Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Feeling foreign and in a perpetual state of confusion

If I'm not in my apartment but you know I'm working, you can usually find me in my other, unofficial office: Starbucks on the third floor in Siam Paragon mall.

That's where I was heading this morning, a bit later than planned, when I saw the first sign of a queue; its end tapered out at the edge of the mall. The traffic was heavier than normal for 11am on a week day; it's a common sign that the traffic has been held up for someone Very Important.

The queue was solid, not straggly, and stretched the entire front of Siam Paragon. There must have been a couple of hundred people in it. The last time I saw something like this was when a famous pop group made a public appearance but this queue wasn't behaving quite right for that. It was too orderly. They weren't here to see someone; they wanted something. Eventually my taxi crept around the corner and dropped me near the door and the head of the line. A hiso (high society) Thai had a big arrangement of pink flowers to present. There must be a celebrity....

Crowds and queuing always reminds me of my foreignness. There's a fuss about something or someone that I don't understand. I am excluded. Usually when I arrive somewhere I don't even know the event was happening because I haven't been able to read the notices in the media and if I do happen upon it I don't recognize the celeb. I can't read the signs (if there are any) so I am there with all these fans who are in a state of excitement and anticipation but I'm quite cut off from the experience.

The queue used the far right hand door and those not interested - or oblivious in my case - used the normal door where the security people check bags. Nobody stopped us from entering thinking we might jump the queue. I really couldn't think what they were all here for....

I know that I can normally be relied upon to take photos to illustrate my blog but this time I needed both my hands to pick my chin up at the anti-climax of it...

This big line of people were queuing to go to a newly opened branch of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

What. Is. That. All. About?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Book maths and I can stop any time I want

I came across a brilliant idea, in which Nose in a book admits shamelessly copying Novel Insights’ post about doing some book maths. The idea is that you add up your To Be Read pile – theirs were 137 and 108 respectively - then you work out how many books you read a week or a month or a year and calculate how long it will take you to read your TBR pile as it stands.

Husband did a rather informal version of this a few weeks ago. Verbally. In a fit of pique. 

(For the second year ever I’ve kept a list of what I’m reading so I know what rate I read at but I’ve had to remove the list from the sidebar because Blogger has been playing Silly Bluggers.)

I went to my dedicated TBR bookshelves and counted the volumes. Ahem. There are 196 books on my TBR pile. Oh dear. 

Now bear in mind that I had to have tuition to get through my maths O’level so I’m not very reliable when it comes to book calculating; perhaps even my counting skills are in question. If these figures are correct – which they can’t possibly be - and I’ve read 50 books so far this year and it’s now week 39 then I read at a rate of 1.6 books per week. But by my reckoning that means those 196 books will take 122.5 weeks or 2.3 years to read. And that can’t be right.

I don’t think book maths is such a great idea any more. I think there must be something wrong with the operator.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Early morning loving

This morning, instead of being at my desk at 7am (showered and dressed: oh life's so unfair...why can't I work in my pyjamas?) I'm heading into school with the offspring. You'll be relieved to hear I'm also showered and dressed for the school bus.

Sometimes (usually when I'm on the bus and the reality of it hits home) I'm appalled that I make my children catch a bus to school that leaves at 6.30am. But when I get downstairs and see what teeny tiny children are being sent by other parents to schools all over Bangkok and I look at my big thugs....then I give myself a break.

Our bus snakes out into the green route (back roads) and we meet other school buses, coming in and out of different condos; we give way to a Japanese school's minibus and then a guard blows the whistle to signal us in to the entrance to pick up our next child or group. It all appears so carefully choreographed that it reminds me of the dance of the fork lift trucks. (I'll have to look for that on YouTube from home to link it.)

I always think of the person whose job it it to organize the buses and what a massive, horrifying job it is. All the buses come in for the same start time but the finish time is different for kindergarten, from early years and different again for the rest of school. Depending on after school activities you can be on the end of school bus, the late bus or the late late bus. They even accept changes to the system: I just email to ask 'please can you put Daughter on the late bus today?' If I were in charge, presuming I did manage to get it organized in the first place, I'd scream 'NOOO! It's all set in stone NO CHANGES ALLOWED.' There's a huge fleet of buses (100 or 200 I'm guessing) and they wend their way all over Bangkok picking up the kids and taking them to school. If I'm at school for the end of the day when they repeat the whole thing in reverse I'm even more in awe. Just thinking about the whole logistics of such an operation is enough to bring me out in hives.

As we get closer to school I spot other buses with their code numbers on the back window to denote their route, all heading to the same destination. I'm not sure any of my talents are particularly useful but when we arrive at school, get ticked off by the girl with the clip board and slide into our numbered space, I give thanks that someone has the particular skill to work out how to get nearly 2,000 kids in and out of school on time. I can't even catch the right train on my own.

But I do love Bangkok at this time of day. The traffic moves, the weather is tolerable and the monks are out walking barefoot with their alms bowls. Perhaps I should go out more often at 6.30am....

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Get hope with a little help from my friends ♪♪♪♪

This post is long overdue.

One of the most brilliant things about blogging among writing friends is that you get to share their journey. It’s a privilege to hear when someone has finished their gazillionth edit and have finally submitted it; or to hear that an agent has requested their full manuscript or signed them and then sold it to a publisher.

Perhaps some might think that it’s cause for envy but how can I be envious when I’m not ready to submit yet? When my manuscript is the best it can be and I’m sending it out but it keeps coming back rejected…maybe, just maybe there’ll be a tinge of jealousy. But right now seeing my friends’ successes fills me with hope. In spite of the problems in the publishing industry, new writers are being taken on - possibly in infinitesimally small numbers - but damn it, they are being taken on.

These all these stories and the friends they belong to keep me writing.

So here are the latest: 

Christine Stovell’s website is here and she blogs here. Turning the Tide is Chris’ first book. Kate Harrison described it as “refreshing, funny and romantic.” Harry Watling isn’t your average heroine. She’s been fighting to keep her father’s boatyard afloat for the past five years. This reaches crisis point when Matthew Corrigan, a property developer appears on the scene wanting to turn the land into an up market housing complex to go hand in hand with his exotic new restaurant.  

Beautiful Malice is Rebecca James’ debut novel. Her website is here and she blogs here. After Katherine’s life is devastated by a tragedy she moves to a new city and a new school. In order to protect herself she tries to live anonymously while attempting to come to terms with her past. When she meets Alice, a popular and gregarious girl at her school, she is flattered and so her defenses begin to break down but friendship with Alice is not what she thought it would be and the relationship begins to get complicated, dangerous even...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What's in your handbag?

I am writing. Oh yes. So here’s a fun meme that I stole from here.

  1. BK Magazine which I read in Starbucks yesterday. I brought it home (it’s free – I didn’t steal, honest) because it had a couple of articles I wanted to remember.
  2. Tiny moleskin notebook. Can’t leave home without one.
  3. Tissues
  4. Fisherman’s Friends in cherry flavour and sugar free: oh YaY.
  5. My ‘Mummy’ pack in which you will find paracetamol, Rennies, a nail file, some plasters (band aid), a tampon, Migraleve, green cream for mossie bites, lip salve and dental floss. Perhaps there should be a tea bag in there?
  6. Change of battery for my Sony camera – see number 18
  7. My iPhone: this has recently replaced my Blackberry which, after three years of service, finally died.
  8. A couple of notes: the next book club book title and a note from a man in a shop in Phrompong skytrain station telling me where to buy a mannekin (Platinum.)
  9. My tiny Flip video camera.
  10. The most perfect wallet in the world. A discontinued line from Mulberry. Once it was salmon pink now it’s just dirty.
  11. A bag in a bag; a bag for life. Whatever you call them I bought this in Chinatown and I love it.
  12. Aluminium can tin pulls. We save for charity. It's for the bit of the prosthetic limb that attaches to the body.
  13. Passes for school, apartment and BWG.
  14. Lippy. Why? Gawd knows. I hardly ever wear it and when I do this is lip colour. Peer pressure?
  15. Lip salve. Can’t live without it.
  16. Push up pencil. I've searched long and hard and this one is perfect. The lead is .7mm, B and it’s by Faber Castell. I can’t live without it. If you want to borrow it you might have to put down a deposit so I know it'll come back to me.
  17. Skytrain pass, MRT pass, various business and appointment cards.
  18. My Sony camera. I never go anywhere without it.
  19. The bag of the moment is a brown suede bag I bought in Selfridges about eight years ago.

 So back to the writing. Anyone else prepared to show?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Just call me David Attenborough

After a weekend of wifi outages I hope I’m back…

I’m particularly pleased to be bringing you this report. The piece of film you are about to see has been years in the making. Careful staking out of the environs (the derelict patch next door to my old apartment) has been undertaken and this film is the result of many hours of waiting for just the right conditions (post rain.) David Attenborough need not fear. Rarely could I be bothered to go out after a rainstorm to see if the cows were mooing. 

But first, back to the beginning.

When I first walked past this bit of land and heard cows mooing I thought I must be mad. I stopped and listened: it was a herd of cows, mooing. The property had been a restaurant when we moved in and after they ceased trading some people came in to do a demolition job. It was only half done; I assume the money ran out. A pretty, open to the elements house remained among the raging undergrowth.

I peered in through the railings. There were definitely no cows here. Perhaps, I thought, in days gone by this bit of Bangkok was rural. Perhaps this is the site of a famous but terrible cow massacre. This mooing is the manifestation of their spirits being disturbed. I was spooked.

Somewhere along the line someone burst my theory and told me it wasn’t a cow ghost graveyard; they were toads mooing. Yeah right, I thought, because we all know toads and frogs say ‘rivit.’ I know which hypothesis I think is more believable.

I was upset when just before I was going to the UK for the summer, I saw that the land was going to be redeveloped by Ootoya restaurants. Where would the spirits of the unhappy bovines go? Where would the toads live?

A week or so later, on a walk back from an evening meal Husband spotted a couple of the toads lurching across our soi. Intrepid (though slightly short sighted) reporter that I am, I whipped out my camera and chased warty toad across the road. Here he is:

(That's a leaf he's sitting on not a strange anatomical something or other.)

Then while I was in London, Husband caught the mooing on his 'phone late one night walking back to the apartment. This is wildlife filming at its best. If there’s any shake to the camera, it’s not the Singha beer…

I have covered cows in Bangkok previously here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Here I am (and some friends)

Awww, you are so lovely. I’ve had kind messages asking why I’m not blogging. Am I still unpacking? (Pah, no, there are still boxes everywhere.) Thank you to those that have told me (or Husband) they missed my posts. *Waves* to those in the office.

I think I underestimated the stress of moving… and I’ve been feeling down in the dumps but yesterday I woke to find my low mood has lifted and I’m feeling back to normal (whatever normal is…)

Sometimes life in Thailand is hard. You might want to locate something but you don’t know where to find it and your Thai will only stretch to ‘where’s the loo? ‘Please could I have chicken fried rice’ and ‘I want to go to soi 42.’ So, lovely readers in Thailand… more specifically, lovely readers who are Thai natives, I wonder if you can help me. I need someone to do some research for me. Mostly I eventually find things but this one’s a bit obscure.

I need to buy a child-sized mannequin.  There are several types of mannequin. A is a display mannequin – you see her in shop windows wearing and hopefully selling clothes. B is what I call a dressmaker’s dummy (I don’t mean to be rude; I’m sure s/he’s no dummy) and s/he’s usually soft so you can stick pins in her/him.

And really what I want is C (because they are pose-able) but I might have to compromise because of cost and availability. I’ve had a look in the Pratunam Centre at a place I know has shop fittings including mannequins but they didn’t have what I wanted. I suspect the general answer will be ‘Chinatown’ but that’s a big place… 

Can anyone narrow it down a bit? Feel free to email me – find the address on the profile page – if you don’t want to comment.

Thank you in advance.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Not a Friday Photo

Gosh almost a week has gone by since I last blogged. Sorry about that.

I’ve been feeling under the weather for a variety of reasons and hiding mostly in books. (I’d like to announce that I have the loveliest Husband in the world who, on seeing that I was under par, told me not to worry about the unpacking of boxes and concentrate instead on looking after myself. He might not have said that if we still hadn’t found his underwear though.)

Yesterday morning I finished reading The Waiting Room by FG Cottam. It’s a ghost story set in the modern day and around the WW1. Me, Queen of Realism, reading a ghosty tale? I couldn’t work out how I’d got there but looking over there to the left at my list of reading material it clearly came via The Woman in Black. And that was influenced by the Lucie Whitehouse psychological thrillery stuff I picked up (and loved) in the UK…

And who says I don’t read ghost stories? Well, I do. My brother loves ghost stories. I wanted so much to impress him that I remember trying to read MR James’ stories when I was much too young – precocious reader that I was. One night I had a friend over to stay and Brother must have been babysitting. I would’ve been under 11 because it was a primary school friend. Brother took his responsibilities most seriously. After we’d gone to bed, we dimmed the lights and Brother came in to read a bedtime story. He read the WW Jacobs’ story The Monkey’s Paw to us as my friend Helen and I panted into brown paper bags to prevent hyperventilation.

One of my top books last year was Sarah Waters’ A Little Stranger. At the time my response to the story was different from everyone else at book group. I’ve been thinking about this book again since one of the Book Club members passed me a Guardian interview. Sarah Waters talks about writing this book and she says ‘No other novel of mine has inspired such a range of responses in its audience…’ Lovely Helen and I have been emailing about A Little Stranger too since I saw on Twitter that she was reading it. I tweeted back: ‘please let me know when you’ve finished so we can talk about the ending.’ I had (and still have) total conviction that I am correct in my reaction. And I love that about art; whether I am right or wrong it’s my reaction.

If you haven’t already had enough of me I’m hosting coffee over at the Novel Racers’ blog today.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Friday Photo on Saturday

I can't show an interior shot yet because it's still full of half empty boxes but this is the view from the dining room window.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Have you played 'What's in the box?' Well, don't.

I’ve come to tell you that I survived yesterday – just. I’m only a tiny bit traumatized.

Today the new apartment looks terrifyingly like the photo in yesterday's post.

So entirely pushed to my limits was I by the evening that I was fit to commit all sorts of crimes but fortunately for everyone else I was just too exhausted; a total waste of space by about 8.30.

Knickers and undercrackers going missing have been one of our problems. Noooo, not like someone had a fetish and has been swiping them… I mean more like there are 350 boxes and your knickers are probably in one of them but everything’s labeled in Thai by the packers so it’s like a huge game of ‘guess what’s in the box.’ Have you every played that? Don’t is my advice. When you’re properly pooped and you know that all the underwear’s gone missing but actually you can’t worry about that because you won’t need them until tomorrow morning and further up your priority list should be the bed sheets and pillows which you are going to need much sooner… not to mention the loo roll.

Anyway, Daughter’s knickers were located after she'd left for school this morning in my wardrobe (I wish.) Don’t worry, Daughter had packed some extra pairs separately because she didn’t get her organizational genes from me. And a pair of undercrackers were found for Husband  – we suspect they might be Son’s but beggars can’t be choosers - in the clean washing pile that came separately but that’s only given us a stay of execution… Top of the list today is:

1. Find Husband some undercrackers for tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Moving day

Yesterday was packing day and today is moving in day.

This is how the old apartment looked when we got up this morning; breakfast was taken on the floor or on a trolley. I'm on duty at the new place today while another team finish off at the Towers.

I've loved living here but I don't feel at all sad. I'm looking forward to somewhere new and a room of my own.