Summer has gone. Today it is about 8 degrees C and the heavy black clouds are dispensing some much needed rain across an increasingly autumnal Rutland countryside.
To be fair, the past few days have been distinctly summer-ish, with temperatures in the low twenties, and bright blue sunny skies. Song has been scootering to school without so much as a summer coat on her back.
In fact, since one of the longest heat waves in English history (beating 1976 by a few days), fizzled out in early August, the weather has been typically English. We’ve had warm days, cold days, sunny days, wet days dry days, windy days, and other times when we have had all of the forgoing during the course of a single day.
Plenty for the populace to talk about and the weather’s very unpredictability has somehow made life interesting.
I have written this before, but will restate it now. Never in my wildest imagination had I dreamed that Lek and Song would settle into their new English lives so well. Song continues to receive glowing reports from school and Lek has just received an astonishingly good end of probation appraisal form her employer at Oakham School.
I’ve never seen anything like it in my life – it is so glowing and full of praise for her work, her work ethic and just about everything you could think of. She is now eligible to join the school healthcare scheme and to join the pension scheme. I couldn’t be more proud.
As you can see we now have a new addition to our family – Olly, a little Yorkie Poo puppy (Yorkie/Toy poodle cross). He’s a real bundle of fun and so adorable. Olly is much loved by one and all. I think our little family is now complete.
As ever, the only blot on the landscape is my own health. My chronic conditions continue to dominate my life. About a week ago I picked up a horrendous urinary tract infection which completely knocked me out for about 5 days. I really thought I would end up in hospital but managed to avoid it by the skin of my teeth. The infection was probably caused by my need to self-catheterise every day as my prostrate is so large I cannot pass urine very efficiently.
I intimated in earlier blogs that my health was causing me to be quite depressed – not so much because of my ‘suffering’ but more because I have been unable to fulfil my husband/fatherly duties for my wife and step-daughter.
I was so looking forward to taking them out – near and far – and being very proactive within the family, doing my best to help them to settle well into their new lives. But alas – I have not been as physically active as I would have liked. Just getting up from a sitting position to stand is an effort and I can’t walk for more than a few minutes without becoming exhausted. A couple of weeks ago I walked slowly to school to collect Song (a 5-7 minute walk) and I was so exhausted I couldn’t walk home and had to sit down on the pavement. Lek had to come and get me in the car.
I still live in hope that my health will eventually improve but for now, we are where we are, and I have to make the best of it.
The doc realised that I was becoming quite depressed and has put me on some anti-depressant medication, which I must say seems to have made quite a difference to my outlook. I do feel a lot better (mentally) in myself and am learning to accept the situation as is without letting it to get me down too much.
I have come to appreciate all the positives in my new life. I have a cosy little place to live with a wife, daughter (and dog) who love me. My wife has accepted my poor health situation with equanimity and is devoted to taking care of me as best she can as well as taking care of the house, her daughter and everything else. And on top of all that she’s also holding down a full time job.
How lucky am I? I could just as easily be all alone with no-one to take care of me. There must be a higher power out there somewhere who has seen fit to provide me with such a wonderful wife. What a great decision that was in deciding to move back home.
So I am much happier now, and I live in hope that my health may improve over the coming months – if only the docs can only come up with some solutions to my anaemia and severe fatigue.
Christmas is only 80-odd days away so we’ll see how the family enjoys their very first Christmas in the UK.
Here are my three grandchildren, nearly 5 years, 9 months and 3 months respectively.
Apologies for the long silence which hasn’t been down to anything except my procrastination and, quite frankly, the lack of anything to write about that might be of interest to my widely scattered readers.
Back in Thailand there always seemed to be something I could kick off about or rail against, but here, in the land of democratic civilised behaviour there is little to stir the writing passions – either in my own life or within this beautiful country.
And I ain’t about to hold forth on Brexit – the less said about that the better!
Probably the most exciting thing that has happened in Sunny Oakham in the past few weeks was the sight of an elderly female driver mounting the pavement into the town centre, just a few feet from the ancient Buttercross with its ‘punishment ‘stocks still in situ.
Although it was only 12 noon, the poor old dear was clearly the worst for wear, no doubt from an excess of cooking sherry or maybe Pimm’s Number One, and her engine revved up to a crescendo as she struggled in vain to get her tiny car into reverse and get back onto the road. She was then relieved of all further responsibility by a well-meaning citizen from a nearby hairdresser who ran over, put her hand through the open driver’s window and withdrew the car keys.
The old dear was not amused. She remonstrated with the hair dresser to return her keys but the gallant citizen was adamant. The driver was drunk and a danger to other road users, and she tried to persuade the old dear to get out of her car.
Not to be outdone, the old dear started blasting her car horn. Blasting a car horn repeatedly in downtown sunny Oakham! Whatever next?
The shop doors opened, and Oakham high Street emptied as one and all came to find out what manner of woman had the temerity to disturb their rural tranquillity.
Considering the nearest police station is some 45 minutes’ drive away in Leicester, I was amazed to see no less than 3 police vehicles arriving in less than 5 minutes.
It was a standoff – her majesty’s constabulary versus one drunken septuagenarian woman who refused to get out of her car to be breathalysed. If I was looking for a good punch-up I’d better go elsewhere as there was no way that a couple of burly English cops would try to forcibly remove the old dear from her precious steed. So four constables chatted to the assembled masses (about 10 people) while a specially trained ‘old sot mediator’ parked himself at the passenger door window and proceeded to engage in calm diplomacy.
It was all too much for my sensitive disposition so I left matters to resolve themselves without my further presence. This story has no conclusion but I have no doubt that diplomacy and civilised debate ruled the day and that one way or another the old dear was eventually persuaded to leave her precious steed.
Back in days of olde, they might have put her in the nearby stocks, but in 2018 I think she might have managed to avoid that embarrassment, while on her way to forfeiting her licence for a period of time.
That’s as exciting as it gets in Rutland…
As for me and mine…
Life continues to be very satisfactory. Lek and Song have settled into life here even better than I could ever imagined and they never complain that they miss Thailand. We have been blessed with one of the best summers for decades, and as a result we have been able to get out and a about quite a bit.
You will see from the pics below that we spent a few days ‘bed & breakfasting’ along the North Norfolk coast, which is just about the nearest piece of coastline to Oakham.
Then, a couple of weeks later, we drove down to Kent to stay with my brother for a few days. While we were there, we drove down to the coast on a couple of days, firstly to see my two cousins who live near Worthing, and then to spend a day on the beach at Eastbourne.
We also continue to visit nearby Rutland Water where Lek has been picking mushrooms and Song enjoys a swim.
All would be really great if it wasn’t for my ongoing medical problems, but I won’t bore you with all that stuff. I’m still alive, that’s the main thing. Suffice to say I am very glad I am in England where the healthcare is not only free but of a very high standard.
Here’s a host of pics that I’ve been taking over the past couple of months, which I hope give you an idea of what we’ve been up to.
Birmingham (to visit my daughter & Grandson)
Blakeney Point – Norfolk
Wells Next The Sea – Norfolk
Sheringham – Norfolk
Cromer – Norfolk
On the Road in Norfolk
Almost Deserted ‘no-name’ beach – Norfolk
Back to Sheringham with fresh crab & Lobster
Oakham (home and environs)
QE2 Bridge spanning the Thames at Thurrock/Dartford
Tonbridge, Kent (my brother’s home)
Ferring, near Worthing, West Sussex (My cousin’s house)
Back in 2013, I published my second full length novel which is entitled “A Lust For Life”. Much of this book is a thinly veiled account of my own life, until at about three quarters of the way through the 820 (print) page saga, it diverts into a world of pure fiction.
Although I still think my first novel, “Madju Raj: The Angel of Death”,
(published some years earlier), is a rattling good yarn, “Lust” is the novel that I am most proud of, despite it being a commercial flop.
My third major novel, Mobi’s African Odyssey, is even more autobiographical in content than “Lust” but covers a shorter period, in greater detail. This novel is arguably better written, more exciting and far more commercial, yet still it failed to catch the attention of the reading public.
If I never write another novel, then I would like to be remembered for “Lust for Life” as there is an awful lot of Mobi in this long, rambling saga – his passions, his vices, his faults, his brief periods of happiness, his battles with depression, his rags to riches and back to rags career, his relentless struggles with alcohol, and above all, his never ending disasters with the opposite sex – of which there were legion.
The Pros (1)
My Life After Lust started in late 2010, soon after I met Lek, the wonderful Thai lady I wish I had met many years earlier.
Now, back in Blighty, I have entered a period of happiness and contentment with my lovely new family around me, and on top of that I have my original family (brother, daughters, cousins, nephews, nieces, grandchildren et al) also providing comfort and support to an old codger who really doesn’t deserve it.
Since I set foot back in England, things could not have gone better. My wife and step-daughter have settled in extremely well. Lek has a good, secure job that is not too demanding, and her new work colleagues have made her feel at home. Outside work she has already made a number of friends, mainly Thai.
Likewise, Song has settled well in school, is very popular and has many friends and activities to keep her happy and occupied.
Recently I contacted the authorities with a view to legally adopting Song, and although there will be quite a few bureaucratic hurdles to jump through, not least the UK courts, it is looking very likely that the adoption will probably go through within the next nine months.
This will entitle Song to a British passport which will totally secure her life and future. It will also have a beneficial effect on the long term viability of Lek’s UK resident visa.
Unfortunately, Life after Lust has not been a total bed of roses. My health has been constant source of worry. Sometimes I don’t know where to look to get some relief from the relentless encroachment of chronic ailments – both old and new.
I have been suffering from hypertension, insulin dependent diabetes, an artificial aortic heart valve, IBS, glaucoma and depression for many years.
Last year I developed severely debilitating COPD, (lung disease) and this year I have been suffering from increasingly bladder problems.
Last but not least I have been badly anaemic since late last year. I was admitted to hospital in November with a hole in my bowel. This was followed up with a colonoscopy which revealed I have diverticulitis. Apparently I was also anaemic, although no-one told me.
And now my anaemia just gets worse and worse. There is no obvious reason for it. My iron levels are fine, but I am just getting weaker and weaker. I can’t even walk slowly for five minutes or carry something light across the room without being utterly exhausted. They keep taking more blood tests which indicate blood abnormalities and inflammation, but so far the doc has been unable to diagnose precisely what is wrong. I assume I am losing blood somewhere.
Then last week my COPD flared up and it was so bad that I could hardly breathe. I didn’t sleep for 3 nights and the doc had to put me on steroids – which plays havoc with my sugar levels, and very strong antibiotics which are playing havoc with my bowels….
In short, my general medical conditions are no place for old men. I’m still battling away, hoping to get some answers, but I confess I am becoming increasingly concerned. It’s a minor miracle that I’m still avoiding another hospital visit – probably because they don’t have any beds….
The Pros (2)
Anyway, back on the positive side – what I wonderful summer we are having. It’s been sunny and dry up here in Rutland but it hasn’t been overly hot (by Thai standards), and the days have just been wonderful.
In spite of all my medical problems we have managed to get out and about quite a bit, and on other occasions Lek & Song have left the old codger at home and taken off on their bikes to explore the highways and byways of rural Rutland.
Lek has some time off from work soon and we shall explore the English countryside a bit further afield –weather and health permitting.
Thank the Lord we all moved back to the land of my birth.
A Mobi-Pictorial – Spring & early Summer back in the Olde Country
I hope you enjoy my hotchpotch of pics of my life in and around Oakham during the past few months.
My latest grandson – Thomas, Johnathan Cooper, born 13th June 2018
Barnsdale Gardens – near Rutland Water, the home for many years of BBC’s Gardner’s World. We had a lovely stroll with my brother and sister in Law-who were visiting us from Kent for a few days.
And thence to a traction engine round up on the shores of Rutland water
A gathering of the Thai clans to indulge in their favourite pastime – eating Thai food.
Song wants to be a firefighter….
Lek and Song run for cancer
Relaxing at Rutland Water
lek’s very first attempt at baking cakes….quite tasty actually!
Lek’s trusty steed – the only two-basket bike in the world
Ladywell, Oakham – the home street of the Mobi-clan
Our route to Song’s school
Freshly picked strawberries from a Rutland farm
Fixing a bird house in our back garden – Lek uses her coconut extraction skills to good effect.
At long last after a miserably cold start to Spring, we are finally experiencing some good weather. In fact we recently experienced our hottest early May Spring bank holiday ever, with temperatures rising into the high 20s.
Of course, being Blighty, it didn’t last that long and since last weekend the temperatures are dropping to the mid to high teens which is average fayre for early/mid May.
So what has happened since I last blogged?
It is well over a month since we settled into our new little home and we have made ourselves very comfortable. There have been a few ‘teething’ problems, most of which have now been resolved.
The only major item still outstanding is a quirky central heating system which will only deliver hot water while heating up the radiators. So far, the letting agent has sent one plumber and two electricians to look at the problem but as yet, it remains unresolved. Things could be worse – I’d rather be too warm than have no hot water.
My eldest daughter and her partner came over from Birmingham a couple of weeks ago and we all had a family lunch in one of Oakham’s many pubs.
We had a pleasant Easter at home and our first attempt at a Sunday roast lunch was a huge success, although we did rather overdo the quantities and I ended up eating roast lamb for three days!
Lek has been working full time at Oakham School now for several weeks and she finds the work quite challenging but do-able, and she has made a few friends there who have helped her through her first few weeks.
She starts at 6 am – which necessitates a 5 am wake up- ouch! It’s a 5 minutes’ cycle to work and she finishes at 12.30 pm and is back home by 1 pm.
My daily task is to walk Song to school in the morning (10 minutes away) and both Lek and I pick her up in the afternoon. The school is quite small and both teachers and classmates have made Song very welcome and she loves it. Right now, I doubt she is learning too much, but her English vocabulary is growing by the day.
On Fridays evenings she goes roller skating with her friends and yesterday she had her first tennis lesson.
Most days, Lek and Song make video calls to Lek’s brother in Israel, her older sister in Samut Songkram, and her mother up in Nong Khai. The wonders of technology…
As for me – well I still seem to be plagued with a variety of medical problems, but I’m soldiering on as best I can and am enjoying my new life back in Blighty with my family.
On a recent shopping excursion Song found herself a new playmate.
A couple of weeks ago we decided to splash out and upgrade our car as the little motor I bought last year was a bit small for us to have grand tours around the English countryside. So last week we changed out the Peugeot 107 with a Peugeot 208 – my “Mobi Pink-Mobile.” It is certainly a lot more comfortable and easier to drive than the 107 and should do us nicely for the next couple of years or so.
We have also bought bicycles for both Lek and Song; so as well as Lek cycling to and from work, the two of them go out for rides into the countryside on evenings and weekends. The other day, they cycled up to nearby Rutland water – the largest inland lake in the UK – which abounds with birds and other wild life.
Here’s the first bike we bought for Lek, which we had a few problems getting home. It turned out to be too big, so we have since sold it on and bought a smaller one.
Song out and about.
The countryside is slowly coming into its full summer beauty and there really is no better place to be on a nice day. Our dream is to move into a rural village, but that will have to wait a year or so.
Last Saturday we took a pleasant walk around Oakham town centre and made our first trip to Oakham museum.
Then on Sunday we had a visit from my eldest daughter and my two grandchildren.
When I am home alone, I still bash away at my computer keyboard, but not nearly so many hours a day as before. I’m in two minds whether to continue with my contract writing.
To be honest, my heart isn’t really in it, and while we could always do with the extra dosh, we now have enough money coming in to pay the bills, and even a bit extra if we are careful.
Maybe I will just stick to writing short stories and the occasional blog. We’ll see…
So the ‘anglification’ of the Mobi-brood continues apace. Everything has gone far smoother than I could have ever dreamed.
Is it down to my meticulous planning, or has my luck finally changed for the better?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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
“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…..