Interview with Roger Crutchley

by Leonard H. Le Blanc III

We are speaking with Roger Crutchley, long -serving Bangkok Post PostScript columnist, and world -famous raconteur.

What brought you Thailand?

It was all a mistake. In January 1969, I set off from London in a clapped -out bus for an overland trip to New Delhi, hoping to go on to Australia. Things didn’t quite turn out that way. I had no intention of coming to Thailand. The bus broke down in the Afghanistan desert and I broke down in Calcutta, with just enough money for a plane ticket to Bangkok, arriving in April 1969. I eventually got to Australia 27 years later, possibly qualifying for the slowest ever journey from London to Sydney.

What has changed the most here?

When I arrived there were no high -rises in Bangkok. In 1970 the Dusit Thani hotel became the tallest building with 23 storiesstoreys. Malls have now taken over from cinemas as the best places to enjoy the cheap air conditioning. People also stand in queues, which didn’t happen before. I miss the traditional sounds of the Ssois: the old night watchman striking the bell every hour after midnight; the noodle vendor with a booming voice on his bicycle cart; the ice -cream seller with his gentle tinkling bell. One thing I don’t miss is those old Bluebird rattletrap taxis with holes in the floor and no air conditioning. It’s also years since I’ve been ambushed by street kids in Bangkok shouting: “Hey you, one baht”. I kind of miss that… well, no I don’t really.

 

What has changed the least?

The Thai people have not changed as much as some might claim. Certainly, they are a little more materialistic but still friendly, polite and helpful. I wouldn’t have stayed here 50 years if that wasn’t the case. For many years I was fortunate in having a reliable maid who readers of the Bangkok Post would know as Ms. Yasothon. She sadly passed away back in 2003, but her husband, Noi, is still looking after our house and garden. He is a lovely fellow and has become a good friend and doing a magnificent job with our garden.

 

Of all the people you have interviewed who was the most interesting?

I’ve only interviewed sportspeople and one that stands out is the late All Blacks rugby star Jonah Lomu. He was inspirational both on and off the pitch as he bravely fought a losing battle against kidney disease. He was a lovely, cheerful fellow and one of the most humble sportsmen I ever met. Interviewing my childhood hero, England football star Sir Bobby Charlton was also a wonderful experience. Charlton’s World Cup -winning teammate, hat -trick hero, Sir Geoff Hurst, was also a most enjoyable interview. Then there was Australian cricketer, Sir Dennis Lillee, whose first words to me were: “G’day mate, fancy a beer?”

 

How has Thailand changed you?

I have changed from Young Crutch to Old Crutch, from Skinny Crutch to Tubby Crutch, from Carefree Crutch to A Trifle Grumpy Crutch. It is important to accept you are in a country with a very different culture. In the early days, I had to stop myself saying: “We don’t do it like that in England.”

 

What are the most interesting places to visit here?

Anywhere without hordes of tourists. Alas, there are few such places left (before the coronavirus), although rural Thailand, especially the Northeast is okay with me. I avoid returning to places like Koh Phi Phi and Phuket that I visited when they were pristine but have since been overrun. In the old days, I enjoyed exploring remote areas with a good friend and colleague Tony Waltham.

 

Where do you get your weekly Bangkok Post column inspiration from? 

The dog. If I’m stuck, he usually comes up with a good idea. He is also a good listener in my more fragile moments.

 

What do you do for enjoyment?

Listen to modern jazz, which these days isn’t very “modern”: John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Jimmy Smith, and many others. It’s very therapeutic and the dog likes it too. I also love sitting in our small garden watching the birds and squirrels at play, plus the odd frog. It’s wonderful natural entertainment.

 

What do you see the future is for Thailand?

I knew there would be one question I couldn’t answer. During my time here I’ve experienced assorted coups and upheavals and somehow Thailand has always landed on its feet. I just hope that continues to be the case and things remain stable.

 

What do you see the future is for Old Crutch?

With a bit of luck, I’ll probably just fade away.

 

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