Viva Formula One! – may your billions be forever tainted…

10 Months, 27 Days, still sober

Mobi babble

On 21st November, Noo and I celebrated our one year anniversary together. In case you are wondering, I know the precise date because the first time she came to stay at my home was on the night of the 2010 Loi Krathong Festival, and she has been with me ever since.

I had known Noo for several months before that date, and had been extremely attracted to her. I felt she was an attractive, sexy, good hearted lady and we seemed to hit it off very well together. The only thing that had been holding me back was the fact in my carefully prepared ‘lady check list’, there was a requirement that my next ‘live-in’ would have absolutely no children.

For those interested, you can find my infamous ‘check list’ – ‘29 questions before marrying a whore’ in my blog of 27th June, which can be found:  HERE)

Anyway, Noo has two kids living with her family in Nong Khai and this encumbrance deterred me from getting too serious with her, but in the end I liked her so much that I decided to ignore my own rules and give her a try.

On the day of our assignation, I had arranged to pick her up from a Loy Krathong party she had gone to with her friends. I almost missed her, as I was a couple of hours late in picking her up. The party had long since finished and she had given up waiting for me. When I belatedly drove up, she was in the act of climbing into the back of a ‘Baht bus’ with her friends to go off to yet another party.

The rest, as they say is history. Still dressed in her traditional Thai costume, we drove back up to the lake where we did a small detour to launch a krathong on the lake near my home. After that we drove home and although I had known her for quite a while, this was the very first occasion that I had made love to her. She has been with me ever since and although I have done a few things during the past year of which I am not particularly proud, I have been faithful to her and have not slept with another woman.

I have recently written at length about how happy I have been with Noo and what a little gem she is, so I will leave it at that.

It remains to be seen if this time next year I will be celebrating my second anniversary. I am actually extremely optimistic.

The Great Gatsby

I finished reading supposedly America’s finest 20th century Novel a few days ago and was surprised to discover how short it was – only around 80,000 odd words, give or take.

I enjoyed it quite a lot as  Fitzgerald is a very fine writer and he writes beautiful prose. I do, however struggle with the assertion that Gatsby is one of the finest novel ever written. ‘Great’ it may be, but I am quite sure there are many others which are greater.

In fact I would even go so far as to say that his novel ‘Tender is the Night’ written some 11 years later,  is, in my opinion, a much finer, deeper and more absorbing novel. For me, Tender is a novel in which the reader can interact on a far more emotional and empathetic level with the characters, than is the case with Gatsby.

I rarely read book reviews before reading a particular book as I wish to form my own opinion without being influenced by others. So when I had finished Gatsby, I scanned the internet for a few reviews of Gatsby  and was amused to find at least one learned reviewer who had opinions close to my own. He commented that Gatsby is generally regarded by the US literary establishment as a finer novel than ‘Tender is the Night’, because the college professors find Gatsby a much easier book to teach, by virtue of its short length and more simplistic plot-line and character development.

I couldn’t really comment on that, never having been to any college, let alone an American college, so have no idea how these things work, but I think I do see what he was getting at. Of course, it is all very subjective and one thing is for sure – I do need to read Gatsby at least one more time before I can really form a proper opinion of its place in 20th century American literature.

I decided to download and watch the 1974 film of the Great Gatsby, starring Robert Redford to see how it matched up to the book.

The film has come in for a lot of criticism as well as some praise but as far as I can determine it has been generally regarded as a bit of a flop, both financially and critically.

I actually quite enjoyed it. There has been much criticism of the acting, especially Mia Farrow in the role of Daisy, but for me, it worked quite well. I thought the lead male actors were particularly good and Redford made a sterling effort in portraying the somewhat enigmatic Gatsby on the big screen. The costumes, scenery, design and cinematography were exceptional and brought to life everything in the way that I had imagined as I read the novel. The music, ably orchestrated by Nelson Riddle, was, of course superb and so evocative of the  the Jazz Age era.

Again, reading some reviews afterwards, (which ranged from hating it to loving it), I found several reviewers complaining that the screenplay, by no lesser personage than Francis Ford Coppola, was very mundane and lacked the beauty of Fitzgerald’s original prose. These comments demonstrated to me the wilful deceptions of reviewers who are determined to put the boot into a film they don’t like.

Remember, I had just read the book, and Fitzgerald’s wonderful writing style was still firmly in my mind; so as I watched the movie, I kept thinking to myself; ‘Did they actually pay Coppola to write this?’

Not because it was terrible, but because it seemed to me that he had copied the narrative, word for word, from the original novel. It was essentially a ‘cut and paste’ job. It was quite remarkable how he succeeded in using so much of Fitzgerald’s own prose, whether it was from the mouth of ‘Nick’, by way of narration, or part of the general dialogue.

And even when the writer, (or producers), had decided to include new scenes that were not in the novel, you could barely detect any change in the style of the dialogue from that written by the novelist. To me, far from being mundane, the screenplay was a master class on how to be as faithful as possible to the original book.

As with the book, it is all quite subjective, but I have sneaking suspicion that the film is now held in much higher regard than when it was originally released.

I see that a new version of Gatsby is currently being shot by one of my all-time favourite film directors, “BazLuhrmann. It is due for release next year and I will be most interested to see what he makes of this sleepy, finely nuanced story of the rich and indolent in the early 20th Century.

Kindle-ing

Further to my comments on Kindle, ( KINDLE), a few weeks back, the other day I was searching the Kindle ‘market place’ for a Tolstoy novel, when I found an incredible offer. The complete works of Leo Tolstoy, all for the grand price of … can you believe… one dollar, ninety nine cents? – that’s just sixty Baht, for 33 literary works, by one of the greatest ever authors, including such monsters novels as ‘War and Peace’ and ‘Anna Karenina’.

Never, in my wildest dreams could I have ever hoped to possess such a hard copy collection to store on my bookshelves. And what is more, I can take the whole lot with me, in my pocket, wherever I go in the world.

I don’t know about you, but I just love and embrace 21st century technology.

Oh Bernie Eccleston… how rich are you?….

Most professional sports in this day and age have become totally corrupted by the enormous amounts of money that flow through them, to both the ‘players’ and the owners. There are countless examples of this obscene ruination of what used to be sport for sports sake, and without wishing to alienate my Yank friends too much, I believe it is fair to state that the rot probably started in the good old Us of A.

American Football, Baseball, Basketball and Ice Hockey showed the world how it was possible to become multi-millionaires in a few brief years, just by being good in a particular sport. In recent years, sports such as football (soccer), athletics and even the ultimate gentleman’s sport, cricket have become drowned in what appears to be an insatiable drive to pump more and more money into just about any sporting endeavour that may attract punters and sponsors.

One of the chief amongst these is the incredibly boring and pointless sport of Formula One racing. It is run by multi-millionaires, sponsored by many of the richest of the world’s global conglomerates, and pays its drivers obscene amounts of money, to drive a two hour race, every week or so for a few months of the year.

I love sport and have always been a keen follower of almost any sport you care to name but I can never sit down and watch a formula one GP from start to finish. Nothing ever happens, unless of course the camera happens to be distracted for a few seconds. The race appears to be more a question of which team has the best tyre strategy than anything to do with the car or the driver’s ability.

(Yes, I know that I am exagerating, but how many times has a race been won or lost by good or bad tyre strategy?).

It really is a lot of nonsense, but, I am sad to admit that it is a sport that is followed by many millions throughout the world.

So you get this idiotic, obscenely rich multi-billionaire, Mr Bernie Ecclestone, who seems to think that because he owns Formula One, he can do what he likes, where he likes and how he likes, with no regard whatsoever to what is happening in the rest of the world. For Ecclestone, the only world that exists is his rarefied, billionaire’s Grand Prix world of  Formula One. As far as he is concerned, the remaining 7 billion people on the planet can go and take a running jump.

Over the past six months, I have written on several of occasions about the atrocities that have been perpetrated this year in the state of Bahrain; some of the most shocking and brutal of the entire ‘Arab Spring Season’.

I noted at the time my disgust that Ecclestone and such luminaries as Jackie Stewart were still insisting that the Bahrain Grand Prix should go ahead, showing their complete ignorance and insensitivity towards the horrific events that were unfolding in that country.

In the end, the pressure of public opinion was so great that even ‘King’ Ecclestone was forced to cancel, but still, incredibly, held out some hope that the race could be reinstated later in the calendar.

Just in case some of my readers may have missed my comments on Bahrain, here are few, and I do mean just a few, snippets from my earlier blogs.

May 13

…In Bahrain, the response of the authorities has been so brutal and so utterly barbaric and ruthless, that they have successfully managed to totally quell any semblance of protest – at least for the time being – so terrified and battered – both mentally and physically – are the general population….

…I appreciate that it is difficult to ‘grade’ the levels of oppression and illegality, but as horrific as the actions of the ruling authorities have been in Libya, Yemen Syria and elsewhere, I put it to you that the actions in Bahrain have reached a new low in the level of man’s inhumanity to man…

…I am talking now of the arrest, intimidation, torture and rape of female students as young as 12 years old; the mass round up, imprisonment and continued detention and torture of dozens of doctors and scores of medics medics and anyone who gave medical sustenance to the injured protesters…

…Authorities said that 47 doctors and medics will soon face prosecution, apparently in a special military court, for alleged acts that include claims of bringing weapons into the hospital, stealing blood so that protesters could feign serious injury, applying medications to simulate symptoms of nerve gas, refusing to treat injured or ill people who were not Shia and generally “serving the agenda of the protesters”. They said 150 others are under investigation and suspended from their positions. Authorities said they will “reveal details” at a news conference on Sunday…

… It is with much shame that I can only conclude that nothing will be done or said  on behalf of Bahrain’s terrified and suffering populace, as it would be diametrically opposed to  the west’s  interests; they do not wish to upset their Middle eastern allies. This is gutless appeasement demonstrates the total hypocrisy of western politics and their claims that they stand up for democracy, the rights of the individual and human dignity…

…It suits the West’s purpose to become involved militarily in Libya as that country is more or less a pariah state and has few friends. But Bahrain, a close ally of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates – America and Europe’s close allies, never…

‘So sorry, my little Bahraini’s – we’re afraid you will have to be beaten, raped, tortured and die and because we can’t let anything come between us and our malicious, misogynistic, totalitarian  Arab mates  and their precious oil supplies…’

15 May

The Bahraini government has destroyed a number of mosques in continuation of its aggressive crackdown on pro-democracy protesters….

….At least 28 mosques and Shia religious institutions have been destroyed in the Gulf state since the crackdown on Shia-led protests began in Mid-March

…This Sunni government of Bahrain is fighting the Shia, destroying their places of worship and holy places.”….

Washington, DC – Human Rights First expressed concern about reports that dozens of mosques and other religious property used by the Shia majority community in Bahrain are being destroyed by the authorities in the latest crackdown against protesters….

…..“Bulldozing mosques will only inflame the tensions in Bahrain, not restore stability,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “The attacks on Shia places of worship have triggered protest demonstrations in other parts of the Middle East, and these incidents will exacerbate Sunni-Shia tensions throughout the region. The US government’s silence on Bahrain is deafening.  If the Obama …Administration wants to see human rights respected throughout the Middle East, it must speak out against the destruction of places of worship and the rest of the continuing repression in Bahrain.”…..

….According to Human Rights Fist, around 600 government critics have been detained in the last two months and at least four have died in police custody in April…..

… Why, I wonder is the US so reluctant to condemn to atrocities perpetrated by these barbaric Bahraini tyrants?  Well apart from being a close ally of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates (fellow despots), there is the small matter of US naval facilities.

Bahrain has also been a base for U.S. naval activity in the Persian Gulf since 1947. Bahrain and the United States signed a Defence Cooperation Agreement in October 1991 granting U.S. forces access to Bahraini facilities and ensuring the right to pre-position material for future crises. Bahrain is the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. The U.S. designated Bahrain a Major Non-NATO Ally in October 2001.

Need I say more?…

8 June

…The FIA made its decision to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix to the F1 calendar after a report revealed the country’s situation has “stabilised”.

The president of the sport’s world governing body told the BBC the FIA voted unanimously after advice from Vice-president, Carlos Gracia…

“Our special envoy had many meetings in Bahrain, even with the human rights people responsible,” said Todt.

“He found a stable situation, a quiet one, and we unanimously agreed.”

Nabeel Rajab – the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights president had this reaction:-

“It’s a very sad moment. It seems that their benefit and their interest has more importance than the human rights of people in this part of the region. It’s very upsetting, and the people are very upset.”

 

12 June

…Then we have the Royal Princes of Bahrain who are intent on stifling all opposition by killing, imprisoning and torturing thousands of its people, mainly the majority Shiite citizens; burning their mosques to the ground and raping and torturing female students as young as 12 years old; rounding up doctors, nurses and medics from hospitals and their homes and throwing them into jail on trumped up charges…

…What did Bahrain have to say to account for their destruction of dozens of Shiite Mosques?  Oh, they had to destroy them as the Mosques had been built without building permission…

‘Fast forward’ to the present.

I wasn’t the sole voice of reason protesting that the world had ‘forsaken’ Bahrain.

Indeed, Al Jazeera has been trying to bring these unspeakable injustices to the world’s attention for many months, sometimes at great risk to their own reporters.

They recently broadcast a documentary on the problem, entitled: ‘Bahrain: Shouting in the dark.’

It is the story of Bahrain: An island kingdom in the Arabian Gulf where the Shia Muslim majority are ruled by a family from the Sunni minority. Where people fighting for democratic rights broke the barriers of fear, only to find themselves alone and crushed.

This is their story and Al Jazeera is their witness – the only TV journalists who remained to follow their journey of hope to the carnage that followed. This is the Arab revolution that was abandoned by the Arabs, forsaken by the West and forgotten by the world.

This documentary recently won the Foreign Press Association Documentary of the Year award in London and I commend it to my readers.

Bahrain: Shouting in the dark

So now, an independent report, commissioned by King Hamad, and published this week, was critical of both the government and the opposition regarding their behaviour earlier this year. The 500-page report, delivered by the Bahrain Independent Commission, makes no bones about the Bahraini security forces’ use of “excessive force” during the brutal crackdown that followed, in which 40 people died and more than 1,600 were detained without charge.

The exhaustive investigation, undertaken by Professor Cherif  Bassiouni, a former UN human rights lawyer, concluded that many detainees had been subjected to “physical and psychological torture”. They had been blindfolded, whipped, given electric shocks and threatened with rape in order to extract confessions. Even by the brutal standards of the Middle East, this is a pretty damning indictment.

Bahrain’s King Hamad has set up a commission to implement the findings of the report, including an examination of the protesters’ grievances.

But thousands in Bahrain’s Shia village of Muqasha have marched in protest following the release of a report slamming the government for its use of torture to crush protests. The protesters are saying the report fell short of the mark.

The unrest saw the 2011 Grand Prix, which was due to take place in March, postponed, then reinstated and then cancelled altogether following international condemnation.

The release of the report last Wednesday was preceded by further protests, but Ecclestone, in announcing the reinstatement of the Bahrain Grand prix for 2012, said: he did not expect the race to become a magnet for further unrest.

“It’s on the calendar, we’ll be there, unless something terrible happens to stop us.”

…The Bahraini King has vowed to introduce reforms after claiming to be “shocked” by the brutality uncovered by the inquiry. Ecclestone said he had faith in Bahrain’s rulers.

“They have internal politics and I doubt very much whether they’d use international matters to sort out internal politics,”

Asked what he would do if trouble flared up again next year ahead of the race, which is scheduled for 22 April, Ecclestone said: “I’d wait and see what happened and then decide.”

“Up to now they’ve done everything they said they were going to do.”

And questioned on the risk of the sport being drawn into another long-winded saga with a similar conclusion, he said: “Maybe we should have gone this year.”

 

Yes, folks, he actually said: “Maybe we should have gone this year…”

I firmly believe that the troubles in Bahrain are a very long way from being resolved as, I am sure, most sensible thinking people also believe. The Bahraini, Royal despots are probably doing no more than going through the motions in order to placate their friends in the west, in particular the USA, in much the same way that Assad of Syria has continually tried to placate the Arab league with false promises.

I truly hope that I am wrong, but we need some positive action, not words, before we can even begin to believe that changes for the better will really happen. And until the world becomes convinced that Bahrain has ceased its brutal repression and torture of its citizens, then international sport, such as Formula One, has absolutely no business doing business there.

Many of my readers are probably too young to remember, but the largest single factor that finally brought an end to Apartheid in South Africa, was the determination of the world’s sporting bodies to boycott that country.

By insisting on holding a major sporting even in that territory, for the benefit of a tiny number of obscenely rich people, Ecclestone is helping to legitimatise one of the world’s most despotic regimes.

A Lustful Gentleman

Below is another completed section of Chapter one of my novel. I think there may be one, or at the most two more writing sessions left in this chapter. It will be quite a relief to finally get it done and move on to chapter two…..

Chapter One

(continued)

ix

Na was extremely anxious; she hadn’t heard from Mike for more than two weeks. In fact, ever since he had suddenly backed his bags and rushed back to England to deal with a ‘family emergency’, she had not heard a word from him. Nor – even more importantly – had he sent her any of the promised funds.

    She had now reached the point where she had to make a critical decision. Should she sell some of her hard earned gold to raise the necessary cash, or should she simply change to a much cheaper hospital? Mike had promised her faithfully that as soon as he got back to London he would send her the cash for her hospital fees. But now, two weeks later and on the brink of delivery, there was no sign of any money being sent. She had tried to call him so many times, but his phone seemed to be permanently out of order. She had a dreadful feeling that the great love affair of her life was about to collapse in the most spectacular fashion.

    She was about to shake  her mother, who lying next to her, still fast asleep on the huge double bed, to go out and find her into a cheaper, more affordable hospital, when there was a ring at the door. ‘Mama! Mama! Wake up! Someone’s at the door,’ she shouted, shaking her mother quite roughly.

    Dow, still half asleep, rubbed her sand-filled eyes and staggered to her feet. Then she looked down at her daughter. ‘What? What? What’s happened?

    The doorbell rang again.

‘The door, Mama! The door! Go and see who’s there – maybe it’s Mike! she shouted , in a sudden fit of hope and feverish excitement.

    It wasn’t Mike, but the visitor was possibly the next best thing. It was Russell, Mike’s best friend. Na knew Russell very well; he was always popping by the apartment, either alone or with other friends to have a drink and to watch videos. He would even visit on the odd occasion when Mike wasn’t at home. They had all been mates together – Mike, Russell and the others, and of course some of the girls who tagged along, or so she used to think. But she hadn’t seen Russell, or any of Mike’s friends for several weeks, and she had begun to believe that they were all deliberately keeping their distance from her. Yet here he was, as large as life, surely with a message from her beloved Mike.

    The sat down in the large lounge, Na’s heavily pregnant frame sinking down into the deeply leather piled sofa.

    ‘Russell, you hear from Mike?’

   ‘Yes, Na, I just heard from him last night. He called me about two in the morning.’

    ‘Oh, thank God for that. I think something happen to him. I not hear anything since he go back to England. He all right? He have accident? Why he not call me?’ she asked in a worrying tone.

    The young Englishman sat in silence for a few moments, trying to work out what to say to her.

    ‘What happened, Russell? What happened to Mike? Something happened – I know. He OK?’ Na pressed him, in an ever more anxious tone.

    He looked at her, trying to break the news as gently as possible. ‘’Na, Mike is fine…’

    ‘Then why he not call me? Why he not send me money?’ When he coming back to Pattaya?’

    ‘I’m so sorry Na. he’s not coming back.’

    ‘Not coming back!’ she shrieked, ‘Why? Why?’

    ‘Na, I’m so sorry. Mike asked me to tell, you he’s not coming back to Thailand.. He’s got a new job in the city and he can’t get time off like he used to. Its’ a very big job, a promotion,  and he has to stay in London all the time.’

    ‘But…but… what about me? What about my – his baby!’ she screamed.

    Na, I’m sorry to tell you that Mike has a new girlfriend in London and he is getting married.’

    ‘Getting g married? I don’t believe it! He loves me. He told me the wanted to marry me! What about his baby???’

    ‘Na, I’m so sorry to tell you this, but last night Mike said that the baby wasn’t his. He said you had been sleeping around and he was quite sure that baby wasn’t his. That’s why he left you and flew back to England.’

    Na was beside herself with distress, bordering on hysteria. ‘Not his Baby! That’s impossible! He is the only man I have been with for more than a year. It is his Baby, Russell, call him and tell him it is his baby!’

    He looked at the distraught girl with a mixture of pity and disbelief. Mike had been so convincing when he had told him last night that Na had been ‘two-timing him’, but now he wasn’t so sure. ‘Which one was telling the truth?’ He wondered.

    ‘Na, I can’t get in the middle of all this; I am just passing on a message. He told me he wanted to call you but your phone was switched off.

    ‘No! No! That’s a lie! My phone never off. I have wait for Mike to call – all night, all day, since he leave Pattaya.’

    ‘Well I don’t know about that, Na, I’m just telling you what he said. Why don’t you try to call him, then, and tell him he’s got it all wrong?’

    ‘Russell, I try to call Mike every day – his phone never open!’ You call him – you tell him. I need money for hospital – my baby coming very soon…’

    Russell didn’t know what to do for the best. It was clear that Na was extremely upset and who could blame her. It certainly appeared that she was telling the truth and he knew that Mike wasn’t averse to the odd little white lie, when the occasion demanded it. But it was beginning to look as though it wasn’t just a little white lie – it might well be a bit of a monster. Mike was just trying to get out of his responsibly… the bastard….

    Na had broken down in tears and her mother had come in from the bedroom to comfort her.

    ‘Look Na, I’m very sorry, but I really have to be going…’ he said, as he rose to his feet and made towards the front door.

    But before he had taken two steps, Na set out a mighty scream that stopped him in his tracks. He turned to see the two women with terror on their faces. Then he noticed the trickle of blood seeping through from Na’s pakoma and he knew that he was in the middle of a medical emergency.

    ‘Russell! Help me!’ Na screamed, half delirious form birthing pains and the emotional trauma that she had just been subjected to.

    He knew that Mike had booked the expensive Bangkok Pattaya Hospital for Na’s delivery, so he quickly realised that the best thing to do was to somehow get Na into his car downstairs in the apartment car park and get her to the hospital as soon as possible.

    Without further ado, and with Dow’s help, they half carried, half dragged the delirious Na into the lift, and thence onto the back seat of his car, whereupon  he scared the wits out of Dow and himself as he raced to the hospital which was located some 10 kilometres away at the Northern end of Pattaya.

*

    It was a veritable ‘Devil’s Inferno’, with its throbbing, cacophonous disco music and its surrealistic strobes and multi-coloured spots. At its centre, the drunken, heaving masses were surrounding and cheering on a single, beautiful, dark skinned, naked lady, perched on a small, raised platform, who was dancing up a dervish-like storm of wild, seductive gyrations.

    Suddenly a young man broke away from the clinging crowd and tried to climb up onto the small platform. She saw him and pulled him up to her, hugging his body close to her sweat laden glistening skin. ‘Oh Russell… Russell,’ she moaned, as she thrust her upper thigh into his bulging crotch..

    There was a commotion in the crowd as another man broke through and grabbed at the dancer’s ankles. She looked down and screamed. ‘Mike! Mike! – what are doing here?’

    He looked at her with a mixture of disgust and anger in his blood red eyes. ‘You whore ! you whore!’ he shouted, ‘You cheap, dirty whore!’

    ‘No! No! I’m not!’ she screamed, ‘Mike I love you! I love you!’

    He let go of her ankles, turned his back and made an abrupt departure from the small stage, quickly vanishing from sight amongst the packed crowd.

    ‘Mike, don’t go!’ she screamed, and stopped dead in her tracks, pushing Russell away from her. He responded by putting his hands around her waist, trying to pull her towards him once more. She looked scornfully at him, and tried unsuccessfully to remove herself from his frantic embrace, when suddenly, she seemed to acquire superhuman strength and lifted him up bodily from the dancing platform.

    With her new-found prodigious power, she raised the flailing body above her head, holding him horizontally at arm’s length and started dancing again; this time a twirl, round and round the stage, screaming at the punters, desperately trying to locate her beloved Mike. Finally, she came to a halt and with a gesture akin to a double handed javelin throw, she launched the hapless farang into the middle of the baying crowd and watched, with satisfaction as his helpless body crashed through onto the floor and his head split asunder against the nearby bar.

    The crowd became silent, the music abruptly ceased, and the tier of spotlights zoomed in on the lifeless body. The crowd stared at the body, and then back at the still naked figure on the stage. A single voice shouted: ‘Na!’ Then others joined in, ‘Na! Na! Na! Na! The spotlights changed direction again and returned to illuminate Na’s quivering body.

    ‘Na! Na! Na!’

*

    ‘Na! Na!… wake up, Na!’

    At first she thought she was still on stage in that grotesque bar. A shiver of fear ran though her. ‘Oh my God! What in earth have I done?’ Then with relief, she realised that she had been having a nightmare and started to relax. She actually felt quite good; she was still drowsy from the anaesthetic and was feeling a little ‘high.’

    But as the voices and the lights started to pierce her consciousness, the first thing she felt was a sharp pain in her lower stomach. Where was she? What was going on? Why was she hurting? For a moment she thought that she was back in one of those dirty illegal abortion clinics that Klaus had taken her to. Klaus? Oh no! Was she still in his clutches? she asked herself.

    But gradually, as consciousness returned, the full reality of what had happened started to dawn on her. She opened her eyes and saw her mother on one side of the hospital bed and a doctor, surrounded by a clutch of nurses on the other.

    ‘Khun Na,’ the doctor said, ‘how are you feeling?’

    ‘Erm… I’m not too sure. All right I suppose. But I have a lot of pain down here, ‘she replied, pointing to her stomach.’

    ‘Yes, it will hurt for a few days, but you will soon get better. I have given you some medicine to alleviate the pain.’

    She looked around her and saw that she was attached to a saline drip and that her vital signs were being monitored by a nearby machine. Slowly, the memory of it all started to return.

    ‘Mama, where am I?’ she asked.

    ‘You’re in hospital.’

    ‘Yes, I know! But what hospital?’

    ‘You’re in Bangkok Pattaya,’ replied one of the nurses.

    Na’s heart sunk. Oh no, not Bangkok Pattaya, one of the most expensive hospitals in Thailand. ‘Why am I here? What happened?’ she asked, although memories of recent events were fast returning. She feared the worst.

    ‘Khun Na,’ the doctor, answered, ‘you have had a lucky escape. When you were brought in two days ago, it was touch and go whether you would make it, but we managed to save you, as you can see’ he said with a weak smile.

    ‘Save me? Why? What happened?’ But she knew. It had all come back. ‘I was pregnant, I was having a baby…’

    ‘Yes, you were having a baby. You had a baby, which we delivered yesterday  by caesarean section.’

    ‘Caesarean section! You… cut open my stomach…?’ Why? How? Who gave you permission to do that?’

    ‘You mother did. She had to, If not you would have died. You had lost a lot of blood and were in a very bad condition.’

    The whole awful reality of what had been happening started to dawn on her still bewildered and sleep-heavy brain. They had cut open her stomach; she would have a scar! She would never be able to dance again. She wouldn’t be able to work as a go-go dancer ever again! But her baby! What about her baby?

    ‘Mama, what about my baby?’ she asked in a whisper.

    The doctor answered. ‘Khun Na, your baby is fine. You have a beautiful baby girl and she is being looked after by some nurses in the hospital nursery. You can see her when you feel up to it.

    Na closed her eyes and tried to take it all in. The hospital staff who had gathered around her bed assumed that she must have drifted off to sleep again. After a few minutes they left the bedside  and slowly went about their duties, leaving the exhausted Dow on her own..

    But Na wasn’t asleep; she just wanted to lie there quietly and contemplate in silence everything that had been going on with her all too brief life.

    After two illegal abortions she had become a mother, at the age of nineteen. But she now she had an unsightly scar and would never work again as a dancer. Without her knowledge or consent, they had taken her to Bangkok Pattaya Hospital and she had no idea how she was going to pay the bills. Mike had dumped her. Although she still had feelings for him, the realisation dawned that he was a shallow, deceitful man who had treated her very shoddily. She had been completely faithful to him since he had moved in with her over year ago. What’s more she knew that he didn’t really believe she had screwed around. He was just lying to friends to justify what he had done to her.

    But right now, her biggest problem was how to pay the bills. With her operation and post-operative care for her and the baby, she was sure the bill would run into several hundred thousand Baht. She didn’t have anything like that kind of money. In fact her savings account was almost empty. She had actually been keeping Mike for the past couple of months when the money he had brought to Thailand with him had dried up. He had promised her faithfully that he would pay her back as soon as he reached England. The bastard! The fucking liar! Yet again her young life seemed to have taken a downward turn.

    She still recalled those long ago days when she had been lifted out of poverty and deprivation and taken to live at the kid’s mission by Kate and Bill. She had been so happy. Then her mother had come and taken her and after just a single day with her mother, she had been forced to go and live with that terrible farang as his sex slave for a year. The memories of that year were still vivid, but she always tried very hard to stop thinking about it. It was just too traumatic and thinking about it always made her cry.

*

    After Na had had the good fortune to be rescued from the room in Naklua, it was happy days again. Despite a few desperate and unsuccessful attempts by her mother to take her back to the slums, – for God only knows what nefarious purposes – she had stayed at the kid’s mission until her sixteenth birthday.

    By general acknowledgement, she had grown into a very attractive young lady, and in spite of her emotional scars, she had blossomed into a charming and cheerful soul, seemingly full of fun and always ready to see the funny side of things. It wasn’t long before she attracted the attention of  the young Thai men who sometimes came to do volunteer work at the mission and shortly after her sixteenth birthday she announced to the apprehensive Kate and Bill that she was leaving the mission and was going to ‘live’ with her latest boyfriend .

   The affair hadn’t lasted long. When she confided in her lover about her experiences when she was younger, he soon lost interest in her and kicked her out of the room they shared together. There then followed a series of short lived affairs with similar, narrow- minded Thais before Na finally got it into her head that most Thai men would never be serious about a penniless, Issan girl from the slums, with minimal education, no gainful employment and who had been badly abused as a child.

    She was barely seventeen when she got her first job in a Pattaya bar. After the initial culture shock, it didn’t take her long to slip into the lifestyle of a prostitute cum bar girl. She certainly wasn’t a virgin, having been abused by Klaus when she was only twelve years old and then. a few years later, she  experienced some quite enjoyable sex with her various Thai boyfriends, who were all most adept at knowing how to make her satisfied. So the prospect of sleeping with farangs for money held no particular worries for her. For the most part, she would simply lie on her back and let the punters get on with it – the quicker the better, and a vast majority were 9indeed extremely quick, quite unlike the Thai men she used to sleep with. Of course Na was very young and very attractive and these sex starved farangs who flocked the bars of Pattaya were absolutely bursting with testosterone, so for most of them, the act was over before it really begun, but most were too shy to admit it or do anything about it.

    Occasionally, Na would meet a more sexually experienced customer, usually an older man, and with them she would sometimes enjoy an exciting night’s sex – but these occasions were very much the exception rather than the rule.

    Within months, she had ‘graduated’ to one of the top go-go bars in Walking Street, the pinnacle of Pattaya’s red light district. Na – the beautiful, sexy, go-go dancer – had arrived and she had no problems in attracting a coterie of smitten farang customers.

    She was extremely popular. She was in her prime and the men just fell over themselves to bed her and ply her with money. During her most ‘productive spell’ she would have as many as six farangs on her ‘payroll’ at one time. She became adept at structuring her time with them so that no single customer was aware of the existence of the others. Whenever they went back to their home countries, they would send monthly remittances to her bank account. She became a master of deception and even when two or more customers were in Pattaya at the same time, she became more and more inventive at explaining her absences and keeping them all at a distance from each other. She achieved all this while holding down her full bar time job – although for much of the time she was being ‘bar-fined’ and only made the odd, rare appearance at her place of employment.

    This was by far the most fruitful period of her life. She had a goodly sum sorted away in various bank accounts; her velvet jewellery case was crammed full of jewellery and gold; she drove the latest Honda motorcycle and had even bought a few acres of land back in her home province of Khon Kaen, where she was born.

    She lived in one of the better class condominium blocks in Pattaya and used her high earnings as a successful go-go dancer, cum prostitute, to furnish her condo with the best of furniture and all the latest mod cons and conveniences. Her mother, Dow, had come to live with her and in a remarkable ‘role reversal’, she had become her daughter’s cook and general housekeeper.

    At nineteen, she was in her prime.

    Unfortunately, Na was also in a prime situation for yet another fall. She had long learned that Thai men were not for her. Her brief experiences had led her to the conclusion that they were all deceitful, unfaithful, selfish, frequently violent creatures who never had any money. On the other hand she had met many good looking, young farangs who seemed to be so different. They were all rich and they fell over backwards to make her happy and shower her with gifts and money.

    They wanted to spend all their time with her and were so much in love with her that they would literally do anything to keep her in the manner that she had become accustomed. Moreover, unlike Thai men, she discovered that these farang men were so easy to control. They believed everything she told them and would do anything she wished. They would never question her or argue with her – not if they wanted her to remain their ‘girlfriend’.

    But Na knew that she could not maintain this kind of lifestyle indefinitely and it would probably only be a matter of time before one of her many boyfriends caught her cheating on him. Even though she bore more mental scars in her brief life than most do in a lifetime, Na was one of those rare souls who never lost her compassion or her belief in the innate goodness of the human spirit, and she had no real desire to hurt anyone unnecessarily.

    So she concluded that she could do a lot worse than choose one of these fun-loving young men as a permanent partner – maybe even a future husband. In truth, she was growing tired of her life as a go-go dancer and ever wearier of all the lies and games she had to play to keep her besotted, love-struck suitors apart from each other.

    Some of her friends had taken this course and had succeeded in having happy, long term relationships – a few had even gone to live abroad with their chosen spouses. So this might have been a good plan if she had chosen wisely, but unfortunately, she didn’t. She chose a ‘wrong-un’.

    Mike was a smart, streetwise handsome young cockney lad of twenty-six. He was one of the new breed of city traders who survived on his wits and had made a small fortune in the London money markets. He lived hard and played hard and had discovered Pattaya a couple of years earlier when he had made the miraculous discovery that his good looks and long, flowing, blond hair together with a fat wallet would buy him almost any girl he desired, and that included the lovely Na.

    Mike was very much enamoured with Na. When he was back home in the ‘square mile’ making yet more loadsa money, he would send her regular, very generous remittances, just so that he could ‘keep her on ice’, (or so he thought), until his next visit. But this didn’t stop him enjoying the delights of many other girls when he flew back to Thailand. At this point in his life the last thing he wanted was a monogamous relationship. He was enjoying himself immensely ‘playing the field’ and could well afford to do so.

    Never the less, when Na suggested that he move in with her, he was highly flattered. She was one of the most popular ladies in Pattaya. Every time she got up to dance in her glittering, skimpy outfit that left so little to the imagination, all the punters  fawned around her  and queued up to buy her drinks and hold her hand.

    It hadn’t even occurred to Mike to shack up with one of these girls until Na suggested it to him one day. Not only was he flattered but it would prove to be a huge boost to his ego to have Na on his arm whenever he went out for a night on the town. He would make sure all the lads understood that it was, ‘Hands off Na – she’s taken’. They would all be so jealous and as an added bonus, he wouldn’t have to go to the effort of finding a new lady to sleep with every night. So after taking a few moments of weighing up the’ pros and cons’, he readily agreed to Na’s proposal that they live together. It was a recipe for disaster. Na was ready to commit to a full time, serious relationship, but Mike was just after a bit of fun and a means to make his friends jealous.

    The novelty of Mike having a beautiful Thai lady as his very own, exclusive, property didn’t last long. At first, things seemed to go well, but as time wore on, Mike absences to have a ‘night out’ with his mates became ever more frequent. He soon grew tired of bringing Na with him as his testosterone-filled body was bursting to impregnate as many of the lovely damsels of Pattaya that time and money would permit.

    Eventually, a progressively more suspicious Na confronted her boyfriend with his infidelity and he would swear on his life that it would never happen again. But it did – over and over. But by this time Na was already seriously in love with her charming farang so in a fit of desperation, she came up with a devilish master plan; she allowed herself to become pregnant.

    Na wasn’t too sure what Mike’s reaction to the news of her pregnancy would be, but she needn’t have worried. He was delighted. It was proof – as if he needed it – of his virility and he spent many drunken evenings celebrating and bragging to his friends how clever he was to make a baby. After she broke her happy news, for a while they seemed to be happier than ever. Na was blossoming in the full throes of her pregnancy and Mike was being surprisingly solicitous; spending more time at home with her than he had ever done.

    But as her pregnancy progressed – from three to six months, with Na’s inevitable weight gain, Mikes eyes started to wander again. The odd day out alone turned into several days a week, and by the time Na was seven months pregnant, Mike was hardly ever at home. He would disappear, night after night,  sometimes not come home till morning – presumably after having enjoyed the delights of another woman, before crawling home to bed in the wee hours.

    Although most of Na’s non-monetary assets were still intact, the cash in her saving account had grown alarmingly low. For the past two months she had been spending her own money as Mike had told her he had run short of Thai funds. He had assured her it was purely a temporary situation and that as soon as he went back to England he would immediately transfer some more cash over to her.

*

    ‘Hmm…’ she thought wryly to herself, then aloud, ‘And we all know what happened, don’t we, Mama?’

   Her mother, dozing in the corner of the room, woke up with a start.

    ‘What? What? Are you all right, my love?’

    Na looked at her worn out, weak willed, stupid mother. In spite of all that had happened, she still loved her and still cared about her. It wasn’t her fault that she was born like that, she would always end up convincing herself.

    ‘Mama, please ask one of nurses if I can see my baby. I want to see my baby.’

    ‘Oh, of course, I will go and ask someone outside,’

    Dow got up from the chair and walked towards the door. Suddenly she stopped and turned back towards her daughter. ‘Na, what are you going to do?’ How can you pay the bill? You told me you have no money left in the bank.’

   ‘If you knew that, why did you bring me here – the most expensive hospital in Pattaya?’ she snapped harshly at her mother.

    ‘Because…..you….’

    ‘Never mind. Mama. Go and find my baby. I want to see my baby.’

    Na didn’t know what she was going to do, but one way or another she would have to find some money, quickly. She had heard horror stories of babies being held captive at hospitals until their parents came up with the hospital fees.

    But Na gritted her teeth. She was determined that this would never happen to her baby; she would find the money somehow; for her and her mother… and now, her new baby daughter…

***

BUTT… BUTT… BUTT…I don’t give a hoot…

A Mobi Paradise of ‘Beamer-ing’ and ‘Kindler-ing’…

10 months, 16 days – still sober

Mobi-Babble

Still walking, still swimming, still reading, still writing and and still keeping away from the ‘naughty zone’.

Yesterday, we were informed that there would be a planned power cut from 9 am to 4 pm, so we decided to spend the day in Pattaya, shopping, paying some bills and doing few other bits and pieces.

Despite the recently swollen population of Pattaya City, occasioned by the flood of ‘flooded refugees’ from all over Thailand, if you get on the road before midday, you will find the traffic still runs quite smoothly. It is only after midday (and weekends) that the traffic jams start to build up.

So we had a quick journey down to Jomtien where I indulged myself with a full ‘English Breakfast’,  in one of my favourite watering holes before  going on to the Big C complex on Pattaya Klang, which will probably be referred to as ‘Carrefour’ forever more, even though the French chain has long since uprooted itself from Thailand and sold out to the Big C conglomerate.

The last time I went there – post Carrefour departure – it was a bit of a let-down, as the ‘specialist farang’ stuff they used to stock, had all disappeared from the shelves and it seemed to have transformed itself into a bog standard, down market, Thai style hypermarket.

So this time we were pleasantly surprised to find that the bigwigs at BIG C seemed to have belatedly realised that in this part of town, there are a great number of high spending expats – tourists and residents alike – and it has now seems to have got its act together.

The place looked a lot more like Carrefour of old, and there were a number of shelves crammed full of imported foodstuffs that are mainly the perquisite of their foreign customers. The fresh meat, processed meat, fruit and vegetable sections looked much more like they did in the Carrefour days and even the bakery seemed to be full of such western delicacies as specialist bread, croissants, quiches and the like.

I would emphasise that I am not an expert on all this as my needs are fairly basic and I have never gone for much of expensive, imported food products – except maybe, for the odd bottle of Branston pickle and HP sauce. So it may be that I am wrong about all this, but for me the store is now just fine.

I have always been a fan of  the former (Carrefour), Pattaya Klang complex, as it also boasts a huge Home Pro store, (Homeware and ‘DIY’ products), plus a very large selection of specialists shops, banks, book stores and goodness knows what else. There are also plenty of eating establishments and coffee shops to satisfy almost every taste and, by general acknowledgement, the food court is one of the best in Pattaya. Parking is adequate (all under cover), and it is also a great place for ‘people watching’. But none of this is much good if the main hypermarket is not to your taste, so I am pleased to report that for this shopper, this is once more the case.

I should probably be keeping all this to myself, as one of the great things about yesterday’s shopping expedition was the ease of getting around the store. The place was not very busy and there were virtually no queues at the checkout tills.

Of course it is always ‘horses for courses’…..

The continuing adventures of a Mobi-beamer

Last Saturday, Noo and I rose a little early and drove to Chon Buri to have my beamer checked out by the dealer, as there was a message on my on -board computer informing me that it needed a ‘Statutory Service’,  whatever that may mean – sounds a bit ‘German’.

Those who have been following my adventures with my car and, the Chonburi BMW dealer, Nelson’s Autohaus, through the years, will know that it is always a bit of an adventure whenever I need to get them to fix something.

You may recall that on my last visit, I asked them to check out my windscreen washer reservoir, as it was obviously leaking badly. They had smiled their wonderful BMW smiles, made a note of it on their immaculate BMW services sheets, yet 4 hours later, when I  re-took possession of my trusty steed, I hadn’t even managed to get out of the dealer’s compound,  when a message appeared on my on board computer to tell me that my windscreen washer reservoir was empty!!

So this time I told them once again about the leaky reservoir and they smiled their smiles again and told me that the ‘statutory service’ would take a couple of hours. I confess they couldn’t have been more polite and solicitous; even the American owner came over to chat with me. Maybe he reads my blog. Anyway, this time, all was sorted to my satisfaction and for the first time for as long as I can recall, my car is 100% operational; even the body is now immaculate, after I had a very small scratch touched up a couple of weeks ago.

In fact, it looks so good, that I confess I am having second thoughts about selling it. It is a wonderful car to drive and I do enjoy it. The size is perfect for Pattaya as it is small enough to manoeuvre in the small sois and park in restricted areas, but big enough to carry 5 people plus a boot load of luggage whenever the occasion demands.

As some of you may have guessed, after some initial interest, I haven’t had any serious enquiries from potential buyers – no doubt entirely due to the floods that have enveloped large swathes of Thailand – including much of Bangkok. I doubt whether many people’s attention is focussed on buying low- slung BMW’s at the present time, when so many of the countries roads are several feet under water.

So I’ll see how things go, but either way I’m not too bothered.

Whither the Thai economy?

We met up with a couple of friends who live in Chonburi, and drove a kilometre down the road to the massive Central Department store to have lunch. The place was an absolute mad- house and the air went blue when I failed miserably to find a single parking space in the woefully inadequate and completely jam-packed car- park. I must have driven round and round for well over 30 minutes before giving up and parking along the main Sukhumvit highway and walking back to the store.

There are very few farangs living in Muang Chonburi, (Chonburi City), so 99.% of the folk in the store were Thai, and it seemed to me as though at least half of them had driven there in cars. The store is massive – as big as any I have seen, yet the place was buzzing like it was a New Years’ holiday. There were large queues outside many of the restaurants, (of which there were dozens), and the whole place pervaded an atmosphere of extravagant, middle class affluence.

So it’s so much for the world economic recession and the dire predictions of Thailand’s economic well-being, following the floods and consequent drop in tourist numbers. For what its worth, in my opinion, after an initial ‘blip’ in the nation’s GDP, as the flood- affected industries struggle to get back on their feet, the mid to long-term prospects for Thailand’s economy will be better than ever.

The ruling establishment, of whatever hue, now understands that if they don’t take major action to prevent future flooding, the country’s economic prospects will be at serious risk. This year’s floods were, without any doubt, a wakeup call for one and all.

As a consequence, I think we will see a period of heavy investment in anti-flood infrastructure projects, which will greatly benefit the local labour forces as well as dozens of local construction companies –not  forgetting lining the pockets of legislators. When completed, this will make Thailand an even better place for the likes of Japan and Korea to expand their already considerable investment in Thailand’s heavy and high tech industries.

Did you know that around 40% of the world’s computer hard disks are made in Thailand?

Did you know that Thailand is the world’s largest manufacturer of pick-up trucks, having overtaken the USA some years ago?

Did you know that Thailand is no 12 on this list of the world’s largest auto manufacturers?

I could go on and on….

Kindling the Great Gatsby

I have started reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s supposedly greatest novel, ‘The Great Gatsby’.

Some time ago I read, and wrote about ‘Tender is the Night’, the only other F. Scott Fitzgerald novel that I have so far read. You can find what I wrote here:

Mobi Blog: Tender is the night

You may recall that I loved the book, particularly because it was a tale about ‘heavy drinkers’ and alcoholics at a time before Alcoholics Anonymous had come into being and when very few people recognised alcoholism as a disease.

The book traced the ‘rise, and ultimately the ‘fall’ of indolent, wealthy ‘hero’ who succumbed to the very worst effects of alcoholism which destroyed his life. At the time I was still in the midst of a life and death struggle with my own alcoholic demons and I found it a profound read. Given that it was written so long ago – it gave me much cause to reflect. But above all this was the realisation that Fitzgerald writes some of the most beautiful English prose I have ever read.

He was truly a genius, and I regret how long it has taken me to seek out more of his work.

I guess the main reason for this is that being in such remote location – from a literary viewpoint, it is not easy to put my hands readily on classic literature; but with the advent of Amazon’s ‘Kindle’, this is all a thing of the past.  Once you get into it, Kindle is the most remarkable way to read a book.

For me, the advantages of reading from a Kindle, far out ways any disadvantages. So what are Kindle’s advantages over a traditional paper back, apart from the fact that I can obtain a copy of virtually any book ever written within a few minutes, wherever I happen to be on the planet?

There are many more reasons – but here are just a few.  

I can’t mutilate a book when I read it; the book will always open at the last ‘read’ page unless I opt otherwise; I can book-mark pages as I go along which can be found in a milli-second, the next time I pick up the book; if I forget who a character or a ‘name’ may be , I can look at all previous references to that character or name in the previously read  text in a flash; if I wish to make a note on any sentence or word, I can make notations in the book without mutilating the underlying text and it can removed later if I so desire; if I don’t understand a word, a simple finger press on the word will bring an instant dictionary description of that word, plus access to even more detailed word research should I desire it

I could go on and on, but surely the above facets adequately demonstrate the advantages of reading books in Kindle form, rather than the traditional route.

Sure, it’s nice, and somehow comforting, to have  bookshelves full of well-loved, well-thumbed  books that one day I may read again, and if I was living in England and unlikely to move house, then this might still be how I would buy and keep my reading matter. But for those of us, who like me, who are in the far flung corners of the world, and are often continually on the move, one of biggest problems has always been the difficulty of carting loads of heavy books around with me or even worse, having to ship them to our next destination with the attendant costs and work involved.

I should add that I use a 7 inch Samsung ‘tablet’, which for me, is the ideal size. I can carry it with me wherever I go, take it to bed or the bathroom and read unobtrusively, virtually anywhere. It is very easy to hold in my hand or pop in my small shoulder bag, and the text is clearer than if I were reading it from a paper -back of similar size, and if I had poor eye sight, I could even enlarge the size of the text.

Internet versions of Classic and 20th century literature, which are all out of copyright,  are often free or very inexpensive. The Great Gatsby only costs US $1.99 and it took about 3 seconds to download. Now I have it forever.

The American journalist and author, Hunter S. Thompson, who wrote ‘The Rum Diary,’ (which has been just released as a film starring Johnny Depp), once transcribed the entire ‘Great Gatsby’ Novel’ on his typewriter as he wanted to know what it felt like to write a masterpiece. He considered the Great Gatsby, one of the finest novels ever written.

(Incidentally, just for my Yank haters, Hunter Thompson has been quoted as saying: …‘America… just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.’… I don’t necessarily subscribe to this view, but you must admit it is quite amusing…)

Anyway, I am well into Gatsby, and I will report back when I have finished it. As with ‘Tender is the Night’, so far, I have found it a beautifully crafted piece of writing. It actually humbles my pathetic efforts at creative writing. But so does Shakespeare….

A Lustful Gentleman

Another small section (part vii) to be added to the revised Chapter One. Hopefully, there will be at least a couple of further new sections to read on Sunday. I am sooo busy these days….

Chapter one

(Continued)

vii

When Na received a message from one of the younger kids that Kate wanted her to go to the office, she had a premonition that this wasn’t going to be just routine business. She hadn’t seen her mother for nearly six months and she knew that she was way over-due for a visit. On the last occasion that her mother had come to see her, they had had a big row. Her mother wanted Na to go back home to the slum with her, but Na screamed and begged her to let her stay at the kid’s mission.

    At the time of the row with her mother, Na had been at the mission for two and half years, and during that time, she had been transformed from a very sickly, skin diseased, illiterate nine year old, into an attractive pre-teenager, who not only could read and write Thai, but also knew a goodly bit of English as well.

    Na still recalled vividly that momentous day when Kate and her husband, Bill, had taken her with them in the mini bus and instead of driving her straight to the kids’ home, Kate had taken Na to her own home for the first few weeks. Na had been told by the young Thai translator that she was so sick that Kate had feared for her life and decided to personally care for her until she was stronger.

    And so it had happened. Kate cared for Na as though she was her own baby; putting her in a proper bed with lovely clean sheets – the first bed and sheets Na had ever seen in her life; fed her nutritious meals, ensured that she took her special medicine four times a day, and, crucially, tirelessly bathed and applied the expensive, special ointment to the terrible scabs and sores which had broken out all over her face and body. Slowly but surely, Na had started to improve, and once Kate felt that she was sufficiently improved, Na went to join the other 30 or so kids who lived at the mission.

    Na hadn’t the slightest doubts that the past three years had been by far and away the happiest period of her entire life. She had quickly made friends with the other kids, and as soon as she had been well enough, the Mission workers had taken her to the local Wat school, and on weekends, she had been given special English lessons by some more kind farangs who had came to help at the mission on a part time basis.

    Na had realised instinctively that she was a bright, quick student and she knew that she had impressed her teachers on how quickly she had learnt to read and write Thai. Indeed, she had excelled in all her studies, especially her English and she felt a deep pride of what she had achieved. For the first time in her life, she started to believe that she was actually worth something more than just a compliant ‘machine’, doing anything she was bid to do by her mother and others.

    As she walked to Kate’s office she reflected on the row she had had with her mother, six months earlier. The basis of row  had been Dow’s demand that Na  go back to the slum and back to her old life with her mother. But when Na had asked her mother if she wasn’t getting enough to eat, Dow had admitted to her daughter that Kate and the other ladies had been giving her plenty of food and other supplies that had enabled her to live quite well.

    ‘Then why do you want me to go Mama?

    ‘Because I am alone and I miss you.’

    Na suspected it was not so much because her mother missed her, but more because she wanted someone to do all the work for her and look after her. ‘But Mama, I am happy here,’ she said, ‘I am going to school here, and I’m even learning to speak some English. This will all come to an end if I go back with you.

    ‘What good is school to you – a penniless slum girl!’ her mother had said. ‘Your place is at home with me, not at school, learning a lot of useless nonsense.…’

    Na had been unable to control her disgust. She was normally a calm, well behaved and dutiful daughter, but the injustice of what her mother was trying to do, suddenly hit her with a jolt and she had erupted with uncontrollable anger.

    ‘It’s not useless nonsense! I am learning to read and write and many other things besides; you can’t take me away now! What have you ever done for me? You sold little Tom and Nid into God knows what suffering and degradation, and now you want to ruin my life as well! Don’t you understand? I am happy here – for the first time in my life I am happy!’ Na had screamed at her mother.

    ‘Now go! Go home! Get out of here and leave me alone! Get out! Get out!’

    Nobody was more surprised than Na when her mother took one brief look at her daughter, got up from the chair she had been sitting on, and quietly left the office, without another look back. Na couldn’t believe her good luck. Maybe her mother had gone forever.

    That was six months ago, and now the ominous message to go and see Kate in the mission office. As Na suspected, when she got there, there were three people sitting in the office: Kate, her Thai translator and sitting in the centre of the room, with her head staring at the floor, was the ominous figure of Dow, her mother.

    Kate, with the help of the Thai translator, explained to Na that her mother was now insisting that Na go home with her. ‘Six months ago, you refused to leave, but she has been told by some people in the slum that you cannot stay here without her permission and  she has the right to take you back.’

    ‘I don’t want to go! I want to stay here with you and go to school. If I go with her, I won’t be able to go to school any more. It’s not fair!’

    ‘I’m very sorry Na, but you are only 12 years old and your mother is still your legal guardian. She does have the right to take you back and there is nothing we can do to stop her. You know you can only stay here if she agrees with the arrangements’

    Na knew only too well the truth of this. She had seen many of her friends at the mission come and go during the three years she had been there. At any time, one of the kid’s parents – most of them only had a single parent if they had any at all –  would come to the Mission and demand to take their child away with them. Na knew of several younger children who had been taken away on more than one occasion – just so that the parent could sell them to some filthy paedophile, usually to feed a drug habit. Later, the kids would be returned to the Mission by a social worker or sometimes a policeman, when the paedophile had grown tired of them or, more often, when the kid had succeeded in escaping from their clutches.

    Na looked at Kate. ‘Miss Kate, are you still giving food and water to my mother? she asked.

    ‘Yes, my child, you mum is well taken care of. She says she just wants you back to keep her company. She says can’t live alone any more. I am so sorry, my child, but you will have to go with her. It’s the law. There is nothing we can do.

    Na tried to meet her mother’s gaze but the old woman steadfastly refused to look at her and stared at the floor. Then Na looked across at the kindly Kate and the young Thai man, who was also a good friend to all the kids. The man’s face was inscrutable, but the elderly woman’s eyes said it all. She was full of despair, sorrow and dread for the fate of this lovely, clever young girl that she had grown to love as her own daughter.

    ‘Na, my love, you better go with Khun Suthep and collect your things.’

***

Butt…Butt…Butt…I Don’t give a hoot!….