I am halfway through my time in Thailand. Time to take stock.
The school remains a delightful place to work in. The children continue to smile, to work hard and to show me unquestioning respect. They are also very nice to each other. They always have pens and I have discovered that all have USB memory sticks or what they prefer to call "flash drives". Very handy. My timetable remains so light that I can easily get all of my work done during the school day. I never take anything home with me and have nothing to feel guilty about. Perhaps foolishly, I have taken on board the responsibility of promoting, editing and arranging the publication of a collection of students' poems. It was something that I felt I wanted to leave behind but it remains to be seen.
Back at the Serene B&B in Ratchayothin, I feel like a member of an extended family. There's Staborn and Thida - the owners who are currently on holiday in Europe. There's their daughter Lisa who was born in New York City and can down a bottle of tequila in an evening... so she says. The lovely receptionists are called Leila and Bic. They live in cramped little quarters on the ground floor of the building. On Monday, I walked down to Kentucky Fried Chicken to get Leila some "chicken with bones". Bic always greets me with a handshake and a hefty pat on the upper arm. The youngest member of our family which also includes maids and nannies is Princess Serene herself - Lisa's three year old daughter who has just started pre-school. When ever she sees Uncle Yorkshire Pudding, she gets to me to draw her little cartoons. "Miaow!" means I have to draw a cat.
I have enjoyed trips to Koh Chang, Kanchanaburi and the Bridge on the River Kwai, Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai, Laos and most recently Kuala Lumpur. I have more ideas for trips. Two long weekends are coming up in May and after term ends at the end of June I want to spend a week somewhere very different before returning to England for Frances's graduation at the University of Birmingham. I have always loved to travel. To be somewhere different is ennervating. It makes me feel like a child locked in a sweet shop at night.
What do I miss? Above all I miss Shirley and our life together in Sheffield. I miss seeing our son Ian regularly and I miss the local pub with its characters - Gibby, Janet and Roger, Murray, Irish Joe, Bert, Arthur, Ron and Margaret and yes, even the often obnoxious Leeds Mick. I miss lovely Tetley's bitter slaking my thirst. I have missed springtime and watching our garden grow again. I miss watching the mighty Tigers at the KC Stadium. I miss decent mugs of tea and I miss cooking things in our kitchen. Eating out can be such a chore. But it was only ever going to be for five months. The missing won't have chance to become desperate.
I came for the adventure and I came for therapy. Those last years as a Head of English in England left me battle-scarred. Every day you had to steel yourself for what was to come. A hypocritical headteacher, piles of official A4 binders with action plans and small-print to trip you up, minutes, spreadsheets, crying women, assignments to level, league tables and then dozens of recalcitrant youngsters without pens or much understanding of what it means to be a student, no interest in the illumination and joy that learning can bring but plenty of interest in mobile phones and salacious gossip. It was hard, so hard but I am pleased to say that the Thai therapy I self-prescribed has helped to heal those old wounds. As I always thought - there is another way to be.