Saturday, December 31, 2011

What I read in 2011


Taunting the Dead by Mel Sherratt
Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After by many talented writers!
Daughters-in-law by Joanna Trollope
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath*
The Association of Foreign Spouses by Marilyn Heward Mills
Hens Dancing by Raffaella Barker
Home for Christmas by Cally Taylor
The Devil's Music by Jane Rusbridge
Disgrace by J M Coetzee
The Extra Large Medium by Helen Slavin
Tender by Mark Illis
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Write To Be Published by Nicola Morgan
The Cardturner by Louis Sachar
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday*
The Point of Rescue by Sophie Hannah
TigerLily's Orchids by Ruth Rendell
Hurry Up and Wait by Isabel Ashdown
Below Stairs by Margaret Powell
A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French
Bombsites and Lollipops by Jacky Hyams
The Beauty Chorus by Kate Lord Brown
When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
And The Band Played On by Christopher Ward
West End Girls by Barbara Tate
Getting Away With It by Julie Cohen
The Novel in the Viola by Natasha Solomons
The Art of Losing by Rebecca Connell
Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton
Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson
The London Train by Tessa Hadley
Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson
Cold Light by Jenn Ashworth
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones*
Janice Gentle Gets Sexy by Mavis Cheek
Sex and Stravinsky by Barbara Trapido
Blame My Brain by Nicola Morgan
Naked by David Sedaris*
Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty
Mathematics of Love by Emma Darwin
Bestseller by Alessandro Gallenzi
Told in Silence by Rebecca Connell
Days of Grace by Catherine Hall
The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay*
Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard
Glasshopper by Isabel Ashdown
The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale
Orchid Fever by Eric Hansen*
You Don't Have to be Good by Sabrina Broadbent
Crow Stone by Jenni Mills
Not So Perfect by Nik Perring
Mousetrapped: A Year and a Bit in Orlando by Catherine Ryan Howard
Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
The Ghost Lover by Gillian Greenwood
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
The Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams

*Book Club choices

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

This year's Christmas Creatures

I told you here how my Dad has made the children of the family Christmas Creatures for some 38 years. To call them 'Blue Peter style' might be accurate one year and totally inaccurate - possibly insulting - the next. (The dinosaur on the bottom right was made using a newly acquired piece of equipment that cut polystyrene - heated wire, I'm guessing.) The Creatures had to contain some kind of cavity in which tiny presents were hidden. The creatures would be placed under the tree on Christmas Eve though I have at least one memory of them appearing, smelling of paint, on Christmas morning. For most of these years Dad was a senior consultant at a local hospital; quite how he got them made each year is beyond me. We often had guests at Christmas or there were children of close friends that Dad wanted to make them for; some years I think Dad made around six or seven Creatures.

Dad was poorly with nearly-pneumonia back in November. I began to worry that he might be worrying about the Christmas Creatures... After careful negotiations - I really didn't want him to feel I was taking it away from him - I offered to make them this year. Dad was very pleased but said it wasn't just this year's nearly-pneumonia but also his worsening gout, which he has badly in his hands, that made them too difficult now.

I was tasked with taking them over.

It felt only right that I should honour my Dad with all the making he has done for us over the last years. I made four 'dolls' and here they are:

(This year I cheated slightly with the cavity idea. The cavity is the filing cabinet, not full of medical records, but little gifts, sort of stocking style...)



 



Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day boxes


I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday time. We started yesterday in a rather wonderful reversal of the last 14 or so years: we had to drag the man child, Son, from his bed at 8.30am to open his stocking; I told him flat that it was revenge for the real crack of dawn starts to so many recent Christmases... Our day consisted of stockings, Christmas creatures, present opening, food, Luther series 2 and skyping family.

Clever Husband knows how much I love boxes and two of my gifts came in such beautiful boxes that I consider them presents in their own right. I am easily pleased...


Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas in Bangkok

A great deal of effort goes into decorating for Christmas in Bangkok. Of course it's all about getting us to spend our money but I love wandering about to check out the decorations.

Top left: supercool steel tree, outside Emporium (my favourite)
Top middle: Teddy bears, inside Centralworld
Top right: 2D snowmen, outside Eight, Thong Lor
Middle left: gargantuan tree, outside Terminal 21
Middle middle: tinselly pandas, inside Emporium
Middle right: lifesize reindeer, inside Central Chitlom
Bottom from left: tree, Kasikorn bank, Thong Lor
Bottom second from left: gargantuan tree inside Centralworld
Bottom third from left: cardboard cutouts, strangely stylish, inside Siam Paragon
Bottom right: 3D tree outside Amarin

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

When do you open your presents?


When Husband was growing up, his family adopted the Christmas customs of their close friends who were Danish.  They had a special meal on Christmas Eve and then they opened their presents.

It was nice when we were ‘going out’ because I could spend the evening of the 24th with his family and at the crack of dawn on 25th I could hare around the M25 and arrive at my own home and I hadn’t missed anything because my family don’t open presents until after lunch on Christmas Day. (Realistically this could be as late as 3 or 4pm…)

When we got married we spent our early Christmas doing the same thing. I’m sure all parties were delighted there was no ‘them and us’ going on.

But when we had children and had one or two Christmases on our own, we had to negotiate.

So I told Husband, “I’m NOT opening my presents on Christmas Eve; that’s just crazy.” Poor Husband.

We have a special Christmas Eve meal (his tradition) which starts the festivities off early (my family might still be shopping for gifts at this point) and we have a table present (his tradition.) We do the altogether more average present opening after breakfast on the 25th (more my tradition.) We have the Christmas Creatures (my tradition.)

One of the customs I have willingly adopted from Husband’s upbringing is the family Christmas game. They had a new board game each year and yesterday I went out and bought ours:


Monday, December 19, 2011

Culture clash?


I have to confess that my heart sank a bit when I heard that Ikea was opening in Bangkok. I wondered, what would be the point of living in a different country if everything in it were the same as everywhere else?

But it’s also true that I’d grumbled when I couldn’t find the right plastic clip things to seal bags – the ones where the hinge didn’t ping open when I’d squidged too much plastic inside - (Why is it that all the big ones disappear but not the little ones?) And hadn’t I, a few years back, whined all the way to Wembley’s Ikea to purchase those cheap, but really good, scissors in packs of three for next to nothing. It had seemed so necessary at the time: I simply must drive forty miles to get three packs of scissors or my life in Bangkok really won’t be worth living *in a Celia Johnson accent…*

In the end Ikea’s opening at the beginning of November was something of a damp squib; it’s thunder stolen by the floods. I’d been evacuated so I’ve no idea if there was the kind of hysteria prompted by the opening of Uniqlo or Krispy Kreme doughnuts but I suspect not.

I was intrigued by the difference in cultures too. Thailand is proud of its service culture; but hadn’t my experience of Wembley’s Ikea been a bit different? Hadn’t they carefully cultivated a snarl-in-welcome and a not-giving-a-tossness about customers? In a land where I don’t even need to go to the bar to get a drink, would they leave me to clear my own table after my Swedish meatballs? (Not that we shouldn’t…) Would I understand anything? Would the labels be just in Thai and Swedish? With product names like ‘obskropt’ would it matter?

I’ve been meaning to go. You can always do with more plastic clips, right? And long-term readers will know that one of my personal mottos is that ‘one can never have too many pairs of scissors.’ Last week, after a crack of dawn meeting at school and with no other plans, I decided I’d go…

These were my findings:

·  I could have been in Wembley

· The staff, though scarce, do care about the customer

· After six years of Thai food, Swedish meatballs are disgusting

· The girl in the restaurant couldn’t bear for me to have to put away my own tray

· The scissors; where were the scissors?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The eclipse and string bags of nuts

Sorry to Facebook friends who will have seen this already but this is an (irrelevant to the post) picture of last night’s eclipse that I took from one of our balconies.

Husband is back from his jolly to the UK. (He went to meet up with old friends from university. He caught up with a mixture of old friends some of whom he hasn’t seen in years but could I get a sensible word out of him about any of them? ‘How’s So and so?’ I asked and in typical man fashion, I’d get ‘Yeah, they’re good.’ SEVENTEEN years he hasn’t seen some of them….)

Now that he's home it feels like the proper run up to Christmas. I still have some elf work to do but since I’m not innovating it shouldn’t take as long as the previous ones. Hopefully I can do it before the kids break up from school next Friday. Husband is compiling a list of food in consultation with Delia Smith. Living overseas where imported goods cost so much more, we have to make choices about what is and isn’t essential to our Christmas fare. A string of nuts is essential to Husband so when I spotted them in Villa supermarket I picked them up and put them in my basket. Then I noticed the price: about 700 Baht… That’s £14.50 by today’s exchange rate.

£14.50? For a bag of mixed nuts?

Well, obviously I put them back on the shelf. They could be the embodiment of the Husband’s Christmas but I’m not paying that for them. Instead I sent an email to him in the UK and told him if he wanted a string bag of nuts (!) he jolly well had to bring them back with him. So frightened was he that he wouldn’t have any nuts to crack open in front of the seasonal TV he went a bit overboard:


Thursday, December 08, 2011

Christmas party

This is what I'm doing today: Christmas partying in the tropics.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Discombobulated

Today feels like the first day of the week because yesterday in Thailand was a bank holiday. Tomorrow the children are doing Monday at school instead of a Wednesday because they’ve missed more Mondays - due to flooding - than any other day.

I'm confused. Perhaps it’s happened because of my unscheduled month in the UK but I’ve been feeling weird since I got back. I can’t still be jet lagged but I am definitely discombobulated.

Still, in order to draw a veil over my strange feeling and so that Husband doesn’t grumble about my lack of blogging while he’s in the UK, I thought I’d put start blogging the Christmas trees that are appearing around Bangkok.

This tree is outside Siam Discovery. I love their trees because they're often recycled but this year it feels especially right because they look like snowflakes. (There's a close up too so you can see what it's made of. )


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Elves at work


The elves have, er, needed some space in my room to work. They have a rush job on… something to do with overseas mailing, apparently.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Funny old food time


It’s been a funny old food time.

I’ve been cooking for my parents since they were ill. My poor parents: they produced three children, two of whom are quite talented cooks but they got me as resident chef and yes, I am the third one!

Mum didn’t eat much (anything) while she was in hospital so when she came out we tried hard to tempt her with what she fancied. She made a face at some of her normal treats (avocado pear) but was willing to try another one (cottage cheese and pineapple – BLEUGH, what’s that all about?) She couldn’t eat my carrot and potato soup because of the garlic… but if I stuck to simple, traditional (dare I say it) nursery food, we seemed to be okay.

After about three days (of fourteen!) my repertoire was running thin. My Dad is a carnivore through and through. His freezer is full of grown up meat, like chops (BLEUGH on the bone?) Or with names like chuck steak or braising steak that I don’t know what to do with. Some of the packets were entirely unlabelled. (I took comfort that there was a large bag labeled with ‘cat or dog meat’ and assumed that the unidentifiable steak I used one day was actually for human consumption.)

Gradually, Mum’s heightened senses returned to normal and I managed to get her to eat my version of Snob’s Guacamole, well, okay, I missed out the chili peppers.

Last Thursday, while I waited for the taxi to take me to Heathrow, my Mum and Dad were preparing supper. It was a joint effort; the first evening meal they’d had to make since before they were ill. Dad cooked leeks from the garden and par boiled potatoes while Mum layered it into the oven dish.

I watched while they prepared the leek and potato gratin from a vegetarian French cookbook. And I thought, ‘yeah, my job here is done.’

My first choice of food when I got home: stir fried cabbage and garlic. Yum.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Leo the dog and my last day in the UK

Long time readers might remember my parents’ dog, Leo. He’s reputed to be part Labrador and part collie but I think there’s fair evidence to suggest some kangaroo genes too.

It would be churlish of me to suggest he’s as bonkers as ever; he’s three now and is maturing. A bit. But my parents are getting more elderly and if I were to draw a graph that showed their aging against Leo’s springiness, he’s not growing up quite fast enough.

To that end (and to make myself useful) I’ve been training Leo. At least, I’ve been trying. His Dad was a gun dog and his Mum a collie so he’s infinitely trainable and intelligent but, am I?

I’ve been using the command ‘slowly’ with a hand up to show him not to bolt. It’s a sensible word and he might hear someone using it that didn’t know he understood it. And he might, you know, actually go slowly. First of all I couldn’t make him take more than a step but eventually he began to string the steps together. He looks like someone playing “What’s the time, Mr Wolf?” Maybe he just looks like a dog taking the piss (out of me.)

We’ve been practicing when Leo has been outside or behind a shut door or is waiting to be allowed to eat his dinner/breakfast because that’s the moment that he bolts. It’s a bit of problem if it’s before food because he’s a dog in slow motion: he dribbles all the way, leaving large globules of dog slobber in heaps on the floor.

As if a slippery floor isn’t adding another level of risk to my parents’ stability, we appear to have reached a kind of impasse. He’s doing metres of slow but it doesn’t matter how far he is away from his plate of food – even a foot away – he always thinks eventually that I’ve stopped asking him to go slowly. The second he decides this (or let’s face it, I’m far enough away to be ignored) he unleashes the control and launches his 32 kilograms into the air like someone has released him from a canon.

I’m giving up. I’ve decided that that might be more dangerous than some simple exuberance.

********

Other Leo stories can be found here, here and here.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Enlightenment


It was a shock to find night fall, year round, approximately 6-6.30pm in Bangkok. We have almost exactly 12 hours of daylight and night. But over six years in Thailand I  must have become used to it.

Our summer trips to the UK are welcome and wonderful by comparison; the daylight can go on to 9.30pm…

This time, however… well, I’d forgotten what English autumns and winters were like – at least I knew in my head but I couldn’t remember the experience. I have to keep checking my watch because the visual clues (it’s pitch black outside) are cheating my body. I yawn. I start to think it’s bedtime and check my watch; it’s 6pm!

My parents have made a good recovery from their pneumonia and nearly pneumonia. It’s a relief, I tell you. Never have I been so glad to see my Dad in the kitchen, asking if he can do anything towards supper. Not, I might add, so I don’t have to peel the potatoes but because I realized that he must be on the mend.

When I walk into the village I keep being recognized. In the chemist they ask how M&D are. Someone stopped me on the road yesterday; yes, I’m M’s sister. I’ve seen people I knew as a child. Perhaps I’m starting to belong again.

It has been surprisingly mild here but there’s a definite nip in the air of late so I’m thinking it’s time to go home now; my other home.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Photo

I am spiriting myself to back to Bangkok for today's picture. I'm missing home...

I took this picture outside Amarin Mall back in June of this year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wellington boots, snakes and blog awards


The children went back to Bangkok on Saturday. I’m so impressed and proud of the cavalier way they travel. 

They took wellington boots with them. In view of the stories and pictures of escaped crocodiles and wild snakes to be found in the flood water I was amused at Daughter’s choice of wellies. (Can you see it? It’s mock crock or possibly faux snake skin!)



When Husband confirmed that he’d met them at the airport, he texted to say ‘they had to wade through 40cm of flood water with the cases held above their heads, but all safe and drying off now.’ That man had better be glad he’s 6,000 miles away from me because my sense of humour is pretty stretched to its limit.

Something that has cheered me no end, however, is the news that Tea Stains, my dear old blog, was declared Expat Blog of the Month. Do go over here and read the interview with me.  

The picture of me is at Bai Pai Thai cooking school, which I thoroughly recommend. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cat babies: Squeeeee

This is Mummy cat having a little snooze after kitten number two of five. She gave birth yesterday on her own first birthday.

She chose her birthing area herself: an upmarket shopping bag full of wool. The balls had to be removed so the kittens didn't get entangled. She had five babies at half hour intervals.

And I'll tell you another thing, she was serene and purred the whole way through, so in my next life please... I want to come back as a cat.


Can't see what that little black blob is? Here's a (blurry) close up:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday photo: Remembrance Day

*
My paternal Granddad. Wounded at Gallipoli and rescued from no man's land by two New Zealand soldiers, 1915.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

All I want for Christmas....


… is a Christmas creature.

Since I was about seven (that’s a LONG time people) my Dad has made a Christmas creature for all the children. When Husband appeared on the scene, he too qualified for a Christmas Creature. It was only as our children became old enough to receive one (small parts and all that) that my generation no longer had them. The creatures might be real animals, our pets, beasts from mythology or my Dad’s imagination. They appeared under the tree on Christmas Eve or the following morning. Each model had a cavity which was filled with tiny presents, wrapped in tissue paper.

Since I am home (and my sister has kept so many of them) here is a Christmas Creature montage:


You can read a bit more about the creatures’ origins here, here and here.

In the meantime, it won’t fit inside the Christmas Creature, but this is a definite under-the-tree gift. Cally’s first book, Heaven Can Wait made me laugh out loud (no mean feat) so I’m really looking forward to reading Home for Christmas which is out today.

Beth Prince has always loved fairytales and now, aged twenty-four, she feels like she's finally on the verge of her own happily ever after. She lives by the seaside, works in the Picturebox - a charming but rundown independent cinema - and has a boyfriend who's so debonair and charming she can't believe her luck! There's just one problem - none of her boyfriends have ever told her they love her and it doesn't look like Aiden's going to say it any time soon. Desperate to hear 'I love you' for the first time Beth takes matters into her own hands - and instantly wishes she hadn't. Just when it seems like her luck can't get any worse, bad news arrives in the devilishly handsome shape of Matt Jones. Matt is the regional director of a multiplex cinema and he's determined to get his hands on the Picturebox by Christmas. Can Beth keep her job, her man and her home or is her romantic-comedy life about to turn into a disaster movie?

You can order Home For Christmas here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Colours of autumn


If I thought I was escaping stress by leaving Bangkok and the possible floods, I was wrong.

In four days I have ridden in two ambulances and spent a total of twelve hours in casualty.  (My Dad is now out of hospital; my Mum still in…)

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen autumn in England. When we arrived ten days ago it was mild; the sky was blue and the leaves rich and russet. In the last few days it’s turned damp. Last night, when I walked across the hospital car park, I felt a sharp sting in my skin, the stirrings of winter. 

Must get my gloves out.


Friday, November 04, 2011

Quick catch up


We fled the impending Bangkok floods for the airport during a tropical storm; the lights went out in our apartment and we had to pack in the dark and then find a taxi in the roaring rain, thunder and lightening. 

The children and I have settled in well at the Parental Evacuation Centre here in Kent, UK. We’d only been here three days when I asked Husband when we could come back. I don’t think he appreciated that.

But you see, this is an unscheduled visit and it feels wrong. The kids should be in school; they have exams. They’ve had nearly two weeks unplanned time off and it might be one more… School has obtained permission to open on Monday 7th but things aren’t back to normal in Bangkok – they aren’t even better than when we left. Provisions are being made for online learning for those not in school but still…. So we feel we should wait a week before we go back. Or should we? I don’t know. I don’t like making decisions. (I found this online decision maker. I asked it if we should go back to Bangkok and it said no. So there we are: decision made.)

And there ARE things to keep us amused here: let’s see, there’s the paperwork I brought with me. Hmm, I haven’t touched that. The novel? The non-fiction book? Nope; untouched. As you can see from the picture, there are kittens. Oh yes. Five of them. Five weeks old and pretty perfect entertainment. And if we get bored of them, there is another, very pregnant cat, due any day now. 

Here she is showing off her bellyful of kittens:


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sad to say...

... that we're being evacuated from Bangkok.

In the meantime, just to show you that we're in good spirits, here's an early Friday Photo for you:

This is Korean, not Thai. Frankly I'm a bit worried about Coco travelling the world with PaPa.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I love you


If I ever wondered how I spent my time before I got my own computer, this weekend I found out. I was writing letters. On paper. By hand.

I have a beautiful, leather chest that I bought second hand at an auction twenty years ago but it is rotting away. It was repaired once but the humidity of Thailand hasn’t done it any favours. It was full of correspondence which I have been meaning to go through for years.  On Saturday I bought the contents a new home, a beautiful box, bamboo with a lacquer interior, and so finally I have emptied the chest. I threw out all the cards, *wincing* reading only a few. A brave move because I am a hoarder.

But I am saving all the words; the letters and postcards which so many people have written and sent to me at all the places I’ve ever lived and worked, I am keeping. The envelopes alone chart my life.

There were gems in my trunk (and a desiccated spider;) letters that I’d rather forget: “I was disappointed to see that at close of business today the balance of your account was…” And many that I treasure: an envelope, from my sister, full of drawings of shoes and swatches of material for my bridesmaids’ dresses. There are letters from pen pals, family, school and university friends and work mates.

And there are love letters… Oh yes; love letters.

Not. Just. From. Husband.

I spent the afternoon reading and grinning. And then feeling sad that I don’t still write letters, and my children don’t write letters.

What will happen to their love letters?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's Groundhog Half Term or 'Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam'


It’s like Groundhog Half Term here at The House.

My children have just finished nearly two weeks half term and they went back to school this morning. At about 1.30pm today Daughter sent me an email saying that the Ministry of Education has declared that all schools must close until the 7 November.

The 7 November?

So like I say: Groundhog Half Term.

Of course I love having my children home… but mostly so that they can go back to school again. (I guess I’ll get that pleasure all over again then – on the 7 November!) The school will be commencing their online learning programme from tomorrow, which means getting the young people to lessons on time (at all) will become my problem.

What else does it mean? Is the water now, definitively, heading to central Bangkok?

Hmmm, it depends on which report you read.

We have enough drinking water and food for a while. If the electricity goes we might be living on dry pasta but I think the Beattie family could do with subsisting on rations for a bit! I’m in denial about living without regular mugs of tea punctuating my day; I will have to face the floods (snakes, rats, crocodiles and all) to find a Starbucks with electricity…

Husband sent me this picture: the shelves in all the shops are empty but no-one’s so desperate they’re going to buy up the Spam!



Monday, October 24, 2011

We're still dry...

In another life I dreamed about being a window dresser.

Here are two windows that caught my eye while I was in London. Nostalgic?

The first one is John Lewis.


The second one is Love Bakery in the King's Road. The Union Jack cake in the window was a wedding commission.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Photo: flood update

I don't like coming here and whining so I've just not come...

This week has been a combination of flood flood and flood, interspersed with several personal issues. In my hierarchy of worrying the personal issues took precedence but when I was finally able to stop stressing about them, all I saw, read and heard was about the flood. So I haven't been feeling very calm.

Anyway, here we are: there's still no water in our part of Bangkok but it won't be long, I don't think. And in the meantime, the cupboards and shelves are bare.



Monday, October 17, 2011

An apology; boots, feet and flip flops


Firstly, I need to apologise to any Thais who found my foot picture offensive. I was in London, quite sick and I forgot myself.

While I take the time (and the blog post) to apologise, it’s worth noting that this is an excellent example of cultural differences.

Thais (as I understand it) have a sort of hierarchy when it comes to body parts. Heads, as the location of the soul, are treated with great respect. You may touch a child’s head but after a certain age, the touching of heads should be avoided. You will see all sorts of exceptions for this out and about, but since it’s impossible to understand the nuances of these guidelines, we foreigners should stick to general rules.

For Thais, feet are the lowest and dirtiest part of the body and they should never be pointed at anyone, or used to open doors, stop coins running away or to point at anything.

I do believe (though I failed most spectacularly when I posted that picture) that if you wish to live in/visit a different country, you should find out about the things that cause offence and respect those differences.

But here’s the thing: after my boot fuss (which was mostly made on Facebook) I wanted to blog about the fact that I was REALLY wearing my flip flops in the UK in October. I was walking down the Strand; it was early morning and quiet so I sat on an empty café chair and stuck my foot in the air in front of a British ‘landmark’ (the phone box.) I had to do it several times because my foot waved around in the air. A commuter walked past me and laughed. That’s it; there’s the difference: he thought I was a nutter, but he wasn’t offended.

So to the biker boots. They very nearly made it back to Bangkok in a virgin state which would have made me cross and sad but a walk saved us: on the Thursday morning of my writing retreat we went out, up, along and down the valley in Heptonstall, near Hebden Bridge. 

And we shall gloss over the small matter of the blisters the boots gave me because they are so pretty...


Thursday, October 13, 2011

It never rains but it pours

So I’m back in Bangkok where the whole city is bracing itself for the worst flooding for fifty years. The rains this season have been very heavy and the sea level is at its highest point between now and the 19th October.

The rest of Thailand has been suffering for some weeks; Reuters report that ‘more than 2 million people are estimated to have been affected by floods around the country … At least 283 people have been killed … since late July and 26 of its 77 provinces are inundated.’

Sandbags are appearing all over the city; these ones are outside our apartment - I'm not entirely sure about the wisdom of where they've positioned them but who am I to know? People have been panic buying in Bangkok and shop shelves are reportedly clear of many essentials. (I'm wondering if there's still chocolate but I'm afraid that if there is, a week's chocolate might get consumed in one stressful night so I'm not going to check.) I am fairly sure we’ll be okay - we’re on the 21 floor after all. We have candles and enough food (though no chocolate) for a week (assuming the electricity remains) but as the Chao Phraya river winds through Bangkok, many people won’t be alright.

This YouTube from Associated Press gives a good sense of what’s going on.

I’ll be back soon - electricity permitting - to tell you about my UK trip.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Blogging from Blightly


As well as the sunny weather, I brought food poisoning to London. This explains my unscheduled absence. I had planned my blogs. Instead I found myself having to plan my bogs. (Oh dear, I’m sorry.)

I got off the flight, dumped my cases at the hotel and went off to find a hospital with a walk in GP unit. I am sort of, slowly, on the mend but disinclined to explore the list of restaurants and cafés I’d got planned for this trip.

Facebook friends will know that I made a special boot purchase in Bangkok and I was excited to have ten days in which to wear them. But so far, the weather in London has been hotter and sunnier than Bangkok (middle of the rainy season.) THANK goodness I slipped in the flip flops at the last minute.

On Monday I’m off to Arvon. That’s meant to be time to retreat into my writing so I’ll see you here if I manage to schedule some posts. Who knows?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Last Saturday I fell in love again


Love’s funny, isn’t it? It can just accost you when you least expect it.

I was walking out of the second floor of Times Square (the less famous one) across the skywalk and I happened to glance up. It was as simple as that. It wasn’t that I’d ever fallen out of love with Bangkok but after six years I was beginning to take it for granted.

I stood and grinned. It felt like seeing something for the first time.

It was just a view, nothing particularly special, except that it's my Bangkok. It was something to do with the telegraph poles and the skytrain - so perfectly placed - leading my eye towards the backdrop of the spectacular panorama beyond. In the road below the brake lights of the pink, orange and green taxis shone out in the pre dusk. But I think it was the light that made it magical…

The moment I walked away I knew I should’ve taken a picture. I thought and thought about the view and then I went back on Sunday to try and identify what it was that made my heart palpitate… The light wasn’t quite right and I didn’t feel the same enchantment but at least I was reminded how much I love Bangkok.

This is the view when I went back.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Secrets and Lies (only without the lies)


Life here at The House has been a bit mad. I’ve been busy making for our table's Melbourne Cup headwear.

And I’d had an idea to take a trip to the UK during October but it didn’t come off as I’d hoped. After considerable to-ing and fro-ing I decided that I would take a trip to the UK ANYWAY. Ya, get me; it’s nothing to do with the Fates. I’m going to make it happen.

I used Late Rooms’ Secret Rooms to book my hotel room. I think I must have been working from home for too many consecutive days because I found this a most exciting experience. The idea is (and there are other websites that do it too) that the hotels don’t want us to know how big a discount they are prepared to offer at late notice. So they remain unidentified until you’ve paid.

You tell the site which city, what dates, how many rooms and people you want and they find the secret deals. You’re presented with a list of unidentified hotels with a couple of hints; they’ll say something like ‘it’s 2.7km from the centre of London’ (in my case) and then they’ll give you a user quote ‘we were delighted with our stay.’ (I’ve yet to see one that said ‘it was a bit skanky’ so you can’t really take much notice of this.) You could do a bit of research on hotel booking sites to see if you can work it out before you book but I wasn’t bothered where I stayed only with t’brass. It was easily inside my budget so I booked it.

TA DA! The big reveal; I am staying at Millenium and Copthorne Hotel at Chelsea Football Club.

Research suggests that I am paying a third of the normal price (yay; result) and that an added bonus to staying here is that I may bump into famous footballers in the lobby.

Yeah, right. I’ll recognize them immediately.