Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Only five obsessions...Easy Peasy

I was very excited to be given this award by DJ.

The "Your Blog is Fabulous!" Award stands for: Integrity. Commitment to Excellence. Stubbornly Optimistic.

The Rules:

List five current obsessions:

1. Oh my blog; blogging. Completely and utterly can’t get over it. Even though I’m told blogging is so yesterday. Do you know what? I don’t care; I just do not care. Anyway, I always was behind the times. Twitter schmitter: not interested. Facebook, nah been there, done that. (Okay sometimes I do go and look and comment a teenie weenie bit…)
2. My mini race with Sheepish. The woolly one and I are both Novel Racers but we’ve got a private race on too. We compare word counts each Sunday and so far it’s two weeks to Sheepish; one week to me. (I MUST win this week.)
3. Family: from Son’s GCSE’s coursework and climbing mountains…to my poor elderly Dad who’s just broken his pelvis. I could worry for a living (Coo, if only someone would pay me for it)
4. Costumes for the Melbourne Cup. I’m only slightly obsessed.
5. Starbucks writing-my-novel sessions. I am thinking of asking them to sponsor me. At the moment it’s the only place I can write. It’s costing a fortune in tea and the muffins… ah, terrible temptation.

Pass the award on to five other bloggers: Queenie, Carol, Redders, Leigh and Sue.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A beetle bit sidetracked...

Today’s post is meant to be a meme, but I just had to come and tell you about Son coming home from his trial run expedition to Khao Yai…

He arrived back home yesterday,

• smelling vile,
• limping,
• bitten to bits by mosquitos despite Deet,
• sunburned despite 50 spf,
• ‘more blisters than skin’
• covered in scratches,
• wearing his teacher’s trousers!

After four portions of shepherds’ pie, he felt strong enough to empty his rucksack out all over the kitchen floor.

Finally, he pulled out the sleeping bag from its bag to add to the washing pile, shook it open and THIS is what came out with it:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Take a deep breath: following on from Saturday

I’ve heard it said that Sampeng Lane is half a mile and I’ve also heard one and a quarter mile. It doesn’t really matter how long it is because it feels like five miles and you’ll be good for nothing by the end of it.

I do absolutely love Sampeng Lane – it’s a must-go to for anyone who enjoys shopping but it’s nicest when you’re there for a browse rather than something you must find. I could have scoured other parts of Bangkok for the items for our Melbourne Cup costume and not find them. I’d waste two days looking so I figured I might as well go straight to Sampeng Lane. If Chinatown doesn’t have it, it’s probably not available.

It’s a bit of a nightmare to get to. There are various routes; the one I take (not the river) is to go by underground to Hua Lampong and take a taxi to the far end of Sampeng – the Pahurat Indian Cloth market end. Hua Lampong is a train station from which na├»ve backpackers and tourists emerge regularly and the taxi rank here seems to attract the less honest taxi drivers. This is not the same for most of Bangkok.

Sampeng is a long lane of shops facing each other that in some ways puts me in mind of medieval England, where people on a top floor could lean out and shake the hands of people in the opposite building. The pathway is maybe a meter or so wide because goods spill out on the walk way to entice us in. Mobile food hawkers sell their wares; motorbikes, mopeds and hand carts laden with goods weave in and out of the people.

Sadly for me, there isn’t a Starbucks half way along.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday word count

How I’ve got any words written this week is a minor bloomin’ miracle. First there was the expedition of getting Son ready for the expedition; then Sampeng Lane in Chinatown (which I will post about tomorrow) and finally the purchasing of a dress for Daughter for a ‘do’ on Friday.

I told Daughter I would come to the shopping centre on condition that I would write while she shopped … Starbucks would do its magic, turning me into a writing dervish while she shopped and her feet got worn out and then I would approve the dress and pay.

We went to MBK: I settled myself at Starbucks.

After about thirty minutes she returned because the zip on her shorts was stuck (won’t go up; won’t go down.) She went off to find something cheap to buy to change into; she came because she’d found some shorts and needed the money, and then she returned with the change, she returned again to show me what the shorts look like on. Then she went off shopping again. Fifteen minutes later, she came back because she was hungry so we went off for lunch. And finally, after lunch she disappeared shopping again; fifteen minutes later she came back to say ‘MBK hasn’t got anything.’

So we went to another mall and I settled myself down at the second choice of Starbucks because my normal one was full. She found a frock but I wondered if the whole thing had been a tactic as I was a bit unsure about the dress’ suitability but I was so ground down I couldn’t argue.

I’d written 93 words in four hours.

So Sheepish, I won’t have beaten you this Sunday unless you’ve also been madly busy. It’s a bit pitiful but I have managed my minimum (500 words five times a week.) This week my word count is 2642.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Uh Oh: what have I let myself in for?

To say ‘Melbourne Cup is a horse race’ is probably a bit like saying ‘Shakespeare was a writer.’ I don’t mean to enrage any Australian readers (*waves*) I just happen to think horses are for riding and not watching… However, that doesn’t stop me from booking a place at the Anzwg (Australian and New Zealand Women’s Group) organised Melbourne Cup each November.

I used to go to point-to-points when I lived in Kent. It’s a form of amateur horse racing over fences for hunters but I’m only a teensy bit ashamed to say that for me it was a social event: beer tents and flirting with boys (it was a long time ago.) I rarely saw a horse.

I’m sorry; I know I’m a disgrace. As I say I like horses enormously, I just prefer riding them to watching them run.

Melbourne Cup is a bit like Ascot – that’s how seriously it’s taken – except I don’t think bizarre costumes are ever worn at Ascot (unless you count some of those outfits!) For Melbourne Cup, everyone dresses up either in formal race attire or in fantastic costumes. I think this year is my fourth time. I’ve always gone with the BWG and most years a costume theme is organised but I don’t take part in costumes. I make them; I don’t wear them. (Shhh: This is because I don’t like anyone looking at me!)

However, last week I found myself sitting next to costume queen, CD, and we cooked up an idea for a team costume. And now it’s happening and because I’m helping to organize it…I’m going to have to wear it. I hadn't even had a drink when I agreed to it!

Take a deep breath: yesterday I went to Sampeng Lane in Chinatown to source materials…

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gargantuan food; gargantuan feet.

Oh good grief; you wouldn’t believe the amount of work that goes into sending Son off for an International Award expedition…( the same thing as the Duke of Edinburgh Award in the UK.) This year it’s silver and he’s off on a rehearsal this weekend for three days. I tell you, the amount of work involved means I feel somewhat deserving of a silver award myself.

When I moved to Thailand I was warned that you couldn’t buy western sized shoes here, but I was okay Jack. I’ve got size five feet, I fitted Thai sized shoes. NEVER did I imagine I was going to need to worry about the children’s feet. But here we are: gigantic feet, both of them. I’ve been in email negotiations with someone in London to see if they could get hold of great big trekking shoes. (Thank you Simon: I know you were too busy, really) and he was going to have to get them to whichever colleague was the next visitor to Thailand. I finally found enormous trekking shoes yesterday morning. The man at Central Chit Lom had size 45 and 46 and said he’d keep them for me until Son and I returned around 4.30pm.

This whole thing is assessed. The students have got to plan their diet to suit the tasks they are undertaking. It needs to be varied and sufficient. This amounts to about 5,000 calories (*sits at the keyboard for a second, wondering if hiking up a mountain is worth doing so I can consume more calories. No, maybe not*) So then we had to go to the foodhall for two hours to consider what can be taken; carried; enjoyed; prepared; fulfil leaders' ideas of balanced diet…

Truly I began to lose the will.

Eventually, we finished. We went to the taxi rank: BIG long queues. Bangkok was under attack from a tropical downpour. We’ll have to take the sky train. “But,” I say to Son, “I’m not walking home in this. We’ll go to the next sky train stop [from home] and get a taxi just the local bit.”

So there we are, not at our local sky train station but one further away to justify a taxi journey. It's still pouring sheets of rain. The roads are car parks and so the first three taxis refuse to take us. We are soaking wet already. If we’d got off and walked from the correct stop, we’d be home by now. Eventually a taxi agrees to take us. He doesn’t know his way; we miss our left turn, we do a u-turn, he misses the next right. He reassesses; instead of a u-turn we turn right. From this direction cars are forbidden to turn right into our soi. He drives up the wrong side of the road, hits another car (no damage, just the wing mirror flipping in) and turns right to a symphony of honking horns, flashing lights and tropical rain.

But you know what? It could be worse: I could be going camping at the weekend!

Finally, just because it's fun, long time readers might remember this picture of Son from our trip to see grandparents in France.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Book news

After my 4,000 words last week, I lay awake on Sunday night worrying that the big scene I’d so enjoyed writing wasn’t where it ought to be or perhaps it’s just that too much is revealed. So yesterday I didn’t do any writing at all: I finished Rebecca instead.

Oh I am so sad I finished Rebecca. I really enjoyed it. I must have read it longer ago than I thought because there was only one time when I pre-empted what was about to happen. Every other plot twist came as a total surprise. It makes me so sad that for all the years I’ve been reading I haven’t kept a log book of what I’ve read. That list – over there on the side bar – is the first time I’ve recorded what I’ve been reading.

Other book related news:

I’ve just started The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters for Book Club. I don’t normally suggest titles for book club because the whole point of it for me is being told what to read by someone else. The Little Stranger was my choice though because of an administrative cock-up (mine) I had to insert something at the last minute.

For commenting over at Novel Spaces I won a book by Farrah Rochon which I received a couple of days ago. Thank you for that, Farrah. It’s quite ridiculous how snail mail still excites me!

This morning I must write (HA, Sheepish, not so easily sidetrack my woolly friend!) and this afternoon I must continue the Bangkok wide search for some suitable, gargantuan trekking shoes for Son.

Monday, September 21, 2009

To blog or not to blog...

It was a real toss up whether to blog about this or not. Is this something I should or shouldn’t post about? What is my blog about? Writing, living in Bangkok, stuff about me. Anyway, this is the part of expat life that scares the bejeebers out of me, so maybe I should say it.

Last Thursday night my Dad (who’s 80th birthday I blogged about here) had a fall in the garden while he took Leo out for his last of the evening pee (the dog’s, not my Dad’s.)

It was a 999 job. He was hurt so my mum and sister weren’t too keen to move him without help. The paramedics thought he’d broken his hip; my Dad, a retired doctor didn’t think so. It strikes me as very odd that as he lay on the gravel, very clearly a patient, my Dad was diagnosing himself.

An x-ray failed to be sure. So they scanned him. It turned out that he has broken his ischium, which is part of the pelvis. This is better news than breaking his hip which would have meant an operation with a general anaesthetic which would not be safe because of his range of medical issues. They don’t do anything for a broken ischium except pain relief and physio.

Sometimes I really hate being away from home.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Word count day, juicy scenes and big feet

After failing to find some trekking shoes gargantuan enough for Son, I went off to Starbucks yesterday. That’s where I’m writing best at the moment. It’s got something to do with the piles of non writing related work on my desk. If I’m sitting at my desk, I see it and worry. I don’t do it but I do worry. I end up not writing and not doing any of the other jobs either.

So it’s off to Starbucks. On Friday I went to my usual branch. (You know you’re going too frequently when your teabags (yes two bags for a grande) are in his hands before you’ve even arrived at the counter.) Yesterday for a bit of variety (get me, how exciting is my life?) I went to a different branch of Starbucks. I went to the one in Siam Centre. It overlooks Siam Square. They don’t know me there so I had to order my tea and then I went and found a seat.

I was very excited about the juicy scene that I knew was next. I’d been thinking I was about to write this scene for a couple of days, but other bits of business always got in the way. I first wrote up the germs of this scene in my notebook a year ago when I was on my own in Koh Chang. It just appeared in my head and all I had to do was write it down.

This was my view from my chair. And I did smile whenever I looked up and saw it.

So Sheepish, are you here looking for my words? Well I shall be along later in the day to update them… Update: After NO Sunday writing (I've been to the cinema) words this week are 4121. (And the rule about no Sunday writing is nonsense because I've whipped her woolly bum this week!)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Real men don't knit, do they?

I know, I know... I'm in danger of becoming a knitting blog and not a writing blog but this project is close to my heart.

Angela Stafford, who organised the Let's Knit for the Needy project at BNH Hospital, escaped onto the streets of Bangkok to try and spread the word about the knitting squares and this YouTube film is the result.

I can't promise this will be the last time knitting comes up... but take a look at the YouTube and answer me this:

Why are men embarrassed to admit they knit?

If you like the video, please forward it to your friends to let them know about knitting for the needy.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

On getting out of hand

I’ve got to confess my To Be Read (TBR) pile is teetering out of control. I’m not exaggerating when I say my life might be in danger: it would only take an arm flung carelessly while I slumber and the whole lot could come toppling down on my head.

A little while back I bought some TBR shelves (that isn’t to say you can read the shelves… rather that all my TBR books could live on the new sarcophagus shaped shelf. You can see here how they looked when the bookshelves were new.) It would make life easier, I thought; I wouldn’t have to trawl through all my books to see what I wanted to read. It doesn’t look all neat and tidy any more. It was stupid. Promise me you won’t ever do it? See, Husband has watched the pile grow, from fitting neatly onto the shelves to getting double stacked and now piling on the top and being placed on the floor in front and at the sides of the shelves. It was so much better when I could just mush them all together in with the ‘read’ books. Even more unwisely, I started keeping account on my blog of the books I am reading. Husband has been making arithmetical calculations about the speed at which I read against the speed at which I buy books. Sometimes Husband* unwisely says things out loud regarding my book habit…

Anyway this week I started to think about the next book for book club, even though I’m still reading and studying Rebecca. It’s The Little Stranger and it was okay because I’d seen it in Kinokuniya and told everyone it was available but it was a bit on the pricey side. Then I got an email from someone who couldn’t find it in Bangkok. I offered to lend her my copy before I read it.

She declined, but still I needed to think about reading it so I thought I ought to find it. I searched through all the double stacked books including the ones on the top and the double stacked pile next to my side of the bed and then I went over to my desk to make sure it wasn’t there and when I thought more about it I realised that I couldn’t remember actually buying it. *Draws breath.* I really thought I’d bought it. I think things have got a bit out of hand.

*Note to Husband: It'll still be really unwise to make any 'I told you so' noises.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Knitting Pandemic

"There isn't a vaccination for knitting fever at the moment and it's very contagious."
Angela Stafford
BNH Hospital Let's Knit for the Needy

Today I went to the press conference for the Let's Knit for the Needy project at CentralWorld Mall. The BNH hospital project is asking people to knit 15cm by 15cm squares and donate them for Sister Louise and her women and girls at the Fatima Centre to knit up into blankets.

The completed blankets are destined for the children of Umphangwitthayakom School in Tak Province in the north of Thailand. These children live so remotely that they live at their school, sleeping in crowded dormitories. They go home for long holidays only, stopping at villages on the way. It takes them three days to walk home. Normally the temperature during winter is 3 or 4 degrees but last winter it was as low as zero.

It's easy to give money to charity but it's been much more fun to knit knowing how essential the blankets will be.

Pic 1. Look closely at those ties and that waistcoat! Yup, all knitted.
Pic 2. All sorts of 'people' turned up for the event.
Pic 3. BNH's aim is make at least 111 blankets because that's how old they are this year.

If anyone would like to knit squares for us, I will be in the UK until 24 October to collect any donations...

Tomorrow, I will unveil the Alison Murray's Gingerbread House, the real star of the press conference.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

From washout week to storming Sunday

I reported yesterday what a disastrous week I’d had with my novel writing. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time… just as I’d launched on a neck and neck race with Sheepish. So the week was a disaster: draw a line under it. There is no point in dwelling on it but nor did I want to produce a shameful 600 words which is all I’d managed. I’d done well enough the previous week to make up for a shortfall this time but, you know, I didn’t want to give Sheepish the satisfaction… Although… maybe, I could mess with her head? I could lull her into a false sense of security, couldn’t I? Then she'd relax and I'd whip her woolly bum next week? *Clears throat* that sounded better in my head.

No no no. I said 500 words a day, five days a week. That’s my minimum. There was nothing else for it but to dedicate my Sunday to it.

So Sheepish, punctuated by Sunday lunch at the pub with family, I’ve had two Starbucks stints today and my words this week: 2607. I have to say, even though you’ve beaten me, that I am a bit proud of myself. It takes my total word count (as you can see left) to 68,000.

I can do this. I can.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


This week’s been a washout as far as writing has been concerned: novel writing at any rate. (Pah: just as I started a personal race with Sheepish and I’ll be seriously lagging behind this week and tomorrow is WC day (word count day!)

This week has been full of sickness (mine and Daughter’s) and of course I should be writing now because this afternoon I am on the Neilson Hays Library stand at the Living in Bangkok exhibition at Bumrungrad Hospital.

But instead of writing, I’m jumping up and down with excitement because I read this yesterday. I had, up to this moment, been quietly excited but my trip to London is getting closer and OMG I think it’s time to lose control. This is Othello with Lenny Henry at Trafalgar Studios. AND I’ve got tickets. OMG, OMG. I am going with Leigh. Yay yay yay. Othello is my favourite Shakespeare play and I have a rather large soft spot for Lenny Henry and every faith that he will be stupendous. I am wondering if Leigh will be embarrassed if I want to go to the stage door to swoon a bit…

Now I’ve got myself over-excited. I’ve got to calm down and write lots of words so I don't shame myself in front of Sheepish tomorrow. And then I can get off to the hospital to promote the library when really what I want to do is think about LH as Othello...

Friday, September 11, 2009

From Utah State Prison to Bangkok...

In my final report my mentor said:

“I have recently re-read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and suggest it might make a useful model for you as your novel has certain key features in common with it. Both novels revolve around a mysterious death in a family and feature the destructive power of jealousy, and both also attach great significance to a house as a metaphor for the site of conflict. Du Maurier uses a lot of circumstantial detail, but always as a means of creating a mood and building tension. If you do not already know the book … or have not read it for a long time, I urge you to read it with the aim of unpicking the way du Maurier tells her story.”

I have read it - as an adult because it was one of those gaps in my reading I was trying to fill in - but not recently enough to remember much about it (other than the opening line: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”) I certainly hadn’t made any connections to my own novel…

I finally found a second hand copy in Bangkok, at Dasa* books. It’s not a particularly nice copy: it has a tacky red silk background and small text (oh dear, how old I am getting) but it’s a copy. When I got it home I noticed that in a previous life it had resided at Timpanogos Library, Utah State Prison. I had a look at USP’s website and it looked a grim place. Not worse than any other prison and I’m not making any kind of statement about what it should or shouldn’t be like … but really, I hope some of the inmates enjoyed the book. There are notations by the text and passages underlined and it made me wonder if someone used it to study from…

I'm still wondering how it arrived in Thailand. More to the point, who did it and how did it escape the US prison system? Was it smuggled out?

*BKK readers: Dasa books has moved... only a few doors down (past the posh piano shop) but don't assume it's closed down. Keep walking down Sukhumvit and you'll find it... and you may need to reward yourself with one of their chocolate brownies, served warm with cream....

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Follow up to yesterday

  • Today one of our English Language newspapers, The Daily Xpress, has reported that in Bangkok alone, 63 babies have September 9 2009 on their birth certificates and two mothers underwent Caesarean sections to be sure that their babies were born on the dot of 9.09am.
  • In Chiang Rai, as the paper went to press, thirteen babies had been born and eight more women were hoping their babies would be born the right side of midnight. One of the thirteen babies was born at exactly 9.09am. His mother said ‘I think he must have accumulated huge merit in a past life.’
  • Thousands of couples who chose to register their marriages yesterday. In Bangkok’s district of Bang Rak (District of Love!) three hundred couples sought marriage certificates.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

09/09/09 09:09

Numerology is very important in Thai culture. The number nine is an auspicious number because there are many nines in royal and religious heritage. The Thai digit for nine is similar to a symbol seen on the Buddha’s forehead. A 100 Baht banknote ending with a nine in the serial number could be saved for good luck or its value might inflate to 200 Baht. When the MRT (the underground) opened, the first 99,999 customers received gifts. The word for nine (gao or gow as I’d write it phonetically) sounds similar to the Thai word for ‘progress.’

Yesterday Husband received this email from one of his team members:

Don’t forget to plan to do something special on 09/09/09 09:09am!! Something like starting or promoting a new business, wedding ceremonies, merit making, or house building. Number 9 means "enduring or continuing to exist for a long time.

He forwarded the email to me. I have the day to write today, so I wrote back to Husband to say ‘If I make sure I’m writing my book, do you think that will that send good fortune to my writing?’

He wrote back: “Absolutely. Me, on the other hand, will be eating a bagel for breakfast in Au Bon Pain…”

Gosh, I’m glad Husband has his priorities right!

What were you doing at 09/09/09 09:09?

Research from the very wonderful book: ‘Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture’ Philip Cornwel-Smith and John Goss.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A series of random or connected annecdotes...

A few weeks ago Husband and I watched a wonderful film called Incendiary. Being out here in Bangkok, we’d missed any hype there might have been about it. We struggle to find films we both like (Husband only likes films with aliens, guns or dinosaurs in and I loathe all films that have aliens, guns or dinosaurs) I picked it up because it appeared to be a bit more indie feeling than glossy Hollywood. It had explosions in it which I thought might appease Husband. We both loved Incendiary and have talked about it several times since we watched it.

A few weeks ago my lovely friend J told me about a book she’d read that had a mad ‘blurb’ which said they couldn’t tell anyone what the story was about because it would spoil the book. I didn’t write it down but I thought it sounded interesting. J told me I must read it. A couple of days later Caroline blogged about a book called The Other Hand by Chris Cleave. It took me a while but as soon as I connected the two referrals I went off and bought it.

Last week, I went into the library where I am book buyer and I was given the list of arrivals from my last order - two months earlier: based on a review, I had ordered The Other Hand by Chris Cleave.

I just finished reading it. In the US it goes under the title ‘Little Bee.’ It’s a must read. You must go out and buy it, whether you are a writer or a reader. It’s beautiful and terrifying and you just must read it. It's made me so very, very angry.

I went and looked at his website. He’s published one other book called Incendiary and a film has been made of that book…

It all goes to show how my brain is degenerating and I can’t remember anything how some things are serendipitous and just have to be.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Call yourself a writer?

DJ tagged for this meme. I am off on a writing course all day today at the Neilson Hays Library, so this is a perfect post for today.

1. Which words do you use too much in your writing?
Words which dictate meticulous detail of the physical movement of my characters. I think I’m a frustrated film director.

2. Which words do you consider overused in stuff you read?
The ones that should have been edited out.

3. What's your favourite piece of writing by you?
Anything that makes me laugh because then I feel terribly clever.

4. Which blog post do you wish you had written?
Anything that makes me laugh because I am very envious of people that can consistantly write funny.

5. Regrets. Do you have a few? Is there anything you wish you hadn't written?
Nope: it’s waste of energy (but so is worrying and I do plenty of that.) I would be sad to think I’d written something that might have hurt someone.

6. How has your writing made a difference? What do you consider your most important piece of writing?
I am surprised at how it alters my mood for the better. I suppose the most important piece is the piece I’m doing here and now (whenever that is.)

7. Name three favourite words
I’ve done this before in a meme on TeaStains, so I had to go looking for it. According to that meme my favourite words are: ‘Bollocks,’ ‘vituperative’ and ‘elderly.’ I also like ‘presbyopic’ and ‘discombobulated.’

8. ....And three words you're not so keen on.
Uhm, I can’t think of any though my BF, The High Priestess of Punk-chew-ation loathes the word ‘moist.’ If you talk to her about moist belly buttons, she’ll really freak out.

9. Do you have a writing mentor, role model or inspiration?
I’ve just finished the six sessions with my mentor through The Literary Consultancy and have the industry day and the ms read to go. Also the friends I’ve made through the Novel Racers have been a huge inspiration and support.

10.What's your writing ambition?
To write entertaining stories well.

I am passing this on to YOU. Please take it if you like it. I'm going to be late for the library...

Sunday, September 06, 2009


I am going to make a 'Mother Audio Recording.' I think it might make my fortune. I am going to hook up speakers to all the rooms here in our apartment at The Towers and I shall carry a remote control unit in my pocket.

On the remote control unit I will be able to select whichever answer is required to a variety of questions. They might include, but will not be exclusive to the following questions:

  • Why do we have to do homework the minute we get home?

  • Why do we have to do homework? – It’s the weekend.

  • Can we have ‘Friends’ on while we eat dinner?

  • Why must I do French homework when there isn’t any set by my teacher?

  • Can’t I pack my school bags in the morning?

I think pressing buttons will be so much less effort than saying it all again and again and again and again…

PS I have fitted the Mother Audio Recording (trademark) with sighs and tuts for authenticity. There will of course be a range of volumes, from gentle and nurturing to full blown lost-it-shriek.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Friday fervour

To balance last week’s Friday Fury I’m raving about ‘Sunshine Kitchen.’ I went off to do some 'research' about ten days ago so that I could blog about them. However I forgot to take a picture; I was half way through scoffing my food before I remembered and then I wasn’t prepared to stop.

Sunshine Kitchen – okay, it’s not a great name – but OMG, the food… the food more than makes up for it. They describe the food as ‘quality, healthy, fresh and tasty’ but the reason I love it is because it’s proper vegetarian food. They do serve meat and fish – separately obviously – but their use of grains, pulses and veggies make this among the best vegetarian food I’ve ever eaten.

For anyone in Bangkok, you can find them downstairs in the vegetable market part of Gourmet in Siam Paragon. You can take away or eat in at a no frills high stool and bench arrangement. They’re total foodies. When you arrive to look at the food, the first thing they do is to get a pot of spoons and let you try stuff.

It’s been a mystery to me why I hadn’t found excellent veggie restaurants in Bangkok. There’s a branch of Buddhism that is vegetarian and think of all those studenty type backpackers that come to Thailand. Is it presumptuous of me to think that they’ll be a higher than average number of veggies among them?

And no, I’m not being paid to say this; I just feel fervour for the grub. I’m a frustrated vegetarian. I grew up among foodies but they were confirmed meat eaters. My sister became vegetarian in her teens and my parents declared it a stage she’d grow out of: 25 years later my Dad’s still calling it a phase. Sod’s law would have it that I married a meat eater too but not only that, but he’s nearly phobic about vegetable, grains and pulses.

This plate of food cost 200 Baht (currently about £3.60)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Get me and my writing pants!

My children have been in school for two weeks now and as a result I’ve managed to establish my writing rhythm. People keep asking me when I anticipate finishing this draft. A date gets mentioned, and I say ‘that would be nice’ as though I have no control over it.

Last night I met my friend J in Starbucks. She asked me the question. I said I thought it would be great to finish by the close of 2009. “Actually,” I said, “I would prefer to finish by the end of November, then I could have a month before looking at it again during my non participatory skiing holiday.” I said that I could commit to writing x words a day… Her gaze became vacant and disappeared over my shoulder; I thought she’d seen someone she knew. Then she muttered numbers: “Yes, you could easily do that.” Cor, my mental maths is a bit more of a paper and pencil affair. So then I said “what if I do 500 words per day, five times a week?” She did that vague thing again, which now I knew meant her brain was whirring. “Yes; still possible.”

I suspect the nice round 100,000 words is not realistic. I think now that I’m talking nearer 90,000. I have some dates marked out in October just for writing (I just have to protect them) So that’s it. That’s the aim: the end of November.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Now for something more intelligent...

Last night I finally finished ‘The Children’s Book’ by AS Byatt. I feel like I’ve been reading it forever. I started it one month ago on Koh Chang and I know this because I used some hotel notepaper to write a list of the characters as they were introduced.

I’m not ashamed to say that I picked the book off the shelf because of the stunning cover. My scan here doesn’t do it justice. There’s a lot of gold (the title, the border decoration, and on the artefact) set against a rich mottled blue. It’s beautiful. I read the blurb and much of the novel is set in Romney Marsh which is not far from where my novel is set. The story follows two generations from the end of the 19th century to the end of the First World War.

The story is set constantly within the context of the day – and that’s nearly twenty five years of ‘the day.’ Often it wasn’t woven into the story and the narrative stops for large chunks of political and social comment and background. That said I’m fascinated by the period but it may make it hard to read for those that aren’t. In this respect, it reminded me of Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks. Not just that the period is similar (slightly earlier in the nineteenth century from memory but I can’t recall when the story closes though it does cover the second generation of characters) but also the documentation of long passages of research about psychiatry. Both books took me a long time to read because I am not a skipper of such bits!

The story’s main focus is the family of Olive and Humphrey Wellwood but it extends in some detail to other, interconnected families and individuals. Olive is a famous writer of children’s stories (at a time when it was suggested that the best writing of the day was written for children but read by adults, eg JM Barrie, E Nesbitt and Kenneth Grahame.)

It opens at the V&A Museum when two of the children whose lives we follow discover a boy from ‘Burslem in t’potteries’ hiding in the bowels of the Museum. The boys take their discovery to the grown ups: Olive, and Prosper Cain, the Special Keeper of Precious Metals, whom Olive is consulting for research for one of her books. But this is no Oliver Twist: these people are artists and Fabians and they take the boy in and he is found a place with a local master potter, Benedict Fludd. The Wellwood’s Midsummer party follows rapidly on and we meet more characters, neighbour and theatre director Augustus Steyning and his guest, and old acquaintance of Olive, German puppetmaster, Anselm Stern. Further characters are introduced and the stage is set for the subsequent twenty odd years of saga.

I loved it and I’d really recommend the book to anyone who’s interested in the era.

Now, what book to choose next?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


I’ve just got back from Book Club. It’s only down the road from me but we got stranded by the torrential rain storm. It’s proper tropical rain. Only newbies try to run home in it.

Our book club was a ‘pot luck’ meeting where there is no prescribed book; instead members come with a book they’ve read recently and enjoyed and we all get the floor to talk about our choice. I like pot luck meetings.

I took ‘We Are All Made of Glue’ by Marina Lewycka. I loved it. I love the way she writes. I love that she writes about ordinary personal drama. I don’t need guns and aliens or the imminent end of the world; there’s enough drama for me in the ordinary domestic arena.

Finally, after lunch and then another natter, the rain stopped. I made for home.

In my soi, I very nearly had to swim.