Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Elves at work

The elves have, er, needed some space in my room to work. They have a rush job on… something to do with overseas mailing, apparently.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Funny old food time

It’s been a funny old food time.

I’ve been cooking for my parents since they were ill. My poor parents: they produced three children, two of whom are quite talented cooks but they got me as resident chef and yes, I am the third one!

Mum didn’t eat much (anything) while she was in hospital so when she came out we tried hard to tempt her with what she fancied. She made a face at some of her normal treats (avocado pear) but was willing to try another one (cottage cheese and pineapple – BLEUGH, what’s that all about?) She couldn’t eat my carrot and potato soup because of the garlic… but if I stuck to simple, traditional (dare I say it) nursery food, we seemed to be okay.

After about three days (of fourteen!) my repertoire was running thin. My Dad is a carnivore through and through. His freezer is full of grown up meat, like chops (BLEUGH on the bone?) Or with names like chuck steak or braising steak that I don’t know what to do with. Some of the packets were entirely unlabelled. (I took comfort that there was a large bag labeled with ‘cat or dog meat’ and assumed that the unidentifiable steak I used one day was actually for human consumption.)

Gradually, Mum’s heightened senses returned to normal and I managed to get her to eat my version of Snob’s Guacamole, well, okay, I missed out the chili peppers.

Last Thursday, while I waited for the taxi to take me to Heathrow, my Mum and Dad were preparing supper. It was a joint effort; the first evening meal they’d had to make since before they were ill. Dad cooked leeks from the garden and par boiled potatoes while Mum layered it into the oven dish.

I watched while they prepared the leek and potato gratin from a vegetarian French cookbook. And I thought, ‘yeah, my job here is done.’

My first choice of food when I got home: stir fried cabbage and garlic. Yum.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Leo the dog and my last day in the UK

Long time readers might remember my parents’ dog, Leo. He’s reputed to be part Labrador and part collie but I think there’s fair evidence to suggest some kangaroo genes too.

It would be churlish of me to suggest he’s as bonkers as ever; he’s three now and is maturing. A bit. But my parents are getting more elderly and if I were to draw a graph that showed their aging against Leo’s springiness, he’s not growing up quite fast enough.

To that end (and to make myself useful) I’ve been training Leo. At least, I’ve been trying. His Dad was a gun dog and his Mum a collie so he’s infinitely trainable and intelligent but, am I?

I’ve been using the command ‘slowly’ with a hand up to show him not to bolt. It’s a sensible word and he might hear someone using it that didn’t know he understood it. And he might, you know, actually go slowly. First of all I couldn’t make him take more than a step but eventually he began to string the steps together. He looks like someone playing “What’s the time, Mr Wolf?” Maybe he just looks like a dog taking the piss (out of me.)

We’ve been practicing when Leo has been outside or behind a shut door or is waiting to be allowed to eat his dinner/breakfast because that’s the moment that he bolts. It’s a bit of problem if it’s before food because he’s a dog in slow motion: he dribbles all the way, leaving large globules of dog slobber in heaps on the floor.

As if a slippery floor isn’t adding another level of risk to my parents’ stability, we appear to have reached a kind of impasse. He’s doing metres of slow but it doesn’t matter how far he is away from his plate of food – even a foot away – he always thinks eventually that I’ve stopped asking him to go slowly. The second he decides this (or let’s face it, I’m far enough away to be ignored) he unleashes the control and launches his 32 kilograms into the air like someone has released him from a canon.

I’m giving up. I’ve decided that that might be more dangerous than some simple exuberance.


Other Leo stories can be found here, here and here.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


It was a shock to find night fall, year round, approximately 6-6.30pm in Bangkok. We have almost exactly 12 hours of daylight and night. But over six years in Thailand I  must have become used to it.

Our summer trips to the UK are welcome and wonderful by comparison; the daylight can go on to 9.30pm…

This time, however… well, I’d forgotten what English autumns and winters were like – at least I knew in my head but I couldn’t remember the experience. I have to keep checking my watch because the visual clues (it’s pitch black outside) are cheating my body. I yawn. I start to think it’s bedtime and check my watch; it’s 6pm!

My parents have made a good recovery from their pneumonia and nearly pneumonia. It’s a relief, I tell you. Never have I been so glad to see my Dad in the kitchen, asking if he can do anything towards supper. Not, I might add, so I don’t have to peel the potatoes but because I realized that he must be on the mend.

When I walk into the village I keep being recognized. In the chemist they ask how M&D are. Someone stopped me on the road yesterday; yes, I’m M’s sister. I’ve seen people I knew as a child. Perhaps I’m starting to belong again.

It has been surprisingly mild here but there’s a definite nip in the air of late so I’m thinking it’s time to go home now; my other home.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Photo

I am spiriting myself to back to Bangkok for today's picture. I'm missing home...

I took this picture outside Amarin Mall back in June of this year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wellington boots, snakes and blog awards

The children went back to Bangkok on Saturday. I’m so impressed and proud of the cavalier way they travel. 

They took wellington boots with them. In view of the stories and pictures of escaped crocodiles and wild snakes to be found in the flood water I was amused at Daughter’s choice of wellies. (Can you see it? It’s mock crock or possibly faux snake skin!)

When Husband confirmed that he’d met them at the airport, he texted to say ‘they had to wade through 40cm of flood water with the cases held above their heads, but all safe and drying off now.’ That man had better be glad he’s 6,000 miles away from me because my sense of humour is pretty stretched to its limit.

Something that has cheered me no end, however, is the news that Tea Stains, my dear old blog, was declared Expat Blog of the Month. Do go over here and read the interview with me.  

The picture of me is at Bai Pai Thai cooking school, which I thoroughly recommend. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cat babies: Squeeeee

This is Mummy cat having a little snooze after kitten number two of five. She gave birth yesterday on her own first birthday.

She chose her birthing area herself: an upmarket shopping bag full of wool. The balls had to be removed so the kittens didn't get entangled. She had five babies at half hour intervals.

And I'll tell you another thing, she was serene and purred the whole way through, so in my next life please... I want to come back as a cat.

Can't see what that little black blob is? Here's a (blurry) close up:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday photo: Remembrance Day

My paternal Granddad. Wounded at Gallipoli and rescued from no man's land by two New Zealand soldiers, 1915.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

All I want for Christmas....

… is a Christmas creature.

Since I was about seven (that’s a LONG time people) my Dad has made a Christmas creature for all the children. When Husband appeared on the scene, he too qualified for a Christmas Creature. It was only as our children became old enough to receive one (small parts and all that) that my generation no longer had them. The creatures might be real animals, our pets, beasts from mythology or my Dad’s imagination. They appeared under the tree on Christmas Eve or the following morning. Each model had a cavity which was filled with tiny presents, wrapped in tissue paper.

Since I am home (and my sister has kept so many of them) here is a Christmas Creature montage:

You can read a bit more about the creatures’ origins here, here and here.

In the meantime, it won’t fit inside the Christmas Creature, but this is a definite under-the-tree gift. Cally’s first book, Heaven Can Wait made me laugh out loud (no mean feat) so I’m really looking forward to reading Home for Christmas which is out today.

Beth Prince has always loved fairytales and now, aged twenty-four, she feels like she's finally on the verge of her own happily ever after. She lives by the seaside, works in the Picturebox - a charming but rundown independent cinema - and has a boyfriend who's so debonair and charming she can't believe her luck! There's just one problem - none of her boyfriends have ever told her they love her and it doesn't look like Aiden's going to say it any time soon. Desperate to hear 'I love you' for the first time Beth takes matters into her own hands - and instantly wishes she hadn't. Just when it seems like her luck can't get any worse, bad news arrives in the devilishly handsome shape of Matt Jones. Matt is the regional director of a multiplex cinema and he's determined to get his hands on the Picturebox by Christmas. Can Beth keep her job, her man and her home or is her romantic-comedy life about to turn into a disaster movie?

You can order Home For Christmas here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Colours of autumn

If I thought I was escaping stress by leaving Bangkok and the possible floods, I was wrong.

In four days I have ridden in two ambulances and spent a total of twelve hours in casualty.  (My Dad is now out of hospital; my Mum still in…)

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen autumn in England. When we arrived ten days ago it was mild; the sky was blue and the leaves rich and russet. In the last few days it’s turned damp. Last night, when I walked across the hospital car park, I felt a sharp sting in my skin, the stirrings of winter. 

Must get my gloves out.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Quick catch up

We fled the impending Bangkok floods for the airport during a tropical storm; the lights went out in our apartment and we had to pack in the dark and then find a taxi in the roaring rain, thunder and lightening. 

The children and I have settled in well at the Parental Evacuation Centre here in Kent, UK. We’d only been here three days when I asked Husband when we could come back. I don’t think he appreciated that.

But you see, this is an unscheduled visit and it feels wrong. The kids should be in school; they have exams. They’ve had nearly two weeks unplanned time off and it might be one more… School has obtained permission to open on Monday 7th but things aren’t back to normal in Bangkok – they aren’t even better than when we left. Provisions are being made for online learning for those not in school but still…. So we feel we should wait a week before we go back. Or should we? I don’t know. I don’t like making decisions. (I found this online decision maker. I asked it if we should go back to Bangkok and it said no. So there we are: decision made.)

And there ARE things to keep us amused here: let’s see, there’s the paperwork I brought with me. Hmm, I haven’t touched that. The novel? The non-fiction book? Nope; untouched. As you can see from the picture, there are kittens. Oh yes. Five of them. Five weeks old and pretty perfect entertainment. And if we get bored of them, there is another, very pregnant cat, due any day now. 

Here she is showing off her bellyful of kittens: