And it’s a Happy Easter from Blighty! (31st March 2018)

 

 

 

Mobi-Babble – 31st March 2018

It’s over a month since I last blogged and I guess some of you must have wondered what has been happening in eventful little life. Suffice to say that getting my family settled in England amidst the snow and arctic conditions of early March has been occupying a great deal of my time.

From my horrendous journey to Heathrow to pick up Lek and Song, to finding somewhere to live, to undertaking a multitude of tasks, has kept this old codger well occupied and away from his computer.

As I hinted in my last blog, the night of 1st/2nd March will go down in the annals of British weather history as the day the ‘beast from the east’ (Siberia) enwrapped Blighty in an icy blast of snow and ice.

It was on this very day that my family were due at terminal three at 5.30 a.m; so I decided I had better get on the road pretty early, in case of weather hold-ups, and boy, am I glad that I did. I left around 2.00 a.m. and found the roads through the Rutland countryside piled high with snow and I gingerly slip-slided my way along the snow-covered rural roads at no more 15 mph.

The plan was to join the  A1 road at Stamford, which I had hoped would be relatively clear of snow – given that it is one of the main arteries from the North of England to London.

Thank God I was the only car on the road, and after a hair-raising drive to Stamford, Google Maps decided to re-route me onto further rural roads and bypass the A1 completely.

I could only assume that the A1 must have been blocked so I followed the GPS along yet more snow-bound rural roads, which in some parts were banked very high with snow being blown in from the surrounding fields by fierce easterly winds.

After hours of perilously maneuvering my little car from one village to the next, I came to a particularly high drift across the road which forced me to grind to a halt. It was here I met my first vehicle of the night coming the other way. He was stuck, as was I!

I got out and helped push him out of the drift and he reciprocated.

Somehow, I finally ended up in Northampton Town high street. It was as quiet as a mouse –not a soul in sight – and dozens of cars were almost submerged in snow, abandoned along the sides of the roads.

At the end of the high street, I was directed by my GPS to turn right onto a road which had a sign stating ‘not suitable for large vehicles’. This meant that the road was probably more of a country track than a proper road, and it would clearly have been suicide to continue in that direction.

I retraced my back to the town centre and opted for a side road that had a signpost listing various destinations, including the M1 in brackets at the bottom of the list. I decided it was my best bet, and about 45 minutes later, after risking life and limb on a precipitous, snow-bound minor road, I finally made it to the M1 motorway, which also led to London.

I still had a long way to go and by now it was coming up to 4 a.m. fortunately, the M1 was more navigable than the rural roads and the centre lane was just about driveable. I put my faith in the Gods and put my foot down a little. I could hardly see as the windscreen was covered with freezing ice and snow and the windscreen washer mechanisms were frozen hard.

Visions of Mobi being found frozen in the middle some snowdrift, and little Lek and Song abandoned at Heathrow plagued me during my scary journey.

How I made it I will never know, but at around 6.15, I finally reached Heathrow terminal 3 car park. Five minutes later, as I wearily entered the arrivals lounge, my two happy travellers emerged from customs with smiles beaming all over their tired faces.

I was quite a reunion after being apart for 10 months, and eventually, we wended our way towards the car park entrance. “Wait here!” I told them, as I went to wrestle with the parking machine to extract a ticket that would let us out, but when I turned around, the luggage trolleys were unattended and they had both disappeared!

WTF! Where have they gone? Kidnapped? Surely not.

I looked around me in despair and after a few seconds, I saw them running back towards me.

“Where did you go?”

“We went to find snow,” they said in unison.

I looked ahead and sure enough, just outside the covered area, there was a mountain of snow.

They’ll soon get tired of that!

The journey back to Rutland was another epic, but not as bad as the outward journey. It was still snowing, but this time it was daylight, and I stuck to the main roads. My two passengers, completely oblivious of the dangers of getting stuck in the snow, were busy admiring the snowy landscape and taking pictures. It was all very pretty and awe-inspiring – provided you didn’t have to drive through it all in a tiny car that wasn’t built for sub-arctic conditions.

We arrived in Oakham about three hours later, and despite not having had a proper sleep for over 24 hours, their enthusiasm for the snow remained undiminished. We had barely got inside my daughter’s home before they were out in the garden with my grandson and son-in-law, playing and frolicking in the sub-zero conditions.

Thais! Who would have thought it?

This is not the first time I have brought Thais to England, and I must admit that my previous experiences had left me totally unprepared for the manner in which Lek and Song have since embraced all things English – especially the climate and food.

I came to the UK with one of my previous wives to England back in 1982 – also in the heart of winter – when my father died. On that occasion, there was also snow everywhere underfoot, and my then wife spent almost the entire 3 weeks we were in England in bed at my brother’s house. She complained it was too cold to get up.

Then wife number 5, who came with me for a holiday in England in the middle of summer, complained about the cold and the food. We were due to stay a month but went back after 3 weeks as she missed Thailand too much.

So naturally, I was fearful. Although Lek had already been with me to England twice during the summer and liked it very much, I wasn’t sure how she would take to the cold weather.

The simple answer is that mother and daughter are tolerating it better than I am. They have been out and about in the cold rain, snow, and gale-force bitter winds and are perfectly happy.

The speed in which they have adapted to life here is truly astonishing. Lek is driving our little Peugeot around England like a native, (even though she had only previously driven automatics), and although we have been eating a fair amount of home-cooked Thai food, they have both enjoyed English meals – everything from breakfast cereals, sausages & mash, sandwiches and a whole load more besides. On Easter Sunday we are having roast lamb, Yorkshire pud, stuffing, veg, gravy, and all the trimmings.

(Thai wife number 4, who has now lived in England more than 30 years -the one who refused to get out of bed for 3 weeks- still refuses to eat potatoes and still insists on rice with every meal.)

 

Then it snowed – AGAIN!

Lek and Song have only been here a mere 28 days, but it seems like 28 weeks – so much has been achieved. Here’s a little list of some of these achievements, in no particular order:

  • We have rented a nice little 2-bed house (which involved credit checks for both me and Lek). It is a modern, end-of-terrace house, with a decent sized garden, two sheds, and an off road parking space. It is only ten minutes’ walk to the town centre, shops, schools etc.
  • The house was completely unfurnished, so I bought a load of second-hand furniture from a woman in Lincolnshire, who delivered it all free of charge. I also bought a lot of household white goods, and my family has rallied around and given us a load of stuff for the house.
  • We moved in on 22nd March and we are all set up and registered with internet, gas, electricity, water, council tax etc. I am confident it is going to be a happy, comfortable home.
  • Both Lek and Song are registered with the local GP and are now fully eligible for all NHS care.
  • Song has been enrolled in the local Catholic primary school and will start school after Easter.
  • Lek has been offered full-time employment at Oakham public school as a domestic assistant and will start work after Easter.
  • We are in the process of applying for child benefit for Song.
  • Lek has successfully opened a UK bank account.
  • We have sourced a network of stores that stock Thai food and ingredients. We can also order Thai stuff order online – currently awaiting a delivery of ‘Palaa’ from a Thai lady in Berkshire.

We have been out and about quite a bit. To Leicester twice – the first time to pick up the resident permits from a post office there, and the second time for shopping. We have also been to Peterborough, Corby and Melton Mowbray (the nearest larger town) on a number of occasions for various things that are not available in Oakham.

Our little Peugeot piled up to the gunnels

The charity shops are great for cheap clothes, as are places like Primark, Asda etc. for clothes and other household products. If you know where to go, you can live quite cheaply in England.

Eating out

Out for a meal with the family

Have you ever seen a larger Yorkshire Pudding??

Mercifully, up here in the East Midlands, we are spared the horrendous traffic jams that abound in the South East, and we are surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside that England has to offer. Lek is a country-girl at heart and she loves the rural setting. I am sure that one day we will end up living in an old village cottage.

All in all…so far so good. Everything has gone like clockwork and our situation couldn’t be better. It is the most positive I have felt about life since that dreadful day, six years ago, when I discovered that all my savings had disappeared in a global investment scam.

It’s a far cry from a couple of months ago when I really believed the visas would be rejected and we were destined to live part forever.

We are now looking forward to the English spring and all that has to offer – warmer weather, the trees in blossom, and the spring flowers starting bloom.

Spring is my favourite time of year – Bring it on…

STOP PRESS!!! – More snow is forecast for Easter Monday – The English weather is nothing if unpredictable…at least it keeps life interesting.

***

Here’s a few pics of our new home:

 

The long wait is over – they’re coming at last!! – 25th February 2018

 

Mobi-Babble, 25th February 2018

 Oh, ye (me) of little faith!

I confess that I had pretty much convinced myself that the visas were going to be rejected and I was going to be forever in that cyber- world where my daily contact with my family was destined to be forever conducted via Skype.

We had so many false alarms and misinformed promises that when I finally received that call from Lek at 5 a.m. last Monday morning that the visas had been approved, it was something of an anti-climax.

Of course, in reality, I was over the moon, as were Lek and Song, and I quickly had to get my head in gear – book the air tickets and start the preparations for their grand arrival. I had deliberately avoided any forward planning prior to the issue of visas as I didn’t want to put a jinx on it.

So I am now rushing around, trying to find somewhere to live and do a thousand things in a few days. They are arriving next Friday 2nd March at the crack of dawn and I will have to drive through the night to collect them from terminal 4 Heathrow.

Unfortunately ‘sods law’ still seems to be playing its unwelcome role in our adventure. Not content with delaying their visas for a month longer than for everyone else, we now find that the weather forecast for early March is absolutely horrendous!

Sub-zero temperatures are forecast, even during the day, with heavy snow, and a vicious wind – all the way from Siberia. Wouldn’t you just know it? Apparently, it will be the coldest start for March in many years and I have visions of being stuck in a snow drift on the motorway, so let’s hope my luck changes.

Expect reports of my family’s adjustment to living in a cold strange new cold world during the coming months.

***

Tales from a Barfly

As promised in my last blog, I am publishing the first of my new short stories based on my life as a bar owner in sunny Thailand. They will all be works of fiction but are all loosely based on my experiences as ‘Barfly’, and also on my previous escapades and just general life in the notorious Land of Smiles.

So here’s the first one – I do hope you enjoy it.

Fearless Freddie and the Pink Pussy Club

It was 1:00 a.m. – a full hour since we had closed and padlocked the tall wrought iron gates – replete with nasty looking spikes – that spanned the outside perimeter of Mobi’s Bar.

It was the end of legal trading hours and Lek, my long-suffering wife, had dimmed the lights and turned down the music.

Contrary to outward appearances, twelve midnight signified the start of Mobi’s most profitable period – illicit after-hours drinking – which not infrequently continued for most of the night.

It had been a sweltering day and even the after dark temperatures still hovered in the mid-nineties, admittedly down from the insufferable noon peaks of 110 degrees but not at all pleasant. More than a dozen strategically placed industrial sized fans had worked overtime to keep my clientele and staff cool, but by the time witching hour arrived, we were still drenched in sweat. It was at the height of the ‘dry’ season and the stifling humidity refused to let up its grip on the populace – not even at night.

Like most bar owners in this little corner of the planet, I had to have proverbial eyes in the back of my head, and I quickly spotted the stranger creep in from the hidden rear entrance and commandeer a stool at the corner of the bar. The little man’s eyes darted around in all directions before he seemed to relax and requested a beer from the girl behind the bar.

I was busy dealing with an elderly gentleman from Germany who couldn’t quite grasp why we wouldn’t allow him to ‘buy’ my star bargirl out of the bar and take her away that very night and marry her.

“I can pay! I can pay!” he insisted, “Money is no object, Mister Mobi.”

For some strange reason, he seemed to believe that the only thing that motivated the management of Mobi’s bar was filthy lucre. He couldn’t seem to get into his inebriated Teutonic skull that the business of running a Thai bar in the unlawful wee hours wasn’t purely a hard commercial enterprise.

Nothing could persuade him that as well as earning sufficient to put food on our tables, we also had altruistic motives. We really cared about the girls who were our daily ‘bread and butter’. We also cared about our clients – especially the older and more foolish ones.

Click here to continue reading: “Fearless Freddie and the Pink Pussy Club” 

***

Blog Pics

Once again they come from Thailand, curtsey Lek – the last few before I revert to a 100% UK portfolio which will herald the arrival of English Spring… I hope…

Song and her cousin
Song At Pak Tho railway station to see her uncle off to work

For cat lovers everywhere!

For cat lovers everywhere – more pics of Lek’s Nong Khai cats who will be left with her mother

 

 

Mobi’s Life of Drinking, Part 3 (Final) –10th February 2018

 

In today’s blog:

  • Mobi-Babble – Still in the grip of a bitter winter, but Spring is just around the corner
  • Family Visas Update – Still waiting but a chink of light??
  • Tales from A Barfly – News on some New Creative Writing from the Pen of Mobi.
  • Mobi’s Life of Drinking – Part 3 – the final part of my story relating my struggles with alcohol.
  • Pics from a nearby Nong Khai tobacco plantation, Leks resident cattery, and Stone, Staffordshire.

Mobi-Babble – 9th February 2018

So far, 2018 has been bleak and cold. It has been a bitter winter back here in England, with temperatures dropping below zero on most nights and a fair bit of snow. Apart from the odd mild day, the infamous British weather has maintained its reputation for being unremittingly disagreeable. Every day I shiver in my boots, but my spirits are lifted in the knowledge that spring is just around the corner.

It is one of the true wonders of nature that even while the snow is thick underfoot and the wind is whistling around my ears, I can see green shoots appearing on the bare branches of the trees and bushes. If there is a God out there, he hasn’t totally forsaken mankind – at least not yet.

Last week, on one of the most miserable days of a miserable winter, I ventured out in my trusty little Peugeot 107 to the wilds of flat Lincolnshire near the mouth of The Wash. I went there to attend the funeral of a friend I first knew back in the 1950s and who I last saw 7 years ago in Northumberland when I was on a visit to the UK.

When I arrived at the crematorium the sun was shining and I thought that Roy’s family had chosen a lovely day to consign their favorite son to the great beyond. But as soon as I ventured out of my lovely warm car, the ice-cold wind almost blew me over and I soon retreated back from whence I had come. 

It wasn’t just me. I was early, and I sat in my car for the next thirty minutes, watching others arrive. It was somewhat comforting to see that I wasn’t the only one to run back to my car to seek protection from the horrendous conditions.

Eventually, I joined the mourners in the crematorium and was quite astonished to find that so many people had come to mourn the passing of my dear friend. The chapel was jam-packed and there was a huge overflow standing at the back. People who had known Roy had traveled from all over the country to attend the service; it was a fitting tribute to a wonderful man who had led a very full life and was loved and respected by so many. His wife and family must have taken much comfort from this outpouring of feeling.

The return journey back to relative civilization – to my eldest daughter’s place in Birmingham – was a bit of a nightmare. For the first hour of the journey, the sun had disappeared behind dark clouds, the heavens opened and the single track, potholed roads started to flood.

Night descended before I made it back to decent roads,  but my relief was short-lived. The traffic-snarled M6 motorway, which had finally loomed out of the night storms, led me inexorably towards  Birmingham’s evening rush hour, where I was seemingly bogged down forever.

If it wasn’t for Mr. Google and his trusty maps, I would probably still be shunting around Birmingham’s never-ending urban sprawl.

***

Family Visa Update

We are all still waiting for the result of our visa applications and it won’t surprise you to learn that it is really starting to get all of us down. As we hadn’t heard anything by mid-January, (which was the expiry of the ’60 working days’ immigration benchmark), I decided to make a call to the Sheffield Immigration call center.

These people charge £1.32 a minute to call them, and after I had connected with an Indian who I could barely understand, I concluded that I was almost certainly speaking to someone in India. I was on the phone for ages as everything had to be repeated several times. He asked me a whole load of questions before we got to the crux of the matter – what was the status of my visa applications?  

It transpired that the Sheffield center considered that my application had been duly ‘actioned’ within their target 60 WORKING days, because on 17th January, they had requested the agent to send some “missing documents” – which they had lost in the first place. The call center guy told me I might have to wait up to another 15 WORKING days before they will look at the file again. The call cost me over 30 quid! It’s all very depressing.

Anyway, this week we had a bit of good news. Sheffield sent an email to my agent with a request for me to pay the outstanding NHS fee for my stepdaughter, which I paid the same day. We have been waiting for this request to pay since mid-January, and the agent assured me that now it has been paid, we should hear the result of our applications next week.

I have heard this story before, so I’ll believe it when I see it.

***

Tales from A Barfly – Some New Creative Writing from the Pen of Mobi.

After a long break, I have started writing creatively again. I’m not writing any more novels, as they take too long to write, and it is pretty clear that my style of writing and my subject matter do not interest the modern-day readership.

Selling only a few hundred copies after working on a novel for anything up to a year is not exactly encouraging. I now accept that I am never going to sell many novels, but I still have the desire to write. So I am going back to the genre I first tried some 18 years ago  – short stories.

Mobi’s Bar

Some of you may recall that back in 2014 I decided to buy and run a bar in Pattaya. I had many memorable moments – some happy and some not so happy – during the six months I owned the bar.

For the record, I gave up the bar because it was proving to be a massive drain on my health, and not because the venture was a failure. I won’t claim it was a raving success either, but we did make enough money to pay the bills and I am sure that if I had stuck at it, it would have grown into a successful little business. But it wasn’t to be – my health came first.

I will never forget those magical six months, and in particular, all the people I met – good and bad. I made many new friends, some of which I still correspond with to this day, and not a few enemies who tried to ruin my business and get me arrested, which is the nature of the bar business in Thailand.

But my brief career in the bar business provided me with some rich, hair-raising incidents and I met many fascinating characters, all of which I can now convert into stories. I have already written the first story, and it will be published in my next blog.

I have no idea how many stories I will write, or whether one day I might put them into a short story collection and put it for sale on Amazon. But the main reason I am writing them is just for fun and to hopefully provide some light amusement to my blog readers.

So keep a lookout for my next blog, as it will contain my very first ‘fictional’ barfly story –“Fearless Freddy and the Pink Pussy Club.”

***

Mobi’s Life of Drinking, Part 3 (Final) –10th February 2018

I will now conclude my tale of how I finally made the transition from a practicing alcoholic to a recovering alcoholic.

From 2004 to 2009 I lived with an unfaithful wife who was also a binge-drinking alcoholic who made my life a total misery.

During the 5 years of this marriage, I made several serious attempts to leave her – I once left her for over a month – but I always ended up going back to her. Each time she would promise to behave and change her life around. I was still totally besotted with her and she knew it, so all she had to do was to smile her beatific smile, tell me that she loved me, needed me, and would change her behavior and I was slap bang back in the nightmare.

It was at this time that some friends introduced me to “Alcoholics Anonymous” in Pattaya and I started to go to regular meetings – usually every day. I made new friends at AA, and during the early months, I made a lot of progress in my attempts to quit drinking for good. I accepted the AA teachings and I believed that the 12 steps could work for me. I even started to accept that there was a “Higher Power” who would ultimately help me to find the “true path.”

I suppose I was ready to accept their philosophy because I was desperate and was in a very vulnerable mental state.

Click Here to continue reading Mobi’s Life of Drinking, Part 3

***

Blog pics – Cats Misbehaving, Nong Khai’s Tobacco industry, and a chilly Stone in Staffs

Once more the pics below are mainly from Nong Khai in Thailand, but I did manage to shoot a few snaps on a recent, very chilly trip to Stone in Staffordshire (near Stoke) 

Tobacco plantation in Nong Khai
Lek lending a hand

the finished product – 100 Baht (£2) per kilo. The middle-men get a huge markup before it ends up in Bangkok to manufature Thai cigarettes
Song with a baby goat

Stone in Staffordshire

An American restaurant in the center of Stone

 

Family Visa Update – A Worrying Time – 20th January 2018

 

 

 

 

In today’s blog:

  • Mobi-Babble – It’s shaping up to be the coldest English winter for years…
  • Family Visas Update – a very worrying time…
  • Mobi’s Life of Drinking – Part 2 – the second of 3 parts about my struggles with alcohol.
  • More pics from Nong Khai.

Mobi-Babble – 20th January 2018

The joys of an English Winter… Brr…

Just my luck to have to suffer one of the coldest UK winters in years. Recent winters have had only brief flurries of snow – if any at all– with temperatures generally hovering several degrees above zero.

Unfortunately, the 2017/18 winter started in early December, and apart from a slightly milder spell over Christmas, it is now back wreaking its full fury on a population and infrastructure that is simply not equipped  to deal with extensive snow blizzards and gale force winds – both of which we have had to experience in the past couple of weeks.

Even more depressing is the knowledge that there is no end in sight with the medium range forecasters predicting more of the same.

For yours truly, it has meant that I am confined to my room almost 24/7. I have my own electric fan heater in this room as the central heating in the house is simply not warm enough for this aging “tropical transplant”. 

I am in a difficult and depressing situation. When I leave my room, on some days it has been so cold that even indoors my hands and feet have started to freeze up. This problem could be party addressed by turning the house heating on (it is off from 9.30 am to 4 p.m) but even then, I doubt I would be that warm on some of the really cold days when the temperatures outside are below freezing.

When – and if – I get my own place – after my family arrives – it will be different as I will crank the heating up, leave it on 24/7 and if we are still cold, I will buy additional fan heaters. But for now, it is difficult to do this as I am a guest.

So apart from the occasional 15-minute walk for a bit of exercise in the freezing conditions and a car run to the local stores to do a bit of shopping, I am stuck in front of my computer.

My situation is not made any easier by the onset of COPD (lung disease) as the cold weather exacerbates the condition and when I do go for a short walk I can only move very slowly or I will become severely congested and unable to breathe.

If the temperature were to rise even 5 or 6 degrees I might jump in the car and go out somewhere for the morning or afternoon, or even go further afield and visit friends or relations, but I can’t contemplate going anywhere in this bitter weather – it is too risky for my health and in any case would not be enjoyable.

Rather depressing – but I just have to grin and bear it – no choice really. Only a few more weeks, I hope, roll on spring…

***

Family Visa update.

I have been quite excited this week but also a bit worried. Earlier this week my visa agent in Thailand sent m a message asking me to check my email as I might have received something from the UK visa application department in Sheffield.

There was nothing in my inbox so I called to ask him why he had asked me to check. He explained that I would be receiving a request to pay some more money for my daughter’s NHS surcharge (£600) because the online system had a bug and hadn’t asked for it earlier. I had paid for my wife but not for our daughter, Song, as the online submission informed me that  I didn’t need to.

He went on to tell me that they should be considering my visa applications this week as the 60 working days time limit was nearly up.

Sure enough the next day the agent – not me – received an email from Sheffield about the visas.

But they didn’t ask for money, they were informing him that 3 important documents were not attached to the visa application and that he had 5 days to send copies of these documents by email or the visas will be refused.

The agent told me that they must have got lost in transit as they were definitely included with the application. Anyway, he sent the requested copies by return email on Wednesday and we are still awaiting acknowledgment and/or a decision on the visas.

It is now Friday and the waiting is killing us – not knowing what is going on and whether the documents have been received and when we will get the final decision.

I assume we will hear something next week as we know that Sheffield are now on our case. But it is so worrying and so stressful. The future lives of three people are in their hands.

***

Mobi’s Life of Drinking,  Part 2 – 20th January 2018

It was in September 1983 when I returned to the UK to start a new life with wife No. 4 plus daughter. We set up home with my mother in East London, and initially, it was pretty hard to get my feet back on the ground, as unemployment was high and we were in the middle of a recession. One employment agent told me that he couldn’t help me as I had been out of the country for too long.

However, within a few weeks I was able to secure a temporary position with a firm of city insurance brokers and as time went on the position became permanent and I started to earn a halfway decent salary.

The money was sufficient to pay the bills, buy a nice little second-hand car and even save for occasional luxuries such as the occasional holiday, but it wasn’t enough to fund my propensity for booze.

But budding alkies are nothing if not creative – especially where booze is concerned – and it wasn’t long before I became a dab hand on the homebrew front.

My storeroom at home was always jam-packed with very strong homemade beer which I got stuck into every night when I returned from work. Only 2-3 pints were sufficient to provide me with a lovely little buzz, and as the evenings wore on, I invariably fell into a semi-drunken stupor on the couch. I never stopped at just the first 2-3 pints…

Click Here to continue reading: “Mobi’s Life of Drinking – Part two”

More pics from Nong Khai

Domestic pets – believe it or not – they really get on together

 

Song – her hair has finally grown out following the brutal cut ordered by her school in Pattaya…

 

Looks like it’s a bit chilly…

 

Lek at work on her irrigation system

 

Lek’s mum – Don’t you just love her?

 

 

Mobi’s life of Drinking (Part 1) – 8th January 2018

A Nong Khai Lake – close to Lek’s home

Mobi-Babble – 8th January 2018

Christmas and New Year have come and gone, and here in wintry Oakham we are ‘enjoying’ bitterly cold weather that tumbles well below freezing at night, and barely rises above freezing during the day. 

Although, believe it or not, there was a day recently when it was actually colder in Nong Khai (when they had one of their seasonal cold snaps) than in Oakham, where the weather warmed up briefly,  but not for long.

Ah well, this is what I signed up for when I moved back to Blighty, and on the positive side, it is less than 3 months to spring – in my opinion, the best time of year.

Hopefully, I will then be able to get out and about and post some glorious pictures of Rutland in springtime.  Meanwhile, apart from a ‘Christmas dinner special’ in Birmingham, I will post some recent photos from Nong Khai.

Christmas Dinner with my two daughters in Birmingham.

 

Here’s  a rather incongruous Christmas party way out in the sticks of Nong Khai  – I can’t imagine when this tradition started – we didn’t even have  Christmas parties in Pattaya! …

 

…and here’s some pics of Lek’s school reunion which were taken when all the village lads and lasses who had left home to work all over  Thailand (and beyond), came home to celebrate the New Year.

Family Visas.

As at the time of writing, we are still awaiting approval of the UK visa applications. We are now into our third month since the applications went in, but it is still not 60 WORKING days, so I live in hope that they may arrive within the next couple of weeks… I do hope so because the long wait is putting a  lot of stress on all concerned.

Getting Ready for the Big Trip

Bags all ready to pack
Lek and Song have been busy knitting scarfs up a storm…

“Long Lost Family” Update

Since my last blog, I have been able to update my family tree quite a bit, following a long and very helpful letter from one of my new found cousins. I now have the names of my grandparents and much more besides, so the story is almost complete. All that is now needed is a grand reunion…..

***

Mobi’s life of Drinking – Part 1

Image result for alcoholics

A few days back, on 1st January, I successfully completed 7 years without drinking a single drop of alcohol.

In my blogs through the years, as well as in my novels, (which contained a lot of autobiographical material), I have written about the time leading up to my decision to quit drinking and indeed have graphically described my years of drinking.

In fact, if you go back to my very first blog in 2009 by clicking on the link under the ‘recent posts’ sub-heading, you will see that the reason I started blogging was to tell the world about my struggles with alcohol. Much of this was recounted in “Mobi’s story” which was available to read for many years on my blog.

The menu link to this article has now been removed as it is covered in much greater detail in my novel “A Lust for Life”, available on Amazon by clicking the link on the right-hand sidebar.

But on this auspicious anniversary, I thought it might be worthwhile to have a little recap on my life of drinking and how, finally, I managed to find sobriety.

Click here to continue reading: “Mobi’s Life of Drinking”

***

Some more ad hok pics from Nong Khai taken over the past few weeks.

 

Lek is a total mushroom addict – hence so many mushroom pics. She travels far and wide to pick wild mushrooms and always comes home with a bunch of ’em.

Lek’s farmland

 

And it’s A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Mobi – 20th Dec 2017

 

 

 

 

Christmas in Oakham, Rutland

Mobi-Babble – 20th December 2017.

Another year is drawing to a close and in the past 12 months, much has happened in the life and times of Mobi.  

This time last year, the very notion of moving permanently back to the UK was a very long way from my mind. But as my financial situation continued to deteriorate, along with my health, it became apparent in early 2017 that if I didn’t take some drastic action, there would soon come a time when I could no longer pay my bills. Even worse, I might have been struck down with a death-threatening medical ailment with no money to pay the increasingly avaricious Thai hospitals.

I looked around me and saw a number of expats of around my age who were slowly dying, (or had already died), due to lack of funds to pay for proper medical care. I had no desire to become a statistic in the annual embassy death count.

So the die was cast and last April I took the one-way flight to my daughter’s home in Oakham and my life soon changed in a very big way. It was definitely the right decision as since I have been back here I have been beset by a number of medical emergencies – from being unable to breathe due to the onset of COPD, to a hole in my bowel requiring hospitalisation, and much more besides.

So I have settled quite well into my new life; I successfully got my state pension upgraded (it had been frozen for 6 years), had my driving licence reinstated, bought a little Peugeot 206 to get around. In October, I finally submitted the visa applications to get my wife and daughter into England. At the time of writing, we are counting the days until the applications are approved – any day now… we hope…

For many years, it seemed that my brother and sister would be the only siblings in my family with grandchildren, but in 2014 my youngest daughter gave birth to a lovely little boy, who last week celebrated his third birthday.

Now all of a sudden I am about to become a grandfather for the second AND THIRD time. My youngest is expecting a second baby – a daughter – in February, and suddenly out of the blue, my eldest announced that she is expecting a baby (sex as yet unknown) in June 2018.

So one way or another it’s been quite an eventful year, including the amazing discovery of my long lost family (see below). I have no doubt that 2018 will be every bit as exciting when dear Lek and Song join me and we set up a new home together in the heart of Blighty, and I eagerly await the birth of two more grandchildren.

So may I wish all my valued readers the very best of Christmases, and may 2018 bring you good health, wealth and happiness.

***

And it’s a goodbye to Mobi’s Movie Reviews

Through the years I have written 86 movie reviews on IMDb, which can all be read in full by clicking on the link on the right-hand sidebar of this blog.

I have quite enjoyed writing these reviews – if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have bothered – but I have come to the conclusion that very few people ever read them and even fewer comment on them. So it is with regret that earlier this year I concluded that whatever writing talents I possess would be put to better use writing something that perhaps will be more widely read…

One of the last movies I reviewed was “La La Land“. I gave La La a …

 

Click Here to continue reading “And it’s a goodbye to Mobi’s Movie Reviews”

***

My long lost family, or “Who do I think I am” – part 2.

Here it is… Part 2 of my story about how, at the grand old age of 71, I discovered I had a whole new family.

As I recounted in my last blog, it was in 1968 at the age of 22 that I discovered that my father was not a Canadian (as he had always claimed) but was born in Zhitomir, (which was then part of Russia), in 1900 and was brought to England in 1902.

Even stranger was the fact that he was still an alien in a land he had lived in for most of his life. The documents I had found in his bedroom in 1968 indicated that he was all but deported in the 1950s.

There was no way I was going to interrogate my bully of a father on his past life, so I tried to put it all to the back of my mind and carried on with my own crazy life. I did indeed emigrate to Montreal, via the USA, and after a series of adventures and a broken heart, within a year I found myself in the midst of a civil war in Nigeria. Certainly, there was no time to ruminate on pater’s antecedents.

Click Here to continue reading: “My long lost family…”

***

Some ‘Festive’ pics from Thailand

Here’s a few more pics of my family in Nong Khai, Thailand, where the temperatures have suddenly plummeted to around 13° C – well below their normal 33° + +heat. It should be a good acclimatization exercise for their imminent departure to freezing Blighty.

Harvest time in rural Nong Khai
Far From The Madding Crowd
Supper
Song and her hammock

 

A Bamboo Feast

Collecting edible insects
Don’t know what she’s going to do when she comes to England…
Anyone hungry?
Lek the labourer
Grandparents and Song at teatime
Neung’s monkey-bite – looks nasty, doesn’t it?

A Bicycle made for two – but only one cyclist…

 

Song in her English nightwear

 

 

 

 

It’s snowing in Oakham – and Mobi’s new family – 10th Dec, 2017

Mobi Babble – 10th December 2017

It’s sod’s law that I decided to relocate back to Blighty in a year when we are experiencing sub-zero temperatures and snow in early December, still 2 full weeks before Christmas.

These pics are the best you’re gonna get as I have no intention of venturing from my front door until the temperature rises and the snow melts.

Yesterday, Saturday, I did drive into Oakham and do a bit of shopping, even though the temperatures were sub-zero. There were several reasons for this – firstly I wanted to stock up on staples before the forecasted snow arrived, secondly because I wanted to try out my newly acquired Balaclava-type headgear, and thirdly because I really needed to get a bit of fresh- freezing – air. I had been cooped up at home for days.

I was out for a couple of hours all told and the headgear worked well, although I still felt some freezing blasts around my eyes – the only part of my anatomy not well protected.

I parked up in Tesco’s car park, took the 7-minute walk to the Wilkinson’s store, made a few purchases, walked back again, and then into Tesco’s for a bit more shopping. Outside, there were plenty of hardy souls braving the cold – all dressed in a variety of winter outfits, but none of them quite as well covered as yours truly.

My compatriots’ headgear – if any – was confined to the occasional woolly hat – but nothing even close to the full-face gear that I was sporting. And you should have seen my wonderful ski gloves – I even drove the car with them on…

I stared at my fellow walkers, expecting to catch a few amused or disgusted looks at this strange ancient apparition in their midst. I felt sure there would be at least a few looks of derision – but not a single one.

Then, of course, I belatedly realized. Brits don’t ‘do’ looks of any kind. They keep themselves to themselves and whatever other people do, or however they dress up is their business. If someone looks or does something crazy, they look the other way.

If a man walked down the high street stark naked, I doubt whether anyone would so much as give him a glance. He could quite easily do this without fear of arrest, as during the past 7 months of living in Oakham, I have yet to catch any glimpses of a solitary policeman – they are all far away in lawless Leicester.

Someone’s keeping warm 

So I successfully navigated my hour or so out in the elements without suffering any frostbite or being arrested on suspicion of being a budding terrorist.

But go out in the snow?…. No… I don’t think so. I do hope it clears away by Thursday as I have to go back to Leicester Hospital for my Endoscopy… oh sorry, no more about this as I promised a medical-free blog, as it is all just too depressing.

And Hey! The Christmas season is fast approaching….

***

Here’s a turn up for the books…

I have a whole new family.

Many of us have seen the popular BBC programme, “Who do you think you are?” which involved celebrities / well known public figures digging up records of their family ancestors to find out where they have come from.

There is also another programme on UK ITV entitled, “Long Lost Family” which helps people to trace long-lost relatives who they haven’t seen for many years, or in many cases, have never seen before at all.

Both are excellent and entertaining programmes, and “long Lost Families” in particular is often a real tearjerker, but they are usually happy tears, not sad.

What has all this got to do with Mobi?

Well, ever since I was in my early twenties, I have been very curious to know more about my father’s side of the family, as I had never met nor had I heard him speak of a single one of his relatives. For all I knew he could have been an orphan since birth.

My curiosity was particularly awakened in my early twenties because it was at this time that I accidentally came across some documents hidden away in my father’s bedroom that told me his background was very far removed from the background he had claimed.

As far as his offspring, (me and my older brother and sister), were concerned, my father was born in Canada and at some point had emigrated to England. He had met and married my mother in the 1930s, spoke with a North American accent, and had served in the Royal Canadian Airforce during the war. Being Canadian helped to explain why we had never met any of his relatives and we had no reason whatsoever to doubt this.

That was until… I met and fell in love with a New York girl … and after she returned to the USA, I decided that the only way I could be near to her was to emigrate to Canada.

Canada, because I could claim Canadian citizenship by virtue of my Father’s nationality, and not American which even in those far off days would still prove quite difficult for a young man struggling to find his way in life.

I could woo her from across the border in Montreal, and once I had won her over with my English charms, I could marry her and obtain a US Green Card. That was my plan, but to put it into effect I had to obtain an immigrant visa into Canada, which should have been totally routine, as my father was a Canadian citizen.

So I asked him if I could borrow his birth certificate to submit to the Canadian embassy in London.

“No, sorry son, I’ve lost it.”

“Well in that case, can I borrow your passport – that should do the trick.”

“My passport’s expired.”

“It doesn’t matter; I can still use it as proof.”

He erupted – as he was apt to do. “NO! You can’t borrow my fucking passport! It’s lost as well.”

First, he said it had expired – now it was lost.

“But…but you can apply for a new one?”

“No! The answer is NO!”

“But Dad, it doesn’t make sense – I need proof of your birth for my visa to Canada.”

“I have my reasons. You can’t have it and that’s an end to it!

After an hour or so he calmed down.

“Let me see your Canadian visa forms,” he demanded.

I handed over my application forms, and he looked through them.

“Leave them with me, and give me your passport. I’ll go to the Canadian Consular office and see what I can do.

Knowing how successful my father was in usually getting his own way in most things, I thought there was an excellent chance that he could obtain the necessary visa, and I was happy to leave it with him. Maybe there was something on his passport he didn’t want me to see.

A few days later he told me he had been to the embassy and was unable to make the consular officer see sense. He told me the best way was for me to travel to Canada as a tourist and apply for an immigrant visa after I arrived.

Although I knew something was wrong and there was some mysterious reason why he didn’t want me to use his passport, I still believed he was a Canadian citizen. I was frustrated and felt very aggrieved. My father was a nasty piece of work, but this was too much – even for him.

A couple of weeks later, when my parents went away for the weekend, I went into his inner sanctum – his bedroom – and rifled through the drawers where I knew he kept all his personal documents. I was determined to get hold of his passport and get the personal information I needed to put on my application form.

You can imagine my shock when, instead of a passport – I discovered an alien registration book. The name wasn’t my father’s – it was a completely different name – but the photo was clearly of my father. The book stated that he was born in 1900 in Zhitomir, Russia, which is now part of Ukraine, and he first came to England in 1902.

I was in total shock. He had lived in England for most of his life, had married an English woman, had three English children, yet according to the documents I was holding, he was an alien and had to report to the police every three months.

Even worse, there were some other documents that showed that in the mid-1950s he was taken to court by the police who wanted him deported from England as an alien – despite having a wife and three kids and having served in the war on the British side.

This was all heady stuff, and I longed to know more. This was in the days before the internet and I had no real way of knowing what Zhitomir, his birthplace, was like and what its relevance was in my father’s real story.

Yet in one of the first coincidences of this long story, it just so happened that at the time I was reading Leon Uris’s huge novel entitled “Exodus”, the story of Zionism – how the Jews throughout Eastern Europe emigrated to the area in the Middle East which became modern-day Israel. The novel was later made into a blockbuster movie. Although the book contained many inaccuracies and was blatantly pro-Israel, it was a best-seller for years. For a generation of Americans and Europeans, ‘Exodus’ was the definitive book on the creation of Israel.

Chapter Two, of Book Two of this massive novel, was entitled; “Zhitomir, Russia, 1884” The narrative described how the Jews were persecuted and effectively lived in a ghetto known as ‘The Jewish Pale of Settlement’ – the only place in Russia where Jews could reside. It was in Zhitomir that pogroms were perpetrated against the Jews which slowly led to the rise of Zionism and their mass emigration to Israel.

So the mist cleared a little. I knew that my father had some connections and friends in the east end of London – an area in those days which was occupied by hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants from Europe. Some had come as a result of the rise of Hitler and the subsequent holocaust, and others had arrived much earlier, fleeing from earlier pogroms against the Jews in eastern Europe.

It didn’t take much to deduce that my father must have been brought to England by his Jewish parents, fleeing the late 19th Century Russian pogroms in Russia, but beyond that, his story was a total blank. Even more puzzling was why, nearly 7 decades later, (it was then circa 1968) my father was still an alien in England?

And where were his parents? Did he have any brothers? or sisters? or any other living family?

I duly told my brother what I had discovered and he was as surprised as me and could throw no light on this mystery.

Intrigued as I was, my mind and heart were concentrated on other matters. Now I knew for sure that my father’s nationality could not help me, I resolved to follow the Canadian consulate’s advice and apply for immigration status after I arrived in Canada. It was a cruel blow to my plans, and one that subsequently caused me no end of trouble and heartbreak – but that’s another story.

Even at the age of 22, my father remained an intimidating presence – yes I admit I was still scared of him. I did not dare challenge him about his past life. It would have provoked a major temper tantrum and anyway, I knew he would not tell me anything.

There were more important fish to fry – my beloved little girl waiting for me in New York (at least I thought she was waiting for me) –  and I followed my heart and put my father’s origins to the back of my mind. Something to look into on another day.

In fact, apart from learning a little bit more from my mother after he died in 1982, it wasn’t  until nearly 50 years later – in fact a few weeks ago – that the whole story started to unravel. At the grand old age of 71, I have discovered that I have a whole new blood-family, the members of which are spread across North America, Canada, South Africa, and there are even a few still here in Blighty.

Precisely who they are, and how I made the breakthrough, will be the subject of my next blog…

My paternal grandfather, circa 1931. I would guess he was probably born in the 1880’s, the period described by Uris in “Exodus”.