A Year in Review
With Christmas and New Year almost upon us, it behooves me to look back over 2018 and determine what manner of year it has been for me and mine.
The year commenced with me being worried out of my mind that the UK visas for my wife and step-daughter were going to be rejected. I had been back in England since April 2017 and living with my daughter in Oakham. The visa applications were finally summited to immigration in early October of that year, and according to their own guidelines, I should have had a result within 60 days – i.e. in December.
It was an extremely traumatic time for me as if the visas were refused, I had no clear idea where I would go from there, with me stuck in England and my family stuck some 6,000 miles away. We would become one of those dreaded “Skype Families”
But in late February the news I had been hoping for finally arrived, and on 6th March I made a perilous journey through snow drifts from Rutland to Heathrow to meet my delighted family. I initially thought they were delighted to see me, but no, it was the snow they wanted to see, and they deserted their bags (and me) at the car park ticket machine and rushed out of the terminal in search of real snow.
The rest of the year could hardly have gone better.
I started off the year with one grandson and ended the year with three grandchildren- one new granddaughter born in January and a second grandson born in June.
We were only in my daughter’s house for a few weeks and on 15th April we moved into a nice, snug little end of terrace house, just five minutes walk away from my daughter’s place. The rent was substantial, but a lot less than I would have to pay in the southeast of England. I used my little nest egg to buy new white goods and found some good leads on second-hand furniture and within days we were fully kitted out for a long stay in the home country.
Over the next few weeks my step-daughter, Song, was placed in a local primary school and I helped my wife, Lek to obtain a full-time job as a domestic assistant in Oakham Public school. As a result, we are now on a firm financial footing – with her salary and my state pension and benefits we are just about able to make ends meet.
Both have settled in remarkably well, with Song already speaking and reading basic English and Lek well settled at work where she has made numerous friends. She has also made a few Thai friends who live in the area and we have found out where to buy Thai food ingredients and she is well satisfied.
The only fly in the ointment has been my continual bad health, but at least I am in the right country to have all this taken care of properly. At the time of writing, I feel as well as I have been in a while -although my state of health often changes day by day. I still can’t walk very far without becoming exhausted and breathless, but I am now managing a daily, very slow walk of around 25 minutes with our little dog, Olly, and I feel I am gradually getting a little stronger. I hope and pray this continues in 2019.
Being stuck at home for most of the time, I have been doing a lot of reading and admit that as of late I have been watching too much Daytime TV. I no longer write book reviews on Goodreads, but following my decision to read more contemporary fiction, there are a couple of novels I have read recently which I would thoroughly recommend.
They are: “Where the Crawdads Sing” by American author Delia Owens, and “Killing Commendatore” by Japanese author Haruki Murakami (translated to English). Both are best sellers and are cracking reads. Needless to say, I have also read a lot of rubbish – which never happened when I stuck to the classics.
Not since the Cuban missile crisis back in 1962 can I personally recall a time when the world was in such upheaval and the future of our planet so uncertain.
You would have to be a true clairvoyant to even attempt to predict what will happen in 2019. The leaders of two of the most powerful countries in the world, Trump and Putin, are showing increasing signs of being narcissistic sociopaths.
Both care little for international norms; both are happy to lie through their teeth whenever it suits them; both are extremely callous and never show any empathy or remorse for their actions; both will not tolerate anyone who doesn’t show absolute loyalty, devotion, and admiration; and both have a grandiose sense of their self-importance, and are convinced they are unique and special.
And China’s Mr Xi Jinping doesn’t exactly shine in the international glow of good citizenship – with his ruthless crackdown on anyone who shows even the slightest signs of dissent, to say nothing of his recent rule changes which will allow him to remain president for life.
So three of the world’s top nuclear powers are under the control of what can only be described as ruthless megalomaniacs. And they aren’t the only ones. From Turkey’s Erdogan, to Philippines’ Duterte, to Venezuela’s Maduro, to Iran’s Rouhani, to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, to Syria’s Assad, to Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman. Even in EU’s Hungary we see dissent and the rule of law being repressed by a right-wing government, to say nothing of Thailand with its 4 years of authoritarian military government.
We have the never-ending violence in the Middle East, with Syria ruthlessly suppressing and murdering all opposition. Isis is still a lingering threat and Yemen has become a bloodbath. Wannabe nuclear power Iran is still sowing the seeds of insurrection everywhere, and that’s before even mentioning the little local problem in the heart of the Middle East – Israel, which simmers with violence on a daily basis.
Even in western Europe, the lack of good leadership is palpable. Macron is facing violent riots, Merkle is on the way out and the far right are flexing their muscles, Spain is still reeling from the Catalan independence movement, and Greece is still lurching on the edge of financial disaster.
In the UK we have Teresa May. Even her closest admirers couldn’t claim she is an inspirational, decisive leader. And who could replace her? That idiot Boris Johnson? Michael Gove? Or, horror upon horror, would a general election sweep Jeremy Corbin to power, whose party is, if anything, more split than the Tories – and that’s saying something.
And there seems to be no end in sight to the mass illegal immigration from Africa, and elsewhere. This has become a huge moral dilemma for the rich western nations who are trying to protect their comfortable way of life from the countless millions of have-nots from the third world.
Then we have climate change – how scary is that? – Especially with leaders like Trump in total denial.
And I still haven’t mentioned the dreaded BREXIT.
Can anyone predict where we will be in three months’ time? I seriously doubt it. In 2016 I was a convinced ‘remainer’ and was quite upset when the Brexiteers won the day. But I accepted the majority decision and put my faith in the government to obtain the best Brexit deal possible.
30 months later, like so many of my fellow Brits, I just want it to be over – for better or worse, for richer or poorer. The current situation is stressing out the whole country and I think most of will utter a huge sigh of relief when and if this godforsaken matter is finally put to rest – whatever the final deal may be.
Somewhat selfishly I am glad I am in my seventies and that my life is nearly done, but I do worry about my family and how they will survive if things take a turn for the worse.
On a personal front, as the year draws to a close I confess that I have been neglecting my creative writing quite badly, and to be honest, I am unsure how much longer I will continue with this blog. Maybe it has run its course? I’m not sure… something to ponder.
Some of you may recall that a few months ago I wrote that I was going to write a series of short stories based in Thailand, under the general heading (“Tales from a Barfly”). I wrote and published the first one on my blog, back in February entitled: “Fearless Freddie and the Pink Pussy Club”, (SEE HERE), but I confess I have had little enthusiasm to continue the series.
In many ways, the subject has been done to death (well, in Thailand anyway) and I don’t really feel I can add anything particularly original to this specialist genre. I also feel I have probably written quite enough about Thailand, with two long novels more or less devoted to the country (“Madju-Raj; Messenger of Death”, and “Lust for Life”) and a collection of short stories (“From Thailand with Love”).
The only writing I have completed this year is the aforementioned “Fearless Freddie”, and a mere 8 blogs (including this one). So is my writing output slowly reaching its natural conclusion? To be honest I have been seriously considering putting an end to my writing career.
On the other hand, my health problems are going to severely restrict my choice of activities in the coming months and years; so if I’m to avoid spending the rest of my life watching dreaded daytime TV then I had better try to give the writing one more go before I go gaga.
With this in mind, I have made a start on my fourth novel. It is set in England and covers the period 1983 to 2002 as this was the period that I was living in England before moving back to Thailand. As I say, I have made a start and it remains to be seen whether I can make meaningful progress over the next few months.
If nothing else, it might help to take my mind off the world collapsing around me…
I will wrap up this blog with my very best wishes to all my readers for Christmas and I sincerely hope that my pessimistic view of our future proves unfounded.
May 2019 bring us some positive resolutions to this mad world we live in.
Here are a few recent pics of my family in Oakham.