10 months, 16 days – still sober
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:
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….
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!….