A walk on the wild side with friends from long, long ago.

8 Months, 25 Days, still sober.

God! Where am I?

Things have been so hectic that my feet have barely touched the ground. I haven’t even been able to tweet much, much less write a blog, but anyway, I thought I’d better make a start and see how far I get, as if I don’t, it will all soon become distant, blurred memories.

As ever, I am exaggerating, but enough of this Mobi-babble, let’s see how far I get.

Where was I? I am writing this in a sunny lounge in a peaceful suburb of Nuneaton, near Birmingham – at the home of Natalie, my eldest daughter. I have been here since Tuesday afternoon after having variously been in Tonbridge, Stamford, Allendale, Stamford again and then Nuneaton.

So my last blog took me through to Thursday evening and on Friday morning I packed a few things in advance of my brother Sid, and his wife, Jane, picking me up around noon for the journey up to Allendale, in Northumberland, a few miles west of the Geordie city of Newcastle.

A long lost friend’s home, just outside Allendale, was the location for this unique, long planned, much anticipated ‘get together’ by a group of friends, some of whom hadn’t set eyes on each other for more than forty years. There were 20 of us all told, including a few odd wives who had tagged along for the ride, the men all originally from the East London suburb of Ilford, which is situated on the border with Essex.

We had all been Wolf Cubs and Boy Scouts together from the ages of around 7 or 8, right throuigh to our late teenage years when most of us scattered to the far corners of Britain, and, in some cases, the world. This was the remnant of a happy band of kids who had grown up together in austere, post war England in the late fifties and early sixties.

It had been a totally different era, when there was little for us kids in suburban London to do and was a  time when youth organisations like the Scouts, played such an important part in our lives and in our physical and mental development.

We all wore short trousers, and we met weekly to play silly games and learn silly, useful things to do, like how to tie knots or how to cook rabbits over open fires or how to send semaphore messages to each other using coloured flags.

In the long winter months we would rehearse and perform musical Scout shows and in the spring and summer we all went camping on weekends and during school holidays in all manner of rural, English locations; and even to far flung foreign fields, such as Wales, and even, can you believe? – France and Germany.

It was a different world and we enjoyed our inexpensive, innocent fun, which kept us largely out of mischief. We grew up to be a friendly  hardy, fit  bunch of youths; tacitly accepting the moral and ethical codes which were the very embodiment of Baden Powell’s ‘Scouting for Boys’.

Such a far cry from the moral degeneration that seems to have embraced  so many of our modern British youth; who only seem to be interested in making selfish demands on society without ever thinking to give anything back. It’s almost as if the acts of rioting, looting and destruction have become a ‘rite of passage’.

I confess to having been somewhat leery, and not a little nervous about meeting with long, half-forgotten pals that I had not set eyes on for so long, but in the end I needn’t have worried. After the first, hesitant opening exchange of greetings, the years seem to suddenly slip away and once again I was with my mates of so long, long ago.

It was uncanny; it was as though we had never been apart, such was the nature of our instant rapport and camaraderie. We were back, once again at one of our Scouting get-togethers. It was quite an incredible feeling – almost akin, I would guess, to meeting up with long lost brothers – for that is what they were: ‘Brothers’.

Our host for the weekend was Jack, a guy who, for a period of time during my teenage years, was one of my closest friends. Indeed Jack and I  shared many happy Sunday evenings together and  with others, some of whom were also at the reunion, when I used to drive my ancient pre-war jalopy out to the pubs in Essex, loaded to the gunnels with teenage scouting mates, for an evening out.  Yes, I was probably over the limit, even in those far of days, but back then, the beer was as weak as piss, so I actually doubt it.

Jack and his wonderful wife live in a large sprawling home that had been converted from an ancient barn. It was a beautiful, rustic impressive structure and boasted a dining room large enough to seat the entire gathering of 20, plus one gorgeous, almost  white cat, (see pic below), at one sitting, on a single, long table. The hosts truly did us proud with a feast fit for a king and on that first evening, we sat and chatted about old times as though we had never been away. Most of my companions were of course getting quite merry on the flowing wine, but yours truly wasn’t in the least put out and never once did I hanker after a drink.

The following morning we had the dreaded walk along Hadrian’s Wall. After a sterling breakfast, cooked, courtesy of Jack’s wife, we all took off in our cars for the 30 minute journey to the countryside car park where we could access the wall.

One look at some weekend hikers in their fell walking gear, complete with special boots, sturdy rucksacks and mountain picks only served to heighten my anxiety and give me the shits. I wasn’t fit enough to walk to end of my village driveway in Pattaya, so how on earth did they expect me to walk up these hills?

Not to be daunted, my friends insisted that I give it a try, so we set off, over the nearby dales to the distant hills beyond, where the wall was to be found. Surprisingly – I felt fine. None of the angina pains in my arm or breathlessness that I had been experiencing back in Thailand – a miracle if ever there was one. In fact, I felt so good that I even smiled a smile of victory when, firstly the women, and then, even a couple of the men dropped out, saying it was just too exhausting.

We reached the hills and began our ascent to the wall. By then, I was starting to feel tired, but egged on by my companions, I persevered and gradually we approached the summit.

By this time I was slowing down and was even tottering a little, but my trusty companions were surrounding me from the front the rear and even sideways, to ensure that if I started to fall, they would be there to catch me! Quite like old times!   

Finally after numerous stops for a rest, we reached the top and the start of the wall. I was grateful that I had been persuaded to make it. The view was magnificent, and – more than that – I had actually achieved a physical challenge, the first for many a long year.

So that was it, I thought, now for the descent, but my mates were having none of it, insisting that now I was up there it would be a ‘walk in the park’ to hike along the wall for a while – all the way to a large tree, where, legend has it, Russell Crowe, in his Robin Hood role, leaped out at. …who?… Not sure… was it King John?

In the event we didn’t make it quite to the famous tree. A consensus was established that we had gone quite far enough and if we didn’t turn around and commence the return journey, Mobi might require the helicopter rescue service to get him back down to the ground below.

I confess the return journey wasn’t quite as enjoyable, as I was getting very tired and after the main descent to the ground, we had quite an incline to hike up the valley to reach to the car park. But I just took it very slowly, rested frequently, all the while surrounded by caring, fellow walkers and succeeded in making it back without further ado.

Then, in true scouting tradition, we had a picnic in a field next to the car park and evoked true memories of yore, when it took six, sixty year old ex-scouts 30 minutes to put up a 2-man tent while another 6 eventually succeeded in lighting a paraffin stove, (primus), upon which we brewed our trusty mugs of foul tasting English tea.

Back at Jack’s place, we were once again treated to a wonderful night feast at the long table. Then we all adjourned to Jack’s equally large lounge where another great Scouting tradition was re-enacted – the ‘Camp Fire’.

For scouts of a certain vintage, ‘Camp Fire’ means only one thing, a large gathering of friends around a large open fire where we all sing silly songs and then everyone takes turns to entertain the rest with silly jokes, games or stunts.. Of course it was difficult to have a real fire in a house but Jack did the next best thing, and fired up the open hearth wood fire that looked and felt just as good.

Then the songs and silly turns began. It was amazing! We sang songs that most of us hadn’t even thought about, let alone sung, for over 40 years, yet we all remembered every single word. We sang fast songs, slow songs, ‘round’ songs’, sad songs and happy songs and some very silly songs. The funny acts and games were even sillier – if that were possible.

But the whole thing was simply magical. It truly took us all back in time, and everyone became infected with the enchantment of the occasion. Even the wives could sense it, and they had never before experienced such a thing.

The next morning, Sunday, it was off to the Farmers Market in Allendale which was held on a disused lead mine which had been converted into a delightful little art and crafts estate by the multi-talented Jack, who also owns the place.

A couple of hours wandering around the market to the accompaniment of Northumbria pipes on one side and local folk singers on the other and an earnest gentleman in the centre performing a cookery lesson, and it was time for one and all to wend their various ways back from whence they had come.

It was a sad farewell indeed, as who can say for sure if we will ever meet each other again, notwithstanding many promises to the contrary. Certainly, as far as I am concerned, it will be little short of a miracle, unless any doughty souls elect to take up my invitation to seek me out in Pattaya.

So it was farewell to Jack and co, and back to Stamford with Sid, to resume my UK sojourn with my nearest and dearest.

Jack’s house in Allendale, his garden & surrounding countryside

Hadrian’s Wall & surrounding Northumberland countryside

Allendale Farmer’s Market

Jack’s grand dining hall and Jack’s  magical cat

I would like to recount my further adventures back in Stamford, Barnwell  and thence to Nuneaton, but it is getting late so they will have to await the next appointment with my trusty Acer, which may not be until next week, after the wedding… but you never know…

BUTT…BUTT…BUTT… I don’t give a hoot….

It’s a walk on the Darkside, then ‘Au Revoir’ for a while.

Continue reading “It’s a walk on the Darkside, then ‘Au Revoir’ for a while.”

Some Mobi-reflections on the ‘Land of Smiles’.

6 months, 29 Days, still sober

Mobi-Babble

No more naughty trips to see horny whores in bars since my last blog, so I think I am really starting to get this addiction in hand. Like all addictions, the longer I keep away from it, the easier it gets. I will try to behave myself until I go to the UK in 2 weeks, and then maybe a month of total abstinence, (both booze and sexy young women), will either kill me or cure me!! I have loads of little projects do before I get on the plane, so that will also help.

They say its better late than never, and after promising myself for months that I will try to do something about my fitness levels and my weight gain, I have finally started doing a daily walk.  To be frank, I have no allusions that I will lose even one gram of weight before my trip to the UK, but my overall fitness has become increasingly troubling.

Since I moved Noo in with me last November I have become totally inactive – a total ‘couch (or should I say) ‘computer chair’) potato’. She never lets me lift a finger to do anything for myself, and I confess that I have allowed her to pander to my lazy instincts.

Day after day, I rarely walk further than from one end of the house to the other, or to the car or around a store in Pattaya or to a bar on the Darkside. Even shopping in places such as Tesco will sometimes leave me breathless with that tell-tale tightening of my chest. I know that when I go to the UK I will have to walk a lot more than I have been doing in Thailand and I am worried that I simply won’t be up to it. So it may not be much, but hopefully even two weeks of daily walks will at make some inroads into my state of fitness. Once in England I can continue the daily exercise, which of course will be much easier to do in the cooler weather.

The second reason that I have forced myself into action is because of my golden Retriever, Cookie. She has put on an enormous amount of weight and has become every bit as lazy and lethargic as her master. She has been on a reduced food, high calcium diet for quite a while now to help with the rheumatism in her front legs as well as to get her weight down. But again like me, it doesn’t seem to have had much effect on her weight and the only solution is daily exercise.

I would never forgive myself if Cookie died before her time, due to being overweight, so the two of us have been puffing and panting around the lake for the past three evenings in a 20 minute walk. As our fitness levels increase, I plan to slowly extend our walk time. The calcium diet seems to have done the trick on Cookie’s front leg joints and she no longer ‘favours’ them, but just a 20 minute gentle walk is enough to leave her at the point of collapse when she gets back home. She slumps down on the front porch without even enough energy to walk to the side of the house to get herself a drink of water, even though she is obviously parched with thirst.

What a disgusting pair! Let’s hope we are both in slightly better shape by the time I get on that plane.

I’ve just received notice of a huge increase in my annual health insurance premium. I was paying around 65,000 Baht per year, (which included a USD500 deductible), but as I have now moved into a higher age bracket (65-70), the premium has almost doubled to over 130K Baht.

I am not covered for pre-existing medical conditions which means that anything connected with my diabetes or coronary conditions are excluded, so at best, the coverage is only of marginal benefit. Sure, it covers me for major accidents and cancer, but not much else.

As an alternative, I am thinking of topping up the medical cover on my auto accident hospitalisation, which is currently at 500,000, and maybe taking out some additional general personal accident insurance to cover me if I am knocked down, mugged or suffer some other misadventure requiring medical treatment and leave it at that. There is no history of cancer in my family so I will probably escape that menace, but if I do contract it, then if it is operable, I will probably go back to the UK and take my chances – which is something I would most likely do even if I did have medical insurance.

Ah!  The never ending problems of growing old……

Some Mobi-reflections on the ‘Land of Smiles’.

I am one of those ‘optimists’ who truly believe that Thailand is slowly being transformed from a third world to a first world country. The signs are everywhere, and no matter where you go in this land you cannot fail to notice the relative affluence and the burgeoning middle classes that simply did not exist 10 – 20 years ago. In fact, I challenge anyone to find a village or an area of the country where the majority of the local populace are desperately poor.

Sure, you will always find malnourished and desperate people in slums, be it Pattaya , Bangkok, some far flung village in Issan or the war ravaged south – but is that any different to most western countries? Go to some parts of the USA, the so-called ‘greatest nation on earth’ and you will see similar signs of poverty, and don’t forget, that unlike most western countries, it costs very little to survive in Thailand.

The hot, all year round climate means you need very little in the way of clothes or even a roof above your head, and the country is just teeming with fruit and other produce which can provide sustenance for those who are at the bottom of the pile.

Try travelling to Issan: to Korat ,(what a massive city!), Khon Kaen,  Roi Et,  Maha Sarakham,  Udon Thani,  Nong Khai, Loei, Yasothin, Ubon Thani; or further north to Chaing Rai, or southwards to Petchabun , or Nakhon Sawan or eastwards towards Prachin Buri and Sa Keo. When you go to these provinces, don’t just stick to the provincial city centres,  drive out to the villages situated off the beaten tracks and look for signs of poverty, as I have done, over the past few years.

In the main, you will find fertile fields, and villages full of well-dressed young people with shiny new motor bikes, pick-up trucks and even a surprising number of saloon cars. You will find that a vast majority of roads are in remarkably good condition and you will find villages where the sois are clean and have been beautified with trees and plants, where homes with  little gardens that have been walled or fenced off, and where lawns have been sown, flowers and plants grown and pet dogs kept clean and loved. You will see satellite TV’s, and air-conditioning in many of the houses. A far cry from barely 10 – 15  years ago when many villages were still dirt poor and the people were still struggling to fill their bellies.

All this is a sure sign that the general population is no longer purely concerned with their daily fight for existence, but has now moved to the next stage, which is the acquisition of luxury possessions and the spare time to indulge themselves.

Hundreds of thousands of local markets, the length and breadth  of the land, day and night, are packed with customers; every  provincial town centre has  at least one hyper store;  aTesco-Lotus, or a Big C etc which are so packed that you often cannot get into the car parks. Then there are the western style ‘home produce’, hardware, Macro and Furniture stores, most of them enormous cavernous buildings, all packed at weekends with the middle classes loading up their pick-ups and ordering stuff to be delivered to their homes.

I have yet to  mention the incredible and inexorable  advance of the  7-11’s and Family Mart mini-stores which now seem to occupy the streets and lanes  of every city, town , road junction and gas station, the length and breadth of Thailand. And did you ever hear of a single one that went out of business?

As dusk falls, drive along the main and minor roads that link the towns and villages of this fair land and you will see the people at play – in the restaurants, night clubs, karaoke bars and massage houses. I challenge you to drive more than ten minutes along any major road in Thailand and not come across at least one major Thai restaurant, full of happy revellers.

I well recall driving through the outskirts of muang Roi Et last year and noticing the dozens upon dozens of pretty looking cottages nestling neatly in rows on the nearby hillside. The new development seemed to spread out for several kilometres. I enquired as to who might live at such places. I should have guessed what the reply would be. It transpired that nobody lived there; they were all rooms available for rent to facilitate the  great and good alpha males of Roi Et for entertaining their mistresses and ladies of the night. They were , in effect, ‘short time villages’. A sure indication, if one was needed, of the increasing affluence of the local populace.

Note that nowhere in the above have I mentioned Bangkok, Pattaya or Chiang Mai.

Bangkok is surely one of the world’s great mega cities and the infrastructure in that incredible metropolis is on a par with many of its western counterparts.The Sky scrapers are truly mind boggling; the Sky Train and the underground train system are state of the art; the complex, multi-layered network of 6-8 lane express-ways with their seemingly never ending expansion, together with on-going master plans for a sophisticated public bus commuter system, all point to the fact that the City of Angels never rests and the City Fathers are forever in expansionist/improvement mode. The vast number of 5 star hotels, international restaurants, futuristic 21st century shopping malls, cinema complexes and other modern shrines to the leisure seeking public, are all testament to the fact that this is not a city which is stuck in the ‘third world’.

Power cuts are virtually and thing of the past, flooding is largely under control, probably to a greater extent than some western cities, cheap mobile phone networks are plentiful, internet speeds are becoming as sophisticated as in the west and there is no doubt that technical innovation in this city is as advanced as any in the world.

Even my own ‘beloved, ‘Sin City’ is rapidly cleaning up its act and moving into the 21st century. I wrote about Pattaya a week or so back, so I don’t wish to repeat myself, (see my blog of 16th July; http://tinyurl.com/3omeroj), but I will just add that the Pattaya today is not the Pattaya I knew even 10 years ago – let alone 20 or 30 years ago and the authorities have stated over and over again that their long term plan is to get rid of Pattaya’s seedy image and turn it into a truly respectable world class resort.

Despite the claims by many farang residents, that it will never happen, I personally believe that it surely will and that Pattaya will slowly be transformed for the ‘better’ over the next 10 years. It already has moved so much, but few of the farang residents, supping their bottles of Chang on a bench outside their local ‘seven’, don’t realise what is going on under their very noses.

Currently, in spite of all Thailand’s recent problems and political instability, its economy continues to go from strength to strength and it continues to  boast a massive trade surplus.  It is still the largest producer of pick-up trucks in the world, many of which are exported; its agricultural exports are increasing despite the appreciation of the Thai Baht.

And if you ever doubt the Japanese, Korean and even the European and American commitment to industry in Thailand, I suggest one day that you take a drive through many of the dozens of massive industrial areas on the Eastern Seaboard; somewhere like Amata City for example. Amata city claims to be the ‘Detroit of the East’ which is a pretty lofty claim and one that I used to laugh at – until I went there. It has to be seen to be believed: hundreds of kilometres of six lane highways, built in the middle of virgin countryside, bordered on each side by literally hundreds, if not thousands of factories and industrial complexes.

The workers live there in specially constructed housing complexes, and whole communities have sprung up to service the insatiable demand for labour. And Amata City is just one of many.

I haven’t even been to view the industrial complexes in Rayong but I know they have huge car assembly plants plus all those chemical plants that have been causing a few pollution problems.

All this tells me that if Thailand hasn’t yet made the cross-over from being a developing to a developed nation, then it isn’t too far off. Sure, we can point to things like endemic corruption, but as I mentioned the other day, Thailand is by no means the only country in the region to suffer from this and it is unlikely that it will ever be totally extinguished as it is so much part of the culture.

Unfortunately, on the minus side, Thailand is still rife with nepotism, crony-ism, a corrupt and moribund education system where 99% of the students come out of the system with little or no knowledge of English – or indeed the world around them – and where the qualifications for the kids of the elite are purchased rather than earned.

There is still a reluctance to promote on the basis of merit, rather than on ‘connections’ and the possession of  bullshit qualifications, but there are signs that this is slowly changing. Modern business leaders are learning the hard way that they need to get bright, hardworking people into the key positions if they are going to hold their own in an increasingly competitive world  and  that they can no longer sustain the old inefficient staffing sysytems.

Sometimes it may be difficult to believe, but the democratic, legal and bureaucratic institutions in Thailand are very advanced and sophisticated. Not only are all the relevant rules and regulations in place, but Thailand is signatory to many key international conventions on such subjects as world trade and human rights, all of which signal that Thailand is not far off being a proper, civilised member of the international community.

But in practice, the country’s day to day actions and rhetoric don’t always match its lofty ideals with regard to its judicial system, democratic institutions and internationally agreed obligations. Clearly there is a way to go on this.

We only have to look at thorny subjects such as the abhorrent use of ‘slave’ labour in the Thai fishing fleets and in sweat-shop factories and the widespread exploitation of children  to know that there is an unpleasant ‘underbelly’ to Thai society which is deplorable and has no part in any modern, civilised world. 

I will be writing in detail about some of this soon, but even in these regrettable areas of concern, there is a general acknowledgement that ‘things must change’ – sooner rather than later – if their country is to continue to develop and to be allowed unfettered  trade with the world community.

But for the most part, Thailand has come a very long way, and to those farangs who have lived here many years and think that Thailand never changes and is the same sleepy, undeveloped, ignorant, poor society that they discovered many years ago, then one day they will be in for a rude shock to their system.

BUTT…BUTT… BUTT…I don’t give a hoot….

Mobi’s Postbag debate on to blog or not to blog…

6 Months, 26 Days – still sober

Mobi Babble

I haven’t been babbling much lately so some of you may be wondering what I have been up to.

Well, nothing very exciting really, my life is becoming a bit ‘run of the mill’ which is one of the reasons I haven’t written much on my daily activities, as I would probably bore you all to death.

I have been trying to keep away from the hookers and their places of employment. By and large, I have succeeded, either spending my time at home or going to Pattaya with Noo on various errands. 

But Sunday saw a minor slip in my resolve when out of the blue, Rick called me at around 7 pm. and told me that a large centipede had bitten his foot, that it was badly swollen and very painful and wanted to know what he should do. I thought that he should go to hospital, and as he seemed to be in no condition to drive, I drove quickly down to the ‘Church’, where he had ensconced himself earlier that evening to watch the Formula One Grand Prix. I had intended to take him to Pattaya to get a doctor to look at it, but upon arrival, he announced that his foot felt a little better and that it didn’t require any urgent attention..

In other words, he decided he would rather risk losing his foot or even die, than miss his beloved Formula One race. Once this was established, I stayed long enough to see that over-hyped, spoilt brat of a cheating, British, so-called hero leading the pack in the most boring sport on the planet, before adjourning to a new bar, just down the road, which had recently opened – the bizarrely named, ‘Bad Luck  Bar’.

My luck was in at ‘Bad Luck Bar.’ For starters, they were not showing the Formula One race on their television, and for seconds they had a couple of bright young things decorating the bar stools and it wasn’t long before I had both of them literally eating out of my hand.

They were 21 and 22 years old respectively, Ying and Ping, and I would rate them about 7 out of ten in the looks, body and personality departments. They both appeared to be quite new to the hooking profession, having only just arrived from their Issan homes about 2 weeks earlier. They soon become fascinated with my new Galaxy Tab, which I was amusing myself with, and it didn’t take long before they homed in on the thousands of songs that I had downloaded onto it. We then spent the next two hours finding songs they liked which I then transferred to their phones via blue tooth. Every time I succeeded in blue toothing  a new song onto their mobiles, I received a lovely big hug and kiss for my efforts. Their excitement and joy was infectious and it took a lot of will power for me to reluctantly drag myself away and make my way home to the ever waiting and faithful Noo.

So while admit to being a bit of a heel, this was my only transgression in quite a while, and let’s face it, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’. If it hadn’t been for Rick and his bloody centipede bite, I would have never have left the comfort of my home and my lovely Noo. So it’s all his fault – or maybe the centipede’s….

Postbag

I haven’t had one for a while now, so here we go…

On the subject of my deliberations on whether I should stop writing my blog, here are a couple of worthy comments

Firstly, a comment from TT, Submitted on 2011/07/14 at 10:22 pm

(It is a very long comment, which can be read in full in the  ‘Comments’ section, so below are a few relevant extracts:

Hi Mobi,

Just in reply to your previous post about your consideration to junk the blog.

Personally I am of the opinion that it would be a waste to do that and can offer only two reasons, one selfish personally and one on your side – feel free to whale in…..

….Now, in your case, the drunken Mobi used the blog, in my opinion, to look in a mirror. ‘Mirror, mirror what do I see?’ Great, you were reinforcing something in yourself. Pattaya must probably be the worst place on the planet to try and avoid any form of addiction. Within yourself you came to the conclusion that you had become nothing more than a cunt and that throwing money at the problem didn’t actually make it go away. Good on you for that strength – so many make an excuse…..

….Sure there have been some who have been most risible to you along the way, but as they always are they will not front up to your face and tell you their opinion – wee keyboard bairns with masturbatory fantasies of being ex SAS….

. ….Getting off booze is easy, just got to find something to do – which is what you do with your blog….

….Since you started being more political and newsy, your blog has in my opinion, become far more readable. You are obviously a man of intelligence and erudite with it and why therefore, stop?…..

A lot of folks for sure were interested in your novel and that seems to have come to a grinding halt. Can’t fit in the transition from sober Mobi to the previous Mobi? …..

…. Mail me and I’ll send you excerpts from [what TT used to write] 5 years ago. And why don’t you call it ‘Mobi’s Arc’?.

Biggest problem is going to be when you get back to Blighty and their culture of drinking……

Anyway, keep writing.

Another on this subject, from ‘Showstopper’, Submitted on 2011/07/11 at 8:30 pm

Wait until you get back from your UK trip before quitting the blog. That will be quite a trying time, no Noo and family issues to face. If anything can drive a man to drink it’s family bickering with no one to cuddle up with after. If you can survive that without hitting the bottle it will be a good sign. And I was looking forward to your thoughts of the UK after all this time away. I go back to Blighty every year and every time it I hate it more, apart from country walks, country pubs and proper beer it really has nothing to offer me.

I go back next week …. gawd help me …

My response

Following these and other comments, I will indeed continue with my blog  into September, if for no other reason, to let my readers know whether I survived the trip back home and whether I succeeded in remaining sober.

I am not making any promises, but I will try to write so0me blogs while I am in England, maybe brief in nature, but enough for you to know I am still in one piece. If and when it proves too difficult  to find the time and/or  the facilities to write and post a blog, I will use Twitter as a means of  keeping my readers informed, so if you aren’t doing so, you might like to follow me on Twitter at @mobithailand .

For those who have yet to take the Twitter plunge, it takes less than five minute to open a Twitter Account. Alternatively, you can read my tweets on the home page of my web blog, where all my latest Tweets are automatically posted and appear in the right hand margin, even if I haven’t written or posted any new blogs.

I am both nervous and excited about my first trip back to the UK for 5 years; nervous about going so far out of my ‘comfort zone’, but also excited to spend time with all my family and in particular my two daughters. I am extremely ‘bullish’ about my chances of remaining sober throughout my trip. I have never liked English pubs very much and will be avoiding them whenever possible, and I think that the last 7 months has provided me with plenty of experience in being with people who are drinking and in places where they drink without it unduly bothering me. I fact, these days I hardly give it a second glance – it just doesn’t register that they are drinking alcohol while I am drinking coffee, or a Diet Coke or a glass of water.

On the plus side, I will be with family and friends who will be much more supportive of my efforts to stay sober as they are my loved ones and although I have spared them the gory details,  they have some awareness of how booze all but destroyed my life. Over here, outside of AA, I get little or no appreciation of what I am about – nobody could care a less whether I am sober, drunk, or even die – and indeed, why should they?

TT, thank you for your kind words about my blog and indeed your offer to help with content. I will wait to see if I keep it going before thinking further about your offer.

It  saddens me to realise  that there are many out there who can’t wait for me to ‘fall off the wagon’ so that I can relate my latest drunken and accident prone adventures for their personal gratification. Yes, it makes me sad, but I completely understand, having so often seen the more degenerate and the voyeurism side of human nature – especially in this part of the world.

As for my novel; I don’t think that my continuing sobriety has anything to do with my lack of progress. The fact that I am writing my blog is evidence that I am not suffering from writer’s block or some other impediment. I think the main reason is that I simply do not have enough time or mental energy to keep both projects going. I do not wish to spend my whole life writing – from morning to night, day in day out, even though I do enjoy writing and get a lot of satisfaction from it.

I know it may not seem much when you read my humble offerings, but it takes the best part of a day to research, write, proof read and edit my daily blog; then sort out the photos, post them and sort out all the peripherals connected with the blog before finally publishing it. Then I have to do my tweets, post my blog on Face Book, and even try to post some of my blog pics into Flickr to try and capture more readers.

Once I get going, I actually write quite quickly, but it is all the other stuff that becomes so time consuming. At one point I was actually writing my blog and my novel on the same day, but that became such a herculean effort so I gave it up. Then I tried to write my blog one day and my novel the next, but as stated above, I found I was spending almost my entire life writing, and when I wasn’t, I was too mentally drained to do anything else. There are other things I want to do in what remains of my life.

I am not too sure what the answer to all this is, but a solution must be found. I acn confide in my readers that if faced with a choice between the two activities, even though I enjoy doing both, I would elect to write my novel and stop the blog. But I still feel that my blog may ultimately be a good ‘outlet’  – a way to publicise my novel and to increase the chances of it eventually getting published.

If I stop my blog, I will lose this outlet, let if I don’t stop it, I will not make much progress on my novel. It is a ‘Mobi -catch 22’

There has to be some kind of compromise solution – maybe TT’s idea is worth developing – getting some outside contributions into my blog. Or, better still, find someone who can put it all together – that’s the most arduous and unrewarding chore. Any offers?

Vince Cable and the ‘Right Wing Nutters’

The British cabinet minister, Vince Cable, has attacked leading US Republican politicians for holding up a deal to reduce US government debt. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, the business secretary called them “a few right-wing nutters in the American Congress”.

The world is watching on as the US Congress and their President fight tooth and nail for a deal to raise America’s debt ceiling, and so avoid yet another world-wide economic crisis. Any intelligent, impartial observer, can see that this is a ideological debate that runs very deep within American society, and this current battle is for the very ‘soul’ and future economic and social direction of  what is still the world’s most powerful nation. There is clearly right and wrong on both sides, and the parties to this conflict, not least of which is the President himself, are all trying to score political points in advance of the upcoming presidential election next year.  

So for the estimable, Mr Vince – bloody liberal-democrat – Cable to accuse some of these Republican members of Congress, who deeply believe and indeed were elected on the basis that substantial cuts must be made to the US budget and that any increase in taxes will stifle economic growth, as ‘Right Wing ‘Nutters’, is not only irresponsible; it is also childish, ignorant, rabble rousing rhetoric that adds nothing to the debate nor contributes to its solution.

Amy and a world that worships alcohol

Many have warned me that the drinking culture in Britain these days has to be seen to be believed. Indeed, I have read much and seen much on news and documentary footage to know that the lager louts and ‘lout-ettes’ rule the town centres and that binge drinking, alcoholism and alcohol related deaths are now endemic in society.

It seems to have become a society where nurses and doctors are attacked by drunks in hospitals, where fire fighters are attacked by drunks when they try to put out fires, where the police have to allocate large numbers of valuable resources to deal with the daily drunken incidents in our streets,  where law abiding citizens are terrified to walk the streets at night and where thousands of drug addicts and alcoholics under the age of thirty die terrible deaths every year.

Amy Winehouse was one such person, and it is a reflection – I would say an indictment – of 21st century Britain, that on an impromptu, memorial shrine erected by fans outside Amy Winehouse’s apartment in Camden, that in among the banks of condolence messages, candles and teddy bears left by fans, a trio of mementoes stood out: a can of Stella Artois, a bottle of Smirnoff vodka and some pinot grigio!

WTF!

Tiger, Tiger burning bright, in the scandals of the night….

So he fired his caddy after 12 years of faithful service during which time Tiger won 12 majors and 72 tournaments world-wide. Williams stuck by Woods during his recent scandal plagued years and was visibly shocked when he was informed that he was no longer required.

There has been no suggestion whatsoever that Williams was in any way technically deficient as Tiger’s caddy and where others may have bolted when the darkest hours came, and sponsors were fleeing after Woods’ marital troubles began and the scandal concerning numerous girlfriends became tabloid fodder, Williams remained strongly supportive of his employer and his ‘buddy’.

Williams now bitterly regrets that show of loyalty, saying he’s basically wasted the last two years of his life.

“I was prepared to hang in there through thick and thin, so I find the timing extraordinary.” Williams said. “When Tiger went through the ‘Tiger Scandal’, as it’s known, I was obviously very disappointed in him, as everyone was. Obviously I lost a tremendous amount of respect for him…and I told him that he had to earn back my respect. Whatever respect he may have earned back, he’s just lost.”

I was listening to one golf professional talking about Tiger the other day on the radio. He said, matter of factly, that: ‘Tiger just uses people and moves on…’

Poll ( for those who haven’t yet voted)

BUTT…BUTT…BUTT… I don’t give a hoot!

Mobi’s take on Amy Winehouse and the ‘27 Club’

 


6 Months, 24 days, still sober.

Amy and the ‘27 Club’

I always recall Bill O’Reilly from Fox News being outraged when he learned that Amy Winehouse had won 5 Grammys in 2008, as he seemed to think that it was completely disgusting that a British drug addict should be honoured in such a way by the American music industry.

I have watched O’Reilly very carefully though the years, and while I often agree with many of his political sentiments, and do have a grudging admiration for his combative style, there is no question that is quietly anti British – probably as a result of his Irish ancestry. Any time a piece of British news comes up on his programme he can’t resist a bit of a sneer. He had a field day recently when the world’s news media was dominated by the Royal Wedding, and while, as my readers are aware, I am very anti- monarchist, Bill O’Reilly’s rants against the so-called ‘raping and pillaging’ of the poor, downtrodden Brits over the centuries by the British monarchy, almost converted me back to being a Royalist. 

He never loses an opportunity to have a ‘pop’ or sneer at the likes of Elton John, so it came as no surprise when he expressed his total opposition to Winehouse being given such prestigious awards.

So what did O’Reilly think the should industry do? I wondered. Maybe they should give the music awards to artists who had left the most blameless, altruistic and clean living lives? A bit like the ‘fair play’ awards in Football? On that basis, Cliff Richard would have clocked up about 1,000 Grammies by now, and maybe if O’Reilly had anything to do with it – he might have received some extra special awards for being a ‘Born again Christian.’

The point is, that the American Music academy judges the music industry on the quality of their creative and performing talents, and not on the quality of their private lives. If clean, drug free living was a criteria for the awards , I doubt we would have too many of our top artists lining up for awards. I didn’t hear O’Reilly complaining too much about some of the black American hip hop artists, many of whom have criminal records and connections with organised crime who  rap about raping, killing  and so on, and use highly abusive language in their lyrics.

I had heard about Winehouse long before O’Reilly’s rant about her as she had already been in the news for the wrong reasons many times and I had also heard her massive hit ‘Rehab’, but I confess that she hadn’t registered very highly in my personal musical appreciation list.

However, once she had been honoured by such an august body and had been trashed by the great Bill O’Reilly, I took a further look at this young, maverick singing sensation. I liked what I found, when I started to listen seriously to her music, particularly the tracks from her smash hit album, ‘Back to Black’.

I find it difficult to categorise Winehouse’s style – sort of bluesy – soul with a bit of sultry cockney ‘white- trash’ thrown in. Whatever it may be, it is completely original, and she has a unique, raw, dusky voice that simply oozes evocations of smoke filled, sleazy jazz clubs.

It actually surprised me that so many people throughout the world loved her music as she has clearly never been a commercial pop singer. It just shows us that great music can transcend all music boundaries and personal preferences. A great song, regardless of genre, sung by a great singer, will be always be appreciated by a knowledgeable public who loves good music..

As a recovering alcoholic, I can see so clearly how young, fragile, highly creative people with predilections for substance abuse, can be so vulnerable to the dangers of over-indulgence and become trapped in a downward spiral that so often ends in an early demise. Deep emotions, both high and low, are part and parcel of the creative process and it is often only by baring their tortured souls, that artists such as Winehouse can produce some of their best stuff.

 Unfortunately, they are ‘innocents’ in a hard, cynical world and they have no real experience of life, particularly if they have found fame and fortune at a young age. The money makes them independent and in a position to make all their own decisions. Nobody, not their friends, family or management are able to gainsay them. The more they try to advise them, the worse the artists will tend to go off the rails. 

Their only hope is for someone to really take them in hand at the point when the artist is so low – at rock bottom – and they realise that this cannot go on any longer and they are prepared to listen and to try and change.

I was watching the comedian Russell Brand being interviewed the other day and it was clear that only a few years ago, he was in pretty much the same position as Amy. Brand was taken very strongly in hand by his friend/manager, made to understand that he would soon be dead if he didn’t ‘change  his ways’ and was more or less frog marched into rehab.

Having had the good luck to have a very strong, dedicated friend, he ‘saw the light’, and was effectively ‘saved’. He could just as easily have been long dead – he admits it himself. It is a lottery. Some manage to survive their own destructive tendencies – there are countless examples of this , not least of who are artists such as Eric Clapton and Elton John. Others have not been so lucky and have tragically succumbed to their own excesses.

Much has written about the so-called ‘27 club’, of which poor Amy is now a member, along with Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and arguably Robert Johnson.  There are those who try to claim that there is some divine or mysterious significance to the fact that so many famous musicians all died at the age of 27.

I give these theories no credence. The fact remains that a huge number of creative folk, from all manner of artistic fields, die young, as a result of substance abuse, suicide or other self-inflicted causes, either directly or indirectly. The world is full of coincidences that people like to try and put  some meaning into; but the simple fact is, that the age of these ‘27 club’ victims could just have easily been 26 or 28. They could have all died at slightly different ages. It is just coincidence – pure and simple.

The fact that so many die in their late 20’s probably is significant. It is a period of their lives when many have already  generated creative output for several years and many of them have already had fame and fortune thrust upon them. They are vulnerable people, who are addicted to drugs alcohol or both, have been abusing their bodies for up to ten years, and have reached the stage where even heavier abuse is called for to achieve the required buzz.

So one could extrapolate from this that the late 20’s  would be a time of their lives when they start to slide out of control and, due to their elevated and financially independent existence, no one  is willing or capable of steering  them back onto the right course.

Amy Winehouse has left a legacy of music that will surely last at least as long as that left by her fellow ‘27 club’ member, Janis Joplin. She has already had a strong influence on British singers who have followed in her footsteps, such as the brilliant Adele, and she has shown the Brits and indeed the whole world, that good, original music will always be appreciated and loved and that it isn’t necessary to slavishly follow American contemporary music styles in order to find international fame and fortune.

For those who are unfamiliar with Amy’s music, I have selected two songs, ‘Back to Back‘ & ‘You Know I’m No Good‘, which to me, excluding her monster hit, ‘Rehab’, succinctly  illustrate the woman and her music.

Back to Black

(Written by Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse)

 

He left no time to regret

Kept his dick wet

With his same old safe bet

Me and my head high

And my tears dry

Get on without my guy

You went back to what you knew

So far removed from all that we went through

And I tread a troubled track

My odds are stacked

I’ll go back to black

 

We only said good-bye with words

I died a hundred times

You go back to her

And I go back to…..

I go back to us

I love you much

It’s not enough

You love blow and I love puff

And life is like a pipe

And I’m a tiny penny rolling up the walls inside

We only said goodbye with words

I died a hundred times

You go back to her

And I go back to

Black, black, black, black, black, black, black,

I go back to

I go back to

We only said good-bye with words

I died a hundred times

You go back to her

And I go back to

We only said good-bye with words

I died a hundred times

You go back to her

And I go back to black

Listen and watch: Back to Black

You Know I’m No Good

(Written by Amy Winehouse)

 

Meet you downstairs in the bar and hurt

Your rolled up sleeves in your skull t-shirt

You say, “Why did you do with him today?”

And sniffed me out like I was Tanqueray

 

Cause you’re my fella, my guy

Hand me your Stella and fly

By the time I’m out the door

You tear men down like Roger Moore

 

I cheated myself

Like I knew I would

I told ya, I was trouble

You know that I’m no good

 

Upstairs in bed, with my ex boy,

He’s in the place, but I can’t get joy,

Thinking on you in the final throes

This is when my buzzer goes

 

Run out to meet you, chips and pitta,

You say “When we’re married” ’cause you’re not bitter

There’ll be none of him no more

I cried for you on the kitchen floor

 

I cheated myself

Like I knew I would

I told ya, I was trouble

You know that I’m no good

 

Sweet reunion, Jamaica and Spain

We’re like how we were again

I’m in the tub you on the seat

Lick your lips as I soak my feet

 

Then you notice little carpet burn

My stomach drop and my guts churn

You shrug and it’s the worst

Who truly stuck the knife in first

 

I cheated myself like I knew I would

I told ya I was trouble, you know that I’m no good

I cheated myself, like I knew I would

I told ya I was trouble, yeah ya know that I’m no good

 

Listen and watch: You know I’m No Good.

How about that closing shot on the You Tube video?

Amy curled up on the floor with a glass of whisky!

RIP Amy.

Corruption – to be or not to be? That is the question.

Back in the 1990’s I used to visit Thailand frequently with my Thai wife, (‘Noi‘, wife number 3), and we stayed at the house we had bought in Bang Sean. During my visits there, I got to know a number of middle class Thais who were all part of a ‘drinking gang’ that used to meet regularly at the home of a venerable, elderly, retired dentist in a nearby Bang Saen suburb.

The large, sprawling Thai-style home was ‘open house’, seven days a week, and come dusk, on just about any evening, you would find the host entertaining his fellow drinking pals. On a typical weekday there would probably only be 2 – 3 visitors, but weekends and holidays the huge, circular table, strategically situated in the old man’s lounge, would be packed to capacity.

All the gang, with the single exception of Mobi, were local Bang Saen folk. The retired dentist himself had three children, the oldest son being a landscape designer and the younger son and daughter were both  lawyers practising in Chonburi town. All the guests were reasonably well to do, and most of them were well educated Thais , from middle class backgrounds.

There were bankers, architects, doctors and so forth, with a few in business for themselves in a variety of trades. They would often turn up with their wives and sometimes their children who would all ‘muck in’ and enjoy their host’s spacious house and gardens. Sometimes we all got pretty drunk, but for the most part, our drinking was reasonably controlled. We drank in the Thai style; small tots of whisky mixed with copious amounts of soda and ice, interspersed with a never ending supply of tasty snacks.

In this manner we would become ‘mellow’, but rarely did any one become incapable. None of the gang spoke much English, so this was yet another opportunity for me to practise my Thai which was pretty abysmal back in those days. Fortunately, my then wife spoke excellent English and was able to translate for me when the occasion demanded.

A wide variety of subjects was discussed at length and occasionally disagreements would break out amongst us that would threaten the pleasant and friendly equilibrium of the gatherings; but our wise old host would always step in, chastise the culprits and ensure that any feelings of hostility were quietly and effectively nipped in the bud.

It reminded me of a similar drinking gang that I used to be a member of, back in the 70’s in the slums of Bangkok, as although there was much  disparity  in the class of the participants, we also had the benefit of a similar host, Pee Prasert, who, like his Dentist counterpart in Bang Saen decades later , used to ensure that any disagreements that broke out during a drinking session, never got too far out of hand.

(You can read all about my 70’s ‘Thai drinking gang’ in my ‘Mobi-Vignette’ entitled ‘Metta’ by clicking on the relevant tab above. I also wrote a short story, which had my Bang Saen drinking gang as it’s backdrop, entitled ‘Karuna’. It was published in my long obsolete collection of short stories entitled ‘Tales from Thailand’. Although the story was based on my real Bang Saen drinking gang, the actual story was my one and only attempt at a ghost story. I’m not sure that it worked very well, but at least I gave it a go.)

I am telling you all this because a news item the other day reminded me of this long forgotten collection of Bang  Saen drinking friends, and in particular, a  discussion we once had, all those years ago on the  subject of  of corruption in Thailand.

I had naively imagined that my ‘well-to-do’, well educated, professional Thais, would come down very strongly in the ‘anti-corruption’ camp and that they would tell me how much they deplored the corrupt system that dominated their daily lives. Not a bit of it. To a man, they were all pretty much in favour of corruption. The reasons were not that easy to discern, but with much prompting I eventually concluded that they felt that the system worked pretty well and that everyone knew where they stood. They understood what was required to get things done. Corruption worked to their benefit and advantage and they saw no need for change.

Not content with these replies I persevered, challenging them to admit that surely it was wrong for high ranking government officials, the Police, the Military, their families and cronies to benefit to the tune of millions if not billions of Baht in corruption, while the poor folk up-county barely had enough food to eat. What did they think about that?

They were typically Thai in their responses. Sure, they obviously deplored the huge corruption at the very top, but at the same time, they were loath to condemn it outright. In the end, it finally entered my thick, farang brain that the reason they were so reluctant to denounce corruption was because one day, they too, may become the beneficiaries of untold riches from this very same system. 

So it came as no surprise to me the other day when I read the following story in The Nation:

More than half of all Thais (64.5 per cent) believe corruption is acceptable if the new government makes the country prosper, promotes people’s well-being and benefits the respondents themselves, while 35.5 per cent said otherwise, an Abac poll reported Wednesday.

The percentage of those agreeing to corrupt government – if it benefits them – was particularly large (at about 70 per cent) among respondents aged under 20 and between 20 -29.

The July poll – involved 2,559 people over 18 from 17 provinces including Bangkok…….

Of course my debates with the good folk of Bang Saen occurred many years ago when I was younger and less worldly-wise in such matters. These days, I can fully appreciate where Thais are coming from on this issue, indeed I recall a television programme in which Thai kids, as young as five or six, were asked how they would they solve certain problems that may arise in their daily lives; offering them various alternative courses of action, ranging from doing it the right (moral) way, to doing it the corrupt way., Guess what? Almost every kid opted for the corrupt way or even invented new methods of corruption not even mentioned by the programme’s presenters.

This does not mean that the Thais are a morally bankrupt nation; it simply demonstrates the fact that for the most part, Asian cultures accept a degree of dishonesty and corruption which would be unacceptable in the west. Maybe one day this will all change, but I doubt I will live to see it. You just have to look at the endemic corruption in countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Cambodia to know that.

As for those well-meaning, crusading farangs who tell you to fight against corruption and refuse to become involved in it – that if a cop stops you on some trumped up offence, that you should refuse to pay him his 200 baht ‘tea money’ and so on.

Well they are welcome to do what turns them on, and I wish them luck; just as long as they realise that whatever they do, or refuse to do, it will not make one iota of difference to anyone in this country and they will just be regarded as ‘stupid farangs’ .

But as far as Mobi is concerned, this farang will do whatever he needs to do to fit in and have a nice easy life.

BUTT… BUTT… BUTT…I don’t give a hoot –  about corruption or anything else for that matter….

Presenting: Rupert Bear, Jimmy the Waffle and the Ginger Wooden top; with special guest appearances of Peter, ‘Marble-Pie’ Pan and Wendi the avenging ninja.

6 Months, 20 Days – still sober.

Mobi Babble

Yesterday was good. In the early afternoon, Noo and I drove into Pattaya to do a few things. First stop was the excellent Indian Tailor in Naklua where I went to get kitted out for my forthcoming daughter’s wedding. How do I know he is excellent? Well a few months back, I took my friend Bob there to be fitted up for new suits and work shirts and the guy did a very impressive job.

Not wishing to denigrate Bob’s appearance, he does carry a pretty big pot belly on his ageing body – the very worst kind of shape to look good in anything  – let alone a shirt or suit –  but this tailor worked his magic  and Bob looked the ‘bees knees’. He had at least three fittings and great care was taken at every stage of the process.

So before setting out, I checked my closet to see if any of my clothes, (especially my jeans and long sleeved shirts), still fitted me as I hadn’t worn any for several months, during which time I have put on a lot of weight.

I wasn’t really surprised to find that I couldn’t get into a single one of my shirts and there were just a couple of pairs of jeans in which, after a huge struggle, I could just about fasten the top button. But I looked ridiculous, with my waist scrunched in tightly and my revolting, tub of lard belly, flopping down over it.

So as I feared, I need a completely new wardrobe of clothes for my trip to the UK next month. I made an initial order for a suit, a waistcoat, 7 long sleeved shirts and a pair of jeans, all for the princely sum of 14,300 Baht. We’ll see how it goes, but I have a lot of faith in this guy, he actually travels to Europe every year to get updated on the latest fashion trends and seems to get a lot of business from the German tourist community who are in and out of his shop all day long.

Next stop was my wonderful little Thai doctor that I use sometimes in Jomtien. This time it was for Noo, who has an alarming habit of nearly fainting, and also seems to suffer from low blood pressure and a very high pulse rate. She was in with the doc for quite a while and has to go back on Thursday to get the results of a blood test.

I have been using this doctor for a variety of complaints for years and I have a lot of faith in him. He used to practice in England and speaks wonderful English. Unlike most Thai doctors, he tells you the way it is, no bullshit, and doesn’t dump a whole load of meds on you in the hope that something might work.

Thence to Tuk Com where I still failed to find a ‘mobile’ power supply/ charger for my Samsung Tablet. They have them for I Phones and HTC’s but not for Galaxies. One of the annoying things about Thailand is that they can often sell you the latest products but fall down when it comes to spares and accessories.

I remember a few years back when I bought an upmarket  compact Canon camera and wanted to buy a wide angle lens, which  Canon had stated in the handbook was an optional  accessory for this model. Yet nobody in Thailand stocked it and I had to wait until I took a trip to Australia, where just about every camera shop had the sought after item, plus a lot more stuff which I couldn’t find in Thailand. I guess one of these days Thailand will get its act together.

Our final stop was my favourite pub for a very late lunch before heading back home to my waiting, faithful, three pooches.

It was a very pleasant afternoon and I am redoubling my efforts to stay away from the naughty bars and spend more time with Noo.

Presenting: Rupert Bear, Jimmy the Waffle and the Ginger Wooden top; with special guest appearances of Peter, ‘Marble-Pie’ Pan and Wendi the avenging ninja.

Back home, I had a grand stand television seat to watch the UK parliament committees continue their investigations into the phone hacking scandal. First up, at the Home Affairs committee room, by way of an opening appetiser, were the two top London cops who had recently resigned. I think that both acquitted themselves pretty well and if they are to be believed, it seems that they have done little wrong to justify the opprobrium that has been heaped upon them. 

It just seems to me that it was a catalogue of relatively ‘innocent’ mistakes and unfortunate coincidences that let this investigation flounder for so long. It is easy to be wise after the events, and both cops admitted over and over again that if they had their time over, knowing what they do now that the fiasco would never have occurred.

At least those in charge realised that even though they were innocent of any serious wrong doings, responsibility for these far reaching mistakes must be taken and they did the right thing by resigning their positions. What more can you ask of them?

Next we had the all-star double act of Murdoch and son, two people who I doubt will ever resign under their own steam. I watched the entire session in fascination. There have been many reports to the effect that Murdoch senior was a bit befuddled, clearly showing his age but his son, James was all business and professionalism.  

I wonder if I was watching the same show. Sure, you can’t expect and eighty year old to be particularly  snappy and articulate in his answers, but in this writer’s opinion, he acquitted himself pretty well. He answered all the questions put him succinctly, after sometimes considering his responses very carefully for a few seconds, and who could blame him for that. He also openly admitted his lack of detailed knowledge on a number of key issues.

By contrast, his son was all waffle and bullshit. He too could not answer a number of factual questions, of which he, as CEO should have known the answers to. To questions simply requiring a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, he rambled and stuttered on interminably, and frequently failed to give any meaningful response at all. To the question as to whether he was aware if any of the 9/11 victims or victim’s families had had their phones hacked, he went off on a long dissertation about how terrible the attack was and where he was at the time and what he was doing. If this was an attempt to deflect the thrust of the question, he certainly didn’t fool me, even if he seems to have bewitched the entire media reporting community.

He also showed a great deal of ignorance about whether or not News International was or wasn’t paying the legal fees of two criminal ex-employees /consultants, yet the ‘ginger bombshell’ was able to answer these same questions later without batting an eye lid. It was no use denying it as the truth would eventually come out.

News International was indeed continuing to pay these criminals! On many matters, like the aforementioned, he either claimed very little knowledge of the specifics of his job, (indeed, on a number of occasions he had to undertake to ‘get back to the committee’), or he was simply unwilling to answer.

The worst part of his evidence concerned the Gordon Taylor phone hacking affair. He claimed that the ‘out of court settlement’ of 700,000 pounds was justified as his legal advice was that Taylor could expect a compensation award of 250k, (this, despite the fact that a maximum breach-of-privacy court award of only £60,000 was once given against the  News of the World) and that the predicted 250k, plus costs would amount to 700K. So they decided to settle, rather than got to court.

But there is an important point here which seems to have been totally missed by the commentators. You don’t settle for the maximum possible award, plus court costs; you settle for something less than the maximum.  If you pay the maximum expected amount, you might as well go to court and take your chances – you might win.

The real truth of the matter is that they didn’t want to go to court at any price as they were concerned at what may come out. The settlement was subject to a confidentiality clause, but James insisted that this was normal and there was nothing really to hide. Yet other settlements had been made by News International without any so-called ‘normal’ confidentiality clauses, and when asked at the end of the hearing whether in view of this, would he agree to wave the confidentiality in the Taylor case? He steadfastly declined.  This whole business  stinks to high heaven and I doubt if he will succeed in keeping the lid on it.

The media  reports today all mention that James tried to come to his father’s aid when Rupert was unable to answer some questions put to him. These related to questions of fact which clearly Rupert was unaware of. However, again what seems to have been missed by these reporters is that Rupert actually came to the aid of his son on a number of occasions. This happened when James was floundering and waffling, as he did frequently, and was unable to provide a succinct, credible response or explanation, so Rupert stepped in and answered for him.

I have just listened to two different reporters on BBC radio. The first stated that James sounded genuinely sorry and contrite about what happened and his father didn’t, the second reporter, on a different programme, said exactly the opposite – that Rupert was the genuinely remorseful one.

And now, more nonsense from reporters about how nothing new has come out at the hearing, and how well James conducted himself, followed, at long last, by one observer, who is representing victims of hacking, who has just pointed out exactly what I have written above, concerning the attempted cover up in the Gordon Taylor case, and the fact that two convicted criminals are still on the payroll.

So I’m not completely crazy after all….

I’ve never been keen on Rebekah Brooks with her bizarre hair and ridiculous name spelling. Can you imagine a male executive sporting an unconventional hairstyle and being promoted to the very top of a publicly listed company?  He wouldn’t even get into the recruitment room. Yet, because she is a woman, she is allowed to strut the stage with the most outlandish hairdo since Sinead O’Connor.

So she had a lot to do to bring this reviewer around, but I have to say I was very impressed with her performance in front of the committee, who were all clearly gunning for her.

Considering that she had been pilloried in the press for weeks, had finally resigned her position at news International, and had even just been released on bail by the police following her earlier arrest, she conducted herself extremely well. She was eloquent, suitably contrite, and answered all questions put to her in a professional and satisfactory manner. She didn’t overdo the contrition, like James had done to the point where you wanted to puke, and she behaved in a slightly cowed but still proud manner than could only command respect.

In my opinion, I would say that the two cops, Rupert Murdoch and Ms. Brooks all behaved in a professional manner and acquitted themselves as well as could be expected in the circumstances, but if I hear James Murdoch blabber any more in that excruciating, mid-Atlantic accent, with the slight Aussie twinge, (all his sentences end up as rhetorical questions when he raises the inflection tone – must have been watching too much neighbours), I swear to God I will commit bloody murder!  

While I concede that James Murdoch’s intentionally prevaricating style probably helped to deflect some of the most difficult questions, I can’t see how this will help him in the long run and I’m sure the committee was not fooled by his infuriating bluster.

I’m sure that Johnny Marbles with his lovely foam pie must have intended it for James and if not, why not?

Incidentally, what a fucking, embarrassing fiasco! If that’s the best our cops can do to protect the Mother of Parliaments and their high profile guests, with the world looking on, then God help us if the terrorists ever start to get their rag head acts together.

In conclusion, I believe that most media commentators have taken these hearings on a superficial, gut- feel basis, and have simply not paid careful attention to what was taking place. But I don’t believe the commons committee will be adopting the same attitude and they will be going through all the replies with a fine tooth comb, at least I hope that they are.

There is much in this scandal that is still to be adequately explained, and I think it has a long way to go yet before it disappears from the headlines. In this writer’s opinion, the two cops were being pretty honest and Rupert Murdoch was probably telling the truth when he said that he wasn’t aware of all this hacking business at the time, although my guess is that he became aware of it much earlier than he is prepared to admit to. But I am quite sure that James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks are lying through their teeth, as they are bound to do, to protect their careers and indeed themselves from potential jail sentences.

It is highly likely that the three of them and their PR guru carefully planned, over several sleepless nights, exactly how they would handle the key questions and what the extent of their lies would be, so that they never contradicted each other.

We will probably never know for sure, unless Wendy Deng catches her Rupy-pie in flagrante delicto’ with another woman, in which case hell hath no fury than an Asian woman scorned, as we have all seen already….

BUTT…BUTT…BUTT… I don’t give a hoot or a holler!

Foxy Casey – the innocent child killer, is all Foxed out…

6 Months, 18 days – still sober

Mobi – Babble

I have been behaving myself after my little trawl around the girlie bars last Thursday, so there is nothing of a particularly naughty nature to titillate some of my more sensation -seeking readers.

I reported in my last blog that my friend Bob and his young Cambodian girlfriend departed last Friday, but what I omitted to mention in connection with this visit was that my perfect little Noo, at long last showed me that she is ‘human’ after all.  It was a bit of a relief really, as nobody can be as good as she appeared to be, and in a funny sort of way it was a bit worrying.

It happened this way.

After Bob and the young lady had been staying with us for a couple of days, Noo quietly mentioned to me that she thought Bob’s lady was very lazy. Now I am an old hand at listening to Thai ladies, and indeed any lady, criticise and  run down other women behind their backs, so whilst I wasn’t particularly surprised at this particular demonstration of female bitchiness, I was rather surprised, as this time, it was my perfect little Noo who was the culprit.

‘Oh, really? Why do you say that?’ I asked in innocence.

‘She never takes her dirty plates cups and glasses to the kitchen, just leaves them around for me to clear up.’

‘Oh you want her to help with the washing up?’

‘No, I am happy to wash the dishes, but at least she could take the dirty stuff into the kitchen and put it in the sink. Even if she eats in the kitchen she never puts the dirty stuff in the sink, just leaves it all on the kitchen table for me to clear up.’

I must emphasise, that this complaint was in no way a rant. Noo just told me quietly and ‘matter of fact-ly’ that she thought Bob’s young lady was very lazy. The girl had made no effort to help with the cooking, and spent most of her day sleeping, watching TV or listening to music. Indeed, even I had noticed that Bob doted on her as if she was a precious Princess and she did little for herself.

I don’t believe this was some kind of anti-Khmer sentiment that was coming to the surface on Noo’s part, as this was the second visit of the young lady to our home, and Noo has always treated her very kindly and she has taken her with her on her motorbike when she went to the market and other places and they seemed to get on quite well together.

On her last visit, Noo even took the two of them out for a bit of a tourist trip to see the sights of  Pattaya on her bike as the poor,sweet young thing suffers badly from carsickness when she is in my car.

But we live in a reasonably sized, three bed villa and we have no maid. Noo does all the work around the house, all the cooking, cleaning, dish washing and so on, (see above pic☺) as well as a lion’s share of the shopping. Not a huge burden when there is only the two of us, but double that number and it begins to become a bit of a chore.

Before my guests’ arrival, Noo had thoroughly cleaned the spare bedroom and bathroom, provided them with clean bedroom linen, towels etc and ensured the bathroom was properly stocked with toiletries .Yet this young, fit, twenty something year old guest, made virtually no effort to ‘chip in’ and do her bit, even if it was just a token offer. I think Noo felt quite ‘put out’ that the girl didn’t even take her own or her boyfriend’s dirty dishes to the kitchen. She was effectively treating Noo as a maid.

After Noo pointed this out to me, I started to pay more attention to what the girl actually did and realised over the remaining days of their stay that she did indeed do very little to help around the house, and simply assumed that Noo would do everything.

I recalled an occasion a few weeks back when I took Noo to barbeque party at Rick’s house and remember well how enthusiasistically Noo had got stuck in with not only the cooking and serving but also became the self-appointed washer- up in chief.

No wonder she was upset by this behaviour by a guest in her own home, and I know that she was not being bitchy – she was simply pointing out that this was not right. I have been so used to Noo doing literally everything for me, that I confess to being surprised that she was now making it clear that it was one thing to do everything for me, but quite another for her to fetch and carry for my friend’s girlfriend. Quite right too!

I am actually very happy that she told me about this, that she didn’t keep any resentment bottled up inside her and that she is subject to the same human feelings and foibles as the rest of the human race. Good on yer Noo….☺

A good weekend for sport

It was a good weekend for sport and two supposed ‘underdogs’ came out on top.

I watched the last two days of ‘The (British ) Open’ and was absolutely delighted to see the Northern Irishman, Darren Clark, hold off the American challenges of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and others.

Clarke handled himself impeccably, played a wonderful, utterly confident final round of golf and if his stomach was churning inside, he gave no signs of it. It was a ‘fairy tale’ ending for the 42 year old father of two, who had never previously won a major championship and finally won ‘The Open’ on his record –breaking, 20th attempt.  He has been a stalwart in the Ryder Cup through the years and is everyone’s favourite ‘nearly man’, who evoked huge sympathy a few years back, when he played in the Ryder Cup, within days of his wife’s death from cancer.

I did feel sorry for Big Phil; he is one of golf’s real gentlemen and a man I have always had a soft spot for. For a while, it really looked as though he was going to take the fourth round by storm and steal the prize from Darren’s grasp, after making the half-way point in only 30 shots. But as happens so often with Big Phil, he made one silly little mistake in tapping in an easy put and from then on he sort of imploded and the challenge eventually faded.

But it all made for compulsive viewing. To me, It is one of sport’s enduring enigmas that games like tennis and motor racing, which should be so exiting, are often as boring as hell, yet one of the slowest games in the world – golf – can be so riveting and will often have you on the edge of your seats until the final ball has gone into the final hole.

After a thrilling game of football, Japan beat the Americans in the Women’s World Cup Final, and I doubt that even the Yanks will begrudge the Japanese their historic victory.

The Americans had the better team and should have won. Indeed, they went ahead twice, but in the end, the Japs refused to roll over and they held their nerve to win on penalties. But after all the terrible events and tragedy that have enveloped this country in the past few months, who can begrudge them their little bit of joy, in celebrating their country’s first win at a major world sports event? Well done Japan!

Rent a friend – rent a family

While we are on the subject of Japan, I recently watched two separate items on television which had me scratching my head in bewilderment.

The first item was about a Japanese man who rented himself out as a ‘friend’ to lonely, single, men. This is apparently a quite widespread practise in Tokyo where thousands of men find themselves lonely and friendless and the only interaction they are able to get is with friends who they ‘rent’ for the evening.

The second item was about the common practice of Japanese brides and grooms renting friends and family for their wedding receptions.  One groom admitted that he had even rented ‘fake parents’ for his wedding. When asked why, he informed us that it would be a big ‘shame’ on him if his in-laws knew that he had no parents.

The practise of renting people for wedding is so routine that neither side of the family, (wife/husband), knows who are real friends and who have been paid to attend.

I have always appreciated that countries like Japan have a totally different culture and ways of thinking than those of us in the west, yet although they are so different, you can at least sort of understand what was going on with the Samurai class of bygone ages and the many traditions and customs that still survive in modern Japan. But this business of renting friends and families seems to be a total distortion normal behaviour in even their strange culture and surely it is an ugly, sad transmutation of what was once a proud, if alien heritage.

The mind really boggles……

C(r)asy like a Fox….

First off, I confess that I was as fascinated as any by the events that unfolded in the court room in Miami as the young mother, Casey Anthony, was put on trial for the murder of her two year old daughter. The trial attracted wall to wall coverage on American TV and media and was easily the biggest an event since the OJ Simpson trial, some years ago.

The trial lasted for about three weeks and during this time, the media were all pretty much determined to hang her high for her obviously murderous act. Then the shock of the century; Ms Anthony was found not guilty.

So we were then treated to days and days of analysis on why this verdict was reached, interviewing the prosecutors, the defence team, the jury members, Casey’s friends and ex friends and just about anyone in America who had an opinion on the subject.

For the first day or so, this was OK, as we all wanted to hear what some of the key players in the matter had to say. But eventually ‘enough is enough’. We had heard and seen anything that could possibly had any relevance to the act and the subsequent verdict and why people did what they did why the jury voted the way they voted.

Quite frankly we are all ‘Casey’d out’.

All this was occupying prime time television when there has rarely been a period when there has been more tumultuous events going on in the world; from the never ending acts of terrorism, to the Arab uprising, to the on-going world economic crisis, to the starving and dying in Africa and even to the potential collapse of the massive Murdoch media empire.  

Yet has Fox news started to cut back the air time devoted to the Casey story? Not a bit of it, in fact if today is anything to go by, the story is more prominent than ever. Hour after hour and presenter after presenter; there is little else but stories relating to the release of Anthony from jail, showing over and over again a five second video clip of Anthony being led out of the building by her defence attorney, and never ending speculation on where she has gone, what she will do now, when she will re-surface and how much money will she make for her story and interviews?

Come on Fox News – enough is fucking enough!…

Poll

I am republishing my poll here so that those of you who haven’t already voted – especially blind  Rick –  don’t need to trawl though my earlier blogs to find it. I will continue to re-publish  this poll on my blogs for the next week or so.

Please tick a box; thanks☺

BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…I don’t give a hoot!