Still sprightly at 72, just like The Post
- By Yvonne Bredget Bohwongprasert -
Roger Crutchley shares the birth year with the Bangkok Post. Now at 72, and after having spent a good half a century in Thailand, the Englishman has gleaned valuable life lessons about family, patience, and of course — in the true Crutchley form — humour.
Crutchley has come a long way since arriving in Thailand as a wet-behind-the-ears 22 years old in search of adventure and thrills. He later joined the Bangkok Post and though long retired, he still writes a popular weekly sport column. He recently released his latest book The Long Winding Road to Nakhon Nowhere: When Thailand Truly was the Land of Smiles.
For this special issue, Crutchley started by recalling some poignant lessons he has encountered through the years. Though known for his ticklish prose, Crutchley stressed the importance of the word “poignant”.
“Poignant is a very emotive word, reflecting on pain or sadness, the sort of things I would prefer to tuck away deep in my memory and forget about. “
I have learned about the importance of family. I regret not visiting my parents frequently enough after I came to Thailand. The passing of my former maid Tong [better known to readers as Ms Yasothon] was a difficult time, too. I had known her for 30 years and really felt a sense of loss.
“This is all getting a bit too heavy. On a lighter note I regret not taking my piano lessons seriously as a kid. If you want to be good at anything in life, you’ve got to work at it.’’
Crutchley doesn’t see himself as someone who can give advice to the younger generation, but if he really needs to, he would tell them not to try to be someone they are not, be respectful of others and “being polite doesn’t cost anything’’.
“Having a sense of humour is a good start, especially living in Thailand. Don’t get too depressed when things go wrong. Upon reflection you will realise that there are a lot more people worse off than yourself. It is also important to have friends — you can’t survive without them. Well, you can survive, but it won’t be much fun.
“It helps to be able to deal with disappointment. When I was 15, I was really excited after being selected for the first time to play for Reading Boys football team against West Ham. An overnight thunderstorm flooded the pitch and the game was called off. I never did get to represent Reading. You just have to accept it.
“It may seem a bit frivolous, but the Monty Python’s song Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life is not a bad message.’’
Asked to share mistakes he has made in life that have become life-long lessons, Crutchley said that if he was to start, such mistakes would probably fill up a large book.
“But as someone once said: The person who makes no mistakes usually doesn’t make anything. So where do I start? In my student days I regretted choosing Economics over English Literature for my A levels. A Thai friend knows a lot more about Shakespeare and Wordsworth than I do.
“At the Bangkok Post over the years I have been responsible for headline errors, incorrect grammar and incomprehensible prose. You just have to learn from your mistakes. As the old adage goes: Doctors bury their mistakes, lawyers hang theirs, but journalists put theirs on the front page.”
On life experiences that have inspired him most, Crutchley said “sitting in the front row of a concert by a blind jazz musician, Roland Kirk, in Kingston upon Thames town hall in 1966. He nearly blew the roof off the place and I don’t think I’ve ever been the same since.
“As a teacher when I just arrived in Thailand, I struggled to teach English to a class of 12-year-olds and finally resorted to singing Simon Says with them. It was a desperate measure but they loved it and seeing all those beaming faces made it all worthwhile.
“Then on my first visit to the maid’s village in Yasothon, I remember waking up to be served a breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and coffee. It was just like home.
“Ultimately, it’s the simple things in life you appreciate the most.’’