Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Home is...

Son and I fly home tomorrow. I know, I know it’s confusing isn’t it? It doesn’t matter which way I’m flying – UK or BKK bound; they’re both home. If there’s a difference then this UK home is the temporary one because after several weeks here... it’s time to go back. I suspect that’s it’s simply to do with where my stuff, my immediate family and my space is. Living out of a suitcase isn’t much fun.

This is the first time that I’ve ever known I’d be in Thailand for two more years; out of the five we’ve done, we’ve always been renewed year by year.

I’m desperate to get back to my little office not only because of my novel which I can’t wait to get on with that but also I have plans for a non-fiction book, a radio play to put into gear and possibly a correspondence course…

I won’t be able to get on instantly with all those things because Husband, Son and I are off on holiday after the weekend. As we get back, Daughter will arrive, followed by school restarting and then we move apartment! Phew.

Rather alarmingly I’ve still got some artwork to do for a deadline … oh so soon; I’ve still got cheques to bank here (at four different institutions) and I’ve got a pile of paper work the height of my table to do. I’ve also remembered two things that need purchasing here because I can’t get them in Thailand. All before I leave. Tomorrow. 

PS I promise to tell you about Arvon as soon as I can.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

View for a view

I'd never lived in a city until I came to Bangkok. I lived for about ten months in London but it doesn't feel as though that counts for anything any more.

I love living in a city because it's so different from my natural habitat and I know it won't be forever. But. Sometimes I feel I might go mad if I don't get away from the concrete.

(You can see examples of views from our apartment in Bangkok here and here.)

When I arrived for my week at Arvon Foundation's Moniack Mhor I worried I might spend all my time looking out of the windows.

I did do a lot.

But OMG, just look:

(It's very badly pasted together by me in Photoshop but I think you get the idea.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Planes, trains & Automobiles

I have an appalling reputation among some friends when it comes to train travel. I might look like I know what I’m doing, what with the back and forth air travel to Bangkok, but as they informed me, airlines go to some length to make sure I don’t climb aboard the wrong 747. One friend flatly refuses to catch a train with me ever again in case we end up in Scotland like we nearly did last time (twice in one weekend) when we were trying to get to Derby and then back to London.

But I am in the UK and I have to get around and without a car it has to be train travel. I confess I’m fast losing my confidence with British trains and I’d already had one dicey trip earlier this month. (And it was The Friends who don’t trust my ability to get on the right train.) The one I was on split in two before my destination. If you wanted one route you needed the first four carriages; if you wanted the other terminal, you took one of the back four. Except being unfamiliar with the line I didn’t know which branch my stop was on. As it was after a few minutes private panicking I asked someone and then breezed off the train like the experienced international traveler that I’m not.

Anyway the next hurdle was getting to my Arvon holiday. At least this time I wanted to go to Scotland. I arrived in plenty of time at Euston; so early in fact that there wasn’t a single sign on the information board of any train going to Scotland. I’d been having delusions of my sleeper being in black and white and having a Brief Encounter type of experience for days and I think it must’ve clouded my judgement. This time in my panic I thought I’d got the wrong London station and honestly I was too embarrassed to go to the enquiry desk in case they identified me for the cretin I am and I phoned the rail enquiry people so I couldn't see their look of pity. (I was at the right station all along but just SO early that my sleeper train hadn’t appeared on the board yet.)

And honestly, it’s never ending because then I had to negotiate the return journey.

Four of us left Moniack Mhor at an unholy hour on Saturday morning all because of my early flight to Birmingham. The worst thing is that I didn't even want to go to bloomin’ Birmingham but getting the flight to Manchester would've meant getting up before I'd gone to bed so I booked the more reasonable flight and planned to take a train to Manchester. I'd be at my friends’ for lunch.

The last night at Moniack Mhor was a jolly affair and it's possible I got my quantities of sleep and wine a bit confused. When I arrived at Inverness Airport and looked at the departures board I saw my flight was delayed by three hours. I'll spare you the step by step but four further delays ensued and in the end I spent eight hours enjoying the delights of Inverness Airport: D'lish, (which really wasn't) WH Smiths and a Starbucks with no squashy seat to doze in.

The only good thing to happen in my day of travelling was that I arrived at Birmingham just in time for the direct hourly train to Manchester. It was the rather ominously named 'cross country' service. I took this to mean we'd have a lovely windy tour of the central section of England. I did eventually arrive but not even in time for dinner.

My kids who are suddenly able to get themselves (more successfully than I it transpires) around the country on public transport, had arrived perfectly.

I think I might have to start following them from now on.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Leo the dog

I've blogged about Leo before: here and here.

When I was back in the UK last October Leo had pulled my Dad over in the garden causing Dad to break is ischium (part of the pelvis.)

He was a year old (Leo, not my Dad) and showing no signs of growing up. He'd eaten two beds and hidden all his bowls in the garden. By way of helping, I went out and bought Leo a lovely bed with a soft liner. While I was in the pet shop I got 6 new cat bowls and 4 more dog bowls.

So I'm home again now and Leo is nearing two and still showing no signs of maturity. He's eaten the bed I bought him and only has the soft liner to sleep on. This is removed during the day when he is liable to eat it and returned to him at bedtime. There is no sign of the bowls I purchased. All the bowls are being removed to a stash in the garden. He is not willing to reveal to us where it is.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Hop Farm

I've spent so long wanting to go to the Hop Farm and not going that my children are all grown up and too big for it. Still, Daughter and Daughter's Friend were keen to go along. There were big pillow things they wanted to bounce on as well as animals to pet and other 'attractions.'

I've written about hops here, here and here. As I said at the last link, "Hop bines grow up to five feet, up coir string supported by permanent poles and wires. They’re harvested in September in a 6 week period, and traditionally casual workers from London’s East End would bring the family down for a holiday in Kent to pick the hops. They are picked and dried out in the oasts – they build a fire at the bottom on the building, spread out the hops on a grid and the white top – the cowl – turned in the wind to circulate the air." 

It was very expensive to get in but I'm glad I went because the Hop Story, which tells all about the workers from the East End of London coming down to Kent to pick hops is really good.

Oast houses at The Hop Farm:

Tiddly widdly ponies and Shire horses with feet the size of dinner plates.

Sheep, llama, goat and donkey:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My favourite place

My whole childhood is punctuated by trips to Bodiam Castle. With a variety of dogs - over the years - we always took guests there; our cousins, some German friends, Japanese girls, whenever we wanted to show off a bit of the South East of England, we drove down to Bodiam.

On our way back from Hastings, I drove Daughter and her friend (without the aid of the Sat Nav: I am so clever) to Bodiam Castle. It's a tradition; you can't not do it.

I love it so much.

In my eyes, Bodiam Castle just got cooler when Adam Ant jumped from a window and into the moat in one of his videos. Though I've trawled YouTube for Adam and the Ants videos (oh I had a lovely time) I can't find out which one it was.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What else?

One day we had the car for the whole day so we went up towards Sevenoaks to Castle Farm, home to the Hop Shop. Long term readers will remember this trip the year before last. It was so unexpected that as I spotted them from the train, I gasped out loud. 

Of course they look exactly the same as last time but somehow, I don't tire of seeing them. They are so beautiful.

It didn't take long to admire them and visit the gorgeous shop so I suggested we shoot back down the A21 to the pebbly beach at Hastings. I've already blogged about the pebble angels it was a lovely afternoon but once we'd finished our lunch (chips) we set off home, via one more place. It is almost my favourite place (not) in Kent but just over the border into Sussex. I will cover that in tomorrow's blog.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What have I been doing?

We've been celebrating birthdays while I've been in the UK.

The first one was my Dad's 81st birthday. Unfortunately the birthday cake wasn't wheat free so I could only smell it. The novelty candle came from a pound shop and was long past the sell by date so we were a bit worried about whether it would work. We had a shaky moment when we lit the fuse and it looked as though it might burst into flames, the 'flower' opened up as promised and we didn't need to call the fire brigade. (Damn.)

The second birthday was lovely Leigh's although we hadn't so much respect for her: she was less than half my Dad's age so we made her wear a silly shirt; it said Official-Leigh 40.

To make up for our rudeness, we bought her 40 presents to open.

And Leigh's cake... well now, that was wheat free so I had, uhm, several pieces of that.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Off to Scotland

Husband says if I don’t start blogging soon he’s going to start his own blog. He says it’ll be called "Tales from the big empty apartment, watching the cactus grow." In spite of the dodgy title I bet it would be entertaining; Husband is a funny man… he can be amusing too.

Anyhow, for Husband and anyone else who’s not got bored yet of checking a non updated tea stains, I’ve scheduled some blogs to come out while I'm away on some of the exciting things we’ve been up to in the last ten days.

I’m sorry I haven’t been leaving messages much to your messages. As soon as I get back to Bangkok, blogging life will carry on as before.

This evening I’m off up to London to catch a sleeper train to Inverness in Scotland for the start of my Arvon ‘Writing Mainstream’ course.

Is it wrong to be as excited about the sleeper train as the writing course?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pebble Angels

Although quite unplanned we found ourselves eating chips on the Kent coast today.

Just after Daughter and Friend made these pebble angels I had a 'phone call to say that two further years have been confirmed for us in Bangkok.

I like to think these propitious angels had something to do with it.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


Yesterday I took my Dad to the hearing clinic to see about a hearing aid. There are still many pockets of Kent I don’t know and although I know many of the hospitals (my Dad is a retired doctor) I didn't know the one we needed - Preston Hall.

Before long I was instructed to turn left and immediately right into the entrance of Preston Hall. Just look at this fabulous building:

And of course Dad knew a bit about its history too and how it came into the hands of the National Health Service.

He told me that the owner, a railway magnate had boasted that he owned everything he could see from the hall. My research suggests that the father, Thomas Brassey was the railway magnate and that he bought Preston Hall for his second son Henry Arthur Brassey sometime after 1850. Much of the original property dates back to the 12th century and the reign of King John when it remained in the Culpeper family.

Later owners let the Hall to the Red Cross during the First World War for use as a convalescent home for servicemen with TB and then the British Legion took over in 1925 followed by the NHS in 1948. A village was built in the area around it to provide homes and workshops for the convalescing men. One famous patient was George Orwell who received treatment at Preston Hall between 15 March - 1 September 1938.

Feeding time all the time

I’m a very bad blogger when I’m in the UK. Husband (still in Bangkok) has complained.

Mostly I have been sous chef to my father and my sister. The problem with having lots of people in the house (we are ten if everyone is home) is that as soon as one meal is finished you have to start thinking about the next one. Staples such as milk and bread have to be closely monitored. We have to contend with vegetarians, pescetarians, carnivores, wheat intolerances, strawberry allergies and diabetics as well as the usual childhood likes and dislikes.

The table is in a constant state of rotation: clearing or laying. The cats don’t help. Peanut is pictured, holding court over the table. He's lovely as long as you don't try to touch his tummy, or in fact, do anything he doesn't want you to do. See those demon eyes?

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Quintessentially English

After Pimms, a BBQ and a late night yesterday I've found myself on English time very quickly.

Today we went to a summer fete.

There were strawberries, Victoria sponges, face painting, a BBQ, a tombola, a welly wanging competition, Pimms and beer, live music, country dancing, singing, fish a duck, raffles, decorate a cookie, bouncy castles and lots more.

My sister was on the face painting stall which meant for the second year running, so was I.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Friday Photo from Kent, England

The view from my window

When I woke up this morning this was the view from my window.

We were still a thousand kilometres from London's Heathrow airport but outside was a dreamy, other worldly landscape: a fitting sort of inbetweenyness.

So we're home now; our other home.