Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
And he was right. Husband received a beautifully wrapped package of around twelve pairs of boxer shorts having formerly highlighted a pant crisis in the sartorial department. (American friends: we’re talking men’s knickers, boxers, underpants, undercrackers, here … not trousers.) He also received some lovely linen shirts that most certainly were not pants: they were very nice.
He packed his new shirts and his undergarments to bring away with us. Unfortunately we hadn’t quite enough space in our bags to bring enough clothes so just the other day I had to prepare a pack of clothes to go to the laundry department at the hotel.
Eventually they were returned. The shirts were neatly folded and so were the pants. I put my t-shirts away, and when Husband returned from scuba diving I told him: ‘Our laundry is back.’
However, on closer examination - not that close – the rather horrible realisation hit us that two of the pairs of pants … uhm … weren’t Husband’s.
Eeeewgh. And nastier still … they were somewhat elderly. Eeeewgh again.
We called the lady from Housekeeping … she retrieved the offending undercrackers and said “Just a minute” and then she disappeared. She disappeared for 24 hours.
I called again this morning with another bag of washing, because Husband is still short … of shorts. I gave her the new bag of washing and asked her if there is any news of Husband’s new and very black knickerknacks… She said “Just a minute…” and she’s been gone for five hours already.
Where have Husband’s pants gone? Is it the same place that single socks go? Does anyone know?
Monday, December 29, 2008
I heard from Sister-in-law that it was rather mild in the UK on Christmas day...
Here, on the other hand, it drizzled all day. These pictures were from Boxing Day!
So don't feel too envious, please.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
After breakfast Husband and I went to have a look. We were invited to sit down. We saw the end of the Hindu service and then joined the Buddhist ceremony. We watched the whole thing and it was brilliant: a real privilege.
Buddhist Monks do not own things and so the Thai people give them necessities. People can buy a monk box in the shops here: it’s yellow and full of various essential items. Monks go out in the morning with their alms bowl to collect food. The hotel had prepared monk boxes and food and these were handed over as part of the ceremony. Water was blessed and the amulets from the Hindu service were blessed by the Monks (both Husband and I were given one each). The nine monks chanted. I can’t describe it. It was beautiful, not singing, definitely chanting … The monks unravelled some string and passed it over the items they were blessing and then they passed it along to the end of the row of monks – normally the string goes around the building – but it hasn’t here.
As a woman, I am not allowed to touch or make eye contact with the monks. As a Western woman … is this hard? A bit, yes, but I believe as a guest here in Thailand one has to respect their ways – or get off home. Everyone was taking pictures – all the staff – and I checked several times with different people because it felt … disrespectful … like religious tourism. In the end I tried not to worry.
Eventually the main monk got up. He was elderly and had a stick. He took the water that their ceremony had blessed and with some fine sticks tied together like a brush, he flicked it over us all. He couldn’t see so well so the manager walked with him holding his arm. As he got to us (Husband on the end of the row) he said ‘Ah, Farang’ (white foreigner.) We wai-ed to him. (Thai greeting: hands together like in prayer and you bow.) The monk asked Husband if he could speak Thai and H said ‘a little bit.’ They talked a little in Thai about how long we had been here. It was confused by Husband thinking he meant in Thailand and the Monk meant at the hotel!
All the time I couldn’t look at the Monk, although I desperately wanted to. I kept my eyes on his saffron robes and wai-ed. The Monk put his hand on Husband’s arm; he held it there to greet him and moved it a little because he hadn’t the words … And then the Monk said in slow but perfect English ‘I am so pleased to see you here.’
Quite suddenly I was shaking and my eyes were watering.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
So I’m sitting here, on my fourth Christmas, overlooking the Andaman Sea. (Don’t hate me: it’s raining and yes, I do know how lucky I am.) I’m writing this on my laptop on the 25 December and questioning the irreverence of such behaviour. I won’t post it on my blog today because I know you are all having Christmas… I will post it sometime when you are back. (Are you back yet?)
I look back at my childhood Christmases and I only remember one house: the house that my parents are still living in now. We moved there 9 days before Christmas in 1972. I was six. There’s a story in that move, but not for now.
Every Christmas morning we would wake to stockings on our bed. Downstairs would be the Christmas Creatures: they were started in this house and I believe the first one was a snow man. After breakfast we would, as a family, climb into the car and drive … not to church … no. We would drive to the West Kent Hospital in Maidstone which was one of the hospitals in which my Dad was a doctor. The West Kent was a stunning building. As you walked in the front door two huge staircases would sweep up in a curve on either side of the hallway and meet in the middle as a balcony. I’m sure it was desperately ill-suited to being a modern hospital, but I still mourn its demise*.
First we would visit the wards in which Dad had patients. I guess he was here as a doctor, but as a child I hardly noticed this because my sister and I would be fed crisps, nuts, chocolates or biscuits and given fizzy drinks by nurses decorated with tinsel. We would wander through the ward saying happy Christmas to the patients and their visiting families. After we’d done Dad’s wards, we’d have two vital places left to visit. The first one was the maternity unit to see if there were any Christmas babies – this really was the highlight of our morning and I hated it if there were none. I always worried if there were two as well; what about the baby that came second?
The second crucial visit was the children’s ward. Sister T, a wizened little woman with a severe grey bun, dressed in navy blue with a big silver buckle on her belt, ruled. She had a mighty personality: loving and strict. She welcomed us with open arms. Father Christmas would visit – mostly we’d be in time for this – after all, this is what my sister and I were here for! If we missed him, he would still have left a present for us. (In 1976 my sister spent about six weeks in Sister T’s care in this very ward. She had a broken femur – thigh – in traction.)
All over the hospital we’d bump into Dad’s colleagues and their children. On the drive home we’d stop at Linton Hospital, a geriatric hospital, in which Dad often had patients, though I was less enamoured of this place. I’m not sure if it was the old people that frightened me or the lack of Christmas babies or Father Christmas.
*Later on a new Maidstone Hospital was built at Barming, where it is now and the old West Kent was knocked down. A mixture of my age and change perhaps, but the magic began to fade for me then, despite the fact that Father Christmas would arrive at the new place in a helicopter.
I loved these hospital visits: They were my Christmas traditions. In the old days, my two grandmothers would be cooking while we were out and we’d come home to our turkey lunch. (Present giving took place in the afternoon.)
So I’m sitting here by the window, Husband’s doing his Thai on the balcony and I’m wondering what I’m doing to my children by encouraging this flexible and nomadic behaviour. Will they ever come ‘home’ for Christmas when they are adults? Will they always come ‘home’, or will they search out something else?
Friday, December 26, 2008
Son and I walked a mile or so down the beach road to Noppharatthara Beach – Phi Phi Islands National Park. Just off the road, through a winding wooden pathway, is a sculpture by Louise Bourgeois to commemorate the tsunami.
I forgot my purse and we brought no water, so when we got back to the hotel we stopped at the bar for a cold drink. The bartender asked me where we had been to get hot and bothered. I told her we had been down to the memorial ... and then she told me she had been working on Phi Phi Island during the tsunami. She said 'I had to run and run; up a hill.'
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wishing you all a very happy Christmas.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
I am constantly astonished by how much of a witch I am without enough sleep. It’s proper Jekyll and Hyde personality change. Tea will go some way to remedying this, but even that isn’t a miracle worker. It was a good job then that I had time for a cup of tea before we boarded our train.
Now, I wasn’t expecting the Orient Express but eughhh, nor was I expecting the yuckiness that was our train. It was ancient, grubby and falling apart… and bloody freezing. Would we even make it? Clearly, as well as Jekyll and Hyde, I’m a bit of a prissy madam too.
Ah well, my resistance (and standards) are much lower than they used to be so I soon got used to it but I am seriously considering the five days on the Trans-Siberian express in the Summer…
It took nine and a half hours … oh dear god… two pink Migraleve followed by two yellow Migraleve followed by more headache and no idea if I could take anything else. The absolute worst thing about it was that I couldn’t see out of the frigging window because of condensation trapped between the double glazing. The window in the loo was open but I wasn’t that desperate. I’m not even going to try and explain the complications of using a squat toilet in a swaying train! I didn’t manage to get to sleep until about eight hours into the journey. After half an hour I was rudely awoken by Son, yelling, ‘is this our stop?’ No it bloody wasn’t. Poor, well meaning Son.
A lovely man from the hotel met us at Surat Thani with lavender flavoured wet flannels and cold drinking water. Ah bless him. There was still more journeying to do though and the next leg onto Krabi was just under three hours.
We arrived at the hotel in the dark, but it still looked fabulous. It has precipitated discussions between Husband and I about a dream house. This is strictly dream material, unless they can be built for shirt buttons. I shall post pictures of this inspiration later on when the Christmas series is finished.
I’ve woken this morning, sans headache, feeling relaxed. I’ve worked out how a character died … and I’m desperate to write. Lovely Husband has taken the kids out to explore … leaving me to
It feels very odd to have had our December 25 while you’re all on the run up to it. (I’ve only played on the wii twice but I’m beginning to be converted to its charms. I shrieked with laughter as my cow ran consistently into the fences!)
Saturday, December 20, 2008
About ten days ago a parcel arrived. Son and I went to the office to collect it. “Ah,” I said, “I know what this is. This is the Christmas Creatures.” Son gasped, “Can we open them now?” Of course I didn’t allow it. I rang my Dad, maker of the Christmas Creatures, to let him know they had arrived.
This morning, our Christmas morning, Husband and I were up and awake and the children, proper teenagers at last, slept on and on and on… stockings bulging and untouched. Whatever has happened to those tiny children who woke at 2am to rip open their stockings?
As they slept on, I opened my Dad’s box of Christmas Creatures. OMG. “He’s surpassed himself,” I say to Husband. “This is the best Creature ever.” Husband said I say that every year… but look – how beautiful are these?
Friday, December 19, 2008
Did you know that today is Christmas Eve? Well it is for the Beatties in Bangkok. We go down to Krabi on Sunday and can’t take presents so we’re celebrating it early.
We’re going down to Krabi by train because we’d psyched ourselves up for the Trans-Siberian express (and we didn’t quite trust the airports!) Luckily we came to our senses when we discovered the kind of temperatures that journey would entail.
We’ve kind of cocked up the notion of family Christmas traditions by being expats. We used to have traditions but they’ve had to go by the wayside. I wondered if we could at least take the stockings for the kids on the right day. I asked Husband to check the train details for luggage stowability.
Husband: We’ve confirmed the arrangements for carry-on vs hold bags and it depends on size.
Me: Okay. What are the sizes?
Husband: "small enough" and "too big". Thai standard sizes!
Phew, I’m glad we sorted that out.
So Christmas day is tomorrow in our house and the 25th will be a mystery waiting to happen. Last year the children jumped out of a box at my parents’ house and nearly gave their cousins a heart attack. I was at Skyros and Husband came down to join me on Christmas Eve. On Christmas day there was a Skyros organised trip to Ban Bao fishing village for lunch and the highlight of the trip for me was seeing these monkeys on the rocks on the way.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Today marks the start of a series of Christmas decorations and we’re going to start with the craziest. Forget Father Christmas, this is Father Condom. Yup, that’s correct: Father Christmas made entirely of condoms, courtesy of Cabbages and Condoms.
Cabbages and Condoms restaurants were established to support the various development activities of the PDA (Population and Community Development Association.) The idea is that condoms should be as available as cabbages. You can read more here.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
A: Ok, it’s when you’ve only inherited the books because your best friend is moving back to the UK. Chris and Carol edited their book collection so that they only ship to the UK what they really wanted to keep. Yes, we were down on the remaindered books like vultures but now I haven’t the heart to even unpack them. I’m pretty much in denial about Carol going…
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
- Copy and paste the rules and instructions into your post.
- When you post about receiving this award, make sure you include who gave you the award and link it back to them.
- Post five winners and link it back to them as well.
- Post five of your addictions.
- Add the award image.
- Let your winners know you gave them an award by leaving them a comment on their blog.
Five addictions, eh? There isn’t much I haven’t already ‘fessed up to here. So, one word answers (mostly) for me:
- Lip Salve
So the next step is for me to nominate five other bloggers for this award so I pass this to the Leigh, Rachel, Yvonne, L-Plate and Karen. Note: some of these are a bit on the quiet side at the moment, for one reason and another, but they are among my favourites.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I’ve managed no writing for a couple of days as I’m trying to get the Christmas shopping done and dusted. We have, in spite of some shaky ‘everything’s booked’ moments, managed to find somewhere to go for Christmas. We’re going to take the train down south and then a car to Krabi Province. Our first ever holiday in Thailand was to Krabi and it’s stunningly beautiful with gorgeous craggy cliffs and islands.
I’ve also not written because I’ve got to a moment where I’m not sure of … quite what happens. Several subplots could happen here and I need to make a decision as to which one it will be, stick to it and then get going again. My inability to make decisions trips me up regularly.
Right now I'm off to wrap some presents.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
My favourites were Pogles Wood, Ivor the Engine and The Clangers.
Ivor the Engine was particularly important for me because he taught me about my quarter Welshness. My paternal granddad came from Port Talbot in South Wales. (Ivor the Engine was set in 'the top left hand corner of Wales.') We holidayed in Wales several times in this period of my youth. When it came to rugby, it was the quarter Welsh bit that mattered. My brother and Dad followed Welsh rugby union very closely and it was going through a golden age. Considered to be one of the greatest rugby teams of all time, the names Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams still bring back memories of take out beer and my brother and Dad roaring at the television.
My favourite character in Ivor the Engine was Idris the Dragon. I think there was some confusion going on in my head. As small children with good eyesight, my sister and I had been carefully trained to spot the Red Dragon and Double Dragon beer signs on the pubs as we drove through Wales on our holidays.
It didn’t, as it happens, have much of an impact on my eventual cultural identity… apart from still enjoying a male voice choir and a pair of fine male thighs!
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
I went to see The Duchess last night with a friend. OMG, who’d want to have lived in those days?
I’d never been to the Apex Scala cinema before - it was the only cinema showing The Duchess – but I spotted it from the skytrain last weekend. So we knew where to go but we were in for a surprise when we got there. It was built in the 1960s and hasn’t been renovated since. This makes for an authentic movie going experience… The building was deserted (there were only around 20 of us in the auditorium.) The attendants were wearing bright yellow Crimplene jackets - shades of Butlins in 1973 – and jolly nearly outnumbered paying guests. The basic ticket was £1.90 or you could push the boat out, as we did, for £2.30 (see left.) Apart from being freezing inside it was perfectly comfortable.
Thank you very much Leigh for this award: The Superior Scribbler Award. (Update: also kindly received from Debs and nearly awarded from Rachel too.)
1. Every superior scribbler must name five other super scribblers.
2. Link back to the author and the name of the blog that gave you the award.
3. Display the award and link to this post, which explains the award.
4. Add your name to the Mr Linky List, some way down this page, as a record of who the superest scribblers are.
I must pass it on to most deserving super scribblers too. I pass it on to Angie, Hesitant Scribe, Helen, Yvonne and I would’ve passed it on to Calistro too as she’s been inspiring and partially responsible for my finally getting on with my writing. But she’s already had it.
Now to prove that I am most definitely a superior scribbler, I must go and write more than the measly 70 words I managed yesterday.
Monday, December 08, 2008
So, in no particular order…
T is for Tea: PG Tips is my favourite but I’ve had phases for Yorkshire Tea as well. Although I love a good strong builder’s tea, I can be quite classy too, partaking of green tea (oolong is my favourite) when the mood takes me.
T is for Thailand: I am part way through my fourth year here and I never thought I’d have the chance to live as an expat in another country. It was my first time in Asia and is my first experience living in a city. I think it is the most exciting thing ever to happen to me.
T is for TBR pile: I couldn’t live without books and my To Be Read pile needs to be well supplied. I always have a book on the go…
T is for Tootsie: I LOVE the film Tootsie with Dustin Hoffman who auditions as ‘Dorothy’ to get a part in a soap opera to prove to his agent he is employable. I can’t begin to guess how many times I’ve seen the film. I was going to try and tell you my favourite scenes, but there are just too many.
T is for Two children: I have two hands and two knees and when I got one of each gender, I thought it was perfect.
T is for Typography: I needed to take a year off between school and university because I didn’t know what subject I wanted to do. My Dad had a colleague who suggested a secretarial course that one of her nieces had done and I am eternally grateful to my Dad for sending me. I love being able to type. I love that I am fast and accurate and I don’t have to think what I am doing.
T is for Teetotal I wish: I do like a drink but the older I get the more ill I become. I stopped drinking red wine at University because I’d get a migraine before the first glass was finished. Now it’s any alcohol. Sometimes I’m stupid and over-indulge anyway, claiming I don’t care, but I do and it makes me so ill for so many days, I no longer think it’s worth it.
T is for Too much worrying: ‘Nuff said, really. I wish I didn’t.
T is for Trees in autumn: It’s my favourite season and I really miss the colours and weather in England.
T is for The Beast: which is the nickname of Husband.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
There was always the potential (in my head) that the first 10k of words was a fluke and she’d come back and say “Oh dear, what happened to the second 10k?”
But I am a bit excited. I love how she’ll say something, such as “you have a tendency to do this…” and I go and look at it thinking ‘Do I?’ and yes, she’s right, so I do. I love how she’s not spoon feeding me but is highlighting things (tendencies) for me to identify and amend: all the while being there to feedback to if I don’t understand. Personally, I think it’s important for me to learn how to spot this stuff myself and what I intend from this experience, is how to stand on my own two feet with my work.
About one scene, she said: “… far and away the strongest passage is the conversation between M and her mother in C’s study. This is packed with dramatic tension, pathos and humour, beautifully balanced in that you invite us to sympathise with both women in their troubled relationship. The narrative pace is spot on…”
I worry a lot about
Today I was on ‘take Daughter and Friend to a party’ duty. I took my laptop to Starbucks while I waited for the pick up and wrote 720 words and felt myself getting back into the flow.
It’s so exciting. I am so excited.
(Please forgive the me me me-ness of this post)
Saturday, December 06, 2008
We are purists when it comes to Christmas trees: only REAL will do.
Then we moved to Thailand where there is a distinct lack of choice: Non-drop, traditional, Nordman fir, Frasier Fir, Norway Spruce, Blue Spruce, Scots Pine?
Nope. Here, it’s no tree or fake tree.
Rabidly against fake trees, in our first year we found a distant relative of the fir tree in one of the garden centres. I think its genetic similarity was tenuous. It had pine needles and droopy branches. All the baubles slid down the branches overnight and had to be replaced every morning. The tree couldn’t cope with our Western need for air conditioning – we’d only been here a few months – and it got sicker and sicker, dropping its needles, and then the baubles wouldn’t wait until night time to fall off.
The following year we caved.
Yesterday we built our tree (you have no idea of the pain it causes me to say this out loud.)
Friday, December 05, 2008
Still, we had a fire break out on our table which was pretty exciting. No, I’m not joking: a piece of cracker debris spontaneously combusted on our table, making quite a table decoration for several seconds. It’s a sad state of affairs when one’s first reaction is ‘Is there time to get my camera out so I can blog this?’ Really, I’ve got to get a life.
Carol and Caroline helped me build the grotto. Then, as I was ‘on duty’ as one of the ‘meet and greet’ team, I showed the ladies where to put their charity gifts in the ball room. Finally, I herded women toward Father Christmas to pick up their Christmas presents.
We appealed to all lunch guests to bring Christmas presents for the Karen Refugee children from Burma/Myanmar, living in the Mae La Camp and students at the Thai Noh Bo School. We had a fantastic result and Christ Church, Bangkok, will take the gifts to the children. It always makes me a bit weepy to see people’s generosity.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
I went to look for pictures of last year’s Christmas lunch to post here. Yeah … you know what? Perhaps I’ll just leave it to your imagination.
This has been getting lots of hits on my stat counter. I don’t quite know what people are hoping to find when they search for how to make a Christmas Grotto… I hope they’re not hoping for 3D constructions. Anyway, I’ve pulled the sign out again for this year; (I think a new one might be in order next year) found the red velvety material and the white snowy fabric; packed a toolbox of equipment which might enable me to cobble together a ‘grotto’ (a festive looking area for Father Christmas to sit to hand out presents…) I’ve brought along some lovely green tinsel too.
THIS YEAR I’m staying sober as a teetotaller. I cannot afford to annihilate my writing brain cells for a week.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Now, we are turning our thoughts to a holiday.
Me? I’m turning my thoughts to not panicking. I haven’t written for several days and I hate the feeling of losing my train of thought. I'm busy all day tomorrow; I’ve got to send Husband to work with a costume for the Christmas party and my next Novel Racers coffee is on Friday, for which I am entirely devoid of subjects: eeeek. I won’t panic. I won’t.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
We were lucky that he wasn’t in Mumbai. But terror, being what it is, meant that I was worried sick especially as I knew that he couldn’t get back into Thailand because of the anti government demonstrations taking place in both Bangkok airports, Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang. With these two airports closed, the regional airports were under enormous strain to try and deal with everyone diverting to them.
In order to get out of India, he left Bangalore on Thursday night, not for Thailand as planned but for Singapore. Once there, a complicated plan to return to Thai soil was sketched out. ‘While you’re in Singapore,’ I said, ‘if you can get to Takashimaya, please would you swing past that nice stationery store? I’d like an orange box folder please.’ OMG. Do you remember the post about the divine Bookbinders Design shop? Oh dear, I salivate, dribble…
So lovely, patient readers, this post is for Husband, who thought that ‘Update: arrived home 7.30pm’ was an insufficient fanfare for his eventual homecoming. I present to you, my very own ‘Milk Tray Man.’ This is what I imagine his trip home, accompanied by my orange box file, was really like:
Monday, December 01, 2008
I’ve always known what I wanted to read. I’ve no idea how early books came into my life (did my parents choose them?) My parents certainly never ‘managed’ my reading nor forbade anything. I was aware that my Mum disliked Enid Blyton, but both she and my Dad had a ‘any reading is good’ philosophy; they believed if you discovered a love of reading (anything) you’d always be a reader and your critical faculties would develop with maturity.
About four years ago I had a fiction reading crisis. It came upon me slowly, but I ceased to be satisfied by the type of books I was reading and then worse still, I stopped being able to choose books. It was so frustrating because I’d never been unable to select books. My lovely friend The High Priestess of Punk-chew-ation let me loose on her bookshelves. Among the ones I took and never read was Bel Canto by Anne Patchett.
Then I found out we were moving to Bangkok. There wasn’t room in my head to worry about what to read and so I just consumed ‘escapist’ novels because I needed more than ever in this time of upsidedownyness to read. This took the pressure off me and my panic and misery subsided a bit.
Then when I got to Thailand I joined a couple of book clubs. Once a month my reading was prescribed and I had agreed to read whatever it was that was nominated. (When I read in the blurb of Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami that there were ‘talking cats,’ I nearly expired on the spot. I didn’t do talking animals ... but I really enjoyed it.)
I don’t always like the book club choice but I always (barring life events) read it. Brilliant books I would NEVER have picked up with being made to, are: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant and Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.
This month’s book for Book Club… is Bel Canto by Anne Patchett which I’d already got.
And OMG: I’ve found the book I wish I’d written.
It’s my first 5/5 for Book Club.