Pattaya, July 19th, 2009

Today I have been sober for 24 days.

I have been ill with Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever since last Thursday and was finally released from hospital yesterday as I had been free of fever for 24 hours. I am still extremely weak, have lost about 5 kilos in weight and my blood is not in good condition. I will have to take it very easy for a few days and try to build up my strength. Yesterday I gave my teeth a very gentle brush and ended up with a mouth full of blood, so things are not yet quite right.

I also have terrible diarrhea every time I try to eat, but have now discovered that it seems to be bread that is upsetting me. The only thing I can keep down is rice

My friend tells me that the hemorrhagic strain of Dengue has a 40% death rate. Glad I didn’t know that before – it might have bothered me!!

I am very concerned that I haven’t attended any AA meetings for over a week, as I was making such good progress, and starting to build up friendships with some of the regular attendees. I now fear that when I am well enough to go back to meetings, I will have to start all over.

But such is life. At least I am alive!

But now back to my story.



So it was back to miserable ‘Blighty’, stony broke, thin to the point of emaciation, and stuck in my parents council flat in East London.

My father was well into his 70’s, and although he had mellowed slightly, he was still a mountain of a man who would blow up with a frightening temper at a moment’s notice. In spite of this I was made sort of welcome (by my mum anyway), and she lent me a few quid to get me to get me down to the social security office, and for the first time in my life I signed on the dole.

I trawled through the situations vacant every morning, and within a few days I had arranged an interview with an oil exploration company who was looking for a chief accountant for their operations in Tripoli, Libya. I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the prospects of going back to the Middle East, but it sounded like a sure fire way to make some quick money, so it was worth a shot.

The job called for a married man, and came with a large family house in downtown Tripoli. For some reason, the company had been struggling to fill this slot with a married man of relevant experience, so they decided to take me on as the “married ” accountant, even though my wife was a ‘phantom’.

For those few weeks I had spent in England, I had lived and drunk on my dole money. I had no friends to speak of, but every evening I would walk to the nearest pub, drink pints of revolting English beer with whisky chasers, and eventually stagger home at closing time

Thence to Libya; an interesting, ancient city, with a lot of history, and some lovely beaches.

The only problem was the Libyans. Colonel Gaddafi was at the peak of his strident anti western rhetoric, and he exhorted all his fellow countrymen to assert themselves and treat us westerners like dirt. Before the Second World War, Libya was an Italian colony, and during the colonial era the locals were treated like 3rd class citizens by the arrogant Italians, and it was hardly surprising that they were now getting their own back. (During this era, Libyans had to get off the sidewalk and walk in the gutter if an Italian was walking anywhere in the vicinity).

Apart from the attitude of the Libyans, there appeared to be one major problem – no booze!!! Oh my God!

As luck would have it, one of my previous colleagues, who used to work for me in the Arabian Gulf, turned out to be also working in Tripoli. He was living there with his wife and family – all living downtown, not too far from my own, large and very lonely villa. We hooked up and renewed old friendships, and his family immediately took me under their wing, and for a while I virtually lived in their house, where my friend’s wife cooked up prestigious amounts of wholesome western food in a valiant effort to fatten me up.

Thankfully, it wasn’t long before I  became introduced to “white lightning” – that home made, pure alcohol that when mixed with orange juice, became the staple, liquid diet for all us alcoholic expatriates.

After a few weeks, I met a young, stateless, ethnic German. The authorities had long since expropriated his passport – Egyptian I believe – for some infraction of the law, and who had become the sort of “pet” of the expatriate community. He had no job, no money, and no home, and survived by putting himself at the beck and call of families as an odd job handyman and he would sort out the various problems in their houses, pools and gardens, in exchange for a few days room and board.

We became friendly, and it wasn’t long before he moved into one of my spare bedrooms, and proceeded to install a large ‘pot still’ in one of my spare bathrooms. We were going big time into the liquor making business.

Not afraid to do things by half, we installed second still in the spare bathroom, which had now became a fully fledged distillery, and we immediately went into production. The only problem was that it got pretty hot in that bathroom with two stills going full pelt, and it wasn’t a very pleasant way to spend our idle hours. So we constructed a beautiful bar in the main lounge, and wired up a closed circuit black and white video system in the bathroom with the camera aimed on the temperature gauges, and the video monitor installed on the bar. Thus we could sit in the bar and knock back our ill gotten gains, and as soon as the temperature on the stills started to rise, we would race into the bathroom, and adjust the heat, just in the nick of time, before the stills blew up!!

Not content with making some of the highest quality alcohol in Tripoli, we also branched out into the home made beer business.

Cans of malt extract were available by the case load at the local grocery stores, and with the addition of smuggled in hop extract, we also started to produce some of the finest home made lager my drinking buddies had ever tasted.

How the authorities never caught on when we would turn up at the grocery store in a large pick-up, and proceed to purchase sugar by the sack load, and cans of malt extract by the case load, I will never know.

Basically the liquor was for sale and profit, and the beer was for consumption, and nearly every evening, a group of us would gather at our bar and get absolutely pissed out of our minds on our very strong home made beer. But somehow, we always managed to get up early the next morning and perform our daily work duties.

But all good things must come to an end.

We had become so bold that we started selling booze to the Arabs. At first, just a few ‘trusted’ friends from work. But those ‘friends’ told their friends, and before we knew it there was a constant buzz at the heavily fortified  front gate by Arabs we had never met, who wanted to buy our prized white lightning.

I suppose you could say I lived a charmed life, for if I had been caught, I would have certainly spent many of my best years rotting in a Libyan jail. But one of my closest Arab friends at work tipped me off one day, and told me that the authorities were onto my illegal activities, and it was only a matter of days before the house was raided and I would be arrested.

I couldn’t leave the country without an exit visa, and it was a race against time whether I could get the visa issued before the police closed in. As it turned out, I was in taxi, with only  the clothes on my back and a brief case of cash under my arm, on the way to the airport as the police had finally got round to raiding my premises. My itinerant friend had been tipped off and was already in hiding – not that the police knew he was involved.

So almost exactly nine months after my arrival in Tripoli, I was on a plane winging my way back to Europe, having escaped by the skin of my teeth,  never again to return to that part of the world. All in the name of booze.

A few days of R&R in Amsterdam, and then back on a plane to Bangkok, with yet another little “pot of gold” to lose.

2 thoughts on “Pattaya, July 19th, 2009”

  1. You know, I gotta tell you, I really relish this webpage and the great insight. I find it to be refreshful and quite informative. I wish there were more blogs like it. Anyway, I finally decided to write a comment on Pattaya, July 19th, 2009 My name is “Mobi”; I'm an alcoholic – I just wanna tell you that you did a sweet job on this. Cheers dude!


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