I have put off writing my blog for several days, as I know that when I do I will be judged as weak and lacking in moral fibre by of many of my readers. All of which is undoubtedly true, but being the alcoholic that I am, I am consumed with my own ego and I hate people to think badly of me.
So why, you may ask, do I write this blog if what I write is going to provoke hurtful criticisms which upset me?
The answer, amongst other things, is that I need these home truths rammed down my throat over and over again, if I am ever going to get this reckless selfishness under control.
I have seriously considered lying inn this blog about my drinking over the past few days, and also my involvement, yet again, with a lady of the night, as after all the undertakings I have made in my blog, even I feel guilty about reneging on my good intentions so easily.
So what has happened?
Well nothing too disastrous, in fact in some ways I feel pretty good about what has happened, but it certainly not what I intended to happen, and time will tell where it will all lead to.
As with most things in my life, it revolves around women and booze.
You may recall Toi of a week or so back – the one who I had great hopes for but became disillusioned when she reminded me one evening me that I had apparently forgotten to pay her that morning.
Well after five days absence I returned to her bar to see what was doing, and she was very friendly to me, and bore no grudges that I had supposedly ‘dumped’ her.
We struck up a conversation, and to cut a long story short, a couple of days later we resumed our relationship, and came to an ‘understanding’ about money.
I know, I swore I was going to stay away from bars and women of the night, but it seems to be in my blood – I just can’t seem to exist without it.
As reported before, Toi really is something special. She is very intelligent, computer literate in English and speaks incredible, ‘non-bar-girl’ English, considering she has never lived with a farang.
She is ethnic Khymer, which may account for her good command of English, as from my observations, the Kymers (at least those In have met in Cambodia), seem to pick up English with far greater alacrity than do their Thai ‘cousins’. Toi also speaks Cambodian (which is slightly different from Thai Khymer) and of course Issan (Lao).
She has a wonderful sense of humour and laughs at herself as well as always making jokes at my expense – something I cannot recall any Thai girl doing before. She seems to have me ‘taped’ and delights in getting me worked up about something, before I realise that she is ‘winding me up’ – only joking.
When I am with her I am happy; she makes me laugh and when she smiles and laughs, which is very often, she seems to light up the room.
She is the de facto manager of her bar, as her boss is the owner of several bars and only pops in for an hour or two every two to three days and she has great managerial skills.
She manages the girls and the bar staff with great tact and sensitivity, and she controls the stock and money and all the other related bar duties. She actually earns a pretty good salary, and I scan see why.
Yesterday, I took her to the market in the morning and she bought a lot of food with her own money and took it back to the bar and spent the afternoon in the bar kitchen cooking up a feast for all her staff to share in celebration of Valentines Day.
All in all a pretty impressive young lady
She hasn’t moved in with me and has no plans to do so. We both maintain our relative independence, and either can break off the relationship at any time.
So I will take it one day at a time, and see how things develop.
On the drinking front, it’s not that great, but not a disaster.
It goes without saying that since I resumed my relationship with Toi I have been spending a fair amount of time in her bar. Toi enjoys her beer, but never seems to get drunk. From my observations I would say that she is a million miles away from being an alcoholic. For the past few days I start off by ordering Coke or water, but after a while decide that a few beers won’t do me too much harm and I make the fateful switch to alcohol.
However, I have been drinking slowly and in relative moderation. I have rarely started on the beer before 10 p.m. and I stop when Toi and I go home. I am not sure how many beers I have been consuming in a typical evening but I doubt it is more than half a dozen small bottles. In the morning I feel a little rough when I wake up, but no real hangovers and I soon feel pretty good, except that my stomach is not appreciating the alcohol I have ingested and is causing me a few problems.
I am making no claim that I have finally succeeded in controlling my drinking. I very much doubt that this is the case as I know that I can drink in a controlled fashion for a while, but sooner or later I will revert and go on a real bender. It is only a matter of time.
So once again I must redouble my efforts to stop.
I am happy with Toi, but there is no need for me to spend inordinate amounts of time in her bar. I can pop in her see her, maybe have something to eat, buy her a couple of beers and then take off. If I can’t trust her to behave then there is no future in our relationship. I must stay out of the bars, and get back to the meetings. Yes, you’ve guessed it, I haven’t been to an AA meeting for a few days now.
So there it is folks – my humble confession. Make of it what you may.
AZZY – MY LOVE (Part 4)
The journey from Lagos to Port Harcourt, in the company of Daniel Ito, an Ibo, in a battered old station wagon loaded with files and supplies, was one that I will never forget.
Secession of hostilities in a bloody and brutal civil war, had only taken place a few weeks previously which meant that conditions in the secessionist, war-ravaged. Eastern region were pretty diabolical.
At first, it seemed like any other journey I had made out of Lagos, usually to our outpost in Warri in the mid west: numerous road blocks, pot-holed ,badly maintained single track roads, and so on. But once we had left Lagos behind and started to approach what until quite recently, had been a ‘war zone’, we were unprepared for what lay ahead.
The roads were littered with huge bomb craters and bombed out, burnt military vehicles. Along the the sides of the roads were endless columns of refugees, dressed in tatters, going who knows where in search of sustenance; there a very high military presence everywhere, with drunken, menacing looking soldiers waving guns at the refugee columns and even at the few vehicles that were attempting to traverse the obstacle course of a road.
Progress was very slow, and if it hadn’t been for Daniel, I suspect we would never have made it. We were stopped continuously by marauding soldiers, but on each occasion Daniel would talk to them in their native language – usually Yuruba – and whatever he told them must have persuaded them to let us proceed, unmolested. I dread to think what may have happened if any of these soldiers were to find out that Daniel was an Ibo – one of the hated enemy.
It must have been late afternoon by the time we finally made it to the banks of the Niger River,where the huge bridge that had once spanned the waterway had been blown up up and was unusable.
Daniel told me to drive down a rough, mud track which led down very steep incline to the water’s edge itself
There, on the western bank of the Niger river was a sight indeed. There must have been thousands of desperate Nigerians in threadbare garments, milling around amongst the military who were pushing at them and screaming abuse and insults. Lined up alongside the crowd was a rag tag collection of dozens of dilapidated vehicles, all inching towards the river’s edge, where a a motorised, military landing craft was moored.
We joined the back of what seemed to be a semblance of a vehicle queue, and I grimly realised that it would be hours, if not days before we reached the front of the queue, as the precarious craft looked as though it could only accommodate about four vehicles at a time.
Daniel alighted from our car and disappeared into the swarming, screaming crowd. I sat alone for what what seemed like an eternity. It was extremely hot and humid, the vehicle had no air conditioning, and the sun was blazing down unremittingly. To top it all I suddenly I developed a terrible migraine.
I was seriously considering the distinct possibility that some ‘accident’ had befallen Daniel, and wondering what the hell I was going to do without him, when mercifully he re-appeared, together with two high ranking military gentlemen.
Daniel gave me no time to cross examine him on his long absence, and told me to start the car, while in the meantime the two officers started barking orders at the vehicles in front of me in an effort to clear the way to let me through.
It took quite a while,and a lot of screaming and cajoling before I eventually made my way through to the front of the queue, the entire multitude was forlornly waiting to cross the river, courtesy of the army.
The landing craft already had several vehicles on board, and I thought that there was no more room, but the officers beckoned me to drive up the steep, wooden planks that traversed the craft and the bank.
I was terrified. The planks looked very flimsy and the gap between them looked dangerous. If I mis-navigated by only a few inches the me and my car could quite easily end up in the murky, swirling torrent, several meters below.
The officers kept screaming at me, so I had no choice but to proceed. I gingerly throttled the car up the planks, trying desperately to keep the vehicle in a straight line. I was over-revving the engine and nervously feathering the clutch in my panic, when suddenly, true calamity struck.
A burning smell was emanating from the floor of the vehicle, and I slammed on the foot brake as the car ceased it’s progress forward and the engine revved out of control. I was half way up the rickety ramp to the craft and I had burnt out the clutch. The car wouldn’t move. I was stranded!
The soldiers on the pontoon and those on the bank were shouting louder than ever, screaming at me to finish my journey up the ramp and onto the landing craft. Daniel scrambled up the planks and asked me why I had stopped. I told him.
He went back down to the bank and shouted at a group of civilians who were watching the proceedings. They then ran up the ramp to the back of my car and started pushing. I slowly released the hand brake, terrified that I would go backwards and send the assembled gang into the brink, but there so many of them that they succeeded in inching me forward, and eventually onto the deck of the pontoon.
Daniel joined me on board, and I asked him what we were going to do when we reached the other side? He looked at me, and for once, he seemed at a loss for words.
We duly made the slow trip across the mighty Niger on what was a very precarious craft and as we neared the far bank, I could see an even larger crowd than that we had encountered on the western shore. There seemed to be thousands milling around.
There were indeed many more people – mainly starving refugees, desperate to get out of the war ravaged region and travel to other parts of the country, mainly Lagos, where they may have friends or relatives who could help them. But there was this massive bottle neck at the Niger river, and the only way across was by courtesy of the army, and of course a fee would have to be paid, and many days wait.
When we arrived and the rickety planks were once more thrown down to form the ramp to the river’s edge, I saw to my horror that on the far side of the river bank there was a very steep and very long track that presumably led up to the road beyond. How on earth would I ever be able to get the car up to the road? There was no way on God’s earth that any amount of manual labour would be able to push the heavily laden car up such a long and incredibly steep slope.
I was wrong. Once more Daniel went to work, and with a generous supply of Nigerian coins, he assembled a huge gang of “pushers’. I Have no idea how many there were, but it was certainly several dozen – possible fifty or more.
To start with, a few of them came on board and gently pushed the vehicle, with Mobi at the wheel, off the pontoon and onto the shore.
Then the whole gang surrounded the car and they started to push me up the hill. Progress was slow, and I am not sure if the gang put more energy into shouting at each other or pushing the car. At one point, the car started to slide backwards, and I feared the worst, but with an even shriller timbre of screeching, they managed to arrest the slide, and slowly but surely we progressed onwards and upwards to the top of the slope, and eventually to the road itself.
It was surely a miracle, but we had made it to the road in one piece.
Now what to do? We were still a very long way from our destination.
Once again Daniel performed his disappearing trick, and I was left guarding the car, surrounded by hundreds of starving refugees, who could have attacked me at any moment.
Thankfully I remained unmolested when Daniel eventually returned, sitting in the front cab of a very battered, ancient truck.
The driver and his mate also jumped out and proceeded to apply a tow rope to the front of my car.
Daniel told me that he had negotiated with the driver to tow me to Enugu, the capital of the former Biafra, but would not be able to make the remainder of the journey to Port Harcourt, as he feared marauding, blood thirsty soldiers and locals on the final leg of the journey.
So I asked Daniel what were we to do when we arrived at Enugu, as there would still be well over a hundred miles to go to our destination.
He then informed me that he would not be going with me to Enugu, and that I would be travelling alone. He said that he would take alternative, faster transport directly to Port Harcourt and see if he could find a tow truck there that could come back out to Enugu and tow me on the final leg. He said that the driver had been instructed to find somewhere for me to sleep overnight in Enugu, and that Daniel would make contact with me on the following day.
I protested that I wouldn’t be safe travelling alone, but Daniel was adamant that his plan was the best way forward. He said that we were now in former rebel territory, and the entire local population consisted of the hated Ibos. He informed me that no Ibo would dare travel to Port Harcourt, as the rebels had formerly controlled the town and had ruled it with an iron fist.
The threat of retribution from the indigenous population, who had suffered at the hands of the Ibos, was very real
I was still very young and naïve so I wasn’t particularly bothered about travelling alone in an almost lawless area that had just come out of losing a bloody civil war, and where most of the local population was starving and extremely impoverished. They had after all been starved into defeat, and as yet few supplies had reached the region to alleviate their hunger. It all seemed like a great adventure.
Also, at that time it never occurred to me how brave Daniel was. He was an Ibo and was totally loyal to the company.
When the war was at it’s height he had stayed in Port Harcourt and done his best to protect the company’s property from the worst excesses of the rebels when they started robbing and looting thousands of houses and other properties which had been abandoned at the start of the war.
Later, when Port Harcourt fell to government forces and the rebels retreated, Daniel managed to keep clear of the military and escaped to Lagos with dozens of vital company documents, having previously made arrangements to protect company’s property by employing a squad of private security guards.
Now Daniel was back in the east, unafraid to negotiate with Ibo hating federal soldiers, and about to make the journey back to Port Harcourt, where anyone from the Ibo tribe was liable to be lynched, if identified as such.
And here was innocent, naïve Mobi, about to embark on a highly dangerous journey; much of which would be undertaken at night, into the heart of the ex rebel area, all by himself, save for two local truck drivers, both of whom must have resorted to many acts of violence during the past few years just to remain alive.