more convenient with Thai, as they had direct services both ways into my home city – thus avoiding the hassles at Sydney.

There was one evening when I called Nat at the normal time – but the phone rang out – and you all know how the mind reacts to that. I guess I tried more than a dozen times before dawn came – and I was finally able to reach her around mid-morning. Her reason for not answering the phone was that she went and stayed with her young sister. Was that unreasonable? No, of course not – but the seeds of distrust were now sown – suspecting that she really may have been out on the town. I may have been totally wrong in thinking that but the suspicions were there and there was nothing I could do about that.

Back in Bangkok, life settled into a normal pattern for us and I guess I was happy with that as I continued with discussions with Nat and her family about us going back to Australia. I did have somewhat of a battle to convince Nat and her elder sister that Australia would provide a better life for Nat and, later, for her two daughters. By this time, Nat had begun negotiations with her elder sister to transfer all of her stock over to her sister – who also ran a clothing outlet in Silom.

In August, I obtained a Tourist Visa for Nat to Australia and we lived for a while in a small rooming house right in the middle of the city. It was very convenient – but what a comedown from what we had been accustomed to in Sathorn. Still, it was home – and it felt like that too – with Nat taking great pride in making our first meal together there – a nice Thai green curry (Kaeng Khiaw-Waan Goong – แกงเขียวานปลากุ้ง). She did warn me it was hot.

Life was not always a cakewalk – with Nat being the owner of a jai rorn – resulting in both of us declaring that we did not wish to marry. However, in October, we married in the Thai Wat Buddharam. Don't ask me why – we just did. But it was a lovely ceremony – far more spiritual than any marriage ceremony I had ever seen in Farangland. I was very happy. Still, I was disappointed by my daughter's actions – not once inviting Nat and I to her town-house nor visiting us – after all the promises my daughter had made about making Nat welcome. Of course I stood by Nat and supported her against what I saw as an unjustified "snub". This action of my daughter has resulted in she and I having been estranged ever since. I don't regret that – and I would do it again to protect and suppport the person whom I love.

A couple of weeks after marriage, we returned to Thailand to seriously tackle the issue of abtaining Provisional Residency for Nat in Australia – but, first, we visited her family in Prasat. After reurning to Bangkok, I submitted an application for another Tourist Visa – along with the application papers for the Provisional Residency Visa. While the processing of those applications continued, I returned to Oz to work – while Nat stayed with her family in Bangkok. By November, she had been granted another Tourist Visa (this time 6 months) and the wait began for processing of the Provisional Residency. Nat was back with me in time for Christmas 2000.

It was always my aim to help Nat to integrate into her new environment as well as possible – but I also knew that she needed the support of people from her own culture. To this end, I encouraged her to visit the Thai Wat Buddharam and to cultivate a circle of Thai friends from there. That was successful to some degree – but it didn't make up for the fact that Nat was missing her two young daughters back in Thailand. Of course, they were to be included on the application for Provisional Residency – but that would also involve Nat having to obtain sole custody of the girls from the Family Court in Surin – and that did not occur until 2003. Nat is not a patient person – most things she wants need to be provided yesterday – so, of course, the road was sometimes a bit rough.

I loved the 6 months we shared in our flat at Kedron – it was more homely than the apartment in Sathorn. Each afternoon, we would walk hand-in-hand along Kedron Brook and along the many walkways that snaked through the parklands. In season, we would go picking green mangos for Thai salads – and life was all that I had expected or needed, being with Natalise. The downside was that I did battle with Australian Immigration to get the "No Further Stay" clause removed from Nat's Visa. That battle continued for the whole 6 months and caused a high degree of stress for me and a lot of anguish for both of us. What was the point of making her return to Thailand when the application for provisional residency was lodged with The Bangkok Embassy? Yes, I know – regulations and procedures must be followed. I had even considered both of us doing a runner and going into hiding – not a very lucid idea, I will admit – but I was coming to the end of my tether.

I was fortunate to be able to invoke a measure of political clout and to strike a deal with Immigration that resulted in Nat being given a very-short turnaround time in Bangkok – and she was back with me inside a couple of weeks – with her Provisional Residency Visa. I was happy and satisfied.

I set Nat up with a small importing business – with her as a sole trader so she had her plate full with attending Tafe College, as well, for English lessons (not that she really needed them). Nat already spoke English very well but she did need the literacy aspect of English – writing and reading. Life settled into a nice routine as we came to an arrangement with Immigration to defer the granting of the Provisional Residency Visa for the two girls until the Court proceedings in Surin were complete. That did not happen until 2003.

After the 2003 visit to Thailand to bring the girls to Australia, life became more hectic as school had to be organized and the market scene still had to run for the sale of the imported goods – and it wasn't long before stress fractures began to appear. It probably began with Nat finding it hard to be a businesswoman, student and mother at the same time. I took as much of the load off her as possible – taking charge of homework with the two girls, running them to school and picking them up in the afternoons. The "grunt" side of the business was also handled by me, collecting Customs-cleared cartons from the Customs agent at the airport and helping Nat sort and store the goods. I also did all the set-up and pull-down at market locations as Nat's skill was at sales. Bookwork for taxation was also done by me on computer – as well as on-line ordering in Bangkok.

By 2004, the rot seemed to have set in – with Nat becoming more and more disenchanted with early starts to set up market sites – so she decided to take the offer of a position with one of the major hotels as a room attendant. Things went from bad to worse, as she had a new level of independence, had a driver's licence and a desire to taste the night life of the city. She cancelled her ABN and deregistered the business. You must already know the end result.

It's probably unfair to say that I was no longer needed – but that is how it felt. It ended with her telling me that she wanted to move away with the girls to get a place of her own. It was not something I wanted but I knew it was easier for me to move than it was for her to move. I stayed with a friend for a couple of weeks, before Nat said it was OK if we got back together again. I moved back again – but it was short-lasting. Two weeks later I had to leave again as thngs were never about to be the same.

By now, I was hearing rumors that she was dating – but I still persisted with talks of a new start. That went on for almost a month, occasionally us meeting to share a drink or a meal – but everything semed to be gone that we had previously. By November I decided to go back to Thailand and holed myself up for a week in a nice suite in Baiyoke Sky, before heading up to Chiang Mai for my first taste of Lanna – a taste I was to savor for a long time.

I will include the lyrics for the song by Ricky Skaggs – written by Paul Overstreet:

Old Kind Of Love – Ricky Skaggs

It’s the newest craze in town
There’s an old kind of love goin’ around

Husbands are being true to their wives again
Women are taking care to take care of their men
And families are really growing strong
‘Cause mamas and daddies are holdin’ on

There’s an old kind of love goin’ around
A new generation has found
And it’s a mighty welcome sight to see
‘Cause things are getting back to the way they used to be

When hearts could stand strong against the wind
And though the times are tougher now than they’ve ever been
It’s the newest craze in town
There’s an old kind of love goin’ around

Pedal-steel break

Young girls are waiting for their wedding day,
Young men are patient 'cause they’re there to stay.
The world is searching for the truth it seems.
And people are saying it’s a brand new thing.

There’s an old kind of love goin’ around
A new generation has found
And it’s a mighty welcome sight to see
‘Cause things are getting back to the way they used to be

When hearts could stand strong against the wind
And though the times are tougher now than they’ve ever been
It’s the newest craze in town
There’s an old kind of love goin’ around

It’s the newest craze in town
There’s an old kind of love goin’ around

Pedal-steel outro.

If only those lyrics were true … I would love to believe Ricky – but I'm thinking he is a super-optimist, along with Mr Paul Overstreet.

While I was in Chiang Mai, Nat told me she wanted a divorce – and we both attended the divorce hearing in early 2006. I never wanted that divorce – but I would not make matters difficult for Natalise.

Was I too overbearing, dogmatic or authoritarian? I didn't think so – and it seems as if none of my friends thought that was so. All I ever wanted was for Nat to be happy and the kids to have a better life than in Thailand. That certainly has proved to be the case for them – and I genuinely am happy that is so. Nat knows she can always call on me for any support she may ever need – and she has called on me a few times. I will always do all that I can for her – but the days of physical "grunt" are over. There are still strong feelings for Natalise and I doubt that will ever change – there was a lot of "magic" back there.