9 Months, 9 days, still sober.
I have to say that since I returned to Thailand from my trip to the UK, the thought of picking up a drink has never entered my mind for a single second. In fact it is only when I am writing this blog that has it even occurs to me that I am now well into my 10th month of sobriety.
The last time I had even the fleetest of thoughts of taking a drink was when I was in the UK and had that spat with my sister; but it was only a momentary lapse, much the same way as many people often feel like having a stiff drink when they are particularly upset about something. But I quickly realised that for me, a stiff drink was not an option, and I was fine.
Some readers have questioned the value of continuing to count the number days I remain sober and to publish the details at the top of each blog. My response has been that it is more for my readers’ benefit that for mine. After all, the whole purpose of starting this blog was to record my drunken exploits and my various attempts to get sober, so I do feel beholden to keep the record straight during this now, sober period of my life.
I might reconsider the need to do this after I have chalked up my first full year of sobriety, which of course, will be on 31st December. At this point, I will take a look back at the year and reflect on what, if anything, I have achieved, apart from remaining free of alcohol.
Mobi-Beamer to be consigned to history
I have made the momentous decision to offload my BMW.
I have been thinking about this for quite a while now, especially during the period when I was having so much trouble with the on-board computer, but the idea of trading it in sooner, rather than later, has never been far from my mind.
I still love the car and still enjoy driving it and it still occasionally has the ‘wow’ or ‘bling’ factor when I park outside certain places of ill repute – these days, far less so than previously, partly due to the recent proliferation of BMW’s in Pattaya.
Three years ago, my beamer was virtually the only one in town, but the popularity of the 3 series diesel seems to have taken everyone by surprise, (they sell them as fast as they can produce them, despite the 3m Baht price tag); there are now loads of them around – even up here by the lake there is a white model just a few houses away from me in my village and an identical black model, just a few hundred metres down the road from my home.
Yes, some of the young ladies are still suitably impressed by my arrival in a shiny, black motorised steed, but many girls are just as likely to be impressed by a farang in a gleaming white Toyota Vios! Actually, for the most part, they neither know nor care what my form of transport is, and often ask me casually where I parked my motor bike???
But all these thoughts of impressing the ladies are very low on my list of priorities, especially as I am now starting my gradual fade into retirement from such nefarious pursuits.
It is still a great car to drive; small enough to park almost anywhere and sufficiently compact to drive through and turn in the smallest of sois without too much hassle, but still roomy enough to carry five adults.
It has incredible acceleration which is really handy to get past traffic ‘knots’ and carrying out manoeuvres such as changing lanes without fear of accident. It drives like a dream and you can hear a feather drop when cruising at 180 kph on the open road.
But frankly, I am starting to feel my age and I no longer have the desire to go at the fastest possible speed from ‘A’ to ‘B’ and I no longer have an overwhelming urge to overtake every vehicle on the road ahead of me.
I must have gone tropo, as for the main part I am quite content to sit behind anything that is in front of me and have no desire to risk life and limb in reckless overtaking manoeuvres. I no longer get angry when I am stuck behind the endless convoys of motorcycles, motorcycle combinations, rusty old pick-up trucks, cement trucks and God knows what else that cram the sois and side roads of Pattaya and its environs.
They all have a perfectly legitimate right to be there, and while some of them could do with a few well-chosen driving lessons to teach them that they don’t always have to crawl along at 20 kph, many of them, particularly the motorcycle-side cars, (which are almost impossible to overtake), have no choice but to go very slowly, if they wish to keep their various ‘businesses’ which are perched precariously on their home-made, rickety side car frames in one piece.
Whereas before I used to be consumed with irritation and often full blown anger when driving in Pattaya, I am now I am quite content to take it all in my stride and am happy to accept that my journey will take as long as it takes. After all, I am rarely, if ever, in any urgent need to be at a certain place at a certain time, so WTF?
So I don’t really need to be driving the fastest car in Pattaya, as I no longer wish to drive like a maniac.
I still drive at a healthy lick of speed on the open road, but only when conditions are good and the level of traffic renders it safe to do so.
After all these years I know that even if you are driving along an apparently traffic-free road, you never know when someone might take it into their head to jump out in front of you from nowhere, or suddenly perform some crazy, suicidal manoeuvre. So speed must always be moderated to some extent and you always need to keep your head straight ahead and be prepared for the unexpected.
Then there is the problem of road quality, especially as a result of the increasing amount of flooding. I have already had to replace the wheel rims on my car as they were all badly damaged by pot holes, which not only made them look bad, but were also badly cracked and rendered them unusable for my run flat tyres.
A couple of years ago I had to drive through some deep floods in down-town Pattaya and had to spend a lot of money in getting everything properly cleaned and dried out afterwards.
I still plan to do a fair amount of driving in and around Thailand, and although the country has made vast improvements in the condition of its roads in recent years, there is still no guarantee that you will not occasionally encounter roads which are in very a bad state of repair, particularly during and after the rainy season – all of which are particularly unsuitable for low-slung vehicles such as BMW’s.
Last but by no means least, there are the financial considerations. My beamer cost me just under 3 million Baht to buy, and now, 3½ years later with 63,000 kilometres on the clock, it is still worth around 1.8 million.
The BMW unlimited warranty is good for the first 100,000 kilometres, which is a good selling point if there’s a fair amount of warranty remaining. But if I keep it another year or so, its value will not only drop exponentially due to the expiry of the warranty, but I will probably be faced with some very expensive maintenance bills.
I’d bet my bottom dollar that as soon as the warranty expires, there will a whole mass of parts that need replacing, all at extortionate, BMW prices. (Just about every BMW part has to be imported from Germany).
So last week, I called my expat car contact in Bangkok and he advised me that my car should easily sell for around 1.8 million, as there is now quite a demand for them.
So what am I going to replace it with?
Take a deep breath ladies and gents.
After due deliberation, I have decided to go from the sublime to the ridiculous – or least some of you may think so.
Yes folks, I have decided to buy a pick-up truck. To be more precise, a top of the range, double-cab pick-up, and after thoroughly exploring the market, I have plumped for a Mitsubishi Triton – 2.5 litre, diesel, double-cab automatic at a cost of just over 800, 000 Baht.
The diesel, turbo-charged engine is relatively new and is rated at an incredible 178 HP, so plenty of oomph. The double cab is virtually the same in luxury and fittings to the Mitsu Pajero SUV, and it even boasts a DVD screen.
I looked at the alternatives, particularly, the Toyota Vigo, which is essentially an 8 year-old model which has just been superficially modified and is due to be completely replaced at the end of next year. It’s also quite a bit more expensive. The Triton seems to be the best of the bunch, although the D Max is a close second.
Why a pick up? Well, I want something that rides high and is rugged enough to take all road conditions and floods in its stride. I seriously considered an SUV, (CRV, Pajero, Fortuner, MU7 etc), but finally concluded that as I didn’t have a large family, why spend another 300k Baht on a ‘covered vehicle’ when I could get essentially the same ride and power with an equivalent pick up? As it is, the double cab will accommodate 5 adults.
Anyway, I’ve always hankered after a pick up and I think it will be good fun. I will spend some of the excess cash on ‘tarting it up’ with all manner of ‘cool’ accessories.
Just think – I could put the entire staff of a short time girlie bar in the back and take them on a trip to the seaside….
It was only 4 short months since the USA and NATO were still talking up their ‘planned withdrawal’ from Afghanistan, following which, they tried to tell the world that after the allied withdrawal, the country would have a stable, democratic, non-Taliban controlled government which would be in full control of the country.
We now know that this is a very long way from what will actually happen.
As if we needed any further confirmation, the former commander of allied forces in Afghanistan, retired General Stanley McChrystal, recently estimated that the US and its NATO allies were barely half-way to achieving their mission goals, adding that establishing a government in which Afghans retained confidence and which could stand up to the Taliban remained the biggest challenge.
During the past 9 months I have written several articles on Afghanistan and in particular on 29th June, I expressed my total contempt of what the allied forces were trying to claim, and I wrote the following scathing remarks:
Mark my words, by the end of this decade; if not much sooner, Afghanistan will be pretty much right back to where it was prior to the allied invasion.
The Taliban will be back running the country and all the fledgling democratic structures will be dismantled.
- Al Qaeda, (by that, or by any other name) will be back in residence, planning ever-increasing world-wide terrorist outrages
- The population in general will be subjected to an extremist, violent and cruel Taliban regime, including the deprivation of all human rights and dignity.
- Women will be totally subjugated and locked back up in their homes. All educational establishments for women will be closed and probably destroyed.
- The drug trade will increase and prosper.
- The country will remain extremely poor and most people will struggle to find enough food for their daily existence.
- Infiltration into Pakistan will increase and eventually the Pakistan government will collapse and be replaced by an extremist Muslim regime, similar to that which will be in control in Kabul.
(My full article can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/64hp5uw)
And now, as the Allies and the current Afghan government are attempting to talk some kind of peace terms with the Taliban, there are increasing concerns that the human rights of Afghan women will be once again trampled underfoot.
Amnesty International recently issued the following statement:
“Amnesty International fears that human rights, including women’s rights, will be compromised as the Afghan government and its US/NATO partners seek a quick solution to the conflict with Taliban and other armed groups. The Taliban have a record of committing human rights abuses and abuses against women in particular and if they want to be brought back into the government then they should demonstrate that they will improve their conduct.”
Similar concerns were also raised in the US by Human Rights Watch in a report last week, which carried details of intimidation and murder of women in areas under Taliban control. The group accuses the Taliban of targeting women who work outside their homes.
In April, unidentified gunmen shot a 22-year-old woman named Hossai, working for an American development company, after she had received a telephone warning from the Taliban to stop working.
Another woman received a so-called night letter telling her that she would be next: “In the same way that yesterday we have killed Hossai, whose name was on our list, your name and other women’s names are also on our list.”
Human rights groups have criticised Hamid Karzai’s government for failing to adequately address concerns about these attacks in its programmes to reintegrate Taliban insurgents.
“In recent years, Karzai has sold women short when it was politically expedient,” said Human Rights Watch. “In March 2009, for example, he signed the discriminatory Shia personal status law (which denies Shia women rights to child custody and freedom of movement, among other rights), and in 2008 he pardoned two convicted gang rapists for political reasons.”
I really hate to say ‘I told you so’ and I will derive no pleasure in being proved 100% correct over the coming years.
A large part of me says that it would have been better never to have tinkered with such a medieval, outrageously corrupt and misogynous society in the first place. If you can’t fix it, maybe it is better not to build up false hopes.
The Wall Street Protests.
Over the past few months I have written about the protesters who have taken to the streets, from The UK, to Spain to Greece and elsewhere to register their extreme dissatisfaction with the state of their country’s economies, and in particular with proposed cuts in state services which they have been asked to swallow.
Time and again I have questioned exactly what they hope to achieve by these protests, which are particularly aimed at bankers and financial institutions?
Similarly in the USA, there have been massive battles between State legislators and the state sector unions, particularly Teachers’ Unions, as the unions adamantly refuse to accept any cuts in their benefits and refuse to contemplate any redundancies in their workforce, even amongst proven non-performers and incompetents.
All these protests and refusals to give ground are symptomatic of the same thing. A stubborn refusal to accept that the world is in a more parlous financial state than at almost any time during the past 100 years and that the living standards of countless millions of previously well- to-do, middle class families will be seriously affected.
They all protest and blame the bankers for fraud and deception and their governments for their profligate, wasteful spending. They are quite right to do this – but it doesn’t solve the problem. In fact, arguably, it makes matters a whole deal worse.
Putting their heads in the sand’, screaming and shouting and taking to the streets is making the politicians increasingly nervous of making THE TOUGH, NECESSARY DECSIONS THAT HAVE TO BE MADE, IF WE HAVE ANY CHANCE AT ALL OF GETTING OURSELVES OUT OF THIS MESS!
These protesters don’t seem to realise that we are staring into the brink of an abyss, and that their protests may well precipitate a breakdown of world order, and that anarchy may start to reign supreme.
Great! Some might say.
But really? Does the world, in its present parlous state, really need anarchy and a total breakdown of human values and democracy? Where will all the disadvantaged in our so-society be then?
So just what are all these Wall Street protests all about?
The activists are venting their grievances over the corporate bailouts, the high US unemployment and the home repossessions, among other things.
Many powerful unions have backed the long-running demonstrations, as their members joined the rally in lower Manhattan and students at several US colleges walked out of classes in solidarity.
Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested last weekend on the Brooklyn Bridge.
On Wednesday, smaller protests were held from Boston and Chicago to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations are in their third week. The biggest event took place in New York, where at least 5,000 activists joined forces with members of unions and community organisations to march on Wall Street.
The United Federation of Teachers president told Reuters news agency. “Our workers are excited about this movement. The country has been turned upside down. We are fighting for families and children.”
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Communications Workers of America and the Amalgamated Transit Union joined the New York march, as did the nation’s largest union of nurses, National Nurses United.
The Occupy Wall Street protests started on 17 September with a few dozen demonstrators who tried to pitch tents in front of the New York Stock Exchange. Since then, hundreds have set up camp nearby in Zuccotti Park and have become increasingly organised, lining up medical aid and legal help and printing their own newspaper.
Protesters in New York City on Wednesday carried signs reading: “Jobs Not Cuts” and “Stop Corporate Greed” and chanted “Wall Street is our street”.
“We’re here to stop corporate greed,” a New York City Transit bus mechanic, told the Associated Press news agency. “They should pay their fair share of taxes. We’re just working and looking for decent lives for our families.”
Hundreds of college students at New York’s public university system walked out of classes on Wednesday afternoon.
At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, students walked out of their classrooms at noon, holding signs reading “Eat the Elite” and “We Can Do Better than Capitalism”.
In Boston, about 200 Northeastern University students protested against what they called corporate control of government and spiralling education costs.
Occupy Wall Street protests in other US cities have attracted thousands of supporters
In San Francisco, a crowd of several hundred marched in a loop around the financial district, chanting “They got bailed out, we got sold out”. Union nurses had a large presence at the protest.
In Chicago, dozens of activists kept up their protest at the heart of the financial district, banging drums and holding up signs.
Protests have also been held recently in the cities of Las Vegas, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington; and in the states of Missouri, Ohio and Florida.
The rallies have been largely peaceful apart from occasional scuffles, including the arrests of more than 700 protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday.
Several Democratic lawmakers have expressed support for the protesters, but some Republican presidential candidates have lambasted them.
The protest movement is gaining momentum all over the USA and it remains to be seen if it will grow into a really potent force, similar to the Tea Party movement.
But in effect, it is no different to similar, mindless demonstrations in other parts of the western world. They identify what they consider to be the main culprits, but without one iota of an idea or suggestion on how to change things for the better.
Do they really, seriously believe that by dismantling all the western financial institutions and stringing up anyone who wears a collar and tie and works in a bank that they can save the world?
Seems like I heard something like that somewhere before – was it Mao Tse-Tung, or maybe Pol Pot? My memory is so bad these days…..
BUTT…BUTT… BUTT… I don’t give a hoot!!!