Here’s the thing.
For the umpteenth time my novel has ground to a halt, and I am finding it annoying and frustrating that this should be the case, yet again. There is any number of reasons why this has happened – from my hard disk crashing to my medical problems, to my daughter’s visit, and goodness knows what else.
Yet throughout all these recent distractions, with the odd exception, I have succeeded in keeping my blog going on a regular basis. Why? Because publishing a new blog post takes precedence over all my other activities. The reason for this is because if I stop writing my blog on a regular basis, I will undoubtedly lose a lot of my readers – which I have devoted so much effort to building up in the first place.
I know that if it was me following someone’s blog, and I got into the habit of reading a new post twice a week, I would be pissed off if the publication of new posts became irregular and unreliable.
As a consequence, whenever I have had some free time, I devote it to my blog rather than my novel.
I enjoy writing both of them; the novel takes more out of me, but the feeling of having achieved something is all the greater. So I confess that of the two creative processes, my novel writing has the edge over blog writing and I do feel truly frustrated that I can’t seem to devote more time to it and cease all this ‘stop-start’ nonsense, which in itself tends to slow down the whole process; as every time I leave it for a week or more, it takes me several days to get back into the swing of things.
Digressing slightly, I was interested the read a tweet posted by Steven Leather, (the well known author of the legendary ‘Private Dancer’ and countless thriller novels ), in which he stated that he hoped that he would achieve 1,000 words of writing during that particular day of his tweet.
I found this comment interesting and not a little personally frustrating. It made me realise yet again how silly it is that my novel is well into its second year with no prospects of completing it in sight, yet Steven, with a modest target of 1,00 words a day, rolls out the novels almost at the drop of a hat. He is clearly much more organised and single-minded than Mobi.
The silly thing is that I rarely, if ever, suffer from ‘writer’s block’, and although the first couple of sentences might take a while to get down, within a short while, I am well into the creative process and can easily write 3,000 words or more at a single sitting when I set my mind to it, although the original text will be subject to much editing over the following days.
The plain fact is, if I could just allocate more days a week to the novel, it wouldn’t take very long to get it finished, but the way I am right now, much of my ‘creative’ time is devoted to my blog. OK, this is only 2 days per week, but by the time I have done all the other things in my life on top of all my recent distractions, it seems to have been increasingly difficult to find even the odd day to devote to my novel.
There is also the ‘creative fatigue’ factor. I am aware that my blogs are by no stretch of the imagination the ‘greatest thing since sliced bread’, but I do put my heart and soul into them for a few hours, (the average blog can run from 2,000 – 4,000 words), and I sometimes find it wearisome to write a blog one day and then switch back to my novel the next, if and when I am free to do so.
So what does all this mean? What is all this leading up to?
Well folks, I have decided that for the next few months – or at least until I have completed my novel – I am going to publish a new blog post just once a week, on a weekend, usually a Sunday. If I am successful in getting back into my novel, the completed chapters will be published, as before, during the week and will effectively make up my second weekly blog.
I will try to increase the size of my ‘weekend blog’, but I must also bear in mind the fact that I have received a number of comments though the years to the effect that my blogs were too long, which is the reason they are now shorter than they used to be.
So that’s the thing.
On the medical front, I think I can now breathe a sigh of relief that all the preliminary ‘skirmishes’ are now at an end, and I can sit back and await the dreaded call to go under the knife.
Last Friday, I had to go back to Rajavithi hospital for a check-up, following my in-patient angiogram. All was well, except a dent to my good humour after having to hang around from 6.30 in the morning to midday when I finally saw the Doc. He took about five minutes to establish that my wound was healing well and that my blood tests showed no abnormal renal function – which apparently is a possible side effect of my procedure.
I still have no idea of the exact cost for the valve replacement operation, or whether they will use a metal or animal valve, or indeed when it is all going to happen. Patience is a virtue so they say, so I will try and relax, sit back and await the surgeon’s pleasure.
But I confess that it is a bit of a worry – I know it is going to be a very unpleasant and painful procedure which will require several weeks of recuperation, and there is always the risk that I may not make it.
It is a black cloud over my life. I do find it difficult to keep the operation out of my mind, so I am not a particularly happy bunny right now, and sometimes I am moodier than I have a right to be.
Life should be almost perfect in my little tropical paradise, with my lovely, caring Noo, my three adorable dogs and sufficient money to live in reasonable comfort for the rest of my life; but the harsh prospect of my pending operation has simply darkened my otherwise sunny existence and I can’t wait for it to be all done and dusted so that I can get on with my life.
But in spite of these worries, it has never occurred to me to drown my sorrows in alcohol, and although I often feel low and moody, I am a long way from that terrible depression that all but consumed me, barely a year or two back.
The evil that lurks…….
…within all of us?
Maybe, but it certainly lurks within many of the worst of our beloved Thai politicians and civil servants.
Here’s an interesting question. Can you think of a single person who would have a bad word to say about elephants?
Yes – Elephants – those magnificent, ancient, highly intelligent, massive creatures who put us humans to shame when it comes to loving and protecting their kith and kin.
Anyone who has watched any decent documentary on the subject of these wonderful animals – who are throwback from a bygone age – cannot fail to be inspired and be full of admiration for these truly glorious animals who, in their natural habitat, do not have an aggressive bone in their body, save when they are protecting their loved ones.
Thailand is a country that is blessed with so many things – from its climate, it’s beaches, its scenery, its art, its food, its temples, its beautiful women, its sensitive, gentle, Buddhist-inspired culture and so much more. On top of all this, Thailand is one of the few countries remaining in the world where these ancient pachyderms are still able to exist and live in their wild state, and where they are loved and revered as almost ‘spiritual’ beings.
Wonderful ain’t it?
One might think so, but sad to say, it is far from the truth of the matter. Like so many good things that have been spoiled in Thailand, the plight of elephants has long fallen victim to the avarice and greed of people with power.
Those of you who have either visited Thailand or reside here have almost certainly been to some kind of ‘elephant show’ at least once in your life. I have seen several such shows through the years. When you go to an elephant ‘show’ or maybe on a so-called ‘elephant trek’, you will be sold the usual line about how much the Thais love their elephants, how they are well treated, and that the devoted mahouts stay with a single elephant all their life.
You will be told that a mahout will become responsible for the care and training of an elephant when still a baby, and that there is a strong bond of love and affection between man and his elephant.
We are assured that the elephants are never subjected to cruelty when they are trained to allow people to ride on their backs or to perform tasks like logging in the jungle or to perform tricks in elephant shows.
The world believed all this for years, but we now know different. All elephants are trained deep inside the Thai jungle, far away from the prying eyes of western animal lovers, but in recent years, thanks to the determination of a few determined elephant lovers, the outside world has been made aware of the true methods used to train ALL elephants.
In short, when they are still very young, they are tied up and beaten into submission. It is the way that every elephant has been trained since time immemorial. Nothing that these elephants do for us is done voluntarily, through a process of love and gentle suggestion. They are wild animals and all they wish to do is live in the wild with their families. Everything they do for us humans is done through fear and terror; with memories seared into their brains of what may happen to them if they refuse to obey.
In recent years, western countries – such as the UK – have come to understand this unpleasant truth and it is for this reason that all wild animal acts are banned from circuses in England. It is now an established fact that no wild animal can be trained to perform tricks without some form of cruelty being used in the training process, particularly with animals such as elephants.
Ironically, a British family run circus, which had enjoyed a good reputation for generations, was caught inflicting cruelty on some of their elephants a few years back by people using under-cover cameras. So it isn’t only in Thailand that such cruelty exists.
Some years ago, during my drinking hey days, I was staggering along a Bangkok side street at about 4 in the morning when I saw a sight in a tiny, narrow ‘sub- soi’ which has stayed with me ever since. I might have been a bit pissed, but not so much that I didn’t see and appreciate exactly what was going on.
About twenty yards into this deserted and very quiet soi, I saw a baby elephant and his mahout. I had seen them before as they used to patronise the Soi Cowboy, red-light area in search of hand-outs from the tourists.
But now, in the apparent safety of this sub soi, well away from prying eyes, I saw the baby elephant on its knees and the mahout beating it unmercifully, shouting and screaming at the animal in an attempt to train it to kneel on demand. It was something I will never forget till my dying day. I suppose I might have been imagining the next bit of my story, but I swear to God I could see tears in the eyes of that poor, demented creature.
In recent years, so much concern has arisen concerning the wellbeing of these poor creatures that dedicated elephant lovers – both Thais and foreigners – have set up wild life sanctuaries where hundreds of abused Thai elephants have been provided with safe havens.
But sad to relate, repeated, unwarranted government raids on these respected wildlife sanctuaries have now done serious damage Thailand’s image at home and abroad.
It all started when the people running these sanctuaries called into question the judgment of the National Parks chief, after revelations that killings of mature elephants in Kaeng Krachan recently were orchestrated to supply babies to elephant tourist parks – with the involvement of top officials in that park, which is located several hours south of Bangkok.
Numerous elephant camps and wildlife centres have been raided since reports emerged in January that a criminal syndicate was selling baby elephants from Burma and national parks to tourist facilities for large sums – up to 900,000 baht each.
There have been claims that up to half of the young elephants in Thailand have been smuggled in alongside ‘fake’ surrogate mothers that already have identity papers. A loophole in the law, which does not require babies to be registered till they are eight years old, has aided this trade.
There have also been accusations that the use of identity chips and papers is being manipulated and subject to abuse. Many think DNA tests, which are still fairly costly, and the possible introduction of ‘passports’ for all elephants, are the only way to eliminate this trade and guarantee the real identity of the 3,000 or so elephants in Thailand.
The government’s response to these allegations was to hit back at the two key accusers by raiding centres that they operate. Why? Because some elephant parks are run by businesspeople with money and influence. They have a lot to lose. And tourism chiefs may also fear a backlash if tourists decide they don’t want to visit elephant parks with ‘captive’ babies made docile and compliant by a violent ‘breaking of their spirit’ by mahouts.
The man who raised the alarm initially was Dutchman Edwin Wiek, who was subsequently punished by a series of raids on the wildlife rescue centre he runs in Phetchaburi. Dozens of National Parks officials and armed border police descended on his facility for more than a week, claiming Wiek had no papers for more than 100 of the 450 animals at his centre, located on temple land and backed by a local abbot.
Videos of animals being taken from Wat Khao Luk Chang – with some being seriously harmed in the process – incensed his supporters. Wiek lodged court appeals to fight claims that he kept undocumented animals at the site, and has temporarily stepped down as head of the Wildlife Friends Foundation in Thailand (WFFT).
Wiek is no stranger to Thailand. He has lived here for 20 years and speaks fluent Thai. He runs one of the best wildlife facilities in Southeast Asia but has created enemies because he has been prepared to speak out. By repeating his allegations at a recent speech at the Foreign Correspondents Club – he became a farang marked for revenge.
Other foreigners working in the wildlife sector believe Wiek was rash to speak publicly, saying a backlash against a ‘noisy outsider’ was inevitable. He has paid a heavy price – receiving death threats and seeing his Thai wife charged at the local police station after the initial raid last month. TV Channel 3 was also co-opted to air a report detailing the charges against him on the night he spoke at the FCCT.
Wiek has fought intimidation before, in a long-running battle with a large tourist facility in Bangkok, found with dozens of smuggled orang-utans, over 50 of which were eventually flown back to Borneo.
He was publicly backed by another shining light in the local wildlife community – Sangduan “Lek” Chailert, who runs the Elephant Nature Park (ENP) in Mae Taeng, 50km north of Chiang Mai. Lek is a short but similarly feisty individual, the winner of a host of international awards for her care for elephants.
Her sanctuary, which has 35 elephants, most of them old and infirm, was also raided. But on March 1, local reporters and TV crews were on hand to challenge parks officials. Why were they harassing one of the country’s most admired wildlife activists, who operates an acclaimed facility which is just a sanctuary – a retirement home where elephants roam free?
All facilities with elephants are being checked and ‘Lek’ had no papers for eight of her beasts, officials said. Privately they were told: “She stepped on someone’s toes.” Unlike Wiek, Lek opposes the use of elephants at tourist facilities. The Mae Taeng Valley has several hundred elephants and most of her neighbours operate tourist parks. Very few would care for these glorious animals to the level that she does.
DNP officials were filmed in discussions with her lawyer, who requested 30 days to get the documents. They got 15 days. Lek said she feared that any old elephants confiscated might die at government facilities. She vowed to strongly oppose any confiscation.
Meanwhile, the owners of camps along the Burma border and others in Surin – some of them thought to be deeply involved in elephant smuggling – have talked about blocking highways and a petition to the Administrative Court to try to get the National Parks chief, removed.
This comes on top of a protest outside the Thai embassy in London and a petition signed by tens of thousands supporting Wiek and Lek Chailert. The government is now under attack from both the ‘goodies’ and the ‘baddies’. It has a PR nightmare on its hands – more than 100,000 people have viewed videos of recent raids.
And little appears to have been done to rid the problem that started this whole mess: a park chief accused of murder and possible involvement in the slaying of elephants under his oversight. Surely, he must be the first to go.
And maybe it’s time for the government and elephant camp operators to put their houses in order: Pay for a DNA identity system and eliminate the doubts surrounding their operations.
But I wouldn’t hold out too much hope on all this. There is far too much money at stake and the evil which lurks in government circles will undoubtedly ensure that the few dedicated and brave protestors are eventually silenced, one way or another.
As for the poor, wretched victims – those survivors of a long-forgotten age? Unfortunately they have no voice… and no choice…
Shame on you Thailand!
BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…I don’t give a Hoot!…