Monday, July 28, 2014

86 Bangkok

England are playing test match cricket on the playing fields of Southampton today.

The first Test Match I saw was England versus Australia at Lords with my school mate John. The next was at the end of the series, at The Oval. Tickets were cheap back then. A couple of years later it was England versus New Zealand at Trent Bridge, the day before we trained to jump over Langar airfield.

I've watched a fair few evening football matches at Villa Park. One is particularly memorable. The night Operation Desert Shield turned into Operation Desert Storm we drove back home to Oxford down the newly opened M40 extension, in a company Ford Sierra. That was with a good mate, Tashman. We'd pigged out on a balti before making that trip home.

MCMXIV, by Philip Larkin

Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,
The crowns of hats, the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August Bank Holiday lark;

And the shut shops, the bleached
Established names on the sunblinds,
The farthings and sovereigns,
And dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens,
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist, and the pubs
Wide open all day;

And the countryside not caring:
The place-names all hazed over
With flowering grasses, and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheat's restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses,
The dust behind limousines;

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word - the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.

On the north of Bangkok's Royal Field, opposite the National Theatre there is a small, quiet, shaded garden surrounding a white four-sided memorial topped with a chedi like adornment. This is the Monument to the Thai Expeditionary Force sent to Europe, the Western Front, to fight in the 1914 - 1918 war.


The names of the dead are inscribed on the sides. Nine names face west. Ten names face east.


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