I have been fantacising about my obituary of late.
Before there is mass panic and riots on the streets; no, I have no plans to go anywhere yet. It’s just that I’ve been spending a bit of time at the Chiang Mai Foreign Cemetery for my main feature this month. I have also been giggling hysterically, tearing up with emotions and riveted by historical vignettes from reading some of the obituaries in De Mortius, the fascinating book of obits of expats past, soon to be in its 7th publication.
Soldiers, teak wallahs, diplomats, merchants, artists, missionaries and an assortment of colourful characters have been buried on that little plot of land next to the Chiengmai Gymkhana Club since 1900 when Major Edward Lainson Guilding rode into Chiang Mai from Kentung in the last stages of dysentery, finally succumbing to the illness and having the honour of being the first ‘resident’ of the cemetery. Incidentally, he was my age…which brings me to my narcissistic fantasies.
What will they say of me? I’ve pondered. And importantly, who will write it? Should I? After all, I have been known to put pen to paper on occasion, and it would be rather lovely to be able to shape what little legacy I will leave behind. Child- less, and having gone through a rotten divorce, I haven’t got much to say on a personal front, nor anyone to say it for me. But having lived here most of my life and been the editor of this publication for nearly twenty years, I feel as though I have had some impact on the past few decades’ of our community, especially the expat one.
After much pontificating, I have decided that my obituary must be humourous. Afterall, how else am I going to stand out from the other residents of the cemetery. In 81 years’ time, as the cemetery celebrates its bicentenary, it would be po- etic that some local editor of whatever media platform we will be reading by then decides to do a story on the Chiang Mai Foreign Cemetery. I would like her to read my obituary, laugh out loud at how times have changed (as she probably dictates her feature story from her brain straight into the readers’, or some such futuristic medium I can’t even begin to imagine or comprehend) and wonder at the anecdotes from the life of an editor from the early 21st century. I would like her to be so intrigued that she goes to some stuffy dusty room in the local library, to find — hopefully decades upon decades — of Citylife magazines to read. Of course she would probably find most of it online somewhere, but I trust that she will go the extra mile and try to find hard copies, thrilling in the tactile flipping of pages and reading through the life and times of all those who have come and gone, choosing for however much time, to live in this green corner of northern Thailand…and sometimes dying here.
It has been a fascinating and, dare I say, fun article to write. I spent a few hours at the cemetery the other day saying hello to old friends: Oliver John- son who drowned at the age of three when we were at a pool party together in 1980; uncle Dick Wood the old teak wallah with whom I had a monthly lunch with for four years before he died in 2002, his headstone simply and spectacularly stating ‘Asian Legend’; Gerd Barkowsky whose pyre refused to catch fire until his wife poured his beloved Sangthip whisky on his casket, sending him to the ever after in flammable style, show- ing up at the cemetery with his ashes in a box of Cadbury chocolates the next day for burial; Dr. Lamberton my family dentist who, at the age of 90, and a year before his death, took a look at my father’s teeth and announced that he should ‘let sleeping dogs lie’.
I would like Chiang Mai’s future editor to also in- clude a charming sketch about me one day in her story.
Then I remembered that I am also Thai, haven’t booked a plot yet and will likely end up getting cremated and flung into the Ping. It was a nice fantasy for a while.
Citylife this month:
Apart from my story on the Chiang Mai Foreign Cemetery, I have also interviewed the Chief of Traffic Police this month, and yes, I did ask him about those checkpoints all over the city. Our intern Marie McCoy-Thompson takes a look into the national lottery culture, a fascinating insight into a slice of Thailand. Aydan Stuart takes it upon himself to go into the jungle and see if he can survive alone in the wild (spoiler alert: he can’t) and he also faced the wrath of his new wife (again) by helping an intern with interviewing lots of girls involved in the growing Cosplay community. I hope you have a good read.