About the Author
Love me, love my jeep!
Andrew Hicks first came to Thailand in the late seventies and in more recent years has travelled extensively throughout the country with backpack and notebook, observing the interaction of Thais and foreign visitors.
In his various incarnations he has been a corporate lawyer in London and a lecturer at universities on four continents. When living in Hong Kong, his interest in and concern for migrant workers led him to write a best-selling self-help manual for Filipina domestic helpers. That concern is also a primary focus of this, his first novel.
He is also the author, among other books, of The Nigerian Law of Hire Purchase, The Company Law of Singapore and The Company Law of Malaysia, none of which offer nearly as good a story-line as Thai Girl.
He has lectured at universities in Nigeria for three years, in Hong Kong for seven years, in Singapore for five years and England for ten years and has had homes in six different countries. He has written numerous childrens’ stories and synopses for more novels and intends to keep writing. He is keen on sailing, classic cars and cats. Phobia… computers. Politics… grey. Favourite colour… blue.
The author and friend at the fishing village on stilts, Koh Chang
‘I’m not really this good looking!
Acknowlegements – My Thai Girl and I
It’s so difficult writing thank you’s because specifically including some implicitly excludes others. The greatest thanks also go to those who did not necessarily do anything specifically for the book but made everything possible in many different ways.
Most of all that means my Thai family and everyone in the village who have of course been my inspiration. You’ll know them all if you’ve already read the book! And as for you, Cat, you may not know the Elton John song, but I hope you don’t mind if I’ve put down in words how wonderful life’s been… This is ‘your book’.
So many other people have helped me, reading drafts, giving encouragement and pushing me on to complete the book. They know who they are and I thank them all, but very selectively must mention Peter Tucker, Anthony Allen, Jerry Hopkins, Anna and Will Proctor, Michael Hicks and Tamsyn Matthews, Mike Chapman, William Ellis, Bjorn Turmann and Maria Monahov, but there are so many more.
I owe special thanks to Khun Kanitha, Khun Chen and Khun Imjid at Asia Books without whose personal kindness and efforts the book would not get sold, to all staff at Amarin Printing and Publishing who did so excellent a job, and most of all to Khun Chayanont of Leno Design who did all the design work and typesetting.
With digital text, I thought there was no type setting any more but I was wrong. We sat at Nont’s computer for about forty five hours coaxing the text into tidy shapes around the pictures, making sure where possible that paragraphs didn’t run over and that chapters ended at the bottom of a page and all the while I made a nuisance of myself making neurotic changes to the wording.
Nont, you were so good to work with and so very patient. The quality of the end product speaks volumes, if that’s the right word. Yes, you were magnificent!
Acknowlegements – Thai Girl
This book has been several years in the writing and I have bored far too many of my friends with my tribulations as author. They are too numerous to mention individually and I am sure to leave somebody out… but here goes anyway. I would like to thank all of you named below who have helped me, in particular in reading drafts of the book and who gave me the quotes that appear on the back cover of the book. Also the friends, especially Thais, who have inspired me and helped me in so many other ways. They remain anonymous but they will know who they are.
The names are roughly chronological, though my first thanks must go to Watana Petchsingh, my editor at TYS Books for so thorough a job in producing the book and who must be the only person in Bangkok who knows how to spell restaurateur and who knows a zeugma when he sees one. (The book is full of them!)
My sincere thanks go especially to Inda Bevis, Tony French and Marilyn Honiton, Anna Evans, John Coombes, Robert Drury, Michael Hicks, Diana Green, Steph and David Stevens, Anney Hess, Prachoen Mananasom, Bill Ellis, Ponnie Green, Anna Proctor, Dave Eburne-Day, Juliette Murray, William Ramseyer, Bill Worner, Douglas Pearce, Michael Green, Patrick Harvey, Maria Monahov, Iain and Camilla Dryden, Charles Henn, Roger Seal, Nigel Carr, Todd Lavelle, Mary Bennett, Gavin Mackenzie, Claire Sutcliffe, Steve Van Beek, Robin Sparks, Sally Peacock, Mia Hansson, Dave Beach, Peter Tucker, Richard Palumbo, Steven Epstein, James Green, Visnu Kongsiri and last but definitely not least Trevor Simpson. Without them the book might not have made it, though please blame me and not them.
Perhaps my greatest gain from writing “Thai Girl” has been the privilege and pleasure of knowing and working with Watana Petchsingh, the proprietor of TYS who edited and produced the book. And this now has become my greatest loss.
As we worked together on the book, tragically I could see Watana’s health slowly deteriorating. He was always alert and thoroughly efficient and he was totally committed to the book, clinging to the routine of work and normality, though I fear our long meetings tired him. As we completed the production of “Thai Girl” he remained courageous and upbeat, now jaunty in his Tam O’ Shanter, worn to cover his loss of hair. It was a great moment for me when he presented me with the first copies and asked me to sign one for him.
When later I left for a four month trip to the UK (May 2004) he asked me to buy a kaleidoscope for his four year old son, and shaking me firmly by the hand across his desk said, ‘Have a good trip, Andrew. See you when you get back.’ But it was not to be.
He was such a lovely man, warm and gracious and with a sly sense of humour. In this tough city, I always felt that I was dealing with someone who was primarily a scholar rather than a business man. And of course there was our shared love of books and the English language. When I bought him a copy of my favourite novel, “Letters from Thailand” by ‘Botan’ I was delighted by his enjoyment of it, he devouring the lengthy book in the course of a few days before our next meeting.
There in his office sitting opposite each other across his desk, we developed a warm friendship, he with his Thai/Chinese reserve and sensitivity and me with my stiff upper Britishness. And I think and hope he enjoyed our meetings as much as I did; they were always something for me to look forward to in my life in Bangkok. He was the rare person who so totally bridged the gulf between the two cultures which can exclude the expat from much of what is going on in Thailand. It was very special to share a friendship with someone who is both totally Thai but at the same time so utterly English. How many Thais can chat about cream teas in Chagford and then complain bitterly about the horror of squat loos.
And we found so many coincidences and things in common between the two of us. I was for ten years a lecturer in law at the University of Exeter in the West of England before taking early retirement. On first meeting Watana over a lavish lunch in a Bangkok hotel, listening to his perfectly modulated English voice, I just had to ask him where he was educated. His answer extraordinarily was Exeter Cathedral Choir School.
Imagine him as a choral scholar, perhaps, as he suggested, the only non-European chorister at any cathedral in the country, thrilling to the soaring flight of unbroken voices and the glow of light streaming in through the tracery onto golden stone in one of the most beautiful cathedrals in England. It must have been an extraordinary upbringing.
He told me about his family history, from owning tin mines in Chiang Mai to his father’s diplomatic posting in London. When his father was posted elsewhere, Watana stayed on in England to complete his education, going on to Lancing College, just down the road from where Ben and Emma, my leading characters in “Thai Girl” studied at Sussex University. (I so nearly sent Ben to Lancing but then thought this cultural reference would be meaningless to an international readership.)
Watana and I were therefore at the same sort of schools at exactly the same time and had many shared experiences. Like me he loved the sea and boats, he indulged in classic cars including a very English Sunbeam Talbot, and he shared my fogeyish fear of computers and electronic gizmos.
After school in England, Watana went on to university in Australia and eventually came into publishing in Thailand where his facility in English must have been very much in demand. He was I think multi-talented, including of course being a successful businessman. He might for example have developed his talents as a chorister and perhaps become a musician. He was the backgammon champion of Thailand and travelled to compete in international competitions. His story of how at one convention he was the hope of the nation, only to be knocked out in the first round by an outsider was so typical of his self-effacing humour.
I only knew Watana for a few months but he touched my life and I shall never forget him. Coming back into his office after my trip away, seeing the empty chair and desk and giving Lek the kaleidoscope for their little boy was the hardest of moments.
I am sure Watana would have been thrilled that “Thai Girl”, perhaps his last project, is now doing so well and is already reprinting. I am grateful to him for a job well done in producing the book against all the odds, but most of all I am grateful for his very special friendship, a friendship that was to be so tragically short.