Fresher’s day, or it may have even been week for all I can remember, at PNL was a chance to meet other students including if you were lucky some you may even get on with or at least share some interest with. A quick tour of the hall where all the clubs were touting for your membership and that was enough. My footballing days were over and even though my politics were left-wing I didn’t fancy the idea of funding some Trotskyist front with my pittance of grant, so it was straight past the Socialist Workers, Revolutionary Communists and Militant. I was later to spend many an hour debating with them, but that was later. Now it was off to the bar. I seriously needed a drink and some company. It was not difficult to find the rest of the sociology crowd. They kind of stood out and it was a bit of a giveaway that at the center was what can only be described as Malcolm Bradbury’s Historyman. A lecturer of course replete in the flowing de rigueur of 1968 and complete with the missed opportunity of 1968 bar lecture that was always good to get him a few free drinks. I never knew what a senior university lecturer earned in the 80’s but it always seems odd to me that he would take drinks from students on grants. Then again not many of my compatriots were from the poor working class roots I was so maybe he was just redistributing wealth in his own way.
Night on the Kaosarn road was very different from the morning. The sidewalks brimmed with stalls selling every kind of tape and some CDs of every kind of music that any traveller would ever lust for. Tapes still ruled supreme in Kaosarn in those days. Competing sound flew from every stall. The world of unregulated piracy existed with a variety of snacks and barbeques nearby. The road was thronged with the sound of people, and the smells of exotic fruits, chillies and meats. Voices scattered different languages. A cacophony of life had erupted from the myriad of shophouses turned into guest houses with wafer thin walls. It was good after the solitude I had pretty much enjoyed since leaving England. Just to walk in it and feel vitality left me refreshed. Right now though, I did not want individual contact. Food and a beer would do. I intended to take it in, to feel it, to smell it and to quietly observe before throwing myself back into life. A seat at a roadside restaurant under fifteen fan rooms all clean and under 60 baht per night was my choice. It like many had a one syllable name like Lek or Noi. They were pretty indistinguishable. Sitting back I could for the first time start to take in what was around me. The people, the tourists, were white in some cases extremely white in others the beetroot white that comes from too much sun. The Locals were smaller and darker and immediately I found the women interested me. There seemed something more healthy about the quick smile and the tanned skin, and something about the way they moved. I couldn’t explain it then and I still can’t. That was when I first met Malcolm.