Back in 2008 when I first met Stayathomemotheroffour (before we had our own three children), Stayatworkfatherofthree-to-be was at the stellar of his sociable single self. There was not a weekend I was not entertaining, creating night havoc or being a spectacle of some sort. My favorite of all was Thanksgiving.
In truth 2000 to 2007 had been one long party. The year 2007 capping off the best of a near decade of booming business for our company, although one chance conversation with a random guy on the next bar stool changed all that.
It was late 2007 and I was sitting in a Lan Kwai Fong club called Bar George, when a tall beefy looking English guy and I started talking business, particularly mine and he was so interested in what we did and whether we had vacancies in the end. As we parted to go meet our respective appointments he gave me his business card. Name…something something. Title….something from the top shelf, like Managing Director. Company name….BEAR STERNS! We were both laughing in a knowing way.
They had just announced that morning in the South China Morning Post newspaper Bear Sterns had let everyone go as a result of the JP Morgan developments. So obviously he had just been or was going to be laid off any day now. That was all the confirmation I needed to continue with my already year long effort to increase my savings and improve finances and my health.
Nearly twelve months earlier I had found most of my savings could be gained simply by not going out at all on Friday nights, period. And only going out on Saturday if it was a shared cost evening with friends etc. Back then I was out almost every night.
Sunday night was great for partying. It was all the people that did not need to worry about work the next day. In fact we used to sometimes start on Sunday morning, or at least in the afternoon.
Monday night, you could go to any bar, restaurant or club and find people in two distinct categories. The people that wanted to drown their sorrows and forget a terrible day. The other group I hoped were like me. Had at least planned their week a week earlier and everything had been perfect at work on the first day of the week and they wanted to celebrate.
Tuesdays were cheap cinema ticket nights in Hong Kong and I was always on a date, unless there was a movie I wanted to see and concentrate.
Wednesdays in Hong Kong were horse racing at Happy Valley and as a result you could pick up in any venue without the masses, who for the most part were either watching the races live at the track or in cafes and betting shops.
Thursday was the new Friday for me. This was a time to start the weekend early and celebrate working smart and not hard. There was still a day and half to pick up the pieces as most Hong Kong companies, banks etc., worked for a half day on Saturday morning til lunch.
Friday nights as far as I could work out and see for my myself, were just colleagues from the same industries tumbling out of meetings and sticking together until their families called them home. Slim pickings and closed shop. I was wasting time and money. So I cut Friday night out all together. I would work in the office til 7pm and plan my next week, walk home and get a light meal and be in bed by 9pm. Not only was I happy a large chunk of cash was being set aside each week, I was able to wake at 5am and catch the first Saturday morning bus to Big Wave Bay where all the Hong Kong models, singers, TV and movie starlets swam.
Saturday night was and is traditionally ‘date night’ for most couples around the world and the time when they get a baby sitter or not have to work. Back then I was single and had no desire to steal wives or upset apple carts when I was out (and I still don’t!!!). So I restricted my Saturday entertainment budget to group dinners with my friends, often including whomever I had met on the beach that morning.
Our Saturday entertainment could range from Roast Salted Chicken in the North Point wet market, a junk trip with F&B supplied by one of our friends’ restaurants or go see a Theater show, always involving wine, women and song. Dancing being my strong point at the end of every night closely followed by romance of some description. But by far my favorite was Thanksgiving and that was the highlight of every year.
Back in 2002, I sub-let out some of our desks and office space to Hong Kong’s first Egyptian restaurant, Habibi’s downstairs so they would have somewhere quiet to do their book-keeping. One of the founders was American and she would host a Thanksgiving at her home for all their staff and suppliers. We were invited along too and I fell in love with pumpkin pie so much I nearly swapped my Australian passport for a Green-card. She was a great chef, although her home cooking had hooked many a husband. The thought did also cross my mind.
The spirit of the occasion had always fascinated me with Aussie jealousy. Then I met Stayathomemotheroffour and we re-located to Thailand, opening an office and starting a family the same year. The money saved over more than 156 Friday nights and half as many Saturday nights had paid two large maternity ward bills, temporary rentals and the deposit on a modest downtown Bangkok apartment with walls that wish they could talk.
By the time Bravo was born, we had seven Thai staff working with us and a small army of part-time contractors, including my best foreign confidants, one of whom was an American. There was nothing more to discuss. It was 2011 and we would host our own Thanksgiving. It would be better to celebrate with everyone in November anyway, as we nearly always went overseas on vacation each December. Christmas was a merciless, mis-guided, mercantile, mute-point in Bangkok to boot.
We found a little bistro with a nice garden and chef they had stolen from the British Club. Our Thai colleagues had never seen a full-sized roast turkey before, much less even eaten turkey. The atmosphere was fantastic, kids everywhere, presents and games, bottomless glasses, full tummies and a new tradition was born. One we take everywhere.
So this November we decided to try Thanksgiving in Australia. We had gained so many new friends when we moved to the island. Mostly through school and all had much we needed to thank them for. Some had picked up our kids when we were busy, others had been witness to document signing for visas, co-piloted on maiden voyage with our boat, the list went on and on. We were Thankful to everyone on the guest list. In the end we had two Grandmothers who would be in attendance along with a total of 17 kids. The final booking was 33 warm bodies casting shadows and fogging glass. Needless to say, I hired a face painter to keep the kids occupied and the school Mum’s along with Stayathomemotheroffour hijacked the event by ensuring the dress code included masks. Nuff said. Would not be surprised if the birth rate rises slightly next year.
For many couples it was the first time in ages they had dressed up and gone out with their kids with so many other friends at the same time. It was the nicest way to spend two grand from our monthly blow budget. Especially, for the two grandmothers and mothers whose husbands were away on business.
In contrast, just this month we co-hosted a similar family get together in Thailand for my wife’s family and it cost less than two hundred bucks and was in just the same spirit. Many of her extended family had not seen each other for months or years and we had a great grandmother in tow along with scores of great grandkids.
In three days we fly back to Australia and my biggest worry? None of my own family have arranged an event similar to either of these gatherings, ever. That is a whole other story and one I wont be sharing for some time. It is with no lack of irony, next March will be the 10th anniversary of meeting the Mother of my children and the GFC.
Just remember those timeless words. “When the bell hops start buying, it is time to sell”. When the Bangkok Post newspaper starts advertising how easy it is to buy and profit from owning Bitcoin, it is time to duck when the fan comes your way. When the cold callers from London, India and Hong Kong get a hold of my mobile number and start pitching growth stocks, you must know they have hit rock bottom.