The musings and jottings of a well-travelled, much wedded, Blighty-based limey wordsmith
Jomtien, 10th December, 2009
Today I have been sober for 102 days.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 21)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS (CONTINUED)
Back in my home in South Essex, the real business of getting to grips with my retirement finally arrived.
As I recounted in my previous ‘Mobi’s Story’ installment, my odyssey across North America with my wife and daughter was not an auspicious start to my new life. It soon became clear that my wife was going to enjoy my retirement a lot more than I would.
It was the year 2000 and I had already been with her for some 17 years; my youngest daughter was 14, and my eldest (adopted) daughter was 24. My wife had been the controlling and dominating influence in our lives for a very long time, although I had mitigated the problem by spending so much of my time at work.
My eldest daughter had already “fled the nest” and had taken out a mortgage for a small house in the town centre, and was living there happily with her latest “live in” and worked in the city for her dear old dad’s company. (Yes, nepotism was alive and well in the city of London). In her teen years she had been quite rebellious, and had suffered the wrath of a mother “scorned” and had fled home when she was barely 18.
When all the fuss died down, we continued to help her financially as she worked her way through college, and eventually, when she was around 21, she actually returned to the family fold, a very different and mature person to the one who had left. In fact, she had ‘morphed’ into a very lovely, kind and caring person, and one who has remained the same to this day.
After a year or so, when she had obtained full time employment, she took advantage of a dip in the housing market, to pick up a lovely little ex council house for a “song” and once again she moved away from us and reasserted her independence. Since then she has been fiercely protective of her territory and seems to have developed a natural gift for knowing how to deal with and “handle” her mother. For the most part she keeps her mother at “arms length” (to the never ending chagrin of ‘Mum’), but nevertheless, keeps her in her life and regularly calls and encourages reciprocal visits, especially at Christmas and high days and holidays. She is soooo….. sensible.
Unlike her father, and indeed her younger sister who were left at home to suffer the tempers, mood swings and conniving, controlling behaviour of a very difficult wife and mother.
Within days of our return from America, my wife had tried to impose a routine on me which included helping her share the household duties, do the gardening, going shopping with her on an almost daily basis, and a multitude of other domestic chores which were either going to be shared or to be jointly undertaken. I still recall to this day her early attempts to allocate the window cleaning duties to me, and how she showed me precisely how to go about it, and then sat and watched me carry out this task, continually chiding me when I didn’t execute the work according to her exacting requirements.
In principal, I had no objections to sharing the duties. I wasn’t a male chauvinist, and was quite prepared to do my bit, now that I had a lot of free time. But I also wanted to put a bit of structure into my retirement years and had some things I planned to do, the two prime activities being learning to play golf and creative writing. I could have easily pulled my weight around the home and still found time for my “other” activities if she hadn’t insisted on us doing nearly everything together. One particular bone of contention was shopping. She insisted that I accompany her, and essentially act as her lackey, while she strode ahead and made all the decisions on what to buy. Well, after all, this was “her world”, where she was “Queen of all she surveyed” and I was this stupid, compliant idiot who knew nothing.
So the battles and unpleasantness started from day one. The holiday was a bit of a disaster, and as soon as we tried to settle in back home, the daily clashes commenced as to when I would be “allowed” to go the golf driving range, and whether she could manage to do a bit of shopping alone because “budding author Mobi”, wished to pound away at his keyboard. Sometimes I got my way; and she would take off in an enormous sulk that on occasion would last for days; but for the most part, I caved in – anything for a quite life.
One of the few things that I succeeded in doing alone; with little or no interference from “she who must be obeyed”, was my early morning exercise. I have known very few Thai women who enjoy getting up early in the morning and wife No. 4 was no exception. As it was, when she struggled out of bed some time between eight and nine in the morning, she would always be at her moodiest.
So I would set my alarm for 7 a.m; get up and be out for my early morning calisthenics, before she had even woken up. Initially, this consisted of a thirty minute brisk walk along the roads that led out of my homely cul-de sac into the pleasant, semi-rural areas of South Essex. I was fifty four years old and I don’t think I had taken any serious exercise since I was a teenager, and even then I don’t think I did too much as many was the time I would skive off when I was supposed to have been participating in sporting activities. So I was very overweight and extremely unfit.
After all those years of total physical lethargy it was an uphill struggle. However, I stuck at it, although in the early days there was no noticeable change in either my physical condition or weight. I liked it and hated it. I liked it because it was the one time during the day when I was alone, away from the critical and complaining whine of my wife’s voice and I could enjoy the fresh air, enjoy pleasant thoughts, and go where I wanted, without having to ask permission or be lectured on the right direction to take. I hated it because it was bloody hard work and I really didn’t enjoy the physical side of it. I had pains in my chest and my leg muscles and feet would ache and get blisters.
But after a few weeks I seemed to get stronger and one day I tried a one minute jog in between the fast walking. I made the full minute and then had to revert to walking due to breathlessness. So even after a month or so of walking, I couldn’t even slowly jog for one minute before almost collapsing through lack of ability to breathe. What a poor specimen of manhood was I! But I persevered, and every day I would do ‘one-minute jogs’, every ten minutes or so, and as time went by, I was able to increase the jogging periods, from one minute to two and then to three and so on. I ended up doing what I had learned in my Boy Scout days to be the “Scout’s Pace”. Running and walking alternately for periods of around 5-6 minutes, and I was finally starting to reap the benefits in terms of a slow but sure reduction in my girth and a few pounds dropping off my overall weight.
I cannot recall the precise time scale, but it was certainly several months before one day I was surprised and delighted to discover that I could actually jog continuously for period of 25 minutes and more, and from then on, I never looked back. Of course I had set backs, when I developed plantar fasciitis (very painful bone spurs in the heels), muscle strains and so on, but my calf muscles developed and became hard and strong, and eventually I was able to jog at will for virtually as long as I desired. I became pretty fit and in all, I lost some 11-12 kilos (about 25 pounds) and became “lean and mean”. (even possibly a little too lean).
So the exercise routine was one of my early retirement successes, and it was with great pleasure that I went on my 6 monthly round of diabetic and cardiac specialists appointments where I was informed that I was credit to myself and an example to all as to what could be accomplished with the right dedication. In particular my cardiac specialist was very pleased, as it was he who had warned me that I would be dead in six years if I didn’t take immediate steps to radically change my lifestyle. These positive medical results were to continue for a couple more years before things started to deteriorate once again.
Despite the obstacles put in the way by my dear wife, I was also getting out on the golf course and to driving ranges on a more or less regular basis, and my creative writing was coming on a pace. Apart from my dogged determination to make a go of both of these pursuits, I was actually helped in an unexpected ways.
My wife, bless her! She came to the conclusion that if she couldn’t beat me she’d better join me, which meant that she would take up golf; so for a while she accompanied me to the driving range and we also took lessons together. She never actually made it to a golf course during that period, as she was so self critical that she could never measure up to her own expectations and refused to let anyone see that she was less than perfect. Over a period of time, she gradually lost any enthusiasm she may have had for golf, and eventually she declined my offers to accompany me to either the range or the course – thank God!!
On the writing front, I decided to write short stories based on my earlier years in Thailand. This attracted my wife’s attention, and she effectively became my technical advisor and critic, which meant that it became an “approved activity”. But that didn’t stop her confronting me, rowing with me and dragging me off to accompany her on a shopping errand whenever I had my head down on the laptop and creative juices were flowing with much fervor. She had absolutely no sensitivity to the activity I was engaged in, and thought nothing about disturbing me whenever the mood took her.
My collection of short stories based in Thailand was eventually completed, and after so many rejections I can’t even begin to tell you about, I eventually found a very small, almost unknown publisher who agreed to publish my volume under the title: “Tales from Thailand” by Mobi D’Ark.
The book never took off because it was never promoted, and now many years later, I am probably happy that it died a natural death, as it was my first attempts at writing, and when I read it today, I realise that although it may have “promise”, it is a long way from the finished product, and frankly would embarrass me if it were to suddenly resurface.
I did continue to write for the rest of the time that I lived in England, and I completed a few more short stories, (that were not Thailand related) and then a full length novel, (which was), and which was written when I moved to my new home in East Northants, and remains unpublished to this day. Again, if I read it today, although it certainly has promise, it is flawed and would require much revision and editing. For the past 7 years, since I have been back in Thailand, I have not written anything, except a lot of nonsense on internet forums, and now, at long last, this blog.
But at least I have been published, and there is a book out there with my own ISBN number on it, and what’s more, I am an accredited author, am a member of the prestigious British “Society of Authors” which has all the famous British authors as members, and I even receive minuscule, occasional royalties by way of some sort of ‘collective arrangements’ whereby all published authors are entitled to share in the receipts of such collections.
In my next trip down memory lane, amongst other things, I will get back to my drinking career during this period, which while under more control than it had been in years, was still progressing in the wrong direction, and would catch up and overtake my life again in the very near future.