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» Take my Mother-in-law...

Time for a father-in-law one...
Not that we're married, or likely to be, but here goes...

Imagine a freezing cold winter in Gunma-ken, about an hour north of Tokyo by bullet train, and then an hour's drive into the mountains. The in-laws-to-maybe-be love going to the very traditional Japanese hot spring baths, so off we go, after a couple of words of advice from my beloved. Off we go, that is, separately - her & putative mother-in-law, and me and PFIL, whose English isn't even as good as my Japanese.

So - I manage to get butt naked in a room full of strange men, and to wash _before_ getting into the bath. All despite small Japanese boys who have apparently never seen a hajukin before, let alone a naked one, standing about ten inches from my wedding tackle gazing at me in wonderment (cue apology for length). And then PFIL just disappears into the crowd.

Now, I'm a little short-sighted, and the idea of going up to within recognition distance of each of about a hundred naked men to see which one I know isn't exactly within my confort zone, so I spent what seemed like four hours in the shallow end, waiting for him to come and rescue me, or at least buy me a beer...

Anyway, it was less embarrassing than my friend's meet-the-Japanese-family-while-in-the-bath story - his now brother-in-law gave him a big hug in the changing rooms and, in broken English, stuttered:

We are now family - I have seen your penis!
(Mon 12th Sep 2005, 18:08, More)

» The most cash I've ever carried

Four carrier bags of renminbi
Back in the mid-90s I spent some time working at a private school that was being set up in southern China. Interesting work - a combination of mopping floors and taking corrupt officials and gangsters to karaoke parlours.

Anyway, one day my boss asks me to come to the bank with him. On the way there he tells me he's going to pick up the cash for everybody's pay for the month, plus enough to buy a piano, a minibus, and to pay some hefty bribes.

One quick trip to the safety deposit box later, he's got a big stack of HK$1000 notes. So off we go to change them into Chinese money. In what looks for all intents and purposes to be a small hole-in-the-wall shop selling flip-flops and bits of wire.

After five minutes in a back room, he returns with four flimsy carrier bags crammed with the People's Republic of China's highest denomination banknotes - worth about eight quid each at the time. Amazingly, the money-changer didn't think it was worth double-bagging the cash, despite the fact that the handles were getting steadily longer as we waited outside the shop for a taxi.

After ten minutes or so feeling decidedly uncomfortable, we took the only option that presented itself - a motorbike that had been turned into a tricycle with some dodgy welding and a couple of planks of wood as a seat. And so off we went, back to the school, two of us crammed together on a deathtrap machine trying to hold on to the bike and the bags whilst simultaneously looking nonchalant about the fact we're carrying enough cash to feed a family for a decade.
(Fri 23rd Jun 2006, 10:46, More)

» Have you ever paid for sex?

The Beast of Borneo
Living in South-East Asia, there's not exactly a shortage of stories. Let me see - last weekend there was an American ship in town, and so we had a couple of rounds of the game where you pick two Marine who haven't realised the original gender of the beautiful girls they're buying drinks; then two of you go up and start chatting before telling them both separately that their friend's about to shag a bloke - and then running for your life: angry Marines are one thing, but never get between a ladyboy and her next transaction.

I think the best one was in Hong Kong a few years ago - a colleague, who we called the Beast of Borneo, was notorious for negotiating affection. One Saturday afternoon, he rang me up and asked if he could pop round to my flat. Ten minutes later, he arrives, clearly shaken, and phones his hotel, making up some story about the room being unacceptable and asking to have all of his belongings moved to another one. Apparently Miss Friday Night hadn't wanted to leave on Saturday - so they went out for breakfast. She wouldn't leave after that either, so they hung out and then went for lunch together. She still wouldn't go, so he took her shopping, loaded her up with clothes and sent her into the changing room - before jumping in a cab to my place! He was normally overly eager to share his exploits with everybody, but refused to say what he'd done to this girl, or why he was so scared of her coming back...
(Mon 23rd Jan 2006, 11:15, More)