Cambodia Tales, Day 2: glorious boating weather

Today’s pictures are from the villages adjacent to, and Lake Tonle Sap itself


I’m not sure when I saw my first house boat – probably in 1978 when I moved into a flat next to the Lots Road power station which is by the Thames and Chelsea Harbour. I fell for the idea of a home on the water. And this from a man who lacks any sort of buoyancy, despite a gaseous porosity which is the despair of my family.

Boats on the Thames and specifically house boats are about as far removed from the floating villages and houses on stilts we saw today. Leaving the grandeur of the temples behind we headed for Lake Tonle Sap , the biggest freshwater lake in South East Asia and part of the water system that feeds into and from The Mekong which flows through six countries and covers 4000 km on its journey out of the ice melts of Tibet and eventually into the South China Sea.

The lake grows and shrinks with the seasons and life hereabouts pretty much mirrors it. In the dry the local people grow crops and travel more easily, spreading out on dusty fields, rutted by the retreating water.

But that self same water is less welcoming as the levels reduce, exacerbating any pollutants. Come the turn of the seasons, and we are now heading into the wet season, lives withdraw more.

Anything valuable is lifted to safety, including livestock and boats replace mopeds for the trips to market or school.

Inevitably nature’s fickle, erm, nature imposes extremes – in 2011 it was an egregious flood that brought sewerage into homes in much the same was as happened on the Somerset levels but without any supporting infrastructure.

I sat in the boat as we cruised far out, looking on at berry brown children swimming and smiling

while extended families mended nets and cleaned fish. Smiles, so cheap and here so freely given are a seduction to this tourist.

They wave and turn back to their labours. I looked ahead and wondered, not for the first time if I’m a welcome visitor or thoughtless voyeur.

Far out the lake becomes a sea, the distant crinkle of foliage soon giving way to a tired and empty horizon.

It’s peaceful, in this now pacific land.

I wish them well.

Yesterday The Textiliste prompted me to write a story with this picture prompt.

Here is the second part.

Two days later they had their answer. ‘Two sets of prints apart from Jay. Tiffany’s and a partial from a John Doe. And the John Doe held the gun after Tiffany, smudging hers.’
‘The gun shop owner?’
‘No. He said he never touched it and he’s clean. Maybe Jay’s protecting someone.’
‘Or it’s Grant’s. We’ll know when we get him here.’
‘Let’s call round. See what Jay says now.’
It took them 24 hours to find the time. Clay called ahead to warn Mrs Cattle. ‘I’ll make sure he’s in. Not that he goes out much, now he’s got his darned computers back.’
Jay sat at a monitor when his mother appeared. ‘Darling. The police are coming to have a word.’
‘About time,’ was his enigmatic reply.
Jay was not untypical for his age in that he suspected – with reason – that his parents snooped on him. As a result he had rigged one computer with a motion-activated camera, the aim being to capture what they did if they entered his room whenever he was out. Because of the plumber the camera and the sensor, rather than pointing into the room towards the door, had been moved so they aimed at the street. As Officers Prole and Clay entered the room, Jay rolled his chair away from the monitor. ‘You’ll want to watch this.’
The two men stared as Grant Westbrook and his wife parted company with one heading into the park while the other strode down the street. The camera shut off and on again and immediately the scene changed. A short man in a beanie, wearing a coat too heavy for the weather hurried out of the park and turned towards the Cattle house. He crossed the road and briefly disappeared below the line of the camera before moving away again, this time in the same direction as Grant Westbrook had gone.
‘I’ve blown up the man’s image. I can’t be sure but it looks like he’s carrying something. He doesn’t have it in the final shot.’
Jay explained what had happened with the sensor and camera and repeated why it was only now they were seeing the recording. ‘The camera works when it detects movement. There’s a gap of thirty minutes between the first man walking away and the second one leaving the park and crossing the street.’
The policemen were stunned. Their whole case had just crumbled. Now they needed to start again, with a cold trail and a family who wanted a guilty party. Prole felt everyone of his forty-seven years. Clay spoke first. ‘We can’t get Westbrook back, not after this. It fits what he told us. He left her and she was the victim of some random mugging, shot with her own gun.’
He was right about the extradition. Grant’s attorneys made much of the clear prejudice evidenced by the police behaviour and the constant press harassment.
Grant Westbrook was relieved. He hadn’t expected things to go quite so well. He knew that eventually one of the cameras he’d carefully made sure had picked him up would prove he didn’t have the time to kill her and get away. What he hadn’t counted on was the fool he’d hired to take her out had acted so fast. The arrangement had been to hold her for a few hours – in the park or somewhere – and then top her.
The killer, whose name isn’t recorded, had been surprised when Tiffany pulled her own gun. ‘Mister I don’t care what you plan. If Grant’s gone then life ain’t worth it.’
He should have let her kill herself but that wasn’t in the planning and he had tried to stop her. The clean shot had been entirely accidental. At least he consoled himself that the spot he’d chosen for the killing was devoid of cameras to pick him up going into and leaving the park. Maybe he had been rash to dump the gun but it was clear no one had touched it in ages so it was unlikely to be found.
Three years later, he was pulled over for a minor infraction and his prints showed a match with a John Doe on a murder case that had long grown cold. Roger Clay remembered it mostly for the teen’s bedroom and the sense that one day the story would all unravel.
When, finally Grant Westbrook was arrested for his wife’s murder he laughed when told it was a remotely activated camera that had provided the evidence of the killer and the gun. He knew he should never have believed it would be a camera that would save him.

Oh, PS is it any surprise that the one piece of high ground is covered by a buddhist temple?

I have to admit it is rather lovely

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in cambodia, creative writing, miscellany, short story, thought piece, travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Cambodia Tales, Day 2: glorious boating weather

  1. Ritu says:

    Great photos His Geoffleship and fantastic ending to the story!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Enjoyable story – coo.

    I think they’re genuinely pleased to see you because you are bringing some money locally and I’m sure they don’t think you’re a voyeuristic nana! Smiling is always part of their greeting to make things smooth. You are genuinely welcome.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mary Smith says:

    Great ending to the story. I didn’t see the twist coming.
    You’re not a thoughtless voyeur or you wouldn’t be posing the question – though I do know what you mean. I think, though, accept the smiles as being well-meant.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ali Isaac says:

    Wow! You certainly get around, our Geoffle! I’m so envious of your
    Holiday destinations. I hope I get the chance to travel a bit more in the future. Till then I’ll just enjoy your posts and photos… which I’ve been following on FB. Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I enjoyed the ending to that story, Geoff, it was worth the wait.
    I am sure that you are welcome there and the smiles are genuine 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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