Paws For Thought!

The Year Of The Dog padded up to the boys without warning, briefly licked their faces, and then scampered noiselessly back to it’s kennel without so much as a yap. In fact the whole celebration for Chinese New Year had been little more than a whimper!

Paul had hoped the celebrations in Nong Khai, with it’s large immigrant Chinese population, would be barking mad as usual. But two firecrackers and a couple of lanterns do not a party make. It didn’t stop Paul and Andrew from having their own ‘do’ though.

They thought they ought to celebrate, especially as Andrew was a dog. And always had been! Having been born in 1970.

Apparently the Earth Dog was communicative, sensible and responsible in the workplace. Paul had always had the sneaking suspicion the Chinese were full of shit!

Still, he loved a ‘do’ and celebrated everything from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah. Despite the fact he wasn’t an American Jew. Any excuse for a knees up. He was most dogged in that respect.

Although ‘The Year Of The Dog’ proved to be a bit of a bitch, Nong Khai certainly didn’t. The city was an interesting mix of every breed. A real mongrel of a town. And, like the canine variety, having just as much character.

The boys had fallen in love with the place for a second time.

Andrew was already looking in local estate agents to enquire about the cost of being re-homed. It was definitely a city in which they could envisage themselves living. Exotically situated opposite Laos on the banks of the Mekong, and just scruffy enough to make them feel at home. They both concurred on this. But they knew it was time to pause for thought. Certainly not to jump in with both paws.

Not quite yet anyway.

But the moment for ‘walkies’ was fast approaching

The boys had also made friends in Nong Khai.

They had first met Prik a few years earlier when on a similar jaunt. He had worked as a ‘Man Friday’ in the guesthouse which they had terrorised with strident Barbra Streisand tunes. The handsome Prik informed Paul he now had Fridays off, as he had a bar of his own – a music bar called ‘Chillis’.

Prik is  the Thai word for chilli. So when he invited Paul and Andrew to come and sing that very same night they accepted.

After all, how could they turn down Prik?

They were condescendingly surprised to find a rather sophisticated set up at ‘Chillis’. The bar was fabulously funky with an enchantingly cool garden and a very hot sound system. Chilli was certainly the leader of the pack.

Top dog in Nong Khai when it came to entertainment.

He played guitar and sang with perfect intonation – something Paul and Andrew found rather unusual. The rest of Thailand seemed to be awash with a cat’s chorus of vocalists. Pitching up perfectly to howl into the moonlit night like werewolves clawing at their own privates.  Chilli, on the other paw, was the dog’s bollocks.

Of course, Paul managed to last only a couple of beers before he was put into the ring. He massacred a Nina Simone number and managed to put a few people off Diana Ross for life, before slipping onto the pool table.

Joe Public, however, didn’t spot a thing.

The audience of locals, along with a brilliant Spanish guitarist called Fernando, developed a case of endless love. Paul was thrilled to be thought of as best in show – for one night a least.

The following evening Andrew performed a few of his own tricks, culminating in a brilliant Latino version of Robbie Williams’s ‘Angels’. His West End pedigree shone through. Paul knew the best dog had won. The rosette went to his husband, it usually did.

They’d not lived a dog’s life in Isaan, more the life of Riley, running with the in pack. They’d sniffed out a place in which they could see a new future. The scent of it was exhilarating.

Paul knew the year of the dog was gonna be great for this couple of woofters!

But first they had a beautiful pup of their own to consider. Their beautiful Pomeranian Lola had not even used her passport yet. They just hoped she was willing to follow their lead.

On their final day in the city Andrew and Paul sat discussing their future in a dodgy bar. A hair of the dog was most necessary. They both agreed they truly loved the place.

Nong Khai? Woof!

Or perhaps. Yap! Yap! Yap!

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Alarm Cocks!

Paul knew Andrew had always enjoyed cock in the early morning, but the noisy dawn chorus which now woke them for the fourth day in a row at 4.28 am was insufferable to them both.

Andrew had often crowed irritatingly about being a ‘morning person’ but even these avian alarm cocks where too much for him!

Some of the cocky birds began their wooing at just before midnight up on the Mekong, making it clear to Paul that their body clocks were completely out of cock.

This rabble of roosters, at times what sounded like thousands of them, had ironically made it impossible to lay. Paul knew he had over egged the location of their little shack, on the tiny island in the river. He had, what it seemed, booked them into a gigantic organic poultry farm!

The boys were more than ready to move on or a real cock fight was on the cards. And not one of the feathered variety! It would give a whole new meaning to the term ‘battery farm’!

Paul found it quite ironic to discover such a hatred of these fowl creatures. Especially as he was more than proud that his husband had achieved great theatrical success in the past when playing the part of ‘Rooster’ in the hit musical ‘Annie’.  Andrew had been nominated for a prestigious ‘Olivier Award’ that year for his free-ranging, cocky performance, and was amazingly still able to amuse Paul with his uncanny ‘Cockle-Doodle -Doo’!

Alarmingly, it was now a case of ‘Cockle-Doodle-Don’t’!  Or more than a few feathers were sure to fly!

The time was now 5.20am, way before the sun was even considering making her entrance, and Paul sat on the makeshift terrace of the guest house, in the deafening dark.

He attempted to concentrate, tablet in hand, and began to write a blog. The competition betwixt the horny birds was too much, the only tablet Paul realised he could handle was a strong paracetamol. He reverted to reading a Julia Child recipe he’d just found for ‘Coq Au Vin’ , in an attempt to bring some cruel solace. Luckily the ‘sol’ did just that. And as she climbed swiftly into the purple sky, silence reigned.

Finally dethroning the cock of the walk!

It was blissful.

Later that morning, just after the cocks had crowed their last, the boys climbed aboard a local banger and made for civilisation.

The ‘little green bus’ was just as charming and cheap as they had remembered. Paul was a firm believer that if one wanted to truly know a place then public transport was by far the best introduction.

Nong Khai, the Thai city for which they were heading, was a veritable metropolis compared to where they had recently been travelling. He hoped that some relative comfort would provide some much needed ‘shuteye’.

Andrew began to sketch a pencil drawing of the sleep deprived Paul along the way.

The artist chewing incessantly on nicotine gum, until he found a short stop along the way to partake of the real thing!

Paul nodded sleepily, much like a chicken liver on a stick, until the creaky bus pulled into the bus station at Nong Khai.

As he and Andrew donned their rucksacks and started the trek towards their new boarding house, he thought at least now we shall get some sleep – minus the flocking roosters!

After all, he was nothing, if not a cock-eyed optimist!