Fare thee well, my beloved Bimmer…

 

Fare thee well, my beloved Bimmer…

I’m sad to report that it’s farewell at long last to my beloved ‘Bimmer.’ I had it collected last week and driven to Bangkok, where, hopefully it will be sold within the next couple of weeks.

In preparation for its departure I had a local car wash company clean and polish the dear thing and when I went to collect it, it might have been my imagination but it look better than it had when I first bought it three some 3 ½ years ago. The jet black body was gleaming in the late afternoon sunshine like the black obelisk in ‘2001, a Space Odyssey’.

I confess I almost changed my mind yet again and decided to keep it after all, but common sense prevailed and it has now gone forever, hopefully to a beamer lover who will love it like I did, and look after it even better than I did.

 

I know it was the right decision. The slow slung body is simply not suitable for many of the roads in Pattaya, let alone up-country and every time I went out I was taking a chance that I wouldn’t encounter some hidden pot hole that would destroy one of my recently purchased new rims. And as for journeying around Thailand – well the trip to Hua Hin wasn’t too bad, but when I drove to the North East recently, I put an additional, unnecessary  strain on this old head of mine by having to be continually on the lookout and slowing down for bad stretches of  road, which have proliferated since the recent floods.

And although I still enjoy the occasional rush of blood to the head and accelerate past everything in sight, such occasions are becoming few and far between. These days, I am pretty much content to crawl along with the rest of the traffic, rarely overtaking on two lane roads except when the line in front is extremely slow and it is very safe to do so.

 

I have put a deposit on a 4 door (double cab) Triton pick-up and all being well I will pick it up next month. I have opted for the Triton, as not only does it look pretty cool, with its slightly curved body design but also boasts a new, state of the art, 2.5 litre diesel engine that apparently has loads of oomph! It has the same engine as the Pajero, and according to a guy who has driven a 320D Bimmer and the Triton, it goes pretty much as fast! Whether it does or not is debatable, but I am sure that when touring up country I will be able to drive as fast as I did in my beamer – probably faster as I won’t need to slow down so often on the bad roads.

The Triton sells for 300-400k Baht less than the Pajero, and these days I have no need for a 10 seat vehicle. The double cab, which will comfortably seat 5 adults, is more than sufficient for my purposes and it is fitted with most of the mod cons that come with the Pajero. The ride will be a be a bit harder, but to be honest, the Beamer ride is not that great on most Thai roads, so I doubt I will notice much difference.

 

Once delivered, I plan to do a bit of personalising – including putting a nifty ‘cover’ on the back, that will open at the press of a button on the dash board, and I may change out the sound system, depending on the quality of the factory installed stereo. I’m also thinking about putting in leather seats, but need to check out the cost.

So all in all, although I am sad to lose my faithful Beamer which, let’s face it, has been in so many adventures with me, I am looking forward to a new, totally different driving experience. Added to which I will have a new warranty on a new vehicle as opposed to one that is rapidly expiring and will soon expose me to potentially high maintenance costs. Fingers crossed that I find a buyer for the Beamer. Anyone interested?

P.S. In case you were wondering, the slang term ‘Bimmer’ is the correct slang to use for a BMW car. Apparently, the use of the term ‘Beamer’ or ‘Beemer’ for a BMW car is an ‘abomination’. These two words should be solely used for BMW motorcycles.

If you don’t believe me, Google it…

 

Whither Thai politics?

I rarely comment on Thai politics, and since starting this blog back in July 2009, I don’t believe I have actually stated whether I am pro or anti Thaksin – whether I support the Red or Yellow shirts.

For a long time I admit that I jumped on the anti Thaksin bandwagon, and even now, I still believe he has been the most divisive and disruptive force in Thai politics for decades. But if we put the issue of Thaksin and his role to one side for a moment, it is a moot point  as to whether the leaders and policies of the ‘Red Shirts and the Pheu Thai Party  are any worse,  more dishonest and  more corrupt than the leaders and policies of ‘Yellow Shirts’ and  the Democrat Party.

 

I read a fascinating article in the local English language press a couple of weeks ago, which I would like to share with you.

Hopefully this wasn’t staged for television

You might say it was just a TV talk show and you couldn’t take it too seriously. But what Jatuporn Promphan and Suriyasai Takasila revealed about their personal ties was, well, quite revealing.

The handshakes between Jatuporn, the red-shirt leader, and Suriyasai, the yellow-shirt core coordinator, might have been forced by anchorman Woody for a sort of photo-op action shot. But if you listened closely, you might be have been able to reach some conclusions that no academic in-depth analysis could have offered you.

They were both smiling broadly throughout Woody’s morning show on January 5 on Channel 9. They even exchanged nice, warm words with each other.

Jatuporn says he knows almost every core member of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) except its leader Sondhi Limthongkul. The reason is simple. When they were activists, they were working together as part of the student movement to oppose military dictatorship.

Jatuporn was at Ramkhamkaeng University. Suriyasai was attached to Kasetsart University. They belonged to the same group of student leaders in the heyday of young activism.

Suriyasai says one day at the height of the confrontation between the yellow and red shirts, he walked into a hotel coffeeshop and stumbled upon a group of red-shirt leaders enjoying a break. Veera Muksikapong was there. Jatuporn was also there.

“I greeted “elder brothers” Veera and Tu, (Jatuporn’s nickname), and we sat down for a friendly chat. I am sure that those who walked past us would have been very surprised at how we could sit down together,” Suriyasai recalled on the show.

In other words, both former student activists and now political provocateurs par excellence were telling the rest of the country that they had shared the same ideology as young students and that they were in fact fighting for the same cause that, for lack of a more appropriate term, is called “democracy”.

They both agreed that whatever their differences over political issues, they would avoid pitting, at all cost, their respective “mobs” against one another.

Why then did they part ways and become such arch-rivals?

Suriyasai said at one point that his message to the Yingluck government (“I hope Jatuporn will become a minister soon”) was that if it continued to concentrate on helping Thaksin Shinawatra, then it wouldn’t last. The premier would have to make sure that it fulfills its election promises.”

Jatuporn responded by insisting that the government is devoted to living up to its election pledges by promoting democracy, creating equality and economic welfare. Then, he added: “As far as Thaksin is concerned, whatever the government does won’t give him any treatment that isn’t enjoyed by the rest of the country’s 64 million Thais.”

It suddenly dawned on me that the two former student activists who had once fought alongside each other were in agreement on every major issue of the day.

Thaksin was the only reason that put them in two different camps, which have ravaged the country’s calm and peaceful political transition from military dictatorship to popular democracy.

Some yellow shirts reacted negatively to Surayasai for cosying up to Jatuporn, whom they consider their arch-enemy who cannot be forgiven.

Not surprisingly, some hardcore yellow shirts accused the former PAD coordinator of having “sold out”. Jatuporn said some red-shirts had criticised him for shaking hands with Suriyasai as well, but “I got less of it than he,” he said.

But logic and good sense, of course, should inform them that they owe it to the country to bury the hatchet by removing the source of the damaging conflict and renewing their youthful idealism and clear thinking to embark on a road together again to draw up a plan that will put the country back on a “normal” track again.

That is the least the former student activists, riding the crest of whipped-up public sentiments to shoot to national fame and attention, can do to return to their original purpose of activism of the student days: let no self-interest and political patronage cloud your determination to fight for democracy.

Hopefully, it’s still not too late.

Suthichai Yoon

The Nation

 

There is not a single country in the entire world where there are not many politicians who seek office simply to enrich themselves and make a grab for power to serve their own ends. Unfortunately, it goes with the territory. Thankfully, in most western countries – but by no means all – the ‘wrong-uns’ are usually in a minority and the democratic systems tend to weed out most of the bad apples over time.

What I believe is fair to say about Thai politics, is that the ’wrong-uns’ are by far and away in the majority, and all major parties are jam packed with powerful figures  who are using politics to enrich themselves and to exercise power for their own ends. This is a fact of life, and most educated Thais understand this very well.

 

So whether we are looking at Thaksin or Chalerm, or Suthep or Banharn Silpa-archa, or Chavalit, or whoever, we are looking at deeply corrupt politicians with an enormous amount of power and everyone, except maybe some of the badly educated working class, has known it for decades.

Even the working classes understand much of this, but the ‘patronage system’ in Thailand is alive and well and they will vote for the politician who they believe will look after them and their families better than anyone else, regardless of whether they are corrupt or not. Everyone and everything is corrupt! What’s new?

 

I happen to believe that Abhisit was not corrupt in the traditional sense and probably neither is Yingluck. It seems to me, that quite apart from the fact that they have no real financial need to be corrupt, they have also shown by their actions and personalities that they simply do not fit into that familiar ‘corrupt mould’.

If I am correct, it is quite ironic that in a country which is riddled with corruption, they have elected two consecutive leaders who are pretty clean.

But there are degrees of ‘being clean’ and there is no doubt that Abhisit, during his period in office, had to do to all manner of ‘deals with the Devil’ to stay in power, and it is even more obvious that poor Miss Yingluck is obliged to compromise her principles at the behest of her mighty elder brother.

 

But maybe it is a start – a move in the right direction – to have relatively clean leaders who  are admittedly required to dirty their hands to remain in office, but who knows, maybe over time, they can also start to wash some of the dirt of the hands of those around them.

One thing is for sure – it has never been more difficult for politicians to engage in overt corrupt practices. Once upon a time, it was pretty much an open secret that they were busy lining their own pockets, but these days, there are too many opponents who are wise to potential corruption and ready to expose and jump on perpetrators at the first signs that something may be going on.

As far as us ‘holier than though’ westerners are concerned, we only have to go back to Victorian times in the UK to find the existence of ‘rotten boroughs’ and many politicians effectively buying their seats in parliament; or look at the endemic corruption in American politics that grew up, largely as a result of Prohibition; so rather than deplore and overly criticise the corruption in Thai politics, maybe we should be thankful that at least there is a relatively stable democracy, however imperfect, and maybe, just maybe, over time it will slowly get better.

 

That day might come a bit sooner if a certain ex Montenegrin would just put the interests of his country first for a change and call time on his fanatical crusade to regain power.

 

BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…I Don’t give a hoot…


 

 

A Mobi Paradise of ‘Beamer-ing’ and ‘Kindler-ing’…

10 months, 16 days – still sober

Mobi-Babble

Still walking, still swimming, still reading, still writing and and still keeping away from the ‘naughty zone’.

Yesterday, we were informed that there would be a planned power cut from 9 am to 4 pm, so we decided to spend the day in Pattaya, shopping, paying some bills and doing few other bits and pieces.

Despite the recently swollen population of Pattaya City, occasioned by the flood of ‘flooded refugees’ from all over Thailand, if you get on the road before midday, you will find the traffic still runs quite smoothly. It is only after midday (and weekends) that the traffic jams start to build up.

So we had a quick journey down to Jomtien where I indulged myself with a full ‘English Breakfast’,  in one of my favourite watering holes before  going on to the Big C complex on Pattaya Klang, which will probably be referred to as ‘Carrefour’ forever more, even though the French chain has long since uprooted itself from Thailand and sold out to the Big C conglomerate.

The last time I went there – post Carrefour departure – it was a bit of a let-down, as the ‘specialist farang’ stuff they used to stock, had all disappeared from the shelves and it seemed to have transformed itself into a bog standard, down market, Thai style hypermarket.

So this time we were pleasantly surprised to find that the bigwigs at BIG C seemed to have belatedly realised that in this part of town, there are a great number of high spending expats – tourists and residents alike – and it has now seems to have got its act together.

The place looked a lot more like Carrefour of old, and there were a number of shelves crammed full of imported foodstuffs that are mainly the perquisite of their foreign customers. The fresh meat, processed meat, fruit and vegetable sections looked much more like they did in the Carrefour days and even the bakery seemed to be full of such western delicacies as specialist bread, croissants, quiches and the like.

I would emphasise that I am not an expert on all this as my needs are fairly basic and I have never gone for much of expensive, imported food products – except maybe, for the odd bottle of Branston pickle and HP sauce. So it may be that I am wrong about all this, but for me the store is now just fine.

I have always been a fan of  the former (Carrefour), Pattaya Klang complex, as it also boasts a huge Home Pro store, (Homeware and ‘DIY’ products), plus a very large selection of specialists shops, banks, book stores and goodness knows what else. There are also plenty of eating establishments and coffee shops to satisfy almost every taste and, by general acknowledgement, the food court is one of the best in Pattaya. Parking is adequate (all under cover), and it is also a great place for ‘people watching’. But none of this is much good if the main hypermarket is not to your taste, so I am pleased to report that for this shopper, this is once more the case.

I should probably be keeping all this to myself, as one of the great things about yesterday’s shopping expedition was the ease of getting around the store. The place was not very busy and there were virtually no queues at the checkout tills.

Of course it is always ‘horses for courses’…..

The continuing adventures of a Mobi-beamer

Last Saturday, Noo and I rose a little early and drove to Chon Buri to have my beamer checked out by the dealer, as there was a message on my on -board computer informing me that it needed a ‘Statutory Service’,  whatever that may mean – sounds a bit ‘German’.

Those who have been following my adventures with my car and, the Chonburi BMW dealer, Nelson’s Autohaus, through the years, will know that it is always a bit of an adventure whenever I need to get them to fix something.

You may recall that on my last visit, I asked them to check out my windscreen washer reservoir, as it was obviously leaking badly. They had smiled their wonderful BMW smiles, made a note of it on their immaculate BMW services sheets, yet 4 hours later, when I  re-took possession of my trusty steed, I hadn’t even managed to get out of the dealer’s compound,  when a message appeared on my on board computer to tell me that my windscreen washer reservoir was empty!!

So this time I told them once again about the leaky reservoir and they smiled their smiles again and told me that the ‘statutory service’ would take a couple of hours. I confess they couldn’t have been more polite and solicitous; even the American owner came over to chat with me. Maybe he reads my blog. Anyway, this time, all was sorted to my satisfaction and for the first time for as long as I can recall, my car is 100% operational; even the body is now immaculate, after I had a very small scratch touched up a couple of weeks ago.

In fact, it looks so good, that I confess I am having second thoughts about selling it. It is a wonderful car to drive and I do enjoy it. The size is perfect for Pattaya as it is small enough to manoeuvre in the small sois and park in restricted areas, but big enough to carry 5 people plus a boot load of luggage whenever the occasion demands.

As some of you may have guessed, after some initial interest, I haven’t had any serious enquiries from potential buyers – no doubt entirely due to the floods that have enveloped large swathes of Thailand – including much of Bangkok. I doubt whether many people’s attention is focussed on buying low- slung BMW’s at the present time, when so many of the countries roads are several feet under water.

So I’ll see how things go, but either way I’m not too bothered.

Whither the Thai economy?

We met up with a couple of friends who live in Chonburi, and drove a kilometre down the road to the massive Central Department store to have lunch. The place was an absolute mad- house and the air went blue when I failed miserably to find a single parking space in the woefully inadequate and completely jam-packed car- park. I must have driven round and round for well over 30 minutes before giving up and parking along the main Sukhumvit highway and walking back to the store.

There are very few farangs living in Muang Chonburi, (Chonburi City), so 99.% of the folk in the store were Thai, and it seemed to me as though at least half of them had driven there in cars. The store is massive – as big as any I have seen, yet the place was buzzing like it was a New Years’ holiday. There were large queues outside many of the restaurants, (of which there were dozens), and the whole place pervaded an atmosphere of extravagant, middle class affluence.

So it’s so much for the world economic recession and the dire predictions of Thailand’s economic well-being, following the floods and consequent drop in tourist numbers. For what its worth, in my opinion, after an initial ‘blip’ in the nation’s GDP, as the flood- affected industries struggle to get back on their feet, the mid to long-term prospects for Thailand’s economy will be better than ever.

The ruling establishment, of whatever hue, now understands that if they don’t take major action to prevent future flooding, the country’s economic prospects will be at serious risk. This year’s floods were, without any doubt, a wakeup call for one and all.

As a consequence, I think we will see a period of heavy investment in anti-flood infrastructure projects, which will greatly benefit the local labour forces as well as dozens of local construction companies –not  forgetting lining the pockets of legislators. When completed, this will make Thailand an even better place for the likes of Japan and Korea to expand their already considerable investment in Thailand’s heavy and high tech industries.

Did you know that around 40% of the world’s computer hard disks are made in Thailand?

Did you know that Thailand is the world’s largest manufacturer of pick-up trucks, having overtaken the USA some years ago?

Did you know that Thailand is no 12 on this list of the world’s largest auto manufacturers?

I could go on and on….

Kindling the Great Gatsby

I have started reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s supposedly greatest novel, ‘The Great Gatsby’.

Some time ago I read, and wrote about ‘Tender is the Night’, the only other F. Scott Fitzgerald novel that I have so far read. You can find what I wrote here:

Mobi Blog: Tender is the night

You may recall that I loved the book, particularly because it was a tale about ‘heavy drinkers’ and alcoholics at a time before Alcoholics Anonymous had come into being and when very few people recognised alcoholism as a disease.

The book traced the ‘rise, and ultimately the ‘fall’ of indolent, wealthy ‘hero’ who succumbed to the very worst effects of alcoholism which destroyed his life. At the time I was still in the midst of a life and death struggle with my own alcoholic demons and I found it a profound read. Given that it was written so long ago – it gave me much cause to reflect. But above all this was the realisation that Fitzgerald writes some of the most beautiful English prose I have ever read.

He was truly a genius, and I regret how long it has taken me to seek out more of his work.

I guess the main reason for this is that being in such remote location – from a literary viewpoint, it is not easy to put my hands readily on classic literature; but with the advent of Amazon’s ‘Kindle’, this is all a thing of the past.  Once you get into it, Kindle is the most remarkable way to read a book.

For me, the advantages of reading from a Kindle, far out ways any disadvantages. So what are Kindle’s advantages over a traditional paper back, apart from the fact that I can obtain a copy of virtually any book ever written within a few minutes, wherever I happen to be on the planet?

There are many more reasons – but here are just a few.  

I can’t mutilate a book when I read it; the book will always open at the last ‘read’ page unless I opt otherwise; I can book-mark pages as I go along which can be found in a milli-second, the next time I pick up the book; if I forget who a character or a ‘name’ may be , I can look at all previous references to that character or name in the previously read  text in a flash; if I wish to make a note on any sentence or word, I can make notations in the book without mutilating the underlying text and it can removed later if I so desire; if I don’t understand a word, a simple finger press on the word will bring an instant dictionary description of that word, plus access to even more detailed word research should I desire it

I could go on and on, but surely the above facets adequately demonstrate the advantages of reading books in Kindle form, rather than the traditional route.

Sure, it’s nice, and somehow comforting, to have  bookshelves full of well-loved, well-thumbed  books that one day I may read again, and if I was living in England and unlikely to move house, then this might still be how I would buy and keep my reading matter. But for those of us, who like me, who are in the far flung corners of the world, and are often continually on the move, one of biggest problems has always been the difficulty of carting loads of heavy books around with me or even worse, having to ship them to our next destination with the attendant costs and work involved.

I should add that I use a 7 inch Samsung ‘tablet’, which for me, is the ideal size. I can carry it with me wherever I go, take it to bed or the bathroom and read unobtrusively, virtually anywhere. It is very easy to hold in my hand or pop in my small shoulder bag, and the text is clearer than if I were reading it from a paper -back of similar size, and if I had poor eye sight, I could even enlarge the size of the text.

Internet versions of Classic and 20th century literature, which are all out of copyright,  are often free or very inexpensive. The Great Gatsby only costs US $1.99 and it took about 3 seconds to download. Now I have it forever.

The American journalist and author, Hunter S. Thompson, who wrote ‘The Rum Diary,’ (which has been just released as a film starring Johnny Depp), once transcribed the entire ‘Great Gatsby’ Novel’ on his typewriter as he wanted to know what it felt like to write a masterpiece. He considered the Great Gatsby, one of the finest novels ever written.

(Incidentally, just for my Yank haters, Hunter Thompson has been quoted as saying: …‘America… just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.’… I don’t necessarily subscribe to this view, but you must admit it is quite amusing…)

Anyway, I am well into Gatsby, and I will report back when I have finished it. As with ‘Tender is the Night’, so far, I have found it a beautifully crafted piece of writing. It actually humbles my pathetic efforts at creative writing. But so does Shakespeare….

A Lustful Gentleman

Another small section (part vii) to be added to the revised Chapter One. Hopefully, there will be at least a couple of further new sections to read on Sunday. I am sooo busy these days….

Chapter one

(Continued)

vii

When Na received a message from one of the younger kids that Kate wanted her to go to the office, she had a premonition that this wasn’t going to be just routine business. She hadn’t seen her mother for nearly six months and she knew that she was way over-due for a visit. On the last occasion that her mother had come to see her, they had had a big row. Her mother wanted Na to go back home to the slum with her, but Na screamed and begged her to let her stay at the kid’s mission.

    At the time of the row with her mother, Na had been at the mission for two and half years, and during that time, she had been transformed from a very sickly, skin diseased, illiterate nine year old, into an attractive pre-teenager, who not only could read and write Thai, but also knew a goodly bit of English as well.

    Na still recalled vividly that momentous day when Kate and her husband, Bill, had taken her with them in the mini bus and instead of driving her straight to the kids’ home, Kate had taken Na to her own home for the first few weeks. Na had been told by the young Thai translator that she was so sick that Kate had feared for her life and decided to personally care for her until she was stronger.

    And so it had happened. Kate cared for Na as though she was her own baby; putting her in a proper bed with lovely clean sheets – the first bed and sheets Na had ever seen in her life; fed her nutritious meals, ensured that she took her special medicine four times a day, and, crucially, tirelessly bathed and applied the expensive, special ointment to the terrible scabs and sores which had broken out all over her face and body. Slowly but surely, Na had started to improve, and once Kate felt that she was sufficiently improved, Na went to join the other 30 or so kids who lived at the mission.

    Na hadn’t the slightest doubts that the past three years had been by far and away the happiest period of her entire life. She had quickly made friends with the other kids, and as soon as she had been well enough, the Mission workers had taken her to the local Wat school, and on weekends, she had been given special English lessons by some more kind farangs who had came to help at the mission on a part time basis.

    Na had realised instinctively that she was a bright, quick student and she knew that she had impressed her teachers on how quickly she had learnt to read and write Thai. Indeed, she had excelled in all her studies, especially her English and she felt a deep pride of what she had achieved. For the first time in her life, she started to believe that she was actually worth something more than just a compliant ‘machine’, doing anything she was bid to do by her mother and others.

    As she walked to Kate’s office she reflected on the row she had had with her mother, six months earlier. The basis of row  had been Dow’s demand that Na  go back to the slum and back to her old life with her mother. But when Na had asked her mother if she wasn’t getting enough to eat, Dow had admitted to her daughter that Kate and the other ladies had been giving her plenty of food and other supplies that had enabled her to live quite well.

    ‘Then why do you want me to go Mama?

    ‘Because I am alone and I miss you.’

    Na suspected it was not so much because her mother missed her, but more because she wanted someone to do all the work for her and look after her. ‘But Mama, I am happy here,’ she said, ‘I am going to school here, and I’m even learning to speak some English. This will all come to an end if I go back with you.

    ‘What good is school to you – a penniless slum girl!’ her mother had said. ‘Your place is at home with me, not at school, learning a lot of useless nonsense.…’

    Na had been unable to control her disgust. She was normally a calm, well behaved and dutiful daughter, but the injustice of what her mother was trying to do, suddenly hit her with a jolt and she had erupted with uncontrollable anger.

    ‘It’s not useless nonsense! I am learning to read and write and many other things besides; you can’t take me away now! What have you ever done for me? You sold little Tom and Nid into God knows what suffering and degradation, and now you want to ruin my life as well! Don’t you understand? I am happy here – for the first time in my life I am happy!’ Na had screamed at her mother.

    ‘Now go! Go home! Get out of here and leave me alone! Get out! Get out!’

    Nobody was more surprised than Na when her mother took one brief look at her daughter, got up from the chair she had been sitting on, and quietly left the office, without another look back. Na couldn’t believe her good luck. Maybe her mother had gone forever.

    That was six months ago, and now the ominous message to go and see Kate in the mission office. As Na suspected, when she got there, there were three people sitting in the office: Kate, her Thai translator and sitting in the centre of the room, with her head staring at the floor, was the ominous figure of Dow, her mother.

    Kate, with the help of the Thai translator, explained to Na that her mother was now insisting that Na go home with her. ‘Six months ago, you refused to leave, but she has been told by some people in the slum that you cannot stay here without her permission and  she has the right to take you back.’

    ‘I don’t want to go! I want to stay here with you and go to school. If I go with her, I won’t be able to go to school any more. It’s not fair!’

    ‘I’m very sorry Na, but you are only 12 years old and your mother is still your legal guardian. She does have the right to take you back and there is nothing we can do to stop her. You know you can only stay here if she agrees with the arrangements’

    Na knew only too well the truth of this. She had seen many of her friends at the mission come and go during the three years she had been there. At any time, one of the kid’s parents – most of them only had a single parent if they had any at all –  would come to the Mission and demand to take their child away with them. Na knew of several younger children who had been taken away on more than one occasion – just so that the parent could sell them to some filthy paedophile, usually to feed a drug habit. Later, the kids would be returned to the Mission by a social worker or sometimes a policeman, when the paedophile had grown tired of them or, more often, when the kid had succeeded in escaping from their clutches.

    Na looked at Kate. ‘Miss Kate, are you still giving food and water to my mother? she asked.

    ‘Yes, my child, you mum is well taken care of. She says she just wants you back to keep her company. She says can’t live alone any more. I am so sorry, my child, but you will have to go with her. It’s the law. There is nothing we can do.

    Na tried to meet her mother’s gaze but the old woman steadfastly refused to look at her and stared at the floor. Then Na looked across at the kindly Kate and the young Thai man, who was also a good friend to all the kids. The man’s face was inscrutable, but the elderly woman’s eyes said it all. She was full of despair, sorrow and dread for the fate of this lovely, clever young girl that she had grown to love as her own daughter.

    ‘Na, my love, you better go with Khun Suthep and collect your things.’

***

Butt…Butt…Butt…I Don’t give a hoot!….


The Darkside Beamer is being put out to pasture

 

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….

 

Whither Afghanistan?

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!!!