Wednesday, August 29, 2007
I’ve been thinking about this friendship thing for sometime. It was nerve wracking moving to Bangkok (for a billion reasons) but making friends was one of the things high on my list to worry about.
I don’t exactly come across as shy – in fact, those that have met me will say ‘no, no, you’re not shy…’ so it has come to my notice over the years that people interpret it as something else entirely. I think it’s just plain shyness, I come from a family of extroverts, but I need time to grow relaxed with people. Clearly though, it isn’t always the way other’s read me.
Once when I was a new first year at university (the first time) I was chatting to a girl called Carole in her room. There was a knock at the door and another first year girl, Michelle, put her head around the door and said “I’m pleased you’re both here.” She then proceeded to tell us exactly what ‘everyone’ in our halls of residence, thought of us.
I was ‘snobbish, unapproachable and formidable’. (Gee, thanks Michelle, I so needed to know all that). I realized later and know now with complete conviction that the problem here was Michelle’s, but still, I’ve let ‘formidable’ haunt me for years, and I still worry that lots of people see me that way.
So I talked in that early post about my anxiety about how to make friends, but although I didn’t feel my natural habitat was a women’s group, I have found friends there.
Then a few months ago, I met a woman at bookcrossing, and she asked about the group I belong to. Rather than go to a big expat women do, I said I’d organize a night out with a couple of lovely women I knew. I invited four or five women, and I asked them to each invite another lovely woman so it would expand my social group too. It’s become informally known as the lovely women or lovely ladies (I prefer woman to lady!) and it’s a different group, though overlapping sometimes, to the women’s group.
Then, of course, there are the bloggers who have to be counted among my friends, not just because I’ve met some of you, but because you have become a hugely important part of my life. Although it’s happening in some new-fangled cyberspace way, (with 6,000 miles of real distance) you are my friends; you are providing the service that real live friends do and for that I am grateful, and I wanted to say thank you.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Until I moved to Bangkok I’d never lived in a city. I had lived for a year in London, but at only an hour from my parents’ house in the Weald of Kent, I punctuated my London life with regular(ish) weekends home.
Since husband and I got together (was there a time when we weren’t together?) we always lived close to the countryside – small towns or big villages. We’ve lived close by the sea twice. Before we moved to Thailand we lived in a valley with lovely hills in the background. I think this might be why I sometimes need to get away from the concrete here in Bangkok and find some wilderness.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m loving life in the city. I love the variety of places to eat, things to do, bars to go to and the immediateness of everything in Bangkok. I’m not conscious of needing to get out, but getting away or down to the river improves my mental wellbeing. Sometimes I just need to feed myself views that aren’t concrete or brick.
This is why I have to go to the Chao Phraya River. I can get a river taxi for a few pence and ride up and down the river, pulling over at designated ‘stops’. It’s clear to me that we’re still in a city, but it’s a wide open expanse of water and unpredictable. I love the movement of the river taxis: they whiz along a bit too fast, and you’re not quite sure if you’re going to be sprayed with water… And there’s air rushing past you which is all too uncommon in this tropical heat.
And, I think it may be why I’ve taken to gazing at the sky. Starting with Teddy and Dog, here, I think I’m hunting for landscape in the sky. I’ve had a worrying desire to post pictures of clouds, but stopped myself for fear of … well, appearing barking bonkers
But bonkers or not, these are some of my recent mornings. I get the kids up for school at 5.45am, yes, that’s right: 5.45am.
I see dawn in Bangkok every morning as they get ready for the school bus; I wonder and marvel at the shapes of its beautiful landscape, the hues, and then I go back to bed to sleep until it’s really morning.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
I’ve had an uppy and downy kind of week:
Wibbly wobbly Monday when Daughter started secondary; I thought I’d fixed the website, but it turned out there were still problems that made me want to jump out of my 25th floor condo window.
Much cheerier Tuesday when Daughter came home with excellent Sats results and Son had a successful day at school too.
Inexplicably joyful Wednesday when my Chao Praya River trip cleared my head of … of, well, whatever it is that makes me think too much; Daughter got selected to train with swimming team at school for six weeks to see if she can get her speeds up; and in which son VOLUNTARILY did homework.
Very sociable Thursday, in which I went to coffee morning (expat style), lunched with lovely friends, and then out in the evening with other, different lovely friends (including a new girl (hello A). Had to have a modicum of self control regarding my gin consumption, however, as I had website in the morning. (Not to mention waitress, Khun Reiki, suggesting telling Husband about gin guzzling – Hmm, like he hasn’t noticed!)
Very successful Friday in which I (wish I could say, ‘single handedly’) fixed the problems with the website; in which I realized (along with Website Guru ‘Andrew Computer’) that I REMEMBERED THINGS ABOUT DREAMWEAVER AND CSS AND TECHNICAL STUFF AFTER BEING SHOWN ONCE HOW TO DO IT. We were both proud of me.
Underlying all these uppy downy emotions is the ‘writing’ thing again.
- Worried my book is boring
- Is aimless
- That I really don’t know what I’m doing
However, being uppier today, I’ve decided it’s a first draft and if it’s boring and aimless I will make it Not, when I’ve finished the first draft. That sometimes not knowing what you are doing is good: do what you feel. Maybe it will lead to something exciting. If I follow all the Rules of Writing, then I may restrict my creativity. This may be all crap, but if it gets me writing again, that’s okay.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Tomorrow I am going to the Chao Phraya river which reminds me why I love Bangkok.
See you soon.
Monday, August 20, 2007
My 'baby' started secondary school today ... It is, most definitely, the end of an era (and the start of a new one) and I feel... strange, a bit weepy for some reason.
I didn't do that weepy number when they went to nursery and started school, so it must be my turn to be fragile now.
I think it's because I know I have to plan for my future now.
However, I know what I want to do, but ... what if it doesn't work out?
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Friday, August 17, 2007
Music was playing quietly in the background and husband was in the chair by the window doing a crossword puzzle.
I was in that lovely state between awake and asleep...
Husband cuts into my thoughts with a question for his crossword: 'Who was the last king of Rome?'
'Tarquin' I say.
A few minutes pass, and after a fight between my subconscious and my conscious, I sit up.
'Was that right?' I ask.
'Because I didn't know I knew that.'
Now, some of you may know from here that I have a Classics degree, so maybe it isn't all that unusual that I know who the last king of Rome was. But, as you will also see there, I am so crap at ancient history (cos I specialised in literature), that my husband is petitioning for me to give my degree certificate back to the university. The point was that I didn't know that I knew who the last king of Rome was.
Now, so here comes the theory bit: If only I could spend my life perpetually half asleep, I think I might be rather intelligent.
JJ's other astounding theories can be found here and here.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
It’s so awful I may have to move back to the UK.
I know that betrayal isn’t right, but somehow it was beyond my powers to do the right thing.
It was beyond my control, it was hormonal. It all started when I was pregnant with my daughter. Yes, I know, I’m not trying to make excuses I’m just trying to let you see that it was chemical … too powerful for me to command.
But even after I had the baby, I just couldn’t … quite … give it up. It … was …too wonderful. I ache... my mouth aches with the thought of it.
And I’ve been told – categorically – that he will never be in Thailand again.
I have kept my clandestine relationship with Branston Pickle a covert affair from my father for eleven years. My Dad makes the most delicious chutney. Real chutney: Mrs Postgate’s Tomato Chutney. I was weaned on his chutney and cheese sandwiches, turkey sandwiches on Christmas day, Boxing Day. I took pots of it to University. I was never without it and would leave a weekend in my family home, richer for the jar I took from the pantry.
Until I became pregnant with Daughter … and oh, the shame … I wanted cheese and Branston Pickle sandwiches. NOTHING else would do. It would be okay when I was no longer pregnant, I reasoned, I would revert: my sophisticated palate would return and I would resume my relationship with Mrs Postgate’s Chutney, those delicate flavours of vinegar, cloves, tomato… oh…
But no. Apparently not. I need crunchy Branston Pickle in my life. I had come to accept this: my one ‘can’t live without it’ item in Thailand.
And now I am told, someone has decided that there is no requirement for it in Thailand.
And it will no longer be imported here.
Crosse and Blackwell … what have you done?
I am feeling very, very sad.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Saturday, August 11, 2007
I had a LOT cut off. From just above my belly button to above my shoulders. It’s too hot here to wear it long so usually it’s always twisted into a pleat with a sort of firework of curls appearing out of the top of my head.
When I told Daughter I was planning to have it all cut off she asked me what style. I said ‘you know that black and white picture of me at Nanny and Granddad Kent’s, with my hair in a bob? I thought I’d do that again.’
‘Oh Mum,’ she said ‘you are so pretty in that picture.’
‘Mmmm, thanks, darling, but I was 17 in that picture: having my hair cut like that isn’t going to change the face in the middle of the hair do. Sadly, I’m still going to look like I do now, but with shorter hair.’
I didn’t point out that I fancied the pants of the photographer and was doing an outrageous ‘take me to bed’ face (indidentally, the photographer did offer, and I turned him down … foooooool.)
I’d love to say that like A.Writer’s post about her swishy hair cut, I too look like I’ve just stepped out of the salon. I’d be delighted to report that any more whooshy head movements would result in a trip to the chiropractor. I’d love to announce that my hair is glossy, shiny and lustrous, but sadly I fit more into the Hagrid hair type, and I look more like I’ve just stepped out the back of a thorny bush and into a wild wind.
Oh well, you just can’t have everything, can you?
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Monday, August 06, 2007
I’m not meant to say what it is (because if I do, it will go poooof in a puff of smoke) but today has been good. I’ve finally (I think and hope) sorted out how to do my planning and to make sense of what I have achieved already. I’ve even sorted out how to manage the 16,000 words that I axed here. I’m a bit irritated with myself because this ‘system’ I’m using is exactly the same technique that I’ve used each time (twice) I have written a dissertation, so really I should’ve just gone straight to it. But I didn’t, after considerable pain wondering what process to use, I reinvented the wheel again. Doh.
Mine is a very technical procedure, traditionally involving a print out of the material, a pair of scissors and sellotape (I’ve got a feeling that somewhere in the world, sellotape means condoms… but I don’t know if it’s a children of the ‘70s joke? Any answers?)
So the procedure today has been to divide the 8,888 (properly written first drafty style - that is also a technical term!) words into scenes (a new page for each new scene), and to cut up the remaining information (lots of notes and ideas) and insert each separate thought into the folder where it will go. These are notes that will act as an aide-mémoire to the scenes to come, so that when I sit down to write (timetabled every day!) I will know what is required. It also means that I’m utilizing the words I worried were redundant, even if they need re-writing.
And did you spot the clever refining of the system? I don’t need the sellotape…
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Today however I went to buy myself an external hard drive ... oh there I drop it - into the conversation as though I have any idea what it means. Normally I would wait until the weekend and send Husband out to buy it, but I was feeling confident (and wanted it NOW) so I braved the IT Mall. Yes, here in Bangkok we have two malls dedicated to ITy things: one is known as Fortune and the other as Pantip Plaza (affectionately renamed Pantstip by me).
I went to Fortune because it's a bit easier to get to on the MRT (underground) and oh my god, it was horrible. Never have I felt so like I've landed among alien intelligence: these stalls and shops are terrifying, full of gadgets, boxes and wires with names that I don't understand, with words that don't mean anything to me - but that's not because they're in Thai. Those IT words all appear in what you and I would recognise as English so it sounded something like this:
โปรดระวังการติดต่อซื้อขาย password-protected, Web-based project log กับชาวต่างชาติ โดยเฉพาะจากประเทศ Architected Rapid Application Development ทางอัฟริกา ทั้งจากประกาศขายสินค้า Data ที่ราคาถูกกว่าปกติ หรืออีเมล RATs Remote Administration Trojans ที่ติดต่อเข้ามา เพื่อขอซื้อสินค้าEmail ในราคาที่สูงกว่าปกติ เพราะอาจถูกหลอกลวงได้ ท่านสามารถดู Internet Provider ได้จากเว็บ.
Do you get it? Why I was among aliens? It wasn't being surrounded by Thais, it was being surrounded by the computer geeks...
On a more positive note, the lovely JonM has awarded me a 'thoughtful blogger award' for being polite to him at Caroline's launch - my parents will be so proud! Thank you Jon. My five nominations are: a Thoughtful Blogger Award goes to Stray for all the generous and lovely IT geekery she did to promote In Search of Adam for Caroline; Liz Fenwick and Helen each get an Inspirational Blogger Award because they both get on with the job (writing) without all the fannying around that I do; Jen at Spiral Skies gets an Inspirational Blogger Award too, because she makes me laugh while she's fannying around; Carol, at Only In Thailand gets a Charity Blogging Award because although her blog doesn't go on and on about it, she does lots of good work getting volunteers into charities. Now you all need to go here to find out how to get that coveted prize and make your own nominations.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
I was rather alarmed when I checked on them by phone to discover that just that day they’d been for a long walk in the forest with the dog and a picnic, been bowling and out for a meal. Further questioning revealed that ice skating, horse-riding, two cinema trips and a cousin’s birthday were also in the offing.
Oh dear, I thought, they won’t want to come home.
Mmmmm, home: have they just been home or will coming back to Bangkok constitute home? What if they decide they would rather stay there?
I still get a buzz of excitement at airports (despite being on eight flights myself in the last eight weeks!) and as I stood in the arrivals hall, I wondered what sort of a state the children would be in. Big one, Son, likes to stay up all night and watch movies and with no mum on board to tell him not to, well, he probably will, won’t he? Little one, Daughter, gets anxiety tummy ache when flying with mum, so how will she cope without me?
Two wayworn little creatures (actually one was hulking) came through into the arrivals hall and flew over to say hello (well, one flew over; the other – Hulk - ambled). They were very excited to have traveled on their own. They waited in a special ‘unaccompanied minors’ lounge, were whipped to the fronts of lines, had x-ray machines opened for them, got a buggy (Oh my god, the excitement) to the gate. Daughter got anxiety tummy ache all the way here and sat in the staff area with a hot water bottle. She wouldn’t eat and they tried to tempt her with treats, including soup from first class (oh dear, that’s a tummy ache WELL worth having isn’t it?)
'It's lovely to be home' they said 'but we never want to travel with parents again, thank you.'