Walking along the beach after dark and gazing across the sea there were to the left and to the front a string of low-level multicoloured lights and as I faced the sea and turned my head from the left to the right in about the middle there were also raised lights. Lights higher than the rest. A whole series of towns strung together around the distant horizon creating a conurbation of inestimable size around a central becalmed and silent lagoon it seemed. The reality being a whole string of ships with the distant dark brooding island of Koh Sri Chang in the center. Ships waiting their appointment with the distant port in what was now a nightly no sound and light show of ever-increasing intensity. The recession is over.
Her wedding party was in a traditional village in Chachoengsao. A village wealthier than the ones I was accustomed to in the North but still one that shared the rustic backwardness and simple quiet that percolated in such places. A quiet this time that was to be short-lived with the wedding festivities ready. I had arrived early with my family after a meandering and at times wrong turn filled drive through the hot rural area east of Bangkok. But we had arrived and had found a table on the edge and were relaxed as the influx of guests and family virtually all unknown to me arrived in rapid succession. The morning rituals with monks, close family, colour and merriment were over. This was the celebration with pictures taken and bottles of whisky passed out through a hole strategically positioned in the side of the house for what apart form this I never worked out, but the central supply remained protected and discreet. The country-style traditional music and dances were by now in full swing and everyone was enjoying themself with young dancing with old, old dancing with young and women with women. The hot of the middle of the day and a modicum of alcohol left me feeling relaxed and separate from all. My wife talking to my long serving secretary was just a sound in some distant background and the dancing and music a rush of distant sound and colours and pleasant laughter. I was at peace and enjoying such a happy occasion. And then after a while a crack and a crash and another. Confused at first I didn’t know what was happening except coconuts seemed to be falling from a tree in the center of the wedding ground. Then the site of an automatic handgun and then another. Held high in two hands and coconut targets knocked down one after the other. Then those with the handguns heading for a closely parked pick-up and taking out a rifle and then another but this time moving away from the tree and heading to the hedge running in front of a field. Then the higher pitched sound of rifles fired again and agin at what I couldn’t see but laughter and young boys coming to await their turn to fire at whatever was needing to be fired at. And the music now louder and quicker and the dancing of predominantly women and one drunken old wizened faced man continuing apace. Everyone was happy. I saw Nee looking so perfect as any bride does on her wedding day. It was time to leave.
It was one of those frustrating weekends as a student. Little money and nothing much to do. Mid-term with no college work, not that I really worried about that at anytime, and more importantly nobody around except for me and Conor. We didn’t have enough between us for an extended all day of drinking so we need alternative distraction and quickly decided on obtaining an eighth. The only problem being where would we get it from as nobody was around who could normally be relied on. Then Conor remembered he had heard from a friend of a friend that there was this place in Palmers Green or was it Wood Green or some other Green that had a big house where we could get what we wanted. So eventually it was off. Somehow, and I don’t know how, but it was by the luck I guess that always went with those happy-go-lucky enough to try and find a good time, we ended up in the right place in front of the run down house in what were quite large gardens with a longish path to the door. Not really expecting to be let in even if anyone answered the door we knocked and surprisingly the door was opened and we were inside the ill-lit place in a big room or hall and well I was going to leave Conor to do the talking after all he knew the friend of some friend who knew of the place. And it was quite full of people. Nervy people. Mostly out of it. And a couple of big guys without shirts and ill shaven and noticeably muscle-bound and sitting next to the door we had come in an aging hippy doing something that didn’t seem to go with the persona of a hippy but I watched him as Conor did whatever he had to do. I watched him again and agin assemble and disassemble a revolver and pack the bullets in and take them out again. Again and again in what seemed like an eternity he repeated his puzzle not even aware of me looking. Neither was anyone else. My fascination was, after a long period, broken by Conor telling me it was time to go and so we did. On the following Monday after college I was sitting in the squat rolling and watching the early evening local London news. They were reporting on and a police raid and showing footage of the front of a rundown house in a big garden with a long footpath to the door.
My mother-in-law had a small shack on her land in which she stored her harvested and milled rice for the year after each harvest. The gunman came long the lane in which she lived and tossed the gun through the opening in which rice was removed and put into the shack. My mother-in-law scurried over to the shack and picked up the gun she then slowly walked to the gunman’s house and asked him no to hide his gun in her rice.
As I look out of the open window just outside of my office I feel the hot, very hot breeze flow past me and notice the haze over the inviting sea is too strong for me to see the town across the bay.