Monday, June 28, 2010

Little bits of me

I did some artwork last week that I owed and it really cheered me up. It made me think of my community back in the UK and here in Bangkok.

When we lived in Buckinghamshire the children went to a small church school. I loved that school and got very involved, working in the library, supporting a year three teacher with her art classes and running an after school book club with another teacher. At their summer fair they always had a Mystery Jars stall.  You collect jars, fill them with toys or sweets and then wrap them up so the contents can’t be seen. If you need to label it with age and gender you can. Then you sell them for 50p (or whatever) each. If you didn’t get to that stall early enough, all the jars would be gone and my children absolutely gutted. It was popular because of the preponderance of sweets there but the joy is also in the element of luck.

One time at a committee meeting here in Bangkok we were looking for fundraising ideas for a fete day at the British Club and I brought up the mystery jars stall. Traditionally at the Ploenchit Fair we have the Olde Tarts Shoppe where we sell home baked cakes and stuff but last year we also had the mystery jars too. And I brought them here. (OK, so I did steal the idea....)

Call me an egomaniac but I sat there, working away in Photoshop, thinking of the things I had done in Bangkok. Sometimes there is physical evidence of those things, like the mystery jars or the numerous Santa’s Grotto signs I’ve made or the BWG Bangkok logo (that Carol and I designed.)

I like that. I like that I have left little bits of myself here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Feeling happy

I have been feeling unaccountably happy in recent days. The children and I are flying to the UK on Wednesday but whether it is a one-way ticket or a return is still unknown.

(Please note anyone from Husband’s employers who might be reading this: bear in mind that my feeling relatively relaxed DOES NOT mean you should take another three weeks to sort out what we’re doing. I am getting fed up.)

Anyway. Daughter is bringing a friend to the UK; Son is doing work experience and I have a weekend planned with writing friends, some lunches and two courses booked. The first is a Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook course called The Insider Guide to Submitting Your Manuscript and the second is an Arvon course, Writing Mainstream.

These plans are all badly placed in the calendar so that I won’t be able to rush around the country seeing everyone because of a need to stay south east for these various commitments. But I am going to be available to meet in London and I really hope people will be happy to come to us.

Today I am trying to write my covering letter to submit for comment to the W&A Yearbook course (as above.) Bear in mind I haven’t finished the novel yet… but the pitch letter, should I desire personal feedback (Hell, yeah) is due tomorrow. So far I have taken four hours on the first 70 words. 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Saturday games

I can hardly contain myself. My copy of Like Bees to Honey by Caroline Smailes is waiting for me at my parents’ place in the UK but it's okay because I can still play on The Hive.

See that widget over on the left – that’s the Like Bees to Honey Hive. Go and answer some of the questions. Go on. Important, philosophical questions are being asked, such as ‘can cats be trusted?’ and ‘are books better than people?’ and we need your answers. (You can make new blog friends too.)

If you’d like to make a bee and ask your own questions, you can find out how here.

My bee is fat and orange. Obviously. I may have to change it to thinner and orange soon. ;-D

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The best medicine

It's impossible to stay sad in Bangkok.

I had a couple of errands to do yesterday. The first job took me to the heart of Ratchaprasong, Bangkok's shopping district. This area was where the Red Shirts made their camp. The 'Together We Can' campaign, instigated by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration attempted to liven up central Bangkok have been promoting all kinds of projects over recent weeks. A couple of weekends ago, Silom became a walking street full of market vendors; Ratchaprasong saw volunteers planting up some of the areas that had been damaged during the unrest.

Yesterday, outside Amarin mall, were was another shopping promotion going on: big signs boasted 70 - 80 % off and there were some night market stalls along the pavement. I was on the walkway when I spotted this video opportunity.

Something went wrong in the uploading to YouTube process so I've lost the sound but you'll still see why I couldn't help but feel happy. (Any shaking of the camera will be due to my laughter.)

I love this place.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Advertising in Asia

I was standing in the queue at the Siam skytrain stop the other day and over the head of the woman in front of me, I spotted something. Ewugh, I thought.

Then yesterday Daughter texted me from the school bus “Blog picture,” she texted, “Bottom of the Cowboy: giant spider 7m by 5m. Really gross but good pic.” (The Cowboy, one of Bangkok’s red light districts, is at the bottom of our soi.)

Sure enough: Big Siam Spider’s cousin, Cowboy Spider, clung to the building.

It was only then that I worked out it was advertising Clorets sugar free mints/gum. (Yes, I really am that short sighted.)

What? How? Why would anyone advertise breath freshening products with such a venomous looking spider? Am I missing something?

I googled and found nothing. Are they trying it out on us? Yes, I know I’m talking about it but only because ewwugh…. This would never persuade to try their products.

During my googling I found this: Asia really has its own rules when it comes to advertising.

Monday, June 21, 2010

My kinda fun

I'm tidying up.

It's something I can control.

And, if I utilise all the essential stationery bits and pieces I've bought over the years, like the Dymo label maker, I can even have fun while I'm doing it!

Oh dear.

Should I get out more?

(I was very upset that the Dymo didn't have an apostrophe: just a slash (/) and a full stop.)

I really must get out more.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Quite an optimistic post, honest.

And today my equilibrium has returned. I feel serene about what will be…

Yesterday Husband and I went to school to see Daughter in Macbeth. Son, who is full of cold didn’t come. (I always feel a cold, in such hideously hot weather, is so wrong.) His not coming meant that Husband and I could talk and it was the Beattie-style Worst Case Scenario planning that has brought me some peace.

The ideal situation is that we stay in Bangkok. I want to stay here but more than my selfishness, Son should finish school here because that would suit him and his personality best. I’ve been online to look at schools in the UK and funnily – or probably not – the school we chose with him at 11 is still the school that looks the best fit now. But we talked about what we could do if that school doesn’t have places. We have a plan… should we need it.

Bangkok is my home. It’s not where I’m from but it is where we’ve made our home for the last five years. Whatever people think about our lives here – that it’s a cushy number or that we’re spoiled – there are tough things about this life; we make sacrifices and face different problems (as well as some of the same) that you do in your home countries. I suspect that you have noticed some of our stresses in recent weeks! My immediate family are here and my books are here; it’s home.

But I am lucky because I have friends in both places; indeed, I have friends all over the world.

If I am made to come home (for that is the lack of control for us) then I will be closer to my elderly parents, I will be able to join friends at book launches, for weekends of laughing and eating. I won’t always have to miss the important occasions in the lives of my friends, my chosen family and both our extended families. I can think about what work I want to do and I can consider doing an MA. (Then I will have the three degrees I’ve longed for and will, forever more, be able to wear glitzy dresses and burst into song: ‘When Will I See You Again?’)

So (some of) the plan is that I shall be home to the UK, as planned, in July. I may be looking for schools; I may not. Then I may come back to Bangkok or I may not but I feel happier about all of this.

Gratuitous picture of beautiful, visual production of Macbeth.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sort of Friday Photo

I am tempted to leave more silence here today. I don’t even possess the calm to find a Friday Photo so here is a random pig in orange pants/knickers/undercrackers that I purchased in Chatuchak market a few weeks ago. Pig is 3cm long.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

10 Signs...

I’ve been tagged. I was tagged for a meme in February 2008. Yes, that’s 2008.


I’m mortified at my apparent lack of manners. Charlotte, please accept my apologies for not responding but you see I am a bit of a twit. I eventually discovered it via the ‘preview in a new tab’ feature that lists the links to that page. I’ve never understood how to show links to a certain post even though I’ve turned them on in the background settings.

But I love this meme because it’s original. It might be two years and four months (to the day) since the original tag but I’m going to do it anyway.

10 Signs a Book Might be Written by Me
  1. The cast will be dominated by women; they will be strong…
  2. Setting will be important. It will take place, either partly or exclusively, in Bangkok or England.
  3. It will be about feeling foreign – whether you’ve ever been away from home or not.
  4. Death will be important. Be careful how you live your life, Jenny will exact revenge…
  5. There will be jealousy and regret.
  6. There will be no guns, no aliens, no magical realism and the end of the world will not be nigh.
  7. It will involve generations and relationships.
  8. There will be sinister undertones.
  9. There won’t be unnecessary sex scenes.
  10. There will be realistic endings.

I’d like to pass it on to all unpublished blog readers who are writing a novel. Please let me know you’ve posted it so I can check out your answers.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ten Things about me meme

Lovely Lily (thank you so much) has nominated me for this award. I’ve had it before but you don’t see any actor turning down an Oscar because it’s their second win, do you? Anything that takes my mind off ‘the decision that still has to be made by someone else’ is super duper in my book.

The rules say I must list ten things that readers don’t know about me (oh dear, I fear three years of verbal diarrhoea might mean I’ve told you everything already. I’m rather shallow, you know.) I will try very hard to make them exclusives. OK, here goes:

1. I can’t spell diarrhoea. In fact I have blind spots about several words. –ent endings or are they –ant endings? When you have –ly endings, do you leave the ‘e‘ on at the end of the word? I have to say things to myself to get them right: ‘in-de-pen-dent’ ‘def-i-nite-ly.’ Look! How do you know to leave the 'e' on? Then there are the typo spellings: I can’t type neice (see what I did there? I know it’s niece but I can’t type it that way.)

(Oh dear, it wouldn’t be good to run out of things to say after number one, would it?)

2. One of my babies was gigantic: 10lb 10oz. (Let’s be honest, the other one at 8lb 10oz was no weeny either.) Ouch. I had her ‘naturally’ as the obstetrics world coyly call it but oh dear god it was the least natural thing ever… She came out ready for school (minus the satchel.)

3. I’m afraid of mushrooms. Husband trained me to eat the tasteless button mushrooms in the UK but then we moved to Asia. Now I’m bloody terrified. They can look like aliens or slabs of meat but, really, the texture... ewugh. Obviously I’m scared of eating them, not them jumping up and attacking me… they’re mushrooms, right?

4. If anything ever changes in my life or I develop a new interest – I go out and buy a book on it.

5. I love textiles. I’m a terrible toucher. I can’t just walk past something I have to touch it to know what it feels like.

(OK, half way …)

6. I listen, almost exclusively, to the music of Stephin Merritt (Magnetic Fields, the 6ths, Gothic Archies and Future Bible Heroes.) 69 Love Songs is the best album ever made. Oh yes it is. (How could you not love songs with titles like ‘A Chicken With its Head Cut Off,’ ‘Let’s Pretend We’re Bunny Rabbits’ and ‘Love Is Like a Bottle of Gin’) His lyrics are beautiful and he’s incredibly, horribly talented and I’m jealous because see number 7….

7. I’m reasonably good at lots of things but not really good or brilliant at anything.

8. I’ve got a butterfly mind. In between typing 6 and starting number 7 I’ve been off to iTunes and listened to Mag Fields latest album, which I don’t have yet; and then I listened to a couple of ‘people who bought this also bought…’ This butterfly mind might account for number 7…

9. I swear much too much. I once said ‘shit’ in the (primary) school library. The little girl next to me said ‘you just swore!’ and I said ‘no I didn’t;’ then I thought for a minute and said: ‘Oh shit, I did, didn’t I?’

10. I am a bit of a hypochondriac. Lord help me if there’s ever anything really wrong with me. I blame being a doctor’s daughter. I know more than the average person (which leads my thoughts in the wrong direction) but not enough to dispel my suspicions.

11. It turns out that I can’t spell suspicions either. Apparently I also have a problem with ‘ion’ endings: I think they might be ‘ian.’ Why am I getting worse at spelling as I get older? Is it just me?

Thank you Lily.

I'd like to nominate the following five bloggers: 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Our daily bread

I don’t remember bread featuring much in my childhood meals, at least not in main meals. I do remember half a slice of fried bread (oh dear god, my arteries…) at breakfast but if we didn’t have a cooked breakfast it would be cereal, and not toast.

Bread would never appear at for lunch or dinner. Potatoes were our staple carbohydrate; it was my father’s carb of choice in fact. Our desires – those of the children – were irrelevant. We had rice occasionally – Uncle Ben’s long grain rice.  I remember my sister’s scorn, years later, that it wasn’t Basmati rice. Oh dear, you see what sending your child away to university can do?

Bread made an appearance on school days when we had ‘tea.’ (The words used to describe meals in the UK were/are fraught with regional and class distinctions.) In this instance, I mean 4pm teatime. When my sister and I got home from school, Granny would make us jam sandwiches and a cup of tea to tide us over until we had our evening meal with our parents.

Then I met Not Yet Husband. You may remember the trauma of the white bread balancing of recent weeks… bread played a bigger role in his childhood.  As a student it was a snack (toast) and wrapping (for meat, always meat inside Not Yet Husband’s slice of bread.) It was cheap and convenient.  In his student room in B Block I learned to love Marmite instead of the Bovril I was raised on. We met after classes and ate crappy white sliced toast, slathered with margarine - oh the daring… it was butter only in my childhood. (Let’s leave the other things I learned in that room there… I told you, university is a dangerous place.)

I remember our first holiday together, camping in the Lake District: doorstops of fresh white toast and poached eggs served to us after a climb up and back down a peak. I can still conjure the bliss of that meal.

Bread had become part of my daily life.  I don’t remember how I discovered that brown seedy bread was more my kind of thing but I did. When I last lived in the UK – in a village in South Bucks – the local bakers made a loaf that I loved. It was three or four seeded loaf made predominantly with rye flour. It was ‘treacle-y’ brown, moist and ohhhh. When I went back to the UK from Bangkok I’d go to the bakers and purchase four loaves to freeze and eat while I was in the UK. Last summer, the bakers had changed hands and the new folk no longer made my bread.

Despite my love affair with bread – even wholesome, good for you brown bread – about nine years ago I was persuaded to give up wheat. I can’t recall why… but miraculously my migraines and mouth ulcers disappeared and I lost weight. It was hard being that careful about wheat though; it’s in everything, hiding in places you’d never guess, so when I cheated and consumed it and nothing dramatic seemed to happen I slipped back to eating it again. The truth is… I didn’t actually believe wheat was responsible.  My doctor Dad poo pooed it until I told him last summer that I had always been anaemic, despite iron supplements, and suddenly I found myself having a coeliac test. It came back negative. Phew.

Before I started my gym habit a few months ago, I was going to a nutritionist with a group of other women. There are no weight watchers type classes here and J’s class helped me to be more mindful about food. During the class my wheat thing came up again. I stopped eating wheat again and slowly felt my energy levels rising. I heard my father scoffing at the preponderance of people to having fashionable food ‘allergies.’ I pointed to my new gym habit, knowing that it would be most likely the reason for extra energy. I learned more about coeliac disease. I had thought that people with undiagnosed coeliac disease were really, seriously ill. I had no idea of the prevalence of false negative test results but it must be diagnosed if you’ve got it.

And I had more than a few of the symptoms. If I wanted to be tested again (to check the false negative result) I had to be eating wheat in order for the antibodies to be present. So I did. I continued my gym habit and this time I felt the decline… as the weeks passed I felt worse and worse. My symptoms reappeared. Instead of waiting to be tested in the UK I went to a gastroenterologist here who has a special interest in the condition. On Saturday morning he phoned me with the results: negative again and he says it's 95% accurate.

It’s a huge relief. I finally believe it affects the way I feel so in spite of the result I’ve given it up again. And that’s the end of the story of my love affair with bread and pasta and untold number of foods where wheat is a filler…

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The voices...

Thank you to everyone who left comments after my last post – especially those who delurked to do it. I am feeling a bit better just for having said it out loud.

Yesterday I walked down the soi in my new FitFlops (thank you Helen, the Vaseline between the toes did the trick, though Son found the concept of Vaseline on a thong absolutely hilarious: can’t think why…) to ThaiCraft.

I’ve blogged about ThaiCraft before. I love it. It’s no longer at the Ambassador Hotel but has been conveniently relocated to the bottom on my soi! It’s in the Jasmine building at the base of Sukhumvit Soi 23 though you can find it at one off locations too. See their website for details.

I wandered about and bought a few small things. I have to be really careful at the moment because my brain is shouting at me: Buy things! Buy stuff! It could be your last chance… The same thing is happening visually. On my walk back up the soi the lunch vendors were out; customers queued or sat at temporary plastic tables eating their purchases. Carts laden with food were parked on the edge of the road and on the pavements. All sorts of food, chicken feet and squid, barbequing fish, bulbous plastic bags of curries were ready in portion sizes. My brain started up again: Camera, camera! Now. Capture the Thai food; this could be your last chance. Oh for god’s sake, I said, shut up; it’s at the bottom of my soi.

Next, before I picked Daughter up from a rehearsal at school, was an annual Jim Thompson sale at Bitec, a big exhibition centre. Oh. Oh: for a fabric whore like me (I am you know) this was divine. Rolls and rolls and rolls of fabric: silk, linen and cotton as far as I could see. Oh. My. God. I bought some napkins, cushion covers and a couple of pashminas but I didn’t buy any fabric off the roll. The strength of will I needed with those voices in my head… curtains! What about the curtains you'll need in the UK…

I just can’t stop the voices.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


I received an email from Husband this morning in which the subject line was 'Blog.' I'm not sure what he meant; was it the imperative or a simple noun?

It's part of his morning routine to check out my blog and he gets a bit irritable if I don't provide him with some reading material. He knows I have tales to tell... like the one about my taxi driver who, during a traffic jam, peed into an empty water bottle; yes, really, and then threw the bottle out of the passenger window! Ewgh.

I am struggling at the moment. I am struggling with the not knowing... the what if we are going back? Will we get places in schools we'll be happy with? I AM trying to be calm and serene ("You ARE?" I hear Husband say. "Well, please try harder...") but I am failing quite spectacularly.

We should know soon. 'Soon?' It has been 'soon' for months. I've made myself furiously busy, running around so I don't have to think.

But I am thinking and when I think I worry.

So I'm not sure how often I will be posting here... in the coming days.

I just thought I should let you know.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Friday Photo

I love spotting (and purchasing, ahem) Novel Racers' books in Bangkok. These are the latest:

Lucy Diamond's new book Sweet Temptation, officially published today, has been spotted in Kinokuniya and Asia Books, Bangkok's best bookshops.

Tamsyn Murray's book Stunt Bunny: Showbiz Sensation has been spotted in Kinokuniya, Bangkok.

Thursday, June 03, 2010


When the blogging cupboard was bare the other day I mentioned I could tell you about our book club meeting where we discussed Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. With Fran’s encouragement, “Go on. What did they think of 'Oranges'? Have you seen the film?” I’ve decided I do want to talk about it.

I want to talk about it because I am troubled.

I adored studying English literature at school and I’ve blogged before here and here about the teachers who contributed to that passion. Since I could read I’ve loved reading but later on I discovered that I really enjoyed studying books too.

But those things are different, aren’t they?

I think that that’s where we didn’t… couldn’t do Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit justice.  It’s possible to read and not study it but it throws up all sorts of questions for the average reader - at least it did at our book group. (And I am assuming that we’re the average reader… we’re all enthusiastic readers, educated – mostly to at least degree level – we read a wide range of material and want to meet with other addicts to talk about our experience.) Another assumption I’m going to make is that you know of or have read Jeanette Winterson’s OANtOF – if you don’t, you can check out its wiki page.

Many of us enjoyed it while acknowledging that we knew we were 'not getting it' or missing out in some way and others decided that they just didn't like it. I felt alienated. My knowledge of the Bible is sketchy. The chapter headings alone left me floundering, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: the Last Book of Law, Joshua, Judges and Ruth, the only one that means anything to this impious one is Genesis

I am of course a ‘looker upper’ of things and I wanted to be prepared for book club so Google pointed me towards Sparknotes. They told me that OANtOF fits firmly in the postmodern tradition. It explains that the confusing nature of the plot is deliberate. The interruption of Jeanette’s narrative for fables and myths “creates a ‘metafiction,’ or a fictional novel that attempts to question the nature of fiction instead of just recounting a simple plot.”

So simply put, it’s a deliberate device to remind the reader that what they are reading is artifice.

Why? Who wants to read only as an academic exercise? And how is the average reader (the non studying one) supposed to know this? 

If anyone is able to shed any light on this I would be most pleased. 

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Hmmm, when the blogging cupboard is bare...

I had plans for today’s post but not until it was too late, she says cryptically; I shall post that tomorrow instead.

I’ve been out at Book Club this morning. We read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit; could I tell you about that? I guess I could but perhaps there’s something else more exciting... I could tell you about the physio appointment I had this afternoon and that she’s very pleased my gluteus maximus muscles are finally working and not lying idly against whatever they were lying idly against before I started working out. But that’s a bit icky and maybe too personal…So, I looked in the cupboards for a proper blog subject but the shelves were bare. So I went out of the condo, wondering how far I’d have to go to find something exciting to show you.

I had faith in the fact that I’d find something out in my soi to tell you about. Just a few steps away from our place are the mooing frogs; I really want to tell you about them but it wasn’t raining and they only moo in the rain.

Then I had a little panic. What if we are moving home to the UK this summer? There won’t be mooing frogs or street vendors or soi cats and dogs or spirit houses in my road in the UK. What will my blog be about then?

Anyway, enough panic, I am trying to be zen about not knowing what is happening to me…

This is the spirit house - San Phra Phum - in the garden of our apartment. It is at the corner edge of the property as we come into our drive.

Most houses and businesses have a spirit house, often placed in the corner of the plot but it will be an auspicious place where the shadow of the human building will never fall on it.  A Brahmin monk will probably have been consulted to find the best place to put the spirit house.

The houses are put in the grounds to appease any spirits who may have been disturbed by the building process. (Incidentally, this is Animism rather than Buddhism and as I understand it, they have sort of merged into the Thai beliefs.) It is believed that the spirits can be mischievous and they can make problems for the business or home unless they are mollified. Offerings of food, flowers and incense are put onto the house to keep the spirits happy.

Here's another one. This spirit house belongs jointly to the businesses down the road.