last Sunday evening, Wan’s ex-husband Pete, called her. He is staying in Roi Et City with his new wife and he told Wan that he would like to see Jasper before he returned to England, early next month.
Wan told me that she never had any objections to Pete seeing his son, but that every time she agreed on a time and place, Pete would cancel out, or try to change the arrangements at the last moment. He never brought any presents for his son and hadn’t given Wan one Baht in child support, even though she had begged him to help out when she became so desperate for money.
On the other hand, Pete had bought his new lady and brand new Honda Jazz and a house in Roi Et.
Since Pete had been back in Thailand, he had seen Jasper just once, at a hotel swimming pool in Roi Et, and on that occasion he had made a big scene, shouting at Wan in front of everyone, including Jasper, and accusing her of deliberately keeping her son away from him, and accusing Jasper of not wanting to play with him when they were in the pool together.
How unreasonable of Jasper! A six year old boy who preferred to play with other six year olds rather than with an estranged forty- five year old father, who he barely knew. How unreasonable indeed!
Wan told Pete that she would bring Jasper to swim in Roi Et on Tuesday afternoon and Pete could spend some time with him there. Pete told her that he wasn’t free on Tuesday, so Wan agreed to change it to Wednesday.
Then on Tuesday Pete sent a text to Wan demanding that they change the venue to another town some sixty kilometres away. Wan refused, and told him that she didn’t want to drive all that way and that Roi Et is much more convenient for everyone.
Pete then sent Wan an abusive text, which I saw, accusing her of being a stupid Thai bitch. Wan kept her cool, and sent him a reply which told him she would be at the pool from one p.m. on Wednesday if he wanted to see his son.
Yesterday, Wednesday, I drove Wan and Jasper to Roi Et, and when we arrived at the hotel swimming pool, at one o’clock, Wan sent a text to Pete advising him we were there.
I offered to make myself scarce for the next few hours, but Wan insisted that I stay with them, which I readily agreed to as I wanted to see this abusive fellow countryman, and to make sure he didn’t get too far out of line with Wan or Jasper.
This was at one p.m., and by two p.m. Wan hadn’t heard from Pete so she called him. He had just woken up and shouted at her when she said they had been waiting for him for an hour. He asked her why she hadn’t told him about the appointment, which of course she had, several times.
He turned up alone about forty minutes later, saw us, completely ignored me, (which suited me just fine), and went to join Jasper in the pool.
I try not to prejudge people, especially based on their appearance, but I have to say that Pete is a small, weasel- like specimen of an Englishman with a narrow, mean-looking face, topped with the ubiquitous skin- head haircut, and obligatory body tattoos.
In spite of the age difference, he clearly was no match for the handsome, debonair, and mature Mobi, who incidentally, still sports an almost full head of hair! (And no tattoos – I think they are an abomination!).
Pete stayed for a couple of hours, at first engaging the attention of Jasper in the pool, but after a while Jasper drifted back to his friends, and Pete was left alone, watching his son splash and play.
It was after four and Jasper had had enough. Pete also emerged from the pool, produced some oranges which he gave to Jasper, and made a quick exit on his motorcycle, after seeing us all pile into the shiny, black Mobi–BMW.
I think Wan quietly celebrated a little victory after seeing the look on Pete’s face.
All in all, a pleasant afternoon by a very picturesque pool, surrounded by shady palms, and backed up by excellent service from the pool staff who seemed to be so friendly compared to the Thais I am used to in Pattaya.
This morning, Wan and I had a long heart to heart about our future together. I told her that I was very happy with her, but that I wanted to take things very slowly. I told her that if we decided to live together on a long term basis, then I didn’t think I could move out of Pattaya just yet.
Maybe in a few years time – when I was older – but right now I felt I would be too isolated out there. I wanted to be nearer to my friends in Pattaya and Bangkok and to continue to enjoy many of the things these two cities had to offer – and I was not referring to bar girls – as they are just available in Roi Et as they are anywhere else in Thailand. (The place is teaming with’ short time’ motels and bungalows and brothels that masquerade as karaoke bars.)
I am not yet ready to become a farang hermit and go one hundred percent native.
I told her that i would be very happy to spend a lot of time at her house for ‘high days and holidays’ as I was very happy there, but that for the next year or two at least I wanted to remain in Pattaya.
Wan told me that she had two people in her life. One was Jasper and the other was yours truly – Mobi – and she wanted to stay with both of us and take care of us. She said that if I wanted to live in Pattaya, then she would bring Jasper to Pattaya to live with us and put him in school there.
I said that would be fine, but that in the meantime, we agreed that Jasper would continue his schooling in Roi Et until such time as I had found a house for us to live in, and until we were sure that we wanted to live together permanently. The lease on my condo expires in October, so that would appear to be the ideal time to make the big change, if we are still together.
We discussed money, and her requirements are very modest, in fact more modest than any lady I have ever set up residence with. She went through her monthly expenses, item by item, and it was apparent that she was an extremely frugal person. I will leave it at that, but I can assure you that I’m not rushing out to add extensions to her house or to repay her mortgage. That will be a long way down the line – if ever.
This afternoon Wan insisted in taking me into Selaphum to get a haircut. Ever since I have been with her, I have stated that I wanted to have a haircut but somehow I have never quite got round to it. My hair was getting ridiculously long and I was beginning to look like an ageing hippy.
Anyway, into Selaphum, and I parked outside the selected barbershop. There were two young men seated waiting their turn and both barbers’ chairs were occupied, but no sign of a barber. Wan told me this was the best barber shop in town, and at least it was air-conditioned. Outside it was bloody sweltering.
Wan and I sat down on the two remaining empty seats at the side of the salon. I had been sitting for an couple of minutes when I suddenly felt a trickle of ice cold water drop onto my head and down the back of my neck. I looked up, and saw we were seated underneath the air condition unit and it seemed to be leaking. I wiped my hair with my hand, gave a feeble smile and made a joke about having my hair washed as well as cut.
All were highly amused at my silly attempt at humour and I was just starting to feel pleased with myself for cracking a joke in Thai when the heavens suddenly opened, and I was soaked in gallons of freezing water, which nearly made me jump out of my skin!
Now everyone was thoroughly amused. I was jumping around all over the place shouting obscenities, and providing wonderful, pre-Sonkran amusement for the captive “Barber-shop Quartet”.
The air conditioner must have been accumulating water for hours, if not days, and it had abruptly burst and the flood had drenched poor old Mobi who was sitting directly under the torrent of freezing water.
There was still no sign of a barber, so one thoughtful customer tried to mop up the mess with some newspapers , but when he approached me, armed with soggy newspapers and with a similar aim in mind, I waved him frantically away and told Wan that we had better find another barber.
She told me that this was the best one in town, but I said I didn’t care – I had been there at least ten minutes and hadn’t laid eyes on him, and now I had been drenched from his defective air conditioner! And besides, there were four people ahead of me and we would be stuck there for hours.
It transpired that Selaphum was full of barber shops, all empty, apart from the one with the gushing air conditioner and all without any discernable evidence of a barber being present.
Eventually we found a shop with a barber with no air conditioning, thank God, but no sooner had he put me in the chair and wrapped a towel around my neck than he promptly took off and left Wan and I sitting there wondering what was going on in this crazy town. I was almost ready to give up when I spotted him, sitting outside, smoking a cigarette. It was nice of him to be so thoughtful as to keep his smoke outside.
He finally finished his cigarette, re-entered the shop and just when I thought he was about to actually start working, he retrieved a small bottle from his fridge and departed once again to drink its contents. It looked like a bottle of Red Bull but I couldn’t be sure.
I remembered why I was so reluctant to go to a Thai barber.
Probably about ten minutes after I was put in the barber’s chair, he started my haircut and I have to say it was one of the best haircuts I had ever had in my life. He was a thorough professional, and he was positively painstaking in giving me an excellent trim, including using a new razor to shave my neck and cheeks.
The cost for the thirty minute haircut was forty Baht. So all’s well that ends well and if I ever come back to Selaphum I will go there again, but maybe a bit later in the afternoon – after he has had his smoke and his red Bull ‘pick me up’.
This evening I took a stroll with Wan and Jasper through her lovely village, stopping off at her mum’s house and aunt’s house on the way.
This village is different those I have been used to in Sa Kaeo and in other parts of Issan. It is clean, and the houses have been well constructed and beautifully kept. I noticed a few saloon cars dotted around which indicate a surprising level of prosperity. The roads in the area are mainly well maintained hard tops, including the road outside Wan’s house, and even where there are dirt tops, they have been kept in immaculate condition. Trees, bushes and flowers abound, and at the village edge you can see farmers working in the fields with their cows and buffaloes.
I could do worse than retire to this peaceful and pretty part of North-eastern Thailand.
This is the very heart of Thaksin/red shirt territory and if it is ‘Thaksin’s Money’ (that is: government money distributed by Thaksin when he was Prime Minister), that has brought prosperity to this area, it is not difficult to understand why they still love him so much.
On Saturday I will return to Pattaya with Wan, jasper and Wan’s niece, Sherry and they will stay for a week or two. I am anticipating having a good time, and will enjoy taking them around the sights and amusements that Pattaya and its environs have to offer.
MARDIE (Part 2 )
Some years later, when I recalled my affair with Mardie, I understood many aspects of my relationship with her, which at the time; I don’t think I had the first inkling.
I think the relationship started to go downhill on that August bank Holiday, when we had that big bust up when she tried to take over driving my car. Her behaviour towards me was never the same after that incident and looking back, I can see that she tried to distance herself from me, but I was too ‘head-over heels’ in love to realise what was happening.
Remember that I had experienced a lonely , unhappy upbringing, due to my father’s domineering personality, to the extent that was totally lacking in self esteem and was incredibly shy, especially with members of the opposite sex.
I had only recently broken free of my father’s ‘apron strings’ but my new social life as single man living in a lonely room in central London was pathetically non exisitent.
So apart from a very unhappy teenage infatuation, which due to my own ridiculous shyness became a case of unrequited love, my affair with Mardie was the first real thing, and I was already twenty one, going on twenty two.
I was emotionally immature, (probably still am), and totally inexperienced in having a relationship and keeping a woman happy. Upon reflection, I now realise that Mardie was far more mature than I was and was more experienced with the world at large and the lecherous men it contained. She was a very attractive young lady and by her own admittance had had many boyfriends and casual affairs before she met me.
Mardie was initially attracted to me because of my “Englishness”, which included my ‘reserve’ which was really just shyness. As the relationship developed I think she began to see that I was an emotionally immature person and that I was becoming far too serious and ‘clingy’.
Mardie was a confident, modern young lady travelling the world to have a good time and have casual affairs with young men who would take her around and wine and dine her. She wasn’t looking for a serious relationship. But I was.
As I have mentioned previously, i think that when I said goodbye to her at Heathrow, she never expected to hear or me or see me again.
For the first few weeks after Mardie’s departure, i could barely get her out of my mind. In fact she occupied my every moment to such an extent that my work started to suffer and I had to stay at the office later and later, just to keep up with my daily duties, and even then I often found my work becoming totally bogged down. Sometimes, I had to make superhuman effort to get her out of my mind and concentrate on the tasks in hand.
I would write to Mardie almost every day – long rambling epistles, declaring my undying love, and hoping that we could meet again soon and imploring her to write back to me.
Weeks went by and not a word from her. I was distraught, but there was nothing I could do. No internet in those days, and I didn’t even have her phone number.
Then, about a month after she had left, there it was on the floor of my room – an airmail letter in Mardie’s distinctive writing style. I feverishly opened it.
The letter was disappointingly brief – almost a ‘post card’ in content. She told me that she had arrived back safely, had sorted out her apartment problems and had started a new job in downtown Manhattan. That was it. No declarations of affection or love, no romantic messages of how much she missed me, nothing. It was the sort of letter one would write to a friend or acquaintance.
Despite its brevity and lack of romance, I clung to it as proof that she hadn’t forgotten me and still wanted to keep in touch.
In reality, she probably wrote it because she felt she had to do something after all the letters I had written to her, and no doubt thought that a brief, totally impersonal letter would send me a clear message that she was no longer romantically interested in me.
However, I derived false encouragement from the fact that she had finally replied and continued to bombard her with letters, suggesting that I came to visit her for a holiday early in the New Year.
A few weeks later she wrote to me again very briefly, telling me that I was welcome to come to new York and that I was welcome to stay at her apartment.
Again, I now believe her thought process was that I had been so good to her when she was in England and taken her everywhere, including the West Country, that the least she could do in return was to offer me a place to stay in New York if I wanted to come for a holiday. I dare say she came to regret it.
It wasn’t that long since Harold Wilson had devalued the pound from its ‘pegged rate’ of two dollars eighty to the pound to a new rate of two dollars forty, and exchange control rules were being strictly enforced.
This meant that I was severely hampered by how much currency I was allowed to take with me on an overseas holiday, and because of this I started to enclose bank notes in my letters to Mardie, asking her to keep them for me until my arrival. Remarkably, I never lost a single bank note, and it gave me yet another reason to write to her – all too frequently.
Flights from London to New York were still very expensive in those far off days – there were no budget airlines, or even budget airfares. All airfares were set and controlled by IATA and all air tickets were fully exchangeable to any other airline, as all airlines charged the same price. It was so different from today’s free market.
I couldn’t afford the price of the ticket, but a kind lady in my company’s personnel department arranged a special “air ticket loan’ for me, which I had to repay by instalments over a six month period, and enabled me to book my flight on Pan Am, scheduled to depart in early January.
Although I had made a few trips to France, Germany and other European countries by sea ferry, I had never flown before, and it was with a mixture of trepidation and excitement that I impatiently awaited the day when I would fly out across the Atlantic Ocean and once more be reunited with my beloved.
Deep down I was very concerned as to the reception I would receive. It hadn’t escaped even my myopic attention that something wasn’t quite right with the way Mardie had been writing to me. I really didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at JFK, but I hoped to God that at the very least she would be there, waiting for me.