The ‘Nero Syndrome’

Mobi-Snaps: Samut Somgkhram (revisited)

Don Hoi Lot sand bank, Samuk Songkran
Don Hoi Lot sand bank, Samuk Songkhram

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Amphawa District,Samut Songkhram
Amphawa District,
Samut Songkhram

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Mobi-Babble

Well, despite my vague promises, I never did get around to writing a blog during the week, so I guess I had better quickly run through the past two momentous weeks in the life of Mobi – a recovering alcoholic who, I must say, was sorely tempted to join the ranks of those alcoholics who are still practising…..

It all started well enough – back on the Tuesday before last – when Mobi, together with Noo and her aunt drove to Banglamung amphur to meet with his estranged wife, Dang, in order to get a divorce.

We arrived there at the appointed hour but had to wait almost an hour before the obviously hung-over Dang arrived with her sister in law.

The whole procedure went remarkably smoothly, the key part of which, was to ensure I retained my 50 % rights to the as yet unsold communal property.  

This was effectively achieved by inserting a sentence in the box on the divorce papers  that set out any agreements between the two parties for the disposition of any joint assets.

The statement, Thai, simply said  that the house is to be sold and the proceeds shared equally between us. All present read and approved the wording, and even the head lady at the Amphur checked with me to ensure that  I was happy with the arrangements.

I have to say everyone behaved in a civilised and polite manner and the local government officials were very friendly, helpful and efficient. The only strange event occurred when the sub-official, (the one doing all the paperwork), told Dang that I needed to register my divorce at my embassy.

This was a lot of nonsense as there is nothing pertaining to the UK that is involved in my divorce in any way, shape or form. We were married in Thailand, lived in Thailand and are now getting divorced in Thailand. There are no assets or legal encumbrances outside of Thailand  My embassy is simply not relevant.

But seeing that Dang believed this was something I must do, I just smiled and nodded and said I would see to it in due course.

The matter was dropped, but just before she handed us our divorce certificates (yes there is such a thing as a divorce certificate –it  looks just like a marriage certificate, but much darker…), she told Dang that she could do all the necessary paper work to register the divorce at my embassy… for the small fee… of 4,000 Baht.

So that’s what it was all about! I sat silently for a few moments and then politely declined, saying that I had my own people who would take care of it for me. The lady smiled and handed over the papers. We were divorced – total cost, 240 Baht. (8 US Dollars)

I was actually very happy as not only had I finally put my long and unhappy marriage finally behind me, but my legal position with regards my 50% share of the house was stronger than it was before, as I now had a marriage settlement paper that stated my rights.

That was the good part of the day.

Later that day, while I was winding down in front of the television, I received a devastating email from my financial advisor. The gist of the email was that the fund in which a very substantial part of my savings was invested, was at risk, and that at the very least, the implications were that it might well be a long while before I will be able to access even enough to live on, let alone withdraw en mass.

The worst case scenario is that I may lose it all, and the best case, that I may be able to recover part, but not all. Whichever way it turns out, I am going to be in severe financial straits for a long time to come.

I am not going to the ‘whys and wherefores’, but suffice to say that I blame myself as much as anyone, as I was trying to maximise my returns in world where returns in general are so pitiful, and I took chances that I should never have taken. The fund is not insolvent, is invested mainly in real estate and may well recover, but as I have stated, it will be a long haul.

I will know a lot more over the next few weeks, and until then I must keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.

It is ironic that up until now, I have been fretting about my financial situation as I was concerned that if I lived into my late 80’s then if I wasn’t careful, then one day I might run short of money.

Little did I realise that if I had taken all my savings out of that fund and put the whole lot into a bank account and lived off the capital, I would have been a lot better off than I am right now, and in all probability with a bit of care, I could have lived out my remaining years in relative comfort.

Yes greed was my downfall – I simply wasn’t satisfied and wanted a little more…Now look what has happened ?– a real prospect of me being destitute in my old age!

As you can imagine, my moods have experienced some pretty wild swings over the past ten days or so, and I confess that there were times when I thought about having a drink in an effort to dull the mental pains of my plight.

I have explained the whole situation to Noo and she couldn’t have been more supportive. She told me that if we were really desperate we could go and live in her village in Nong Khai and her family would take care of me!

Hopefully, it won’t come to that and I’m currently racking my brains on how to make what remains of my money work in such a way as to generate a modest  income for us to live on.

In the middle of all this, Noo’s mum and daughter arrived from Nong Khai  for a brief stay, so I have had a house full while trying to get to grips with my new found poverty.

*

As if the foregoing wasn’t enough for poor, ageing Mobi to deal with, a few days ago I experienced the most excruciating pain in my upper left chest, just as I was having a shave. The pain was so sharp, that I thought I was having some kind of seizure, but after a few minutes, it dulled somewhat and I was able to resume normal activities.

My heart was beating as normal and my BP was OK so I put it down to some kind of ligament damage or a pulled muscle.

After an hour or so, the pain had reduced but was still quite bothersome. It was the day we were scheduled to go and see Noo’s sister in to Samut Songkhram, so I said nothing and decided to put up with it. I didn’t want to spoil Noo’s day out.

Anyway, I was in a lot of pain for the whole day, especially when getting up or sitting down and it seemed to spread out across my chest to the centre.

The following day the pain was much reduced, and now, three days on, it has nigh on disappeared although my chest area is still quite tender, and I get the odd twinge, especially if I cough or try to do something like gentle breast stroke swimming.

I really doubt if its muscle or ligament damage and suspect it has something to do with my heart surgery, although it is now 9 months since the operation and everything should have healed by now. I’m seeing the cardiologist in 2 weeks so I’ll see what he says.

*

On a more positive side, as most of you are aware, I have now finished the editing of my novel ‘A Lust for Life’, and have embarked upon the next stage, which is to try and get it published.

I have been anticipating an extremely difficult  task to even get a publisher to take a look at my manuscript. This is  especially so as these days, publishers will only look at something that is sent to them by an agent. No, I don’t have an agent… 

So imagine my surprise and delight when at the first time of asking for an undeserved favour, I was referred to a publisher who has asked me to send him the full novel to him for review.;

If my life was a fairy story, the publisher will love my novel, and will immediately send me an advance  for a  five figure sum…

But in the real world… frankly, the best I’m hoping for is a reasonably positive critique, along the lines of: ‘yes, it’s quite good, needs a lot of work, but we don’t feel it’s for us…’

The worst that can happen is that they outright reject it and say it has no merit.

Whatever happens, I will be eternally grateful to the kind gentleman who introduce me to the publisher, as without his help and good name, I would never have got a reading.

Good, bad or indifferent, at least I will know one way or another and be able to move on with my life without forever wondering if only I had tried a bit harder to get someone to read it…

*

The temperatures in Pattaya and the surrounding region are getting hotter and hotter. Even a couple of weeks ago the water in my pool was still a little ‘cool’ to the first touch, but now it feels like a warm bath.

It has become so hot and humid in the afternoons that we have been switching the air conditioner on from about 2 pm till 6 pm- yes I know this extravagance is not doing much for my dwindling savings. The worry is that we’re not even in April and we’re getting temperatures in the high 30’s; traditionally April is even hotter.

Last year we more or less escaped the extreme heat, but it seems to have returned with a vengeance this year.

It is ironic that most of the UK and Northern Europe is shivering in sub-zero temperatures, and out here we are literally sweating our guts out.

*

Last Wednesday we all went to see Noo’s elder sister in Samut Songkhram for the day, and although I quite enjoyed the day out, it was all a little too hot for comfort.

I must say that Samut Songkhram is a very delightful area of Thailand, with its pretty, tree-lined lanes, it’s hundreds of temples, and network of little streams and rivers with delightful little Thai houses and bungalows nestled in the semi-jungle.  The small selection of ‘Mobi-pics’ above were taken during this recent foray into the wilds of Thailand.

One day I wouldn’t mind living in such a place – hmm we shall see….

Mobi-Bytes

The ‘Nero Syndrome’

A couple of weeks ago, one of my friends asked me if I was going to write about Cyprus in my blog.

It was the day after the initial announcement that a deal had been made with the EU bosses which would result in a levy being imposed on all Cypriot bank accounts.

My friend was horrified at what was being imposed on the poor citizens of Cyprus and immediately assumed that I would join the protests of outrage at such an unspeakable and illegal imposition on their personal bank accounts

Not knowing then,what I know now, about the ‘ins and outs’ of Cyprus’s grossly inflated banking system, I still found it a little difficult to see what all the fuss was about.

I am aware that I am in an extreme minority on this matter –to the point where those who may even have some sympathy from my point of view, tend to keep their thoughts to themselves. They fear  being vilified as  ‘Nazis’, or wicked criminals or at the very least, uncaring SOB’s.

I accept that my views may be a trifle simplistic, but to me, ever since the global crisis occurred back in 2008 with the sub-prime mortgage scandal, most of those who have lost – or stand to lose – their savings, homes and jobs, have largely put their heads in the sand and refused to accept the realities of the stark situations they found themselves in.

Almost to a man (or woman) they obdurately refuse to accept that ‘we are where we are’, that things must change, and we all have no choice but to share some very unpleasant medicine, or the whole world economy will collapse into smithereens around us.  

Whether they are Americans, Greeks, Italians, Brits or Cypriots, they somehow believe that because they were not the cause of the collapse of the banking systems and the world’s economies, then they should not be forced to suffer its consequences. They think that somehow, by some strange miracle, their little corner of life, work and general existence can be made immune to the economic punishment the rest of the western world’s populations are being forced to take.

We have seen strike upon strike and riot upon riot in Greece to protest the sever austerity measures the nation has been forced to make, yet everyone, including the suffering people, knew full well that they were taking the ‘piss’ out of the EU benevolence for years, (as indeed was Ireland), and were retiring early on massive government pensions.

They and their government were piling up debts to such a level that there was no way they could ever be repaid in their life time.

Also, by general acknowledgement the Greek tax system was -and still is – a farce and there was no way the government can raise sufficient tax revenues to pay for their decades of profligacy.

Yet when it finally all came collapsing down around them, what did they do? They refused to accept the austerity measures, they threw out successive governments and went on the riot and rampage.

Of course there are countless innocent victims in this mess, but, sorry folks, protesting and turning against your political leaders ain’t gonna change a damn thing!

Same same Italy. Allow one of the most corrupt and degenerate politicians the west has seen since Mussolini to lead you into an unholy economic mess, and then throw out the one man who had some semblance of an idea how to bring things back under control. Talk about having your cake and eating it.

*

Did you know that the UK public sector debt is forecast to be 75% of GDP, (The country’s gross domestic product), in 2012/13 and the GROSS public debt, which includes such items as social security funds, and local government debt will be a massive 90.3 % of GDP.

Even more disturbing, if we add government debt to private business and household debt, the nations overall debt will be a staggering 507% of its GDP

Where does this debt ratio sit amongst our peers in the developed economies of the world?

I’ll tell you that the UK’s overall debt sits the third highest, under Ireland (663%) and Japan at 512% of GDP. The nation’s overall debt is way higher than the USA, France, Italy, and yes… even Greece.

So, my fellow Brits, let us be under no misapprehension that our beloved nation’s economy is in deep shit, and will be for many – many – years to come.

Yet in spite of this dire situation, nobody is starving, nobody is without a roof over their head or clothes on their back, nobody is without free health care and a vast majority of the population has access to simple pleasures like television, sports and recreation, libraries and the like.

It seems to me that in these dark and dire times, we have much to be grateful for.

Yet what do we do? The public sector calls rolling strikes and we castigate the government with unbelievable venom whenever it attempts to introduce any kind of savings in the grossly inflated welfare system and other publicly funded budgets.

We just cannot accept that we can no longer sustain a cradle to grave welfare state and that things simply have to change if the country is to survive and one day pull itself out of their recession.

Only a few days ago the publicly funded BBC journalists – who, let’s face it, are not exactly stupid and neither are they badly paid – had the absolute gall to go on strike and deprive the long suffering, paying public of their services.

The reason for their strike?  It was allegedly over job cuts and ‘workload’.

In attempt to save some money in yet another grossly inflated government funded bureaucracy, BBC management had announced it was cutting 2,000 jobs over FIVE years.Most of theses jobs will be shed through voluntary redundancy, and so far only 110 jobs have been actually lost.

Just to put this in perspective, the BBC currently employs in excess of 23,000  staff, so in their wisdom the BBC ‘journos’  down tools because a mere 110 of their number have been made redundant. And I bet they all received extremely generous redundancy packages.

Are these people in the real world? – a world of mind boggling debts and on-going recession?

If it was up to me, I’d fire every journalist on the payroll and start again with a mixture of bright new graduates and other willing job seekers.

It’s about time they freshened things up and got rid of ancient monoliths like John Simpson, who is so obsessed with his own sense of importance that he dares to impart his opinions rather than hard news. He could join Fox news where they just love highly opinionated presenters.

*

Then we have our wonderful teachers. Yes, folks they are still striking. They plan a rolling programme of regional strikes from June.

Why are they striking?

Unlike the BBC, nobody is being made redundant – nobody is losing their job, nobody is being asked to take a pay cut, nobody is being asked to work longer or retire later. No, it is all about a dastardly plan to introduce ‘performance related pay’.

No longer will teachers receive automatic increases based on length of service; instead they will receive their increases based on merit, as determined by their head teacher.

Sounds reasonable? Not to the teacher’s unions. Maybe the union leaders are concerned that they spend so much of their time on union matters that they will not do well in their annual appraisals and miss out on merit increases. Who knows, but whatever the reason, it is frankly disgusting in these days of austerity and a struggling economy.

Come on guys, don’t be so bloody selfish. Teach our kids and give them the skills to help us turn the economy around.

*

Apart from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister for Education, one of the most reviled ministers these days is the Minister for Works and Pensions, a certain Mr Iain Duncan Smith.

Poor old Smiffy has had the unenviable task of rationalising the UK’s social welfare system and encouraging the shirkers to get back to work. You can imagine what a hot bed of discontent this little project has stirred up. We have no less a personage than the Archbishop of Canterbury preaching that hell-fire  brimstone and damnation will befall the hapless minister for daring to tinkle with the shirkers divine right to shirk and milk the state of every penny that it can.

Yet amazingly we are now learning that thousands are taking jobs ‘because of Iain Duncan Smith’s benefits cap’

The Work and Pensions Secretary will publish figures next week which will show a dramatic change in the number of people claiming benefit.

The initial assessment found that 67,000 households would be affected by cap but it is now believed that figure will be much lower.

The biggest shake-up of the welfare system in a generation has already encouraged thousands to return to work rather than live a life on benefits, a remarkable change in behaviour’ even before the new rules are introduced.

Officials have found that a sizeable number of claimants have found jobs after being warned that their benefits will be capped at £26,000 a year – equivalent to the national average income.

Strange ain’t it?

And today, hot off the press, we learn that the latest government figures reveal that nearly 900,000 people who were on incapacity benefit dropped their claim to the payments rather than undergo a tough medical test.

These huge numbers who have decided not to have an official assessment of whether they were fit for work is more than a third of the total number of people claiming sickness-related benefits.

The statistics also reveal that some claimants cited conditions such as ‘blisters’, ‘sprains and strains’ and ‘acne’ as the reason they were unable to work

More than 46,000 people claimed incapacity benefit because of ‘behavioural disorders due to the use of alcohol’ (ie. hangovers), while 30,000 claimants cited drug use.

Honestly, you couldn’t make it up if you tried, yet poor old Smiffy, that heartless Tory toff, is the very devil incarnate….

*

Back to Cyprus.

My friend asked me why I wasn’t outraged at the plan to levy savers. I told him I wasn’t outraged, because without the EU bail out, their savings would be worth zero. So what is worse? having a 10% levy on your savings or lose them completely?  

This is the point that nobody seems to comprehend  We are all faced with extreme stark choices – especially those in countries such as Italy and Greece – we either accept the EU medicine or we go bust and our country becomes a failed state with anarchy and death on the streets and no food in our stomachs.

Sure, can all scream and vent our anger and hatred on the bankers and the corrupt politicians until we are blue in the face, (and by all means lets round up the whole stinking bunch of them and throw them in jail), but it aint gonna change a thing as far as ‘where do we go from here?’ is concerned.

We are where we are and we all have to accept it and deal with it – however painful it becomes.

That was my unpopular view on the Cyprus banking crisis BEFORE I discovered that:

  • Savers had been benefiting from extraordinary high rates of interest, seemingly completely ‘out of sync’ with the rest of the world’s banks. My old mum always used to tell me that high risk would often bring high losses, as I have recently learnt to my cost.
  • The Cypriot financial sector has grown to eight times the size of its 20 billion dollar economy, having been grossly inflated by deposits from wealthy foreigners.
  • A de facto, ‘money laundering’ operation has been going on in Cyprus for years, particularly amongst Russian oligarchs, who are estimated have 31 billion dollars invested in Cypriot banks. Moody’s estimates that Russia’s total exposure to the Cyprus financial sector is about $60 billion!  Yes – that’s what Moody’s are saying –  a 60 billion dollar Russian exposure in a 20 billion dollar economy…..

It transpires that the EU has been unhappy with this situation for years, as a dodgy double-tax avoidance treaty and low tax rates have made Cyprus the conduit of choice for Russians moving money into and out of their country, but they have been unable to do little about it. In effect, Cyprus has been sticking its nose up at the EU money-men.

Well, now that the boot is on the other foot and this tiny state comes begging for a bail-out from the giants of Europe, is it any surprise that the German money barons decided to turn the screws?

In their naivety, the Cypriots thought the Russians would come to their assistance. There was even talk of some Cyprus/Russian axis that would strike a mighty stake into the heart of EU-land

Boy, were they wrong! The russkies told them to piss off with their pathetic gas reserves…

I agree that the deal between the EU and Cyprus could have been handled a lot better, but since when were our Germanic cousins masters of tact and diplomacy? I’m not even sure that subtle nuances are part of the German language.

 I also agree that the ones who suffer the most are the poor innocents at the bottom of the pile. Simple folk who have done nothing wrong and who have  tried to earn an honest penny to feed and house their families.

It is also true that most of those who are responsible for implementing these harsh measures will not personally suffer and that few of them will really comprehend the suffering of the ones most heavily affected.

But what would you have these semi-bankrupt nations do? Appoint a committee comprised of the poor, unemployed and homeless and have them make these difficult decisions? Even if you did, I guarantee that the rest of the nation would rise up against them.

It’s time the western world stopped their wailing and gnashing of teeth, got rid of their pathetic, self-piteous attitudes, and knuckled under and made the best of things. Life has dealt them a bad hand, but they can’t change it, so get on with it.

Are we all suffering from what I call ‘The Nero Syndrome’ ?

You remember him, he’s the the one who played his fiddle while Rome burned.

Are we all collectively playing our fiddles and pretending that that the world isn’t about to crash down about us, and even if it is, it bloody well won’t stop us having a good time….

 

 Click here for this week’s collection of  Mobi-Pics

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