Monday, December 31, 2007

On Reflection

Hmmm; time to reflect, eh? I’m starting 2008 at the beginning of the same story that I was starting at the beginning of 2007. I could be unkind to myself and say it feels a bit like Groundhog Day or I could acknowledge that my achievements are subtle, but accomplishments nonetheless.

This time last year I was skulking around Kate H’s blog, harbouring a desire to write. I’d nursed this want for years, having started and aborted several secret manuscripts. At the inception of the Novel Racers, I still lurked, until one day in a small voice, I emailed Kate and asked her if I could join in.

Blogging with the Novel Racers (and other writers who’ve blogged alongside) has been a wonderful experience on so many levels. You’ve plugged a hole I had in writing friends. You’ve supported me through my many wobbles. You’ve given me friendship, advice, encouragement, made me laugh and cry, and shared your achievements and disappointments.

I’ve seen a determination in myself to do this that I don’t think I’ve had for other things. Despite not getting it right over this last year I am not giving up. I have had moments where I’ve thought I may, but eventually emerging from those wobbles has been a determination to keep trying. That must mean something.

Somewhere in my brain has always been a firm belief that I am not creative; that I have no imagination. It’s true I was brought up to believe I was the academic one, and my sister was the creative one, but since doing my fine art degree I know that that’s not the truth. A combination of growing confidence with writing articles and the fine art degree experience have made me realise that it’s simply a question of overwriting those messages. I understand how to make decisions about a piece of art; I don’t yet know how to do that with fiction but I do believe that the more I do it the more likely it is I will get there. I have faith that practice, practice, desire and more practice, I will begin to understand how to do this. My experience with creative writing is totally in its infancy.

I’ve always said I was only racing with myself and I still believe that. I’m also firmer than ever that my goal right now is not publishing (I know some people will doubt that) but having recognised how heinously difficult the whole process of writing a book is, I just want to be able write a novel of which I am proud. IF I ever manage that, I am sure that I will want to think about an agent, publishing blah blah blah, but that’s way off still and definitely not my primary goal.

2007 Achievements:

I’ve learned to say out loud ‘I want to write’
I posted my first ever short story into the public domain.
I showed people some of my writing.
I showed JULIA BELL my first crappy attempt at fiction. I survived the feedback.
I’ve started, stalled; started again and stalled again, and I’m still going to try again.
I’ve developed faith in the process of practise.

My 2008 writing goals are to:

Keep practising.
Do my morning pages while the children are getting ready for school.
Restart WIP in 3rd person.
Learn to make decisions about WIP plot and characters.
Be brave and send Julia my first re-written chapter one.
Aim to do a dedicated writing course in the summer 2008.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

200th Post

I'm back in Bangkok and feeling terrible. Not because I've left Koh Chang or Skyros, although we did toy with me staying one more week...

But because I'm sick; I've got tonsils the sized of tennis balls in my throat, and I can't swallow without serious face-pulling wincing going on. I'm unable to make a full dose of paracetamol last so I have to take nurofen in between doses. I'm so sick I don't want to go out ... that's very sick for me.

I've watched three videos though. Music and Lyrics: total cheese. I know it's terrible, but hello? it's not meant to be serious. I thought it was utterly hilarious - I lived through the New Romantics as a teenager so I was right there with those dodgy haircuts and I don't even want to think about what I wore to non uniform day! Also, it's a dirty confession I know, but I do like Hugh Grant. I do. There I said it on my blog: I LIKE HUGH GRANT - I think he's cute.

Then I pushed the standards up a bit and watched Iris: absolutely brilliant, but I must have a heart of stone because I didn't cry. (This is very weird because I watched 'Cutting It' on the TV in between and I cried at Allie's funeral! I barely know who Allie is and I certainly don't know any of the other characters, but still I wept!)

Finally we watched The Truman Show. I've started this movie at least three times, and always fallen asleep before the half way mark. HURRAH, I finally watched the end. The film is a tad scary though: so possible.

I'm off for another dose of paracetamol, Saturday (Ian McEwan) and my bed now.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hello! Ok! Just for Pacha


She was a long way away, so it's a tad blurry.



Then she and her entourage came and sat near me on the sofa. I tried to look cool while I took surreptitious pictures of their shoes. I developed a theory while looking that the more important the girl, the higher the heels. I am certain that I'm right...

Friday, December 28, 2007

'Allo allo allo

There were 7 or 8 uniformed policemen in reception when I came in to breakfast on Boxing Day but because it was the day that most of the Skyros group were leaving, I instantly forgot to ask why they were there.

Saying goodbye to everyone was sad and horrible, but I’m meeting some again in Bangkok when I get back, (Husband came down on Christmas Eve so we’re staying for a few more days) and I’m fairly sure I will stay in touch with some.

Since the boat sped them away I’ve been sitting in reception checking out the blogs I’ve missed recently and catching up on emails (several important ones had disappeared into my junk folder – bummer.)

Previously intent on my laptop, I was suddenly aware that the lobby was immensely busy and when I looked up all the policemen were pacing around looking important, hands hovering over their guns. Beyond the tier of policemen were bystanders, and further away again were a group of girls, one of whom was wearing a silver crown and vertiginous heels.

I watched fascinated by this OK/Hello Magazine scene in front of me. Eventually, unable to resist it, I took some photos. All the hotel staff had their photos taken with her and many of the other resort guests (no way was I standing next to this gorgeous 6ft 8” slender beauty). She was lovely and smiled patiently through all the requests for photos. Eventually she and her entourage disappeared, and I was able to ask someone who she was: Miss Thailand! Oooh, am I mixing with the stars?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Julia says ... Part II

I’d like to say Happy Holidays to everyone: not because I’m being politically correct but because I didn’t manage to get online to make it a timely Christmas wish to you all. I appear to have missed Christmas. I phoned home, blinked and it was gone.

I’ve now caught up with all my favourite blogs, but left very few messages – normal service will be resumed in the New Year.

Julia read the last of my manuscript (gulp). It was horrible to hand over something that I know was so rough and flawed (I’d stalled so often) but it was essential as she has pinpointed exactly why I keep stalling.

A couple of points:
  • I’ve made Bangkok my main character … when it has to be in the background and the characters in the foreground.
  • I still haven’t made decisions about plot … this is so pathetic because I’ve known this all along, but hoped the subconscious writing fairy would come and put it right. She won’t. The bitch hasn’t shown up, so now I’ve got to do it.
  • It was too episodic – I wrote it in episodes because I had no idea where or how to decide where the plot was going.
  • I need to think about containing it in time. Again, I knew I was confused about this. Months and months ago I’d printed out a grid to fill in a time plot, but guess what? With no decisions about plot, I couldn’t do it!

I felt a bit wobbly after all this, despite the fact that I knew lots of it. After our meeting, I went somewhat shakily on a trip to a mangrove forest. Lovely M kept asking me if I was okay. Yes I told him, yes, fine. I was wearing my sunglasses and staring out of the minibus window.

Of course, I didn’t think of any of the good things she said (there weren’t any in my mind at that time). I wondered about giving up – no wonder I found it so hard – I was crap and didn’t know what I was doing. I’d spent a year trying to write a book, and I still needed to start back at the beginning. I don’t know what I’m doing still …

I went off in a boat along the mangrove waterways. I’d wangled my way into the last boat with co-Skyros folk, but not those I’d become friends with, so I didn’t need to chat. I had a little think, and fought off some tears. I didn’t have any moment of clarity or anything but after the trip, I bought a diet coke and the group pottered about before getting back on our minibus. I sat back down in my seat in the rear by the window, and I suddenly felt okay again. I felt fairly cheerful; reasonably optimistic and ready to give it another go.

So the good things were: good, very naturalistic dialogue; lots of interesting BACKgrounds; fascinating subject matter because I’ve done something interesting; I can write; she likes my style; I write clearly without trying to be over clever.

And, bless the lovely Julia… she says I can email her my rewritten chapter one!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Julia says

Julia Bell's got my manuscript. *holds breath*

I met with her tonight and she'd read section one.

She didn't say 'Don't give up your day job.'

She said I could write; she liked my style.

She said I was right: I've started in the wrong place.

She said when I re-start I should change to the third person.

She's going to read some more tomorrow morning and we'll talk again.

*Holding breath*


Sent via BlackBerry® from AIS

Friday, December 21, 2007

*sigh* and *gulp*

Hmmm; s'difficult decision I've made.

I'm here in the resort, all on my lonesome. Half the group have gone out snorkelling and half have gone to another beach on the island. Of course, I could've gone to either, but I didn't want to after four/five days of courses:
  • 0715 Yoga (Okay, I only made two of those!)
  • 0900 Breakfast and Demos meeting for whole group
  • 0930 Oekos Group (five of us meet to ... talk)
  • 1045 Free the Creative Spirit class
  • 1315 Lunch
  • Free until ...
  • 1700 Ayurveda Class (I'm tridoshic, for anyone in the know, according to the results, but towards the Kapha according to the 'Master'.)
  • 1930 Dinner and more talking.

Anyway, to the point ... today while alone, I've done some thinking about my book. I know that there are lots of people out there who are going to tell me not to do this, but I've made the decision that I am putting aside the words I've written so far ... to yes, start again.

There's not going to be a sacrificial burning or deletion of any kind going on so it's quite possible that a couple of thousand may reappear at some later date as a flashback. But while I have finally decided that the incident which drops my characters in the quagmire is the start of the book, there has to be a cut in time of three months. The 24,000 words I've already written is those three months *sigh*. It's not part of the story and that's maybe why it bores me. It's drivel; it's not relevant and it's gotta go.

So I guess that means I'm starting my ms from scratch for the Novel Race 2007... *gulp*

Sunday, December 16, 2007

SSSKKKKYYROSSSSS


On Friday I raced around Bangkok like a mad person.

I went out to collect and stroke Blackberry; dear Blackberry is beautiful and looking none the worse for his dunking in tea. BUT, he was empty of battery so I tore home, riding SIDESADDLE up my soi on a taxi motorbike (God I’m brave).

Next I climbed back on a soi bike and sped to meet some friends for the journey to BNH Hospital in Silom to carol sing. We sung, ate mince pies and drank sherry (so civilised). I LOVE IT. I love singing carols – yes, I love them.

I rushed home to finish off some artwork, shower and change and then I was going back to Silom to meet the Skyros group…

It’s a bit scary meeting people you’re going to spend the next two weeks with; what if you don’t like them? What if they don’t like me? It’s particularly scary because this kind of holiday is about self development; holistic stuff (can you tell, I’ve got all the buzz words?) so hugging trees baring your soul might also be involved.

However, for all my fears they all looked normal and they all seemed very lovely. We had a talk at the hotel and then those that weren’t too jetlagged went out for supper.

Saturday morning I went back to Silom to meet at the hotel to transfer to Koh Chang. This is the first moment I’ve had time off since I got here, and things haven’t really started – first course tonight, but we’re all getting to know each other, and still, they are all lovely!

Rather … annoyingly … the writing tutor Julia Bell doesn’t get here ‘til Thursday because she was a late booking, but apparently she’s willing to do some make up sessions. Also, the whole ethos of the course IS hugging trees I mean, freeing your creative spirit and stuff (that jargon again) and David Moreno is doing an early morning course in morning pages/yoga/meditation so there will be lots of creative stuff to do.

I think I was meant to come though. I’ve met a woman who’s been a freelance journalist for twenty years who’s happy to talk to me about it. (For any ‘Eve’ readers, she wrote the piece a couple of months ago on Borneo orang-utans). In turn at lunch she met someone who knows someone who may be able to help her sell another article on them. She has fantastic pictures of twenty of so baby orang-utans sleeping side by side, but can’t get a bite out of a mag!

So I’m very excited, planning the next holiday already…

Friday, December 14, 2007

Too many parentheses

Well, they’ve gone.

I had a little look at the map on my blog this morning to see whereabouts they might be. I reckon they’ll be flying over Europe – hope they wave.

They land at 6am ish UK time. For the next nearly three weeks I think I will be doing a lot of translating clock times in my head, imagining what they’re doing.

For one weak and self indulgent second I thought about them all alone up there (oh how the imagination works… do go and look at this post!) And then, I realised that for all the ferocity of a mother protecting her young, I am not superwoman, and I’d be pretty much buggered myself in an aeroplane doing something unpredictable.

So now, I’ve pulled myself together and started thinking about showering, packing, PICKING UP MY BLACKBERRY (HURRAH … Who? My children are …where?)

Then, then, the excitement of today (apart from being footloose and fancy free with my Blackberry to play with, and getting ready for Skyros (HURRAH)) I’m going with a group from the British Women’s Group to sing Christmas carols at a Bangkok Hospital (this is something I did last year, and I’m sorry but drinking sherry, eating mince pies and singing carols in the sweltering heat of Bangkok doesn’t do anything to persuade me it’s December the something. BUT, it’s lots of fun – I love to sing (the same stanza over and over, and probably badly, mostly, but tough. It’s MY singing and it’s good for my mental health!)).

If you’re very (un)lucky I may see if I can make the technology work to upload some of our ‘singing.’

(When I’m over-excited I use too many brackets – it’s the digressions.)

Woo hoo: carols, BLACKBERRY, Skyros …Children are safe, happy and being looked after … I am a good mum.

PS. I LOVE blogging. I am so glad to be back (I never really went away: I lurked. I just didn’t post!)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm back

I’m back.

And, I’ve had this rather uncomfortable feeling all day, that I couldn’t quite identify … what is it? Why do I feel like I’ve misplaced both my ‘phone and my handbag? Why? I’ve got my bag, and I’ve got my non-blackberry stand in … so… what is it? And then, I’ve remembered:

My children, my babies are flying to England tonight to have a three week Christmas holiday without me! Aaaaagggh.

They’re all packed up now: suitcases full, but not bursting. Daughter has written instructions for wrapping presents – a couple of birthdays in there as well as Christmas – just to keep us on our tippy toes. I think I shall feel better when they’ve actually gone – right now, I keep wondering if I can get any other presents. No. No, I can’t.

It’s all done but I’ve still got me to pack, and I’ve got some website stuff to do, three pieces of artwork to prepare and email. I think Husband will be quite glad to see the back of me on Saturday: I’ve spent the last four weeks in a blind panic.

The lovely Cathy at My New Notebook has awarded me a lion, which I’m really flattered about – thank you very much, Cathy. I have to award it to five others, but I’m going to come back and post about it tomorrow cos I'm so tired I need a lie down…

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Party Update

I had a lovely party on Friday, but I went to bed at 11pm because Daughter and I were up at 5am and off to school at 5.30am for another swimming competition. It went a bit pear shaped some time after that.

Some of Husband’s colleagues had come early on Friday to help a little bit; there weren’t many jobs to do apart from shuffle some furniture around and then the ‘helpers,’ Husband, Son and Daughter got embroiled in Playstation Dance Mat (I want to say that name in an American advertising accent: PLAYstation Daance Maat, cos it sounds good cheesy). I’m told Thais like to have something to do at parties. They love their food but they also want some kind of entertainment, so we’d got the aforementioned PLAYstation Daance Maat in one room and a karaoke machine in the main room. In a third room we’d got a bar. The free flow bar was our downfall – Thais don’t appear to hold their drink so well – I think my sofa may dry out at some point.

Please, trust me on this, the less said the better.

On an altogether cheerier note, I finally managed to get a cool picture of daughter swimming, and not a series of splashes ... OK, I got lots of those too, but here she is doing butterfly:

Friday, December 07, 2007

Party party party

Yesterday we had the BWG Christmas party. Despite promising myself to get off early after the lunch, and leave the revellers to it, I became a reveller. Somehow I misplaced my self control and found myself dancing on the stage; I’ve no idea how it happened.

I’ll confess to having had a few drinks, but I have no alcoholic amnesia and didn’t show anyone my knickers! I’m not posting the pictures that were so shamefully circulated this morning because I’m fairly sure it will result in injunctions or suings, but I was in bed before Son last night. I went back to bed after I got them off to school this morning.

Tonight is Husband’s Christmas party in our apartment and all the arrangements have been done by husband and a few members of his staff. He has left me to write my articles, and gave me only one job: to tidy all my crap away.

The piles of papers, that ‘might one day be needed for research’. The forty-eight books next to my side of the bed, mixed with essential bits of paper on which are written golden nuggets of inspiration or instructions for finding secret shops in Bangkok.

Anyway, I’ve now finished hiding it all sorting through and clearing it into numerically ordered files and it’s time to get ready to party.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"All aboard for Panic Stations"

On Monday night, too late and too tired, I filled in all the BA Skyflyer Solo unaccompanied minors’ paperwork for the children’s upcoming trip to the UK.

Have I admitted here on my blog that I will not be with my children this Christmas? Have I declared it or just hinted at it? At book group yesterday, one of the women gasped when I said it. She gasped and clapped her hand to her chest, and said: ‘Oh. Christmas? I couldn’t do that.’ Will I earn a ‘Bad Mother’ award?

My children want, with all their hearts, to be in England this Christmas. They are desperate to see their grandparents, their aunties and uncles, their cousins and their chosen family – the godless parents and ‘godsisters’, although strictly speaking, I think that should also be godlesssisters. I am desperate to do the writing course in Koh Chang. My article writing is going fine but my novel writing … is not. My doing - my actually doing as opposed to talking about doing – the article writing has made me a much happier human. This has to be good for my children, right? (Thank you kind K for your words after book club! Interestingly, I have noticed that it’s only other people for which this seems to be a problem and it’s not them doing it – it’s us.)

Anyway, so there I was filling in the forms and it was complicated because there was another flight thrown in – I won’t bore you with the details except to say the people taking and picking up from airports have to be named and addressed so BA only handover to the correct people. And then I copied it to the four marvellous women who are going to be surrogate Mummies to my children, and asked them to check their bit and come back and confirm everything is okay. Because I had done the form filling at the last minute, I had to send the forms back to Husband’s secretary before I had all the feedback.

This morning I got an email saying that nowhere on the form did it say that Godlessparents were ‘meeting’ the extra flight. My sister puts them on a flight and Mr Nobody meets them. Will BA notice? I wondered. Can I play Russian roulette with my children? No. This is a small thing: Husband and secretary can sort this out tomorrow in the office (today is a bank holiday).

BUT.

What it has demonstrated to me is that I am trying to do too much. It can’t all be done. So I am streamlining: I am ferociously knocking things off my list …

AND.

What I have noticed is that I am intending to stick to the things I’ve agreed to do for other people, and knock off most of the things I wanted to do. I can easily let myself down but not other people.

I know someone that would challenge me on this: I know he would say that I should be thinking about me. Explain to other people and they will understand. And, this is what my Skyros course is about: I AM thinking about me because my being happy benefits everyone. But this goes against everything in my nature: ‘Don’t let other people down’ was somehow a mantra of my upbringing and I can see it in my Mum and my sister. They think about others before they think about themselves to (I think) the detriment of their wellbeing. I know I do.

Hmmmm, is this a ‘mummy disease’?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Trip to Chinatown

After I got the children up this morning I wrote an article. I’d been preparing it in my head for some days. I was doing the research and my subconscious, bless it, sorted most of it out in my head while I got on with other things.

Then, I went to Sampeng Lane, Chinatown. I LOVE Sampeng Lane even though it’s migraine inducing. On the way, walking through Chinatown, are the weirdest shops: shops full of engines, shops full of metal rods; shops full of basketware; shops full of string and rope.

Sampeng Lane is a narrow ‘walking street’. No-one appears to have told the locals who insist on riding motorbikes down it and pulling carts full of bales of material and the like.

There are certain rulesI have invented to cope with Chinatown:

1. Really, really want what you’re going for.
2. If possible, go on your own. If you must go with other people, try NOT to care what you buy.
3. Start at one end. DO NOT start in the middle – which way will you go?
4. Start at the end you can walk to from Hua Lampong otherwise a taxi driver will think you’ve just got off the train from the beach and are stupid. Then he will drive you on a tour of Bangkok before taking you to Chinatown.
5. When I see a shop I want to go into I have to remember if I turn left or right going into it, otherwise I won’t remember which way to turn coming out of the shop. Sampeng Lane is designed so that shoppers are perpetually confused so they stay there all day because they can’t find a way out.
6. Buy a drink every time you see a vendor: juice, water and coke. 7. Buy dim sum in Sampeng – it tastes better there than anywhere else in the world.

I had to buy stuff for a grotto and lots of decorations for Husband’s work Christmas party which we are hosting on Friday.




Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sexy silk

I went off at the crack of dawn yesterday morning to the Dusit Thani Hotel in Silom to meet with a group of unknowns going to join the The Thai Textiles Society/National Museum of Volunteers joint excursion to Khorat which is a hub of silk production.

We went to a Royal Project for natural silk dyeing; a commercial silk yarn factory; a batik and tye-dye group and then shopping for silk at the Silk Culture Centre.

It took us into Central Thailand (drive 3-4 hours) and was wonderful apart from a crippling migraine on the way home. (Straight to bed: 12 hours sleep and I STILL woke with a headache.)
Here are some almost edible pictures of silk in various states of production:

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Christmas is coming and I'm in a panic

Oh lordy, it's December and while mostly I love the start of a new month on my blog (getting to start a new folder called 'December' really seems to 'do it for me' - note to self: really must get out more) I'm not quite ready for this.

My arrangements - presents to be purchased; kids' trip to UK and all preparations that that entails; articles I've promised, to be written; Grotto to be made (please don't ask); website to be updated and surely some more I can't remember right now - have all got to be done by 13 December, before kids fly and I go off to my Skyros course.

So instead of panicking I'm going to pretend to be all serene and show you some lovely pictures of Christmas I've spotted in Bangkok over the last two weeks. Aren't they gorgeous? Don't they work hard to sell us Christians stuff, I mean, to make a lovely Christmas atmosphere?






























Friday, November 30, 2007

Tagged by Liz

Liz tagged me for the middle name meme which requires that I list the rules first:
1. You have to post these rules before you give the facts.
2. Players, you must list one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of your middle name. If you don't have a middle name, just make one up...or use the one you would have liked to have had.
3. When you are tagged you need to write your own blog-post containing your own middle name game facts.
4. At the end of your blog-post, you need to choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

Okay, this won’t take long: I’ve got a shortie.

J Jobs. I have spent nearly all of my adult life looking at the jobs pages. Even when I worked (in the conventional job market) I still perused the situations vacant pages. I can’t explain why; perhaps I’m obsessed about the perfect job. I have now been out of the conventional job market far longer than I was ever in it and I live in Thailand where it is extremely hard to find a paying job that will be eligible for a work permit, yet I still scrutinize the newspaper. I don't even want a job.

O Optimism. My middle name, Joy, was a maternal act of pure optimism. I was, according to my mother, quite the worst sleeper ever. I woke her every night – on a good night 2 or 3 times and on a bad, 4 or 5 times. I disturbed her sleep every night for two and a half years apart from two nights which she spent wide awake checking I hadn’t died. My father, who is a doctor, refused to help her because he told her he might ‘kill a patient the next day through lack of sleep.’

Y Why? (Yes, I know I’m cheating, but I don’t speak Yiddish, yoga is boring and I don’t like to think that I yammer.) I’m not a person who will tell you instantly what I think; in fact, most times I don’t know. I write because it makes me work out what I think, how I feel and why things are as they are.

And now I tag anyone who hasn't done this meme yet, and wants to do it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

So, I've got a sick feeling in my tummy tonight.

So, I’ve got a sick feeling in my tummy tonight.

I keep forgetting why I’ve got it and then … I remember.

At lunchtime I tipped a cup of tea on my Blackberry. Oh, my, god, I’m, such, a, f… fu … fool: a clumsy fool.

And, as you’d expect, it’s not behaving quite as it should.

In an attempt to forget my clumsy f***wittery, let me tell you about my day.

This morning I went down to the SCAD (Soi Cats and Dogs) Health Centre. This is one of the charities who have asked me to write for them and this is where the street cats and dogs come to be treated. The main idea is to spay and neuter them, but they nearly always have other bits of treatment that require doing. There were some pitiful dogs there which made me sad … but, that is what SCAD is doing – trying to improve the lives of street cats and dogs.

This afternoon I came home and tipped a cup of tea … but I’m supposed to taking my mind off that, so instead …

I’m going to go back to Andaman Discoveries to show you my ludicrous eco warrior bandana. If you peer you can see the orchid I planted and my name tag.

After I got back to Bangkok I read this in my book:

'Spiders are everywhere, in the forest, in caves, atop mountains, even in your bedroom. Anyone with arachnophobia would not want to shine a torch on a forest floor at night to see the million pinpoints of light reflected in the eyes of the spiders.

'There are spiders that actively hunt and pounce of their prey; there are sedentary spiders which wait in ambush; there are web spinning spiders which construct elaborate traps and there are even flying spiders.'

I was just so glad I got out of there without seeing any large spiders.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Second post in a day

I've just had an email from Skyros. Apparently Peter Guttridge cannot do the Writing Lab course due to personal circumstances. I am very sorry about these, whatever they may be...

BUT... rather excited ... that Julia Bell, of The Creative Writing Course Book, is going to do the course instead.

Oh my...

Exhausted

For the whole five days of my trip, Khun Tui travels with me. She translates for me because my abysmal Thai is woefully inadequate (unless I want to say ‘turn right here’, ‘go straight’ or ‘how much is it?’) She is always there ready to explain a joke, or inform me of something somebody wants me to know.

I’ve suddenly become passionately interested in my fellow creature: from teeny weeny crabs to singing gibbons. In fact I’m interested in plants too. As a long time lover of cashew nuts, I’m fascinated by the many cashew trees all around me, and simultaneously gutted that I can’t shell cashew nuts with the villagers because it’s the wrong season.

For much of the time Khun Tui volunteers ‘that’s a mudskipper’ or that’s a ‘samet tree’ and I listen and wonder and then forget it and I have to ask her: what did you call that little fishy thing jumping about on the mud? I spend all my time scribbling notes in my orange notebook, trying to learn about the flora and fauna in this beautiful environment. But inevitably I get back to the home stay and I have to ask Khun Tui again ‘what was that tree called?’

Sometimes I ask her ‘what’s that?’ ‘How many years is it between planting a rubber tree and being able to get the sap? Then 'how long will you get sap from it?’ and when she doesn’t know she asks our guide. She tells me about a book back at the office all about the area and I vow to get hold of a copy. (I have). She is full of knowledge, and tirelessly tells me everything she knows.

On our last full day we’re both tired. I am planting orchids for the nursery and a little orchid to go straight into the jungle, and Khun Tui is lying on a hammock watching us and translating for my guide, Khun Noi when sign language no longer works.

I am nervous having seen a tiny, wee, almost microscopic spider in the coconut bowl I’m planting an orchid in. I leap from sitting cross legged into the air, and announce I don’t like spiders, please could someone remove it. Khun Noi and Khun Tui look at each other. “What?” I say, “don’t tell me, there are proper big spiders in the jungle?” They nod.

Eventually Khun Noi and I are finished and it’s time to start our trek into the jungle. It’s a two and a half hour walk, the first part of which is up into the forest. I am wearing metaphorical blinkers – I see some humongous spiders’ webs and I tighten the blinkers so I can only see a few feet in front of me.

Khun Noi points out many things to me, which Khun Tui dutifully translates. We pass by a sapling with a tiny bird’s nest in it at tummy height, ‘ahhh, sweet’ is all I can manage. Then we see another diminutive nest, low down in a branch, and further on yet another one. I wonder at the stupidity of a bird that makes its nest at eating height. I wonder if I’m really interested.

Eventually, I have to ask: “Khun Tui, what makes this tiny bird’s nest?”

And she replies: “A tiny bird.”

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ban Talae Nok

This is the site of the old village before the tsunami. When they rebuilt it, they moved it further inland - which is where I stayed for my first homestay.

The ground here was covered with beautiful purple flowers, called sea morning glory. It made me weep - I find it so very difficult to imagine what happened. I thought of Flanders and the poppies.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Trying to process

I am:
Privileged to have been able to live among real Thai families.
Over-whelmed
Trying to process my thoughts
Thinking of all the articles I want to write.

I ate:
Goat curry
Deep fried grass – a speciality of this area
Prawns – after pulling their heads off. (This will only mean anything to people who know that I am squeamish and that I don’t ‘do’ seafood or things that look like creatures.)
Fresh coconut (not old tough ‘coconut-shy’ coconuts!)
Spicy fish soup
Muslim roti
Rice soup (traditional Thai breakfast)

I saw:
Mudskippers
Ghost crabs
Fiddler crabs
Horseshoe crabs
Sand-bubbling crab
Hermit crab transferring to a new home
Sanddollars (dead and alive)
A snake (my first in the wild)
A water monitor lizard
An elephant by the side of the road
A slow loris – a night monkey
Lar Gibbons
King Crown Gibbons
A Crab eating Macaque
An egrit
A nest of mating eagles
A Brahminy kite
Buffalo
Rubber trees – collecting sap

I didn’t see:
Big spiders in the jungle (phew)

I made:
A batik print
Soap
Packaged soap

I planted:
Orchids as part of a reforestation project
Seventeen Rhizophora mangrove trees

I dressed in:
Muslim dress for the celebration of a neighbour’s upcoming trip to Mecca.
A bandana!

I declined:
To eat the egg of the horseshoe crab, there and then on the beach.

I heard:
Gibbons singing
Cicadas
Black Crested Bulbuls singing
Kingfishers
Goats bleating
Cows mooing
Cats and kittens mewling
A cat fight
Cockerels cock-a-doodle dooing
The sea

I remembered:
One of the things I loved about Husband: that he knew stuff like this. I stopped listening at some point.
Being 11 and copying a picture from an ancient encyclopaedia for a project to show how rubber was collected.

I found it hard:
To sit on the floor all the time without fidgeting.
To use the squat toilets when my legs ached from sitting on the floor

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Kind of an update

I'm a bit blown away to make coherent sense of the last four days.

I've got to write about today in my diary but I'm knackered ... But if I don't write it down it might be gone for good. We left the first homestay for this one this morning and after an early lunch we set off to plant some orchids. After planting we climbed into the jungle (where I'm told the spiders come very large!) We stopped to plant my named orchid at the viewpoint.

We walked down to and along the beach and returned about forty minutes ago.

After my shower I looked in a mirror for the first time in four days. I did put on sunscreen but I appear to have missed my nose.

I have a nose to rival Rudolph with a litre of whiskey a day habit!
Sent via BlackBerry® from AIS

Monday, November 19, 2007

Eco ... Tourist

I’m off today to be a researching eco tourist. I’ve bought myself a bandana in lieu of the dreadlocks. This is what my itinerary looks like:

Tuesday 20 Nov
Today I’m going to Ban Talae Nok village. After lunch with my host family I will make batik in the batik cooperative. Following a visit to a conservation centre I get the choice of community aerobics, beach football, helping prepare dinner or enjoying the sunset on the beach. I wonder which one I’ll do.

Wednesday 21 Nov
After breakfast with my host family I’m taking a boat trip through a mangrove forest. I’m particularly excited about this. This afternoon I’m going to an interactive workshop with tsunami soap cooperative followed by a creative workshop with children at community centre. ‘Making’ is something I like to do, so this will be fun.

I get the choice again of community aerobics, beach football, helping prepare dinner or enjoying the sunset on the beach.

Thursday 22 Nov
After breakfast I leave for Kuraburi pier to transfer to Tung Nang Dam pier. We can walk to the homestay from here (I hope the terrain is okay for my wheelie case. Oh dear, I’ll never make an eco warrior.)

I get to work on an orchid conservation at community nursery and go on a jungle hike to replant orchids. The hike finishes on the beach. No choice of activity tonight, I finish by admiring the sunset on the beach. Sounds good after an honest day’s work.

Friday 23 Nov
Today is my last day. After breakfast I prepare bags to leave village via Tung Nang Dam pier. Transferring back to Kuraburi pier, I get final briefing in the office before I go away to write the articles. I get to visit a waterfall if there’s time. After lunch we leave for Phuket airport and it’s back to life as a Mum and writer!

In between all these activities I will be scribbling notes about everything so that I can come back and write about my experience.

I am so excited.

I have no idea if I’ll be able to blog via the Blackberry or whether I’ll be right out of it. So I’ll see you here if I can make it and if not, on Friday!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Funky t-shirt


There's a lot of debate in the press here about reading: how the average Thai reads two books a year. Whether this is or isn't accurate there have been a notable number of book related festivals in the two years plus that I've been here.
Here's another promotion I saw in Siam Paragon Mall yesterday.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wetting myself (sorry, so distasteful)

There's been a bit of talk on the blogs recently about lip balm, lip salve, whatever you call it and so I must share this link with you.

The self-test list had me howling with laughter and terror ... lipbalmannoymous. Enjoy. And don't forget your chapstick.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Tagged by Leigh

Phew, thanks Leigh, I am so out of stuff in my head apart from the writing, thanks for tagging me.

Five Gentlemen I'd Like To Have Round for Tea
Right, I know I’m not meant to change the rules, but I’ve decided I want these men in character:

Bob Hoskins (He’d come as Iago)
Anthony Hopkins (As Othello – definitely not Hannibal Lector – eeeewugh)
Alan Rickman (He must come as Professor Snape)
Colin Phwoar-th (that’s Colin Firth –He’d have to come as Darcy!)
Dustin Hoffman (Tootsie, OF COURSE)

God, how I want this tea party. Clearly, alongside the nice men, I seem to have a bit of a thing for bad boys! Snape, Iago?

Five Ladies I'd Like to Lunch With
These ladies can come as themselves.

Julie Walters
Dawn French

Germaine Greer (my mum will be so ashamed of me – ha ha)
Trinny and Susannah (Can they be one?)
Judi Dench

Four People I'd Like To Meet in Heaven (exc. family & friends)
Rudolph Nureyev
Euripides (Oh god, I’m so pretentious)
Sophicles ditto
Picasso

I can’t believe this list is all men: that really pisses me off.

Four Material Things I Couldn't Live Without
My laptop
Oooh, my Blackberry, that didn’t take long, eh?
A washing machine
Lip salve (?)

Four Things I COULD Live Without
Hangovers
Periods
Migraine
Spiders

Three Books I Would Save From a Burning Building
My dictionary
My Thesaurus
(Sorry, sorry, I am so uncool) James Herriot’s omnibuses because they make me laugh

Three Books I Would Throw Into a Burning Building
I can’t bring myself to name her, but there’s one American-based ‘chick lit’ writer that made me feel embarrassed on her behalf when I was forced to read her book for a book club (to which I’ve stopped going).
The Quincunx – I’m sure it’s my deficiency, but I resented giving this my attention for 1400 pages.
The rest of the American based Chick lit woman above’s published works – yes, there are many of them!

Five Songs That Make Me Happy
I have a reputation among my friends for only listening to depressing music, so I can’t claim that anything really makes me happy, but I sing along to anything by Magnetic Fields:

A Chicken With its Head Cut Off (yes, it's really called this)
Let’s Pretend We’re Bunny Rabbits
The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side
Papa Was a Rodeo
Yeah Oh, Yeah

Five Songs That Make Me Cry
Well, I guess, since I only like depressing music, anything by Magnetic Fields… See the above list.

Two Things I Wish I'd Invented
I’ve definitely had moments where I’ve said ‘bugger, I wish I’d thought of that’ but now that you ask … well, I can’t think what they were. Mostly, I think they were simple solutions rather than complicated technological ones, but I still wish I’d thought of them.

So, I tag Pacha and anyone who fancies doing it...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blah

Why am I here blogging when I've got nothing to say?

I'm sure that can't be right: nothing to say?

Nope, nothing.

I should be writing ...

I've got two children to get ready for residentials next week and myself to get ready to be an eco-tourist.

I'm still really sad I can't be an eco warrior and have dreadlocks.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Books and Lots of Links

Much as I love blogging and emails there is nothing quite like receiving real correspondence the old fashioned way.

In our condos any parcel too big for the apartments’ mail box stay in the management office. They put a piece of paper in the mail box asking you to come and collect a parcel which can cause a surge of excitement. Mostly this is a deeply disappointing, but large, package of junk mail redirected from our UK address but occasionally it’s something interesting. Today it was a parcel courtesy of Amazon.

Because I buy too many books, I couldn’t quite remember what I’d ordered, so it was with anticipation that I ripped it open. And this is what I found:

Mad Dogs by Robert Muchamore: For Son, who loves the Cherub series. (Oh my god, just been to the link. He's sooooo young....)

The Secret River by Kate Grenville: December's Book Club book, proving hard to buy in Bangkok.

The Door by Magda Szabo: January's Book Club book: I thought while I was buying one I might as well get the next one too.

Neris and India's Idiot-proof Diet by India Knight and Neris Thomas: Hmmm, well always the optimist, this could be the One to make a difference.

No Laughing Matter and A Ghost of a Chance by Peter Guttridge: I ordered these because Peter Guttridge is the tutor doing the Writer's Lab course at Skyros in Koh Chang, which is where I am booked to spend Christmas! I am sure I will enjoy them as well as wishing to do my 'homework.' He is also crime fiction critic for The Observer and Writing Fellow at Southampton University. Did I say how excited I am?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

DON'T come home with a dog

Yesterday morning I had an appointment with Claire at SCAD (Soi Cats and Dogs) in preparation for writing for them. I was off early to meet her at their new premises, Retails Too; Husband wished me a good day and said ‘DON’T come home with a dog.’

I don’t know about anyone else but one of the things I love about writing articles is finding out about new things. If I know a little already about the subject the joy is in discovering how I feel about them. In this case I love cats and dogs: I’ve just about always lived with them – apart from here in Bangkok and as a student.

I’ve always loved research and it makes the writing so much easier – the ideas come directly as a result of research. In the case of SCAD my investigation consists of finding out about the history of the organisation, understanding what they do (and don’t do) and how they arrived at the present. But because being involved makes writing easier I also just want to spend time there. Being told something is one thing, but watching how they deal with frightened puppies tells me so much more.

After a tour of the premises (no new cats or dogs present yet) we sat down with a coffee and we talked. Claire told me that there were three dogs coming that morning to be photographed – could I hang around to see them? (During the morning, Husband texted me with an email address I’d requested – and a postscript, adding ‘DON’T come home with a dog.’)

Conversation finished when Carol (not Carol and Chris) arrived with three dogs: bouncy dog called Maggie; shy white terrier like puppy called ‘shy’ in Thai and cute chunky puppy called ‘Nay-pon’ or ‘General’ in Thai. We went into the grounds with the three dogs and I watched Claire and Carol commence with the photoshoot – and there was my first article.

This is the chunky chappie, Nay-pon. I only just managed not to bring him home, but just as a joke, I texted Husband and asked him to stop off and buy some litter on the way home…


Sunday, November 11, 2007

No dribbling allowed


I must take care not to dribble.
We also found 'Gap' and 'Fat Face' and I bought a copy of Dorothea Brande's 'Becoming a Writer' which I thought was impossible to find.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Filthy lusty post

Today daughter and I are off to Singapore where she is competing for her school in a gymnastic competition. She could’ve gone with the coaches or parents can come. As I’m going we are travelling separately from school and are staying in a different hotel.

I’ve been to Singapore once. Husband’s been many times for work – his boss is based there – so when Husband took us, I took no notice of where to go and how to do it. But Singapore is all English so I’m not too freaked out.

School are coming back after the competition on Saturday night. BUT daughter and I are staying for Sunday (it seems a shame not to, eh?). We’re going shopping. This is what you do in Singapore and it’s what you have daughters for. I remember being the daughter and I get as much fun out of being the Mum.

Husband took me to Takashimaya Shopping Centre on Orchard Road which is his regular mall when he comes here. I was allowed to wander alone and upstairs I chanced upon a shop called Bookbinders Design: it’s a Swedish company. This link should contain a warning: it contains really filthy images. It is unadulterated stationery porn. Look at the colours, the books, the bindings, those pencils. Pleeeease go to the contacts page and check out those pencils (wait for the image to change - it's worth it.

I cannot do justice describing this cornucopia of dribbly yummy stuff but I get a double dose of gorgeousness because it appeals to me both as an artist and as a writer. The first time I came I bought a box and a notebook (in orange of course). The next time husband came for work he was instructed to go to Bookbinders Design and buy me something … anything. READER, he came home empty handed, I nearly unmarried him. Last time he went, he found the time to get there (!) and brought me another notebook in another shade of orange. It was wrapped up deliciously and decadently (I am soooo sorry environment, soo sorry.)

Anyway, I feel the need to stop lusting out loud. I AM GOING THERE TO BUY STUFF. I will report back.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A technical term: Not Good

I’ve had some time recently to write my book. Although I’ve got quite a lot of articles coming up I can only do the research for these, so when I have time, it’s time for my book.

When I sit down to write my novel I open up my word doc, start to look through my words and my heart sinks.

Hmmmm; now, I’m not a rocket scientist – but this strikes me as Not Good.

If my heart sinks I have no doubt that yours will too.

There is definitely something wrong.

Many of you will say ‘it’ll be okay, it can be fixed in the first edit’ but there won’t be a first edit if my heart sinks every time I open it up because pretty damn swiftly I’m closing it up again. And this is becoming a bit of a habit.

These are the things I’ve identified:

The voice is all wrong. It’s not me. I’ve (stupidly?) read lots of ‘how to’ books who talk about using lots of dialogue, and yet I don’t feel real doing that. The books that I read and enjoy don’t have loads of dialogue. So what I’ve got in those 23,000 words is lots of not real-to-me words.

I also know there are lots of scenes not necessary to the telling of the story, but I can’t identify which is which yet. I am a quarter of the way in, but only at the beginning of the story. Will I have to write 200,000 words before I can work out which 100,000 I actually need?

I don’t know my characters well and I feel stupid making up characters (my demon suggests I should stick to article writing?)

I do understand, both in theory and reality, that the first draft can be crap so it’s not as though I’m trying to write perfection.

I am sure of my story. I know it’s the story I want to tell. I feel the themes but I don’t know how to get there. I want to feel excited by it again.

I can see no other way but to start again … again; ignoring the ‘how to’ books and writing from me.

(My very exciting Christmas news is that I’m going on a Skyros writing course here in Thailand. I want to make full use of it by not having these problems when I go.)

(And I am oh so lucky that people around me are beginning to say to me ‘sorry, am I interrupting your writing time?’ You are lovely people and taking me more seriously than I am. Thank you; perhaps in time I’ll catch up with your faith in me.)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Lurking

I'm very sorry but I am lurking at the moment. Sometimes I need to lurk rather than participate.

I'm sure I will be back soon.

JJx

Monday, November 05, 2007

Taxi tales

I’ve got to the office at last today and found I’d got a squatter: a big cockroach - eeewugh. I showed him the door.

I caught a taxi this morning to my hospital appointment (we don’t have GPs here, we just go straight to the hospital and see whoever we need to see). We’d got about a quarter of the way there when I first looked at the meter: it was four times the price I’d pay at my destination. I caught taxi man’s eye in the mirror and pointed ‘not working; broken.’ ‘Accident’ he says, 60 baht okay?’ It was and I went back to my ‘Crackberry’ to answer an email. So I didn’t see if a policeman wouldn’t let us turn right or not up crucial road to the hospital and when I next looked up we were hurtling along in completely the wrong direction.

Well now, Bangkok roads look as though they were designed after hours in a bar following the consumption of too much whisky. Sometimes, believe it or not, you can legally drive up the wrong side of the carriageway – this rule appears to be invoked entirely indiscriminately. The first time a taxi happily swung off the road onto the opposite carriageway is still etched on my heart in claw shaped scars. So this cock up (policeman’s or my taxi driver – who’d already tried the meter fiddling trick on me) meant we had to drive another 4 miles around the one way systems in figures of eight to approach the hospital from another direction. Having agreed the price, taxi man had no incentive to drive on a tour of Bangkok so I don’t think I was done but it led me to wanting to tell you about the eccentricities of taxis here.

They are a most bizarre lot. Quite often you stop them, tell them where you want to go, and they refuse to take you. Frequently you tell them you destination and they have no idea where it is – you can ask them for the equivalent of ‘Trafalgar Square’ and they still have no idea how to drive you there. One time shortly after we moved here we couldn’t find the coffee house Husband had been recommended by work, and the driver threw us out of the cab after the second request to ‘u-turn.’ Yes, they are taxi drivers, but they only moved to the city from upcountry last weekend.

Husband had a taxi driver who told him he’d just got out of prison for killing two pedestrians. Several taxi drivers have fallen asleep at traffic lights, and I’ve had to wake them up when the light goes green. Many drivers decorate the inside of the cabs with offerings to Buddha - the one today was particularly beautiful. This appears to be so that they have continued good luck while they drive and read the paper. One of the habits to threaten me with spontaneous vomiting is to hoik the contents of their nasal passages into their mouths, open their door and deposit it on the pavement. Mostly they do this when they’re in a traffic queue.

But lots of taxi drivers are lovely. Delighted to speak some English with you; go out of their way to help you find somewhere (a map, directions, several landmarks and in Bangkok you still can’t find it). Last week Carol and I were on our way to the most famous sports club in Bangkok (not as members, I hasten to add) but I’ve learned not to make any assumptions about taxi drivers knowing the city. I had a map, the address in Thai, the address in English, the telephone numbers. He picked me up a few roads away from our destination and Carol up two roads closer, still he’d neither heard of it, nor knew where it was. Had I got the telephone number? He pulled over on a non stopping main road and with the world beeping and screeching at him, he phoned the club for directions. Still, we got there.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Dog Catcher

On Thursday I had a committee meeting in my capacity as ‘laughable webmaster’ (my name, not theirs.) Claire approached me in the coffee break and said ‘I know you’re very busy but …’ She’s the Marketing and PR Director for SCAD (Soi Cats and Dogs) here in Bangkok, a fabulous photographer and also on the Committee. She told me that they were looking for writers…

Can you guess what happened next?

I was quite good: I found out what they wanted first (I thought they might want cute speeches from dogs and cats asking to be adopted. I drew the line there!) They don’t – they want reports and articles about their work. One of the big things they do here is to round up the street animals – spay them and then return them to the streets. Street animals are part of life here – SCAD are trying to control the numbers of pups/kittens.

And it gets better. I supply the articles and Claire will do the getting them published bit which I hate. It’s a hurdle I have to get over, but right now Claire would do that and I’d have something else for my CV.

The only problem is … when am I going to get my novel written?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Research Trip

In just over two weeks my children are going on their school residentials. Now that they are both in senior school this is the first time their weeks have coincided.

I am therefore free of Mum Duties for five days.

I toyed with luring Husband away from work; I decided I’d rather have him for longer over Christmas and New Year, so I’d go away on my own. I uhmed and ahhed but I couldn’t decide what to do or where to go (if anywhere).

Then Carol, in her role as BWG* Welfare Coordinator, told me about Andaman Discoveries who had made contact with the *British Women’s Group to ask for funds to help their community-driven rehabilitation project which raises funds to aid tsunami impacted villages of the North Andaman region. They are a responsible tourism project who offer holidays/study trips/cultural tours and home-stays to volunteers and tourists who wish to do something more with their leisure time, learn new skills and give something back to host communities less fortunate than themselves.

Carol said that Andaman Discoveries were looking for a volunteer writer to put some articles together for various magazines in Thailand (and any other potential markets) to raise awareness, funds and advertise the holidays. Kelly, their project director, came and gave a talk to us and that was it: I was hooked.

In a little over two weeks, I am off on a research trip to Kuraburi Province (three hours north of Phuket) to do a mixture of volunteering and eco tourism. I am very, very excited and a little bit frightened but I know it will be impossibly good for me and hugely rewarding.

I am thinking of getting dreadlocks for the trip – what do you think?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Cross Cultural Climate Confusion

After my brain blurt here, a couple of the comments precipitated a thought in my head: it is a rather elusive notion that’s come to me several times in Bangkok, but I’ve never stopped long enough to pin it down. Sheepish said: “And thinking about Christmas already oh dear, is it really only 7 weeks away?” And Angie asked: “Can you believe [Christmas is] sneaking up already?!”

Well, no, actually, I can’t.

I’ve had this problem since arriving here: I never know where I am in the year. I mean, instinctively I don’t have a sense of time of the year. I have to think consciously ‘which month is this?’ This didn’t happen to me in the UK – I always just knew roughly what month it was. I’ve tried to work out what it is that grounded me in a sense of time and place and all I can deduce is that it’s down to climate: the seasonal variation that I knew in the UK, gave me an awareness of where in the calendar year I was.

I worried slightly about moving to a place with no distinct seasons. No seasons that I, as a Brit, understand anyway. Thailand does have seasons: the three seasons are ‘hot’, ‘really hot’ and ‘hot and wet’ – that’s the technical explanation, anyway. But these seasons aren’t sufficiently different to give you an intuitive sense of where you are in the year.

The visual stimulus in the materialistic world also gives us the idea that Christmas is approaching, or Easter is on its way, but those visual triggers occur in Bangkok too, (see the Halloween mall pictures) and I still have no intrinsic sense of whether it’s May, August or December. Perhaps it’s the lack of crocuses, daffodils or bluebells in my natural environment?

We live less than ever in a life that’s dictated to by the seasons. We can buy strawberries all year round and even the seasons themselves are blurry thanks to global warming, but perhaps I am more in tune with nature than I realised.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

My local mall, Emporium, could NEVER be accused of making a half hearted effort. The outside picture is my favourite.

Do you think anyone would notice if I took up living in that big one for a day or two?


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What I wanted to say ...

For the last three days I have sat down to blog. Sometimes I couldn’t write anything and sometimes I’ve started to write but it’s come out all wrong.

I wanted to tell you about how son left his phone in the resort and the hotel rang me (via the ticket lady) on the ferry to tell me that they’d send a man in a long-tailed boat to the ferry to give us the phone (this would cost 650 Baht, £10!). Son and I took turns waiting for the boat to come, and then while it was my watch, 9am rolled round and the ferry set off. Oh well, I thought, another phone lost by son. I went inside to join the children, then I thought to myself, hang on a sec: this is Thailand … I wonder … I went back outside.

We sailed away from Ton Sai Bay and over the horizon came a long-tailed boat. The ferry, full of passengers eager to get to Phuket, Krabi and other destinations, stopped in the middle of the sea. The man handed over Son’s phone to ticket lady, who took the money from me and gave it to him. And then the ferry set off again. Surely, only in Thailand?

I wanted to tell you about reading Human Traces by Sebastian Faulkes for Book Club, which is a novel about two ‘mad doctors’ wanting to find cures for mental illnesses and how it made me wonder if I'd lived in a different time, I might’ve been sent to an asylum for ‘melancholia’ as they called it. Almost certainly I would.

I want to tell you about being asked to do some volunteer charity work in communities in Southern Thailand in exchange for writing some articles about the company and their responsible tourism projects.

I want to tell you what I’m doing at Christmas because I’m just so excited, but it’s not confirmed yet, and I don’t want to tempt fate.

I’ve wanted to say lots of things, but I don’t seem able to get my words out. So I’m sorry if this is a bit disjointed and odd, but at least it isn’t a blank page anymore.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Life's essentials

I so want to blog about our journey home (Son and Thailand surpassed themselves) but I'm just too tired. We've spent all day at another international school watching daughter and her team mates compete against 10 other schools, and we have to be there again tomorrow morning at 6.30am...

So, after this post, I will leave you instead with this picture of the inside of my fridge:

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Fun is going back to Bangkok

Today is our last day. Tomorrow at the crack of dawn we start a whole day of long tailed boat/ferry/car/airplane/taxi to get home to Bangkok and back to normal life.

I do most of the weekly parenting on my own because Husband’s job keeps him busy through many time zones. Without going into too much detail life can be stressful in the midst of school life: homework, extra-curricular activities, school paperwork blah blah blah. It doesn’t sound much written down like that, but I find it challenging. Both children are so different and need such diverse approaches that single parenting can feel like fire fighting.

But, we’ve had such a fun time here these last few days that I really feel as though I’ve had a proper break. Of course I’ve still been ‘Mum’, but most importantly, without all the pressures of homework and bedtimes, I’ve had fun with the children. It turns out that Son is very funny. I kind of knew this, but was always too … knackered Mum-ish to enjoy him and his humour. Somehow it got lost in all the difficulties of daily life. He’s come out with some corking jokes while we’ve been away. We’ve talked and watched rubbish movies in the evening, kayaked during the day on the shallow sea of our bay, and swum in the pool. Daughter and I played ‘swim under the legs’ and I’ve arrived gulping bubbles of laughter to the surface because my gigantic bottom gets caught on her and pushes her off balance.

It’s quite possible though that I’ve spent too much time with a 13 and 11 year old since I seem to have developed the sense of humour of a early teen. But really, I’m most alarmed, having been trapped in our room by the rain, to have enjoyed ‘High School Musical.’ Yikes.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

God's Punishment and the Mossie Men

The Buddhists believe in Karma – that your actions will bring about inevitable results, good or bad - and the Greek Gods punished manifestation of hubris - overweening pride - so really it was only a matter of time before my smug holiday blogging caused me to be castigated: bitten on the backside by some higher power.

In my case, retribution wasn’t a single mandible to the rear end by any higher power, but about fifty thousand mosquitoes feasting on just about every part of my sweet flesh.

I am alive with tingling, prickling and plain old hurting skin. I have so many bites that I can no longer be serene about it. As I type my lower legs are humming; radiating energy of their own existence. The bites, though certainly deployed by a number of individual mossies, are somehow linked to each other. When one on my leg itches, and I scratch, it alerts the forty eight on my left arm to the existence of my nails, and they in turn begin to hum, tingle and sing for attention of my fingernails – which, since I am on holiday, are rather nice and long. They are doing significant damage to my skin.

I think they bit me in the first resort – our room was zinging with the little buggers, no matter what extermination programme we undertook.

At this second resort, at about 6pm on the first day we received a telephone call in our room saying ‘We spray Mosquito. Don’t leave your room.’ I didn’t like to ask if there was only one mosquito was it really necessary to spray the whole resort? Instead I asked ‘how long do we stay inside?’ ‘15 minutes’ is the answer, but we really had a ringside seat.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Transfer by sea

We had an exciting transfer yesterday. Lots of our transport has been interesting.

When we arrived at Phuket we were picked up and delivered to the speed boat provided by the hotel. But there was no pier at the beach of the hotel, so unless we paddled in to the dry land I couldn't work out how we'd get to the sand. (This was entirely possible, but NOT carrying my 19kg suitcase on my head! What happened was a strange floaty thing - not a boat exactly but I wasn't sure why it wasn't at the time - met us off the speed boat for the last 50 yards of the sea. All our luggage was transferred to this transport thing and we moved the last few yards to the beach, but we weren't floating, we were driving. This green floaty thing drove up and out of the water and onto the sand, and that was when I realised it wasn't really a boat, but a kind of water tractor thing.

Yesterday's transport was a long tailed boat. The green floaty tractor thing took us and our luggage to meet the boat, and we were all transferred to our new mode of transport. This first picture is from the tractor thing and the second before we got moving. I wish I could have taken a picture for you while we were moving but I was gripping on for dear life.

At our new hotel there was no tractor thing to come and meet us, so we did have to paddle the last few metres, but nice Thai man carried out luggage, thanks heavens.



Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday

This morning Husband caught the early boat back to Phuket, to catch a flight back to Bangkok. He has to fly to Hong Kong for a three day meeting, which is a bit sad because tomorrow is a bank holiday in Thailand, but clearly no-one told Hong Kong.

This resort has been lovely, but they don’t have room for us for the rest of the week, so Kids and I going, by long tailed boat, to the next bay to another resort.

One of the lovely things we’ve found about Thailand (compared to the UK) is the cheapness and abundance of flowers. (For Daughter’s birthday the year before last, I bought 50 pink roses for just over £1. The roses don’t last more than a few days, but who cares at that price?) Because it is relatively cheap to employ people, hotels think nothing of having lots of time consuming tasks undertaken, such as beautiful flower decorations everywhere. Husband and I were joking that when the trees aren’t flowering, someone climbs up a step ladder to staple flowers on for decoration!

Here are some pictures of some of the displays we’ve seen around the resort ...
















... plus one we took in our bungalow. (Let me make the point now, that NO photoshopping has taken place in any of the pictures!)


Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Weekend

On Saturday Husband and children went scuba diving. I went along for the ride on the speedboat, and for the snorkelling.

I floated about on the water and could see for metres and metres, and the longer I stayed still, the more I could see. I saw lots of barracudas, puffer fish, a big turtle, (that’s it for the technical terminology) some pretty blue and yellow fish that seemed to think I was one of them (boy, must they be stupid?) plus lots of others of all colours. There were bright blue star fish lounging on rocks and coral, and some kind of big planty thing that looked like a cobalt blue and black tarantula! Eeek. (Gosh those Latin names are just dripping from my mouth, eh?)

The landscape out in the sea was spectacular. I love those big organic shapes of rocks and islands but I see them as an artist not an adventurer - I have no wish to climb them. I want to touch their texture, look for images in them and in their negative spaces. I want to record the patterns in the rock face and the jagged edges of corrosion.
***
On Sunday we had no plans, apart from a booking at the spa for Husband and me in the afternoon.

Daughter wanted to go to the beach to collect litter. (I must have done something right). She dressed in a ‘Global Citizen’ t-shirt she got from a school trip and took a bag to the beach. It wasn’t the cleanest beach ever – nothing sinister was found, just detritus left behind by people who don’t seem to care enough. When she’d filled her bag she took it to reception to ask for another bag, which they gave her. Half an hour later a team of cleaners had been dispatched to the beach. (We weren’t intending to be critical but we were a bit embarrassed.)

I had a lovely facial at the spa. (Although what with this facial and birthday facial last week, I have erupted in spots, so I’m rather glad to be on a remote island, right now.) Husband had a massage. In my relaxed post facial state I managed to fling my contact lens lid into the jungle ravine next to me, never to be seen again.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the resort pool. Husband was brave enough to race Daughter, who is scarily fast, and Son went up and down the water slide.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Phi Phi Island 1

Okay, here are some pictures, then. You can see the weather isn’t perfect, not totally sunny, but for people who spend most of their time in the pollution of Bangkok, it’s pretty darn close to perfect. The gentle breeze is most welcome.

The first picture is the view from the spa over the resort and out to sea.

The second picture is early this morning on our way to the dive centre for scuba diving (Husband, Son and Daughter) and snorkelling (me). It was among the best snorkelling I’ve done.

The third one is the other end of the beach.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Blogging from Paradise

I'm writing this from Paradise (Phi Phi Island, Krabi Province, Thailand) on the Blackberry. Unfortunately Paradise has a distinctly sub-standard internet service. (Honestly, am I never satisfied?)

I have some concerns about blogging about here. You might all hate me for being in Paradise and never visit my blog again.

What do you think?

Should I be grateful (but keep my mouth shut and my fingers still) or should I blog?
Sent via BlackBerry® from AIS

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Armed and Dangerous

Today is the start of half term. Hurrah. We have two extra days tacked on: more hurrahs.

Tomorrow we’re off to the beach: we’re going to Koh Phi Phi. This means we’re actually going to The Beach. I suppose, strictly speaking, we’re going to this The Beach, because we're going to where it was filmed.

Sorry, has this all got a bit confusing?

I think I might be a walking cliche, because I'm thinking of going to buy the novel. I might have to wrap it in a brown paper cover...

I could say ‘I’m taking a break from blogging’ but I’m not. I have every intention of going fully tooled up: laptop, Blackberry and digital camera.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Beam me up, Scotty

I’m feeling a bit homesick at the moment. I’ve been feeling like this for some time now, so I can’t entirely blame my birthday yesterday, though having messages from everyone has perhaps made my homesickness a bit worse.

Consequently, today, I feel a small pain.

It feels like my lover is missing; my heart hurts a bit (Note: my lover isn’t missing – he’s here, and he’s who you think he is I’m just trying to say how it feels!)

So.

I’d like to be beamed up, please. For a whole weekend if you can manage it.

I’d arrange for my extended family members, on both sides, and my chosen family all to be staying at my folks. It’d be a bit of a squeeze, and very loud, but I think it would be worth it. We could all cook (can you imagine all those cooks in one OV kitchen?)

I’d make Larb Moo, a Thai spicy pork mince salad - fresh mint from the herb garden.
MJ would make veggie.
L could make that artichoke thing for the veggies too.
S or MJ would make yummy salad dressing.
L&A would be in charge of puddings (sugar free one for M&D please)
B wouldn’t cook because he can’t stand sharing a kitchen!
V&I would take control of the alcohol.
V could make dahl.
Granddad could do the meat and bring in new potatoes from the garden (yes, I know it’s October, but this is a dream, right?)
On that note, the weather would be perfect, so we’d eat outside. The children would have a lovely time and not fight and let the adults talk.

I can almost feel myself there.

Monday, October 15, 2007

21st century birthday

I am having a very twenty first century birthday in keeping with my technology addicted life.

I am posting this to tea-stains with my very exciting birthday present, my new Blackberry, courtesy of Husband after much whispering in his ear while he was asleep and sending subliminal emails, with barely seeable text saying 'buy JJ a blackberry'.

I've had lots of birthday wishes from blog friends, an email from my sister, my brother and my two sister in laws. And I've just watched my gorgeous god-daughters and their Dad, singing a beautiful rendition of happy birthday to me on a podcast on our closed blog 'The Bull's Horn.'

I've only had real cards from Bangkok people, but all those cyber wishes have made my day: thank you.

Happy birthday to blogger Lane and her daughter too!

Sent via BlackBerry® from AIS

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday Night Strop

I am feeling a bit stroppy. Alright, more than a bit stroppy: bloody stroppy.

I feel a bit like I’ve left my homework to the last minute.

No, no, that’s not right. I did my homework.

First of all, nobody told me I had homework. Then I start to get copied in on emails that suggested people were waiting on me to complete homework NO-ONE had asked me to do.

I had to go and ask ‘Is someone waiting for something from me?’

Then I had to nag for the brief. Some of the information came; some of it was wrong.

I followed the brief using the information supplied, and then when I handed it in, I was told: ‘Oh…mmmm…I wouldn’t have done it that way. Oh look that bit of information is wrong. I would’ve put that bit there … I don’t think you should put that bit in at all.’

Whose homework was this?

I said I’d go away and do it again. Carol offered to help (it was joint homework really.) I said ‘thank you, but I’ll do it during the weekend.’

So now it’s Sunday evening and I still haven’t done it. I’ve opened Photoshop up several times, and looked at it. Sometimes I’ve moved a bit around, and then I’ve lost the will to live and closed Photoshop up again.

I’ve done this homework once already.

And tomorrow is my birthday and it’s due tomorrow, and anyway, I don’t want to do it on my birthday. So I have to do it now … on Sunday evening.

So that’s why I’m feeling bloody stroppy.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I'm building an Ark

It rained for an hour and a half this morning. I risked life and limb (not to mention Weil's Disease) in my flip flops to bring you this report:

This is my soi this morning.

I'm going to build an ark.

I am planning what to take with me.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bugger, a damn good result

I posted this in my sidebar thing yesterday, but it clashes with the orange and I don’t like the advert at the bottom, so I’m moving it to a post.

I can’t remember where I saw this ‘give your blog a certification’ originally, but I thought I’d take the test.

I don’t like to think of my blog as being totally safe for children, I’m sorry, but too clean isn’t really me. Nor would I like to think of it as containing the vernacular of a sailor – though I have to confess to liking a good cuss, so I reckon PG is a pretty damn good result.

Dating

JustSayHi - A Free Dating Website

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Follow up

I am afraid I have a follow up story to ‘Husband buys GIGANTIC trainers for Son.’ The need to buy trainers was precipitated by the loss of Son’s PE kit at school. I waited a whole week for PE kit to re-emerge. It didn’t.

This is an excerpt of an email from Husband to his sister. It is stolen and reproduced without any permission whatsoever. (I was copied in on it – I didn’t steal shamelessly from his inbox!)

"The last time I bought him trainers they were kiddie sizes, now he needs 10s+. So as a good dad doing my switched-on in-touch-with-the-youth-of-today type thing, I took him off to the store for a new pair...Now, a bit of history here - that I'm sure you don't need reminding. Our dad was a little on the practical side, and fashion or branding was not as high a priority as hardwearing and cost. And trainers was one area where I suffered a little, Adidas was not cool in 1980, but Adidas was all I could have. I promised myself, many moons ago, that I would remember that brand of trainer does matter, and that sometimes you just need to put social acceptance over sensibility.

And so there was I, standing in the middle of this big sports department, surrounded by Nike, Reebok, Sketchers, Adidas, etc and I said to Son, I said "Son (arh)" I said "Son - you can have any trainer you want in this shop, what is the coolest, hippest, in-trainer today? What is the ‘must have’ sports look at school? I don't care how much it costs, coz sometimes it is important to buy the right brand, and I understand that - Son - I am on your wavelength man, I am in touch with the youth of today" and I did that fist thing, where you punch each other's fist in midair. (Son didn't punch my fist, and looked a little embarrassed to be seen out in public with me).

Ok, so maybe the fist thing, and the wavelength reference might be a bit sad, but I assumed he got the point. This was his opportunity to shine, to be ‘in’, to not be tittered at for wearing GOLA, etc, etc.

And do you know what he said. He said "I don't really care about brands, I don't mind, I just want a pair that are comfortable, and not too expensive". Oh my god, OH MY GOD, what have I done, where is my son, who has swapped him for this reasonable, sensible impostor? Anyway I made him try on all the Nikes and eventually ended up forcing him to have a reasonably expensive pair".

And guess what? Not only am I irritated at the ruination of my careful training of Son to see through things like brands and what’s ‘in’ but after a week the original PE kit, complete with perfectly good, old (and cheap) trainers has turned up at school.

Aaagggghhhhh.