It’s fair to say that I’d been quite nervous about my ‘date’, …….. but in truth I needn’t have been so anxious. During my embarrassingly long absence from all things romantic, either times have changed quite dramatically, ……. or my ability to misread situations has remained unerringly constant. Resplendent in my new shirt, the evening was actually spent in a large pick-up truck delivering and arranging flowers at various schools and colleges in preparation for the King’s 81st birthday celebrations. It was a great night, meeting lots of new people, …. being bumped and bruised along unmade rural roads, returning to my room long after midnight and smelling like my grandmothers wardrobe, …… highly recommended and much more memorable than ‘dates‘ as I remember them.
One major danger in getting cocky whilst trying to impress people by speaking Thai, …… is that they may in fact answer you. No matter how many times I fall into this trap, it’s a lesson that I’ll probably never learn. You smile and tell a stranger that you're very happy to be there and the next minute your being whisked through the homes of total strangers and being introduced as their latest best friend. Don’t get me wrong, I really do enjoy this, ….. but having not a single clue about what’s going on around you for hours on end can be a little daunting, …… unless of course a little beer enters the equation, at which point things become a lot more fun and a little less overpowering. I’d spent an afternoon and evening in a small rural village in Northern Thailand, …. it didn’t seem to have a name, it was just referred to as the ‘second’ and slightly ‘smaller’ village. I accidentally became the latest attraction in a community where hospitality was plentiful and Europeans were scarce. I sat outside at the mercy of the rampant mosquitoes on a veranda belonging to relatives of a family that I’d earlier met, and before long a ’revolving door party’ was in full progress. It was dark, the lights were low and the faces of the people soon became little more than beaming smiles. At the instructions of their parents, kids would disappear into the darkness on mopeds clutching 100 Baht notes ($3) and return minutes later with baskets filled with food and beer. I’d seen no shops in either the small or larger villages and I’ve still no idea where they were getting this produce from, but for the price of ‘Happy Meal’, half the population of the village were having an absolute ball. It was a great evening, nobody got drunk but everybody joked, laughed and sang all evening. I ate things that I couldn't identify (and probably wouldn’t want to), I was taken into people’s homes and introduced to whole generations of families living happily together in a way that we in Europe have all but forgotten. It was quite an experience and one that will remain with me for a long time to come.
I was working my way back towards Bangkok and the hope of a painless exit home. The airline offices were not being overly cooperative; telephones remained unanswered and recorded messages claimed that both airports would remain closed until further notice, …. which I knew to be wrong. Eventually I managed to contact a London office who helpfully told me to visit the Bangkok offices in person. Apparently, due to the thousands of stranded tourists it was the only way that any of the airlines could cope and the only way to confirm a return flight to London. And so here I am, back in Bangkok, with ‘Internet’ and five bars of telephone ‘Signal’, avoiding the flesh-pots and anything else that might possibly involve a ‘happy ending’. I’m under strict instructions from my daughter to buy anything carrying the name ’Converse’, ….. but I’m dyslexic and this is the land of the often misspelled fake, .. ’chok dee Hannah, .... chok dee’. It looks like I’m confirmed on a flight arriving in London in the early hours of Friday morning, … exactly one week overdue. Unfortunately it’s not exactly a ‘direct’ flight, ….. ‘indirect’ would also be a gross misrepresentation, ….. but as long as each leg arrives and departs on schedule, and all prospective airports are actually open, …. I’ll be a very happy man.