School for Scandal?

Mobi-babble

Yes, I know – another week has gone by without yet another exciting new chapter of ‘A Lustful Gent’ from the wonderfully creative pen of Mobi Dark☺

I suppose you could put it down to a bit of procrastination, but the truth of the matter is that I have been quite occupied with all manner of activities, and have simply not found any quality time to spend on writing my novel.

The main thrust of my pre-occupation over the past week or so has been my search for a new place to live. The need to move was triggered by a complete breakdown in my negotiations with my landlord for my lease renewal which is expires at the end of September.

So after Noo and I viewed literally dozens of properties for rent – not only around the lake, but as far afield as Huay Yai and Wat Yan – I finally set my heart on the house directly opposite to where I was living, which was larger, had a bigger garden and swimming pool, but was at a higher rent than I am currently paying.

Then, at the last moment, after I had verbally agreed to take the new property, my current landlord came back with a new, reduced rent proposal, which was an offer too good to refuse. I had the unenviable task of breaking it to the rep and the new house owner that I would not after all be taking the place, and since then I have been trying to help them find a tenant to ease my guilty conscience.

I am quite relieved that I am staying put – as too, is Noo, after all the work she has put in to turn the exterior of the house into a veritable tropical garden. My relief at not moving was reinforced when we decided to clear out our 3rd bedroom, which we had been using as a store room, and make it into a nice little bedroom for Noo’s son, leaving the bigger, second bedroom for visitors.

I had thought that my recovery from my operation was continuing apace and that I was in reasonable physical shape, but after 2-3 hours of ‘humping, hauling and sorting’,  I was completely exhausted and felt quite ill. That was a couple of days ago and I still haven’t fully recovered, with chest pains returning along with dizziness and breathlessness every time I do something energetic. Even yesterday, we went to a large hardware store near Rayong to buy a lawn mower and some other stuff, and I had to return to the car after half an hour as I was about to collapse.

So thank God we didn’t move!

I saw a new doctor at Bangkok Pattaya Hospital last Wednesday, and to my pleasant surprise, not only were the hospital charges very reasonable, but I was also very satisfied with specialist’s level of expertise and his close attention to my case. He accepted the blood test results that I had brought with me from a local lab, along with my own blood pressure readings without a murmur, and he even had them scanned into my medical records, together with a list of all my medications.

This is no more than you might reasonably expect from your doctor, but sadly, was not happening with the last specialist I was seeing at another local hospital.

My INR, (the time it takes for my blood to clot), is still too high and we are now juggling the medication to try and lower it a bit. I will see him again next week.

No cast-iron promises, but I do hope to return to my novel next week.

School for Scandal?

When I lived and worked in the UK back in the 80’s and 90’s, I used to socialise with a number of mixed farang/Thai families in London. Through friends and relations of these Thai families I learned that many young Thais and other foreigners used a very lax foreign student visa system to live and work in the UK. These Thais would enrol on courses at bogus colleges, for exorbitant fees and in return, receive educational visas. None of the ‘students’ I  met  ever engaged in any serious studying and the only time they went to their ‘places of learning’ was to meet and socialise with other ‘so-called’ students.

Like so many illegal practices, it was an open secret that the system was being abused, and as ever, the authorities are about 20 years behind the times in wising-up and taking appropriate action to stop it. A similar situation used to exist in regards to  ‘brides’ or ‘husbands’ to order – for a fee – again I knew many Thais who had obtained residence visas through sham marriages to a Brit. These days, it is far more difficult to do this, but the practice went on for decades before the powers that be did anything about it.

I wonder how many of my readers have ever heard of the London Metropolitan University, before it caught the headlines last week? I certainly hadn’t.

As a result of a recent investigation by the authorities, it transpires that in a sample survey, 25% had no valid visa, 57% were not attending the college on a regular basis, and 40% could not speak or write English – a basic requirement for acceptance into a British university.

At worst, it is a scam organisation, and its only reason for existence is to make money out of young foreigners who are desperate to obtain visas to live in the UK. At best, it is a slip shod, badly run organisation who paid no attention to attendance records or the visa status of their so-called students and turned a ‘blind eye’ to their lack of English language skills which, by law must be subject to a rigorous tests before gaining admission.

Of course, when it was announced that London Metropolitan had lost its licence and that up to 2,500 students would be deported, there was a public outcry from the bleeding hearts of the left wing press, unions etc. Sure, there are undoubtedly a few diligent students who might have been unwittingly caught up in all this, but from what I read, it is more than likely that many of these genuine cases will be offered places at other universities.

I have never had any sympathy for anyone who fails to ensure that they hold a valid visa to remain in the country of their choice. They are not stupid, and it is wholly their responsibility to chase their university if their paperwork is not in order. It is more than likely that they stuck their fingers up at UK immigration and boasted to their friends how easy it is to hoodwink the authorities. Well, now their cavalier and illegal activity has come home to roost– ‘Som nam na’ as we say in Thailand.

Frankly some of the protests they have made are really pathetic – like, ‘We are not the main source of illegal immigration, so why pick on us?’ That’s the same as -say a English  pick-pocket being arrested in Oxford street for stealing someone’s wallet and saying – Most of the pick pockets in London are foreigners – so why pick on me?’ 

It’s not as though this ‘not so august’ seat of learning has been model of respectability prior to the present scandal.

In 2008, it was revealed that the London Metropolitan  had  been misreporting data on student drop-outs for several years and as a consequence,  the Higher Education Funding Council for England, (HEFCE), was proposing to claw back at least £15 million for a government funding overpayment in 2008-9. This figure was subsequently revised UPWARDS to £56 million. The then scandal resulted in mass resignations, including that of the Vice Chancellor. 

And as for BBC World News – well my antipathy knows no bounds. On the day that the story broke, we had the unedifying spectacle of that idiot, Nik Gowing, (did his parents really spell his name NIK??), interviewing one of the affected students, live on air. The student looked to be in his late twenties, quite possibly thirties and spoke fluent, if somewhat grammatically incorrect English.

I was barely listening to this interview, but my ears pricked up when he told Nik that he had been a student for the past six years!! A student for six years? WTF was he studying? As the interview continued, it was clear that the ‘man-student’ was a ‘wide boy’, wise to the ways of the world, and in particular the UK student visa system. He seemed completely unworried by the turn of events and you can bet your bottom dollar he will have many alternative methods of staying in the UK. When asked why it was that so many students could obtain visa without being able to speak a word of English, he replied: ‘this is one of life’s great mysteries….’

And this student was put on the air, for the world to see as an example of an innocent student who would suffer as a result of the authority’s decision to deport up to 2,500 students.

BBC – British Broadcasting Corporation?

More like BBC – Bloody Bullshit & Crap…

Paralympics, Yankee style

I note with interest that the NBC, one of the major TV network in a country that is supposed to be the bastion for liberty and one which holds itself up as having great compassion for the underdog and the less fortunate in society, prevented their American viewers from watching Wednesday’s Paralympics opening ceremony, and has decided not to screen a single minute of live coverage of any event.

Instead, NBC will screen a total of four 60-minute highlight packages on one of its most obscure cable TV channels. On the afternoon of  16th September, a week after the Games have ended, it will finally give network TV viewers a chance to watch the action from London, when it screens a 90 minute highlights package.

This decision, to deprive hundreds of millions of US viewers with an opportunity to see the games, is at odds with the fact that the US has the third largest team in London. Many of its members are military veterans who were injured serving their country.

What’s’ the big problem? Trying to hide the fact that these poor soldiers ever existed, in a war that the liberal left, including NBC, hates? Shades of Vietnam methinks…

Or is it just the pursuit of money? Something that is endorsed by your mate, Obama?

Sad, ain’t it?

The Prince ‘Arry affair.

So ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’

Isn’t that that what you Yanks say?

I guess that’s fair enough for us regular folk, but just why someone like an arch- privileged, royal hanger on like ‘horny Harry’, (along with his uncle, ‘randy Andy’), should be protected from the public from seeing pictures of his asinine, sexual frolics is totally beyond me.

Personally, I couldn’t give a toss, (bad choice of word?), what the overblown, pubescent, adolescent idiot gets up to. Frankly, I am amazed at what all the fuss is about; but if it gives a few million Brits a bit of a chuckle as they read Murdoch’s sensationalised crap over their corn flakes of a morning in these hard times, then more power to his elbow. After all, we pay for for the horny bastard,  so why shouldn’t he entertain us?

Maybe Cameron should get Playboy or Penthouse to hire him to take part in a porn movie. How about Harry dressed in a a stripped down Nazi uniform screwing multiple nubile ladies adorned in Union Jack miniskirts? They could arrange for a brigade of the Royal grenadiers to take guard at a discreet distance.  Sales of a royally sponsored DVD might make a significant contribution to the much depleted British exchequer.

Scandinavian ‘whodunits’

I have become addicted to Scandinavian TV detective programmes – especially the ones in the original language with English sub-titles, but the adapted English language versions are not at all bad either.

My first experience of this new and highly popular genre was the English version of ‘Wallander’, a Swedish detective who, in the BBC-adapted series, is played by Shakespearean actor, Kenneth Branagh. The original Swedish series has no less than 26 episodes, but so far only 9 episodes have been adapted into English.

I have watched all 9 of the ‘Branagh’ versions and have thoroughly enjoyed them. They are such a refreshing change from the standard UK/US fare in this genre and the acting and production is superb. The stories are pretty original, can be very violent and exciting, and the characters, especially Kurt Wallander, are quite dark and thought-provoking.

In Wallander, there are no handsome, devil may care heroes, or eye catching, sexy females, but real people with all the trials and tribulations of 21st century life hanging from their shoulders  – trying to do the right thing, in difficult and sometimes highly disturbing situations. You can never really love Kurt Wallander, but you can empathise with him, and sometimes cry with him as he struggles through his domestic strife and tackles horrendous crimes.

Recently, I have started watching ‘Wallander’ in the original language, and so far have seen two episodes. The contrast between the English and Swedish versions is very interesting but I think overall, they both capture the same flavour and atmosphere. The acting in both is excellent, but to be brutally honest, maybe the ‘Branagh’ versions  are a little more polished – but the Swedish version contains more of the Swedish angst. About what you would expect, I guess.

The next Scandinavian detective series I watched, was ‘The Killing.’ This time, I watched the American adapted version, which transplanted the plot of the original Danish drama from its setting in Copenhagen to Seattle, USA. Again it is very dark and gritty and as I watched, I often found myself thinking that the story is actually unfolding in Scandinavia and not in the USA, as I don’t think I have ever seen an American city and characters  that seemed so ‘un- American’.

Unlike Wallander, in which there is new crime to be solved in each episode, ‘The Killing’ features a single, series length plot, with countless twists and turns along the way. Unfortunately the producers of the American version, not satisfied with stringing out the story line over 13 episodes, decided to expand the original plot further and it was only after two series and 26 episodes that we finally found out ‘whodunit’.

Of course there were many sub- plots with people involved in killings and other criminal acts which are caught up in the fast moving events, and the audience’s attention is continually kept on tenterhooks.

In my opinion, it was a shame that the Yanks decided to keep the original story running through two series, as it did start to run out of steam and the plot’s twists and turns to keep it going became ever more fanciful and unbelievable. Indeed, I gather there was a public outcry in the US, when Series One ended on a cliff hanger.

The two Danish series of ‘The Killing’, which I have not yet seen, contained a new plot for the second series, which seems to be eminently more sensible.

But in spite of all this, I thoroughly enjoyed the American version, and really got into the souls of the lead characters: a tough female cop, with a broken marriage, an estranged fiancé and a teenage son, and her side kick – a gawky, hippie-type, ex drug addict. Again, very gritty, often dark, in a strange looking city where it was always raining, but it really good fare with good, creative plot lines.

Then came the pièce de résistance; ‘The Bridge’ – a Swedish/Danish co-production, which this time around, I watched in the original language, with sub-titles.

If ‘Wallander’ and ‘The Killing’ were a 9 out of 10, then ‘The Bridge’ is about 12 out of 10, if that were possible. Like ‘The Killing’, ‘The Bridge’ contains a single plot that runs over 13 episodes, but contains so many additional crimes and sub-plots which are in some way interlinked, that you sit riveted to your television screen and never want it to end. I love the way that the unfolding series keeps introducing us to new characters and new story-lines which seem at first to have no connection with the main plot, but of course, we eventually learn different.

There are so many clever, original and ever evolving plot lines that it would take a marathon dissertation to list them all, but probably the cleverest of all occurs right at the start when a dead body is found in the centre of the bridge which separates Sweden and Denmark. As the body is half in Sweden and half in Denmark, it is decided that a Swedish detective and a Danish detective will head up a joint operation. The Swede is a mature, but still very attractive female detective who has all the hall marks of suffering from either mild autism or maybe Asperger’s syndrome. Her behaviour is sometimes bizarre, occasionally highly amusing, and always utterly fascinating. On the other hand, we have a grizzled male detective from Denmark, who  is philanderer, a bit of a reprobate, and has  been married several times, with numerous offspring. He thinks nothing of breaking the written ‘rules of engagement’, as opposed to his Swedish counterpart who likes to do everything completely by the book. The interplay between these two diverse characters is a joy to behold. 

Words cannot convey to you how much I enjoyed this series, and if any of you have the opportunity to see it, please do not be put off by the subtitles. I guarantee that within 10 minutes of watching, you will forget they exist, so absorbed will you become in the characters and the fast moving story lines.

‘The Bridge’ is brilliantly acted, and there were many instances when I felt I was watching something more akin to ‘crime and punishment’ or maybe a ‘crime and retribution’ drama than a standard police ‘whodunit’. But that is just me – the truth is that this drama can be watched at many different levels and every viewer can make his or her own interpretation of events and what may lie behind them. But at its centre it really is a cracking story, and I promise that you will never get bored.

 

BUTT…BUTT…BUTT… I don’t give a Hoot!