Well, Cousin Freshie Boy Number One is off the Lord Playboy ‘Keeping the in-law-natives out of my damn way Gravy Train.’
He asked Lady Playboy last night to borrow my car to pick up some friends of his to bring back to the bar. The car was almost out of petrol, so I said he could borrow the car if he filled it up on the way and I gave him a wad of cash to do so (I hate filling up in the petrol stations here, I have no patience for the Khmer version of ‘queuing’ that goes on there).
Anyway, an hour later he skulks back, without any friends and dashes through the bar like a greased ferret through a lube lined aqueduct and upstairs to his mother’s apartment.
I ignore him as I am happily drinking and deep in interesting conversation with SunSan and Murray about Harley Davidson Tours and the improved state of some Cambodian Roads.
Ten minutes later Cousin Freshie Boy Number Two appears and launches into a frantic whispered conversation with Lady Playboy and they both disappear up to my Aunt’s apartment.
I realise at this point that something is up, but I just sigh, know that it will all be revealed in the fullness of drinking time and I order an extra large Bombay Sapphire and tonic as a pre-emptive emotional anaesthetic to the hassle to come.
Twenty minutes later Lady Playboy arrived back down and started off the conversation with “Darling, please do not be angry”.
Now, I know from long (not too mention costly) experience that I should pay close and careful attention to any conversation with my wife that starts out with the word ‘darling’ indeed, the majority of times that I suddenly acquire new plots of land without my knowledge have all stemmed from a conversation beginning with ‘darling…’
However, I digress. This was a newer twist with the addition of ‘please do not be angry’. So taking a very large swallow of my very large Bombay Sapphire and tonic, I close my eyes, sigh and ask ‘what is it onn?’
The story unravels, that is to say, HIS version of the story, with no collaborating witnesses or evidence, unravels…
While innocently driving along to pick up his fellow freshie boy friends a group of free roaming steeuo’s on mopeds were performing some of their usual stupid riding stunts and general traffic malfeasance cock-knockery.
Swerving to avoid the gaggle of gormless gits he manages to collide with an, as yet unspecified, piece of street furniture, which resulted in the driver’s and rear drivers side windows being totally shattered.
Freshie Boy Number One then panics, flees back to the bar, runs upstairs to hide behind his mother’s skirt; such is the awful fear and deference they have of The Lord Playboy, Head of the Clan.
Actually, if the truth be told, the real holder of the family’s reins of power is dear old Granny; she is the absolute matriarch of my Khmer-In-Laws.
A pleasant, gently spoken, grey-haired old woman whose softest whisper is equivalent to a Papal Bull, although I am sure that if Granny barked ‘jump’ at Pope Innocent II he would have done so, while simultaneously tearing up Omne Datum Optimum and giving up control of the Knights Templar to her.
You see, Granny has lived through everything, and when I say everything I do pretty much mean everything; WW2, Japs, Lon Nol, Pol Pot, Viet Invasion, UNTAC, Mormons moving in next door, she has lived through them all, seen them all off. She is the Last Granny Standing. To this day, she still holds a grudge against Thailand (Siam! Siam!!) for their annexing of Battambang in 1941. it would be fair to say, that she views Battambang in the same way that I view the former British Empire.
Nowadays, she brooks no nonsense, disrespect or shenanigans from any one. She is totally without fear.
More importantly (to me anyway) she is deeply in love with her wonderful English grandson-in-law, and the rest of the family are very aware of this fact.
So with all this in mind, and fearful that I would slap him and then tell Granny, who would in turn slap him herself – which I have seen; one of her son-in-laws was apparently disrespectful to me during a big family party several years ago, we were sat at the table eating boiled chickens feet and drinking banana wine and Granny was standing next to us chatting, when he said something that I did not understand, but Granny took his words to be him ‘looking down on me’ so this quiet and softly spoken, 90 year old, 40 kilo, grey-haired Grandmother, slaps her 40 year old son-in-law with a swift and strong backhander across drunken head.
At which, he jumps off his chair – and I am worried that he is going to hit her back – but instead he drops to his knees and starts bowing, pressing his hands together and starts apologising to Granny for all his worth. Granny just pats me on the head and saunters off back to the table full of the aging aunties and women of the neighbourhood.
I am sure that it was this image that was in Freshie Boy Number One’s mind, rather than my shouting at him, when he fled upstairs to his mother.
After, patiently and calmly, listening to all of this, I then ask my dear wife if Freshie Boy Number One is going to pay for the damage and go and get it repaired, preferably this evening as I need the car first thing in the morning for work.
She then, patiently and calmly, explains to me that she has already discussed this and that Auntie will pay the bill on behalf of her son as Freshie Boy Number One does not work. She then further explained that her uncle – not Freshie Boy Number One’s father, but another one – was already on his was to the bar to collect the car and to try and get it repaired before morning.
When I asked why Freshie Boy Number One was not doing it his (lazy arse) self, my dear wife replied ‘he is too afraid to come down and see you, he very, very sorry and very, very, afraid, you very big man, you very powerful man, he very, very afraid of you’.
Which to my mind sounded like tommyrot wrapped in obsequiousness, rather than the real reason; which I suspect is that he is lying about the cause of the accident and does not want to face a cross-examination from me, which really would then lead him to be very, very, afraid.
So a spare uncle turns up and hour later taking the car off to be repaired, promising that it will be delivered back to me at my breakfast restaurant at 07.00 the following morning, as good as new.
I took this news with more than a little scepticism, swallowed the last of my gin and headed off for home and sleep.
The following morning, I was sat in my usual breakfast restaurant sipping my iced Vietnamese coffee and reading the ‘Cambodia (rarely) Daily (almost)’ having already read the Mekong (not yet) Times (they are a changing) Daily (almost again) in about three seconds flat as it seems to contains even less news about Cambodia than the Daily (almost).
I mean, honestly, how difficult can it be for a Cambodian Newspaper to have news about Cambodia in it?
Roll on May is what I say, when the Phnom Penh Post goes daily and I can stop reading the other two English language ‘news’ papers for good.
And while I was pondering the baffling state of the fourth estate in Cambodia my spare uncle appears brandishing car keys, the car windows have now all been replaced and it was only 08.00 !?!
Freshie Boys – honestly, they are enough to make a gecko laugh.
The views in this column are entirely those of Lord Playboy (of Phnom Penh, Tin Tower and that muddy patch of ground next to the school;) they are in no way representative of Khmer440, its editors, staff or its corn-fed gimp in the cellar, of any Department of the Royal Government of Cambodia that employs Lord Playboy, of Westerners who are scared to cross the road, of coach loads of Korean Retirement Tourists, of anyone who panics in restaurants because their vegetarian dish contains pork. Damn, things will be different when I am running the Country.