Sorry for the long silence.
No, I haven’t been on any major binges, but neither have I remained sober.
I have been ‘flip-flopping’ between sober days, sometimes several in a row, followed by evenings of more or less ‘controlled drinking’.
I have had a few incidents with ladies, one of which was my first ever ‘non –bar girl’ in Thailand, which was an interesting experience, but it still ended up in the same fashion as all the others.
I may write about them all over the coming days, but for now, suffice to say, I am alone and completely free of all female encumbrances, and I feel OK about it.
I am also sober today, not hung over and hope to stay that way.
But we’ve heard all that before!
It is ten days since I wrote about Dave, who is dying in Bangkok.
His condition has continued to deteriorate. He rarely sleeps, but lies in a sort of semi coma – stirring only to drink his beer, and pop some more Lorazepam.
The maximum Lorazepam to be taken in a twenty four hour period is four mgs. Dave is now taking five mg every hour.
He can’t walk and can hardly move. His bowel movements are frequent (more than ten a day) and his poor lady has to try and clean it up as best as she is able. She tells me that the faeces are now very black and Thais believe that such faeces are a sign that death is not far off – I guess his liver is shot to pieces.
In his alcoholic stupor, Dave is rejecting his lady’s help and refuses to talk with her. He prefers the help of a friend’s wife who is also helping out.
I haven’t spoken to Dave for several days as he is no longer capable of holding anything approaching an intelligible conversation.
Three days ago Dave’s sister in law called me from England and we had a long conversation. Dave’s brother who has suffered from Parkinson’s disease for many years, has been more or less supporting Dave for a long time, sending him a monthly allowance.
The sister in law told me that they have given up on Dave, because he has never made any attempt to stop drinking and has always lied to his family about it. Last year his brother paid for Dave to come to England for a visit, and Dave was so drunk he had to be taken off the plane in a wheel chair. Then he drank a bottle of Vodka in the arrivals lounge while waiting for his transport home.
She told me it was three days before he sobered up.
I told her about all the problems Dave’s lady was having in trying to take care of him, and she told me she should leave him to die. She said that Dave’s lady shouldn’t have to be put through all this at her time of life.
She said that they considered Dave to be a very selfish, lazy uncaring man and they had completely given up on him, and hoped that he will die soon and get it all over and done with. She even suggested having Dave’s lady provide him a whole load of pills so that he could take them and kill himself.
I asked her what she wanted to be done with his body when he dies. She replied that we could put in a bin bag and put it out with the rubbish.
I have to say her attitude was a huge shock. I knew she and his brother didn’t approve of Dave’s lifestyle, but I had no idea of the depth of disgust and hatred that they felt for him. It was quite a shock, and quite upsetting.
She did say how grateful and full of gratitude they were for Dave’s Lady, Bob and myself for all the help and support we had given Dave over the years. She said that we had been very loyal to someone who didn’t deserve it.
Today, Dave is being moved to a ‘local’ hospital off Rama Four Road in Bangkok. They will take care of him until he dies, or – who knows- recovers.
The hospital will not allow him any alcohol or drugs, so we’ll see what happens. His lady says he is very far gone and it is most unlikely that he will come around now.
I‘ll leave it a couple of days and then probably go to Bangkok and see what goes.
AZZY – MY LOVE (Part 7)
She didn’t change her mind. She still insisted in accompanying me when I was scheduled to return to Port Harcourt a few days hence.
So my new wife and I returned together, and took up residence at the hotel that I had stayed at before my trip to Lagos, but this time it was at my expense.
Azzy was pretty much confined to the hotel and it’s immediate area during the day, and I didn’t even have unfettered use of a car, as I had to use pool vehicles which were frequently required for other company business after collecting me in the morning and dropping me back to the hotel at night.
Top priority was to buy my own transport, and a close second was finding somewhere more economical to stay, as the price of the hotel was eating up my salary in leaps and bounds.
Within a few weeks, two events occurred which helped me to solve both of these problems.
The first was the opening of a Ford dealership; an enterprising Lagos based company had quickly decided to cash in on the severe shortage of private transport in the Port Harcourt region, and had re-opened their defunct dealership. They had a fast growing order-book. I didn’t really want to buy a new car, but if Azzy and I were to have any kind of life together, then I had little choice. Delivery was only a couple of weeks hence as the company had them already stacked up in their Lagos yards.
So having solved my transport problem, I turned my attention to somewhere for us to live. This is where the second notable event came to my rescue.
At that time, there literally thousands of empty houses scattered around the lanes and byways of Port Harcourt, whose owners had abandoned them when civil war had broken out. The Rivers State administration had set up an ‘Abandoned Property Bureau’ where anyone could go and obtain permission to occupy a property which had been abandoned.
The process took a while. Firstly a suitable property had to be located. Then an official had to inspect it and satisfy himself that it had indeed been abandoned. There were no local authority records remaining, and as most of the decent properties had been owned by foreigners or foreign companies, it was assumed that most would never be reclaimed as the owners had long since departed the country.
Azzy and I found a large house, with a sizable garden, in a leafy lane, just off the main Port Harcourt Road. I was about fifteen minutes drive from my office, which was situated on the outskirts of town, and was within easy distance of shops and other places of recreation, such as the hotels and bars.
All things considered, the house was in a fair state of repair, but it still needed a lot of work, to say nothing of completely fitting it out with new furniture, a new kitchen and so on, all of which had been ransacked and destroyed by the military during the war.
After getting the necessary paper work approved by the Abandoned Property Bureau, and a small rental rate set, we faced the herculean task of making the house habitable, which would undoubtedly cost a lot of money.
One thing in my favour was the widespread black market in Nigerian currency that was operating at the time. Many of the businesses in Port Harcourt were owned and run by Lebanese, who had been doing business throughout Nigeria for generations.
The Nigerian Pound was subject to heavy exchange control regulations, so it proved extremely difficult for these Lebanese entrepreneurs to send their hard earned profits back to Lebanon.
So for expatriates, such as myself, who were paid in foreign currency, local life became much cheaper when we exchanged our UK Pounds or US Dollars in the black market for local currency.
All we had to do was write out a personal cheque, and we would be given a brown paper bag full of Nigerian Pounds.
Even so, I was starting to spend all my hard earned money on buying the car and setting up home in a Port Harcourt suburb. If I had been living as a single man in the guesthouse, it would have cost me nothing as transportation, food and accommodation would have been provided free of charge, but thanks to Azzy, it was becoming a bit of a nightmare.
Once we had made one bedroom semi-habitable, we moved in and started the long, expensive task of decorating, repairing , fitting up and furnishing the rest of the house.
Azzy acquired staff like most of us acquire clothes.
Before we had been in Port Harcourt a month, we had a driver (essential so that I could be transported to and from work, while Azzy had use of the car during the rest of the day), a cook, two maids and a gardener, all of whom lived with us in the house.
True their salaries were pitifully small, but I still had to feed them and generally take care of them.
Azzy was always having trouble with her staff who she hired and fired at will. She was a tough lady, and loved nothing better than a good bit of Nigerian ‘palaver’; shouting and screaming and finding fault and making trouble – whether with her own staff or anyone else who happened to cross her path, including yours truly; poor old brow-beaten Mobi.
I was starting to despair of ever getting out from under my mountain of expenditure and debt when a stroke of luck occurred.
My employer had decided that the main accounts function for the company’s Nigerian operations would be transferred to Port Harcourt, which meant a considerable upgrading of the office and staff and also involved the appointment of a new Chief Accountant who would be brought in from The USA to take overall charge of the Port Harcourt Office.
His name was Tim, and he was a very gentle, quiet, ‘green’ American on his very first overseas posting. As if it wasn’t hard enough for a single man who had never been outside California to settle in and adjust to a totally alien culture, the situation was made even more tenuous when he decided to bring his wife and two young children with him. They were housed in the recently re-opened “married status” housing complex which was situated very close to the office.
Tim was a good, competent accountant but he struggled mightily to adjust to this very alien environment, and he needed a lot of support in the early days when dealing with the daily staff and management issues with the local employees, who were always a voluble handful.
But he was a good man and I grew to like him a lot. He tried to bring his American values to a third world country and he was horrified and outraged when he discovered the manner in which I had been obliged to live with my Nigerian wife, and the money I had been spending, just to live day by day.
He went into ‘bat’ for me with the head office management and a few weeks later, he was delighted to tell me that although the company were not prepared to re- house me in the company compound, they had agreed to reimburse the expenses I had incurred to fit out my house, and that they would supply company furniture, company air conditioners (which I didn’t have), and would generally take over the maintenance and decoration of my house.
I was to be put on a “married status” contract, and would reap further benefits in terms of additional expense allowances, and a generous ‘living allowance. In return, my contract was extended from one year to two.
Azzy became an accepted member of the Port Harcourt married community, and Tim made sure that we were integrated into social functions, and were invited to dinner and barbeques and all the other activities that went on in those far off days.
We made particular friends with Tim and his family and another young UK accounting colleague who had also been posted to Port Harcourt with his wife.
We all became firm friends, and even entertained them at our own ‘abandoned property’ house, once it’s transformation into a civilised, liveable home was complete.
So life was good for a short while.
But Azzy was the first in my long line of controlling, trouble-making wives with a strong liking for alcohol, which only served to embellish her already disruptive behaviour.
She loved to go out at night and we became regulars at the best hotel in town, the luxurious and palatial Presidential Hotel, which had now been re-opened following refurbishment and war damage repair.
The Presidential had a night club where foreign artists would perform a nightly cabaret.
We were there nearly every night, both of us getting quite drunk and the drunker Azzy became the more difficult she would become, and we would invariably start fighting either in the nightclub itself, (Azzy would suddenly accuse me of looking at a another girl and started shouting at me), on the way home, or after we reached our house.
On one unforgettable occasion, we were already drunk and fighting each other on the way back to our house, when we were stopped by the military at a road block.
We were ordered out of the car, and Azzy decided to take issue with the armed soldiers. She started shouting at them and abusing them and they didn’t like it. After a few minutes of nonstop tirades from Azzy, the soldiers had had enough and they manhandled both of us very roughly and threw us into the back of a Land Rover which was parked nearby.
Azzy continued to shout at them and they decided to put the boot in – on me and Azzy.
We were transported to the local military jail and dragged out the vehicle and thrown onto the floor of a dirty, smelly concrete cell. My clothes were torn and ruined, and I was a mass of cuts and bruises, but otherwise still in one piece – more or less.
Azzy seed to be in a similar state, but by now had finally calmed down a little. The experienced had chastened her, but she was still mumbling under her breath about how she would report the soldiers concerned and get her own back.
We stayed there all night, (or what was left of the night), bitten alive by mosquitoes, feeling very uncomfortable, very thirsty and quite exhausted. In the morning we were released, and had to find our own way back to our car, and thence to our home.
I hadn’t slept all night, but after a quick shower and change of clothes I was driven to the office, where, not for the last time in my working life, I attracted much interest due to my severely battered and bloody state.
Dear Tim was outraged and when I related the story of what had happened. He was all for going down to the military command and demanding that the offending soldiers to be punished, but I managed to prevail, insisting that it would be better just to forget about it. After all, if Azzy hadn’t reacted in such an abusive fashion, the incident would never have occurred.
Later we were to befriend a young Nigerian officer, who was a friend of one of Azzy’s relatives. He would take us to visit his friends in the Officers’ Mess, often stop by my office for coffee and inevitably we would go out eating drinking with him and his brother officers at night.
Now we had ‘protection’ it was unlikely that there would ever be a repeat of what had happened that night.