1. “Mobi’s Story”
This is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Here are the complete 31 parts of “MOBI’S STORY”, in chronological order.
MOBI’S STORY (PART1)
THE EARLY YEARS
I am not exactly sure how old I was when I first tasted alcohol, but I suspect I was in my pre-teens when my father handed round the Christmas glasses of cheap Spanish wine, at our rented flat in East London. I recall with amazing clarity, not the drinking of the wine, but the buying of it. It was such a tortuous, frightening and traumatic process, as was more or less any event that was somehow connected with my scary brute of a father.
He knew this cheap off license, a couple of miles from where we lived, and he sent me to buy the wine, with strict instructions on what to buy, and how much to pay. Of course, it didn’t work out that way. The prices had changed, and when I returned home, with the wine and the incorrect change, all hell broke loose. Not only did I and the whole family suffer from a raging, abusive father, but he went back to the off license and physically assaulted the poor shop owner and, not being satisfied with that, smashed in the plate glass on the front the shop. This was not an uncommon occurrence in those far off days, when my life was totally controlled and dominated by my father.
Enough to drive any unsuspecting child to drink, you may think. But in spite of my almost continual fear of violence and intimidation, I was strong in other ways. I think abused people often find an inner strength to somehow survive and the thought of getting drunk was totally alien to me. If I had been a child of the 21st Century, then maybe things would have been different, but in those dark, cold years of the early 1950’s, England had barely recovered from the Second World War, and alcohol was neither easily available nor cheap enough to draw me into alcoholism at such a young age.
So we had the obligatory wine with our Christmas lunch, a totally miserable time of year for the whole family. We were fed some scrawny, undercooked goose that my father had picked up from the butcher just before they closed for half price; drank some sweet, warm, cheap Spanish wine and all of us having to endure the whims of a mean, cruel man who never let up with his irrational, frequent and terrifying temper tantrums.
My next memories of alcohol are being taken into the local public house with my father and elder brother when I was around 15 years old, and being given a pint of draught beer, which I found the most foul tasting liquid I had ever experienced. I didn’t dare to suggest that I didn’t want to drink it – after all, my father was there to make sure I was a “man”, and could take my drink.
I left school when I was 16, even though I had been fortunate to go to a grammar school. I was looking for some elusive independence from my father that working full time may afford me. But of course nothing much changed. Most of the meagre pittance that I earned working as an articled clerk to a chartered accountant in the City, had to be handed over to my family to pay for my “keep”.
I was a lonely person in those days, but did keep a few friends from my school hood days, who I would see occasionally. Over the next year or two, by doing a paper round as well as my full time job, I managed to save up enough to buy the cheapest most ramshackle jalopy of a car you would ever see, and it used to become a regular occurrence to take out my friends on a Sunday evening to one of the pubs scattered across the Essex countryside, where we would ‘down’ a few pints of beer in the time honoured, English tradition.
I was at the start of my love/hate affair with alcohol, although I didn’t know it at the time. I think even in those days I was fast developing an unhealthy ‘taste’ for it, although I was still a long way from being a fully fledged alcoholic.
I recall the first time I was really drunk – I guess it was the first time of literally thousands. I was probably around 19 or 20, and was still working as an articled clerk and was still being paid a pittance. (My servitude was 5 years). I was auditing the books of a major motor dealer in the East end of London and was in their offices with a junior colleague, a couple of days before Christmas. (It’s weird how Christmas seems to come up again and again along my path to alcoholism). We were busy ticking their account books with our nice bright red pens, when the office manager came into our office, sporting a large bottle of scotch, and invited us to join him in a Christmas toast.
I achieved several ‘firsts’ on that cold, miserable, December day. It was the first time I had tasted scotch; it was the first time I had become totally intoxicated; it was the first time I had driven while in a state of extreme intoxication, (I remember to this day driving home, hanging onto the steering wheel, and moving at about 10 miles an hour – weaving all over the carriageway – it was a miracle I didn’t crash, or get arrested); it was the first time that I puked my guts out; it was the first time that I had gone to bed and the walls and ceiling of the room went round and… round…. and …round; and it was the first time that I woke up with a hangover.
Needless to say my father was distinctly unimpressed, and you can imagine what happened – for the day had not yet arrived when I would escape from his control.
The five years were finally at an end, and although I failed my final exams, I still managed to get a well paid job in the oil industry, for this was the “swinging sixties”, and jobs were aplenty.
I went to work in the oil company’s prestige offices in Berkeley Square, and I earned the princely sum of 20 pounds a week – a positive fortune to a poor east end lad, who rarely had more than a quid in his pocket in his whole life. So I started to live life ‘on the hog’. My new work colleagues helped me to break the chains of my previous life, and it wasn’t long before I was frequenting the pubs and clubs of the West End of London, and I even joined Playboy club on Park lane which was the ‘in’ place to be in those days. The influence and control of my father had finally started to wane; many is the time that I didn’t get home till dawn on a weekend, and within a year I had rented a room in Bayswater and moved out – although I was still so scared of my father’s reaction to me leaving home that I virtually had to do a “moonlight flit”.
So booze was becoming an important part of my life. We would drink at lunch times, and we would drink after work. Sometimes, when we were ‘burning the midnight candle’ in the office, we would go out and get drunk at 5 p.m. and at around 7 p.m. we would return to work, pissed, but still able to work.
A feature of my life then, and for a great many years to come, was that I was able to imbibe large amounts of alcohol, and still manage to work and hold down high pressure jobs.
After a couple of years, I became emotionally embroiled with a girl from New York who had been working for me as a temporary secretary. I was so besotted with her beauty and ‘New York charm’, that when she returned home at the conclusion of her contract, that I promptly quit my job and followed her over there.
Much happened to me in New York, but the romance collapsed and I ended up by moving to Montreal in Canada, where I was first incarcerated at the border on suspicion of being a US draft dodger, and then got into trouble with the authorities by trying to work without the proper visa, (shades of Thailand). Anyway, that is all another story, but suffice to say that booze kept me in good stead during this difficult and emotionally draining period of my life.
I suppose that most peoples’ lives contain ‘life changing’ coincidences, but whether or not that is so, it is certainly true of my life.
I had rented a nice apartment in downtown Montreal, I had beaten the Canadian immigration service, and was about to start a well paid job. I phoned a friend in London from my Oil Company days and told him what had happened and where I was located. Within 24 hours my ex employer had contacted me to offer me a new position in Nigeria.
It didn’t take me long to decide to accept the offer, and within days I was winging my way back to London, and thence onwards to Lagos, Nigeria.
So to a new life, a new experience in a West African Country which had recently become independent from Britain, and was at that time immersed in a bloody civil war.
In all, I spent over 3 years in Nigeria – Lagos, Port Harcourt and Warri – and had many adventures, including being one of the first westerners to enter the secessionist Eastern region at the end of the war, being thrown in jail and beaten up for being drunk at a road block, marrying (and eventually divorcing) a Nigerian lady, and many more…. But they are not the subject of this blog.
Suffice to say, my drinking habits in the hard bitten ‘wild west’ of the oil exploration business became more entrenched and I could stand my booze with the best of them, and still report for work the next morning.
After Nigeria I spent over 3 years in the Arabian Gulf – principally in Abu Dhabi, but also in Oman, and Dubai. More adventures, more bloody noses and black eyes, more jails, and a lot more drinking. For the first 2 years of my time in Abu Dhabi, I lived in a Portacamp, (prefabricated caravan-type accommodation), in the desert – one of literally hundreds that made up ‘base camp’, which at that time, was the largest centre of population in the country. There were no women, but all the beer you could drink. So we worked a 12 hour day, and as the evenings cooled down, we’d sit on the steps outside our Portacamps, downing dozens of cans of beer and throwing the empties out into the sand and at the mangy wild dogs that circled the camp.
Every night we would pass out drunk, and often fights would spring up, for no real reason, other than from alcohol, frustration and boredom. Strange to tell, this is one of the fondest memories of my early adulthood. For there, in the desert, I discovered a camaraderie I had never found before, and I could drink as much as I liked, every day. Eventually we relocated into the fast developing Abu Dhabi city, where I started to drink more than ever, and as was becoming my custom, spent the odd night or two in the local jail after drunken altercations in the only night club in town.
It was during the time that I worked in Abu Dhabi, that I made my first forays into Thailand – the “Land of Smiles”. In fact, my interest in Thailand had come some years earlier, when working in Nigeria, as one of my drinking friends had recommended that if I ever had the chance, I should definitely give Bangkok, and in particular, Patpong, the ‘once over’ and he had even written down the name of his favourite bar for me.
So it was that when working in the Middle East in the early seventies, that I started my 36 year ‘love affair’ with ancient Siam, and those oh so beautiful and captivating ladies. I used to take a round trip flight to Bombay (now Mumbai), and thence another round trip flight to Bangkok, as this was the only way of getting there from the Middle East, other than going via Europe. How times have changed.
My R & R in Bangkok consisted almost entirely of drinking, whoring, sleeping, drinking, whoring, sleeping, drinking….. for 3- 4 weeks, and then back to work in the desert. Not very cultural, but there again I was a hot headed young lad who had spent the past few months in a desert devoid of women, and with only hard drinking oilfield men and camels for company!!
Does anyone remember ‘Thai Heaven’, that large, noisy live music and dancing venue on Petchburi Road?
(However, I do recall being taken to the Rose Garden on one occasion, and on another, made a very long journey by non air conditioned taxi to Chiang Mai, in the company of a lovely young lady, who insisted on stopping every hour or so to eat. It took two days to get there and another two to get back to Bangkok. I think we spent one night in Chiang Mai.)
From the Middle East, I moved to Jakarta, Indonesia. This move was to become ‘another little piece of heaven’ and, I regret to say, more than a chunk of my descent into what became my ‘alcoholic hell’.
MOBI’S STORY (PART 2).
It was 1974, and before I travelled to Jakarta to start my new job, I took a long, (two month), break in Bangkok. By this time I had travelled to Thailand on a number of occasions and I soon 1slipped back into my familiar routine.
The very first time I had arrived in Bangkok, I had booked myself into the Siam Intercontinental in Siam Square, (now sadly no more). But I never stayed there. I quickly discovered that five star hotels did not approve of “ladies of the night”, and it wasn’t long before I opted for the much more down-market – but eminently more lady friendly – two and three star hotels that were scattered across the metropolis.
After trying out a few, I eventually settled on the Fortuna Hotel, on Soi 5, Sukhumvit Road. It was old even then, but it had a fine, 24 hour coffee shop, decent rooms, and even a swimming pool. But most importantly, in true “Cheers tradition”, it was a place where everyone knew my name. The staff were very friendly, and even the owner used to talk to me as he somehow had got into his head that I was very rich, and he was keen on marrying me off to his cute little Chinese daughter who worked behind reception. I’m not sure that she was too keen, as all that she saw was a young, long haired ‘hippie’, who drank too much beer and never slept alone, and never with the same lady for more than 2 nights in a row.
The Fortuna was conveniently located across Sukhumvit from a large massage parlour, called “HP Massage”, and next to the parlour was an “illegal” go-go bar that was open all night and, even in those far off days, used to have naked ladies to provide the dancing entertainment. The Chinese owner had it all sewn up; any ‘masseurs’ who were not otherwise employed, would gravitate to the bar next door after work, and try their hand at dancing, in the hope of snagging a late night drunken farang.
So my two months were largely spent within the confines of HP Massage, the bar next door, and my hotel room. Drinking would start at Noon, when I would sit at the bar of HP, peering at the girls behind the window, and choosing my ‘wife of the day’, followed by lunch in the hotel, and thence to bed for an afternoon nap, and a bit of ‘nookie’. Most days, I would wake up in the early evening, kick out my ‘wife of the day’, go back over the road to the illegal bar, and spend half the night there, making sure I didn’t sober up, and sometimes taking my second wife of the night back to the room for ‘part two’.
In a pattern to be repeated through the years, I eventually got my ‘comeuppance’, in the form of a gorgeous little thing, who I fell for ‘hook line and sinker’.
Within a week I was married to her, and on the first day of my marriage she was kidnapped, outside the Fortuna Hotel, by a couple of young guys in a black taxi. I was beside myself with distress, and drank more than ever, awaiting news of my beloved.
After a few days she called me and spun the yarn that she was being held by a gang and they had demanded a ransom to set her free. To cut a long story short, I duly paid the ransom to a guy on a motorcycle at Victory Monument, but the lady never returned – of course.
I did track her down later, and when she disappeared yet again, I even travelled up country to a communist infested village, east of Ubon, where I found her mother living in a lovely little house with a bright, new shiny roof. It was by far the best house in an otherwise totally impoverished village, but no sign of the errant hostage/wife.
(By the way, the present day Landmark hotel is located on the site of the old HP Massage and bar, and many years later I stayed there one night, and could have sworn I heard the ghostly laughter of all those girls I knew as I lay in bed in an advanced stage of intoxication.)
I eventually made the plane to Singapore, and thence to Jakarta, very hung-over, poorer, broken-hearted, and not a lot wiser.
MOBI’S STORY (PART 3)
I’m not too sure about Jakarta these days, following the rise of Muslim fundamentalism, but in the 1970’s it was not a town which I would recommend for those with a drinking problem.
As the resident expat financial controller, I was given a whole house to myself, complete with servants and fully stocked bar, located in the up market, (expat) area of Kebayoran, within walking distance of my office.
If my boss, who I had previously worked for in Port Harcourt, wasn’t an alcoholic, then he was the best imitation of that condition that I have ever seen. On top of that, he was totally addicted to sex, and would pick up girls at any hour of the day or night, on a whim, and whisk them off to a hotel or any room which happened to be available for an hour. I recall once taking a business trip with him to Singapore, and he could rarely get out of the hotel lift without finding something to his liking in there with him and then persuading her to having a quick fling in his room.
Anyway, when I arrived in Jakarta, I was welcomed with open arms, and was immediately ushered out to a local massage parlour, within site of the office, whereupon we immediately took our places at the bar, and spent the afternoon drinking and whoring. When he finally decided that we had better make an appearance in the office, he introduced to me to his ‘expenses system’, whereby I paid all the bills, then would subsequently claim them as company expenses, which would be approved by none other than himself – the General Manager. What a wonderful arrangement!
Needless to say, I embarked on yet another wild, drinking career. With all the money and ‘expenses’ I could ask for, I caroused with some of the most beautiful women I had ever set eyes on, and drank myself silly in a feast of bars, nightclubs and massage parlours.
There was a large pub/tavern near the office which was run by a British couple who co-owned it with a Indonesian General. It was the ‘in’ place for expats, and had good western food. There was a very large circular, central, bar, and they even had live music of an evening. It was one of those “wonders of Asia’ where freelance whores would rub shoulders at the bar with expats, husbands and wives, and respectable Indonesians – male and female.
My day would invariable start there, with my boss and a ‘liquid’ lunch. The pub had a number of very attractive, seductively dressed waitresses, who were eager to serve. My boss would sit there and look at them, trying to decide which one to chat up. He would say: “Mobi, have you humped that one?” I would shake my head, not really being in his league. Then he would say: “How about that one, have you humped her?” And so on, and all the time getting more and more pissed. After a couple of hours we would adjourn to his favourite massage parlour, where more drinking and whoring would follow. On good days, we might spend as much as an hour or two in the office. On bad days, we never saw the inside of it.
I should mention that my boss, an American, was also married to an American, and she would wait patiently at their Jakarta home every night for him to return. Rarely, did he do that before midnight.
Of course this situation couldn’t last forever, and word started to get around that the General Manager wasn’t doing a great deal of ‘managing’.
Around two months after my arrival in Jakarta, my boss was summoned back to California for ‘business discussions’, and never returned, and I never saw him again. His wife was still in Jakarta at the time, and it was several weeks before she departed, as she was left to pack up all their stuff and tidy up all the loose ends. I felt quite sorry for her, because she knew what her husband had been getting up to. She knew that I was one of his “partners in crime”, but for some reason she took a liking to me, (or maybe took pity on me – who knows?), and she took me under her wing for those few weeks she remained in Jakarta, and was very kind to me. I was still drinking like there was no tomorrow though, and I remember to this day the struggle I had to get out of bed and go with my driver to her house and escort her to the airport to make sure she flew out without any hitches. My hangover was enormous, but I owed it to her, and I gave the send-off she deserved.
After she left, things went downhill rapidly. Up to that point, in spite of all my drinking and whoring, I had just about been able to keep up with my work, but the drinking got worse, and it wasn’t long before the books were hopelessly behind, and the monthly finance reports to head office started to dry up. For a while I made up the numbers, but even those ceased eventually, when it became clear that Head Office was having problems in accepting that the figures were based in any kind of reality.
My work situation deteriorated, along with my drinking and I rarely went to the office. If I went at all, it would be after 6.p.m. California time, to make sure they couldn’t call me on the telephone. It was still the days before fax machines, but they would send me ‘yards’ of telexes every day, demanding to know what was going on, but I never replied.
Eventually, I realised the game was up, and it was only a matter of time before I would be fired, and a replacement sent to sort everything out. So I decided to ‘jump before I was pushed’ and gave in my notice. It was accepted, no doubt with a great deal of relief, and one of my old mates from my drinking days in London, was sent out from California, (he was now a senior honcho in Head Office Finance), to arrange a hand over and assess the extent of the bookkeeping mess.
Before he arrived, I had an attack of conscience, and started a valiant attempt to get everything up to date. I was only half way there when my old friend arrived, but together we worked day and night, and within a couple of weeks everything was back where it should have been and the books were spick and span.
It didn’t change anything regarding my future employment, but at least I felt better in myself. My departure date was booked, and I spent the remaining days, packing and arranging my shipment to the UK.
I was still drinking, often with my old friend from California, but I guess it tapered off a little to allow me to do what I had to do.
In all, I was in Indonesia just under a year. I had travelled extensively during my time there, had learned to speak passable Indonesian (I am blessed with an aptitude for languages – even when drunk), and had many adventures with women. Oh yes, I had even spent the obligatory night in a Jakarta jail. The details are vague, but I believe some Indonesian Mafia were after me for something I had done in a drunken state, and from what I recall, I was locked up for my own protection.
Finally, I clambered onto the plane that would take me away from Indonesia forever, and I remember it vividly because I was so hung-over, that I never thought I would make it alive to my destination, Bangkok. I was shaking like a leaf; I was drenched in sweat, and my head felt as though it had been cracked open with a sledge hammer. But make it, I did.
Yet never once did I then and for many years to come, even consider the possibility that I may have a problem with alcohol, or that I was an alcoholic and couldn’t control my drinking.
I was just a young man enjoying life to the full.
BACK IN BANGKOK (1975)
So I arrived back in Bangkok, very, very, hung-over, (thinking back, I now realise I had the “DT’s”), jobless, but with a few thousand dollars in the bank which I was determined to put to good use in having the time of my life.
I was back in the old drinking and whoring routine, but a few months and a few avaricious girlfriends later, I was on the point of destitution, having now moved into a cheap “Thai” apartment, which was already a far cry from the air-conditioned hotel room that I used to stay in, and eventually I had to do a “runner” one night as there was no money left to pay the rent.
When you are broke, thousands of miles from home, you know who your friends are, and I had very few. The ones that I did have were in no position to assist me financially, but one did advise me of a commercial college in the “boondocks” who had a vacancy for an English teacher.
So I had few options other than to give it a go, and in any event I had always fancied myself as a teacher. So I applied for the vacancy and was put to work straight away. Of course they paid me very little, barely enough to pay for my food – which by this time consisted of eight Baht noodles, and five Baht rice dishes from the road side stalls – and a nightly ‘band’ of Mekhong whisky.
As for accommodation, well I was down at the bottom of the pile, and the only room I could afford was a small, extremely hot wooden room, in a Thai house on stilts, in old Soi 22, Sukhumvit, now long gone. I even had to pawn my radio cassette and wrist watch to raise the money to pay for the room deposit.
My neighbors in the adjacent rooms were ‘ladies of the night’ – 2 or 3 to a room. They were friendly, but that’s as far as it went. Once they realised I had no money, they just weren’t interested in spending much time with me – why should they?
Pawning my meagre possessions became a feature of my life in those desperate days. I would pawn stuff during the month to raise money to get drunk, and redeem them at the end of the month when the school paid me. I found that by drinking as much Singha beer as I could afford, followed by quickly knocking back a bottle of Mekhong, I could achieve a state of intoxication that kept me going until the next day.
After a while, I realised that I wasn’t cut out to be a teacher, and I found it more and more frustrating that I was trying to teach English to students who just weren’t interested in learning. They didn’t care. Their parents had sent them to this 4th rate college, in the hope that their recalcitrant offspring may change their “errant ways”.
There were some exceptions – a few over eager Chinese teenage girls who were keen to get ahead and learn English. Their parents weren’t rich (hence their attendance at a fourth rate college), but they were determined to make the best of things and build worthwhile careers. They used to engage me to teach them privately in small groups at their homes in Yawalat, (China Town) and the income from these special lessons became significant extra ‘booze money’ for me as time went on.
But enough was enough, and I reached rock bottom. It was the school holidays, so no work, and no money. My visa had long since expired and I was an illegal in Thailand. It was time to pull myself together and take some action. I wrote to one of my good friends back in England and asked him if he would lend me the money for an airfare back home, and to cut the story short, he very kindly came up with the necessary funds.
Through my friends in Bangkok, I made an arrangement whereby I surrendered to the immigration authorities in Suan Plu, the same day as I had a confirmed ticket back to England. In those days, as long as you had a ticket flying out the same day, you could go to court, pay the overstay fine, and they would let you go, assuming and trusting that you would take the booked night flight out. All went as clockwork, and I made the sad journey back home to London, and thence to my parents flat in East London .Yes, my father was still alive.
I hadn’t seen my parents for several years, and indeed had been out of touch for most of that time. My mother, a dear, sweet lady who had suffered terribly through the years from my father’s rages and domineering and cruel behaviour, took one look at me and burst out crying. She said I looked as though I had just been released from Belson – so thin and emaciated I had become.
MOBI’S STORY (PART5)
‘BLIGHTY’ AND BEYOND
So it was back to miserable ‘Blighty’, stony broke, thin to the point of emaciation, and stuck in my parents council flat in East London.
My father was well into his 70’s, and although he had mellowed slightly, he was still a mountain of a man who would blow up with a frightening temper at a moment’s notice. In spite of this I was made sort of welcome (by my mum anyway), and she lent me a few quid to get me to get me down to the social security office, and for the first time in my life I signed on the dole.
I trawled through the situations vacant every morning, and within a few days I had arranged an interview with an oil exploration company who was looking for a chief accountant for their operations in Tripoli, Libya. I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the prospects of going back to the Middle East, but it sounded like a sure fire way to make some quick money, so it was worth a shot.
The job called for a married man, and came with a large family house in downtown Tripoli. For some reason, the company had been struggling to fill this slot with a married man of relevant experience, so they decided to take me on as the ‘married’ accountant, even though my wife was a ‘phantom’.
For those few weeks I had spent in England, I had lived and drunk on my dole money. I had no friends to speak of, but every evening I would walk to the nearest pub, drink pints of revolting English beer with whisky chasers, and eventually stagger home at closing time
Thence to Libya; an interesting, ancient city, with a lot of history, and some lovely beaches.
The only problem was the Libyans. Colonel Gaddafi was at the peak of his strident anti western rhetoric, and he exhorted all his fellow countrymen to assert themselves and treat us westerners like dirt.
Before the Second World War, Libya was an Italian colony, and during the colonial era, the locals were treated like third class citizens by the arrogant Italians, and it was hardly surprising that they were now getting their own back.
(During this colonial era, Libyans had to get off the sidewalk and walk in the gutter if an Italian was walking anywhere in the vicinity).
Apart from the attitude of the Libyans, there appeared to be only one other major problem – no booze!!! Oh my God!
As luck would have it, one of my previous colleagues, who used to work for me in the Arabian Gulf, turned out to be also working in Tripoli. He was living there with his wife and family – all living downtown, not too far from my own, large and very lonely villa. We hooked up and renewed old friendships, and his family immediately took me under their wing, and for a while I virtually lived in their house, where my friend’s wife cooked up prestigious amounts of wholesome western food in a valiant effort to fatten me up.
Thankfully, it wasn’t long before I became introduced to “white lightning” – that homemade, pure alcohol that when mixed with orange juice, became the staple, liquid diet for all us alcoholic expatriates.
After a few weeks, I met a young, stateless, ethnic German. The authorities had long since expropriated his passport – Egyptian I believe – for some infraction of the law, and he had become the sort of “pet” of the expatriate community. He had no job, no money, and no home, and survived by putting himself at the beck and call of families as an odd job handyman and he would sort out the various problems in their houses, pools and gardens, in exchange for a few days room and board.
We became friendly, and it wasn’t long before he moved into one of my spare bedrooms, and proceeded to install a large ‘pot still’ in one of my spare bathrooms. We were going big time into the liquor making business.
Not afraid to do things by half, we installed second still in the spare bathroom, which had now became a fully fledged distillery, and we immediately went into production. The only problem was that it got pretty hot in that bathroom with two stills going full pelt, and it wasn’t a very pleasant way to spend our idle hours. So we constructed a beautiful bar in the main lounge, and wired up a closed circuit black and white video system in the bathroom with the camera aimed on the temperature gauges, and the video monitor installed on the bar. Thus we could sit in the bar and knock back our ill gotten gains, and as soon as the temperature on the stills started to rise, we would race into the bathroom, and adjust the heat, just in the nick of time, before the stills blew up!!
Not content with making some of the highest quality alcohol in Tripoli, we also branched out into the home made beer business.
Cans of malt extract were available by the case load at the local grocery stores, and with the addition of smuggled in hop extract, we also started to produce some of the finest homemade lager my drinking buddies had ever tasted.
How the authorities never caught on when we would turn up at the grocery store in a large pick-up, and proceed to purchase sugar by the sack load, and cans of malt extract by the case load, I will never know.
Basically the liquor was for sale and profit, and the beer was for consumption, and nearly every evening, a group of us would gather at our bar and get absolutely pissed out of our minds on our very strong home made beer. But somehow, we always managed to get up early the next morning and perform our daily work duties.
But all good things must come to an end.
We had become so bold that we started selling booze to the Arabs. At first, just a few ‘trusted’ friends from work. But those ‘friends’ told their friends, and before we knew it there was a constant buzz at the heavily fortified front gate by Arabs we had never met, who wanted to buy our prized white lightning.
I suppose you could say I lived a charmed life, for if I had been caught, I would have certainly spent many of my best years rotting in a Libyan jail. But one of my closest Arab friends at work tipped me off one day, and told me that the authorities were onto my illegal activities, and it was only a matter of days before the house was raided and I would be arrested.
I couldn’t leave the country without an exit visa, and it was a race against time whether I could get the visa issued before the police closed in. As it turned out, I was in taxi, with only the clothes on my back and a brief case full of cash under my arm, on my way to the airport when the police had finally got round to raiding my premises. My itinerant “German” friend had been tipped off and was already in hiding – not that the police knew he was involved.
So almost exactly nine months after my arrival in Tripoli, I was on a plane winging my way back to Europe, having escaped by the skin of my teeth, never again to return to that part of the world. All in the name of booze.
A few days of R&R in Amsterdam was the next item on my agenda and then back on a plane to Bangkok, with yet another little “pot of gold” to lose.
MOBI’S STORY (Part6)
BANGKOK – “THE MUSICAL YEARS”
Soon after my return to Bangkok, I met up with a friend who I had first met there in 1973. He was a professional musician, and apart from several spells in Thailand, taking his band around the American air bases in Thailand, he had also played in Hawaii, San Francisco, Japan, Singapore, and his native UK. But now he was settled in Thailand, had retired as a performer and had embarked on a music recording career.
He had gone in with a local (Thai) business partner who also ran a very popular Bangkok FM radio station, and also was trying to promote international pop concerts. My friend introduced me to his partner and I was hired as a sort of Business Manager. I ran the business side of my friend’s recording studio, and was also the ‘front man’ to organize the Thai partner’s pop concerts. I wasn’t paid much, but I was happy to be back in Thailand, and anyway, I had my little pot of gold to fall back on.
I wouldn’t say that booze was my downfall, but as before, it played a significant part in my daily life, although I never quite realised it at the time.
A typical day would see me wake up late with a hangover, walk to the office in Wireless road from my little room in Pratunam, and spend an hour or so killing time before lunch and then off to Patpong for my first beer session of the day. Later, back to the office for a bit of work, before returning to Patpong for an evening of drinking and carousing.
In a pattern to be repeated many times through the years, I became involved with a series of women who, one by one, relieved me of my money, and it wasn’t too long before I really had to live off my meagre salary. This necessitated a change in my drinking habits, as I could no longer afford to drink in Patpong on a daily basis. I moved to an even cheaper room in the Petchburi suburbs, and spent most of my time with Thai friends, drinking Mekhong whisky at places near their homes. I made a number of ‘drinking trips’ up country, (places like Nakhon Nayok, and Kow Yai), with these new found friends, and it was a period of my life when I was really into Thai whisky, Lao kow Thai spirit and the like. We became a hard drinking gang and were rarely sober.
Then the concerts started. Basically I was running the show, and had to organize the contracts for the performers, sort out their air tickets, accommodation and personal needs, book the venues, organise the sound systems and musicians’ requirements, head up the box office and God knows what else. They were heady days, but my favourite part was organizing the “green room” with all the requirements for booze and food. It was a wonderful chance to drink with the visiting performers and get drunk, and I needed very little bidding.
My Thai drinking gang were all hired as roadies, security and just general labour, and they too enjoyed being paid in liquid refreshment, as well as a few hundred Baht in cash which was quickly converted into yet more Thai whisky.
They were exhilarating times indeed, and barely a sober day when a concert was in the offing.
My fun came to an end when my English colleague and I had a serious falling out with our Thai business partner. As some of you who may have had the misfortune to do business with Thai/Chinese businessmen, would know, the ‘falling out’ was inevitable,
Most of these people are unethical, with little or no business integrity, no morals or any standard of recognizable honesty, and will cheat and lie to gain business advantage.
My English partner and I used to travel to Hong Kong every 3 months to renew our non immigrant visas, and our beloved Thai partner was responsible for renewing our work permits and keeping them current. For some reason the work permit renewal fell through the cracks, but in order to protect himself, he told us to surrender to the court, admit that we had erred, and that we would receive a small fine and then he would arrange for the permits to be renewed. Neither of us spoke much Thai in those days, and we duly pleaded guilty, signed some papers in Thai, and were promptly arrested, handcuffed and hauled of to Lumpini Police station, where we were both incarcerated.
Our expat friends were outraged and hired a lawyer to look into our case. It transpired that our wonderful employer had told the court that we had both disappeared up-country with our passports so he had no chance to renew the work permits. It was all a tissue of lies, invented to protect his company from any possible repercussions. In all, we spent three weeks in the jail, before our lawyer managed to arrange for an appeal hearing, when we were eventually released on bail.
The things I will never forget about that time in jail were: the station’s sergeant’s refusal to allow me to have a pillow, (which meant I had to sleep with my head on the concrete floor); the communal, Thai-style toilet in full view of all the inmates; the young, desperate drug addicts who comprised a majority of the inmates; the group of rich Chinese who were arrested one night for illegal gambling, and remained huddled by the front prison bars in a desperate attempt to separate themselves from us, dirty and depraved old lags; and last but not least, the wonderful Thai lady (wife of one of my friends) who brought us large plastic bags full of “iced tea”.
Yes, you’ve guessed it, the iced tea wasn’t really iced tea – it was lovely Singha beer.
So I still managed to get drunk – even in jail.
By this time, our beloved employer was starting to ‘lose face’ as everyone knew what a lying bastard he was, so in order to limit the damage to his reputation, he pulled out all the stops to get the charges dropped and our work permits renewed.
But it was too late
On top of all our work permit woes, my colleague was being shafted on his share of the profits, and I just got fed up with all the lies and bullshit my boss spouted with almost every breath
So we broke away, and with a small investment from an Australian friend, we rented a large house in Soi Asoke, Sukhumvit, and converted it into a recording studio. My friend would run the technical side, and I would take care of the business side.
It was 1976, and Thailand was still a very cheap place to live. This was fortuitous as our business struggled from the very start. We were grossly under-capitalised, and our business consisted mainly of producing and recording advertising jingles. But the advertising agencies were notoriously slow payers, and our cash flow became ever more critical. We also made a few music albums for both local and foreign performers, but Thailand was such a cheap place, that the rates we were obliged to charge for hiring our studio were excruciatingly low.
Although not planned, our studio was within easy walking distance of the fast emerging Soi Cowboy, and it wasn’t long before I deserted my previous allegiance to the Patpong bars, and switched to the much cheaper and convenient Soi Cowboy.
Beers were around 15 Baht a bottle, and when I was particularly short of cash I would carry a small bottle of Thai whisky in my pocket, and order a coke for six Baht at the bar, surreptitiously topping up my glass with alcohol from the secreted bottle. Another popular trick, of which I am also ashamed to admit, was to throw away most of the chits in the bill cup when no one was looking. It wasn’t difficult to do, as in those days everyone: girls, cashiers, mangers, owners, were all as drunk as we were, so no one took much notice of what I was up to.
It was all ‘wild west’. The girls were shipped in from Issan by the truck load and slept, 10 to a room above the bars. They spoke no English, and not many of them were much to write home about. We used to call them “rice pickers”, but what they lacked in looks, they more than made up for in good natured enjoyment of their new found ‘profession’ and great fun was had by one and all. I guess this was the start of the female Issan invasion of the “fleshpots” of Bangkok and beyond.
As for me – well I was an alcoholic with little money to spend, so in true alcoholic traditions, I used every trick in the book, fair means or foul, to stay as drunk as possible for as long as possible…. every day.
As with my previous job, I would wake late, struggle to the office an hour or so before lunch, order some large bottles of beer to drink in the office (paid for out of petty cash which, of course, I controlled), then off to Soi Cowboy for a lunch time drinking session, back to the office by mid afternoon for some more beers out of petty cash, and then back to Soi Cowboy for the evening drinking session.
But eventually business and cash flow became so bad that I had to supplement my income by making regular trips to Hong Kong and doing some work for another friend who needed an accountant to keep his books, and more importantly, figure out a way to save him some tax. This I succeeded in doing, and he rewarded me to such an extent that he became my sole source of income, although I continued to run the business of the studio and just live on the beer money from petty cash.
Then one day, I received a visit from one of my Thai friends who used to work with me when I worked for my previous Thai employer.
He had an interesting proposal to put to me.
BANGKOK – “THE MUSICAL YEARS” (continued)
He was Thai and his name was Joe, and he represented a group of Thais who used to work with me when I was running the recording studio/ pop concert business with the dishonest Thai business partner.
Joe told me that he and his friends were setting up a new company which was in negotiations with a government ‘figure’ to run the first English language radio in Thailand for many years. They were also building recording studios, and planned to do live concert promotions, manufacture music cassettes under license and had many other entertainment related activities in their draft Business Plan.
They were looking for a General Manager to head up the whole business, which was being bank-rolled by a very wealthy Chinese merchant family. Joe invited me to their new offices in Siam Square to meet everyone and discuss the new position.
Clearly, it was too good an offer for me to turn down, and I reluctantly said farewell to my current partner and ‘jumped ship’ to become GM of the new enterprise. (I didn’t leave him completely in the lurch, as I had set up all the systems required to run the business, and I had already trained his wife to do most of the work. I just oversaw everything, and drank my daily ration of beer, paid for out of petty cash).
The next few years were intense, dramatic, and very exciting.
We duly obtained the radio license to broadcast English language radio on FM 107, but from the start it was an uphill struggle. The Nation newspaper decided they didn’t approve of what we were doing, and got their teeth stuck into us. Day after day, week after week, they would attack us in their columns for being ‘illegal’ (foreign language broadcasting was still technically illegal in those days), and not a day passed when we were not in fear and dread of being raided by the police and shut down.
But the head of the government department who had arranged our contract had ‘friends in high places” and somehow we carried on and weathered the onslaught. Of course the Nation was just jealous of our business, as for years they had been harbouring plans to become involved in English language broadcasting and they were determined to eliminate any competition. (Some years later, they did indeed become involved in English language television, but eventually had to close it down as it proved unprofitable).
Our radio slogan was “Soft and Warm – the Quiet Storm”, but for the first year it seemed like we were fighting an ‘uncontrollable tornado’ – nearly collapsing under a mountain of debt; including the cost of buying and shipping a new transmitter for FM 107 from the USA , which, incidentally, is still in use today.
But from those dark days, we gradually saw the light. Our radio station started to become extremely popular. Not only were all the farangs living in Bangkok tuning in, but thousands upon thousands of Thais absolutely loved our new, revolutionary, American style format, and they started tuning into FM 107 in droves. We had installed a very powerful transmitter, and our signal covered the whole of the Bangkok metropolis and its sprawling suburbs and also stretched as far as Chon Buri in the east, and similar distances in the north, south and west.
Suddenly the advertising agencies and direct clients were queuing up to advertise on F.M.107. The major hotels, shopping centres and malls, airlines, travel companies, restaurants, shops and so on were all anxious to get in on the ground floor of English language radio advertising, and at long last we started to turn the corner of profitability.
Then there came the rock concerts – our very first was “The Scorpions” at the Hua Mark stadium, (who are amazingly still around today) which was a runaway success, and the “Quiet Storm” started to make its name in the Bangkok Entertainment industry.
At about the same time we signed contract with a number of international record labels, and we built a small high speed cassette recording facility, and started producing and selling legitimate western music cassettes into the Thai market. Of course this was during a brief period before the CD was born, and the mass pirating that we know today subsequently took hold.
You may be thinking that my drinking career might have taken a back seat during these hectic years, but, I regret to say, not a bit of it.
I was still living to the same drinking pattern. I stayed in a room in Pratunam, which I shared with my then fourth wife. I would get up late, and drive down to my office in Siam Square in my old jalopy, arriving around 11 a.m. I would put a few hours of work in before my fellow managers would gather in my office at around 6 p.m. whereupon the evening’s drinking would start. One of our number, and often our Chinese/Thai investor, would produce a bottle of Scotch or brandy and we would start the session. Food would sometimes arrive later, but for the most part the refreshment was purely of a liquid and alcoholic nature.
At some point in the evening, some of us might adjourn to a Thai restaurant for further drinking and a bit of food, or, more often, I would part company with my Thai colleagues, and head off in my car back to my old haunts in Patpong, which, from Siam Square was only a short drive. So the drinking would inevitably continue to the small hours, and many is the time that I saw the dawn breaking as I nibbled on ‘kow tom’ in Soi 24 and had a couple of ‘cleansing beers” before retiring for a few hours sleep.
My car ownership during this period however was short lived. This was the start of my drunk driving – which continued for many years into the future. Ironically, but maybe luckily, it wasn’t a drunk driving accident that stopped me in my tracks, it was the fuel. I ran out of petrol one night, just a few yards from my office, and thinking I carried a spare can of petrol in the boot, I proceeded, in my drunken state, to fill up the tank from the can. Once I had emptied the can, I suddenly remembered that it wasn’t petrol at all – but water!!. One ruined engine, with no spare cash to fix it. Back to taxis, and given my drinking habits, just as well.
During the third year in my new job a significant event occurred. My father died. He was 81 and his heart gave out. When I heard the news I cried. I don’t know why, because I hated him so much – he had caused me and my family so much misery and despair. Maybe I cried from relief that I was finally free of him. But I was to find out later that I was never really free of him – for he continued to ‘haunt’ me in my alcoholic dazes, in my dreams and nightmares, and even to this day, I am not totally rid of his all pervading influence on my life.
It was just before Christmas, 1982 and I went with my wife back to England for the funeral. I didn’t care about my father, but I was very worried about my mother, who was very old, not well, and suddenly all alone after 45 years of being dominated by a bully of a husband. We returned to Thailand after a couple of weeks, I resumed my job, promoted some more concerts and started to steer the company into the path of stability and prosperity.
I didn’t realise it then, but my time in Thailand for that part of my life was soon to come to an end.
I truly believe that if had been left to me I would never have left Thailand, but my wife had other ideas. She had seen what she thought were greater prospects for her husband in England. In her view, I was stuck in a badly paid, “dead end “ job, and could do much better if we relocated to the west.
She ‘worked’ on me for month after month, and gradually wore me down. The issue that tipped the scales as far as I was concerned was the plight of my mother, whose health was deteriorating and she really needed someone to take care of her.
My then employers were not as unscrupulous as my former one, and they truly appreciated all the hard work I had put in over the past couple of years or so. One of the investors (the guy who controlled the money) came to see me a few days before I left Thailand, and told me under Chinese tradition they wanted to award me a departure bonus in recognition of my contribution to the Company. Of course, I was delighted, but my joy was short lived. The guy pointed out that I still owed the company for my airfares to England, and on top of that I owed a considerable amount of cash that I had “advanced” over the past year or so for business expenses which I had never cleared. (Of course I couldn’t clear my expenses, as all the money had gone on booze). The bottom line was that the company was going to write off all my debts as full settlement of my bonus! (Bang went my nest egg!)
So in September 1983 I had an extremely drunken farewell party with all my colleagues in Siam Square, and a few days later my wife and I were jetting across the skies to take up permanent residence at my mother’s council flat in East London.
I was 37 years old, with no money in the bank, and had arrived back in England during a period of recession and high unemployment. Thatcher had just come to power, and the prospects for Mobi, an unqualified accountant, who had been out of the UK job market for most of my adult life, were bleak indeed.
MOBI’S STORY (PART 7)
THE “INSURANCE” YEARS.
It was September, 1983, and I had arrived back in England with my Thai wife, her daughter, aged 7, to live with and take care of my ageing mother who lived in a council flat in East London, on the fringes of the County of Essex.
Unemployment was high, I had been out of the UK job market since I was around 21 years old, my step daughter spoke no English, and apart from a 2 week trip with me to attend my father’s funeral in the middle of winter the previous year, my wife had never been out of Asia.
The first thing I did was sign on at the local “labour exchange”, as they were still known in those days, and then I started looking for work. I recall all too vividly being told by one major employment agency that it would be extremely difficult for me to find work, what with not having worked in England for so many years, having no formal qualifications, and the competition for jobs ‘hotting up’ during a period of high unemployment. He actually told me that he could not help me find a job, but that if I ever did manage to get a job under my belt, then he would be prepared to take me on and look for something better. Thanks very much!
Meanwhile, my wife, whatever her faults, was not lazy, and she made some friends with the local mums whose daughters went to the same primary school as ours, and before long she had obtained a job as a cleaner for one of the more well off families in the area. It wasn’t long before this led to other part time jobs of a similar nature, and in addition to evening baby sitting assignments, we were able to make ends meet, and for a short while I became a “kept man”.
I registered at literally dozens of employment agencies in the London area, but despite many interviews, I rarely got further than the proverbial ‘short list’. After a couple of months, I received a call from the local branch of a major agency, with the news that a firm of insurance brokers were in desperate need of some temporary accounting help, and would I be interested? Well of course I was interested, and although I had no way of knowing at the time, this was the start of a 20 year insurance career.
If anyone had told me before this date that I would end up in such a dry, uninteresting business as insurance, I would have laughed at them. How on earth could this “man of the world” who had worked in many far flung danger spots with oil prospectors, and more recently had been managing radio stations and organizing rock concerts in exotic Thailand, ever end up in the English insurance industry?
Although the company I went to work with at that time was also based in East London, it was in fact a major broker in the London Insurance market, and was very active at “Lloyds of London”, the world renowned, entrepreneurial insurance market.
I have no idea if it is really true, but there is a belief that goes around the London insurance market that the rich upper classes, who have their sons educated at the exclusive English “public schools” (private, actually), send their bright sons to work as merchant bankers in the city, and send the stupid ones to run Lloyd’s insurance brokers. This is on the premise that you have to be reasonably smart to be a banker, but any fool can be an insurance broker.
If the subsequent melt down and major financial collapse of “Lloyd’s” was anything to go by, this belief wasn’t too far off the mark.
So although I knew nothing about insurance and had virtually no knowledge of the then current trend towards computerized accounting, I still had my brains, (still only slightly pickled by alcohol at that time), and it wasn’t long before I proved my worth and started to rise above the dross that the company employed.
The first task they assigned to me was to try and sort out their main operating bank account which was strewn with errors and hadn’t been properly reconciled (agreeing their book records with the bank’s statements) for many months. This was right up my street, and within a few days I had sorted it out and provided a full reconciliation of outstanding items. They all thought I was a genius, as many had tried, including my boss, and all had failed. The ground was all set for a rapid rise.
My boss was almost half my age, fairly smart, but with no real practical accountancy experience under his belt, and within a short time I became his trusted right hand man who basically ran the department for him.
I was still employed as a temporary accountant, which meant I still had no proper employment benefits, such as sick pay, holiday pay or company pension, and I could be laid of at a day’s notice at any time. But in spite of my obvious expertise and the fact that the department head relied on me more and more, the company was extremely reluctant to offer me a permanent position. I just didn’t fit. I wasn’t qualified, I came from the “wrong side of the tracks”, and I spoke my mind a bit too often, and I “knew too much”.
But eventually after almost 2 years of this uncertain existence, they finally put me on the payroll, as I was making a lot of noise about quitting if they refused.
I need to make a few comments about my drinking career during this period.
In case you were thinking that I had cleaned up my act – not a bit of it.
When I first came back to England, finances were very low, and we had to be careful how we spent our meagre income. The very first thing that went were the cigarettes. I had been smoking up to 4 packs a day in Thailand, where cigarettes were cheap, and it was a shock to the system when the government announced a tax increase which put them up to the penal price of one pound per pack. To me that would be four pounds a day that I could ill afford, and as I had wanted to quit for many years, I decided that now was the time to do it.
I won’t claim that it was the easiest thing I have ever given up, because it wasn’t, but I was surprised how quickly the craving disappeared, considering the severity of my addiction – a habit that I had started way back in my early teens. Within a few weeks I was completely free of the dreaded weed, although the craving took much longer to completely disappear – especially when I was drinking, even more so when I was drinking in pubs or wine bars.
The money I saved on cigarettes was put to good use in the consumption of alcohol. On most days a group of us at the office would go for lunch at a local pub and get a ‘skin full’ of beer. Not everyone would come every day, and most would just join us 2 -3 days a week. But for me it was every day, and I made sure that by the time I returned to the office I had a good buzz going. At that point in my life it never seemed to interfere with my work, and I was able to work just as well half pissed, as I could sober.
Then I discovered the wonders of “Home Brew”. I had made my own beer back in my days in Libya, but then we had to be very inventive to produce anything that vaguely resembled something that tasted like beer. In England, there were no such impediments, as the country was full of shops that sold “home Brew” kits and all the ingredients needed to make very tasty, very strong beer.
So during that initial period back in England, I quickly fell into an evening routine of preparing and drinking my “home brew”. It was very strong stuff – I have no ideas how strong, but certainly powerful enough to put me into a state of ‘unconsciousness’ on most nights.
I was still relatively young though, and my powers of recovery were still very good, and I would rise at the crack of dawn, shake off my hangover, and do another day’s hard labour at the office.
In all, I stayed at that first job back in England for almost 3 years. During the final 6 – 9 months of that period I was there I was becoming increasing restless and unhappy. Even though I say it myself, I had done some wonderful work for them. I had progressed from knowing virtually nothing about computer systems when I first went to work there, to being the chief architect of a new and fully computerized accounting system; I had completely revamped all the financial reports and had generally brought the whole accounts department into a much better state of efficiency. I received regular salary increases in recognition of my good work (at my Boss’s behest as he was always paranoid about me walking out), but no formal recognition was given to my position, and I just remained one of the “erks” even though I was virtually running things.
After all, I had cut my teeth managing offices in the oilfields of the world, and then in the rough and tumble of the cheating, lying and hypocritical world of Bangkok business. A close friend, who also had spent many years in Thailand, was to say to me much later: “Mobi, if you can survive in the business “jungle” of Thailand, you can make it anywhere. I think that there is much truth in what he said.
The final straw came, when I told my boss that it was time that the company gave me some formal recognition, and in particular I craved a company car, which at that time were given to almost every employee above the position of “clerk” – and even to some of them. My boss considered it a reasonable request, and referred the matter to his boss, the Company secretary.
My request was turned down and soon afterward I heard through the grapevine, (not from my boss, but he later admitted it was true), that not only did the bastard refuse my request, but made it clear that I would never, ever get the car that I desired so much. He didn’t approve of “me and my kind”…..
(Some years later I was to get my own back on that jumped up, Eton educated, “Hooray Henry”. I was learning that the London insurance market was a small world and it didn’t do to make enemies, and one day the tables were turned, but that’s another story).
I was incandescent with rage and full of resentment, so I immediately re-contacted all those agencies that had refused or had been unable to help me last time round, to see if I might have better luck this time.
I was back out in the job market with a CV that showed many years of senior appointments overseas followed by 3 years of outstanding work for a major London Insurance broker. Surely this time I would find something away from the boring and, in my view, class ridden insurance industry.
MOBI’S STORY (PART EIGHT)
THE “INSURANCE” YEARS (CONTINUED)
It was 1986, Thatcher had been in power for a few years and the economy was picking up.
As previously mentioned, my salary had steadily improved and by the time I had resolved to look for a new job, it was at a rate not to be sniffed at, although not at the rates that qualified accountants of my age would expect to receive.
A small subsidiary of an overseas insurer had contacted a few employment agencies with an urgent requirement for a “Company Accountant”. I read the specs for the job, and it was for an accountant to head up the accounts and administration departments. The salary was slightly lower than my current rate, (which explained why they were prepared to consider candidates without formal qualifications), but crucially, a company car was included in the package.
Such was my desire to leave my current employer, and prove to him that I was able to find an employer who thought I was ‘worth’ a company car, that I immediately indicated my interest in the position.
Although the company’s insurance business was quite small, it was overloaded with senior management, and I was interviewed by no less than 3 people: the Company Secretary, the Assistant general manager (Finance), and finally the General Manager himself.
It transpired that the previous incumbent in the position, a woman, had suffered a nervous breakdown, and the whole department was in one almighty mess. The woman in question was still on the payroll, but had been removed from the position, and was involved in some computer project, and in the meantime the department was leaderless and becoming more chaotic every day. As I was to discover later, the two men who initially interviewed me, (not the GM), were desperate for someone to take over and sort out the mess, as it was completely beyond their capabilities to even keep things afloat until a new accountant arrived.
So Mobi, the brash, experienced accountant with the brilliant CV (in which I told a few white lies, including, crucially, that I was the Chief Accountant in my current position), was just the man they were looking for, and I was provisionally given the nod, with barely a question being asked.
However, before my appointment could be finalized, I had to be interviewed and vetted by the general manager, an insurance industry professional and a “larger than life” character, in his late fifties, with very a old fashioned manner and extremely traditional values. Fortunately, we immediately hit it off, but there was one last hurdle.
The GM was on friendly terms with one of the senior directors of my current employers, and told me he would be calling him to obtain a reference.
I waited for a few days, expecting the worst, for I did not know this Director personally, and I felt sure that he would refer the request to the Company Secretary, who by now had become my enemy.
I needn’t have worried, for the Director did not want to admit to my new boss that he had never heard of me, and gave him a glowing reference, and assured him how “Sorry they were to lose me!”. Typical, stupid, irresponsible “hooray Henry” attitude, but I suited my situation perfectly.
In the meantime I had given notice to my current boss, who immediately panicked and offered me yet more money, but no car. I was resolved by now, and I enjoyed immensely working my notice period, during which I was continually on the phone to my new employers, discussing the specs of my company car which would be delivered the day I started work.
I almost messed the whole thing up towards the end of my notice period, as I was really getting fed up with ‘propping up’ my current boss, and didn’t really approve of the way he treated his staff – he had become much more moody and unpleasant since I gave in my notice – and one day, about a week before I was due to leave, I exploded and told him what I thought of him, my anger no doubt fuelled by a belly full of beer that lunchtime.
Not a good idea. He called the personnel director and I was escorted form the premises, and told to spend the remaining week of my notice period at home. Fortunately, the written reference had already been sent, and no long term damage was done, but as I mentioned previously, the London Insurance market is very small, and it didn’t do to make enemies.
So on 1st March, 1986, I reported for work, in the heart of the City, for my new job, which was to lead me to “greatness and riches”, beyond my wildest dreams.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 9)
THE INSURANCE YEARS (CONTINUED)
When I reported for work at my new position on 1st March 1986, I knew very little about insurance.
The accounts department of an insurance broker is a million miles from the complexities that are inherent in insurance company accounting. In essence, a broker is a trader, he sells insurance and earns commission. O.K. he does receive the insurance premiums, which have to be accounted for and then paid over to the underwriter, net of commission. But the specially tailored accounting systems that are put into place to account for these transactions pale into insignificance when comparing it to the systems that are required to account for insurance premiums, claims, insurance reserves, and investments, that are part and parcel of an insurer’s daily business.
I had read up a little on these matters prior to my starting my new job, but nothing could have prepared me for the levels of financial complexity and the unfamiliar lexicon of arcane and specialist technical insurance language and terminology that I was bombarded with from the very first moments of my new job.
That first morning, I sat in my new office with the Assistant General Manager (Finance), a qualified chartered accountant who had been working in the insurance industry all his working life, and he took me through a voluminous list of financial, technical and other problems that required urgent attention.
For some reason that I never did fully understand, he and his colleagues seemed to think that because I had worked for an insurance broker I knew all about insurance accounting, which of course I did not.
So he went through his pile of priority tasks for me to resolve, using all manner of technical language of which I knew nothing, and I sat there, nodded sagely, and pretended that I understand everything perfectly and that I would soon have everything up to date and all the problems sorted.
It was one of the biggest challenges I had ever faced in my life. I had quit my previous position, which had paid me well, and was mine as long as I had wanted it, and walked into this nightmare.To make matters worse, I had a wife, mother and step daughter at home to support, and if I failed, I would be out of a job and our savings would soon disappear.
So it was a very worried Mobi that knocked off from work that night. Of course fate has a habit of kicking you when you are down. I had picked up my shiny new company car that had been delivered to the office that afternoon, and I had driven about half way home when the engine conked out, and I had to call the dealer who took about 3 hours to come and collect it, leaving to me to continue to my home via train and bus.
So by the time arrived home, I was tired, very worried and full of despair at the direction my life seemed to be going.
A few beers were in order and I have no recollection of passing out on the couch, where I subsequently spent the entire night.
But such were my powers of recovery that the next morning I felt refreshed and bright and determined to make a go of this new job if it were at all possible.
After all, I reasoned to myself, everything in business and accounting is just common sense and logic. Once a person understood the basics of how accounts are put together, these same principals can be applied to any business, be it making widgets, selling cars, farming, restaurants, or indeed… insurance. In the accounting business, as long as you remember that for every debit there must be a credit, you couldn’t go too far wrong. Or, at least that is what I convinced myself in my cocky, post drinking state of mind.
So my second day at work was approached with a mixture of trepidation, and confidence that all I had to do was apply my ‘wonderful brain’, and all would be overcome.
Well I won’t relate in detail how I managed to survive those first few months, as I frantically raced up the ‘learning curve’ of insurance accounting, and held onto my job, by convincing all and sundry (including my staff), that I knew a lot more than I actually did.
But as I have mentioned before, I cut my teeth in the cut and thrust of one of the most difficult places on earth for foreigners to do business– namely Thailand, and that experience, coupled with “man management:” skills that I had developed in places such as the Grace Hotel and Bangkok’s massage parlours would surely hold me in good stead.
Well believe it or not, it did.
I learned, survived, and started to prosper. I started to understand this weird and intricate world of insurance, and I started to sort out all the messes that I had inherited by the previous incumbent (who you may recall had suffered from a nervous breakdown!). As time went on, I became more and more knowledgeable in insurance matters, and less of a “bull shitter”.
As I consolidated my position, I became increasingly frustrated by the layers of management I had to report to – namely my direct report was the Company Secretary, who in turn reported to The AGM (Finance). They were both nice enough guys, but for such a small operation, it was patently ridiculous to have these levels of management, particularly when I was the one doing all the work, and they just sat around all day awaiting the results of my labour, so that they could put in their ‘two penneth’, and approve my work (or not), pretty much as the mood took them.
And in addition to these two, there was yet another senior manager who was responsible for computer systems, and although I did not report to him, he was on the same level as me, and made the running of the company extremely unwieldy and inefficient.
I wasn’t sure how long I could put up with this unsatisfactory state of affairs, but for the time being I kept my head down, concentrated on my work, and reaped the dividends in the form of regular salary increases, which were quickly making my own financial position ever more secure.
In fact, about one year in to my new job, I felt sufficiently confident in my career to move my family out of the East End of London, and I put a substantial deposit on a house in South Essex, which was about a 45 minute train ride from the city, and the following June (1987) my family and I moved out into the “country”.
In case you were wondering, my drinking career during this period did not take a backward step.
After the first few weeks in my new position, I fell into the old habit of long, very boozy lunches, and then picked up the drinking rains again at the end of a long day’s work. It was back to the pub with work colleagues for a few hours before staggering home to the wife, my stomach full of beer and gas, and my slightly pickled brain, thoroughly exhausted.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 10)
THE INSURANCE YEARS (CONTINUED)
For the next two years, I went through some intense learning with regard to the intricacies of the insurance underwriting business, and in particular tried to become an expert in the nuts and bolts of insurance accounting.
I have stated earlier that you can apply accounting principles to almost any kind of business venture that you care to name; from manufacturing, to ‘Joe the Plumber”. While to some extent I would still hold that to be true, there is no doubt that without any in depth knowledge of the insurance business, how it works, and how it is accounted for, any accountant would be truly perplexed, were he (or she) to have an insurance accounts department dumped in his lap. My predecessor did indeed have considerable knowledge of the business, and in spite of this she suffered from a nervous breakdown!!. So what hope was there for little me?
Nevertheless, I persevered, and worked very hard, and slowly began to see the light. Everything started to fall into place, and as time went on, I was able to run the department with some degree of expertise and even made substantial inroads on the mess I had inherited.
before long, in some respects, I now knew more than my bosses – certainly from the ‘ground upwards’, of which they had little or no knowledge.
So about two years into my tenure, I was called to the GM’s office one day to receive the news that The AGM (Finance) was leaving, and his position would not be replaced. He had told the GM that he was fast becoming “surplus to requirements” and that I was more than capable of taking over his role.
So the GM told me that he would be promoting me to Financial Controller, and that the Company Secretary, who was nearing retirement, and the other senior manager who was responsible for the computer systems, would also report to me. I would report directly to the GM. (The GM confided in me that the Computer Manager was a pain in the ‘arse’ and he would be eternally grateful if I could manage this man, as the GM had no desire to take on this particular challenge in man management.)
The GM was correct, the Computer Manager was a ‘pain’, but I managed to develop a good working relationship with him and succeeded in motivating him to help me run the department, even though he had made it clear that he deeply resented the fact that I was “promoted over his head”.
Of course a generous salary increase came with the new position, and within the next year I moved yet again to another, slightly more ‘up market’ house, but still within the a same area of South Essex. As a family, we seemed to have put our roots down there.
My ‘stock’ within the London Company grew higher and higher, and I was now starting to be noticed by the folks in Head Office. The CEO and FD of the main company were frequent visitors to our London office, and now that the previous AGM was gone, I was the senior financial man in London, and as such, became involved in high level meetings, and also started to socialise with these people at top London restaurants and other entertainment spots.
Over the next year or so a couple of events occurred that had a significant effect on my future insurance career.
Firstly there was the Lloyd’s of London Collapse.
The infamous ‘reinsurance cycle’ had finally imploded, and many Lloyd’s syndicates were bankrupted, and the whole of the Lloyd’s insurance market came perilously close to melt down. (In fact it took many years and a great deal of ‘wheeler dealing’ and government initiatives before the market was able to return to some semblance of normalcy and financial stability.) But it wasn’t only the Lloyd’s market that was in “semi melt- down”. The whole of the London insurance market became affected by what was going on in Lloyd’s, and there were many insurance and reinsurance company casualties. Mergers and take-overs were rife, and hundreds of famous insurance company names, which had been operating in the London market for centuries, suddenly disappeared without trace.
Allied to this, redundancies and unemployment in the London insurance sector spiralled, and all of us at my little insurance company breathed a sigh of relief that we seemed to have escaped the worst of the financial ravages.
However, we were not out of the woods, as our business was very small, our overheads were increasing, and on top of that we did suffer some financial fall-out from the Lloyd’s fiasco.
The Head office ‘wallers’ came over for discussions on our future, and the GM was charged with putting together some plans for their consideration, which hopefully, would improve the company’s profitability and justify our continued existence.
So for the next few months it was “all hands to the pumps” and “burning the midnight oil” ( don’t I just love these clichés??), and of course Mobi was in the thick of it, crunching and re-crunching spread sheets to try and arrive at the magic solution.
In due course it became clear that the only way we could survive was to decimate part of our business and cease to ‘write’ unprofitable “lines” of insurance. These unprofitable lines were not only transacted in London, but also at a network of provincial offices that we maintained throughout the country. In effect, it meant that all the provincial offices, bar one or two, would be closed down, and all the staff from those offices and a substantial number of people from our London office would have to be made redundant.
The plan was submitted to Head Office and we obtained the necessary approval to put it into effect.
We then had “D” day, when all the senior managers were dispatched to different locations to break the news to those who would be made redundant, and to inform them of their redundancy packages. It was an emotional and difficult day, and I had more than my fair share of “bad news” to impart.
I think the experience of going through that day taught me a lot, and in some way hardened me for my future role as a city manager. Up to that point, I had always adopted a patient, softly, softly approach to management, but this event seemed to change me. Was it a change for the better or for the worse? Who knows?
My drinking was also continuing apace, and as previously stated, I would always have very drunken lunches, to be followed by even longer periods of drinking when work was finally done for the day. My drinking was mainly carried out in the company of work colleagues, but occasionally, when no one was free, or there were no official social engagements to attend, I would pub crawl in the City alone. I would invariably end up at one of my locals near Fenchurch Street Railway station, or even at a bar in the station itself, before staggering onto the last train for home, often without having had an evening meal.
The ‘dramas’, before and during “D” day, had caused my drinking habits to become more serious than ever and probably contributed to my hardening work management attitudes.
Once the “D Day” deed was done, we were a new and even smaller player in the market, but it wasn’t long before this ‘state of being’ once again started to lack viability. Although our business was now profitable at the gross insurance level, (i.e. insurance claims being paid were less than insurance premiums received), the necessary overheads to maintain a London Insurance Company with all the regulatory hurdles to jump through, were such that the insurance gross profits were insufficient to carry our overheads. In addition we still had to keep extra staff for an indefinite period to service the business that we had now discontinued, as claims on that business would still arise and need to be dealt with for many years to come.
So once again we had come to bitter cross-roads, and once again we were being pushed very hard by our masters in head Office to produce yet another plan to justify our continued existence.
This time around it didn’t look as though we had much hope for survival.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 11)
THE INSURANCE YEARS (CONTINUED)
Things were looking very grim for our poor little London based insurance company, and the ‘word on the street’ was predicting our demise within months, if not weeks.
About a year before we reached this critical juncture, our masters in Sydney had purchase another small company in the London insurance market, but this one was concerned with transacting reinsurance business, a totally different animal to our own business.
Reinsurance is the business of insuring insurance companies. An insurance company writes an insurance policy for the general public, businesses, and other entities such as local /central government, charities, sports and other social organizations etc.); calculates then risk, and then would usually “lay off” a portion of that risk with a reinsurance company.
The very nature of reinsurance means that it is not as labour intensive as an insurance business because although the gross value of a reinsurance businesses can be very high, the number of customers is relatively small, as it only transacts business with other insurance companies. But along with the very high levels of revenue, the level of risk can also be much higher, and the consequent rewards or losses much greater.
So to operate a successful reinsurance business, the prime requisite is for specialised staff that are relatively few in number but are very high in their relevant skill bases and experience. It is a tricky business indeed to underwrite and manage reinsurance risks.
A majority of insurance companies either transact insurance or transact reinsurance business – they rarely transact both. The businesses are not compatible in so many ways, and the skills required are very different, as are also the administration, reporting, computer and accounting systems that support these businesses.
The reinsurer that my masters from head office had bought was a small, London based reinsurer with a back up office in Shannon in the Irish republic. It was in the west coast of Ireland that the computer systems and other back up work was carried out, and the London office housed the senior management and senior underwriters.
So at the time of the company was acquired, no thought was given to whether there could be any value in merging the two companies, or looking at possible “synergies” between the two entities.
But such was the dire state of my insurance company, and also the increasing vulnerability of the small reinsurer, (it became increasingly apparent that in a post Lloyd’s financial crisis scenario, that reinsurance companies would need to have a much higher capital base to survive), I was charged, amongst other things, with the task of looking into a possible ‘merger’ of two small, financially unviable entities, into a larger, single entity with a greater capital base, which would be able to transact both insurance and reinsurance business.
I have recounted how, two to three years previously, my employers had assumed, erroneously, that they had hired an experienced insurance professional. Why they presumed that, I will never know. Well, when my bosses first started looking at the viability of merging the two insurance/reinsurance operations, they assumed, once again, that not only was Mobi an Insurance accounting expert, but that I also knew everything there was to know about reinsurance accounting.
Reinsurance accounting, (you must take my word from this), is a whole different technical ball game to ordinary (‘direct’) insurance accounting and at that point in time, I was blissfully ignorant of anything to do with a reinsurance business and its associated technical accounting mysteries.
If I thought the learning curve I had been through to successfully hold the financial reins of the insurance company was tough going, it paled into insignificance in comparison to the multitude of tasks that now faced me. Not only did I have to rapidly get up to speed on the technicalities and nuances of reinsurance and the accounting of reinsurance, but I also had to head up the team which was to produce a project proposal for the merger of the two entities.
If you have a company selling sweets, and another selling ice cream, then it is a relatively simple matter to merge the two businesses. But not so insurance. There are thousands policy holders to consider, thousands of potential future claims payments to consider (some of which may take decades to settle), and the whole operation becomes mired in a mass of technicalities and insurance regulations. One of the myriad tasks that had to be undertaken was for us to write to every single policy holder, and every single person or company who may have insurance claim outstanding, and notify them of our plan and in effect, seek their approval. Notices had to be posted for day after day in the national press and the specialist insurance press.
But the worst and most difficult part of the project was to obtain then Financial Services Authority (FSA), approval. (In those days it was the Department of Trade and Industry- DTI).
We held a number of initial, exploratory meetings with the FSA to get some preliminary approvals for our plan, and then had to produce countless financial spread sheets that demonstrated what we were proposing to do; how we proposed to carry it out, and – crucially – produce detailed five year financial business projections to show that the merged entity would be be profitable and financially stable.
I could write a book about this project alone. What we were undertaking is rarely done. Usually, when an insurer is taken over, its business is retained within the entity that has been acquired, and becomes an additional trading subsidiary with just a name change. In our case, we were ‘backing’ the insurance business into the reinsurance company, and obtaining FSA approval to convert a company that was only authorized to transact reinsurance business into one that could write all lines of business. It was akin to obtaining approval to set up a new company from scratch; only more complex.
For me, my whole future was on the line. If I could pull this project off, I would be ‘made’, but if it all fell apart and we failed to obtain the necessary approvals, then my career would go down the drain along with our business. The stakes were high, and I sweated like I had never done before.
I cannot recall exactly how long the whole process took, but it was certainly at least a year, and maybe longer, but finally, I will never forget the meeting we had with the Deputy Chief of the FSA, when he informed us that our plans had finally been approved and we could go ahead and merge the two entities under a single, new name.
I am sure that you can well believe that the champagne flowed that night and for several thereafter.
So overnight, in insurance circles I had become a “hero” and a “financial genius”!! I even received personal congratulations from the CEO and FD of the international company, and as a reward, I was appointed as a Director to all the company boards, and became the Financial Director of the company’s European operations.
I had now shifted into the big league; with greater financial rewards and a commensurate increase in management responsibilities.
I was on my way.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 12)
THE INSURANCE YEARS (CONTINUED)
I should recap on some of the background that led me to be appointed to the coveted appointment of FD of the merged company’s European Operations.
When I first started working with my colleagues at the reinsurance company, about a year or so before the merger was completed, the reinsurance company was headed up by a bright young Irishman, who had been brought over from the back office in Shannon the run the show after the company had been purchased from it previous owners.
But during the merger process, he was “poached” by a major German reinsurance company, and was subsequently replaced by another bright young man, this time English, whose previous company, through no fault of his own, had been one of the many casualties of the Lloyd’s ‘meltdown’.
This was a very fortunate change of leadership for me, as the Irish Manager obviously favoured his Irish colleagues back home in Ireland, and in particular was keen to promote his own financial people into senior positions in the soon to be merged entity. Luckily for me he gave in his notice before his plans had been finalised or approved by head office and to add icing to the cake, I immediately hit it off with the new English G.M.
Things were still touch and go for a while, for my masters in head Office were in love with all things Irish, not least because the CEO and The CFO both boasted Irish ancestry. However, as I have previously mentioned, my stock was very high following my successful completion of the project; I had a very strong ally and supporter in the name of my current boss, (who over the past few years I had built up an excellent and personal relationship with), and now the new GM of the reinsurance company was also fast becoming my strong supporter.
Against me was the fact that I was an unqualified accountant, as compared to the entire Irish mob who had qualifications coming out of their ears. Additionally, there loomed the distinct possibility of my masters recruiting a new, qualified insurance ‘heavyweight’ to head up the newly merged department.
But my supporters won the day and I was subsequently ensconced in my new, very powerful position.
Once the two operations were merged into one operating entity, we found ourselves in the difficult and touchy situation of having two general managers. The first GM, (my original boss), was the traditional, ‘crusty’ general insurance GM in his early sixties, and the second, a brash young professional in his mid thirties. The older GM was made in nominal, overall charge, but on a day to day basis, the younger man was allowed ‘carte blanch’ to run his reinsurance business with minimal interference from his ‘figure head’ boss – “Mr. Crusty”, the older man.
This was an uneasy situation, and for a year or so we all had to “walk on egg shells” in an attempt to placate Mr. Crusty when we started to introduce new ideas and a new “culture” into the new London company. The two men got on pretty well on a personal level, and both had respect for each other. The younger man respected Mr. Crusty’s experience, sense of humour and worldly wisdom in a general way, and Mr. Crusty respected the younger man’s intellect, work ethic and undoubted profitable track record.
But in spite of this “mutual respect” there were many clashes on all manner of issues ranging from salary scales and bonuses, to petty matters like how the junior staff should address senior Managers. In the old man’s mind, he still expected to be addressed as “sir” and was shocked and upset when the new reinsurance staff had the temerity to address him by his first name!
This really was a “changing of the guard”, as new professionals were recruited into the company on much higher salaries than the existing insurance staff, and were given superior benefits, including top of the range, expensive company cars. Of course all this was absolutely necessary if we were to attract the right calibre of staff to help us make our mark in the London market, but the older man struggled to accept these young upstarts, less than half his age, who wore garish, “Larry King” type suspenders, drove fast cars, had fast women, and, as already stated – horror upon horror – addressed him by his first name.
As for me – I was caught in the middle. I got on extremely well with both bosses, and had to tread a delicate, middle road, as I listened sympathetically to complaints from both men, whispered sage advice into their ears and tried to calm their burgeoning egos.
To his credit, my elderly boss was not so stubborn that he could not see the direction the company was going, and as business increased, and we started to become a bigger player in the market, he reluctantly admitted that his “day’ was over and it was time for this new, brash breed to take the company to the next level. His respect for his younger colleague grew, and he started to appreciate the philosophy that in terms of staffing, you get what you pay for.
I will never forget one particular day, when the three of us were ensconced in the boardroom to review the staff annual salary increases and bonuses. By this time Mr. Crusty was pretty much sold on the idea of higher rewards for key staff and suddenly, out of the blue, he told his colleague that he would recommend a huge increase for yours truly – Mobi, and on top of that, as my car was up for replacement, he said I should be given a top of the range 5 series BMW, or equivalent. (At that time I was driving a bog standard Vauxhall Cavalier). The younger GM concurred heartily, and I soon became the proud owner of my very first “beamer”.
My older boss was around 62 or 63 at the time, and it wasn’t long after this that he suffered a massive heart attack and had to undergo triple bi-bass surgery. The surgery was successful and he made a complete recovery, but he was away from the office for many months as he went through a period of lengthy rehabilitation, and when he finally came back to work, it was really all over for him.
Much had happened during his absence: my younger boss had taken over the full reins of the company, and there was little for the older man to do. He maintained his huge, “prestige” office in Fenchurch Street, but he found himself without any meaningful role, and it wasn’t too long before the head office started to negotiate a retirement package for him.
The package offered was very generous, and he was very happy with the outcome. It was truly the end of an era when he entered his office for the very last time, and I was honoured by being invited to have the very last drink with him at his favourite city pub, before he jumped on a commuter train and headed off into the wintery sunset.
In actual fact, he remained on the various London and Irish boards as a non executive Director for many years into the future, and I saw him often at board meetings where we would catch up with the City gossip over a few pints and a ‘ploughman’s’ at one of his many favoured pubs.
But his going represented the end of an era in the London Insurance market – an era where there were countless small players – like our old insurance company, who transacted small, labour intensive insurance transactions for minimal profits, and staffed by people who earned low salaries and as a consequence had little initiative, and were basically clock watchers – waiting for ‘knocking off time’ so that they could rush to the pubs for some beer and darts.
We were now in a new era of highly paid, dynamic professionals, who were dedicated to their work, spent 18 hours a day in the office, dined and drank in up market wine bars and who were going to take us to previously unforeseen heights. And as F.D, I was sitting right up there with the gods, on the right hand side of our insurance God, my mate, the General Manager.
We were really going to take this outfit somewhere big and exciting, and if we didn’t, it wouldn’t be for the want of trying.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 13)
THE INSURANCE YEARS (CONTINUED)
My new boss, the ambitious young reinsurance manager, was now in sole charge since the older man’s retirement and he and I formed a close partnership with the plan of turning this small, sleepy subsidiary into a major player in the London insurance market.
Things moved agonizingly slowly at first. New, highly paid senior underwriters were employed, and they were charged with developing new lines of business, commensurate with their specialized skills and expertise. I have previously stated that the new insurance entity was now DTI authorised to transact both “direct” insurance and reinsurance business. The only business we could not transact was life insurance business.
Our new team of dynamic new underwriters started taking the market by storm and added much new business to our books, often by re-establishing old business relationships that they brought with them to their new company. Additionally, we were now able to take on greater chunks of insurance “risks” as the capital of the company had been increased substantially following the reorganization and re-authorisation. The increased capital gave us access to insurance markets that had hitherto been closed to us, and our gross premium volumes started to steadily increase.
But the very nature of the insurance business means that with the best will in the world it takes years for business to grow. Even with the most basic ‘short tail” insurance business, (Such as private house insurance), it is at least a year after writing the business that a company can start to recognize any profits (or losses) from that business, as it will take a considerable period of time before any realistic assessment can be made on the number of claims that have been made, or will be made in the future, on that business.
And then, if we look at “long tail” business, (such as public liability insurance) it can take many years before it is even possible to assess to amount of claims that may arise on that business, and in the meantime, the results of that business are effectively held in suspense – no profit, no loss – until a proper assessment can be made.
Reinsurance business is much the same, only worse in terms of ‘releasing’ profits and/or losses into the companies balance sheet. If it takes am insurance company some time to properly assess the claims on ‘direct’ insurance business, how much longer will it take for reinsurance companies who re-insure that business to know exactly where they stand on the profitability of the business they have reinsured? They have to rely on reports submitted to them by the insurers they have insured, which will only be submitted months and sometimes years after the event.
So if we wanted to became a major player within five years or so, growing our business exponentially or organically would not be sufficient. The only way we could really achieve our aim\ was by acquisition – buying up ‘ready-made’ insurance and/or reinsurance businesses.
And this we started to set about with great gusto.
During the next few years I devoted a great deal of my time and energy to acquisitions, and these ranged from the simple buying of a ‘portfolio of business’ from another insurer who wanted to offload for various reasons, to the buying up of fully fledged insurers and reinsurers. We even took great pride in entering the Lloyds’ market itself by acquiring a number of Lloyd’s syndicates.
Of course it is easy to write in one sentence that we made a number of significant insurance acquisitions over the next few years, but this barely does justice to the amount of midnight oil that was burned in these endeavours, and every single acquisition became a major headache and business challenge from the very first day that we identified it as a potential target. Before we could even become serious about acquiring a target, we had to do a great amount of research on the business to really understand what it was about, it’s weak and strong points, it’s past performance, it’s potential going forward, possible duplications or benefits to our existing business, possible synergies, in depth analysis of the company’s reports, accounts statutory returns, etc .etc.
Much of the above work had to be carried out before we could even get the go ahead from our main board to formally approach the target to negotiate a possible takeover.
Once internal approval had been given, we then entered the negotiation stage with the target’s managers, which often involved much due diligence on the target company’s records and business, and always involved long and drawn out discussions with the target’s lawyers. It is a very difficult and complex matter to acquire any business, and trust me when I tell you that insurance acquisition business is amongst the most complex that one could ever become involved in. Sometimes, we would spend weeks or even months negotiating a complex deal, only to have it collapse at the last moment, either due to another acquirer trumping us with a better offer, or simply failure to agree some of the “fine print” in the contract details.
And then, finally, when everything was agreed in principle, we had to trawl along to the FSA and present them with full details of our takeover offer, and also present then with a 3 year financial plan on how we would merge the acquired business with our existing business, and how we proposed to manage it.
For the first few years of our growth phase, we maintained our back up Service Company in Shannon on the West coast of Ireland, and much of the processing was carried out there. I became a frequent visitor to Shannon, as all the reinsurance accounting and back up work (such as claims processing) was carried out there. Also, our mainframe computers were maintained and operated from there. In addition, some Irish underwriting staff were based there, and they would travel to London and the continental insurance markets from Shannon to meet their customers (insurance companies), and obtain new business and renew existing business.
Under our new ‘regime’, we determined that the Shannon office was a sleepy backwater, and that it was not the right place to base members of our underwriting team, so we set up a Dublin office, and moved all the Irish underwriters to the new location.
We then made the momentous decision to close down the entire back office in Shannon, and move some of the key staff to London with others being relocated to Dublin, and the remainder being laid off. The reason for this was the unacceptable inefficiencies of the entire Shannon operation. Many of the staff had been there for 10 years or more – long before we acquired the company. During that time there had grown up countless restrictive work practices, massive over-staffing, a very lazy and laid back work ethic, and much ridiculous overspending of the company’s hard earned money.
At first we made a very hard attempt to simply reorganize and streamline the operation in conjunction with the advice of a respected Irish consultancy company – one of their own – who we thought they would accept. But it wasn’t to be and you would have thought that a new Irish rebellion had broken out as we attempted to introduce changes.
At the height of this “crisis” and during our subsequent reluctant decision to close down the whole operation and move it to Dublin, I was spending up to half my working week in Ireland, and the other half in London. The London based new business acquisitions were continuing apace, and on top of that I had well over half of the entire European operation to manage, as just about every department, except insurance underwriting and claims management now came under my remit.
As the crisis in Shannon drew to a head, I was probably the most unpopular man in the west coast of Ireland, and I was even cursed from the priests’ pulpits at Sunday Mass. Nearly all the Shannon staff either lived in the nearby towns of Limerick or Ennis and the staff came from close knit communities from within those towns and they had known each other for generations. Mobi was identified as the evil English bastard who was about to take away their livelihoods. I was even threatened, but in those days, with plenty of alcohol to give me courage, I feared no one.
Ironically, historically the staff from Limerick stuck together, as did the staff who hailed from Ennis. Two distinct groups of people who they hated each other almost as much as they hated me; but I became their common enemy, so for the first time in living memory, they joined together in a common cause – Mobi the English devil incarnate!!!!!
(Much later, I came to learn that the villages around Shannon were a hot bed of IRA terrorist groups who were living under cover and planning their next outrages in Northern Ireland and mainland England. If I had known this, I might not have been quite so brave!!)
So it doesn’t take much imagination to realise what affect this high pressure work and travelling was having on my alcoholic sickness. Travel time became drinking time, and as soon as I hit an airport, be it London City, Dublin, Heathrow or Shannon, straight to the business class lounge and straight into the free booze, which continued as soon as I was air bound.
Evenings at the business hotels were notable only for the time spent at hotel bars, or maybe doing the rounds of some village bars in Ennis or Limerick. I often travelled with some of my senior staff from London or Ireland, and if not, there would always be local managers who would meet me and join me in my drinking sprees. The Irish are somewhat noted for their love of alcohol, and despite my unpopularity, I never had any problem finding local drinking partners.
When I was working in my London office, it was no different. My alcoholism was exacerbated by stress and the easy ability of booze (all claimed on expenses) and people to drink with, both during long lunches, and in the evening, however late I finished. Such was my position of power within the company that no one would dare refuse my invitation for a few drinks after work or at lunch time, so in those days, I rarely drank alone.
Every year, our internal “Three year Plan” to our head Office became more and more ambitious. After t a few years of successful, spectacular growth, we became discontented with just expanding in the UK and Ireland, and started to set our sights on continental Europe and even Eastern Europe, which at that time was starting to break away from the Soviet yoke that had restricted their development and access to the outside world for so many years.
This opened up a whole new world for me, and as the new relocated Dublin operation became finally bedded in, I started to turn my attention towards Western Europe and beyond. This gave me new opportunities to travel, which I loved, and of course, more opportunities to punish my fast deteriorating body with yet more alcohol abuse.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 14)
THE INSURANCE YEARS (CONTINUED)
Some of our senior reinsurance underwriters were already travelling to Western and Eastern Europe, North and South America and Asia in order to service and expand our worldwide reinsurance business, but all this business was transacted out of our London office and effectively was UK (worldwide) business.
The next step was to obtain approval from the US authorities to transact “direct” insurance business within the United States, and due to the mountain of insurance regulation in that country, not only did we have to obtain authorisation from the “central” authorities, but before we could transact any business, we had to obtain approval from State Insurance Commissioners on a state by state basis. Each state had its own specific regulations and requirements, and each application had to be accompanied by a mountain of legal documents. So we started with the most profitable Sates, like California, and slowly worked our way through. It took years before we had the authorities to write insurance in all the states on our ‘wish list’.
Europe was a different state of affairs. Thanks to the then recently enacted EU treaties, all authorised insurance companies in the EU were entitled to write insurance business in each other’s territories. However, it wasn’t quite that simple, as every country had its own little idiosyncrasies, and each one required a formal application for local approval before the companies could go ahead and do business in that country. So, like the USA, we had to take each country in turn, and get the appropriate approvals, but in general these were not as onerous as they were in the US.
What all this meant for me was that I had to form a whole new department to deal with all these applications and follow up, but at the end of the day, once approval was obtained, it provided us with new and expanding market for the London based insurer.
While this was all going on, we opened some representative offices in a number of European territories, including France, Belgium and Italy, and then the big one – we set in motions plans to open a large office in Paris.
We recruited a prestigious and very experienced French Senior Underwriter/Manager and together we prepared a business plan for the transaction of insurance and reinsurance business in the French Market. The “direct” insurance business would be mainly French, but some would also emanate from other European States, and the reinsurance business would be both French, and worldwide, with the bulk of it drawn from French speaking territories.
It was an ambitious plan, but such was London’s growing “stock and reputation” in our company, that we received the go ahead, with barely a murmur. The French operation was to be a branch of the London Company, so there would be no need to commit more capital to finance the new French operations. It was now possible to do this, following the aforementioned, recently enacted EU insurance “freedom of trade” regulations, but of course, France being France, even though we, as British, were allowed under the EU laws to set up a branch in Paris, there was still a mountain of French bureaucratic crap and red tape to wade our way through, before we could open our doors for business.
Such was our growing confidence, (some were daring to suggest arrogance!), that we opted to lease prestige offices in the heart of Paris in the Place Vendome, right opposite the prestigious Ritz Hotel. These were grand offices indeed, having been converted from private apartments for the wealthy into beautiful, ornate offices. The high ceilings contained carvings and paintings, and the walls were adorned with ornately carved, gold – edged columns. Murals and original works of art adorned the walls. In fact our new Paris offices had all the trappings of extravagant opulence.
Working in conjunction with our new French GM, we recruited a number of French staff, many of them known personally to the French GM, and others with good market reputations, who we had poached from other French insurers.
As you can imagine, Paris became a regular item on my itinerary, and as with Ireland before, I was now spending half my week in Paris helping to set up the office and get the business off on the right foot. First Class travel on Euro Star was the order of the day, as it proved more convenient and quicker than flying, as well as giving me better conditions to continue my work.
I had previously visited Paris a few times as a tourist, and had even attended a few conferences there, but when we opened the Paris office, for a while it became my second home. We relocated a number of our London based (and Irish based) staff to Paris to help with the setting up process and instill our colleagues with our Anglo Saxon culture, which included a much harder work ethic than our French staff had been previously accustomed to.
In retrospect, it is a tossup between Ireland (where you may recall they wanted to kill me and I was damned from the Sunday pulpits), and France, as to which was the biggest nightmare, and which presented my biggest challenge.
For sure both nationalities presented us with extraordinary personnel and cultural issues, and my boss and I spent many sleepless nights trying to resolve the myriad problems and grow the business profitably.
Also in retrospect, it is hardly surprising, that an admitted alcoholic such as me would continue to seek solace in booze at every occasion. My French colleagues were all heavy drinkers, and they introduced me to a whole new world of French wine, and we even had our own “company” champagne bottled which was always flowing in the Paris offices on a daily basis.
And the French night clubs were something else again. Thank God my boss never queried my expenses, or I would have gone bankrupt.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 15)
THE INSURANCE YEARS (CONTINUED)
Once we had established a good presence in Western Europe by opening a large branch office in Paris, and a number of representative offices in other western European countries, we then turned our attention to central and Eastern Europe.
It hadn’t been long since many eastern European countries had thrown off the Soviet yoke and at that time were desperately trying to open up their fragile economies and attract western investment.
If there is any part of my career that I would look back on with pride, it would be the period of time that I devoted to developing and building the company’s business “empire” in Eastern Europe. I was instrumental in sowing the seeds that will undoubtedly grow over the coming decades.
In the early days, I was fortunate to obtain the services of a Croatian national, who we ‘poached’ from a London reinsurance broker who specialized in eastern Europe, and who brought to us a wide network of contacts throughout the eastern continent.
His task was to use his network of friends and acquaintances to identify companies and businesses across the eastern part of the continent that may be potential targets for a acquisition.
Lists were made, published accounts and research information on companies was obtained, and where necessary, translated, and a short list was produced for further action.
The next step was to arrange a preliminary ‘field’ reconnoitre and meetings with the management of the target company.
Before I undertook these trips, two factors had to be established. The first was that we were not getting involved in a hostile takeover, and secondly that we had to have whatever it took in that particular country to have complete day to day MANAGEMENT control of the company, and to be able to control the Board of Directors and to approve all corporate decisions. We were not interested in a minority investment, where locals still held ultimate control, but 51%, or whatever it took to empower us in the manner as stated above, would be fine.
So began my travelling career. I travelled all over eastern Europe; from Russia, to Poland, to Belgrade, to Hungary, to Bulgaria, to the Czech Republic, to Slovakia, to Moldova, to Croatia, to Macedonia, to Latvia, to Romania, Serbia, Ukraine and no doubt to many more places that I cannot immediately recall due to so many years of alcohol abuse.
My trips involved high level, highly stressful meetings with local management, sometimes with translators present, followed by inspections of the accounts and insurance records, meetings with local lawyers and auditors, and generally trying to assess a “feel” for the place the target business and the local business environment.
Initial visits would be invariably be made alone, but in follow up trips (if the target passed the first hurdle) I would take along IT experts, senior underwriters, and other specialists who would look closer at the operation and try to assess its long term potential.
At each stage of the process, I would have to prepare a detailed report to our masters in Head Office, who would signify their approval (or not) to proceed to the next stage.
As you can imagine, this involved a great deal of time, and a lot of travelling. I might have to visit one particular target up to six times before the deal was consummated, or as often happened, we concluded that the deal would not work and reluctantly broke off negotiations.
The ultimate decision on these acquisitions had to be made by the main board at our Head office, and once the final go ahead was given, we once more had to undergo an in depth round of due diligence, before consummating the deal.
Once the business had been acquired, my boss and I were invariably appointed to the local Boards, and we then had the task of bedding in the new business, instilling our own corporate culture. Then there would invariably be the task of ‘rationalising’ and restructuring local management and staff. This became intense and stressful as it involved dealing with, and sometimes dispensing with, long serving local employees who we had identified as being incapable of change, or being counterproductive to the future success of our revamped business strategies.
Within a few years, we had an impressive group of insurance and reinsurance subsidiaries and branches across Eastern Europe from Kiev to Budapest, and from Prague to Warsaw. In all we had a substantial presence in over 10 countries; all acquired for relatively little capital outlay and all primed and ready to take off as and when the businesses in these newly freed ex-Communist states started to develop and expand their insurance products.
And all this had to be achieved in conjunction with carrying out my existing duties, which still included running many of the key departments of the company at our European Head Office in London.
Somewhere during this period I was promoted to Deputy General Manger, European Operations, and as a consequence, I promoted my Chief Financial Manager as F.D. in my place and he started to relieve me of my day to day financial duties. But my overall responsibilities remained wide and arduous.
The UK acquisitions also continued apace, and as before I became caught up in countless hours of negotiations and due diligence work on some major companies that we were targeting in the London market, and also in the UK provinces.
It was literally one after the other, sometimes two or three simultaneously, and at the same time, we were continuing to build up our East European network and to bed in the recent additions.
And if that wasn’t enough, we became increasingly interested in making an entry into the Lloyd’s of London syndicate insurance market, and after what seemed like never ending and extremely arduous and tedious negotiations; we acquired a major marine insurance syndicate at Lloyd’s.
Lloyd’s of London was a whole new ball game for the likes of us,. We were traditional “company market” players, and yet another huge learning curve had to be undertaken and excessive bureaucratic procedures and approvals had to be overcome before we were able to take our place as proud directors of our new Lloyd’s syndicate.
Also at this time the “executive European management” moved into new, prestige, luxury offices on the top floor of a major new City office building.
You could say that I had finally made it.
I had a huge, luxuriously furnished office, complete with sofas, armchairs, cocktail cabinet, wide screen TV, and to top it all, a magnificent, panoramic view of the City of London.
My young, pretty, mini-skirted secretary had her own adjacent office, and no one could get near me, or even call me, without being vetted and given the ‘once over’ by ‘her highness’.
At that time I was 53 years old, earning a great deal of money, and with my annual bonuses also racking up, there was no doubt that within a few years I would be a multi-millionaire. I was becoming one of the infamous, City “fat Cats”, but I can assure you that this “fat Cat” was earning his fat the hard way.
Yet, barely a year later, at the grand old age of 54 I was permanently retired, and within another year I was jetting my way to Thailand, alone and very alcoholic.
We shall see very soon….
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 16)
THE INSURANCE YEARS (CONTINUED)
During my last two to three years at my job as ‘No. 2’ to one of the fastest growing international insurers/re-insurers in the City, we continued to make a number of significant acquisitions, both within the UK, in Western Europe, and in Central and Eastern Europe.
In addition were fast making a name for ourselves in the USA, where our trading encompassed reinsurance as well as general insurance business, which we were able to transact following all that painstaking, regulatory, approval work carried out some years previously.
In fact our reinsurance arm extended truly worldwide, and we traded in Japan, South East Asia, Africa, Australasia and the Caribbean, amongst others, and our senior underwriters regularly travelled the world to cement and further develop our trading relationships.
Our reputation in the London Market was of a growing, aggressive, influential and innovative insurance player that was able to compete with the truly big boys of insurance and sometimes come out on top.
But critical to obtaining a larger slice of the best international business was to have a first class credit rating, and without the coveted triple A rating, it was impossible to obtain access to the largest and most lucrative business. I worked tirelessly to this end to convince the rating agencies, principally ‘Standard and Poor’s’, that we justified the top rating, and as with everything else in my insurance career, I ultimately succeeded. This meant that at last we could truly compete, and we no longer had to rely on the crumbs and the ’second class’ business that the big players would deign to let us scrap for.
So we went from strength to strength, and finally, we were in a position to go for the “big one”.
We were always in the process of trying to identify potential takeover targets, and in fact I had several staff dedicated to “Mergers and Acquisitions” on a full time basis. Their work included analyzing company’s balance sheets, financial results, track records etc, to see if there may be any ‘bargains’ out there. We had recently acquired a significant UK general insurer that had branches throughout the UK, with a Head office in no less a prestige location than Buckingham palace Road, and we were now looking for something significant within the Lloyds Market to “balance” our two trading arms.
We were already active in Lloyds, having earlier acquired a notable marine syndicate, and following this, we started a couple of new syndicates of own, but in the grand scheme of things we were still a relatively small player in the “Lloyd’s market”.
So with our arrogant and aggressive attitude, we dared to suggest to our masters in head office that we should look seriously at a UK company that was not only one of the largest players in the Lloyd’s market, but was in fact larger in terms of revenue, than our entire ,current European operation.
We were fortunate in having a very ambitious ally on the main board, but while he was also excited by the possibilities that this acquisition may create, he was far more cautious in his approach to potential acquisitions than we wanted to be.
Up to this point, all our acquisitions had been of the ‘friendly’ type. Our policy was not to pursue hostile, public take-overs, and even when some of the friendly ones subsequently became acrimonious, they had ultimately been agreed and sanctioned by the owners and lawyers of both parties, always in private and often with the assistance of firms of city merchant bankers who brokered the deals.
But this would be very different animal, as for starters the target was a publicly listed company on the London Stock market, and in fact was one of the leading listed shares in the insurance sector.
The fact that it was publicly listed did not necessarily deter us, and after we retained a leading firm of City bankers to advise us, we opted to make an informal approach the company’s CEO to see if they would be interested in entering into preliminary discussions with a view to us making a ‘friendly’ takeover offer.
But this company was as British as you can get, and was run by members of the Lloyds’ establishment (which as far as I could see was also a ‘branch’ of the British aristocracy), and there was no way in the world they would even consider talking to foreign ‘upstarts’, such as ourselves.
This became the opening salvo in a prolonged battle. We retreated wounded, but not defeated. Over the coming months, we tracked their share price as it gradually fell in value, due to a downturn in the insurance cycle, and we carried out extensive research into the target’s businesses and drew up a list of their key institutional shareholders.
Our actuaries and accountants produced detailed spread sheets, re-ran the numbers for every imaginable scenario and as time passed we became more and more convinced that the target’s share price represented excellent value, and with the synergies we could expect following a merger of the two businesses, it would constitute an excellent deal for our company.
Detailed representations were made to our main board, and following their approval, our company made a formal, public takeover offer for the company which immediately became hostile – the first such one in our company’s history.
The board of the target company were livid, and wasted no time in rejecting our offer outright, and did their best to belittle us in the press and accuse us of being naïve ‘boys’ in a man’s market, and dismiss our offer as too paltry to be worthy of serious consideration. The more acrimonious the takeover battle became, the more determined we became to succeed.
It raged back and forth for months, with our officers carefully following the onerous rules of the stock exchange in respect of public takeover offers, and after several minor upward adjustments to our original ‘offer” price, we submitted our final and irrevocable offer. At this point, we already knew that a large block of shares, belonging to institutional shareholders (major pension schemes and the like), were supporting our bid.
In the end, the target’s board realised that they had been out manoeuvred and conceded that the game was up. We had won and the board was humiliated, (they knew they would all lose their jobs), and somewhat reluctantly recommended to their shareholders that they accept our final offer.
On the day that they admitted defeat, our name was in the headlines throughout the British press, not only in the financial pages, but even on the front pages of the Broadsheets such as the “Times”, “Guardian” and “Daily Telegraph”. This was a significant financial acquisition, by any standards. In one fell swoop, we had doubled the size of our European operations, and had added something approaching another 30% to the size of our overall group.
Our celebrations knew no bounds, and I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many dozens of bottles of Bollinger were drunk in the wine bars of London over the next few days. We relished our famous victory over the entrenched insurance ‘establishment’ and we spent many drunken hours planning how we would merge and manage our new ‘empire.
But my dreams and celebrations were relatively short lived.
During the past year my drinking had steadily increased, and my health had steadily deteriorated – no doubt in direct proportion to the increasing amount of alcohol I was consuming.
I had been diagnosed as a ‘type two’ diabetic back in the early eighties, which within a few years had degenerated to the point where I had to take regular insulin shots. For years now, I had been injecting myself four times a day.
Then I started to have regular pains in my chest and my left arm, and the heart specialists told me I had angina and very high blood pressure. I underwent a series of angiograms (whereby they ran a micro camera inside my artery to assess any artery hardening and blockages.) The results were that my artery had a 40% blockage but was not bad enough to justify surgery – yet. I was given a host of drugs to take: beta blockers to slow down my heart rate, statins to reduce my cholesterol level, aspirin to thin my blood and others to reduce my blood pressure.
Then I was diagnosed with glaucoma which had to be controlled with daily eye drops, and finally I was told I had an enlarged prostate which is also had to be controlled by yet more drugs.
On top of that I had a problem at the neck of my bladder which would require surgery.
I was fast becoming a ‘drug junkie’ and a potential walking heart attack.
At around the time we were finalizing our major take over plans for the Lloyd’s company; I had a ‘heart to heart’ (no pun intended) with my cardiologist and my endocrinologist to discuss my various ailments and their prognosis for my future well being. They both told me the same thing. If I carried on with my present high pressure life style – stress, alcohol, insufficient sleep, unhealthy meals, extensive travelling, etc – then I may well be dead within 5 years.
I first discussed this with my wife, who had been urging me to slow down for years, and then my boss. The result of all this was that my boss approached the main board with a proposal that the company should offer me early retirement with a generous retirement package. My boss contended that the company was certainly culpable in the alarming deterioration of my health, and after all I had done for them, the very least they could do was to take care of me financially.
However, the subject conveniently disappeared from the agenda, and as ever I became immersed in my work, particularly with this latest and greatest city take-over on the agenda.
But my wife hadn’t forgotten, and about the time that I was planning my new and exciting role in the soon to be enlarged London entity, I was asked by my boss to undertake a series of medicals with company appointed doctors. This resulted in their concurrence with my own specialists’ earlier conclusions – that if I don’t stop work, I wouldn’t live to enjoy my retirement.
The retirement offer was finally on the table, and it was a good, very fair offer.
I didn’t want to take it. I had no idea what I would do if I stopped working. One way or another I had been working since I was barely sixteen years old, and in spite of my alcoholism, I was an undoubted workaholic. I was addicted to alcohol, and I was addicted to work – my two, life threatening cravings.
In spite of my misgivings, I was ‘between rock and a hard place’, and following some discussion with my young boss, it was agreed that I would take early retirement on 1st July, 2000, just a few weeks after my 54th birthday, and barely a few weeks after I had successfully completed my biggest and most ambitious project: the takeover of the Lloyd’s operation.
Sadly, I would not be there to manage the bedding in of our latest acquisition; to determine who would stay and who would go; what offices would be closed or merged and all the other myriad tasks that I revelled in, following a major take over.
What would I do? Where would I go? I would never have any money problems, but for me, at that moment in time, I didn’t care about money. I cared about my future life, and I especially feared for my life of idleness with my wife of over 20 years, who I knew would make things very difficult, now she finally had me to herself.
They put on a farewell party to top all farewell parties. It was an unforgettable occasion. My wife and daughters were invited and there was an incredible turn out of staff from all over the UK, many from our overseas offices, and even a number of friends, business colleagues, and other people who I had known (or had known me), in the insurance market. Even the Company lawyers and audit partners came along to wish me well.
As you can imagine, I got very drunk.
That night of my farewell party wasn’t planned to be my final swansong in terms of my association with employers, or the London insurance market.
I was to be retained on the boards of the various companies as a non- executive Director, and in a general way, it was expected that I would make regular visits to the city to have ‘liquid lunches’ with my former boss and other former business colleagues, ’shoot the shit’ and generally remain in the background as an informal adviser. This would be therapeutic for me, as it would ease my transition into retirement, and also should provide some benefit for the company, as after all my years there, I should have at least a small amount of valued advice to impart.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.
In the next and final instalment of the “Insurance years” I will tell you what happened, as in a way, it had a much greater emotional effect on me than the retirement itself.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 17)
THE INSURANCE YEARS (CONTINUED)
At first, my involvement with my ex employers, post retirement, went as planned. A week or so following my official retirement, I took my family on a six week tour of Canada and the USA, and shall write more about this later under “The Retirement Years”
Following my return to the UK, after my little odyssey with my family across North America, I made a few trips to London to attend some meetings in my role as a non executive Director, and also wined and dined socially with my ex boss and other colleagues. I was advised of all the latest gossip, and my opinions were sought on a number of operational matters that required urgent resolution.
I have not previously written about my ex boss’s stormy relationship with the CEO in the Head Office. It could be best described as a “love-hate’ relationship. My boss was hell bent on forging ahead with our European expansion at breakneck speed, with all the attendant risks that such a strategy involved, whereas our CEO’s desire was to move a little slower and consolidate our position as we went along.
But the conflict was more than just a difference over the pace of expansion – it was more fundamental than that. My boss and I suppose myself and the rest of the European team, were a bunch of “young Turks”, determined to make our mark, and we were intolerant of anyone who got in our way, or in any way seemed to be impeding our progress.
Every stage of our recent expansion; every acquisition; every new, “high flying” member of our management team that we recruited, was the subject of a major battle of wills between ourselves and our head office masters, and in particular, between my boss and the CEO.
As long ago as the reorganisation of the company’s Irish operations, some years back, (which I have previously recounted), had been the subject of bitter disputes between us and the head office Directors. They felt that the action we had proposed was far too radical, and that the rationalisation and forced retrenchment of senior Irish staff was unnecessary. In the event, we won the day, and subsequently proved that we had made all the right moves, as the now relocated Irish operation was booming.
So we had proven ourselves over and over, had contributed significantly to the Group’s bottom line profits, and in effect were “riding high” – so high in fact, that my boss was being mentioned in various circles as a potential candidate to become the new group CEO in due course. One way or another, my boss and I had become a force to be reckoned with in the Group, and anyone who dared cross us had better watch out.
I suppose you could say that we had become very arrogant, and probably “too big for our boots”. We were both very tough, outspoken characters, who wouldn’t shirk from making unpleasant decisions and seeing them through, and this attitude even applied to various Head Office employees who met with our disapproval. Our recent major acquisition had effectively doubled the size of our European operations, and whoever headed up the new combined entity would be a very powerful person indeed.
Personally, I had a good relationship with the CEO, had never had any major arguments with him, and often became the mediator between him and my London boss – effectively the voice of reason – whenever things became too heated.
So during one of my early visits to London following my retirement, my ex-boss recounted to me how he had been having a terrible argument with the CEO over a number of critical matters, and that he was getting to the end of his tether as he couldn’t seem to persuade the CEO to see things his way. He asked me if I would be prepared to intercede on his behalf during a a forthcoming visit by the CEO to London which was scheduled for the following week.
Of course I said I would be happy to do what I could to press his case.
So I duly came to his office the following week, only to find not my ex-boss, but the Head Office Human Resources Director in his office, in a huddle with the CEO. My boss’s secretary was in tears, and I immediately guessed what had happened. By way of confirmation, the HR man came out to say ‘hello’ to me and then told me that they had just completed negotiations and had agreed a termination package for my ex- boss, who had already cleared his desk and left the premises.
The CEO saw me sitting outside and invited me in for a chat. He was almost apologetic in explaining to me that he had been having a lot of trouble with my ex-boss for a long time; that the arguments had become increasingly vociferous, and that my ex-boss resorted increasingly to the practice of swearing and screaming insults at him, which, he said, were just unacceptable.
Who could argue with him?
So the dirty deed had been done, and we were continuing to discuss the matter, when he was distracted by an urgent incoming phone call, and I was asked to leave the office.
That was the end of my meeting, and that was the last time that I ever went to my ex employer’s offices.
Once he had “tasted blood”, the CEO wasted no time in consolidating his position and getting rid of all vestiges of the previous European team, and putting his ‘own’ people in their stead. There had been a market announcement that my boss had left by ‘mutual agreement’, and that the pace of European expansion would slow down considerably, and that the next few years would be spent in ‘bedding in’ the new acquisitions.
But everyone in the market knew the truth. That my boss had become to arrogant and too much of a challenge, and that something had to be done if the CEO was to survive. We had grown the business to an unbelievable level, and our job was done, and we were now superfluous to requirements.
Over the next few weeks and months, there was a mass clear out and dismantling of the management team that my ex boss and I had so painstakingly built up during the previous 16 years
Week by week I received news of yet another senior manager who had faced the chop, and still others, many my close friends, decided to go before they were pushed.
A couple of weeks after my meeting with the CEO, the Company Secretary contacted me by mail with a request that I tender my resignation from all the European Boards, and had conveniently attached a number of undated resignation letters for that purpose. It served no purpose to resist, as if I declined to resign, I would simply be voted off at the next meeting.
So my last act for my final employer was to sign a raft of resignation letters.
Later, when the dust had settled, I came to the conclusion that the single act that precipitated this “day of the long knives” was my decision to retire. Together, my boss and I had been a formidable team, and it is true to say that most people in the company were in fear of us, and that included the CEO. We held a lot of power, we had the unswerving loyalty of all the key employees, we were very tough in our dealings, and we had an enviable success record.
While I was there, I was able to counsel my boss in his dealings with the CEO, and make sure that his rants did not go too far and that discussions and disagreements were kept civil. But as soon as I left, things clearly got out of hand, and the CEO was somehow able to divide and rule, once my boss had become vulnerable without me there to counsel and protect.
(One of the CEO’s first acts after firing my boss was to appoint one of the newer members of our management team, who did not know us well and would subsequently have a lower level of loyalty to us, as the temporary CEO of European operations.)
I was probably very lucky to get out before the axe fell, and receive the generous retirement package that I now had. But who can say whether any axe would have fallen, had I not made the decision to retire? No one will ever know for sure.
It was with increasing sadness that I reviewed my career and its unfortunate conclusion. I had been obliged to precipitously sever all contacts with my employer, and I was dumped into the world of retirement without a clue as to what I would do to fill the yawning, empty years ahead.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 18)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS.
It was the summer of 2000, I had just turned 54 and I was now a fully fledged retiree, cut off from my employer of some 18 years, without much idea what the future was going to bring.
For sure in many ways I was very fortunate. I had been given a very generous retirement package, which effectively kept me on something close to my full salary until I reached my 60th birthday, I had accumulated a considerable sum in my non contributory, defined contribution, pension scheme, contributions to which would also continue until my 60th birthday.
On top of this, for the past 10 years or so, I had resisted the temptation to “upgrade” my standard of living and embrace the extravagant lifestyle, in order to be more in keeping with my city peers. So whilst my family and I had never wanted for anything, we spent our money carefully and frugally, which meant that we now had a considerable sum sorted away in investment portfolios.
We still lived in the second house that I had bought in South Essex, (having sold the first one in 1988), a large 3 bedroom detached house at the end of a quiet, leafy, cul- de -sac, with garage, a large garden, and within walking distance of local shops, a large Tescos, and importantly for me, the railway station. This saved me a lot of money, as several years previously I had given up driving to the city as I was in dread of getting caught drink driving after a few narrow escapes, and once I decided to commute by train, I was able to dispense with my second car, and the family could use the limo provided to me by the company.
Another factor which persuaded us to stay in the not so fashionable area of South Essex was the fact that my youngest daughter had succeeded in passing the ‘11 plus’ and had won a place in one of the top performing grammar schools in the country – Westcliffe High – only a short bus ride away, and which saved me a fortune in school fees, as I would never have let her attend one of the dreadful State ‘comprehensives’, that now blighted the education system throughout England.
We were perfectly comfortable there; as we had upgraded the premises to a very high standard; we had made a number of good friends, so there really was no need to move.
But during the months leading up to my retirement, I started to get the “moving itch”. Although we had been happy in South Essex, I somehow didn’t feel I want to spend the rest of my days there. I had a hankering to move to the ‘real’ countryside, and in this particular fancy, I was surprised to discover that my wife supported me.
We started to look around for possible locations, and following a trip to East Northamptonshire to meet with a work colleague who lived there, we fell in love with a large three bedroom bungalow in one of the prettiest villages I have ever seen.
East Northamptonshire generally seems to be one of the forgotten ‘jewels’ of middle England, and has dozens of beautiful villages which easily rival the beauty of villages in such places as the Cotswolds, but for some reason, are not so fashionable. More importantly, as far as I was concerned, East Northants properties were not so expensive.
The properties in the village we wanted to move to however did command a bit of a premium, due to the outstanding beauty of the village and the consequent desirability of living there. The bungalow came with a large parcel of land, the back of which looked out onto open countryside, and the front ran down to a genuine babbling brook which was lined with weeping willows, sycamores and other towering trees, both deciduous and evergreen, of ancient vintage.
We spent a number of weeks haggling with the American owner, who worked at a nearby US air base, as he was desperate to move following the tragic death through illness of his wife. The deal was finally done, and we took possession of the house some six months prior to my retirement. Then in a strange, unexpected “reverse” sort of deal, we then rented the house back to the previous owner for a couple of months or so, as it suddenly transpired that he had nowhere to move to, and the US government was very generous in rental arrangements for their employees.
We finally had vacant possession about three months before my retirement, and we started to travel there on weekends to make arrangements for re-decoration, renovations and extensions to be built etc, so that one way or another, the period immediately prior to my retirement was packed with activity. I had the new house to sort out and all my detailed planning for the family trip across North America, which would commence within days of my ceasing to work, and last but not least I had to sort out schooling for my daughter, which eventually resulted in her being accepted for admission by one of the major “Public Schools”, (for “non-Brits”, read ‘private schools’), in the area
In retrospect, this hive of activity probably masked or put out of my mind the real issue of exactly how I would handle my retirement, once all the pieces of my new family life had been put into place.
Our subsequent “retirement” holiday, in the Summer of 2000, rudely awakened me to what lay ahead, and the prospect was not something I was looking forward to. In fact by the time I returned to the UK, the looming retirement years were a prospect I was starting to dread with a foreboding.
How this holiday gave me a “wake up call”, I will recount in my next blog.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 19)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS.
Some background relationship detail is needed before I continue with my story.
I had been with my current wife, the fourth, since 1976 when I had met her in Thailand. Let’s call her “Noi”. Noi was born in Bangkok of Thai/Chinese parentage, and much of her secondary education had been in Singapore, and even before that she had attended a Christian School in Bangkok, so her English was quite exceptional. To this day I do not know all the details regarding her life before I met her, or how it was that her family had the money to send her to Singapore. Her father, although ethnic Chinese, (many of whom are extremely wealthy), was a market trader in Pratunam market, and certainly in the years that I knew him, struggled mightily to make ends meet and worked all the hours God created, slaving away in the market.
Noi’s mother was a Thai, a sort of “foundling” who to this day has no date of birth on her Thai identity papers, and was “adopted” by minor royalty. So she grew up in a rich household and was clearly a beautiful woman when young. Again, by the time I had come into their lives she was still assuming the airs and graces of her adoptive family, but was living in a basic, rented shop house near Pratunam Market, and had very little money. There was clearly no love lost between father and mother, and, I was to find out much later, Noi’s elder, ethnic Chinese “sister” turned out to be her father’s “live in” mistress, as he no longer had any discernible relationship with his wife. I gathered that the mother was rather stupid and had gone through countless wads of money that had come her way via some of her husband’s better off relations and also from her rich adoptive family. Maybe some of this money went towards Noi’s Singapore education, but I rather suspected it may have come from other sources.
In spite of Noi’s father’s apparent “bigamy”, he was a good man and took care of his family the best he knew how, including various ‘waifs and strays’ that were dumped on him by errant relatives and family friends. I learned that once had a relationship with a rich Chinese man when she was in her teens, and when she was twenty, she gave birth to a baby daughter. I met her when she was 23, had broken up with her common law husband and was working in a department store as a sales rep for a children’s clothes manufacturer. Her daughter was living at the family home, but she was living alone in a rented, very cheap, basic room near Victory Monument. Her job required her to move all over the country and work for periods of time in different department stores, although her salary for this was very meagre. One thing led to another, and of course her excellent English and love of western music drew us together, as I was able to copy music cassettes for her to listen to on her Walkman.
She clearly set her cap at me, and it wasn’t long before she quit her job and moved in to live with me at my rented apartment off Soi 24, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok.
Shortly after we set up home together, one of her father’s friends had seen us out somewhere in Bangkok and duly reported it to her father. He was very angry as he looked down on farangs and especially farangs who took his daughter to their homes for vernal pleasures. (I assume they thought that I was one of those “low class” tourists, who were even around in those far off days.)
Our first meeting, at her father’s house, was a very nervous affair for both of us, and her father clearly didn’t approve of the relationship, particularly as I learned that both parents suffered “loss of face” by their daughter shacking up with a long haired farang.
Over time, my relationship with Noi’s family thawed, and her mother came to visit us, and Noi’s daughter started to spend a lot of time with us. We then took Noi’s daughter to live with us and rented a small flat owned by one of Noi’s ‘cousins’. One day, Noi suggested that we move to a property that her mother owned at Saphan Kwai, a two storey shop house that her mother had been renting out. It was now vacant but in very bad decorative state. To cut a long story short, we spent a fair amount of money making the house habitable, and then moved in there. At this time I was still working with my friend Dave, in his recording Studio at Soi Asoke.
It was also around this time that Noi decided that she wanted to become a Thai singer, (i.e. a singer of Thai songs). She could barely sing in tune, had no discernable singing voice, but took lessons and eventually sang well enough to get a job in a Thai night club. This was in addition to her day job which, through my contacts, she had obtained as a production secretary at an advertising agency.
At that time my relationship with Noi was quite good, although she had already given me some grief, in the only way that Thai women can, by being moody and controlling. Once, soon after we shacked up together, and during a period when she was being extremely charming, she had an unguarded moment and she warned me. I remember to this day her saying: “You don’t know me. I’m not really like this – you don’t know what you’re getting into” (Or words to that effect). Never was a truer word spoken.
I was still young, very naïve and an alcoholic, so it took a very long time for me to realise that being a night club singer didn’t only involve singing. It was only after I started to get phone calls for her from various Thai men on my home phone in the evenings when she wasn’t home, that I started to wonder what was going on.
By this time we had moved to Pratunam and had rented a place opposite her family home. Her daughter continued to live with us, but I had now started my new job in Siam Square as GM of the new English language radio station, (working all kinds of crazy hours), and Noi was becoming ever more conspicuous by her absence, which meant that the daughter had to stay with the family across the road for much of the time.
Noi’s absences became longer, and there was many a night she wouldn’t come home at all. Then one day we had a big row over something I cannot remember and she walked out and left me. Not the first time, I had been left by a Thai lady and had her kid dumped on me.
Noi’s mother was distraught, and I vividly recall her coming up to my room with her granddaughter (who by now, loved me to bits), and cried for hours over what her daughter had done. The family continued to cook for me when I was home, and the daughter also stayed with me when I was there. Noi came home occasionally in the day time and collected clothes and tidied up a bit, but never came home when I was in residence.
In spite of her so called “respectable” background, Noi reverted to type and was clearly sleeping around with rich Thai men for money. It is this experience that has helped convince me that nearly all Thai women are completely amoral, and many think nothing of having casual partners, either for money, or just for fun, whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. Those who believe there is a fundamental difference between bar girls and “respectable” girls will one day come to realise that they have been sadly disillusioned. I have seen it over and over again through the past 35 odd years.
I should add that by this time we were legally married, although no wedding was held and no sin sod given. It was purely a legal, administrative process to formalise and cement our state of cohabitation.
Anyway, my wife’s behaviour didn’t really bother me. I was having a great time in my new job, as recounted earlier in Mobi’s story, I was enjoying myself running the radio station, drinking myself to oblivion, and having the occasional girl on the side to satisfy my basic urges.
In all I was with Noi for some twenty seven years and apart from a brief infatuation when I first knew her, she was the only wife that I never truly loved. She just controlled me, like an owner might control a compliant dog.
I suppose in a way she did me a big favour. If it wasn’t for her I would have never left Thailand, I would never have had my insurance career in the UK and made enough money to see me through. Who knows what may have happened if I had stayed where I was and continued to drink myself to oblivion every day? As it was, I was doing very little work, and rarely showed up at the office before lunch time. The lifestyle and temptations were too attractive and destructive for a budding alcoholic in his late thirties.
Eventually, after a few months, Noi returned home. I suspect she thought I would give up and move out, but as I have said, I didn’t really care what she did, and I was quite comfortable where I was, not far from my office, her family taking care of my cleaning, laundry and food and the rent very cheap. Besides, I was either too drunk or hung-over to find the energy to do anything as momentous as to move out and leave my wife.
When she returned home, she started working hard to persuade me to move back to England with her. I didn’t want to go, but I tacitly agreed, just to get her off my back and stop the nagging.
At the time I had no intention of keeping my promise, and assumed that something would come up to give me an excuse to stay in Thailand, or that she would eventually give up, or simply change her mind.
But she never did give up, and I clearly recall the day when she confronted me at home in the afternoon, and wanted to know if I had set the date for our departure. I tried to persuade her to change her mind about going, and she went completely berserk – the first of many violent and intimidating tantrums to come over the next 25 years or so. She screamed and shouted at me and started throwing my things all over the room, including my precious cassette radio, which was smashed to bits. I was terrified, and quickly assured her that we would indeed go – very soon.
And go we did, in September, 1983, and so began an unhappy home life for me and my future family with a moody, vain, lying, conniving, controlling bitch, who had such a violent temper that despite her size, she could put the fear of god into almost anyone, well… me anyway.
I have written this background, which intersperses with “Mobi’s Story” previously related, so that you can understand the main reason I devoted myself solely to my work for so many years, and when I took early retirement, It was inevitable that I would be heading for trouble in a big way.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 20)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS.
It is a truism that one tends to remember the happy times in the past rather than the miserable times, and often our schooldays, long ago holidays and other memorable occasions in our lives are recalled through “rose tinted glasses”. To a certain extent I am no exception to this, but I find that the more I start to put my brain to the task of recalling those days detail, the more I recall not only the fun times, but also the bad times, sometimes in stark relief to each other.
My family’s North American adventure, which we embarked upon within days of my retirement, is a case in point. It was about this time that I made the first inroads into my amateur writing career, and I decided to keep a detailed diary of our holiday, which would serve as a useful memento in years to come, as we would surely never do anything like that again.
If you were to read my diary of that trip, apart from a few subtle comments made in jest, you would never realise that although, on the whole, I managed to enjoy the holiday, my wife seemed to have done her very best to spoil it for both me and my daughter by her unbelievably bad and disturbing behaviour.
I wrote some 21,000 words in that journey diary, yet barely a whisper was written of the troubles my 14 year old daughter and I experienced from my wretched wife.
Here is what I wrote to wrap up the account:
“Under our own steam we drove over 3000 miles in Canada and exceeded 4000 in America. Then there was the five day coach trip through the Eastern USA.
The weather had been very kind to us, only a few hours rain during the whole trip. Once, just before we walked up the glacier in the Canadian Rockies and a stormy afternoon in Salt Lake City (where we spent most of the time pretending to buy a piano). Apart from that, mostly sunshine, with temperatures ranging from well over 100 degrees in the deserts of Arizona and Nevada, to the somewhat cooler 60’s in San Francisco.
Our favourite people and places?
I think we would agree that in general we preferred the Canadians to the Yanks. More polite and friendly, not so brash.
We loved the Canadian Rockies, and Samantha thought New Orleans was magical. I agree with her sentiments, but there was also something very special about the deserts and wilderness of Nevada and Arizona that caught my imagination. The Grand Canyon was unbelievable and the town called ‘Joshua Tree’ was mystical. New York was New York – The original BIG APPLE – a crazy fun city – much better than London in my opinion.
A great, once in a lifetime experience. Will we go back again? Samantha probably will, as she has her whole life ahead of her. I guess one day we may return to Florida with our Grand Children!!! Canada deserves a return visit – so who knows – there’s still a lot of the world we haven’t seen.
We’ve brought home so many memories – some good, some not so good. In any event, definitely a holiday we’ll not forget in a hurry.”
Of course, my “then wife” also read my travelogue, so even if I wanted to be a bit more adventurous in saying what was really going on, I valued my sanity and life itself too highly.
It was during this holiday that I started writing a very private account on my laptop of some of the flare ups I had been having with my wife. It was the first time I had put “pen to paper” to record details of her insufferable behaviour, and it was something I was to continue to do intermittently over the next three years. These notes, in an edited form, subsequently became the basis of some of the more extreme accounts of her unacceptable behaviour, which I presented to my lawyer as grounds for divorce.
Here is an early excerpt that I have uncovered, that was written during our 2-3 nights in San Francisco:
“This is the first time I have attempted to put my big problem into written words
“I could probably write forever on this but let’s just take one day at a time and take today (more or less).
“We’ve been on holiday for about 18 days. Things have gone pretty well, all considered and not too many rows.
“Mainly the rows concern the navigating/driving. I am doing all the driving because if she drives and I navigate, every time I make a tiny mistake in directions I will get it in the neck – big time. So the logic is as long as I obey directions whilst driving I should pretty much avoid argument.
“Unfortunately it doesn’t work quite like that. As she will never accept that she is at fault or wrong, every time she makes even a tiny mistake she finds a way to blame it on me and hence a row. Incredibly, even though I am driving, it is my fault if we take a wrong turning.
“This happened a lot when we were in Los Angeles a couple of days ago and the atmosphere got quite bad.
“Today we arrived in Oakland, about 15 miles from San Francisco. After checking in to a motel, we went into town to eat and a “ drive around”. San Francisco is a nightmare – what with tramways, one way systems, interspersed with two way systems, traffic lights everywhere, etc etc. After parking to eat, we tried to drive to Union Square. After going wrong a few times she totally blew her top and blamed it all on me, went into a huge sulk and refused to navigate any more. Poor Samantha had to take over but even then SHE tried to interfere again and then blew her top for the second time in as many minutes). She then went into one of her really sulky moods, and when we finally reached our destination, SHE refused to get out of the car.
“The following may sound trivial: Today, when I ordered my eggs “Over easy” she accused me of being stupid and saying it the wrong way round. I assured her I was correct. She wouldn’t have it. Finally got the tour ‘phrase book’ out and showed her I was right. She never acknowledged she was wrong or apologised. Then as we drove back to the Motel from San Francisco she insisted that we should take a particular turning off the main highway and I very politely pointed out that she was mistaken. Again I was proved to be right, and her wrong. No acknowledgement, no apology.
“I think she probably hates me. She always puts me down and tries to make out how stupid I am. Most of the time I go along with it and agree with her – anything for an easy life.
“At the end of the day I don’t really care if she doesn’t apologise, or if she derives some kind of diverse pleasure in putting me down – what I can’t stand is the never ending, moody, aggressive behaviour. I’m constantly on edge waiting for the next tantrum. How can we ever be happy when her moods are so unpredictable?
“I could never discuss this with her. She would never accept anything I say and would always twist it round to make her the innocent party and everything my fault.
“I know I’m not perfect but I don’t believe I deserve to live a life of misery waiting for her next outburst or nasty put down.
“I know I can’t take much more but will try to make it to the end of the holiday.”
In fact, I made it for another three years, but more of that, later.
What about my drinking during this trip? Well, it was probably more controlled than it had been for a long time. I made absolutely no attempt to drink and drive while I was over there, but did try and make up for it in the evenings when I would invariably buy a six-pack or two from the local convenience store. On some days I drove anything from five hundred to even a thousand miles, and it didn’t take too many beers to put me to sleep at the end of very long days.
Of course my wonderful wife, being Thai, slept in the car, and then fell asleep as soon as we checked in a motel, be it afternoon or evening, and slept as long as she felt like, and Samantha and I had to await our ‘lady’s awakening’ before we could go out to eat. Once she had fed herself adequately, she would return to her bed and sleep all night.
So now, nine years later, I can honestly say that I do have some fond memories of that holiday – after all we travelled to some wonderful places and saw some incredible sights. Even with a moody, selfish and spiteful wife accompanying me, I still managed to enjoy myself.
I am not too sure about Samantha. Maybe next time I see her, I will ask her.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 21)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS (CONTINUED)
Back in my home in South Essex, the real business of getting to grips with my retirement finally arrived.
As I recounted in my previous ‘Mobi’s Story’ instalment, my odyssey across North America with my wife and daughter was not an auspicious start to my new life. It soon became clear that my wife was going to enjoy my retirement a lot more than I would.
It was the year 2000 and I had already been with her for some 17 years; my youngest daughter was 14, and my eldest (adopted) daughter was 24. My wife had been the controlling and dominating influence in our lives for a very long time, although I had mitigated the problem, as far as I was concerned, by spending so much of my time at work.
My eldest daughter had already “fled the nest” and had taken out a mortgage for a small house in the town centre, and was living there happily with her latest “live in” and she was working in the city for her dear old dad’s company. (Yes, nepotism was alive and well in the city of London). In her teen years she had been quite rebellious, had been subject to the wrath of a mother “scorned” and as a result, had fled home when she was barely 18.
When all the fuss died down, we continued to help her financially as she worked her way through college, and eventually, when she was around 21, she actually returned to the family fold; a very different and mature person to the one who had left. In fact, she had ‘morphed’ into a very lovely, caring and generous person, and has remained the same to this day.
After a year or so, as mentioned above, she picked up a lovely little ex council house for a “song” by taking advantage of a dip in the housing market, so once again she moved away from us and reasserted her independence.
Since then she has been fiercely protective of her territory and seems to have developed a natural gift for knowing how to deal with and “handle” her mother. For the most part she keeps her mother at “arms length” (to the never ending chagrin of her mum), but nevertheless, she doesn’t totally exclude her mother from her life and regularly calls and encourages reciprocal visits, especially at Christmas and high days and holidays. She is soooo….. sensible.
Unlike her father, and indeed her younger sister who remained at home to suffer the tempers, mood swings and conniving, controlling behaviour of a very difficult wife and mother.
Within days of our return from America, Noi had tried to impose a routine on me which included poor old Mobi being obliged to helping her with the household duties, do the gardening, go shopping with her on an almost daily basis, and a multitude of other domestic chores which were either going to be done by me or be jointly undertaken by both of us.
I still recall to this day her early decision to allocate the window cleaning duties to me, and how she showed me precisely how to go about it, and then sat and watched me carry out this task, continually chiding me when I didn’t execute the work according to her exacting requirements.
In principal, I had no objections to sharing the duties. I wasn’t a male chauvinist, and was quite prepared to do my bit, now that I had a lot of free time. But I also wanted to put a bit of structure into my retirement years and had some things I planned to do; the two prime activities being learning to play golf and creative writing. I could have easily pulled my weight around the home and still found time for my “other” activities if she hadn’t insisted on us doing nearly everything together. One particular bone of contention was shopping. She insisted that I accompany her, and essentially act as her lackey, pushing the shopping trolley while she strode ahead and made all the decisions on what to buy. Well, after all, this was “her world”, where she was “Queen of all she surveyed” and I was this stupid, compliant idiot who knew nothing.
So the battles and unpleasantness started from day one. The holiday was a bit of a disaster, and as soon as we tried to settle in back home, the daily clashes commenced as to when I would be “allowed” to go the golf driving range, and whether she could agree to do a bit of shopping alone sometimes because “Mobi the “budding author”, wished to pound away at his keyboard. Sometimes I got my way; and she would take off in an enormous sulk that could last for days; but for the most part, I caved in – anything for a quite life.
One of the few things that I succeeded in doing alone; with little or no interference from “she who must be obeyed”, was my early morning exercise. I have known very few Thai women who enjoy getting up early in the morning and wife No. 4 was no exception. As it was, when she eventually struggled out of bed, usually sometime between eight and nine in the morning, she would always be at her moodiest.
So I would set my alarm for 7 a.m; get up and be out for my early morning calisthenics, before she had even woken up. Initially, this consisted of a thirty minute brisk walk along the roads that led out of my cul-de sac into the pleasant, semi-rural areas of South Essex. I was fifty four years old and I don’t think I had taken any serious exercise since I was a teenager, and even then I don’t think I did too much, as many was the time I would skive off when I was supposed to have been participating in sporting activities. So I was very overweight and extremely unfit.
After all those years of total physical lethargy it was an uphill struggle. However, I stuck at it, although in the early days there was no noticeable change in either my physical condition or weight. I liked it and hated it. I liked it because it was the one time during the day when I was alone, away from the critical and complaining whine of my wife’s voice and I could enjoy the fresh air, enjoy pleasant thoughts, and go where I wanted, without having to ask permission or be lectured on the direction to take. I hated it because it was bloody hard work and I really didn’t enjoy the physical side of it. I had pains in my chest; my leg muscles and feet would ache and get blisters.
But after a few weeks I seemed to get stronger and one day I tried a one minute jog in between the fast walking. I made the full minute and then had to revert to walking due to extreme breathlessness. So even after a month or so of walking, I couldn’t even slowly jog for one minute before almost collapsing through lack of ability to breathe properly. What a poor specimen of manhood I was! But I persevered, and every day I would do ‘one-minute jogs’, every ten minutes or so, and as time went by, I was able to increase the jogging periods, from one minute to two and then to three and so on. I ended up doing what I had learned in my Boy Scout days to be the “Scout’s Pace”. Running and walking alternately for periods of around 5-6 minutes, and I was finally starting to reap the benefits in terms of a slow but sure reduction in my girth and a few pounds dropping off my overall weight.
I cannot recall the precise time scale, but it was certainly several months before one day I was surprised and delighted to discover that I could actually jog continuously for period of 25 minutes or more, and from then on, I never looked back. Of course I had set backs, when I developed plantar fasciitis (very painful bone spurs in the heels), muscle strains and so on, but my calf muscles developed and became hard and strong, and eventually I was able to jog at will for virtually as long as I desired. I became pretty fit and in all, I lost some 11-12 kilos (about 25 pounds) and became “lean and mean”, (possibly a little too lean).
So the exercise routine was one of my early retirement successes, and it was with great pleasure that I went on my six monthly round of diabetic and cardiac specialists’ appointments, where I was informed that I was credit to myself and a shining example as to what could be accomplished with a complete change in lifestyle and a dedicated effort to get fit. In particular my cardiac specialist was very pleased, as it was he who had warned me that I would be dead in six years if I didn’t take immediate steps to radically change my way of life. These positive medical results were to continue for a couple more years before things started to go downhill once again.
Despite the obstacles put in the way by my dear wife, I was also getting out on the golf course and to driving ranges on a more or less regular basis, and my creative writing was coming on a pace. Apart from my dogged determination to make a go of both of these pursuits, I was actually helped from an unexpected quarter.
My wife, bless her! She came to the conclusion that if she couldn’t beat me she’d better join me, which meant that she would take up golf; so for a while she accompanied me to the driving range and we also took lessons together. She had some natural talent and progressed quite well – probably better than me; but never actually made it to a golf course during that period, as she was so self critical that she could never measure up to her own expectations and refused to let anyone see that she was less than perfect. Over a period of time, she gradually lost any enthusiasm she may have had for golf, and eventually she declined my offers to accompany me to either the range or the course – thank God for that!!
On the writing front, I decided to write short stories based on my earlier years in Thailand. This attracted my wife’s attention, and she effectively became my technical advisor and critic, which meant that it became an “approved activity”. But that didn’t stop her confronting me, rowing with me and dragging me off to accompany her on shopping errands whenever I had my head down on the laptop and creative juices were flowing with much fervour. She had absolutely no sensitivity to the activity I was engaged in, and thought nothing about disturbing me whenever the mood took her.
My collection of short stories based in Thailand was eventually completed, and after so many rejections I can’t even begin to tell you about, I eventually found a very small, almost unknown publisher who agreed to publish my volume under the title: “Tales from Thailand” by Mobi D’Ark.
The book never took off because it was never promoted, and now many years later, I am happy that it died a natural death, as it was my first attempt at writing, and when I read it today, I realise that although it may have “promise”, it is a long way from the finished product, and frankly I would be embarrassed if it were to suddenly resurface.
I did continue to write for the rest of the time that I lived in England, and I completed a few more short stories, that were not Thailand related and then a full length novel, which was. The novel was written when I moved to my new home in East Northants, and remains unpublished to this day. Again, if I read it today, although it certainly has promise, it is flawed and would require much revision and editing. For the past seven years, since I have been back in Thailand, I have not written anything, except a lot of nonsense on internet forums, and now, at long last, this blog.
But at least I have been published, and there is a book out there with my own ISBN number on it, and what’s more, I am an accredited author a member of the prestigious British “Society of Authors” which has all the famous British authors as members, and I even receive minuscule, occasional royalties by way of some sort of ‘collective arrangements’ whereby all published authors are entitled to share in the receipts of such collections.
In my next trip down memory lane, amongst other things, I will get back to my drinking career during this period, which while under more control than it had been in many years, was still progressing in the wrong direction, and would catch up and overtake my life again in the very near future.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 22)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS (CONTINUED)
(This is the second time that I have had a go at writing this particular instalment!! – maybe it was meant to be…)
The ‘big bang’ holiday across the North American continent did little to reassure me that I was embarking upon a happier stage of my life, and once I was back at our Essex home, cold reality set in, and I realised that I was in for a difficult and unhappy time.
The only brief periods of ‘light’ in an otherwise increasingly depressing and bleak existence, were my early morning, daily jogs across the Essex countryside and my regular visits to the golf driving range, and even the odd venture onto a real golf course.
After a while, I re-established contact with an ex work colleague, who was also retired, lived in the same area, and was almost as bad a golfer as poor old Mobi. We fell into a routine of meeting once a week for a round at a local ‘par 3’ golf course, followed by lunch at a nearby country pub.
And of course there was my creative writing, which continued fitfully, despite my wife’s constant interference.
During that early period of my retirement, we owned and maintained two residences. Our main residence remained in Essex, and our new property in East Northamptonshire which was used at weekends and on other convenient occasions. The two properties were around 100 miles apart, but thanks to the M11 motorway, and the A14 which ran through Cambridgeshire to Northants, the journey was not too arduous.
We kept the two places going for almost 2 years, mainly because I could not move my daughter from her grammar school in Essex until she had completed her GCSE examinations which she would take early in the summer of 2002. And of course we had to sell the Essex house at the best possible price. But I didn’t really want to go to the expense of furnishing two houses, and if I did, what would I do with the excess furniture, once we disposed of the Essex house?
Luckily, my older ex boss, (Mr “crusty, you may recall) who had been retired for some years, came to my rescue. He was in the process of ‘downsizing’ his home, from a large four bedroom executive house to a luxury apartment, and none of his existing furniture would fit into his new home so he let me choose what I needed from his house at ‘knock down’ prices. Thus we were able to make our new home quite habitable, at little cost. But we had ambitious plans, (or at least my wife did), for our new retirement ‘nest’ and we spent many months traipsing back and forth between the two houses, arranging painting, decorating, modifications, and building a large extension at the rear of the house from where we had full view of the back garden and a magnificent panoramic outlook of the fields and woods beyond.
So although not relishing my new way of life, as I was firmly under the thumb of my ‘control freak’ of a wife for much of the time, I was kept quite busy – what with my ‘personal’ activities, together with the domestic obligations to help with the shopping and my daily chores. Then there were the constant trips up to our new place for a few days at a time to meet with builders, carpenters and decorators, and also to start working in the overgrown gardens, which had become a veritable jungle.
Occasionally, I actually got to make the journey alone, as my wife had commitments back in Essex, and those times became particularly enjoyable, despite all the tasks I had been instructed to carry out by ‘er who must be obeyed’. It was during this interlude that I became very friendly with two of my next door neighbours, Joe, and his wife Doris, who within a short time, became extremely close friends, and remain so today. They are both now in their early eighties and still are active and mentally alert, and I don’t know how I could have managed without their kindness and support through some very difficult times that I experienced during the few years I spent as their neighbour.
What about my drinking during this period? I don’t have many memories of major drunken episodes, although for sure I was still drinking on a daily basis. It is possible that my drinking during this period was more in the ‘medium to heavy’ drinker’s category, rather than the ‘hopeless alcoholic’ category. I had been drinking for many, many years – seriously since about twenty one years of age, so in all well over thirty years. No matter how much I drank I was usually able to ‘maintain’ - behave in a reasonable manner and do what needed to be done, as I had proved through most of my working years. Though there were a few notable exceptions, (such as the time I came home from work so drunk, that I passed out in the downstairs toilet fully clothed and slept on the floor, much to the disgust and rage of my wife), for the most part I was able to function almost normally. My tolerance for alcohol was very high.
Once retired, I continued to drink, and whenever we had a few friends or family around for a barbeque or a dinner I would certainly seize the occasion to get right royally drunk, and of course my solo trips to the new house invariably resulted in some very drunken sessions, both at the local village pub, and also by the courtesy of Joe and Doris, my new neighbours, who although they were a long way from being alcoholics, enjoyed an occasional tipple with great gusto, especially Joe.
In retrospect, it is strange that my wife wasn’t more insistent that I keep my drinking under control. Of course I would get the constant nagging, and sometimes, when we shared a glass of wine together from a newly opened bottle, she would be horrified when she discovered an hour or so later that I had finished off the bottle alone – on top of a few beers and maybe a few ‘shorts’.
Maybe her Thai upbringing had conditioned her to accept a certain level of drunkenness on the part of the men in her life, and also maybe the fact that I rarely let my drinking interfere with my ‘chores and duties’ meant that she didn’t have to concern herself with something that didn’t affect her directly.
We were spending more and more time at our new place, including the Christmas of 2000. The family duly came for dinner on Christmas day and on Boxing Day I had some visitors from very far afield.
Quite how it happened I will never know, but during this period, Bob (from Australia, of whom I have written much about in this Blog) was at that time working in London, and Dave, (yes, alcoholic Dave), was actually staying in England for Christmas at his brother’s house near Birmingham.
Dave was in the early stages of recovery from a recent bout of liver failure and surgery in Bangkok, and his brother had insisted that he fly back to the UK for Christmas. He was still quite weak, but Bob drove up from London, picked up Dave from Birmingham, and together with another English friend (who had lived in Bangkok for many years, but who was also in the UK to spend Christmas with his family) descended on Mobi at his new home on Boxing Day 2000.
It was a strange time, that Boxing day. The first time the four of us had been together for a great many years, One from Australia, two living in Thailand, and me living in a quiet little corner of rural England, all meeting up, more or less by coincidence, for it wasn’t until a few days earlier that we had realised that we were all actually in England, and so set up this festive ‘get together’. Happy times, sad times, (for Dave was so emaciated and weak that we feared he would not last more than a few months), and, it goes without saying…. very drunken times. Even Noi seemed to be on her best behaviour.
2001 was spent alternating between the two houses, slowly getting things done in the new house to prepare us for a life of ‘eternal marital bliss’, and back to the old house to prepare it for sale.
I was clearly starting to feel the marital ‘heat’. In October, 2001 I put pen to paper about ‘my problem’ for the first time since the summer of 2000 when we were travelling across America:
“It is now over a year since I last wrote about my problem.
“There have been good times, not so good times, and some very bad times. There have been days, even weeks when I have been quite happy. But there have also been some terrible depressing days when I’m not sure how much longer I can take it.
“I have been quite busy, and that has helped. There has been my writing, which has gone quite well, and the jumping around from old house to new and also to our house in Thailand.
“At the end of the day I don’t think she has any idea how unhappy she makes me most of the time. However hard I try, she will always find some reason to have a go at me, almost every day of my life, on occasions, several times in one day. For most of the time I say nothing, except for the odd mumble under my breath. Occasionally I answer her back in a relatively mild fashion – which only makes matters worse. Once or twice I have completely ‘lost It’ with her. The last time this happened was a couple of months ago and I don’t think she talked to me properly for several weeks following that incident. I’m still not sure that our relationship is back to where it was before my blow up.
“There have been so many incidences – every day almost – each one in themselves so trivial, but when I have to endure her intolerable behaviour, day in day out, it cannot remain trivial. I have resolved that from now on I will keep a daily, or maybe a frequent diary of the ‘incidents’, so that I can review over a period of time and see just how trivial or otherwise these incidents really are.
“I will start with last night. She was getting ready to retire, and suddenly decided to tidy the lounge in her usual moody manner before bed. She then sat down at our shared desk and had a go at me because my computer was there and she had “no room to do anything”. Fairly trivial – except that it must have been the hundredth time she has moaned at me about my computer. It’s been there for over a year and I spend several hours on most days working on it – writing and using the internet etc. She only has very occasional use of the desk to do her monthly bank recording, and the odd miscellaneous need. I have told her that I can move it any time she wishes to use the desk, or she can just write on top of it. (It is a flat lap top). If she really had a problem I could set it up elsewhere – but she just wanted to have a go at me – and mumbled about ‘buying my own desk!’ Trivial but it just gets under my skin. When is it ever going to stop?
“Today there were 2 incidents. I woke up with a resolve to put everything behind me and have yet another fresh attempt at sorting out our relationship. The morning started well and I played with her and kissed her many times in a way I had not done for months. After breakfast, I sat down at my computer to do some writing, but she wanted me to go shopping with her. Keeping my good mood I told her that I would love to go shopping and we were almost out of the door when she snarled at me because I left an empty cereal wrapping on the kitchen work top. Now, I was the last one to eat breakfast, and in my customary manner I cleared up everything and left the kitchen spic and span. For some odd reason, I left a small wrapper on the work top that I had intended to dump in the outside bin. A pretty minor sin one would think, but the way she had a go at me and told me sarcastically where the rubbish bin was, left a nasty taste in my mouth and destroyed my new found resolution.
“Tonight, she asked me where her battery charger was as she needed to charge her phone. I told her I thought it was in the drawer in the bedroom. She couldn’t find it, and had a’ mega go’ at me, slamming all the cupboards in the kitchen and telling me that she instructed me this morning to “watch when her phone had gone flat” and charge it up for her. Well it hadn’t gone flat until late this evening, so I couldn’t have done it anyway. She was really mad at me – this is the person who is always tucking things away and not remembering where she had put them. (She recently ‘made’ two perfectly good mobile phones, with their chargers, disappear permanently!) I went out to the garage and searched everywhere, as I thought I might have put them there by mistake. Remember this is 10 o’ clock at night – and she’s not in any way desperate for her phone – she hardly ever uses it. We have two landlines in the house. In desperation I checked the drawer in the bedroom – it was there all the time! I told her – she never apologised. SHE HAS NEVER, EVER APOLOGISED FOR ANYTHING!”
Then an undated note that must have been written a few weeks later:
“She’s been at our new house by herself for two nights. She came back a couple of hours ago – I was so nervous about her return – yet I don’t know why. I’m just so scared all the time that she will find something I’ve done wrong, or something not cleaned properly, or something not tidy etc and have a go at me. It’s ridiculous really but I can’t help how I feel. I’m nervous nearly all the time she’s around – I guess that’s why I’m always chewing my knuckles and fingers.
“Anyway, she starts talking about the bathroom that was being tiled in the new house. We had bought a new bath with a shower attachment, so that it would double up as a shower. We have an en suite bathroom with a proper shower cubicle in our bedroom, but I wanted to have a shower in the ‘family’ bathroom, so that Samantha and anyone who stays with can have a shower without having to go through our bedroom. Of course they can still do that as it’s a better shower, but they can also have the alternative – (and for anyone else who may be visiting overnight and we don’t want walking through our bedroom!). She told me that she didn’t want to attach the showerhead to the wall, and didn’t want to have a shower rail or shower curtain, as it would spoil her beautiful bathroom. She said people could sit down in the bath and shower sitting down. I tried not to over react. I thought we had already agreed that another proper shower in the house would be a good idea – but thinking back on it – it was my idea – and in the end anything that I think of will be no good – if she hasn’t thought of it then it’s no good. I suppose I should have known better. It was all a bit petty, so after a few minutes I swallowed my irritation, I agreed with her plans.
“Well, although I had conceded, (yet again), she still had a go at me anyway, and said that if I didn’t want to have a beautiful bathroom, then she would change all the building plans for the rest of our house modifications, as we could save a lot of money and we could have a functional house rather than a beautiful house. I knew she was just leading me on as she would never give up her real plans for the house, but nothing less than my total capitulation would satisfy her – i.e. not only must I agree to her plans for the bathroom, but I must sound as though I meant it! It was all completely ridiculous and I told her so – but as usual, I got nowhere.
“She reminded me about a previous argument a couple of weeks ago when she tried to persuade me that we didn’t need a large table in the kitchen (after we had always agreed to have one), claiming that it would get in the way and spoil the look of her beautiful kitchen. I told her (at the time) that I didn’t want a beautiful kitchen – just a comfortable family home, and I thought that a nice big table in the kitchen (which is already there) was great for all of us to sit at and eat and chat etc.
“It was all too much, so I tried to put more feeling into my agreement, and she finally let the matter drop.
“I can see endless problems ahead with this new house. She wants a show house to retire to – I want a comfy home. It’s not going to work – is it?”
Then, at around Midnight, on Boxing day, 2001, I wrote:
“It’s nearly midnight on Boxing Day. Hasn’t been a great Christmas – but there again I didn’t expect it to be. Usual moody behaviour – no one able to let their hair down for long – for fear she will get mad at something. Had one minor spat when I mumbled something under my breath and she heard me – so I told her what I had been mumbling. I shouldn’t mumble and what I said was petty, even though I was probably right. But as I told her – at least when I am wrong I admit it and apologise – which I have done on countless occasions – but I have yet to hear an apology cross her lips. Apart from that she has had long moody spells which have kept everyone on edge. The usual crap about having to do all the cooking – I offered to cook breakfast for us – but predictably, she refused saying I would make too much mess, which is the same line she was using 20 years ago! She just enjoys bitching and spreading this bloody moral blackmail around. If she doesn’t want to cook then don’t! Nobody would give a toss – we’d make out – we always do when she goes away.
“The ‘biggy’ came this morning – Boxing Day. In order to keep the peace over Xmas I have been doing my best to help out with helping her do the cooking and trying to be as helpful generally with all the housework etc. Every day I have made early morning tea etc and fed the cat. Today, when she finally got up, she went to the sink and shrieked that I was so disgusting! What on earth had I done? She was looking at the sink which contained one used tea bag and a few tiny bits of cat meat which I had washed off the cat spoon I had used for the early feed. I had intended cleaning it up but she beat me to it. It was all perfectly normal. She is always leaving slops of all kinds in the sink – including tea bags and cat food from dishes – but I guess she had to have a go at me for some reason. Well I wasn’t having it and told her she was crazy and she was making a fuss over nothing and that my ‘crime’ was no more than she did all the time. I was pretty angry but I didn’t go over the top. She argued a bit but then shut up. Probably because my eldest daughter and her boyfriend were staying with us and she didn’t want a big scene in front of them. Anyway it all more or less settled down, but I think we’re both on edge and not very happy.
Such I pity because I was in really good mood first thing today and hoped we could all be so happy together for a few hours at Xmas. But she had to ruin it all as usual.”
In the late spring/early summer of 2002, the Essex house was finally sold, and we made the big move. We had so much stuff that it took two large removal trucks to move it all. I had spent the preceding weeks packing stuff from early morning to late night, and having fights with my wife over what should be kept and what should be dumped. Amongst all her other attributes, she was a tight fisted hoarder, and would never throw anything away, even though it would never be used again. Much of it would be simply moved from the loft in our Essex house to the loft in our new home.
But unpacking is worse than packing, and not only was I the chief ‘unpacker’, but I was also responsible for doing heavy labouring work in the gardens. And in the middle of all this we had booked a month’s holiday in our house in Thailand, so it became a very mad scramble to get the house sufficiently sorted before we set off to Thailand. Inevitably, it wasn’t all done by the time it came for us to leave, and I will never forget the temper tantrums and recriminations she levelled at me, for, as ever, it was all my fault.
I had a terrible holiday, was dragged all over the place ‘shopping for our new home’ and rarely had a day of peace.
Upon our return to our unfinished home in England, it was all starting to catch up on me and I felt very tired and quite ill. My blood sugars were very high and my blood pressure was through the roof. But Noi didn’t give a hoot. She was still living on ‘Thai time’, and rose at the crack of dawn every morning and insisted that I too, get up and help her get the house sorted.
It was a very depressing and trying period, and there were many days when I felt truly at the end of my tether, and even suicidal. But I had to maintain my composure because of my daughter, who had just started at her new school.
In October, 2002, I wrote the following:
“I don’t know why I keep resolving to keep a more regular record, but in the end I never do, and leave it for months and months. I was just looking at the last time I wrote, and it was way back at Christmas – so long ago – so much had happened! We moved into our new house permanently in July, went to Thailand for a month, came back to a nightmare of unpacked boxes and we are still settling in, but we are more or less sorted now.
“I suppose the reason I am failing to keep a regular record is that I keep hoping that we can finally find a way to live happily together and resolve all these conflicts that exist between us. I guess I know deep down that I am expecting the impossible, but I really don’t want this marriage to break up. When I read what I have written before, it really scares me and makes me realise how unhappy I have been on so many occasions. Of course in between, things are not too bad, and there are times when I am fairly happy. At the end of the day it is all down to her moods. If she wants to be nice and cheerful and loving, then all is fine with the world – but when she turns on one of her moods – then it is very, very miserable and wretched.
“I really should try to write more often, as the individual incidents are so trivial, and soon forgotten, it’s just the accumulation that is so depressing and difficult to handle. I do so want to keep the family together – especially until Samantha finishes her A levels, in two years time. After that we’ll just have to see – but it’s looking grimmer and grimmer at the moment.
“Well, what’s happened in the last few months? When we got back from Thailand, I think I went through one of the worst few weeks of my life. Her moods were so terrible, and she would have a go at me all day long as she was unpacking and sorting out. I had terrible jet lag for many days, and felt so ill, but she insisted on getting up at the crack of dawn and waking the whole house. I had so little sleep, and then had to put up with her terrible temper and moods all day long. I tried to stay quiet and do what I was told, hoping that it would all settle down once all the unpacking etc was finished – which it did. I didn’t want to upset Samantha who was under enough stress starting her new school, without having to put up with rows at home.
“So that sort of brings me up to date, although I’m sure much has been forgotten. I’m now going to try once again to record the daily trivialities. I note that on 9th Sept she complained about me doing a bad job with nailing the TV cables to the outside wall. She also told me I was taking my shoes off in the wrong part of the garden decking.
“On 16th Sept, she had ago at me because there was grass on the bottom of the laundry basket, which got there when I brought in the washing from the line on the lawn. It was a complete accident, but I had to suffer a tirade. On 2nd October she called me to see marks on the exterior decking made by wet shoes. I also had to see some coffee grounds on the floor, which were spilt when I made my coffee. The same evening I was sitting in the conservatory, and she came in and found that I had turned the radiator on. She told me to put a cardigan on if I was cold. I pointed out that the central heating was on in the rest of the house, and that I just released heat from the system, to warm up the room a bit. She got really upset and accused me of making ‘inappropriate comments’. The previous day, there was a burning smell in the conservatory – she asked me if I had tried the ceiling fan to see if it still worked – I said ‘yes I had’ – she said: ‘when?’ – I said: ‘just now’, with some irritation, as she never believes anything I tell her I have done – she still insisted on trying it herself – and had a go at me for being slightly irritated.
“I have just recalled an incident a week or so ago, when the culmination of some petty argument was that I lost my cool and accused her of being a ‘moody, moody bitch!’ She got really mad and smashed some plates and glasses in the kitchen before retiring to her bedroom. (This was in the morning). I calmed down, cleaned up all the mess, mopped the floor etc – it took me a couple of hours. Then I went to see her and told her she should go for her dentist appointment (She had been having a lot of dental problems as she got some bridge work done in Thailand on the cheap, which didn’t work out too well) She sulked, cried, said she wouldn’t go, would suffer the pain and never do anything again. She said she had never sworn at me and that I was a terrible person to call her a ‘bitch’. I had to beg, plead and cry for half an hour before she allowed herself to be persuaded to go to the dentist.
“The other day, evening time, we had an argument about God knows what. She accused me of always using a ‘higher tone’ of voice with her – not shouting or speaking louder – just a higher tone. Well of course it was my irritation coming out. With great self-control, I usually avoid shouting, but it is much harder to hide the tone of my feeling. Anyway the upshot was that she told me that she ‘wasn’t well’ (an old moral blackmail ‘chestnut’ – It’s funny because I thought I was the one being kept alive with drugs) – and that the next day she would be buying a ticket back to Thailand. I said nothing and refused to discuss anything with her. The next day, I tried to be as nice as possible, and the ‘crisis’ faded away.
“7th Oct – a strange day really. No particular problems – the morning started in reasonably friendly manner, and then, suddenly when we were both sitting in the conservatory having breakfast, she suddenly mentioned that she still wanted to go to Thailand, in a couple of weeks time, after I had fulfilled a social commitment back in Essex. Since the previous occasion when I had begged her not to do anything stupid, I resolved never again to question any decision of this nature that she decides to tell me about. So I didn’t ask her ‘Why?’ or ‘What’s up?’ or even ‘Please don’t’, as firstly, I don’t care if she goes, and secondly I’m tired of playing her ‘games’ which will end up in her telling me why I am such a lousy, lazy husband, and expecting me to apologise and promise to ‘try harder’ in the future. So I just said in my politest tone, ‘Ok. Would you like me to book the ticket for you?’ She said ‘yes!’ somewhat dramatically, and in response to my request for a return date she said ‘open return’. So as not to appear too eager, I left it for an hour or so and got on with other matters, but when I eventually called the travel agent, I found that I could only get a 3 month, six month or a 12 month return. I asked her which one she wanted and she said she would think about it and let me know. For the next few hours I could tell she was very upset. It is now 8 pm and she has become more friendly and things seemed to have settled down – except that she didn’t cook us any dinner- most unusual. (I bought us all some fish & chips). Anyhow at the moment a slightly uneasy peace. I am absolutely determined not to get drawn into any arguments or discussions about our relationship or about my behaviour – coz I know I can never win and I will only get very upset. I think she knows this now and I’m not sure that she likes it.
“(She didn’t take up my offer of a ticket to Thailand.)
“Here we go again – nearly a month since my last entry. I have been thinking about this business of failing to write anything down. I think there are two main reasons. Firstly, it is very hard – after all it’s all emotional and it’s just not easy to sit down and put some of into words. It’s much easier just to let it all fade away and forget about it – pretend it never happened. And of course that is always made easier because, bad episodes are always followed by a comparative lull, when things are really not too bad. The second reason is probably more sinister. I think that by elucidating the problem, I am bringing it closer and closer to the point when I have to do something about it -–and I don’t want to. I want it all to go away and get better! But it won’t!
“Nothing too terrible has happened. Just the continual nagging and desire to control everything I do – pointing out my errors to me all day long – so trivial that I can never remember them but they go on all day every day. You would think she would get fed up with trying to tell me how to live my life – but she never seems to. I never say anything except ‘Yes’ or ‘Ok’ or nothing, if I can get away with it. There’s no point in debating any of it. It’s all so petty – and apart from a slight irritation when she has her latest go at me, I can more or less live with it. But what a sad life!
“Last weekend my brother and his wife came to stay. They stayed Saturday night and left on Sunday. Well I’m not particularly close to my brother and strangely it is she who always keeps the contact going. Anyhow, to cut a very long story short, he sort of invited himself up, and she had no particular objections so up they came and she did a bit of cooking and we had a few long chats and went for a drive on the Sunday. All pretty harmless, all be it boring. Anyway it was my family and we probably won’t do it again for a very long time. She gave me chapter and verse this morning. She can’t stand them – they are so selfish- she never wants them here again- if they come she’’ll go away, etc. etc, on and on. Then she told me that our house is better than their house – our rooms are bigger than their rooms – on and on. It was all too much – all over the top. It was just a bloody weekend with my brother for God’s sake! What’s it all about??
“It’s all too sad. I couldn’t discuss it with her. The moment I open my mouth to offer any sort of opinion it would be ‘World War 3′. What a depressing life! I’m not sure I can stand it another two years (when Samantha finishes school). I think sooner or later I’ll blow up and that would ruin everything. It’s much better to just make a quiet exit and hope that Samantha is not damaged too much. I think she’s pretty strong. At the end of the day I think I’ll probably end up taking care of her – but there are many hoops to jump and mountains of bullshit to overcome before I reach that point.”
So things were getting ever closer to the end of my fourth attempt at married life.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 23)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS (CONTINUED)
The note written on 4th October, 2002 on “my problem” that I reproduced in my Blog on 13th December, is the last account I can find of all the stuff I wrote during that period. I have no idea what has happened to the rest of my notes – they must have been deleted in error. I know I continued to write on a more or less regular basis, and certainly I wrote quite a lot of very traumatic stuff that happened during the period immediately leading up to my departure from the marital abode in 2003. I know I am not dreaming, for many of these notes became the basis for my divorce petition, and copies were handed over to my lawyer.
In retrospect, it may be just as well that my records have gone missing at this time, as there were some events that took place during that period that I am not prepared to put on this blog, so my notes would have had to be edited, and that may have proved to be quite difficult.
The climax came in the spring of 2003.
My wife and I went to Thailand yet again on 1st April for another holiday at our house in Bang Saen. We left our daughter back in England, as she was studying for her forthcoming school exams. She was just completing her first year at her new school, and the examinations were very important to determine her predicted grades for her forthcoming “A” levels in a year’s time.
I have little recollection of the three week holiday, but I remember well the drive home and the welcome Samantha received from my wife when we eventually got there. We had parked our car in one of the Heathrow Hotel car parks during our time away, and once we arrived at the hotel to collect the car, my wife had developed the foulest mood imaginable. I have no idea what had got into her – except maybe jet lag and lack of sleep. She found fault with everything I did, from retrieving the car from the parking area and just about anything else that she could think of.
By the time we finally got under way along the M25, she had been fighting and snarling at me non–stop for over an hour, and I’d had enough and shouted back at her. That seemed to finally stop her noise, and I drove the entire journey in stony silence. She just sat there and fumed – no doubt planning some kind of revenge.
When we arrived home, Samantha was there to greet us with a lovely welcoming smile on her face. We went indoors, and I could see immediately that Samantha had made a sterling effort to tidy up the house and make everything spick and span. But we had barely put down our suitcases when my wife went for her. She shouted and screamed that she was a dirty, lazy and irresponsible person, and how dare she leave the house in such a filthy, untidy, state? She then went around the house with a fine toothcomb, finding ridiculously petty things to complain about. Samantha was none too impressed and fled to her room, and I lost my temper once again and told my wife what I thought of her intolerable behaviour. We had a huge row, and she said some very hurtful things and stormed off to bed.
I knew then, that just like the other day when I wrote recently in this blog about my latest girlfriend, it was no longer a question of “if” but “when”.
During the next day or so there was an uneasy peace, but it all soon flared up again when my wife discovered that during our absence Samantha had allowed her boyfriend to come into our house. You would have thought Samantha had committed murder. My wife went ballistic (Samantha was 17 years old at this time), and immediately banned Samantha from ever seeing him again. As far as Samantha was concerned, this was the final straw, and she left that evening and went to stay with her boy friend at his parents’ home. I kept in contact with her by telephone, and the next day went to meet with her. I told her that she had my total support, and that she shouldn’t worry about anything.
At long last I had started to stand up to my wife, and I told her that her daughter had moved out and that I would support her. My wife was not at all happy but ever the practical one; within a short time she seemed to accept the situation.
This meant that she would still try to keep in touch with her daughter and send her things to her new home, and even invite her around now and again for a meal. She had previously adopted a similar attitude with my eldest daughter who also left home at a similar age, and I guess she assumed that she would achieve the same result – a remorseful return to the family home in dues course. My little Noi was never happy if she didn’t have total control over her family.
But my mind was set, and at the first opportunity – I believe my wife went away for a few days – I went to see a divorce lawyer at one of the top law firms in Peterborough. I gave the lawyer a brief background to my problems, and then gave her all my “problem” notes to read, which she did, then and there. After she had finished reading, she told me that Noi’s intolerable conduct over many years gave me extremely strong grounds for divorce, citing unacceptable behaviour and mental cruelty.
The lawyer gave me an idea of the potential costs involved, and requested a substantial deposit. Once I had paid over that money, as far as I was concerned, the die was set, and there would be no turning back.
But I had much to plan and much to do, if I was to get out of this marriage with anything except the shirt on my back.
I started some serious planning – in between some increasingly serious drinking.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 24)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS (CONTINUED)
There was an uneasy peace between my wife and Samantha and me. Samantha was still staying with her boyfriend, but she would come by regularly to have a meal with us and collect some things. My wife would always try to lecture her on these occasions, but Samantha had developed a ‘hard’ side to her mother and she wouldn’t take any more ‘shit’, giving as good as she got. It was quite revelation for me, as up to this point she had always been such a mild and compliant person as far as her mother was concerned. It was also fascinating to see how Noi seemed to accept Samantha’s abrupt, no nonsense almost rude attitude; behaviour that she would never have taken from me in a million years.
But I too was slowly changing. I was no longer in fear and dread of Noi, and like Samantha, I started to assert myself and talk back to her when she came on too strong. But for the most part, I still kept my own counsel, for I didn’t wish to stir things up too much in advance of my ‘big plan’.
I recall that my drinking during this period was getting progressively heavier. I had slipped into the habit of going into the conservatory in the afternoon and writing my book for a few hours, before turning on stereo very loud to signal the start of my nightly, solo drinking session. I would usually drink at least 2 bottles of wine, a dozen or so beers and maybe a few large slugs of scotch.
By around midnight I was pretty stoned, and had little trouble sleeping in the marital bed; alongside, but never touching Noi who had long since broken off ‘marital relations.’
While I was getting pissed in the conservatory, my wife would watch television alone in the lounge, and then retire to bed a couple of hours before I joined her, at which time she was invariably fast asleep.
Not exactly a marriage made in heaven.
As I slipped into this new routine, once again I became lulled into a false sense of ‘well being’ and started to wonder for the umpteenth time during the past twenty five odd years whether I hadn’t over reacted to my wife’s behaviour and should give the marriage another go.
But this dream was shattered one evening when Noi had a terrible row with Samantha who had come by for a meal who took off in a flood of tears.
After Samantha left, Noi continued to ‘rubbish’ and blame my daughter for so many things and even went so far as to blame all of us, but particularly Samantha, for making her (Noi) so unhappy and that we were all so heartless, and selfish. She went on and on, becoming ever more outrageous in her accusations.
What she said that night was truly appalling, and I cannot even begin to repeat what she said about her daughter, even in this blog, but I will never forget it as long as I live.
It was the final straw.
I have no recollection exactly how I managed to swing it, but somehow or other I had managed to persuade my wife to let me go to Thailand ten days ahead of her for our summer holidays. In retrospect, it is remarkable that she actually agreed to it, but being the typical control freak that she was, she probably thought that she could continue to control me, even from the other side of the world. I think it was some commitment that my wife had in England that prevented her from leaving earlier, but whatever the reason, it was a wonderful opportunity to put my plan into action.
It must be difficult for people who have not been under the ‘control’ of another man or woman, to understand the sheer terror of those who are dominated.
During my marriage, my wife had fought and intimidated neighbours twice her size, had chased her own mother from our home in fear and dread, and committed other unbelievable acts of bullying.
But it was the threats of what she might do which were the worst of all. She used to tell me that if I ever stepped out of line she would go down to my office in the city and make so much trouble that she would totally embarrass me in front of all my staff, and do her best to ensure I lost my job. I honestly believe to this day that she would have done it, should, in her view, any justification have arisen. There were all manner of other threats as well as her daily mental bullying, which conspired to keep us permanently under her thumb.
So if I was to leave her, and if I was to be able to take most of my personal possessions with me, it had to be planned with military precision – and it was.
I went to Thailand as planned. Noi drove me to Heathrow, and dropped me off. I was terrified that she would smell a rat at the last moment and stop me from going, or decide to come with me after all. She did realise that something was not quite right and challenged me on it when we were at the airport. She seemed to sense that I was not my normal self, but couldn’t really put her finger on it. Anyway, no doubt against her better judgement, she let me go and that was that.
I flew to Thailand, was met by my father- in -law who drove me to our house in Bang Saen. I stayed a couple of nights before announcing that I was going off to Bangkok for a few days. I went to Bangkok and used my friend’s computer to get ‘on-line’ with my banks and start moving all my money and investments out of the joint accounts and the accounts in her name into accounts in my name only. The amounts involved were pretty large and I was extremely nervous that something may go wrong and the banks may call my home, and ask my wife to verify the transfers. Anyway this was in the days before ‘9/11’, and the banks weren’t as touchy as they would have been these days.
I had no intention of cheating my wife; the investments were only in her name for tax purposes, but I wanted to negotiate a settlement with her from a position of strength – i.e. with me controlling the money, not her.
After I had arranged all this without a hitch, I briefly went back to bang Saen and made up a story to my in-laws to the effect that I had to return to Bangkok for medical appointments. While I was there, I took the opportunity to pack some personal things that I had stored there, and returned to Bangkok.
Then, about a week later, I received a nasty shock. My wife sent me an email. She said that she had just received a credit card bill which showed a charge for a hotel in Phuket. She was absolutely furious and accused me of going to Phuket without her permission, and that I was obviously up to something no good. She
said that she was extremely upset, and as a result she had decided to cancel her flight to Thailand, and would ‘have it all out with me’ when I returned home.
I was devastated. I didn’t understand the hotel charge from Phuket. I had told her I would be going to Bangkok for few days to catch up with some friends, but if the credit card bill was showing a hotel in Phuket, how could I convince her that it was a mistake? She would never believe me – she obviously thought I was down in Phuket with some lady.
Now that she had decided to cancel her trip to Thailand, all my plans were laid to waste and I would never have another opportunity to get away from her, because surely after this, she would never let me out of her sight again.
What on earth was I to do?
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 25)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS (CONTINUED)
What was I to do indeed?
I undertook some research into why I had been charged for a Phuket hotel when I hadn’t been outside of Bangkok, and eventually established that I had booked and paid for my Bangkok Hotel through a company that was based in Phuket. Hence the misleading reference to Phuket on my credit card bill, that had been miraculously whisked at the speed of light across the world and delivered to my lovely wife’s front door by snail mail, only a few days after I had incurred the charge in Bangkok.
So armed with this information, I sent Noi an email, and also followed up with a phone call, explaining that she had been mistaken. It goes without saying that she gave me a ‘hard time’ and wasn’t totally convinced that I was telling the truth, but after a lot of hassle, she said she would ‘re-think’ her decision not to come, and would let me know.
After that I ceased to worry that she wouldn’t come, as after all these years I could read her like a book, and her “re-think”, actually meant that she was coming, but that she wanted to keep me guessing and in a state of confusion and anxiety for as long as possible. Anything to spoil my holiday!
So there was little left for me to do except book my flight back to the UK and arrange to leave a note for her at Bangkok airport. I was supposed to go with my father-in-law to meet her in the “communal car”, but I called him and told him not to come, as I had arranged a taxi and would pick her up by myself. I then went to Thai airways at Don Muang and arranged for them to deliver a note to Noi when she arrived at Bangkok airport. It was a very brief note which simply said that ‘something had come up” and that I couldn’t make it to the airport, and that she should call her father to come and collect her, and I would see her in Bang Saen in a few day’s time.
At the very time that Noi was in a Thai Airways jumbo jet, thirty thousand feet above the skies of Asia, winging her way to Bangkok, I was in a Singapore Airlines Jumbo jet, winging my way back to Heathrow.
The idea of the deliberately misleading note, was to provide me with the maximum time back in England to sort my affairs and move my stuff out, before Noi cottoned on to the fact that I was back in England, and decided to fly back home and confront me.
My elderly neighbours, who I have previous referred to, met me at Peterborough rail station, and drove me back home. Once there, I was able to recover my second vehicle, the first one having been parked at Heathrow by my wife.
For the next few days I was very busy. I wanted to pack up and be gone before my wife realised she had been duped and flew back home. I forget how long I stayed at the house, but I doubt it was more than three or four days. There was quite a lot of personal stuff I wanted to take with me, and I packed it all into boxes and bags and delivered it to a kind friend who lived a few miles away, and also to my next door neighbours who had also agreed to store some stuff for me.
For the time being, I was maintaining a total silence with my wife in Thailand. One day, just before I had finished all my packing, I received a call from a friend in Bangkok to inform me that my wife had been calling all my friends to try and find out what had happened to me. He told me that she was concerned that I might have had an accident or be seriously sick in hospital, and she wanted to know if he had any idea of my whereabouts. I had told only two friends what I was up to – the one who was calling me, and the other one was Dave. I repeated to him my previous instructions that he should tell her that he had no idea of where I was and that he hadn’t seen me in months. He agreed to do this, and I thought: that was that.
In due course I managed the move out without a hitch, and stored all my stuff in the two locations. I booked myself into a large B&B room at a nearby pub and then went to break the news to my daughters about what I had been up to.
My eldest daughter, Nattaya, lived near Birmingham, and I drove over there one morning and met with her and her long term boyfriend, and told them I had left my wife.
‘Natty’ told me that she completely understood what I had done and that she totally supported my decision. She told me that sadly, her mother had ‘never been there for her’, had always found fault with her and basically had made her childhood a total misery with her bossy and controlling attitude. She had never told me this before, and I was quite taken aback by the depth of resentment she had for her mother. Maybe I should have realised this before, but the stark fact was that I had no idea she felt so bad about her. She told me that she hoped that I would find some happiness in my new life as she knew I had been unhappy for a very long time.
My other daughter, Samantha, was still staying with her boy friend – it was the school summer holidays, and I met her and her boyfriend at the pub where I was staying. When I told her what I had done, she confided that she used to lie in bed back home in Essex, listening to her mother screaming at me, and pray with all her might that one day I would leave her.
Again, in spite of all Noi’s bad behaviour, I was still shocked by the depth of my daughter’s feelings. All these years I had convinced myself that I had to stay with Noi for the sake of the kids, and now both kids were telling me that I should have left her years ago. They had both found their own way to deal with their mother, but they knew that I could not, and it made them so sad to see me treated so badly for so long.
If only I had known.
I asked Samantha if she wanted to go back and live with her mother, and she told me that she would never go back home, under any circumstances. So I decided to rent a small house in the town where her school was located, and told her she could live with me, which she was happy to agree to.
Soon after this I received yet another call from my friend in Bangkok who told me that Noi was “badgering the heck” out of him and Dave. She was calling both of them several times a day, demanding to know where I was, as she was convinced that they knew something. He said he was getting tired of all these calls and that he wanted to tell her something. I decided that I had had enough time back in England to successfully accomplish all that I had intended to do, so I told him that I would now make contact with her and she wouldn’t need to call him anymore.
Fortunately I had set up a fax in the house in Bang Saen (there was no internet connection there in those days), so I sent Noi a fax, which read as follows:
I’m very sorry to tell you that I’ve left you, and you will be hearing from my lawyers about a divorce. I am truly sorry that I have had to take this step, but for me there is no other way. I believe your behaviour to me and Samantha is completely unreasonable, and has caused an irretrievable breakdown to our marriage. I cannot talk to you – it will only make everything worse.
I have been very unhappy for a very long time, but I stayed with the marriage because of the children. Now Samantha is almost grown up, I don’t have to worry about her any more, and I need to try and make a new life for myself before time runs out. You know that I am not happy, and you must know that you cannot make me happy. My whole approach to life is so different to your approach, and I think you have spent the last 26 years trying to change me – but you never can – I’m still the same as I ever was, deep down. I honestly do not believe you are happy, either – we are not compatible – we never have been – and I’m sure it has been frustrating and difficult for you as well. Of course, life for me has got a lot worse since I retired, starting with the nightmare holiday in America – you will never understand how unhappy you made me on that trip with your bad moods and everything. Since then things have just got steadily worse. I have tried and tried and tried, but there is no way out. I cannot stay with you another day. I think you can understand what I am saying, and believe me, this has been the hardest decision of my life, and at the moment, I am desperately unhappy, and even crying as I write this. I never wanted our family to end like this – but my mind is made up and I will never change it, so please don’t try to – it will not work.
Whatever happens, you will end up with a lot of money – I don’t want to cheat you out of anything that you’re entitled to. You must try to make a new life for yourself – you are still young and attractive – you can have anything you want – just go and grab it. I think you have made a big mistake all these years, not doing something with your life outside the home. You are so clever and smart – why don’t you do some business? You know you can be successful and you’ll enjoy it. Don’t waste your life doing nothing.
You have made such a huge mistake with Samantha. She is a wonderful girl with such a great personality – but you tried to smother her and control her. Oh how foolish it was to try and ban her boyfriend. She is just a normal teenager – you’ve been in England so long yet sometimes you don’t seem to understand anything. You can’t control her – and I’m afraid you’ve controlled me for far too long. But moral and emotional blackmail can’t work forever.
I am moving out of the house and will leave it for you to live here. Don’t worry – everything will be as you left it. I’m not taking much – just my personal things and a few bits and pieces I need to get by. So when you come back to England you can stay at the house until the divorce and the money is all settled. You will be receiving the divorce papers, and you will be advised to get your own lawyer – but it’s up to you. If we don’t have too many arguments, it can all be settled quickly, probably by Christmas, and you don’t have to have a lawyer if you don’t want one. As I say, it’s up to you.
I know this will sound terrible, but I don’t want to see you or talk to you or receive any letter from you until the divorce and the money is all settled. I will turn off the fax, and if you send me any emails, I will delete them without reading them. I will also change my mobile number. If you want to communicate with me, you must do it through my lawyer. Once everything is settled, I hope we can then try to remain friends for the sake of our daughters, and also for the family in Thailand. But for now we must stay completely away from each other. If the divorce goes through quickly, there is no reason why Nattaya’s wedding can’t still go ahead as planned. But that’s really up to you, and Natty of course.
I have discussed my plans with Samantha, and she has made it clear that she wants to come and live with me when I get settled in a new home. She does not want to live with you. In the meantime, during the summer holidays, she will stay with her boyfriend. and she will NOT be coming to Thailand. Of course she will want to keep a mother / daughter relationship with you – she just doesn’t want to stay with you, any more
I have told Nattaya, and have been to see her.
I will keep the Volvo, and you can have the Land Rover – but if you want to swap it’s ok with me. I will be cancelling your American Express card but will leave the Visa card open until you have had a chance to get new cards in your own name. Also, I will make sure there is enough money in the joint bank account to pay the bills and some left over for you to live on until you have a chance to transfer some money from your internet accounts, and open your own bank account. I will be in touch through my lawyer to advise you of all the passwords and everything you need to manage your money.
In many ways you have been a good mother and wife, and I thank you for that. But keeping a nice home and cooking good food doesn’t make a good marriage – and I know that our marriage hasn’t been very good.
Well I think I’ve said enough. When you get back you will get all the information from my lawyer.
This is the last communication you will receive directly from me until the divorce is finished. Please do not try to track me down – even if you do I will refuse to talk or listen to what you have to say.
I wish you luck and happiness in your new life.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 26)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS (CONTINUED)
I didn’t hear from my wife for a while after I sent that fax. I was busy sorting out my affairs: meeting with my divorce lawyer, taking care of all my personal business, and in particular, locating and renting a small house for myself and my daughter to live in.
At some point, I cannot recall exactly when, I learned from my ex-neighbours, Joe and Doris, that my wife had returned to England. I still had not made any further contact with her, and a short while after she returned, my solicitor sent Noi the divorce papers.
During the next month or so, my neighbours kept me regularly updated on my wife’s movements, and I was able to keep abreast of her thinking on my action and on the divorce settlement. She had told my neighbours that all the grounds that the solicitor had put in the divorce papers were all lies and completely untrue, and that I had been very cruel to her. She was very distressed and cried a lot, and sought their emotional support.
So whose side were my neighbours on? Well it transpired that Doris felt a lot of sympathy for what had happened to Noi, and was inclined to believe some of what she had to say, but Joe was a wily old bastard and he wasn’t taken in by the crying and lying. He had long since sussed her out, (one of the very few in England to do so), and saw right through her obfuscation and fake drama. But they were, (and are), lovely, kind and generous folk, and they tried to avoid taking sides, and helped us both, as far they were able, in equal measure.
I eventually did meet with Noi a few times, and we started to speak to each other in a relatively civilised manner. Noi had made up her mind that she was going to try and ‘woo’ me back, and she made a number of overtures to try and get me back into the marital abode. She had been distressed by all the accusations that I had made about her in the divorce papers, (which were all supported by accounts of actual events), but as ever, she tried to twist what I had said, and take them out of context.
When I met with her, it was apparent that she had decided that my main gripe was the fact that she was too “house proud”. She started to play a bizarre game whereby she implored me to come to the house and see for myself that it was dirty and untidy, and that she didn’t care anymore about keeping it clean and beautiful. She couldn’t, or wouldn’t understand that her fanatical desire to maintain a perfect house was merely a symptom of a much bigger problem, and in reality, she was a spiteful, selfish, obsessive, control-freak of the worst kind.
Rightly or wrongly, I played along with this strange, friendly game of hers because it meant that I wasn’t fighting her and that I could slowly push things along and get everything sorted, particularly with regard to Samantha, without having to argue with her at every turn.
In the end, a couple of incidents scared me away. The first was when I visited her one day and she had cooked me a nice lunch, and tried to persuade me to come back and live in the house until everything was settled. I told her I would think about it, but a few days later she invited me to meet her local pub for an evening meal. It was one of the very few occasions when Noi had too much to drink. She didn’t very drink much, but it was enough to make her very tipsy, and once the alcohol had taken hold, she suddenly became very amorous. She kept trying to cuddle up to me and kiss me over dinner, and as soon as we finished the meal, I quickly paid the bill and tried to make an escape to my car. But she followed me to my car, grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. She started begging me to come back, and told me that she was sorry for everything and that she loved me and couldn’t live without me, and she would change.
I was embarrassed, and frankly a little disgusted. I had no feelings for Noi and I had suffered too much for too long to turn the clock back at this late juncture. I just wanted to get away, and realised my stupid mistake in playing along with her friendly attitude, as I knew deep sown she was up to something which could only lead to more grief.
I finally managed to disentangle myself from her clutches, got into my car, locked the door and drove away. She was still trying to cling onto the car as I drove off, and I almost felt sorry for her. She looked so pathetic – I had never seen her like that before.
After that incident, I kept my distance, and was very careful in my dealings with her. I found a suitable house, and took it on a six month lease, and then spent most of my time getting Samantha and I moved in.
It was during this time that my drinking took a decided turn for the worst. I was alone in England after being with Noi for some twenty six years; I had a difficult and expensive divorce to negotiate with an unstable wife, and I had a teenage daughter to take care of. I simply drunk myself to sleep every night, and as the days went by, I required more and more alcohol in my body to achieve the desired effect.
I was resigned to starting a new life for myself in the rural shire of East Northamptonshire, and was certainly committed to staying with my daughter for at least a year, until she completed her schooling and went on to University.
Yet within a few weeks, I was back in Thailand – more or less for good. So what happened?
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 27)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS (CONTINUED)
As previously recounted, before returning to England to move my stuff out of the marital home and subsequently send that “divorce fax”, I was in Thailand alone and my drinking had reached new levels of excess.
The planning and the execution of my little deception had unnerved me and I had this terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. The only thing that took it away and made me feel half way ‘normal’ was copious draughts of whisky. I was well into Black Label whisky during this time, and there was always at least one bottle with me in the hotel, and bottles behind the bars in all my favourite drinking places on Soi 33.
A typical day would see my waking up in the afternoon, feeling like death warmed up, getting a few beers down me to stop the shakes, then forcing some late breakfast into my empty stomach, before taking off to the bars around Sukhumvit Road. Eventually I would reach the bar where my latest bottle was awaiting my attention, and only then did I start to feel better, and the feeling in my stomach would start to dissipate. I would drink until closing time, when I would then grab a few girls and we would take off to a “kow tom” (Chinese rice soup) shop where I continued my drinking. Eventually, I would stagger back to my room in a paralytic state, always alone, and fall into a drunken stupor.
When I returned to England I had to adjust my drinking behaviour or I would never have got anything done, but the evenings were still very drunken affairs, and every night I drank myself to sleep.
Once I had moved myself and my daughter in to our new place, it soon became apparent that the arrangement was not going to work. Our home was a tiny, semi-detached country cottage, with a small kitchen area facing onto a small lounge, and two bedrooms, one above the other. I took the first floor, and Samantha the upper room. It would have been Ok for two, but not for three – plus visitors who came and went at all hours of the day and night, and made varying amounts of noise, ranging from loud music to drunken brawls.
Samantha had been through an emotionally difficult time with her mother, and I felt that trying to impose any sort of discipline on her would be counterproductive. She was ‘finding herself’ and letting her hair down, after having had her natural instincts stifled for most of her life. She was seventeen years old – “Not a girl, but not yet a woman”, (with apologies to Britney Spears).
I hadn’t reckoned on her boyfriend moving in permanently. He was a nice enough, bright young man, who obviously cared for Samantha a great deal, but unfortunately, he was a lazy, dirty, untidy slob, and Samantha immediately aped his habits, no doubt a natural reaction to her mother’s fanatical tidiness.
So I had to put up with two teenagers virtually running riot in a pretty cramped space. They drank, played loud music, ate fast food, or fried something up in the kitchenette, and left the leftover food, plates, pots, pans and dishes all over the place. Their friends would come by in the evenings and they would party, night after night. I was forced into my room every night where I drank myself to sleep.
I was uncomfortable, unhappy, and every two to three days had to spend hours and hours trying to clean up, only to see the placed wrecked again within twenty four hours. Samantha was also clearly embarrassed by my presence, and I’m not sure which of us wanted me to leave the most – her or me. We were still very close, but she needed to be with her friends and she didn’t want her crotchety old drunken lonely Dad around.
So we sat down and talked it through and we agreed that I would move out and leave them to it. But where was I to go? The only thing that was keeping me in England was my daughter. I had very few friends, and in any case they were all married, and I would always be the odd one out.
It didn’t take long for me to decide to return to Thailand, and see if I couldn’t forge a new life for myself out there. After all, I had known and loved the country for many years; I could get around quite well there, and even spoke a bit of the language. In this age of mobile phones and emails, I would always be in contact with my daughters, and if necessary I could jump on a plane and be back in the UK within twenty four hours.
After getting the nod of approval from my two daughters, and advising my divorce lawyer of my plans, I once again flew out to Bangkok in late August 2003 to see what fate might await me.
My divorce was also moving on apace. My wife had finally got the message that there was to be no reconciliation, but had declined to appoint a lawyer to represent her. She agreed that we should divorce, but of course she disputed the proposed settlement that I had offered her, which amounted to approximately thirty percent of the assets to go to her and seventy percent to me.
The arguments went backwards and forwards, between her and me by email, and as I recall we eventually agreed to a split which was close to 45/55, and which also meant that my wife would retain sole ownership of the house. It turned out to be a very good deal for her, as this was a year or so before house prices ‘took off’ and she ended up with an asset, far higher in value, than it’s valuation at the time of the divorce settlement.
So although I had had to hand over a substantial amount of my hard earned wealth and my wife ended up as quite a rich woman, I still had more than enough to see me through for the rest of my life, and I would still be able to live in relative luxury, especially if I decided to remain in Thailand, where the cost of living was so much cheaper.
I made another trip to England during that autumn to deal with a number of matters, including buying a small house, partly as an investment, and partly to provide a better accommodation for my daughter.
I also had an operation on my bladder while I was there, and although I was extremely weak after the operation and was supposed to rest up for a few weeks, I was immediately immersed in the task of moving my daughter from the rented accommodation into my new house, including moving furniture, personal effects and goodness knows what else. I had innumerable arrangements to make and things to do, such as: cleaning the rented accommodation from top to bottom to get my substantial deposit back; paying a mass of bills and getting the utilities all set up in the new house; buying furniture and household stuff , and so on. As time went on, I became weaker and in more and more pain.
My daughter was still shacked up with the same lazy slob, and their assistance with all these tasks was minimal, and I had to ask several times before they would even lift a finger to help. But we all know how selfish and unfeeling teenagers can be so I didn’t give it a lot of thought.
By the time I finally got everything sorted and managed to jump on a plane back to Thailand, I was exhausted and was really very ill. I had a bad fever and had started to pass blood, as I hadn’t given my bladder a proper chance to heal. But things were to go from bad to rapidly worse, the minute I arrived back in Bangkok.
For what I haven’t yet related is that when I previously went to in Bangkok in August, I had embarked on a new, disastrous relationship, and yet again, I had trumped my own stupidity by doing something extremely foolish.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 28)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS (CONTINUED)
So what had been going on in Bangkok during the period that I was planning to leave my wife, and the period immediately after I left her?
It wouldn’t take a genius to figure it out. I was getting involved with yet another lady.
I have previously related how I came to Thailand a couple weeks ahead of my wife, ostensibly for our summer holidays, and by the time she arrived in Bangkok, I was back in the UK moving out of the marital home.
During my brief period in Bangkok, I fell into the habit of getting drunk every night in bars on Soi 33 off Sukhumvit Road, and in particular there was one bar where my bottle of Black Label was sitting behind the counter, awaiting my nightly arrival.
Along with the ever patient bottle, there was Mei, an incredibly cute and sexy young thing, who didn’t speak a word of English. The bar I frequented was unusual, inasmuch as nearly all the customers were not farangs, but wealthy, middle class Thais who wanted to indulge a bit of ‘slap and tickle’ before heading off to their respectable wives and kids in the family home.
My Thai, which I hadn’t used in any serious way for years, as my wife spoke excellent English, was suddenly put to over extended use in conversing with the new lady in my life.
When I had lived in Thailand in the 70’s and 80’s I had been exposed to a substantial level of Thai on a daily basis as all my jobs were with Thai companies. However, as most of the senior management in these companies spoke reasonable English; my spoken Thai remained extremely basic. So I cannot really account for the fact that when I met this non-English speaking lady, within a short while we were able to converse quite well, and as time went on my Thai improved in leaps and bounds.
I can only assume that my previous exposure to Thai during my eight odd years in Thailand, all those years ago, together with almost daily exposure to my wife’s Thai when she would speak to friends and relations must have been burnt onto my brain’s subconscious ‘hard disk’, and was just awaiting the opportunity to be ‘copied and pasted’ back into my conscious memory when I returned to Thailand and met people who could not speak English.
When I returned to the UK to move out, my relationship with Mei was still in its infancy. For sure I had bought her many drinks, and we had spent many hours canoodling in her bar, but I had not yet bedded her.
However, when I returned to Thailand to start my new life, the relationship took off like a rocket and within a short while, Mei had moved in with me in an apartment I was renting on Soi 15, although she still maintained her own room in Bang Na. This fact should have raised some alarm bells, but I was too busy drinking and drowning my sorrows at my failed marriage to think about such things, and typically for me, it wasn’t long before I was absolutely besotted with the new woman in my life and she could do no wrong.
At first, things were just wonderful. We both enjoyed drinking and going out and enjoying ourselves, and we spent many a happy night getting drunk in various night joints across Bangkok. I had bought a second hand jeep and we made trips to places like Pattaya and Cha Am.
But the idyllic existence didn’t last, and it wasn’t long before conflicts began to surface. Most of the problems revolved around her propensity for disappearing and sometimes staying in her own place, rather than with me. On many days she would leave in the morning and not return until evening or sometimes not at all. These instances caused fights, and as she was an extremely feisty young lady, when I was upset about something, she would give as good as she got.
Then, out of the blue she suddenly turned up one day with a tiny puppy dog. She informed me that now she had a puppy, she would have to stay home in her room every night with it, and just visit me in the day time. I objected to this plan so vehemently, that she gave up the idea, but as a counter move decided to move the puppy in with me.
Her previous habits, of disappearing all day, still continued, and now I was left with the dog to take care of. Not a happy situation.
Life did eventually seem to get better, and one day I drove her to her family home up in Loei, and stayed the night there with her. Upon our return to Bangkok, I agreed that I would spend some money to fix up her mother’s house, which was in a terribly dilapidated condition and then we made the significant decision that we would buy a house in Bangkok and live there together as husband and wife.(Once I was divorced of course.)
After this, she seemed to have a much better attitude towards me, there was less sneaking of to her own apartment and I felt happier about my new relationship.
I may have been stupid, but not that stupid, and resolved to buy the house in my name, so one of my friends recommended a lawyer who would help me set up the necessary Thai company to achieve this.
In the meantime, Mei introduced me to some friends who lived off the Bang Na highway, around twenty kilometres south of Bangkok and not too far from a large, upmarket housing development called Thana City.
Thana City was huge, and had its own golf course, as well as an Olympic sized pool within its grounds. Mei’s friends, (the husband was a cop), had some contacts there and to cut a long story short we eventually located a nice little three bedroom house that we agreed to buy. I duly met with the owner and put a cash deposit down to secure the purchase, and the documents signed at that time indicated that the house would be purchased through my Thai company which was in the process of being set up.
At about this time I had to return to England to settle various affairs which included getting my daughter moved into the house I was buying there.
Before flying back to England, I met with my Thai lawyer, who was still in the process of setting up my company. I agreed with her that as soon as everything was in order, she would inform me by email and I would remit the money to her in order to complete the purchase of the property through my company.
Then I made a huge mistake. Mei became extremely upset when she learned that I was planning to remit funds to the lawyer, and told me that I shouldn’t trust any lawyers in Thailand. She suggested that instead of trusting the lawyer. I should send the money to her, and that she would arrange with the lawyer to have my money paid over to complete the house purchase in the name of my company. This all made perfect sense and I made a note of her bank account details before travelling back to England.
Back in England, and particularly while I was in hospital for my operation, I called Mei constantly and followed the progress of both her mother’s house repairs, as well as the purchase of our new home in Thana City, along with the furnishing and fit out. We had previously obtained some quotes for furniture, landscaping, air conditioning and so on, and all the funds required for these expenses were remitted to Mei so that she could arrange to get everything done and dusted by the time I returned to Thailand.
So as recounted in an earlier episode, I finally arrived back in Thailand, very tired and quite ill but in a state of high expectation that my ‘darling’ would be there to greet me and whisk me off to my new home, where I would receive nothing but adoration and tender loving care.
I walked slowly into the public area of the arrival lounge, my trolley packed to the gunnels with personal effects, stuff for the new home and presents for my beloved.
I looked around – no sign of Mei. I looked again and again, and couldn’t see her anywhere. I eventually made my way to a seat and waited for a while, assuming she had been delayed in traffic. I felt a bit of a letdown after my high expectations, but it wasn’t the end of the end of the world. She would surely turn up soon.
But she didn’t, so I called her number. There was no signal – she had turned her phone off.
I started to think the unthinkable and felt the sweat of panic and despair starting to trickle down my face and back.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 29)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS (CONTINUED)
In the end, it wasn’t quite as bad as I had first feared when I sat on that bench in the arrivals area, waiting in the increasingly vain hope that Mei would appear and carry me off to my new life of bliss.
I didn’t know what to do, and what is more, I suddenly realised, with a sinking feeling in my stomach, that I didn’t even know how to find the house that I ‘thought’ I had bought.
I kept trying to call her, and after about ten minutes, to my total surprise, I was through and I could hear her beautiful voice on my mobile. A voice a few moments earlier I feared I would never hear again. I asked her where she was, and she told me that she was at the new house and couldn’t come to the airport because she was too tired! She told me to get a taxi and meet her there. I said that I didn’t know the way, but after I flagged a cab, I had him to speak to her on my phone and I was at long last on my way.
At this point I had mixed feelings. I was still pretty upset that she hadn’t come to meet me, and couldn’t understand her reason for not coming. But on the other hand, she hadn’t disappeared with all my money, and I was now on my way to my new home, my new wife, and a new life.
We took a few wrong turns, and had terrible trouble finding the house in the pitch dark in such massive “moo bahn” (village), but we eventually found it, by which time I was utterly exhausted.
Mei didn’t seem particularly happy to see me. She didn’t rush over and hug her sick lover and benefactor, and was almost offhand in her attitude. I couldn’t help showing my annoyance at her failure to meet me, especially considering the trouble it had taken me to find the place. She summarily dismissed my protests, and just said that she had been very busy getting the house sorted, and was too tired to make such a long journey.
There was a Thai guy hanging around, doing some work on the house, and I wondered at his presence this late at night. Mei introduced him to me as her cousin, and told me he had been supervising the work being done on the house.
She had certainly spent a lot of money and the house was pretty much finished. The kitchen was fitted out, as was the lounge and bedrooms, and we even had satellite television up and running.
I was starving and we agreed to go out for a meal. The cousin came along and I drove the Jeep, which had apparently caused much trouble when Mei had returned to Loei to sort out the house repairs up there. During the meal I couldn’t help noticing the surreptitious exchange of glances and smiles that kept taking place between Mei and the ‘cousin.’ I started to wonder what was going on.
Back at the house, again I noticed the exchange of glances, and even more apparent was the misery on the face of the cousin when he left us for the night. It seemed he didn’t want to go.
When I finally hit the sack, Mei unaccountably put a large bolster pillow between us and refused to touch me. I was too exhausted to think too much about it and fell into a deep sleep.
Upon awakening, I found that Mei had been up for ages and was busy cooking a meal. The ‘cousin’ was back, and I told Mei that I wanted to collect a lot stuff that I had left at my friend’s house in Bangkok, before I went to the UK. Her cousin offered the services of his pickup truck and off we went.
Back at the house, I found Mei in an increasingly offhand mood, and she found fault with everything I said, and seemed determined to make my life miserable and fight me at every turn.
I was sick, confused, and becoming ever more distraught. What was she up to? Had I done anything to cause this change in behaviour? What was going on with this so-called cousin? I had spent millions on buying and furnishing a new house for us to live in, yet she seemed so ungrateful and angry at me for some unaccountable reason, and there was a complete absence of any sign of affection from her. My mood turned very ominous and grim.
In a desperate attempt to make her happy and to try to make things right, I suggested that we drive to Central Department store in Bang Na and do some shopping, and buy her the new ‘up market’ mobile phone, which she had been pestering me for. She begrudgingly accepted my offer and off we went. I duly bought the expensive mobile, and some other stuff that she wanted, and then we went into another telecom shop to see what could be done about setting up a internet connection using a mobile sim card, but for some inexplicable reason she suddenly went berserk with me and stormed out of the shop
Later I decided to have an early night and suggested Mei join me. Maybe we could make it up in bed. She followed me upstairs, and after showering, once again placed the bolster between us on the bed.
I exploded. We had a terrible row and I accused her of not wanting to sleep with me, and demanded to know what was going on.
Mei was a feisty person, and she stormed back at me and she tried to justify everything she was doing. It was all complete nonsense, and as I countered all her arguments with common sense and logic, she at length told me that she couldn’t stay there anymore, and got dressed and went down stairs. She asked me for the keys to the Jeep. I asked her where she was going, but she just said that she had to get away from me and the house because she was sick and couldn’t sleep there. I refused to give her the car keys, despite her entreaties over and over again to give them to her. I wouldn’t have it. If she took the car I would be stranded there. So in the end she stormed off in an even bigger rage, and walked down the road towards the main gate.
After a few minutes I decided there was no way I could stay in that isolated house alone, and I got into the car to drive into Bangkok and get really pissed. I met Mei on the way, still walking, and offered her a lift the main entrance, where she could get a taxi, but she refused, so I drove off.
I wasn’t to know it at that time, but as I made my way to the bars in Bangkok , that was the very last time that I was to set eyes on Mei.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 30)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS (CONTINUED)
“The aftermath of Mei”
I omitted to report in my blog of January 1st that during my argument with Mei, just before she stormed out of the house, she told me the disturbing news that she had purchased the house in her own name rather than my company name. This was ostensibly because she claimed that the lawyer was too slow in getting my company registered and if the house sale wasn’t completed by the agreed contract date, I would lose my deposit. I was furious with her for not telling me about this before, especially as we had been talking regularly on the phone. She offered no rational explanation, and I started to wonder what the truth of the matter really was.
I drove into Bangkok that night and went straight to the bar where Mei used to work, on Soi 33. I have no idea why I went there, but at the time it seemed like the logical place to go and drown my sorrows, and also maybe to see if I could learn anything new about Mei from her old workmates.
I had this terrible feeling deep down that she had been playing games with me from the very start and that the ‘cousin’ was almost certainly her boyfriend, or even her husband.
He was a good looking guy; I could see the chemistry; the interaction between them when they were together; I saw the pain in his eyes when he had to leave us together that first night and she had also let it drop that he had accompanied her to her home in Loei. She mentioned that he had driven my car, and he was also was on hand to sort things out when the jeep had broken down in Loei.
Add to all this the fact that since I had returned from England, she wouldn’t let me touch her, let alone do anything more intimate, and she had been picking fights with me at every turn since I had arrived. There was no doubt in my mind that I once again I had committed a right royal screw up.
I also recalled an occasion when I had to wait for her for over an hour outside her flat at Bang Na because she told me that I would not be allowed in by security. There was also the inordinate amount of time she spent there on an almost daily basis. So despite my predisposition not to believe the worst from my ladies, I could now see that two and two equalled a huge, glaring “four”. I had been duped and played for a fool yet again.
I encountered some of her ex “work colleagues” in the bar where she used work, and told them what she had been up to, and I discerned from their lack of reaction that it came as no surprise to anyone in that bar, except of course to muggings Mobi. They all seemed to know what sort of person she was. As ever, I was the last to know.
There was a girl sitting either side of me and I drank a huge amount of whisky. As I became ever more intoxicated I started crying in their arms. Being the thoughtful, loving things that they were, they gave me much solace. They were such little darlings; never tiring of providing me with comfort in the time honoured, Soi 33 fashion – as long as the expensive drinks kept flowing.
By 2.a.m I was completely plastered, but that didn’t stop me staggering back to my car, and amazingly driving all the way back to my house at Thana City. I recall that when I finally made it to the housing estate, I spent at least an hour driving round and round desperately trying to locate my house. I remember thinking that if I didn’t find the house soon I would have to give up and sleep in the car. Mercifully, I did eventually track it down.
(I have written elsewhere in this blog that up to a couple of years ago, I was what is known as a “functioning alcoholic”; that is, an alcoholic who is still able to hold his job down and keep his life together, which in my particular case included never passing out or having blackouts, and the dubious ability to drive when drunk and never having accidents. But all that was to change quite soon.)
I didn’t sleep much and woke at dawn, with a horrendous hangover, and my mental state was not good. There was a gang of people still working on landscaping the garden – putting a concrete base down for parking and so on. They were also related to Mei in some way, and they greeted me with a cheery smile, and told me that Mei would be back soon. I asked them when? but they just assured me that it would be very soon.
I called her; she told me that she was not well and that all our arguments had made her very sick. She would stay away for a while and try to get better and get some rest. I insisted that she came back that day, but she refused. I called her back several times to reiterate my request, but she still refused, and she eventually became tired of my whining and shut off her phone.
I was devastated. I knew with an unnerving certainty that she was with the Thai “cousin”, and that I had been taken to the cleaners. I was still besotted with her, and I was aching inside. But at the same time I knew for sure that she was a bad person, and I resolved to get as far away from her and the house as possible, and start anew
Having made this momentous decision, I packed up all my personal effects, including the stuff I had just moved in there the day before from my friend’s place, and loaded it into my jeep and drove away. I checked into a hotel off Sukhumvit Road and then went to a bar near Soi 15 and started drinking. A couple of hours later I decided to call Dave. He kindly came out and joined me and tried to comfort and counsel me as I drowned my sorrows.
When I told him what had happened, he urged me to not leave all the stuff I had paid for at the house, and also to see what I could do about reclaiming the house. It made sense, but in my drunken state I wanted to forget the whole sorry affair, chalk it up to experience and start over.
The next day, when I sobered up a little, I was still missing Mei like crazy, and decided once again to call her and beg her to go back to the house. I managed to get though to her and I begged and begged, but she told me that she would not come back yet, and I would have to wait until she was ready to return. She knew that I had taken my things from the house and asked me where I was staying, but I refused to tell her as by now I was starting to have some concerns for my safety. At length I realised that there was no way I would be able to persuade her to return in the foreseeable future and I truly knew that the game was up.
I re-thought Dave’s suggestion, and decided that I would return to the house and see what stuff I could take away. It was a Sunday, and when I arrived there I found that the landscaping crew had finished and gone, and that the front gate was locked and chained. I climbed over the gate, but the doors were all locked. I tried the side doors, and had a bit of luck and found one door that came open with a bit of force. Once inside I was able to open the front door, and then packed up all the smallish stuff that I could carry and crammed it into my jeep. I left the heavy stuff, (furniture, televisions, fridges, cookers etc), but took all the kitchen utensils, crockery, glasses and small electrical gadgets such as rice cookers, and also all the bed linen and towels.
I was quite anxious to get away from the house as quickly as possible with my car load, as I had no idea if Mei or her peopl had left any instructions with the security guards to stop me taking anything; or whether someone would turn up and confront me. In the event I drove away without incident and I took the carload back to my friend’s house, where once more it was put into storage.
How I managed to accomplish this is one of life’s great mysteries. I was totally exhausted, very hung over, emotionally traumatized and becoming increasingly ill from the effects of my recent bladder operation.
I had a lot of pain in that area, and I was now starting to pass more blood. The internal wound had not yet healed. On top of all this I was, and still am, an insulin dependent diabetic, and also suffered from chronic heart disease. By rights I should have collapsed from mental or physical exhaustion – or maybe both. My “Higher Power” was sure taking care of me during that tumultuous period.
Once I had moved out of the new house for good, I leased a very up market apartment on Soi 15 and settled in alone to start my life over, yet again.
I had been persuaded by friends to see what I could do about recovering my house, and contacted the lawyer I had previously used to set up the company which was supposed to own the house. She confirmed to me that Mei had indeed gone ahead and purchased the house in her own name rather than the company name, (which had been ready for ages), and that Mei now held house title deeds – the ‘Chanod’.
I lost confidence in this lawyer, and wasn’t sure how to proceed, but dear old Dave came to my rescue. Dave ran a recording studio, and his right hand man was a Thai guy named Chat who spoke good English and was a bit of a ‘wise boy’ with good connections. Dave told Chat what had happened, and Chat said that he thought he could find someone to help me.
The next day Chat told me that he had a good friend who he was sure he could help. A meeting was arranged, and it transpired that the friend was a colonel in the military police. He turned up to the meeting, in a chauffeur-driven Mercedes Benz, wearing a gleaming military uniform, complete with rows of medal ribbons and accompanied by a small entourage of military cops.
His plan was to send a group of soldiers to protect the house, and another group to track down Mei. A third group would journey up to Loei and see whether Mei had decided to hide out at her family home. While his military style ‘campaign’ was taking root, the Colonel proposed to accompany me to the police station to file an official report against Mei.
Of course all this needed funding, and I handed over not an inconsiderable amount of money to put these plans into action and to pay the expenses of all his men.
I was instructed to gather together as much documentary evidence as I could find to support my police complaint. I actually had a fair volume of papers, ranging from the receipt for my house deposit (which contained the wording that the house was to be purchased in my company’s name), copies of all the bank transfers that were sent to Mei’s bank account, and even copies of Mei’s ID card.
Then the colonel asked me about my jeep. I told him that the car had been bought in Mei’s name, (she had told me that farangs could not own cars in Thailand), and that I did not have the vehicle ownership documents. The colonel advised me that it was very dangerous for me to continue to drive the car around Bangkok, as Mei might arrange for someone to track me down, take the car back and even possibly kill me. He insisted that he take the jeep and keep it stored of sight on military premises until this business had been settled. I had little choice but to agree with this course of action, and that was the last time I ever saw that vehicle.
A day or two later, the Colonel took me to the Police station near to where Mei used to live, and we spent almost the whole day there, making the report which included taking evidence from witnesses (including a house agent at Thana City, who confirmed my version of events)), copying, cross referencing and attaching all the supporting documents, and so on. The police then used their authority to gain access to Mei’s bank accounts. They discovered that Mei had withdrawn a very large sum of money only a few days ago, and all the accounts now had nil balances. A warrant was issued for Mei’s arrest, which was duly sent to her last known address.
The remainder of this sorry story was played out over the next two to three years, so I will try to be brief in describing how it all panned out as I do not wish to overly bore you.
For the second time in a row, I was being subjected to massive deception and fraud.
I was advised by Chat that they had been unable to track down Mei, but that they had been to her house in Loei where her mother declared that she had not seen her for a very long time and had no idea of her whereabouts.
I subsequently discovered that they had lied to me and in fact found her almost immediately and ‘shook her down’ and forced her to pay over most of the money she had secreted away. I am also reliably informed that the colonel took Mei as his lover for a while, but where she is now I have not the faintest idea. She could well be dead.
Chat told me that the colonel’s ‘team’ needed money to hire a lawyer who was going to set up a new company for me, so when everything was settled through the courts, they would be able to transfer the title deeds directly into my new company. Chat even brought me company papers to sign, but it was all part of their latest deception.
Chat kept informing me that everything was proceeding slowly through the courts, (even giving me dates when the court had found in my favour) and periodically he hit me up for more money to fund the ongoing legal process and other activities that were being undertaken by the Colonel and his gang.
The costs were mounting, and months came and went and I heard nothing except these demands for yet more money. I was becoming more and more suspicious of what was really happening, but felt powerless to stop the process. After all, for most of the time, I was either drunk or severely hung over, and was incapable of logical thought or making difficult decisions.
During this period I got to know Chat quite well, and as he had been Dave’s right hand man for many years, I completely trusted him, but started to wonder about the colonel.
One day Chat made a proposal to me for a new business venture concerning the building of retirement homes for expatriates in Ayudhaya and it wasn’t long before I became immersed in this new project. Once again the money started to flow. Chat and I made a number of trips to Ayudhaya, inspected a number of riverside plots of land that were allegedly for sale, met with architects, potential business partners, and even met a high level bank official whose bank ostensibly was going to finance the major part of the operation – after I had personally invested the initial capital.
Chat arranged to set up and equip a small office, complete with full time secretary. I commenced work on the project and if I hadn’t caught Chat out in a stupid but blatant lie, my suspicions would never have been aroused.
Once I had caught Chat lying about something, my instincts were alerted, and it wasn’t long before I realised that the whole project was yet another scam – a pack of lies – carefully planned by Chat to extricate money from gullible, alcoholic Mobi
His biggest mistake was introducing me to a lawyer to handle the legal work on the project, who then decided that I may be a better ‘touch’ than Chat. The lawyer made me aware that Chat was a charlatan, and that the whole project was full of inconsistencies and deceit.
So I called time on the project, but held back on informing Chat that I knew what he had been up to. It wouldn’t have served any useful purpose and could have even served me badly, like me ending up getting severely or fatally hurt.
So where did that leave my house business?
I asked the lawyer who had blown the gaff on Chat’s little con if he could help me find out what was going on with my house. I gave him copies of all the relevant documents, including the police report and asked him to investigate.
It cost yet more money, but at least this lawyer did genuinely earn some of the money I paid him. He quickly established that no court action whatsoever had been taken in respect of my house, and he told me that if any court action had really been going on then I would have been called as a witness.
The lawyer sent his people to see where Chat lived and discovered that Chat now had the Jeep and was driving it every day. I called Chat and asked him where the jeep was. He told me it was with the vehicle registration office as the annual registration had expired and the colonel couldn’t renew it without the car documents. The lawyer told me the jeep had a current tax paper on the windscreen, so it further confirmed what I already knew – that they had tracked down Mei and extracted the car papers from her.
The whole affair was becoming murkier and murkier, but I had to be careful. These people who were deceiving me were powerful and dangerous.
At long last, my real case was heard in the courts. My lawyer had a very smart colleague to represent me in court and I was briefed in advance on the questions I would be asked.
As they say, I finally had “my day in court”. It was a nerve wracking business, standing in the witness box in a Thai court and being cross examined by my lawyer as well as the panel of judges, but I managed to pull it off quite well.
I was told that there was a good chance that the court would rule in my favour, simply because the case was undefended. Despite the court summonses that were sent to Mei’s last known address, she never responded or came to court to defend her actions, as to do so would have resulted in her arrest on criminal charges, assuming she wasn’t already dead.
There was no decision by the panel of judges on the day of the hearing and we had to wait for weeks for the final court ruling. It was unanimous and they found in my favour. The court ruled that the house should be put up for sale by official public auction and the proceeds paid over to me.
But before this could happen, new land title deeds had to be issued to replace those taken by Mei, and this laborious and difficult bureaucratic process took several months.
In the meantime the house was depreciating badly as it had been uninhabited for over two years.
When the public auction was eventually held, my lawyer had arranged to put a reserve price on it to avoid it being sold off too cheaply. Very few people attended the auction the reserve price was not offered and the house was withdrawn for sale.
Under court rules, I was allowed to withdraw the house for sale only once, and the next time it was scheduled for auction, it would have to be sold, regardless of how low the ‘highest’ bid was.
The last little twist in this nightmarish saga was in full swing.
It transpired that these so-called public auctions are not really ‘public’, as the only people who are aware of them are court officials who are in league with certain property investors who will attend the auction and make ridiculously low bids; thus buying these court-auctioned properties at way below their real market value.
My lawyer was fully aware of this little piece of corruption but had obviously decided not to share this information with his client. His agreed fees for representing my interests were on a contingency basis, with a guaranteed minimum which had been paid up front. I had previously checked and established that his rates were pretty standard in such circumstances, so I naturally thought that it would be in both our interests to get the highest price possible for the house. But I was unprepared for the wiliness of a Thai scam artist when he gets a stupid farang in his clutches.
After the house was withdrawn at the first auction the lawyer told me that he might have a friend who would be interested in buying the house as an investment and indicated that he was prepared to pay a price within my anticipated price range.
As I now believed that his friend had agreed to make a half way decent bid I breathed a sigh of relief that we were at long last near the end of this distasteful and protracted business.
But the day before the auction, the lawyer called me to inform me that his friend would not, after all, attend the auction. He warned me that the price I would get for the house would be extremely low. I was devastated, and barely had time to digest this piece of bad news when he called me back to propose a new deal.
He now declared his hand and started to put the screws on me. On top of the substantial fees he had already been paid, he asked me if I would agree to triple his fee if he guaranteed that his friend would turn up and buy my house at the previously quoted price.
I was between a rock and a hard place, so I reluctantly agreed.
The money I eventually received back from the sale of that house was barely 40 percent of the money I had originally expended, and it had consumed my life for over two years. One of the few truisms that my next wife was to tell me, (yes, by the time this house business drew to an end, I was well into my fifth marriage), was that I would have been better off just walking away from it at the start, rather than having to suffer all that aggravation and anguish for two years. I believe she was right.
As for Chat, well a little while later, I took Dave out for a meal, and related the whole sorry account of how his “number one man” had cheated me not once, but several times over, and was on that very day, driving around in Jeep that I had paid for.
Dave said very little, intimated that he didn’t really believe what I had told him and continued to work with Chat until quite recently, when he stopped doing commercial work - and even to this day, Chat is still in regular contact with Dave.
I never really expected that Dave would part company with Chat as I knew he would not be able to replace him. No, I wasn’t thinking that he would do that, but I did think that he might apologise for his part in my suffering. After all, he had introduced Chat to me and assured me that he would be of great service to me. Dave has never mentioned this affair again, or Chat’s ignominious and deceitful role in it.
Thanks Dave – a good one!
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 31)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS (CONTINUED)
“It’s time for wife number 5”
The memories and pain of my bad experiences with Mei were slowly being extinguished by copious volumes of alcohol and a never ending parade of bar girls through my bedroom at my impressive apartment, just off Soi 15, in Sukhumvit Road.
After a while, I rotated about half a dozen ‘favourites, and as my drinking became more and more excessive, the occasions when I would go home alone, became ever more frequent, and if I did have a girl accompany me, I would be totally incapable of doing anything. They became ’sleeping companions’, rather than lovers.
I suppose you could say I was pretty lucky to have survived that period without suffering any injuries to myself, or indeed getting mugged in the early hours, as I staggered down the road searching for a taxi, or occasionally, searching for my rented car. I lived quite close to the ‘action’ but had enough sense on most days to leave my car at home; but there were days when I started drinking earlier than planned, and thus had my car with me, and then had to drive home in the early hours when disgustingly intoxicated. Not a great idea.
I recall one particular occasion when I lurched along the road in search of my car which was parked on Soi 33, only to find that it wouldn’t move when I clambered in and cranked up the engine. Upon closer and drunken inspection, I discovered that I had been clamped! Then found a police ticket on the windscreen, and staggered down the road clutching it in my hand, hoping to find some cop who would agree to ‘un-clamp’ me.
As luck would have it I came across a bunch of them, seated at a table outside one of the bars, (It was way past closing time – of course), getting stuck into bottles of Thai whisky. I wandered over to them, manically waving my police ticket. They obligingly took a look at it and informed me that they could do nothing and that I had to go to Thonglor police station. It was around 3.a.m. and I was completely sloshed, but in my drunken stupor, I saw nothing amiss or foolish about hailing a taxi, and driving off to the cop shop at Thong Lor. I staggered into the police station, waved my ticket at anyone who might take an interest and the desk sergeant, being unusually indulgent with a drunken farang, indicated that I should take it upstairs.
I was finally led into the office of a high ranking officer who had his sergeant take a copy of the copy of my passport, which I fortunately always carried with me. He didn’t ask to see my driving licence, but he did tell me to pay a fine of five hundred baht. I was clearly very drunk, but no one seemed to care – they just wanted their five hundred baht. After I was handed an ‘official’ receipt for my fine, I had the temerity to ask the officer if my car would now be un-clamped so that I could drive it home. He asked me where it was located, and then made a call on his mobile, and told me that by the time I got back to my car, the clamps would be removed.
It probably should have occurred to me that the police might be awaiting the arrival of a drunk driver and pounce on him, but my luck held, and when the taxi dropped me next to my car I scrambled into the seat and drove home.
The next day, when I sobered up, I realised that I had been very foolish and was lucky not to be in jail, or dead.
As the days and weeks passed, I started to gravitate to a bar just off Soi 33, called the Office Bar. Some of you who live in Bangkok may know of it. In those days it was in its infancy, not having been open long, but the volume and quality of the ladies it attracted made it an overnight success. It was a cut above most of the bars in that area, as were the ladies who flocked to work there; on certain days they were dressed very provocatively in micro minis or in skirts with splits to the upper thighs, and on other occasions looked very elegant in figure hugging evening dresses.
One thing soon became very clear. The most beautiful ladies in this joint never lasted very long. They were soon snapped up as ‘live-ins’, or even future wives by the better-off farangs who had more money than sense – just like Mobi.
Over time, I took a number of them home with me and at length I became quite keen on one slightly more mature lady. Her name was Jum; she was quite sophisticated and was in her early thirties. Jum spoke good English and I soon struck up a good, very friendly relationship with her. In retrospect, she would have probably made a very good long term partner. But it wasn’t to be.
One night I went to meet her, but was told she was off that day (“off” usually being a euphemism for ‘otherwise engaged’), so in my usual ‘Mobi huff’, I looked around the bar for an alternative. It was quite early there was a long row of lovely ladies standing and sitting behind the bar awaiting customers to arrive and invite them for drinks.
At the end of the line I spotted a very pretty girl who I had not seen before. She must have been new. I smiled at her and she returned my smile with a shy grin. I beckoned for her to come and sit down with me, and saw that she was indeed very beautiful. She was Dang, a lovely girl from Sa kaeo. Dang spoke no English and told me that this was her third day at work and that she had never worked in a bar before. (I found out much later that this was one of the few occasions when she actually told me the truth.).
It didn’t take me long to ask her to accompany me to my apartment.
It was September 2003, and on that fateful night I embarked on a disastrous relationship which was to lead to marriage and last over six years. To this day I am still not completely rid of her.
Many months later I was to briefly see Jum again back at the Office Bar, and she came over to say hello, and she told me that she had made a huge mistake by not being there the night that I met Dang. She said that she was very sad that she had let me ‘get away’, and assured me that she would have made a very good and loyal wife.
Whether or not that was true, I will never know. The fickle finger of fate had already dealt the latest hand of cards to a luckless, alcoholic Mobi.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 32)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS (CONTINUED)
“It’s time for wife number 5”
It was September 2003, when I first took Dang home with me from the Office Bar. I hadn’t been mistaken – she was indeed a very lovely lady of 26 years of age. Almost immediately I became smitten with her, and my six years of misery was up and running. Dang spoke virtually no English, and my spoken Thai, which by this time wasn’t too bad, improved in leaps and bounds.
I was still living at my luxury apartment in Soi 15, and within a couple of days of Dang shacking up with me, I should have seen the warning signs and thrown her out. But being a perverse drunk who always dreams he can change a woman’s nature and make her love him, I became ever more emotionally entrapped by this fascinating, beautiful woman.
I recall very clearly one of our early conversations when Dang agreed to stay with me but said that sometimes she would need her own time to go out with her friends. I have never wanted to control any woman who has lived with me, and was more than happy to give her whatever freedom she needed to be happy and content. After all, we had only just met, and marriage wasn’t even contemplated.
The “sometimes” became virtually every day. She would take off in the afternoons, assuring me that she would be back home at the latest by 11 p.m. I would lucky if I would see her before 2 or 3 a.m, and sometimes not at all. She would invariably arrive home drunk, and would sleep the mornings away, only to rouse herself in the afternoons and head off once again. Occasionally she would be so hung-over that she would stay in bed for 24 hours, never going anywhere.
It was on just such an occasion when I decided to move my home from Soi 15 to another large apartment in Soi 31. Dang was so hung-over, that she didn’t lift a finger to help me, while I spent the day packing up and moving all my stuff.
There were so many occasions in those early months when I should have just bitten the bullet and finished with her, but I was becoming ever more besotted and still clung to the fantasy that one day she would change.
After a while I met some of her friends, and I will never forget the occasion when I met her very best friend (who remains so to this day). She was Jay, an exceptionally pretty, very light skinned Issan lady who worked as a hostess in an exclusive Japanese club, off Sukhumvit Road. We went to her club one day to meet her, and Dang asked me if I could “bar fine” Jay so that she could go out to eat with us. I had no problem with this request, expecting the fine to be around five hundred Baht. The bill was delivered to me on a silver tray by a uniformed waiter – two thousand four hundred baht!
I said nothing and paid the bill, but inside I was starting to fume. By the time we drove to the restaurant, I was beside myself with anger for being conned into paying such an outrageous amount of money just so that a friend could go with us to eat. (Remember this was 7 years ago, when things in general were quite a bit cheaper than they are in 2010). I stopped the car outside the restaurant, and when we got out, I told the two of them that I was very angry at what had happened, and told to go and eat by themselves. I then drove off in a furious rage. I decided that someone was taking the piss – and it wasn’t me.
Of course, I eventually calmed down, and Dang came back to me the next day, and forced me to make an abject apology for my outrageous behaviour. But for about two years after that I always referred to Jay as “Song Pun See”, (Two thousand four hundred), as I could never forget the most expensive ‘friend’ I had ever had the pleasure of meeting.
On occasion Dang would drag me along with her when she went out to clubs and discos with her friends, presumably so that she could get the bills paid. She frequented the most expensive places in town, and I ended up having to pay for everyone. I didn’t even get to enjoy myself. In a pattern that was to be repeated throughout the years that I was with Dang, every time she went out with me, she would get drunk. In her initial stages of intoxication, all would be fun and laughter. Then the alcohol would really get hold of her and she would suddenly turn on me and start a fight, for absolutely no reason. These fights were invariably pretty awful, and they would continue when we arrived home. She would shout even louder at me and then start throwing things around, and slamming doors. She would sometimes rage for hours, before finally falling into a drunken sleep.
So quite early on in my relationship, I tended to avoid going out with her too often, and we both slipped into the habit of going out separately – me with my friends, Dang with her friends. Occasionally I would still go out with Dang and her friends, to celebrate a birthday, or some other special occasion, but without exception, every time we did, she would get drunk and end up picking a fight with me.
For the first few months I had tried to be the perfect ‘boy friend’. I had cut down on my drinking, and avoided ‘girlie’ bars and I was completely faithful. But once the drunken fights obliged us to go our separate ways for entertainment, I once more went back to my old haunts, although I still remained faithful. In spite of everything, Dang was still the only woman in my life and the only one I wanted to make love to.
Then we started to row over the phone. Dang would demand to know where I was, and would accuse me of having a new girl friend. I, in turn, would get angry with her, because she would never come home at a reasonable hour, despite all her promises. I would always go home when the bars closed – usually midnight or 1 a.m. but Dang would turn up much later – 3, 4 or even 5 a.m.
On one occasion Dang called me around midnight and demanded to know where I was. I told her I was on my way home (which I was), and when I arrived, I found a drunken Dang waiting for me. She started screaming and accused me of ’sleeping around’. When I tried to deny it, she punched me on the face – very hard. I was stunned – she had never been violent before. Then she punched me again and again, and gave me a bad black eye, and drew blood. I didn’t know what to do. I had never had a violent woman before and by the same token I had never been violent with a woman. So I just grabbed hold of her wrists and did my best to restrain her, and eventually she stopped.
Thinking back, this was probably another warning sign that I should have heeded. If I had been Thai, I would probably have hit her back and hurt her, and as a result she probably would never have tried to hit me again. As it was, I let her hit me, and once she knew she could get away with it she would repeat this violent behaviour throughout the rest of our time together.
I don’t deny that it takes two to have a fight, and my ever increasing drunkenness exacerbated the volatile situation. But Dang would invariably start the ball rolling, and because I was drunk, I would shout back. But, in the main, I have always been what is known as a “happy drunk” and as long as people don’t try to make trouble with me, I will never make trouble or start a fight.
Nevertheless, she would always blame me for starting them and blame my excessive drinking on all the trouble between us. I actually believed her for a long time, and tried desperately to control my drinking, with little success. But when I eventually did succeed in staying dry for long periods – once for almost nine months – I finally realised that it wasn’t me after all. I could be completely sober and she still got drunk and still picked fights. The ‘penny had finally dropped’; Dang was also an alcoholic and had a greater problem with alcohol than even poor old Mobi.
We had received a number of warnings from the landlord of my apartment that my neighbours had complained about the noise we made when fighting late at night. The warnings were not heeded, and when the six month lease came up for renewal, I was issued a final warning and also as a financial penalty, they increased my rent.
One day, soon after the rent had been increased, we had another very violent encounter late at night. Not only had she been hitting me with anything she could find to hand, but had also been breaking things up in the apartment. I finally saw ‘red’ and grabbed hold of her and threw her out. She banged on the door for ages but I refused to open it, and eventually she went away.
I was concerned that she may return with friends to create more mayhem, so I called my Thai ‘friend’ Chat – yes the very one who I was later to discover was ripping me off – and asked him if he could help me get some protection. He immediately called his friend, the military Colonel, and within an hour there were two military cops stationed outside my apartment door.
They provided me with twenty four hour protection and after a few days Dang contacted me and told me that she wanted to collect her things as she had moved to a new apartment, and would go back to work at Office Bar. I refused to let her in the place, but told the maid to pack up all her stuff, and the military guards then delivered her bags to her new home.
Of course I had to pay an exorbitant fee for all these ’services’ provided by the complements of the Thai Military.
Then, even though Dang had now gone, and the noisy fighting had stopped, the landlord still gave me one month’s notice to move out. He had had enough of Mobi and his noisy, violent girl friend. This was the first, and I hope the last occasion, I had been asked to vacate a home due to unsatisfactory behaviour. And remember, this is Thailand, where almost anything goes – especially noise at all hours – so it must have been pretty bad.
It was December 2004, and Dang was gone – the affair was all over – finished, and I was to start a new, single life in a new home.
Yet within three months I was married.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 33)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS (CONTINUED)
“It’s time for wife number 5”
There were two people who were very happy at the departure of Dang.
Although I didn’t realise it at the time, the first to welcome this turn of events was Jai, my maid, and the second was my ‘good’ Thai friend, Chat.
Chat, the one who had been introduced to me by my English friend Dave as a Thai I could ‘trust with my money and my life’ and Chat the one who was ripping me off in connection with the ‘Mei house recovery affair’. It was at this very time – when I was having trouble with Dang and was obliged to move home – that Chat was busy getting his claws into me. He had recently persuaded me to set up and invest in a project for the building of expat retirement homes in Ayudhaya.
Chat was happy because he didn’t like Dang, and in his opinion she was a bad influence on me. Certainly from his point of view, he wanted no outside influences interfering with his various schemes to relieve me of large amounts of my money.
As for Jai, well she had known Dang for a number of years, and was Dang’s maid in an earlier life, so I assumed she would take Dang’s side with regards to the trouble that had occurred between us. Maybe she wouldn’t even want to work for me anymore.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. Jai went out of her way to assure me of her sympathy and sorrow for all the trouble and hurt I had suffered from Dang, and I detected a discernible change in her attitude. She became much friendlier, smiled at me frequently, and even started to dress more ‘tidily’. She was quite a pretty thing, of around 30 years of age, but although the idea was tempting, I wanted no part of it. Jai had two young children and a wife-beating husband. I decided to keep well clear of that mess – I had enough of my own.
Before Dang and I had our major bust up, we had been talking about marriage. We had even been to one of these “wedding shops”, and had visited a Wat where an monk had given us a list of propitious dates on which to hold our wedding festivities.
A date had been provisionally chosen for mid January and Dang’s family had been informed. But after I threw Dang out, all these plans were cancelled, and the wedding called off.
Dang must have been gone a couple of weeks or so when I decided to pay a visit to the Office Bar to see if she had returned to work yet. She wasn’t there, and possibly never would be. Maybe I was really rid of her for good.
With the help of Chat, I moved into a house in a nearby sub-Soi, and set up my home and office there. Plans were also in an advanced stage for Chat to move into the second, vacant bedroom.
Then one day, I went to the Office Bar, and there she was. She had just started work again. I had almost forgotten how beautiful she was, especially when she ‘tarted’ herself up with makeup and classy, figure -hugging clothes. She was sitting with a customer who had his arms around her. I felt a massive stab of jealousy.
I ordered a drink and tried to ignore her, but could not. The customer was in no hurry to go, and as the evening wore on he bought her more and more drinks. Dang had seen me, sitting along the bar, but made little effort to even acknowledge that she recognised me. I proceeded to get very drunk, in a hapless, gut wrenching fit of jealousy.
It was closing time, and the guy was still there, and I had this feeling of foreboding that he would take her home with him. I finally managed to talk to Dang when the guy went to take a leak, and asked her if she was going with him. She asked me why I wanted to know. I didn’t answer directly, but told her that I didn’t want her to go with him. She was non committal, and in a fit of utter desperation, I told her that I wanted her to go home with me. She smiled at me and said she would think about it.
The guy came back, and took Dang into a quiet corner and spoke to her for what seemed like an age – presumably trying to persuade her to go with him. I feared the worst, and was feeling utterly miserable, when at long last, the guy kissed her goodbye and left the bar by himself.
Dang then disappeared into the staff area, and I waited and waited and waited to find out if she would come with me. I knew I was being stupid, but I couldn’t help myself. I was totally consumed with infatuation and jealousy.
Of course you know what happened. She eventually appeared in her ‘street clothes’ and took my arm and led me out of the bar, into my car, and back into my life.
She didn’t move back in that night. In fact it was a while before she came back ‘full time’ as it were, and I had to pay through my teeth.
I agreed to pay the rent on the apartment she had leased,(including the forfeited security deposit for breaking the lease before the term had expired), along with a fridge, stereo and other stuff she had bought to fit it out. Then I had to pay a large sum to her in respect of her return to work at the Office bar, which she had paid to them to get her job back. In the event, she continued to work there for a few more days, and had me in paroxysms of jealousy every time I went to see her and take her home as she was invariably entwined with customers, plying them for drinks.
She was the living proof that the best looking hostesses can more than survive on drinks and tips and have no need to sleep with customers to get a decent income. At the end of each evening she would have a mountain of drink chits, but that paled into insignificance compared to the large sums she picked up in tips. Remember the customers were high rollers, and they all succumbed to Dang’s beauty and charms. Tips of more two thousand Baht per customer were not at all unusual. This was more than I would usually pay for an “all nighter”.
Jai and Chat were not at all impressed by the return of the ‘prodigal’. The look on Chat’s face was one of devastation when he saw Dang come downstairs one morning just after he had arrived at my office. They barely spoke to each other, and it goes without saying Chat immediately cancelled his plans to move in with me.
Then a few days later Dang informed me that something was the matter with our maid. She told me that Jai looked so miserable and that she hardly spoke to her. On top of that, her work was getting slip shod.
By overhearing some idle chit chat imparted by Jai to a friend, Dang eventually discovered that Jai had set her hat at me and was convinced I would respond favourably and take her as my live-in lover. Jai’s dreams had been shattered when Dang returned, but of course this despair had little to do with love, but everything to do with money and security.
In those early weeks back together, life was pretty good and we both resolved to turn over a new leaf, cut back on our drinking and see if we couldn’t really make a go of our relationship. Things seemed to be going so well, that it wasn’t long before a new date was announced for our wedding, a couple of months hence, in mid March.
But in reality, it was the “calm before the storm”.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 34)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS (CONTINUED)
“It’s time for wife number 5”
The Wedding was fascinating and exhausting, but ultimately it was a traumatic disaster.
I was already a regular visitor to Dang’s village in Sa Kaeo; everyone in the village and the surrounding area knew me quite well. After all, I had built one of the village’s most ostentatious looking houses, and I had also been the main benefactor of many drunken parties, where folk came from miles around to eat, drink and make merry at my expense.
We arrived a couple of days before the date of the wedding, and the nuptial arrangements commenced in earnest.
The whole area surrounding Dang’s house was cordoned off and the road blocked to traffic to accommodate the stage and dining area for the forthcoming wedding. Caterers were coming all the way from Chonburi, and one of the biggest entertainment groups for miles around were coming to set up stage and provide the live music and entertainment.
In the meantime the monks from the local Wat turned up on a tractor and set up a huge sound system outside the house to provide music for the ‘pre-wedding’ festivities that would run for the 2 days preceding the wedding itself. So the loud music, eating, drinking and merrymaking commenced, and the whole village downed tools for the duration.
Dang and I had already had western wedding outfits made for us at the Bangkok wedding shop: Dang in a striking, floor length, figure hugging wedding dress, and me in traditional evening dress. But on arrival in Sa Keao, we both went into town to be fitted up with Thai style wedding clothes, which would also be worn on the wedding day.
Then there were the photographers, the wedding video makers, the cake suppliers, the floral designers and flower suppliers, and “Uncle Tom Cobley” an’ all.
I made many, many trips to the ATM during those 2 days.
Things started to turn a bit sour when Dang disappeared for longer and longer periods – leaving me alone at the house, surrounded by a bunch of drunken Thai men. Of course I was also drinking, and the more I drunk the more upset I became at Dang’s long, unexplained absences. It finally came to a head on the eve of the wedding when Dang had been absent virtually all day. I was getting drunker and ever angrier. I kept calling her, and she kept telling me she was with friends, or having her hair done and would be back shortly; but of course “shortly” never came.
(I should add that even by this relatively early stage in our relationship, I had realised that Dang was a compulsive and accomplished liar, and that she was always up to no good, so every time she was out of sight, I would become paranoid about where she might be and what she might be doing. As the years wore on, I slowly realized that all my worst fears were more than justified.)
It was getting very late, and still no sign of Dang, and in a drunken rage, I stormed out of the house and staggered through the village, before passing out at the side of the road, a mile or so from Dang’s house.
I was found by some locals who were sent out to track me down and they escorted me back to the house. I found that Dang had finally deigned to return and was sitting there waiting for me. No doubt someone told her what had transpired.
She was beside herself with rage. How dare I shame her in front of her family!!! She had not done anything wrong and I had behaved in such a shameful and disgusting way. The wedding was off, and she wanted me to leave now and go back to Bangkok!
Dang would always defend her outrageous behaviour by attacking me. She would always come out with all guns blazing, even though I may have caught her out telling blatant lies. On this particular occasion, she had promised me faithfully all day long that she would return in the early afternoon, and then late afternoon then “soon, half an hour, in ten minutes” and so on and so on. It was nearly midnight when she finally arrived, and may well have been much later if someone hadn’t called to tell her about my drunken disappearance. But it was all my fault for getting drunk and shaming her. And if I hadn’t kept calling her she would have come home hours ago.
So I embarked down the time honoured road of offering my abject apologies, and begging her to forgive me. I also apologised to her mother and family. She finally relented and agreed that the wedding would proceed after all.
I slept very little that night, and the wedding day, which was not the greatest start to what was to be one of the most exhausting days I have ever lived through.
On the wedding morning, Dang disappeared at around 4.30 a.m. to go into town and have her hair done and be made up and dressed in traditional Thai costume for the morning ceremonies. By the time Dang had left, there were already dozens of villagers and family milling around the house preparing food and setting up stuff in perpetration for the Thai ceremony.
The photographers, video team, and floral people also arrived at the crack of dawn to commence their own preparations.
Dang finally arrived back around 8.30 looking like a Thai Princess. I had to admit she looked absolutely stunning.
Then at nine, about a dozen monks arrived on a tractor and went into the house, and Mobi – dressed as a traditional Thai Puyai (nobleman) was taken out of the village to await start of the ceremony. I was accompanied by a large crowd of villagers, together with a pickup truck which had a sound system on the back and a group of Thai musicians, all sporting various western and Thai musical instruments.
At the stroke of nine the music started up, and I had to walk slowly back into the village, accompanied by ‘morlam’,(north-eastern Thai folk music) and the already drunken revellers dancing madly around me. The women seemed even drunker than the men and they kept covering me with flowers as we slowly made our way back to the house.
Upon arrival at the front door, I was bidden to remove my shoes and socks, and a local girl washed my feet, and I was told to pay her. In fact I recall that during my ‘march’ back to the house; I was forever paying various amounts of money to all kinds of people for God knows what reason – ostensibly all Thai traditions. Maybe they made it up as they went along.
Once inside the house, I found the monks seated along one side of the large downstairs room, and all the family and visitors kneeling and facing them.
The sound system was alive and well, and the wedding activities in the house were broadcast at umpteen decibels to the surrounding countryside to those who were not invited indoors.
The village elders took charge of the ceremony – which of course was all in Thai – and seemed to go on forever and ever. There was much chanting and praying, with Dang and I being the focal point in the centre of the room.
We had to kneel with our hands in the prayer position for ages, and after a few minutes I could no longer manage to maintain the required position – I was in agony. A kind soul brought me a cushion which he put under my elbow to provide support. I looked ridiculous – but what the h…..
After what seemed like an eternity, Dang and I were blessed by the monks and then the food was brought out, which we had to present to them, one at a time. Then there was some other stuff, and finally the part of the ceremony involving the monks was over and at long last I could get up off the floor.
But the remainder of the proceedings still had a long way to go. We were re-seated in a specially prepared area, surrounded by a large wedding banner and floral decorations, and had to greet every member of family, and every villager, one at a time, to receive their individual blessing.
Every blessing had to be photographed for prosperity, and it seemed never ending. When at last everyone, including the village cat had blessed us, the group photographs started. I had had little sleep, no food, was terribly hung over and sore from my kneeling on the hard wooden floor, but had to endure another hour of photographing: large groups, small groups, family groups, friend groups, in-law groups, and so on ‘ad infinitum.’
Then I had to pay over the Sin sod, (wedding dowry). The agreed amount of gold and cash was produced, counted and duly handed over to Dang’s mum – all with a running commentary to everyone, near and far. She then wrapped up her new found wealth in a large cloth and took it upstairs with the loot over her shoulder.
For the last item on the morning agenda, Dang and I were accompanied upstairs by family and friends into the marital bedroom, where the bed had been prepared, covered with rose petals. I was required to pick up my wife and put her on the bed and lay down with her and everyone covered us with the petals. (It goes without saying that all this was photographed for posterity.) To this day I’m not too sure what it was all supposed to mean, but if it was intended to ensure that we enjoyed long and happy sexual relations, then it failed miserably.
The day was only half over and I was exhausted.
The evening part was yet to start, and as I made my way downstairs to get some food in my belly, and cure my hangover with a ‘hair of the dog” I noticed with an inward groan of despair that the catering company had arrived, and were immediately followed into the area by the “entertainers”, in two very large trucks, jammed full of staging and other equipment.
The stage that they erected over the next few hours would have done justice to Wembley stadium. It was massive, and came complete with yet another, even bigger sound system, and a full range of overhead stage lighting. The stage was so high that the crew, musicians and dancers were able to set up house underneath, and cordon off little rooms with curtains so that they could get ready and change in relative privacy.
The caterers did their thing and about 60 tables were set up in front of the stage and the entrance to the site was prepared. By the time dusk had descended, the whole area had been transformed into an impressive, outdoor, wedding venue.
Five of Dang’s lovely girl friends had arrived from Bangkok, and they were dressed to kill. Together they formed the ‘welcome committee’ at the venue entrance and when the guests arrived, they handed over envelopes containing money, (all the money donations’ went to Dang’s mother – despite the fact the purpose of the money is help defray the cost of the wedding that I had bankrolled in its entirety), and in return the guests were given little wedding mementos by the ladies, before being escorted to where Dang and I were standing.
This time we were dressed in our ‘western’ wedding clothes and I had to endure r yet another session of photographs. We had to be photographed with every guest who arrived, and once again it seemed to go on forever.
In the meantime the food was served, the music had started, the singers were doing their stuff, and the dancing girls were dancing up a sexy storm on the huge wedding stage.
At length when the late arrivals had reduced to a trickle, we then made our way to each table in turn, for yet more group photos with the guests. By this time I was running on adrenalin and alcohol. I must have done more ‘wai-ing’ on that wedding day that I have done before, or since, in my entire life.
Before I had managed to get a single spoonful of food in my mouth, the speeches started. We had an MC, and if any of my dear readers have ever been to any official Thai ‘do’, you will know that Thais love to speak on stage to a captive audience. I was looking forward to some personal time to get something to eat, but that idea was soon shattered when to my shock and embarrassment I was called to go up on stage, along with Dang, her mother, the village headman and other local dignitaries.
We formed a line alongside the MC, and interviews were conducted, one at a time. I was dreading my turn, as although I spoke reasonable Thai, this was all too much for a humble farang. At length he asked me if I had anything say, and I mumbled shyly back – in very bad Thai, thanking everyone for coming. I don’t think many of the Issan speaking guests understood one word that I said, but the MC kindly translated for me into ‘real’ Thai.
Then each guest was invited to sing! I put my foot down here, and even though they assured me I could choose a farang song, I stubbornly refused; in the end they gave up on me and moved down the line.
The speeches and singing drew to a close and I left the stage, finally managing to get something to eat and to recharge my alcohol-sodden veins and liver.
Dang was also doing pretty well, and was getting uproariously drunk. I was hoping to God that she behaved herself and didn’t start any trouble with me. Please God, let this be one occasion when we could get drunk, enjoy ourselves and stay happy with each other.
The cake was cut, the champagne opened and the party became ever wilder and louder. The band were paid extra to keep the music going past the agreed finish time and it was around 4 a.m. when it was finally brought to an end.
Dang, her friends, Mobi and all the family and neighbours were pissed out of their gourds.
Then the trouble started.
And now to the conclusion to the account of Mobi’s unforgettable wedding day:
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 35)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS (CONTINUED)
“It’s time for wife number 5”
The area was strewn with empty bottles, half eaten food and other litter, and a few drunken groups were still defying gravity and sipping beer or whisky from half empty glasses.
Dang was sitting at a table with her friends from Bangkok, and I joined them. To my relief, she declared that she was tired and told me she was going to bed. As she staggered towards the house, one of her friends called out from the table. I cannot recall exactly what was said, but I do remember that it was something inoffensive – just a joke, but in her alcohol fueled brain, Dang took umbrage.
She turned back to the table and started shouting and screaming at her friend. The friend screamed back and before you knew what was happening, a full scale brawl was in progress.
Friends and family eventually separated the two fighting women, who continued to shout abuse at each other, but before you knew it, everyone started to take sides and joined in the arguing and shouting. The whole affair looked in imminent danger of getting out of control, and quite possibly dangerous.
I was disgusted. What a brilliant conclusion to our wedding night – a drunken brawl. Of course I was also drunk, and as I watched Dang continuing her never ending tirade against her lifelong friend, I became enraged with her and went over to her and told her so. I asked her why she had to spoil everything and why did she have to pick fights with friends who had travelled all the way from Bangkok to help her celebrate her wedding.
It was the worst thing I could have done.
Dang immediately turned on me and changed the direction of the fight form one between friends to one between newly married husband and wife. She accused me of being disloyal, of not supporting her, and preferring to take her friend’s side, and all kinds of other nonsense. She went on and on, but the alcohol was starting take hold of her. She could barely stand or speak rationally and looked in danger of passing out. So a few of her family grabbed her and half dragged, half carried her upstairs to the bedroom, where she passed out.
I didn’t follow. I was too worried that she might wake up and continue the fight – something she had done on a number of previous occasions. So I sat back down at the table with her friends and family and had a few more drinks while all those present offered their sympathies that the night had turned into such a catastrophe.
After a while I decided to creep upstairs and see if I could quietly crawl in next to Dang and get some long needed sleep. But Dang must have woken up at some point, because I found the bedroom door locked and I couldn’t get in.
So I slept on the floor downstairs, and upon awakening a few hours later, I climbed into my car and drove back to Bangkok – alone.
It was a wonderful start to our married life together.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 36)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS (CONTINUED)
“It’s time for wife number 5″
Yes, the wedding day was not a particularly auspicious start to our married life.
As I have written earlier, at the time we were married in March, 2005, I was in the process of building my “Mobi Mansion”, a splendid, luxurious retirement home, nestled behind a lovely Thai village, just twenty kilometres from Pattaya City.
This was intended to be my final residence, where I would wend away the remainder of my life with my lovely wife. In October 2005, we duly moved in, and a few months later Dang brought her son, Add, who was then seven years old, down from Sa kaeo, to come and live with us.
We had two maids, three dogs; we settled Add into a decent school in Pattaya and all was fine with Mobi, his family and the world.
For starters, Dang never stopped her binge drinking. She could stay sober for days, and occasionally even weeks at a time, and then go on a bender that could last for days.
When we were living in Bangkok, Dang was keen to improve herself’ and I had enrolled her in English and computer schools. She was already a qualified hair dresser, and I was persuaded to set up a beauty salon for her in the Sri Nakarin area of Bangkok.
In the event, she dropped out of the schools long before her prepaid lessons had been fully utilized, and the salon lasted about six months before she gave that up too. She sold it on and kept the proceeds, despite all the equipment and set up costs had come from my pocket.
All her failures were due to her binge drinking and frequent night-outs with God knows who. Of course she was frequently hung over and was incapable of keeping to a proper routine.
Later that year she persuaded me that she had turned over a new leaf, and once again she enrolled in an English school and also decided to go to fitness sessions at ‘California Wow’ on Soi 23.
Then in August, 2005 I took her to England with me to introduce her to my family and to have a holiday with my brother, daughters and in laws. We were due to catch an early morning flight, but the previous night Dang hadn’t arrived home until around 2.a.m, pissed as a newt. I had been calling her for hours and hours but she refused to answer her phone. She hadn’t packed and arrived home in a terrible state. I have no idea how we managed to get her packed and make that flight, and of course half her stuff was left behind, including some books on England, written in Thai that I had gone to great lengths to track down and buy for her
By Dang’s standards, she actually behaved pretty well in England. We were in the UK for 3 weeks and travelled extensively throughout England and Scotland. During our time there, we stayed with my brother and both my daughters, and I took my daughter and her boy friend with us when we toured Scotland. She never embarrassed me in public, or with my family, and they all thought she was a lovely, kind person. However I do recall that she had a few tantrums, at night, when we were alone, but if that was all I had to put up with, I was happy enough.
The next really painful incident occurred soon after we returned to Bangkok. It was then that I realised what she had been up to that night before we flew to England and it also explained her daily trips to the fitness centre, for hours at a time. She had given me all manner of bullshit excuses why she was gone for so many hours, which had little to do with keeping fit.
One afternoon, soon after we returned from the UK she went out but forgot to take her mobile with her. Suddenly I heard the ‘beep’ of an sms arriving. I picked her phone up and read the text message – mainly out of curiosity, as I wasn’t really suspicious.
It was in English and from a man called Uni. It was “love talk”, and asking Dang when he could see her again, and that he enjoyed last night and so on. I was totally shattered. Up to that point I had allowed myself to believe that although she was a drunk and liked to hit the high spots and fight me that she was faithful.
Now I knew different. I went crazy, grabbed the phone and went out to drown my sorrows. When I reached a bar, I scrolled back through all the messages between her and Uni, which had been going on for weeks, well before we went to England. It didn’t take me long to figure that she had probably met him at California Wow, as he kept referring to the fitness centre in his messages.
She called me from the house phone. I told her I had found all the messages. She didn’t say much but asked me to go home and she would explain.
I phoned the number on the text messages, and a man answered. I asked who was speaking and he said “Uni”. I was devastated but I wrung off. I was terrified of what he might tell me if I asked him about Dang.
I don’t really need to tell you what ultimately transpired. I was hurt – very jealous and very drunk, but when I finally made it home, I allowed myself to be convinced by Dang that the man meant nothing, that she had never slept with him, that he was just a friend and they were just joking with each other. I wanted to believe it because otherwise the hurt would be too great. So I did believe her.
Not long after that, in one of her occasional and surprisingly frank moments, Dang told me that when she knew that I had found her phone with those messages in it, she had thought it was all over between us.
Our life continued to run the ‘helter skelter’ of drunken fights, unexplained absences interspersed with periods of relative calm, invariably when Dang was so hung over that she stayed at home, watched television, cooked and was almost a normal, loving housewife.
But it was always the case, that just when I thought she had really changed for good that the trouble would start all over.
When we moved to Pattaya, I bought Dang a new Honda Jazz, and after a few weeks of bangs and scrapes, she developed into a half way competent driver.
She gradually got to know her way around the downtown areas and enrolled in yet another English school. Then she informed me that she wanted to improve her hair dressing skills, so she also enrolled in a hair dressing school near South Pattaya.
Later, she was once again to open a hair dressing salon, funded of course by Mobi; this time in a good spot in Pattaya Klang. But in the end her Pattaya business venture went the same way as her Bangkok salon.
Half the time she would never turn up to open the shop in the mornings and although she was supposed to close at around 10 p.m., many was the occasion when she would call to tell me she was still open at 2 or even 3 in the morning.
On occasion, I would even drive into Pattaya to check if she was telling truth, but of course she wasn’t – the place had long been closed and was in darkness. I would often find her car still parked near the salon which meant she was out on the tiles.
Sometimes she came home in the early morning, sometimes not at all. I almost gave a sigh of relief when the place was finally closed and she gave up. But it barely stopped her in her tracks.
Once more I experienced the familiar pattern of drunken nights out, long, unexplained absences from home interspersed with periods of relative domestic calm. She reverted to her previous habit of missing lessons when hung over, but after a few days would return to them.
One aspect of Dang’s behaviour that I will never be able to come to terms with is the selfishness she displayed every time I took her with me to Bangkok for my hospital appointments. She would always insist on going with me to “take care of me” and would promise faithfully that she wouldn’t go out and get drunk when were there; but she always did – without exception.
I had to get up at the crack of dawn to be at the hospital for my ‘fasting’ blood tests, and frequently I had no sleep at all because my wife hadn’t come home from a night out. On several occasions she disappeared completely and I had to return to Pattaya without her. There were even times when I never made it to the hospital at all as I was so upset by her selfish behaviour that I too ended up getting drunk and consequently missed my own appointments.
Then there were the occasions I was ill in hospital in Pattaya. On one particular occasion I was very ill with dengue fever and was even in danger of dying. Dang came with me, ostensibly to take care of me, but would just stay for a while and then disappear for hours.
I was wired up to blood drips and intravenous fluids but she left me alone with no nurse to take care, (because the hospital thought my wife was there), in a very weak state and fighting for my life. She would “go out and eat”, returning many hours later, drunk.
Later, I mentioned this heartless behaviour to her friend. Her friend told Dang what I had said and Dang told her friend that she was bored just sitting in the hospital with nothing to do and I was being unreasonable if I expected her to stay there all the time.
On another occasion, during another illness, she left me in hospital to go and check on her salon, which was close by, and never returned at all!
But enough of all this.
I could write forever on the subject of my traumatic and disastrous married life with Dang. I think the forgoing anecdotes and the events that led up to my final departure from Dang and the Mobi Mansion last October, which have already been recounted in my ‘Main Page’ blog,(See Note below), adequately demonstrate the life I was leading with this complex, amoral and destructive woman.
NOTE: AT THE END OF “MOBI’S STORY” I HAVE RE-PRINTED EXTRACTS OF MY BLOG FROM SEPTEMBER 2009 WHICH DEALS WITH MORE OF THE BACKGROUND AND DETAILED EVENTS THAT LED UP TO MY FINAL DEPARTURE FROM THE MARITAL HOME.
For the record, I think I left Dang on four separate occasions, before the final one.
The first time I left her, in 2007 was only for five days, and I forget how long the second one lasted.
The fourth one, last year, was a ‘biggy’, and I almost made it. I think I was away from my home for well over two months and at that time, discussions were in an advanced stage on agreeing a divorce settlement. Regrettably and to my extreme distress, it all suddenly fell through when Dang decided to change the ground rules.
Eventually Dang somehow made contact with me and persuaded me to go back home and try one more time. She swore on all that was holy that this time she really would change and be a good and faithful wife. But it wasn’t to be – if anything her behaviour was more barefaced and outrageous than ever; with her taking off to Bangkok every week for several days at a time.
In 2007 I actually achieved sobriety for nine months, and it was during this long period that I came to realise that it wasn’t solely my drunken behaviour that was causing the problems in our marriage, as I made a super human effort to be the best possible husband and stepfather. Remember, I now had a boy living with me, and I think I spent more time with him than my wife did. Dang would think nothing about disappearing on the day or time when she had promised to take him out somewhere or to attend a school function with him.
Then last year I had three long, sober spells. One was early last year, which was during the fourth time that I left Dang. I was sober when I left her and stayed sober for quite a while when I was away, eventually relapsing when I was vacationing in Angeles City, Philippines – not a smart place for an alcoholic to ‘hole up’ from his wife.
I started going to AA seriously in June last year and was sober for 90 days, and more recently for 120 days.
I truly believe that in spite of the fact that my alcoholism undoubtedly contributed to the disastrous relationship, given the situation on hand, I went to extraordinary lengths and did everything possible to try and hold the marriage together. I loved Dang so much, and just wanted to make her happy – that was all I ever wanted.
I am no saint, and have many human foibles – not least of which is my struggle with the demon booze – but I did try so hard, and so many times to forgive and forget and made every effort to make a good home and life for Dang and her extended family.
To give you a flavour of the ‘material’ lengths I went to, here is an extract of a letter I wrote to a lawyer on an earlier occasion when I tried to arrange a divorce with Dang.
“I have been extremely generous to my wife since I first met her some 4 years ago, and this includes a monthly allowance of 35,000 Baht, unlimited use of an Amex Gold Card, free telephone, and generous shopping allowance (a rolling 20,000 Baht ATM access account which is topped up as it becomes depleted), a new house in her village in Sa Kaeo costing in excess of 1.5 million Baht, a new, fully expense Honda Jazz car, regular purchases of clothing and other luxuries, payment of English and computer school fees, various assistance to members of her family amounting to several hundred thousand Baht, purchase of land in Sa Kaeo for a rubber plantation, purchase of trees and all materials for the plantation, a salary for her brother, and second hand pick up for working the plantation, all expenses paid to accompany me on various trips abroad to the UK, Australia, and luxury cruises.
“All in all I believe I have expended several million Baht over the past two years, in addition to her monthly allowances.
“I have also taken her son, now aged 10, into my home and am paying for his education. I have not adopted him.
“In October 2005 we moved into a large home I had built on a piece of land 12 kilometres east of Pattaya. The house, including all furniture and fittings cost in the region of 14 million Baht, and in a stable, open market would be worth at least 20 million. I originally bought this house through a Thai company, but have since had the company closed and the house transferred to my wife’s name, but I have a ‘usufruct’ registered at the land office and on the chanod, giving me life time use and possession of the property. In previous discussions, my wife has intimated that she would return the house to me if we divorced, but I have no way to know if she will keep this promise.
“We are presently still living together in the house, and my wife does not know that I am planning a divorce, although the situation between us at the moment is not good.
“I would very much like to retain possession of the house and spend the rest of my life there, but I realise that this may not be possible.”
Finally, to give you just a flavour of what I have had endure I will publish some notes that I wrote, starting in 2007 on some of the shit, that occurred between Mobi and Dang. It is almost too painful for me to read even now, but I must get it out, and away – for good and forever.
“Since we first met in 2003, my relationship with Dang has been very stormy. Nearly every time we went out she would get drunk and start to verbally and physically abuse me. I broke off the relationship several times, but we always came back together again.
“There are so many unpleasant incidences during our first 3 years together, but here is the key one from October 2005:
“In 2005, we lived in Bangkok, and Dang used top go to English lessons and attend a fitness center on most days in Soi 23, Sukhumvit Road.
“One day, a week or so after we returned from a 3 week trip to England, she was out and had left her phone at home. A message alert sounded, and I checked it. It was from a Westerner, named Uni. I scrolled her phone and found the following messages:
12/10 “Would you like to keep in touch nakrap”
2/10 “If not up to you If not im sad but maipenrai. Bye”
2/10 “Hi do u want to go to cinema at 2 pm (mbk)and watch a movie ja”
25/9 “Hope you don’t work too hard today Miss u Ja Goodnight.”
24/9 “Im going to hard rock, only if you come? Miss u na”
24/9 “Narak today Ja”
24/9 “Where in soi 22?”
24/9 “Come to my apartment. We’ll get together. Cocktails Ok?”
23/9 “Sanook crap, but maybe better ifif u ll be there. Wanna come?
23/9 “Call me when u finish Im asok Ja”
23/9 “Hope u enjoy aerobic na krap Miss u”
23/9 “In meetings at bank. Sanook yesterday. miss u too ja. Take care. Hope see you later.”
“I called the number and it was definitely a farang called Uni, but I didn’t pursue the conversation any further. I couldn’t bear to hear what he might tell me…
“Now some extracts of diary notes/ jottings that I have made from just this year.
“Please note that not all incidents that have occurred this year are recorded below. In fact I would say the following only represents a small percentage. Problems with Dang are almost on a daily basis.
“On Christmas Day, (2006), my sister and her husband were visiting from South Africa, and we went out to the Bang Sarae club and had a very pleasant Christmas lunch. One of Dang’s sisters came with us, and we all came back home around 6 p.m. At 8 p.m. Dang said she wanted to drop her sister back home in Pattaya as she had to work early the next morning. I smelt a rat, and offered to drive her, but Dang was insistent that she would come straight back home, with remarks like “Don’t you trust me?”Well we all know what happened don’t we? At 3 a.m. I drove to Pattaya and found my wife’s car parked in the Wat on Pattaya Tai. I went to Walking Street, but couldn’t locate her. .She called me around 4.30 .a.m. when she arrived home and discovered I had gone out. Sometime during the night my brother in law called me and wondered where we had got to. My sister was very worried about us, and what was going on. Not surprising. “Next day, everything was back to normal – I made some stupid excuse and nothing more was said to my visitors.“The rest of the family (6 of them) arrived after Christmas, and I’ve been doing the tour guide role ever since.
“Yesterday, 2nd January, Dang cooked us a meal, and the plan was to sleep early as we all had a 6 am start today to go to Kanchanaburi . Dang announced she wanted to visit our ex maid and promised she would be home by 10.30 p.m. I warned her we had an early start. Well of course she turned up at 3 .a.m. – drunk out of her mind; vomited everywhere, and started throwing things around and breaking them. I finally managed to carry her to bed, and we both slept at around 4 a.m. “This morning, at 6 a.m., I told my family that I was ill (which I was) and we couldn’t go with them – I had hired a tour bus with guide – so they went alone.“Today I have been very ill. Very high blood sugars, high fevers, and tired and dizzy. I don’t know if it’s just the result of too much alcohol and diabetes, or something more serious. Anyway my wife apologized for her behaviour (She said ‘well just one day – never mind!!’) and keeps asking me why I am so sad.
“Yet she knows she has hurt me so much, she knows I have let my family down, and she knows my health can’t stand all these traumas. Yet she still does it. Is she so selfish? Or can’t she stop herself?
“When is it all going to end?
18 March 2007
“I’m back after a brief trip to Bangkok. I had a major row with Dang on Monday, and to avoid having to face a drunken and probably violent wife, I packed a large bag and left last Monday evening to go away for a while I had plenty of time, as I knew she wouldn’t return much before dawn – if at all. So I slept the night at a small hotel, down the road, and then drove to Bangkok at the crack of dawn. I had to go to Bangkok anyway as I had a dental appointment, but had originally planned to return the same day. “I have come to the conclusion that my wife has made me very unhappy over a long period of time, and it is extremely unlikely that she will ever change. My walking out for 5 days was the final toss of the coin, but I’m not so stupid as to believe it will change her behaviour. Of course, she is extremely contrite at the moment, and is visibly disturbed and traumatized by my action. She probably never believed I would do something like this, so it will give her something to think about.
24 March 2007
“Dang has been on her best behaviour since I returned from Bangkok a month ago. I am now 2 months sober. We have been out to eat with friends, gone shopping in the day time and other social activities, but last night was the first night that we decided to go out for meal in Pattaya. We tried Henry J Beans and we both enjoyed the food, and the band wasn’t too bad. At least we could talk. Around 10 p.m., after 1 glass of red wine, she suggested going down to Hard Rock Café for one more drink and then go home. 3 large glasses of red wine
later, around 12.30 a.m. she was very drunk and had started to misbehave, so at 12 .45, I insisted we went home. She gave me a lot of hassles but finally agreed to go home. As soon as we got into the car the tantrums started; she smashed a few things in the car but in spite of this I tried my best to stay silent and keep driving. By the time we got home she was provoking me in any way she could think of to make me fight with her. I tried to walk away in the garden, and be alone, but she insisted on following me around the garden and putting herself ‘in my face’, accusing me of sleeping around and saying the most hurtful, unkind things she could think of. I finally lost control and answered her back, but didn’t touch her. Then she started ripping up the plants and flower beds. – breaking and tearing the flowering plants and saplings out of the ground, up turning plant pots and throwing things in the pool. She finally passed out on the couch in the lounge. Today she apologized for everything. I said ‘yes, OK,’ but little else. She had to go to Sa Kaeo this morning – thank God – and she won’t be back till tomorrow evening. So I have some peace and quiet and time to think. She knows I’m very upset, but we’re being civil to each other.
“I don’t think she understands how unhappy and miserable she makes me. (Or maybe she just doesn’t care). I feel like I’ve had all the stuffing knocked out of me. I will go away for few days.
March 30th, 2007.
“On Saturday, 30th March, we were going to a BBQ at a neighbour’s house with Add, (Dang’s son),when Dang asked if she could go and meet her friend in Pattaya later, that evening, after the BBQ had finished. I told her that if she couldn’t make it home by 2.00 a.m, sober, then not to come home, as I didn’t want any drunken rows and it was dangerous to drive all that way when drinking. We went to the BBQ, came home at 9 pm and off she went. She came home the next morning at 6.30 a.m., drunk out of her mind and slept till the afternoon.
“A few days ago, I had another fight with Dang. Since I took off to Bangkok for five days, there has been lingering suspicion in her mind as to what I got up to. Well, she went away overnight to her friend’s birthday party – returned the next afternoon, very hung over although she denied it. This was her first lapse for a while so I let it pass as she behaved OK. “Then, that evening, she accused me of sleeping with a girl when I went to Bangkok, as she claimed she had some proof – which is nonsense. So there was another huge fight over nothing. I don’t know where this marriage is going – maybe on its last knockings – or maybe she’s going to learn that her old behaviour will not work anymore if she wants to stay married to me.
“We didn’t get to sleep until approaching 3 a.m. this morning, but tonight she surprised me with a ‘request’ to go out. She said her friend, who lives near to us, was returning from Sa Kaeo this evening with a girl from the village who was looking for work, and asked my wife if she would go with her to Pattaya to help her find a job in the bars. I was rather angry (but controlled) about it. I said that her friend should take care of her own job sorting, and that I didn’t like my wife traipsing round bars at night trying to find work for a potential prostitute. I also suspected that she would start drinking – and told her so. She was furious and became violent. She tried to trash things around the house, but I grabbed hold of her and stopped her –which she didn’t like at all. We had a huge fight that went on and on and totally exhausted me – mentally and physically. Eventually she said that I hadn’t let her finish her ‘request to go out’ and that she wasn’t going to traipse around bars but just go to one bar that her friend used to work at. I knew she was lying and was trying to make out that my behaviour was unreasonable, but I had given up trying to stop her by now, and off she went. About 9 pm. I couldn’t find my keys and thought she might have taken them with her. I called – no reply. I called her friend – she answered. She was in my wife’s car while my wife was ostensibly in a bar with this girl. Her friend told me that she personally could never go into the bars and that’s why she had asked Dang to do it for her. She explained that my wife couldn’t answer her phone because it was too noisy in the bars. She told me they had tried several bars. So Dang was lying anyway. “Should I be letting my wife, a married woman with a son and husband at home, financially secure for the rest of her life, go out at night with her friends and traipse around the bars of Pattaya, trying to find work for a prostitute.
“Dang has her own car – she can go out from early morning to evening without any restrictions – she can even go out at night with her friends if she gives me decent notice, doesn’t get too drunk and comes back at a sensible hour. She can also go to Sa Kaeo, Bangkok or anywhere else, by herself, any time she chooses – I never stop her. I am financially very generous to her, I take care of her son and his schooling, her younger brother’s college fees, a lot of family expenses and I even bankrolled another brother’s 45k motorcycle. I do loads for her family – and even her friends. I think I am fair enough.
“Dang has been in Bangkok since Monday morning. She was due back this morning, but called and said she needed to stay another day and will be returning tomorrow.
“Last Wednesday she went out shopping at lunchtime and came home the next morning at 5.30 am – very drunk. Then yesterday, she asked if she could go out with her friend and her friend’s boy friend who were visiting Pattaya. It was no point saying no, but I told her if she was drunk, to drive home in the morning.“By mid day today no news and her phone was off. Finally at 2.30 p.m. she answered her phone and said she was coming home. No sign of her by 5 p.m. so I called again and she said she was in Bangkok!! “She said she took her friend back to BKK and will come back home tomorrow. I asked her why she did something like that, and she said because she ‘felt like it’.
“Obviously my last departure from home had not sent the right message. I just can’t take any more of this.
Later that week
“I have spoken to her – she is still in Bangkok and says she has been getting drunk with her sisters. The discussion wasn’t ideal, but of course she said all the right things, and admitted she was completely wrong, and that I have been very good and fair to her.
“We have agreed to give it one more try and she said she will try very hard to change. She said if we ultimately can’t work it out, then she would be very reasonable about a divorce, and that I could keep the house. I think she means it, which is another reason why it would be foolish not to go back and see what I can salvage.
“I returned home yesterday afternoon. Cookie, my golden retriever, was waiting for me – straggly hair everywhere, (nobody had brushed her), looking a bit thin, but otherwise healthy enough. She wouldn’t leave me alone. The maid cried again from happiness to see me and told me that Cookie would sit by the front gate every night looking to see if I was coming home. She then told me that Dang had been very upset when she came home last week and found I had taken all my clothes.“Dang returned home about an hour later.“We had a very long chat, and she has promised faithfully that she will never hurt me again. She has admitted that she was completely in the wrong and was very sorry for all the distress she had caused me. She said she didn’t want to break up with me, and had received a very Add shock when she arrived home last week and found that I had cleared out all of my clothes. I told her that she was not only causing me pain but that her son was also so upset when she misbehaved. I told her about one time she didn’t come home, and I was waiting at home, and he was so upset that he went to the “Buddha table” in the bedroom and prayed for about an hour for her to come home. I had never told her about this before. She cried a lot.
“Later, I took Cookie for a walk, and when I got back, I sat down for a rest. Normally I would go for a swim after my evening walk, but I wasn’t in the mood. After a few minutes, I looked for Cookie – couldn’t find her anywhere. Then finally I found her – lying on the top step of the pool, legs in the water, waiting for me to have my swim and throw the ball for her. I called Dang, the maid and my step son to come out and look at her. Normally, Cookie would never go near the pool if I was not swimming. Everyone laughed, and we hugged each other. Cookie had brought us all back together again.
“So I went in the pool after all, had swim and threw the ball.
“We were in Sa Kaeo and she got very drunk and started a huge fight with me as we were driving back to the hotel late one night. She became violent and insisted that I stop the car – whereupon she jumped out in the middle of nowhere at 2 in the morning. I stopped the car, drove around but couldn’t find her and then her phone battery went dead. Eventually I had to go back to her village and dig some people out of bed and we re-traced ours steps and set off in search parties in separate vehicles. To cut a long story short she was eventually found and put to bed in the hotel.
“Things have not been too bad since I last took a ‘leave of absence’ in Bangkok, but I guess in many ways I have just been putting my head in the sand; not wishing to face the terrible reality. There have been a number of instances – both here and in Australia when Dang gave me a hard time for no reason, (except that she had been drinking) but she also makes trouble when she is not drinking, so I tend to believe that alcohol simply fuels the problem rather than being the root cause of her bad behaviour and her general behaviour has been somewhat suspect – by that I mean unexplained absences – day time and over- nights, and failures to answer the phone on many occasions when she has been out and about in Pattaya etc….
“Anyway, upon our return from Australia, she took off to Bangkok ostensibly for medical appointments, and upon her return (although I didn’t see her return) I too had 3 days of appointments in Bangkok.
“I returned yesterday afternoon. She called me in the morning and asked when I would be home –she told me she was shopping in Pattaya – which was odd as it was very early in the morning, but I didn’t think too much about it. I returned in the afternoon and she was home – asleep. I asked her son why his mum hadn’t taken him to English lessons – which she was supposed to do every Saturday (although I have been taking him for several weeks when she has been away somewhere) – and he told me his Mum hadn’t come home last night to take him. She heard him talking to me and called him away and told him not to say anything more. I asked her why she had lied about not coming home last night and she went berserk, and said that she did come home and that the teacher was away for 2 weeks so her son didn’t have to go to school. I called the school, and they told me the teacher was there every day and was waiting for the boy to come for his lessons. I told Dang this and she went even more crazy and started smashing up things in the house. I kept my cool and she eventually calmed down and admitted that in fact she hadn’t come home, and that she had lied to me. Then she apologized.
“An uneasy truce followed.
“So last night I couldn’t sleep well and this morning rose at 7.30 and went downstairs to my office. She was fast asleep. At 7.45 a.m., I received an SMS from her:
“me too teeruk I miss you so much you take my…..”
“I quickly realised this sms wasn’t intended for me and rushed back to the bedroom and found her in the bathroom, sitting on the toilet, still trying to send the message.
“I lost my temper and grabbed the phone, and she went mental. She attacked me and wouldn’t stop until I agreed to give the phone back – no doubt it was full of messages. I sat down and talked to her calmly, and she more or less admitted she had been doing something bad – well she didn’t admit it, but didn’t deny it and she couldn’t provide any explanation for her behaviour. I finally returned the phone as I was exhausted – physically and mentally – and she then tried to claim that she hadn’t sent the message. But of course she had. She knows it, and she knows I know it.
“My daughter and her boyfriend are visiting from England and a couple of weeks ago, we all went to Koh Larn, an island off the coast of Pattaya – Myself, Samantha, her boyfriend, Dang, her sister, and another friend of her sister. Half way through the day, Dang suddenly threw a fit, and started drinking beer. By the time we reached to mainland she was screaming and shouting at me and went off with her sister. She called me later and said she wouldn’t come home for 3 months. Samantha thought it was hilarious. Any way the next day she called me, still drunk and asked me to come and get her – which I did in the afternoon – and she came home, very drunk and slept it off.
Then she went down sick with a bad kidney infection and it cost me 30K for 2 nights in “hospital.
“When she came out of hospital she announced she would do the 10 day vegetarian/no alcohol religious thing. No meat, fish or alcohol for ten days – this was fine by me. After 4 days she said she would eat some fish but would carry on with everything else.
“On Samantha’s departure day (day 5 of Dang’s abstinence), Dang went to see a friend in Pattaya and said she would be home around 4 pm. We had to leave for the Airport at 6 p.m. After numerous calls she finally arrived home at 7 p.m… – Drunk!!!
“The next day she told me that one of her Bangkok friends was in town and asked if she could go out with her that evening. This was, the day after Julie left, so she didn’t waste much time and so much for her ‘no alcohol or meat resolution’. I wasn’t keen, but – as ever she insisted – and promised she would only have a couple of drinks and be home no later than 1 a.m. On the following morning she was due to take Add, her son, to stay with a friend for a few days during the school break, and she was going to stay with him. So this was another good reason for her to come back early from her evening in town.
“She finally came home at 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning – drunk. But she showered and changed and drove off with her son.
“I suspect that she was out with a man on Sunday (the day Julie went home) and then went back to him on Monday night. For all I know she was with him when she went off with her son. I’ll never know for sure – and I don’t want to know. Every time I think about it, it turns my stomach over. Even if she is completely innocent of any affair (which I seriously doubt) her behaviour is still totally unacceptable after 4 years together.
“For that past 3 months she has been continually assuring me that she has changed and that she doesn’t want to hurt me anymore. I even started to believe her.
“I just don’t know what to do. I can’t face any confrontation with her. I’m too emotionally exhausted.
“I have not touched a drop of alcohol for nine months, but today I had my first drink and I know it won’t be the last.
“Yesterday was a real helter skelter. In the morning, Dang took off to Pattaya and indicated she might be back late-ish. I had to go to hospital for an injection, but decided to stop by a friend’s house on the way, as he is being a bit of stalwart and adviser in these dark days.
“She called me and asked where I was – I told her and she went ballistic. Apparently I’m no longer allowed to go anywhere without telling her first!!! Well, everything developed very quickly into an unbelievable full scale row over the phone, with her screaming and shouting and demanding an instant divorce, and me staying very calm and cutting her off when she became too hysterical. My friend couldn’t believe what he was witnessing, and is convinced she is schizophrenic. Every time I cut her off, she called back and started at me again, and demanded that I go home and settle things with her. Finally, she called back, and said she was sorry, and if I went home now, she would talk nicely to me.
“So I went home straight away, as she requested, at about 4 p.m. and no surprise, she eventually turned up 2 hours later. She was full of contrition and remorse, and sad she was very sorry for being angry and said: “Never mind – I am allowed to lose my temper sometimes; it doesn’t really matter does it?”
“She asked me if I wanted to go out to dinner with her and her friend in Pattaya and rather than start another fight by saying I didn’t want to go, I agreed. So we went out, had sea food meal with her friends down town, and she couldn’t have been nicer and more solicitous.
“Then she and her friend wanted to go to a club. I declined, but said she could go if she wanted and I would pick her up when she was through. To my surprise she agreed to this, and I eventually collected her at 3 a.m., very drunk, but she didn’t make any trouble. On the way home, she just kept on telling me that I was such a good man, and that I was the only one who loved her… and all that sort of thing. But at least there were no drunken rages.
“She has just returned from 4 days in Bangkok where I am pretty certain she has been ‘playing around’. I found some ticket stubs in her handbag for front row, ringside tickets for boxing matches, and she has never shown any interest before in Boxing. In any event she told me she was with her friends the entire time at Thai restaurants and clubs – no mention of boxing stadiums. She was obviously with a man who likes this sport.
“Further, I have discovered that she has been phoning and sending messages to westerner (Scandinavian I think) who is based in Bangladesh. I have her mobile phone bill for October that shows all the details. My friend called the number and established it definitely an English speaking westerner.
“So she was either concerned that I was suspicious about her behaviour (when she is cornered she always attacks), or that the man had just dumped her – or both – who knows? Who cares anymore?
“I’m just so hurt in every way, and I want out. In the meantime I am playing the cuckolded, compliant, loving husband, and trying to keep her own suspicions of my true feelings under control – because she does know something is up with me.”
And with the publication of these notes that I wrote a while back, I now end “Mobi’s Story – The Retirement Years.”
EXTRACTS FROM THE MAIN BLOG FROM SEPT, 2009.
September 15th, 2009 by mobi
Today I have been sober for 16 days
It is 54 days since I last wrote in this blog.
A few irritating little “odds and ends” have occurred in my life, all of which, one way or another, conspired to keep me away from my Blog.
On the 22nd July, the last time I blogged, I wrote that I had been sober for 27 days. Well I actually made my first goal of 30 days, and went on to stay sober for 60 days before eventually succumbing and picking up a drink.
In all, I drank again for a period of just 6 days, and stopped once again on 30th August.
Well I have a little time to spare, so I will fill you in on some of the more recent background of alcoholic Mobi, before, opening the doors once again on my past life of drinking.
One of the many crosses that I have had to bear in this life is the fact that for the past six years I have been married to an alcoholic Thai lady – my sixth wife. And as anyone will tell you two alcoholics married to each other can produce a very potent and combustible relationship.
About a year ago, a close friend, who happens to be a qualified therapist, suggested to me that all my marriages seem to have followed a familiar pattern, in as much as I always seemed to be seeking a wife who in essence behaved like my father, in some desperate, subconscious attempt to change them, and thereby correct all the wrongs that my father had committed.
He is probably correct, as all my wives, to varying degrees, have been control freaks with domineering personalities and terrible tempers.
The present one is probably head of the class.
Almost from the first time that I met her, she displayed irrational behaviour, which as time went on, became volatile, and even violent. In the early days of our relationship, (when we lived in Bangkok) she would never return home at the promised time, and would invariably arrive back very late, drunk, and pick a fight with me. After a brief period during which I would patiently wait at home for her, I resumed my own carousing activities, becoming as drunk as she was, and when we finally met up at home, the inevitable storm would erupt.
All this was before we were married, and even on the odd occasions that we both went out together, often with friends, there would reach a point in the evening when the alcohol would suddenly, without warning take control of her and her whole personality would change from a pleasant, fun loving girl friend, to the “girl friend from Hell”, and she would shout and fight with me as though I had just tried to murder her.
I threw her out several times during this period, on one occasion she left for several weeks, but my drinking was also out of control and in my melancholy and lonely states, I would eventually relent and ask her to come back.
We certainly had some terrible fights in those first 3 years, and as time went on, she became more and more violent and used to punch me and hit me with whatever was to hand. In the days following these fights I would often drown my sorrows at one of my locals, sporting a black eye and cuts and bruises all over my face and arms.
To give you an idea of how bad it was, we lived in a large rented apartment off Soi 31, Sukhumvit for the first 2 years of our relationship, but were eventually obliged to move as the owner had had enough of our fights and noise late at night, and after several warnings (including a penal rent increase), he threw us out.
During this period I was slowly becoming aware of the concept of alcoholism as a disease and the need for me to do something about it, and I even ‘Googled’ the AA website one day, and read some of the information posted there. But that’s as far as it went. Never the less, I guess the seed was sown.
But it was much, much later, in fact only very recently that I finally realised that my wife was also an alcoholic. I was fooled into thinking she was just a heavy social drinker, whose “bad side” came to the fore when she drank, and also because she was a binge drinker. She didn’t drink every day. She would drink sometimes for several days, and then she became so ill that she would stop for several days, or even longer. I thought that if she could stop at will, something I couldn’t do, then she couldn’t be an alcoholic. It wasn’t until I started going to AA meetings and reading their literature, that I realised that binge drinkers are every bit alcoholics, as those who drink every day.
So not only did I continue to hope that things between us would improve, I also became convinced that I was the cause of all the conflict, and that if I cut down on my drinking, everything would be fine. Of course I was deluding myself, aided and abetted by my alcoholic wife, who insisted that she never did anything wrong and it was my drinking and drunken temper that caused all the problems.
So 4 years ago we were legally married, and we had a huge party in her home village, during which she got drunk out of her mind, had a fight with her closest friends who had driven up from Bangkok to attend the ceremony and to this day has not made up with a couple of them.
A year later we moved into a huge house that I had been building near Pattaya, not far from the Mabprachan reservoir.
If it were possible, things became even worse when we moved to Pattaya. My wife was insanely jealous every time I went out somewhere by myself, convinced that I was “short-timing”. (Later I realised that it wasn’t so much jealousy, but all part of her control freak mentality, and also the fear that I might find someone better than her, and kick her out).
She made a few friends in Pattaya, and, more significantly, her friends from Bangkok would make regular trips to Pattaya, whereupon she would drive in to go drinking with them, and often I wouldn’t see her for days. There were many occasions when she would go to Pattaya one afternoon for a shopping trip, and several days later I would find out that she had gone to Bangkok. Even on the occasions when she came home, she would never arrive before 4 or 5 in the morning, often much later, and she would be completely drunk, invariably sleeping for days on end.
She was also “playing around” I had caught her on a couple of occasions before we moved to Pattaya (she left her phone at home one day and a farang sent her an SMS. When I looked her messages I found a great deal of incriminating evidence). Then after we moved, I managed to establish that she was screwing around on a more or less regular basis, both in Pattaya and in Bangkok. I also used to travel to Bangkok with her on numerous occasions as I had hospital appointments, and I can’t think of a single occasion when she didn’t go out, get drunk and not return to the hotel.
On many occasions she caused me to miss my appointments, and I had to drive back to Pattaya and re-schedule the appointments.
Her violence was also on the increase, and she would attack me and she would destroy property in my house, including furniture and even pull plants up by their roots. After one drunken rage, I took some photos of the destruction she had caused, and it looked like a tornado had passed through my house. My mobile phone and car were also frequent targets of her rage, and I may well qualify as being the most regular purchaser of new telephones in Thailand.
I could go on…and on…. but I think that the foregoing has given you a “taste” of what I have had to put up with for the past 6 years, and why her behaviour has not been conducive to my own attempts to stop drinking.
Last year I succeeded in stopping drinking for almost nine months, but eventually went back to the bottle as the result of my wife’s outrageous behaviour. I believe then incident that was the final trigger was when I discovered that she had been staying with a farang in Bangkok. I too went to Bangkok and got gloriously drunk and didn’t return home for a couple of weeks.
Then, towards the end of last year I left her again after another incident of a similar nature, but this time I was drinking very heavily, and my state of health and impaired mental state eventually drove me back home.
I should also mention that during last year, I had a horrific accident in my Toyota Fortuner when drunk, and was lucky to escape with minor injuries. The car was a write off. Then I rented a car and had another bad accident in that, and at long last started to realise I was reaching the end of the line with my drinking. I had been a drunk driver for longer than I cared to remember and had never has so much as a scratch; well – maybe one or two scratches – but certainly nothing that was in any way serious. I used to pride myself on it. I was invulnerable – I could be paralytic, almost unable to walk. But still manage to climb behind a wheel and drive home safely. Well that arrogant, foolish, selfish and evil allusion was finally smashed.
Being the perverse alcoholic that I am, I then went promptly out and ordered a new, shiny black BMW with incredible acceleration and a top speed of 260 kms/hr. Apart from one or two crunches, praise God, it is still in one piece.
Early this year, I left my wife yet again, and I drove to Bangkok and stayed there a couple of nights before flying to Cambodia. On the second night I got very drunk, and woke up the following morning in my hotel to discover that there was nasty crunch on the car’s wing. I thought hard, but e3ventually, all I could remember was standing in the middle of Sukhumvit Road in the early hours and paying some money to a Thai whose car I had hit. I remembered nothing before, and nothing subsequent to that.
I got very drunk during my journey to Phnom Penh and luckily my friend, who is a sober member of AA, met me and took care of me until I sobered up, after another night of hard drinking in the bars of Phnom Penh. The next day we drove to Sihanoukville where my friend lived, and I confessed to him that I had reached the end of the line with my drinking and that if I carried on, I would surely die or kill someone else.
The next day I attended the first and the smallest AA meeting I have ever been to. Just me and him, in his house, and I heard enough at that meeting to convince me that I had indeed better stop if I was to live to old age.
But stopped for one day only, as the next evening I went to the local bar and ordered a Diet Coke, but they gave me a beer, and I said to myself: “What the Heck?”
The next morning I woke up drunk, on the beach, which was several kilometers away from the bar where I started drinking, and had no recollection of how I got there. The blackouts were coming fast and furious.
So once again I decided to stop, and this time I was more successful, and managed to stay sober for quite a while.
I returned to Pattaya, and returned to my home. My friend from Cambodia, plus another friend who I had met over there came to Pattaya soon after, and they both took me to my first AA meeting in Pattaya. This was in January of this year. I went to several meetings with them while they were here, but I didn’t really get too much out of the meetings, and when my friends left Pattaya, I stopped going. I had been sober for several weeks at this point, and felt that I didn’t need AA to remain sober. I thought I had it licked. There was no way in the world I was going to even pick up a drink again.
Things were still bad on the home front. My wife were still fighting, she was still going out and getting drunk on an ever more frequent basis and still disappearing for days at a time.
So I eventually concluded I would never stay sober in this kind of environment and made a decision to leave her for good, and employ a lawyer to negotiate a divorce settlement.
I moved a lot of my personal stuff to a friend’s house (without her knowledge), and one day when she was out on the razzle, I packed up and left for good – or so I thought at the time. I stayed a while in Pattaya and then went to Bangkok, and finally flew back to Phnom Penh, while my lawyer back in Pattaya went to see her and tried to negotiate an amicable settlement.
At first, negotiations seemed to go well, and it appeared that she was going to be reasonable. But nearly three months later, just before she was due to sign the divorce settlement agreement, something happened, and she changed her mind and refused to talk to my lawyer any more. I had returned to Pattaya this point, to finalise matters, and was of course extremely upset at this turn of events.
During my 3 months away from home I had spent time in Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines, and near the end of my time away, when I was in The Philippines, I started drinking again. I am not sure what precipitated it, but it happened and that was that.
I hadn’t spoken to my wife for r the best part of three months, but when the agreement fell through I decided to contact her to see what I could salvage, and as a result of that initial contact, she begged me to come home and promised that she would truly change.
I believed her.
Upon my return we sat down and had a long “clear the air” session, and tried to work out a new basis for a happy relationship. A few weeks later, on my birthday, I stopped drinking again. Soon after this my wife stared to get up to her old tricks: going out, getting drunk and not coming home.
Ground Hog day had truly arrived.
Towards the end of June, a particularly bad incident happened – she had gone out, was getting drunk and was clearly lying to me about where she was and who she was with on the phone, and I fell off the wagon and got very, very drunk. I hadn’t drunk for 3 weeks and my tolerance was low.
I became so drunk that I could hardly walk, and I was walking around my swimming pool near my fish pond in the wee hours of the morning, and lost my balance and fell head first into the fish pond. My head was under the water and I couldn’t move. I was drowning; and would have drowned if two Thai men, who I had been drinking with in my garden annex, hadn’t heard me fall in. When they realised what had happened they rushed over and pulled me out. I got unsteadily to my feet, retraced my steps to the annex, and resumed my drinking. It was only several days later, when I was completely sober and free of alcohol withdrawal, that I realised how near I had come to death.
The next day an AA friend from Bangkok met me in Pattaya, and we had a long talk, the result of which was that I made the decision to stop drinking once again and started to go to AA meetings on a regular basis. This was on June 25th 2009.
Sept, 16th 2009
Now, the continuation of my “catch-up” that I started yesterday.
So I started attending regular meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in Pattaya from June 25th, a date that transpired to be the penultimate occasion that I stopped drinking. (As of the time of writing this blog)
For the first few days of my sobriety, I attended the evening meetings, which commenced at either 5 p.m. or 7.30 p.m. After a couple of days, a fellow attendee suggested that I try the morning meetings. I don’t know why he said that, but as time goes on, I find more and more that random events seem to happen, with no apparent reason, which in retrospect, seem to have been nudging me along a particular path.
I was a little unsure of this advice as one of my original AA friends, who had first accompanied me to meetings back in January, had told me at that time that the morning meetings would never suit me. Firstly, he pointed out, I rarely arose before 11 in the morning, and secondly, in his opinion, the AA morning group were not the kind of people I would identify with, or be comfortable with.
But being the perverse alcoholic that I am, when I am told that I can never do something, I go out of my way to prove that person wrong. Anyway, I thought it might be a good idea to switch to the mornings, as it would encourage me to rise at an earlier hour, and also, I reasoned that by changing my meeting schedule, I would suffer the minimum disruptions to my daily life – whatever that ‘daily life’ happened to be.
After six or so years of rarely getting up before noon, and for most of that time sporting morning hangovers, it was a bit of a shock to the system to wake up before 7.30 a.m., shower and shave and then take the 25 minute drive into Pattaya.
But I stuck at it, and I started to enjoy these “early morning” gatherings – they started at 9.a.m. I did indeed prove my friend wrong as the morning group is a grand bunch of people, mainly Americans, with many years of sobriety between them and also with a liberal sprinkling of other nationalities, principally Irish, British and Australian.
Most of the core members, who consider Pattaya their “home group”, have been in Thailand for many years and far from me not being able to identify with them, the opposite has proved to be the case, as our recent histories have so much in common, and we all can share similar experiences, good and bad, of our lives in Thailand.
During the next few weeks, I started to chalk up ever more days of sobriety; sober days that were a volatile and emotional combination of “highs” and ‘lows”.
The meetings, which involved listening to people “sharing” their experiences, “sharing” myself, and trying to absorb the wisdom of the members with many years of sobriety under their belts, was helping me a lot. And I was learning more about AA; reading their excellent literature, starting to understand the “twelve Step” programme and how it was essentially based on moral, ethical and selfless principals. Some of the major facets of the AA programme involved trying to remove our character defects, recognising and dealing with our burgeoning egos and trying to understand and put into practice genuine humility in our daily lives.
But clearly I had a very long way to go in the programme. The first thing all new members have to do is to find a “sponsor” – someone with maturity and experience, who would act as an adviser and counselor and guide the new person through the twelve step programme. Well even as of today I have yet to find a sponsor, although I did have one for a few days, which I shall write about more in a few moments.
Meanwhile, back on the home front, my wife was sliding into a familiar pattern of disappearing every weekend to Bangkok, on one pretext or another, usually leaving on Friday morning, and sometimes not returning until Monday or Tuesday of the following week. Most of her drinking was being done away from home, in Bangkok, and on the few occasions that I spoke to her in the afternoon, I could hear very clearly that she was still drunk from the previous night’s excesses. Although on the one hand, I was happy that she was away and not causing me any trouble, but on the other it bothered me that she was continuing to behave like this, as it made the prospects of a viable future together so uncertain.
I finally resolved that sometime soon, when I managed to gather up sufficient courage, I would sit down and talk with her about a divorce and how we could divide our assets between us, as there seemed little chance that the marriage could hold together for much longer
The penny had finally dropped that she was a hopeless alcoholic, and the likelihood of her making a recovery were next to none. This was especially so as most Thais have difficulty even in accepting the concept of alcoholism as a disease. Furthermore, she was never going to change her social habits which revolved around “bai tio” (going out and having a good time), which inevitably meant getting drunk with friends and family, all of whom had a like mind
So although the meetings were helping me, I also had some very “dark” and depressive days when the temptation to “pick up” again was very strong; but I managed to resist. I also realised that the AA meetings were the only thing keeping me from the demon booze, and after a week or so of switching to the morning meetings, I decided to also attend the evening meetings . Two daily meetings took a huge chunk of time out of my “daily life”, probably in the region of 6 hours, including travel time, twice a day, there and back. But it now suited my purpose admirably, because it kept me away from the bars, and used up my spare time during which I might have given in to temptation
Towards the end of August, I decided to make a trip to Chiang Mai to visit with two friends who were also members of AA and attended daily AA meetings there. I thought it would be a good break for me, and would help me get away from my daily routine and mentally prepare myself for the task of confronting my wife with a divorce proposal.
I drove to Bangkok for some business, stayed overnight, and the next day drove on to Chiang Mai. Unfortunately, going to Chiang Mai wasn’t one of my more successful ventures. I arrived in one piece, and one of my friends met me on the outskirts of the city and led me downtown to my hotel
Since returning from Chiang Mai, I have been rebuked for publicly relating the incident that occurred at the Chiang Mai AA meeting that eventually caused me to pick up a drink. For AA is what its name implies: anonymous, and everything that transpires in an AA meeting should stay there, and not be broadcast to the outside world.
So by way of explanation of what actually happened, let me start by saying that for most alcoholics, one of the features of their early days of sobriety is the development an increasingly volatile temper. Just the slightest thing will set us off into almost uncontrollable rage. I am told it is because we had previously used alcohol to assuage our anger, bitterness and resentment, and when this “medicine” is voluntarily removed from our reach, our egos take over and our anger becomes ever more difficult to control.
I was certainly no exception, and in the weeks prior to my trip to Chiang Mai I had become all too keenly aware of my anger getting the better of me. I had never lost my temper in a public place prior to this recent period in my life, and it was with alarm that on several occasions I “saw myself” yelling and screaming at some poor victim in a public place, for virtually no reason at all.
So at my very first meeting in Chiang Mai, I had only been there a few minutes when I suddenly exploded over some inconsequential matter and stormed out. I embarrassed my friend, who was chairing the meeting, and probably burnt my bridges forever as far as the Chiang Mai morning fellowship was concerned. I have since apologized to my friend, but I am sorry to say that he no longer considers me as a friend.
After I returned to my hotel, I continued to fume about what had happened. I knew I was in the wrong, but I was in denial. In Bangkok, a couple of days earlier, I had finally taken on a sponsor – the friend from Bangkok who had met me in Pattaya and persuaded me to go to regular meetings. In my anger, I sent an email to him, effectively sacking him, then an email to my Chiang Mai friend telling him what I thought of his f’ing meetings, and I even copied the email to a number of my other AA friends for good measure.
Having now “cleared the decks”, as my ex-sponsor was to tell me later, I went out and proceeded to get uproariously drunk.
They say that alcohol is cunning, baffling and powerful. My friends also tell me that I picked up a drink because I wanted to, and everything that preceded that first drink in Chiang Mai was a manipulation of events on my part to create a justification for drinking. I have no doubt that is absolutely correct.
(I have an alcoholic friend in Bangkok, who I will write more about later, who would only drink beer in the mistaken belief that he would never harm himself if he didn’t drink the hard stuff. Then, not long ago, he started drinking gin, and it wasn’t long before he was on a bottle a day. He claimed that the only reason he switched to gin was because he had a ‘bladder problem” and that if he drank beer, he could not go out and do his shopping before needing to go to the toilet, and the shops he patronized had no loo!. In his twisted logic, if he drank gin, there was less liquid in his bladder and he could make it home in time before needing to relieve himself. Today he is in ICU, his liver shot to pieces, fighting for his life, and he still believes that crazy piece of fiction.)
I drank for 3 days, more or less non-stop, in Chiang Mai and then had to make the supreme effort to remain sober long enough to make the journey home.
My wife had called me while I was still drinking in Chiang Mai, and said that she missed me and was waiting for me to come home. This precipitated my departure, and when I was half way home, I called her and was taken aback when she told me that she was no longer at home and had gone to visit her mother!!. If I had known, I would have stayed in Chiang Mai and continued my drinking spree.
Anyway I returned home and waited for her. The next day she still hadn’t returned, so I sent her message suggesting that she come back so that we could talk about things. I continued drinking for the first two days I was back in Pattaya, and also went to AA meetings, sometimes drunk, but on August 30th I drank, what is currently, my final drink. I consumed it at around midnight in Pattaya after a night of carousing, following the evening AA meeting.
My wife returned the next day. I was out at the time, and she called me to come home and talk to her. When I arrived, I could see that like me, she was very hung over, and it certainly wasn’t the best moment to discuss divorces.
I declined to talk, but she insisted, so I related my plans to get divorced and what I considered a fair division of assets, which would involve the sale of the house.
At first she seemed to behave in a reasonable manner and asked me a few questions about the details. Then suddenly she erupted, and told me in no uncertain terms that she would never agree to a divorce, would never leave the house, and if I couldn’t stand it any more, then I had better leave. Of course I also became very angry, and once more the shouting, insults and vile accusations started to fly back and forth. Her son fled, the maid fled, and even my 3 dogs cowered in the corner of the garden.
But it was soon over and after a while, when our anger was spent, we sat down and talked almost normally. We agreed that we would stay together, but that in future she would live her life, and I, mine. We agreed that we wouldn’t fight each other, wouldn’t ask each other where were going, or where we had been.
I told her that from now on the first priority in my life was my sobriety, and that came before anything else. She didn’t like this much but I think she took it on board.
For my part, I agreed to this ‘accommodation’ because I had no choice. I needed “piece of mind” and a quiet life if I was to consolidate my sobriety. In AA they tell you that whenever possible, you should not make any major, life changing decisions in your first year of sobriety unless you have absolutely no choice. Well I probably have no choice, but I can wait a while – a month or two – and see how events unfold before I try yet again to part permanently from my wife.
One thing I know – with absolute certainty – is that we will never be happy together, and sooner or later we will have to go our separate ways.
(October’s main blog recounts in detail the days leading up to, including, and following the day that I finally left Dang for the last time. It was 18th October, 2009.)
UPDATE AUGUST, 2012
It has occurred to me for some time that my story, as contained on this page tab, is a long way from being complete.
Of course it never will be finished until I die, but I have been aware that it is high time that, at the very least, I conclude this part of ‘Mobi’s Story’ with the narrative I wrote in my blog at the time of my final departure from the marital home.
So, in the interest of ‘completeness’, here is what I wrote about my departure on 24th October, 2009.
Pattaya, 24th October, 2009.
Today I have been sober for 55 days.
Once again I have to apologise for my prolonged absence, but as I you can probably imagine, I have been a mite preoccupied with “affairs of the heart”, and other nonsense.
You will recall that my wife had advised me she was planning to take her family home on Friday, 16th. I asked her how long she planned to be away, and she replied: “Two to three nights”.
Although I was delighted at this piece of good news, I also “smelt a rat” as it was totally unnecessary for her to stay at her mother’s in the village for 2 – 3 days. As a rule, she never stayed there for more than one night, except for a week ago when she ‘allegedly’ stayed for one week!
I ‘innocently’ asked her, if she was really planning to stay there for 3 days? She thought for moment, and realised that I might call her mother to see if she was there (as I had done on the previous occasion), so she changed her story slightly by telling me that she would stay with her elder half sister who lives in a shack in Sa Kaeo town.
“You know,” she said, “the one who you don’t like who is rude, gets drunk and talks too much!”
Well, after all this time, I think I know when she is being economical with the truth, and I can say with certainty that there is no way she would dream of staying with that sister in her place for one hour, let alone 2 – 3 nights.
Anyway it was academic. She was doing exactly what I had expected and what I had hoped she would do – go away for a few days after spending a week at home; no doubt going back to whatever she is up to in Bangkok, with whoever she is up to it with.
So Friday morning I started to pack surreptitiously. It was important that the houseboy didn’t twig what I was up to, and as my office is open to the rest of the house, I had to be very careful. I also couldn’t do any packing in my bedroom as the maid would go there every day to clean up and make the beds etc.
In the afternoon I gave the houseboy some money to buy some whisky. By 11 p.m. he was drunk and fell asleep, and I was able to continue my packing without interruption.
However I soon realised that I was getting too tired to finish everything that night, and in any event there wouldn’t be enough room in the car for all the stuff I planned to take and as the wife would be away for several days there was no real rush.
So I packed half a car load, carefully loaded it up when no one was around, and delivered it to my condo that night.
The next day (Saturday) was the big day, and I started to pack in earnest. Once the maid had finished in the bedroom, I went upstairs, locked the door and packed all my stuff except the clothes on hangers that I wanted to take from there. I kept the door locked, and went back down to my office and packed as much as I could without making it too obvious what I was up to. But there was a limit to what I could do without anyone seeing me, especially as I wanted to take a few things from the kitchen and store room to my new home.
So when I had done as much as I could before the son and houseboy retired for the night, I went out to have some food, and returned after 11.pm. The house boy was ready to go to bed, but to my horror, I found the wife’s son with 3 friends playing video games. He told me his friends were staying the night.
I was dumbfounded. I knew kids, and I knew they would be playing those games half the night. Even when they finally decided to call it a night and go to sleep, I would have to avoid waking up four people instead of just one. So I made an ‘executive’ decision to send them home. I told my wife’s son that no one had told me about this plan for his friends to sleep over when his mother was away, and very authoritatively told him that “I was in charge”! The house boy also protested that he had no knowledge of this plan (but I’m sure he was lying).
The son was very upset, but I insisted. However, the next thing I knew my wife was on the phone!! By this time it was past midnight. She was drunk and had just spoken with the houseboy, who I assume had called her. Anyway, to my relief, she agreed with me, and told everyone to go home, which they did, somewhat sullenly.
That was the last conversation I have had with her.
As soon as the boy went to bed, I pulled out all the stops and continued packing in earnest. I was putting my things into huge plastic bags that I had bought in the local market. They are absolutely ideal for this purpose, and much better than boxes. They also fit easier into cars. I used them last time I packed up and left, which turned out to be something of a ‘dress rehearsal’, but gave me invaluable experience for the real thing, which was now happening.
I was all packed by around 2.00 a.m. but now I had to take everything out to my car. This was quite a task by myself, especially as I am no longer a ‘spring chicken’, and my health and fitness levels are sadly not what they once were. I knew the only way I could successfully move everything out to the car that night was to take it very slowly, and to ease my burden, I dragged as much as I could along the floor of the house.
But even so, it was a huge undertaking, and well before everything was out there I was breathless, pouring with sweat and started to get pains in my chest and arm – all the signs of an angina attack. I rested for a while, had some water, and continued. There was no way I was going to give up with half the stuff in the car and the other half packed but scattered all over the house.
By this time I was either going to make it, or die in the attempt.
Slowly but surely, I got everything out to the car, where I then had the horrendous job of loading it into the boot and onto the seats. I wasn’t sure if it would all go in, and had to plan very carefully if I was to succeed. I just couldn’t face the prospect of having to come all the way back to pick up a second load.
By now it was past 3.30 a.m. and eventually everything was in the car except for all my clothes from the racks in the dressing room. The final part was the worst – as I had to go up and downstairs about half a dozen times to carry the clothes out to the car on their hangers and squash them all up on top of the other bags on the back seats.
Finally, at around 4 a.m., more dead than alive, I was done. I took one last look around the house to make sure I hadn’t left anything behind and I was gone. I drove down the road, and parked up and rested for a while. My pulse was racing, my heart was hammering and I had a splitting headache. But I was free at last. After 6 long years of misery, I was finally free.
For the first time in weeks I felt like a drink. I really wanted to have that drink to calm my pounding nerves and to celebrate my successful departure.
My God! Did I want that drink!
But I sat there and resisted. The urge slowly passed.
I drove to my new condo block in Pattaya with the intention of parking up and unloading everything the following morning. I drove up to the entrance to offload a few things I would need for overnight – or what was left of the night – when before I knew it, the porter was taking everything out of the car and piling it onto a trolley to transport to my room. I was so exhausted that I let him do a “lion’s share” of the work, but I did my bit, which further exacerbated my precarious physical state.
In fact, I have just a vague memory of the final stages of getting everything onto the trolley, into the lift and up to my room on the 8th floor. I have no idea how many trolley loads there were and have no recollection of falling asleep, which I later discovered had occurred without me taking my pills or my overnight insulin shot.
Thanks to my ‘Higher Power’, I am still here to tell the tale. But I was not at all well for several days and my muscles ached from head to foot from all the unfamiliar physical exertion made on that night.
Since then I have been settling into my new home by the sea, and I have also been helping my friend, Dave, from Bangkok to get his visa renewed……