Late November 2017 and Stayathomemotheroffour had already made it to Thailand with Charlie, while I was left on the island with Alpha and Bravo. The Bali volcano was seriously toying with our ability to make it to Thailand once school term finished.
The boys and I were busy washing clothes and sheets, getting the yard cyclone ready and packing school lunches. We were determined to prepare a clean house for our return, when all five of us returned on Christmas Eve. My to-do-list of chores was growing and both of our connecting flights were cancelled. We were torn about packing the bags and thinking we would have to fly my wife and daughter back via Perth or Darwin.
Alpha then insisted we play mahjong while we waited. “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”
So at first we removed one suit from the pack to make things easier for Bravo who has limited experience and it had really been 2 or 3 years since he tried to play. Now six years old and heading to Grade 2 in the new school year, we would test him out. Never one to be phased we played the first few rounds on our toy car tablecloth. It was their choice, not mine, if you think of calling child abuse hotline. The boys managed just fine with the tiny detail on the tiles and crazy color background of the tablecloth. Our eyes got a bit stronger in the process.
The first day, we started at 1pm on a Saturday and we played to 5pm, with only minor break for snacks and constant refills of milk in plastic dinosaur mugs left over from Charlie’s 2nd birthday morning tea party on the beach. We were supposed to be flying on Wednesday and all hope was fading.
Still, on Sunday morning I mowed the entire backyard lawn just in case. More mahjong in the afternoon and only interrupted by a beautiful swim in the summer sea. Warm water, clean sand and gentle afternoon sun. Shirtless drive home with windows rolled down, wet car seats and showers straight after arriving home.
At 01:00 hours Monday morning, I woke up and checked both airlines. Our flights had resumed! With total glee, the boys went to school and I hoped they would not blab about the binge mahjong session and even though we were not gambling, we were keeping one of Grandma’s traditions by rewarding all young players with chocolate.
Tuesday was the school swimming carnival, and that was a great way to catch up with everyone. No need to make school lunches either as they had a sausage sizzle and we hit the bakery quite hard. I dropped our boat’s keys off with the marina manager just in case a cyclone hit while we were away. Then played mahjong til 8pm that night.
Wednesday, we packed everything from the front porch into the living room, had washing machine in overdrive and purged the fridges of anything perishable, although kept a two liter bottle of milk and packet of tim tams for later. Mopped most of the floors, aired all the pillows and cushions while the sun was out. Picked up boys from school, showered then and they watched TV while I hung the last of the laundry on a clothes horse in the dining area.
Tied the jungle gym to the car with nylon rope and shoved the last of my I.T. equipment into one of the boys’ roll-on bags. Taxi arrived five minutes early and I still had a half a basket of undies to hang. Got to the ferry in time and sat down with my two very grown-up looking sons. Ordered a can of beer from the ferry kiosk and started pouring out cups of milk for Alpha and Bravo, while all three of us got into the tim tams.
One we arrived in Bangkok and were reunited with wife and daughter, drove up to my Thai mother-in-law’s place where we have built a house and realized we did not have a mahjong set. Despite, leaving my Hong Kong travel majong surfaces in Thailand, we only had one set of mahjong and that was the one we took to the island. So the hunt began.
This little town is a Thai-Chinese stronghold and you would think some of the toys stores stocked with chess and scrabble would have a set. Nope! In addition, even the most Chinese of looking townsfolk had not even seen a set of mahjong in their life.
So we drove back to Bangkok and scoured Chinatown in Yaowarat and only came up with one shop, although it was closed. No matter, we had parked car at Shangrila Chinese Restaurant and ordered a whole Peking duck for Stayathomemotheroffour who was turning an age when hair starts to grey. Kids loved the little pancakes with duck skin. Ditto the sweet and sour duck meat taken from just below the skin. The icing on the cake was really all the meat left on the bones which the chefs chopped and fried in boiling oil so it came out all crispy, chewy and dry, so perfect for dipping in Sriracha sauce. Meanwhile, we starting hitting the internet for private sellers who might have a mahjong set up for grabs. Who knows we might even score an antique set.
It was not to be and so Stayathomemotheroffour and Bravo had to return all the way to Chinatown the next day when the mahjong shop was open. They purchased one with slightly larger tiles which is easier for kids to handle and the elderly to read.
That was Monday morning, two days ago. We drove back up to the country house that night and had everyone out of the car and into bed by about 11pm as I had worked in the Bangkok office all day and it was a four hour drive in moderate traffic. We played mahjong all Tuesday and Alpha recruited us all to play again this morning, right in the middle of me starting this blog.
They have all now gone out to the local land registry office now and I can sign off properly, in peace. It is so nice to been writing again and am eager to post the saga related to our Fifty Shades of Gravy Thanksgiving dinner on the island. So stay tuned.