I have five full days of my holiday in Phuket remaining including this coming Monday when I fly out in the early evening. My first six days have been about trying to find my frame of reference in the world. I shall not recount the pattern of my days as I have already mentioned the routines into which I have fallen which have for the most part been focussed on making my writing my primary activity. I have written five new short stories for my next book, “Creative Fecundity” which will be a collection of short stories and poems.
I have befriended the women who work at the massage parlour opposite my hotel. I know what people may think, this being Thailand, but the massage parlour is managed by a mother of three children. The children are more often than not sitting in front of the parlour with the one masseuse, Kannika, who is still employed at a time when the Covid-19 virus has meant a massive drop off in the number of tourists coming to Thailand. Each evening I have a full body massage and then I sit for a couple of hours chatting with the owner and the masseuse about everything and nothing. Sometimes, however, the conversations run deeper including talking about Covid-19.
The virus is spreading around the world but here in Kata the impact of the virus is already a reality. Tourists have all but stopped coming to Kata and businesses in Kata are making next to money in what would normally be peak season. Covid-19 may well hit the Australian economy and there may well be job losses in Australia but Australian’s will be protected, to some degree at least, by social security payments from Centrelink. Whilst there is a sort of social security system in Thailand, the bottom line is that the system does not really support people of a working age who become unemployed.
Such was my conversation with the Kannika who may well find herself without work once the tourist season in Thailand has come to an end. If this happens then Kannika will travel to her mother’s home in the country and live there until she can find more work. My point here is that Australians – who take everything for granted – will likely bitch and complain about losing their jobs if Covid-19 impacts the Australian economy in a major way. However, unlike Kannika, the vast majority of Australians will be able to claim social security payments.
On the more mundane side of my time in Thailand, I have now eaten fried ice cream from a street vendor, something that I did whilst remaining fully cognizant of the Covid-19 advice to only eat freshly prepared food. The preparation process involved mashing up two big scoops of ice cream with a chocolate brownie. The ice cream was then spread thinly over a hotplate and fried for a couple of minutes which, in my books, means freshly prepared. The process was completed by using a spatula to shave the ice cream off the hotplate. The ice cream, served in a crispy cone, was delicious and even more so when topped with chocolate topping.
So far I have not had to think too hard to write my short stories. I make no claim for their literary merit. I mean simply that an idea, or more exactly, the first sentences of what will be a story start to form in my head and then I simply start to write with the story unfolding in my mind as I move down the page. Today I do not have sentence in mind. Nor do I have any ideas. I am experiencing a tension between an imposed regimen to write one story a day so that I have completed ten stories by the time that I leave Thailand and the ideal of a holiday experience that sees me writing because I want to write, because I have connected with my creativity.
I shall focus on the ideal of a free form creativity. After all, being able to focus on my writing everyday is a rare luxury. At home, I have the time to write but the mental space is a completely different one, being defined, in part at least, by the mundanities of the every day. Those mundanities do not exist here. I do not have to prepare my meals, wash up, clean my house, do my washing, look after my two adorable cats, go shopping or go to work in order to earn a living. Here, everything is taken care of and so my mind can focus on just one thing. Writing. My days in Kata have, for the most part been creatively expansive, and so I shall cease to dwell on this single day of creative struggle.
First Published March 5th, 2020