Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Last Saturday I fell in love again

Love’s funny, isn’t it? It can just accost you when you least expect it.

I was walking out of the second floor of Times Square (the less famous one) across the skywalk and I happened to glance up. It was as simple as that. It wasn’t that I’d ever fallen out of love with Bangkok but after six years I was beginning to take it for granted.

I stood and grinned. It felt like seeing something for the first time.

It was just a view, nothing particularly special, except that it's my Bangkok. It was something to do with the telegraph poles and the skytrain - so perfectly placed - leading my eye towards the backdrop of the spectacular panorama beyond. In the road below the brake lights of the pink, orange and green taxis shone out in the pre dusk. But I think it was the light that made it magical…

The moment I walked away I knew I should’ve taken a picture. I thought and thought about the view and then I went back on Sunday to try and identify what it was that made my heart palpitate… The light wasn’t quite right and I didn’t feel the same enchantment but at least I was reminded how much I love Bangkok.

This is the view when I went back.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Secrets and Lies (only without the lies)

Life here at The House has been a bit mad. I’ve been busy making for our table's Melbourne Cup headwear.

And I’d had an idea to take a trip to the UK during October but it didn’t come off as I’d hoped. After considerable to-ing and fro-ing I decided that I would take a trip to the UK ANYWAY. Ya, get me; it’s nothing to do with the Fates. I’m going to make it happen.

I used Late Rooms’ Secret Rooms to book my hotel room. I think I must have been working from home for too many consecutive days because I found this a most exciting experience. The idea is (and there are other websites that do it too) that the hotels don’t want us to know how big a discount they are prepared to offer at late notice. So they remain unidentified until you’ve paid.

You tell the site which city, what dates, how many rooms and people you want and they find the secret deals. You’re presented with a list of unidentified hotels with a couple of hints; they’ll say something like ‘it’s 2.7km from the centre of London’ (in my case) and then they’ll give you a user quote ‘we were delighted with our stay.’ (I’ve yet to see one that said ‘it was a bit skanky’ so you can’t really take much notice of this.) You could do a bit of research on hotel booking sites to see if you can work it out before you book but I wasn’t bothered where I stayed only with t’brass. It was easily inside my budget so I booked it.

TA DA! The big reveal; I am staying at Millenium and Copthorne Hotel at Chelsea Football Club.

Research suggests that I am paying a third of the normal price (yay; result) and that an added bonus to staying here is that I may bump into famous footballers in the lobby.

Yeah, right. I’ll recognize them immediately.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Take one large dose

When my sister in law and her family were staying with us we watched The Adjustment Bureau. It was a miracle that a realist like me (strictly no aliens, no end of the world, no fantasy) would even contemplate such a film… I quite enjoyed it but I spent quite a lot of time huffing and puffing about Emily Blunt’s dancing and her posture.  (EB’s character is a professional dancer.) Husband and SiL spent quite a lot of time laughing at my huffing and puffing. I know it’s ridiculous to let it spoil the film (when, frankly, a gigantic dose of suspension of disbelief had to be taken to watch the film AT ALL. I mean ‘hats’ enable them to go through the portal? Really?) Anyway the daft notion of the hats didn’t spoil the film but Emily Blunt’s dancing was a low level irritation all the way through. (You can tell a dancer from their posture, the way they move, even stand. It’s a useless piece of knowledge but I know it anyway.)

Eventually I turned to SiL and said ‘if we were watching a film about dressage and the rider was really pants, wouldn’t it irritate you?’ Because the thing is, any little thing that brings you crashing out of the story can act as an irritant and we need that belief.

I was thinking the same thing about reading. I open the book and I say ‘I am willing to believe.’ And you enter this wonderful, symbiotic relationship with the creator: you are prepared to believe and they will entertain you. I don’t think life gets much better than that.  But, if you encounter a gaffe, that tenuous rapport is shattered. For me the breaking of that contract is liked being sucked out of a vacuum.

Crumbs; this writing lark is a bit of a responsibility.

(Incidentally I think Natalie Portman (Black Swan) had considerably more background in dancing than EB and her posture was pretty good. I heard Deborah Bull on Radio 4 say that it takes ten years training to make a dancer’s arms look weightless and the only thing apart from this to let Natalie Portman down was that she didn’t have a dancer’s bottom! Of course, NP also had a dancing double and it was damn difficult, thankfully, to spot where she took over.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Thai style

This is the rugby world cup 2011 Thai style.

The Londoner pub was heaving with people. It was just like being in the stadium: there was a lot of noise, klaxons, whistles and lots of shouting at the big TV screen: "tackle them!" "heave" "Oh Johnny...not again."

Before, during half time and after the match, the Heineken beer ‘pretties’ (a regular part of selling here in Thailand) appeared to entertain us; well, probably not me… but there were promotions, quizzes and prizes of shirts and beer to be won. It was a good afternoon, particularly as we won... even if we played like turkeys quite a lot of the match. 

Friday, September 09, 2011

Friday Photo: One for my gastroenterologist father

I did a double take as I made my way through the crisps (chips) aisle on the way to the till the other day.

Can you see what I thought it said? The second packet from the right shows it best.

Apologies for the poor picture quality - the shop wasn't very happy about my whipping out my camera!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Cats and Cakes

This post was inspired by Helen's memories of Summer 2011 blogpost. Helen's is mostly to do with cake. When I thought about doing a similar thing I realised that food (not so much cake) was a big part of my summer but so were cats. They punctuated my summer. They aren't all here and some pictures (Peanut, I'm looking at you) don't present their best side.

1. Peanut 'helping' sort photographs.
2. I thought I wouldn't get any tomatoes from the greenhouse before I left. I was part of the watering the yard and greenhouse team but there were no ripe toms until THE DAY I LEFT and then I ate all of them.
3. Chickpea or Noodles in Manchester: no idea which one it is.
4. Beetroot, potato salad and green salad with cucumber: all from my Dad's garden/greenhouse. YUM.
5. Custard looks bad tempered here. He's not; he's divine and I love him because he will always come to me for some cat loving. He was actually poorly and taken off to the vets a few days later.
6. Zen or Sephy. No idea which cat is which.
7. It might have been the only cake I had a picture of but it was THE best cake I've ever eaten.
8. Zen and Sephy.
9. HP, 17 years young. This picture was taken in March this year. Two or three weeks after we got back to Bangkok we got the phone call we'd been expecting. RIP HP. He was a proper gentleman cat.
10. Lentil, red pepper and feta salad and whatever else I might have in the fridge. In honour of HK.
11. HK's cat. No idea which one but it came to comfort me when I was a party pooper and in bed with a migraine.
12. Back in Bangkok and I  made tzatziki in honour of my sister and felafels in honour of Leon.

Monday, September 05, 2011

I love Louis Sachar

I love Louis Sachar. My first love is Holes but I’ve just finished and enjoyed Cardturner.

I didn’t know it upfront but Cardturner is pretty much about bridge; you know, that four old person, card game? Now, if I had known it was a about bridge I might not have read it – even though it WAS a Louis Sachar novel – because I had been very seriously scarred by my bridge playing experience many years earlier.

When I was going out with Not Yet Husband* I discovered that he loved bridge. I came from a family that went to watch Shakespeare plays. My parents didn’t play cards. I knew what they were – I played Cheat with my cousins – but why would you play card games when you could watch Macbeth or King Lear? (Don’t get me started on that…)

NYH*’s family started me off slowly: I was taught to play Whist, Drellacabella and Sevens. Every time – and I mean EVERY time – we prepared to play, someone had to explain the rules to me. Again. And again. And again. Any experience I gained of the game evaporated from my head the very moment I left the card table. Retaining detailed bits of information is crucial in bridge. This is when I got my first inkling that some people’s brains are different from mine.

Eventually I agreed to learn bridge. Perhaps I thought that a life with this man would have to include it and perhaps I wanted to make an effort with something that was important to him. So, during uni holidays I attempt to learn, playing with NYH, NYMiL (have you got that?) and some cousins. They thought I was terribly clever because I’d seen all sorts of Shakespeare plays but that wasn’t to last long. They explained the game to me and were infinitely kind and generous and put up with my immense stupidity acknowledged my learning status. I had a little notebook that I wrote notes in, explaining the rules and bidding for contracts and even some of the play.

In my third year at university, NYH had a colleague in the chemistry department that played bridge and with the promise of a chilli con carne and beers we scrambled together some other friends to make two tables of four. They were great fun at the beginning when everyone else was learning but soon as our friends became more experienced… I realized then that it wasn’t bridge, it was me; I remained in a fug of bafflement.

You play bridge with a partner. When you see the hand dealt to you you have to bid a contract (saying how many tricks you’re going to win.) You need to know what kind of hand your partner has so there are rules to bidding which made no logical sense to me at all you have to follow to communicate with your partner. (If you aren’t already wanting to slash your wrists, for a laugh you can see here what some opening bids mean.)

So many things about bridge puzzled me. In order to know what tricks you might make it’s helpful if you can retain the information the other pair gave during bidding; and you should try to count the high cards as they are played. Except I couldn’t: ‘Was that a King of spades in the last hand? Hmm, it could’ve been, or it might have been a diamond and a Queen… Hmm; Who cares?’ As we were learning, we were allowed to query (this is strictly forbidden in real games;) NYH would say ‘she played the queen because she knew that it was good for a trick.’ ‘How?’ ‘Because the ace and the king have already been played.’ Really? And you’d all noticed this?

I tried for about two years to learn bridge. It was long enough for me to establish that I was void (a bridge joke!) of any natural ability to play cards.

And NYH married me anyway.

(Louis Sachar’s novel Cardturner is totally brilliant in spite of the bridge play – or maybe even because of it. His characters are real; their voices so strong and the story is great. They’re perfect for any teenager… or mum or dad, come to that.)