Elephant’s Leg


MOMENTS, EVENTS AND PEOPLE THAT DEFINED 2012

As the end of last year approached and people started talking resolutions and fresh starts, and so on, I thought I didn’t really have much to report from 2012. My work had remained much the same, I had no new love interests, I continued to live in the same place, I had only one visitor and I’d only taken one foreign holiday. However, I had a browse through my Facebook friends list and phone contacts to jog my memory and it turns out 2012 was actually pretty packed, albeit mostly with small moments, but perhaps a long list of different – and mostly happy – moments is a good year after all. On that note, in no particular order, I present the people, places and things that shaped the past year for me.

FAMILY

Grandpa, smiling until the end

Grandpa, smiling until the end

Losing two family members in 2012. Until last year, death was a fairly alien concept to me, as nobody close to me had passed away. However in May I lost my Grandpa Tony, and two months later my Auntie Letty. However, both lived long and fulfilling lives, enriched the lives of those they met, and passed away in their sleep. We can ask for no more than that for our loved ones.

My Welsh grandparents continuing to be in excellent health, and great company whenever I see them.

I know my cousin Joe Doyle wants his worries to remain private, so I won’t write about them, but I do wish to salute his bravery in bearing a burden I can’t even imagine. Much love and best wishes to him and others who are praying for the same thing.

FRIENDS

It was great (and kinda surreal!) to see Jim Bentley get married, and brilliant to see Dominic Whyle at the wedding. I hadn’t seen either of my old uni pals for seven or eight years. It was also great to complete the university hat-trick by meeting Jane Bebbington twice, both here and back home. I think Jane and Dom hadn’t seen each other since graduation – 12 years prior!

Another “surprise” wedding involving Mark Fenn and Ning. A shame I couldn’t attend but it was great for the old lush Mark to finally find – and marry – a lovely woman.

Almost as surprising was Tony Newman getting a girlfriend!

And perhaps the most surprising events of the year were nights out with Tong Inberd when she didn’t get smashed!

L-R Frank, Andy, me, Liam, Jason

L-R Frank, Andy, me, Liam, Jason

My trip home in May proved very therapeutic. I was still feeling upset and frustrated about the situation with my ex-girlfriend and I was reminded of how good it feels to be appreciated by my old pals – many thanks to Jason Roberts, Frank Williams, Piers Evans, Jim Bentley, Andy Smith, Rachel Jones, Liam Hunt, Jane Bebbington, Dominic Whyle and Nick Ellis.

The wonders of the internet allowed me to stay up until the wee hours on Christmas night, chatting with my best mate Jason and sharing a few cans at a distance of some 8,000 miles! That might sound “sad”, but I’d been working on Christmas Day anyway and he was alone in his new house and we ended up having a great laugh! Again, an example of the power of old friendships.

Ted Howes coming through an incredibly traumatic few months with that infectious smile intact. Welcome back, Ted!

Phornthip Korkaewkedsera just being so nice all the time! If everyone was like her, the world would be a better place!

Several staff at Denny’s Corner bar becoming good friends. Thanks for the fun late nights!

Meeting an old internet friend in Gavin Mitchell when he came to Bangkok in September. Strange to make an online friendship “real” after four or five years, but why not. (Except for him being a bit of a bad influence in hauling me out drinking too much!)

After something like 18 years, seeing old school friend Stuart Maxwell again when he too came to Bangkok, with his beautiful fiancee Kiki. Some people may be critical of Facebook, but reunions like this would not be possible without it.

PLACES

Finding a “secret” beach in Sattahip after a pretty random road trip with Mum during her visit in March. Sometimes a lack of a plan can turn up treasures!

Mount Pinatubo

Mount Pinatubo

My sole foreign holiday was in January to the Philippines, which has always appealed due to its geographical and cultural combination of my two favourite regions – the Far East and the South Pacific. Manila was inconvenient and chaotic, yet somewhat compelling. It reminded me of what Bangkok may have been like 20 years ago. Mount Pinatubo, meanwhile, was utterly striking from approach to ascent to summit, with its gorgeous volcanic crater lake. Finally, a bit of history, peace and quiet, and the wonderful black-sand beaches and World War II relics of Corregidor island rounded off a nice three-stop holiday.

Despite having grown up in North Wales, I was blown away by the sweeping greenery of the countryside there when I went out for a drive on a gloriously sunny spring day during my annual trip home. Perhaps I’ve been living in the concrete jungle too long.

Similarly, the Scottish Highlands never cease to amaze me. I was fortunate enough to see my Grandpa one last time before he passed away in May, and while I was there I took my Grandma out for a drive and walk through the dramatically bleak scenery there. Even though she has lived in Scotland for more than 25 years now, she has had so many responsibilities in caring for Grandpa that she rarely got to appreciate what was around her, and she was overjoyed even with such a fleeting trip out.

BOXING

Getting fit in preparation for the boxing match that never was. However, even though the fight didn’t happen, due to getting my nose badly broken with 2 months to go, the benefits of the training have been obvious. In 2012, I felt fitter and my boxing was better than since I was a teenager. Thanks to Jitti Gym and Bangkok Fight Club.

Craig v Franck

Craig v Franck

Making new mates at Bangkok Fight Club – Craig Somerville, Tony Wrigley, Anthony Van Sleeuwen, Dale Larson, Scott Watters, Franck Marin – proving that boxing is a wonderful way to make and consolidate friendships.

The Dusit Thani Operation Smile Fight Night in October which featured the aforementioned guys was a great event for a very worthy cause. I really wish I had competed, but I was still a part of it as I worked a corner for the first time ever, as a second for Dale.

L-R Slowey, Poonsawat and Weir

L-R Slowey, Poonsawat and Weir

An interesting visit in February by Paul Weir – former two-time WBO champ – and his charge Jon Slowey, who came over for some world class sparring with Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym, and others. Paul, now a trainer, is probably my highest-level friend in boxing and it’s always good to catch up with him, and Jon proved very talented and charismatic.

Doing a big piece for Fighting Fit on the training regime of Thailand’s biggest-name boxer, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, only for him to lose just after the article went to press! Then, later in the year, seeing him lose to a journeyman and then retire. I loved watching Pongsaklek and it’s a shame I didn’t move to Thailand until he was past his best.

Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez‘s fourth fight, in December, was incredible from start to finish and a resounding reminder of why I am a boxing fan.

NIGHTLIFE

Denny's Corner

Denny’s Corner

Denny’s Corner on Sukhumvit Soi 22 has long been one of my favourite bars in Bangkok but I almost became a resident there in the second half of the year, thanks to the great staff there, cheap beer, making new friends, the occasional dalliance, and extremely flexible closing times!

Innumerable nights out with Dan Calderbank and Alex Choi Ingamells underlining the maxim “friendships are based on alcohol, sarcasm and mutual dislike of the same people”.

Cultivating hangovers of formidable distinction in Prestatyn. I don’t get especially bad hangovers in Thailand, so why is it that I wake up the next day feeling like a bus has parked on my head after my annual reunions with my old North Wales mates?

Discovering Brew pub in Thong Lor. Sick of the same 5-10 beers in every shop and bar in the country, Brew is a revelation with its menu of almost 200 choices. An occasional treat, though , as it’s very expensive.

FILMS

The Impossible was an extremely well-done take on the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, from the perspective of a western family holidaying in Khao Lak, Thailand. Despite the natural drama, it never crossed into melodrama, and despite the devastation, it showed Thailand in a great light.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas delivered on its promise for me. I didn’t think such big themes could be incorporated into one movie but it worked really well and gave me much to think about.

Skyfall was a great, old-fashioned James Bond romp, with the added edge of Daniel Craig’s “vulnerable Bond”. I also loved the cinematography in the Scottish Highlands.

Finally, American Reunion was that rarity – a top-quality late sequel. It also resonated with me because I loved the original American Pie trilogy and I’m roughly the same age as the characters, so I was tuned in to the theme of “growing older” and challenges that we face in our 30s, with certain responsibilities but keen memories of our youth.


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