Oh Land of Smiles – I grieve for thee – 18th June 2017

Mobi-Babble – 18th June 2017

The kingdom of Siam was first brought to my attention in the late 1960s when a good drinking buddy from the bars of Lagos told me:
 
If you ever get out of here alive Mobi,” (there was a brutal civil war raging at the time), “be sure to make a trip to Bangkok, in South East Asia – you’ll never regret it.”

He even gave me the name of a bar where I would be made welcome – ‘The Derby King’ in Patpong – which not only did I subsequently visit but much later in life wrote a novelette that was centered around that very bar.

It came to pass that Patpong, Bangkok and the entire nation of smiling Thais totally captivated my heart and the Siamese nation has played a major part in my life ever since.

The ‘Derb’ was also the place where I met wife number 2, the first in a series of 5 Thai wives, which followed my disastrous marriage with Azzy from Nigeria.

Yes, folks, no less than five lovely Thai maidens all had the dubious honors of taking Mobi, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health….but that’s another story.

Reasons for leaving

A few weeks ago I wrote on the Thai Visa Forum the reasons why I had regretfully decided to pack my bags and leave Thailand for good.

Many of these reasons were down to personal circumstance, (i.e. no money), but I also stated that my decision was made a lot easier due to the huge changes in Thailand since I first arrived in the early 70s – nearly all of them for the worse – especially so for us foreign interlopers, collectively known as farangs.

My post on Thai Visa was received with widespread agreement, with the odd troll dissenter, which is par for the course.

I stand by everything I said, and you can read it here: 

https://mobithailand.com/2017/05/11/and-its-goodbye-from-mobi-11-may-2017/

Deteriorating society

The truth is that the situation in Thailand has probably deteriorated even more sharply than I alluded to in my earlier blog.

I wrote it in Thailand and had to tread carefully for fear of being picked up by Thailand’s equivalent of “Big Brother” – the dreaded military censors who can haul anyone off to jail at a drop of a hat.

This in itself tells you quite a lot about how the political situation has descended to levels I would never have dreamt of a few years ago – not even in the days of arch enemy Thaksin. At least we were allowed to write what we liked – even if it was an overt criticism of Thaksin himself.

Come back Thaksin – all is forgiven!

It grieves me to say it, but I truly feel that Thailand was better off in the days of that arch villain, the arrogant, mega-corrupt Thaksin, than it is under the iron rod of the totally inept military junta. This regime is constantly eroding the human rights and the natural justice of anyone who dares to speak out against them.

Only the wealthy elite are free from their clutches.

This is the same elite establishment, including “he who cannot be mentioned,” that Thaksin tried to take on and was found wanting. He badly miscalculated the powerful forces against him.

Thaksin was and is a very bad person and cares nothing for his fellow Thais, but he was never into the mass abrogation of people’s rights and a complete perversion of Thai justice system. He was, after all, elected and re-elected by popular vote. It was in fact, that very justice system that finally did him in.

Thaksin was a businessman and technocrat. He wanted power and ever more wealth, and he knew the best way to do it was to get the common man on his side, which he did so successfully
.
It is to Thaksin that the ordinary Thais can thank for the free nationwide health system. Sure, it’s nowhere near as good as it could be, but show me a country where it is.

Thaksin was the instigator of many more schemes to help the ordinary folks such as OPTOP – “One Tambon, (village), One Product” – a country-wide small business scheme that is still flourishing today.

He understood economics and he knew what was needed to be done to grow Thailand’s economy. But his hubris and arrogance got the better of him. He seriously miscalculated the forces massed against him.

He ran for his life, and after a series of Thaksin proxies failed to deal effectively with the establishment, the country was landed with the night of the generals.

Three years of muddle-headed mismanagement and an ongoing abrogation of basic human rights.

Since 2014, it seems to have been a race to the bottom.

I strongly suspect that when the current military leader first seized power, he probably wanted to change things for the better – to do something for the soul of Thailand. I think he really did want to right all the ‘wrongs’ in society and eliminate the terrible corruption that is so endemic and so harmful to Thailand’s development.

He tried and tried, but every time he made a move, the entrenched establishment was pitted firmly against him. He put all the Thaksin’s supporters in jail and threatened them with re-education – or else! To some extent, he succeeded in silencing them. But they were never his real enemies.

It is the entrenched, elite establishment that he had to win over or fight, and he soon discovered that it was an impossible task. Whatever ‘wrongs’ he sought to right, he came up against vested interests that simply refused to bow to his will – be it the police, the civil service, the aristocracy, or even his own military colleagues – all of them vying for their own power bases.

It soon became much too hard.

In my humble opinion, he has long since given up any dreams of being Thailand’s savior – the valiant knight on a white horse. He and his cohorts are now only out for survival. They have a desperate need to cling onto power, for fear of what may befall them if they step down or are deposed. It is no longer a fight for the soul of Thailand – they are now in a fight for their own lives.

The Generals rule the land

Thailand’s Generals number more than 1100 in an army of just half a million men, 50% of which are reservists.

Compare this with the USA, with over 2 million men in uniform and a paltry 600 generals; or China, with a military force of some 4 million and only 191 generals.

And I haven’t even mentioned the number of police generals and top-ranking officers in the Thai navy and air force.

What do most of these generals do you might ask? Simple – they find ways to get rich through corruption, using their powerful positions to ride roughshod over the laws of the land.

How can an army, so top-heavy with generals be a potent and efficient fighting force? The answer is that they can’t. Barely a month goes past when we hear of yet another fighter plane crash, or dozens of personnel dying in helicopter crashes.

A couple of years back, a helicopter crashed in the dense jungle, and the rescue helicopter that was sent to search for survivors also crashed. It was several days before land based rescuers finally found the crash sites.

Thailand has no enemies of to speak of; they have excellent relations with all nearby countries, including China, and have not been involved in any significant military action since the Vietnam war of the 1970s when they sent troops to fight with the Americans.

Yet this year’s defense budget is a whopping $6.2 BILLION DOLLARS, up 9% on last year.

Don’t panic Pike – the submarines are coming!

Even this enormous defense spend does not include the outrageous bill for three submarines from China, which will each cost 390 million dollars –a total cost of over 1.2 billion dollars – but not to worry, the canny Chinese have asked for payment in easy installments, over 7 years…

Can anyone please explain to me why Thailand needs even one submarine – let alone three?

So we have over a thousand generals, who by general consensus, can’t even run their own military machine in a professional and efficient manner, so how on earth can they run a country with a population and a land mass larger than the UK’s?

The answers are all there in your breakfast news.

Of course, they can’t run the country and if you want any evidence of this, just peruse the news headlines during the past week. In just a single week, these news stories are so revealing about what is happening to this once glorious land of smiles.

Let’s take a few of the week’s headlines at random:

“ASSEMBLY VOTES TO REMOVE ELECTION COMMISSIONERS”

In case you were wondering – these are the election commissioners who try to ensure fair elections and investigate any candidate of breaking the rules – particularly in respect of corrupt practices.

By general consensus, this brave group of officials was one of the few bodies that have succeeded in bringing a few corrupt politicians to book. Now they are gone – to be replaced by a hand-picked group selected by the ruling clique.

“THAILAND ‘AMONG TOP 20 MOST DANGEROUS COUNTRIES’ TO VISIT”

Thailand has been ranked as one of the 20 most dangerous countries in the world for tourists, with high rates of crime and violence and low reliability of police services, according to a recent survey.

Of the 136 countries around the world covered by the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, which was released last month, Thailand sits at 118th out of 136 (lowest means worst) for safety and security for tourists.

The pathetic inertia amongst the military and police to curb attacks, robberies, rapes and even the murders of tourists – as well as Thai citizens – is making Thailand a very unsafe place to live or take a holiday.

Criminals perpetrate their crimes with more or less impunity, and even if they are arrested, they rarely spend much time in jail. Money changes hands, the corrupt get more corrupt and the populace and tourists suffer.

Yet Thailand annually has more than 30 million tourists, who spend upwards of 45 billion dollars – it is a key driver of the Thai economy. You would think that even this government would understand that the tourists will not keep coming forever if something isn’t done soon.

“HUMAN RIGHTS AGENCY THE NEXT TO BE REPLACED”

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) appears likely to be the next target for mass dismissal of members, following the removal of the Election Commission.

The decision to kick them out has been clearly referred to in Article 60 of a new law on the Human rights body, which is being written by the Constitution Drafting Commission.

The reason?

It is claimed by the drafters that the current NHRC members need to be replaced because they, “lack diversity and their work ran into problems continuously”. No doubt the replacement members will have no such problems – after all, they will be handpicked by “you know who”.

“Thailand’s World University Rankings”
Cheating is so endemic that extreme preventiive measures have to be taken at exam time – this is true!

Chulalongkorn – 245th (1st being the best)
Mahidol – 334th
Chiang Mai – 551st
Thammasat – 601st
Kasetsart – 751st
King Mongkut – 801st

“Thailand trails far behind two other Southeast Asian countries in the biggest-ever global grading of education quality”.

No Thai university made it to the Times Higher Education’s World Reputation Rankings reflecting the fact that the Kingdom’s tertiary education institutes do not enjoy any mainstream recognition in the international academic community.

It was only a few months ago that an international report was issued that stated that Thailand’s literacy rate in provincial schools was running at 50% and that the woeful education standards in Thailand’s primary and secondary schools had deteriorated since the last survey carried out some 4 years ago.

Well done, Mr junta!

Keep the populace ignorant and unable to read or speak English. That way they are more likely to accept your distorted history lessons and your xenophobic outpourings that foreigners are at the root of all evil in the land
.
Actually, to be fair, there is no good reason for Thais to learn another language. Their beloved leader has clearly stated that within the next few years Thai will become an international language on a par with English, Chinese, and Spanish.

“NO INDICTMENT FOR EX-MAE HONG SONG GOVERNOR IN CHILD SEX RING”

Public prosecutors have decided not to indict ex-Mae Hong Song Governor on police charges that he bought sexual services from a minor involved in the province’s forced prostitution ring.

All of the suspects in 37 cases related to the scandal have been released on bail while investigators interview witnesses and gather evidence before the cases are passed on to prosecutors for indictment.

In other words: The suspects are all free to bribe and intimidate witnesses to their heart’s content to ensure a fair trial.

“POLITICIAN’S SON, BOMB COP, YINGLUCK AIDE PROMOTED IN RESHUFFLE”

Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s bodyguard, (she’s on trial for massive corruption), a politician’s son who was once found guilty of shooting a cop dead in a nightclub, and an officer previously transferred for allegedly tolerating an underage brothel in his jurisdiction are all promoted under the annual reshuffle.

Despite a previous reassignment for allegedly turning a blind eye to a notorious flesh parlor under his jurisdiction last year, the former chief of Huai Kwang police, now heads an agency responsible for investigating criminal backgrounds.

This officer, whose former station failed to take action against a brothel that employed minors and trafficked sex workers – is now in charge of conducting criminal background checks for the Special Branch Police.

Another notable promotion is that of Duang Yoobamrung, the son of former politician Chalerm Yoobamrung.

From riches to disgrace & on the run, back to riches again. Duang, formerly Duangchalerm, has a record of run-ins with the law. In 2001, while holding the rank of an army lieutenant, he was accused of shooting a police officer dead in a nightclub, prompting the army to expel him. Duang fled the country for a year before returning. He was later acquitted.

He has now been promoted from police captain to major!

Of course… what else?

There’s much more, but what’s the point?

I doubt if I will be writing much more about Thailand. I have left for good and I have now said my piece several times over. It’s time to move on.

I will always have a deep affection for a country that has given me so much happiness, pleasure, not a little distress and probably a lot more than my fair share of its gorgeous damsels.

Through the years I have handsomely contributed to its exchequer in one way or another, and I am still married to one of its fair ladies. I am responsible for her, her two children and her mother, so I will not be breaking the Thai umbilical cord entirely.

I do sincerely hope that I am wrong and that someone will emerge from the Thai firmament and lead the nation onto a just and proper path for the remainder of the 21st Century. The odds are very much stacked against it – but who can say for sure?

But for me and mine… we must plow a different furrow.

It’s Mobi from Blighty! – 2 June 2017

 

Mobi-Babble – 2nd June 2017

Yes, I’m back ye olde country, and it really seems like a lot longer than the almost three weeks I have actually been here. So much has happened.

Firstly the trip home.

I flew back on Malaysian Airways via Kuala Lumpur, as it was the cheapest ticket I could find at the time of booking. It seems many passengers still avoid traveling the ‘accident-prone’ MAS – one plane still missing presumed drowned and another blown to bits by the Russians.

Their loss is my gain as I had two great flights – the first a short connection to KL, and the second, a non-stop flight to Heathrow on the beautiful and huge A380, where I had more leg room than I have had in years and an empty seat next to me.

The baggage allowance is a generous 30 kilos for economy class, and even though I was a fair bit over this weight with my two suitcases, it didn’t even raise an eyebrow at check in.

The only problem I encountered with my journey home was three worrying heart-related episodes.

In KL I had a quick in transit transfer to my London-bound plane and as time was tight I set off at a brisk pace to change terminals. Halfway there I suddenly became out of breath and felt my chest tightening. I was feeling quite ill and had to slow down to a crawl, fearing I might miss the connection.

In the event, I just made it and was quite relieved when I found my seat and settled down for the 13-hour trip, and slowly got my breath back.

At Heathrow, there was the usual marathon walk to Immigration and baggage collection. Once again I experienced chest pains and breathing difficulties and had to slow down.

For some oddball reason my passport was not accepted at the automated passport check and I had to go and see an officer who stared suspiciously at me several times and compared what he saw in front of me to to the picture in my passport. The well-thumbed and grubby passport was issued in 2009 and is full of Thai and Cambodian visas. I guess my ugly mug has suffered a marked dilapidation in appearance over the past 7 years, but he eventually handed it back to me and told me I was free to go….

By the time I had collected my two suitcases and taken them plus my hand baggage to the arrivals hall, I was suffering from more chest pains.

Not a great start to my new Blighty adventure.

The next part of my trip was a bus journey to Birmingham where hopefully my eldest daughter would be waiting for me. This passed without incident and daughter and partner were duly on hand to help me maneuver my bags from the bus station to the train station – about a 15-minute walk for a fit person. If they hadn’t met me, I doubt I could have managed.

They treated me to a meal en route and deposited me on the train to Oakham, where I was met right outside the carriage door by my youngest daughter, son-in-law and 2-year-old grandson.

A short drive through Oakham and I was at my new home at last – a journey of some 30 hours or so.

My new home

 

For now, I am living with my daughter, who moved to Oakham from Stamford last November as she is teaching maths at Oakham public school. It’s a good-sized, four- bed house and I have my own large bedroom, which doubles up as a living room, with a desk set up for me to work on my computer.

Since I have been here I have successfully achieved the following:

• Registered with a local GP, with the following actions:
 Obtained all my numerous medications for free.
 Assessed by a nurse at the diabetic clinic
 Had blood tests and referred for a ‘rapid appointment’ to see a heart specialist at Leicester Hospital
 Referred to Podiatrist to sort out my aching feet
 Referred to an eye specialist for my glaucoma
 Referred to a clinic to test for bowel cancer

• Received my free bus pass

 

 

 

• Had my State Pension upgraded

• Received my polling card to vote in the general election

• My airfreighted box of personal effects finally arrived after being held up in UK customs in the East Midlands for 6 days. God only knows what they thought I was importing. They had rifled through all my documents, checked my hard disks but didn’t find anything untoward. Carrying the contents slowly up to my bedroom produced yet more chest pains and breathlessness which took a couple of hours to settle down. Something ain’t quite right.

God only knows what they thought I was importing. They had rifled through all my documents, checked my hard disks but didn’t find anything untoward. Carrying the contents slowly up to my bedroom produced yet more chest pains and breathlessness which took a couple of hours to settle down. Something ain’t quite right.

Carrying the contents slowly up to my bedroom produced yet more chest pains and breathlessness which took a couple of hours to settle down. Something ain’t quite right.

Quite by surprise, I was taken out one lunchtime to my first live cultural event for over 15 years.

My two daughters have taken me shopping several times (including a trip to Corby) and I have been for several slow walks in the nearby lovely countryside.

So one way or another, I am starting to settle in and commence my new life. For the first week in England my feet were permanently cold, but since then, I have been pretty much OK – partly due to an increase in temperature, and also partly due to the purchase of several pairs of thick socks. No doubt I am also getting slowly acclimatized.

After the first week of coldish drizzly weather, it has been warm and sunny, with temps in the high teens/ low 20s. Not quite Pattaya style heat, but all the better for that.

On the second weekend, my eldest daughter came over from Birmingham, and we all went out for a picnic at Rutland Water, the largest lake in the UK.

She returned to Birmingham by train on Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, back in the Land Of Smiles…

• My wife, Lek, has passed her English test (required for her visa) which is a huge relief as it is bloody expensive and if she failed she would have had to stay in Pattaya and take more English lessons.

• We have sold our Chevrolet pickup for a reasonable price.

• She has moved out of our rented home in Pattaya and received back the full two months’ house rent deposit.

• Trucked all the furniture and other stuff to her mum’s home in Nong Khai.

So we now have to wait until October to apply for settlement visas for my wife and daughter. Everything is in place and I just have to wait for my savings to ‘mature’.

One way or another it has been a bit of logistical nightmare, and I have to say I am amazed how smoothly it has all gone. So far so good…

I know, it’s all a bit mundane and boring. Quite a change from all my myriad adventures, misfortunes, and excitement in sunny Thailand – but I thought I’d just write this first blog from Blighty to set the scene and let my loyal readers know I have arrived safe and sound.

It’s such a change from what I’ve been used to, but nothing wrong with a bit of laid back, polite middle England civilization when you reach your seventies.

More soon…

 

Mobi D’Ark’s Goodreads Reviews > Nostromo

Nostromo by Joseph Conrad

Nostromo  by Joseph Conrad 

Mobi D’Ark‘s review

May 27, 2017  

An Amazing work of literature – Should be on everyone’s list!

Along with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Austen and possibly Dickens, I think that Joseph Conrad is one of my all-time favorite authors from the point of view in having a God-given talent to pen the most exquisite English.

Poor hacks like me simply open our mouths in despair when it comes to getting within 1% of such masters of their craft. How on earth can we possibly emulate their poetic, incredibly creative, and wonderfully descriptive use of the English language? (which in Conrad’s case is not even his mother tongue.)

When Conrad describes a person, a setting or an event we are transported to the very heart of the story. We see, breathe and live the lives of his characters – such is his mastery of the English tongue.

Who else but Conrad could get away with devoting almost the entire first half of Nostromo – which is a quite lengthy novel – in just relating the back-stories of the main characters?

I doubt whether any other author could do this. Indeed, when the likes of George Elliot or DH Lawrence embark upon prolonged literary wanderings, mid-novel, that veer wildly from the path of the plot, there is a very strong temptation, (and I admit to occasionally succumbing), of skipping some of the most introspective of their lengthy tracts.

But Conrad’s prose oozes from his pen. With each and every character, we, the readers become totally captivated by the narration of the protagonist’s background and how they came to be part of Conrad’s magical “Tale of The Seaboard”.

My, what a tale!

It is the tale of a dynasty, of war, of endemic corruption, passion, brutality, humor, bravery, cowardice, love, filial loyalty, pride, and vanity. All this, and so much more, we experience as we follow this tale of the violent birth of a new nation.

The novel is based in the fictional port city of Sulaco, in a nation called Costaguana – thought to be loosely based on real-life Columbia.

Costaguana has suffered many violent revolutions and despotic dictators. Englishman Charles Gould believes that his re-opened and newly producing silver mine, just inland from Sulaco Port, will be the means to bring stability to a land which has suffered such a turbulent history.

Unfortunately, the wealth generated by the mine, which exports its silver to international markets, only brings more trouble. The country becomes plagued with self-appointed warlords, all determined to get their hands on large slices of the silver pie.

A huge shipment of silver is shipped from the isolated port just as invading forces from inland arrive to seize control. The shipment is thought to be lost in a shipwreck, but in reality, it is offloaded at a nearby, uninhabited island.

After a series of violent machinations, the port of Sulaco and the surrounding countryside becomes the independent nation of Sulaco. Peace rules, but for how long?

The book is populated with fascinating characters. The eponymous hero – or maybe anti-hero – is Nostromo; a charismatic seaman from Italy who is greatly respected by people from every stratum of society. He is a man of leadership, bravery and above all – total integrity.

Then there is Charles Gould, an Englishman by ancestry who is a third generation costaguerian and owns the valuable silver mine. He is regarded by many as the “King of Sulaco”.

His redoubtable English wife, Emilia, is also a major character, along with the likes of the taciturn, unfriendly, but ultimately valiant Dr. Monygham.

Then there is Frenchman Martin Decoud, who is the first to ferment secession and ends up marooned with the silver bullion. Antonia Avellanos is a beautiful woman, who falls hopelessly in love with the doomed Decoud.

And let’s not forget and Giorgio Viola, an Italian revolutionary who in later years runs a restaurant near Saloco Port and becomes the center of much violent conflict. He has two daughters, both of whom worship the ground that Nostromo walks on.

There are many more characters in this drama; some of them bit players, and others who hold center stage for a while. This is why it takes Conrad fully half the book to tell us all about them.

If there is any single message that Conrad wishes the readers to take from this massive, sweeping saga-canvas, it is surely the perfidy and temptation of ‘man’.

In the end, it is the unimpeachable and ‘heroic’ Nostromo himself who ultimately succumbs to the lure of wealth, and pays the ultimate price for his treachery.

I really can’t fault this early 20th-century novel. It has been a pleasure to read and it’s wonderfully crafted characters will stay with me forever. No wonder it has been constantly rated as one of the finest novels in the English language, and I have no hesitation in awarding it five Mobi Stars out of five.

Click Here to read all of Mobi’s Goodreads Book Reviews

 

And it’s Goodbye from Mobi…11 May 2017

Not ‘goodbye’ as a blogger, but goodbye to Thailand … the legendary “Land of Smiles”.
Tomorrow I shall be boarding my flight at Bangkok airport, and after a brief transit in KL, I shall be leaving Asia – almost certainly for the last time.
The decision was made several months back, and I am sorry that I haven’t recently kept my loyal readers up to date of my movements in this blog.
I do plan to keep this blog going when I am back in the UK, and in one of my first posts, I will deal with the rationale that led to my decision to leave.
It is a sad indictment on the land I am leaving that I do not feel safe in writing such a post here, and will await my return to a country where the right of free speech is still honoured and respected as the cornerstone of a democracy.
In the meantime, I will just reprint two of the self –censored posts I  made this week on the Thai Visa expat forum.

***

Hi Guys, 

Some of the more recent members may not know me, but I used to be very active on Thai Visa since I joined back in January 2006.

This time around I have been living in Thailand for 15 years – 2 in Bangkok and the past 13 in Pattaya.
 
I also have a previous incarnation dating back to the mid 70’s when I lived and worked in Bangkok for around 8 years.

So you could say I am an “old Thailand hand”, having spent more than a third of my 70 years on this earth in Thailand

During my previous 8 years of living in Bangkok, I experienced the highs and lows of existing on a very meagre salary, having three Thai wives (not at the same tine) and I learned what it was like to have to survive in a land so far from home with no money to buy my next meal.

My return to the UK in 1983 presaged a reversal in my fortunes and by the time I returned here in 2002, I was an early retired millionaire, with the world at my feet.

15 years, two more wives, and the great Australian pyramid style swindle known as LM has left me, at the age of 71, once again close to the bread line and unable to continue my life of dissipation in this somewhat tainted tropical paradise.

So on Friday this week, I will be heading off into the sunset to start a new life back in Blighty. My wife (number 6) and daughter will follow in about 6 months, once all the visa requirements have been satisfied. 

In all, it will cost me well over £6,000 in fees to get them into the UK and that’s just the first step. And that doesn’t include the cost of English lessons and exam which are now part of the visa requirements.

So at 71, I’m embarking on a new adventure back in the heart of England, and in many ways, I’m feeling quite excited about it all, as well as experiencing a number of obvious apprehensions.

Sure, I’m sad to be leaving, but in many ways, it seems to be time to call ‘time’ on a country that was once a genuinely happy, cheap, safe, friendly paradise, and is now fast becoming the “Paradise from Hell.”

Those of you who have followed my blog through the years will be familiar with my regular series of articles, which were entitled, “Tales from a Tainted Paradise” which were written with a liberal dose of ‘tongue in cheek’. But as they say, many a true word…

There was a time, in the mid-noughties when I really thought that the LOS was starting to get its act together and was shedding off its skin as a “third World” country and was fast becoming a first world country. But that period has well and truly gone and there is little doubt that the country is slowly but surely slipping into some kind of limbo-abyss, while the neighbouring countries – Vietnam, Malaysia, Burma and even poor little Cambodia – are going in the opposite direction.

Thailand is no longer a great place for foreigners to live. We are often despised, cheated, robbed, raped and even killed with few or no repercussions.  These days, we farangs are all “fair game”, and are pretty much defenceless in the face of a totally corrupt system that’s skewed against us.

My, my – what a change from the early 1970s when so much love and respect was given to any foreigner – we could do no wrong. Now, we can do no right.

Believe me, this isn’t sour grapes. If I had the money I had 15 years ago, I would still be going home – but I would ideally retain a nice little home here for holidaying during the depths of English winter.

As it is, my circumstances dictate that this will be a one-way ticket, and unless I win the lottery, or my novels suddenly start selling by the thousands, then this coming Friday will signal my permanent departure from Asia.

So many thanks to Thai Visa.

For all its faults – and there have been many – I have enjoyed being part of the TV forum community. Through Thai Visa, I have made some wonderful, lifelong friendships, I have enjoyed the cut and thrust of debate, and most of all, I have received some wonderful and invaluable help and advice through the years which have all helped to make life more tolerable. I hope I  have – in my own small way – repaid this by providing advice, help and information of my own to those seeking it, and I do hope the ‘taking’ and ‘giving’ has more or less evened itself out.

Farewell, my friends, may I wish you all good luck as “strangers in a strange land”, and I sincerely hope that my pessimism on the future of Thailand proves to be misplaced.
There is nothing I would like better, as I have sown a lot of seeds here, and I still have a number of friends and extended family in this beautiful, bountiful country that sadly seems to have lost its way.

All the best folks,

Mobi

Many, many thanks for all the kind wishes.

I really do appreciate them and it is good to know that you are all out there rooting for me.
I also thank those who have been less than complimentary about my situation – I wouldn’t have expected anything less…..:sleep:

 
It never ceases to amaze me how people feel free to jump to conclusions and assumptions without knowing any of the details or background. People have been condemned in these forums as thieves, rapists, and murderers without any chance to defend themselves – but was it ever thus? I guess these days it’s what they call it fake news.
I can’t possibly respond to all the comments made here, but I will say a few things which may help to clarify my decision to leave.
Firstly, on the subject of my six wives.

 
The first was African and is the subject of my major novel entitled “Azzy”. It is currently withdrawn from sale on Amazon but will be relaunched at a later date under the new title “Mobi’s African Odyssey.” This relates to the years I spent in West Africa during the late sixties/early seventies when I became caught up in a brutal civil war.


The rest of my wives are from Thailand. The first of these barely lasted a week as she was supposedly kidnapped and after paying a ransom for her return, I realised I had been duped. 

The next one was a gorgeously young lady from Patpong and I was hopelessly smitten – probably the love of my life. But she strayed from the marital bed many times, on one occasion even as far as Amsterdam – partly because it was in her nature, and partly because I was unable to keep her in the manner she was accustomed. So I moved on, but for many years we remained in touch and became good friends.

The next Thai wife stayed with me for 27 years, most of it back in the UK (where she still lives), and we raised two wonderful daughters who are both very successful in their lives and are a source of constant comfort, love and support.

I divorced her soon after I took early retirement, as by that time both my daughters had left home, and I had only tolerated a very difficult and abusive marriage for the sake of my girls.

Newly retired, and the world at my feet, I returned to Thailand to live a life of debauchery. In this, I succeeded, as well as getting married two more times.

My penultimate wife wasn’t all bad and we are still in touch – she was just typically Thai – had an over-fondness for the booze,  was totally amoral, and loved to have a good time with her friends. We fought constantly and after 5 years I called it a day.

]
Wife number six is the one I should have met when I was 23 – the age when I married wife number1. We have been together for 7 years, married for three, and she is the most wonderful, caring, hardworking, generous, considerate woman you could ever hope to meet.

 

All my family back home have met her and they love her to bits. Her family are also great, loving and caring. She is the woman I always dreamed of marrying but it took me a lifetime to find her.

 

As far as money is concerned, yes I did build a house in Bangkok for someone I didn’t marry, but when it all went pear-shaped, I went to court and received the proceeds of the house sale. She got nothing, even though the house was in her name…

Then I built my Mobi-Mansion in Pattaya, and I lived there with wife number 5 for 5 years. After the divorce, the house was eventually sold, and I received half the sales proceeds.

I took a massive hit in the stock market crash in 2008, and for sure, the women also ate up a substantial sum of my hard earned money.
By the time I met wife No. 6, I was no longer ridiculously wealthy, but I still had more than enough to see me and my family through.

Then LM came along and swallowed up 95% of my remaining savings in 2013, and it has been pretty tough going ever since. I tried a number of ways to make a living, such as freelance writing and even running a bar for six months, but I guess I’m a bit too long in the tooth to make a real go of such ventures.

While not at death’s door, my health is not what I would like it to be, the result of a dissolute lifestyle and the ageing process. I had a major heart operation 5 years ago to replace a heart valve, and my other ailments include hypertension, insulin-dependent diabetes, glaucoma and chronic IBS. 

I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol in nearly 7 years, and this as much as anything has helped me to stay reasonably fit.

But the truth is I’m only one major operation away from total impoverishment, and the only sensible course of action is to return to the UK, where I can receive free health care, get an enhanced pension (frozen for six years) and all manner of other benefits that people of my age are entitled to.

(Note to trolls – I have probably paid more tax to the UK government than a vast majority of pensioners in the UK and have no qualms in getting back some of what I paid through the years as a very high earner.)

I have seen too many expats out here in their 70s and 80s who are so poor that they cannot afford to go to a hospital when they get sick. They refuse medical attention and have no money to return home – and even if they did there is nobody there to take care of them. Many just sit at home waiting to die. It is very sad to see.

I am NOT to going to be one of them. I will try to get some part-time work in the UK, and when my wife joins me in October she will be able to work straight away as there is plenty of work for those who want it. It will also be great for our daughter, for obvious reasons.

I have no real qualms about going home. I did it in 1983 when everyone told me I wouldn’t last 6 months.  Since I have been back in Thailand, I have made regular trips back to the UK to visit with my two daughters and brother and I know what I am getting into. I am quite sure I will be absolutely fine. Having a network of loving family around you is critical.
So there it is – just a few snippets of what Mobi has been about during some of his long and event-filled life. 

There is so much more… but why not take a look at my writing? A good place to start would be “A Lust for Life”, which is largely autobiographical. This book is still available on Amazon.

So once again farewell, and as requested, I will try to stay in touch and let you know how things turn out. There’s got to be at least one more novel in it…

***

Next blog will be from the UK – hopefully before the end of May. Until then, it’s goodbye from an excited but anxious Mobi.
See ya’ll soon

 

Mobi D’Ark’s Goodreads Reviews > Monsignor Quixote

Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene
*****

Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene

 

Mobi D’Arks review

Apr 28, 2017  ·

A Minor Masterpiece – or just an Amusing Romp?

Graham Greene was already well established as a towering figure of 20th Century literature by the time he got around to writing Monsignor Quixote in 1982 at the age of 78.

I get the feeling that with all his great literary works behind him, he decided to embark on a little piece of whimsy – something he wrote for the sheer enjoyment of writing, rather than to put his mark on yet another stylish masterpiece for the intelligentsia to devour and purr over.

Whether or not I am correct in this, what a lovely, affectionate little story it has turned out to be, full of humor, a touch of pathos, a wonderful introduction into the world of semi-fascist Spain and a roster of utterly fascinating characters.

Indeed, you would have to go a long way to dream up a more unlikely plot for a story.

Set in the late 70s, in post-Franco Spain, Father Quixote is an elderly priest and his parish is El Toboso, a small town in Spain’s La Mancha region. This well-meaning, gentle and pragmatic gentleman regards himself as a descendant of the legendary Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes’s fictional character of the same name, who lived in the 17th century.

Father Quixote even calls his ancient Seat 600 “Rocinante”, after 17th Century Don Quixote’s horse, and the communist ex-mayor of the town, soon-to-be traveling companion, he names Sancho, after the legendary Squire in Cervantes’s novel.

By a strange twist of fate, this inept but good-hearted priest helps out a passing Bishop from Rome whose car had broken down, and he is rewarded by the Pope himself by being promoted to “Monsignor”. This is much to the chagrin of his local Bishop, who regards Quixote as an inept priest who doesn’t always follow the rules, and he reluctantly agrees to let the newly created Monsignor take a holiday before transferring him to a more auspicious post – more befitting his new, unwanted rank.

The scene is set for the good priest and the ex-mayor to embark on a voyage of discovery across Spain, much as his fictional forebears had done before him, some three hundred years earlier.

At this point, I did become concerned that the book would descend into a battle of words and dogma between a committed communist and a true believer, and frankly at my time of life I have no desire to go over these old debating theological battlegrounds again.

But I was wrong. Sure, these debates did occur – frequently – but they are so delightfully offbeat and whimsical, that no person – be they communist or devout catholic could take umbrage from what was discussed, and the opinions stated. This is provided, of course, that they approach these dialogues with an open and not too serious turn of mind.

The two unlikely companions’ travels across the country are outrageous and extremely funny. Every afternoon, they find a nice spot outdoors to get drunk on local wine; the Father and Sancho spend a night in a brothel; they see an adult sexually explicit film in a local cinema; the priest aids the escape of a thief; and much more besides.

One of the most amusing incidents concerns the pair being questioned by the police just at the moment when “Sancho” the communist is trying on the Father’s priestly collar and sartorial accouterments to check if it cools down his neck and shoulders.

The poor priest is eventually kidnapped by the “Bishop’s men” and returned to his home in El Toboso, and locked in his bedroom. With the aid of his housekeeper and a young local man, “Sancho” comes to his rescue and they resume their adventures in rural Spain. But the police are closing in at every turn.

The end is a tragic comedy. But in its tragedy, it makes us think and question the religious pomposity and humbug that exists the world’s organized religions, as well as forcing us to take a hard look at the equally hypocritical political dogma that propped up the harsh Communist State which controlled half of Europe.

And let’s not also forget 1970s Spain that was still under the unbending thumb of state police who hadn’t changed very much since their fascist leader’s recent demise.

Catholicism, Communism and Fascism, all wrapped up in a lovely, amusing little adventure.

We delight as much in the descriptions of our two venerable protagonists savoring the local Spanish cooked meats and cheese, and washing it down with copious amounts of unlabelled, cheap and delicious local wine, as we do about the comic discussions on the state of the world’s religions and political systems.

What a wonderful little book – it is indeed a masterpiece, although I doubt Greene regarded it as such.

5 Mobi-Stars out of five.

Click Here to read all of Mobi’s Goodreads Book Reviews

 

Mobi D’Ark’s Goodreads Reviews > Daniel Deronda

*****

Daniel Deronda
by George Eliot

Mobi D’Ark‘s review

April2, 2017  · 

‘Deronda’ was George Eliot’s final novel and was the only one that dealt with the contemporary Victorian society of the day.

The novel has been widely acclaimed as a masterpiece and is consistently rated as one of the 100 best novels, although at the time of publication it was widely criticized and was a great disappointment many of Eliot’s Victorian readers.

It was also extremely controversial, as part of the narrative dealt with the hitherto taboo subject of the Jews in Europe and their early Zionist struggles 

Yet it was because of the so-called “Jewish element” that the novel was immediately translated into German and Dutch and was widely acclaimed in those countries where there were much larger populations of Jews than in England.

In fact, “Deronda” contains two quite diverse, but rattling good yarns. 

The first is about Gwendolen, a stunningly beautiful, but impoverished young lady of the upper classes who is arrogant, selfish, and somewhat unkind, but due to a further collapse in her family’s fortunes, she feels obliged to marry a rich heir. Her lordly and equally selfish husband proves more than a match for Gwendolyn and he treats her quite badly and largely succeeds in snuffing out her willful independence.

The second tale concerns an attractive and impoverished Jewess who was taken from her mother and brother by her self-seeking father. He takes her abroad, ill-treats her and puts her on the stage to make money. When she realizes he is about to sell her into prostitution, she flees back to England to seek out her long-lost family.

Our gallant hero is Daniel Deronda, a handsome young man who is raised as a gentleman but with no knowledge of who his real parents. He is a man of great compassion and a yearning to make something meaningful of his life.

Daniel meets Gwendolyn both before and after her calamitous marriage and saves Mirah, the young desperate Jewess from killing herself when she fails to find her family and becomes totally destitute.

The two stories have several cross-over points. Daniel introduces Mirah to high society as an accomplished singer who starts to grace their parties and ‘get-togethers’. 

Daniel becomes emotionally attached to both Gwendolyn and Mirah.

The novel is jam-packed with fascinating characters, both from the upper classes, the middle classes, and the Jewish working classes and there far too many plot twists and turns to elucidate in this review.

Towards the end of the book, after striking up a deep spiritual friendship with Mirah’s brother, Daniel meets his long lost mother and discovers that he is, in fact, a Jew himself. He rejoices in this revelation and vows to spend the rest of his life in helping his fellow Jews seek a land where they can settle.

Gwendolyn is released from the tyranny of her rich husband when he is killed in a boating accident, but she becomes inconsolable when she realizes that Daniel loves another. But by now she is a much-changed woman. She realizes how selfish and unkind she had been before her marriage and is resolved to bear her unrequited love with fortitude and to live a virtuous life.

Upon discovering he is a Jew, Daniel declares his love to the enchanting Mirah and their marriage takes place only few days before Mirah’s long-suffering brother succumbs to tuberculosis.

Trust me, there is so much more to this story than contained in the all too brief outline above.

I must declare a special interest in this novel as it was at the age of 21, that I too discovered to my astonishment that my own father was a Jew, something he had hidden from his children for all of our lives. 

‘Deronda‘ is beautifully written and Eliot is at the very top of her game as she spins her fascinating Victorian tale which contains many wonderful, three-dimensional characters – representing all shades of morality and the societies in which they lived.

However, there is one serious drawback. I imagine that If Eliot was presenting her manuscript to a publisher today it is highly likely that they would say something along the lines of:

“Wonderful novel, George, but we suggest that a little trimming of the text may be in order.” 

After all, it does run to some 238,000 words – approximately 770 pages….

I confess that the book was to some extent spoiled for me by the pages upon pages of uninteresting and unnecessary reflections by the main protagonists, and even by some of the minor ones.

I would be the last one to complain if there was a paragraph… or two… or three which delved into the thoughts, emotions, motives and intentions of the novel’s characters – indeed this is very necessary to fully appreciate the story. I could even accept a page or so of such meanderings from time to time.

But in my humble opinion, Eliot simply goes too far. On many occasions, just as the reader is anxious to get on with the next phase of the story, they become utterly bogged down by page upon page of circumlocution and introspection about the characters’ thoughts and desires.

I confess that after a while I started to skip much of this, as after a page or two I found the remainder not particularly pertinent to the story – not adding anything that I did not already know and appreciate about the protagonists concerned. 

In a word – I found much of it to be unnecessary padding.

I wonder if Eliot deliberately set out to pad her book? It was originally published in installments in a magazine, as was the custom in those days, so maybe it meant the publisher could make more money this way.

Whatever the reason, it didn’t work for me and I can’t recall anything like as much padding in her other masterpieces – Middlemarch and Brideshead Revisited. Or maybe she just made a better job of it and it held my attention. Or maybe I’m getting old and my mind wanders…

Either way, it is a shame, for if a good chunk of this superfluous writing was removed, Daniel Deronda would be an even a greater novel.

Even so, I will still give Daniel Deronda four stars out of five. 

 

Click Here to read all of Mobi’s Goodreads Book Reviews

 

Hacksaw Ridge – A Mobi-Film Review – 25th February 2017

You will be “shocked and awed” and come out feeling a little better than when you went in.

hacksaw_ridge_poster

I’ll get this review in just ahead of the Oscar awards, as it deserves my support – not that it will make one iota of difference. Of all the films I have seen recently which are nominated for best picture, in my humble opinion, only “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Manchester by the Sea” are worthy contenders.

“Hell or High Water” is a good movie but not deserving of Best Picture. “Arrival” starts OK-ish but deteriorates into rubbish. La La Land is rubbish throughout. I gave up on “Fences”, for while it is a worthy subject and brilliantly acted, it’s a stage play – not a movie. “Moonlight” is good but is not the finished article, and I haven’t seen “Lion” or “Hidden Figures”, so I can’t comment.

Back to “Hacksaw Ridge”, which is beautifully directed by Mel Gibson. Gibson has been through purgatory, quite rightly, for his rabid anti-Semitic comments and other sociopathic meltdowns. But the academy has judged him on his artistic achievements and put his misdeeds to one side – which is how it should be.

I wonder if they would have been quite so understanding if Mr. Gibson had declared himself a Trump supporter?  In the eyes of Hollywood, you can be a racist, and a wife abuser, but not a Republican.

I digress.

I doubt that Hacksaw Ridge is the war movie most of us expected to see when we sit down to watch it. As a genre, I am not keen on war movies, although there have been some pretty good ones, such as “Platoon”, “Saving private Ryan” and “Good Morning Vietnam.”

To these, I would definitely add Hacksaw Ridge. It is the true story of Desmond Doss, a deeply religious man who decides to enlist in WW2 because he wants to be a medic and save lives.

We first meet the adult Desmond at his home in Virginia where he saves the life of a man in a road accident which leads him to meet his future wife at the local hospital.

After signing up, his troubles start when he has to go through basic training and he refuses to carry a gun. He is court-martialed and is at the point of being sentenced to years in a military jail when he is granted a last minute reprieve and is allowed to continue his training and go to the war front – without a gun.

The action switches to Hacksaw Ridge, the taking of which will presage the collapse of Okinawa and the ending of the war against the Japanese.

At first derided by his fellow soldiers due to his refusal to bear arms, Desmond is thrust into the front lines of a murderous battle, where many of his comrades are killed or mortally wounded.

The US army is obliged to retreat from the ridge, leaving their wounded behind for the Japanese to kill and mutilate at their leisure.

But they hadn’t reckoned on Desmond Doss, who returns to the battlefield time and time again, and under the noses of the Japanese, he succeeds in single-handedly rescuing 75 casualties from certain death.

In later skirmishes on the ridge, he performs more unbelievably heroic rescues, before becoming seriously wounded after he kicks a grenade away to save his comrades from the explosion.

There is much more to this story, and you don’t have to be a lover of war movies to appreciate this deeply moving tale. It is actually an anti-war movie because it shows you what war is really all about, stripped of romantic and heroic notions. It shows up close the manner in which war wreaks terrible consequences on the participants – of both sides.

To say that Andrew Garfield is utterly brilliant in the role of Desmond Doss is an understatement, and nobody was more surprised than me to discover he was an Englishman, so convincing is his accent.

There are no bad actors in this movie – From Teresa Palmer, who plays the nurse who becomes Doss’s wife, to all the myriad actors who played the members of his family and his comrades (and enemies) in the military.

Gibson has used all his consummate skill and vast experience to show us the horrors of war and what true heroism is all about. We applaud this gallant soldier who was the first man to receive the Medal of Honor – America’s highest award for bravery – without ever firing a shot.

We could do with few more like Desmond Doss today. What a wonderful example of simple humanity in these times of unspeakable violence, hedonism and such manic selfishness and self-love that is slowly destroying our cherished beliefs and even civilization itself.

Oscar for Best Actor? It really is impossible to choose between Andrew Garfield and Casey Affleck for the best actor award, (although Affleck will get it), and as far as the Best Picture is concerned, I think maybe “Hacksaw” just has the edge over “Manchester”, but the I’m sure that the rubbishy “La La Land” will get it.

Go see Hacksaw Ridge – you will be “shocked and awed” and come out feeling a little better than when you went in.

Five Mobi-Stars out of Five for Hacksaw Ridge.

You can find all my film reviews here: Mobi’s movie reviews on IMDB