The words from a Queen song go; “I’ve fallen in love for the first time / This time I know it’s for real.”  Before using that as the theme for a great story, here’s a trivia question for you:  Where was the late, great Freddie Mercury born?
Trevor was born in Surry, somewhere in the Land of the Great Unwashed.  Late fifties, never been married and on his first trip to Thailand, it was the usual story.  But Trevor had an advantage.  His friend Mark, who convinced him to take a holiday in Thailand, had been running a bar in Pattaya for close to fifteen years.  Mark provided detailed instructions on how to get to Pattaya from Bangkok airport and promised to show him the ropes while he was here.  All seemed well.

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The first hint that something was not quite right came when Trevor failed to show up on the day he was supposed to.  Mark had no way to contact him and didn’t know where Trevor had disappeared to.  It wasn’t until five days after his expected arrival that Trevor finally strolled into Mark’s bar.
“Where the bloody hell have you been?”
“I’ve been in Pattaya but I lost the piece of paper with your phone number and address.  I’ve been asking around but no-one seems to know you.”
Trevor sat down, Mark bought him a beer and the two friends spent some time catching up.  Trevor explained he had caught a taxi from the airport and, at the driver’s suggestion, was staying at a hotel in North Pattaya.  He said it was fine and he was quite happy to stay there even though Mark had kept a room for him above the bar.  When Mark asked what he had been doing for the last five days, Trevor smiled.
“Well, I’ve met this really wonderful girl,” he grinned.  “On my first day here, would you believe, I was walking down one of the streets to the beach – number 6 it was – and saw her sitting outside a bar.  We talked and got on famously.  She told me she wanted to go with me and all about the ‘bar fine’ deal.  She said she had only been working for two weeks and hated it, so I paid the money and took her for a meal, a movie and then back to the hotel.”
Mark was laughing loudly.  “Welcome to Pattaya, mate.  Within 24 hours you’ve managed to find Soi 6 and the girl of your dreams.  Well done!”
“You can laugh, but she really is a nice lady.  We’ve been together every night for the last five days and I want her to stay with me for the rest of the trip.  Only problem is – and I talked with her about it today – I don’t want to keep paying that ‘bar fine’ every day.  It really cheapens the relationship and …”
“Relationship?” Mark interrupted loudly, “What bloody relationship?  Look, she’s a working girl and you’re a punter!  What’s wrong with keeping things like that?”
Trevor ignored the question and continued with his train of thought.  “I just told her I’d pay the total bar fine in one lump sum rather than hand over 800 baht every day.”
“800 baht?  Are you nuts?  We’re talking Soi 6 here and the maximum bar fine is 300 baht!  Shit, for 800 baht you could bar fine the best showgirl in the best Go Go in Walking Street!”
“She told me that’s what her bar fine was.”
Mark shook his head.  “Mate, she’s taking the piss!”
“The money doesn’t matter – it’s only a bit over eleven quid anyway.”
“There’s another rule you’ve broken; don’t compare prices with back home.  This is Thailand and the economy is different.  It’s blokes like you who keep forcing prices up here and pretty soon you’ll screw it up for all of us.”
Trevor took a long swig of his beer as Mark continued.  “Honestly, the best thing for you to do is go and check out of the hotel now, move all your stuff here and not go back anywhere near Soi 6 again.  Don’t call her or leave any message or forwarding address.”  He paused for effect.  “Please tell me you haven’t handed over the loot yet?”
“I gave her the 8,000 baht this morning.”
Mark shook his head.  “That’s stupid, but it could be worse.  You’ll just have to write that off because it will be cheaper in the long run.  You haven’t given her any other money in advance, have you?”
Trevor hesitated and took a slow sip of his beer.  The look on his face meant the answer was obvious.
“How much?” asked Mark with an expression resigned for the bad news.
“I know what you’re going to say, but this girl really is sincere.”
“How much?” Mark repeated.
“Twenty thousand baht.”
“Bloody hell!  Did she see you coming or what?”
“No, but she really needed the money.  If you had heard the problems she has at home you would have given it to her too.”
“Not a chance!”
“Anyway, as she said, it is not a lot of money for me.”
“Mate, don’t you realize you’ve just given her 2,000 baht a day plus another 500 she skimmed off the top of the ‘bar fine’.  That bird has struck a gold mine.”
“You can’t comment because you haven’t met her.”
“Mate, I’ve met a thousand of her and it’s always the same crap.”  Mark looked incredulously at his friend.  “Well,” he sighed, “the damage is done and you won’t get your money back so you are probably better off staying with her, I suppose.  But under no circumstances give her any more money!”
Trevor fell silent, as if trying to avoid an awkward moment.  Then, like a man facing the firing squad finally coming to terms with his fate, he spoke.  “I told her I’d give her another 20,000 before I flew home.”
Mark could no longer conceal his disgust and, friend or no friend, his eyes filled with fury.  “You stupid git!  You must have ‘I am a pratt’ written in Thai across your forehead!  In five days you’ve managed to break every rule and fall for all the bullshit.  If you have any male relatives, make sure they don’t come to Thailand.  Just in case it’s genetic!”  Mark stood up and went to the fridge for two more beers.  He placed one in front of Trevor and began sipping on his own.  There was an awkward silence for a long time as Mark sat like a headmaster deciding what to do with an errant pupil, and Trevor not knowing what all the fuss was about.

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Later in the evening, the two mates laughed and joked about old times.  Trevor promised Mark he would always seek his advice in future.  Mark promised he would not call him a ‘pratt’ any more.  Their friendship would survive.  Next morning, the sun rose in the east.  Five days later Trevor handed a tearful Lek 20,000 baht.  Two hours later he boarded a plane to the UK.  Oh, and Freddie Mercury was born in Zanzibar
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