2014 hasn’t exactly been the year of my dreams, but at year’s end, I am still alive, I still have my lovely wife , and while I may not be in perfect heath, I can still get out and about and more or less live a normal life, so I really can’t complain.
Compared to so many less fortunate than me, I have much to be thankful for.
For starters, on 1st January, 2015, I celebrated four whole years of total abstinence from alcohol.
I won’t pretend that I still don’t get the odd, wistful memory of just how nice that first glass of cold beer used to be when it trickled down my parched throat, or how much fun it was to get a little merry with a nice bottle of red wine.
But then again I remember as if it it were yesterday, all the troubles, accidents and other mayhem that my drinking caused through the years and in particular, those terrible hangovers and DT’s; when all I wanted to do was curl up and die and the only thing that made me feel better was the ‘hair of the dog’….
No, nothing would make me ever go back there again.
But alas, 2014 also marked the first anniversary of the day I lost my savings, and as time goes by, it has become clear that there are no real prospects of ever recovering even a tiny fraction of my money.
A few investor ‘ginger groups’ have been formed to see what can be done, but so far their main thrust seems to be to sue the Thai IFA’s (investment advisers) who sold us these investments, which while well meaning, I personally feel will lead to nothing.
Suing people in the Thai courts is not for the feint hearted and could easily rebound on those trying to do so. The legal system here is so corrupt – with opposing lawyers in collusion with each other and court officials susceptible to bribes. I personally wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole – not that the IFA’s have the kind of money we would be seeking, even if the law suits were successful, which in my opinion is extremely unlikely. In any event, such legal proceedings would drag on for years and my own death would almost certainly pre-date any final settlement, one way or the other.
So it was the year when I had to come to terms with being a ‘pauper’ – something I had not really experienced since those far off days in the mid 1970’s when I had to borrow money to fly home from Thailand and go back to my parents home east London with my tail between my legs.
On that occasion, I even signed on for the dole, but within a few weeks I found a job and I have never looked back and never really wanted for money ever since – well not until last year.
Now, at the grand old age of 68, I have had to do something sharp-ish about augmenting my meagre income, which at present, amounts to a lowly UK state pension – which is not even index-linked. Thank God for low inflation.
So how well have I done in my efforts to boost the Mobi coffers in 2014?
Well, the car rental business did okay for a while and for the first few months the income paid for a lot of my shopping bills, but once the Songkran holiday finished last April, the rentals dried up and it soon become clear that Pattaya was going to suffer its worst year in tourism for many years, and even now in the so called high season, the tourist numbers are still woefully low.
So I sold one car, and we took back the pick-up and have decided to give up on car rentals.This is mainly due to lack of customers but there were also other ‘operational’ issues which made me decide to cut my losses and run.
Lek still does the occasional taxi ‘airport run’ in our Triton pick-up, and if anyone is interested in hiring our ‘taxi’ from the Darkside to the airport and/or back again, please contact me at: email@example.com
I’m not just saying this because she is my wife, but Lek is an extremely competent, very safe driver, and everyone who has used her ‘taxi service’ has been highly complementary.
Then I tried setting up an eBay website to sell Thai handicrafts, but it is yet to take off due to the problems I have had in sourcing Thai products at competitive prices. I am now working on this with a potential new partner, and it is possible that we will try a re-launch the project later this year.
My big commercial venture of the year was of course my venture into the bar business.
I acquired the bar, which I renamed Mobi’s, back in March and Lek and I ran it together for six months. In the end I had to give up due to ill health – it was really making me very ill – and I like to think that although I didn’t make much, at least I didn’t lose much.
If I had stuck at it, the bar would have eventually generated a steady income as each month was slightly better than the month before, and a majority of my customers were returning, time after time, and bringing new friends with them.
But alas it was not to be – too much stress and hard work for a man approaching 70 who is not in the best of health.
So at year’s end, I can look back and say that while I haven’t been idle, in spite of all my efforts, I am pretty much back to square one, so 2015 will be an even more crucial and worrying time for me.
Although I have this urgent need to supplement my income, I have nevertheless made a decision to devote my entire attention over the next few months to getting my new novel finished. As I have stated in my blog recently, this is will be ‘the last throw of the dice’ as far as creative writing is concerned so I’m really going to give it my very best shot.
This decision has partly been made because after all these years of writing, at long last I have found a few people who I trust to critically review what I write, and provide me with honest and constructive critiques. Even after one chapter of my new novel, they have already given me some good pointers on how on how I can improve the text – and critically – how to make it more it commercial.
Also, I recently discovered ‘Smashwords’ which is quite a big eBook‘player in the American market and it was set up with the express purpose of publishing new authors who failed to find a more traditional publisher. But as well as publishing under their own name, they also act as a distributor to other eBook publishers. The one book I have so far published with Smashwords (The Bahrain Incident), is now available in Barnes Noble and iBooks. As well as that, I still have it Amazon.
My other books will also go this new publishing route, once the exclusive deals I signed for them with Amazon expires.
When my current novel is finished I will seek out a professional cover designer as I am now assured that a good cover will help sales. Surprisingly, many people still buy books based on the cover, even in this eBook age.
So I am going to devote the next 6-9 months to creative writing. Once the book is finished and published, if it fails to sell, I will give up and turn my hand to contract writing ‘for hire’. I believe there is plenty of contract work out there, but as I have already discovered, it is not easy to do properly, and I will have to work really hard at it to make any meaningful income.
I had thought that I could combine the two – creative writing and ‘writing for hire’ but have concluded that if I tried to do both at the same time, I would not do justice to either venture. Hence my decision to concentrate on the novel for the next few months.
I will continue to publish the ‘raw chapters’ here on my blog, as and when they are in a readable state. The chapters will then undergo further changes and revisions, as the critical reviews come in.
I will do my best to keep up with my weekly blog, but please bear with me if I miss a few weeks here and there as my book must come first.
It is now 1 pm on 3rd January, 2015 and I am sitting at a table on the terrace outside my charming little guest house room in Nong Khai, which is located just off the river front.
We drove up on Friday, leaving home at 6 am and had an excellent run, arriving in Nong Khai city at around 3 pm. Lek drove the whole way, and never seems to get tired – just like me in my heydays – I could drive for 24 hours non-stop, but these days, I am happy to sit next to her, doze and listen to the radio through my smart phone, and let her do the driving.
After checking into the guest house, we drove the 30 minutes or so to Lek’s family village – it is near Tha Bo market town and very rural. As ever, we had to slow down, wave and shout greetings to all along the road, as around Lek’s village, everyone knows everyone – it is one huge community.
Lek has two mums – her biological mother and the one who brought her up. They live about ten minutes’ walk from each other and are all part of lek’s greater family. Her biological father died last year and now her biological mother seems to have embarked on a new relationship. Both are in the sixties – so it happens everywhere….
Lek’s daughter, Song, still lives with her grandmother in the village, but she will be moving to Pattaya next April to live with us when the school year finishes.
Whenever I come to Nong Khai, I always make a point of making at least one pilgrimage to Lek’s village and say hello to her large, extended family, and numerous neighbours. It is a well knit community and they all seem to be very friendly folk.They never make any demands on me, which is not always the case with farangs when they go to meet their in-laws in upcountry, Issan villages.
As an aside, when we were running the bar, several ladies from Lek’s village came down to work for us, and although none of them were directly related to Lek, nearly all of them bear the same family name as Lek’s……
Hmmm…. Say no more! Say no more!
Last night, both of Lek’s children came back to the guest house to sleep with us, and this morning, they all left at the crack of dawn to take care of family matters and I slept in.
It is quite cool here, much colder than Pattaya, and I doubt if the temperatures are reaching much above 20C in the middle of the day. At night, the temperature drops sharply and we all wrap up and have to wear socks to keep our feet warm.
Meanwhile, back in the real world of Bangkok, I note that the Police Chief at Thonglor police station has arranged for his staff to hand out leaflets to tourists in the Sukhumvit Road area, advising them what to do when they are targeted for extortion by roaming gangs of cops.
For the benefit of those who have not been following this fun story I will just say that for quite a while now, unsuspecting farangs have been stopped and body searched by groups of rogue cops who are out to extort large sums of money from them.
They have even flagging down taxis and cars with foreign passengers inside and forced them to get out so that they can be searched.
The foreigners’ so-called ‘crimes’ can be anything from not carrying their original passports, to being forced to provide a urine samples in public and then being accused of drug taking, often after the cops have planted drugs on them. The cops then demand large sums of money – much higher than the proper penalties – to turn a blind eye and let them go.
These illegal ‘stop and search’ and ‘drug planting’ activities have now reached epidemic proportions and there has been a hue and cry in social media and the English language newspapers.
The story has even been picked up by the foreign press, and must be doing untold harm to Thailand’s teetering tourist industry, at a time when it has already been the target of so much bad publicity.
This includes, but is not limited to:
The ongoing martial law; the farcical police investigations following the murders of two foreigners on Koh Tao; the visa fiascos; the ‘on again’, ‘off again’ drinking regulations; the crash of the Russian rouble; and now, to crown it all, the deplorable and illegal treatment of innocent tourists in the heart of Bangkok’s tourist area by city’s esteemed constabulary.
So in the face of all this adverse publicity, what does the good Police Chief do? He arranges to have a pamphlet printed which advises farangs what to do in the event that they become unwittingly targeted by police.
Here’s what the leaflet says, in English:
- Foreigners may take photos of police officers who do the search before searching begins.
- Searching has to be done in a place with sufficient lighting and not be desolated.
- Do not pay any amount of money to police officers whether you are asked to do or not.
- In case you are on (in) a vehicle or a taxi, whether a private vehicle or a taxi, police officers who stop a vehicle and do the search must be in a proper checkpoint, under control of a commissioned officers.
- Collecting urine specimen must be done only in the police station.
- Foreigners could carry a copy of first page and entry stamped page of their passport instead of the original one.
*** If there are further questions or any fairness requested.
Pol. Col. Chutrakul Yodmadee: 08-3349-3349
(Sic- ‘thus it was written’- to all the above)
I have a few questions for Pol Col. Chutrakul.
- Instead of printing pamphlets which tell foreigners what their rights when your police break the law, why don’t you simply issue an order to all your policemen to the effect that anyone found involved in such practices will be prosecuted under the law, sent to jail and fired from the police force? That should do it……
- Do you really think that any farang – especially one who has recently arrived as a tourist and knows nothing about the country and their rights, would have the temerity, (even with your pamphlet in his hand), to insist on their rights, such as continuing to take photographs when told to stop, demanding that the search take place in sufficient lighting, refusing to pay the demanded bribe and just about everything else you have listed on your bill of foreigners’ rights’? It’s a joke. If I tried to claim my rights or wave such a pamphlet at a cop, he would probably tear it up, smack me across the face and demand even more money.
- A minor point but one that has long exasperated me; Can you please explain why it is that ‘officialdom’ in Thailand always refuses to have notices in English vetted by native English speakers? It’s not so difficult to do in a country which must have hundreds of thousands of such native English speakers readily at hand. I’m quite sure that many would be glad to do it for nothing. (Or maybe they would be breaking your draconian work permit laws!!). Are you really too proud to have your English corrected?
As a long-time resident, and one who loves Thailand and its ‘ordinary’ people, I find it increasingly sad that those who run the country don’t seem to understand – or maybe don’t care – about so many important issues that face their country in 2015.
The powers that be seem unable to grasp the simple fact that the Thai tourist industry, which directly or indirectly employs millions of Thais, is slowly going backwards in a hand cart. Instead of treating all tourists as the ‘enemy’ who are there to milked as ignorant ‘cash cows’, they should harken back to the old days, when Thailand really was ‘amazing’ and the term ‘Land of Smiles’ actually meant something.
These days its more like the ‘Land of Smirks’