Letters from Thailand

{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!

    So much has happened since I last updated the blog. The reason for not writing was that I wasn’t even sure that ‘Letters from Thailand’ would still be the right title. Back in October I was reaching the end of my tether in a job that was sucking the soul out of me, so I decided to quit before I ended up looking for lost marbles in an institution for the insane. At that point, I seriously considered going back to the UK. I even told my family that my Christmas holiday might be more permanent. However, after some heartfelt talks with friends here, sipping cocktails at Vertigo and looking out over the city, it was clear that I wasn’t ready to go back and that my issues had nothing to do with Thailand, but with my job. Therefore, I decided to look for another job, and luckily found one that would start in January, which allowed me some time with family over the festive season.

    As for not writing, well, the strain of those months made it very difficult. My style has always been light and humourous – It’s part of my character to see the funny side in any situation, now matter how dire (some might even say I’m a bit warped, they’re probably right!) but my characteristic humour was rapidly disappearing as I struggled with my lot. It became impossible for me to put my thoughts in writing – the tone of which would have been a collection of self-indulgent, ‘poor me’ type rants. If they’d been written by someone else, I’d have wanted to give them a good bitch-slapping and tell them to GET OVER IT, ALREADY! Oh, and I also feared that if anyone working at the same place happened upon this blog and read the ranting, my number would have been up!

    Anyway, I finished work at the end of November and enjoyed a month of unemployment. One week was spent here in Bangkok, then 3 weeks at home with the family, where I perfected the art of terminal unemployment by lounging on the sofa watching daytime TV and scoffing the Christmas chocolate rations. Had it not been for regular walks down the road to visit my nephew and play with his train set and the fact that I wasn’t getting income support, I could have been a real benefit scrounger! And, in the new year, I returned to Bangkok and started my new job straight away.

    So far, all is good. The benefits of the new job are far outweighing the salary cut I’ve taken (I look at it as payment for having what’s known as a ‘life’.) Whereas before I was leaving the office in the dark and not getting home until late, grabbing some junk to eat when I got back, I’m now home by 5 which gives me plenty of time to do a few laps of the pool and get something healthy to eat. I’m really not sure if it’s the endorphins from all the unfamiliar exercise or the new job, but whatever it is, I haven’t felt this good for ages. An added bonus is that almost 3 weeks into the new year, I haven’t lost the motivation & self discipline to work on losing the red wine and chocolate kilos gained at Christmas and they are slowly disappearing. Let’s hope I can keep it up for the rest of the year.

    et cetera