♫ There’s a hole in your bowel… dear Mobi… dear Mobi…♫

 

Mobi- Babble – 17th November 2017 

I’ve made a lot of mistakes and silly decisions in my life – as is evidenced by 6 marriages and my semi-impecunious situation. But there is little doubt that my decision to return to the UK last April was probably one of the wisest decisions I have ever made.

I reasoned that with my 5-year-old metal valve in my heart, my insulin-dependent diabetes, an enlarged prostate, chronic IBS, advancing deafness, glaucoma and frequent spasms of breathlessness, I was only one medical emergency away from total penury – and quite likely death – if I remained in Thailand at the mercy of the Thai health system.

At long last, I got something right…

Since I returned last April, I have been under the care of a diabetic clinic, I have been fitted two wonderful hearing aids, had my eyes checked out and had several appointments with a cardiac specialist, including an angiogram to check out my arteries. I’ve also had jabs for flu, pneumonia, and shingles – all free on the NHS, along with all my multiple medications.

COPD

As mentioned in last months’ blog, I had the shock of my life a few weeks ago when I was diagnosed with COPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – a chronic and very debilitating lung disease which leads to severe breathing problems and causes bad chest congestion.

It came on all of a sudden and explains my previous bouts of breathlessness which were originally thought to be heart-related. There are four stages of COPD and I am already at stage three with only stage four to go.

It seems incredible that only three months ago I was able to manage an hour’s steady walking with few problems, and now I cannot walk,  even for five minutes very slowly without being severely distressed. 

 

It’s amazing that I have lived so long without any obvious symptoms, but now I guess I’m making up for lost time, and as you can imagine, this disease has turned my life on its head.

A Punctured Gut

Then came the final medical indignity. Nearly two weeks ago I suddenly developed a terrible pain in my lower abdomen, along with my usual diarrhea. This wasn’t IBS as the pains with that complaint are always in the upper abdomen.

I took a peak in the toilet bowl and was shocked to see some blood clots. I knew I didn’t have bowel cancer as I had already been screened (another benefit of being in the UK), so I called the NHS helpline and they told me to get down to the local NHS clinic in Oakham ASAP and get it checked out.

The clinic immediately decided that I needed to go to A & E in Leicester – some 45 minutes’ drive away, but unfortunately there was no ambulance available for 5 hours and even then it wasn’t guaranteed.

So my son-in-law drove me to Leicester Hospital and then I started my nightmare wait in A &E, as by this time I was in agony. I won’t bore you with the details but at 5 a.m. the next day I was finally taken by ambulance to another hospital in Leicester that specializes in surgical cases and was put on a drip and at long last was given some morphine to dull the pain.

A subsequent CT scan on Wednesday afternoon revealed the worst – I had a small hole in my bowel caused by diverticulitis. I would either need surgery to repair it – which is quite a dangerous procedure – or they could try to make it heal itself by pumping me full of antibiotics. My condition was further complicated by the blood thinners I  take for my metal heart valve, as this greatly increased the risk of bleeding out.

So they went for the softer option and started me on a course of IV antibiotics, reduced my blood thinners and the pain slowly went away. After 4 days I was allowed to eat.

I was discharged last Sunday, and I am just finishing off my oral antibiotics. I am also slowly increasing the blood thinners to reduce the risk of clotting around my metal heart valve. This involves a horrible injection of heparin into my stomach every day, as well as taking a high dose of warfarin the get my blood INR back to where it should be.

The next two weeks are critical and I am told there is a 25% chance I will get a relapse. If all goes well I will go return to the hospital in about 6 weeks and a camera will be inserted into my stomach to make sure the hole has repaired itself and also blow some ‘air’ into it to seal the hole once and for all.

All good fun…the joys of living over seven decades on Planet Earth.

So that’s me, then. If any of these medical emergencies had happened when I was still in Thailand, God help me. I’d probably be broke, dead or more likely both.

You can knock the UK National Health Service for all you like but for me, despite the obvious problems due to funding restraints, the doctors and nurses couldn’t have looked after me better –  nothing was spared to ensure my wellbeing – and it didn’t cost me a penny.

Other Matters

The long wait for my family’s UK settlement visas to come through is proving quite a strain in both Nong Khai and Oakham. It’s only 3 weeks since the visa applications were finally submitted, and there will be at least another 5 weeks to go, quite possibly much longer – nobody can really say for sure.

Naturally, Lek is worried about me and wants to come over and take care. For me, it has been quite difficult time trying to manage alone although my two wonderful daughters have been doing everything they can and were magnificent during my stay in hospital.

It is not easy for them as they have their own busy lives. My eldest lives quite a long way away in Birmingham and my youngest is a full-time teacher as well as having a two-year-old to take care of, with a new baby daughter due in February. The last thing they need is an old codger like me gumming up their lives….

I apologize for my recent preoccupation with the state of my health, and in my next blog, I will try to find something a little more interesting to write about. I fully appreciate that medical matters can get pretty boring.

This month’s photos

Today, I am sharing some pics of two recent family gatherings.

The first gathering was back in July when the English Summer was still in full swing. They were taken in my old hunting ground of Essex where one of my nephews now lives with his family.

The gathering was honouring the visit of my late sister’s husband who had flown in from South Africa to see his kids and grandchildren. It was good to see him, as well as all my nephews, great-nephews, great-nieces, and so on. It was the first time in several years. I hope you enjoy the pics.

The second gathering was in Kent, at my brother’s place where he was celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary. Can you believe it? Wayward Mobi has had 6 wives in the same period that my brother has been married 50 years to one person – good on ya Bruv.

Breakfast in Kent

Finally, I was taking a wander to the local park in Oakham one Sunday, in my pre-COPD days, when to my astonishment, there was a right royal rave-up going on. All the latest songs – you know:  Agadoo, Summer Holiday, Twist and Shout – I had no idea that the good people of Oakham were so with it…..

***

Late, late News: At the time of going to press, my brother has been admitted to hospital and is fighting multiple infections. Get well soon, David…

Beware! One day your sins will catch up with you…

 

Mobi Babble – 29th October 2017

It’s been well over a month since my last blog, and I have to say it’s been rather a turbulent few weeks.

Family Visa Applications finally lodged

I’ll begin with the good news. After a long six months of waiting and ‘processing’, the settlement visa applications for my wife and daughter were finally submitted to UK immigration last Wednesday, 25th.

Badmington – Nong Khai style

After traveling to Bangkok from Nong Khai a couple of weeks ago to obtain their TB-clearance medical certificates, they had to return there, via Pattaya last Wednesday to personally hand in the visa applications, at which time they were photographed, fingerprinted and interviewed.

I had already paid all the extortionate non-refundable visa fees online, but there was still one last overpriced fee to pay – some £150 – to scan all the documents and send them to an immigration processing office in Sheffield.

It’s all in the hands of the Home Office civil servants and we now sit back and wait. The estimated processing time is 60 days, but there are no guarantees.

Song, with her two young cousins
A pair of durians – Thailand’s smelliest and most delicious fruit

A Mobi-motor at long last.

Another piece of, I suppose, good news is that I have finally taken the plunge and bought myself a little car to get about in. With winter fast approaching and my physical health slowly deteriorating, a car had become more or less a necessity.

So I spent 10 days in Birmingham with my eldest daughter and her partner and they kindly took me around the myriad car dealers that abound in that good city. I ended up buying an 11-year old Peugeot 107, with only 42k miles on the clock and in immaculate condition. Hopefully, it will do me for a year or so.

Now the bad news – as I inferred above, I am still having quite a few problems with my health, although at the time of writing I am hopeful that I am slowly getting them on a more even keel.

Cha-am – south of Hua Hin

Medical affairs of the heart

It all started with my angiogram at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester which revealed that despite my ongoing high blood pressure, my replacement heart valve and continual shortness of breath, there is nothing wrong with my arteries and no stents were required.

Song, Lek, Lek’s sister and Neung in Sumut Songkram

I then went for a follow-up consultation with Prof. someone or other (the first time I had actually seen the main man) who suggested my shortness of breath and tight chest may be due to the meds I was taking for my hypertension.

He suggested some changes, which included weaning me off a beta-blocker I had been taking for over 30 years and adding some other stuff to compensate. His theory was that the beta-blocker was stopping my heart from beating fast enough to provide sufficient oxygen to my lungs – hence the breathing problems.

Sounded good, and my GP went along with it.

 

Trouble is – no one had told him that, “If ain’t broke don’t tinker with it”. When I first came back to the UK last May, the GP said as much to me when I told him about all the medications I was taking.

Medical Affairs of the lungs

Meanwhile, back at the Mobi-body, while all this sea change of meds was taking place, I had an appointment at a lung clinic to do some breathing tests. Two hours later – to my shock and horror – I was informed that I had acquired severe COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) – lung disease to the uninitiated.

My breathing problems had nothing to do with my heart and everything to do with permanent lung damage, which must have been caused by heavy smoking which I quit over 35 years ago. I was already on one inhaler which the GP had given me to try and relieve my chest and breathing problems, and the clinic added another one, telling me the disease was incurable and I would live with it for the rest of my life.

For some strange reason, although I had previously experienced a few distressing breathing episodes in Thailand, and several on my flight to the UK, the disease has suddenly become much worse, and now even 10 minutes slow walk was enough to bring me breathless, wheezing badly and devoid of energy.

Although the two inhalers were helping during the day, I started to suffer at night. Within days I could hardly sleep as I couldn’t breathe properly. Back to the doc who put me on a short, intensive course of steroids, which finally did the trick and allowed me to get a halfway decent night’s sleep.

Risking life and limb for a loverly bunch of coconuts

Back to the heart

Meanwhile, back at my Mobi-body, the changes with my heart meds were starting to wreak havoc. My BP was swinging wildly from high to very low, my heart rate was in the high 80s (from the mid-50s where it used to be) and every time I stood up I nearly passed out.

Things continued to get worse and about a week ago my heart went into overdrive, running at 120-140 pm when at rest and palpitating quite badly.

I managed to get an appointment with an emergency GP, who I had never seen before, and I told him the whole story and showed him my records of my BP and pulse rate.

“Hm… it would have been much better if they hadn’t messed with your meds – clearly they were working for you, so why change them?” he asked rhetorically.

I explained that they had thought the meds might have been connected with my breathing problems.

“But now we know different,” he said.

I smiled and nodded.

“And if you’ve been taking these meds for over 30 years and had no side effects, why should they start now?”

So we decided to reinstate the beta blocker and stop some of the newly prescribed meds and for me to keep an ‘eye on it’.

The land of water-melons

This all happened 4 days ago, so it is early days, but so far so good. My heart rate is down to the 60s per minute and my blood pressure is becoming more stable. I still get some dizzy spells when standing, but generally, it is much better than before. Thank God, I seem to be getting on top of it now.

A profusion of mushrooms

Sound, sweet sound!

Meanwhile, back at my Mobi-body, while all this was going on I took the train to Leicester last Thursday to attend a hearing clinic. This was my second session, as I had previously been diagnosed as having moderate to severe hearing problems in both ears.

I was only there for a couple of hours and came out as the proud owner of two hearing aids, (one for each ear), which are very discreet and can barely be seen from the front.

So now I am bombarded by noises that I hadn’t been hearing properly in years – particularly high frequencies. While I was waiting for the bus outside the hospital, an ambulance came out with its siren blaring and I almost collapsed from the high pitched sound.

It’s now day three and my brain is slowly adapting. I can actually hear what is being said on TV without having to resort to subtitles. It’s pretty wonderful.

Lek’s family home in Nong Khai

Some friendly Mobi-warnings

A few salutary lessons from my recent medical experiences:

  1. Just because you drink to excess and are continuing to enjoy good health, don’t kid yourself you will last that way forever. Undoubtedly, many of my medical problems are the cumulative effects of booze. Even though I haven’t touched a drop for nearly 7 years, I stopped far too late to undo a lot of the damage that alcohol had wreaked on my aging body.

So there you have it – a Mobi-warning number 1.

Nong Khai Paddy field

 

The tiny crabs that are the essential ingredient of Som-Tum Palaa..

  1. If you are a smoker – beware of the permanent damage it can do to your lungs, to say nothing of the high risk of developing lung cancer. I was a very heavy smoker from my mid-teens until the age of 37 – some 20 years plus.

For many of those years I was a 4-pack a day man, and towards the end, I frequently suffered from bronchial related problems. Yet as soon as I quit, my lungs cleared and I never had any problems with my chest until I was in my late 60s.

The docs tell me the damage was done all those years ago, but it didn’t manifest itself until I was approaching old age.

So there you have it – Mobi-warning number 2.

 

  1. Loud noise can permanently damage your ears – obvious really, isn’t it? I put my current hearing problems down to the years back in the late 70s – early 80s when I was promoting pop/rock concerts in Bangkok.

There was nothing I liked better than to stand near the speaker stacks when the groups were doing sound checks – to say nothing of the concerts themselves when I would invariably be somewhere near the front while the artists blew my mind away with their unbelievably loud music.

Don’t think it won’t happen to you – as it probably will, and it’s no fun not being able to hear what people are saying, and not a lot of fun having to wear hearing aids.

So there you have it – Mobi-warning number 3.

 near Lek’s family home

So it’s onwards and upwards…I’m 71, and in spite of all my setbacks, I’m still in there fighting… just…

This blog’s illustrations

As a change from posting pics of my time in England, (there’s still plenty more to come), I have decided to devote this blog to showing pics of my lovely wife and family and what they have been up to during my absence.

As you can see, they have certainly been active and participating wholeheartedly in the everyday life of the wonderful Issan folk of North East Thailand.

It’ll be quite a culture shift when they move to Oakham…

Reflections On A World Gone Mad – Or Has It? – 15th September 2017

 

Mobi Babble – 15th September 2017

It’s all a question of perspective

Like many others, when I look at the state of the world today, I find it truly depressing. It seems difficult to believe that there was ever a time when it was worse than it is right now.

Yet all I have to do is take a short ride from my home in rural Rutland to the timeless, magical  Foxton Locks, just down the road from Market Harborough in Leicestershire. Here, it is easy to believe that the world is at peace and rural England is much the same as it ever was – beautiful and serene.

Just outside Foxton village are the grade 11 listed ten canal locks consisting of two “staircases” each of five locks, located on the Leicester line of the Grand Union Canal.

Take a wander here and forget about all the troubles and tribulations of the world around us.

As I say – it’s all a question of perspective. However bad things may seem to be in 2017, there are numerous times in history when it was infinitely worse.

Almost within my own lifetime, (I was born in 1946), the Second World War was a truly terrible time for millions upon millions of people. It is estimated that 60 million people died between 1939 and 1945 – not forgetting the mass extermination of 6 million Jews in Germany and Eastern Europe.

At the conclusion of WW2 hostilities, there were countless millions of displaced peoples throughout Europe, and it took generations before many of them found themselves properly settled in new homes and lives.

25 years before WW2 broke out, WW1 saw around 37 million people slaughtered; including almost an entire generation of young men from the towns and shires of England – cannon fodder as they came to be known.

And so it goes on and on… as you dig further back in history, you will find further terrible evidence of man’s inhumanity to man, as well as countless of millions dying from natural disasters and disease, from the plague to the Black Death and God knows what else.

So although things really seem to be pretty dire in 2017, it is an undeniable fact that in the overall, we have ‘never had it so good’ – to borrow a famous phrase made by British Prime Minister Macmillan back in 1957.

Certainly, following the end of the Second World War until probably the outbreak of the first Gulf War in 1990, most of us in the west enjoyed one of the longest periods of sustained peace, growth, and prosperity the world has ever known.

Sure, sometimes it was a bit scary – what with the ‘cold war’ – and the ‘evil’ Soviet empire pitted against us. No one knew for certain whether the so-called nuclear deterrent would really work – but apart from few anxious moments, such as the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, we really did enjoy a very long period of relative peace.

 

So are things really that bad now?

Well, for sure they’re not good… and it seems to be getting worse.

  • We have the ongoing nightmare in Syria, where hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and/or displaced;
  • the starving millions in Yemen and other parts of the Middle East;
  • the appalling atrocities committed by the so-called Islamic State – in the Middle East and nearer to home in our western cities;
  • the recent ethnic cleansing in Burma causing almost ½ million refugees to flee into Bangladesh;
  • the rise of Putin and his brutal, authoritarian, racist, homophobic regime in Russia which illegally annexed Crimea and is fighting a bitter war of attrition against the Ukraine, as well as siding with the murderous dictator in Bagdad;
  • a megalomaniac murderous leader in North Korea with his unstable finger on a viable nuclear trigger;
  • an almost equally unstable, egotistical, racist, misogynist nut case in the White House who thinks he can run the free world with tweets.

And on top of all that we have the man-made climate change causing some of the worst hurricanes the world has ever seen, cutting a path of death and devastation across the Caribbean and North America.

There’s more, but I think this is sufficient to demonstrate why so many people across the world are consumed by depression and a fear for their future?

 

 

But is it really that bad? For some people, for it certainly very bad – but for most of us, there have been other times in recent history when it has been a lot worse, whether or not we like to admit it.

Those of us who were brought up in austere, post-war Britain remember a different time.

I had no hot water in my house until I was 12, there was no fridge, no TV, and bathtime was once a week when my parents heated up an old tin bath on an ancient gas range. There was no central heating and my abiding memory of childhood was feeling freezing cold for the entire winter.

Now in the UK we are enjoying our lowest level of unemployment for 42 years, while in the EU the economy and employment seems to be finally on the turn, as it also does across the pond in the USA – no thanks to Trump’s farcical attempts at talking up the economy and setting up committees of business leaders who have since disowned him.

Here, the Brits are forever complaining about their National Health Service, the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor and why so few people have had a decent salary increase for many years.

  • But nobody is starving;
  • Everyone who wants it has a warm roof over their head and clothes on their back;
  • Nearly everyone in the country has access to TV’s, fridges, microwaves and all the other accoutrements of modern day living.
  • Nearly every adult and a huge number of children own a mobile phone;
  • Nearly 90% of households have at least one car.
  • Most adults have enough money in their pockets to make a few trips a week to their local pub, to buy a weekend takeaway meal and take a break in foreign climes at least once a year.

Sure there are food banks; the numbers of homeless are increasing, and people are dying because the government refuses to cough up the cash for prohibitively expensive drugs. There are people crying out for mental health care or to be put into drug abuse programmes, and innocent citizens are the victims of endemic crime and gang violence in depressed, inner-city areas.

Things are not perfect – they never have been and never will be.

Our elected government – be they Labour, Conservative or even Coalition have to perform a never-ending a balancing act to decide on priorities – to decide who are those who are most in need of help, and who are the ones who will have to wait in line.

One thing is for sure, our country is still reeling from the astronomical national debt incurred during the ‘noughties’ financial meltdown. We borrowed hugely and now it’s payback time, and whether you like it or not there simply isn’t enough cash to keep everyone happy.

The Conservatives tell us there is no magic money tree; the Labour party tell us we can spend our way out of our economic woes. Who is right?

Do you honestly believe that Corbin can give all public service employees large salary increases, hire more policemen, teachers, doctors, nurses and prison guards, increase unemployment and disability benefits, restore all the trimmed back local council services, abolish student university fees, re-nationalise the railways, cap the utility bills and still pay off the debts and balance the country’s books? Hasn’t the Greek debacle taught us anything?

Then there’s the dreaded Brexit. The ‘remainers’ tell us it will be a total disaster to leave the EU, the ‘Brexiteers’ tell us it will be the best thing that has ever happened to Britain.

Who is right?

So is the world really in the biggest mess it has ever seen?

Is it really all doom and gloom for the future of mankind?

Surely it’s all a question of perspective.

I’m not saying things aren’t bad – because they certainly are, but as long as we are continuing to enjoy the basic necessities of life, there is always hope.

A cry in the wilderness!

As for me, Mobi, I sit here in England, day after day, hoping and dreaming for the day I can be reunited with my family – still stuck in far away Thailand, waiting for all the unbelievably complex UK visa requirements to fall into place.

In spite of the fact that I believe I can meet all the conditions, there is no doubt that the system is stacked against me. Those who oversee the granting of visas are forever searching for the tiniest fault line in family visa applications so they can happily throw them out and condemn the applicants to a life of separation.

I have been back in the UK since mid-May and it will be November at the earliest before I can hope for my family’s visas to be finally granted. If the visas are refused, it will still have cost me thousands of pounds in non-refundable visa fee applications, (including a large National Health Service surcharge in case they are ill).

If I re-apply, I will have to pay all over again. On top of all this, I have to keep a very large sum of money in my bank account to prove that I have sufficient financial resources to take care of them

The whole situation is very worrying and causes me endless sleepless nights. Every day, I chat to my wife and stepdaughter on Skype. We talk for about 15 minutes, but I can see the pain and worry in their eyes, and they can see the same in mine. Every day, I reassure them that it will all work out in the end – but to be honest, I can never be completely sure of this. There are so many ways that the visa process can collapse in disarray.

I am not the only one in this situation. There are literally thousands of families living apart for years – desperately trying to beg, borrow or steal enough money to process their visas. Some succeed, but a great many do not, and are thus condemned to spend the rest of their lives apart.

But I have to keep a sense of perspective. Getting my family into the UK is the only thing that matters in my life. If I fail, then my life will be …sort of over…

But where does my problem sit in the great scheme of things?  Is reuniting my family more important than giving the teachers and doctors a salary increase? Or stopping the war in Syria or feeding a starving refugee in Burma?

Not many people really care whether or not my family eventually joins me here. Most people in the UK are pretty much against immigration – that’s why they voted for Brexit.

Yet Britain has always needed immigrants – people who come here and shake up the gene pool and take on the jobs that the Brits no longer wish to do. It has ever been thus.

If my wife eventually comes here, she will get a job the next day. The country is crying out for factory workers, cleaners, healthcare workers, agricultural workers and so on. She will be spoilt for choice.

There are so many jobs here that the average Brit doesn’t want to do, but are absolutely perfect for all those ‘bloody foreigners’ who come here and steal our jobs – the jobs that nobody wants. She will never, ever be a drain on the state. She is too diligent and hard working. She wants to make a new life for herself and daughter.

Please, God, she is allowed to, in this brave new world where everything is falling apart – or is it?

My wife is someone who would really appreciate the unabashed glory that is Foxton Locks on an English summer’s day, in the heart of olde England.

 

Summertime – and the livin’ is easy…3 Sept 2017

Mobi-Babble – 3rd September 2017

Goodness me!  It’s September and my first full English summer for nigh on 17 years is all but over.

 

Oakham’s ancient Town Square

     

Looking back on the almost four months since I arrived in May, I have to conclude it’s been a typically English summer. Some really cold days, some extraordinarily hot days, some windy, wet days that felt more like winter, and a great deal of cloudy but mainly dry, mild days. 

Every now and then we would be rewarded with a few days of delightful sunshine, which would be the invitation we had all been waiting for to explore the great outdoors – England’s green and pleasant land.

Oakham Castle

     

 

We wandered through the beautifully kept parks, around the lakes, along the rivers, streams, and canals, across the meadows and up the hills; and enjoyed the glorious scenery – the lush green grass, the magnificent flowers, and the towering oaks, ashes, elms, weeping willows, poplars, flowering cherries and silver birches and many more,  in all their summer glory.

Who can deny that there is no better place to be than the English countryside on a fine summer’s day?

Central Oakham/ Cutts Close Park

I have taken so  many photographs of my wanderings and ventures through the towns and countryside shires during the past few months that it will take at least a couple of blogs to show them all to you.

Today, I am posting a few more pics taken in my adopted town of Oakham in the heart of Rutland and some more I took a little further afield in the environs of the ancient village of John O’Gaunt, in rural Leicestershire; and finally a few pics in the nearby town of Market Harborough – also in Leicestershire.

Guess who broke down outside Mobi’s front door?

Just down the road from Mobi’s home: before/after

What Mobi did?

One way or another I seem to have attained most of the goals I set out to achieve during my first few months back in England.

Health

My medical matters are all now under proper control and just this past week I attended Leicester hospital to have my long awaited angiogram. I have to say that although there are obvious signs that the National Health Service is bursting at the seams, I cannot fault the services I have received for all of my various conditions.

In and around John O’Gaunt – Leics

      

The care and attention I have received from doctors and nurses alike has been outstanding – always polite and friendly. It is such a sea change compared to the health service back in the day that quite frankly, the Brits don’t know when they are well off.

However, I must admit to growing a little anxious as I lay on the theatre bed waiting for Dr, (or is it Mister?), Mohammed to insert the miniaturized camera into an artery in my wrist.

I knew that something was wrong when 10 minutes went by and another doctor joined him at my right side, while a nurse suddenly appeared on my left side to ask me about my time in Thailand – distraction techniques I surmised. I didn’t really feel like chatting about Thailand while two doctors wrestled with my wrist, but thankfully, in the end, they got it in and it was all systems go as the camera traveled inside my withering arteries, in and out of my ancient heart.

More  John O’Gaunt countryside

         

Driving soon?

I am also pleased to report that after being examined by four different eye specialists, the DVLA, (UK Driving license authority), in their wisdom, have finally given me back my full driving license.

I shan’t be rushing out to buy a car just yet, as I am quite content to use the buses and trains to get around, but I will probably take the plunge when my wife and daughter join me later this year.

Market Harborough – Leicestershire

 

 

Mobi’s Family

Everything is also proceeding well with my family. Dear Lek, and Song are biding their time out in the wilds of Nong Khai.

Time is marching on and this weekend I sent off a letter to my visa agent in Thailand to get the visa process kick-started.

We chat every day and I know that they miss me as much as I miss them – God only knows why – I really don’t deserve such love and trust. I must not let them down.

More from Market Harborough

Freelance & other writing

I know I have been neglecting my usual blog writings – film and book reviews, political discourse and other articles of interest, and I will try to get back to some of this in the near future.

I have actually been quite busy since my arrival in Blighty– what with my preoccupation with medical matters, and also getting a fair bit of contract writing -which has been quite a pleasant surprise.

I have written two major articles for a European environmentally active organization and more recently, I wrote some articles for a Canadian based client concerned with the North Korean missile crisis and its impact on eastern Canada.

Here is what I wrote:

Why Ontario should be thinking – and planning – for the unthinkable.

The tensions between The USA and North Korea is ratcheting up daily – even hourly – as both Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un continue to exchange ever more bellicose rhetoric.
Trump talked about ‘fire and fury’ and Pyongyang retorted that they will launch four missiles into waters off the US territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean, adding that: “Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him”……

Click here to continue reading this article

Latterly, my Canadian client has commissioned some major writing concerning blatant racial discrimination at a leading Toronto hospital. This is a nasty affair that I am happy to help out with. It still has some way to go.

I confess that it feels good to know there are at least a few people out there who appreciate my writing. Their glowing praise and repeat commissions is all I have ever wanted – plus a bit of pocket money, of course….

Nick – One of the good guys.

Some of my readers who live in Pattaya may know of Nick Halliwell, a Brit and long-term resident of Thailand who sadly passed away a few days ago.

He was a close friend of mine for most of 15 or so years I lived in Pattaya and was always ready with a joke and opinion on almost every subject under the sun.

But he was much more than a drinking buddy. He ran his own successful business in Thailand for many years and he was a bit of a computer genius. As a result, he willingly helped me and others out whenever Mr Google failed us.

More than once he resurrected my computer when I thought I  had lost the data forever and never once did he ask for a penny in payment.

He was very opinionated, but we loved him for it, and he had the generosity of spirit – always on hand to help his fellow men – be they ex-pats or Thais.

He was a genuine all round good guy – someone I was proud and happy to have a friend.

He leaves a devoted long-term partner and two lovely daughters.

RIP Nick

 

“MOBI’S AFRICAN ODYSSEY” (formerly “AZZY”) is Back for Sale on Amazon-Kindle!

 

Yes, folks, my last epic novel, which was originally published on Amazon Kindle, and in paperback, under the title, “Azzy”, is now available under its new title.

For this new, renamed edition, the text has undergone a comprehensive edit, but the content remains completely faithful to the earlier editions. No material changes, omissions, or additions have been made to the structure of the story.

Some chapters have been renamed, and a few chapters have either been extended or split into new chapters.

SPECIAL FREE OFFER!!!
During this coming week, there will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to get this book from Amazon Kindle, completely free of charge.
This special offer will last for 5 days, commencing, Thursday 24th August and ending on Monday 28th. 
Please note that the offer will start and end on US Pacific time, which is currently 8 hours behind UK time.

To those of my blog readers who haven’t yet taken the plunge, I urge you take advantage this free offer. Tell your friends to get a copy before it reverts to its standard list price of $2.99 (£1.99) on 29th August. (Some territories may sell it at a slightly different price due to local VAT /tax considerations.)

And to those who have already bought the book under its original title, this 5-day free offer is an opportunity for you to update your ebook collections.

Click on one of the options below to get your free copy (or buy) Mobi’s African Odyssey:-

Mobi’s African Odyssey eBook at Amazon UK

Mobi’s African Odyssey eBook at Amazon.com

Mobi’s African Odyssey

It is 1969 and a young adventurer flees from his new life in North America and decides to take a job working for the oil industry in West Africa. It is a time when Nigeria was still adjusting to its post-colonial era and is in the throes of a bloody civil war.

Nigeria is Mobi’s home for the next two and half years and this is where he belatedly experiences his sexual awakening and has many erotic adventures, before – and after – meeting the sensuous, hot-blooded, volatile Azzy, a gorgeous young black girl from the bars of Lagos.

They set up home in the war-ravaged, ‘wild west’ town of Port Harcourt, and during the next two years, the couple have a stormy relationship which leads to many hair-raising adventures, and unexpected consequences.

Mobi’s African Odyssey is a tale of whimsy, sex, drama, violence, black magic, and cliff-hanging adventures.

One minute, you will want to hug away all his pain; and the next, slap the shit out of him for being so stupid.

Mobi’s sexual awakening, his brushes with African Juju and his skirmishes with the out of control military are all graphically described in a tale which the reader will find hard to put down.

Click Here to Read the first 8 chapters of “Mobi’s African Odyssey”

Boundless Book Reviews

 
 

Beth’s Review: “Mobi’s African Odyssey” (formerly “Azzy”) by Mobi D’Ark

March 7, 2016

Author Request/Kindle Unlimited

Publisher: Martin Andrew Bower
Originally Released: November 16, 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Romance, Historical 20th Century, War & Military.
Print Length: 576 pages

Format: ebook, paperback

Authors Links:

Website | Amazon | Goodreads

Buy Links: Amazon

Review

Five Boundless Stars!

Mobi is one adventurous young man! One minute, I wanted to hug away all his pain; and the next, slap the shit out of him for being so stupid. This is definitely a good read! I do have to warn you; do not read it, and expect to get any sleep. I read as late as I could, for two nights in a row. D’Ark writes in a way to make readers feel as if they are sitting across from him listening to his story; and I was immediately hooked, seriously, he had me at page TWO. This has NEVER happened before.

Mobi D’Ark is obviously a great story teller; I feel I know him and all his friends on a personal level. What an adventure; no adventures!! I also applaud the humility it took to share some parts of the story. Azzy is definitely a woman to write about, whew!!!

The story starts with his first girlfriend and goes on to his many adventures of his travels and women. I must say; I have never heard a sexual awakening story like this, I can’t imagine anyone experiencing anything even remotely close to this.

I feel Mobi’s African Odyssey deserves a rating of 5 Boundless stars only because 10 isn’t a choice. I absolutely LOVED this book, and would be thrilled to give honest reviews on the rest of this series.

Boundless Website

Beth’s Review of Mobis’ African Odyssey (formerly AZZY)

Boundless ‘Spotlight’ interview of  Mobi D’Ark

Click Here to Read all the Amazon Reviews

 

 

Settling into my Rural Groove in England’s Green and Pleasant Land

Mobi Babble – A day in the life of rural Mobi

I guess you could say I am settling into some sort of routine in my new home in Rutland with my youngest daughter and her family.

The summer hasn’t exactly been what you could call great. We had a cold and wet May, A very hot June, and July hasn’t been that good – mainly dry but overcast and not very warm but the odd day of sunshine. let’s see what August will bring.

Oakham School playing fields

My Happy Pill

My nightly dose of anti-depressants always ensures I have a good sleep. I take the pill at 7 pm as it takes several hours to kick in. If I take it any later, I become a walking zombie for half the following morning, which I find most unsettling.

So provided I take the pill on time – along with a dozen or so other pills for such myriad conditions as IBS, an enlarged prostate, chronic heart disease and diabetes – I usually succumb to sleep around midnight, give or take.

Cemetery entrance

My alarm wakes me at 7.55 am and I lay there in a semi-comatose state for the next 90 minutes – one ear listening to the ‘Today’ show on BBC radio 4 and both eyes glued to the BBC sports news, followed by BBC world news, courtesy of my Samsung wonder smartphone. By the time my watch approaches 10.00 am, I am ‘all newzed out’ and wide awake.

Is that multitasking? I hope so, as it may help to ward off the onset of dementia -the terror and scourge of us septuagenarians.

Oakham cemetery – my next move….

For most of my life, I have been an early riser, going right back to the days when I had to get up before sun-up to do my paper round before school. This was something I continued to do during the first five years of full time work in the city to earn a few extra pennies.

During my years overseas and even back working in the city, I was usually the first person in the office at ridiculously early times – simply because I loved the early morning – it’s the best time of day by far, and I loved to get stuck into the day’s work before anyone arrived to disturb me.

Thatched cottage near Oakham town centre

But now I lie in bed so long because when I wake up, the pill is still doing its work and it’s quite an effort to shake the sleep off – something I have never experienced before. I am also in quite bad humor – probably the withdrawal symptoms of the ‘happy pill’, even though it is supposed to have the opposite effect.

All Saints Church, Oakham

I should add that I take anti-depressants for my IBS. When my stomach was really bad, I took two antidepressants – and when I tried to phase them out, my IBS came back with a vengeance – so, for now, I will continue with the one, even though it seems to do little for my mood.

But, who knows – maybe it does work, as once I am up and had a shower, my mood changes and I feel pretty much OK.

Trotting along the Oakham Road

Domestic chores

For the first time in more years than I care to remember, I have to do a few domestic chores. Nothing too onerous I hasten to add, but after being looked after so well by my lovely wife, Lek, for many years, it is a mild shock to the system.

My daughter, husband have their busy working lives plus a two year old to take care of so I must do my bit – clearing up the kitchen in the morning, stacking the dish washing machine. Later – usually after lunch – I empty the machine and tidy up the kitchen again. Then I have to prepare my own breakfast (cereal) and lunch (a sandwich) but am usually treated to a family meal in the evening, but I also stack the dishes and tidy up after the meal is finished.

Then I do my weekly wash but have yet to enter into the dreaded realm of ironing clothes. All my clothes look okay-ish if I hang them up immediately after washing. Well… maybe the odd wrinkle… but who’s looking? Then I have to do a bit of shopping  – maybe twice a week – my contribution to the weekly food budget.

It doesn’t sound like much – and in truth, it isn’t much – but it’s a helluva lot more than I have been used to for many, many years. I confess I did find it all a little bit wearisome for the first couple of weeks or so, after having led a sedentary life for so long, but now I’m taking it in my stride.

Weight Loss

In fact, with all this activity, which also involves countless trips up and downstairs every day, has had an extremely beneficial effect on my weight. I have lost an astonishing 4 kilos since I left Thailand.

Near Oakham town center with the church in the distance

Daily routine

I spend quite a few hours at my computer every day – my activities ranging from writing the odd contract article that still trickles in, dealing with my myriad emails, social media etc., writing my blogs or film reviews on IMDb or book reviews on Goodreads, sorting out my film and TV downloads, and just general internet research and studying stuff online.

I’ve  become an avid fan of Amazon and spend a fair amount of time choosing and buying a few essentials online.

I am also writing a few short stories for a website that publishes them online. It doesn’t pay much but it helps to keep my creative hand oiled. Not too sure what sort of writing I will be doing in the future – maybe another novel one of these days…

I also read books for an hour or so a day – mainly classic novels but increasingly I am turning to more contemporary fare.

Mobi’s trusty steed

In the afternoon, I try to either take a walk or a bike ride , and as I get fitter, my excursions have become more adventurous. I can now walk all the way into town, and if I don’t have too much heavy shopping I can also walk back home again. My bike rides have also become longer and I am usually it for at least 45 minutes. I now find that I can ride up hills where I previously had to dismount and walk up.

More cottages near Oakham town  center

Evenings see me glued to my 23-inch computer screen, watching movies, or more increasingly, TV content from the excellent BBC and occasionally other local channels channel 4, 5 and ITV.

BBC iplayer is simply great – I can either watch programs live, or I can download them (legally) for later watching at my leisure. There is an excellent diet of TV dramas, news programs and documentaries on just about any subject under the sun – from music, to fine arts, to sport, to history, wild life, to exposés, to bios, and goodness knows what else. I am truly spoiled for choice and never have enough time to watch all that is available.

Steamin’ Billy pub – Near the rail station

Of course, I chat to my beloved Lek, and daughter, Song, on ‘line’, every day who are waiting for their visas out in the wilds of Nong Khai, Thailand. We are all counting the days when we can apply for their residence visas and be together once more.  

By mid-October, I will be able to meet all the stringent financial requirements for their visas, but it is still a huge worry. So I am biding time, and hoping I don’t go round the bend.

19th Century Signal box – just outside Oakham station

Health Issues

My medical problems are all progressing quite well. Next week, I will have the final round of tests on my eyes, after which, I hope I will get my driving license back.

Then on 30th August, I am scheduled to have a medical procedure at Leicester Hospital –an angiogram followed by a likely stent or two. It has taken me quite a while to get this treatment, but I made it in the end.

The magnificent All Saints church, Oakham

The procedure has been complicated by my diabetes and the blood thinner I have to take for my prosthetic heart valve. There is the risk of a ‘bleed out’ if things are not handled carefully. I have been given even more medication for the period leading up to the day of judgment – as if 4 pills in the morning and another 12 pills in the evening weren’t enough already.

Out and about in rural Blighty

On top of all this, I have managed a few trips in the surrounding countryside – usually with my daughter and family – but occasionally alone, courtesy of bus or train…

To Melton Mowbray – famous for its pies and Stilton Cheese…

On the road to Melton Mowbray

The Conservative club – what else in Tory heartland?
Melton Mowbray Free Museum
Here’s something not allowed in nearby Oakham…

 

 

We must be better in times – the money lending shop is closed and shuttered
Those Chinese get everywhere….
A mark of the 2010’s – cheap booze and expensive nails – courtesy of Vietnam

 

Art Deco-style Regal cinema, circa 1930s, still showing classic films on a single screen.

And thence to nearby Rockingham – famous for its castle, beautiful grounds and scenic views.

 

   

 

I apologize for my somewhat boring account of  my daily existence in Rutland – it’s far too civilized here for me to lead the event-filled life that used to be part of my daily existence in Thailand.

But so far, I don’t miss  the excitement – only my family. I must be getting old.

Anyhow, I hope you have enjoyed the pics.

Next time – Market Harborough, Foxton Locks, and much more.

Mobi D’Ark’s Goodreads Reviews > White Teeth – 18th July 2017

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

*****

White Teeth 
by Zadie Smith

Mobi D’Ark’s Review

Doesn’t quite match the hype, but a pretty good read for all that.

I think reviewers have to be a little careful when writing bad reviews of books that have received widespread acclaim by critics and also by those venerable souls who dish out literary awards.

Last year, I wrote a pretty scathing review of Lucky Jim, by Kinsley Amis, as I genuinely felt that the book was overblown, distinctly unfunny and would have only appealed to that rarefied group of inteligência who inhabited English universities in the 1950s. The book was hailed as a masterpiece, but I begged to disagree, mightily.

So what do these so-called literary experts know that we don’t?

Zadie Smith’s White Teeth has received multiple honors, including the Whitbread Book award, The Guardian First Book award, and was included in Time’s 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. Heady stuff eh?

Yet the novel has received a lot of bad reviews on Goodreads, along with a number of rave reviews. Many of the bad reviews center around complaints that the narrative is boring, and the characters are two-dimensional.

While I have some sympathy with this point of view, and I do confess wondering in the early stages whether I would make it through to the end, I have to say that overall, the book was a pretty good read and held my attention for a majority of its 560 pages.

One would think that a novel that commences with an attempted suicide by one of its main characters would create a spark of interest in what happens next, but for me, it didn’t. 

The reasons for Archie’s suicide attempt were simply that his difficult wife had just moved out on him. It seemed somehow insufficient to drive this uninteresting, not very intelligent, middle-aged white man to kill himself. It didn’t ring true, and neither did the unpleasant halal butcher who saved him from his fate because he was parking in a bay outside his shop.

It all was supposed to be funny – but it wasn’t – it was just dreary and depressing.

In fact, for me, things didn’t pick up until the story flashed back to WW2, where Archie and another of the main protagonists, Samad Iqbal, a Bengali Muslim, first met. Their adventures, traveling through rural Poland in an armored tank, with a wonderfully wrought, stereotypical upper-class gay tank commander, was a delight to read.

Eventually, the Archie and Samad become the only survivors of the tank crew. Unbeknown to them, the Germans surrendered and the war was over. They became unlikely lifelong friends.

For me, this was the highlight and most enjoyable part of the novel and contained much good humor and irony. It definitely got me hooked to find out what happened to these two men in later life.

After being unexpectedly saved from suicide, Archie meets and marries Clara, a much younger Jamaican woman with no teeth, and Samad has an arranged marriage with Alsana, also from Bangladesh.

Archie’s job is to fold leaflets, and Samad ekes out a living as a waiter in a Soho Indian restaurants. Archie is told by his boss not to bring his young black wife to the office party, and Samad’s boss continually refuses his entreaties to be paid a living wage.

Archie and Clara have a daughter, Irie. Samad and Alsana have two handsome young twin boys, Millat and Majid.

Majid is selected by his father to be sent back to Bangladesh to be raised as a good Muslim boy.

The remaining offspring all go to the same secondary school, where after a series of misdemeanors, they become entwined in the family orbit of Joshua – a well to do middle class, super smart Jewish lad. Joshua’s parents are Marcus (a scientist), and Joyce, (a celebrity food writer).

Apart from maybe the scientist, we have a group of characters who frankly produce little excitement. Sure, such people exist – in droves – we have all met them – or others, equally boring and depressing. 

I do understand that ZS wants to write a towering novel about the ethnic mix of London’s population in the 1970s and to some extent, she succeeds in this, but it is a bit of a rough, somewhat unbelievable ride.

However, the characters behave in such a bizarre manner as to keep our interest flowing and wanting to find out what happens next. 

Samad is torn by sexual cravings which to some extent he satiates by having an unlikely affair with a white schoolteacher, while all the time he is terrified of divine retribution. 

Irie rejects her upbringing and becomes involved in Marcus’s attempts to create a super mouse. Majid returns from Bangladesh, a fully fledged atheist who has embraced the white western culture and also works for Marcus. His twin brother, Millat, screws just about every woman he sees and becomes a Muslim terrorist.

There is more – much more – which is why after a distinctly unpromising beginning, with uninteresting protagonists, I did eventually become quite fascinated with the ever ratcheting up of the characters’ lives and activities.

But along the way, I did have to wade through quite a lot of rambling narrative. Particularly annoying were the pages where, as an omniscient narrator, ZS intersperses her own views on the characters, their motives, and life in general. I thought that all went out in the 19th Century with Eliot and Trollope.

As for the last part of the novel – well the plot was totally contrived to bring everyone together in the same place – ZS gathered up all the strands of her story in a grand New Year’s Eve ‘event’ near Trafalgar Square. Here, our gallant genius, Marcus, along with his trusted assistants, Majid and Ire, is going to launch the programmed seven-year life of his genetically modified super mouse. 

Also in attendance are Archie and Majid with their respective spouses, along with Joshua, a member of one terrorist group, and Millat a member of an even more violent group. Outside on the street is Clara’s mother, a devout Jehovahs Witness, who is screeching gloom and doom.

If you want to know what happens next, read the book.

All in all, it was an enjoyable read and I am glad I stuck with it. I’m not at all sure that it deserves all the plaudits, but neither does it deserve all the Goodreads ‘one-star’ merchants who claim it was unreadable.

It’s a pretty good first novel which only falls down because it is a trifle over-ambitious. ZS is an intelligent and very gifted writer and in my humble opinion, she would do well to make her characters more endearing – more feeling – more likable. In order to evoke more empathy from her readers, her protagonists must be more believable – realistic.

I will give White Teeth 3 ½ stars out of 5.