Xmas Letter 2015 | Travel Blog

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Published: December 19th 2021

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In 2015 I was in my final year at the Renaissance International School and worried about finding a new job.

Saigon December 19th

Dear Overseas Friends

Not a vintage year for me, with one glorious exception. Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first.

My wife Thuy’s brother-in-law died of meningitis at the age of 42. If he had received good hospital treatment from the start, he would be alive today, but hospitals in the provinces are piss-poor, and by the time we got him into a good hospital in Saigon, he was too far gone. He was a very nice guy, sorely missed by Thuy and all her family.

Thuy’s Tan Chau restaurant and karaoke suffered in the exceptionally wet weather last September. The foundations of her restaurant subsided, and the karaoke was badly damaged during a storm. One of the men looking after the karaoke was hit on the head by falling masonry and lay comatose in hospital for a week before recovering.

To compound our woe, a friend in Tan Chau, working in Thuy’s restaurant, was attacked by a drunken customer. He fought back, drew blood and was arrested. The only way to free him was to pay a sum of money to the police. A ridiculous miscarriage of justice, typical of Vietnam. The guilty party – the aggressive drunk – was not punished because he was injured.

Hanging over my head all this year has been the problem of finding a new job. I’m leaving my present school in June, because the admin are crap and last year gave me a hard time (culminating in my resignation as HoD). Landing another well-paying job in a good school in HCMC (where my wife and I want to stay) at the age of 64 (I become a Beatles’ song and a chessboard on December 22nd) is problematical. Many schools proscribe teachers over the age of 60. I had an interview on December 17th at my former school, the American Int’l School (where there is no age limit), which went wonderfully well, only to be told afterwards there may or may not be an opening for me. They have promised to give me a decision by January 4th. I will be on tenterhooks till then.

To cap a baddish twelve months, my favourite drinking spot in Saigon, Santa Café, closed on October 31, and the young woman who has been massaging me these past five years says she’s getting married and moving to Italy. No consideration.

Now on to the good stuff.

The great highlight of my year was three weeks spent in the UK last summer. This was my first trip back to Blighty for four years. I travelled round, from my base in Reading, to Presteigne, Canterbury, London, Birmingham and Stourbridge, catching up with old friends. And I met my excellent tenants for the first time. They lecture in Philosophy for Oxford University and have been living in my house for 4 years. It is always nostalgic to return to the Reading house where I grew up, and it’s good to see it so well looked after.

The UK apart, I haven’t travelled much this year – just the usual short trips to Phnom Penh, Nha Trang and my wife’s home town.

I love my boxing, and it’s always a thrill in HCMC to watch the big fights on a Sunday morning in a sports bar. A pity that Pacquiao v Mayweather was such an anticlimax. However, Tyson Fury v Klitschko was a pleasant surprise. I wrote about it here: http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/mulqueen/97/1448844030/tpod.html

And Tyson Fury supplies the most hilarious quote of the year: “I’m not sexist. I believe a woman’s best place is in the kitchen and on her back. That’s my personal belief. Making me a good cup of tea, that’s what I believe.”

On the reading front, I’m ashamed to say I have read no memorable new books. I reread Hardy’s <em style=”mso-bidi-font-style: normal;”>The Return of the Native last summer, and it was a disappointment – not the great novel I remember from my youth.

My life this year has been much the same as it’s been for several years: deadening the minds of the young with the giant bores of world literature, same holiday destinations, same apartment, same school, same breakfast (fried eggs, plate of fruit, mug of tea), same restaurants and bars, same whisky (Ardbeg still my No. 1), same devotion to jazz and blues and chess and writing short articles – which tend to be either about Vietnam e.g. <http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/mulqueen/93/1446511576/tpod.html> or nostalgic e.g. <http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/mulqueen/90/1439644491/tpod.html>

Now, with my present job about to end, some of these things may change.

On which ominous note, I wish you all a very happy Xmas and New Year. May you be inundated with tidal waves of whisky, wine, ale, joy and prosperity!

P.S. My favourite cartoon joke of the year is attached.



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