Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Back in February I posted about my Dad, and the Christmas Creatures that he makes for the children in the family and sometimes some hangers on. He’s been making them since I was around seven or eight. They are constructed in a rather sophisticated Blue Peter fashion with a hollow belly into which little presents are hidden. They were always top secret: what creature would they be? There have been a snowman, a cat, robots, spacemen, aliens, a sausage dog… many little creatures lovingly made and filled over the autumn months. They would be unveiled in a very low key manner by putting them under the tree on Christmas Eve or on Christmas morning for us to stumble upon. We’d receive them with the presents after lunch.

This year my kids went off to the UK for Christmas, while I stayed in Thailand doing my Skyros course. And so this trip home is the first time I’ve seen this year’s Christmas Creature.

Here is my Dad’s inspiration, eating nuts on the kitchen window:

And here is the Christmas Creature:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A long Update

Oh, there’s a surfeit of subjects to write about and I don’t know where to start.

Being back in the UK feels a bit like I’ve just got out of prison. I feel disconnected in a world full of familiarity. Chip and pin cards are causing me some consternation. I know my numbers but I want to hand the card to the cashier – I forget that little machine thing. The cashier looks at me as though I might have been released recently into the community. It’s rather wonderful and disconcerting all at the same time.

I am staying in the village in which I grew up. My parents’ home is­ filled with the ghosts of my past. So many ghosts I can’t go anywhere without my head filling with fragments of memories. Lots and lots of story ideas that I must try to write down

My sister and her daughters have been staying with our parents for about 8 months. They moved down from London last year and now they know everyone, including women who were our childhood friends who now have their own children. I feel like a foreigner and yet, I also feel as though I belong.

It’s been a strange few days. My folks are as mad as ever; probably madder with the addition of my sister. I narrowly missed the funeral of Aubergine the Hamster who passed on the day before I arrived, and damn me, if Milky Way the other Hamster didn’t go and die the day after. I attended that funeral. Courtesy of Granddad, they have beautiful headstones – actually they’re headplywoods but that doesn’t sound quite so glamourous. The day between the passing of the hamsters, a headless rabbit was discovered in Younger Niece’s wardrobe. It had been caught by HP the Cat and deposited in her wardrobe minus its head … I think it was a gift to her. Hmmm, I’m glad my sister found it. HP loves Younger Niece and sleeps on her bed so I’m fairly sure that it wasn’t sinister but a token of love. ‘H’ in HP doesn’t stand for Hannibal!

Last Friday I made my way to Manchester to see our best friends. They have a new addition to their family since I was last in the UK. He joined them a few months ago and I was desperate to meet him. He’s called Charlie and he’s a gorgeous four year old fell pony.

On Saturday I was meeting up with fourteen other Novel Racers. My Manchester friends said to me ‘if you want rescuing, just text us from the loo, and we’ll ring you and tell you there’s an emergency.’ But it was so not necessary. I loved it. Oh it was so fab to meet up with you all. I know I haven’t raced ahead with my story but I am still trying and I would, without any doubt, have given up had it not been for the support of the Novel Racers.

I am always astonished by how generous published writers are to us mere mortals who trying to write. Thank you Rowan for your advice: I think maybe I AM putting off actually writing. Watch this space.

Six hours disappeared in an instant. We ordered lunch and drinks and moved round the table so we could mingle with everyone. We awarded L-Plate her bottle of Champagne for finishing her re-write. I was disappointed not to have spoken individually to absolutely everyone which was a shame, but still that means WE’LL JUST HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN! I am back in July: how about a London meet?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Arrived safe and sound

Well, I've arrived safely. The weather when I got here was perfect: sunny and crisp. I made my way to my parents without my coat and it was gorgeous - cool. Do you remember cool, Bangkokians?

In memory of the heat in Bangkok, and to celebrate my arrival in the UK I bring you the sandals I had made and told you about here. I didn't need to bring them to the UK.

If I get whiney about the cold while I'm here, please just tell me to shut up and remind me of the heat in Bangkok.

I'm really sorry my hooves are in the blue ones but they don't make sense off my feet.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Yvonne tagged me for a six word memoir.

I am, in no particular order although it's interesting that both Husband and I put the worried/neurotic tag top of the list to describe me:


There's another one going round that's six words in a kind of sentence. I haven't been tagged for it, but there some stonkingly good ones around. My sentence of six would read:

I'm coming to England tonight: Yay

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Uhm, why?

Why did I think it was a good idea?

Why did I think, when I am about to come to England to see family and friends that it was a good idea to get my hair cut?

Why when I’m about to meet blog friends with only the vaguest idea of what I look like, did I think it was a good idea to go to a new, different hairdresser?

If my hair were a person, it would have special needs.

If my hair had heroes, it would be Professor Trelawny and Crystal Tips from ‘Crystal Tips and Alistair’ (Alistair is the dog. Obviously. The dog has sensible hair.)

If someone was wishing not to offend me, they would call my hair interesting. Or big.

Why didn’t I realise going to the hairdresser after wearing a helmet at go-karting that pasted my hair attractively to my scalp, that the hairdresser would get the wrong impression of my hair?

Why, when the hairdresser told me it needed some body cut into it, did I not run as fast as possible screaming from the scissors?

Please. Please, if I meet you in England, don’t mention my hair.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


I’ve lost 750 words. Not because I haven’t been backing up – though I haven’t. They are on my computer somewhere but I’ve forgotten what I called them.

That’s the problem with starting your book again, again, again. You I keep making new versions, called ‘start’ or ‘opening’ or maybe ‘ChapterOne.’ And I keep making new folders as well to contain the new documents. So I’ve got folders called ‘MyBook,’ ‘2008Book’ and ‘SkyrosBook’ and inside them are a variety of false starts with unoriginal titles.

If you look at my sidebar with a magnifying glass, you will almost see the orange (barely) one pixel wide of the missing 750 words. I know that isn’t too many words to be worrying about – there could’ve been two more noughts on the end but they were my words and when it’s pretty much all I’ve done, it’s a bit of a bummer. They weren’t the opening paragraph; they were a few pages in because I couldn’t think how to start it.

And then, just the other night, lying in bed, there in my head were my two opening lines. So now, I quite like to find the 750 that go somewhere after it.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Back in Bangkok

Of today

Son is fourteen today; I’m not sure how this is possible.

Husband’s birthday is today too, but he is much older and yesterday he began to make grouchy noises about this fact. I am of the opinion that being older is much better than being … not any older.

Of elastic deadlines

My break has done me good. I am quite desperate to get writing again. My self-imposed deadline is nearly here and I haven’t done what I wanted to do. But. I can’t stop so there’ll be no more talk of quitting.

I am cheered too by an email from Julia Bell who told me that The Literary Consultancy is holding a writing holiday in Koh Chang in September. You can see the news here, and their website is here and will go live at the end of April. I am not making a new deadline but I do want to attend the course with some writing under my belt.

Of Monday


If you live there, what is the weather like? What clothes do I need to unearth and pack?

Monday, April 14, 2008

I'm a convert

It was without enthusiasm that I set out with family for the start of the Songkran water festival. My lead lined boots and I shuffled miserably up the road, a smile pasted to my face just to prove to the family that I do know how to have fun. A day earlier, an AK-47 seemed the best possible option, but on the actual day, I declared myself a pacifist. I would not arm myself. I was going to make a political stand. (In truth I hoped that the combination of unarmed, bespectacled - I'm having problems with the jellyfish contact lenses - and the status of a farang woman would discourage anyone from dousing me. Yeah, I can hear your withering laughs from here...)

In Chiang Mai all the action is at the moat which surrounds the old town so we walked from our hotel, purchasing water guns on the way for Husband, Son and Daughter.

We got progressively wetter as we approached our destination and by the time we'd taken a position by the moat the guns had been abandoned in favour of buckets and we were drenched. We were totally soaked through ... to our skin; like we'd been dunked in the swimming pool, fully clothed. It was somewhere at the beginning of this process that I realised. It dawned on me that it was a good idea because quite suddenly the heat was no longer an issue; my temperature was comfortable for the first time in weeks.

It was pandemonium: total madness. Young person music pumped out of a pub with a 'it all sounds the same to me' beat. Everyone was armed with buckets and a variety of water guns. A motorcade of trucks, cars, tuk tuks and motorbikes crept along the roads, hurling gallons of iced water at the hundreds of people lining the roads, who drew water out of the moat or pumps by the roadside and threw it back. People screamed and squealed with laughter as they were sprayed with freezing cold water and rushed to fire back.

I really enjoyed myself though. For two hours we took part in a sort of happy warfare. There is nowhere else I can imagine this happening without fights breaking out. It was great fun for two hours, but not five days! I had the brilliant idea of photographing the spectacle through a plastic bag and I've got lots of truly dreadful hazy pictures but I may post them when I get to Bangkok anyway.

Back in Bangkok tomorrow. Boy, will I be glad to see my laptop!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thai New Year: Songkran

We’re off to Chiang Mai tomorrow for six nights. A big holiday is coming up: Songkran, Thai New Year. The evidence is apparent all around as folk flee the city to go home to their families to celebrate this favourite Thai holiday.

This holiday coincides with the hottest time of the year here. The weather in Thailand is something I don’t tend to talk about on my blog because I’d get hate mail. The heat is unrelenting though and when it’s this hot you can’t stand still without breaking out in a sweat. It’s not nice hot. Oh sorry, please don’t send me hate mail.

The Thais deal with this heat during Songkran by drenching everyone in water. For three days. THREE days. THREE.

There’s only one thing I hate more than being hot and sweaty, and that’s being wet. And guess what? Westerners are prize game because the rules no longer apply! Apparently a policeman can’t arrest you during Songkran for throwing water at him!!!!!!

The first year I was here I hid for three days in the apartment. Husband, a colleague and two backpackers took the children and several big water guns down to the bottom of the soi (ahem, to the red light area!) to play water fights. The children were in their element. Their mother is the meanest woman in the world when it comes to water fights.

The second year we were away with Husband’s sister and her family. The resort we stayed in was on the edge of a not very busy road and trucks full of Thai’s drove past to go to the town for the fun. They were delightful: on seeing a group of four children ranging from 4 to 13 on the side of the road with bottles of water, the trucks would slow down so the kids could get a good hit, and the Thai would send a gallon or so over them. It was a lot of fun from the boundaries of the resort where no-one could drench me.

These pics are from last year.

Nephew: Armed and ready to shoot.

Yes, this is MY son and his cousin. I AM a proud mother: I've taught him such valuable lessons for his journey through life.

And that's a hit. BiL is rather pleased with himself.

I will be back next week. I am not taking my laptop, just a notebook because I'm nurturing my inner mojo... Back soon.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My Mojo

I know my mojo is returning because on trotting down the soi a few minutes ago I suddenly thought ‘Oh isn’t my soi pretty?’ (soi=street)

My village in Buckinghamshire was pretty. It had the loveliest village green in the centre where they used to play cricket. On three sides were hills swooping up directly behind the buildings fronting the green. A mixture of periods meant houses and shops never looked twee in a nauseous English village way.

I’m not sure I’ve ever thought my soi was pretty but there I was thinking just that. Lots of my tastes have altered since I’ve been here, so I just accepted it for another change in how I define nice-looking.

Whether it’s anyone else’s idea of attractive is neither here nor there; the fact is I appreciated the dapply light. I think I must be getting back to normal.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Postive Mental Attitude

I've done some positive visualisation today: some positive mental attitude preparation for the coming week. Today is still the weekend because it's a bank holiday for Chakri Day so I made a plea to the family for a day out tailored to my requirements.

We went on the Chao Phraya river first, in a boat that's effectively a water bus. We rode for half an hour upstream, had a little walk and then returned back the way we'd come and we jumped off at the Oriental Hotel. (Sharp memories might remember me being refused entry here because of my flip flops!)

We made our way to the Authors' Lounge for traditional afternoon tea. In the menu is a long list of all the famous authors that have stayed there. I was tempted to add my name to the bottom but I thought I might get into trouble. A) I wasn't staying there; B) I already had a bad reputation for not following their rules... flip flops and C) Oh yes, I'm not an author yet.

Still, I was enormously cheered up by the out of this world scones, Darjeeling tea and real, yes, REAL clotted cream. So, sorry, I can't offer you scones as I scoffed them all but here are some delectable pictures.

The tea. A half eaten scone, and another whole one to scoff.

This pretty display was in the ladies!

Left: The Authors' Lounge. We were seated behind the pillar on the right. Did they tuck us away even though I wasn't wearing flip flops?

Right: Gorgeous photo op spotted by Husband of Thai staff in traditional dress.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

I wanted to tell you

The minute I stopped blogging, I thought of things I wanted to say. I still felt a bit fragile so I thought I’d stay away for the time being anyway.

I wanted to tell you about the sandals I’ve had made (for the price of a decent pair of leather sandals in the UK I had a pair made just for me). I wanted to post a picture because I was so excited.

I wanted to tell you how irritated I’d been by a motorbike on the pavement behind me while I was walking to Book Club. This is normal here and has never bothered me before so I wasn’t sure why it made me so angry this time. I run Book Club and I felt cross with myself for not managing to read Bleak House. It scared a lot of people off, and we were only five in attendance. We met in a new venue that served really yummy Berry yogurty shake thing. I wanted to tell you all how the four friends made me feel cheerful again.

I wanted to tell you that Bill contacted me after reading my Snake Farm post. Bill is a journalist in Houston and was writing an article about the snake farm for the Chronicle and he asked if could help him with some extra details. I could. I love the internet. You can see his article here.

I wanted to post a picture of a beautiful flower I saw.

I wanted to tell you that I picked up the soft contact lenses to replace my lost-because-I-was-so-drunk lens. They are the size of dinner plates and handling them is like manhandling a jelly fish.

I wanted to ask advice about something I don’t want to talk about. There are blurry lines between someone I know in a professional sense that I don’t if it’s right or okay to make an overture of friendship. Blurry lines. I can’t work out what to do so I’m doing nothing.

I wanted to say that I think my peculiar patch might be because I’m having a little moment of homesickness. Maybe because I’m flying home in a couple of weeks or maybe I booked the flight because I was in the early stages of homesickness. I get it so rarely I didn’t recognise it. I miss people, but I don’t often feel homesick.

I wanted to say that while I should've been reading Bleak House I was reading The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and then The Beach by Alex Garland.

I wanted to tell you that I had hoped … so hoped … that not blogging meant I could write. I never found the time. I spent all of last week websiting. My ‘get writing or quit this pretending to write thing’ deadline is approaching. We’re away in Chiang Mai Friday to Thursday next week so I won’t be able to do much then. Will I quit?

I want to tell you that I'm not sure if I should post this or not.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Blog Break

I’m going on a blog break.
I don’t know if I’ll be able
to stay away for very long
(I think I may be addicted)
but I’m feeling a bit empty.

Back soon.