Don’t worry folks – I’m not back on the booze. I do apologise, yet again, for the lengthy break in service; I just made a decision to prioritise all the myriad task and things I need to do before I climb onto one of those ageing Thai Airways 747 next Thursday evening for my long awaited trip back home.
At the time of writing – Monday – I am ‘there or there abouts’, so I will allow myself to write at least one more blog before my departure.
What have I been up to? Well, apart from diligently working my way through my ‘Things To Do’ list and gathering together all the stuff I need to take with me, I have just been indulging in normal, domestic, boring activities, which do not merit much attention in this blog.
One day last week, I did make a single trip out to the less reputable bars on one afternoon/evening but quite frankly, it only confirmed my conviction that it is time to move on from this kind of activity, at least on a regular basis. I will never rule out the odd sexual foray from time to time, but I confess that the magic seems to have gone out of the experience, and for the most part, although the girls were willing and solicitous, their budding client was not very enthused.
Maybe it is all part and parcel of the process of long term sobriety, or maybe it is simply that I am finding myself more and more satisfied and happy with my beloved little Noo. Not only does she continue keep me perfectly happy in ALL respects, but my feelings of guilt when I go out on the lam, are ever increasing.
Noo is a very cute, very sexy little thing and she is also one of life’s ‘happy-go lucky’ people, one of those fortunate beings who always has a smile on her face and has an easy, zany sense of humour. She always gently chides me when she sees me getting too serious about something. She doesn’t do ‘Serious’. She won’t even watch anything on TV that is too serious, sad or heart-wrenching as she can’t stop crying and it makes her depressed. One night she watched an English ‘soap’ with me, where the main characters were doing the dirty on each other, and it really upset her, big time.
That doesn’t mean she lacks a sense of responsibility – far from it. She is very bright and very diligent. She meticulously records every single Baht she spends that I give her for shopping; she is mine of information on every tree, plant and shrub that grows wild around the lake and is forever foraging for herbs and other foliage to use for cooking, and cuts offshoots to plant in her flower beds; she has turned the house flower beds into her own little garden, complete with little chicken wire fences to keep my Golden retriever out. She has set up a ‘Thai’ area on the front porch, complete with ubiquitous green plastic shade where she sits in late afternoon and plays on her computer – downloading songs and chatting on Skype to her friends – and prepares vegetables for cooking, amongst many other activities.
Sometimes, she gets up early to do the house cleaning before it gets too hot, then I crawl out of the bedroom, a couple of hours later, and I ask her if she is tired from all her labours. She just smiles at me and says; ‘A little, but I enjoy it; it’s good for me – good exercise….
I could go on and on about this gem of a lady sent to me by my Higher Power, as she never fails to surprise to me at extent of her intelligence and practical skills.
I am under no allusions as to whether Noo loves me or not; it is too unlikely, but I do believe she has become very fond of me – as I have of her – and I have little doubt that she will stay with me for many years and take care of me if I return the complement and take care of her.
I am pleased to report that apart from one day, when we were deluged with a violent thunderstorm, I have succeeded in taking a walk every evening at sundown. It must be over 10 days now and although I still have a long way to go, I really think I am starting to get a bit fitter. Certainly I am walking faster and going further than when we first started our evening strolls; our walks now last about 25 minutes.
I still get tightness in the chest and some angina pains in my left arm but they are not as severe as they were before. I am pleased to report that Cookie, my golden, is also looking a bit fitter and has lost some weight since we started our daily walks. We were both as bad as each other, but I suspect that Cookie will get herself back in some kind of decent shape long before her ageing master.
By way of a change I am posting a few pics of the area near my home, where I go for my daily walk. From where I live, the lake is clearly visible, a little way out, the other side of some dense trees and foliage, but if I walk in a northerly direction, around the lake, within a few minutes I am almost right next to the water. When I first came to live up near the lake, some 6 years ago, the area was pretty much deserted and there was only one restaurant and a pretty ropey bar in the entire area of the Lakeside. At night, it truly was the ‘Darkside’, and many people, quite rightly, would not go out after dark and would certainly not ride their bikes after about 9 p.m.
Now, especially, in the past year, the whole area has been totally transformed. It seems that hardly a day goes by when something new – a bar, a restaurant, a mini-mart, a specialist food shop, a hair salon, even a spa or a resort doesn’t open its new doors for business. It is no longer the somewhat bleak, isolated area that it was when I first moved here.
While its not exactly teeming with people – thank God – like Pattaya proper, there is no doubt that a flourishing community is starting to grow up; a mixture of better-off farangs (they mostly drive 4 wheeled vehicles, unlike their predecessors who mostly drove bikes), and middle class Thais. Just outside my moo-baan, one minute from where I live, a little Thai eating area has suddenly sprouted up out of nothing, and already there are three little Thai eating Thai shops and they are already doing good business.
Walking in a southerly direction I first pass a modern hotel /resort complex complete with al fresco and covered dining; a little further along is a large covered bar, then I pass a new western/Thai restaurant which has only been opened a few weeks but is already attracting a lot of business, then past a few grand houses with huge gardens that face out onto the lake and thence to the major junction.
Here, I can turn left towards Siam Country Club golf course and the Polo club and eventually get to the Rayong Highway on other other side of the golf course, or I can continue around the lake and follow the road to the end of the lake and thence westwards to Sukhumvit, some 15 kilometres away. The junction is also the boundary between Pong municipality, where I live, and Nong Prue Municipality.
This turning is about 8 minutes’ walk from my house and whereas not long ago it was a completely deserted area, it is now a virtual ‘village’, bustling with activity. Dominating the junction is a very large, new 7/11.
Next to it is a stand full of motor bike taxis, and just across from it, is a large area occupied by several ‘mobile’ eating shops with the plastic tables and chairs all set out in the area off the road for their customers.
Two of the ‘shops’ even have live TV for their customers! By dusk, the area is full of people, all parking their vehicles on the roadside and making it difficult to walk by without risking life and limb in the road. In other words, it is becoming a typical part of Thailand.
So here are some pics that I took on my walk up to the junction described above.
The new food shops, just outside my village.
The food shops – again…
Hotel/ resort along the road
Hotel/resort – again….
The bar down the road
The new restaurant
The new restaurant – again…
A view of the lake
A grand house, overlooking the lake. (also for sale)
A grand house – again….
One of Thailand’s newest 7/11’s, at the road junction.
It probably started the area’s ‘urbanisation’ process
Issan Food anyone?
These motorised food stalls are getting forever more creative
Note the satellite dish on this motorised bar…
Southwards, past the junction, back towards the Lake and Sukhumvit.
Back towards the Mobi-residence
Even my gardener drives a maintenance shop on wheels
Which house is Mobi’s?
The dog next door….
I hope, and believe that I will be able to continue my daily exercise when I get to England, as it is actually much easier, and generally more pleasant to take walks there, without breaking out in an instant sweat from the heat and humidity.
I doubt I I will lose much weight, given all the western food I will be devouring, but hopefully I will return to Thailand a little fitter.
My older brother, God bless him, wrote to me the other day warning me to bring some warm clothes with me as he and some of my long forgotten friends from my teenage years are planning to meet up with me in Northumberland and take a walk along Hadrian’s Wall!! I’m afraid I somewhat overreacted, and replied that I was in no fit state to walk to the end of the road, let alone a hike along Hadrian’s Wall, and if that was the sort of activity my friends were planning then they had better count me out.
He replied, assuring me that while he hadn’t fully appreciated the fragile state of my health, strenuous exercise was definitely not on the agenda and that everyone would be very disappointed if I failed to turn up as the get together had been specifically been planned with Mobi in mind and people were coming from near and far to be there and meet up with me.
Suitably chastised, I regretted my little tantrum and apologised, assuring my brother that I would of course fall in with all his well-intended and thoughtful plans.
I started writing this yesterday and I was about half way through when I had to stop and drive into Pattaya with Noo to do some last minute shopping. We ended up spending virtually the whole day there as we went to no less than 7 different places scattered around the town.
Firstly to Lotus in Jomtien, then to my insurance agent, also in Jomtien, then downtown to book a taxi for the trip to the airport, then to Tuk Com for some mobile phone and computer bits and pieces, then to Friendship Supermarket for a can of chilli beans with Turkey which Noo has taken a fancy to, then to Lotus in North Pattaya, (don’t ask me why went to two lotus’s…), and finally to the drug store where they didn’t have what I wanted and told me to go and get it from a doctor. Thanks very much!!!
We left at noon and returned at six p.m – both exhausted – Noo immediately fell asleep, and while I didn’t join her, I confess I felt too tired for my evening walk. I had walked for a lot more than 25 minutes during the course of the day (especially when we walked to Tuk Com from the far away car park, and then to Friendship and back again), so I decided that I had already achieved more than my usual daily stint.
Upon my return home yesterday, I had intended to finish off the blog and publish last night, but fatigue got the better of me, so it was left over till today.
So I will wind up my ‘pre-trip’ Babble in thanking all my readers for sticking with me, and especially to those of you who have wished me well.
I will go to England with some trepidation, (especially since all the rioting that has broken out over there), but with a quiet confidence that I will remain sober throughout my stay and return to Thailand without a drop of alcohol added to my brain or liver.
I intend to blog from the UK, but the extent and the frequency of my blogs will be pretty much dictated by circumstances and events largely beyond my control.
So farewell for now☺
Someone we love to hate has just lost an ‘A’… eh??
I cannot depart without making few comments on the latest economic disaster that is unfolding in the USA and indeed, across the world.
To start with, I will tell you a little story about what has happened in a small America community , which to my simple mind, is symptomatic of the whole problem facing not only America abut to all those countries who have spent beyond their means.
In the American town of Central Falls, Rhode Island, population 19,000, the state-appointed receiver has recently filed for bankruptcy. He had earlier indicated that seeking Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in federal court might be the only option unless municipal retirees and city workers made major voluntary concessions. Retirees, for instance, were asked to take cuts of up to 50% to their pensions, a move they did not accept, ahead of last Thursday’s deadline, set by the receiver.
With the city now seeking bankruptcy protection, the receiver said he plans to reduce pension benefits beginning in late August. He has asked the federal court to immediately reject collective bargaining agreements. He said the next set of pension payments will reflect at least the cuts he outlined to city retirees.
Central Falls has $80 million in unfunded pension and benefits obligations and $5 million deficits projected for each of the next five years. The city has found itself the subject of national headlines over its floundering finances and a high school so troubled that all its teachers were fired in one fell swoop last year, but eventually rehired.
A few days ago, a retired Central Falls Fire-fighter was interviewed by a television reporter. The man was 44 years old and told the interviewer he had put in the required 22 years of work, and had retired on a full pension. He had now been told that he would no longer receive his pension. He is very upset – of course he is; who wouldn’t be?
Unlike the Federal Government, all Cities and States in the USA are required, by law, to balance their budgets. Many clearly didn’t.
So the politicians who were running this little city thought it was fine to let able bodied men, still in the prime of life retire when they were in their early forties and guarantee them an index linked pension for the remaining 40 plus years of their lives, maybe twice as long as the period that they had worked for the city. Ditto, the teachers and countless other City employees.
Yet these foolhardy actions didn’t stop at misguided generosity. These folks were promised their wonderful pensions, yet no funds were put away in the city budget to pay for them. The politicians didn’t care. They were elected by their adoring voters because they cut such good deals for the worthy folk of Central Falls, and they knew they would be long gone by the time the day of reckoning came along.
Ponder on this: Central Falls, a town of 19,000 people, has unfunded pension and benefit liabilities of eighty million Dollars!
And before we start singling out the good folk of this small town for special condemnation, we must understand that what is happening in Central Falls is no different to what is happening in every town, city, State and country throughout the western world and beyond. Unfunded pension schemes, overly generous social benefits, horrendous healthcare costs and so on and so forth; all in all, spending completely out of control when matched against the revenue being collected to pay for all this largess.
Yet everyone knew that this was going on and that one day there would be a day of reckoning, but they all hoped and prayed that it would not happen on their watch.
Look at the largest single event the precipitated the economic crisis 4-5 years ago. The US bleeding heart liberals decided to give every out of work, broke family in America a home over their heads. All very admirable, but who was going to pay for it? Well, I’m sorry to say that the whole world had to pay for it and are still paying for it to this day. The good Congressmen arranged for two mammoth, government owned mortgage lenders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to give housing loans to one and all, in total disregard to their ability to repay the loans.
To make matters worse, what did Freddy and Fanny, along with many other lending institutions do next? They parcelled up these toxic loans and somehow, through the corrupt banking system, managed to sell them on as triple ‘A’ rated mortgages. The institutions that bought them then sold them on, on and on and on, and before long the entire world banking system became heavily involved in this unbelievable mess.
Fanny and Freddy between them accumulated 2 trillion dollars in debt, had to be bailed out by the US government and Leman Brothers collapsed.
Yet one of the chief instigators of the Freddy and Fanny catastrophe, a certain Congressman Barney Frank, still steadfastly refuses to accept that he did anything wrong. He still insists that it was right to lend money to people who had not a chance in hell of ever repaying it.
But before we start blaming Mr Frank for causing the world crisis – let us just look at all the countries across the world who still refuse to accept that the world is on the brink of economic collapse and that things can pretty much carry on as before.
I recall the middle class rioters on the streets in Greece.
They were all angry because the government was trying to introduce austerity measures. They were angry at the banks and the government for getting them into this situation, but they had absolutely no idea and didn’t care what they government should do to solve the problem. They just refused to accept any diminution of their personal finances and any reduction to their social benefits.
Then in the UK – no exception to the profligate, unfunded spending of the past decade or so – the teachers called a strike to protest about a change to their pension arrangements. I well recall how many other members of the public were very angry with the teachers. After all, the teachers still had a more or less guaranteed job and they would still get a pension, albeit reduced, unlike many others who had no job, no pension and were being threatened with even deeper cuts to their benefits.
It is clear that worldwide, the politicians and the public, while acknowledging the financial crisis, are totally unprepared to take the necessary steps to solve it. The public refuse to accept they must suffer and tighten their belts and the politicians are trying every which way to postpone the hard decisions – the planned austerity measures – to some future date, when they are no longer in power or after they have been re-elected to office.
And this has been the case everywhere, whether it was Central Falls, or Greece, or Italy, or Ireland or just about any other state or state controlled authority, be it large or small.
It honestly gives me little pleasure to discover that one of the possible exceptions to this ‘head in the sand’ approach, is my own country, the UK, where the coalition, under Cameron has been one of the few world players who has put immediate austerity measures at the very top of the agenda.
Cameron came in for a lot criticism when he first announced that immediate austerity was the only way out of the mess. After all, the greatest country on the whole planet was doing almost the opposite – trying to spend their way out of recession, so what did Cameron know that Obama didn’t?
It is early days and it has yet to be seen how effective Cameron’s measures prove to be, but certainly at this point in time, the much derided Standard & Poor’s have publicly stated that the UK will remain its triple A rating for the time being as they had grasped the mettle and had taken steps to reduce its deficit – now! So it looks as though he might have been right after all.
I had an argument the other day with a good friend who insisted that Bush was as much to blame as Obama for the current economic crisis. Really? Well let’s look at the facts. Firstly, I will agree that Bush certainly did play his part and that he was responsible for increasing the US deficit by 5 trillion dollars, from 5 trillion to 10 trillion in an eight year period.
Now while not excusing Bush for being responsible for this deficit, he was, after all, conducting two major wars and right until the last knockings, no one in the USA really had a clue how dire the financial situation had become. Why? Well not least because institutions such as S & P gave absolutely no hint of what lay around the corner and continued to triple ‘A’ rate every toxic financial product that the American banking system was producing.
But at the end of Bush’s presidency, the day of reckoning had finally arrived and it was very clear to one and all that drastic steps were required.
So what did Obama do? Well firstly, he promised that within 2 years he would cut the deficit by 2 trillion dollars.
But what did he actually do? Well apart from many other things he steam rollered through Congress the most expensive and all-encompassing piece of healthcare legislation ever seen in the history of his country. This and other crazy socialistic spending, caused the deficit to increase more than 4 trillion dollars in two years and it now stands just under 15 trillion dollars. All this at a time when the world financial markets were in a state of collapse, the west was in recession and unemployment was sky-rocketing.
So Bush increased the deficit by 5 trillion in eight years – irresponsible? Yes, but maybe, if he had known where the economy was heading, he might have taken some remedial action.
But in contrast, Obama, being fully aware of the dire situation, increased the deficit by just under 5 trillion in two years – at a time when the American economy was in melt down. And even now, after the latest stock market crashes following the downgrade by S & P, he still refuses to consider instant, meaningful budget cuts. Why? Because he is scared that if he starts cutting back now on key social benefits to his democratic electorate, that he will lose any possible chance of being re-elected next year.
I do not believe that the republicans come out of this totally unscathed, even though they seem to be the ones that have driven even the modest budget cuts that were finally approved. The fact is that they did have several plans that would have done the job to S & P’s satisfaction, but partisan politics got in the way and the deals were never struck.
We could argue till the cows come home which party has been more obstructive in the process, and I do feel very strongly that the Republicans should seriously revise their attitude to taxation and immediately support any attempts the clean up the tax code and make it a fairer system for everybody. It would also win them a lot of votes.
But until the Democrats get real and start to understand that it is simply impossible to spend their way out of the crisis and that their high priced social agenda needs to be put on hold, then there is no hope of a quick solution. They have appointed yet another committee to work out where the next trillion in cuts will come from – what a joke!
But to use a terribly hackneyed cliché, at the end of the day, two years ago, Obama had an opportunity to make his mark and make a real difference to American society; by bringing in all the changes he promised in the corrupt, out of control Washington machine, and dealing firmly and presidentially with the fiscal deficit.
Not only did he fail miserably to do this, but he also presided over one of the most acrimonious and unsatisfactory periods in American political history and completely failed to bring the sides together in some kind of meaningful compromise. At the end of the day, (I know – again), he is the President, and as one of his predecessors so famously said: ‘The Buck stops here.’
Well the ‘buck’ might very well stop there, in more ways than one, with China screaming for a new world reserve currency and scolding America in no uncertain terms and telling them to get their house in order.
But I have a growing feeling that it will be a President Romney, or Bachman or Perry or Cain or Gingrich, or Huntsman, or Paul or Pawlenty or Santorum or Palin or Ryan or Giuliani or even – Mr – your fired! – President Trump!!! – who will finally preside over the almost inevitable decline of the American buck.
But surely even Trump couldn’t screw it up as much as Obama has?
BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…..I don’t give a hoot…