In the garden, the roses have no thorns – 16th-19th February 2018

Not yet hungover, still wobbly and happily void of any stresses involved with departing my home country of the last 24 years, Thai Airways does its usual job of safe and stylish delivery.  In between meals and bouts of sleep, I observe the passenger in front of me constantly annoying the hostess and interrupting her as she talks and serves others.  Finally, she firmly tells him he has to wait his turn.

I tried to watch the new Blade Runner movie but this surely wasn’t the right environment.  Much more satisfied with the mindless comedy of Thor: Ragnarok.  Pretty sure I was still drunk at the time of arrival in Bangkok where the queues for transfer were horribly long but still, I didn’t care as other foreigners stood by and shook their heads.  “Welcome to my country” as Amy sarcastically often says.

The short flight to Chiang Rai is not of any particular note except for the Sumo who steadily waddles on the plane and listens to something on his headphones.  I’d like to think it’s the latest grindcore release or something equally zen.

Just my luck, I get stopped at customs, where no one ever gets stopped and they pick out the new iPhone I bought for Amy as a surprise, at duty-free in Sydney.  They want me to pay tax on it.  Apparently, you can bring stuff in without tax if the value is under 20,000 baht and this is over.  I plead with them that I have just relocated from Australia and this is how I am welcomed to Thailand.  I tell them my wife will be furious if she knows I had to pay tax on the gift.  I look at them puppy-eyed.  They discount the tax rate for me but it’s then I realise I only have 500 baht on me anyway.  I offer it to them but they seem unimpressed.  They look over my shoulder and ask ‘Is that your wife?’  Amy is waiting just beyond the doors with a curious look on her face as the officers her invite her inside.

Some discussions later we end up paying the tax and told that it was just unlucky they decided to check my bag.  It’s also apparent that if the phone had been unpacked and in my pocket, no one would have noticed either.

Welcome to Thailand, indeed.

Next day the hangover finally kicks in, added to by the approach of a cold, no doubt initiated by the last night of drinking and talking which caused me to almost lose my voice.  Now the coughing starts.

Both our cats are confused to see me again but we soon make up when I start feeding them.  Whoever feeds them is their favourite, always.  We are all camped in a bedroom in Amy’s parent’s house.  A place that is her childhood home and we’ve often stayed here on our previous travels but is not quite comfortable for us as we don’t know where their things are, and all our things are stored in the multitude of boxes piled high in the living room.

We head off to visit our house, the first time I have seen it in person.  Now I can appreciate the dimensions of each space, yet can’t imagine it as a home just yet.  It won’t be long now and we can start filling it with the things that make it homely.

I start my life as a gardener today, breaking up big clumps of clay and watering all the various plants and trees still left growing which includes durian, ten lime trees, jackfruit (already with one big fruit almost ready), papayas, Thai chillies and multiple frangipanis.  We’ve also ordered 5 Jacaranda trees that we hope will grow and blossom at the front of our land and attract visitors should we run some business from there.  A small reminder of Australia too.

We pick up some drinks for the workers at the local store where I’m introduced to the shopkeeper.  May as well start the village gossip at the source.  I hope we’ll become good friends in the future.

The workers live in temporary tin sheds they have built alongside our house and we are doing little extra things for them to keep them content and happy to work for us.  They are not quite used to some of the designs and plans that we have so we need to explain things often and carefully for them.  They are very hardworking men and women, mostly from Burma, though legally working I’m told.  One wife is fairly heavily pregnant and presumably (hopefully) not doing any heavy work but maybe preparing meals for everyone.  Despite their poor accommodation they still have a TV and satellite dish rigged up to keep up with their favourite shows or maybe the EPL.

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Despite our tiredness and my now constant coughing, dad (father-in-law) decides we must all go out to the new fish restaurant to welcome me here.  I try to partake accordingly but between us, we only manage three bottles of beer.  The food isn’t as good as some other places we have tried in the past and the service was still going through a teething period.  There’s a big lake out front with attractive table settings but in the evening it’s a constant battle with mosquitos, which would spoil things somewhat.  I still have to invest in repellents and appropriate clothing, luckily those things are very cheap here.

Both our nights are fitfully slept as I cough myself and Amy awake but we stirred at 6am to get to our house again before it gets too hot.  I set about the watering, almost completely covered head to toe from the oncoming sun.  Next, I need to invest in some wellington boots as my runners get covered in muddy clay.  It takes about an hour and a half to water everything and I start dreaming of automatic water systems.  One day, one day.

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The temperature is good in the morning and stays reasonable for the rest of the day.  I, however, have to retire with medicine for a nice siesta.

The siesta soon became a full nights sleep, again, broken often by coughing.  But we’re up and at them at 6am again stopping off at a little shop that has been running for 45 years with just a slim menu involving tea, coffee, toast and eggs.  It’s brilliant and cheap but doesn’t do enough for me as we get to our house and Amy does some supervising and I fall back asleep on a deck chair on the terrace.  I have nice dreams and awake delirious before driving back home and sleeping even more, until it is time for us get prepared for our next little journey to the UK, to farewell my mother and catch up with family and friends.

History is what’s happening – 12th-15th February 2018

A fond farewell to Hayden in Brisbane as we lugged luggage again, two coffees down before boarding the plane.  It was nice to fly in over Sydney (yet again) and if Brisbane was 10 times busier than Adelaide then Sydney repeated the feat over Brisbane especially as I struggled with my bags at two stations that didn’t have lifts.  My dodgy elbows are extremely upset with me but what can a poor boy do.

Tonight I would stay with my friend Billie, her husband Jade and their daughter, Nexis, in the upmarket suburb of Killara on the North Shore of Sydney.  They live in a house far too big for them, boxes still not unpacked from moving in 9 months ago.  It did mean they could offer a spare room for this temporarily homeless wanderer for which I was grateful.

I met Billie about 10 or 11 years ago when I was part of a dragon boat racing team, representing Australia (somehow!), in a dirty bay on Hong Kong Island.  Billie’s family head the institute of dragon boat racing in HK and Billie and her sister, Mandy, were the compere’s for the races.  Both girls were and are extremely attractive and, Billie especially, bright and outgoing positive personalities.

Needless to say, they attracted the attention of the white boys at the races and at the drunken awards dinner on our last night there.  Myself and another racer went out later for supper with Billie and we decided to stay in touch through email just in case our paths crossed again, under the pretence of sharing our photos of the week’s events with one another.

A few years later our paths did cross again as Billie became an air hostess with Cathay Pacific airlines.  This, of course, took her all over the world, and eventually to Sydney.  She got in touch and we met up one night for dinner.  At the end of that night, she quietly invited me up to her room for coffee.  I didn’t want to presume anything and I have no idea of her intention at the time but something in me decided not to take her up on the offer.

I’ve not really been one for one-night stands and I definitely didn’t want to do that with someone I felt that if I had then that might just be all our relationship might have been.  I liked Billie, a lot, not because she was pretty but because we got on so well and had a lot of fun together.  A friendship was more fulfilling than the possibility of brief exciting encounter and that’s the way I wanted to keep it.

We met a couple more times when she flew to Sydney.  The final time with another of her crew, Kit, also a beautifully attractive girl.  By then I had already met Amy and it was with some pride that we all headed to Amy’s favourite nightclub after dinner, I got to walk up to the dance floor with three amazingly attractive women.

Of course, I didn’t want to embarrass myself by actually dancing so I left them to it.  Immediately they were swamped with guys wanting to dance with them, to which Billie and Amy crossed their arms in big X’s indicating for the guys to go away.  After 15 minutes of this though they became exasperated and we decided to leave.  On our way out a guy near the stairs grabbed Kit’s arm and yanked her towards him at which point I had to intervene and got to tell him that these three girls were all with me.  It made me chuckle to bruise the poor guy’s ego (and radically inflate my own, briefly) as we left the club.

A few more years of staying in touch and Billie told she had met someone from Australia, Adelaide, in fact.  I knew she met a million guys around the world and that she could pick anyone she wanted but this one she met in a bar in Hong Kong.  She said he was not handsome, a bit fat even but had a generous and family-oriented personality.  This was what she was looking for in her ideal partner more than a troublesome good looker.

Then a couple of years later they decided to relocate from Hong Kong to Sydney and ended up living a couple of blocks away from Amy and myself in Chatswood.  We got to hang out a bit more but also were leading busy lives.  A case of when living near the beach you never go for a swim.

Billie and Jade now had a baby on their hands and Billie could become the dragon mum she always dreamed of.  I caught up with her sister Mandy during this time too and she soon was married with a couple of kids of her own.

Anyways, Billie rushed to pick up from the station in her new 4WD, on the phone to her friend, as we rushed to pick up Nexis from school, now in Year One.  Nexis and I always get on like a house on fire, like I do with most kids, and we were soon making fun of her mum and I was getting her into trouble so we were both getting told off.

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Nexis and I played some more, with their water hose – more trouble – and with their French Bulldog Dunstan, short name Dunny.  Billie cooked up a nice veggie dinner for us all, Nexis went to bed and Jade overruled Billie to watch a movie instead of Billie’s favourite Aussie trash TV, Married at First Sight, thank heavens!

Next morning, Billie dropped me in Chatswood, with all my bags and we wished each other well, hoping they can come and visit Amy and me in Thailand sometime in the future.  I spent the morning running around getting coffees and trying to arrange to meet people but everyone was busy.  Never mind – I know you’ll always be there, somewhere.

A train to the city and more coffee as I met up with one of Amy’s best friends Jess as I was staying at her place right in the centre of the city.  We went out for a big seafood dinner to celebrate another friend’s, Grace, birthday, joined by Muoy and Hakan.  Amy had already prepped me to pay for the meal tonight as her gift to everyone and for Grace’s celebration.  Grace kindly reciprocated by offering to take me to the airport a couple of days later.

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Next day was a big run around and I’d been hitting my ten thousand steps easily for a few days now.  In the morning I met Jess at the cafe where she works and got my first free coffee.  We were heading to Chippendale to meet one of my friends who had opened her own cafe recently.  Jess is thinking to do the same in Adelaide sometime in the future so Amy thought it would be a good idea to introduce them and for Jess to get some tips.

On the way there I ducked into another small cafe another Chatswood friend was working at and was offered another free coffee, gladly accepted as always.

In Chippendale, we found my friend’s cafe, the Bean Brewers.  Jenny runs it with her husband and has managed to build up a good little business.  They spent a long time looking for this place and are working hard, seven days a week, to make it a success.  I met Jenny when she was just 16, ten years before, when she was working at my favourite cafe in Chatswood.  She had moved to Australia from Vietnam to study and wanted to stay.  Similar to my own story with Amy, a customer had taken a fancy to her and eventually they got married.

Once again, we all wished each other well and went on our way.  Jess went back home whilst I went to my next appointment, this time at UTS, to see Bronwyn, Hayden’s mum, my ex-wife, the partner of all the 1994 diary entries you can find here.  Twenty four years is a long time and things change and things stay the same.  Bronwyn told me of some photos she had found of our time back in the UK and when I saw them later it was odd to look at the person in the photo that was me.  I didn’t recognise them as me, though I knew it was obviously me.

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After lunch and during another coffee stop my 3pm appointment cancelled which I was actually a little grateful for as the temperature was soaring and I was starting to get sweaty.  I headed back to Jess’ for a quick shower and recovery before heading out again to meet Jochen, at a pub just down the street.

Jochen arrived with his friend, from a meeting that they had just attended.  Jochen works for the Goethe Institute and moved to Sydney with his wife, Sabina and kids, both of whom are a similar age to Hayden.  They actually moved back and forth a couple of times before finally settling on Australia as the place to stay.

I first met Jochen, about 15 years ago I’m guessing, through a band he was playing in with a mutual friend.  Although being from different countries within Europe, which becomes a little competitive, here we were suddenly comrades on foreign turf.  I’m over dramatising but in some ways bonds are made through mutual conditions such as these.

The other thing that drew us together though was our musical interests and our roles within our own DIY music scenes.  The connection was instant, an unspoken understanding of the way things had been, the way we were doing things now and the way we wanted to continue doing those things.  I value Jochen’s friendship above most others – one of those friendships where you may not see each other for a couple of years and you can sit down and continue the conversation as if only a day had passed.

And of course, this was pretty much the situation we were in, having not been in much contact for the previous six months since leaving Sydney.  I expected to be out for a couple of hours, perhaps drop by another friend working in a shop that night too.

Kicked off with interesting conversations with Jochen’s friend, a filmmaker, again about mutual musical interests, particularly the Dutch band The Ex (crazy thoughts arising about how to tour them through South East Asia and Australia), moving on to discussions about working with Japanese musicians for live film scores.

After he left we decided on another beer, and another, conversation free flowing, about our lives, our kids, our futures, about continuing to work together in one way or another and just about generally staying connected.  Something that is so much easier to do now than it was in 1994.

All these thoughts could lead to longer stories that I will have to leave for now.  But that night, my last in Sydney, the beers continued along with the stories and topics and we eventually stumbled out around 1.30am, I think, and on our respective ways.

In a blink, I was asleep and awake again, still drunk and almost voiceless as Grace whisked me to the airport and I jumped on the plane, last time for a while in Australia, hoping for more sleep, which didn’t come.  But I was too drunk to care, too drunk to think.  The perfect exit.

 

Brisbane is burning – 11th February 2018

The plan was for the beach and then to go see some bands in the evening.  My friends from New Zealand, Die! Die! Die!  just coincidentally happened to be playing in Brisbane this weekend, the end of an Australian tour, ironically, along with an Adelaide band I had heard good things about, called Horror, My Friend.

A late start put us behind unfortunately but around midday, we headed off in the direction of the Sunshine Coast.  Hayden regaled me with stories of different little events in his life as we passed through each suburb where they occurred.  Old girlfriends, new girlfriends, good friends, loser friends.

We made the beach an hour or so later.  It was a hot day but the beach wasn’t so packed, with some good learners surf and long sandbanks.  We floated, dived, talked, waded and wandered.  Something about the beach totally refreshes the body and, to some extent, the mind.  Salty sea air maybe, or perhaps just the general feeling of shared happiness.

And dogs.  I really enjoyed watching various dogs jumping around in the shallows, chasing tennis balls and old broken basketballs, anything that could be thrown and retrieved.  I told Hayden about getting a dog sometime in Thailand, thinking it will be a nice companion and a distraction from potential loneliness.  A partner that will listen without question or comment.  Well, perhaps still questions, such as where’s my food and why won’t mum let me indoors.  We’ll see.

Energised from the ocean we headed straight to the pool back at the apartment block and the couple of people who were hanging out soon left us to our own silly play and games, though there’s not a lot you can do just with your body and a stack of water.

A quick shower and a quick snooze, as thunder rolled over, I woke up again totally buggered.  I wanted to go out to the show but also knew that we would still have a second chance the following afternoon.  So, dodgy halloumi yiros with dodgy chilli sauces followed by a couple of beers back at the apartment and some entertainment via the satellite with some fishing show called Wicked Tuna.  We were instantly rooting for the big cuddly fat bloke with the dreadlocks and slamming the guy who was abusing the rules of etiquette.  And then bed.  Again.

Unfortunately, the beers gave me indigestion and I had to sit up during the middle of the night to let out some gas, which disturbed my dreams.

Never mind, we still made it up at around 10am and headed out to play mini-golf, or putt-putt as it’s affectionately known in Australia.  We were behind some fat kids who were fucking around and their fat sweaty dad keeping their scores, over which the constantly argued as we sat waiting in the sun until the finally fucked off to the next hole, so this repeated 18 times and without realising it, my exposed flesh was now lobster red.  Oh well.

I quickly slaked my thirst with a couple of Hoegaarden’s and we headed to Tym’s Guitars where both aforementioned bands were playing a 2pm free show in the store.

It was good to catch up with Andrew, Mikey and Lachlan from Die! Die! Die! as I’ve seen them playing around for more than ten years now and had a hand in helping get them to China for shows back when I was more involved in those things.  Today though, did inspire me to offer assistance to get them to South East Asia perhaps next year.  Also inspired by my old friends ‘ni-hao!’ from Tokyo currently touring in Malaysia, hanging out with my friends there.  It would be awesome to help out with a tour over there, perhaps do some tour managing if and when free time arises.

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Both Horror, My Friend and Die!x3 were excellent, great ear ringing guitar indie rock that I’ve not seen live for a long time now.  This old man nodded his head, occasionally in time with the beat.

As this was my last night in Brisbane, we did the pool thing again, till everyone left again, and watched as a crazy thunderstorm approached.  By the time we’d showered the lightning was fizzing and the darkness approached in a wall of cloud, streaking the sky.

Hayden and I talked about his mum, my mum, our families, his girlfriends and all sorts of other things and I feel good that he will find his feet sometime in the future.   As much as I want him to get there sooner, it doesn’t really matter so much, so long as he gets there, learning along the way.

Faster than snakes with a ball and a chain – 9th February 2018

See you later Adelaide, I couldn’t wait to leave you.

I got a taxi to the airport, three hours before take off.  I just couldn’t sit around at the house, waiting.  It was time to start the journey even if that meant sitting and reading my book at the airport for a couple of hours.

I will miss you slightly, in that comfort of a regimen of work and sleep, preparing for these next precipitous steps, uncomfortable dread gnawing at me.

A zip and snooze and I’m landing in Brisbane as the sun sets back nearer Adelaide.  My son, Hayden, is waiting for me with a big hug and we get lost in the maze of car parks and lifts, assisting others who are similarly lost.

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Brisbane is the opposite of Adelaide in road layout, it’s a mess, made messier by the winding river running through it.  It also makes it more interesting immediately.

We arrive at our apartment, ablute, and then search for food.  Opting for takeaway burgers and beer, we sit and talk for an hour or so before hitting the sack in my first decent bed for many months.  Blissful rest with crazy dreams.

It’s interesting to watch Hayden finding his way in the world.  I am now at the point where I just have no idea what ‘teh kids’ (as I call them, on purpose typo) are into these days.  Popular culture was never my thing and though Hayden has his own interests outside popular culture at least he still understands all those current references.

I’m really only interested in old bookshops and reading about history, trying to get a better understanding how we are where we are.  No longer being in the now, doing the do.

But I know I must do the do again when reaching Thailand and I was visualising a day in my life there.  Riding a motorcycle to school to teach English, I want to feel that thrill on the new, fill myself with the wonder of ‘how did my life end up here – that’s just amazing!’  But then also wanting it to feel familiar again, something normal, but not get to the point of a rat race boredom.  A balance is something I would like to strike and something I feel like I’ve never been able to achieve.  Like sitting still, very fast.  Maybe it’s just the way I’m wired.

Today we went book shopping and found a great store called Archives.  If I had the time I would’ve spent so long looking through here but opted instead just to ask at the counter for a couple of books I remembered being interested in finding.  Sometimes I think it’s just a little game of something to do in a place, with the possibility of a little reward at the end.  Like setting a little goal for the day.  The assistant took me straight to two of the books I asked about and I was amazed that she knew them immediately and where they were located.  If I ran a bookshop that’s how I would want to be, knowing exactly what you have and where it is.

The only problem with these two books is that they are both massive and heavy.  Hayden and I struck a deal that he will bring them to me later in the year or wherever it is that he gets chance to visit us in Thailand.  I have enough to read already so no hurry really.

I used to hate reading, sometimes would force myself to read books just for the hell of it.  Somewhere along the way I’ve just found myself enjoying it more.  I read, and have always read, lots of comics, usually alternative and mature comics rather than superhero type stuff, though I am now going through old 60s and 70s Marvel.  I’m not sure what the appeal to me is really?  Maybe getting lost in those world with some hints of visuals perhaps, as I generally only read non-fiction books otherwise.  I actually would like to read more fiction too and get lost in those worlds but somehow real life books are just what is interesting to me these days.

This afternoon I will attempt to write a small piece for my mothers funeral.  I have an idea for it, just a small event which sums up her attitude to life and dealing with problems.

Having Hayden around is distracting me from thinking about my mum not being there to talk to.  I really want to show her today’s pictures of our house, but showed them to him instead.

Hayden is a typical early 20s guy I guess, with what people my age might consider strange ideas, thoughts or views on events in the world.  He does, however, have his head screwed on and shows a lot of empathy a lot of the time.  When I think back to my life at his age I was the same, finding my way, honing my opinions and beliefs.  I discussed this with him today and said I thought that every parent wants their children to gain the wisdom they themselves now have, faster than they did.  To get smarter, quicker.  However, being a parent, being older, you also know that that is not how it works.  You can nudge in certain directions but one can only grow under their own directives.  When Hayden is ready, he will be.  He’s happy enough and figuring it out.

 

There’s straw for the donkeys – 7th February 2018

Happily, I was successfully accepted for the CELTA course in Chiang Mai, though I need to brush up on my grammar skills considerably!  The interviewer made me feel very comfortable despite my lack of knowledge and I actually felt that, yes, I could do this!

Also got word of a position available at the university close to our house (Mae Fah Luang) which I will apply for, though the timing may not be right as applications close at the end of March and I won’t have a certificate (assuming I pass) until the end of May.  Will apply anyway, it is Amy’s old University colleague who manages the English department there so that may be a benefit at least.  He said if it doesn’t work out he will direct students to me for private tuition in the meantime.

Last night my housemates took me out for a farewell dinner.  Bram drove the Volvo and Katrina and I made fun of him because he couldn’t hear his brakes screeching because he has lost hearing in that range.  I thought he was just pulling our leg at first but seems he was telling the truth.  I hope my hearing holds out a while longer – there’s still too much music in the world to enjoy.

We went to a dinky Chinese diner in Chinatown and ordered a big stack of food, including my favourite fish in boiling chilli oil with Sichuan pepper.  Not quite enough chilli and pepper for my taste but still a fantastic eat and half the price of some other places.

I noticed the staff putting flowers in the bags for Uber Eats deliveries so at the end of the meal I asked one of the staff if we could have one and I gave it to Katrina who was suitably embarrassed and happy to receive.  Bram laughed too and said I was showing him up.  I like this couple and hope they can achieve their dreams for the future.

For Bram that involves a 3-month motorcycle trip through India (and possibly Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore – though it’s looking like he may not be able to afford that now).  For Katrina, it means getting her permanent residency in Australia and then saving to build a couple of container style apartments on her grandmother’s land near Shengzhou (with Bram’s help).  Apparently famous for it bamboo forests, as seen in popular Chinese dramatic cinema in the west, pictures look especially magical when it snows in winter.

We both invited each other to visit what will be our new homes.

After a few days lull, our house is going gangbusters today with the perimeter fence going in, the electricity being hooked up, ceilings being primed and pond being finished off concreted.  Things seem to be coming together very well.

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Today, though, I woke up in a slight funk.  Possibly from the two beers I had with dinner last night, the first since the end of September last year.  Last night’s chilli has also assisted in processing the last few days codeine constipation.  Codeine is nice – I can see why it becomes addictive.

After today updates will become a little less often though I’ll still try for daily.  I’ve lined up a few entries from 1994 (until the end of March) and want to try and get ahead with those if I can – they are a pain in the ass to re-write and it was a perfect situation to be able to do that at my job.

It’s stinking hot here in Adelaide and super dry today.  Tomorrow I fly to Brisbane to meet with my son.  His mum has booked us an apartment in Fortitude Valley for the weekend for which we are both very thankful.  It’s been about six months since I’ve seen Hayden and probably will be another six before I see him again, assuming he’ll have time to come visit me in Thailand.

I’ll go and finish off that big book that will be too heavy to take with me.  Already threw out jeans and dinner jacket and some other stuff I wanted to take.  So maybe, just maybe, I can squeeze in a box of Australian wine to bring to Amy.

Watch out for the spiders of compulsion – 6th February 2018

As it was in 1994, my year of change is marked by death.  Then, it was my best friend Steve.  Steve would have been the first person I would turn to in times of sadness and self-doubt when trying to settle in Australia.  Now, it is my mother.

This is a bigger cultural change, a deeper more emotional challenge, moving to Thailand.  I wanted to share it with my mum and listen to her advice.  I know what her advice would be but I would still like to have heard it from her own mouth.  I will stay strong, continue to make her proud.

This afternoon I have a Skype interview for the CELTA course (English teaching) in Chiang Mai.  I have done one of these interviews before in Sydney and was accepted to do the course but that time I was under no pressure and was fairly relaxed about everything and I ended up not taking the course at that time.  This time I am more worried.  This is something I need once I get to Thailand so that I can find work legally there.  I am also, obviously, not in a particularly bright and cheery mood.

These days are dragging now,  I’m getting impatient to take my next steps.  Why can’t I relax, take everything in my stride, enjoy the free time?  I often seem to be striving for the next thing, constantly on the move.

The fear of numbered days makes them pass too swiftly.

You fight for your life
Held back by fear of falling
You fight for your life
Held back by fear of feeling
You fight for your life
Held back by fear of freedom
Your only fear
The fear of freedom

 

I walk my love in mornings gleam – 4th February 2018

How to write this?  How to put my feelings into words, express my thoughts clearly.  Maybe I can’t.  So let’s just stick to the facts.

I was contemplating a visit to the UK before settling in to my new life in Thailand.  Knowing my mother was probably in her last year and the timing was kind of right, it had suddenly become a possibility. I know I wrote just recently that I wouldn’t go back but something, I’m not sure what, made me reconsider.  A couple of hours into my first night shift, I called my cousin, Sharon, to discuss.

Sharon was fine with the idea but did warn me that my mum was very ill now and it may not be the way I wanted to remember her.  The doctors at the hospital, knowing a little about my mum’s wishes, had given her a good dose of antibiotics that hadn’t helped her much, so the decision was to switch to morphine for pain reduction and for her body to fight for itself.  This seemed a good solution.  If she had the strength she would recover, if she didn’t, she would be comfortable.

About an hour later, Sharon messaged me saying she had been called urgently to the hospital and perhaps another hour later she sent through a message, carefully worded, “Your mum has just silently faded away.  No more struggle, just peace and tranquillity.”

Sharon had passed on my love whilst mum was still breathing and held her hand until she was gone.

Of course, this outcome was not unexpected, I guess we had all been gearing ourselves up for this moment and I was strangely calm.  I sat at work, contemplating, thinking, sad but not emotional.  I went over memories of my mother and they all provided me with comfort.  I’m grateful her end wasn’t an extended suffering, around the other dramas of the palliative care ward.  Grateful she had been happy in her last few months at the care home.  In fact, my sadness is countered by everything she did for me, knowing that she was proud of what her son had achieved in his life.  I will continue to make her proud.  I just wish I could share these things with her.

I called Amy.  She had just got back from an event and had had a couple or three beers and was in a tipsy chatty mood, so I let her talk and I sat and listened and loved her words, pouring out of her and into me.  I soaked up her love and thought to myself, my mum has gone but my life is still complete.  I have everything.  I am happy.

When Amy talked about my mum, I gently told her that she was gone and she couldn’t believe me.  She burst into tears and apologised for talking all about her night and herself.  I calmed her down, telling her it was just what I needed.  As she continued to cry though I could feel myself starting to crack.  I started pacing the office I was in and managed to stay positive.  Amy insisted we go back to the UK for the funeral and I agreed, though not particularly for the funeral part but it presents us with the right opportunity to catch up with what is left of the family – something I now feel compelled to do.

I finished off my night shift and when I got home set about making new plans.  As I was due to quit work in a few weeks anyway, it seemed to make sense not to bother coming back to Australia after going to the UK, instead ending up in Thailand.  My son, Hayden, was also due to visit me in Adelaide the week before I was going to leave.  So with a little bit of juggling and some flight changes, I’ll leave Adelaide to go to Brisbane to visit Hayden for a few days, then to Sydney, on to Thailand next, to pick up Amy to fly together to the UK.

All of this planning kept me busy and I ended up awake for around 30 hours before finally sleeping peacefully until the following morning, where I failed to get up with my alarm.  No hurry now.  No more work, no more night shifts.

Still calm inside, still quiet.  Doubled meds, finishing off the codeines.  I can’t wait to hold my little Amy in my arms again.

Goodbye mum.  Thank you for everything you did for me.

Love you, always.

I’d rather be happy than right this time – 1st February 2018

It was a shock to me, so wound up and heart rate spiralling.  I could feel myself losing control, unable to think clearly and put the words together succinctly.

Mostly, I am very calm and chilled.  Most people’s drama and excitements don’t affect me much – they often seem so petty and inconsequential.  I am not a fan of conflict – I just can’t deal with it calmly.  I recall a particular instance of being accused of always running away when I get into an argument with my then partner.  Damn right I did, she was way smarter than me and could still put together a coherent thought whilst screaming her disapproval at me.  I had to run away and calm down before putting out an olive branch of regret.  Sometimes too early, and I had to run away again.

But, sometimes, in a couple of my work roles, I have felt the need to stand up and say my piece and call out the stupidity I see around me.  And so it was yesterday.

The circumstances are not particularly relevant because, of course, now, I can also see how petty and inconsequential they are.  What stood out to me in the post-conflict situation was how I felt and I struggled to deal with it.  I took a walk and called Amy, though I didn’t discuss what happened with her, just needed some soothing re-assurance of normality.  I checked my heart rate and that was still high, even about an hour later.  I wasn’t re-living the event and going over it so much, cos I was right, goddammit!  I think perhaps I was concerned about the possible escalation and continuation of the conflict for the rest of the day but that never eventuated.

Of course, as I slept that night and occasionally woke, that is when I started replaying the events in my mind.  And the titular lyric came into my head.  Now, if I could just put it into practice!

I used to think that justice had to rule for happy lives, but now I’m not so
Sure at all

…you’re either wrong or right and life will go on either way, whatever
You chose….