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?