The time passed quickly as I sat in the taxi heading for Pattaya. This was a journey I had wanted to make for many years and now the time had come. I had a whole month to discover the delights of Pattaya and that month was starting today.
Since leaving Bangkok 3 months before I had experienced the full gamut of emotions. Leaving Bangkok had been painful. I had discovered a side of life that left me feeling exhilarated. I had enjoyed the company of and made love with some beautiful ladies, I had met some lovely people and made some good friendships. The lifestyle of balmy evenings sipping beer, eating delicious cheap food and watching the world go by agreed with me most favourably. I had discovered a heady cocktail and under no circumstances was I going to let it go. It seemed I had discovered my own private heaven.
The job interview in London just a few days after returning to England had gone well, in fact it had gone so well I had got the job, the interviewer saying I had impressed enough to be offered the job there and then on the spot. I had thanked the interviewer with the correct amount of enthusiasm and surprise as I shook his hand looking him in the eye more to convince myself that I wanted the job than to convince him he had chosen the right candidate. Inside I knew I had changed. A month before the interview I would have crawled over broken glass, hot coals, man o’ war jellyfish, hungry crocodiles and the odd stinging nettle to be offered this job but now it didn’t matter. I didn’t want the job, the job where I was going to get a generous 5 weeks paid holiday a year, a non-contributory pension plan, membership of a health club and a London Underground season ticket. These things no longer mattered to me, what mattered to me now was Thailand and that was it. The day after the interview I received a formal offer of employment through the letterbox outlining the package being offered to me. The salary was reasonable, the benefits were generous and the working conditions were excellent. The words that jumped out at me from the offer letter were those written large and black and bored into my consciousness, “Five weeks paid holiday”. As I read them I felt hopelessness, that confusion and helplessness I remembered from years before when I had lost my mother in the supermarket as a small child. How would I be able to enjoy Thailand with only five weeks paid holiday each year? I called the company and lied saying I had encountered some personal problems and would have to decline the offer. They sounded disappointed and asked me to contact them once I had sorted out whatever problem I had. I wish they had been angry with me, called me a nasty name and left it at that instead of being so bloody nice about it. So bloody nice.
I needed a job where I could work and have time off, lots of time off. Those jobs aren’t easy to come by because let’s face it, everybody wants those jobs. I racked my brains for a week thinking what I could turn my hand to. Sheep shearing in the Falklands, e-Bay trading, male escort, driving instructor, oil rig worker, freelance writer and porn star were amongst the more sane ideas I had. My ideas fountain had dried up and I needed a break. I have a friend in Bristol who had also visited Thailand some years before and was now in an unhappy marriage with a lady who had morphed into a nasty overweight overbearing copy of her mother. I had met her mother at my friends wedding a few years before and commented to him that if his new wife turned into her mother then he should either consider suicide or homosexuality. He laughed at the time but he was not laughing now.
We went for a drink near Bristol Templemeads station. Bristol Parkway and Bristol Templemeads, two railway stations for Bristol, something I’ve never understood and, I guess, neither does Bristol. It was early evening and Steve had just finished work. I had phoned him earlier in the day to tell him what time I was arriving in Bristol and he seemed to be looking forward to meeting up with me. In fact the impression I got was Steve was looking forward to anything that didn’t involve having to go home and face his duplicate mother-in-law over a plate of sausage, egg and chips. It was raining outside, the nights were drawing in and there were the beginnings of the cold that signalled yet another English winter. We sat in the corner of the bar each with a pint of Heineken which, to my mind, now seemed so out of place in an English pub without a cooling condom container and a beautiful Thai lady to talk to. We chatted small talk about his work, his day, my day, the journey to Bristol Templemeads on the train and the weather. We sat silently sipping our beer thinking of something else to say listening to the rain outside, me contemplating my future, Steve contemplating his mistake sat at home. Steve was fully aware I had been to Thailand and in fact he was a major factor in me making my decision to go. I guessed he had secretly wished it was him who was going when I was making my plans, he was a good friend. Little did he know how much it had changed my view on life and I was about to tell him.
I told Steve about Nok, Pim, Geoff, Poo, and everyone I had met in Thailand, I told him about turning the job down and my fruitless quest for a job that would enable me to visit Thailand as often as possible during the year. I told him I just didn’t know what to do. One of the reasons Steve was a good friend is he is non-judgemental, he is laid back and nothing seems to bother him, that is apart from his wife.
He sat silently for a few seconds thinking. This was usual with Steve when he was thinking about something to say. I hoped he wasn’t going to be judgemental or laugh or tell me to grow up or any number of other responses I was expecting. Instead he said,
“Mate, I wish I was in your shoes”
“How do you mean?”
“You know when I visited Thailand a few years ago I felt exactly the same as you but I had just met Jane and, you know, that just seemed more important at the time.”
I figured it wasn’t really the right time to say anything about Jane even though I wanted to tell Steve he should just up sticks and come to Thailand with me. I asked him what he would do in my shoes.
“Look, it’s not up to me but I know how hard you worked at university, how you wanted to make a new start in life and is that new start working in an office with free travel on the underground? No it isn’t, your new start is you doing what pleases you. You have found something that pleases you and now we have to find out how you achieve that aim.”
I wasn’t surprised by his response but it was the way he said it with such conviction that made an impression upon me.
We carried on drinking Heineken and said nothing more about Thailand for the rest of the evening.
The next morning after waking up I called Steve from my room in the Holiday Inn. We had both got spectacularly drunk the night before and ended up in an anonymous Indian restaurant eating chicken vindaloo, nan breads, popadums, rice and chips washed down with the best house Stella Artois. I couldn’t recall returning to the hotel but had a fleeting memory of being sick outside the kebab shop next door to the Indian restaurant.
I met Steve in the hotel bar at midday. He looked a lot happier than he had the night before in the pub near Bristol Templemeads station. In fact he had a big smile on his face which surprised me somewhat considering I guessed his hangover must be at least as painful as mine.
“Sleep well mate?” he asked as he beamed at me.
“What the fuck is up with you?”
“Fuck all, just in a good mood, that’s all”.
I asked if he wanted a beer and we went and sat down near the spiral staircase out of earshot with two pints of Heineken.
“Jane was up to her tricks again this morning when I woke up.”
I nodded in an understanding manner not wanting to make a judgement but I knew what he was going through. I asked what she had done.
“It doesn’t matter what she did but I’ve told her I’ve had enough and I’m moving into your flat.”
I know me and Steve are good mates and I’ll help him wherever I can but my flat is in London and he works in Bristol. I told him this as if he didn’t already know.
“I can work from our office in London for a few months until things are sorted out with Jane and then move back to Bristol once the divorce is finalised”, said Steve.
“Yes, I’ve been thinking about it for ages and talking to you about new beginnings last night has finally made my mind up, She can have the house, she can have the car, in fact she can have anything she wants, all I want is to get away from her. I’ve finally grown some balls”.
“Well Steve, I can’t say it’s a surprise but you certainly seem to have made up your mind, how about another beer?”
We got another beer and sat for a minute contemplating.
“I’ve been thinking about what you said last night and I’ve had an idea”. Steve said wiping the Heineken froth from his top lip. He seemed to have a sparkle in his eye, as though he was bursting to get something out.
“Ok mate, go ahead, I’m all ears”.
“You know at uni as part of your group project you built some business websites for small charities?”
I’d actually forgotten about building the sites. We’d built the sites as part of a group project for local charities in order to help locally and to expand our skills. I replied that I remembered.
“Well, my company are offering a free web design service for all new customers and I’m in charge of finding a small web design company in the local area. It’s all based on templates, all you need is a basic knowledge of Dreamweaver and HTML and there you go!”
I am no Bill Gates or Steve Jobs but I certainly had used Dreamweaver before and had a basic knowledge of HTML and this sounded good but what did it entail?
“Well you get paid for each site you build by us and that’s about it. We are expecting around 100 sites a month at £20 per site and you can do that from anywhere in the world. The offer is planned to last a year. How does that sound?”
That sounds good but ………………
“But what? It’s about two grand a month and I know you can easily live on two grand a month in Thailand. No ifs or buts, I’ve got you the gig so let’s drink up and go and book your ticket. Besides there’s no way I’m living in your gaff with you!” Steve said looking at me laughing, the happiest I’d seen him since I’d arrived in Bristol the night before.
We booked my flight to Bangkok at the Thomas Cook Flight Centre in Bristol. I was returning to Bangkok in two days.
The taxi raced along the tollway getting closer to Pattaya by the second as I clutched my laptop bag and suitcase. I felt alive.