Monday, August 31, 2009

Facebook Confessional

If you're a new or sporadic reader, you might want to look here first. But following that post, I received this notification from Facebook yesterday.

Simon ***** also commented on his post:

"By the way Jenny, I have a TERRIBLE admission to make: I murdered a tea bag yesterday.

Not just any tea bag, but a PG Tips tea bag. I was taking it out of the caddy and managed to put my finger through it somehow. I don't know how, but it just lay there with tea leaves pouring out of it's stomach. It felt just awful.

I considered trying to glue it together again hoping that no one would notice .. but that wouldn't have worked. I even considered burying it under the patio like that scene in Brookside .. but we dont have a patio. I even considered drying out one of the old tea bags from the slops pot and having it masquerade as a new one. But no, I realised that none of this would work and I'd just have to own up to my deed.

My head is hung and I feel a cad. Such shame and self-loathing. Can you ever forgive me?"

Well, what do you think, readers? Should he be forgiven?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Catchup with Ketchup

Do you remember my parents’ cat, Ketchup? She should have been called Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. She tried to open my arteries when we took her to the vet the summer before last. Well this summer she was poorly again. I made my Dad come to the vets with us because I too scared to go on my own. Poor cat, she was so unwell she didn’t object to an examination by the vet.

Very gently, as we were leaving for the airport, I told Daughter to say goodbye to her. She is twelve-ish but so staggery and unwell that I was pretty certain we weren’t going to see her again. Having family pets die when you’re overseas is hard for children.

Then my sister told me in an email that Ketchup had a blood test after I’d left and she’d been diagnosed with an overactive thyroid. This is good because it’s treatable but it’s very bad because she needs to be given a tablet EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE.

Sometimes I’m really glad I live 6000 miles away from my family.

When I expressed admiration for anyone administering tablets to Ketch, my sister wrote: “Best practice re Ketchie and tablet is a swift pick-up followed speedily by opening her gob and chucking the tab down before her addled brain cells have time to kick in with "NO!" and "CLAWS OUT!" You can almost see that bit happening as she hits the floor again once it's all over.” My sister is very brave.

Just now I got off the phone from my folks. They said that Ketch has recovered well. So well, in fact that she’s gone back to her old slasher-cat antics. When someone tries to give her a tablet she grows sixteen legs and uses all of them to lacerate whoever is nearby. But, they said – and I could hear the grins – they’ve just discovered a secret.

Ketchup loves camembert. If they squidge the tablet into a piece of camembert she eats it all on her own on the floor not realising that the medicine is inside.

But, apparently, only camembert will do.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday fury

I know, traditionally – though I’ve lapsed of late – this should be a Friday Photo but I have fury I wish to vent.

I just went to the opticians to have some glasses made up to my new prescription. I’ve worn (hard) gas permeable contact lenses for twenty years until one day about fifteen months ago. (I refuse point blank to link to that best forgotten event but if you are desperate, you can find it in the archives somewhere.)

Anyway, for a multitude of reasons I decided about five months ago that I no longer wished to persevere wearing contact lenses. The problem with this situation is that hard lenses keep astigmatic eyes in the same shape and when you stop wearing them, your eye shape has some relaxing to do - into whatever odd shape it desires to go. Normally, this takes a few months, but not in my case. More than a year after losing the comfortable lenses my eyes are still changing: hence the need for my third pair of glasses/lenses in fifteen months.

So off I went today (yes, at last we’re getting there.) I went into the place that Carol and I went to choose her glasses a way back. Every time I pass there it’s got a sign saying 70% off.

Firstly, there’s no blooming sign in the window. Bugger.

Secondly after I show them my prescription, the price, which up to that moment included both frame and lenses, suddenly doesn’t include my abnormal measurement. My lenses will be extra. This isn’t entirely unexpected. My optician in the UK very gently told me that my astigmatic measurement has gone beyond the normal range. I always knew I was special! Still, the positive is that in Thailand glasses are way cheaper than in the UK, so price is relative.

Finally, I start selecting glasses. I don’t mind this; I’ve got a fair idea what shape suits me.

I pick out several pairs and move to the mirror.

I take off my specs and put on the new pair. I look in the mirror.


What do I see?

I see a pale, face shaped thing, with splodges where my eyes and mouth should be. I can hardly see my nose and I definitely don’t see any glasses.

How the hell are you meant to see if the new glasses suit you?


The need for this rant has nothing to do with glasses and everything to do with Sons, GCSEs and coursework.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Elephants on Elephant Island

I meant to blog about the holiday we had with Husband's sister and her family. We went to Koh Chang which we've been to lots of times: it's where the Skyros holiday was. It's the second largest island after Phuket but is considerably less developed.

Before they came SiL had requested elephant rides because Nephew (aged 7) is obsessed by them; 'Ellie' is his security toy. That was easy given our booking on Koh Chang. I'd gone with the Skyros crowd to one of the nicest elephant camps I've ever been to and frankly, I don't tire of elephants; spending time with them, riding on them. They are the most delightful creatures.

What really blew me away though is that Nephew had never seen one in the flesh. I cannot tell you what a privilege it was to share his first elephant experience.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Yesterday I received my final report from my mentor with The Literary Consultancy. I can’t believe I’ve written 60,000 words.

In October I’m back in London for my ‘Industry Day’ which is where mentees get to meet and learn about publishing from agents and publishers. (I booked my hotel today for my London stay, where I intend to write, go to the theatre and eat veggie food.)

The final part of the mentoring is that one of TLC’s readers critiques the whole work.

My next step, then, is to put down the knitting and get back to the writing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Knit knit knit

I am still knitting crazy. I started two new projects yesterday and I’m off to purchase wool today – or yarn as they call it here. Apparently it’s only wool if it’s wool. (I am fitting in a bit of writing where I can!)

Yesterday I went over to BNH hospital, the organisers of the Let’s Knit for the Needy project, (I talked about it here) to see if I could help with their blog. I’m not sure that I could help… some of the design issues I’ve got on TeaStains are the same ones that they are having. Please do go and have a look at their blog though. I’ll feel I’ve done something to help if there’s a bit of a surge of visitors on their site.

Alison Murray’s gingerbread house, originally knitted to raise money for Great Ormand Street Hospital is on its way to Thailand. It’s going to be on display at Centralworld and then BNH Hospital. I can’t wait to see it.

In the meantime, our household’s contribution to knitted squares currently stands at 34½ ‘squares.’

Monday, August 24, 2009

Unearthing memories

Segueing neatly from yesterday’s post about my sense of humour – or lack thereof – I found this while I was rooting through some of my old papers.

Sadly, it’s not dated but I’m guessing I drew it circa 1997. I’m basing this guess on the age of the children… who aren’t mine at all. (My two kids did not have curly hair and no hair, respectively. Clearly the woman isn’t me either since she has sensible hair. We may have shared the white knuckles though.)

The minute that I stopped work - let’s call it 'conventional' work - where I’m paid a salary to go into an office… I searched around for a way of making some money that didn’t involve being told what to do by anyone else. Writing is just an extension of that. Cartooning was one idea but it was a small problem that I couldn’t be funny to order. I think I drew less than ten in total before abandoning that idea.

Please send any other career ideas on a postcard, care of TeaStains.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What's in a name?

Firstly, I’m very over-excited that my caption ‘won’ DJ’s Wordless Wednesday. I’ll skate over the fact that we were all winners. I can’t turn on the funny. It is the skill I’m most envious of in other people, particularly writers.

DJ’s award leads me onto wondering if anyone knows if Blogger will let me have a ‘page’ where all my blog awards are… that I can link from the sidebar? I’m very proud of every award I’ve had but on one of my rare tidy ups I had to remove them from the sidebar as it all got so cluttered. I have them sitting in a folder ready to display… but I can’t work out how to do it.

I think it might be time to don my apron, a headscarf and reach for the furniture polish for another TeaStains tidy up. My blogroll is out of date; if you have a big, showy offy widescreen, then my tea stain won’t reach all the way across it. It’s not just spring cleaning needed here…

My blog started two and a half years ago when I could hardly admit to myself, let alone out loud, that I wanted to write. It took a further eighteen months before I was writing seriously. So the blog is all a bit untidy and I suppose it needs to develop. It needs to go from a scared woman in Thailand trying to admit to herself she wants to write to a (slightly) more confident person who wants to write the best book she can.

As for publishing…I really don’t know. But, if that’s what I want, I need to start thinking about TeaStains maturing.

I started life here as JJ to avoid there being two Jens/Jennies in the Novel Racers (Spiral). And of course I wanted the anonymity too … Then I started to write my book and I learned things about publishing – such as having a platform – I became JJ Beattie because I felt if, eventually, I want to seek publication, the time I’ve spent at TeaStains will be the beginning of that. So in my big tidy up, should I remain as JJ Beattie or should I become me? Jenny Beattie?

Oh dear. I don't know and I really hate housework.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Should I... Shouldn't I?

I’m still wheezing like an old asthmatic on forty fags a day. It’s got really boring.

On Thursday I was standing in the chemists telling the pharmacist about my wheezing and asking for advice when another customer butted in and said ‘Don’t you think you should go to the doctors? What with all this swine flu about…’ I was outraged. How dare she acknowledge she was listening; I could’ve been talking about something really embarrassing. For a moment I considered describing my phlegm in gross and luxuriant detail… and then I said. ‘I was ill a week ago, I didn’t have a high temperature which means it's unlikely to have been swine flu, so no, I don’t think I need to see the doctor…’

However, yesterday, because I was at the hospital for my thyroid, I went in to see someone about my chest as well. I was discharged from him with the prerequisite myriad medicines. This always happens here because (I am told) the doctors make some money on each item prescribed. This is wrong; so wrong. And I hate it.

But I didn’t take the antibiotics; partly because I worry about this prescribing unnecessary medicines thing and partly because I thought I was on the mend… Anyway if it’s viral still and not a bacterial infection the antibiotics won’t help.

And now it’s 5.30 in the afternoon, my chest hurts, my head hurts and I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe I should take the bloody tablets.

This picture was taken in Siam sky train station today. Anti-bacterial handgel is available all over the place and many people are wearing masks. What’s it like in the UK?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I've been unfaithful...

I've been unfaithful *whispers* to my writing blogger friends.

It’s true that I haven’t been writing much (in the UK, with family back in BK, sick, blah blah blah) but I have been doing *winces* something else.

I’ve bought books, *gasp*

I blogged about it once or twice… but no-one seemed to notice. I thought I’d got away with it.

I’ve looked online, surfing *sharp intake of breath* for images and stuff.

*holds breath*

I’ve even added other blogs to my feeds.

But now, I’m so terribly proud of myself, I have to come out into the open and show you this.

I really am the world’s worst knitter; it took several attempts, it's still full of mistakes, it's too big for my teapot [don’t look too closely knitters] but I DID IT. *beams*

It’s a free pattern by (most clever knitter) Katya Frankel her not-only-knitting blog is here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

2009 TATS Awards

Bob Hoskins was right when he said ‘it’s good to talk’. And sometimes it’s good to have a moan too. I like a whinge; but, you know, not all the time. Whining is particularly prevalent among expats in my experience… especially when it relates to the UK. I can’t stand unremitting grumbling. I feel quite strongly that if I complain about something I like to balance things up by praising where it’s due too. We quite often forget to do that; we’re happy to gripe but forget to congratulate. It must be done.

Therefore, TeaStains is proud to announce The TATS awards, the TeaStains Award for Tremendous Service. All of the following awards relate to my recent UK trip.
  • The woman in Leon (The Strand) for giving me a free cup of tea because I looked like I needed it! (Don’t worry Leon Powers That Be, I also bought a choc tart and your recipe book.)

  • Errol – downstairs in the cafĂ© at Marks & Spencers in Marble Arch.

  • The staff in Fat Face Cov Garden, during the ‘your husband is here and we’re transferring him to hospital’ debacle. They found me telephone numbers and checked out the location of the hospital for me and were lovely while I panicked.

  • The (cute*) underground man who let me through the non public access way at Oxford Circus because I’d waited for the children so long…

  • All the rail men who didn’t bat an eye lid (or laugh out loud in our faces) to Jen and I for being such dozy travellers and who helped us get our travel back on track…

  • 02’s lovely techie staff who talked me through (several times) how to get my emails on my UK sim card in my Thai Blackberry …

  • The Waterstones near the Hazlitt Theatre man (Ben? also cute*) who gave me the Orange Prize ‘bag for life’ free of charge because they’d run out of cotton bags to buy…
*Small print: can I point out that being cute in no way clouded my judgements. Their cuteness was noted quite separately from their earning a Tremendous Service award.

So have you had any great service lately? To whom would you present a TATS Award?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

When we felt like Hagrid...

It wasn’t swine flu: I diagnosed myself. I didn’t seek medical advice about it but the respiratory bug that it was, knocked me right off my feet. Crucially, it didn’t give me a temperature and I’ve passed it onto the children who just got coughs. So, in anticipation of their return to school tomorrow we stopped in at the hospital to get them ‘declared fit.’

I warned my strapping 6ft 1” son (who’s 15) that we still had to go to the children’s department, and we all had a snigger that he’d probably try and get into the climbing frame room. Son was most disappointed to discover the play area was closed because of the swine flu virus, which I understand can exist for up to 24 hours on hard surfaces.

Toddlers raced around and babies howled. My great big children hung their heads and looked down at all the small people.

The tiny Thai nurse stood Son on the height and weight scales and then needed a step ladder to reach up to place the ruler on his head. Son obligingly crouched down to enable her to extend far enough to measure him which rather defeated the object, but then I suspect there’s no danger of him not growing sufficiently. I think after yesterday’s appointment that his files might well show him as having shrunk. A medical mystery perhaps.

Barney the purple dinosaur sat on the doctor’s desk; just in case one of my children might need him…The doctor examined them and then declared them both fit for school but in possession of coughs. He prescribed ten minutes each on the nebuliser and we were all issued with masks to make our departure from hospital safer for all the other patients.

I can’t believe that I took this picture in the treatment room. Clearly they weren’t very sick and I couldn't resist documenting the final embarrassment: the nebuliser masks they had to wear.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I'm going on a lizard hunt...

After four days on my sick bed, I was released from the Towers sanitarium yesterday, aided by yet another dose of paracetamol and a promise of a bagel for lunch at Au Bon Pain.

Our main destination was Lumpini Park. The (extended) family’s intention was to geocache. My plan was to hunt and shoot monitor lizards… with my camera!

It wasn't long ago that I told you of my favourite thing to do at Lumpini Park. This collage does not include the best pictures I took yesterday which are being saved for a couple of article ideas.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dear PG Tips

JJ Beattie

Dear PG Tips

I just opened one of your boxes of teabags. The box, which had travelled from the UK to me in Thailand, was undamaged.

Imagine my horror, however, when I discovered that not one, but two teabags had spilled their tea leaf guts all over their compatriots inside the carton. There were tea leaf entrails everywhere… I had to take all the teabags out, tend to them individually so that they weren’t harbouring their loved ones innards in their little pyramid® crevices. (See illustration one.)

As though this wasn’t disturbing enough, imagine my shock when, on sorting through the debris of this horrible atrocity, I noticed this anomaly: a baby teabag (see illustration two). I note your pride in the ‘ingeniously designed pyramid® bag’ which ‘gives the tea more room to move’ but what about this little fella? What if he can’t ‘free the delicious taste’?

Not only am I traumatised by the images I encountered but I’m horrified that I have been short changed to the tune of at least three mugs of tea.

Yours in anticipation

JJ Beattie

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Knickers in a twist

I’ve got my writing knickers in a time twist.

It’s giving me a headache… but that could also be the respiratory bug I’ve been fighting off since Monday. I don’t think it’s the piggy variety but the longer it goes on… the less sure I am. Is there any point in having it diagnosed?

I just have to rest, take paracetamol and drink fluids until I feel better, right?

And in the meantime there are still the writing knickers and the time twist to sort out. *Sigh* Horses, bolting and stable doors an’ all: it’s clear to me why good record keeping would’ve been a wise move while I’m writing. Instead I have to trawl through 60,000 words to find out all the places that I’ve made statements about age and characters meeting and buying houses and all the things that should’ve taken eight years that need to happen within eight months in my story.

I thought I could do without paracetamol today… on reflection I think I’ll go and get another dose. I think my writing knickers might need to stay twisted for another day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Richer or poorer

My world was terribly small when I was a child. When I was twelve we studied South America in geography classes. I remember having to learn how to label the various countries on a blank map and doing something clever with contour lines to show the height of various peaks… It meant absolutely nothing to me. I never got turned on to geography and preferred to tour the world in my head, from the sofa, through reading.

One piece of the South American homework found me researching rubber trees. I found a picture in an ancient, musty encyclopaedia that had belonged to one of my grandfathers of a rubber tree and I copied it into my exercise book. It meant little to me except that I can still see the picture in my head today.

Two years ago I spent a little under a week at a community based tourism project, Andaman Discoveries, which grew out of the devastation of the 2004 tsunami. I was still brim full of the arrogance of the Westerner, despite having lived in Thailand for two years. I had thought I was the richer...

My second homestay was in Tung Nang Dam village. The only way to the village is by boat through mangroves. When the boat dropped us we walked across a long, narrow pier with random planks missing and then through cashew orchards, bamboo and rubber plantations until we arrived at the village. By this time in Thailand I was au fait with rubber trees - they are a regular view when travelling outside Bangkok - but I was still fascinated by them. On my last evening I told my host family the story of copying the picture of a rubber tree collecting sap from my Granddad’s encyclopaedia.

The following morning was my departure day. However, before we set off to catch the boat the wife of my host called one of their men to come into the rubber plantation next to the house. We walked into the dewy field and she instructed him to cut the rubber tree to show me the sap.

I went away richer and, I hope, with more humility.

Previous mentions of my adventures with Andaman Discoveries can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

We're back...

... oh and how I missed you all. I did. I think I might be a bit addicted to my blog.

Do you remember (here) how I appeared after my Christmas holiday properly vexed, thinking I might be the only person in the world who didn’t know that pineapples grew on the ground… in fields?

On our drive down to Koh Chang last week, we pointed out pineapples growing next to the road, now that we knew! SiL had the same reaction as I’d had. So, when the driver came to pick us up yesterday from the boat, we asked him if we could stop at a pineapple field.

And now, just for you: pictures of pineapples growing, in situ, in fields. Whoever knew? (Yeah, yeah, I know some of you did… I still think it was the duty of the ‘man from Del Monte’ to tell us.)

I think this should be called a grove - it was much lovelier than a field.

In the meantime, I am still ridiculously excited about discovering that pineapples grow on the ground. And I'm worringly thrilled at having stopped to photograph this field yesterday.

Planted among the pineapples are rubber trees ... and if you're really lucky I might come back tomorrow and tell you my rubber tree stories!

Now there's an offer...

In view of all this excitement, I might have to go and have a lie down now.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


I can't resist breaking my holiday silence to say 60,000 words have been written. Hurrah.

Fia asked me here how the writing was coming on. I sort of smudged the issue; didn’t really answer. There are only so many times I can say ‘Oh, errhm, I’m not writing at the moment. Husband grumbles about my posts with ‘writing angst’ in them so I do try to keep them to the minimum.

(Shhh, I shouldn't be here because I am meant to be writing while everyone else has gone scuba diving/snorkelling...)

Monday, August 03, 2009

And we're off (again)

Family arrived yesterday in Bangkok and we’re off to the beach today. Sorry, it does seem a bit like I’m always on holiday but see, the UK, lovely though it was… that was a bit of a tour of duty. This is a holiday (with family) and Husband’s coming too so I’m excited.

Sunday, August 02, 2009


I berluddy hate knitting.

Why oh why did I have to get too big for my bootees?

There I was, happily knitting squares in my ‘Let’s knit for the Needy.’ I was doing rather well at producing six inch squares - alright so the sizes varied a bit... Why did I have to think it would be more fun to knit something a bit more challenging?

Then, when it all went horribly wrong, why didn’t I wait and ask for someone’s help? I could have put it down and waited until I felt more balanced. Why did I, at 11.30 at night, in a fit of pique rip it all off the needles and unpick it?

And, do I start all over again?