Quiet Beer in Phnom Penh?February 26, 2007
That feeling of dread hits home. There then follows a highly unlikely story in which our hero battles from his childhood hovel in Cleethorpes to fame and fortune in Houston, Texas, where he enters the space programme and ends up piloting Apollo rockets only to have his role in the first moon landing covered up because he was not as photogenic as Armstrong. “That was not Neil Armstrong coming down those steps, you know,” the story plaintively ends. “It was me. I still have some moon rock in my pocket, do you want to see it?”
The people who tell this kind story – or variations including sea-passages or fabulous Sea East Asian business ideas ‘I am going to start importing PROPER whelks’ – seem to be on the increase, there must be hundreds of them around the country now, because I keep running into them, you probably have too; they usually drink the cheapest possible beer, have that unhealthy barroom anti-suntan and invariably wear shorts, flip-flops and Hawaiian shirts.
They also tend to be accompanied everywhere by those small brown girls whom have Formica smiles and a host of her ill relatives. Moreover, they rarely seem to actually live in Cambodia, they are just here for a week or two on a visa run from Thailand; but once their big idea takes off they will be moving to Phnom Penh.
Of course, when one is confronted with such celestially influenced lunatics on licensed premises, one can always get up and leave. [After finishing ones beer, of course]. However, I was in the privileged position the other evening to be adjacent to some poor young fool of a tourist who got cornered by such a nutter. Rather than beating myself a hasty retreat, I could not resist loitering, listening in on and generally relishing some other poor sods misery – hey, what can I say, my cable TV is on the blink.
Soon the smell of this Pattaya boy’s Pataya patter began to even overpower the subtle, combined, odours of his cheap lager and stale sweat. It seems that after selling his fabulously successful airline company in Manila, he decided to chill out in Thailand for a year or two, but when you are an ‘international entrepreneur’ [his words not mine; I swear to god you could not make this stuff up!] “When you are an international entrepreneur, you never really retire; you are always on the look out for your next big idea.”
This was why he was currently in Phnom Penh. He was meeting with some very, very, influential people to try and sort his next deal out – nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more. So what does our gap-year-brat-with-daddy’s-visa-card do ? He starts nodding and going ‘oh, wow, really, wow, that must be so interesting.’ Now any fool knows that nodding and smiling to a barroom bore only encourages him. The next thing you know, you are pinned to the bar as he tells you how he used to wrestle alligators on television for a living, was the real author of the Harry Potter books and once saw Manchester City win a trophy.
So our bore starts on covering even more of his back catalogue of adventures. Some unspecific role in some company that had some thing to do with diamonds and South Africa, working on an oilrig as a teenager, offshore near the Philippines – the list just went on. There was no mention of Neil Armstrong, but I am sure that he got there too long after I slipped out the backdoor, unable to keep a straight face any longer…