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.

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