Yes Woman, Yes Cry

May 16. 7pm

After another day of doing very little, my brother and I shared fruit smoothies at a nearby resort and returned to Sangthien just after 4. I had plans to meditate, read, write or plan ny life in the hour before sunset. 

But I lay down for a minute and disappeared into a world of tangly dreams and woke up at 6.30. Quickly washing the sunscreen and sweat off my face, I headed to the bar where my brother was just setting up on stage. Good morning, he grinned. And I found a table and ordered my gin. 

And now I sit here, beautiful Thai music filling the evening air, an additional electric fan providing breezes at this part of the bar, waves lapping in the darkness just over there, and I find I’m crying. What’s that about? 

Disappointed in myself for sleeping so much, for not getting done the few things I had to do today. 

But also an inexplicable and surprising sense of homesickness. At which point a familiar guitar chord starts up and my brother’s voice fills the bar with ‘I remember, when we used to sit, in the government yard in Trenchtown…’

And the tears stream down my face as he sings No Woman No Cry. 

A song that I have cried over many times since I fist heard it at 15 years old, in my religious times, my student times, my married times, my difficult recent times. With always a different person, a different sadness, a different purpose. 

And as I sat here with warm Thai breeze blowing through my hair, pink and turquoise lights illuminating the trees overhead, my little brother making music over there, I got a sense of the distance I have come to get here, the many sadnesses and fears that I used to feel, that have all gone, and that everything I think is important now will also be gone. The relief and grief to let each thing, each person, each worry and fear gently drop away, to stand bereft and empty with none of the safety of familiar pain, of work, of people or all the things that I have surrounded myself with to avoid the empty simple existence of me. 

Just me. No purpose, no deadlines, no stress. And without all that I am such a small weak little thing. A childlike soul standing alone and unsupported in a warm Thai breeze. It is both beautiful and scary. And invites more bloody tears. While Thai families eat their shellfish salads and a group of guys laugh and the nimble waiters deliver trays of drinks, I sit on my table on my own, full of gratitude and sadness, that I get a glimpse of letting go. It takes time, which I have given myself. This is only my second full day here, it makes sense that after the blissful touristy excitement of yesterday, that once I was on my own long enough there would be sadness. 

May 17th. 8.30am

And so I drank. We biked to ‘town’ – the couple of streets crammed with shops, street vendors, restaurants and bars under multicoloured lights and flags. The lady at Bananabar scolded my brother for something, laughed at him for something else, then brought us delicious vegan spring rolls and coconut curry and rice. Just magnificent food. And gin. 

On the way back, warm night air swishing through our hair as the motorbike cruised gently through the dark jungle road, every now and then the sound of dance club beats can be heard and then the twirling lights and illuminated stars/hearts/jellyfish come into view to present a beach bar full of lights, music and people as one of the little oases of late night humanity in the dark insectful jungle. Gecko bar, Starlight bar, Naga bar… 

We stopped at Audibar to say hi to the owner Audi, a small topless tattooed man who greeted us with warm sweaty hugs and another gin, which was somehow luminous blue, and had to be downed in one as my brother was late for his 10.30 recording appointment with Magan. 

At Sangthien, without my brother, I joined the staff in the empty bar who were eating their staff meals and drinking rum. They continued their leisurely Thai conversations, and I smiled politely and sipped my rum as they laughed at each other’s jokes. The head waiter’s girlfriend was especially keen to keep topping up my glass, and we had a laugh about how Mao I was. ‘Just a little Mao,’ I protested, ‘Just Tipsy!’. ‘No, you Mao Maaaaak!’ they laughed.

And so the next two hours were spent with a handful of the Santhien family, one bottle of rum and one of brandy, and a lot of Google translate. They spent a while trying to explain what the noises in the night were. Frogs, grasshoppers and a very loud Ka Ka Ka Ka kaaaaaap right in the window above my bed at 4am, which we finally deduced was a Toucan. The lead singer talked about my brother’s tattoo – the Thai words for ‘Live in the Moment’ – and they shared some honest and awestruck opinions about how much they love him. That was nice.

And the drinking and laughing took away my sadness and I gratefully fell asleep just after 2am. 

So now, having woken up in time for the breakfast buffet, I sip my black coffee and eat my toast and vegan spread and watch the sadness return. I accept this is part of the letting go and I am grateful for the time to allow it.

Lessons for today:

*Bike helmets don’t even exist on the island, just roll with it. 

*Buy more mosquito spray. Seriously. 

*When getting on the back of a motorbike, lift your foot VERY high to swing it over, or you’ll whack your ankle on the sticky out metal bit at the back and cause a world of indescribable pain (that your brother finds hilarious). 

*I am not a size medium when buying shorts in Thailand. Everyone here is tiny, I’m clearly a large. 

*Fundeee means goodnight and will be greeted with delightful smiles. FANdee means good girlfriend and will be met with confusion. 

*Relax into the speedbumps and go with the flow. This is a good lesson for life and one I am reminded of many times a day. 

*Our brains are wired for safety, not happiness, so when you feel like going back into familiar safe patterns, know that they are there to protect you from the new thing which might be scary, even if it is the thing that will make you happy.

Grateful for:


My brother’s effortless motorbike riding

The endless supply of cool drinking water behind the bar to refill bottles

The little lizards that glide around on the walls outside my cabin

The fridge full of vegan snacks my brother brought over from Bangkok

The excellent wifi here

The people in Melksham who lovingly tell me to stop watching Council meetings and to enjoy my tropical adventure here

Day Seven: Connection

Yes, I’m even further behind now in my daily plan. After Friday’s adrenaline drenched adventures, I was wiped out all weekend. I forget that after my body has experienced an 8 or 9 level panic attack, there is a moment of incredible bliss where I slide right down to a 5, and I am massively grateful for steady breathing and not trembling, but it’s still not perfect. What follows is usually a couple of days of exhaustion and lethargy in level 5, in which I still can’t eat properly – which adds to the weakness – and I am mostly curled up on the sofa under two blankets. No motivation, no focus, and no fun to be around at all. The fortunate timing meant that I had a whole weekend to soak up my somnolence, and didn’t need to snap out of it until Monday morning. Clever timing there, little panic-maker, it’s almost as if you know my schedule! So, while I thought I’d have the energy and enthusiasm for a deep dive into the mysterious motivations of my inner child, I realised that’s a subject which requires a strength I haven’t quite got yet, and will be addressed in a few days when I reach day 13.

Continue reading “Day Seven: Connection”


This week, instead of lying in bed listening and worrying and feeling outraged by the drunken noise of a pub kicking out at 2am, I have chosen to settle in for an hour on the sofa, to observe. There is an initial scuffle or two, mostly around a misunderstanding of who Milly was going out with, but nothing too violent, and then the crowd flows and ebbs around the market place, gravitating towards its various needs. Kebabs, taxis, each other. At 2.05 the loudest shouts are a variety of ‘fuck you then,’ or ‘fucking twat!’ but once the most disgruntled members have been encouraged away from the crowd, the noise becomes more friendly. Did you find your phone? How are you getting home? Have you got a rizla? I’ll wait here. Who’s phone is this then? Did you have a good night? It’s on 3% mate. Some kerfuffle and two police vehicles congregate by the bus stop, a Wiltshire Council man wearily pulls up his truck, empties the bin, replaces the liner and moves on to the next. Seagulls are gathering around the discarded kebab boxes. One girl has some very important but inaudable things to shout about her hair, and another runs across the road to leap into the arms of a boy. Among the sound of happy chatter and laughter are the intermittent clipping of heels and slamming of car doors. Couples form and wander around together, apart, together again. Groups of boys gather, hugging and laughing in their T-shirts and jeans, and girls with long pale legs and swishy hair walk around intently. A taxi is trying to pull away from a boy who runs alongside holding on to the door – I’ll give you fifty quid mate, I’ll give you a hundred quid! until he lets go and the taxi drives away to his friends laughter. Their names float on the air – Jessie, Freya, Ellie, Callum, and instead of drunken yobs, tonight I see my friends’ children. My niece and nephew, myself 20 years ago. These teenagers are excited about life, they are fearless, powerful and unswayed, oblivious to the concerns of a pandemic that have kept a lot of us locked up for months. Their need to connect is greater than their need for safety. Or warmth. They have looked forward to tonight, phoned each other, planned their outfits, assured their parents they’d stick together. They fizz with the energy and excitement about each other that I remember having, they are urgent and alive. Their need to connect is far stronger than my need to sleep right now, and I almost respect them for it.