Sunday 19 November 2023

The Big Five Oh

Fifty orbits around a burning sphere of hydrogen. Fifty arbitrary time-units as an impermanent coalition of quarks and electrons, gravitationally bound to an encrusted sphere of liquid iron. In a form conscious not only of its existence, but also of its ultimate demise. Beholden to, and limited by, seemingly universal physical laws. No choice in the matter - simply thrust into the glaring light of being, endowed with only the evolved faculties of a primitive ape. It's all so mind-bogglingly bizarre.

So how does it feel to be 50? Hard to say. A sense of bemusement at having made it thus far. Years spent submerged under the Atlantic didn't end me. Days spent defying gravity 11km above the earth's surface didn't do it. 160,000km motorbiking the world's most dangerous roads in Thailand didn't do it. Three decades of piss, tabs and STDs didn't either. So, bemusement is the name of the game.

Coffee Physics
Wiser souls have pondered such things but I reckon Plato sums it up best:

How well I remember the aged poet Sophocles, when in answer to the question, "How does love suit with age, Sophocles - are you still the man you were?" he replied, "Peace, most gladly have I escaped the thing of which you speak; I feel as if I had escaped from a mad and furious master."

Virginity 1

STFU man, what you been up to? Well, in no particular order, let's kick off with medical. The neck pain failed to subside prompting me to shit $100 on losing me CT-scan cherry. We'd covered these machines in A-Level Physics but I'd never seen one in real life, so was looking forward to the technical side of things.

CT Scan
Life is always fun in SEA and this was no exception. The machine is 3km away from the referral clinic and, unsurprisingly, appears to be in someone's living room. A teenager guides you to a cramped squat toilet where you're supposed to adorn massage pajamas. Lie still as the machine inches forward blasting you with high energy X-rays from all angles.

The fun part is that you get to watch another kid sift through a mountain of Computed Tomographic (CT) data to identify the issue. Print. Boom. Done.

Cycle back to the clinic carrying a massive envelope. The Doc confirms you have a bulging disk between C5-C6 vertebrae and prescribes $40 of tablets which cost $20 in a pharmacy. Getting older is a byotch in some ways.

Virginity 2

Compounding the misfortune was the unequivocal loss of my fainting virginity. Back in muh Navy days I'd often ponder what it must be like to black-out as otherwise physically fit lads would keel over on parade. There was little else to do but think as we stood for hours on end. How do you just faint? What the actual feck? Well, fast forward three decades and I got to find out.

Stitched up
Online domestic bank transfers are (normally) instantaneous, however, this one took a (relative) age. It was a significant chunk of change and I became increasingly anxious that Sokha was pulling a fast one. Thoughts ran wild as I paced the room, a sudden sense of dread accompanied by profuse sweating, dizziness, panic, confusion and, ultimately, an uncontrolled collapse face-first into shelving. Woah.

Quickly regained my feet as the brain fog cleared, blood dripping liberally from my chin. Somewhat dazed I returned to the laptop by which time Sokha had confirmed receipt of funds. They were lost in cyber space for 4 minutes. Damn, all that for nowt. What a tard.

Luckily, the landlady happened to be here. I waved her off but she insisted on stitches (she's a nurse when not running Real Estate empires). 4 minutes, 4 stitches and experiential knowledge of swooning. I get it now. A psychosomatic effect exhibiting the sheer power of thoughts and emotions - literally mind blowing. A million miles from Marcus Aurelius' stoicism.

Old Mates

Was eating dinner in my preferred environment - outside and alone watching the world go by - when I became aware of a looming presence. A bloke stood right at the table eyeing me with a maniacal grin. Now, as previously stated, SEA has more than its fair share of Barang loons and I'd be lying if I told you that exact thought hadn't flashed across my mind. Who's this nutter?

Phuket Tony
However, on closer inspection a shimmer of recognition came to the fore. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far way .....

"I know you." Half statement half question as I chewed salad.
"You do." He nodded, enjoying my confusion.
A lengthy pause, "Phuket?"
"Patra Mansion and all that?"
"You're from Scarborough aren't you?"
"I am"
"Fuck man, I can't place your name. We drank together didn't we?"
"We did lad, Tony mate. And what the fvck have you done to your hair Steve?"

And that was that. The intervening 12 years reviewed in a flurry of nostalgia. A walk, not down Memory Lane, but Phuket Town's Soi-Sip-Et on Google Streetview. Canny. It should be noted that the chances of this encounter were miniscule given our circumstances. Good crack.

New Mates

Cap'n Darren sells homemade cider next to muh curry shack. The most interesting geeza I've met in ages. There's barely a place on earth his career didn't take him. I can listen for hours with varying degrees of envy, mirth and admiration.

Cap'n Darren
Envy? Aye, that he knew what he wanted to do as a young lad. Admiration? Aye, that he executed those boyhood dreams with ruthless efficiency. Mirth? Aye, he can spin good dits.

Not only did he excel in a ludicrously adventurous career but he eventually came to tailor his living situation to perfection. Geo-arbitrage optimised enough to give any red-blooded Calculus Teacher a boner. A fellow free spirit unwilling to endure the banality of life in the "first world" herd.

Despite hailing from opposite ends of England we have a few common touch points on our divergent trajectories before ultimately converging on plastic chairs overlooking a collapsed pavement in the tropics.

We both dropped out of A-Levels (same subjects) to join the Navy at 17, (Merch for him, Royal for me). We both left England at 32. If we were somehow handed $1M, there's very little we'd change. Great crack, hope he sticks around.

Celebrity Mates

Darlington to Danang
Richy was passing through the Pot as part of an epic adventure around SEA and beyond. A canny lad from Darlington who, like myself, became disenfranchised with life in the west. He sold everything, jumped on a plane and left it all in the rear view mirror. Smart lad. Another woke-fugee in the ranks.

He runs a youtube channel and he's been stopped in the streets a couple of times by subs who've recognised him (though he hasn't let the fame go to his head - hehe). We ended up recording an interview at the Lotus Pond covering the mechanics of early retirement in SEA (link here). Hope it helps his channel grow. It was nice to talk to someone with a similar accent - it'd been a while - though he inexplicably supports Leeds.


Darren recommended Buddha's Tooth, a SEA trilogy about three hapless Farangs blundering their way through Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. Outstanding. Some other blokes informed me that the author, Robert A Webster, originally from Cleethorpes, ran Coasters, a bar in Snooky. A helluva talent for weaving plot threads.


New bed. $100. Purchased from an arthritic German nonagenarian who'd parted with $350 a few years earlier for orthopedic reasons. Figured it might help the neck. The previous bed was 3m wide with a cheap sagging mattress, and though an entire family could sleep on it, it filled the room to the point of absurdity. Couldn't swing a cat in there.

My neighbour, Boo (means uncle), has a trailer attached to an ancient 50cc scooter parked on the rubble road in front of the Pumphouse. Dilapidation is the name of the game. We made our way to the pensioner's home whereby she kindly gave us cans of coke straight from the fridge once we'd loaded the cargo.

I sat precariously on the back holding the mattress with one hand and a coke in the other as Boo expertly navigated the potholes in blistering midday heat. Though we were trundling along slowly, it felt quite fast to me as I hadn't been in/on anything with an engine for donkeys. A massive smile on me boat as we bounced along dirt roads, enjoying swigs of ice-cold coke, to a backdrop of smiling locals, blue skies and palm trees. Paradise.


Favorite chair
Salt Flats to Bokor
Then there's the best seat in Kampot Province. Love gazing across the Salt Flats to Bokor from here while sipping posh coffees.

The place is owned by wealthy locals, as evidenced by the high-end 1,000cc bikes strewn around the joint. Teens often hang out here and they've a penchant for randomly kicking the engines over - thus nuking the tranquility every now and then. They're friendly enough but I often chuckle at how they might perceive this older Barang who cycles out, mops himself dry with a small brown towel, speaks shit Khmer and insists on sitting alone in the same chair each time. Then I remember I'm long past GAF about what others think hehe. It is a mint chair though.

Wel-cam Ma-saaaaaaaaj

Sabai Beach
Have a new arrangement with a tidy little masseuse every weekend. The stresses of early retirement melt away as she hits the right notes, rendering one as limp as a tea-dipped soggy herb nerb.

In days of yore one would've lit up a cigarette after such an encounter, but in this era of clean living, one makes do with a hammock, a Nescafe, a podcast and a bird's eye view of the rainy season submitting to blue skies, sunshine and the tourist hordes of a nascent high season.


Back in 2013 I paid $80 to host this bullshit at: for a decade. Well, time's up and the greedy bastards now want $250 ... so that's the end of that. Back to next month. See you there.


Pool Team
A few have queried: Is early retirement boring? To me, that's like asking: Is prison liberating? After 18 months the answer is a hard NO. A life of leisure in the tropics is awesome - free to indulge one's proclivities - whatever, whenever, wherever. The value of owning your time (and thus yourself) exceeds anything the material world can offer (once the base layer of Maslow's hierarchy of needs is met).

If any younger men have crawled this far through this literary shitpipe, here's some brain stormed life advice my 50yo self would give my 18yo self:


Focus your energy, you can't do a thousand things. Train your mind - meditate - read humanity's greatest philosophers. Train your body - health is wealth. Think for yourself - question the herd - they don't have your interests at heart. Try not to think with your dick - control your biology - female validation is a distraction and not a scarce resource.

You little dancer
And breath.

Eschew alcohol. Curate your friends, you don't need many, quality over quantity. Embrace solitude. Optimise your environment (safe, calm etc). Be reliable and trustworthy. Help yourself before others. Always have fuck-you-money - and options.

And breath.

Work hard, be flexible, be minimalist, luxury is weakness, spend less than you earn, study assets, investing and financial independence. Full attention to every moment is life's greatest pleasure. No one's coming to save you. Don't fear death.

And finally:

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson


  1. Fantastic update. Thank you very much for it matey. Will comment further later on.

  2. Incredible 'Indians are among the highest number of property owners in London, the capital of the United Kingdom (UK), more than the English themselves.'