Mobi-Babble – 16th July 2017
Whenever someone asks me where I come from in England, I usually stare back at them and stutter… “Oh… nowhere in particular,” which invariably evokes a look of suspicion and not infrequently, a snarl of hostility.
I really don’t know why I give such non-specific responses – it would be so easy to just say “London” or “Essex”, or “Northamptonshire”, or even “Hampshire” – as that is the county where I was born.
I was born in Dibden Purlieu, a tiny village in the New Forest, Hampshire, in the south of the England – but that was just an accident of history. The 2nd World War had only just ended, and my father was stationed in the area during and following the aftermath of the D-Day operations. I was only six months old when my family moved to Ilford which is in East London /Essex. It was there I spent the first 12 years of my life before moving to Barkingside, a mere 2 miles further out into Essex county, which these days is part of the greater London borough of Redbridge.
At the age of 21, I moved to central London and it wasn’t long before I commenced my travels around the world, spending the next 16 years in such places as Nigeria, the Middle East, North America and South East Asia.
At the ripe old age of 37, I returned to the UK with wife number 4, and our daughter. We set up home back with my mother in Redbridge before moving to Basildon in Essex a couple of years later.
After taking early retirement in 2000, I moved with my family, (now wife and two daughters), to the beautiful village of Barnwell, in East Northamptonshire. Unfortunately, I soon realized that now that my daughters had grown up, and I was spending all my days at home, there was no way I could continue living with my wife of some 26 years.
So back to Thailand – 2 years in Bangkok, 15 years in Pattaya – and two more marriages, before sadly coming to the conclusion earlier this year to pack my bags for the final time. Money and health dictated that it was time to go and see out my remaining years back in Blighty with wife number six and our lovely daughter.
Maybe it is fitting that after my travels around the world and an extended period of hibernation in Thailand that I should seek to spend my declining years in the heart of England – in the delightful rural town of Oakham not that far from the geographical center of the country of my birth.
All my friends assured me I would be in for a cultural shock in returning to a Brexit-manic land after so many years away. But what they failed to realize is that despite my extensive travails abroad, I have still spent quite a bit of my adult life in Blighty – maybe some 17 years. And I have also been back quite a few times during the intervening period, to visit family, attend weddings and so on.
So no shock, only pleasure in being back in a democratic, civilized society where most things work most of the time, where there is law and order, where there are no power cuts or internet failures, and people actually say “hello” when they pass you on the street or along a country footpath.
More to the point is the wonderful health service. Before I left Thailand I was inundated with warnings that the health service was on the point of breakdown and I would have to wait months – if not years to see a specialist.
I already knew this was nonsense, as during one of my trips here a few years ago I was rushed into A & E with severe abdominal pains and was treated with the utmost care and concern.
Sure the NHS is struggling – what health service isn’t in this day and age of expensive miracle drugs and cures? But despite all the negative publicity, it is still one of the best places to be sick in the world – certainly a million times better than the USA where only the rich have access to the best treatment.
Ditto, I’m afraid are third world countries such as Thailand. If you have no money, you will almost certainly die if you have cancer or need a life-saving operation. At the time of writing, one of my closest friends is lying in a coma with bleeding on his brain in a Pattaya hospital, with little chance of survival as he doesn’t have the funds to pay for specialist treatment…. sad but true.
To be clear on this health business, I have been back in the UK for two months – almost to the day and here is my progress report to date.
I am now getting all my countless meds for free, (approx. $500 per month in Thailand); I have been treated by a podiatrist; have attended a diabetic clinic three times; have seen two eye specialists, with another still to come in a couple of weeks. Next week I see a specialist about my hearing problems, with the firm expectation of having a hearing aid prescribed free of charge.
My heart is still giving me cause for concern and I continue to have ‘episodes’ when my chest tightens and I have severe problems breathing. The last such episode occurred only yesterday when I foolishly tried to ride my newly purchased 2nd hand bike uphill – not a smart thing to do with a dodgy arterial system – in my body, not on the roads.
However, I have seen a heart specialist twice at Leicester Hospital and am due to have an angiogram and stent(s) inserted within the next 2-3 weeks.
But most of all, I can relax in the knowledge that if any of my medical conditions become critical, I just have to dial 999 and an ambulance will whisk me to emergency – and I won’t have to worry about the cost or wonder if the doctors are fleecing me or are just downright incompetent.
On the non-medical front – I am now receiving an enhanced pension that had been frozen for six years because I lived overseas, I have a free bus pass which entitles me to use local buses throughout the country, and with my senior rail card, I can also travel by train off-peak for very low fares. Last week I traveled from Tonbridge in Kent, to London to Peterborough and back to Oakham for the huge sum of £11.25 (about 500 Baht).
Eventually, I hope to get my British driving license back and then buy a nice little runner for around £500 ($650), but in the meantime, I am quite happy using public transport to get around in these balmy summer months. Believe it or not, most buses and trains are pretty much on time.
I confess the English weather has been a bit of a shock to the system, and I am really glad that I came back at the start of the British so-called summer. There have been days when I could never get warm and there have been other days so hot that I wished I was back in Thailand so that I could cool down in an air-conditioned bedroom.
No two days have been the same, one day dry and warm, next day wet and cold, but once I bought myself some vests, a couple of thick wooly sweaters, some thick socks and a pair of warm pajamas I have found the lower temperatures much more tolerable. I am confident that by the time I get to winter, I will be reasonably acclimatized.
Unfortunately, it won’t be the same for my wife and daughter, who – if all goes to plan – will be joining me in late October/early November – just in time for the cold English winter. At least in the winter, I will be able to turn the house heating up and I doubt my two will leave home for the first two months…
Right now the temperatures can drop down to single figures at night but no suggestion of anyone turning the heating on – it’s summer, after all…
But I mustn’t complain – if it wasn’t for my family I would never have been able to come back to England, and I will forever be in their debt for providing a roof over my head and helping me to settle back into the English way of doing things.
I am enjoying walking and occasionally cycling through the small town; taking buses and trains to the surrounding Rutland and Leicestershire countryside, and visiting the neighboring town of Melton Mowbray, (famous for pork pies of the same name and Stilton blue cheese), Rutland water, Rockingham village and much more besides.
Work-shy or shy of work?
In between my myriad medical appointments, I have been making sporadic efforts to find some writing work online, but so far have not met with much success. I have done a couple of large writing jobs for an existing customer and there is another loyal customer for whom I am still writing a weekly blog; but apart from that, nothing really to speak of.
There seems to be an abundance of online writing work available, but the few I have applied for have not come through. Once I have sorted out my poor aging body, I will make renewed efforts to generate some additional income, but I can see that it’s going to be an uphill struggle.
It’s a bit difficult at my age to convince people that I still have what it takes….
As ever, I have been keeping a record of my daily life back in ‘Ye Olde Countrie’ with a great many photos.
After years of trusty service, I have now sadly pensioned out my trusty canon digital camera, as I find my latest Samsung smartphone camera takes equally good pics, and is always reliable.
Even when I can’t see the screen clearly, I can be confident it will take a clear and crisp image – unlike the poor old Canon, which was getting rather cranky and showing its age.
In this blog, I commence my pictorial journey with a collection of pics taken in my new sleepy home town of Oakham.
One of the more notable things about Oakham – and throughout the tiny county of Rutland -is that no fast food chains are allowed to take up residence within its borders. No Macdonalds, no Burger Kings, no Pizza Huts and so on….
But guess who owns this nice little Oakham pub masquerading as The Captain Noel Newton?
None other than the WJ Wetherspoon pub chain… I guess there’s more than one way to skin a rat…
Maybe Ronald Mc can put in a bid for ‘The Me ry Monk’!