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A Fool's Diary

A Fool's Diary

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A Fool's Diary

Lunghezza:
342 pagine
5 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jul 4, 2013
ISBN:
9786167817019
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

A hilarious romp through a year of expat living in Pattaya, Thailand.

Imagine leaving the comfort zone of your home, family and friends to venture into the unknown. Imagine discovering an alien paradise only to realize that here, you are the alien who has to try to fit into your new environment. Imagine stumbling through a year of discovery among a tapestry of blunders and imagine that, all the while, you don't have a clue what you are doing.

That takes a lot of imagination!

... but not for The Fool.

By the author of the best selling Money Number One, this book is the third in a trilogy of titles following "The Fool in Paradise" theme. In this instance, "Paradise" refers to the Kingdom of Thailand and "The Fool", of course, is the author. The first in the series, A Fool in Paradise, was published in November 2003. It is a collection of 39 short stories about life in Thailand with particular attention to the entertainment scene in Pattaya. The second, A Fool is Back, came out in December 2004 and contained a further 32 stories along a similar vein, concentrating on fun and humour. Finally, after many delays due primarily to the bone laziness of the author, A Fool's Diary is born. More than a collection of tales, it chronicles a year in the life of a simple man; sometimes insightful, sometimes philosophical, but always with a dry wit that takes no prisoners.

Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jul 4, 2013
ISBN:
9786167817019
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Born of poor but humble parents in the former British colony of Australia, Neil was educated at an all-boys Grammar School, which kind of explains his adult infatuation with women. His early career was unremarkable, and it just went downhill from there. It wasn’t until he hit rock bottom, standing alone in the pouring rain on a congested Manila street trying to attract the attention of a suicidal jeepney driver, that fortune smiled and led him to Thailand where he found the most interesting people, the best food and the most beautiful women he had ever seen. What followed was a long, slow and sometimes costly learning experience which, even after a decade, is still a work in progress.


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A Fool's Diary - Neil Hutchison

A Fool's Diary

By Neil Hutchison

Smashwords Edition

eBook Edition Published by:

Proglen Trading Co., Ltd.

of Bangkok, Thailand

http://ebooks.dco.co.th

info@dco.co.th

Printed Edition Published and Distributed by:

Mitraphab Centre Pty Ltd.

Tumbi Umbi, New South Wales

Australia

Email: hutcho_ph@yahoo.com

Copyright © Neil Hutchison 2007

ISBN 978-616-7817-01-9

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system or transmitted in any form whatsoever without the prior written permission of the author.

Author’s Note

Completing a full year of living in Pattaya, Thailand, this book is a compilation of events either experienced first-hand or passed on to me in anecdotal form. The diary is presented as monthly recollections rather than a daily journal. Many of the tales were previously published as stand-alone short stories for local publications such as Pattaya Today newspaper, Pattaya Trader magazine and Pattaya Expat magazine. All the stories are true or based on true events with some literary licence used to fill in any missing pieces.

Names have been changed to protect me from being harmed by the culprits I have exposed. I deliberately avoided mentioning my lovely girlfriend by name. Throughout my life, break-ups with girlfriends have been acrimonious to say the least and, at each occasion, most would have enjoyed hacking my genitalia off with a blunt instrument. Not that I expect my current relationship to fail, but just in case we follow that well-worn path, I prefer not to have her name on public record for my private torment.

The nationalities of the foreigners mentioned within these pages have been changed, except in the case of Australians. Through some loophole in the idiotic laws of Political Correctness it appears that, because I am Australian myself, I am allowed to make jokes at the expense of my fellow countrymen without fear of being branded a racist.

You will meet three pivotal characters without whom I don’t think I could have survived here for as long as I have. Robbie, Earl and Dan know who they are and I hope they also know how much their friendship has meant to me and how it will always be appreciated. You will also meet many ships in the night, each with his or her own story to tell. I extend my deep appreciation to those who took the time to share their experiences with me, to those who bravely bared their souls and to those who simply needed a sympathetic ear, oblivious to the fact I was taking notes.

Contents

Foreword

Introduction

1 - January

A Fishy Tale

The Visa Run from Hell

Everything in Moderation

The Tourist Guide

Pattaya Speak

Cleaning House

2 - February

How do they know?

Lek, not the typical girl next door

Be my Valentine

Coffee in Bangkok

Robbie Bites the Dust

3 - March

Viagra Customs

Entrepreneurs like Frank

Kanchanaburi Revisited

Another Shoop gets off the Plane

Mind your Language

4 - April

Songkran and the Road to Oz

Meeting his Match on the Internet

Paying the Piper

5 - May

It’s all Relative, Uncle Albert

Big Babies

Doctor Darling

Foreign House Financiers of Pattaya

A Helping Hand

The Happy Medium

6 - June

Robbie and the Woman who has Everything

A Day at the Hospital

Britannia Rules the Waves

Sing-a-song-of-five-baht

Queen of the Clippers

Winnie in the Pooh

7 - July

Keeping Promises

Phillip

How Smart was That?

The Lump on the Couch

My name is Bond, Lek Bond

8 - August

More Fun

Health Insurance

The Penguin

You Can’t Always Win

Women’s Needs

9 - September

Entertaining Visitors

Taking Care of Guests

One Sunday in Bangkok

Love that Karma

Played like a Fiddle

10 - October

Home to Meet Mum

Mr. Clean

Borderline

Marking her Territory

Only for Caterpillars

11 - November

Only Skin Deep

In the Bag

The Lek Awards

Not a Normal Life

Food for Thought

Loopholes

12 - December

Telling the Difference

My Harem

Identity Crisis

Stuck in the Middle Again

New Year’s Eve

Final Thoughts

Foreword

Three women died simultaneously in an accident and went to heaven where St. Peter greeted them and explained the rules. We only have one rule here in heaven, he said, don’t step on the ducks!

The statement was puzzling until they passed through the Pearly Gates and noticed ducks all over the place. It was almost impossible to walk around and, although they tried their best to avoid them, it was not long before one woman accidentally stepped on a duck.

Within seconds, St. Peter appeared accompanied by the ugliest man they had ever seen. St. Peter chained the woman to the man and said, This is your punishment for stepping on a duck. You must spend eternity chained to this ugly man.

The next day, the second woman accidentally stepped on a duck and St. Peter, who doesn’t miss a thing, appeared with an incredibly ugly man. He chained them together saying, This is your punishment for stepping on a duck. You must now spend eternity chained to this horrible, ugly man.

The third woman observed all this and, not wanting to be chained for all eternity to an ugly man, was very careful wherever she walked. She managed to go for months without stepping on any ducks until one day, St. Peter came to her with the most handsome man she had ever laid eyes on ... tall, tanned, muscular and lean. St. Peter chained them together without giving her an explanation.

The woman, assuming she was being rewarded, smiled up at the man. I wonder what I did to deserve being chained to you for eternity? The guy replied, I don’t know about you lady, but I stepped on a duck.

"Life is all about perception. We can stumble through the days believing one thing is true but eventually, something will occur which smashes our image that we, personally, are the centre of the universe."

The Author

the author.

Introduction

On one of my earlier field trips and Wat inspection tours of Thailand, I found myself on a small tourist coach with fifteen other foreign adventurers. I was travelling solo but enjoying the company of my fellow sightseers. That is until we stopped for lunch and two couples joined me at my table. After polite introductions, I mentioned I was living most of my time in Thailand. To make matters worse, when someone excitedly asked where in Thailand I was based, I truthfully replied, Pattaya. Well, that stopped their conversation, at least with me, and I’m convinced I could not have made a worse impression if I had loudly and stinkily broken wind. Why was it so? These people, none of whom I discovered had ever been to Pattaya, unilaterally decided I was not the type of person whose company they wished to keep. What misinformation had they been given about the place and/or what crazy assumptions had they made about the people who live there?

Pattaya is primarily a tourist resort where the residents are generally no better or worse than anywhere else throughout the Kingdom. The expat community is as diverse as chalk and cheese, but even so, there are some characteristics, shared by each and every one, which enticed these one-time tourists to want to stay. The transformation from tourist to frequent visitor to expat takes time and the changes are quite noticeable. And the life of an expat is not easy, with visa concerns, financial woes, communication problems and cultural differences to overcome. So what made so many grains of sand on the beach of humanity accumulate here? Being an amateur psychologist, I have spent considerable time trying to uncover some of the commonalities which lured many foreigners to settle in this strange city half way around the globe. So let’s pay a brief visit into the minds of Pattaya’s expats.

There, that didn’t take long, did it? Only joking. Skipping over Thailand’s obvious attractions such as the climate, the food and the lower cost of living, many expats report they had a higher standard of living back in their home country. It was ‘quality of life’ not ‘living standard’ which was a significant factor in their decision and, strangely, this ‘quality’ was not measured in terms of material assets.

A few hundred years ago, Australia’s first European settlers (Politically Correct term: ‘colonialist invading running dogs’) did not actually come to Australia by choice. Many came for a ten years to life ‘holiday’ at British taxpayer’s expense. The strange thing was that, of the ones who were eventually allowed to return to the motherland, most decided to stay. They realized their quality of life in their new home was better than the one they left behind. They still retained strong ties with their homeland but few had any desire to go back.

Pattaya’s expats were not forced to come here but seem to have a similar lack of homesickness. Almost all love their country of birth but very few actually want to go back there to live. They have not come to Thailand for a set period of time as part of some ‘do Asia’ travel itinerary.

A mate went back to the UK for a week or so but I did not get to see him for more than a month. When I eventually ran into him, I asked how his ‘holiday’ went. Fantastic, he said. I had a wonderful time and was treated like a king. It was the best holiday I’ve ever had. Intrigued, I commented that I did not realize he liked going back to England so much. England? he yelled. I’ve just got back from Nong Khai! I thought you were talking about that holiday. England was cold, wet and miserable. I couldn’t wait to get out of the place.

Many expats have a ‘past’. Without suggesting for one minute it is a criminal past, it is usually some heavy baggage they would rather see the back of. Some are running from it while others simply want to forget. In Pattaya, your past cannot come back to haunt you unless you let it. On arrival, everyone has a clean slate and can make up a colourful history of a life he had wanted to lead but never did. Many expats tell tall tales from legendary pasts involving espionage, deep cover, Special Forces and top secret government covert ops about which they are not at liberty to elaborate. (Obviously, if they told us they would have to kill us.) It really doesn’t matter because no-one believes them anyway. New arrivals quickly discover nobody cares about their past, nobody cares about their triumphs or failures and no-one is going to make or break them because of the school they attended or whether they lived on the wrong side of the tracks. Whether the expat embellishes his stories or tells the truth, no-one treats him any differently. The baggage disappears and, even at a late stage in life, there is an opportunity to make a fresh start.

I too have been known to let the odd porky fly. Some idiot once asked me if I had ever been famous. I replied, Yes. Back in my old neighbourhood, lying at the crossroads of suburbia and middle class morality, we had a lot of civic pride. The people in my quiet street always kept neatly trimmed lawns, maintained the footpath, clipped their hedges and pruned their rose gardens. On one occasion, this house- proudness nudged on the point of the ridiculous. Some bright spark reasoned that a person’s front door was like a smile; being the first friendly sign to greet a visitor. Therefore, the front door should be welcoming, decorative and reflect a certain character. To improve our street, he organized a competition in which the front door of each house would be renovated and decorated by the owner and then judged by everyone on its appeal to a visitor. As if this were not enough, the doors were judged under two categories – those with door chimes and those without. It would be an unfair advantage for someone to have a doorbell that played Beethoven’s Fifth (with cannons) over another equally attractive door with only a knocker. I explained to my captivated audience this was the only time I ever achieved glory. Although I couldn’t remember who won the ‘Best Door with Chimes’ award, it was the year I won the ‘No Bell’ prize. (Think about it.)

Most Pattaya expats are not what you would call ‘politically correct’. They shun a Western world where it has fast become dangerous to say exactly what you think. In America, Britain and Australia today, every sentence uttered in public contains two parts – the first is the statement and the second is the qualification or apology. (And I say that with no disrespect towards the wonderful citizens of those beautiful countries.) In the world today, the old school ethics of ‘say what you mean and mean what you say’ no longer hold true and merely saying hello to a Western woman gives her the legal right to zap you with a stun gun. In a world that preaches telling the truth, you can find yourself seriously sued if you do.

Thailand does have its taboos and topics that foreigners should avoid, but expats talking amongst themselves find the subject matter quite open, with no-one ready to slap a law suit on them should they mention that some woman has a ‘nice arse’. (No disrespect intended to those ladies who, through no fault of their own and, only in some people’s shallow opinion, do not have a nice arse.) Expats generally follow the basic rule of conversation and avoid the subjects of religion and politics. It’s not that they necessarily know the rule, it’s just that most gave up any serious political affiliations long ago and don’t know enough about religion to comment. (That is not to belie the fact there are politically astute expats and many with sincere religious convictions out there.)

Perhaps the ‘Peter Pan’ syndrome – the boy who never grew up – is another common trait among expats. One friend told me he once underwent a mandatory psychological evaluation as part of a job application. The report concluded he had ‘difficulty adjusting to adulthood’. He was 52 years of age at the time. Observing some of the behaviour of other mature-age men in this town, my friend is not alone.

Expats seem to dislike rules and regimentation, which may sound odd considering many are retired military-types or government bureaucrats. Then again, maybe it’s not so strange. Responsibility belongs to that ‘other world’ they escaped from and they enjoy being where they can make up rules as they go along or bend them occasionally. But mostly, it is a place where few people are standing over their shoulder saying they can’t do this or can’t do that. Finding no set standards of behaviour to live up to, they can play childish games, they can play with water pistols during Songkran and, in spite of their age, can pretend to be John Travolta in a disco every night. In short, they don’t have to ‘act their age’ and are free to relive their youth. Do that kind of thing back home and the relatives would call the men in white coats with the butterfly net. Grandpa’s finally lost it. Please take him somewhere safe where he won’t hurt himself. I’ll apply for Power of Attorney.

In Pattaya, expats are free to make mistakes and screw up. Those raised under a ‘succeed at all costs’ doctrine soon realize that success is not always possible no matter how clever you are, but not being a success does not necessarily make you a failure. It makes you human. Expats find they can talk about their blunders with other expats and all laugh about it. They know the other person is not laughing at them but laughing because he has done something similar. ‘Screwing up’ can be worn as a badge of initiation rather than a mark of shame, and what is apparent across the spectrum of the expat community from bar owner to retiree is acceptance, humour, tolerance and understanding which, for such a mix of nationalities, languages and cultures, is quite remarkable.

But maybe it all comes down to ego and the fact most expats are incurable flirts. We enjoy the company of the beautiful ladies and, in that respect, I will never get tired of being told I am a sexy man. In fact, among the girls in one bar there is a school of thought that had I been around at the time of Leonardo da Vinci, instead of Mona’s smile it would have been me ripping my cheeks apart in that famous frame today. Similarly, without one noticeable anatomical enlargement, Michelangelo’s sculpture in Florence would have been named after me instead of that ponce David. Then again, maybe I was just putting the words in their mouths.

The good news is that even though the expats of Pattaya share many character traits (or flaws?), they have not lost their individuality. Some talk to trees. Not a new concept - I remember in the musical-comedy Paint Your Wagon, Clint Eastwood confessed in song that, I talk to the trees, but they don’t listen to me. I’m not surprised, Clint. Other expats have long, in depth, daily conversations with the bottom of a glass, but is that a product of their current environment or simply some leftover baggage? A touch of eccentricity is another common characteristic. The beauty of Pattaya is its population diversity and each unique individual does his or her part in making this an exciting and interesting place to live. What a boring place it would be if we were all the same.

People-watching and studying expat behaviour in Pattaya led me to write three books on the subject. Money Number One is a ‘single man’s survival guide to Pattaya’ and meant to be an honest but humorous reference source for first time visitors. The follow-up books, A Fool in Paradise and The Fool is Back!, are collections of short stories and anecdotes about life in Thailand in general and Pattaya in particular. While keeping the overall ‘Fool’ theme, this journal attempts to chronicle a typical year in the life of an ordinary expat. Many may argue there is no such thing as ‘typical’ or ‘ordinary’ in Pattaya and, to a certain extent, that is true. Nevertheless, the reader will meet a spectrum of characters throughout these pages; all different, all unique, but with one thing in common - their love of Pattaya. Perhaps that is the only truism ‘typical’ of the expat community.

I’m sure there are many reasons people write stories and books but, for me, I enjoy making people laugh – laugh at me, laugh at themselves or laugh at others – and enjoy relating anecdotes I find amusing. In all honesty, I have done some stupid things over the years but one key to survival is to accept the tenet; That which doesn’t kill you, should make you laugh. Maybe observing and writing about the foolish behaviour of others helps remind me I am not so ‘different’ after all and, in fact, my day-to-day life in Pattaya may well be ‘typical’. Whatever the reason, I don’t believe the following quote applies to me.

"I think writing does come out of a deep well of loneliness and a desire to fill some kind of gap. No one in his right mind would sit down to write a book if he were a well-adjusted, happy man."

Jay McInerney (b. 1955), U.S. author.

Interview in The Independent on Sunday (London) 19 April 1992.

Someone once suggested I tend to ‘stereotype’. It was an observation rather than an accusation. A stereotype is defined as a conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image. But isn’t most humour based upon stereotypes? There are Polish jokes, blonde jokes, Irish jokes, fat jokes, Jewish jokes, religious jokes, political jokes and the list is virtually endless. Sensible people realizes that not all blondes or Irish people are stupid and not all Jewish people or Scottish people are misers with their money, but the notion that they are, is what makes the joke funny. The moment someone says, I’ve got a blonde joke for you, your brain creates a mental picture of an attractive, clueless woman with platinum-blonde hair about to do or say something ridiculous. The humour in each joke is dependent upon a stereotype.

But stereotyping doesn’t always involve a group of people. Sometimes a person is stereotyped as having a certain character trait. Dean Martin was portrayed as an alcoholic and Jack Benny as the greatest skinflint of all time. Did you know that the longest, unprompted, sustained laugh by a live audience is attributed to Jack Benny? Alone on stage, he was delivering his stand-up routine when an actor, wearing a mask and dressed absurdly as a mugger, rushed towards him, pointed his prop gun at Benny and demanded, Your money or your life! Jack simply stood there, slowly put his hand up to his chin and pretended to be thinking about it. The audience broke up into fits of uncontrollable laughter which continued unabated for as long as he stood there saying nothing. To anyone who did not understand the persona and stereotype of Jack Benny as a miser with his money, the joke would have been incomprehensible.

What happened to me on that tourist coach was, the moment I mentioned I was from Pattaya, the others stereotyped me as a sleaze- ball. I could have told my travelling companions that I am the father of three well-adjusted children. I could have told them I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and I love reading Shakespeare, poetry and history. I could have mentioned I have been living very happily with the same lady now for more than four years. But no matter how multifaceted the reality, it did not fit the stereotypical picture they had instantly formed of me.

What follows are the highlights of my year, a summary of those interesting or pivotal events which make living in Pattaya so much fun. Many days are missing because sometimes, even in a city full of excitement, nothing much happens. It may appear to the observant reader that I seem to spend a lot of time sitting in bars. That can’t be helped, I’m afraid. Firstly, I like bars. Secondly, some of the most interesting conversations happen in bars. Certainly the funniest. And of course, laughter is the best medicine. Whereas in certain circumstances it may not offer the fastest cure for whatever ails us, there is scientific evidence to prove it is healthy and helps to maintain a general well being.

"Of all days, the day on which one has not laughed is the one most surely wasted."

Sébastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort (1741–94) French writer and wit.

So, without further ado,

January

*** 1 January ***

New Year’s Day offers the perfect opportunity to start breaking all those New Year’s resolutions foolishly made less than 24 hours earlier. Beginning the day at the wee small hour of 3:00pm, my standard two- course breakfast of a cup of coffee and a cigarette got rid of a couple without even trying. How useless to make ourselves promises we have no chance in hell of ever keeping. By 5 o’clock, with my hangover on the way down and caffeine-induced cerebral activity on the way up, it was time for some hair of the dog and stimulating conversation. And yet another resolution bites the dust.

For the past few years I have been living in a small Thai village in an outer suburb of Pattaya. When I say ‘Thai village’, I don’t mean in the traditional sense. It is a single-storey housing estate occupied predominantly by Thai people. My bungalow is within a stone’s throw of a family-operated convenience store which provides all the necessities of life, meaning there is no need to venture far from home unless I really want to. And life is good.

Sharing this community with me is a core group of five foreign retirees hailing from four countries. Outside the convenience store are two concrete tables with bench seats and the unspoken convention became that one table setting is reserved for foreigners and the other for Thais. Sure, it is a form of segregation, but the practicalities are that they can’t understand us and we can’t understand them, so it is the sensible thing to do. Around the foreign table, over time, the six of us have become good friends, sipping chilled beers in the cool of the evenings and solving the world’s problems while watching the Thai world slip by.

One of the retirees is Jack, a 62-year-old Frenchman, who owns the bungalow two doors away from the shop. He lives with his 55-year- old Thai wife, Noon, with whom he has been married for more than twenty years. They are a happy, friendly couple and on most nights, Jack sits and drinks with us while Noon sits, chats and eats with other Thais at the neighbouring table. She is a great cook, often making Jack’s dinner and bringing it outside to our table; more often than not with spare plates and spoons so we can all share the not-so-subtle oversupply of food she prepares. I once asked Jack what was his secret for a long-lasting marriage. He said it was to give each other space. He took care of her and provided for her but never interfered in the ‘Thai’ side of her life. She took great care of him and never objected to things he liked to do.

One of the things Jack liked to do was play golf. He had his own set of clubs and would play up to three times per week. Noon admitted she used to like it whenever he went out for a round, because it would give her time to herself. But, she joked, he would come home so tired at the end of the day he was not capable of doing anything apart from sleeping. We all laughed when she said he eventually had to give up golf because he was getting too old to carry his golf clubs. Now, Jack has a new passion. He hung up his golf bag and took up a fishing rod. As he explained, fishing is more sedate, less tiring and less expensive. Noon is happy with his new hobby as well. Whenever he brings home some nice fresh fish, she cleans them and cooks them to perfection. They have a wonderful feast.

Three or four afternoons a week, Jack grabs his fishing rod and gets a local motorcycle taxi to take him to a nearby fishing park. He sits quietly in the shade, throws in a line and has a few beers with not a care in the world. Most of the fish he catches he throws back, but he occasionally keeps one or two of the bigger ones for their evening meal. Just after sunset, another motorcycle taxi brings him to the corner of our soi rather than to his door so he can walk past our table and show whoever is there his catch of the day.

I’ve never liked fishing. To me it is a waste of time. The only thing I ever caught was a snag and I wouldn’t know a blue fin marlin from a guppy. But Jack seemed so enthusiastic about it that, this afternoon, I asked if I could join him next time he went. I had never been to a fishing park and wanted to see what it was like. To my surprise, he didn’t seem very keen on the idea. I assumed he thought fishing was an activity he didn’t wish to share with someone who freely admitted he hated fishing.

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