Few things Wimbledon, more things Geoff and Be – Pattaya, Thailand

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During the day the place is unrecognisable, the bars are relatively empty, they play chill out music, and the vibe is completely different. They are, most probably, still recovering from the previous night’s revelry.

I meander down the tiny lanes looking for somewhere where I can watch the the Ladies’ Tennis Finals at Wimbledon. I would head back to EastEnders bar but I cant face that vile street again. I rarely have time for playing or watching sport, so it is rare for me to track down a game. However, I am craving the familiarity of home. ‘Sting’ captured the feeling well in his song ‘Englishman in New York,’ ultimately wherever we tend to go, there are specific nuances that seem to stick regardless of where we are. A few of these things for me are a cup of Earl Grey at teatime, the more than occasional beer, and the Wimbledon final!

“Sure she won’t mind?” I enquire.
“Who asks her?” Geoff laughs.

He comes over to shake my hand and leads me to his corner where he introduces Be. He grins and explains how to pronounce her name. Apparently in Thailand, there are many different ways to pronounce the same word.

“If you say the name of my wife, BE, it is, of course, her name. But, if you pronounce it wrongly…” He winks, “…and she hates when I do this, it means a woman’s private part!”
Be slaps him on the arm, embarrassed.

“She adores me,” he says as she backhands him again.
“No more beer, Geoff, you get flat,” she exclaims. Flat, I realised, translates into fat!
Geoff leans over and stage whispers, “You get the next round in. She can’t tell you off.”

I can tell I’m going to enjoy chatting to these two. It transpires that Geoff went through a divorce after twenty-five years with the same woman. As a truck driver, he has led a very colourful life traversing all the continents and close to eighty per cent of the countries. His stories roam from distant Asian villages, across much of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. He clearly loves the freedom and, from the sound of it, he also loves the women…hence the divorce, he explains.

After deciding to ‘find himself’ in Thailand, he was introduced to Be and the rest is history. They are legally married with no kids and he bought a little villa, in her village, which they now both call home. After all the horror stories I have heard about rich men marrying Thai women and being taken to the cleaners, it’s refreshing to actually meet a normal happy couple. After all, Geoff tells me they have been together for eight years and they seem to have a great camaraderie together, however stilted Be’s English is.

I sit there listening to their stories and we all have another drink. Geoff explains he still travels to the UK every year for close to seven months to drive his truck as he needs the income. I have to respect him. If you want something that badly, you work hard for it. Then he shatters my illusions as he tells me the truck turns into his home and he eats and sleeps in it, purely to fund his Thailand life and dreams.

“You sleep in the truck?” I say, shocked.
“Yes, I love it.”
“Seriously? What’s to love?”
Geoff smiles, as though I’m the naïve one. “Ah, Gavin, I love the freedom, not to mention the savings. I send money back to be to pay into the mortgage and our savings.”
I admit I am worried about him, based on the numerous stories, I wonder now if he (the driver!) is being taken for a ride. “Can I ask you, is the villa in your name? How do these things work?”
“No, it’s all in her name. Foreigners cannot purchase property here – only Thai. If it all goes pear shaped, I lose the lot, but it wouldn’t be the first time. The last wife took around three hundred thousand pounds, so this time it would be a lot less!”

I listen to him speaking but I am completely perplexed. So the man works his bottom off, sleeps in a truck, pays the mortgage on a property which is not even registered in his name, and he looks totally relaxed, besotted in fact. Is he the naive one or does love really conquer all in this situation? The next shocking statement is that he used to be a British Nationalist. Those are the hard types who roam the streets looking for foreigners to hassle, beat up, and generally attempt to make them feel unwelcome. His eyes are downcast while he tells me this. He apologises and I tell him that I am not judging.

Of course, once he met Be, he became a changed man, so totally different in fact, that he now feels it is his duty to fight for the rights of new immigrants. Love, there is that word again, it’s made him a better person, it’s made him a man.

After another round we part ways and he and Be close up the bar to walk home. They wander off ahead of me and seem to be arguing. I worry for him, I worry for her – although they have that glimmer of banter and obvious connection, their communication is weak. They didn’t use many words and, personally, I barely understood a thing she said and I consider myself pretty good with accents. Still, their relationship seems to suit them and eight years is a long time.

It is just funny to see these strange unions everywhere. They appear to be doomed to failure yet against all odds, seem to work just fine. Perhaps, the less a couple can communicate, the less they are able to set themselves up for battle?