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The week that was in Thailand news: Thai country mouse and British town mouse – East and West can get along!


The week that was in Thailand news: Thai country mouse and British town mouse – East and West can get along!

Rooster has taken a bit of forum flak recently for being too serious. All that talk about getting vaxxed and being a pandemic denier was a bit rich for some though many still liked the sarky cock sticking it to the Thai government.

But in the spirit of lightening up a tad and perhaps even garnering the odd chortle I shall endeavor to be a freerange cock rather than a battery hen this week.

I’ll even reinstate the Rooster Awards – there are some doozies ready to swamp the podium of patheticness.

In my defence – and I’m sure it’s something many readers can relate to – it’s been pretty hard cooped up at home recently. With Mrs R tearing her hair out trying to do online learning with an 8 year old while a five year old begs for attention while a 59 year old upstairs calls for quiet – OK you get the picture.

This lockdown, and the cabin fever it promotes, has not been easy especially as we thought we were through the worst before the third wave proved us very wrong.

Yes, a lot of time living together. Being on top of each other used to be a good thing, not so much now!

I left my first Thai wife – who is 12 years older than me and who I had lived with for a dozen years – in 2004. I have known my present wife for 21 years; she’s 43 about 16 years my junior. I had two kids with each wife but remain legally married to the first.

This marital status has been a bone of contention with my second wife though she understands the reasons. Who wants to be forced into a nasty divorce settlement! Schizophrenia was another.

Having lived together for 17 years in the same duplex I was musing this week and even asked Mrs R about our differences and similarities leading us to reflect on our relationship.

We’ve had all the rows and temporary break-ups but we’re still together. Perhaps it’s the differences that help to keep us fresh and together.

I say fresh because one of the differences is that Mrs R showers about two times a day and is appalled by someone who talks about bath night, even though that’s tongue-in-cheek in the heat we have (35C inside this week!).

Like any wife responsible for doing the washing she is also aghast at what she calls “follow true”. This is not being loyal to a cable TV operator but the result of “letting one go” after a troublesome homemade Chicken Madras.

Cooking and eating causes much “intercultural debate”. She is livid when I don’t wash the veg that I am about to boil. I’m risking the lives of the children apparently. Beside herself with annoyance when I make a mess in “her” kitchen. And apoplectic when I relegate her “pla raa” (fermented fish) in an outside closet away from my sensitive nostrils.

This will always result in retaliation against my ever present but entirely innocent slab of “blue cheese”.

Kipling (Rudyard, not the guy who made delicious cakes) is sometimes maligned as a racist for his famous poem “The Ballad of East and West”.

“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,

Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;”,

he begins, but then qualifies this with:

“But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,

“When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth”.

Though there are shades of war in our household at times, there is far more agreement. But when it comes to food we’ll often agree to differ. When cooking Mrs R complains of having to cook “sii khon sii yang” (four people four different dishes). The pandemic means I do a lot more cooking these days.

Secretly, there is a fair bit of rivalry as to what we can make the children eat. To their credit they’ll tuck in on Vegemite and Isaan style som tam bemused by the fuss, just attracted by the taste!

We have no arguments about language at all. We spoke only Thai since we met though these days I speak only English to my young daughters so she hears plenty. Mrs R learnt enough English on trips to Blighty and four years as a nanny at my international school and now she gets snippets from when I diss her and verbally high-five with the kids. She speaks well and her accent is excellent but we’ll always speak Thai when alone.

Though sarcasm leaves her befuddled, we have a lot in common when it comes to humor as we both like to joke about our deficiencies and funny events in our lives. We’re both getting on a bit so forgetfulness does rear its ugly head!

Just don’t joke about money…..

She told me this week that she always respected me for “looking after the pennies so that the pounds would look after themselves”. I am a great saver for a rainy day and she came from the background of if you have it, spend it. Together we’ve moved closer.

She realises the value of saving, putting aside for the unpredictable. While I try to be less of a bore when we do go out to eat or on trips to the seaside. Less penny-pinching from me has meant less arguments. She’s right when she says “why bother to go if you’re going to be mean” though she appreciates why I am happy when I spend less.

This is a case, for us both, of blame your upbringing but don’t be a slave to it.

Raising the kids has its disagreements. After she failed at school and was beaten by her dad for bad grades, Mrs R baulks at my attitude – overwhelmingly that education begins at home – as tantamount to child abuse. My 30 years as a teacher and constant references to Finland’s complete lack of homework cause her to shake her head; but the fees are paid and I smile at parental consultations.

Yes, I have learned about face in Thailand. I have about as many as Thotsakan (the demon of the Ramakian, with ten).

My first wife once called me to take away the children after they renounced Buddhism! I told them later not to be silly buggers and that being two faced was important when it came to religion. Especially in some circumstances. I don’t wear my Militant Atheism on my sleeve but no offspring of mind could possibly end up religious, unless it’s obedience to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

Mrs R accepts that the TV is mine when the footy is on and she’s welcome to the soaps. Though my criticism of her as “taam cheewit meuan chong 7” (doing everything as though life on Channel 7 was real) abates with each passing year.

She reads a lot, a bit unusual for a Thai I’m told, and we both love crime and punishment, supplementing the mutual interests.

Her ailing mum and dad come first, of course. It’s easy for me as they are great people who have welcomed me into their family. I’ll stick to promises to help them that I made in a loud Thai speech I gave in a very crowded Loei village in 2004…..that marriage gave the second wife face.

Be fair in Thailand. Put your pith helmet away. Move as much towards Thais as you can without compromising your principles too much. But don’t stand rigidly by them. Be flexible and wait…..Thais might come round to your way of thinking if given time and shown patience.

My mother always used the word “procrastination” about me. I kept schtum – I thought she must have caught me with a dirty mag. Years later I realised she was encouraging me to not put off to tomorrow that which could be done today.

Mrs R has rejigged this part of my psyche to a more healthy manana; so many things resolve themselves when you do absolutely nothing! It requires little effort except willpower!

I still spend up to four days in the “baan maa” (doghouse) when she suspects mischief. This can be as little as an innocent advert for “Thai Dating” popping up on my computer screen. I scream my innocence, but the “making up” always makes the row worthwhile.

Yes, there’s an age gap. Mrs R mentioned it. I said saucily:”Oh, you mean you think like an old woman while I think like a 25 year old…”. I’ll never let anyone get away with calling me old-fashioned or past it.

Someone on Facebook recently called me “pops”. They learned some new vocabulary.

The missus gossips too much for my liking but I listen patiently interjecting with a facetiousness she has never been able to identify. I surely play too much Scrabble for her liking but she does always know where I am….

There’s quite a bit of winding-up when it comes to our urban/country differences. But Loei born Mrs R, though she won’t admit it, has become more of an urbanite if not urbane over the years. I’m a London city mouse though more like a rat this week when I blamed her for “overwatering the plants and killing them” something I thought a “country girl like you” would know. Cue threat of doghouse.

The East is still the East and the West the West but billions have mixed the two since Kipling’s day and millions, I guess, have married and formed intercultural relationships.

We should be able to stand “face to face” without coming to blows, respecting our mutual differences, learning from each other, and becoming a little more brown than black or white.

Virus news continued to dominate the Thaivisa forum this week, no change there, though there were some interesting crime stories.

Prayut caused the latest “U-turn” with his remarks about walk-in vaccination centers getting overcrowded. This was borne out in Pattaya when, after people turned up earlier in the week and there was no vaccine, on Thursday it was packed with the unregistered causing some embarrassment for mayor Sontaya’s Sinovac rollout when vaccine DID arrive.

Bangkok plans to vax 5 million by the end of July. Outrage was caused by Anutin’s deal with the Chinese. On the one hand it was presented as philanthropy, on the other it was intended to jab Chinese folk in Thailand first – 100,000 of them as well as people planning to visit China for study.

Thaivisa packaged this as “What is your government doing for you?” that always makes the natives restless and inspires their clicking finger.

Mind you, such is the rampant xenophobia against the Chinese on the forum and Facebook arm that just saying “Sinovac” does that.

Overcrowding in Thailand’s prisons finally became a hot topic after a couple of millennia. Covid outbreaks did that. Many facilities are 50% oversubscribed with 80% of those banged up for drugs.

Coming up with a viable policy to at least tone down the war on drugs should be a priority when Thailand gets a democratic and responsible government, maybe 2050. For now, why not stop locking up small time druggies and petty dealers. Think rehab, address unemployment and opportunity rather than punishment. It’ll save you money in the end.

The end is what came for two Thais just a few kilometers from the Gaza strip. They had just arrived to work for a packing company before they got a delivery from Hamas or Israel (sorry, but they seem as bad as each other to me).

In a more expected bombshell parents were told that their nippers wouldn’t go back to school until mid June. I smiled because I haven’t paid my fees – do they seriously expect us parents to do the teaching and pay for the privilege?!

In Bangkok two former US marines as well as a Thai cop were nabbed for their part in holding a Taiwanese businessman for ransom. They had brazenly dragged him out of an Italian restaurant in Sukhumvit 36.

In Krabi a Thai restaurant owner was murdered and his car was buried 700 meters away using a backhoe. In Lopburi the ghastly stabbing murder of a beauty salon worker was resolved with the arrest of her boyfriend. In Ayutthaya a minivan driver killed himself after murdering his “attractive” massage lady girlfriend….more jealousy suspected.

In Pattaya commandos went into a luxury golf course home after a Chinese man shot at police serving a search warrant connected to online gambling. At press time one captain was in a coma and one Chinese was in clink.

In Nakhon Sri Thammarat police who had been trailing an Australian man with drug and prostitution connections in Phuket made their move. Overstay and a dodgy driving licence could be the least of his worries.

Traders at the Chatuchak weekend market said that their “only hope” was getting foreign tourists back. I was there last weekend buying guinea pigs for my 5 year old’s birthday. Plenty of people there.

Maybe the traders should just diversify from selling so much tourist tat to the Chinese. One shop can be just the same as the next; and they’re all deserted right now.

And so to those promised Rooster Awards.

The Darwin Award for absolutely no service to the gene pool goes to the Brit in Chiang Mai who went after a monk with a machete.

It’s not the most sensible thing to do when you’re on overstay.

I’m tempted to rename this the “Kenny Noye” award. He was the Brink’s-Mat mastermind who murdered an innocent motorist in England with a knife. This gave the police an opportunity to bang him up after he got off for murdering one of their own years earlier.

The “Entrepreneur Award” goes to the district chief in Phon, Khon Kaen, who offered 10% off in restaurants and three gold necklaces to older folks and the sick to register for vaccinations. A man who understands the Thai heart.

While the “Police Investigation Award” goes to a garage owner’s dog called “Seenin” who sniffed out 2,000 Ya Ba pills outside the front gate. Plod weighed in with the expert analysis that someone must have left the drugs there.

Six Labrador Retrievers also jointly got this week’s “Covid Prize” for sniffing out the demon virus. They have been trained by vets at Chula to smell the virus in sweat.

I hope they don’t get near my crotch. They’d either faint or be completely put off their day job.

The “Penny Finally Dropped” award goes to a Kalasin grocer who took more than five years to realize that she was not getting half a billion baht for her 39 million baht investment in a “nice couple” who were “friends of friends”. That story beggar’d belief.

Finally, the agony for many will be over today (Sunday) for those who both love and hate the English Premier League.

My local club Crystal Palace parted ways with affable pensioner Roy Hodgson who was one of my PE teachers in my first term of secondary school.

The former England manager and I have shared a lifetime passion for football.

Though, despite my golden boot in a Bangkok veterans’ tournament, he was a little more successful.

All the best Mr Hodgson, sir.


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