Mobi-Snaps: The ‘Family Mobi’
It has been another busy week in the life of this recovering alcoholic.
The real possibility that I have lost a substantial portion of my savings is still obviously at the forefront of my mind.
There has been little meaningful information coming from the fund’s administrators, where all my woes lie.This is hardly surprising, considering that it only went into voluntary administration 3 weeks ago and it will take a while for them to come up with any meaningful financial assessment.
But I am taking the view that no news is good news, and so far there have been no suggestions that the fund has huge holes in it or that in some way has been fraudulently plundered by its managers. It has been more a question of cash flow problems, mainly because the fund has been invested in real estate, which will clearly have negative cash flow until any particular project is completed.
If pressed to forecast what I suspect will be the outcome, I would guess that eventually I will get between 50 and 70% of my investment back, but it will be at least two years, and possibly a lot longer before I start to see any of it.
If I am right, I am going to have to put this gnarled and sick old body to work pretty damn soon in order to put food on my table and take care of my responsibilities.
Noo and I have been putting our heads together on this and do have a few ideas, which I will tell you about later. In the meantime it is absolutely essential that I get my house sold and I will be re-doubling my efforts on this front.
But life must go on and I am trying to come to terms with my new found, impecunious status.
Maybe it will be the saving of me, maybe it will be the death of me. Only time will tell.
Poor Noo wanted to go and pray at one of the major Buddhist temples in Pattaya to ask the ‘Gods’ to return my money!
I confess I treated this idea with short shrift and shouted at her that no bloody Buddha or God is going to bail me out of the mess I am in. I told her it would be total waste of time and effort.
The lovely lady was appropriately chastised and I was immediately overwhelmed with tearful contrition. She wanted to help in the only way she knew and it was very churlish of me to treat her truly-held beliefs with such disdain. Of course I begged her indulgence which she was happy to give, but she has cancelled plans to go and pray for my money…
The incident brought home to me how much this event has knocked me sideways, and I really do have to be circumspect as regards my behaviour from now on. Temper tantrums and intolerance is not going to help solve my problems, and Noo deserves better.
Yesterday, Saturday, there was a double celebration.
One of Noo’s closest friends, a young lady who lives in Chonburi town with a retired American, was getting married and so Noo, Dom, (her son), and I drove over to their home at an early hour to witness the Thai ceremony.
I have attended a number of Thai traditional weddings during my years in Thailand, including one of the biggest ever – involving a certain Mobi and his wife Dang – so I was pretty familiar with the procedures.
It was a steamy day, and the poor groom, a man in his early sixties was doled up in the stifling Thai traditional costume. Friends and family, who had travelled down from Roi Et, in North-eastern Thailand, were all gathered round to have their interminable photos taken.
It all brought back many, not very happy memories, of my own 24 hour ordeal, some eight years ago, when I became married to Dang.
My own wedding, which took place in Dang’s village in Sa Kaeo, is described at length in both ‘Mobi’s Story’ and in Parts Two and Three of my novel ‘A Lust for Life’.
However, I am sure that the happy couple will be much happier that Dang and I were. As ever, there is a large age gap between them but they do seem to be well matched and have already lived happily together for three years. Good luck to them both.
Yesterday also happened to be Noo’s birthday, so as neither of us are really party animals any more, (Noo rarely drinks alcohol and I never do), we made our excuses after the morning rituals were completed and took our leave.
We drove back to Pattaya City and spend the rest of the afternoon at Central Department store. We had a great ‘brunch’ of Cantonese dim-sum specialities, and thenwatched a very amusing Thai movie.
The movie was ‘Pee Mak Phra Kha Nong’ a re-worked and clever and amusing take-off of a traditional Thai ghost story. The cinema was packed with Thais. There was hardly a spare seat to be found, and the entire audience – including surly old Mobi – were rolling in the aisles at the silly, infectious and occasionally dark humour.
It was great stuff and very original. Set in some far off time – possibly back in the days of the 1st World War, and it had a certain ‘Black-Adder’ like quality to it.
For those of my readers who live in Thailand – go and have a good laugh – it has excellent English sub-titles, so you miss nothing.
We rounded off the afternoon by stuffing ourselves with ice cream and cake.
Happy birthday Noo….
Thank you Stickman!
I do owe a big thank to Stickman, who very kindly gave me and my latest novel a plug in the Stickman’s weekly blog last week.
I am also very grateful to the kind author who mentioned my humble efforts to Stickman. I am not sure if this well-known author wishes his name to be made public in this regard, so I will keep it to myself for the time being, but will happily plug it at a later date if it is OK with him.
The net result of Stickman’s little mention is that I received a huge ‘spike’ of interest in my blog, and quite a few new readers are now reading my novel – ‘A Lust for Life’.
To those of my original (‘Mobi’) readers who have not yet taken a look at Stickman’s weekly column, if you are interested what’s going on in Thailand, then it is well worth a read. It is very well written – very informative and highly entertaining.
To read it, click on ‘Stickman Weekly’ under, ‘Recommended External Links’ on my Home page.
If you are using a computer, you will find on the right hand side bar, and if you are reading from a mobile device, scroll down to the bottom of the page.
A Lust For Life
Thanks to many of you who are now reading my lengthy saga.
Some of you seem confused about where to find parts 2 , 3, and 4.
Similar to the ‘Stickman directions’ above, all four parts of my novel can be found by clicking the appropriate part listed under ‘Creative Writing’, ‘6. A lust For Life’. You will find them listed either on the right side of my Home Page or at the foot, depending on the device you are using.
One or two of you have mentioned that you have found mistakes in the text. This doesn’t surprise me as it is 217,000 words long, and so far I have been the sole editor/ reviewer.
I have found that no matter how many times I read it, there are mistakes and errors that slip through the net – I am just too familiar with text and probably end up glossing over errors without properly taking in what I am reading.
So I would be very grateful to anyone who can point out obvious errors, and I will be happy to correct them.
As ever, all comments are welcome. You may leave a reply at the foot of any page in the ‘Leave a Reply’ box.
Please rest assured that your email addresses will remain confidential and will not be published or passed to any other person or organisation.
(If you are abusive or make personal insults, I will block your email, but that is all..)
A Farewell to Arms?
A few days ago that impotent and ineffective organisation know as The United Nations, adopted yet another toothless and pointless treaty.
We are told that the UN General Assembly has adopted a ‘historic treaty to control the trade in conventional arms’, voting it through by a huge majority.
Well we all know what happened with the nuclear proliferation treaty. Ifc i was so effective, how is it that nations such as India and Pakistan have viable nuclear devices, to say nothing of rogue States like Iran and North Korea?
And are we supposed to believe that this ‘historic treaty’ is going to do any better?
It sounds pretty encouraging.
The new treaty prohibits states from exporting conventional weapons in violation of arms embargoes, or weapons that would be used for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or terrorism. It also requires states to prevent conventional weapons reaching the black market.
But the omens are not good.
The plan had been to adopt the treaty by consensus, but was forced to a vote after Syria, Iran and North Korea tried to block its adoption and voted against it. On top of this, Russia and China, two of the world’s biggest arms exporters, were among those who abstained from the vote.
Does anybody seriously believe this treaty is going to make one ounce of difference to the killing, suffering and proliferation of arms in this tragic world of ours?
It is just a lot of hot air that keeps thousands upon thousands of people in jobs and achieves little else.
Where was the UN when almost a million people were being slaughtered in Rwanda?
Where are the UN, as the tens of thousands of women and children are brutalised and killed in Syria?
The United Nations?
Don’t make me laugh… I might cry…
Some thoughts on Thai Medical Care
I have written on a number of occasions about the standard of hospitals and medical care in Thailand.
Suffice to say, that in general terms, Thailand’s doctors and hospitals are pretty much like elsewhere; inasmuch as there are good doctors and bad doctors, good and bad hospitals, health care professionals who really care and others who really couldn’t give two hoots if you die tomorrow as long as they get paid.
Also, as with the rest of the world, some patients will shower a hospital with praise and have nothing but good to say about it, while others will swear that the very same hospital is staffed by quacks, thieves and uncaring charlatans.
For sure, medical care, like life itself, is always going to be a lottery. Some patients will ‘luck out’ and receive excellent and successful treatment for their conditions, whereas others may draw the short straw and get a bad doctor or a misdiagnosis, leading to understandable anger and distress.
It was ever thus, whether you attend a state run hospital or you go to the finest private hospital that money can buy.
Certainly my own experiences in Thailand have been very mixed, but on the whole, once you learn how to ‘work the system’, the treatment I have received for a number of chronic and life threatening maladies over the years has been, by and large, quite satisfactory.
Sometimes I have probably shelled out too much money for unnecessary and expensive tests, and there have been a number of occasions when I have been misdiagnosed and I have even come across a number of doctors who know less about diabetes than I do.
(A doctor in a private hospital, who was great at treating my dengue fever, was astonished when I told him I had multiple injections of insulin every day, as he had never heard of anyone having more than one per day. Yet multiple injections – to achieve greater control of blood sugars have been standard treatment since the 1980’s!
And he wasn’t the only one who was blissfully ignorant in the latest treatments for diabetes which is becoming endemic in Thailand. But the docs in the top Bangkok hospitals are well up to speed.)
The rule of thumb is that most of the best doctors gravitate to either the major government hospitals or private hospitals in Bangkok, and to a lesser extent to the top hospitals in key provincial cities, such as Chiang Mai and Pattaya. The top Bangkok government hospitals, such as Rajavithi, (where I had my heart valve replaced), and Chulalornkorn, are amongst the best in the world and have some very fine specialists on their payrolls.
As with any hospital where treatment is basically free to the local population, the state hospitals are very overcrowded and there are long waiting lists for operations. Foreigners can also go there, but they will have to pay for their treatment, and will find they have to ‘jump through many hoops’ and are given no special priority over Thais. They have to wait in line like anyone else.
The alternative is to attend one of the many private hospitals in Thailand and there is no question that establishments such as Bumrungrad, BNH, Bangkok Pattaya Hospital, and Samitivej are world class.
There was a time, up to the early 2000’s when treatment at these places was very, very cheap and Bangkok in particular quickly became a popular destination for ‘medical tourists’. But the canny Thai buisnessmeen who owned these hospitals soon cottoned on to the fact that they could jack up their rates and the punters would still keep coming.
Over the past 10 years or so we have seen huge increases at some of the major establishments, such as Bumrungrad and Bangkok-Pattaya. A bulk of these increases relates to ‘in-house’ treatment and in particular the cost of operations has spiralled.
Nowadays, the cost of major operation is probably only 10 -20% less than you would pay for a similar operation in the UK, but is still a fair bit less than you might pay at an American hospital. So it’s still worth having it done in Thailand if you are footing the bill, but a hell of a lot more than you would have paid 10 years ago.
The ancillary costs for staying in hospital have also sky-rocketed.
Strangely and fortuitously, there does not seem to have been a corresponding increase in outpatient treatment, and a 30 minute consultation at with a top specialist in his field can cost as little as 25 US Dollars, and never more than $50. Back in the 1990’s I used to pay the best part of $500 dollars for a specialist consultation in Harley Street, and I dread to think how much I would have to pay these days.
As those who live here will know, hospitals also try to make money on prescriptions. Their in-house pharmacies pad the medicine bills by as much as 2-3 times the cost you would pay in a regular Thai pharmacy.
These days, I always ask the doctors to write down the names of the meds he is presribing and I buy all of them at an outside pharmacy. Similarly I have my blood tests done by a local lab, (unless they are urgent), and save myself a fortune.
There is no question that there are many unscrupulous people in the Thai medical sector and quite a number of them regard foreigners as cash cows – there to be milked out of as much money as possible.
There are few laws with ‘teeth’ to protect patients or bring doctors to account for bad or unnecessary treatment. I believe that most doctors treat their profession more as a ‘business’ than a ‘calling’, although that doesn’t mean they are bad doctors.
Indeed, there was a time when the hospital I used to hate, Bangkok- Pattaya Hospital ,(‘BPH’), was undoubtedly guilty of using every trick in the book to maximise their earnings by persuading patients to stay as an in-patient when it wasn’t really necessary, by carrying out unnecessary, and expensive tests, and by prescribing the most expensive imported meds, and so on and so forth.
One of their favourite tricks was to inform a patient how much his room was going to cost, and then at the last moment advise him that the only room currently available was going to cost double the price previously quoted.
Another trick was to suddenly increase the price of an operation, due to ‘unforeseen complications’, just prior to surgery, and after the patient had been prepped. I have personal knowledge of both of these scams, which by any standards is deplorable.
Yet another is their notorious ‘two-tier’ pricing system – one for local Thai residents and another for foreigners.
But the worst and most publicised of all was their frequent practise of turning away accident victims at the door whenever they couldn’t be sure that the patient had the ability to pay. This, over the years has resulted in the deaths of many foreigners, many of whom were actually fully insured.
If you were to take up any of the above points with a healthcare worker in Thailand, my guess is that he or she would find little wrong with such practices. After all, to them a hospital is a business, no different to selling cars or manufacturing widgets.
Their business has to generate a good return for their shareholders and the onus is on the hospital managers to maximise their profits and to ensure there are no bad debts. The Hippocratic Oath, or any concept of public service simply does not exist in the medical profession Thailand.
And before we, in the west, start to shake our hands, point our fingers and start to decry such callous attitudes –at least let us acknowledge that they are honest. Unlike us in the UK, where we allow nurses at our hospitals to treat elderly patients with so much cruelty and neglect that many hundreds have needlessly died over the past few years. And this is the tip of the iceberg – so let he /she who is without blame….
Ironically, it is this very ‘drive for profits’ at BPH which seems to have led to a change for the better in their policy towards foreigners.
The adverse publicity generated by countless foreigners who have been victims of ‘scams ‘ and also the well- publicised outrage over the callous policy of turning away dying patients at their doors has resulted in some very welcome changes.
These days, before any test is carried out, I am told exactly how much it will cost and my approval is requested. I’ve never had this happen at any hospital in Thailand before. Usually the doctors just send you for whatever tests they think they can get away with and let the cashier argue with you later when you complain about the outrageous prices.
One of my recent consultations with my cardiologist cost me the grand sum of 200Baht ($7) and an even more recent one with a chest specialist was actually free!
There is no doubt in my mind that the word has gone out to take it easy with their foreign patients and to rein in some of their more aggressive practices.
But I wonder exactly who is covered by this new found benevolence?
As stated above, there has long been a suspicion of a two-tier pricing scheme at this hospital. Some years ago, one of my dear friends was hot on the trail of exposing this practice when he was suddenly diagnosed with stomach cancer and six months later. He died on the operating table at Bumrungrad.
I was first registered as a patient in BPH back in 2003, and I am convinced I am on the ‘lower-tier’ as I still hear horror stories about tourists being grossly overcharged for treatment. It seems that they are keen to keep their farang residents happy and thus ensure the minimum of bad publicity. So we never heard the result of his investigations.
Quite recently, something occurred to me when I was sitting in in BPH, waiting to pay my bill. They had a ticket number system and when each patient’s bill was ready, their number were called out and was displayed on the screen.
I realsied that there was two distinct group of numbers. One group started with the prefix ‘8’ and the second group had the prefix ‘2’. Then, as each patient went to the counter to pay his/her bill I noticed that all the foreign patients had tickets with the ‘8’ prefix and all the Thai patients had the prefix ‘2’.
Guess what prefix I had?
‘2’ …of course… Was I in the lower, Thai, group?
Yesterday I called the hospital to make an appointment to see the chest specialist. The receptionist answered my call by speaking my name! OK, no great technical marvel in this day and age, but it is the first time any hospital in Thailand has identified me by my incoming phone number without me saying a word.
I strongly suspect that not only am I on the lower, ‘resident’ tier of their pricing structure, but have probably been singled out for special, favourable treatment, due to my reputation for complaining to them and writing about them on internet forums.
Long may it last, although I suppose there’s always a chance that one day they might decide to slip me something that violently disagrees with me….
The Nero Syndrome (Part two)
Back in 1926, there was a General Strike in England. It lasted nine days.
It was called by the Trades Union Congress in an unsuccessful attempt to force the British government to act to prevent wage reduction and worsening conditions for 800,000 locked-out coal miners. Some 1.7 million workers went out, especially in transport and heavy industry.
The government was prepared and enlisted middle class volunteers to maintain essential services. There was little violence and the TUC gave up in defeat. In the long run, there was little impact on trade-union activity or industrial relations.
Few can doubt that the coal miners had a legitimate grievance when the employers imposed a substantial reduction in their wages. Also bear in mind that miners were in an extremely dangerous industry, where permanent injury and even death were relatively common-place and that most miners families lived barely above the poverty line.
Unfortunately the miners were never going to win, not only because the government had properly prepared itself to deal with such a stike, but mainly because their cause – though just – was in vain.
The harsh truth was that coal production was at its lowest ebb since the world war, that Germany had re-entered the international coal market by exporting “free coal” to France and Italy as part of their reparations for the First World War, and the reintroduction of the gold standard in 1925 had made the British pound too strong for effective exporting to take place.
The poor miners were on a hiding to nothing and after 9 traumatic days when many families had no food on their tables, they caved in and returned to their wretched pits.
We can probably draw some parallels between the General strike of 1926 and the general strike currently being proposed by the TUC for later this year.
In both situations the strikes are in protest against the lowering of wages and/or benefits and the reduction of jobs. In both circumstances the strikes did not/will not achieve anything.
At least in 1926 the miners were fighting for a wage they considered necessary to support their families, but this latest strike, which is being proposed for 2013, is purely political in intent and all it will achieve is a major disruption for the long suffering British public.
Why are they striking?
‘To protest against the government’s austerity measures…’
The last time I checked, Britain was still a democracy and we have elected members of parliament to whom we place our trust to run the country for us. If we don’t like what they are doing, we kick them out at the next election and find someone who we do like.
That is the way the system works. And what is more, it is almost a racing certainly that HM opposition, the estimable Labour Party, will also NOT give its backing this so-called general strike, so pardon my language , but WTF!!!
As if this wasn’t enough, we now learn that Civil servants from government departments, courts and driving test centres are to strike on Friday over pay, pensions and terms and conditions.
The walkout is part of a three-month long campaign of industrial action, which began with a strike on Budget day last month.
Another strike in protest at the government’s austerity measures!
Remember: No-one is starving, everyone has a roof over their head, and everyone is getting free healthcare….
… and Britain is in the worst economic mess it been in since the 1930’s.
Talk about fiddling…
‘Elf an’ Safety??? Wots it all abaht then?
For many years we have all laughed and then been outraged and astonished at the unbelievable nonsense that has been perpetrated in almost every aspect of our life by both national and EU bureaucrats under the guise of ‘Health and Safety regulations.
We all have our favourite anecdotes and I do not propose to add to that reprehensible compendium today.
But what made me sit up in astonishment this week was the amazing number of bogus excuses that have been made for prohibiting all manner of things and actions in the name of ‘Health and Safety’
Here is a small sample of so-called ‘elf an’ safety’ rules which have never… ever existed, except in the law quoter’s miserable, lazy mind.
- Yo-yos banned n playgrounds
- Knives banned in kitchens
- Kettles banned in offices
- Hot drinks banned on buses
- Pub customers not allowed to carry tray of drinks
- Charity shops not allowed to sell knitting needles
- Boiled sweets prohibited from airplanes
- Floor towels banned from hotel bathrooms
- Bubbles banned at children’s parties
- Rare burgers banned from restaurants
- Beer glasses with handles banned from pubs
- Shredded paper banned from school fetes.
- Toothpick banned from restaurants.
- Chambermaid banned from making up cot beds.
I could go on and on. I guess it could be a case of ‘reap what you sow….’
Click here for this week’s collection of Mobi-Pics