Last Saturday I drove back from Roi Et to Pattaya. It is a journey of over seven hundred kilometers and took me eight hours, including a few brief stops. It’s a very long drive for a single driver who is over sixty to do in one day, and I must say I don’t relish doing it too many times.
Next time, ideally, I either stop half way there, or I get Wan to share some of the driving to give me a break. Wan has her own car – with a manual gear change, would you believe, and is scared to drive my car as it is very fast and she has never driven an automatic. I will have to give her a few lessons.
We brought Jasper and Wan’s niece, Sherry with us. It was the first time that Jasper had ever seen the sea, which he first saw from my condo balcony, and he was very excited.
Yesterday, we were all very tired, still recovering from the long drive to Pattaya, and we spent a lazy few hours on the beach, before doing some shopping, and yesterday evening, I took the two girls to buy a few clothes at the Thepprasit market.
My drinking is still pretty much under control. To give you an example; yesterday I had two small bottles of Singha on the beach, a glass of Leo draft in Carrefour with my food in the food court, and two more small bottles of Singha at Thepprasit market while I was waiting for the girls.
So all told, I had five small beers spanning a period of eight hours. I rarely drink more than this, often less. On Friday I only had three small beers when I arrived back in Pattaya; one beer when I arrived and two more beers later, with my dinner.
Last night, when we got back to the condo, Wan asked me if I wanted another beer, but I declined, I just didn’t feel like it.
It is literally years since I have been able to drink in such a controlled manner – without any conscious effort on my part. I can only imagine that it is my relatively relaxed state of well being with Wan that has led to this change.
I am not sure if the change in drinking habits is sustainable or whether I will gradually revert to my old ways. AA will say that what I am doing is impossible to maintain, but I am really not sure.
One thing I do know is that even this moderate amount of beer consumption has caused me to put on a lot of weight, and I am fast developing a very ugly beer belly and have trouble getting into many of my clothes.
With my medical history of diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary disease, alcohol is not good for me, in any quantity.
I have experienced slight angina pains and a general shortage of breath whenever I exert myself which is a sure sign that I need to lose weight and start taking some exercise.
So I must put my mind to this and see if I can’t just bite the bullet and stop for good. Now I have stopped going to bars it ought to be a lot easier, and as the urge to drink is not strong, maybe I should just try to knock it on the head once and for all.
Wan is as sweet as ever, (no pun intended for those who understand Thai). She can’t do enough for me, and attends to my every need. She is the first ever person who has asked me to teach her how to give me my insulin injections, in case I am unable to do so for myself. Most Thai women run a mile as soon as they see one of my needles.
As you know, I am an old, grumpy, emotionally scarred alcoholic and sometimes I am not the best of company. On a couple of occasions I have not acted in a decent way towards Wan, my selfish side coming to the fore, and each time poor Wan is so upset and even cries. Then I feel like a complete heel and beg her forgiveness and tell her what a horrible, selfish old bastard I am, and she forgives me.
In all the time we have been together, I have never seen her be in a bad mood or talk to me badly. She truly is a gem.
I am still not sure where this will all end. I am not sure I can take on a six year old boy at my time of life. On the one hand I have the utmost admiration for Wan in refusing to leave her son with her mother to raise as most single mothers do, but on the other, I am not sure if I am ready or capable of bringing up another child.
The other thing is where we will live. Wan has put so much into her home in Roi Et, and she loves it there and has so many plans for her garden and how to make her home better. All her family is there, and she wants to live there.
Yet, I just can’t see myself living there permanently – not yet any way, but I will feel bad if I force Wan to set up home in Pattaya and bring her son here, something she is willing to do, but clearly doesn’t want to do.
It is a dilemma.
MARDIE (Part 3)
The flight in the Pan Am 707 to New York was exciting and a bit scary – my very first time in a plane which heralded a life of winging my way to almost every corner of the world, some of those ‘corners’, many, many times in the years that followed.
It was about an eight hour flight, and I left in late afternoon, but still arrived at JFK that evening thanks to the time difference.
It was with some trepidation that I disembarked and made my way to the arrival hall, hoping with all my might that Mardie would be there to meet me.
She didn’t let me down – there she was dressed up in her winter finest – The temperature was below zero – and was accompanied by another girl, who looked about her age.
I was greeted without any great display of affection, which I put down to the presence of her friend, and was then introduced to Sally, her flat mate.
Mardie led us out of the airport and thence to the New York subway to take the relatively short journey across Queens, the New York borough where JFK was located and also where she lived.
From the subway exit, it was a ten minute walk to her apartment, and although I was carrying quite a lot of luggage, it wasn’t a problem – shared between the three of us.
I was feeling very tired and not a little frustrated at Mardie’s insistence on small talk with Sally, and barely a word about having missed me or any or showing any signs that she still had feelings for me.
She had a nice, modern apartment on the sixth floor. It had two bedrooms, was centrally heated, and was well furnished with comfortable modern furniture.
I had assumed that I would be sharing a bedroom with Mardie, but she had other ideas.
I was shown into a sort of small anti-room, which had connecting doors to her bedroom and the bathroom. It was there that I was given a mattress to unroll and set out onto the floor and which was to be my bed for the next two weeks.
I was feeling ever more dismayed at the turn of events, when Mardie capped it by informing me that she was going to bed as she had to get up early the following morning. She had to make it to work at her office in Manhattan by nine ‘o clock.
I had assumed she would be taking some time off to show me around, but not a bit of it. What on earth was I to do, all alone in Queens, with my seemingly ex-girl friend at work all day?
Mardie disappeared into the bathroom, and with a brief smile and a “See you in the morning”, she went into her bedroom, and pointedly locked the door.
I was very tired, physically and emotionally, but lay awake for half the night, wondering what the hell I had let myself in for. I was madly in love with her, hadn’t seen her for four months, and had been greeted and treated like a distant friend. Not a kiss, not a cuddle; nothing.
I must have eventually drifted asleep from pure exhaustion, for the next thing I remember is Mardie leaning over me, fully dressed in a smart, matching top and mini-skirt, giving me a gentle shake.
She said that she was off to work, and told me to rest up and help myself to any food I wanted in the apartment.
I sleepily asked her when I would see her, and she replied that if I wanted to, I could meet her for lunch. This immediately perked up my interest and my mood, and I asked her where she worked.
She gave me a subway map and a map of Manhattan, and marked the location of her office building and gave me her address. She showed me which subway station to go to, and said I wouldn’t have any problems finding her office building as it was just down the road from the Rockefeller Centre.
With that she gave me a big kiss on my cheek and said she would be waiting in the lobby of her office building at one o’clock. A bright smile from the door of my ‘bedroom’, and she was gone.
I immediately started to feel better about things and gave the maps a quick perusal, realising that it should be a relatively simple matter to find my way to her office, provided I could remember the way to the subway entrance.
Maybe things weren’t as bad as I had thought, so with rising spirits I showered, shaved and found something to eat, before eagerly taking the lift out of the building to head off to Manhattan. It was only ten o’clock, but I didn’t care. I wanted to get on my way.
My journey to Manhattan nearly came to a premature end when I walked out of the building and immediately lost my footing on the icy sidewalk and went down on my back with a nasty bump. I gingerly got to my feet, fearing another slip, and I now realised the entire sidewalk and road was covered in a layer of ice. It was bitterly cold, but there was no snow, just what appeared to be freezing rain. I had never seen such thing before. The rain was ice cold and it froze as soon as it hit the ground, making walking nigh on impossible.
I looked around and saw that I wasn’t the only one who was having problems keeping their balance on the treacherous surface, but also noted that most of my fellow pedestrians had rubber boots on and some even had cloth wrapped around the heels to give them a better grip on the ice. They had obviously experienced such conditions before.
It took me a quite a while to slowly edge my way to the subway, grabbing onto anything at hand as I continued to almost lose my footing any number of times.
For the second time since I arrived in this country, I began to wonder what the hell I had let myself in for.
I still made it to the designated subway stop in Manhattan with more than an hour to spare, and having perused my tourist literature, decided to spend the spare time looking around the Rockefeller Centre.
Thank God the weather in Manhattan was dry and I didn’t have and more icy walkways to contend with. According to my map I should be close to the famous Centre, but I couldn’t see any sign of it. I looked and looked and walked up and down the wide avenue I was in, gazing at the awe inspiring Sky Scrapers, but could see no signs showing the way to the Rockefeller Centre.
In desperation I decided to ask. The first three people I asked looked at me as if I was crazy, said they had no idea what I was talking about and walked on. Then I asked an elderly man, and he too looked at me as if I was crazy.
“The Rockefeller Centre? ” he asked me, with obvious puzzlement on his face.
“Yes,” I replied”, “Can you tell me where it is, please?”
“Buddy”, he said, “You are standing right in the middle of it!”
With that, he walked on and left me standing there, scratching my head. In truth I didn’t really know what the centre was all about. I had only glanced at the tourist book briefly, and just assumed it was some kind of building dedicated to one of New York’s famous millionaires. I pulled out the book and read further:
“Rockefeller Centre is a complex of 19 commercial buildings covering 22 acres between 48th and 51st streets in New York City. Built by the Rockefeller family, it is located in the centre of Midtown Manhattan, spanning the area between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue.”
I now realised why everyone thought I was completely mad. I had indeed being standing at the very heart of it, and just about every building within my view was part of the Centre.
I had started to learn something about New Yorkers – they don’t suffer fools gladly.
I decided to find my way to Mardie’s office and leave exploring the Centre for another time, and I walked down the road a couple of blocks, hopefully in the right direction.
This time I was more successful in my map reading as there, in front of me, was the designated building. I walked into the lobby area to await Mardie’s arrival.
She came out of the lift, bright and smiling and whisked me off to lunch at a nearby, typical New York diner. She seemed much friendlier than the previous evening, and once more my spirits rose, and I decided it would only be a matter of time before the relationship returned to where we had left off in London.
I was further encouraged by Mardie suggesting that I spend the afternoon exploring New York City, suggesting some places I could get to on the subway and meeting her back at her office at six p.m. when we could go out for a meal together.
That evening, after our meal in downtown Manhattan, we returned to her apartment, and I did indeed feel that things were on the up and up. Mardie came to lie down with me on my mattress for a while and we had a little cuddle and kiss, before she went to her bedroom. Yes, for sure it wouldn’t be long before things were back to the way they were.
That night I had the soundest sleep in weeks, if not months.
It was probably the happiest I was to be during those two weeks in New York.