I confess that I had pretty much convinced myself that the visas were going to be rejected and I was going to be forever in that cyber- world where my daily contact with my family was destined to be forever conducted via Skype.
We had so many false alarms and misinformed promises that when I finally received that call from Lek at 5 a.m. last Monday morning that the visas had been approved, it was something of an anti-climax.
Of course, in reality, I was over the moon, as were Lek and Song, and I quickly had to get my head in gear – book the air tickets and start the preparations for their grand arrival. I had deliberately avoided any forward planning prior to the issue of visas as I didn’t want to put a jinx on it.
So I am now rushing around, trying to find somewhere to live and do a thousand things in a few days. They are arriving next Friday 2nd March at the crack of dawn and I will have to drive through the night to collect them from terminal 4 Heathrow.
Unfortunately ‘sods law’ still seems to be playing its unwelcome role in our adventure. Not content with delaying their visas for a month longer than for everyone else, we now find that the weather forecast for early March is absolutely horrendous!
Sub-zero temperatures are forecast, even during the day, with heavy snow, and a vicious wind – all the way from Siberia. Wouldn’t you just know it? Apparently, it will be the coldest start for March in many years and I have visions of being stuck in a snow drift on the motorway, so let’s hope my luck changes.
Expect reports of my family’s adjustment to living in a cold strange new cold world during the coming months.
Tales from a Barfly
As promised in my last blog, I am publishing the first of my new short stories based on my life as a bar owner in sunny Thailand. They will all be works of fiction but are all loosely based on my experiences as ‘Barfly’, and also on my previous escapades and just general life in the notorious Land of Smiles.
So here’s the first one – I do hope you enjoy it.
Fearless Freddie and the Pink Pussy Club
It was 1:00 a.m. – a full hour since we had closed and padlocked the tall wrought iron gates – replete with nasty looking spikes – that spanned the outside perimeter of Mobi’s Bar.
It was the end of legal trading hours and Lek, my long-suffering wife, had dimmed the lights and turned down the music.
Contrary to outward appearances, twelve midnight signified the start of Mobi’s most profitable period – illicit after-hours drinking – which not infrequently continued for most of the night.
It had been a sweltering day and even the after dark temperatures still hovered in the mid-nineties, admittedly down from the insufferable noon peaks of 110 degrees but not at all pleasant. More than a dozen strategically placed industrial sized fans had worked overtime to keep my clientele and staff cool, but by the time witching hour arrived, we were still drenched in sweat. It was at the height of the ‘dry’ season and the stifling humidity refused to let up its grip on the populace – not even at night.
Like most bar owners in this little corner of the planet, I had to have proverbial eyes in the back of my head, and I quickly spotted the stranger creep in from the hidden rear entrance and commandeer a stool at the corner of the bar. The little man’s eyes darted around in all directions before he seemed to relax and requested a beer from the girl behind the bar.
I was busy dealing with an elderly gentleman from Germany who couldn’t quite grasp why we wouldn’t allow him to ‘buy’ my star bargirl out of the bar and take her away that very night and marry her.
“I can pay! I can pay!” he insisted, “Money is no object, Mister Mobi.”
For some strange reason, he seemed to believe that the only thing that motivated the management of Mobi’s bar was filthy lucre. He couldn’t seem to get into his inebriated Teutonic skull that the business of running a Thai bar in the unlawful wee hours wasn’t purely a hard commercial enterprise.
Nothing could persuade him that as well as earning sufficient to put food on our tables, we also had altruistic motives. We really cared about the girls who were our daily ‘bread and butter’. We also cared about our clients – especially the older and more foolish ones.
Mobi-Babble – Still in the grip of a bitter winter, but Spring is just around the corner
Family Visas Update – Still waiting but a chink of light??
Tales from A Barfly – News on some New Creative Writing from the Pen of Mobi.
Mobi’s Life of Drinking – Part 3 – the final part of my story relating my struggles with alcohol.
Pics from a nearby Nong Khai tobacco plantation, Leks resident cattery, and Stone, Staffordshire.
Mobi-Babble – 9th February 2018
So far, 2018 has been bleak and cold. It has been a bitter winter back here in England, with temperatures dropping below zero on most nights and a fair bit of snow. Apart from the odd mild day, the infamous British weather has maintained its reputation for being unremittingly disagreeable. Every day I shiver in my boots, but my spirits are lifted in the knowledge that spring is just around the corner.
It is one of the true wonders of nature that even while the snow is thick underfoot and the wind is whistling around my ears, I can see green shoots appearing on the bare branches of the trees and bushes. If there is a God out there, he hasn’t totally forsaken mankind – at least not yet.
Last week, on one of the most miserable days of a miserable winter, I ventured out in my trusty little Peugeot 107 to the wilds of flat Lincolnshire near the mouth of The Wash. I went there to attend the funeral of a friend I first knew back in the 1950s and who I last saw 7 years ago in Northumberland when I was on a visit to the UK.
When I arrived at the crematorium the sun was shining and I thought that Roy’s family had chosen a lovely day to consign their favorite son to the great beyond. But as soon as I ventured out of my lovely warm car, the ice-cold wind almost blew me over and I soon retreated back from whence I had come.
It wasn’t just me. I was early, and I sat in my car for the next thirty minutes, watching others arrive. It was somewhat comforting to see that I wasn’t the only one to run back to my car to seek protection from the horrendous conditions.
Eventually, I joined the mourners in the crematorium and was quite astonished to find that so many people had come to mourn the passing of my dear friend. The chapel was jam-packed and there was a huge overflow standing at the back. People who had known Roy had traveled from all over the country to attend the service; it was a fitting tribute to a wonderful man who had led a very full life and was loved and respected by so many. His wife and family must have taken much comfort from this outpouring of feeling.
The return journey back to relative civilization – to my eldest daughter’s place in Birmingham – was a bit of a nightmare. For the first hour of the journey, the sun had disappeared behind dark clouds, the heavens opened and the single track, potholed roads started to flood.
Night descended before I made it back to decent roads, but my relief was short-lived. The traffic-snarled M6 motorway, which had finally loomed out of the night storms, led me inexorably towards Birmingham’s evening rush hour, where I was seemingly bogged down forever.
If it wasn’t for Mr. Google and his trusty maps, I would probably still be shunting around Birmingham’s never-ending urban sprawl.
Family Visa Update
We are all still waiting for the result of our visa applications and it won’t surprise you to learn that it is really starting to get all of us down. As we hadn’t heard anything by mid-January, (which was the expiry of the ’60 working days’ immigration benchmark), I decided to make a call to the Sheffield Immigration call center.
These people charge £1.32 a minute to call them, and after I had connected with an Indian who I could barely understand, I concluded that I was almost certainly speaking to someone in India. I was on the phone for ages as everything had to be repeated several times. He asked me a whole load of questions before we got to the crux of the matter – what was the status of my visa applications?
It transpired that the Sheffield center considered that my application had been duly ‘actioned’ within their target 60 WORKING days, because on 17th January, they had requested the agent to send some “missing documents” – which they had lost in the first place. The call center guy told me I might have to wait up to another 15 WORKING days before they will look at the file again. The call cost me over 30 quid! It’s all very depressing.
Anyway, this week we had a bit of good news. Sheffield sent an email to my agent with a request for me to pay the outstanding NHS fee for my stepdaughter, which I paid the same day. We have been waiting for this request to pay since mid-January, and the agent assured me that now it has been paid, we should hear the result of our applications next week.
I have heard this story before, so I’ll believe it when I see it.
Tales from A Barfly – Some New Creative Writing from the Pen of Mobi.
After a long break, I have started writing creatively again. I’m not writing any more novels, as they take too long to write, and it is pretty clear that my style of writing and my subject matter do not interest the modern-day readership.
Selling only a few hundred copies after working on a novel for anything up to a year is not exactly encouraging. I now accept that I am never going to sell many novels, but I still have the desire to write. So I am going back to the genre I first tried some 18 years ago – short stories.
Some of you may recall that back in 2014 I decided to buy and run a bar in Pattaya. I had many memorable moments – some happy and some not so happy – during the six months I owned the bar.
For the record, I gave up the bar because it was proving to be a massive drain on my health, and not because the venture was a failure. I won’t claim it was a raving success either, but we did make enough money to pay the bills and I am sure that if I had stuck at it, it would have grown into a successful little business. But it wasn’t to be – my health came first.
I will never forget those magical six months, and in particular, all the people I met – good and bad. I made many new friends, some of which I still correspond with to this day, and not a few enemies who tried to ruin my business and get me arrested, which is the nature of the bar business in Thailand.
But my brief career in the bar business provided me with some rich, hair-raising incidents and I met many fascinating characters, all of which I can now convert into stories. I have already written the first story, and it will be published in my next blog.
I have no idea how many stories I will write, or whether one day I might put them into a short story collection and put it for sale on Amazon. But the main reason I am writing them is just for fun and to hopefully provide some light amusement to my blog readers.
So keep a lookout for my next blog, as it will contain my very first ‘fictional’ barfly story –“Fearless Freddy and the Pink Pussy Club.”
Mobi’s Life of Drinking, Part 3 (Final) –10th February 2018
I will now conclude my tale of how I finally made the transition from a practicing alcoholic to a recovering alcoholic.
From 2004 to 2009 I lived with an unfaithful wife who was also a binge-drinking alcoholic who made my life a total misery.
During the 5 years of this marriage, I made several serious attempts to leave her – I once left her for over a month – but I always ended up going back to her. Each time she would promise to behave and change her life around. I was still totally besotted with her and she knew it, so all she had to do was to smile her beatific smile, tell me that she loved me, needed me, and would change her behavior and I was slap bang back in the nightmare.
It was at this time that some friends introduced me to “Alcoholics Anonymous” in Pattaya and I started to go to regular meetings – usually every day. I made new friends at AA, and during the early months, I made a lot of progress in my attempts to quit drinking for good. I accepted the AA teachings and I believed that the 12 steps could work for me. I even started to accept that there was a “Higher Power” who would ultimately help me to find the “true path.”
I suppose I was ready to accept their philosophy because I was desperate and was in a very vulnerable mental state.
Mobi-Babble – It’s shaping up to be the coldest English winter for years…
Family Visas Update – a very worrying time…
Mobi’s Life of Drinking – Part 2 – the second of 3 parts about my struggles with alcohol.
More pics from Nong Khai.
Mobi-Babble – 20th January 2018
The joys of an English Winter… Brr…
Just my luck to have to suffer one of the coldest UK winters in years. Recent winters have had only brief flurries of snow – if any at all– with temperatures generally hovering several degrees above zero.
Unfortunately, the 2017/18 winter started in early December, and apart from a slightly milder spell over Christmas, it is now back wreaking its full fury on a population and infrastructure that is simply not equipped to deal with extensive snow blizzards and gale force winds – both of which we have had to experience in the past couple of weeks.
Even more depressing is the knowledge that there is no end in sight with the medium range forecasters predicting more of the same.
For yours truly, it has meant that I am confined to my room almost 24/7. I have my own electric fan heater in this room as the central heating in the house is simply not warm enough for this aging “tropical transplant”.
I am in a difficult and depressing situation. When I leave my room, on some days it has been so cold that even indoors my hands and feet have started to freeze up. This problem could be party addressed by turning the house heating on (it is off from 9.30 am to 4 p.m) but even then, I doubt I would be that warm on some of the really cold days when the temperatures outside are below freezing.
When – and if – I get my own place – after my family arrives – it will be different as I will crank the heating up, leave it on 24/7 and if we are still cold, I will buy additional fan heaters. But for now, it is difficult to do this as I am a guest.
So apart from the occasional 15-minute walk for a bit of exercise in the freezing conditions and a car run to the local stores to do a bit of shopping, I am stuck in front of my computer.
My situation is not made any easier by the onset of COPD (lung disease) as the cold weather exacerbates the condition and when I do go for a short walk I can only move very slowly or I will become severely congested and unable to breathe.
If the temperature were to rise even 5 or 6 degrees I might jump in the car and go out somewhere for the morning or afternoon, or even go further afield and visit friends or relations, but I can’t contemplate going anywhere in this bitter weather – it is too risky for my health and in any case would not be enjoyable.
Rather depressing – but I just have to grin and bear it – no choice really. Only a few more weeks, I hope, roll on spring…
Family Visa update.
I have been quite excited this week but also a bit worried. Earlier this week my visa agent in Thailand sent m a message asking me to check my email as I might have received something from the UK visa application department in Sheffield.
There was nothing in my inbox so I called to ask him why he had asked me to check. He explained that I would be receiving a request to pay some more money for my daughter’s NHS surcharge (£600) because the online system had a bug and hadn’t asked for it earlier. I had paid for my wife but not for our daughter, Song, as the online submission informed me that I didn’t need to.
He went on to tell me that they should be considering my visa applications this week as the 60 working days time limit was nearly up.
Sure enough the next day the agent – not me – received an email from Sheffield about the visas.
But they didn’t ask for money, they were informing him that 3 important documents were not attached to the visa application and that he had 5 days to send copies of these documents by email or the visas will be refused.
The agent told me that they must have got lost in transit as they were definitely included with the application. Anyway, he sent the requested copies by return email on Wednesday and we are still awaiting acknowledgment and/or a decision on the visas.
It is now Friday and the waiting is killing us – not knowing what is going on and whether the documents have been received and when we will get the final decision.
I assume we will hear something next week as we know that Sheffield are now on our case. But it is so worrying and so stressful. The future lives of three people are in their hands.
Mobi’s Life of Drinking, Part 2 – 20th January 2018
It was in September 1983 when I returned to the UK to start a new life with wife No. 4 plus daughter. We set up home with my mother in East London, and initially, it was pretty hard to get my feet back on the ground, as unemployment was high and we were in the middle of a recession. One employment agent told me that he couldn’t help me as I had been out of the country for too long.
However, within a few weeks I was able to secure a temporary position with a firm of city insurance brokers and as time went on the position became permanent and I started to earn a halfway decent salary.
The money was sufficient to pay the bills, buy a nice little second-hand car and even save for occasional luxuries such as the occasional holiday, but it wasn’t enough to fund my propensity for booze.
But budding alkies are nothing if not creative – especially where booze is concerned – and it wasn’t long before I became a dab hand on the homebrew front.
My storeroom at home was always jam-packed with very strong homemade beer which I got stuck into every night when I returned from work. Only 2-3 pints were sufficient to provide me with a lovely little buzz, and as the evenings wore on, I invariably fell into a semi-drunken stupor on the couch. I never stopped at just the first 2-3 pints…
Christmas and New Year have come and gone, and here in wintry Oakham we are ‘enjoying’ bitterly cold weather that tumbles well below freezing at night, and barely rises above freezing during the day.
Although, believe it or not, there was a day recently when it was actually colder in Nong Khai (when they had one of their seasonal cold snaps) than in Oakham, where the weather warmed up briefly, but not for long.
Ah well, this is what I signed up for when I moved back to Blighty, and on the positive side, it is less than 3 months to spring – in my opinion, the best time of year.
Hopefully, I will then be able to get out and about and post some glorious pictures of Rutland in springtime. Meanwhile, apart from a ‘Christmas dinner special’ in Birmingham, I will post some recent photos from Nong Khai.
Here’s a rather incongruous Christmas party way out in the sticks of Nong Khai – I can’t imagine when this tradition started – we didn’t even have Christmas parties in Pattaya! …
…and here’s some pics of Lek’s school reunion which were taken when all the village lads and lasses who had left home to work all over Thailand (and beyond), came home to celebrate the New Year.
As at the time of writing, we are still awaiting approval of the UK visa applications. We are now into our third month since the applications went in, but it is still not 60 WORKING days, so I live in hope that they may arrive within the next couple of weeks… I do hope so because the long wait is putting a lot of stress on all concerned.
Getting Ready for the Big Trip
“Long Lost Family” Update
Since my last blog, I have been able to update my family tree quite a bit, following a long and very helpful letter from one of my new found cousins. I now have the names of my grandparents and much more besides, so the story is almost complete. All that is now needed is a grand reunion…..
Mobi’s life of Drinking – Part 1
A few days back, on 1st January, I successfully completed 7 years without drinking a single drop of alcohol.
In my blogs through the years, as well as in my novels, (which contained a lot of autobiographical material), I have written about the time leading up to my decision to quit drinking and indeed have graphically described my years of drinking.
In fact, if you go back to my very first blog in 2009 by clicking on the link under the ‘recent posts’ sub-heading, you will see that the reason I started blogging was to tell the world about my struggles with alcohol. Much of this was recounted in “Mobi’s story” which was available to read for many years on my blog.
The menu link to this article has now been removed as it is covered in much greater detail in my novel “A Lust for Life”, available on Amazon by clicking the link on the right-hand sidebar.
But on this auspicious anniversary, I thought it might be worthwhile to have a little recap on my life of drinking and how, finally, I managed to find sobriety.
Another year is drawing to a close and in the past 12 months, much has happened in the life and times of Mobi.
This time last year, the very notion of moving permanently back to the UK was a very long way from my mind. But as my financial situation continued to deteriorate, along with my health, it became apparent in early 2017 that if I didn’t take some drastic action, there would soon come a time when I could no longer pay my bills. Even worse, I might have been struck down with a death-threatening medical ailment with no money to pay the increasingly avaricious Thai hospitals.
I looked around me and saw a number of expats of around my age who were slowly dying, (or had already died), due to lack of funds to pay for proper medical care. I had no desire to become a statistic in the annual embassy death count.
So the die was cast and last April I took the one-way flight to my daughter’s home in Oakham and my life soon changed in a very big way. It was definitely the right decision as since I have been back here I have been beset by a number of medical emergencies – from being unable to breathe due to the onset of COPD, to a hole in my bowel requiring hospitalisation, and much more besides.
So I have settled quite well into my new life; I successfully got my state pension upgraded (it had been frozen for 6 years), had my driving licence reinstated, bought a little Peugeot 206 to get around. In October, I finally submitted the visa applications to get my wife and daughter into England. At the time of writing, we are counting the days until the applications are approved – any day now… we hope…
For many years, it seemed that my brother and sister would be the only siblings in my family with grandchildren, but in 2014 my youngest daughter gave birth to a lovely little boy, who last week celebrated his third birthday.
Now all of a sudden I am about to become a grandfather for the second AND THIRD time. My youngest is expecting a second baby – a daughter – in February, and suddenly out of the blue, my eldest announced that she is expecting a baby (sex as yet unknown) in June 2018.
So one way or another it’s been quite an eventful year, including the amazing discovery of my long lost family (see below). I have no doubt that 2018 will be every bit as exciting when dear Lek and Song join me and we set up a new home together in the heart of Blighty, and I eagerly await the birth of two more grandchildren.
So may I wish all my valued readers the very best of Christmases, and may 2018 bring you good health, wealth and happiness.
And it’s a goodbye to Mobi’s Movie Reviews
Through the years I have written 86 movie reviews on IMDb, which can all be read in full by clicking on the link on the right-hand sidebar of this blog.
I have quite enjoyed writing these reviews – if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have bothered – but I have come to the conclusion that very few people ever read them and even fewer comment on them. So it is with regret that earlier this year I concluded that whatever writing talents I possess would be put to better use writing something that perhaps will be more widely read…
One of the last movies I reviewed was “La La Land“. I gave La La a …
My long lost family, or “Who do I think I am” – part 2.
Here it is… Part 2 of my story about how, at the grand old age of 71, I discovered I had a whole new family.
As I recounted in my last blog, it was in 1968 at the age of 22 that I discovered that my father was not a Canadian (as he had always claimed) but was born in Zhitomir, (which was then part of Russia), in 1900 and was brought to England in 1902.
Even stranger was the fact that he was still an alien in a land he had lived in for most of his life. The documents I had found in his bedroom in 1968 indicated that he was all but deported in the 1950s.
There was no way I was going to interrogate my bully of a father on his past life, so I tried to put it all to the back of my mind and carried on with my own crazy life. I did indeed emigrate to Montreal, via the USA, and after a series of adventures and a broken heart, within a year I found myself in the midst of a civil war in Nigeria. Certainly, there was no time to ruminate on pater’s antecedents.
Here’s a few more pics of my family in Nong Khai, Thailand, where the temperatures have suddenly plummeted to around 13° C – well below their normal 33° + +heat. It should be a good acclimatization exercise for their imminent departure to freezing Blighty.
It’s sod’s law that I decided to relocate back to Blighty in a year when we are experiencing sub-zero temperatures and snow in early December, still 2 full weeks before Christmas.
These pics are the best you’re gonna get as I have no intention of venturing from my front door until the temperature rises and the snow melts.
Yesterday, Saturday, I did drive into Oakham and do a bit of shopping, even though the temperatures were sub-zero. There were several reasons for this – firstly I wanted to stock up on staples before the forecasted snow arrived, secondly because I wanted to try out my newly acquired Balaclava-type headgear, and thirdly because I really needed to get a bit of fresh- freezing – air. I had been cooped up at home for days.
I was out for a couple of hours all told and the headgear worked well, although I still felt some freezing blasts around my eyes – the only part of my anatomy not well protected.
I parked up in Tesco’s car park, took the 7-minute walk to the Wilkinson’s store, made a few purchases, walked back again, and then into Tesco’s for a bit more shopping. Outside, there were plenty of hardy souls braving the cold – all dressed in a variety of winter outfits, but none of them quite as well covered as yours truly.
My compatriots’ headgear – if any – was confined to the occasional woolly hat – but nothing even close to the full-face gear that I was sporting. And you should have seen my wonderful ski gloves – I even drove the car with them on…
I stared at my fellow walkers, expecting to catch a few amused or disgusted looks at this strange ancient apparition in their midst. I felt sure there would be at least a few looks of derision – but not a single one.
Then, of course, I belatedly realized. Brits don’t ‘do’ looks of any kind. They keep themselves to themselves and whatever other people do, or however they dress up is their business. If someone looks or does something crazy, they look the other way.
If a man walked down the high street stark naked, I doubt whether anyone would so much as give him a glance. He could quite easily do this without fear of arrest, as during the past 7 months of living in Oakham, I have yet to catch any glimpses of a solitary policeman – they are all far away in lawless Leicester.
So I successfully navigated my hour or so out in the elements without suffering any frostbite or being arrested on suspicion of being a budding terrorist.
But go out in the snow?…. No… I don’t think so. I do hope it clears away by Thursday as I have to go back to Leicester Hospital for my Endoscopy… oh sorry, no more about this as I promised a medical-free blog, as it is all just too depressing.
And Hey! The Christmas season is fast approaching….
Here’s a turn up for the books…
I have a whole new family.
Many of us have seen the popular BBC programme, “Who do you think you are?” which involved celebrities / well known public figures digging up records of their family ancestors to find out where they have come from.
There is also another programme on UK ITV entitled, “Long Lost Family” which helps people to trace long-lost relatives who they haven’t seen for many years, or in many cases, have never seen before at all.
Both are excellent and entertaining programmes, and “long Lost Families” in particular is often a real tearjerker, but they are usually happy tears, not sad.
What has all this got to do with Mobi?
Well, ever since I was in my early twenties, I have been very curious to know more about my father’s side of the family, as I had never met nor had I heard him speak of a single one of his relatives. For all I knew he could have been an orphan since birth.
My curiosity was particularly awakened in my early twenties because it was at this time that I accidentally came across some documents hidden away in my father’s bedroom that told me his background was very far removed from the background he had claimed.
As far as his offspring, (me and my older brother and sister), were concerned, my father was born in Canada and at some point had emigrated to England. He had met and married my mother in the 1930s, spoke with a North American accent, and had served in the Royal Canadian Airforce during the war. Being Canadian helped to explain why we had never met any of his relatives and we had no reason whatsoever to doubt this.
That was until… I met and fell in love with a New York girl … and after she returned to the USA, I decided that the only way I could be near to her was to emigrate to Canada.
Canada, because I could claim Canadian citizenship by virtue of my Father’s nationality, and not American which even in those far off days would still prove quite difficult for a young man struggling to find his way in life.
I could woo her from across the border in Montreal, and once I had won her over with my English charms, I could marry her and obtain a US Green Card. That was my plan, but to put it into effect I had to obtain an immigrant visa into Canada, which should have been totally routine, as my father was a Canadian citizen.
So I asked him if I could borrow his birth certificate to submit to the Canadian embassy in London.
“No, sorry son, I’ve lost it.”
“Well in that case, can I borrow your passport – that should do the trick.”
“My passport’s expired.”
“It doesn’t matter; I can still use it as proof.”
He erupted – as he was apt to do. “NO! You can’t borrow my fucking passport! It’s lost as well.”
First, he said it had expired – now it was lost.
“But…but you can apply for a new one?”
“No! The answer is NO!”
“But Dad, it doesn’t make sense – I need proof of your birth for my visa to Canada.”
“I have my reasons. You can’t have it and that’s an end to it!
After an hour or so he calmed down.
“Let me see your Canadian visa forms,” he demanded.
I handed over my application forms, and he looked through them.
“Leave them with me, and give me your passport. I’ll go to the Canadian Consular office and see what I can do.
Knowing how successful my father was in usually getting his own way in most things, I thought there was an excellent chance that he could obtain the necessary visa, and I was happy to leave it with him. Maybe there was something on his passport he didn’t want me to see.
A few days later he told me he had been to the embassy and was unable to make the consular officer see sense. He told me the best way was for me to travel to Canada as a tourist and apply for an immigrant visa after I arrived.
Although I knew something was wrong and there was some mysterious reason why he didn’t want me to use his passport, I still believed he was a Canadian citizen. I was frustrated and felt very aggrieved. My father was a nasty piece of work, but this was too much – even for him.
A couple of weeks later, when my parents went away for the weekend, I went into his inner sanctum – his bedroom – and rifled through the drawers where I knew he kept all his personal documents. I was determined to get hold of his passport and get the personal information I needed to put on my application form.
You can imagine my shock when, instead of a passport – I discovered an alien registration book. The name wasn’t my father’s – it was a completely different name – but the photo was clearly of my father. The book stated that he was born in 1900 in Zhitomir, Russia, which is now part of Ukraine, and he first came to England in 1902.
I was in total shock. He had lived in England for most of his life, had married an English woman, had three English children, yet according to the documents I was holding, he was an alien and had to report to the police every three months.
Even worse, there were some other documents that showed that in the mid-1950s he was taken to court by the police who wanted him deported from England as an alien – despite having a wife and three kids and having served in the war on the British side.
This was all heady stuff, and I longed to know more. This was in the days before the internet and I had no real way of knowing what Zhitomir, his birthplace, was like and what its relevance was in my father’s real story.
Yet in one of the first coincidences of this long story, it just so happened that at the time I was reading Leon Uris’s huge novel entitled “Exodus”, the story of Zionism – how the Jews throughout Eastern Europe emigrated to the area in the Middle East which became modern-day Israel. The novel was later made into a blockbuster movie. Although the book contained many inaccuracies and was blatantly pro-Israel, it was a best-seller for years. For a generation of Americans and Europeans, ‘Exodus’ was the definitive book on the creation of Israel.
Chapter Two, of Book Two of this massive novel, was entitled; “Zhitomir, Russia, 1884” The narrative described how the Jews were persecuted and effectively lived in a ghetto known as ‘The Jewish Pale of Settlement’ – the only place in Russia where Jews could reside. It was in Zhitomir that pogroms were perpetrated against the Jews which slowly led to the rise of Zionism and their mass emigration to Israel.
So the mist cleared a little. I knew that my father had some connections and friends in the east end of London – an area in those days which was occupied by hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants from Europe. Some had come as a result of the rise of Hitler and the subsequent holocaust, and others had arrived much earlier, fleeing from earlier pogroms against the Jews in eastern Europe.
It didn’t take much to deduce that my father must have been brought to England by his Jewish parents, fleeing the late 19th Century Russian pogroms in Russia, but beyond that, his story was a total blank. Even more puzzling was why, nearly 7 decades later, (it was then circa 1968) my father was still an alien in England?
And where were his parents? Did he have any brothers? or sisters? or any other living family?
I duly told my brother what I had discovered and he was as surprised as me and could throw no light on this mystery.
Intrigued as I was, my mind and heart were concentrated on other matters. Now I knew for sure that my father’s nationality could not help me, I resolved to follow the Canadian consulate’s advice and apply for immigration status after I arrived in Canada. It was a cruel blow to my plans, and one that subsequently caused me no end of trouble and heartbreak – but that’s another story.
Even at the age of 22, my father remained an intimidating presence – yes I admit I was still scared of him. I did not dare challenge him about his past life. It would have provoked a major temper tantrum and anyway, I knew he would not tell me anything.
There were more important fish to fry – my beloved little girl waiting for me in New York (at least I thought she was waiting for me) – and I followed my heart and put my father’s origins to the back of my mind. Something to look into on another day.
In fact, apart from learning a little bit more from my mother after he died in 1982, it wasn’t until nearly 50 years later – in fact a few weeks ago – that the whole story started to unravel. At the grand old age of 71, I have discovered that I have a whole new blood-family, the members of which are spread across North America, Canada, South Africa, and there are even a few still here in Blighty.
Precisely who they are, and how I made the breakthrough, will be the subject of my next blog…
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.
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.
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.
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…