Richard Constable

Lamentable times in the land of the smiles

When drinking nights turn sour

Not far from a massive educational campus which I'd been working at and living on for sometime, stood the local watering hole, and where there occured a memorable event that I'd much sooner forget.

After school

We'll call it the Pond because it was basically an open wooden shack with a makeshift bar-come-restaurant and rough-hewn furniture to match, that looked out onto a substantial pond. The Pond wasn't without its charms set in a quiet recess with a tranquil ambience, comfortable, reasonably priced and somewhere where you could frequently find a few familiar faces.

One humid Friday evening in late July, teachers having finished their teaching duties for the week were gathering there to partake of a few alcoholic beverages, hopefully to share some amicable chit-chat, still foremostly to enjoy a relaxing night out with colleagues. Although, the best laid plans of mice and men sadly as we know to our cost often fall by the wayside.

Intent on trouble

Two Southern Irish brothers, both teachers at the very same school, were intent on altering the atmosphere of this pleasant yet unornamented pothouse. From now on, we'll call them Rohan and Michael, who were both in their late thirties at the time, strongly made and quite tall. Frankly the pair by all accounts were on this specific night spoiling for a fight, namely for some reason or other that never became clear. Expressly, as in making unprovoked and provocative comments such as 'English, we don't like the English'.

Comments like that amongst others were made with a sinister undertone even when  spoken in a rich and attractive Irish brogue caused many customers to swig up and leave before they'd have otherwise.

The young American

Contrastingly, some remained to witness the outcome which began when a good-natured and gregarious American entered with his petite Filipina wife. The American had gotten a teaching position at the school that very afternoon and would be starting on Monday. And he'd somehow heard that the Pond was a place where foreign teachers hung out, so he'd come to introduce himself and meet his soon-to-be fellow educators

Maybe, the young American was a little naive as these premises were never really a suitable setting for a lady. And perhaps he surely could've chosen to sit at a more congenial table than Rohan and Michael's, or at least he might've swigged up and left a little sooner than he did.

Insulted and assaulted

Apparently, the brothers goaded him relentlessly, first insulting him, then his wife and finally his country, until his pride could take no more and he took a misguided swing at one of the brothers.

Their reaction was along the lines of what you'd expect, where the brothers both set about the wretered American, not only beating him with their fists - but ultimately each smashed a glass on either side of the poor fella's face.

The outcome

As a result, he ended up in a hospital bed and not surprisingly never took up his position at the school. The upshot for Michael was that he was abruptly fired, presumedly as the American or possibly his wife informed the school of the ghastly event. Anyhow, Rohan managed by fair means or foul to slip through the net and taught at the school for a couple more years.

Worse to come

What is more, two years or so later at the same school one Monday afternoon where my Issan wife phoned me to tell me "Somebody die here already!" Therein, she surmised it might be 'An ol gal' a Thai teacher getting on in years. Her guess subsequently proved to be a far cry from the reality.

The actual truth

At 10:30 am on a fateful Monday morning a young Northern Irish teacher Kenneth, went to check on his friend and co-teacher, Tom, a thirtyish EFL teachers' teacher and English teacher.

Tom had failed to arrive at Building 3 that morning where he was due to teach, nor had he phoned in sick and as Tom was reliable, Kenneth was sent to check on him at his school apartment on the campus. Having knocked on his door and having not gotten an answer, Kenneth tried the door only to find it unlocked and being concerned for his close friend pushed it ajar.

Tragically, Kenneth was confronted with the terrible sight of his friend's corpse lying on a bed, whereas he immediately informed the Thai head of Building 3.

Late arrivals

The police did not arrive at the apartment until around 6:30 in the evening. Incredibly, during those 8 hours the school's hierarchy, director, heads of buildings, lesser mortals both Thai and foreign teachers, security guards, janitors, and maids, had all been in and out of Tom's apartment.

Consequently, the sight that the law officers were met with would not have been remotely the same as the one which Kenneth had viewed earlier that same day. As in, the apartment was now spotlessly clean, more significantly all hard drugs and apparatus had been removed.

Shockingly, as it turned-out completely unbeknown to me and most of the teachers and vast numbers of staff, there had been a 'secret society' of a round half dozen foreign teachers 'shooting up' to coin a phrase - on the school's grounds.

The repercussions were that three got the sack including the aforementioned Rohan, a Dutch guy and another expat teacher that I cannot recall.

Another, by the name of Matt, who was favoured by the female Thai head of Building 3, limped on as a teacher for one more year. At present, Matt should be serving the last 6 months of a 4 year sentence in a prison in Nonthaburi - for dealing drugs.

The last I heard of Kennerh was that he was still teaching at the school and was hopefully, still clean.

Whereas, three years since, whilst working at a known government school, I heard an Irish voice shout 'I know that face!' and when I looked around I saw the craggy yet handsome face of Michael. Blood being thicker than water, he went on to tell me how both he and Rohan were then living at the same apartment block in Min Buri, surrounded by a group of cronies in a storyline which wouldn't have been out of place in Daphne Du Murier's Jamaica Inn.

Before this day, a man who had been, by all accounts 'A fine English teacher' young Tom's death had only ever gotten a mention in a Thai tabloid. Moreover, and most controversially - the autopsy upon his body was never able to establish a cause of death. 


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