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The week that was in Thailand news: The art of Doing It Yourself in Thailand


The week that was in Thailand news: The art of Doing It Yourself in Thailand

Going into Home Pro I always feel like Mel Smith on the groundbreaking and now thirty year old British TV comedy Not the Nine O’Clock News. Mel – playing a middle aged man – goes into a shop and asks if he may purchase a “gramophone”. Rowan Atkinson says to his sidekick that this is going to be fun as they belittle and torment Mel for his lack of knowledge about tweeters, woofers, Dolby, amps and how many watts he needs.


Whether it is Home Pro or IT Lands we have all been there – whether it is modern technology or just something that is new or unfamiliar to us, there is foreboding and the potential for embarrassment aplenty. Add the potential for problems brought on by the language barrier and Thailand can be a minefield especially for the DIY enthusiast.


Rooster could in no way be considered such an enthusiast. But with more time on my hands in recent years, and less money in my pocket I have tried to do practical things myself to add to my wider Do It Yourself existence.


While I am a pretty good motorbike rider I have never shown the slightest inclination to get my head around mechanics. I clean my bikes only because some of the guys at the “lang at chiit” spray in the engine meaning it won’t start. They are allowed to clean the car – a 100-200 baht chore I’ll invariably forego.


I’m rubbish at ironing – mostly through lack of practice – but I can do most things around the house and I am not a bad cook. I’d far rather shop and buy fresh ingredients and prepare meals myself than go out to eat. Despite living with Thai wives for 30 years I know well enough how to operate a washing machine and change a diaper. I wouldn’t touch electrics but I could fix a plug and a fuse. I own a drill and with a bit of Google thrown in I can usually work out most minor problems.


But there is always that fear of the unknown – especially when Google fails to deliver and one must bite the bullet and venture to the forbidding aisles of places like Home Pro. Rooster Central was looking so dilapidated at the start of this year that it has meant several trips. Fortunately there are no Somchai Atkinsons there but I always feel intimidated, even if I do have Thai language at my disposal.


I usually treat a visit to Home Pro as a military exercise. The first sortie is merely designed to ward off the sales staff who follow me all over their particular section. Once they have been repelled and I finally find myself alone I try to read the instructions on the packets on the paint, the thinner, the rollers, the grout and those things I don’t even know the names of in English let alone Thai.


The wily sales staff always catch me though and inevitably comes the moment of reckoning when I am obliged to explain myself (even getting tones wrong) or go home empty handed with my DIY tail between my legs. Usually my saving face strategy is to admit to idiocy – this works wonders in Thailand and serves as an instantly recognizable beacon that we can talk in Thai (albeit with a few gaps in my word knowledge).


When successful I wonder why I was so fretful in the first place. Though there are usually return trips for items forgotten in my fluster as well as revisits to return stuff I had no idea how to use when the reality hit home at home.


This is often where my savior from the condo office Lung Bunrot comes in. He knows how to do most things and requested when Rooster “doesn’t have the tools” (a euphemism I use when I haven’t got a clue) or when I’d rather practice Scrabble and can’t be bothered to do something that he’ll do for free. (Paying nearly 5,000 baht a month in maintenance fees means we ask the “changs” to do a fair bit).


Tall and lanky Uncle Bunrot is a charming guy even if he does bear more than a passing resemblance to Khun Frankenstein.  He’s infinitely preferable and somewhat less scary than the other chang (engineer) who resembles Lurch. Mrs Rooster understandably prefers not to be left alone with him and his spanners.


The problem with Bunrot is that he can be a bit slapdash. In fact it was a bit disconcerting this week when he came in to sort out the plumbing and praised ME for the evident home improvements of the past few weeks!


About the only thing I didn’t do myself in the duplex were the new bedroom carpets. I left that to a guy from Yasothon who was so skillful and quick that I asked him how long he’d been doing that trade. He only looked about thirty five but he said he’d been a carpet fitter for 27 years.


There is a lot of pleasure in doing things yourself but we all need help from time to time. My only true skill is Scrabble and I’ve probably played more games against myself than any other person in the world. But I still needed help from many mentors, especially Thais, to reach the top ranks in the world. In Thai written language I was largely self-taught but in speaking I owe a million thanks to those who helped me out.


Now approaching 60 years old I wonder where life will take me over the next decade or two. A DIY existence is guaranteed, however, and not just in home improvements. There will be no lawyers, no financial advisers and no doctors if I can help it – Google and the pharmacy is a risky strategy but well within my compass. This will hopefully ensure I keep enough money to pay for the needs of my young daughters and their mum.


It is often said – especially on Thaivisa forum – that being a parent is the most important thing in the world which people enter into without a clue and with no training. Parenthood is the ultimate in DIY and learning on the job!


This week saw the tragic case of a young teen who grabbed her dad’s .38 gun, posted her apologies and farewells on Facebook then shot herself through the forehead in her bedroom. The story said that the parents had criticized the teen for her social media use. That is sensationalist news fodder these days and may or may not be true. But one always wonders about the parents.


Another young life was snuffed out as a school coach, travelling from Nong Bua Lamphu to Chantaburi overturned on Route 304. Not quite a daily occurrence but almost. It made me mad. In 1998 my plummy English headmaster walked into my Thai Studies classroom at Harrow and changed my life.


He asked me to take responsibility for all the day trips and residential visits in the new school. This turned into a massive job for which I was given time off teaching. With my DIY on the job approach I familiarized myself with the salient points and wrote a school policy that was copied by other international schools.


In fifteen years there was never a serious accident on my watch and there were 200 expeditions in that time from Year 2 to the Sixth Form. Sure, luck might have played a part on occasion but so did guile. One of the no-no’s enshrined in my policy was using bus transport at night – hence my fury at the 4 am accident.


At Harrow the Hi-So parents took more teaching than the kids. I taught the mums and dads to trust the school and me with their little and not so little human cargo. I believed not in putting my head in the sand and saying Thailand was unsafe, as other schools did, but actively engaging with the Thais to try and raise standards. At the end of my teaching career I had helped to set up an Asia wide group of schools to do just that.


Like many, I am appalled by the accidents that happen in Thailand. But equally I am dismayed by the people on Thaivisa who moan and complain about every initiative to address the matter of safety. Yes, some are laughable but some are well thought out and appropriate for the local conditions. Standards will only improve if there is active engagement and a will for change.


For some unearthly reason this made me think of today’s election! I am afraid you wont convince this political cynic that any of the parties or any of the candidates will make much of a difference to Thailand’s future. Rooster is as jaded as the next Thai and convinced that all we shall see in the coming weeks is argument, rancor, unpleasantness and self-serving political maneuvering.


I may have some hope for safety improvements in Thailand but I wouldn’t trust the politicians to get the job done or get anything done for that matter except feather their own nest and pay lip service to the inadequate demands of the people.


Communications Minister Arkhom came out and said this week that he hoped to preside over a 10% reduction in Songkran carnage by having more roads put on an accident watch list and expanding the “Seven Deadly Days” to 21!


If Arkhom and his ilk were serious they’d throw their not inconsiderable weight behind a 365 day a year approach.


Unfortunately there is no political will. The majority of the victims are poor motorcyclists, expendable and low on the food chain. Correct me if I am wrong but I don’t remember seeing ANY political party make an issue out of the disgrace that is the daily death toll on the Thai roads.


I remember some years ago at my school when I announced (a little tongue in cheek) that I intended to seek Thai citizenship and thence run for parliament on the ticket of doing something about the roads. Everybody will vote for me, I bragged, just call me “Honest Rooster” the “Face of Farangdom”. My Thai colleagues smiled, not sure if I really meant it, then just looked bemused when I said I was serious!


Far more important voting will take place later in the year when the Miss World finals are held in Pattaya. This is a first for Thailand and I smiled when I read that this will be the 69th edition of the famous pageant.


What is it about my generation that finds the Number 69 and Dick Emery,Benny Hill and Viz comic hilarious?


Thailand has a long history of beauty contest winners with two Miss Universes as well as creating a name for itself with transgender pageants. But it was a lady boy with a difference who hit the news this week doing an impromptu pirouette after getting a degree certificate at one of those very formal occasions steeped in protocol at Bangkok University.


The irate netizens crawled out of the social media woodwork to complain while secretly admiring the “type two lady” for showing some individuality. The lady boy (note Rooster avoiding the necessity for using a personal pronoun) went online to give a supposedly heartfelt apology and further confound reality by saying she, I mean he, I mean they had actually learned their lesson.


Now there’s a first for Thai graduates!


While the lady boy perhaps displayed a sarcastic bent, Thai posters on another story rode the Iron Horse of Irony. This was the one where a snake fell through the ceiling while a man was fixing some extra CCTV cameras at his house. He narrowly avoided injury and a “life-threatening” confrontation with a cobra because his wife had called him away at the vital moment.


Perhaps you have to understand Thais a little to find it funny when onliners said that the husband should give his wife a credit card without a financial ceiling! The curmudgeons of Thaivisa showed they will never grasp what it is to be Thai as they bashed the locals for worshiping the baht adding sanctimoniously that being Buddhist they should reject all material considerations forthwith. I have five words of advice to these tedious moaners: “For Buddha’s Sake Lighten Up!”


Also apropos snakes another titter-fest came from “The Sun” in the UK.  Comparing The Sun to a newspaper is a bit like the comment on Catherine Tate’s “Tempura” sketch that the Thais are “Chinese, basically”. But one had to laugh at some of the tabloid tittle-tattle as they recounted the tale of some lasses from Preston who were “left to die” on a “rattlesnake infested Thai island” while snorkeling.


As one observant poster noted, it says on The Sun website that they will pay for stories! Not that Rooster has seen any money. I have a contact on the news desk there who I give tips to from time to time in the hope of pecuniary advantage. But so far without any luck; it appears that my stories have not yet reached the bottom of his journalistic barrel.


The last seven days also saw the latest developments in the case of leopard poacher Premchai Karnasuta, the boss of construction giant Ital-Thai. He was handed a 16 month prison term and was obliged to fork out 2 million baht in compensation to the National Parks’ authority. I hope that a) he does some time after the appeals process is exhausted and b) the two million goes on something worthwhile rather than a park ranger junket in Hawaii.


Unlike Thaivisa’s “BEB” (Brown Envelope Brigade) who tar everyone with the same “all-knowing” skeptical  brush no matter what the circumstances, I have high hopes that Premchai will sample some rice gruel. The Thai public have followed this story with an intensity that means the court of social media – the highest in the land – will not allow Premchai to walk without serving some time.


Though foreign posters said the sentence and subsequent bail was a sham those who have been in Thailand longer than five minutes – and the Thais themselves – know that this case represents a move towards better justice when it comes to prosecuting the rich, wealthy and famous. In the old days it would never have even come to light let alone to trial.


Most intriguing story of the week concerned the confirmation that the “Lady of the Hills” – an unknown woman found dead on the Yorkshire moors in 2004 – is indeed Lamduan Seekanya a Thai from Udon who was married to David Armitage. The couple had two children before Mr Armitage reportedly returned to Thailand where he now teaches at Rajabhat University in Kanchanaburi.


British plod – who it appears had thoroughly cocked up the case before the cold file was reopened – may well want to speak to Mr Armitage especially after it was reported in the Thai press a while back that he had allegedly told his children that their mum left him for another man and returned to Thailand.


I have it on good authority that Lamduan’s first child, Khwan, was allegedly dumped on his English step-grandparents (an interesting twist on the usual story). He later became a plumber while his step-dad returned to Thailand with his biological children that he cared about. Gran Jumsri wants to know why she hasn’t seen any of them for years. The marriage had been as rocky as the moors, I was told.


Of course, all this no more means that he murdered his wife than I did, but I feel sure that we shall see a request from the South Yorkshire constabulary to make a trip to Kanchanaburi in the not too distant future. Then in a further development the Thai media suggested that a prosecution could happen under legislation allowing for anyone to be charged with a crime against a Thai committed abroad.


And so to this week’s Rooster awards. “Excuse Of The Week” goes to Nam Oi who appears to have nothing more than sugar cane juice between her ears. She told the cops that she couldn’t get out of the way of an ambulance with its siren blazing because “she didn’t know what to do and was all flustered”. It really is quite worrying that people find it so hard just to pull over.


Doing pulling of a different kind was an old man in Lampang who got all horny looking at an attractive candidate on an election poster. This led to my award for “Best Post of the Week” that goes to GarryP who quipped: “Those terrible Thais who can’t pronounce their Rs. Clearly an erection poster as implied by the OP”. Garry, would I?!


The “Sticking It To The Western Retirees” award I give to the TAT who are promoting Thailand as the mother of all hubs for senior citizens from India. With blood boiling on one thread the retirees attempted to justify their existence in Thailand claiming they spend ten times more in a day than Ashok from Calcutta earns in a year. In contrast on another thread many agreed that it was a jolly good idea just to eat once every day at Sizzler’s 149 baht unlimited salad bar.


Then “Dan in Thailand” on Thaivisa Facebook showed a Chinese man with his Sizzler plates piled high! Make your mind up folks!


Finally, the “Sticking It To The Conspiracy Theorists” award is presented to Somchai the minivan driver who returned a bag and money in no less than three currencies to a grateful Japanese tourist in Pattaya. Here at Thaivisa we love these stories. Not to glorify good Samaritan Thais but to wind up the cranky clientele who are convinced there is a conspiracy to present Thailand in a undeserved and favorable light especially after negative stories appear in the press.


Believe me there is no conspiracy.


Thais are just nice…..even in Home Pro.



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