Letters from Thailand

{March 17, 2009}   Weekend Yehs and Mehs

I am planning to compose one of these after each weekend as I want to try to make a better job of maintaining the blog in the hope that my writing improves, and my current state of apathy (which has seemed worryingly permanent) will lift. I can’t say it will be of special interest to anyone, unless they’re in need of a soporific (big word – Yeh!) But, here goes.

Friday. After work. Two-for-one margaritas. Here. Yeh!

Saturday. First thing in the morning. Headache caused by aforementioned beverages. Meh. Resulting in not being able to go out that night, which brings me to the next Meh: Revolutionary Road. I could only watch the first 10 minutes – Kate and Leo, ever so over the post-Titanic honeymoon phase, arguing (rather pointlessly, in my opinion) in a theatre, in a car and out of the car. The Seven-Year-Itch? Whatever it was, my poor head just could not cope. I had to switch from the DVD player to the normally crap cable TV in my building. But wait! What is this? Yeh! The series channel has come back after a two-month absence. Oh Meh. It’s gone again. It very kindly waited until after Grey’s Anatomy had finished, though. Yeh! Decadent dinner of smoked salmon Philadelphia (a very costly luxury) and crackers. Another one for the Yehs!

Sunday Cinema to see Shopaholic. Yeh! Although am a tad worried that my intellect is now so diminished (meh) that I enjoyed this MUCH more than Revolutionary Road. I read a Jilly Cooper the other week, too. Can somebody help me, please?! Dinner later here. Food was a bit meh, but the company was Yeh! – Thanks Ms. O.

And, to end on a YEH! Series channel still not back, but Fox Crime has appeared in its place. CSI episodes back to back. YEH, YEH, YEH!

Back next week, should inspiration fail to strike in the meantime.


{March 11, 2009}   Dear Parents

I know it’s been a while, but inspiration has been very low.  However a bizarre adjustment to the dress-code at my place of employment finally incited my reactionary nature.  My response follows:

Dear Parents,

An Apology

It has recently been brought to my attention that I have been rather lax in keeping myself abreast of the latest methods in pedagogy and your child’s progress will likely have suffered as a result.

Due to my lack of diligence in researching new teaching methods, my esteemed and knowledgeable Principal has advised me that for the past two terms, I have been doing a major disservice to your child by my wearing of trousers that do not quite reach the ankles. Upon hearing this, I felt I had to write to you to offer my humblest apologies for neglecting your child’s education.

Please be assured that from now on, I will be doing my best to reverse this by attiring myself more appropriately in the classroom and school environs.  Should the material to cover* be especially demanding, I shall complement my outfit by wearing long sleeves, mittens, a balaclava and tinted ski-goggles.

Should these measures be insufficient to rectify the damage I have been inflicting on your child for the past six months, then I will willingly reconsider my career options and apply for positions in countries where my immodest style is more appreciated. If you know of any possible schools in Saudi Arabia, where the more relaxed burkha would be more inline with my teaching style, please feel free to make your recommendations.

Once again, my humblest apologies and thanks for your understanding.

Yours sincerely,

Ms. Kosmo

* I know the English is a little clunky, but liked the sound of the pun!

Over the past few months, three good friends have told me about a book & DVD called ‘The Secret’. Apparently it reveals “The most powerful law in the universe”. Over Christmas, my mum lent me the book, but I was too busy to read it. Then, at the weekend, a friend of mine lent me the DVD and I learnt all about this so-called secret for myself – and even tried it out.

“The most powerful law in the universe” is, according to The Secret, the law of attraction. Basically, anything you want is yours, provided you wish for it hard enough. But, be careful about wishing for what you don’t want, because that’ll come to you too. So, it’s a question of being selective in how you phrase your wishes. For example, “I really mustn’t be late for a meeting”, will ensure that you do actually arrive late. What you should be saying to yourself is, “I really must be on time for this meeting”. The law of attraction, in this case, dictates that you will be on time. How simple is that? And, what’s The Secret?

The Secret was ‘discovered’ by an Australian woman. How The Secret was revealed to her, the DVD does not mention. But, the opening titles are accompanied by a film sequence of an ancient hastily scribbling on a scroll whilst looking desperately over his shoulder. He hands the scroll to someone. A Roman centurion then hides it in a scabbard. Next, the scroll turns up in a church as a cardinal tucks it into his cassock. Finally, we see a bunch of suits around a board table, raising fists and looking a tad angry, implying that this secret has been concealed for years by the church and a wunch of bankers – note to conspiracy theorists: Aren’t there any other groups you could list? I’m getting bored of reading about the same ones all the time.

So, Australian woman decides to do some research (cut to beautifully manicured hands tapping away on a laptop) to see if there are any other people out there who know ‘The Secret’. To her surprise, she comes across a ‘wide range of people’ who not only know about The Secret, but who have practised its ‘tenets’ and achieved boundless joy, success and wealth. It sounded good to me, even if this wide range of people all happened to be from one particular country (where they’d believe anything, apparently.) Philosophers, authors (the Chicken Soup for the Soul guy was the only one I’d heard of but, alas, never read), meta-physicists, doctors, entrepreneurs, and a “visionary” (How good would that look on a C.V.?) they all knew about it, were fabulously wealthy and sounded so happy and fulfilled. Who wouldn’t want to be part of this gang? So, all these people talk about The Secret (my favourite was author, Lisa Nicholls, who had such a wonderful, convincing voice, that if I were an eskimo, I’d buy a freezer from her) and what it has done for them (i.e. make them a shit load of money). All of this is interspersed with quotes from the great and good (so great and good, they don’t need first names) – Buddha, Shakespeare, Einstein, Churchill, Da Vinci, Franklin and Lincoln -to name (or, at least, copy and paste from the Da Vinci Code) just a few ) Which got the skeptic in me thinking, “If this is such a great Secret, then why are these quotes so famous – surely they would have been censored by ‘The Suits’ if they wanted it hidden so much?” As I continued to watch, I realised that everything these people said was not such a huge Secret. It was basically this: Think good thoughts, have positive feelings, then you will have your heart’s desire. Haven’t spiritual/religious books, fairy tales and fables been trying to tell us this over the past several hundred years? Maybe The Secret is the only way to communicate this overtly to a generation of people who either don’t have the inclination, ability or are just too plain lazy (delete as appropriate) to see beyond symbolism and who require the message to be delivered in a more simplistic way?

To be honest, I confess to feeling a wee bit inspired by the message behind The Secret, especially when one member of the ‘cast’ talked about his experiences. This was a man who had survived a horrific plane crash, crushing his spine and losing his diaphragm (therefore, in theory, he should never again have been able to breath unaided), and who doctors decided would spend the rest of his life as a vegetable (his words), yet, through sheer power of mind, managed to walk out of the hospital unaided and without any kind of artificial ventilation, simply because he willed it. Or when a woman, when diagnosed with breast cancer, just (it sounds too simple) convinced herself that she was healthy, stayed positive by watching Charlie Chaplin movies with her husband (to laugh as much as possible) and, when she went for a scan three months later, was told that the cancer had simply vanished.

In fact, it was just the production of the film itself that brought out the cynic in me. Everything seemed a bit too convenient. We are told that wishes are not automatically granted (oh, really?!). Here we see a man in his living room, looking at a postcard from a friend, relative or gloating rival, who was holidaying in Kenya/India/Thailand – wherever, anyway, there was an elephant on the front of the postcard. Clearly he wishes that he had the chance to be near one of these wonderful beasts. Suddenly (unfortunately the puff of smoke was missing), an elephant appears in his living room (how’s that for symbolism! click) Cut to my new heroine, Lisa Nicholls, who tells us in that reassuring voice of hers, that “Hey, don’t worry! You’ll be pleased to know that the good thing about this law of the universe is that it’s not immediate – there’s a time delay!” (Thank fcuk for that! I wouldn’t want Johnny Depp appearing in my bed one morning if I hadn’t shaved my legs first.) As she says this, we see elephant man, wiping his brow and shoveling elephant shit from his carpet – brilliant! Another favourite illustration of how The Secret works was the young boy and the new bike: Young boy really wants a new bike. He cuts out pictures of the bike from a catalogue, goes to bed at night visualising himself riding the bike. Then one day, there’s a knock at the door. He opens it, and there, standing with a gleaming, new bike is an old man (presumably his granddad, but equally possibly the local pervert he encountered in the park). Oh joy! I also liked the little snippets of film depicting a South East Asian woman laughing ecstatically while working her guts out in a rice paddy (maybe it was filmed a few years ago, the day after Thaksin Shinawatra had visited and gifted her with 500 baht for her vote), a smiling indigenous South American toddler (complete with distended stomach, courtesy of malnutrition) handing some much needed food to a friend and an old Tibetan nun happily staring out from what looked like barred windows (who says Chinese prisons are barbaric?)

Despite the poor production, I did feel somewhat inspired to try out The Secret for myself, and I had the perfect opportunity to experiment: This weekend, I was obliged to go out of town on a work-related chore (but that’s a whole other story!) So, I took the three steps to achieving what I wanted to achieve: I asked the universe, “Please can I stay at home this weekend, laze by the pool and go out to meet my friends for a drink on Saturday?” I believed that I would be staying at home, lazing by the pool and going out to meet my friends for a drink on Saturday. I received, or was open to receiving signs from the universe that I was on the right path and that staying at home, lazing by the pool and going out to meet my friends would “become manifest.” The day after I began to do this, I heard from someone that my presence at this event may not be necessary. Twenty minutes later it was confirmed. I was amazed, this was really working! I had mastered The Secret! Anyway, I found out today that my presence is, indeed, required and that I most definitely will not spend this weekend at home, lazing by the pool or going out to meet my friends for a drink. Hence the skepticism, which was there already: Let’s face it, the “most powerful law in the universe” is just another name for God. The tenets of The Secret (ask; believe; receive) is just another way of saying prayer. And, in a world where many people seem to need religion, it does have the benefit of youth, and has had, therefore, less time for its message to be misinterpreted and corrupted, but I’m sure they said that about more established religions one or two thousand years ago. I just hope that in a few hundred years, out of all the people who participated in this project, Lisa Nicholls is the one who is chosen as the true Messiah/Prophet/Guru/Bodhisattva/Daugher of God(dess) of the whole shebang.

Finally, just because this one attempt failed (perhaps I got something wrong for once?) it doesn’t mean I won’t try again: Before the end of the year, I will wake up one morning with a manicure like the lady in the film, stubble-free legs, and Johnny Depp lying next to me. If that doesn’t happen, then I’ll gladly revert to cynical agnosticism.

{February 19, 2008}   Eating Poo Again!

I’ve just started a ‘Health and Nutrition’ project with my class at school and yesterday we looked at the food pyramid. What follows is part of a discussion about the dairy/egg part of the pyramid:

Me: So, all these foods: milk, cheese and butter, are dairy foods. Who can tell me where we get dairy foods from?

Student a: Supermarket.

Student b: Cows!

Me: Very good, student b. That’s right. We get our dairy foods from cows. Now what about eggs?

Student a: Chickens make eggs.

Me: Excellent, student a.

Student b (standing up and miming something coming out of his bottom): Eggs are the poo from chickens!

Me: Not exactly student b. Do you eat eggs?

Student b: Yes.

Me: And your mum and dad? Do they eat eggs?

Student b: Yes.

Me: Do you really think your mum and dad would make you eat poo?

Student b: Um, I guess not.

Me: Ok, moving on. Now, what about these foods (sugary, fatty foods) What happens when we eat too much of these?

Student c: It makes us poo.

Me: Well, all foods make us go to the toilet, but some do so more than others.

By the way, if anyone can help me explain what an egg is without resorting to reproduction, your tips are most welcome! Luckily this time nobody asked, but I’m sure it will come up at some point!

{January 29, 2008}   Is It A Turd….?

Today I am returning to a much loved topic between <my favourite frog and me. One that we will never tire of talking about, ever. I was reminded of it today because next week I’ll be attending a Chinese New Year dinner at work. The anticipation of this event has led me to experience all kinds of bad-trip flashbacks normally reserved for hard-core LSD enthusiasts of the 60s and no matter how hard I try, I cannot erase the image from my head of the most hideous creature of the deep….


The Sea Cucumber.

Personally, until now, I’ve never seen it on a menu in a Chinese restaurant (a bit of last-minute research, flicking through the Food By Phone menu showed me it is, in fact, available from one of the four Chinese restaurants listed) it has always been presented, with great aplomb, whenever I’ve had to attend a Chinese banquet. Actually, until I saw it on a menu, it had crossed my mind that it was perhaps a joke played by the Chinese on foreign guests, along the lines of, let’s see how polite you are, eat this, while we have a bit of a laugh at your expense and tuck into something more palatable. That was to be the point of this post, so I’ve now had to change tack. Thanks, Food by Phone!

Now, people who know me will attest that I am quite adventurous when it comes to eating, but even my sense of adventure stops somewhere. That somewhere is the knowledge that what I am eating is basically an arse. Despite its similarity in the above picture to something found on sale under the counter at Ann Summers, the sea cucumber is nothing more than a colon. I have tried to find evidence to the contrary, but my initial sentiments have been proved correct.

Some facts about the sea cucumber:

  • Sea cucumbers are echinoderms (not arse related, but an anagram of echinoderm is ‘orchid semen’ which amused the 10 year-old within. Another one is ‘enrich sod me’ which is on the right (anal) track.
  • When threatened, sea cucumbers can contract their muscles and shoot out water from their body – just like us (I was so scared, I shat myself) Some can even shoot out their insides (I was so terrified, I REALLY shat myself) and grow new ones (God, I was so horrendously terrified, I REALLY shat myself so hard that I tore myself a new arsehole)
  • They feed on dead and decaying organic material – which is pretty much what your food is when it reaches your bum.
  • Some sea cucumbers can reach a length of 2 metres. The human large intestine is about 1.5 metres, so not a huge difference there.

In the course of my research, I was fortunate enough to find a good reason why we should not eat these creatures (aside from the fact that they are the texture of latex and taste like poo.) According to an article on the BBC website:

The sea cucumber produces a protein called lectin, which impairs the development of parasites. An international team of scientists have genetically engineered mosquitos – which carry the malaria parasite – to produce the same protein in their gut when feeding. The study found that the protein disrupted the development of the parasites inside the insects’ stomach.

    Malaria kills more than one million people every year, and causes severe illness in 500 million, so this is more than reason enough for me not to eat them. In fact I may even start a campaign ‘Save a Sea Cucumber, Save a Life!’

    {January 24, 2008}   The Chains of Love

    If sexism, racism and ageism is discrimination against gender, race and age, and fetishism is the appreciation of unusual (in most cases) sexual practices, then what is the word for discrimination against fetishism?

    The above story (click on post heading) got me thinking about this today. Can anyone enlighten me?

    {January 23, 2008}   Heath Ledger

    10things_ledger1.jpgI knew it was going to be a shit day when I woke up half an hour late because I’d forgotten to set my alarm. Usually when that happens, the day just goes down hill. I had made it into work just in time (thanks to the brainwave of putting on my make-up in the taxi) and had settled down with my first dose of caffeine, when a colleague broke the news that Heath Ledger had died.

    Now, normally I wouldn’t bother commenting on the death of someone I’ve never met. But, this is different – I have good reason to thank Heath Ledger for saving my sanity almost every Friday for two years.

    Between 2005 and 2007, I worked at a language school in the UK where it was common, during the winter months, to have to teach groups made up entirely of French teenagers, usually from the same school. Very often, the students came from ‘special’ schools they attended because they had been excluded from regular schools. They were nearly always accompanied by disillusioned teachers who looked like they were taking one last holiday before they succumbed to a nervous breakdown. The students themselves found the process of learning English – like any other subject – completely irrelevant. They had already been labeled as non-achievers, so what was the point in doing anything to change that perception? As a result, no matter how interesting we tried to make the lessons, we didn’t get very much out of them and waited desperately for Friday to arrive. Friday mornings were good – we could do DVD lessons. One of the most fought over (among the teachers) was ’10 Things I Hate About You’, so, if we were lucky, a couple of us would grab the DVD, combine our classes and distribute some comprehension questions about the film. There was Heath as the rebellious outsider, someone the students could identify with, and who we just found gorgeous as hell. So while they paid attention for the first time all week and answered the comprehension questions, we just sat, ogling Mr. Ledger, as memories of the earlier part of the week drifted away.

    A sad loss. My condolences to his family.  May he rest in peace.

    {January 21, 2008}   My New Look

    What do you think?

    Green Girl is definitely more moi.  Bye, bye floating market lady, enjoy your retirement.

    So begins the beginning of the Brownie Guide Promise that I was forced to recite on a weekly basis for 2 years (between the ages of 8 and 10). Aside from the promise, my memories of brownie guiding are not all that great.

    The reason I’ve been thinking about this today is that I’ve been ‘recruited’ to assist the Girls’ Brigade at the school where I work, and I’m in a bit of a quandary about it, due to my experiences during those two years.

    Don’t get me wrong, I know the organisation was set up to encourage girls to develop leadership skills and teamwork, as well as keeping them off the streets. However, in reality, it was just an extension of the popularity contest that formed the basis of the Law of the Playground, of which I was forever in breach. I was never invited to join in games that involved speed or feats of physical strength and endurance because I was so crap at them. That didn’t bother me at all, I was quite happy sitting around with another pair of weaklings talking about what they were going to dress their Sindy dolls in that night, and there were enough other kids to participate in British Bulldog or Kiss Chase that my sissy mates & I weren’t missed. With Brownies, it was another story. Lack of participation was frowned upon and there was a hierarchy in the ‘pack’ which meant you HAD to do what you were told, either by the adults (Brown Owl & her sidekick, Tawny) or the girls further up in the pecking order (the Sixer and Seconder).

    One of my biggest disappointments with the system was due to this hierarchy, which I will attempt to explain: The ‘pack’ (yep, that’s what we were called – just like a group of she-wolves) was divided into groups of 6, each headed by a ‘Sixer’ who was ably assisted by a ‘Seconder’. In my pack, these positions were assigned on the basis of seniority within the pack, so that once a Sixer left (probably to move up to the Guides) her Seconder would replace her and the girl who had joined next would rise up to be Seconder. When my turn came to become Seconder, I was passed over in favour of a younger girl who’d joined a full year after me. Yep, I’d been forgotten. When I complained about it to my mum, she promptly got on the phone to Tawny Owl (who lived in our street – more about her in a bit). The next week, I was told that they couldn’t inform the other girl that she was no longer Seconder (something about harming her self-esteem, if the term had been invented then. My own self-esteem was clearly of no consequence) but that we would both be Seconders. Now, in our six, we had a Sixer and two Seconders – surely a case of too many chiefs? Not that it mattered as I left soon afterwards, deciding that brownie-ing was not conducive to the lifetime of quiet non-conformity I envisioned for myself.

    The other incident (and probably the one that made Brown Owl & Tawny decide I wasn’t a suitable candidate for Seconder) happened after Brownies, in Tawny Owl’s car. As I mentioned, she lived in my street so she would take me and my best mate to the brownie hut in her snotty green Morris Minor that stank of corgis (actually, not sure if she had corgis or not, but her stature, hairdo, tweed suits & support tights did put me in mind of Queen Elizabeth.) Anyway one week, we had had a ‘sing-song’ at the meeting. The lyrics of the song went something like ‘When I was two, I buckled my shoe, the day I went to sea’. After the meeting, my friend and I were waiting in the stinky, green car, waiting for Tawny to finish “discussing pack business” with Brown Owl (they probably had a bottle of gin stashed away somewhere). To take our minds off the boredom and our noses off the scent of wet dog, my friend and I decided to reprise the song with a slight change of lyrics which entailed rhyming ‘one’ with ‘bum’, ‘two’ with ‘poo’ and ‘three’ with ‘wee’ (we got stuck at four, so all suggestions welcome!). There we were singing along with a lot more gusto than we’d previously demonstrated, when Tawny opens the car door. We decided not to stop singing, but repeat the song, in full, for her approval. It wasn’t forthcoming. We were warned if she heard us using inappropriate language like that again, we’d be expelled from the pack. Not such a bad thing in itself, but if mum found out….

    I think my greatest achievement was leaving with the record for the least number of badges earned. In four years, I think I earned three -flower pressing, household something or other (making tea & ironing for a month) arts & crafts – all of which have prepared me for the life of a modern woman.

    And the rest of the promise?

    I promise that I will do my best

    to do my duty to God,

    to serve the Queen,

    and help other people,

    and to keep the Brownie Guide Law.

    {January 20, 2008}   Hairapy

    I’ve been asked by my good friend and hair stylist to give him some tips for an article he’s writing about what to look for in a hair stylist. My own personal history with hair stylists is similar to that a typical relationship history: a couple of serious ones, a few flings and several one-offs where I thought “Oh my God! What have I done?!” For many women, a goal in life is to find that one man who ticks all the boxes and to never let him go. I look for the same in a stylist.

    In order to research this topic, I’ve been trawling the internet for ‘secrets to a perfect relationship’, which, to be honest, has been about as useful as tits on a bull. For example:

    • Kiss your spouse/stylist for at least 5 seconds before you leave in the morning and before going to bed at night – somewhat impractical as the salon is at least 40 minutes from my place, and in the opposite direction of my workplace. I also think his boyfriend may have an issue with me dropping by twice a day for a 5-second snog.
    • Hug and hold hands often, daily – all very well, but how the hell is going to hold the scissors if he’s holding my hands and giving me cuddles?
    • Take turns making decisions – so it’s ok if he wants to give me a buzz cut and dye the remnants bright green and pink, because it’s his turn to make a decision? I think not.
    • Teach him, preferably early in the relationship, how to give you a fail-safe orgasm because it’s unlikely he’ll find out alone – I don’t think so, especially if the salon is open-plan. Also, there’s bound to be someone perverted enough to introduce hair straighteners into the proceedings which could pave the way to all kinds of injuries and law-suits.
    • Laugh at the little mistakes in life, hold the drama for a major crisis – Surely in hairdressing, his little mistakes may be a major crisis for me – I’m thinking of a particular occasion when I had my hair coloured by a junior who left bleach on my head for the good part of 4 hours (I exaggerate not.)

    So, what should one look for in a stylist? Most importantly, someone who listens to what you want and asks the right questions. At the first appointment they should find out not only what style you want, but also what kind of lifestyle you lead – how long you have to spend to get ready in the morning, for example. Not all of us have the 2 hours required to blow-dry or straighten hair into an artistic vision, that, after all, is what hair shows are for.

    Also, be aware that sometimes the reason for visiting a salon is because a change of image is symbolic of a change in one’s life, be it a break-up or breakdown, and stylists should be aware of this. These are times when we make drastic changes to our appearance which don’t seem such a great idea the next day (or even in the next 5 minutes). So, if your twin-set and pearls wearing librarian client walks into your salon demanding a mohawk, talk her out of it. As evidence, I submit Amy Winehouse’s latest blonde haystack.

    If you want to keep a client, be prepared to admit that you might get things wrong sometime. A fling with a stylist I had once turned very serious when I went back the week after our first appointment and told him I was having problems maintaining the style. He put me back in the chair straight away, made a few adjustments and told me there was no charge. From that moment, he had my undivided loyalty until I left the country.

    A couple of other points, if you don’t have anyone to wash the hair of your clients for you, then please keep your nails short. There’s not much that’s more painful that having a set of talons scratch away at your scalp like a dog burying a bone during a drought. Oh, and be friendly – I went to a salon once where the stylist was lovely, but when I went back a few weeks later to buy some products, she blanked me. I never went back there again.

    I have been lucky enough to come across a stylist who I also consider to be one of my great friends. And, if I haven’t stressed this enough already, good stylists and great friends always listen.

    • Don’t assume that you won’t be tempted to have an affair as almost everyone is. You need to learn to resist.

    To my great friend and stylist, so far, I’ve not been tempted. It’s til death do us part as far as I’m concerned. Love you!

    et cetera