Monday, 28 January 2008
Back Down to Earth!
Air travel whisks us from one world to the next with so little chance for reflection. Yesterday I was in Bangkok, swept up in its twenty four hour frenzy, and five days before I was in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Today, after a more prosaic bus journey, ten hours door to door, I’m home in the village and coming back down to earth.
Phnom Penh was a big surprise. During my absence of five years, much progress has been made in making it the lovely city it once was. Outside the Royal Palace, the roads are as smooth as the ubiquitous Cambodian pool tables, the parks along the elegant French avenues are colourful and well kept and the paintwork is fresh on the ornamental lamp posts and railings. There’s evidence of money around but smart new cars stand in stark contrast to the old style cyclos and the ordinary people who still look as though they've had hard lives.
The palace itself is of course an extravagant confection, a mere fairy tale with a dark history, but its glitter is spectacular especially when lit up at night.
Returning to Bangkok I had a meeting at Asia Books about the distribution of my next book to be called, ‘My Thai Girl and I’, which was very exciting. It’s the story of me and Cat setting up home together in the North East of Thailand, interspersed with various ramblings about Thailand.
I then rushed from pillar to post having photos scanned onto a memory stick but now having got home can find absolutely nothing recorded on said memory stick. Computronics are making a fool of me again! And I delivered to Asia Books another 500 copies of my novel ‘Thai Girl’ which is still selling well.
Every evening was full and I couldn’t manage a quiet night in. By chance I bumped into my old friend Greg in Sukhuvit, having a few weeks back bumped into him on Koh Chang when he should have been in England. He’s a big bloke to bump into, as is my dear friend and gastronome Roger Le Phoque with whom I shared a jar or two.
Then there were the literary luminaries. First was Canadian Bill, a university prof of Eng lit. I saw him together with Christopher Moore, author of about twenty Bangok novels (or is it thirty), whose latest is to be filmed with Keanu Reeves as Calvino, the hack detective of the story. Looks like he’s about to hit the jackpot.
Next up was Jerry Hopkins whose biography of Jim Morrison sold two million copies, not to mention one on Elvis and Yoko Ono and a more recent tome published in Singapore called ‘Asian Aphrodisiacs’. Jerry has seen it all and is a great raconteur. He has a Thai wife and a home in Surin not far from us but spends most of his time in Bangkok hitting the keys.
Finally I met up at an undisclosed location with two big internet stars, boasting regular readership in the hundreds of thousands, namely the mysterious Stickman and Dave the Rave no less. That was an evening and a half!
Google any of these writers, perhaps adding ‘Bangkok’ and you can find their websites and learn a little more about them.
The evening with Jerry was special as he took me to a bar in Sukhumvit Soi 8 where on Wednesdays and Thursdays a remarkable group plays rock and roll. Lead man Peter’s middle years didn’t stop him belting out the lyrics in a white silk suit thirties style with wide trousers and patent leather shoes, supported by two very accomplished Thai guitarists and a farang drummer.
It was a great performance. Where two or three are gathered together, obsessives like him are keen to entertain us and entertainer indeed he was. More than just a musician, he held our attention with his strong stage presence and a delightful patter in which he told us the day of the week Buddy Holly or PJ Proby had written the number he was about to sing and what they’d had for breakfast that morning.
He took us back more than a year or two, willing us to dream, dream, dream that it’s possible still to get one’s kicks on route sixty six. Which reminds me, I’d love him to read the blog I called, ‘You Can Score On Route 24’ as it contains a spoof of ‘Route Sixty Six’. I can almost hear him singing it.
‘If you ever plan to motor east,
Of Thai girls you’ll soon find a feast.
In Buriram and Sisaket,
There’s many waiting for you yet.
You can score on Route 24.’
On getting back home to the village in Surin, I had that familiar feeling that everything round the house is in chaos. I’m not saying it’s all because Cat’s got stuck into her next new project though. You see she’s gone into retail catering and has been at the school for the last few days selling fruit and banana pudding and things to the kids and teachers.
She’s madly busy and I’m quite impressed as she really seems to be making a profit. As I’ve paid for all the stuff, should I ask if she’ll hand over some of the cash to me… or would I rather stay married?
Anyway it’s hot and dry and earthy here as it always is, a world apart from Bangkok and even Phnom Penh, but I’m really quite enjoying coming back down to Earth. I’m glad I came back the slow way too. And now I’m going to have plenty of time for reflection!