A Special Nan!

Paul and Andrew had made there way further east, they were now residing in the small city of Nan, on the Thai/Laos border. It was an unfashionable town. Not currently on many a traveller’s itinerary – other than the odd Thai or two who visited her odd temples.

This made the settlement even more likeable and he and Andrew had only been there a day, when they’d both decided they loved the place.

‘How d’you spell it?’, Andrew had asked Paul for the umpteenth time.

‘ NAN!’ Paul snapped impatiently, ‘Think Catherine Tate!’

‘Oh, like Nan,’ Andrew replied.

‘Yes – like Nan. Like how I used to call my nan. Nan!’ Paul explained.

He thought briefly of his late grandmother. He had loved her very much, he still did. She had instilled in him his love for all things theatrical. Much to his father’s chagrin. Nanny Joan would take him into the West End each year on his birthday to see a show. He’d always dreamed that one day he would be performing on The Strand or Shaftesbury Avenue – he knew is was partly down to his Nan that this dream actually came true. Nanny had also regularly taken him and his gorgeous sister to see the pantomime at Richmond Theatre. Paul remembered these times as some of the best moments of his childhood. It had been his nan’s influence that had lead him towards a life on the stage. That, and being a natural show off!

Joan Dora Irene Clemo had also trod the boards herself. She had been part of a troupe known as ‘The Dainty Dots’ in her youth. During the 1930s Joan had performed in many a panto around the country. Paul loved to hear her stories of her performing days. Especially of her younger sister Olive, who was famously known as ‘Baby Olive’.

‘Baby Olive’ was actually thirteen, but for show biz purposes , she was six!

It just so happened that Paul’s Great Aunty Olive was fortunate enough to be unaturally petite, so when she somersaulted and went into box splits, the audience were mightily impressed that such a child was so gifted. Nanny had told Paul that ‘Baby Olive’ went on for quite a few years. She was certainly no baby by the time ‘The Dainty Dots’ disbanded. And was no doubt not that dainty.

‘Baby Olive’ probably had a menstrual cycle as well as a unicycle.

But, as Paul was well aware, when it came to to show business, Joe Public could rarely spot a thing!

Now, getting on for nearly a century since his his nan’s birth, the small areoplane left the runway, and Paul looked down as another Nan became a dainty dot. Her few spotlights glittering in the darkness. It had been great getting to know her.

He and Andrew had meant to stay in the small city for only three nights, but had become so entranced with Nan’s remoteness and charm that they had doubled the length of their stay.

The city had been so chilled. They had wandered the streets together, visiting temples, eating noodles and laughing with the locals. They appeared to be the only westerners in town.

The Australian guy who ran their hostel went my the name of Ralph. He was incredibly friendly, even if he did forget what he was saying whilst halfway through a sentence.

He had given the boys a ride to the national park just north of the town in order that they might visit some caves. Ralph had said that they were unlikely to get lost on the trail. Despite his assurances, Paul and Andrew went way of piste! Luckily not entirely pissed, as this could have been very dangerous.

The boys had somehow managed to take a wrong turn and had ended up on a small back road in the middle of absolutely nowhere. The noonday sun blazed down onto them with an intensity that was somewhat unnerving. Paul and Andrew had ran out of water, the only liquid they were carrying came in the form of half a bottle of Aussie Shiraz, which Paul knew was not best in the desiccating circumstances. He told Andrew, who was up for necking the lot, that they would sink it when they were nearly back at the National Park Office.

Although he had a sinking feeling this may never happen!

The only way to be sure was to double back the way they’d come and climb back over the mountain. Andrew had wanted to continue down the road into the unknown, but after Paul attempted to flag down three cars to no avail, he too thought it best to take the road they’d travelled. It was, after all, a tad less dangerous than getting lost sans shade, and without any help being proferred by the odd hostile native. Paul imagined these bad Samaritans were probably just scared, bemused at the sight of two sweating falang yomping along a country lane during the hottest part of the day.

It was only mad Englishmen and dogs that would surely undertake such a trial.

Andrew eventually relented when he realised there was no other option than to reclimb the mountain, after they ended up at a strange farm come garage come dump.

A hillbilly pickup truck was parked recklessly on the drive and the place was festooned with boxing gloves and odd looking implements. Andrew had called out for help but to no avail. There had been a touch of clattering from a shack behind a workbench, but nobody appeared.

The red-hot breeze made the gloves sway menacingly and some chains clanked together with an ominous ring.

Paul was rather glad the pugilist who resided in the place did not make a peep. There was a definite whiff of Anthony Perkins about the place. He was certain it would be more sensible to risk the rockface again. There was probably enough remaining light – and less risk of a shower scene.

He hoped they would soon find deliverance on the other side of the mountain – without being fucked, like a piggy by some toothless peasant playing the Thai version of a banjo, on route.

It was a terribly odd location!

A couple of hours later, whilst downing the remaining vino, he and Andrew felt mighty glad to have escaped their scrape with just a few scrapes.

They’d got to realise over the years that some of the Thais were less charming than others. Just like anywhere else in the world. The Land Of Smiles could disguise more than a few wiles. Some of them decidedly unattractive. They had once been threatened with a machete on Koh Lanta – it had only been Paul’s quick wittedness that had put pay to any wickedness. It had been a near miss though.

They got back to Nan, five hours later than planned, relieved and quite exhausted. Paul fell into a hammock on the rooftop of their hostel. He thought he may never move again. But he knew Nan to be too charming for that. The food and company were too good to miss. So he And Andrew hit the town for the final time. They were heading
for Manila the following day and wanted to make the best of their remaining time on the town. It had been a wonderful stay. They knew they would return and hoped Nan would not change too much as she grew older.

Paul had once had a very special nan in his life but he had never once dreamed of finding another. Relatively speaking – he had.

Nan was a very special place.

And one stage, when he was not appearing on one, he would make his entrance again.

But for now it was time he and Andrew made their exuent stage left. Even further east.

It had come to the stage that they were to make their debut in The Phillipines.

But Paul knew that neither of them would ever forget Nan.

‘Nanny Joan – Stage Right’ ❤️


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