At last Paul and Andrew made it to the beach and the sun had finally made a visit to the milliners.
The island on which they found themselves was as splendidly underdeveloped as Paul’s suntan. He now looked like the proverbial milk bottle – and dairy was quite unfashionable in Thailand.
Not amongst the Thais of course, some of whom painted themselves daily with a strange powder in order to make themselves fairer. Paul desired the opposite effect, but laying beneath the sun was not really his thing. Besides which , the upshot was usually a touch of redness with a few uneven freckles for company.
Not the most attractive look.
But there was no use crying over burnt milk.
Added to which he had no intention of looking like a crocodile handbag in old age. Should his straps even make it that far!
Andrew, on the other hand, only needed to glance in that great orb’s direction and he would burnish readily. Much like a common field worker in a Thomas Hardy novel. Paul accepted long ago that this would never happen to him.
He was far from the tanning crowd!
But the island had numerous alternatives to sunning oneself.
Distraction far deeper than a tan.
The wildlife was incredible and abundant. In truth, Paul found there to be a little too much of it in their outdoor, cold water en-suite.
On one evening he was greeted by a rather large frog who stared at him most intimidatingly from a neighbouring tile as he attempted to urinate. Paul that is, not the amphibian!
Paul had always hated, (unlike some husbands he wouldn’t mention), to piss in public. He hardly ever used a urinal unless he’d been caught short or found himself fortunately standing next to Bradley Cooper. This perverted little creature glued to the ceramic had no such aversion.
His eyes never left Paul’s penis.
He felt his bladder grow more shy by the second.
The following day he was joined by some more little critters in the bathroom, this time in the form of a couple of dozen sadistic ants. As he sat on the loo the red army marched directly from their dug out, beneath the toilet seat, and made straight for his manhood. It was excruciating. He wished he’d not been wearing a helmet! He stood writhing and brushed them away with difficulty, having to squeeze most of the little bastards to death in the process.
Quite accidentally of course, but it’s not often one has five creepy crawlies heading for one’s urethra.
Well – not that often!
It was now beginning to feel like he and Andrew had spent a couple of nights in ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’. Paul wondered if he might meet Ant and Dec on the pan at any moment.
On second thoughts, Ant was more likely to be at the bar.
Paul didn’t necessarily want to get out of there, but he certainly wouldn’t have minded a bathroom ceiling.
The next night yet another native spectator came to pay a call. In the early hours, as Paul made his ablutions, he turned to see a huge ‘Huntsman’ loitering just two feet from his face. Usually Paul wouldn’t object to this kind of encounter, but this was not a huntsman of the sexy Snow White Chris Hemsworth variety, more the kind that had eight legs!
Sadly not this huntsman!
The voyeuristic arachnid was staring at Paul with what seemed to him a lecherous intent, and Paul was surely not simply imagining the grin it had webbed across it’s golf ball sized face. Paul got up slowly and moved towards the exit. He’d find some paper somewhere. And he wasn’t quite prepared to risk the bum gun whilst caught between the cross-hairs of such a beast.
He closed the dodgy door which adjoined the hut as best he could. He noticed that a small terrier could probably squeeze through some of the gaps, but it gave him a little false confidence for which he was grateful. He climbed beneath the mosquito net and lovingly warned a snoring Andrew about the gentleman crawler in the bog. He was treated to a couple of grunts which he took to as an acknowledgement.
In the morning he was most amused when Andrew recounted his arachnoid introduction to their extra guest.
They were, Paul had warned him during the night, in a ‘family loom’. And there was definitely a great deal of weaving going on.
Andrew had not seen the great spider at first, so had summised that Paul had been exaggerating it’s proportions.
It wasn’t the first time his partner had added an extra inch to something.
But as he made use of the bum-gun he suddenly saw the leggy giant legging it along the wall. He was startled, and even being an avid naturist, had no intention of spending any further time unclothed with such nature. He made for the bedroom and the relative safety of the mosquito net. Which mostly failed to keep out any mozzies, but could hopefully handle something larger.
On waking, Paul asked Andrew if he’d heard his tale of the spider. ‘Yes’ Andrew answered, with far too much animation for 7am,
‘I saw it! I thought you’d exaggerated – but it was fucking huge!’
Paul agreed, and after hearing Andrew’s story, was most glad that at least on his visit to the little boy’s room, the little boy had stayed still, and not chased him out through the door!
‘Is he still in there?’ He asked.
‘No’, replied Andrew confidently, he’s gone now.’
Later that morning Paul reached down for a small bag to take to the beach. Mostly full of unneeded sunblock and a camera he’d yet to learn to use. As he did so he caught sight of a familiar face watching him from the corner of the room.
He’d recognise that leering grin anywhere.
The ‘Huntsman’ had hunted him down once again.
Paul ditched the bag. He knew he’d look terrible in pictures that morning anyway, and the sky was as dull as ditchwater yet again. He shut the door briskly and went to meet Andrew at the beach.
‘He’s back’ He said curtly to Andrew. ‘In the room now!’
‘Is he?’ said Andrew, slightly amused.
‘Shall we do that glass thing and get him out?’ Paul suggested.
‘We’ll need a bloody big glass’ said Andrew.
‘Yeah – I suppose’. Paul was never at his most lucid in the early morning. He much preferred the early hours. Only usually with less fauna fawning over him.
‘I’ll ask Pittani’ he suggested. Pittani being the proprietor of the bungalows in which they were residing.
‘They’ll know what to do. They must see loads of them’ he continued.
Pitanni promised with a smile that she’d ‘clean loom’. Paul thanked her effusively and went on with his day.
He sat on the beach under leaden skies hoping both they and he would become less grey.
Later that night he and Andrew hit the hippest beach bar with which they’d hit it off. A driftwood cacophony of Tolkienesque proportion. One could get lost in it’s boughs, indeed it’s bow, as she had been modelled on a pirate ship.
Crow’s nest and all.
People could man or woman the decks whilst chilling out in the most pleasant of ways.
Two eateries nested within it’s twisted form. One serving traditional Thai, the other branching out into more Western fare – Cheeseburgers and Banana Pancakes. Paul was not surprised by the one which did the fastest business. There was Heinz ketchup after all! And the clever folk of this magnificent tree-house on Crocodile Beach had twigged on.
A great shame though, Paul thought, that they hadn’t managed to weed out the type of clientage who frequented the woody bulkheads of the ark during sunset hours. At this time every cabin was filled with toddler and their highly stoned parents. Mostly German Paul couldn’t help but notice.
It was akin to a psychedelic kindergarten.
Little Helmut and little Herman broke apart into splinter groups to run amok across the bridges and gangplanks that had been haphazardly created.
There was many a splinter!
Far too many a screaming child.
And not enough sunset!
The parents were so off their faces none had deemed to face the prospect that such a sophisticated vessel had been designed, quite obviously, to be a place of adult recreation, and was not an adventure playground. It was quite unsafe. Half of it had fallen down already. And what was remaining was hardly shipshape.
Paul knew it must be a huge adventure for the kids, who could blame them?
It was just like ‘The Famous Funf’ – only without the umlaut!
He knew, he, his sister and their cousins would have adored it too in their youth. But their parents had not been consistently off their tits.
Not both of them!
Weed, wine and whippersnappers were not a pleasing mix.
Not to Paul.
Who had now been sitting in the wooden vessel for over two hours waiting for Andrew, who had obviously been marooned somewhere else. If he didn’t arrive soon, Paul was sinking so much Singha, Andrew would find him quite shipwrecked!
He really wasn’t sure he could take much more of ‘The Sound Of Mewsick!’
Luckily, as soon as the sun went so did mutter and vatar; it was obviously time for nappy changing. The ship rang eight bells, thankfully before Paul had the chance to knock seven out of the stupid gits, and the boat sailed into the night and into much calmer, sophisticated waters.
Smoke billowing from her rigging as Mary Jane remained onboard.
The following day, nursing a groggy head, Paul bumped into a couple of fellow ‘artistes’ on the beach, as one normally does in the most remote of places.
Once, during a brief sojourn, on one of the more far-flung Maldivian atolls, Paul and Andrew had bumped into Paul’s second cousin once removed. So far yet so near he had thought then.
The charming Englishwoman on the sands now was the drummer with a rather famous band. Her beau, named Thomas, was equally lovely and worked as a filmmaker, having just finished filming his girlfriend on her latest tour. They laughed with Paul and formed and easy friendship.
Not solely alcohol based; there was always a camaraderie between those who jumped into the arena to perform, all be it be it gladiatorial at times. It was only those, Paul knew, who faced the lions, who knew what courage it actually took to take to the stage. The critics could harp on from the Gods, but they were mere spectators.
Paul had learnt this swiftly after his first bad review in the West End.
He also currently knew there were those more than ready to mock his musicality, people who knew only three chords! And there were those just as content to nullify any talent he had for writing. But what did he care? He knew he had a tendency to bang the old ‘Joanna’ a little to hard, and was well aware he liked to mix his metaphors. But there was no use crying of spilt blood. Milk was thicker than water after all.
Paul knew he was probably very very good at something – he just hadn’t discovered quite what it was yet. But he was most intrigued to hear their new friend play, as it sounded like she had most definitely discovered her rhythm.
The following night, the boys made their way to Long Beach. There was always an ‘Ao Yai’ in Thailand, and they were all invariably just that – long.
Paul made his way along the beach, stinging in the early evening heat. He was looking for Andrew who had made his own way to the gig earlier in the day. Paul had opted to go back to the shed and change, and had arrived instead, windswept and winded, on the back of a Burmese boy’s bike.
‘Wen’ was what appeared to be a skinny, fifteen year old ‘Hell’s Angel ’.
He drove at such speed, imbibing much weed, Paul wondered if, not ‘Wen’ they may arrive.
But arrive they did, much sooner rather than later, even though Paul had blondley given his required destination as ‘Easy Hut’ rather than ‘Lazy Hut’!
A mistake to which he knew some friends would react wryly.
He found Andrew staggering on the beach, looking sullen and sunburnt. He was almost wearing a red bandana and had more than look a of Christopher Walken in ‘The Deer Hunter’.
‘I walked all the way to the wrong fucking Beach’ he snarled.
‘Hi’ said Paul. ‘I brought the stuff you wanted.’
‘When I got there’, Andrew continued, ‘I couldn’t even get any water; not even a bloody beer!’
Paul couldn’t help but sympathise. It had taken him at least twenty minutes to go half the distance his partner had covered, and that at break-neck speed. Andrew had done it on foot in the fierce heat of day. Paul had warned him, but as one knows, mad dogs and Englishman etc.
They sat and knocked back a couple of Singhas which seemed to ease Andy’s ire somewhat.
The boys were joined later joined by their new friends, Cherisse and Thomas, and his wonderfully eccentric Sister Lucy, who worked as a voluntary teacher on the island.
Evening fell with a bong as it does in the tropics, and Charisse took to her drum kit.
She was bang on it!
Paul and Andrew were mightily impressed. Andrew even went backstage to tell her so during the performance, embarrassing Paul knew, but he was also pretty sure she wouldn’t be able to hear him. And were he that irritating, she had sticks!
The band played for a good few hours, alternating musicians as they went. Paul and Andrew were encouraged to perform, but Paul maintained that if the guys knew nothing from ‘Hello Dolly’ it was best they didn’t.
They both, thankfully, resisted.
It felt good to be in the crowd for once, rather than apart from it.
The joints were jumping.
A miserable, cute European who had sat himself next to Paul turned to him during a moment of applause.
‘This is shit’, he said, ‘just karaoke!’
‘You don’t like it? Paul asked.
‘Are you a musician?’
‘Yes’, the moody chap responded. ‘Are you?’
‘Of sorts’ Paul said.
‘I think the drummer’s rather good’ Paul continued slyly, ‘don’t you?’
‘She’s ok’ said the guy. Clearly unimpressed.
‘She plays in quite a good band’, Paul went on, ‘professionally.’
‘Would I know them?’ the arrogant prick asked, his interest now piqued.
‘Perhaps’, responded Paul wickedly, ‘maybe not.’
He paused dramatically.
With this the simple-minded fool, who quite obviously didn’t know his arse from his high hat, almost dropped his bottle of Chang. He was literally aghast. After some diligent work on his iPhone he went back to spectating, now quite enraptured, tapping away out of time on the driftwood table.
Touché Paul thought.
Or rather, drum roll please!
He struck an imaginary cymbal with an amused ‘ta-dah’. He hated those who who thought they could but didn’t.
And Cherisse certainly could!
They carried on dancing and drinking into the night. Along with Thomas, Cherisse and Lucy, they had befriended a Russian couple from Moscow.
The Muscovites were great fun.
Andrew insisted on doing spy gags all night. They took it in good grace. Even playing along at times. It was only towards the end when Lev, the gentleman of the two, began to grow weary of the joke. Paul kicked Andrew under the table. The last thing he wanted was another ‘Hunstman’ in their bathroom.
Especially one soaked in Novochok.
He was nervous enough already!
But it had been a banging night!