Getting The Priorities Right
It was sometime in late July 2000 when Natalise and I visited Central World (then, known as The World Trade Centre), one evening, looking for a restaurant. Of all places, we settled on an Italian Restaurant – and, I might add, the food was not the best Italian that I have tried. I should have known better. However, they had a large TV screen playing The Eagles from a DVD. I really couldn't believe how lucky we were to have selected this restaurant for a meal – in Bangkok, of all places.
The DVD was their reunion concert after a 14-year break from playing together – the now-famous "Hell Freezes Over". I had always been a follower of Eagles' music and was also familiar with the bass player (Timothy B. Schmit) from his time with former Country-Rock group Poco – having had all of their LP vinyls. This particular DVD (Hell Freezes Over) was particularly significant to the time with Natalise as well as the time I shared with Wan. Not only did we buy the DVD but we bought the CD as well – and I began performing quite a few of the tracks off the playlist.
It was during the first visit to Australia for Nat and we were staying in a rooming house owned by my daughter's partner (a bit of a Shylock), who owned several of these rooming establishments in the "posher" areas of the inner northside. He catered mainly to Asian students needing a rooming situation with not many frills. The emphasis was certainly on the "not many frills" requirement – but it was within walking distance to one of the venues where I regularly played music. Nat and I stayed there for just under 3 months before returning to Thailand.
Perhaps it may have been precipitated by disappointment in the standard of the accommodation offered to us but we did have one incident that caused Nat and I to come close to calling off plans to marry. It was one evening when I was required to play guitar at a venue only ten minutes away by walking. I had quickly nipped into the loo – but, when I came out, the guitar was gone and so was Nat. I locked up and went out into the street to see if I could see her. A long way down the end of the road, I think it was her – so I hurried up and caught up – and it was her. I didn't even try to find out why she did not wait for me – but she seemed angry that she had to carry the guitar. I thought to myself that she was lucky an amp wasn't needed. Anyhow, she exploded and put the guitar down on the walkway and headed back toward the room. I asked her to come with me but she said "I wait you in the loom".
I thought to myself that's fine by me – but I had no idea what the problem could be. By the time I realized that she had no key to get in, she was already out of sight, so I had to run after her to catch up. Any idea of playing guitar was dead and buried for me – Nat's welfare was more important – I had to find her. My biggest worry was for her to be on the streets of a big city that she did not know – and I was aware of the many undesirable scumbags that often frequent the inner city at night. After searching for her for over an hour, I found her sitting in a bus waiting shelter – looking very alone, angry and frightened. I tried to explain to her the dangers for a young woman on the streets alone at night in a strange city – but I seemed to have trouble in getting through to her.
Next to the bus shelter, there was a church where a couple of ladies were arriving to go in for a service – so I asked them if they could explain to Nat about the dangers in being alone in a strange city and on the streets at night. One of them came over and spoke with Nat and it seemed to help. I thanked her and said to Nat that we should go to a nearby bar and have a drink and talk about the problem. That seemed to work and we stayed to have a couple more drinks before heading back to the room. I shudder to think what could have happened if I had not realized that Nat did not have a key and if I had not gone back to look for her. I would never have forgiven myself if anything had happened to her.
That one incident reinforced for me the enormous responsibility we do undertake when we bring one of these young ladies to a strange city – in the face of the many dangers that lurk there. They truly are our responsibility and their welfare must always be our primary importance.
I remember us making friends with a Thai lady (Junya) and her husband (Eddie) down at the Thai Wat Buddharam – and, when they dropped us "home", Junya was absolutely horrified to see where we were living. She said "You must come and stay at my house – this place is not good for you". It was a generous offer but we were a bit reluctant to impose on their generosity – still, Junya insisted and we agreed to accept the offer. We moved out to her home with Eddie, several days later – two days before we were to be married at the Thai Wat Buddharam. The reason we were renting was due to my having sold off any remaining property here, not wishing to need to worry about property while in Thailand. In all honesty, I imagined that I would be settling down in Bangkok and staying there long term. The last thing I imagined was returning to Australia and the life I had prior to going to Thailand.
My daughter had promised to give us the spare room in the new townhouse she shared with her partner (who owned the block of 3 with his father) – but I guess the lure of renting that out to some "cashed-up" hopeful on a long-term contract was too much of a draw than a short-term tenancy. After all, my daughter's partner did have to run an imported Porsche Roadster with a custom Boxster engine. One does need to look the part of the Rental Tycoon. I pity those poor Asian students. [When I write that I must chuckle to think of something my good friend and Luthier (guitar maker/repairer) Vince said to me. "When I was married to my wife Joan, I would always take my pay packet home to her unopened – when I worked for Queensland Newspapers – and she would give me back ten shillings to last me the week. Now, I ask you, is that fair? I had to run a bicycle, you know!"].
Before Vince was appointed as Authorized Repair Agent for The C. F. Martin Guitar Company, he had been making and repairing instruments for many years while working full-time as a machinist for Queensland Newspapers. However, Vince did NOT own a Porsche Roadster with custom Boxster engine. At that time, he was running a Morris Minor van, that earned him the nick-name of Billy Bunter because it looked like a bread delivery van. Of course, the van was known as Billy Bunter's Bread Van. He did eventually upgrade to a second-hand Hillman Minx sedan, which earned him the name of "The little bastard who drives the little Minx". I think I would have preferred to be known as Billy Bunter. Vince was never pretentious when it came to motor vehicles. There was an old Ford Transit Van somewhere along the way, as well. But I digress.
As Nat's visa was almost due to expire, we continued with our plans to return to Thailand and to go up to Prasat to have some time with her parents and the rest of the family. I guess it was around 2 or 3 weeks after moving to stay with Junya and Eddie that we flew back to Bangkok.
To elaborate on the conditions under which we were living, before Junya and Eddie's kind offer, just let me say that I have seen better conditions in some of the poorer areas of Bangkok – and, with a bit of imagination thrown in, I could have thought we were in some little hovel down in Khlong Toey. The furniture can only be described as rejects from The Salvation Army recycling shop – or perhaps items rescued from the nearest Council Rubbish Tip. Lord only knows what Nat thought of the place. The only saving grace was the fact that it was very close to the city precincts and places where I could play music – and transport was close and very frequent to most areas. For these reasons and the fact that we had less than a month to go before we would return to Bangkok, it was hardly worth the trouble to find an alternative. Fortunately, due to Junya and Eddie, the rest of our stay in Oz turned out to be very pleasant. Nat did cleaning of the house for Junya and prepared the meals while Junya was at work – and I attended to some painting during the week for Eddie while he attended to his job in the city. There was also the garden and young trees to be watered by hand in a watering can on the small acreage property.
Time passed quickly out at Junya and Eddie's home – and it was soon time to prepare for our return to Thailand. When the time came to leave, I felt quite sad to be leaving these generous and caring people – but we had accomplished the first step in the long haul toward getting Natalise her Residency. At least we were now married officially – having gone through the two ceremonies on the same day. The legal one was the Registry Office ceremony required by Immigration – but the ceremony at the Thai Wat Buddharam was the most important one to me – it was just beautiful, spiritual and very meaningful. In the three times I have been married previously, the ceremony at The Thai Wat Buddharam was the only time I have felt as if I was now properly married … to Natalise. The strange thing is that, in spite of our divorce in 2006, I still feel as if I am married to Natalise.