Monday 27th July 2015
I have swum in waterfalls, driven buggies through jungles, eaten unrecognisable delicacies on sticks purchased from a ‘walking street’, watched as people performed a bafflingly slow conga dance by moonlight, smiled at my children’s reaction to the preening ladyboys and the unabashed hawkers selling dildos alongside mobile phone cases. I have sipped at cocktails on the roof terrace of a Bangkok hotel and sat in Buddhist temples and listened to the orange-clad monks chanting. I have had the best and most vigorous massage of my life, travelled in a boat along the Mekong river, swum in infinity pools, seen the biggest catfish imaginable and eaten enough sticky rice to satisfy me for at least the rest of this year. I have taken a plane away from the mainland and then a taxi and then a ferry and then another taxi and have found myself on a white beach next to an azure sea the temperature of a pool in a spa hotel. I have sat in the dark, watching the insects swirl around the fairy lights draped across the bar and have drunk more cocktails and eaten pineapple and dragon fruit and lychee.
And now I am here. The only human walking along the white strands, picking up dead coral, sifting through the bleached bones in my hand.
Forty years ago I stood on a similar beach with my little sister and my Dad.
It is 7.30am on Monday 27th July 2015.
Fifteen minutes ago, my sister called. We leapt from our heat-drugged sleep to answer it. My sister has not called all week. We have emailed and occasionally texted. I knew that Dad had gone back into the general hospital for a second time to have the fluid drained from his lungs. A phone call means something else has happened.
‘He has gone into the Hospice.’
‘I don’t want you to have to come to come back. I just think there may not be much time left. But it is up to you. We are doing fine.’
She pauses. ‘They said last night they thought 36 hours at the most.’
Husband comes to find me on the beach. ‘A ferry leaves at 8.30am to get you back to Koh Samui. If you get a taxi in the next ten minutes, you should make it.’
We have worked out that it will take me the best part of 36 hours to get to Pembury in Kent from Koh Tao in the Chumphon Archipelago.
I run to the cabin, throw random things into a rucksack, hug my children.
It is Monday 27th July 2015 and I am going home to say goodbye to Dad.