Nice day for a white wedding
I'm sure a kid with live ammunition would have that exact desired effect but he no longer has the gun because Waan gave it to Buaruum who is a soldier and our money to the offended family. I also suggested Ouan give the lad another kicking when no one is looking. I did wonder if this was a shotgun wedding but the answer was 'no' and I asked who the girl was in case Ouan had offended another family.
The family were not happy about their schoolgirl daughter having a boyfriend and Mae was up in arms because he was taking the girl back to her house in the spare bedroom when she was supposed to be at school. Yeah I nearly feinted at what was going on but turns out the girl is eighteen. They weren't doing anything wrong or illegal but the girl's mother was insisting on they get married because her daughter is no longer eligible. So I ask the obvious question, "How much?"
Now three hundred thousand isn't a massive amount of money even in this day and age but it is enough to buy a small house, it is being greedy. Waan said they are a wealthy family and Farng is their only daughter but I still objected on the grounds they want seven thousand pounds because I am a falang. Well I'm not his father so what are they going to do? I looked at Waan's face and could see how much this hurt. She was heartbroken because she had no money left after the death of her father and her mum being so ill but we had spent thirty thousand pounds in the last two years and none of it was on ourselves. "I not ask you for the money Rish," she said quietly, "I ask you to help me get the money. You are not Papa and I do money for Mae every munt, I do for Por when him dead, I spend money too much for Kanda to bring she England. An I not do anytin for Ouan. I want you show me how to sell my insuran and my gole."
I suggested him coming to England to work and start a new life like his sister. But he didn't want it. He really wanted to marry this girl. I talked to my friend Bleak about it and he suggested they live together for twelve months and then marry without sin sod. By now Waan was talking regularly to Pun, the girl's mother, and put it to her rather bluntly that I was unhappy with a 19 year old lad marrying because in a years time they'll have a baby, have a row, find a new girlfriend and it be all over with me as much as ten grand out of pocket and her stuck with a grandchild. If I was going to spend serious money on Ouan I wanted it to be permanent. I even resorted to bribery offering to buy him a car but nothing enticed him. He wanted to marry this girl.
Then family members started getting involved telling Ouan he was selfish wanting to marry when his grandma was so ill. The headaches were getting worse and she was making regular trips to the hospital for treatment for something unknown. That grated a bit because it wasn't any of his aunties places to say such a thing, and I told Waan her son can't live his life for his grandmother, he has to have his own life. There was a progressive resistance to this wedding notion that was driving both Ouan and myself more toward it than away as the entire family wanted. First came his aunt telling him if he goes to live with his girlfriend's family he cannot ever come back, which annoyed me because it isn't her house to apply any prohibition. She lives with her in-laws. Pot, kettle, black by any chance? Then family members stopped talking to him and made him feel ostracised which made me angry and I ordered Waan to speak to them and tell them to pack it in. And then came the last straw. It was if anything the single most destructive remark made to Ouan. Mae told him to never under any circumstances come and ask her for money. The money she has is by benefit of us in England. Waan has a small income from a pension and because I have no need for that money I set up a bank account that Mae could get money every month from the ATM. She has a comfortable life because of us, it is Ouan's mother's money and caused me to say the most frightful thing for which I am beleaguered. I told Ouan he would be better off without his family and that I would find the money for his wedding.
For some reason that had the desired effect. Waan stopped getting upset, though she still worried herself sick about me having to pay for it. The family stopped bickering and went to hold negotiations with Pun on our behalf. I was happy Lert went to head it up. I trust him. Then P Pun came out with an unexpected offer. She wanted us to buy her daughter two baht of gold and give her one hundred thousand, though she did comment 'one hundred thousand not much money', and she would pay for the wedding. She also wanted to set Ouan up in his own business and was going to give him some land. I got suspicious that maybe her daughter was really ugly or something because she was giving a lot more than we would have to. And so, after consulting with the monks and them looking at the manuscripts to find the luckiest day, the Wedding Day was set for January 28th 2013.
A wedding isn't everyone's idea of a good time I know. Expensive, people you don't like and likely won't see again despite them saying "Oh you really must come and see us sometime", drunken buffoons, children sliding on their knees, karaoke, mayonnaise, plastic beer glasses, a family fight, and a two hour boring ceremony in a church that you have no affinity with!
I hate churches. The only people who do like them are people who have been brainwashed with fear. It is not their place to tell the rest of us right from wrong. That's our Governments job. And yet they all provide the morality for Governments around the world based on a single premise. That if you believe you are a good person and if you don't you have been misled by an evil one. It is not because you have a choice and can think for yourself. Well I can think for myself and that is why all religions have absolutely nothing to say that is of interest to me and makes any religious service the most wrist cuttingly disinteresting thing in life. Which is why a wedding isn't on my list of 100 things to do before I die.
I was in two minds about Mae when we arrived whether she was milking it for all she could or if it was genuine. Her skin was pale and I could see she was very ill. She slept most the time and in between went for more treatment at the hospital but she came home on the second day of our visit with a Doctors report on her illness. It was diagnosed in English and the family couldn't read it so they asked me to translate. That wasn't the easiest thing to do and sinusitis isn't in the Thai/English translation dictionary. It was a simple diagnosis that gave the girls heart that Mae would recover but she could not be left alone. It was causing fluid in the side of her head to build up and was infected but a simple operation to drain it would cure her. But according to Mae on top of the headaches she couldn't hear, see, talk or eat. She could no longer look after herself and on the day of the wedding the girls would have to choose which one would be staying behind to look after her. She had made it clear she was too ill to attend her grandson's wedding.
On the morning Waan woke very early. I think it must have been about 4.00 a.m. and I had been on a stag night. Wow it was painful and I gave consideration to Mae's Morphine. I wasn't looking forward to this at all as I scrabbled around in the dark trying to find the Anadin Extra. Waan said I had to drive her and Ouan to the town to pick up his suits, note that IS plural, and she had to have her hair done. I came to once I was up and moving, it wasn't that bad, until the hairdresser at the salon said she hadn't got time to do Waan's hair. That didn't go down well so I suggested breakfast.
Only in Thailand can you get breakfast freshly cooked before dawn by a woman who has a friend who is a hairdresser and gives you her home address. Also only in Thailand can you wake up a hairdresser in their home at 5.00 a.m. and ask them to do your hair. And if you think that is remarkable, only in Thailand will said hairdresser tell you she is tired and will make a mess of your hair so gives you an address of someone who will happily do it at this time of the morning. And she did. In her pajamas and dressing gown at that. All she asked was that we wait for her to have a cup of coffee and would I like one as well? An hour later we were back home with Waan looking stunning and as the sun came up the rituals began with blessing the best boy, Ouan's cousin who is only a 14 year old lad, but he had it in him to do the job and relished the idea even though it meant making speeches and whatnot. I was saddened to see Mae staring away into the distance seemingly making a point of not taking part in this wedding that she had objected to so strongly. A few days ago before we arrived in the village Mae had said to Ouan that he was killing her by leaving to marry.
I left them to the blessings and got dressed just in time to get the lecture off Waan on the La Biang before setting off. The usual stuff about behaving and not getting drunk or telling rude jokes and chatting up bridesmaids etc. My job apparently was to get Ouan there on time but where I had no idea. "Is at the howt," Waan snapped at me but I had no idea whose house and if she meant Pun I had never been there. Lert drove.
Now oddly, Lert drove our pick up to Pun's house and we waited on the land opposite that is going one day to be Ouan's car lot business. Then someone else drove Lert's truck to the same destination. In Thailand they think nothing of this mixing up of property and simply share things round while in the UK the Police will stop you for no insurance. And mates wonder why I'm pissed off with Britain. When the first of the family arrived with the back full of relatives I could only think of the Clampetts and in my head couldn't get rid of 'The Ballad of Jed Clampett' tang-a-langing on the banjo inside my head so I burst out laughing. Something that Waan decided was inappropriate and she snapped at me again. P Pun meanwhile came out to greet me and gave me fifty thousand baht, "To make the sin sod look good," she said. I really liked this lady. She understood me that I wasn't a poor falang and neither was I mean but she wanted the witnesses to see I was willing to pay a lot for her daughter when it was really her own money. There had been comments from some of Waan's family that Pun wasn't of good heart but I couldn't see why if she was willing to go this far and wanted Ouan so much to be part of her family. Ouan comes from poor stock, Pun could have told him to sling his hook and sent her daughter back to school, and still demanded 300,000 baht from us in damages.
Waan looked really proud of her son. I knew I had done the right thing as the crowd gathered and set off with the speaker yelling that Ouan was going to have to do the right thing for his bride tonight followed by the crowd whooping and laughing. I was starting to enjoy it. Ouan had to stand on sharp stones and balance while his brother-in-law to be washed his feet. To fall off would bring the newlyweds bad luck or even make his prospective mother-in-law cancel the operation. But he was as steady as the rock beneath his feet. He really meant this and I began to relax thinking just maybe he will stay with this girl for good. Unfortunately in Issan an estimated 65% of teenage marriages end in divorce. There are no real figures as many are not registered and boys simply walk away but it doesn't bode well when Ouan has yet to stick at anything for more than a year. He left school a year early with no job to go to. He became a monk but left after one year. He joined the Ambulance service and packed that in and tried valeting cars for a living but got bored with that and I know why, he's a teenager, he doesn't know what he wants yet. And his mum agrees with me.
The sin sod had to be counted out note by note and takes a remarkably long time when it's a quarter of a million baht. The village spokesman shouted out "If I had that much money I would count it again and again all day long" causing the room to break into laughter. This was a joyous occasion that didn't merit my cynicism and besides, I had never seen Waan look so happy. So then the first bridesmaid is brought down the stairs and the chap in charge of the weddings asks loudly if this is the bride to which Ouan is supposed to reply no. The crowd shouts out no with him and I managed very bravely not to shout 'Yes it is, are you completely mad?'. Then the second bridesmaid is brought down and the same is asked again but I couldn't take it. I tried so very hard but the words just came out involuntarily, 'Yes it is' I blurted, 'He is confused, he had too much to drink last night.' Needless to say Waan wasn't best pleased with me.
Although he probably was making the right decision as the two bridesmaids were a right pair of miseries. They never cracked a smile. I asked Waan if it is because they are losing their friend to marriage or is this supposed to be a solemn occasion or what but she said no, they're just a pair of miseries. They left the moment the ceremony was done and never came back though to be fair Waan said they had to go to school. Leaving me feeling like a right pervert for my shameful thoughts.
Then for the next ritual Waan said to me to follow her. I knelt in front of the happy couple and asked Waan in English "What do I have to do," for fear of embarrassing her. 'I don't know' she answered; Great! But it was fast becoming a bit weird and not entirely comfortable as the parents had to take the couple to their bedroom. The pair knelt on the bed and gave thanks to Buddha followed by a very large tray of food being placed in front of them at which point I couldn't resist again and told them they were not allowed out of the bedroom for three days. At least this time everyone laughed and I didn't get told off by Waan. Half an hour that took. That's my idea of a wedding ceremony, now let's party.
There was a decent crowd in the garden for the afternoon party. Lert complete with baby bottle in top pocket was enjoying nannying the ladies tables. Uncle Joy and my mate Kwaang sat with Joy's son and grandson while I pestered them to have a drink. Laos food was in abundance and beautifully cooked and presented by Pun's brother and magnificently directed by Pun herself. The dinner was faultless, if you were Issan that is. I made up for it by drinking twice as much beer.
What was amazing was just how fast it all went. The food, the drink, the time, simply flew by and it was getting dark. But Pun had thought of everything as the floodlights came on and music started blaring out and by now with beer goggles firmly fitted I was in my stride. The night-watchman on a double century setting the pace of the match I wasn't going to be bowled or run out despite Waan's attempts to retire from the innings. Meanwhile Pun was asking me if I will sing on the stage later on. The Thai word 'sing' means to make a sound or play a tune or even to sing so toot sing is a fart, tong sing is a burp, and sing is karaoke. Even this pissed I wasn't doing that.
It was about this point when Waan told me as Ouan's guardian father I had to make a speech up on the stage. Ahh the dawning of realisation eh! That's what Pun meant by get on the stage and sing. Of course it then dawned on me I hadn't prepared for a speech and had no idea what to say so I asked Pun for a piece of paper and a pen and tried to write. Boy was I drunk and the scrawl was as legible as Thai calligraphy. Three times I had to have a go at writing before I could even think of what to say. All I knew was that I wanted to do it our way and make it funny which is why Waan told me I could say what I wanted in English.
Now in fairness Waan's English is reasonable but it is conversational English. An after dinner speech with a couple of jokes is going to be beyond her appreciation and the other 120 guests will have absolutely no idea what I am saying. That means I have to think of something funny to say in Thai. The problem there is I can ask for food, I can go shopping, I can even talk to an architect, but I can't do Thai jokes so I have to ask Waan to help me write something which includes several words I have not heard before and cannot pronounce.
Waan suggests I speak slowly so the drunks and uneducated can understand my accent. She's not wrong, I took Mae to the hospital late at night one time and there was a young chap with a baby boy who was rather boisterous. I asked how old his son was and he couldn't understand me. I tried several times but he couldn't grasp it and yet my mate Bleak who speaks Thai exceptionally well, I am reliably informed by my step-daughter, says I can speak Thai rather well. Actually one time in the Beergarden in Sukhumvit Road Bleak disappeared to talk to a girl who had just gone out the door. The girl sat next to me who had been talking to him before he disappeared said she couldn't understand him when he speaks. I told her my daughter reckons he speaks Thai really well but she countered "No, when him speak Ingleesh I not understan him". I refrained from telling her 'neither do I'.
I placed myself at the far end of the line so I could work up to my turn expecting the compere to start at the end of the line. He did, but at my end of the line. Now I have seen in theatres that heckling in Thai is the only time Thais are rude so I knew what to expect. What I didn't expect was it to begin with the compere telling the audience they have to listen to us talk whether they want to or not. And while I am listening to the Master of ceremonies Pun says to Waan 'do you want to go first?' to which she nods in agreement. Now I didn't mind until Waan turned to me and handed over the microphone and said 'you first'. To which I replied 'yeah thanks for that love'.
Understanding Thai humour is not easy for Brits until you see them beside themselves watching Mr. Bean or Benny Hill. They love people remonstrating, being visual, and they are amused when someone is put on the spot so to speak, so I was confident I had their audience because I was certainly that. So, flapping open an A4 piece of paper brought the expected heckle of 'keep it short', I was up and running thank goodness. What I said was as you'd expect of a wedding speech of 'good evening ladies and gentlemen' and the confidence arrived when I heard the surprised ooh from those who didn't know I could speak some Thai. I pretty much went on that I am happy the couple find love and that they invited me to their wedding and the joke that doesn't work in English that I hope the ladies and gentlemen can understand my Thai but I want them to know that I hope that Ouan and Farng love long, live long, and grow old together without spending all their money. I then finished off by saying "See, not long" after a chap shouted out "I'm glad that wasn't long" and forgetting that I said it in English so I had to say it again which brought about a round of appreciation. Thank goodness!
Welcome to my world of language confusion. Nearly every time I return to England for the first few weeks I cannot remember English words for things and once shouted out when I slipped with a screwdriver, "Oui khun hee", which wouldn't have mattered if there hadn't been a Thai lady in earshot but would have been just as bad if I'd said it in English.
When I pass the microphone to Waan she tells everyone she cannot think of anything to say. Planning is mentioned on page 10. Issan doesn't do planning so as a joke I try to pass her my speech and tell her "Here, read that out"..
Then we got kaylied and Farng's dad got me up dancing. I'm fifty four years old so I dance like your dad at a wedding. Actually I never could dance, my joints lack the ability to move in a manner describable as dancing, I look more like I'm going to start a fight. But after something like 15 or 20 bottles of lager and two and a half bottles of Hong Thong I genuinely believed I could dance. I wasn't alone either, the dancing showgirl with a superb set of infant's lunchboxes thought so too and made a pass at me. I would say I was flattered but I wasn't, I was really annoyed, and next time I go to a wedding it will be with mates instead of the missus.
As for the entertainment, the singing was out of tune, although perhaps not to Thai ears, the dancing was unchoreographed, but at least it wasn't wooden, and nobody cared. We were just having a good time.
I said to Pun that we were really happy that Ouan had found himself a new family and a good family at that. And not only had he found a new family but we had new friends as well. She was moved by it, but she deserved it. So then she went off to get herself photographed with her new friends. Waen who by now was seriously inebriated felt compelled to get in shot just about everywhere including with Pun and Waan. But nobody cared. Lert meanwhile, who happens to be Waen's husband, was in a similar state, then again he usually is when he and I are together and drinking. And Waan thought my dancing a source of pure enjoyment to behold.
Come two a.m. though and we'd been up since four a.m. the day before, I was done.
The last time I had this much fun I was eight years old. I have to do this again..