On being an “Old Hand”

Old hand Dr. Iain Corness.
Old hand Dr. Iain Corness.

The Executive Editor of Pattaya Mail asked me to write something about being an ‘Old Hand’ and I must say it took me aback. I have never thought of myself as an ‘old hand’. On downer days I will admit to ‘old’ but those are few and far between.

However, for the sake of history, I have lived and worked in Pattaya for 20 years, leaving Australia which had been my abode for 40 years, though I never became an Australian citizen (wrong move), I thought my British Passport was all I needed. After all, I had been called up for National Service, so I was Aussie enough to die for the country.

Towards the end of the 40 years with the Kangaroos I became increasingly disenchanted with life in Australia, describing the country as over-taxed, over-regulated, and over-policed. So I began to look outside Australia’s borders.

I had spent a few holidays in Thailand and increasingly began to think of Pattaya as being my next home – after all there was a race track 30 minutes away and for a dyed-in-the-wool motor racer, that was all I needed.

My intention was to sell my medical practice and leave. However, after two years and no takers, my only way was to stay and moan a lot, or just close the surgery and go. And that’s what I did.

For interest’s sake I have only been back to Australia once – to pick up my cat.

One of the biggest problems with landing in a new country is what to do to while the time away between dinner dates. There is a limit to how many books you can read, and the beach deck chairs began to become boring with the endless parade of people wanting to sell me something. Anything! And the ice cold beers were very attractive.

Items such as places to stay, laundry, water bills, electricity bills, a car, are exciting – the first time. Being able to buy items at the market and actually get the vendor to understand my Thai language assisted by mime that was like something Marcel Marceau would have envied. Shopping went from being an adventure to being a chore. The first gloss in being an ex-pat was wearing thin.

It was then I enrolled for a Thai language class. That went south very quickly as even when I tried to show my mastery of the lingo, the Thais all laughed at me. Beaten by the tones once again.

Very early I was fortunate to make contact with the Bangkok Hospital Pattaya who could see there would be an advantage to having a native English speaker with medical credentials on staff. I am happy here.

At about the same time I was introduced to Peter Malhotra of the Pattaya Mail, a mutually beneficial association which still carries on today.

Like all ex-pats who morph into being a ‘hand’, old or otherwise, the bar scene becomes the central part of life, where one meets other hands, until you can see that the bar has become an essential. It isn’t, but can be such a trap for the older players. In jest I say that there are only two reasons for the ex-pat to stay to become an old hand – the first is the glorious weather and the second is about 5’ 2″ tall with dark brown eyes and long black hair.

My apprenticeship on the way to old handedness has taken 20 years, but in that time, Thailand and Pattaya has changed just so much. No longer do you just pay someone to get your driver license, you actually have to have a medical and (horrors) be seen by the doctor. No more exciting bus rides to Cambodia to renew visas (if they are ever going to give the world an enema, they’ll start at Poi Pet). As Pattaya has become engulfed in the global headlong rush to nowhere, you can see that it is not the ordinary person who gains, but a lot of intermediaries get rich (some with more than one expensive watch to ensure punctuality). The famous Thai smile must be no longer taught in schools as the smile turns into a snarl very quickly. And finally, with so many ex-pats leaving, you have fewer old hands with whom to complain.

The journey to becoming an old hand is fraught with danger, a major one being the aforementioned 5’2″. ATM jokes are not without substance. But on the other hand, Half-Thai children (Luk Kreung) are noteworthy for their pleasant nature and I remain delighted with mine.

Mr. Editor, I will finish this after the next 20 years. Please remind me.

Pattaya Blatt likes to join the many felicitators’ and sends it’s heartfelt wishes to Pattaya Mail’s 25th anniversary, the Silver-Jubilee! May success be furthermore at its side for the coming 25 years.

Pattaya Blatt celebrated recently on July 7th its 16th anniversary.

Elfi Seitz,

Executive Editor Pattaya Blatt