Saturday, January 31, 2009

A new job

I’ve got a new job. (I use the word ‘job’ in the loosest sense for I don’t and can’t receive remuneration for any ‘work’ here, and anyway, they weren’t offering.)

Neilson Hays Library is an English Language Library in Bangkok. It was founded in 1869 by The Ladies’ Bazaar Association. They formed the Bangkok Ladies’ Library Association to supply the English speaking population of Bangkok with reading material. The property its now in was part of an endowment made in 1922 from Dr Hayward Hays in memory of his wife Jennie Neilson Hays.

I know a couple of the women on the board there and they approached me to see if I’d be their book buyer as their current buyer is taking over as President. I said I’d love to but couldn’t as I had recently made a commitment to myself about my writing. They wouldn’t take no for an answer … so we had lunch to talk about it.

And now I’m their new book buyer (and I will still write my book.)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Photo

Spotted: Wednesday 28 January 2009

Where: Outside Emporium from a taxi

But: Chased them up to Soi 26 to get the picture

What? Sometimes, I really think it's best not to ask.

The sign says: We love Bangkok

I said: What's with the costume?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Sebastian Barry has won the 2008 Costa Book of the Year award for The Secret Scripture. It’ll go on my TBR pile – not because it won the award, though its being shortlisted was what brought it to my attention. The Amazon blurb says ‘Barry is concerned with the imperatives of telling a story, but in a literary form that is rich with both psychological understanding and a skilful conjuring of time and place.’ That’ll be a tick then.

The Outcast by Sadie Jones was already on my TBR list, since the posters on London’s underground last time I was in the UK, piqued my interest.

Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill will go on too because I’m interested in reading about women’s lives. Although I read much more fiction than biography I’ve always enjoyed reading about people’s lives. That’s Nosy Parker in me.

What about you? Do you read books because they win prizes?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Chinese New Year series 2

I just can't understand the rules of whether it is or it isn't okay to take pictures in shopping malls. Some have signs up and some don't.

You'd think it'd be easy then to know, no?

It's not. I was 'told off' in Emporium the other day and then despite there being lots of guards around yesterday in Siam Paragon (same owners) nobody told me off.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon I went out 'under cover' to hit some pics for the Chinese New Year series. (Of course being told not to take pictures never stops me. I'm just a stupid farang, right?) Siam Paragon was fabulous. I saw Chinese dragon dancers. Before I came to Thailand, I'd only ever seen these, year after year, on Blue Peter.

And, finally, a very happy birthday to my sister!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chinese New Year series

It’s that time of year again. The fire crackers have been going off intermittently over the last week so we know that Chinese New Year is approaching.

This is the second of the three New Years that Thailand celebrates. 2009 is the Year of the Ox, which is also known by its formal name of Ji Chou. 己丑

Here is the first (of three) in the Chinese New Year series.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Friday Photo on Saturday

I've seen a meme going around that I wanted to do but I misunderstood.

It said you had to choose the fourth photo from your fourth folder and post it. Despite the fact that I have made a complete adaptation to digital photography, I thought this meant the physical folders of our photos.

Well, I couldn't do that. None of the thirty years of non digital photos have ever made it into folders. This is how I keep them:

So how was I going to choose the fourth photo from my fourth folder? Perhaps it could be a lucky dip: close your eyes stick your hand in and retrieve any packet of photos... The task of categorizing these and filling albums of the best ones has been on To Do list for twenty four years. Of course I imagine, now that I'm writing, this job is never, ever going to get done.

Finally, I saw it around a bit more and worked out it was them there computer folders! So I decided to steal it. And here it is:

It's come from my (digital) folder called 'Desktops/Backgrounds.' It's one of an obsessive series I make on textures/patterns/arty images that catch my eye. It's a tortoise shell - it was attached to its owner when I took it!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Not stuck in a rut

I am getting out and about and discovering new places.

Yesterday we had lunch at Na Aroon restaurant at Ariyasomvilla. (For Bangkokians, this is past Bumrungrad at the top of Sukhumvit Soi 1.) Open just five months, it’s been built around a beautiful 1940s teak house. The restaurant specialises in tasty, healthy and organic foods. I can vouch for the tasty bit … we had a fantastic lunch.

Today I met my friend D at Coffee Alley in Sukhumvit Soi 16 because she fancied a ‘garden experience.’ I had a very good cup of tea (JJ standard stamp of approval!) and a yummy berry yogurt shakey thing. And you can have free wifi! Hoorah.

Coffee Alley.
On the right of Soi 16,
Sukhumvit end .

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Blocked and Unblocked

I was horribly blocked yesterday. The truth is that it’s been brewing for some time and I’ve been mangling the words out … My mentor has been saying that I must keep the juicy stuff back and not give the readers answers yet…so I was trying to work out what I could talk about.

My big hope for my lead character is that the readers won’t be shouting ‘For GOD’s sake woman – just ask the question you want answered.’ I hate pathetic heroines who just won’t do the things that would sort the story out. It’s weak.

So. Yesterday I tried the foot massage approach. It relaxed my brain which was whirring and squealing at me … but it didn’t give me any answers. It might have set up the right thought processes though because this morning I stuck the Magnetic Fields* on the Ipod and played Bejewelled and my mind wandered off and … ta da! I’ve got the next couple of scenes sorted and a couple of long term questions answered too.

*Because I love Stephin Merritt’s music more than PG Tips …so there.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

More Mysteries

The first thing I do every school morning is wake the children. The second thing I do is fill the kettle for my first cup of the day.

The kids went off to school this morning and I decided to make my second cup, which is never as nice as the first one (Why?) There were only two bags left in the caddy so I got down the new box to refill it. Now I don’t need to put the two old bags (fnar fnar) on the top to be used first, I just chucked the new teabags in until it was full. I made a piece of toast with unsweetened peanut butter (bear with me; this could be important) and let the tea brew. Finally I went and sat down not on the sofa with my book to eat toast and drink tea. Peace. Kids gone to school; Husband still sleeping.

Just a minute… this tea… doesn’t taste quite right. My new tea (240 teabags) had a distinct fishy odour. That isn’t to say they smelt suspicious, but rather there was a definite kit-e-kat aroma.

I couldn’t drink it.

I went to wake Husband. He took the news very seriously. Is it tuna? Or salmon? We wondered if our courier brought fish back in the same suitcase. I said ‘it’s cat food flavour.’ He said that he thought it could be mixed with chicken … sometimes the cat food companies blend chicken with tuna.

I thought I’d better try again: fresh cup, fresh water, fresh teabag and good sniff at the milk.

It was fine. Normal. Did the peanut butter distort my taste buds?

Dear PG Tips, clearly it wasn’t your teabags. Please don’t get cross with my picture … it was just a cheap joke to make my blog friends laugh. Thank you. (I love PG Tips – particularly when they aren’t fish flavoured.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy Birthday Tea Stains

Today is my 2nd blog birthday.

Before I started tea stains I’d been lurking on Kate Harrison’s blog for several months but I didn’t dare to comment; I’m not sure why. I kept looking at blogger’s front page and wondering about it. Sometimes I’d click on their info to find out how to do it. It all seemed so easy – too easy. What was my name? What did I want to call it? I didn’t know and I’d press back, back, back.

Of course I was reading Kate’s blog because it was about writing. I didn’t want to blog to blog; I wanted to blog to write.

I wanted to write. I couldn’t say that out loud back then.

My first post, Cyberspace-Penpal, was a bit ‘Dear Diary’ self conscious. My fourth, Uncle Paper and Oesophageal Reflux is less embarrassing and I’m beginning to find the voice I recognise.

Then Kate Harrison and Lucy Diamond started the idea of a novel race: that turned out to be the Novel Racers. I lurked some more and then at the beginning of February, I wrote Dithering. I continued to dither for many months but you know what? I did get there eventually.

I’ve tried to write diaries all my life; and failed. Eventually, I learned I was a letter writer. I think it’s because I received feedback. So now I’m a blogger for the same reason - and not to forget – I’m also a writer.

Thank you to everyone who comes by: commentators and lurkers.


Daughter has made some cakes.

These are the blogbirthday cakes. Please join me in a cup of tea and a cake to celebrate.

Monday, January 19, 2009


I was out looking for my Pay It Forward goodies yesterday. I couldn't find what I was looking for but I did stumble upon this amazing sight in Siam Paragon.

It was a huge scene made entirely from balloons. See the wreck of a pirate ship, octopus, fish and my favourite touch of all ... the bubbles?

In the middle was an activity. Something - an object - was buried in the sand for children to excavate.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Photo

I had lunch with Husband yesterday because I spent the morning over in Silom, near his work. He’s got his boss in town so I hadn’t seen much of him. (No, we still don’t know any more about ‘Our Future.’ *Sigh*)

I got a taxi home past Lumpini Park and I caught sight of a GIGANTIC monitor Lizard. OOOOHHH. I love these chaps. Actually, I understand the Thais consider them bad luck but I love to see them. These critters are direct descendents (in my eyes and not in a scientific sense) of the dinosaur. Luckily – because they can be 2 metres long - they are very shy.

I took this picture in the first year we were here in Bangkok. I am rather proud of it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Is it a bird?

Is it a 'plane?

No, it's Window Cleaning Man!

Three of them in fact. They start on the 30th floor and they work down.

Here they are about half way down, on a wooden seat, a couple of ropes and some Buddhist blessing, I don't doubt.

We live on the 25th floor and I don't have any vertigo but I couldn't do this.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's not funny

If one of your characters is an archaeologist and you know nothing about that, you do some research, right? That seems straightforward.

It seems to me that it gets a bit harder when one of your characters is cleverer than you are or is funnier. What do you do then?

Maybe when a character is cleverer than you, you can be smart with dialogue and syntax to convey intelligence. And you could research subjects that they talk about to show us the things that concern them.

But funnier?

No book I write will be a laugh a minute funny. I mean there may be a smirk here or there, possibly I could even raise a chuckle from you. But I won’t be writing a comedy anytime soon. People tell me I make them laugh … but I'm never quite certain how or why. If it happens it happens.

I just can’t turn on the funny.

So if a character is funnier than I am … how do I do that?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Onwards and Upwards

My mourning period is finished. I’m still a bit sad an' all, but I’m not wallowing any more. (I said in my comments that Carol and I will definitely stay in touch … the problem is that now she’s another ‘not here’ friend.)

You didn’t even know I was miserable, did you? I was. There was considerable gnashing of teeth and beating of chest going on here yesterday. Not a nice sight.

My words went off to my mentor on Sunday … they weren’t as ready as I’d hoped but they were sent anyway. If I’ve learned anything from the Novel Racers it’s to keep going; words can be edited. I have to consciously give myself a pat on the back for producing 10,000 words with the difficult times that were late Nov and Dec. My personal instinct is to berate myself that the words weren’t good enough!

So now, I’m going to write. I’ve got to climb the 10,000 word mountain again which needs to be done for 20 February. (OMG, that doesn't sound very far away.) And, I shall come back and report here what I’ve written… The threat of public humiliation makes me write!

Update: 870 words

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tagged by Leigh

Lovely Leigh has tagged me with this meme. The requirements for receiving it are as follows:

List ten honest things about yourself (try to make it interesting, even if you have to dig deep!) Hmmm, I’ve had a problem with this.

  1. Pass the award on to ten other bloggers
Okay, here are the ten things:

  1. I must have tea. I can do classy tea drinking but mostly, on a day to day basis, I just want workman’s tea. My daily dose of five to eight cups a day, needs to be PG Tips.

  2. I am rarely … no, never… to be found without a lip salve in my pocket… and my handbag; and one by my bed. I might possibly give one to Husband too, to put in his pocket just in case. I have always been strict; a purist… Lip salve had to be ‘original.’ You wouldn’t catch me with a flavour until a few months ago when I really let myself go… and bought a milk and honey one. See, I’m not set in my ways.

  3. I am kind, tolerant and thoughtful. I am always ready to empathise with people. I need time to get to know people and won’t be ‘me’ until I’m properly relaxed. I’m a ‘grower’ so if you make judgements quickly and don’t reassess, we won’t make it. I am astonished and saddened when people are unkind. Dislike who I am when you know me, but don’t judge me until then.

  4. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to write or to acknowledge to myself I wanted to write. As I’ve dabbled my family have been telling me for years … decades even, that I should but I didn’t know whose dream it was.

  5. I am capable and confident – we’ve moved our family to Thailand after all – but I won’t remember what time it starts, where we agreed to meet or which cinema it’s on at. Rarely, I’ll even forget that we agreed to meet.

  6. I am not very sociable. I am not the life and soul type. I’d rather be with a small group of people than at a large party. If I’m being loud then I’m relaxed with you (or I’ve had too much gin.)

  7. I am a pathological worrier.

  8. I need lots of sleep.

  9. I need to read.

  10. I’m not interesting enough to find ten things to say about myself.

If you'd like to do the meme, consider yourself tagged.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Writing Course in Thailand

I’ve no idea if any writers in Thailand read my blog.

I tried to let writers in Bangkok Women’s Writers Group know about The Literary Consultancy’s proposed writing course on Koh Chang in April. Unfortunately, my first email didn’t receive an answer.

It’s a great opportunity for writers, already based in Thailand, to join a top class writing course with only a short flight down to Koh Chang. It’s only too easy to feel remote from the publishing world and its activities out here.

So I sent the email again with a little note wondering if it had been received or not. This time I did get an answer. It said that the Bangkok Women’s Writers Group ‘is a very large group and many members get a lot of emails’ and therefore the BWWG admin prefer to keep mailings to group activities. Apparently this is ‘so that members can trust that a mail is about the group and its activities.’

I do understand wanting to keep the email address safe from irrelevant promotions. I am sure that their care with our personal details is valued by everyone. I could even see that if I profited in some way from the TLC writing course that it might be considered wrong to promote it. But I don’t profit. My interest in the course is purely as a potential attendee and I contacted BWWG to let any other serious writers know that the opportunity existed.

I had thought that anybody writing seriously might value the tip off that a prestigious organisation, such as the Literary Consultancy, is holding a course in Thailand: I know I would. ‘The only exception [to this rule] would be if one of our members published a book or something like that’ said the BWWG reply. I suppose I had hoped that it might fit in to the ‘or something like that’ criteria.

So if anyone knows any writers in Thailand perhaps they’d like to pass the details on. I’m not on commission you know.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

One for Carol

Carol and Jenny.

Doing one of the things they do best.

I can't write it here; I was going to try.

See you tonight.

Thanks for everything

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Oh no.

They were conjoined.

I was careless; too rough.

No gentle surgery that might have saved them both…

Brutal, selfish, precipitous.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Pay it Forward

Marmite and Tea was involved in a Pay It Forward gesture back in December. She had received a gift and was offering to pay the act of kindness forwards to three people. I joined in because I love snail mail and I thought sending three people something Thai would be fun (or not Thai if you're already here!) Just in time for Christmas I received this package from Marmite and Tea. She is most clever; I had been desperate to read this book but kept missing it on my book-dar (book radar.)

So now I’m appealing for three people who’d like to receive something from me. You’ll owe me nothing. If you join in you only have to agree to pay it forward, link back to me and blog about it …What you send people is up to you. It doesn’t have to cost a lot or it could cost nothing at all if you could make it. It just needs to be something fun, inspiring or uplifting.

I’m happy to post to anywhere in the world and if you’d like to be one of three recipients for my Pay it Forward you’ll need to leave a message in the comments and email your postal address to 4pmteatime (a) gmail (dot) com. The first three to indicate in the comments that they’d like to join in will be the winners.

And there's more... while I'm on my way to the Post Office:

Because I’m such a dunderhead, I’ve bought this book twice. So I’m also offering to send the spare, never-been-peeked-at copy to the first person to say in the comments that they’d like it. You can find out more about the book here.

Monday, January 05, 2009

A bit buggered

It really is over. The Monday alarm rang rudely at 5.45am. The kids are back in school, Husband is off to Singapore this afternoon and I've got design work and words to write.

After the bus had carted the kids off, I said to Husband “That’s it then. It’s back to normal. I’ll have to take the tree down today.” I’ve never been one to observe the twelfth night rule – I don’t even know when it is. Twelfth night in our family meant ‘Twelfth Night’ by William Shakespeare.

He looked at me a bit oddly.


“You haven’t noticed have you?” he said.

“Have you done it?”

“You really haven’t noticed? I did it on Friday morning. I took everything down and packed it away.”

I had to go down the hall to the sitting room to check. Three days! I really do worry about my observational skills. I mean, aren’t writers supposed to notice everything and everybody?

I might be a bit buggered then.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Only Person in the World

Am I the only person in the world who didn’t know pineapples grew in a field?

When the man from Del Monte he say yes’ was he never in a pineapple field?

I don’t have a picture of a pineapple field, but there’s one here for you to look at.

I do, however, have very lovely pictures of bananas from Krabi. You’ll have to make do with those. And yes, I knew bananas grew on trees and not in plastic trays...

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Appeal to lurkers

A little while back I appealed for answers … why were so many people searching for - I daren’t mention them by name again for the flurry of electrical activity it might cause – a cartoon character with wild hair and her dog? I didn't get any answers then. It hasn't abated either and every day I get 8-15 hits from those search words.

I am vacillating between the idea that I am being teased and the prospect of having a nervous breakdown.

Today, apart from alerting potential jesters to my mental state, I am here for another appeal. I get many hits (and reads) from people who don’t leave a comment and I am wondering…

Who are you? Do you come here regularly to read? Please drop in and say hello. I’d love to know who you are so that I can say hello.

(Don’t be scared away if you don’t want to introduce yourselves … I was once a long time lurker myself. You are still welcome.)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

I’ve woken up with a clear head this morning. I only had a glass of wine and was back in my room by 10.30 or so… Sad, eh? A hotel is a weird place to spend NYE because you get the feeling that ‘fun is compulsory’ and that makes me feel less sociable than ever. Our NYEs back home have always been spent with our best friends – The Archivist and the High Priestess of Punk-chew-ation so I’m always a bit sad when we aren’t together.

Now it’s time to pack up as we’re catching the night train to Bangkok tonight. We’ve had a lovely holiday but I’m ready to go home. I’m tired of salty clothes and not having the book I want right by side… I’ve still got two thousand words to do for my mentor (due 9 Jan) so I need normal again.

I’m really excited about this writing year. The mentoring with TLC has given me much needed feedback. The constructive criticism is essential for picking up faults that that I haven’t noticed I have. The praise is wonderful because prior to this I didn’t know if I was doing anything right. (I am doing things right, though, and I appear to write dialogue very well – how about that, eh?) The continued support from the Novel Racers has been fantastic – though I reckon the wider writing community we’re all part of is wonderful too. Real friends: that’s what I’m making here.

On a personal note: what will this year bring for us? Hhhmmm. Well, I don’t know. Husband doesn’t know. Do his employers? We don’t want to be greedy, but we would just like to keep Husband’s job please. We realise the world is financially fragile, but we’d like to get Son through GCSEs before we have to move: he’ll be half way through in July 09 so really, please can we ask for one more year in Bangkok at least? Then, if you want, we’ll consider moving.

Pants Update

Sweet housekeeping lady eventually reappeared to return the second batch of laundry. I got quite excited about the prospect of returned pants and asked her if they were in the package…

“Oh… just a minute.” Yep; you guessed it. I never saw her again.

Several hours later that afternoon, a mysterious Thai man I’d never seen before turned up with a package for us: two pairs of pants. I uhhmed and I ahhed; I opened the package and made close investigative examinations…

YES, yes: they were Husband’s pants. Hurrah: we’ve all been reunited.