Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cats

Talli said in my comments yesterday ‘When in trouble... turn to cats’ and I think she’s right and we are in proper trouble here. Cats are cool.  These have been mine:

Loppy Lugs was my first cat when I was around seven. My sister got Loppy’s sister, Squeaker. Loppy was an absolute bitch of a cat while Squeaker was a dreamy pet, allowing my sister to dress her up and push her around in a pram. Loppy Lugs never wanted me anywhere near her and got stroppier as she got older.

We always had family cats during the next part of my life: Polly, Jaffa, Weed, Frista, HP and Ketchup are the ones I can remember.

Husband and I got our first house and not quite ready to commit to children we got a couple of cats we called Snipe and Wigeon. Within a week or so of getting them, Wigeon was diagnosed with cat flu; the vet didn’t sound very optimistic but my mum told me that when they die of feline flu, it’s usually dehydration so I stayed up with a pipette force feeding him liquids for three nights. I had a special love for Wiggie Woo. He loved us back in that special cat way – cursorily - but he smiled when he loved us. I couldn't find a picture of him smiling though.

Snipe loved me in desperate and needy way, which, to my shame, meant I sometimes found him irritating. He thought I was his mummy and nobody else would do. He wanted to sit on me ALL the time. I think I broke his heart when I had a baby. Over the following months, other people would do… because I wasn’t available.

Then we were given a cat for a wedding present by our best man. (Don’t ever do this!) We renamed him Devil or Devvy so we didn’t upset the neighbours. He had character… all the while he was opening your arteries. He was stroppy, arrogant and selfish; and a real Six Dinner Sid. Despite having had him neutered he continued to provide a friendly service to the local female cat population. I took him to the vets about this and his aggression problems.  The vet thought Devil might have had an undescended testicle and tried to examine him. Devil didn’t much like that and while the vet mopped up his own blood he told me he’d have to do the procedure under a general anaesthetic.  When we moved I put a notice up explaining he was our cat, but that I understood he was living in various other homes. I wanted people to know that he would leave with us, unless they wanted to offer him a permanent home. I got a phone call from a neighbour begging me not to leave him in the neighbourhood.

Finally we got Benny and TC. It was awful when we moved to Bangkok but luckily they were offered a home with Sister in law so we can keep in touch with them. (They write great letters.) If we'd known how long we'd be living in Bangkok, we would probably have got a couple of cats from the Soi Cat and Dog Rescue... but because our contract has been renewed year by year we haven't.

I've never lived for such a long period without cats in my life.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

La la la la.



I had some of you in fear for my mental health yesterday – quite rightly too.

The British Embassy has upgraded their travel advice to UK citizens and are suggesting that no one come to any part of Thailand now and if we are already in Thailand, we should "consider whether it is essential ... to travel within the city of Bangkok." Brilliant.

So my cheery, possibly manic, posts are the equivalent to sticking my fingers in my ears and singing, LA LA LA LA.

Here’s a bonkers YouTube to allay your fears about my sanity. I believe it's true.



Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My cup runneth over


I can ignore the rising tension in Bangkok. I can discount the vast majority of rumours I'm hearing and I can even overlook that the Army is constructing barbed wire at my local sky train station.  

Because my cup runneth over.

Not only did I do some boxing in the gym this morning, which I truly enjoyed (as opposed to tolerated because it’s a means to and end) and I'm still buzzing with those endorphins but I also received a parcel in the post today... and now... 

I have treasury tags.

Sigh 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Bless me father...

I am very fond of saying that I don’t have many sins; I don’t smoke, I don’t drink (very much - because it poisons me; no really, actually poisons me, like five day hangovers!) and I don’t take drugs.  Since I had a raised blood sugar test, even bloomin’ chocolate’s been banned. (I confess, I sometimes eat dark.) Tea, I whine, is my only pleasure left in life.

But then I remember actually I’ve got quite a bad handbag habit not to mention a horrific book habit. I’ve been trying really hard to buy fewer books – to make a dent in my TBR bookshelves (oh yes, plural. Husband really wants to shame me by telling you HOW many there are. He’s threatening to find out how to post a photo in the comments…) I’ve been doing quite well on the book front - only buying friends’ books - until my sad patch last week. It doesn’t really count, if you’re sad, does it? Then it’s medicinal. You know, instead of anti depressants. I think if you go twice and buy two books, it’s infinitely better than going once and buying four. I had double the fun!

But then, it occurred to me that I’ve got quite a penchant for boxes – you know, containers. I love boxes with lids; I always intend to fill them with things (books?) but actually I just covet them because I love them. There’s nothing utilitarian about my buying them – they’re just beautiful in their own right and so they usually end up displayed empty.

And it doesn’t end there. I also have trouble with textiles. I’ve always been a feeler (ooh err;) my friend K, in my first year here, always used to tease me about how I’d have to palpate everything in the shops – fabric, textures. I need to touch it and I can’t walk past without doing so.

When we were in Chiang Rai a couple of weeks ago, I had to buy some hill tribe textiles because, well you do, don’t you? We tourists have to patronize the local crafts. And look, isn't it pretty?

I bumped into a friend at the BIG & BIH exhibition on Saturday. She was buying fabric while simultaneously trying to sort out family on the phone. I caressed the cotton, thinking about my promise to Husband that I would try really hard not to buy any material. (I could have failed, right?) When my friend got off the phone I asked her what she was going to do with the fabric she’d brought. “I don’t know yet,” she said. She looked down at her purchase and then up me and said: “No, I do. I’m going to take it home and put it in a cupboard for ten years…”

I think maybe I should form a support group.

My name’s Jenny and I’m a textileaholic, a boxaholic, a teaholic and a bookaholic.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Excitement not needed

First I want to apologise for the obscure Friday photo… It wasn’t really cryptic, I’d labeled it ‘this is how I feel today’ but I realize it wasn’t really clear to everyone.

Maybe it shouldn’t be obvious. You don’t come here to hear my woes do you? I was sad about the trouble on our streets again the previous night. I worry about the children going to school about Husband being safe because he works in the business district. And, call me shallow, but I want to go to my usual Starbucks in Siam Paragon mall to write.

I’d sat up on Thursday night, listening to helicopters whirring around outside while glued to Twitter. Then I went and watched the news (which was in Thai, obviously) and all I could understand were isolated words – streets, hospitals and so on. Not that it mattered: the visuals were all that were needed.

Then it didn’t kick off again on Friday night, or Saturday night and I struggled to piece together what was going on. I stopped obsessing about what was happening. I even started to relax a little.

Following breakfast this morning I went off to do some food shopping. As the taxi turned out of our soi (road) thirty or so motorbikes whizzed past us. Each one carried two soldiers, each with BIG GUNS.

Uh oh, I thought.

Stretched between Sukhumvit soi 27 – 31 were lots of soldiers. My taxi driver managed to tell me that the mob (his word) had come to the PM’s house, thinking he was there. (He wasn’t.) Needless to say, I didn't hang about. The rubbish pictures were taken from the taxi.

PS Picture bottom right: does anyone else think there's a bit of Dad's Army going on here?


Saturday, April 24, 2010

A quick post

Just a quickie today because I’ve been out all day shopping at BIG & BIH and everything hurts from hours of walking.

When Daughter got home today, she asked Husband: “Dad, do you know where to get a cheap tie made?”

Think about it a minute... Do I need to explain it?

Husband heard: “Dad, do you know where to get a cheap Thai maid?”

Should I be worried?

Go here to see Daughter’s funny letter to a teacher at school.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A bit more green tea...

...just because she's too cute not to show you. Her mum - though I'm sure she wasn't - looked younger than my daughter and nearly broke my heart.

If you're thinking the gorgeous baby looks more Chinese than Thai, you'd be right. The Yunnan Chinese fled to the mountains of Thailand after Mao's takeover in China and their descendants still live here. Cutie's hat is traditional hill tribe apparel.























After the watching the tea pickers, we drove the rest of the way up into the village where we stopped to taste and buy green tea. Yum yum.

Despite my love of builders' tea I do love oolong green tea. I don't like it ponced about with: no jasmine or other flowers for me. The one I like best smells like roast chestnuts. In this case, it was oolong number 17.



















Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pause for Award


Am I boring you all to death with stories/pictures of my holiday last week?

Is it horribly ‘me, me, me and my holiday’?

Just in case it is, I’m pausing to post an award that I got from Suzanne and Carol. I won’t make a speech but thank you ladies - it’s lovely to get award.

A nomination entitles me to pass the award on to 10 other bloggers but I know it’s been around a bit so if you like it and I visit you, please take it. If you’d like it and I don’t visit you – leave a message here and I’ll come by.

I’ve got horribly behind reading my blog feeds. I’m trying to catch up but there’s been less commenting from me than normal and the feeds keep growing every day.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chiang Rai highlight

My favourite part of the trip to Chiang Rai was the tea plantation. One morning, we drove higher and higher up the windy roads of Doi Mae Salong until we came upon these hill tribe (mostly) women picking tea. 













Monday, April 19, 2010

Not a celebrity but get me outta here


During the first evening in Phu Chaisai I thought someone was using some sort of power tool – a chainsaw or a bandsaw or something – perhaps somewhere in the valley. It was deafening but it eventually dawned on me that it was an insect. The woman in the spa said it was a black grasshopper but we never spotted it.

Have a listen here: it’s only a few seconds long and it does demonstrate there’s no peace in the countryside.


The wildlife definitely caused me some anxiety but they are also fascinating – when they are a safe distance away.

On the last full day I spotted this chappie:


I went and got Husband who waved his arms about until he looked like this:


The next day we were flying home.  After being woken throughout each night by our gecko roommate I was pretty relieved to be honest. Every morning I’d open my eyes carefully, wondering if there’d be something really nasty on the mosquito net. I’d turn lights on and pause for a few seconds to give the creepy things a chance to scarper and I’d check the floor before making contact with it. It wasn’t necessarily a relaxing way to live but it was infinitely better than the Red Shirts and the resort is absolutely lovely.

After everyone had packed, I took all the keys to do a final check in the rooms. I got outside Daughter’s hut and there was lots of shaking in the foliage; I froze. Something had fallen out of the tree to my right. No more noise. I peered down to the ground. I shouldn’t have done that. The only thing of interest was a long silvery thing that could have been a piece of tube. I continued to peer and watched in horror as it moved, then slithered away into the undergrowth.

Eeeeerrrrghw. Get me outta here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Something Nasty in the Woodshed...

I don’t mind bugs and creepy crawlies.

I’m not awfully fond of them jumping out in front of me, dropping onto my shoulder in a surprise attack kind of way or flying into my d├ęcolletage accompanied by a buzzing, crackling noise, but in their place, they’re okay.

I just hadn’t quite worked out that the jungle was their place.  I thought perhaps they would know that inside the bamboo room was mine.

Arriving at Chiang Rai airport after the stresses of Bangkok’s Red Shirts I was tense but full of hope for six days peace. Pah!

I had chosen our resort, Phu Chaisai, (Mountain of Clear Heart) because of its proximity to mountains and green tea plantations. Described on the website as a place to reunite “with Mother Nature… “ where guests can rise to the sound of an awakening forest” I still didn’t quite get it.

Back from dinner on our first night I spotted some copulating beetles inside our hut; they didn’t worry me because I could see they had other things on their mind but I requested that Indiana Jones Husband put them outside. They turned out not to be lovemaking beetles, but two piles of poo. (I am a bit short sighted and the lights were low but hell, it was a big pile of crap for small jungly creatures.)

Tucked inside our mosquito net that evening, squeals and buzzing reverberated around our bamboo hut. Frogs quacked like ducks and alien creatures called. The geckos were the funniest though. Was it only us? We were convinced they were swearing at us in a very Lily Allen manner. It became clear that the big pooing creature not only had Tourette's syndrome but it was also dwelling with us in our bamboo hut. It swore loudly all night.

The poo appeared five nights out of the six and the gecko (three metres long, I was guessing by the size of its bowel movements) stayed all six. Frankly, I was too scared to look for it but I was damn glad to get out of there alive.

You can listen to the giant, pooing, gecko sharing our hut here:

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bangkok

I haven't been sure whether to post.

I've been watching the death count rising over the last few hours from the trouble that has finally erupted on Bangkok's streets between the Red Shirts and the Government. So far 500 are injured and 11 are dead, one of which is a Reuters journalist. The PM has just been on TV saying that he and his party will continue to try and solve the crisis.

Our plans have always been to leave Bangkok tomorrow for flights north to Chiang Rai for the Songkran holiday (Thai New Year). Assuming that the roads and airport will be operating as normal that's what we'll do.

I will let you know if anything changes.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Friday Photo

Today's Friday Photo is a bit different because when I saw it I wasn't quick enough with my camera. I was on my way back from school about a week or so ago and it's so, so perfect for a Friday's Photo. But, we were a LONG way off and I didn't get it; next time I'll be ready, I thought.

Then Tea Stains had a visit a day or so ago from Boonsong, who left a comment. Out of courtesy, I went to check out Boonsong's blog and there was my photo! Well, not my photo but Boonsong's, and with a fab title too. Boonsong included an apology for the quality because he (I think) was in a taxi and was a long way off.

So timely was the coincidence of my seeing the building and Boonsong visiting me, that for the first time, Friday Photo isn't one of my pictures: please go here to see it.

If you can bear to see snakes, scroll down to see a very beautiful, colourful Golden Tree snake that Boonsong spotted. (I kind of do and don't hope to see one of these.)

Thanks Boonsong.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

More about Hull

I’m continuing with Hull today for I have a very soft spot for it.

At the end of my first year (1986) I moved out of halls of residence to live with some friends in a big old red brick, Victorian house, 409 Spring Bank West. There were seven of us and we drew lots for the rooms. I can’t remember where I drew but I ended up living in the downstairs front room. It was a gorgeous, large room with a lovely fireplace that had been ruined by a modern gas fire.

Opposite us was a graveyard. We called it the Groovy Graveyard… because it was. I remember always wanting to take pictures of it and I can’t believe I never did. I might have to visit this summer just to take some…

After I graduated I left Not Yet Husband in Hull, doing his PhD and I disappeared down to London to find a job. I found the first of several uninspiring jobs in entirely the wrong industry.  This, and missing NYH, (feel free to barf) contributed to the decision six months later to move back to Hull.

I bought a tiny little house; a two up, two down with a bathroom extension on the back that looked as though someone had planned it after a long night at the pub.  We filled it with cats - two of our own, followed by one wedding present and Not Yet Husband brought Pepper the Dog over from the Post Grad house.

One summer we went to the Ferens Art Gallery Summer Exhibition. We saw this picture by Belinda Moores in the exhibition for a princely sum of fifty pounds. It was just like my front room bedroom in Spring Bank West of my second year and we both loved it. We had no money, and it seemed like a fortune and terribly reckless but I went and bought it. They put a red sticker on the picture and I was allowed to pay in instalments! We were getting married that year and it seemed like the right thing to do.

I do believe that if you buy a picture because you love it - I mean really love it - that you will always feel the same way. I still feel as much for this charcoal as I did the day I bought it. It’s moved with us around the UK and now it’s in Thailand hanging outside our bedroom where it reminds us of our younger lives in Hull.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

On truths and history lessons


We went to see Clash of the Titans over the Easter weekend. We’d missed the 3D showing but yeaahhhh, it was okay; I didn’t look at my watch... Our expectations weren't high as we’re not getting out much as the moment with the Red Shirts causing all kinds of chaos throughout Bangkok.

Sam Worthington, Perseus in the film, has been widely quoted as describing it as a movie about "… a guy on a winged horse in a skirt with rubber swords battling monsters.” It is, he said, a "fun, boisterous popcorn movie. We're under no illusions, it's not a history lesson."

In spite of this, watching the film took me back to 1985 and my interview at Hull University. I spent the whole of the train journey to Hull reading the myth of Perseus. I was preparing to persuade the Department of Classics to give me a place on their degree programme based entirely on two holidays in Greece and my father telling me Greek myths as bedtime stories throughout my childhood. Oh, I had A’Levels too, just not in anything very relevant.

At my interview, Dr Hilton was lovely, asking me lots of questions about my A Levels, what I was doing with my gap year and what I’d seen while on holiday in Greece. (One of these excursions had been a school trip where we HAD seen all the important sites – the other was a beach holiday!) Then as we finished up, he said “Did you come up by train? Did you see the bridge?” I didn’t know what he was talking about as I’d spent the train trying to cram myths into my head so I could talk knowledgeably to my interviewer but I kind of felt this was important. His eyes sparkled; it was the way he said ‘the bridge’ that gave me a clue, more like ‘The Bridge.’ ‘Yes’ I said, hoping for a bit more information. ‘Impressive, isn’t it?’ Dr Hilton said. ‘Very,’ I said, nodding.

Anyway, bless them, they gave me a place and I knew I was going to love it there.

I got back on the train at Hull Paragon station to return to London and with no more pressure to cram, sat gazing out of the window. Into my view came a bridge. The Bridge. It got bigger and bigger and bigger as we passed right by it.

The Humber Bridge held the world record for the longest single span suspension bridge for seventeen years. Its presence crossed the last major unbridged estuary in Britain. The towers were 155 metres high and its span 1,410 metres and a total of 480,000 tonnes of concrete were used to build it.

Phew, thank god for the bluff. 

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Births and shopping

I have a problem. It’s Husband’s birthday in five (shopping) days, and I haven’t bought any presents. The UDD – Red Shirts – are camped out along the main shopping route in Bangkok and yesterday, the following malls were closed: Siam Paragon, CentralWorld, Siam Center, Siam Discovery, Big C Rajadamr, Gaysorn Plaza, Amarin Center. Today, tension is mounting; there are troops collecting and the malls (at least some of them) are still closed. It reminds me of another birthday of Husbands when I was almost as badly organized …

Seventeen years ago I had to be extra ready for Husband’s birthday because I was enormously pregnant with our first child. The discrepancy between the hospital due date and my due date was four weeks (yes, impossible, but I did exactly the same thing with Daughter’s pregnancy. I think I am more like an elephant than a human when it comes to gestating babies.) So having less idea than most when our baby would come, I had tried to be prepared. I had just about finished buying his presents and they were hidden away waiting to be wrapped.

So of course on the Sunday, the day before his birthday, my waters broke. It was inevitable, wasn’t it? They kept me in hospitable waiting for me to go into labour. The day passed by; Sunday night came and then Husband was going to go home for some sleep because they kept telling me I wasn’t in labour yet: “WHY ALL THE PAIN THEN?” I told Husband that he’d have to find his own presents. I told him where they were hidden and apologized for their not being wrapped. Monday morning came and Husband reappeared in the maternity unit. I wished him a happy birthday and then the day was all about me.

Son came that night at 7.30pm. He was a furry little thing. He had hair everywhere, including his back (gone now) and dark downy patches that grew into points on his ears a la Star Trek (also gone.) He was also covered in vernix – a pale waxy substance; that and the hair would suggest my dates were right and Son was earlier than 40 weeks.

As though I hadn’t entirely stolen Husband’s thunder already, I proceeded to hemorrhage following the birth. I do feel the need, after all that drama, to make a fuss of Husband each year as well.

Of course producing a son on your husband’s birthday is the ultimate in birthday presents… but he’s shared it with his son for seventeen years so far and at the very least I’d like to have some presents for the poor man to open. (Son’s presents are all organized already because he knew what he wanted.)

Monday, April 05, 2010

All first drafts stink, honest


Yesterday I finished reading my first draft.

First drafts are always sh*t though, right? Who said that? Hemingway? Elmore Leonard?

For days now my poor family has been suffering my sighs, exclamations of horror and claims that I’ve been sent to sleep by my own manuscript. But no, that isn’t a bad sign, it’s just the sign of a crappy first draft. I am not a planner; I’m a flyer by the seat of my pantser so I had no idea where I was going. Of course it’s a mess but ‘writing is rewriting’ isn’t it? No-one has to see it until I’ve done some major surgery.

And there were good things. If I try to be fair and not totally panic-stricken the last 180 pages weren’t bad, in fact, I rather enjoyed them, so I must have learned something as I wrote. I had a good idea of the story by then. I noted in those pages that I went in late to scenes and got out early: excellent. The first 280 pages were quite awful and there’s a lot of work to do on them but if I can identify the better scenes, I can remedy the crappier ones. And my dialogue is mostly good even if my narrative stinks.

Okay; deep breath and no more talk of shredders.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Thoughts in progress


I haven’t stopped thinking about Suzanne CollinsHunger Games. I started the book with a view to reading a bit to see how she created so much tension and I got hooked. I couldn't put it down and may even have to read the second book, Catching Fire.

I’m afraid I’m not normally interested in the sci fi/post apocalyptic genre – having said that, I loved Cormac McCarthy’s The Road – and as Carol pointed out in the comments the other day, I also loved Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. Blimey, before I know it I’m going to be writing fantasy sci fi, futuristic world stuff. Maybe not.

Anyway what I’ve been thinking about is that it’s all about a creating a believable world isn’t it? And just because my book is set in 20th and 21st century Weald of Kent in England it doesn’t mean my book’s setting has to be less believable because it’s real. What was brilliant about Hunger Games is that I totally bought the world. It was a brilliant mixture of classical references and modern with a push to the extreme.

It makes me realize that the setting that’s another thing that’s not right about my work in progress. I’m considering putting the whole thing through the shredder and then sellotaping it back together to see if there’s any improvement.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Health and safety in the gym

There might not be many areas of my life I am in control of at the moment (Son’s GCSEs, where will be living after July? What shall we have for supper tonight?) but are I should be able to take control of is fitness.

The gym and I are not natural friends. We might be able to affect a liaison of some description but frankly, most of the work is done by me. The gym doesn't really give a toss if I try to be friends. Anyway the best part of five years I've been mostly ignoring the spectacular gym we are privileged to have on the sixth floor of The Towers. Apart from one time four years ago when I joined in a circuit class and then for a whole week after that I lost the use of my knees. They had to be permanently locked straight. For a whole seven days I couldn't lower myself down onto a chair, a loo; I couldn't walk down steps - thank god our apartment is on one level. To get into bed I had to sort of fling myself at the bed from a stiff, straight legged position, howl with pain and hope I landed safely.

After a couple of years of recovery from post traumatic stress, I got down a couple of times to use the equipment and another time, I nearly fell asleep in a yoga class there too because I couldn't understand a word the teacher said. In truth usually my bed and a book wins.

Anyway, I appeared to reach a period where I was ready to have another go with the gym. So this week I've been down on Tuesday and Thursday and as a result, bending my legs is very hard to do again. The knee locking has made a reappearance and I’m climbing in and out of taxis like an octogenarian.

It's the equipment too, isn't it? To make sure I'm working in the right... zone? Is that it? The fat burning zone, my friend told me I need a heart monitor...(Ker ching, sports industry.)

I also need a sports bra. I don't mean to brag - I hate it - but to not wear a sports bra puts lives around me in danger. I have two of these contraptions but since I last needed them (clearly to protect myself from hastening back into the gym) I've put them somewhere safe.

Western women on the whole are larger in the bust department than their Thai counterparts. (I’m worrying about my stats here, and not being coy.) So I set off today for the Marks and Spencer concession in Central Chit Lom. Yes they had sports bras, they even had models made in a range of sizes but they only stock the Thai sized cup sizes. I can’t wear two, can I?

I think Western women should be obliged to wear sports bras for breast health, but what to do? Personally I think there should be a law to say they have to sell them in all the sizes!