Bangkok Shoulder Tap 2005

I have wanted to write about this April Evening for some time..

Balcony Bar Bangkok, once owned by Molly Meldrum…I had been there once or twice.  I had arrived in Bangkok early on a flight from Melbourne after burying my 86 year old father.  I always stayed at Opera Hotel in Pratunam in Bangkok.  At the time I was living in a Bungalow on the beach in Hua Hin on the Gulf of Thailand, a peaceful place which I still hold close to my heart.

It was around 8.00pm and having slept for many hours woke up with a massive appetite for food.  I did not know of many places to eat, strange considering I was in Bangkok.  I knew of Balcony Bar and that they served food.  Hung over I made my way into the Bar, I just wanted some food.  I went to the bar and ordered a drink, all in Thai.  I had been in The Kingdom for almost  5  years and had a reasonable grip on the Lingo to get me through the day. It seemed only a short time before I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I looked around to see a young Thai man. We greeted one another in Thai.  He held a glass of beer in his hand and I recall he was wearing a bright red T Shirt. All in my primitive Thai, asked him if he would like to join me at a table as I needed to eat.  We sat together and I asked him what he wanted to drink as I was ordering a Red Wine, and he was happy to have a Coke…I think the beer in his hand was some kind of security blanket for him in retrospect..I had difficulty in getting his name right and am sure made many mistakes initially…

It is now almost 12 years since Samran and I have been together, like all journeys, it has had an up and down rhythm.  I am thankful each day for the kindness, the care and the laughter that we have shared thus far…he has enriched my life, taught me many things, I have become part of his family.

Never look for love, it creeps up when you are least prepared to engage with such a concept..

Na Mo Ta Sa Pa Ka Wa Tor



I remember

When the ocean clothed me with foam and I plunged, and swam, often a distance..the pools of Thailand became my Hydrotherapy, mornings and several times afterwards..

Water covering the aged body, lifting itself from pool to pool, the laps becoming less and less, the sky above, the sun, the comfort of being alone..

The towel, the sunscreen ointment, the negligent behaviour of sun baking..and now the scars of Sol, the god we worship but no longer as we age….shade is our refuge.P1000369

Harold Vincent Blakeley

To me he always seemed, looked, old..

Born in Tasmania in the Nineteenth Century, he was my paternal grandfather..Of course I only knew him as ‘Pa’…He had the kindness that older people seem to have..I was his only grandchild for 10 years..needless to say I was a spoilt brat, he and ‘Nan’ feted me for many years…memories of their home in Glen Iris are still vivid…the house seemed huge to a little boy in the 50’s…It was where they brought up their two sons and splash of wealth.

I think my Grandfather was a deep thinker, he was a teacher at the Mens College, later known as RMIT, in metallurgy…..I have etched in my septuagenerian brain images of this man with a blue singlet, sweat as he worked in a Bronzite Factory in South Melbourne..

In his late 60’s he and later Nan had strokes and both spent their last years in a Nursing Home…Almost 15 years of their lives were spent in the Nursing Home..

The most moving episode was when Harold Vincent, my ‘Pa’ gave me a book of poems, sadly I no longer have the book nor the title…it was like a final farewell from a mentor who probably knew for decades that his grandson was who he was…similar..I guess genes are present in many forms.

He was protestant, a freemason, and his eldest son married a Catholic and then his first grandchild comes to tell him he want to be a priest….His word still reverberate some 50 years later as he said to my father ‘You are going to give your son to the church”..

RIP Grandpa, the only one I ever knew


Strangers Who Lift Your Day

I was hungry for a Spanakopita, Saturday around 2.00pm….the Bakery is across the road, need both the food and the exercise, I did throw in a slice of baked cheese cake…delish!

As I crossed the road, there was a car parked with an elderly couple, and two copies of Melways in each of their hands.  He seemed the navigator while she was the driver.  How could I not offer some help, drawn like a moth to the proverbial flame.  I opened the gentleman’s door, who with a frail voice, said they were looking for the Golf Course.  We thought it was a lovely day and we would drive for a game of golf.  He was 92 and she a few years younger.

My sense of direction is hopeless but after a lot of conversation peppered by my inquisition as to what were they doing, I think I got across the directions, a few kilometres away from where they had parked..

The brief interaction was sublime, her emerald brooch with two owls, his fading eyesight, their quintessential British accents, serendipitous saturday….my thanks..




The Woman on The Bus

I had just arrived at Tullamarine Airport from Bangkok, the contrast of warmth was almost  like a dip in an iced river.  I had not organised my trip from the Airport to my home.  There are lots of Regional Buses one of which dropped me almost at the end of my street. Bought a ticket and waited for the bus which I had caught a few times.

There was only myself and a rather stylish woman not much older than me.  It was her accent that drew me back, cultured with a tincture of pomposity.  We began talking and found out we were going to the same dropp off point in our suburb where she had lived in the same house for close to 80 years……We decide to sit with one another as there appeared a comfortable measure of comfort ….indeed it was indeed that.  The journey is around 50 minutes so we both spewed forth…

She had been interstate to spend time with then man whom she has been his mistress for around 50 years.  Her husband lives in a another state, none of this is known to him but they have had a great relationship.  Her great love was of Theatre which she attributes to the plum in her mouth…she became a Primary Teacher as I had done some 12 years before.  The commonality was thickening.   She has and is still writing books, she is up to her 21st one as I type at 80.

She rises at 8.00am and begins writing at 9.00pm.  I was overcome with edification .

What amazed me most was her father was a communist in Melbourne in the 50’s and insisted she get an education, introduced her to the Russian writers and poets and has continued throughout her life..A mother, bereaved of a son who took his own life, but three other happy children.

How so many wonderful things when you sit with someone you have never met and it all unfolds in the discourse.  We plan to meet soon.  How could one not…

The Woman on The Bus…




Uncle Bert

I was 16 years old.  Uncle Bert was the brother of my paternal grandmother.  In later years I was to find out that they had a strong bond, he was a gentle man and she a gentle woman.

I was aware of him as a little boy.  He always wore a suit, ill fitting and a hat. He had some kind of job with the company called Stamina, it was Melbourne in the 1950’s.  I always felt comfortable with him and of course to me he seemed very, very old….

His wife had died by the time I knew him..He was a protestant and she a catholic, something which never rested well with his sister, Daisy, my grandmother..there was a palpable divide in Australia at the time, Protestant and Catholic.  Strangely enough my father was to marry a Catholic, a mixed marriage was the term in the 50’s.

As Uncle Bert became aged and ill he was put in a home in Northcote run by The Little Sisters Of The Poor…He slept in a large dormitory with other old and sick men.

Through the family grape vine he had heard I was going into a Monastery, a Junior Seminary in Galong, NSW…The Nursing Home had strict visiting hours. The family adhered to these rules. However one day there was a phone call that Uncle Bert wanted to see me.  My parents were to take me to the Nursing Home on a day when visitors were not permitted. We arrived at lunch time and sat with him.  There was a treat after his meal, a glass of cold beer, which I still recall him drinking with gusto in his mid 70’s.

The reason he had asked me to visit was that he had a gift for me.  It was a small leather wallet which had religious medals sewn into it.  He wanted me to have it as I was leaving home to enter a religious order.

Not long after finishing his glass of beer he began to cough and convulse as my parents sat with me at his bed side.  He was dying.  Most likely already dead. My mother and I quickly pulled the rope in the dormitory which was attached to a large bell.  We then left the dormitory to seek help.  We walked the wide corridors of the Convent and ran into a Nun who was walking our way.  I said ” I think Mr Phillips is dying’   And with that equanimity of soul that nurses have she replied ” I will attend to it”

My mother and I went to the Chapel and knelt for a short time then returned to the bedside of my dead Great Uncle.

It was an amazing experience. The first dead body I had seen, the exchange of the gift, which sadly, I no longer have, the privilege of being with Uncle Bert for his last breath..