Mrs Canavan and I have finally decided where we’re going on our honeymoon this summer, but made the dreadful mistake of telling my mother.
“We’re heading to Koh Tao,” I told her on the phone.
“The Chinese chippy in Ramsbottom? Why?”
“No mum, it’s a tiny island off the coast of Thailand. It’s meant to be beautiful – the scenery is sumptuous, the wildlife wonderful, the sacred temples and architecture magnificent, and it’s 25p for a pint of lager.”
The conversation then drifted on to the other usual topics – how she’d got on at bridge (she’d been dealt a terrible hand and lost to Edna and Bill); grandchildren (“well, have you any news to report?”); and how the new neighbour at number six always comes back from the shop at with at least one bottle of whiskey (“I can see her now; that’s definitely a Famous Grouse jutting out of her handbag and it’s only 10 in the morning”).
Eventually, after pretending there was a Jehovah’s Witness knocking at the door, I managed to getoff the phone and continued with my day.
Half-an-hour later the phone rang. There wasn’t even a hello.
“Steven, you are not going to Kom Tong?” came my mother’s voice.
“It’s Koh Tao mum. Why?”
“I’ve just been on Goggle…”
“Whatever, Goggle says two British tourists were murdered there in 2014. You need to cancel the trip now.”
“Mum,” I replied patiently, “I daresay someone has been murdered in Doncaster in the last few years but it wouldn’t stop me going there.”
This carried on for a while, before I was forced to pretend the Jehovah’s Witness had returned.
However, the exchange had alarmed me slightly, so I did a bit of research to see if my mother’s claims were true.
About 18 months ago, two British backpackers were murdered in horrific fashion, apparently because they were holding hands on the beach and two watching Burmese men – who worked in a hotel on the island – “got aroused”.
Learning this suddenly dampened my enthusiasm for our forthcoming trip, though I did take some solace from the fact that Mrs Canavan and I are unlikely to be targeted on the grounds that there is no way we would ever hold hands.
Mrs Canavan tried to do so once – back in 2010 on a day-trip to Grange-over-Sands (she’d had a glass of wine and was feeling frisky) – but I pulled away immediately, told her in no uncertain terms that there must never be a repeat occurrence, and then went to give my hands a thorough wash.
But back to Koh Tao. I researched the island a little further and it didn’t make great reading.
Since the murders mentioned above, another four Westerners have been killed on the island.
According to the Daily Mail – so what’s not to trust? – there are just six police officers to protect the island’s 2,000 residents and the police chief admitted his force “isn’t the best”.
I read all this with an increasingly furrowed brow while Mrs Canavan was spread-eagled on the settee watching a programme called One Born Every Minute, which featured lots of screaming, sweaty, half-naked women with legs akimbo – not too dissimilar from a film I owned when I was a teenager.
‘Darling,’ I said. ‘This place in Thailand we’re going to, is it a hotel with, you know, proper security’.
“No,” she replied. “It’s a little hut on its own in the hillside. It’s very secluded.”
I gulped hard and googled ‘advice on making a will’. If this column abruptly ceases later in the year, you’ll know why.
Why I’ll be inspecting my pants carefully
My fears about going to Thailand aren’t just confined to getting murdered – though that would admittedly be a blow if it happened – but, as usual, the local wildlife.
After Mrs Canavan booked the trip (she tells me where we are going each year and I follow), I typed into my computer ‘are there snakes in Bangkok?’ (the capital of Thailand, where we begin our trip).
‘Yes, of course there are,’ said the first website I clicked on, in rather cheery tones. ‘Pythons are often found in the city and although they don’t typically target humans, they have over 70 very strong teeth and give a wicked bite.’
A good start.
It continued: ‘There are three species of cobra, which are deadly, and the snake responsible for the most deaths across the world – the Chain Viper – is found in central Thailand.
‘ It’s important to note, however, that these snakes will not chase you, so gradually move away slowly.’
Slowly? Are they for real? I can assure you that should I come face-to-face with a Chain Viper, I’m pretty confident I will break Usain Bolt’s record for the 100m.
Thailand also has deadly jellyfish, centipedes and scorpions, the latter of which “like to hide in clothing that has been left on the floor”.
Note to self: fold underpants up before going to bed and place them in a sealed bag.