Citylife’s Greatest Hits
Over the past fifteen years (180 issues), a number of writers have contributed regular columns to Citylife (formerly Chiang Mai Newsletter) ranging in subject from the informative such as Gary Ilines’s Teacher Talk, Nienke Parma’s A Dog’s Life, Ed Rose’s Out and About, John Hobday’s Weather Report, to humour columns such as Seymour Cummings from Andrew Bond, Auntie Myrtle’s attempts at helping those agonised and Oliver Benjamin’s Rabbinic efforts. Two of our most popular – and dare I say controversial – columns have been picked for this edition of Citylife’s Greatest Hits, Mike Atkins’s Henry Beauchamp Remembers and John Shaw’s Consular Tales. We will continue to bring you the pick of the past throughout 2006, so please e-mail us with an article you wish to see reprinted at [email protected]
“Tom was a Thai from Chiang Mai, he was a professional boxer, handsome in a rugged way, he spoke with a broad cockney accent that I found most attractive. We got married and lived very happily in London for eight years after which time Tom decided to go home to help run the family guesthouse. That was when everything changed. His mother hated me from the first day. She treated me as a servant and I was virtually a prisoner, never allowed out alone.
One night I escaped and went to a disco with a girlfriend Mother reported this to Tom who beat me. From that time onwards I was regularly beaten for no reason at all. It was clear that Tom was in very bad company. He drank heavily and was taking some kind of drug and, I suspected, also selling drugs, he always carried a gun when he went out.”
“Last night he beat me up again. Look, I will show you.” There were great bruises on her back and buttocks. “I had had enough and so I packed a small case and sneaked out of the house with Dolly. Luckily I had some money and our return tickets to England, but Tom has taken my passport. Can you help US escape to England?”
“Does Tom know where you are?” I asked.
“Yes. I am certain that the hotel is being watched. He has many friends in the police.”
“Let me talk to the hotel manager.” I arranged to move Susan to another room and that, if anyone asked for her, the staff should say she had checked out and not left a forwarding address.
My next task was to get her a new passport. I persuaded the police to allow me to file a lost passport report on her behalf. I had photographs taken from one she happened to have. I the: rang the Embassy in Bangkok and told them what was happening and that her application form would arrive by night-bus next morning. The Consul promised that he would send the new passport the same day by EMS.
Next my wife and I started on the travel arrangements. We booked their flight to England on Wednesday evening with Cathay Pacific. We bought tickets under a false name from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. We contacted the Commander of Flight 41 and he agreed that I could take them through the prohibited Airforce area and straight into the VIP departure lounge. Cathay Pacific agreed to meet them on their arrival and take them from the domestic aeroplane directly to the international departure lounge without having to pass through immigration and customs.
On Wednesday morning I went to the Post Office and the Postmaster had the mailbags opened early so that I could get Susan’s passport, which I then took to Immigration to have her visa stamped in it. I arranged with the hotel that they could be smuggled out of the kitchen door for we had heard that Tom had been asking after her all over town, he had also called the Embassy. I rang Susan and told her that everything had beer, arranged for their secret departure and that Pat and I would pick them up at one o’clock, in three hours time and take them to the airport.
At eleven o’clock she telephoned. “John, I am sorry to have caused you so much trouble. I have changed my mind. I really c: love him. Tom is now on his way to pick me up and take roe home.”
Sometimes the job of an Honorary Consul can be very frustrating; she did have the grace to send flowers to my wife. Six months later I heard that they had after all gone back to England without Tom.
by John Shaw (March 2000)
The telephone rang just after six o’clock on Monday morning. Now there are certain advantages in working from home, but early morning telephone calls are not numbered amongst them. The consulate officially does not open until nine. She spoke in a whisper and in obvious distress.
“I’m in terrible trouble. Could you please come to me immediately, I am in room 405 at the Chiang Inn Hotel. I don’t dare say any more as he may be listening. Please come, I need help.”
What was an Honorary Consul to do? I went.
The curtains were drawn and only the bedside lamp was on. Susan was attractive with long blond hair and wide set hazel eyes. She held her three-year-old daughter by the hand. This is the story she told me.
“I was a student nurse at the Mile End Hospital. At the weekends I had a job as a barmaid at the King’s Head — it was one of those boisterous knees-up-Mother-Brown places in Whitechapel. Tom and his gang were regular customers and it was soon obvious to everyone that he had taken a fancy to me as indeed I had to him.
John Shaw’s very real Consular Tales were featured between March 2000 and August 2001, please visit http://WWW.chiangmai news.com/cultural/consular to read them all.
Watching an elegantly dressed Finnish sailor try to buy a bottle oft beer at the 7/11 on election night, I was reminded of the first time I witnessed the idiosyncrasies of Siam’s political system. I had been sent up from Bangkok in the late fifties to oversee the construction of a Peruvian love mallet factory near Samoeng and after a long and arduous journey north, I was immensely relieved to finally throw my bags on the floor, mix a gin and tonic and collapse on what was to be my bed for the next few months.
As I was giving my enormous manservant his vigorous daily rubdown, the village headman, Chairman Maew, loomed into view clutching what looked curiously like a bag of tinned mango treats. ‘Magnificent,” I said, admiring his sack. “How wonderful to see you expressing your love for the people with such a simple gesture of kindness.” Maew wiped a tear from the corner of his eye, adjusted his Fendi loincloth and fixed me with a look that not only Slowed that he was a man of compassion, but that he knew how to get things done. “Can I count on your vote in the village election, Khun Henry?” “Good Lord man no,” I answered. “You bally well cannot!” “May I ask why?” he said. “I’m not sure,” I replied. ‘But as a roundeye, it is my duty not to admit to liking you. And besides, you seem a bit, well, shifty.” I think that rather put the wind up him and he slinked off into the village.
Pouring a small pint glass of straight gin, I settled down on a simple pile of tiger skins and watched as Chairman Maew made his rounds of the village. At the first door, an awfully large man was wagging his finger in Maew’s face “…and what about the South?” he hollered. “I shall eradicate the South within three years!” Maew proclaimed. But it seemed the man was not satisfied. “No, I mean what are you going to do about the problems in the South?” “I’m, er,” Maew stuttered. “I’m going to eradicate the problems in the South within 2 years!” There followed a period of silence. “You don’t know what the problems are, do you?” the villager asked. To this, Chairman Maew countered brilliantly by staring at his feet and fumbling with the hem of his loincloth. He then produced a tin of preserved fruit from his sack and soon the two men were laughing and slapping each other on the back. Chairman Maew left his new supporter, who was now clutching the tin, with the promise which was to become his party slogan: “There’s more where that came from!”
Quickly mixing another litre of Gordon’s with a dash of Beefeater, I watched as the Chairman met irate villager after irate villager, only to leave them grinning and laughing and clutching a tin of mangoes. The conversations were brief but seemed to follow a pattern: “What are you going to do about the pig flu?” “I’ll eradicate the pig flu in six minutes, here’s a tin of mangoes”; “What are you going to do about the chronic pollution?” “I’ll eradicate colonic pollination yesterday. Here’s your treats.” “What are you…?” “Oh shut up and have a tin.”
Having canvassed all 43 huts in the village, it seemed the chairman was in with a good chance of winning. Sure enough, some election day Chairman Maew’s Thais Like Pies party romped home by an incredible seven thousand and eighty two votes. The crowds cheered, holding their tins above their head and slapping each other on the back. Chairman Maew wiped a tear from his eye, attached another six medal ribbons to his Fendi sarong and said, in a firm yet gentle voice: “And in another four years, I’ll give you a tin opener.”
Mike Atkins’s Henry Beauchamp Remembers were featured between November 2004 and October 2005 www.chiangmaicitylife .com features all twelve installments of Henry’s erotic undertakings.