Midnight, Sunday, 12th July.

SAMITIVEJ HOSPITAL, SRI RACHA.

To those who have started to follow my blog, my apologies for the 4 days of silence.

Unfortunately, I have been in hospital since last Thursday, suffering from Dengue Fever. Not a pleasant experience. The docs say I have to stay for at least 2 more days until the fever has run it course and make sure my blood platelets will not cause any internal hemorrhaging.

I have been through hell, and am still very weak. I will try to post more tomorrow.


Pattaya, July 9th, 2009

Pattaya, July 9th, 2009


Today I have been sober for 14 days.

I don’t know why, but once again I woke up feeling terrible, and even had a splitting headache, which is unusual for me. Anyway I was determined to get up and get into Pattaya for the 9.a.m. meeting, so I swallowed some paracetamol, gulped down a mug of hot coffee and set off.

I’m very glad that I did, because today was probably the best AA meeting I have ever attended.

There were 18 people there all told; mainly Americans, with the odd scattering of Irish and English, and their ages ranged from maybe their mid thirties, to over seventies.

One of the attendees was celebrating the anniversary of his sobriety – 14 years. So he was 14 years sober, and I was 14 days sober. We both received congratulations and applause.

I have no idea if it is true, but it is said that many alcoholics are highly intelligent people, and to some extent it is still a mystery, that despite their undoubted intelligence, and often considerable talents and abilities in other respects, that they succumb to the illness of alcoholism.

My fellow alcoholics this morning all had the opportunity to “share”; that is, give a brief address to the meeting on any aspect of alcoholism that they care to talk about. The wisdom and experience which came out of the “sharings” this morning was, for me, very inspirational.

As time goes on, I will write more and more about these meetings, and relate to you some of the heart rending, and inspiration stories (suitably disguised), that are shared daily by members.

But for now, I will continue with “Mobi’s Story”


MOBI’S STORY(PART4)


BACK IN BANGKOK (1975)

So I arrived back in Bangkok, very, very,  hung-over, (thinking back, I now realise I had the “DT’s”), jobless, but with a few thousand dollars in the bank which I was determined to put to good use in having the time of my life.

I was back in the old drinking and whoring routine, but a few months and a few avaricious girlfriends later, I was on the point of destitution, having now moved into a cheap “Thai” apartment, which was already a far cry from the air-conditioned hotel room that I used to stay in, and eventually I had to do a “runner” one night as there was  no money left to pay the rent.

When you are broke, thousands of miles from home, you know who your friends are, and I had very few. The ones that I did have were in no position to assist me financially, but one did advise me of a commercial college in the “boondocks” who had a vacancy for an English teacher.

So I had few options other than to give it a go, and in any event I had always fancied myself as a teacher. So I applied for the vacancy and was put to work straight away. Of course they paid me very little, barely enough to pay for my food  – which by this time consisted of 8 Baht noodles, and 5 Baht rice dishes from the road side stalls – and a nightly ‘band’ of Mekhong whisky. As for accommodation, well I was down at the bottom of the pile, and the only room I could afford was a small, extremely hot wooden room, in a Thai house on stilts, in old Soi 22, Sukhumvit, now long gone. I even had to pawn my radio cassette and wrist watch to raise the money to pay for the room deposit. My neighbors in the adjacent rooms were ‘ladies of the night’ – 2 or 3 to a room. They were friendly, but that’s as far as it went. Once they realised I had no money, they just weren’t interested in spending much time with me – why should they?

Pawning my meagre possessions became a feature of my life in those desperate days. I would pawn stuff during the month to raise money to get drunk, and redeem them at the end of the month when the school paid me. I found that by drinking as much Singha beer as I could afford, followed by quickly knocking back a bottle of Mekhong, I could achieve a state of intoxication that kept me going until the next day.

After a while, I realised that I wasn’t cut out to be a teacher, and I found it more and more frustrating that I was trying to teach English to students who just weren’t interested in learning. They didn’t care. Their parents had sent them to this 4th rate college, in the hope that their recalcitrant offspring may change their “errant ways”. There were some exceptions – a few over eager Chinese teenage girls who were keen to get ahead and learn English. Their parents weren’t rich (hence their attendance at a fourth rate college), but they were determined to make the best of things and build worthwhile careers. They used to engage me to teach them privately in small groups at their homes in Yawalat, (China Town) and the income from these special lessons became significant extra ‘booze money’ for me as time went on.

But enough was enough, and I reached rock bottom. It was the school holidays, so no work, and no money. My visa had long since expired and I was an illegal in Thailand. It was time to pull myself together and take some action. I wrote to one of my good friends back in England and asked him if he would lend me the money for an airfare back home, and to cut the story short, he very kindly came up with the necessary funds. Through my friends in Bangkok, I made an arrangement whereby I surrendered to the immigration authorities in Suan Plu, the same day as I had a confirmed ticket back to England. In those days, as long as you had a ticket flying out the same day, you could go to court, pay the overstay fine, and they would let you go, assuming and trusting that you would take the  booked night flight out. All went as clockwork, and I made the sad journey back home to London, and thence to my parents flat in East London .Yes, my father was still alive.

I hadn’t seen my parents for several years, and indeed had been out of touch for most of that time. My mother, a dear, sweet lady who had suffered terribly through the years from my father’s rages and domineering and cruel behaviour, took one look at me and burst out crying. She said I looked as though I had just been released from Belson – so thin and emaciated I had become.

Pattaya, July 8th, 2009

MOBI’S  STORY(PART 3)

JAKARTA.

I’m not too sure about these days, following the rise of Muslim fundamentalism, but in the 1970’s Jakarta was not a town which I would recommend for those with a drinking problem.

As the resident expat financial controller, I was given a whole house to myself, complete with servants and fully stocked bar, located in the up market, (expat) area of Kebayoran, within walking distance of my office.

If my boss, who I had previously worked for in Port Harcourt, wasn’t an alcoholic, then he was the best imitation of that condition that I have ever seen. On top of that, he was totally addicted to sex, and would pick up girls at any hour of the day or night, on a whim, and whisk them off to a hotel or any room which happened to be available for an hour. I recall once taking a business trip with him to Singapore, and he could rarely get out of the hotel lift without finding something to his liking in there with him and then persuading her to having a quick fling in his room.

Anyway, when I arrived in Jakarta, I was welcomed with open arms, and was immediately ushered out  to a local massage parlour, within site of the office, whereupon  we immediately took our places at the bar, and spent the afternoon drinking and whoring. When he finally determined that we had better make an appearance in the office, he introduced to me to his ‘expenses system’, whereby I paid all the bills, would subsequently claim them on expenses, which would then be approved by none other than himself – the General Manager. What a wonderful arrangement!

Needless to say, I embarked on yet another wild, drinking career. With all the money and ‘expenses’ I could ask for, I caroused with  some of the most beautiful women I had ever set eyes on, and drank myself silly in a feast of bars, nightclubs and massage parlours.

There was a large pub/tavern near the office which was run by a British couple who co-owned it with a Indonesian General. It was the ‘in’ place for expats, and had good western food. There was a very large circular, central, bar, and they even had live music of an evening. It was one of those “wonders of Asia’ where freelance whores would rub shoulders at the bar with expats, husbands and wives, and respectable Indonesians – male and female.

My day would invariable start there, with my boss, and a ‘liquid’ lunch. The pub had a number of very attractive, seductively dressed waitresses, who were eager to serve. My boss would sit there and look at them, trying to decide which one to chat up. He would say: “Mobi, have you humped that one?” I would shake my head, not really being in his league. Then he would say: “How about that one, have you humped her?” And so on, and all the time getting more and more pissed. After a couple of hours we would adjourn to his favourite massage parlour, where more drinking and whoring would follow. On good days, we might spend as much as an hour or two in the office. On bad days, we never saw the inside of it.

By the way, I should mention that my boss, an American, was also married to an American, and she would wait patiently at their Jakarta home every night for him to return, every day. Rarely, did he do that before midnight.

Of course this situation couldn’t last forever, and word started to get around that the General Manager wasn’t doing a great deal of ‘managing’.

Around two months after my arrival in Jakarta, my boss was summoned back to California for ‘business discussions’, and never returned, and I never saw him again. His wife was still in Jakarta at the time, and it was several weeks before she departed, as she was left to pack up all their stuff and tidy up all the loose ends. I felt quite sorry for her, because she knew what her husband had been getting up to. She knew that I was one of his “partners in crime”, but for some reason she took a liking to me, (or maybe took pity on me – who knows?), and she took me under her wing for those few weeks  she remained in Jakarta, and was very kind to me. I was still drinking like there was no tomorrow though, and I remember to this day the struggle I had to get out of bed and go with my driver  to her house and escort her to the airport to make sure she flew out without any hitches. My hangover was enormous, but I owed it to her, and I gave the send-off she deserved.

After she left, things went downhill rapidly. Up to that point, in spite of all my drinking and whoring, I had just about been able to keep up with my work, but the drinking got worse, and it wasn’t long before the books were hopelessly behind, and the monthly finance reports to head office started to dry up. For a while I made up the numbers, but even those ceased eventually, when it became clear that Head Office was having problems in accepting that the figures were based in any kind of reality.

As my work situation deteriorated, along with my drinking, I rarely went to the office. If I went at all, it would be after 6.p.m. California time, to make sure they couldn’t call me on the telephone. It was still the days before fax machines, but they sent me ‘yards’ of telexes every day, demanding to know what was going on, but I never replied.

Eventually, I realised the game was up, and it was only a matter of time before I would be fired, and a replacement  sent to sort everything out. So I decided to ‘jump before I was pushed’ and gave in my notice. It was accepted, no doubt with a great deal of relief, and one of my old mates from my drinking days in  London, was sent out from California, (he was now a senior honcho in Head Office Finance), to arrange a hand over.

Before he arrived, I had an attack of conscience, and started a valiant attempt to get everything up to date. I was only half way there when my old friend arrived, but together we worked day and night, and within a couple of weeks everything was back where it should have been and the books were spick and span.

It didn’t change anything regarding my future employment, but at least I felt better in myself. My departure date was booked, and I spent the remaining days, packing and arranging my shipment to the UK.

I was still drinking, often with my old friend from California, but I guess it tapered off a little to allow me to do what I had to do.

In all, I was in Indonesia just under a year. I had travelled extensively during my time there, had learnt to speak passable Indonesian (I am blessed with an aptitude for languages – even when drunk), and had many adventures with women. Oh yes, I had even spent the obligatory night in a Jakarta jail. The details are vague, but I believe some Indonesian Mafia were after me for something I had done in a drunken state, and from what I recall, I was locked up for my own protection.

Finally, I clambered onto the plane that would take me away from Indonesia forever, and I remember it vividly because I was so hung-over, that I never thought I would make it alive to my destination, Bangkok. I was shaking like a leaf; I was drenched in sweat, and my head felt as though it had been cracked open with a sledge hammer. But make it, I did.

Yet never once did I then and for many years to come, even consider the possibility that I may have a problem with alcohol, or that I was an alcoholic and couldn’t control my drinking.

I was just a young man enjoying life to the full.


Pattaya, 8th July, 2009.

Pattaya, 8th July, 2009.

Today I have been sober for 13 days. I hope that 13 is not an unlucky number!!

As I have done for the past 13 days, today I woke up at 7.30 a.m. showered, shaved and dressed, made 2 steaming mugs of coffee, and at 8.15 I got into my car and made the half hour journey to Pattaya for my morning AA meeting.

I have been sleeping very late and waking up late for so long, that I really find it a huge effort to get up early, in spite of the fact that I actually fell asleep before midnight.

In my working days, I was a very early riser, but these past two weeks I have felt like shit when I wake up, even though I am not hungover. But by the time I have arrived at Pattaya, and the caffeine has started to kick in, I feel much better.

(All medical experts will tell you that coffee is very bad for recovering alcoholics, but I have yet to meet one – and believe me I have met a great number in the past few months – who doesn’t ‘down’ copious mugs of coffee from early morning, and sometimes all day. Let’s be realistic, drinking coffee is still a million times better than taking that first drink.)

Once I am in the meeting with my new found friends, I instantly start to feel better, and by the time the meeting has closed, an hour later, I really do feel mentally charged, ready to face the day, and all set to embark on yet another, hopefully booze – free 24 hours.

But more about these meetings later.

For now, I will continue my “background” story, which I pray will provide a timely warning to any heavy drinkers out there, of the dangers of descending into a life of alcoholism.


MOBI’S STORY (PART 2).


BANGKOK

It was 1974, and before I travelled to Jakarta to start my new job, I took a long, (2 month), break in Bangkok. By this time I had travelled to Thailand a number of times, and I soon 1slipped into my familiar routine.

The very first time I had arrived in Bangkok, I had booked myself into the Siam Intercontinental in Siam Square, (now sadly no more). But I never stayed there. I quickly discovered that five star hotels did not approve of “ladies of the night”, and it wasn’t long before I opted for the much more down-market, two and three star hotels that were scattered across the metropolis.

After trying out a few, I eventually settled on the Fortuna Hotel, on Soi 5, Sukhumvit Road. It was old even then, but it had a fine, 24 hour coffee shop, decent rooms, and even a swimming pool. But most importantly, in true “Cheers tradition”, it was a place where everyone knew my name. The staff were very friendly, and even the owner used to talk to me as he somehow had got into his head that I was very rich, and he was keen on marrying me off to his cute little Chinese daughter who worked behind reception. I’m not sure that she was too keen, as all that she saw was a young, long haired ‘hippie’, who drank too much beer and never slept alone, and never with the same lady for more than 2 nights in a row.

The Fortuna was conveniently located across Sukhumvit from a large massage Parlour, called HP Massage, and next to the parlour was an “illegal” go-go bar that was open all night and, even in those far off days, used to have naked ladies to provide the dancing entertainment. The Chinese owner had it all sewn up;  any ‘masseurs’ who were not otherwise employed, would gravitate to the bar next door after work, and try their hand at dancing, in the hope of snagging a late drunken farang.

So my two months were largely spent within the confines of HP Massage, the bar next door, and my hotel room. Drinking would start at Noon, when I would sit at the bar of HP, peering at the girls behind the window, and choosing my ‘wife of the day’, followed by lunch in the hotel, and thence to bed for an afternoon nap, and a bit of ‘nookie. Most days, I would wake up in the early evening, kick out my ‘wife of the day’, go back over the road to the illegal bar, and spend half the night there, making sure I didn’t sober up, and sometimes taking my second wife of the night back to the room for ‘part two’.

In a pattern to be repeated through the years, I eventually got my ‘comeuppance’, in the form of a gorgeous little thing, who I fell for ‘hook line and sinker’. Within a week I was married to her, and on the first day of my marriage she was kidnapped, outside the Fortuna Hotel, by a couple of young guys in a black taxi. I was beside myself with distress, and drank more than ever, awaiting news of my beloved. After a few days she called me and spun the yarn that she was being held by a gang and they had demanded a ransom to set her free. To cut a long story short, I duly paid the ransom to a guy on a motorcycle at Victory Monument, but the lady never returned – of course. I did track her down later, and when she disappeared yet again, I even travelled up country to a communist infested village, east of Ubon, where I found her mother living a lovely little house with a bright, new shiny roof. The best house an otherwise totally impoverished village. But no sign of the wife.

(By the way, the present day Landmark hotel is located on the site of the old HP Massage and bar, and many years later I stayed there one night, and could have sworn I heard the ghostly laughter of all those girls I knew as I lay in bed in an advanced stage of intoxication.)

I digress.

I eventually made the plane to Singapore, and thence to Jakarta, very hung-over, poorer, broken-hearted, and not a lot wiser.

My name is “Mobi”; I’m an alcoholic!!!

This is the start of my very first blog.


The subject of this blog is alcoholism, and in particular, my alcoholism, and what I am doing in my life to combat this sickness.

The purpose of this blog is twofold:

First and foremost – and I make no apologies for this, even if it does seem to go against AA principles – is that I find it cathartic to write about my problems, and further, that there may be folk out there who may read my blog, maybe offer encouragement, and by so doing, give me the strength and determination to continue along my chosen course.

Secondly – and this is certainly in keeping with AA principles, there may be many alcoholics out there who will be encouraged, inspired (dare I hope for such a thing?), and even learn (Oh my God I’m getting too cocky by half!), from my ramblings.

I sincerely hope – whether I succeed or fail miserably – that you, dear readers, may derive some benefit from reading about my life and exploits, as it pertains to my ongoing attempts to stop drinking.

There is one point I wish to make clear at the very outset. The very nature of my story necessitates that I have to be extremely discrete when writing about the people I encounter and interact with in my quest for sobriety. This means that you must take it as ‘read’ that all names and any information that could lead to discovery of those to whom I refer, will be fictionalised, in order to protect their anonymity.

So please, no speculation on anyone who is mentioned, as I can assure you that in all likelihood you will be way off the mark, as I am quite inventive.

But for me, Mobi, I will be an open book, and accept that as the price I pay for writing this blog.


Pattaya, July 7th, 2009.

It is ironic, (or maybe divine guidance?) that I am starting a blog on alcoholism on the first day of Khao Phanzer, or Buddhist Lent, the time of year when Buddhists, and even some ‘farangs’, try to refrain from alcohol for a period of 3 months.

Today I have been sober for 12 days. This isn’t the first time I have tried to stop drinking, but I sincerely hope it is the last. All previous attempts were carried out more or less on my own, using my own ‘will power” to stay sober, and as I now believe, all these attempts were destined to fail, sooner or later.

On this, the first day of my blog, some background to my life of drinking is in order.


MOBI’S STORY(PART1)

THE “DEVELOPING” YEARS

I am not exactly sure how old I was when I first tasted alcohol, but I suspect I was in my pre-teens when my father handed round the Christmas glasses of cheap Spanish wine, at our rented flat in East London. I recall with amazing clarity, not the drinking of the wine, but the buying of it. It was such a tortuous, frightening and traumatic process, as was more or less any event that was somehow connected with my brutal bear of a father.

He knew this cheap off license, a couple of miles from where we lived, and he sent me to buy the wine, with strict instructions on what to buy, and how much to pay. Of course, it didn’t work out that way. The prices had changed, and when I returned home, with the wine and the incorrect change, all hell broke loose. Not only did I and the whole family suffer from a raging abusive father, but he went back to the off license and physically assaulted the poor shop owner, and, not being satisfied with that, smashed in the plate glass on the front his shop. This was not an uncommon occurrence in those days, when my life was totally controlled and dominated by my father.

Enough to drive any unsuspecting child to drink, you may think. But in spite of my almost continual fear of violence and intimidation, I was strong in other ways. I think abused people often find an inner strength to somehow survive and the thought of getting drunk was totally alien to me. If I had been a child of the 21st Century, then maybe things would have been different, but in those far off days of the early 1950’s, England had barely recovered from the Second World War, and alcohol was neither easily available nor cheap enough to draw me into alcoholism at such a young age.

So we had the obligatory wine with our Christmas lunch, a totally miserable time of year for the whole family; what with being fed some scrawny, undercooked goose that my father had picked up from the butcher just before he closed at half price, some sweet, warm cheap Spanish wine and all to the accompaniment of a mean and cruel man who never let up with his irrational temper tantrums.

My next memories of alcohol are being taken into the local public house with my father and elder brother when I was around 15 years old, and being given a pint of draught beer, which I found the most foul tasting liquid I had ever experienced. But I didn’t dare not drink it – after all, my father was there to make sure I was a “man”, and could take my drink.

I left school when I was 16, even though I had been fortunate to go to a grammar school. I was looking for some elusive independence from my father that working full time may afford me. But of course nothing much changed. Most of the meagre pittance that I earned working as an articled clerk to a Chartered Accountant in the City, had to be handed over to my family to pay for my “keep”.

I was a lonely person in those days, but did keep a few friends from my school hood days, who I would see occasionally. Over the next year or two, by doing a paper round as well as my full time job, I managed to save up enough to buy the cheapest most ramshackle jalopy of a car you would ever see, and it used to become a regular occurrence to take out my friends on a Sunday evening to one of the pubs scattered across the Essex countryside, where we would ‘down’ a few pints of beer in time honoured tradition.

I was the start of my love/hate affair with alcohol, although I didn’t know it at the time. I think even in those days I was fast developing an unhealthy ‘taste’ for it, although I was still a long way from being a fully fledged alcoholic.

I recall the first time I was really drunk – I guess it was the first time of literally thousands. I was probably around 19 or 20, and was still working as an articled clerk and was paid a pittance. (My servitude was 5 years). I was auditing the books of a major motor dealer in the East end of London and was in their offices with a junior colleague, a couple of days before Christmas. (It’s weird how Christmas seems to come up again and again along my path to alcoholism). We were busy ticking their account books with our nice bright red pens, when the office manager came into our office, sporting a large bottle of scotch, and invited us to join him in a Christmas toast.

I achieved several ‘firsts’ on that cold, miserable, December day. It was the first time I had tasted scotch; it was the first time I had become totally intoxicated; it was the first time I had driven while in a state of extreme intoxication, (I remember to this day driving home, hanging onto the steering wheel, and moving at about 10 miles and hour – weaving all over the carriageway – it was a miracle I didn’t crash, or get arrested); it was the first time that I puked my guts out; it was the first time that I had gone to bed and the walls and ceiling of the room went round and… round…. and …round; and it was the first time that I woke up with a hangover.

Needless to say my father was distinctly unimpressed, and you can imagine what happened, for the day had not yet arrived when I would escape from his control.

The five years were finally at an end, and although I failed my final exams, I still managed to get a well paid job in the oil industry, for this was the “swinging sixties”, and jobs were aplenty.

I went to work in the company’s prestige offices in Berkeley Square, and I earned the princely sum of 20 pounds a week – a positive fortune to a poor east end lad, who rarely had more than a quid in his pocket in his whole life. So I started to live life ‘on the hog’. My new work colleagues helped me to break the chains of my previous life, and it wasn’t long before I was frequenting the pubs and clubs of the west end, and I even joined Playboy club on Park lane which was the ‘in’ place to be in those days. The influence and control of my father had finally started to wane; many is the time that I didn’t get home till dawn on a weekend, and within a year I had rented a room in Bayswater and moved out – although I was still so terrified of my father that I virtually had to do a “moonlight flit”.


So booze was becoming an important part of my life. We would drink at lunch times, and we would drink after work. Sometimes, when we were ‘burning the midnight candle’ in the office, we would go out and get drunk at 5 p.m. and at around 7 p.m. we would return to work, pissed, but still able to work.

A feature of my life then, and for a great many years to come, was that I was able to imbibe large amounts of alcohol, and still manage to work and hold down high pressure jobs.

After a couple of years, I became emotionally embroiled with a girl from New York who had been working for me as a temporary secretary. I was so besotted with her beauty and ‘New York charm’, that when she returned home at the conclusion of her contract, that I promptly quit my job and followed her over there.

Much happened to me in New York, but the romance collapsed and I ended up by moving to Montreal in Canada, where I was first incarcerated at the border on suspicion of being a US draft dodger, and then got into trouble with the authorities by trying to work without the proper visa, (shades of Thailand). Anyway, that is all another story, but suffice to say that booze kept me in good stead during this difficult and emotionally draining period of my life.

I suppose that most peoples’ lives contain ‘life changing’ coincidences, but whether or not that is so, it is certainly true of my life.

I had rented a nice apartment in downtown Montreal, I had beaten the Canadian immigration service, and was about to start a well paid job. I phoned a friend in London from my Oil Company days and told him what had happened and where I was located. Within 24 hours the oil company had contacted me and offered me a new position in Nigeria.

It didn’t take me long to decide to accept the offer, and within days I was winging my way back to London, and thence onwards to Lagos, Nigeria.

So to a new life, a new experience in a West African Country which had recently become independent from Britain, and was at that time immersed in a bloody civil war.

In all, I spent over 3 years in Nigeria – Lagos, Port Harcourt and Warri – and had many adventures, including being one of the first westerners to enter the secessionist Eastern region at the end of the war, being thrown in jail and beaten up for being drunk at a road block, marrying (and eventually divorcing) a Nigerian lady, and many more…. But they are not the subject of this blog.

Suffice to say, my drinking habits in the hard bitten ‘wild west’ of the oil exploration business became more entrenched and I could stand my booze with the best of them, and still report for work the next morning.

After Nigeria I spent over 3 years in the Arabian Gulf – principally in Abu Dhabi, but also in Oman, and Dubai. More adventures, more bloody noses and black eyes, more jails, and a lot more drinking. For the first 2 years of my time in Abu Dhabi, I lived in a caravan in the desert – one of literally hundreds that made up ‘base camp’, which at that time, was the largest centre of population in the country. There were no women, but all the beer you could drink. So we worked a 12 hour day, and as the evenings cooled down, we’d sit outside our porta camps, downing dozens of cans of beer and throwing the empties into the sand and at the mangy wild dogs that circled the camp. Every day we would pass out drunk, and often fights would spring up, for no real reason, other than alcohol, frustration and boredom. Strange to tell, this is one of the fondest memories of my early adulthood. For there, in the desert, I discovered a camaraderie I had never found before, and I could drink as much as I liked, every day. Eventually we relocated into the fast developing Abu Dhabi city, where I started to drink more than ever, and as was becoming my custom, spent the odd night or two in the local jail after drunken altercations in the only night club in town.

It was during the period that I was in Abu Dhabi, that I made my first forays into Thailand – The “land of Smiles”. In fact, my introduction to Thailand had come some years earlier, when working in Nigeria, as one of my drinking friends had recommended that if I ever had the chance, I should definitely give Bangkok, and in particular, Patpong, the ‘once over’ and he had even written down the name of his favourite bar for me.

So it was that when working in the Middle East in the early seventies, that I started my 36 year ‘love affair’ with ancient Siam, and those oh so beautiful and captivating ladies. I used to take a round trip flight to Bombay (now Mumbai), and thence another round trip flight to Bangkok, as this was the only way of flying to Thailand, other than going via Europe.

My R & R in Bangkok consisted almost entirely of drinking, whoring, sleeping, drinking, whoring, sleeping, drinking….. for 3- 4 weeks, and then back to work in the desert. Not very cultural, but there again I was a hot headed young lad who had spent the past few months in a desert devoid of women, and with only hard drinking oilfield men and camels for company!!

Does anyone remember ‘Thai Heaven’?

(However, I do recall being taken to the Rose Garden on one occasion, and on another, made a very long journey by non air conditioned taxi to Chiang Mai, in the company of a lovely young lady, who insisted on stopping every hour or so to eat. It took two days to get there and another two to get back to Bangkok. I think we spent one night in Chiang Mai.)

From the Middle East, I moved to Jakarta, Indonesia. This move was to become ‘little piece of heaven’ and, I regret to say, more than a chunk of my descent into what became my ‘alcoholic hell’.