31 May 2013

Story

You've probably heard these two sayings - "Today is the first day of the rest of your life" and "Live each day as if it's your last". Gloomily contemplating my mortality on Sunday afternoon, the penny finally dropped. "Yeah", I thought to myself, "life is short. You've got to make the most of every day!" So I resolved to give myself a kick up the arse, stop prevaricating, stop lazing about and change my life's gears from first to fifth. To live each day as if it were your last...

On Monday I was up at dawn. Instead of the customary bowl of muesli and a banana I had a full English breakfast. It was time for Shirley to get up. "Coo-ey!" I called up the stairs and she came down in her dressing gown. "What the hell's going on?" she said pointing at the dining table where her breakfast plate was waiting - scrambled eggs, bacon, mushrooms, sausages, grilled tomatoes and a round of wholemeal toast. I explained that I had decided to live each day as if it were my last and that I was getting an early train to London. "Well I hope you do the washing up before you go!"

An hour later, after paying £145 for a first class train ticket to London, I was rattling along through the Midlands towards our great metropolis when I noticed a familiar face. He was sitting just across the aisle from me. It was our local MP and the Deputy Prime Minister - The Right Honourable Nicholas Clegg. He was leafing through some parliamentary papers and looking very important. He certainly wasn't expecting the daunting shadow of Yorkshire Pudding to fall across his table. "Can I help you?" he whined. "You sir are a complete and utter twat!" I sneered before grabbing his attache case and proceeding to fling his papers all over the carriage. Clegg was dumbfounded and like a big girl's blouse called for the guard.

The guard was all for slinging me off the train at Leicester but I slipped him a twenty pound note and for the rest of the journey endured the congratulations of my fellow passengers. "I've always wanted to do that!" said one as Clegg cowered sheepishly in the corner casting furtive glances my way - like a well-beaten dog. 

At St Pancras I headed to the front of the taxi queue, pushing a couple of American tourists from Canton, Georgia out of the way before leaping in to the cab. "The Lyceum Theatre!" I instructed and soon we were weaving through the capital city's notorious traffic. I didn't have a ticket to see "The Lion King" so I headed for the stage door, brazenly flashing my Co-op Rewards Card at the security guard. I secured a seat in the front row of the stalls in spite of an old bejewelled biddy's protests and sat back to enjoy the show - an uplifting adventure that follows a fearless young lion cub called Simba as he learns about life on his journey to become King of the lions with memorable songs by Elton John and Tim Rice.

Afterwards I headed to "The Greenhouse" restaurant in Mayfair. "Have you got a reservation sir?" said this southern ponce at the door. "Have you got your own teeth?" I snarled, shoving him against the mahogany hat stand before claiming a corner table and enjoying a thoroughly delightful and exceedingly posh three course meal washed down with a litre of Mo√ęt & Chandon Dom Perignon White Gold.

Later, a  private speedboat sped me along the Thames towards Greenwich where we spun around and surged back towards Tower Bridge and the Houses of Parliament. It was an energising experience. Amazingly, I spotted Clegg again - on his way into the seat of government I couldn't help myself as I yelled, "Oi Clegg!". He turned. "You're still a twat!"

On the train back to Sheffield, I saw the pop singer Jarvis Cocker brazenly snorting a line of cocaine. His spectacles were clouded with the stuff - like flour in a bakery. "Want some?" he challenged and never having tried the stuff before I said yes. It was all I could do to stop myself from sneezing but in a few minutes I was on a different plane of being as Jarvis and I crafted the lyrics to a new hit album. "Tickets please!" said the guard interrupting our high jinx. "Tickets Please. Good name for the album!" I suggested.
At Sheffield Station I went into the Sheffield Tap and sampled each one of the eleven  traditional handpulled cask ales and then a busty young lady of the night called Leona asked if I wanted "business". Being a gentleman I will not detail what then happened in the disabled toilet just off platform one save to say that a dishevelled and dreamy-eyed Leona was heard afterwards mumbling, "You can't beat a good Yorkshire pudding!"

Back home in the suburbs, Shirley was just going up to bed when I put my key in the lock. 

"Well, did you live today as if it was your last?" she asked.

"I guess so," I surmised.

"And what about tomorrow? Will you be living that as if it's your last as well?"

"Nah! I'm knackered. I think I'll just do a bit of gardening. Living each day as if it's your last is bloody expensive and exhausting! Night night love!"

"Night!"

And we kissed.

Dear reader...if it was your last day, how would you live it?

30 May 2013

History

Matthew Kelly (right) as Hector - being brought to book in the headmaster's study
Man cannot live on bread alone so last evening Lady Pudding and your esteemed correspondent duly attended The Crucible Theatre for a dose of culture. This was not in the shape of Ronnie O'Sullivan and  John Higgins knocking snooker balls over green baize but in the form of a rather engaging play - "The History Boys" by Alan Bennett which is co-incidentally set in a Sheffield school.

A group of talented grammar school boys are being coached to get through the tough Oxford and Cambridge entrance exams. Their education has been enhanced by an eccentric English teacher nicknamed Hector and in this production played by the well-known British TV presenter - Matthew Kelly. He locks his classroom door to keep out intruders and teaches not from some dry syllabus but from the heart. The boys appreciate his eccentricity and run with his uplifting ideas but occasionally they have to pay a price by riding pillion on Hector's motorbike - fully expecting that he will grope their loins whilst in transit.

The play is a mixture of wisdom, dry humour, angry protest and bawdiness. It's hard to convey a sense of such a dramatic pot-pourri but here's Hector on reading:-
The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.
And here's one of the students, in an art-appreciation session, discussing the nudes of Michaelangelo:-
These aren't women. They're just men with tits. And the tits look as if they've been put on with an ice-cream scoop!
And here's Posner in conversation  with the new history teacher - Tom Irwin:-
Posner  Do you ever look at your life?
Tom Irwin I thought everybody did.
Posner I'm a Jew... I'm small... I'm homosexual... and I live in Sheffield... I'm fucked.


Matthew Kelly did surprisingly well and the young men who played the scholars supported him very ably showing a range of talents including singing and dancing as each actor defined a distinct personality. There were many funny moments and after sustained applause at the end of the show, Kelly stepped forward to urge theatregoers to actively support a nationwide campaign to save local theatres. It was an impassioned plea in harsh economic times.

We left the theatre at 10.45 and walked down to Sheffield Hallam University students' union building. We gave friends Cathy and Ann a lift back to our city's sprawling southern suburbs and all was well with the world. Sometimes you don't have to squirm and shake your head at the bitterness when receiving your healing dose of culture.

29 May 2013

Blurring

The Ugly Family - too ugly to be seen.
In recent years, I have noticed the growing amount of "blurring" you see in television programmes. Usually this happens in documentaries, real life programmes or news items, The things that are blurred include the faces of people who do not wish to be identified such as criminals or victims, car registration plates, house names and numbers, brand name advertising and people's private parts.  In addition to the things already listed, you'll often find children blurred out.

I guess, it's important to blur children in case any paedophiles are watching television but if that's the case then lusty heterosexuals like moi shouldn't be allowed to look at women. Even lady newsreaders and weather girls' faces should be blurred. Wouldn't it be easier if they all wore stylish burkhas instead? This would save TV blurring departments a lot of time. 

Of course - in this modern world we inhabit there are masses of lusty heterosexual women rampaging through our city streets and battalions of gay men too so I guess the TV authorities should also either be blurring all men's faces or making them wear full lycra body suits like the influential giants of TV entertainment - Ant and Dec:-
Ant and Dec - a huge improvement
Regarding blurring, I have taken to spotting the failings of blurring departments. You know - sometimes they'll forget to blur a car number plate in a particular frame or you'll catch the image of a blurred child in a mirror. And don't you think it would be great if we could blur people in real life so when out and about you wouldn't have to look at spotty people or ogres who can easily put you off your food? To replicate this effect downing seven pints of Tetley's (or in Hippo's case - half a bottle of scotch) will usually do the trick.
Here's Hippo in a family planning commercial for  Angolan TV.

28 May 2013

Movie

Stanley Kubrick? Spike Lee? Walt Disney? The list of the world's most talented movie producers is now enhanced by none other than gritty Yorkshire-born film pioneer, Yorkshire Pudding who in his esoteric very first movie "Koh Lanta" expertly stitches together fragments from his recent five day shoot in southern Thailand to produce a remarkable piece of cinematography that has got the critics buzzing from L.A. to Bombay. Special permission for the Adele soundtrack came from Adele herself who said, "It is an honour to be associated with such a talented film producer and I have always naturally been attracted to Yorkshiremen anyway - they're so sexy!" Composer Bob Dylan said "Thankya! Thankya!". So blogworld - enjoy or sleep!...

27 May 2013

Weekend

Bank holiday weekends in Britain are meant to be grey washouts - but not so this particular Bank Holiday weekend. Here in the heart of our country, the weather has been brilliant - wall-to-wall sunshine with many lard-coloured legs on show and young Tom in our local pub was even in flip flops! I told him it was a helluva long way to the beach!

Great Britain is a land steeped in history and traditions that can be traced back to the mists of time and yet most of our public holidays are boringly called "bank" holidays. Why? I mean - who cares about banks or bankers or banking? After all it's only money. I was with Jesus 100% when he got bloody angry and upturned the moneylenders' tables. Damned Pharisees! Our public holidays should be given names that matter - as in America with its Memorial Day, its Independence Day, its Martin Luther King Day etc.. How about Robin Hood Day? 1966 World Cup Memorial Day? We Stuffed the Jerries in Two World Wars Day? Other suggestions will be gratefully received.

We have seen both of our offspring this weekend. Ian stayed over before heading up to Glasgow to visit an old school friend who has had the shadow of death hanging over him for a couple of years now because of leukemia. At great expense to the NHS, he has recently received stem cell treatment and his future hangs in the balance at only twenty eight years of age. He's also called Tom. Frances, on the other hand, is excited that her steady progress as a recruitment consultant will soon see her taking possession of a company car. We went to look at Minis this afternoon. Mmm..maybe!

On Saturday I was out walking again, just east of Buxton in the High Peak and from that pleasant country ramble I have selected another five pictures to share with you. As the bishop said to the actress - "Click to enlarge"....
Old limestone barn near Tunstead
View of an old barn above Peter Dale
The vast limestone quarries near Tunstead
A blast shelter on the quarry rim
St Margaret's Church in Wormhill

26 May 2013

True

Some things you just cannot make up. Only yesterday, I related recent news about the two young thieves who robbed me in Thailand in March. I was becoming a little anxious that I hadn't heard any more from the Thai police but then just this morning I received a follow-up email from one of the policewomen I met in Ayutthaya when making my initial statement. It seems that the two young robbers are already in jail and it also seems that they were captured when - on April 17th - an attempted robbery from a Polish tourist went wrong. 

Now we come to the comical bit. I am sure that any British coppers sending out "official" emails to victims of crimes would do so from official police email addresses. In Thailand, this is apparently not the custom because the policewoman who contacted me did so from her personal Facebook address. Clearly, because she is Thai with a no doubt long and unpronounceable name in Thai script, she has adopted an Anglicised pen name for Facebook. What is it? Penelope Plod? Lacey Cagney? No - I kid you not - she calls herself  Pumpim Hotlove! Yes - Policewoman Pumpim Hotlove. Any male criminal (and some female) would surely happily hand himself in to a policewoman  with such an appealing and promising  name. Why can't our policewomen have names like that instead of PWC Marcia Higginbottom or PWC Lettice Blenkinsop?

But may I say in conclusion that, back in March, Pumpim Hotlove was very professional and sympathetic when she dealt with my complaint so if you have, by accident, arrived at this blogpost Miss Hotlove, please accept my thanks for all your efforts in the name of justice.

25 May 2013

Gotcha!

A few days ago I received a very surprising email from the tourist police in Ayutthaya, Thailand. It was titled: "we fond someone who took your bag".  Regular readers of this blog may recall that I was robbed by two young people on a motorcycle back in March. The email even had photographs attached and straight away I recognised the young woman. She had been the pillion passenger and I remember how she turned to look at me as they rode away. Possibly, it was not her idea  to rob me - she was just a Maid Marion on the back of Robin Hood's motorbike.

So I emailed the Ayutthaya Tourist Police right back, congratulating them on their police work and basically I finished with the question - "What next?". But since then I haven't heard a dicky bird. What do you think I should do next?
The lowlife git who stole my backpack - containing my NZ bush-hat
and the Nikon camera that Shirley, Ian and Frances bought me as a Christmas present.
Maid Marion with her pink panda top. Don't look so hurt sweetie!
If you play with fire you might get burnt!
And here they are on their motorbike
- no helmets!

24 May 2013

Freshness

Here in Great Britain, people are experiencing the coldest spring since 1979. To tell you the truth, I quite like it. All this fresh air - such a contrast from the chewy heat of Bangkok. No more air conditioning and no more stepping out into an open air oven - arriving at work with sweat patches blooming on my nice clean shirt even at seven in the morning.

People would sometimes say - What do you miss about England? And one of the first things I'd say would be - walking in fresh air. But since I have been back, I've only been on two significant country walks. The first was a solitary walk in the high peakland beyond Winnats Pass, taking in Eldon Hill and Peak Forest. The second walk was communal - with Shirley and some of our friends. We parked in Hathersage last Sunday and headed up to North Lees Hall and Stanage Edge. Both walks were quite lovely and of course I enjoyed the freshness.

So, as I have nothing else to say this morning, I'll share some photographs from those two walks...
Lambs near Rushup Edge - the one of the left is called Hippo and
the other one is called Lettice.
The disused stone quarries at Eldon Hill
North Lees Hall - once visited by Charlotte Bronte.
Rock climber perched on Stanage Edge
At Stanage - Shirley (middle) and four friends

23 May 2013

Radar

 Sorry. If you read this blog regularly, you're probably fed up with my tales from Thailand and Sri Lanka. "Oh here he goes again!"

They say that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. So it was on Koh Lanta. I planned a six mile walk in the tropical heat and because my lovely New Zealand bush hat had been stolen weeks before, I needed something to protect my head from solar attack. A bandana! That was the solution. My very first bandana. Well I wasn't go to wear the stars and stripes one or a Bob Marley memorial bandana or anything with flowers so I plumped for the military camouflage design in various shades of orange and yellow.  Cool! As I strolled along in the sweltering heat, I guess I was the spitting image of Johnny Depp! Pirate of the Andaman. From Khlong Nin to Kantiang Bay I trudged.

Just as radar screens blink when aircraft appear so my eyes have a habit of logging on to errors in signage. Usually, I am cameraless when I spot these mistakes but on that particular day in the village of Kantiang I snapped two beauties. See the one at the top. Look carefully. I'm pleased I didn't venture in to the "Alama" but I guess the real Johnny Depp would have loved it!.."Yeah, I think I'll have the bugger! Does it come with relish?"

And below, the Sureewan Massage and Beauty shop showed the imaginative diversification of their business model - embracing taxis, haircuts, a laundry and...a "ronning" service. I think they meant "ironing" rather than providing personal services to any passing gentlemen named Ronald.

22 May 2013

Interpreters

 The BBC News this morning...

Up to 600 Afghan interpreters who worked alongside British troops are to be given the right to live in the UK, government sources have confirmed.

May I be so bold as to raise my little snout above the parapet to say - No! I don't think that's right. What do you think?

To begin with, we should never have followed America into these misguided, ultimately pointless and deadly adventures in Afghanistan. They have dragged on for twelve long years now and 444 British military personnel have been killed. What for?

It's obvious that to function in Afghanistan, our forces needed local support in the form of interpreters. No doubt these men and women have already been handsomely remunerated and no doubt either that when they signed up to help, it was never part of the deal that they'd have free passage to Great Britain if the conflict ever ended. 

Six hundred interpreters! But of course we are not just talking about that six hundred. We also have to take into account their spouses, children, parents etc.. They'll get a big leg up with regard to flights, housing, benefits and settlement and they'll be absorbed into our society. The cost of all of this will be like a huge slap in the face to all those needy native British citizens who are struggling to get by. 

I hope I am not beginning to sound like Nigel Farage but I think I speak for the vast majority of ordinary British citizens when I say it is time to paint the word "Full" in big bold letters on the white cliffs of Dover. I'm sorry but just because these interpreters assisted our military adventures shouldn't mean they get to live in Britain! I don't see the connection. If that wasn't spelt out in the first place then resettlement packages shouldn't even be close to the table.

Who'll be next? The Afghan police we have trained? The drivers? The suppliers? The traders who sold our soldiers fruit and souvenirs? The Afghan soldiers and bomb disposal experts who have been trained by us?

The chattering politicians in Westminster and the do-gooders and journalists who surround them like flies are completely out of touch with ordinary people's views on such matters. Will Cameron, Clegg, Ashdown and Osborne have Afghan interpreters living next door to them or in the flat above? No they damned well won't. And they won't have to teach their kids or treat their ailments or find them suitable accommodation either.

The only exception I would pause to consider is where there is hard evidence that a particular interpreter's life is clearly threatened by the Taliban or its supporters. But anyway, I thought the result of these deadly adventures was that we'd be leaving behind a new Afghanistan - a democratic Afghanistan with liberty and justice for all! What do you think?
Richard Walker (23) - probably not the
last Yorkshireman to die in Afghanistan

21 May 2013

Sorrowless

Birth of Buddha at Lumbini - beneath
the sorrowless tree
Four miles south west of Kandy in the heart of Sri Lanka, you will find the island country's impressive botanical gardens - at a place called Peradeniya. These mature gardens pre-date European colonisation but were amended and developed by sympathetic British enthusiasts in the nineteenth century. Early last month I wandered there, marvelling at the coco-de-mer trees and the giant bamboo groves, the avenues of palms, the orchid house and the radiating display of lawn grasses. It was delightful.

At one point I was surrounded by adolescent Sri Lankan schoolgirls all smiling in their starched white uniforms and at another point a young family latched on to me as we ambled around - so diminutive that they made me feel like Gulliver.

In a particular zone of these spacious gardens there are various trees planted in the past by visiting VIP's. As I wandered back towards the entrance gates I noticed an ashoka or "sorrowless" tree. This is a tree that figures importantly in religious legends of the Indian sub-continent. It had a plaque in front of it:-
 It was a "take two" moment. The tree was planted on 24th October 1981 by our esteemed Queen Elizabeth and her Greek husband! In my life, this is a very significant date because on that very day at St Martin's Parish Church in the village of Owston Ferry in Lincolnshire I was marrying Shirley:-
There we are on that memorable autumn day, almost thirty two yeas ago, outside the ancient church with my three bearded brothers - Simon, Paul (now deceased) and Robin. It was a perfect and extraordinarily happy day - a simple, unpretentious and traditional wedding witnessed by our friends and families in the remote agricultural parish where Shirley was born and raised.

And the fact that Elizabeth and Philip were simultaneously planting a "sorrowless" tree seems somehow eerily appropriate. It was after all sorrow-less, not sorrow-ful if you see what I mean. Though we cannot match our queen and the duke or indeed the Bragues of Canton, Georgia who just last weekend celebrated fifty years of marriage, thirty two years is surely still quite remarkable in this day and age. And after writing this post, I think it's now time for another cup of tea with a slice of toast smothered with some of Shirley's homemade marmalade. Excuse me...

20 May 2013

Happy

I've always written poems. Sometimes I think I have kicked the habit but then another poem creeps up on me and I can't resist. Well-chosen words without superfluousness have the power to say so much. But I realise that some people don't "get" poetry - perhaps in the same way that I don't "get" ballet, opera, horse racing or the idea of attending a classical concert. Yes, I understand but I am not sorry about "Lamb" (See my last post).

I guess I was investigating religious belief as much as I was lamenting the passing of that ruined lamb - the vision of which assailed me as I walked in the high country above Winnat's Pass last Thursday morning. Lambs die every springtime - often at birth - but this one had clearly survived that trauma and had been flourishing until something happened to end its life. A dog attack? A fox? Some congenital condition? Who knows? But I snapped a picture of it and that horrible moment of discovery kept surfacing in my thoughts.

Now, on the other side of the Pennine chain and far from here, in a mythical dragon-infested land called Wales, there resides one of my favourite bloggers - he of the tea dynasty - Earl John Gray who has of course eschewed the family estate with all its riches to settle in a homely village with his poultry, his dogs and his professorial partner. Upon reading "Lamb", Earl Gray protested that I should write a happy poem "next time". Being fearful of the nobility, I felt obliged to comply with his instruction, so here it is...


Have I seen The Earl? -  you say
Oh you mean the flouncing nurse John Gray?
He lives by the corner up on Church Lane
It's rumoured that the bloke's insane.

All manner of birds are kept in his field

Even though his neighbours appealed
He talks to the buggers as well you know
When it's pissing it down or in driving snow.

His Berlingo is a familiar sight

Scotch egg wrappers and covered in shite
His pack of dogs from the Baskervilles
Are often seen chasing him over the hills.

Be careful when you knock on his door.

What do you want to see him for?
Runner ducks, fresh free range eggs?
Or those homemade pies he gets from Greggs?

Oh you're doing a fashion shoot?

Christ, that should be a hoot!
Anorak, wellies and a woolly hat
What will your editor make of that?

I've lived in Trelawnyd all my life

Never had a girlfriend, never a wife
- "The only gay in the village!" - they'd yell
Now the Earl and his fancy man live here as well

Go up there and then turn right

Just follow the smell of the chicken shite
He'll pour you a cup of Earl Gray tea
Then try to do what he did to me!

19 May 2013

18 May 2013

Patriotism

HERO! Brian Fairfield (aged 80) recently won the right to keep flying his
national flag from a flagpole in his Hull garden after complaints from neighbours.
One evening in Bangkok, I met a bearded thirty-something Englishman. He was the husband of one of our primary school teachers. At first we hit it off but then he began to deride his home country, imagining that I would be like-minded and similarly prepared to "knock" the land of my birth.

"Hang on a minute," I said. "What are you talking about? I haven't run away from England. I love England. I love its people, its landscapes, its sense of humour, its inventiveness and creativity and I am proud of the role that England has played in the world - and continues to play.In short I am immensely proud to be English, proud of my country"

His jaw dropped. He was puzzled. It was as if he previously believed that all intelligent ex-pat "escapees" from our homeland are automatically cynical about and critical of Great Britain because of a basket of things like the immigration problem, crime, taxation, trade unionism, European red tape, the class system, "The Daily Mail", Tesco-isation, potholes in roads, litter, dog poo in parks, Michael Gove etc..

But as I said to him - all countries have their problems, their issues. You need to step back and see the positives instead of giving the negatives too much air time.

The other day I counted up how many countries I have visited in my life - it came to fifty. From Liechtenstein to Laos and from South Africa to Southern Ireland. I have been fortunate to see many wonderful things and have met many wonderful people but in the final analysis I can honestly say that the best country I have ever been in is England. It's where my ancestors were born, lived, worked and died. It's where football began - and golf and tennis and rugby. It's where steel was invented and modern industry was born. It's the land of Robin Hood, William Shakespeare, John Lennon, Florence Nightingale, Arthur Scargill, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Charles Dickens, Jessica Ennis, David Hockney, Geoff Boycott and Ken Wagstaff - the list is endless. And our countryside is so beautiful, criss-crossed as it is by an ancient network of pathways. And then there's our pubs - our wonderful pubs. No other country in the world has pubs like ours. And there's our language - our amazing English language that has become the most important, most useful, most incisive and most adaptable language in the world. How could I not be proud of England and grateful that I was born here?

So to all clever-dick ex-pats and knockers of England, I say "Shut up!" Don't smell the coffee but do strip away the cynicism and see the best features of our homeland. And while you are at it, please look in the mirror and see yourself standing there - for you are part of England, England bore you and when you knock our great country you are in effect knocking yourself. So stop it and shut up!

16 May 2013

Accommodation

That damned bolt on the gate
A blog can act like an old-fashioned diary, so excuse me while I record some details of my accommodation in  Bangkok. It's partly for future reference - so that in years to come I can look back and remember how it was. 

But how long do these blogs last for anyway? Once "out there" on the internet, do they last forever like very old books in a library's vault? Or do we reach a point where Google or Blogger or Rupert Murdoch say "Sorry mate! It's over! We are deleting all blogs to make room for more advertising and the worldwide expansion of Facebook!" Perhaps we'll never get that far anyway as spammers and internet vandals maliciously compromise the entire caboodle.

Anyway, my little apartment at Serene Bangkok, Ratchayothin... It was attached to the owners' house. I could sometimes hear them dimly through the connecting door in my bedroom but I was never disturbed. It was a big, spacious bedroom with a kingsize bed and well-built sliding wardrobes. The floor was made of shiny hardwood blocks.

There was an offshot living room where I had an L-shaped sofa, a coffee table, a television, a sink, fridge, microwave and a little table with two chairs. Both the bedroom and lounge had air-conditioning units which were absolutely vital to counteract the city's sweltering heat. Sometimes I'd sleep with the aircon switched off and I'd wake in a puddle of sweat, my pillows soaked.
The little swimming pool at Serene and my favourite reading place
The tiled shower room had a big walk-in shower and through its sliding door there was a miniature courtyard where I could dry any washing I had done in the big blue Tesco Lotus bucket I kept in the shower cubicle.

To get to my front door I had to pass by the B&B reception - sometimes stopping by to chat with Nong or Koy - and then walk along the path that leads through the tropical garden to the respectable massage parlour run by Lisa - the owners' daughter. I'd turn left and wiggle the squeaky bolt on top of the metal gate and after entering the owners' compound, wiggle the squeaky bolt back into place. Two or three times I applied "Vaseline" to this bolt to stop the squeakiness but it always came back.

The owners had two horrible old dogs - both slow, fat and smelly with testicles swinging like rubbery pendulums. They were allowed to defecate in the garden compound and so I had to watch my step even though their piles of steamy grey excretion were usually quickly cleaned up by Wan, the owners' housemaid.
Inside the living room
The bedroom
The shower room
But it was nice to be living at ground level with tropical vegetation outside my windows and nobody living above me or below. Nearly all the other teachers lived in tower blocks, requiring lifts to get to their front doors. I wouldn't have liked that at all. No, it was nice to be serene at Serene, a fifteen minute walk from the school and at fifty nine years old I still count my lucky stars that I had this opportunity not once but twice. And if you are reading this Mr Jon - a special thanks to you for making my Bangkok Days possible.
Path to the apartment's front door

15 May 2013

Hair

Ever heard that song "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"? Well, it's not so much smoke that gets in your eyes as hair - especially re. the female of our species. Now, David Attenborough might lie on his belly for ages observing gorillas in the Congo or whisper excitedly about a bird of paradise mating dance in the jungles of Borneo, but my recent scientific observations have focussed exclusively on women's hair - especially straight hair.

The trouble is that when women grow their hair long it has a tendency to fall or blow into their eyes. For example, just this morning on the BBC News, an arts correspondent speaking from the Cannes film festival found her hair blowing across her face as she spoke and she was persistently brushing it away. Similarly, in the BBC Look North studio, the weather girl - Lisa Gallagher - has to hold her head in a particularly stiff manner in order to prevent her hair from gravitating towards her eyes as she points out cyclones and wind patterns. It's a nightmare for women. Forget menstruation, menopause, childbirth and the challenges of motherhood - the biggest and most obvious problem that women have to deal with in everyday life is clearly how to keep floppy hair out of their eyes!

Women's inventiveness in this area of life seems to know no bounds and they have devised numerous ways of keeping awkward long  hair in check and away from the eyes. In my chart below I have itemised just nine of these cunning methods though I am aware my list is not exhaustive:-
No. 1 Elsie is using a simple hairslide to keep her hair off her face.
No 2 Janice has gone for a brutal fringe cut to deal with the issue.
No. 3 Ena has tucked her uncontrollable hair behind her ears.
N 4 Lettice has simply pulled her long hair back and formed it into a kind of ballet dancer's bun.
No 5 Jenny has brushed her hair away from her face and then sprayed an entire can of  "Stiff" on  it to keep it in place.
No 6 Agatha has stuffed her floppy long strands into a stylish headscarf from "Poundstretcher".
No 7 Libby is using a simple Alice band to keep her hair back.
No 8 Sinnead has got so pissed off with her hair she's just shaved it all off.
No 9 Fatima's solution is to wear a burkha. This is recommended for all women bloggers, hiding their beauty for the pleasure and enjoyment of their menfolk, husbands or partners. Also very handy for ugly lady bloggers or those with severe acne.

14 May 2013

Snaps

Ever been bored to tears by somebody else's holiday snaps?
Well don't worry - I've only got three to show you today....

Here's Shirley just last month as we relax by another "dream beach".
This was at Jungle Beach near Unawatuna in southern Sri Lanka. The wooden 
loungers were free to anyone who used the beach cafe which offered
freshly caught grilled prawns and silvery fish that still twitched. The water was as clear
as crystal and Shirley said, "I think I've died and gone to heaven".
Meanwhile two metres from that green table in the underworld beneath
the adjacent tree's roots, a prehistoric battle occurred between Mr Hungry
Lizard and Mr Enormous Centipede. In the end the odds were stacked in
Mr Lizard's  favour and we watched as he gulped down (whole) his unfortunate prey.
Not what I'd have wanted for lunch. No siree! I was happy to stick with
my grilled sea prawns, salad and french fries  - washed down with "Lion Soda"
Another view of fabulous Jungle Beach with the
southern city of Galle on the horizon.

13 May 2013

Investment

Still backtracking through my catalogue of Asian photographs, would you be so kind as to step back with me to Noi Bay on the island of Koh Lanta? Perhaps you will recall that there I sheltered from the blazing sun in an abandoned beach bar called "Robinson's". It even crossed my mind to become the new tenant. I would spruce the place up and re-stock it, sleeping above the shack in my woven hammock. I would of course have to rename the place "Bloggers" where I would serve cool drinks, Thai curries and Yorkshire puddings with beef gravy. Once the news got out, bloggers from around the world would arrive. 

I'd be chatting with Earl Gray about animal husbandry and canine cruelty over gin and tonics, showing Lettice Leaf my hammock upstairs, providing (gratis) oil massages to Kiwi Katherine, Libby from the Midlands and Jenny from Wrexham, arm wrestling with the famous Georgian champion - Robert Z. Brague and guzzling pints of Chang Beer with Ian Rhodes (aka Shooting Parrots) and Ian Hutson (aka The Owl Wood) .who'd probably prefer a small dry sherry.

Helen from Brisbane would arrive direct from France with her faithful Tony trotting behind like Earl Gray's Willie. I would ply Jan Blawat with pina coladas and Bacardis, probably needing to protect her from the unwanted advances of a certain lustful Angolan restaurant owner and I would finally get to meet that Catlonian insurgent - El Brian the Bandito. Meanwhile Carol Cunningham and Mary Z would be wriggling into out or out of  their skimpy leopard print bikinis looking forward to nightfall.

We'd have a beach party and go skinny dipping at midnight under a silvery moon before singing The Blogging Anthem around a driftwood campfire:-
How much is that blogger in the window
The one with the waggly tail?
How much is that blogger in the window?
I do hope that blogger's for sale!
Such fun. Such frolics! And now those photos:-
"Robinson's" at Noi Bay with a storm brewing
Old post with Koh Phi Phi on the horizon
Another view of "Robinson's"
Inside the abandoned beach bar . Who's head is that?
Should you wish to invest in the establishment of...
Please send handsome cheques to me at The Yorkshire Pudding Retirement Fund  Bloggers Beach Bar Development Fund. Thanks in anticipation of your generosity.

11 May 2013

Twelve

At last, I have been able to upload all the photos I took in Sri Lanka. I wanted to post ten good pictures that would represent my time over there. In the event, ten has become twelve and I could have easily turned ten into twenty five. Of course they were all taken with Shirley's Nikon "Coolpix" camera - the one I bought her for Christmas and even though I know I would have reaped even finer results from the digital SLR camera that was stolen from me in Ayutthaya, I am quietly pleased with the following twelve compositions. Which picture do you like best and why? (Click to enlarge)
1. Young monks by Kandy Lake
2. Schoolgirls in the Fort area of Galle
3. In the impoverished Montessori school in Galle
4. Tea picker on the Handunagoda tea estate 
5. At the Peace Pagoda on Rumassala Hill near Unawatuna
6. Jungle Beach near Unawatuna
7. Buddhist monk walking to Sigiriya
8. In the cave temples at Dambulla
9. View from the top of Sigiriya
10. Lifeguard Office on Nilaveli Beach
11. Sunrise at Nilaveli
12.  Dagoba and column in the sacred city of Anuradhapura