The lucky escape: How missing out on a trip to the gym saved my life

By Steve Bloomfield
Thursday 09 August 2012 05:36

Guy Holmes had developed a routine for the start of every day of his holiday in the resort of Phuket in Thailand. Each morning at 9.30, with his friend Steve, he would go to the hotel gym which overlooked the mile-wide bay.

On the morning of 26 December, though, Steve played golf instead and Mr Holmes, 43, did not make it to the gym on time. It saved his life. While he sat in his room reading a book, the gym received the full brunt of the first tsunami wave. The sole guest using the running machines was decapitated as he was thrown through a plate glass window.

"I just thought, 'There but for the grace of God ...'" said Mr Holmes, a record company executive. "I saw water coming up the window of my room and ran out looking for my mum. She was standing there taking photos of the waves coming in. Very British.

"The first wave went out and took all the water in the bay with it. The bay was empty, with fish flapping on the shore. The second wave brought back all the debris - cars, deckchairs, everything. It was shocking."

After the first wave had hit the hotel, Mr Holmes tried to find out what had happened to the rest of his party of nine, which included children. He discovered that everyone else had gone into town to do some shopping. "We were so lucky that none of us were on the beach," he said.

The west coast of Thailand was severely hit by the tsunami, with Phuket among the tourist resorts suffering serious damage. More than 5,300 people were confirmed dead and around 3,000 more are still missing. Many British tourists were caught up in the disaster, and the Foreign Office chartered a plane to bring survivors home.

But Mr Holmes and his group decided to stay for the remainder of their break - a further six days. "You cannot abandon people," he said. "The Thai people were truly amazing. They were unflappable. So kind, so helpful, so decent. They earn their living from us; to abandon them would be terrible.

"The day after the tsunami we saw the Thai woman who had been selling pineapples and Coca-Cola to tourists on the beach. She had lost her daughter, but she was back. She said it was her livelihood. We bought a load of pineapples and Coca-Cola."

Mr Holmes, who is the chairman of Gut Records, an independent music label, said the experience had made him view his life in a completely different manner.

"You become a bit more fatalistic and think you are going to enjoy life, because it might all end tomorrow. I know it sounds clichéd, but life is for enjoying. You only live once. It is not a rehearsal."

An example of this new attitude can be found, somewhat bizarrely, at the top of the charts. Mr Holmes is responsible for the Crazy Frog ringtone, which has been at number one for the past three weeks. "The night I got home I turned on all the music channels and kept seeing the Crazy Frog advert. I thought that will make a good song. Before Christmas I would have looked at it and thought that isn't cool enough for me."

This Christmas, Mr Holmes and his friends will return to Phuket. "It is a beautiful place and the people were just amazing. They rely on tourism, so why shouldn't we go back?"

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