I stand before you, a simple man, a sly dog, a politician – 30th March-2nd April 2018

Thailand reminds me of the free festivals I attended occasionally in the UK in the mid to late 80s.  There’s a chaotic order and unspoken civility but one that borders on the edge of disintegration at all times.  Whilst everything goes well for everyone concerned things go on as usual.  But things don’t always remain that way and then will be the true test of one’s mettle.  Sometimes the rush of blood from my head, as I stand up too quick, reminds me of that wafer-thin barrier between reality and insanity.

At the moment, Thailand is far more beautiful at night, when the rough edges are hidden in darkness.  The smoky haze of the day’s white skies now unseen, along with the mosquitoes that suck on your sweaty ankles.

The days are full of dust and dirt.  Individual abodes may gleam and glitter powered by personal responsibility but the bits in between are left to rot and ruin.  Construction is everywhere, as in all developing countries, ignorant of the political decisions made in far-off lands.  I try not to keep up with the news of the world but the stupidity of the American presidency is hard to ignore, like a train wreck in super slow motion.  I know enough about Thai politics to not talk about it.  I am the stranger in the strange land and that suits me fine.

 

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Politics…..

 

We avoided any house stresses by taking a quick trip to Chiang Mai.  This was its own small test of my driving skills.  Whilst puttering around the city of Chiang Rai is a pleasant enough affair, the open road, full of its mountainous twists and turns, is a different beast altogether.

Tail-gaters desperately seek advantage and pull out at any opportunity and decide they will ‘go for it’ if there is even an inch of space.  All this at high speeds that even had me bemused at how fast I was going.  Amy and I whooped and hollered at one particular basket case who we hoped to see crash in a fiery ball of petrol and oil but instead, everyone acquiesced and moved aside and let the danger advance to be somebody else’s problem.

Settling into the drive, it is quite a pleasant trip through some nice forest and jungle, offering some nice views when you may afford a brief glance away from the road.  After three hours though I was happy at the approach of Chiang Mai.

The city has grown considerably since my first visit and I must confess my dislike of it now.  It sprawls and crawls, taking its dusty entrails out into the paddy fields, eating up new villages as it goes.  We were lucky enough to be heading out into those edges though, to meet our friends from Sydney past.

Jess is one of Amy’s best friends and she was staying with her aunt and cousin.  It took us a long while to find the location but once there it was an oasis of frangipanis and beautifully cut grass.  A big main house and steps leading to what was until recently a small and very popular restaurant.  So popular in fact that Jess’s aunt was on TV just a few days previously talking about the construction and design.

Two dogs, one in its autumn years, the other a bouncy teenager, sniffed at us and the younger one was warned not to get too excited.  Aunt Siripan advised that sometimes he can get aggressive for no reason as I would discover several times through the evening.  Though he never bit he would snarl and bark, teethed bared and scarily so.  But a few seconds later he would be calm and look up at me with a sorrowful face.  It was shocking and amazing to see.  One second I was expecting a bleeding arm and the next I’m in love with this pup’s dopey eyes and soon after scratching his belly again, prompted by a paw offering.

Auntie’s food was amazing as expected.  She had spent a fair amount of time in different parts of the world, including England, even speaking with a stronger English accent than myself.  She spoke a very deliberate and thoughtful Queen’s English which was impossible not to like.  We were regaled with stories of her life and past times, though saddened by the sudden death of her husband last year, which eventually saw her overwhelmed with the task of running a successful restaurant solo.

She was now reviewing her plans for the future but still in obvious mourning for that close comfort and steady hand of guidance of a partner.  She commented that if she died now she would die happy with her life as it was but I encouraged her to consider that if she lives until she is 100 she still has another third of her life ahead of her.

Our evening was enjoyed with other Sydney friends, all now scattered worldwide, Lekky and Steve and Lena. We were so happy with our time there that inevitably Jess was asking us to leave as she was tired and wanted to go to bed.  Jess is the bright shiny smile as she awaits food, but once filled just wants to slip away and retire.

We cheered everyone off as Amy and I headed over a suburb or two to stay with her old high school friend Oh, around midnight.  Amy wasn’t quite done for the night though and got Oh to ride to the 7-11 to get more alcohol.  So it was at 2am we finally go to bed with plans for a late meet up with Jess and her dad the following morning.

That done, we headed back over the mountains for the quick return journey.  Exhausted I was by the day’s end but finished off nicely with a full and fancy dinner with an ice cold beer.

So it was for the next couple of days, us totally escaping the realities of our house build, a mini-holiday, a quick trip via a tea plantation into Myanmar, to get me a new leave-by-date in my passport and to score ridiculously cheap malt whisky that I just hope is real when I get to open it in our new house…..one day!

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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.

So we jumped on the table and shouted ‘Anarchy!’ – 10th June 2003

I guess I’ve isolated myself a lot – being an only child it’s easy to keep myself amused. But also by my interests – they alienate me from others in so many ways – also my requirements for a partner, they, I would hope, share similar interests – so where do I find a Chinese girl into punk rock? Or a punk girl into Chinese culture? And beer?

This is another reason I miss TLJ so much – she did fit so well. I gotta figure out how to deal with this critical element – why does everything have to be perfect?

One day I’ll go so fast I’ll disappear, I’ll leave a trail of dust behind me – 26th December 2002

Jervis Bay, raining – it looks sad but the rain is good.

But the rain bothered me too. What made me turn around – the nagging doubt of having a good time? The comforts of home? The beer in the fridge? Anyway, the rain is enough of a dampener to truncate this little trip.

14th Mar 2022 – Christmas was never a great time for me when I was living on my own. No one else was around to do things with even though everyone was on holiday. In fact, if I could, I preferred to be working through these holidays, especially if it paid double. Christmas 2002 though I think I spent alone and I decided that on Boxing day I would go a long drive, seeing if I could get down the coast as far as Victoria.

It was an attempt to dispel the dark within but on this day I couldn’t run far enough before being sucked back to my own familiar comforting hell. Rain played its part and whatever music I had loaded up in the portable CD player wasn’t enough to brighten my mood to continue. So, to home, I returned after a 6 or 7-hour turnaround.

I was hoping to get down to the bottom of this map – but didn’t even make it halfway!