‘This Sceptred Isle’


It’s been a mixed week on the health front.

On the plus side, The new meds I received last week from the cardiologist seem to have kept my arrhythmia under control and with the a bit of self -medication, and also further ‘adjustments’ following consultation with the doc this past Wednesday, my blood pressure, and heart rate are finally falling to more acceptable levels. If anything my heart rate, now regularly in the low 50’s is a bit too low.

I wish I could say I am now out of the woods, but last Monday I went down with a bad head cold, which now seems to have settled on my chest, and for the past 5 days, I have been suffering from fatigue and severe shortness of breath, so my daily exercise has had to be drastically curtailed. I did think the cause was my congested chest – and still think it is – but a friend, who also has a heart condition, suggests that it may be build-up of fluid due to the heart not pumping efficiently.

I am not due to see the cardiologist again for another 10 days – not that I have a great deal of faith in him – so I have followed my friend’s suggestion and am taking some diuretics, in the hope that it will get rid of the fluid build-up. It is still less than 24 hours since I started on this medication, so I have to await results.

A few weeks ago, despite some severe pains at night, I really felt that I was on an incident-free road to recovery and it was only a matter of time before I was returned to full fitness and health. Now with the A –fib attack, my blood pressure problems, and now my shortness of breath with no decent doctor to help me with all this, I feel somewhat ‘down’ and bewildered.

But I will solider on and hope that things will eventually sort themselves out – well I don’t have much choice, do I?

The Neighbours from Hell?  well not quite, but almost…

Ever since I have been in my present home, now getting on towards two years, I haven’t had any problems whatsoever, with my neighbours. Indeed I have found a majority of them very friendly and when we take our evening walks with the dogs through the ‘village’ we often stop and exchange pleasantries to others who are also out enjoying the cool evening air.

I do recall an occasion a few months back when the occupants of a house almost opposite to me had a big party one evening and the inevitable ear-splitting music started to blare out of the windows and from the garden. I feared the worst and wondered at what unearthly hour of the morning the music may desist. But to my pleasant surprise, it was barely 10 pm when the night air was returned to blessed silence. Mercifully, there have not been any repeat performances.

I have mentioned on previous occasions that Noo is a fanatical gardener and over the past year or so, our garden and front porch have been transformed into a veritable tropical paradise of green shrubbery and brightly coloured flowers. She then started creeping plants along the perimeter of our decorative iron railings which border the property, and we now we have a wealth of green foliage right around the house.

 It affords us a greater measure of privacy and it all looks very attractive with the lush green leaves and the profusion of tiny blue blooms. So on the far right hand corner of my garden, Noo had trained the creeping plants to continue their advance along the right hand perimeter railing, which adjoins our next door neighbour’s garden

The house that adjoins my property on the right hand side, is occupied by a Thai lady and her a farang husband, and a lovely boxer dog. Although I have found them somewhat distant, Noo and I have exchanged the odd smile of ‘hello’ when passing by with our dogs when the lady of the house happened to be out in the garden.

Then two days ago, Noo saw this neighbour out by the far corner of her garden, near to where Noo had grown her climbing plants, but couldn’t quite make out what she was up to. Later she went out to see and discovered that the bitch had cut the plants so that they would all die along adjoining section of railings.

I could see Noo was VERY upset, and she told me that she would go round to the neighbour’s house to ask why she didn’t come and discuss matters with her if she had a problem with the flowers, rather than just go out and cut them down.

Ten minutes later Noo returned, fuming. The neighbour had effective told her to ‘get lost’ and that she could do what she liked…..

Noo went out to the garden and started ripping up all the foliage that had grown along the joint perimeter with the neighbour’s garden, as now it had been cut, it would soon die anyway. I had never seen her so upset; I could see the tears in her eyes as she grabbed hold of the plants and tore them out with all her strength. This had the predicable effect of enraging the ever volatile Mobi-san.

I suddenly saw red and, looking towards the neighbour’s house, I could see that their patio door and windows were open and the TV was on in the lounge. So I started screaming at the top of my voice, yelling in Thai that they were very bad people and if they had a problem with what we were doing, why didn’t they come and discuss it rather than do something like this? I added a few choice expletives and repeated myself several times. Noo, begged me to stop but the more she tried to stop me the angrier I became and kept screaming over the garden and swearing at the bitch of a neighbour.

Finally, calming down a little, I returned to the house to take a rest before my heart exploded. Noo followed me in, also fuming, and sat next to me; we said nothing.

I will never know the real truth of the matter, but ten minutes later there was a ring at the gate and the budding ‘neighbour from hell’ came to see us. Noo went to talk to her, fearing the worst, but she couldn’t believe her ears at what the bitch had to say. She apologised profusely for what she had done and she agreed that she should have come and discussed it first. On top of all that she sported a large plastic bag of smelly, but expensive Issan food as a peace offering.

Noo and I strongly suspect that the change of heart was due to my loud and abusive explosion. I think she may have felt a little scared of what I might do…

It is never a good idea to lose your temper in Thailand, (unless confronted by a snarling, murderous pit-bull – see my blog of 21st July here: Pit-bull), and I try very hard to avoid doing so. I have learnt through the years that it rarely, if ever has the desired result. Ranting and raving at some Thai who has screwed you around in some way will get you absolutely nowhere. The Thais will look at you, smile an indulgent, superior, smile, refuse to change their position one iota and write you off as a crazed, rude buffoon – which of course you are.

But in this particular case, it was the exception that proved the rule. Or maybe it is simply that screaming farang voices only work on pit-bulls and occasionally on cowardly, vindictive neighbours.

You couldn’t make it up, could you?

Here’s a couple more true stories to add to my ‘couldn’t make it up‘ collection.

The first involves an Australian bearing the good old Anglo-Saxon name of Karl Joseph Kraus, who was recently escorted by Burmese police and officials back across the border into the hands of Thai police.

Looking frail and dishevelled, Mr Kraus pleaded to be returned to Burma where he had been staying illegally for about a month after skipping bail on Thai charges of rape and sexual abuse.

”Where am I? Take me back to Burma. I want to go. You are illegal. My embassy should be here,” he pleaded with Thai officials late on Friday at the Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge near the northern Thai city of Chiangmai.

When asked what he had been doing in Burma, Mr Kraus replied: ”Mostly in jail.”

A Burmese official said that Mr Kraus had entered Burma by illegally crossing a river and travelled to the Karen state capital of Pa-an where he rented a room for several weeks until his arrest on July 24.

Burmese authorities discovered he had entered Burma illegally when they checked his travel documents, and it transpired that the Australian had attempted to escape charges that he raped four young Thai sisters by fleeing illegally into Burma.

He had been a frequent long-stay visitor in Thailand for more than a decade, and neighbours reported that, until recently, Mr Kraus drove a car and appeared spritely, but after he was charged with sex offences he appeared in a wheelchair at his court appearances, and had been granted bail.

I mean to say, I do not wish in any way to belittle the seriousness of the charges made against Mr Kraus, but who would ever believe that a frail gentleman at the RIPE OLD AGE OF 93, would be accused of raping children, fleeing bail to a neighbouring country and living rough in the Burmese jungle, and when arrested, in Burma, speak the immortal words:

”I am 93 years old and you treat me like this … it is so illegal.”

The second concerns another familiar subject to those of you who either live in or visit Thailand regularly – the dreaded endemic corruption.

Corruption in Thailand is a pretty sad business, but even such a serious subject sometimes has its amusing moments.

It has been reported by the  Department of Special Investigation (DSI), that following last years’ prolific flooding in Bangkok and neighbouring provinces, no less than 7,000 projects designed to alleviate the were found to be plagued by corruption. The DSI stated that it was not difficult to uncover the irregularities as many cases were obvious and blatant.

  • In one example, a meatball seller was awarded a contract to build a local road.
  • In other cases, competing auctioneers were kept out of the loop when landlines to the auction were cut and they could not lodge a bid in time.
  • In another case, relief bags were requested for areas not affected by natural disaster.
  • In yet another, a paper producing company was handed a contract to produce non-paper relief bags.

The Three groups cited as being most heavily involved in the corruption were: politicians, government officials and businessmen…….

This Sceptred Isle

It wouldn’t be right for me to let such a momentous event as the thirtieth Olympiad pass by without me jotting down a few thoughts in my blog, particularly as – for my sins – I do happen to hail from This Sceptred Isle; the host country.

When London was awarded the Olympic Games back in 2005, during that nail biting moment in Singapore, I seriously contemplated the notion of flying over to the UK, staying with my brother out in Kent, and going to see some of the events live.

There has been much water under the bridge since then as in those days I was still living with my wife Dang, at my Mobi-mansion near the northern edge of the lake. With the subsequent dramatic changes in my life, any hopes of actually seeing the games live in England had long since been erased from my consciousness.

As many of you are aware, I am an avid listener to UK radio – BBC 5 – a station that is 100 º committed to live news and sport, and this has been the mainstay of my own Olympic coverage.

One of the drawbacks of being an overseas sports fan is that almost all live sports events have complex broadcasting rights issues attached to them. This effectively means that the internet streaming of radio events outside of the UK is almost always blocked. (Unless the BBC engineers forget to block it – which happens remarkably often – but more often than this, I may be listening to an event which they have forgotten to block, only to find it cut off half way through when the engineer awakes from his snooze…grrr….).

So the only way to circumvent this problem is to have a VPN (virtual private network) whereby I am connected to a UK IP address, which can receive radio and TV streams without being blocked.

So BBC radio 5, along with up to date reports on the internet, (I particularly liked the ‘live text’ blogs), has been the mainstay of my own personal Olympic involvement. On top of this, I have downloaded all the Olympic ‘highlight’ programmes and watched them the day after they happened.

 I have also seen a few live streams of events, although due to buffering problems, and also the 6 hour time difference, these have been few and far between. At the time of writing I have just finished downloading ‘Olympics Tonight Day 15’ which I will watch later, and which contains amongst many memorable events, the incredible Mo Farah winning the 5,000 meters.

So in spite of the fact that I have seen very little live action – and even if I was able to, most of the athletics would have passed me by as I would have been sound asleep – I have thoroughly enjoyed what has been a fabulous two weeks of sport.

I loved the opening ceremony, which was amusing, quirky and inspiring – all in the same breath and I am looking forward to today’s closing ceremony, which I assume will be every bit as good.

I cannot fault BBC Radio 5’s coverage, in which all the station’s regular broadcasters, along with a huge cast of part time expert commentators, have put on such a joyous and informative commentary on every single event; and have been brilliant in providing back ground detail along with punchy, enthralling interviews with competitors, coaches, officials, and the wonderfully enthusiastic general public.

I think Gabby Logan has done a magnificent job on BBC TV’s daily Olympic round up, and she, along with the excellent Clare Balding is clearly destined for great things in the coming years when current BBC stalwarts such as Sue Barker move on into the sunset.

The one BBC TV presenter who has always grated is Gary Lineker who, in my humble opinion, is way out of his depth when talking about anything other than football; and even on football, his erudition leaves much to be desired. I think BBC made a huge mistake in having him ‘front’ the opening ceremony, and his stumbling, inept delivery was, frankly embarrassing. But thank God it didn’t spoil anything that was to follow.

Of course the icing on the cake has been Team GB’s unbelievable 28 gold medals (at the time of writing), which could well be increased by the time the games are all over tonight. It seems almost too good to be true that we are third in the medals table, ahead of the whole world, save the monoliths of USA and China. There is little doubt in my mind that this level of success could never have been achieved if Great Britain had not developed into the highly diverse, multi-cultural land that it is today.

This Sceptered Isle has always been a bit of a special place, and for most of our illustrious past, I think it is fair to say that we have nearly always punched well above our weight in whatever sphere, when considering the size of our land and our population. This latest little sporting triumph will contribute very nicely to the incredible annals of British history. Long may it continue.

Rule Britannia!!!!!

(with sincere apologies to my non-GB readers…)

Butt…Butt…Butt…I don’t give a Hoot!…


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