ONE YEAR IN BANGKOK: AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES O’HARA

ONE YEAR IN BANGKOK: AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES O’HARA

James, you have been living in Bangkok for 12 months with your family, Patti will turn 3 next week and Abe is soon to be 5. Please humour me and answer the following questions as though this is a Sunday supplement and we are people of importance.

 

1. HAS LIVING IN BANGKOK LIVED UP TO YOUR EXPECTATIONS?

I didn’t have defined expectations. I tried to imagine the challenges but it was impossible to prepare for some of the realities. I think in many ways it is a really easy place to live, the culture shock is minimal as we inhabit an expat world. However, it’s barely suitable for walking day trips in the heat, the price of cheese and pale ale, the family trip to the dentist or school drop off by various means of public transport… but it’s hassle and inconvenience not hardship.

 

2. WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND DIFFICULT?

Being away from my parents… though I’ve probably had more quality time with them here in the last 12 months more than since I left home at 18. It’s just the fact that they are not on the doorstep, and not seeing them for such long gaps (except pixilated on Skype) and having to work round the time difference for calls. It’s been great sharing it all with them and friends though. We’ve been lucky to have lots of visitors (keep coming!!!)

 

3. YOU’VE BECOME A BIT OF A PROLIFIC INSTAGRAMMER…

I love Instagram. I’ve always loved photographs and taking pictures but I love how Instagram can add drama or style to the most mundane image! (I hope you’re not referring to me, dear – fnah fnah). Mostly to create a family album of our time here, I probably wouldn’t share as many pictures if I knew how to add filters and save privately. I sometimes feel guilty for crowding Instagram with our day at the beach, etc. (I think you’ve shown discipline with temple shots).

 

4. PEOPLE AT HOME MAY BE INTERESTED TO KNOW HOW THE JOB’S GOING

I doubt it, people at home said my job was like that of Chandler on ‘Friends’ wherein nobody knows what I actually do. It’s probably best to keep it like that…or I might have to kill them.

 

5. DOES THE FACT YOU’VE GOT LESS MATES HERE BOTHER YOU? HAVE FRIENDS BEEN REPLACED BY PRODUCTS FROM APPLE AND SHOULD I CALL YOU JAMES i HARA?

No, I’m a man of few mates…though saturday night watching the scores come in on the BBC vidiprinter is a bit like a (cut) scene from ‘Her’, as I manage a 3-way text dialogue on the fortunes of Town, Barnsley and Oldham… I guess saturday nights aren’t so glamorous for you in that respect! (I have Coronation Street, what you on about?) Mind you, we were hardly Burton/Taylor socialites before we left the UK!

Apple has certainly been a shoulder to cry on! I’m not sure about i-Hara but it could work given it has a Japanese sound and our building is mainly inhabited by Japanese families. I was actually asked if my name was Japanese on 2 occasions whilst in Jakarta the other week, I must be exuding an Asian presence. (I wish you’d stop wearing my kimono)

 

6. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TOUR DE FRANCE BEING IN ENGLAND WHILE YOU’RE IN THAILAND?

At this point the interviewee requests that I don’t confuse England with YORKSHIRE.

It’s in Yorkshire so it’s in safe hands.

REALLY? SOME OF THE RACE WILL PASS THROUGH HOLMFIRTH, AREN’T YOU WORRIED 3 OLD MEN IN A BATH OR TRACTOR TYRE MIGHT ROLL DOWN THE HILL AND CAUSE SOME DISRUPTION…

This is a concern, but I’m sure Cav, Wiggins and Froome (how onomatopoeic) will be anticipating that and will ride at the front of the peloton. If Cav wins yellow whilst in Yorkshire I’ll be happy, but Wiggins might struggle up Holme Moss in all his crushed velvet. I’m not jealous I will miss it… but I hope it gets rained off.

 

7. SINCE WE ARRIVED YOU’VE BEEN TO INDONESIA, CHINA, MYANMAR, PHILLIPINES, SINGAPORE (without me you bastard), WHAT IS YOUR

(a) MUST HAVE TRAVEL ITEM

My passport (very droll James)..it would be my Swiss Army Knife but 9/11 spoiled all that given I travel hand luggage only.

(b) PLACE TO RETURN AVEC FAMILLE

Yangon, Myanmar. It’s on the brink of change and old Burma  could quite easily disappear with the helping hands (rape and pillage) of foreign investment and Rangoon could become just another sprawling Asian city. But Daw Suu will hopefully take good care of the transition and make sure the charm remains while the country is rebuilt. I loved Rangoon and would love us to all go and see it before it develops. The centre is full of grand and rundown, old colonial buildings and the people live in the centre of town, unlike most developed capital cities which are now places for the rich and social elite.

(c) WHAT IS YOUR WORST EXPERIENCE TO DATE

The Louisiana combo I ordered in a restaurant in Indonesia – served in a transparent carrier bag in 2 litres of BBQ sauce, like it was dragged through the bins of a seafood restaurant. It was basically crayfish and crab with no plate and no cutlery. There were sinks in the middle of the dining area to wash your hands and forearms. We got a discount because my colleague knew the owner. When asked for feedback I suggested cutlery and plates and was met with “but that’s the concept”, well your concept is shit.

DID YOU SAY THAT LAST BIT?

No, of course not. I work in cultural relations remember.

 

8. DESCRIBE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH WANDI (you are free to omit that Wandi, our live-in housekeeper, barely understands a word you say with your strong Yorkshire accent and just laughs when you speak. Also that she jumped out on you in the dark kitchen last night and you gave a little yelp)

I’ll get her back for that. I love Wandi and I think she loves us…despite her living quarters resembling something from Bangkok Hilton (not true btw)

Patti has taken a real shine to Wandi, like a surrogate grandparent. She goes to her room at 5am most mornings (rather Wandi than us, ey) and talks to Wandi’s husband Khun Moo, asking him if he has taken his insulin, in Thai! Wandi told me her pronunciation isn’t quite right so she is actually asking if he has taken his ‘eggs’ for his diabetes!

 

9. FATHER CHRISTMAS BROUGHT YOU A TENNIS RACKET, YOU’RE REALLY EMBRACING THIS EXPAT LARK AREN’T YOU? IN TERMS OF BEING AN EXPAT IN THAILAND, WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVOURITE ASPECT AND YOUR BEST

My least favourite aspect is the consistently appalling customer service. How can four people wrap up a bottle of wine four times slower than one person? (#firstworldproblems). However, the people are extremely polite and smiling which diffuses the anger. The pace of life is slow here and you just have to go with it or get pointlessly angry.

My best aspect  – I was recently honoured to receive a Chinese name as part of my Project Director role on the ‘China-EU Access to Justice’ programme. My name is Ou Jie Si which translates as “Europe Outstanding Thinking” (or that’s what they’re telling him). I told my colleagues the ‘Europe’ part was right but couldn’t promise the rest.

 

10. WILL YOU EVER BRAVE A THAI MASSAGE? WHAT ABOUT A MANI/PEDI?

What’s a mani/pedi?

No massage yet, I hate being tickled and fear it will result in me squirming and fidgeting throughout. But I will do it at some point… the hairdressers always give a head massage when washing your hair, which is truly wonderful.

 

11. AS A MEAT AND 2 VEG IN A YORKSHIRE PUDDING KIND OF GUY, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT FOOD ON YOUR TRAVELS?

It’s generally good though man cannot live on Thai basil and lemongrass alone, so I’ve taken on the Bangkok burger challenge…

WHO’S WINNING? Hmmm, Firehouse on Sukhumvit 11 or maybe the Wagyu burger at El Gaucho… I have sought and I have found so plenty of good options in all directions.

DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN YOU TEXT ME FROM SOMEWHERE IN SOUTH EAST ASIA TO SAY YOU WERE EATING SPAGHETTI BOLOGNESE IN A RESTAURANT WITH CHAIRS TOO SHORT FOR THE TABLE? (I did a LOL)

Yes. It was a bit Gulliver’s Travels, I was in Beijing. I’ve just had the same experience for the last three days… I stuck with toast this time. Easy chairs are not conducive to dining, they’re for easing!

 

12. NOW FROM THE KITCHEN TO THE BATHROOM, PLEASE CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH ‘THE BUM GUN’? (Its a hose next to the lav for spraying your ass)

I tried it once and it didn’t work. If I try again Wandi might resign. Although it was good at removing the skids out of Patti’s potty <grim face>

 

12. PUT THE FOLLOWING IN ORDER OF WHAT YOU MISS MOST ABOUT ENGLAND (ASIDE FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS)

Huddersfield Town Football Club,  Shopping in Oi Polloi in Manchester, Ale, Scalliwags (where are the Thai scals?), The chippy

Town and chippy are inter-linked though the chippy was a pay-off when the results didn’t go our way (comfort eating, it won’t hug you back…) It’s hard to miss footy guled to the vidiprinter every Saturday. It’s hard to miss Oi Polloi when you can’t wear coats, woollens and jeans (now that I miss!) – though I did buy my new specs online and will be forever grateful to their ethos as I share it. Ale can be found, Scals are out of sight out of mind…they seem like a bad dream now.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY – WE MADE IT A YEAR!

We did! It went quick just like they said it would…lots of ups and downs but it has been amazing. I love it here, the kids have adapted brilliantly (though Abe still awaits for us to fulfil our promise of a dog which was a deal breaker for him {hang in there son}…and I think you have been the most amazing as you had to give up most – friends, career, role in society…and then me travelling as we tried to settle in to a very new life. But we made up our minds, we took the adventure, we needed the change and we rode through the tough times and enjoyed the good times. We always said home is where the four of us are… and we were right, what a lovely place that is. Thank you… now can I have my iPad back?!

 

 

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