Today I have been sober for 27 Days.
I was feeling even better today and I got up early and went to my 9.a.m. AA meeting. It was a good meeting and everyone was very kind and friendly.
As I have been sober for less than 30 days, at every meeting I am invited to report the number of days I have been sober. Today it was 27 days, and I always get a round of applause when I report my continued sobriety.
Of course I am not obliged to say anything, but I don’t mind, and I always get encouragement. So only 3 more days to go, and I will no longer need to volunteer this information. I will become a real member of the ‘sober gang’.
Now to continue with my story.
MOBI’S STORY (Part6)
BANGKOK – “THE MUSICAL YEARS” (continued
He was Thai and his name was Joe, and he represented a group of Thais who used to work with me when I was running the recording studio/ pop concert business with the dishonest Thai business partner.
Joe told me that he and his friends were setting up a new company which was in negotiations with a government ‘figure’ to run the first English language radio in Thailand for many years. They were also building recording studios, and planned to do live concert promotions, manufacture music cassettes under license and had many other entertainment related activities on their list of objectives.
They were looking for a General Manager to head up the whole business, which was being bank-rolled by a very wealthy Chinese merchant family. Joe invited me to their new offices in Siam Square to meet everyone and discuss the new position.
Clearly, it was too good an offer for me to turn down, and I reluctantly said farewell to my current partner and ‘jumped ship’ to become GM of the new enterprise. (I didn’t leave him completely in the lurch, as I had set up all the systems required to run the business, and I had already trained his wife to do most of the work. I just oversaw everything, and drank beer paid for out of petty cash).
The next few years were intense, traumatic, and very exciting.
We duly obtained the radio license to broadcast English language radio on FM 107, but from the start it was an uphill struggle. The Nation newspaper decided they didn’t approve of what we were doing, and got their teeth stuck into us. Day after day, week after week, they would attack us in their columns for being ‘illegal’ (foreign language broadcasting was still technically illegal in those days), and not a day passed when we were not in fear and dread of being raided by the police and shut down.
But the head of the government department who had arranged our contract had ‘friends in high places” and somehow we carried on and weathered the onslaught. Of course the Nation was just jealous of our business, as for years they had been harbouring plans to become involved in English language broadcasting and they were determined to eliminate any competition. (Some years later, they did indeed became involved in English language television, but eventually had to close it down as it proved unprofitable).
Our radio slogan was “Soft and Warm – the Quiet Storm”, but for the first year it seemed like we were fighting an ‘uncontrollable tornado’ – nearly collapsing under a mountain of debt; including the cost of buying and shipping a new transmitter for FM 107 from the USA , which, incidentally, is still in use today.
But from those dark days, we gradually saw the light. Our radio station started to become extremely popular. Not only were all the farangs living in Bangkok tuning in, but thousands upon thousands of Thais absolutely loved our new, revolutionary, American style format, and they started tuning into FM 107 in droves. We had installed a very powerful transmitter, and our signal covered the whole of the Bangkok metropolis, and also stretched as far as Chon Buri in the East. Suddenly the advertising agencies and direct clients were queuing up to advertise on F.M.107. The major hotels, shopping centres and malls, airlines, travel companies, restaurants, shops and so on were all anxious to get in on the ground floor of English language radio and advertising, and at long last we started to turn the corner of profitability.
Then there came the rock concerts – our very first was The Scorpions at the Hua Mark stadium, which was a run away success, and the “Quiet Storm” started to make it’s name in the Bangkok Entertainment industry.
At about the same time we signed contract with a number of international record labels, and we built a small high speed cassette recording facility, and started producing and selling legitimate western music cassettes into the Thai market. Of course this was during a brief period before the CD was born, and mass pirating subsequently took over forever.
You may be thinking that my drinking career might have taken a back seat during these hectic years, but, I regret to say, not a bit of it.
I was still living to the same drinking pattern. I stayed in a room in Pratunam, which I shared with my then fifth wife. I would get up late, and drive down in my old jalopy to the offices in Siam Square, arriving around 11 a.m. I would put a few hours of work in before my fellow managers would gather in my office at around 6 p.m. and then the drinking would start. One of our number, and often our investor, would produce a bottle of Scotch or brandy and we would start the evening’s drinking. Food would sometimes arrive later, but for the most part it was pure liquid refreshment.
At some point in the evening, some of us might adjourn to a Thai restaurant for further drinking and a bit of food, or, more often, I would part company with my Thai colleagues, and head off in my car back to my old haunts in Patpong, which, from Siam Square was only a short drive. So the drinking would inevitably continue to the small hours, and many is the time that I saw the dawn breaking as I nibbled on ‘kow tom’ in Soi 24 and had a couple of ‘cleansing beers” before retiring for a few hours sleep.
My car ownership during this period however was short lived. This was the start of my drunk driving – which continued for many years into the future, but it wasn’t the driving that stopped me in my tracks – it was the fuel. I ran out of petrol one night, just a few yards from my office, and thinking I carried a spare can of petrol in the boot, I proceeded, in my drunken state, to fill up the tank from the can. Once I had emptied the can, I suddenly remembered that it wasn’t petrol at all – but water!!. One ruined engine, with no spare cash to fix it. Back to taxis, and given my drinking habits, probably just as well.
During the third year in my new job a significant event occurred. My father died. He was 81 and his heart gave out. When I heard the news I cried. I don’t know why, because I hated him so much – he had caused me and my family so much misery and despair. Maybe I cried from relief that I was finally free of him. But I was to find out later that I was never really free of him – for he continued to ‘haunt’ me in my alcoholic dazes, in my dreams and nightmares, and even to this day, I am not totally rid of his all pervading influence on my life.
It was just before Christmas, 1982 and I went with my wife back to England for the funeral. I didn’t care about my father, but I was very worried about my mother, who was very old, not well, and suddenly all alone after 45 years of being dominated by a bully of a husband. We returned to Thailand after a couple of weeks, I resumed my job, promoted some more concerts and started to steer the company into the path of stability and prosperity.
I didn’t realise it then, but my time in Thailand for that part of my life was soon to come to an end.
I truly believe that if had been left to me I would never have left Thailand, but my wife had other ideas. She had seen what she thought were greater prospects for her husband in England. In her view, I was stuck in a badly paid, “dead end “ job, and could do much better if we relocated.
She ‘worked’ on me for month after month, and gradually wore me down. The issue that tipped the scales as far as I was concerned was the plight of my mother, whose health was deteriorating and really needed someone to take care of her.
My then employers were not as unscrupulous as my former one, and they truly appreciated all the hard work I had put in over the past couple of years or so. One of the investors (the guy who controlled the money) came to see me a few days before I left Thailand, and told me under Chinese tradition they wanted to award me a departure bonus in recognition of my contribution to the Company. Of course, I was delighted, but my joy was short lived. The guy pointed out that I still owed the company for my airfares to England, and on top of that I owed a considerable amount of cash that I had “advanced” over the past year or so for business expenses which I had never cleared. (Of course I couldn’t clear my expenses, as all the money had gone on booze). The bottom line was that the company was going to write off all my debts as full settlement of my bonus! (Bang went my nest egg!)
So in September 1983 I had an extremely drunken farewell party with all my colleagues in Siam Square, and a few days later my wife and I were jetting across the skies to take up permanent residence at my mother’s council flat in East London.
I was 37 years old, with no money in the bank, and had arrived back in England during a period of recession and high unemployment. Thatcher had just come to power, and the prospects for Mobi, an unqualified accountant, who had been out of the UK job market for most of my adult life, were bleak indeed.