I was chatting to a colleague the other morning and he referred to Thailand as being my “home”.
It took me back a little.
Then it occurred to me that I probably talk about Thailand so often in his presence that he thought this reference was perfectly natural.
But it got me thinking: Just where do I regard as home?
I lived in Thailand for a decade or more.
I continue to buy a house in Pattaya and am still paying off my Chevvy Colorado truck which, somehow, has found its way to Korat where my wife is from. Strange that.
Now, in the UK, I rent a condo and have no vehicle.
Which sounds more like home to you?
Yes, I would say that on the brief and, admittedly, loaded evidence, Thailand is edging it.
The context of the chat with my colleague is that we were travelling on the bus to work. It was cold, damp and foggy. Miserable! Easter was already several weeks behind us and there was still no sign that summer was coming, other than the clocks going forward.
My colleague is from my dad’s home town in Ireland – Cork, which, by his own admission is no stranger to damp weather.
“I’m sick of the weather,” he said trying to look out of a window covered with condensation.
“You’re sick of it,” I replied. “What do you think it’s like for me? I’ve come back to this after 10 years of running around in short-sleeved shirts in the sun all the time!”
I overlooked the times when the rain comes down so hard it hurts.
He replied: “You must miss home.”
I nodded. Home? Do I really, deep down, think of Thailand as home, I asked myself?
Seems very unpatriotic to me and the thought left me feeling mildly uncomfortable.
When I was in Thailand all my expat friends understood that, when referring to home, I meant England. Most, if not all, were of a similar mind.
“You going home this year?” was a regular topic of conversation. No explanation of “home” was necessary.
We were all of the same page even if “home” for them was Australia, Ireland, America or wherever. The motto for Murphy’s bar on the Dark Side is: Never goin’ home. We all know where – and what – he means.
So where do I regard as home?
Well, as the headline – a popular proverb and song – says: Home is where the heart is.
My Thai wife is with me now in the UK. My two sons live in the UK. Virtually every surviving member of my family lives here. If home is where the heart is, then I’m definitely home.
So why is it that I miss Thailand?
Because I certainly do. I can think of many reasons, but will touch on just a few.
In Thailand, I was my own boss. I had to “answer” to clients as anyone in business does. But when the office door was shut I was the head honcho, the guy who signed the cheques, numero uno.
I miss that. Really, I do. If that sounds a tad shallow, I’m guilty as charged. Lock me up and throw away the key!
Where I work now the folks are a good bunch. No one tries to make me look, or feel, small. But, after more than 30 years (UK and Thailand) of being a company director or owner, the adjustment has been difficult. I won’t kid myself (or readers) by trying to pretend otherwise.
Of course, it’s not just about being the boss. I felt I could relax more work-wise in Thailand. Be myself. I’ll give you an example.
In the UK, I feel I have to take care about what I say to avoid causing offence. Political correctness is running amok here. Sometimes it’s just easier to keep your mouth shut and that’s difficult for a guy like me who likes to laugh and have a joke with people.
A few months back I took a joke too far (it seems). My Irish colleague and I were engaged in what we regarded as a little gently leg-pulling of a young lady staff member who was eligible to have a company car. But she was so lacking in confidence that, although she had passed her driving test, she declined to drive it. Silly “can we go sit in your car for a while” style of jokes followed.
I genuinely thought the lady was taking the poor attempts at humour in good part. I was wrong.
Irish colleague and I got a talking to from the boss. Appears she was so upset by our banter that she reported the matter to the company’s human resources department. Still feel it was an over-reaction on her part. She could have just had a quiet word with us.
But that’s the UK today.
What else is pants? I’m a fast worker. I edit articles quickly. If I complete my work early and the magazine has gone to press I still have to sit at my desk until going home time.
No early cuts in case the bosses come around and wonder where everyone has disappeared to. Boring, or what? This article is being written during one of those times.
When I finished early in Thailand, I could:
1 Go out for a drive around to see what new buildings were going up (possible new clients) or just sit in a traffic jam with music and the air-con on;
2 Drop in on clients for a “what’s happening” chat and ponce a cup of coffee. If they only had three-in-one, I’d settle for water. What a horrible invention that stuff is. It got to a stage where brokers serving decent (non-instant) coffee got more visits than they probably cared for;
3 Sit in the office desperately trying to come up with new ideas for publications. Pattaya Sun, the then Chinese version of Rem (it’s back), and Pattaya Living saw the light of day as a result;
4 If not feeling inspired, I would head down the pub. There’s no doubt about it, a nice cool one at 4pm tastes much better than one supped at, say, 6pm. I miss the “I should be at work, but I’m not” smug feeling;
5 If none of the above, I could always head home and annoy the wife.
But what I didn’t do was sit in the office looking at Facebook nonsense until the terrible spelling gets to me and I have to close it and try to find other things to do.
I have recently invested in a decent set of headphones and, when really bored, I stick some music on YouTube on my work computer. This lunchtime it was Meatloaf, the singer, not the meal, in case you were wondering. A burst of Bat Out of Hell always perks me up.
So, I think I have established that England is home. And yet, I harbour thoughts of going back to Thailand when I’m 70 to see out my days – about four years away. The house in Pattaya will be paid for, saving me a chunk of money a month on UK rent (about Bt25,000). And the truck will be fully owned. Just need to get it back from Korat. Not a given!
My private pension will have built up a bit more and I’ll be getting the British state pension on top. I might try to continue writing the odd article (some say very odd) for dosh and my wife is currently working in a floating Thai restaurant here so maybe she will take some of the skills she is learning back to Pattaya with her and get a job there.
Yes, I think that on the dosh front thing are not looking so bad. Certainly better than they did two years back.
But I’m (conveniently) overlooking one of the main reasons I returned to the UK. Home may be where heart is … but it is also where the welfare state is. I may be able to draw my UK pension in Thailand, but I won’t be able to take the free healthcare with me. It’s a subject for considerable deliberation but one which can be delayed until a lot closer to my target retirement date.
If I’m not falling apart, maybe in 2022 I will return to my second home.
You have been warned!