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...


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.
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:
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
Rubber trees – collecting sap

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

I made:
A batik print
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
Black Crested Bulbuls singing
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

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

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


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


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.


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.