Extracts From The Diary of Dr J A Earnshawe (Part 4)
A Reputable Hotel, Sukhumvit Rd, Soi 4. Tuesday 21st March 2005
The nursing staff who accompanied me back to my hotel after my surgery late on Sunday night, were most kind, and I believe would have come with me all the way to my room if I had not insisted that I could manage the last leg on my own. I think it is a measure of their professionalism, that their concern for my welfare was so great, they had to be assertively ushered from the premises by a number of the hotel security staff.
It is now around 5pm, I have just returned from a visit to a rather curious modern art gallery in the city, the details of which I will recount in a moment. Later this evening, Cummings will call, as he is keen to show me some of the Bangkok night life (of which I gather he is so fond), and he is bringing with him another member of staff to meet me, a Mr Walker, Head of Chemical Sciences.
I did not record a diary entry yesterday because I was terribly busy all day, and then had an early night; I was absolutely exhausted.
When I take stock of my life in years to come, without any question the events of yesterday will stand out as perhaps the most momentous of my life. As I walked away from the desk of the Headmaster, Mr Holdsworthy, after my interview, my sense of relief and joy was so intoxicating that my shoes seemed to be barely touching the carpet. Cummings later offered the explanation that it was probably due to the fact that I wasn’t actually wearing any shoes, an unfortunate consequence of my having left my hotel in a rush after recurring bouts of diarrhoea, no doubt brought on by my insectivorous diet the evening before. My saving grace was that I was wearing black socks, so, hopefully, the Head may not have even noticed my sartorial misdemeanour.
However, in my euphoria, as I turned sharply to leave his study, I walked directly into the broom cupboard, upsetting a mop bucket that someone had very stupidly placed right at the entrance. It was only because of my training in marshal arts that I was able to swiftly catch the mop before it fell to the floor, but finding myself with it suddenly in my hand, I decided it would be best to walk out with it, pretending I had meant to take it with me all along. As I emerged from the room, I saw a figure coming towards me down the corridor, so I put my head down, feigning to mop the floor until they had passed by. However, they did not walk on, but stood by watching me intently. I looked up, and saw it was Cummings - grinning, in that sometimes inane way he has - and then making a remark that I greatly resented.
‘I see you weren’t successful in getting the Biol post then - but at least you seem to have got something out of it,‘ At that moment my embarrassment was further compounded when Mr Holdsworthy popped his head out of his study.
‘I’ll have my mop back now if you don’t mind, Dr Earnshawe. I need to clean up the mess you left behind in my study. I hope you can promise me that no further episodes of ill-timed misfortune will occur during our future meetings.’
‘I assure you they won’t Mr Holdsworthy,’ I said. I could feel my face reddening somewhat, and I was acutely aware of the immature sniggering of Cummings from behind. ‘I really am very sorry Headmaster, it was simply an unforeseen accident.’
As soon as the Head returned to his room, Cummings turned to me with a further impertinent observation.
‘Blimey Earnshawe, when you said you had a touch of diarrhoea this morning I didn’t know it was going to be that bad.’
Anyway, in spite of these few trifling hiccups (apart from having to be excused a couple of times due to my upset tummy, of course), I believe my interview went exceedingly well. Mr Holdsworthy seemed most eager to engage my services, and my contract is to begin early in September. Cummings confirmed that I had indeed made a big impression on the Head, and that he believed the reason for my selection was due to the fact that I was by far the most outstanding candidate for the position.
I couldn’t help but feel rather flattered by Cummings’ perceptive observations, which I believe went some way in redressing his earlier negative comments.
‘How many other candidates were there?’ I asked out of curiosity.
‘None,’ he grinned.
Back to the events of today; as I said, I was determined to engage in some sort of cultural activity this afternoon - an art gallery, or museum - something of that sort of thing. It amazes me that when people describe their holidays it appears that all they have done is lie around in the sun in the day, and in the evening hang around in a bar. I was determined to sample pleasures on a higher plane of life on this vacation, and not act like some uncultured Philistine. After all, I am an Englishman.
I just hoped my anti-diarrhoea tablets wouldn’t let me down this afternoon. It would come as a surprise to those that know me, that my father was a rather eccentric chap. Towards the end of his life in particular, he came to develop an unnatural preoccupation with his bowel movements. He would regularly comment on the turgidity of his stools and his regularity of evacuation. Occasionally, it was an enthusiastic, ‘I didn’t half go this morning!’, but more often than not, it was a miserable, ‘I’m all bound up today.’
I remember him frequently making links between his rectal impaction and current international affairs. On hearing about the nuclear test ban treaty, he remarked with a disappointing, ‘that’s a pity, that would have shifted it.’ He was also a kind of Egon Ronay of the public conveniences in our area, visiting and star rating them according to comfort, facilities and such. He would often write to the local newspaper about it, until they finally stopped printing his missives, which became rather repetitive. When I was younger, I thought my father was rather strange in his lavatorial obsessions, but now I am moving more and more towards the opinion there may be something rather compelling in it after all.
This afternoon, as I set off to find a taxi a peculiar three-wheeled vehicle pulled along side. It looked rather like a motor bike with a large box on the back, fitted out with benches for seats.
‘Take tuk-tuk?’ the driver called out to me.
Because I felt sorry for the dear chap, who not only appeared to have a bad stutter, but hadn’t even the money to afford a real taxi, I climbed inside. At least the ride would be inexpensive - if not a little draughty.
The driver turned to me and asked ,‘Where you go?’
‘The nearest Art Gallery if you don’t mind.’ However, my apparently simple request seemed to throw him into confusion.
‘At Galley? Not know at galley, what at galley?’
‘You know, pictures, sculptures and that sort of thing.’
‘Ah, pictures - have many pictures - you want?’ He then went on to produce, believe it or not, a number of exotic photographs of scantily clad ladies.
‘No young man, this simply will not do,’ I protested, ‘I want to see work by real painters - not pornographic images.’
‘Yes, painters; like Rembrandt, Constable, Leonardo…’
‘Don’t know painters’, he interrupted, ‘where on Sukhumvit I go to painters?’
‘I mean, surely you have heard of Leonardo de Vinci’, I appealed in exasperation.
He shook his head.
‘He painted The Mona Lisa? You must have heard of The Mona Lisa?’ His face lit up. ‘Ah, Mona Lisa!’ he shouted in the joy of recognition.
‘You want go look Mona Lisa?’ He asked.
‘Not unless you are taking me to Paris,’ I laughed. ‘But yes, I want to see the kind of place where they have that sort of thing.’
‘I understand,’ he winked, ‘take you Mona Lisa, no poblem.’ We set off down the road at great speed, I was forced to cling tightly to an overhead rail to stop myself falling out.
‘This gallery you’re taking me to’, I shouted above the racket from the motor bike engine, ‘is it modern or classical?’
‘It moden and clean, have many, many beautiful lady. You have very good time.’
Although I was rather disappointed that the establishment we were heading for seemed to be one of those specializing in ‘contemporary’ exhibits, which is not exactly to my taste, at least the cultural objective of my afternoon tour would be realised.
When we arrived at the gallery, a rather a large, grandiose building, I was greeted in the foyer by a very smartly dressed gentlemen, who welcomed me with the utmost courtesy, and led me to the first exhibit.
What I saw made me gasp in astonishment. I had seen quite some unusual exhibitions at the Spillers Warehouse in Gateshead, but nothing could have prepared me for this. I was utterly stunned by it. Tracy Emin’s unmade bed was nothing compared to this. The artist’s work was incredibly detailed and elaborate, and it must have taken an awfully long time to put together, but what he was actually trying to say was beyond me. I will try to describe it.
Behind a glass screen were several rows of benches, on which the artists models were seated like the audience of a small theatre. The models actually faced the window I was looking into, and I was the only one on stage, facing a crowd made up entirely of young ladies, who were not only extremely attractive, but were also in various states of undress. Every one of them was staring back at me; some smiling, some giggling, and others whispering to one another. It was a powerful statement. If the artist was obviously trying to communicate some kind of inner world, perhaps how it feels to be an actor on stage and be the focus of mass attention, even adulation. If my interpretation of the piece is correct, then I believe he has achieved his aim as far as I am concerned. It was a very moving experience, and at the same time a little intimidating.
After I had looked for quite some time, the gentleman who had greeted me at the door walked up at me. ‘You like? Which you like?’
I couldn’t answer him immediately. Unaccountably, I had lost my concentration. I was suddenly possessed by the greatest urgency to evacuate my bowels. ‘I say, I have a spot of bother.’ I whispered. ‘You couldn’t direct me to the gents could you?’
He looked puzzled. ‘You know, I want to wash my hands?’
He became even more baffled. ‘I need to go to the bathroom now.’ I implored him.
‘You go bathroom now?’ he asked at last. ‘Which you want? You must say which you want, then you go bathroom.’
Having to be specific about the excretory process I wanted to perform was rather strange to my way of thinking, but I was much too desperate to care. I whispered, ‘Actually, I want a number two, and if I don’t get to the bathroom soon, I think I’m going to do it right here.’
‘Ah, you want number two. I take care for you. You go with maid to bathroom. Number two will come quickly to you.’
‘I’m sure it will,’ I laughed, ‘But I hope I get to the bathroom first!’.
The maid showed me to the lavatory, which was quite a walk from the main exhibition room. On the way, I saw a number of other similar exhibits, most of them surrounded by staring Japanese tourists. Apart from containing models dressed differently - some in nightgowns, and some in bathing costumes - there seemed to be little difference between the exhibit I had viewed and the others I saw. I thought to myself that Thai artists exhibiting in this gallery seem to be short on ideas, and far too concerned with developing one theme for my liking.
In contrast, I must say that the toilet facilities were excellent. The room was surprisingly large, with a bath, shower and even a bed. The maid even asked me if I wanted anything to drink! The only fault I could find was that there was no bolt on the inside of the door, but when I pointed this out to the maid she assured me that she would see to it that I wasn’t disturbed. I wondered what my father would have made of this place! He would have died happy if he had ever visited such a wonderful lavatory.
After a difficult time, peace at last prevailed in my epigastric regions. I decided to take a shower; why not make use of the excellent facilities, I thought? There was no hurry - I doubted there was any thing interesting to see in this gallery.
After a very invigorating shower, I lay on the bed. I hadn’t taken my usual after lunch nap and I was feeling a little drowsy. However, in spite of the maid telling me I wouldn’t disturbed there was a little knock on the door. To my astonishment, before I could call out that the room was already engaged, a young lady walked straight in, came up to me and said in a rather sweet voice. ‘Hello. My name Fon. My manager - him sent me to give massage for you.’
I was totally flabbergasted, the toilet facilities really were exemplary!
‘Thank you so much,’ I said, ‘I am rather stiff.’
‘You stiff I see Ok I take care you relax lie on front.’
The only time I ever had a massage was after a long hike on the fitness training weekend that I completed as part of my martial arts course. My masseur then was an ex-army sergeant major with huge muscles. This was a different kind of experience all together. During my massage, Fon and I kept on ordering drinks. Why not? They also appeared to be a complementary part of the service. Fon’s hands were so soft and gentle that I relaxed rather quickly and must have dozed off a few seconds. ‘Please wake up.’ she said softly, ‘Now lie on back please.’
‘Thank you, that was ever so relaxing. I don’t feel stiff at all now.’
‘I sorry. I try make him happy again,’ she said somewhat strangely. To my horror, she then tried to remove the towel I had placed appropriately over my private region. But I grabbed the other end and held on to it firmly as she tugged at it. I had to almost fight her to keep my dignity intact.
‘What wrong - you shy?’ she grinned.
‘I’d just rather leave the towel where it is if you don’t mind.’
‘But how I take care you?’ she said, her face creased in apparent puzzlement.
I didn’t answer. In fact I couldn’t. I don’t know if it was the shock of my imminent exposure or a consequence of my gastronomic speculations, but my tummy rumblings had returned with an alarmingly vengeance. We both looked towards the source of the thunder. ‘I beg your pardon’, I said quietly, ‘would you excuse me a minute or two.’
It was quite some time before I could take another shower. I was even more exhausted this time (it does take it out of you) and I slumped on the bed. Soon, there was a little characteristic knock on the door. This time, I welcomed her most heartily.
‘Do come in my darling, I’m afraid I have become rather stiff again. But I’m sure it’s nothing that your pretty little hands can not take care of.’
To my astonishment, a gruff male voice replied. ‘Sorry sir, your time - it finished. You come reception please.’
‘But I didn’t realise these toilets had a time limit?’
‘Yes sir. You have 90 minute. You come please.’
I wasn’t interested in continuing my viewing of the gallery. What will stick at the foremost of my mind about my visit to a Thai modern art gallery is not the quality of the rather monotonous exhibits, but the sheer splendour of its toilet facilities. It really was so astounding I’m thinking of writing to the Bangkok Post about it.
When I got to the reception area I was very surprised to receive a bill from the manager. The massage and drinks I received in the gents were not free at all. I thought this was a bit of a con and told him so. ‘My dear fellow, I have no intention of paying for services I did not ask for - in the toilet of an art gallery of all places - particularly in a gallery as monotonous and uninspiring as this.’
I then held up my head and walked out, whereupon several men ran out in front of me and physically held me, forcing me back into the building. It wasn’t the money but the principle I was objecting to, however, to avoid further confrontation, and to relieve the pain in my left shoulder from my arm being forced up my back, I paid the wretched bill and left.
Back at my hotel, I was on the way to my room, when I again came across the Australian gentleman, who was slouched at the bar. I wanted to thank him for his kindness in recommending me the restaurant the previous evening, but realised I didn’t even know his name. So I walked up to him and introduced myself.
‘How do you do sir, my name is Earnshawe, John Earnshawe. I want to express my sincere gratitude to you for your kind help the other day.’
‘No problem John mate, glad to assist. The name’s Foster Foskin.’ His words seemed to be a little slurred - being a little worse for drink I suppose.
‘It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr Foreskin‘.
‘No Foskin - I said - the names Foskin.’
‘Yes, you just told me Mr Foreskin.’ in full sympathy with the devastating effects of alcohol on short term memory. ‘By the way, you may be interested to know that I went to the Mona Lisa this afternoon. I found it a wretched disappointment, and was caught rather short, but just made it to the gents - which incidentally - was a rather special experience.’
‘Strewth John - you don’t need to go to public toilets for that sort of thing in this day and age. This is Bangkok mate, you can do that sort of thing anywhere,’ he said, which, even coming from an Australian, greatly surprised to me.
‘You may do it anywhere Mr Foreskin,’ I countered, ‘but I am an Englishman, and we have standards to uphold as an example to the rest of the world.’ I gave him a brief look of indignance and walked off. It seems as if the inhabitants of our Australian colony have hardly progressed since we implanted the original stock of deported cockney convicts hundreds of years ago.
From now on, whenever I see a pert pile of excrement in a street, I will not automatically assume the perpetrator was a stray dog. It is just as likely that it was deposited by an Australian.
J A Earnshawe BSc PhD
Dr Earnshawe may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org