It’s becoming obvious that I’m not going to be able to keep up with regularly posting updates here as time seems to slip on by. I’ll do my best to keep note of things and get to them when I can but not sure how I’m going to be able to keep them concurrent with events from 1994, of which there is still a mass of writing for that year in my diary.
If I just limit myself to a paragraph per note I’ve made this post is going to get quite long. I’ll try and be more concise.
So, our final morning in Dorset sees me going through some boxes of things my mother kept over the years. I’m interested in the photos more than documents such as birth and death certificates and old school reports. In particular are a couple of school photos I’m guessing from when I was 12 and 13. You can just see my hair starting to get more punked up, for which I got so much shit at school at the time, from teachers and older kids who nicknamed me Sid. I never got on with that nickname as I was more into Johnny Rotten but it was difficult to tell kids that as they were kicking and punching me for their random pleasure. The thing with these two photos is you can still see the light in my eyes, just starting to dull in the later one. These years were the start of what later would be diagnosed as mild depression. The transition from middle to high school was particularly traumatic as I had a whole new bunch of older kids to pick on me though I soon found some allies.
Before we know it we’re up the motorway again, back to other old haunts in Southampton. We’re staying with Amy’s cousin Ting, who has been in England so long she has the thickest English accent I’ve heard for a while – so much so that I barely recognise her on the phone sometimes.
Amy heads off with Ting to do some shopping as they are cooking together at a friend’s house that evening, whilst I head over to see my old pal, Chrissy.
Chrissy was the wife of Steve, whom, if you’ve been following so far, was the inspiration for writing the 1994 diary after his untimely death the previous year. I caught up with her briefly in Sydney a few years before as she was attending someone’s wedding there, just a suburb or two away from where I was living at the time. It was good to catch up again and talk shit like we did in the ‘good old’ days.
The afternoon is made more pleasant by the arrival of Steve and Chrissy’s daughter Rebecca, who was less than a year old the last time I saw her. I am shocked at the resemblance to Steve and can’t stop looking at her face. It’s like he’s right there again.
I also make quick friends with their dog who despite being somewhat shy took to me for some good pats, strokes and ear rubbing. But soon enough it’s time to leave.
I head back to drop the car at Ting’s and get out the maps app so as to walk to the pub where I will meet more old timers and down a couple of pints. The air is very cold but the exercise warms me and I look into people’s houses as I pass and wonder what their lives are holding for them today.
I stop off for some hot chips as I’ve not eaten much today and it would be preferable to line my stomach with something traditionally British and stodgy to soak up any alcohol intake.
There are some bands playing tonight, including some old friends but I’m not so interested in the music as I am in talking. Rich introduces me to his partner Geraldine and later Rob and his partner Emily turn up. A couple of other hopeful attendees find themselves busy elsewhere so they’ll just have to come and visit me in Thailand one day.
A jovial atmosphere and pleasant conversations quickly end this all to brief meet up but it’s much along the lines of that last night in Sydney, with certain friends you can just pick up on conversations with even years of interruption between.
The following morning we’re off to London. Amy wants to go shopping. I’m not particularly thrilled at that idea but I’ve set myself a task to track down a book I’m looking for. We’re also booked for a dinner in the evening at the Shard near London Bridge.
I’ve always enjoyed London as a place to visit but never, when living in England, felt the urge to live there. So, even rush hour tube trips have some sense of adventure to them. I’m constantly reminded of the Clash as we pass by certain stations and wonder at the motivations they had as they went from small house suburban London city to mega hotel New York city. Man, they wrote some tunes.
One thing I immediately notice is how much more multicultural London is than Sydney. Although not so used to hearing the English accent anymore it seems that in many places we visit and pass by that people aren’t speaking English at all. It’s a little unsettling and really cool at the same time.
This point is highlighted even more as we head for a pub lunch and I’m annoyed at myself for not understanding the bartender’s accent. I forget to apologise for my difficulty as her’s is a Lubjiana accent, so I ask her more about her country. She’s busy though but I think she wasn’t offended at my ignorance in the end.
We pop into Waterstone’s bookshop and finally I find the book I’m looking for, ‘Churchill’s Secret War’ and take this final chance to pick a couple of books about The Fall. I wasn’t going to buy these originally as I figured I could find them digitally but they were there, I was shopping, this was possibly the last day I’ll ever be in England and so they ended up in my luggage. Amy felt the same and bought a couple of massive cooking books which definitely means a rejig of our bags later tonight.
We’re starting to flag now and consider changing our plans for dinner tonight. It’s another beautiful sunny cold day, particularly bitter when the wind rushes through small side streets. We decide to head to the Shard early and see if we can just go up and take some pictures. We end up on the 34th floor at the small bar there and decide to splash out on a bottle of champagne and 6 oysters. These kinds of expenses usually bother me but I decided to relax again and enjoy this indulgence despite the fact the cost could probably build us a swimming pool in Thailand.
We reflect on our lives as we stare out across this old city and talk about how people think we are lucky to be able to do this and that. But we have worked hard, had a plan and always pointed our way towards it. I guess those comments are somewhat driven by the social media construct where friends generally only see you having fun, what appears to be, all the time. We know we have made the right choices along the way, the choices that have got us where we are now.
The following morning we are greeted with snow. What a nice surprise. The Mexicans we meet at the breakfast table in our guest house are equally thrilled and we watch them as they step out to take funny photos. We do the same a little later as we stuff our suddenly heavier re-jigged bags into the car and head to the drop off point. Unfortunately, our phone direction finder leads round in frustrating circles and we decided just to figure it out following the signposts instead.
Amy decides on one last shop at the airport, so I get in the mood and pick up another book about the rules of being English, something I mentioned to Amy when she smiled happily to the guy in the take away the previous night. I told her it was not usual for someone to smile at other people in England and the guy probably thought she fancied him. This is overplaying it a bit and is also the exact thing that attracted me to Amy in the first place. That was in Sydney though, where smiling is an everyday occurrence. I’m sure the English can often go a whole week without a smile.
The English confound me more on the plane to Bangkok. It’s another A380 but this time jammed with ‘bigger’ English people looking for thrills in the ‘land of smiles’. Despite leaving at midday, it’s an overnight flight as we fight against earth’s rotation and the English are up and at the crew galley all night long refilling on free booze. I did this once when the experience of flying was still new to me. Free booze must not be missed but I found it impossible to get drunk and to drink enough to be able to sleep. I would just end up with a frustrating headache at the end of the flight, so I never drink on planes now.
And then occurs the most English thing I can imagine. There are two meatheads sitting directly in front of Amy and I and they were constantly bouncing in their chairs at every toss, turn and minor readjustment. I glance the Sun in the lap of the one who is coughing consistently and roll my eyes. Midway through the flight, Amy needs to get out to go to the toilet so I get up and step into the aisle. Being half awake I was a little clumsy getting up and knocked the chair in front of me where the now angry boofhead looks around and proclaims, ‘Was that on purpose? I think it was, wasn’t it?’
I’m perplexed. My only reply is ‘Sorry?’ and I look behind me to consider if he’s actually talking to someone else because his words just don’t make any sense to me. Amy is bewildered too but trots off to the toilet as I stand and wait. The two meatheads decide that they’ll settle themselves down with more whiskey and the event passes. I still can’t imagine what leads to the guy’s question, if I knocked his chair on purpose, what was the reason? We’d had no previous interaction at all. It just seemed a typically antagonistic English response, a show of never back down, one-upmanship.
Those two guys ended up rushing off the plane to get to their destination of my more booze, sun and you can guess what else.
Our day has only taken 12 hours and we transfer at Bangkok for our flight home, finally my last flight for this period. There has been so much travel and rush over this month that it has been almost impossible to sit and relax and reflect. Probably for the best. Even mum’s funeral seems like something surreal and dreamlike that perhaps didn’t even happen.
This final flight is curiously filled with French and various Middle Easterners and I watch on as people struggle to find their seats. It’s a little strange really – it’s not that hard, is it? The numbers ascend and the letters go across. It seems to take an age for some people though. I wonder if their brains are wired differently, something that will soon be confirmed as I adjust to life in Thailand.
Back in Chiang Rai, we rush to sleep, eat, advise our builders, eat and sleep again. Another day disappeared into the mosquito-ridden night.