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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Of Spice and men.

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Much talk of Chili this week, mostly concerning how hot they are out here and how many of us discovered that "Spicy" in Thailand means don't eat it unless you are Thai.. even if we did grow up eating Vindaloo curries, Kebabs with chilli,  or extra spicy pizza after every visit to the pub on a weekend.  I have some friends coming over this season looking forward to trying our spicy Thai food so it should be interesting.

I remember making family size meals in England where the teaspoon of chili powder spiced up a whole kilo of meat.  Here, I've had dishes that were a good 15 - 20 percent chili once you had added the powder at the table and the side serving of raw chilli's.

My first experience with the Thai "Salad" was in a hotel in Bangkok when I arrived on my second visit.  I say second visit as my first stay was on a 90 day return ticket and I spent one day recovering from jet lag and the other 89 days drinking.  But on my second visit I had matured as I was now 40.

So on my second visit, by the time evening fell I had managed to lay off the booze for an entire half day and was enjoying getting a feel for the sights and sounds of the city from my hotel balcony.  The terrace restaurant looked ok and I wandered downstairs and decided a Salad would be a nice healthy western option for me.  Wrong.

I noticed the staff looking at me when it arrived and should have known something was amiss.  It was, by far and away the hottest chili dish I could ever imagine and the staff were watching to see me flinch and sweat.  I tried not to show my cowardice in the face of this dish and soldiered on with a second mouthful.

At one stage, I pretended there was something interesting happening outside.  I made an exaggerated surprised face and peered hard to the road outside.  It worked. They all went to have a nosey at it and I took the opportunity to gargle a bottle of iced water, mop my brow with half the box of tissues on the table and regain my posture before they looked back round.  This at least gave me the appearance of having survived a full 2 minutes eating without wimping out.

I settled for this respectable length of time and gave in, saying it was perhaps a tad on the hot side for a westerner.  I can eat hotter food nowadays but do tend to use it as a dietary aid... the burning sensation stopping me from over eating.  And, if nothing else, it always gives me an excuse to reach for the chang when I am out with the missus.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Three Thai Weddings

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I do love a good wedding, and in Thailand they are good.  Three good friends married or marrying this year and I am enjoying watching their preparations on Facebook.  Facebook being my friend in times of need, ie when I am living alone on the 4th floor in the Bangkok Pie Shop.

Dave and Wan at Songs Bar pulled off one of the most relaxing days out I can ever remember.  Great atmosphere there on Bang Niang market, cooled of nicely in the eveing... eventually, and the kids also had a fantastic time running wild amongst the empty stalls.

Up now is Bubble Bee and we are having a great time with still 2 days to go.  Made a bit of a road trip out of it... so thats a diet of toasted sandwiches again, quick stop off at Khun Sarai which is the stop we hope for on the night bus journeys.

There was a full blown storm with flooding and traffic grid lock when we arrived, so to get out of it I dodged into the car park at Central Chid Lom.    When we started the Journey we were in Bang Biang in Phang Nga and dressed as we locals do in 10 year old shorts, free t-shirts from our days as divemasters and flip flops that have lost all of their flip and can now just about manage the odd flop.   Central Chid Lom is the complete opposite end of the spectrum with very expensive shops and lots of very rich suburban Thai's.  We made quite an impression!

What is most impressive is how the Bride and her family run the show.  Bubble as we know and love her is of the formidable type and was our manager many moons ago.  She is used to deciding what is going to happen and we are happy to delegate all resposibility to her and just do as we are told.... so long as it involves beer and whiskey.

Great pics to follow as we have some very good photographers and videographers here from the Dive boats.  I, as per usual have no camera.  I did get it out ready, cleared the memory card and placed it on charge..... then forgot it in the mad rush to get on the road.

Never mind.  There is always next time.  Good luck Bee and Good luck to my friend Charlie who will be here in the North of Thailand later in the year doing the same.

Video of Dave's  (Songs Bar) children miming to an old hit of his fathers.  Great views of bang Niang Market and our local village.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

You'll always get a guy with a pie! JCC

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Old favourite of mine and just putting it up to share with some good friends.

Anybody not familiar, is more than welcome to enjoy the brilliance of John Cooper Clarke

Camera - essential Thai-bloggers equipment?

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But for not having a camera I fancy I could have been quite a reasonable photographer.  I've seen plenty of interesting and amusing things, mentally framed the shot... then left without it.  A few more of my own pics and videos would have helped the bog along as well... That said 400 reads yesterday and made the dizzy heights of 37 on blogtopsites!!!  Must do some SEO sometime.

Anyway, this is set to change with the purchase of a new camera.  The practicality of it not being able to photgraph itself is all that prevents me sharing its beauty with you.     It will make a difference and the less seen parts of Thailand will now be brought to the screen.  The cafe's behind Sai Tai bus station, the towpaths of the Sead Saeb canal that runs through Bangkok and that insane footbridge that bisects 22 lanes of traffic on 3 levels at Lad Prao and the area around Bang Sue which I discovered when I got off the train at the wrong platform and got lost.

All in all lots of out of the way places that nobody is interested in enough to photograph.  I'll leave the half billion other travel blogs to fight it out for best review of Chiang Mai Hotels.  I get so many bloggers say they will mention me etc. etc. and do I have a special price seeing as I am getting a mention.  The answer is yes... you can pay twice the price for wasting my bloody time.  Here's a map, there's Yorkshire (God located it centrally in the UK so everybody has easy access to it!), now google tight arse capital of the world (which we are) and go blog there.

I've walked most of Bangkok and, like every where else, without a camera and believe I have taken in a lot more than I otherwise would have.  I'll probably miss loads now with all that clicking and flashing distracting me... in which case, the bin awaits.

My old camera that rarely works will have a mounting fastened to the front of the motorbike and I'll attempt some moving footage of a pie delivery through Patong on a busy day.  I have the old tripod so that is easily done.  If it decides not to function, at least I know I have punished it well by tying it to the bike.  Teach it a lesson if nowt else.

So, back to the baking. I am a pieman after all and it's steak and kidney, chicken and mushroom, mince and onion, cheese and onion pasty - with mash, gravy, mushy peas or liquor.  See you at weight watchers.

Def Leppard!  I was never a big fan but I did like this track and coming from Yorkshire we do look after us own!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Visitors to Thailand... Notes for Expats families

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A warm welcome is always assured in Thailand..... From the Thai's that is.

When it comes to pleasing us crusty expats, it's a different matter altogether.  If you are here on Holiday, we won't notice you, and other than the excessive drinking and lack of fashionable clothing, you won't notice us either.  I'm thinking of when these visitors are family, friends, ex-colleagues or just general free-loaders.. You know the ones...

"ah Hi Sam, erm I mean Steve, yes that's it, Steve,  my mum worked near the Council Office in Harrogate and says her boss, Don, or was it Peter? once asked you to serve some Court Papers for him!.... told me to look you up (bum off you) if ever I was in Malaysia, sorry , Thailand"   

Ok, come on in then... but you pay for your pies!!!.

For visiting family and friends it's easier to get off on the right foot with that long lost loved one if you follow the rules.  Using myself as an example, the first rule is..

"The welcoming smile and hospitality due are directly proportional to the amount of Yorkshire Tea bags, Sainsburys's mature cheddar, squeezy branston pickle, & tins of custard (Birds) delivered"

The details will differ across nationalities but the basic rule stands.... Come loaded.  Clothes can be easily and cheaply purchased when you get here and you will not need that Arran Sweater in Thailand (dad!).  Two pairs of shorts (old if you want to blend in with me) and T-shirts will suffice and perhaps one nice shirt in case we have to go to the Police Station for any reason. Other than that, the suitcases should be packed with goodies.

Duty free is not such an issue out here as we don't pay too much for it here anyway.  Yes, we'll drink it, and by all means bring it, but please ensure it is in addition to the above items and not instead of any of them.  Especially the cheese!!!

Rule number two.  No, and I repeat NO, as in "not any ever" photos of us at school when we had nick names such as chubby, spotty, fudgey faggot ( I really had a mate with that name), etc.  This will only see you swiftly  vacating the spare bedroom and checking into the local B&B next to the Karaoke bar and opposite the all night market.  Don't.

This will ensure a happy and pleasant stay in the Land of Smiles and if all goes well, you may even be invited back before the cheese runs out!!!

Not mentioning anybody by name here!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

On the road again - The Pies are calling.

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On the road again tonight on the VIP!!  really gone up in the world and I only hope the movie selection is worth the extra few bob.

This year on my trips to Bangkok I have really suffered from poor CD selection on the busses.  January saw one that involved serpents, flying vampire schoolgirls, tons of  slashing and.... no plot whatsoever.  Last time we endured 2 hours of alleged Thai Humour, but as it raised the odd chuckle on the bus and went down well on the set, I'll have to put it down to belated Culture shock.   It was a Jekyll and Hyde visit that time though as on the way back down they showed a movie about an ATM maching paying out double.

It was ony in Thai, and most of it went over my head, but laughter is infectious and the whole bus was in stitches and therefore so was I.  If any of my Thai friends have it with English Subtitles I would love to watch it again.   Many highlights, the empty football stadium when the teams came out for the second half, the woman Bank Manager with photos of two of her staff at an orgy.  Was over 2 hours of well written (with the usual hint of slapstick) comedy and we were well on the way South when it ended.

The music is usually good, but I don't normally know who it is and there is nobody else awake by this time for me to ask.  Massive as the seats are.... I am more massive!

Waiting for the bus to depart, I always arrive around 2 hours early to observe life going on in and around Sai Tai Mai.  Fascinating place just to sit and watch the people coming and going and the 20 or so lanes of traffic (on 3 tiers) whizzing past as a backdrop.  Whatever time the bus departs I ensure I am sat outside the 7/ll at the front before 18:00.

This is the time the Thai National Anthem is played (the one for the country) and the Nation comes to a halt and stands to attention.  Its observed to a man and I love the idea of spending a minute or so twice a day to observe this and it's one of the few times I can participate in it.  If you plan a visit to Thailand and are not on the regular tourist trail, this is worth a look.  Another favourite place to see this is at Victory Monument.    I sometimes go down there for a coffee just so I can watch half a million people stand still when the clock chimes.  Amazing

18:02 and the chaos is is returned to normal, I sit down with my traditional travelling fare of toasted cheese and onion sandwich, vitamilk and toffi-lux biscuits.  Lovely and worth going to see, even if you don't intend going on a bus.

No decent footage from there so I'll video it next month on my trip.

Meanwhile back in The Lak, The Pies, the Pies are calling.  Sorry... It's been a long 3 weeks baking!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Handsome man???? It's just Bad Manners

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Ignorance is bliss.

When we first come to Thailand, we are blissfully unaware of what is going on "language wise" right  under our noses.  Lots of friendly sounding chatter and smiles.... must be saying the most wonderful things about me... surely?

Time is a great leveller and the more Thai you understand, the less you realise you actually knew about the people and their ways.  One of the first words we learn and hear everywhere is Falang, and we are surprised just how often they use this word in open conversation right under our noses.  But we still think it must be complimentary as it is said so beautifully.

For non expats. Falang is Guava and is also their word for white people.  A very white fruit looks like a big lumpy apple.  It is hard, woody in texture has no taste and is only edible by dipping it in chili powder and sugar.  So, we are very white.... and need dipping in chili and sugar!

Over the years I've heard staff in shops and restaurants comment on our looks, clothing, smell, spending habits and if, as I do, you travel alone and have no girlfriend in sight, they often just assume (out loud) that you are gay.  Most of this is done without the ill intent or rudeness that would be the case back home and is just a normal, acceptable level of small talk.  Even when they realise you understood what they just said right in your face, it is smiled away and life goes on.

For whatever reason,  I was in a restaurant in Phuket with my wife ordering pizza and trying to explain to her what olives were.  The waitress came over to help and they started chatting away, as you do in middle to high class restaurants.  Where you from, what about your family, babies etc.  I must explain I love this friendly behaviour and smile that they continue in their ways however bad or tasteless the classy/posh uniforms they are forced into may be.

So during the chit chat, they behaved as if I never existed and the conversation moved, inevitably to me.  Once it was established that we were husband and wife, where we met, where I was from, what work I did.- I was a diver back then so this must be pre 2004 -  I was then subjected to the following ego shattering conversation.

"Not Handsome is he?

"No" said the missus, sticking up for me!

"Is he rich?"

"No"  - I bloody well am matey, I just don't tell you about it... oooops.

"oh!  what you doing (with him).  Does he have a good heart?"

"Yes, he is good heart... what is an olive?"

Now, I can understand that the waitress could think the conversation was beyond me, but the wife knew full well that I was aware of what they were saying, but still did not bat an eyelid.  I have thought this through many times down the years.  Not because they had openly called me "not handsome" - they were wrong about this anyway, so I was not worried - but that they would openly do this and not flinch at all even when I chipped in, in Thai, that I was not only handsome, but now hungry as well, if they didn't mind.

This is still a reminder that we are culturally very different and always will be.  I do love this difference and now I laugh along when I am in a lift and they are talking about how fat I am.  More recently I hear them marvelling about how good looking Tony (my son) is, and that how much he looks like me.  When I chip in that surely this makes me handsome as well, I am met with the most emphatic "NO!"  a fleeting look of shock, then gales of laughter.... Love it.... a big leveller.

Vive le difference!  I wouldn't ever seek to modify their chattering and am rarely offended by it.  It's a permanent reminder that I now live in the most amazing part of the world.  Drives many mad... but I love it.

Fat!  the very idea!.

I always loved all this.  Reminds me of drinking sprees in the Lake District in the late 70' and early 80's with my biker mates.  No heavy metal fests for me thank you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hey big Spender! Spend a little time in Lumpini

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Queues, even short ones, are never a welcome sight in a 7/11.  Don't know what the continued attraction for me is... perhaps I like salty snacks, twice-melted chocolate bars, bags of Lay's Cheese and Onion flavoured air or just watching the staff for signs of intelligent life.

Anyway, Einsteins special 711 theory of time in convenience stores states "where 2 bodies attempt a counter encounter at the same time, 4 checkouts are not adequate and time slows by 15% for each body regardless of mass (purchase)".  So, in Thailand we always have a careful look in and should there be more than one person near a till, we forget the purchase.

It's hard on young Tony and have had to explain to him that this is a constant.  EVEN if that all important Chup-a-Chup and chocolate microphone seem easily within reach, they would decompose beyond recognition before they were swiped by the scanner.

Lumpini 7/11 (not narrowed it down a lot I know) today, I was tempted in to pay for my Thai Ticket Major bus ticket.  There was one guy at the checkout (one of three checkouts) and one near the drinks.  However, my dream of being served before starving to death was dashed by this very well dressed tight arse.

"What is the smallest phone card I can buy"  he asked, 50baht was what they could manage.  Calls friend over and they debate this for a while before "can we put half on my phone and half on his?" Red rag to a bull and 7/11 staff love fiddling with phones and gadgets so they all tried to assist with this request.

Apparently what you do is put it all on one phone then transfer whatever amount to the other one.  This had me out the shop in 30 seconds flat and left them with yet another carton of Vitamilk to return to the shelf.  My wife gave me this vital information after I had calmed down and sworn on a copy of Monty Pythons life of Brian never to go in one again.

The 7/11 next to the shop eventually had a vacancy for a customer, so I went in and watched for 25 minutes as they tried to key in a 17 digit code that had been sent to my phone by Thai Ticket major.  17 bloody digits!

That's  14999451010410969 for posterity.  So thanks to a slow day in the world of pies I can tell you that with a world population of 7,000,300,000 they must have sold an average of 2,142,686 to each person to have a counter number that high.

But, I'll be back.  It's a friends wedding next week just North of Bangkok and that means a 5 day road trip.... which means we live of toasted sarnies and the only source of this delicacy on the motorways is 7/11.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Blog makeover, Typing lessons and incidental music

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Going to work the blog over and try and develop a theme to it.  I know it's a bit erratic, but I've never been any different and am too old to change that now.

One of the main threads running through my various lives is music.  I have musical memories attached to every event in my life, and like to make use of this.   I can't remember a time when I wasn't next to a radio whilst working and just hearing music can take me instantly to where I was at that time.

An album of late 70's music and I am back in Buxted Chicken factory singing along to the Rezillos, Clout (substitute), Greese (summer night and the theme tune).... tell me more, tell me more!   you get the idea and there will be more of this.  Would love any pics and memories/anecdotes from those days as my addled brain is only capable of partial recall.

The early 80's are a blur other than we were listening to a lot of Indie bands... basically what John Peel was playing to aleviate the tedious music that was often in the charts.  Tedious as it was though, it is good for jogging the memory.  As I get older, I am more tolerant of music I don't like, so long as it is giving me a good trip down memory lane.

First song springing to mind is Mental as anything, as this takes me to a key time in my life (relating to this blog) which is the year I learned to type.

Following a serious motorbike accident in 1984 (I think!) that left my leg in traction or pot for over 2 years an attempt was made to rehabilitate me.    When it was nearly mended, I was sent to Preston Rehabilitation Center at Pendle Hill Preston where we had no end of fun.

Whatever the PC word for it is now, back then it was for people with disabilities who needed training to get them back into the workforce.   It was great fun and we got just as pissed and were as rebellious as when I was a punk or biker... it was just that we went out on crutches, in wheelchairs, walked and looked "different" or had the odd limb missing etc.  This actually made us worse as nobody was likely to pick a fight with us in a pub and we were all soon onto this and got away with some outrageous behaviour..

My long hair, beard biker attire made a suitable first impression and it was decided that I could just about be trained to sit on a chair and stack boxes one on top of the other.  I enjoyed this no end until they realised I had written something intelligible and done some "Sums" right on the initial assessment form.  So half a day stacking boxes later, I was off to the computer section.

BUT... First, you have to learn to touchtype.  Bugger!   I went to night classes for 6 months, was the only bloke on it and the scruffiest bugger ever to have set foot in a typing class.  The typwriter was just that, an old fashioned mechanical one, with one key (sorry) difference.  Every key on it was white.... no letters, so we had no choice but to learn properly.  Stood me in good stead ever since, and if I want to re-visit that first year, I only have to listen to Mental as Anything and I am back.  Became an even better pool player as well, but thats another story.

So, be a tune a post from now on.    Taste, not too much perhaps as the memories are the thing here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Olympic madness - Bangkok Facebook marathon ends.

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"I'll be watching more hours of Justin Bieber videos than Olympic events"..  I wrote!!

Who would have believed that this old cynic would have been caught up in the recent spectacle that was the Olympic games 2012 in London.   An event I had ignored totally and then only acknowledged with the above comment,  has now finished and left a gaping hole in my lives....  Thats the real life, my character the Pie Mans life (pieman?) and the recent life I seem to have acquired on facebook.

Biker, Career Local Government Officer and then my two travelling lives in France and Thailand have provided me with lots of good friends and chattereres.   I am lucky that I have been able to keep in touch more with these friends through the power of Facebook. A few participants from each life chat and cajole with me on a daily basis and it does ensure a broad subject base.

So, the Olympics started for me on facebook as I was not interested in any of the events.  I initially gravitated to negative comments about it, then once it was on, I swung entirely the other way and became it's biggest fan.  Friends from "The lak" helped it along, as they were in the UK (and Ireland!) for the event and one of them went armed with the latest I-Pad type device.  From humble beginnings we grew to an almost frantic series of "like", "share" and "follow" with the facebook globe button constantly flashing red with numbers well into double figures most mornings.   Mouse malfunctions and new equipment resulting in stray posts attached to wrong threads only added to the fun.  Some of these stray posts even picking up "Like"s in the frenzy.

I even had a spare oven timer next to my PC (the one with the working mouse) in the office upstairs.  I managed a bit of exercise running up and down the stairs to turn pies in the oven every 12 minutes.   Singed a sausage roll or two during hectic events like the arrival of Phyls Ploughmans lunch, but by and large... we got the posts and likes in with little serious collateral damage.

I experienced the Olympics rather than watched it and enjoyed the event as it gave me the opportunity to do what I enjoy most... talking and having a laugh with friends.  It did remind me a bit of Euro 96 and the world cup in 1998 where it was enjoyed far more in the fanzines and pubs than on the pitch.  The BBC later brought out "My Summer with Des" (Desmond Lynam) and it is now on top of my watch list.  It's on youtube in 10 minute segments.... best I can find so far.

The Olympics was pure fun, happened soley on facebook for me as I was in Bangkok alone for most of it and despite having a television, it was only ever on in the background. What I saw of it was also mostly mirror image as my lap top is on the dressing table and the television is behind me. I watched the Thai guys fight and it's only my first law of this blog "No negativity or knocking" that stops me commenting more on that.

We had great fun and most of it was spontaneous "had to be there" humour and in jokes, but none-the-less it was fantastic fun and I was sad to see it pass into history last night.  There were quite a few reminders there amongst the icons of the music world that we are not getting any younger.  Nice to see them all though and whilst a lot of it was not to my musical taste, I do tend to use music to evoke memories and to re-live happy times.  Sometimes this may mean resorting to to Abba, Saturday Night Fever and Percy Sledge.... Songs you do not hum outloud at Custom Motorbike Shows when you're a biker.

But... It's over now, the red globe has barely winked at me all morning.   The Olympic Facebook Marathon is past and today just a few stragglers catching up last night Facebook action and some of us trying to keep it going for a bit longer.   Like the real Marathon, it passed a lot of interesting places and beautiful areas and was as great to watch as to participate in....  Might need to change that last bit to reflect my current shape size and activity level!

I think a few of us will continue with this and will be honing our skills for any future events that crop up.  What I learned it that we can enjoy any event if we approach it from a positive and fun angle.  I'll really breath life into the blog, even if I have to make less pork pies every week.  Writing is becoming more and more important to me these days and a big all round thanks to everybody that participated.  It really was a Team GB (and Ireland) effort. Golds all round.

Justin Beiber.... who's he!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Alex Sayle saved my blog.

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Quiet day in the pie shop yesterday, hence the re-launch of the blog.  It's been a hard 4 months but not much to report other than the production and demolition of a few thousand pies.

During a particularly boring conversation the other day, I realised that not only was I not listening anymore, but that my responses were not proper words... merely noises intended to sound like I was listening.  In order to alleviate my boredom further I decided to see how few real words I could use for the rest of the day and resorted to grunts, hmms, aaahs and aye appens.

My love of comedy and music then combined to remind be of Alexie Sayles appearance on "The Young Ones" with the immortal track "Stupid Noises".  Of course I could not remember the lyrics and had to find the track on Youtube and that was it.  Been singing it ever since.

Sooooo, the blog.  This all made me realise that I had maybe given up the blog a bit too lightly and could get away with a few short posts to keep the interest going.   I had noticed that my facebook post count was going through the roof as I experienced (can't say watched as I didn't) the Olympics with my friends on-line.  I'd made a mental note to re-start the blog once I felt I was overdoing the FB anyway, as that amount of posts must surely mean a return of some creativity.

A lot of my postings on there were very raw ideas, set down in order to store them for later editing or re-working into other posts.  I note the blog is still getting plenty of hits and the other day I googled for "Wigan Kebab"  and my previous post came up number one, so it must be getting some attention, if only from the bots.  There are 53 partial post saved as drafts and I aim to release some of them soon.

Problem has been that I am unable to work enough comedy or interesting links into them due to being exhausted.  The idea now, let em go and hope the flow of creative juices increases.

So, thanks again to The Balowski family for all the laughs... sing along if you like.

Friday, April 13, 2012

It's the most wonderful time of the year. Songkran

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I always feel like breaking into song when Songkran comes around.  This year is number 12 for me and I have never ever failed to be impressed with the total anarchy that prevails here.  Not for everyone and there are some hate the whole experience and shut themselves away for the week, head north or just get wet and complain about it.

Love it or hate it, it does not look like going away anytime soon and there are people book special holidays to be here at this time of the year.  Me and young Tony "The Pielet" have been practicing and he really has his eye in now.  Got him with a snide one this morning just as he woke up as I know he is going to be hitting me all day... even when I am grumpy and on the phone, toilet or just baking bread.

Small as Bang Niang is, there are enough of us and enough bars and eateries to make a real go of it. There is a sizable roadblock planned and the shop opposite has set up a tent selling water guns, buckets and other Songkran paraphernalia.

Usual place for Songkran down the years for me, has been Pattaya.  But age has tempered my ability to drink party and waterfight for 4-6 days.  The one day suffices now and we enjoy this condensed version of in non-the-less.

Pics to follow.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tsunami . True faith in human nature....

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I've always liked people and can't think of anybody that I dislike or couldn't say something positive about.  It's the old Yorkshire adage "if you can't say owt nice, don't say owt at all" coming in.

Yesterday my abiding faith in the human race was rewarded with a fantastic display by the locals and  visitors in Bang Niang, Khao Lak... and I am sure this is true of all affected areas.

15:50 yesterday and Duang disturbs my afternoons "Only Fools and Horses".."Yuppy Love" as it happens, which is the episode where Rodney meets Casandra and Del boy falls through the bar in what is arguably the funniest moment from the entire series.  Pie tag here is that Trigger is only in the bar with Del as he has been barred from the Nags Head on suspicion of stealing a pork pie.

Quick click round twitter, I tend to follow Richard Barrow!/RichardBarrow as he manages to find news articles and links that would pass me right by.  Seems the word from the massage shop was right (it usually is) and there has been an earthquake with a possible Tsunami on the way...... again!  I say again as we were here during the 2004 one and we really did not want to see another one close up.  So... on the instructions of my wife, we packed and left... orderly.

What I first noticed was how all the neighbours were checking on the elderly and making sure they could get clear.  Offers of lifts abounded, all car spaces were filled, motorcycles returned from "The Hill" time and time again.  Orderly and very considerately making sure everybody who wanted to get away, got away.   So it was, We drove from the shop, picking up two of the massage girls from across the street, few bottles of water, couple of fresh Chicken and Mushroom pies that had just come out, and we were off.

It's only 100 meters to the small road that leads to the back of Bang Niang, but traffic was building slowly and everybody was checking that the old lady had got out of the corner shop... She had, but people still checked. Onwards and upwards past the rear of the Patrol Boat that the previous Tsunami had deposited back in 2004, the sirens around it were wailing and messages were being imparted, but passing that point we were all pretty much assured of surival.   Few checks around, met up with friends and settled in for the evening.

So many people had climbed that hill, but what really struck home was the owners of the houses all had their doors open, drinks, ice, shelter from the torrential rain that hit us and televisions to catch the news.  There were no closed doors, just great friendly, concerned welcomes and offers of beds for the babies and toddlers... of which I have one.  Tony loves playing out in the rain as he is half falang and like me, loves the rain so we toughed it out.  Acutally enjoyed being cool for a change.

My brother in law had fled even further up the hill to really great height and it took some considerable puffing and panting to catch up with the 200-300 people who had gone to very high ground with him.  Turns out, this hill, offers views of the sea that were not available further down.  So, most had gone to watch for the event rather than in fear of a 200 meter high wave... which is what it would have taken to reach them.  

Just a few workmen's huts up there and rubber tappers..... Tin shacks... little more, but all with doors open, welcome smiles, water and ice buckets outside and the odd bottle of beer and whiskey.  All shared gladly and all full of children when the rains returned.  What people.

Thankfully, no wave materialised this time, and 4 hours later, be got the all clear and returned to our homes.  I have to say, the Police and Rescue services had done a fantastic job of guiding traffic and people to higher ground and it was all done calmly.  Flashing lights and sirens marked the small roads that led to the hill and they were manned in a very professional manner.

Can't say enough about people and I hope the mainstream media catch onto this rather than the handful of moaners that tend to hog the limelight at times like these.  They certainly keep a welcome in the hillside for us.

No pictures again.  I didn't even realise I had my camera with me.!!!!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Biggest Pie ever Colonel John Blashford Snell OBE

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One of my early Heroes was Colonel John Blashford  Snell OBE .  This may surprise him as most of his contact with this 12-15 year old pieman was shouting at him to get back in line.

He was famous as an explorer and had recently completed his crossing of the Darian Gap in Panama...( Isn't wiki great).  But the role I most remember him in was as head of the Hunts that took place around my home town of Ripon, North Yorkshire.  It was organised with military precision and a great childhood friend's father, Ken Mason was the head gamekeeper and organiser of us... a motley crew of beaters with white tatty flags tied to bits of tree.

Somewhat less motley (and older) collection of beaters.

We all knew of his exploits through the local media and it had really captured my imagination early in life and led to a lifetime of travelling (whenever possible) or dreaming of travelling (usually during lesson times or whilst at work).  My joy of travelling and just moving from place to place stays with me even today on the bus trip  up to Bangkok.  I put it down to never expecting to have the opportunity... I think.

Back then, our French lessons had been cut with the following (true) explanation from a teacher.  You won't need French as none of you will be going that far unless there is another war!  My Careers interview lasted about 2 minutes and I was informed the only options were the Paint factory warehouse or Buxted Chicken factory.  So compared to an expected adult hood counting paint tins and poking around chickens innards, even the crappy bus I was on the other night becomes exciting.

Must point out at this stage that I have one of the worlds biggest chips on my shoulder and this will show itself more once I have an editor in place. 

Back to the beating.  What I loved about this was the remoteness, cold and isolation, especially in the fog, that went with the job.  The rather non politically correct shooting that went on was not much of a concern as we didn't see much of it and were never allowed near anyone posh enough to own a gun.   On occasions when some of the guns would be taking shots at rabbits that were heading in our direction we copped for a bit of lead shot and had to duck and cover, pathetically I remember, behind our plastic flags!  We then learnt that sometimes, even figures of authority, even my friends father were more that capable of projecting the F word  at a bunch of Toffs, 100 or 200 meters away across a field.... under fire...

This was very hard going underfoot.  No footpaths or tracks, just mile after mile of moor, field, thicket, wood and forest.  I got my love of walking and the great outdoors from these days and probably a fair degree of fitness from it.

Perfect day .  Never experienced silence like the moors in fog and snow before or since

Pie time.  For lunch we had the most enormous pie ever imaginable to a youngster.  Game pie.  It feed at least 20 of us, along with a few sandwiches and the odd swig of beer.  All the years I went beating (and I went well into my twenties)  beer never tasted so good as it did from an old can, tipped out of an old hessian sack onto the freezing ground.  I remember standing completely in the middle of nowhere, with the next person to me almost out of sight and, if it was foggy, completely out of sight, in which case we had to listen for a whistle.

I used to Keep warm by pouring hot tomato soup into a cup and huddling over it, sometimes dipping my egg sandwiches into it if they were frozen.

For the anoraks:  A raised, hot crust pastry affair full of whatever they had shot last week.
My abiding memory of  the great man (he was) is his "assisting" a friend of mine in his passage through some thick brambles with the words "If I can get a Landrover  through the Amazon, you can get yourself through that".

It was along time before any of us told him that a thicket had been too dense for us to beat.  Happy days!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Phuket to Kok Kloy motorbike dash

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What a day that was.

5:00am start is normal for us, but the day just got wilder and wilder. Al fresco BBQ's always take some planning and managing, but with an incoming storm system and two nests of Red Ants to contend with, it took even more managing.

Great start to the set up was when we put the leg of one table directly on top of an Ants nest... this pleased them not one jot.  Got sillier stirring a pot of curry as we gave up the "run in and quick stir and run out again" ploy in favour of walking round and round the pot.  Eventually they got the better of us and we moved it.  Never win against ants.

Lovely well managed event (not by me I add) on a lagoon with beautiful views of the Andaman Sea and a not so beautiful view of a massive black cloud homing in on us.   The flames on the BBQ's were not troubling the food on top as they spent most of the time blown either horizontal or blown right out.

Job got done and apart from a few blown fuses, couple of near electrocutions and me walking into a spot light (that was switched on!  can't believe I managed that even when that tired) it passed of peacefully.  Then came the rains.

The storms had been the of the usual short, exceptionally intense tropical  variety that we know and love so well.  This was now  medium/hard rain set in for the night and I had a 45km motorbike ride to the bus stop just off Phuket Island in Khok Kloy.  An hour would have been plenty of time but for having no petrol in the bike and having sent my wallet off in the car along with my phone and other belongings to keep them dry.

Luckily I caught them at the second set of lights, grabbed some money, filled the bike up and the chase was on.  By now, I knew I would be lucky to make it for 8:00pm.  This was driven home to me near the check point when the bus I was meant to catch actually overtook me.  I overtook him on the inside again as he was stuck in a bit of traffic going through the Check Point, but he caught me again going over the bridge.

Despite the pouring rain and only wearing my chefs jacket, I gunned the bike and got in the slip stream.  He beat me by about 30 seconds and was surprised when I swung my mighty steed (Honda wave 125) in his path to stop him leaving.

Somehow we had all overtaken the car but the bus driver and Station Staff knew it was me and told me I could get on.   However, my luggage, passport, work permit, money and phone were in the car and I couldn't even ring them to ask where they were.  Five minutes later, they showed up, I got on the bus and changed in the minuscule toilet and was happily, but soggily once again, Bangkok bound.

Got a few strange looks from the western tourists and backpackers as I boarded the bus, as Khok Kloy Station really is a remote and desolate place for a westerner to be.... at night.... after chasing it down ... but hey, I get that all the time!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Photographers - No pleasing some folk.

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Quick rant today.

This past year, I have had FOUR professional photographers... with websites and followings etc. coming in as customers.

One is a long standing friend of some 6 years, another I have known now for 2 years and the others have stayed here on extended holidays.  Great pics on their websites and they all specialise in different areas, namely Press photographer, sports & extreme trekking, wildlife and scenery.  A pic from each site once I have cleared it with them.

What they all have in common is that not one of them has EVER!!!! wanted to take a pic of me.  Are they telling me something?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Free equipment in Thailand or delusion

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Well it's the end of the tax year again and we are all delighted to be tied up with red tape and beaten senseless with a stack of Kor por sor this Orr Bor Tor that and Kor Sor Head the other.   To lighten up the situation I tried to make some sense of my current Asset and Liabilities charts and wondered if some of my purchases had actually cost me anything in real terms.

Example one.: The free coffee pot.  Priced in Bon Cafe Phuket at about 12,000 baht, it does nothing other than heat and froth milk for cappuchinos and lattes.  BUT.... I bought it with money earmarked for drinking - a rugby tour with the Phuket Viagrabonds to the far flung reaches of Pattaya no less.   I had earmarked 15,000 baht for "recreational purposes" and was on the verge of booking a bus ticket up there.

We were aiming to see some of the Rugby action on the pitch as the previous year we spent 4 days there and didn't even find the Stadium.  Didn't try to hard either.

Sooooooo, this money is marked as dead and not expecting anything from it other than the odd hangover, bruise and a few days earache from the enemy.   Due to an outbreak of conscience and guilt though, i didn't go.  Instead I went to Bon Cafe, bought the machine and put the spare 3,000 to good use in the Jug and Crocodile.

My argument is that as I bought it with condemned money, I actually got it for free.  This on the basis that I arrived home with a coffee pot as opposed to nothing.  Below is a pic of the beautiful machine and for my tech. minded biker mates, it has counter rotating shafts!!!.... whatever they are!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Getting round bangkok - lost passport

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For the first 4 years I lived here, Bangkok was just a place you passed through.  A place to sleep off jet lag, or have one last cheap chang beer before boarding the plane to France.  All that changed when I was struck there in 2001 waiting for a new passport to be issued.  With 7 days to kill and low on beer tokens, I set about exploring on the cheap.

I stayed again at the Youth Hostel, more because I had learned some of the bus routes near it, enjoyed the river and had made friends with some of the staff in the restaruant on a previous visit.   It was a short walk to the nearest pier and as I have always loved boats of any kind I knew I was about to enjoy it. Only managed a few short hops that trip, the highlight being the pier itself at Tha Tewet which is full of fish that keep us entertained whilst waiting for the boat..

I had by now worked out that the best way (for me) from Khao San Road area to the central areas was to get on the river taxi and go to Saphan Thaksin.  Here the Sky train started and the rest was easy.  Great day out and saved a fortune over what others seemed to be paying for taxis and tuk tuks.

In later years I was living in Bangkok when they started dredging the canals in the area of my house.  Bit of asking around and we found the canal taxi ways.  It basically runs from the Golden Mount Temple/ Makahan Fort Junction, past the rear of Sukhumvit and out to Ban Kapi Mall.  Wikipedia have the stops listed here.

Fantastic day out and a great way to see Bangkok from the water. Don't breath in though!

I'll be on it again next week and will try to jot down the fares and timetables.  Only ever seen them in Thai!  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Get me out of here...part two

Not always perfect here in Land of Smiles, but it is as close as can be hoped for.  I spiced my life up a bit by leaveing yearly to work in France, travel cheaply round asia, or travel even cheaper in Thailand, staying with and visiting friends and former colleagues. I arrived in 2000 but the seeds were sown three years earlier.

This chapter of my life began in 1997 outside the Divorce courts.  Being a forward looking person I had planned for this the best I could.  Earlier in the morning, before I met the Lawyers, I placed pictures of my motorbike, my dog and a picture of me with Taggy  Wass, on Charles Bridge (Czech Republic) on the steering wheel of my car. My mindset had been all week that whatever happened  that day, my future life would involve much more travelling.  Basically a positive year zero.

I5 years into my travels, I would have to say that Prague in winter sticks in the mind the most.

It worked, and I never looked back on the outcome of that day, neither positively or negatively.  It happened (can't even remember any details of it now) and I moved on.   My mind had been focused on the photos and the proceedings passed me by with no trace of malice, hatred, victory or loss.... It just happend and I was on the road to adventure for the second time in my life.... The first time being the 15 years or so spent with my biking mates roaring around the highways and back lanes of Europe... always high on life and adrenaline.

So, day one and I instantly stopped smoking and sought out my friend Sue who was staying with me at the time to ensure I went through with it.  Right Sue!  I want to do this please.  "If I need a cigarette this week, I have to give you one pound for every cigarette I smoke and I will buy them from you at this price.  Next week, it is two pounds per cigarette, week three is four pounds, then eight and then sixteen".  I did buy one cigarette from her and paid sixteen pounds for it in that last week.  That was it, job done.

I calculated the money saved and bought a new mountain bike.  GT Talera from an old school friend of ours Mark Swindles who had a shop near the old fire station in England.  This served "Notice to Quit" on the two stone or so of flab I had acquired the previous two years.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Low season in "The Lak" Missing you already.

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Don't know who started calling Khao Lak "The Lak", but I first heard it from Trisha and was so impressed I use it all the time.  Not even sure if anyone other than us two coffee addicts call it that anyway.   Trish is away on travels but am sure will be back soon sitting with me outside the shop as we natter our way through 3 or 4 strong coffees of a morning.

Said good bye today to a few more friends who are leaving town.  Is it really the beginning of the end of High Season?  As most of the work here is seasonal, roughly November to April, we get used to hello's and good byes down the years.  Prior to the Tsunami in 2004 I had 3 seasons under my belt which entailed a lot of welcome parties, farewell parties..... Tooooooooo many in fact, and as I worked the off season in the South of France, the whole scene carried on and on.

I have always been excited by change and the end of the season, whether here or in France forced me into moving on.  Every time was, and still is,  just as exciting and I can just about feel the next bout of travel coming on. From my biking days right up to now, I loved nothing more than getting on the bike, bus, train plane, yacht and just heading off.  Planned Northern Thailand to catch up on Rugby playing mate and a trip over into Laos should just about be in the budget.

So it's au revoir to Pastor Al, Karin, Dan and Kim.  We wish them all luck and follow their adventures on facebook.  Who knows, we may have a Canadian Division in the coming years.  I am so jealous as I would love to be back on the road.

We are looking forward now to the peace, tranquility and rain that will surely follow this incredible heat.  Had a few torrential downpours and storms this past week and soon this is set to become the norm.  Time to get out of Dodge and put in a few months travelling, see old friends....  and RELAX.

My friend Al, reports his weight once a week to his Church and as he is a pastor, I suggested he put it on the board with the hymn numbers. That way his congregation can make bets on his progress..... or otherwise  I should really sponsor a Shires Pies Board for the occasion.  "Pastor Al's weigh this week, courtesy of Shires Pies is :......."    Be great to see the collection plate full of betting slips instead of buttons.  Good luck anyway, and hope we are all together again for early breakfasts watching the Bang Niang sun rise.

All the best for the rest of the season, but will I ever be glad when it's over.  Must be age!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

So many Ideas, So little time, even on Thai Time

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Gonna lose me ranking at this rate.

So much travelling around this past week, not seen the desk or the 43 posts I have almost ready to publish.  Looking back on them, I thought I  had it in the bag for the next few months.  Not to be.

Have been to Bangkok twice, Pattaya, and back and only one stop at my favorite stop. Khunsarai!  The stop last night was abysmal and most of us stayed on the bus looking out the window and the dingy piles of boxed cakes, dried fruits, dirty fridges and un-smiling staff.  Prachuab Khir Khan was the city closest to it and I am praying it is shut down before my next trip.  Only smile raised was seeing Wicked Divings signs on the walls there.  Staff obviously used the time wisely, realising that most westerners would skip the food, wander round and eventually see their signs.

Ideas have never been a problem, time is the thing.  Time is whats needed to inject humour... hours sitting at the bar drinking chang, chatting and thinking.  Even on Thai time there arn't enough hours in the day, I try grabbing a Thai 5 minutes (between one and 2 hours) and thats not enough.

Most of the memoirs I noticed are totally out of order and I may just have to lump them into 4 groups and let them go.  Please, more pics from France, Biking days, Thai life and HBC and thanks for the support.

So Thai time.  Worked out a rough formula at the weekend when Peter said he would be along shortly!

5 mins on Thai Time is about 1 - 2 hours normally.  As in I will be there in 5 minutes.

10 mins, 2 - 4 hours

Shortly - if I have time much later on.

Later.  No way Jose

Thursday, February 2, 2012

First night in Bangkok and the worlds gone mad.

Only my first ever night in Bangkok stuck in the memory.  It was election USA night 2000, but other than something of that magnitude taking place I would never even have remembered the month and maybe not the year.   I just remember the captain saying that by the time we arrived in Bangkok we would know who the next President would be!!!!

 France had been my home for the previous 7 months, but much as I loved it, the work was seasonal, and had dried up 3 weeks earlier. Most of my friends and workmates had headed back to the UK leaving me alone on a campsite in Biot near Antibes, it flooded badly and this drove me to the local travel agent in Antibes.

I entered the shop with the intention of asking for a ticket to Grenoble so I could look for work in the Ski Stations there in the winter.  As I waited my turn though, I noticed a 90 day return ticket to Thailand that was about 450 quid back then... cheap.  I then asked when the flight left and the woman told me in two days time and said she would hold it for me for an hour if I wanted to think about it.

I did think.  I walked outside into the rain, thought and made the decision that changed the direction of my life even more.  I was outside less than one minute, went back in, asked about visa on arrival etc, bought it and I was off.  Totally into the unknown.

And so it was, three days later I landed in the hot mid afternoon heat of Bangkok.  Lonely planet in hand I left the Arrivals lounge of Don Muang Airport and set off for my first battle with the taxis of Bangkok... all of which I have subsequently lost.  Got one for a few hundred baht.... a bargain I thought after 7 months in France.  The driver could not find the place I was staying at which was a fairly well hidden Youth Hostel, but  luckily I had the Royal Household and Rama 5 Statue on my small map, caught sight of it and got out.  The Hostel was on Phitsanulok about 1km walk away... much easier than directing a taxi driver in that madness.

My first steps in Bangkok were taken here.

I stayed at the Hostel as never fancied the scene on Khao San Road.  I went there a few times to meet a friend who had also made her way here, didn't like it and the only other time I went there was in later years when a mate wanted  a burger from the newly opened Burger King.  If ever there was an enclave of non-Thainess in Thailand, this had to be it.   But, each to their own and many seemed happy, adorning themselves with henna and real tatoos.  Must also be the hair extension capital of the Asia by the look of it... maybe I was old even back then.

My abiding memory of that first night though was my first shower.  It wasn't the introduction to thai plumbing, though that was also quite something when confronted for the first time with electrical installations being mounted next to running showers.  It was the speed of the sunset that surprised me.

I went in to the shower and it was broad daylight in the bedroom, came out and it was pitch black night.  It was like the sun had been switched off and I was even wondering if I had miss remembered what I had done in there.  Had I grouted a wall, re-washered all the leaking taps, cleaned up after the previous resident.  Nope, thats how quick it gets dark in these parts.

The rest of the first night was just normal stuff, 100's of mosquito bites, beer chang and sangsong hangovers and the food.  Great as it was I just fancied something Western that first night so ordered a beef salad!!!  It was impossible to taste if there was any salad in it... the chillies burned away at least half my taste buds.  Beef ... who knows, perhaps those pieces of leather were the beef, I never got past the first mouthful.  Wimping our of this I then had the all day breakfast of rubber egg, bouncy ball sausage, brittle bacon with sweet bread bun.  Tea was nice enough though and it soothed some of the burning sensation.

I have enjoyed exploring the food here down the years as much as I enjoyed the places and people... which is a lot.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Thai wife 100baht to the good. Khee Niao falang licks wounds.

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Despite having 43 part finished posts in the draft bank I have no time to edit and post a proper one under the terms of my bet back in england... So have lost out today to the missus who is now 100 baht to the good and hoping to double it at the card school.

8 years she has had me for and we still get along and are best of friends.  Pity we fight like cat and dog when we are working.  She learnt all her english from me and can put Gordon Ramsey to shame when she is bollocking me in the kitchen.  F*&king Idiot Falang is her term of endearment of the moment for me!  Lucky she stops at this really with all them knives about.

For all the complaining I hear about thai wifes and girlfriends being money mad, I have never seen this in Duang and when I met her I was sleeping rough on the floor of the diveshop as I was too tight to part with money for a room and living in the shop gave us chance to pick up more customers for the boats.

Yorkshire folk are "careful" with their money and she realises this and has always earnt her own.  Tony is now growing up in a good environment.... we keep the Gordon Ramseyism confined to his school times and it's all smiles and pies when he comes home in the afternoon.

Pitty I am busy today as I have just had tons of ideas for a post.  C'est La Vie the 100's gone and now so am I.

Happy days,.... still.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

He who dares... the eternal optimist

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Is the glass half full or half empty?

I've always been an optimist.. maybe a moaning shouting and cursing one, but an optimist none the less.   Never have I felt that "shit just happens".  It happens and it's how you react to it that makes the difference.   The sooner I make a move, the sooner the shit either stops happening, goes away altogether (however slowly) or the process of recovering from the shit that has happened gets underway and  the recovery process begins.

Last years tax bill was, well, enough to have many leaving Land of Smiles looking for well paid work in the West.  With a few mental calculations, I decided to stop drinking and open the shop for breakfast, this amount would more than cover the bill I reckoned.  Problem resolved and happy life resumed within the day... or two.  Deciding to stop drinking also lead to improvements in quality, extended the range and brought about a chance to expand in a way I could never have done on my own, from our original premises.

It's just a chance, but that is as much as I have ever needed.  Forget luck, prayers and karma, I learnt to take my chances well, as they don't come about often enough in life.  This is especially true for working class, overweight pie makers.

Forget business leaders, one of Del Boys corniest catch phrases sums it up in a nut shell.  He who dares, wins!  Whilst obviously lifted from the SAS motto "Who Dares Wins", his cheerful optimism and ability to keep going when all seems lost, is a lesson to us all.

Here's Uncle Albert doing an impression of Del Boy's famous phrase and almost copping and unfortunate one.  For my friend Linda who is studying cockney slang, Del's last sentence "about them syrups he flogged me" uses Syrup = syrup of figs = wigs.  Great hearing a South African English teacher talking slang.

Further thanks to Oscar Wilde for the following.  Great thanks actually as it was Giles Brandreth who I remember hear saying it on Countdown all those years ago!! Pseud or what?

Between the optimist & pessimist, the difference is drole. 
The optimist sees the doughnut, the pessimist the hole

Typing this blog has raised my awareness of being static for 6 years and I am starting to feel that change could be in the air... very exciting it is as well.  When that next chance comes, will I be brave enough to take it?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ditch that desk job and head for the sun.. (Get me out of here, I'm a Pieman)

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Harrogate Borough Council.. how did that happen? Part one.

Did I always have a pie shop... No, I spent lots of time in them in various parts of the world, but it was never my career.  Yes I did actually have a career in Local Government.

I spent 10 years to the day working for Harrogate Borough Council.  I had slipped in the back door really as I had been a complete drop out for the first 12 years after leaving school.  1989 saw me in a suit for the first time in my working life and I didn't think it would last...... it didn't, but I really enjoyed it for the 10 years I was there.

A serious bike accident had seen me in traction, hospital, pot leg for nearly 3 years and someone had thought to re-train me, teach me to type and put me on an IT course.  I often felt some rich tycoons were behind it for a bet. Pehaps they were training a monkey in another part of the country and matching its progress against mine.  It did feel very strange moving into this lifestyle, maybe too strange and that is perhaps why I never totally managed it.

So, before they would let me do the course I had to pass Pitman level three typing and have therefore been a touch typist since pretty much day one.  Great having me on the course, not only was I the only man on the course, I also had the longest hair as I was becoming a bit of a yetti by this time.

The beard went and the hair... bit by bit and each week they insisted on another 6 inches or so of it being removed.

All this was 1984 - 1988 just as the PC was launched.  By shear massive luck I was at the cutting edge of Computer Technology and employable!!   Even with the 12 years of diverse manual jobs, un-employment and time in hospital.  Add to this my Sole C.S.E. (2) in Maths and it is amazing I had a career at all.

I always like to say (true) that Rodney from only Fools and Horses is much better qualified than me, and his CV was more impressive as well.  This is by far and away my favourite watch... Films, TV internet anything, there is nothing I enjoy more that this.  There will be plenty of references from it!

Local Government was going through a great upheaval at this time.  They really threw off a lot of the grey staid image they had and I worked under some very innovative Managers.  Changes in Policy brought in a new Director, new younger managers and me.  I just hung on in there, recognised that changes was coming, embraced it and just clung on for the ride.

We were moved out of enormous impersonal buildings back into the hearts of the Estates and expected to get to know residents and listen.  The days of pushing buttons and sending out endless letters had just ended and we were to visit, visit visit,  talk, listen adapt.  I enjoyed it and found it much easier to talk with people than to hide in an office issuing  letters.  So I started to get more excercise.

There was also a fantastic Social scene at  the Department of Health and Housing,  we were genuinly friends, cared about each other, socialised, argued about football and, horror of horrors, drank beer.  Great times and great people.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Early Essays! - Education system fails young pieman. Or did it?

Almost the end of the first month and I appear to be 4 posts up!

I am also realising that reading bloggs is something we like to do in work time.  Looking at statistics, reads or hits go right down on Saturday and only come back up a tad on a Sunday.  Monday and Tuesday are the best days so will work around this.

Anyway, whats sparked the bet and is now surprising a few folks back home is that I have never actually written anything longer than an IOU, Sick Notes at school, (Dear Teacher, Steven was sick yesterday... signed... his dad!)  short begging letters, legal aid declarations, or facebook posts in my life.  I felt I had at least as exciting a life as anybody I had met and wanted to get some notes, (these are rough notes and I'll try to do something with them next year) down and learn what to me is new technology.

I have been googling the English Qualification I failed miserably at school.  It was based on submitting 12 essays over a 2 year period, which was obviously too much for me at the time... or too boring.  So I was Ungraded and the few marks I got would not have given me a level 4 anyway.  

GCSE GradeO Level GradeCSE Grade
Pre-1975 (numeric)Pre-1975 (alphabetic)1975 onwards
FU (ungraded)4
U (unclassified)U (ungraded)
Graph highlighting the dismal failure of the School's ability to teach me anything. (I'm bottom right box)

So what happened?

Most essays we were given were on terminally boring subjects which probably warranted, at most, a sentence along the lines of  "Why are we writing about this Shit?:"  So we had 2 years to kill and a variety of methods of dodging it. 

In the unlikely event that I could be persuaded to write anything at all, I could turn any subject given into one about motorbikes.  The one I remember was "A Country Walk"  which elicited an opening sentence by me along the lines of... "As me and Mike were walking in the countryside, we found two motorbikes in the hedge....."  There then followed high speed tales based on our love of the Isle of Man TT, which his father took us to when we were younger.

Most got sent back failed or 4 - 5 grades.. not that I was worried. I was so bad that they didn't even try to beat English into me, which again was strange considering the times and some of the nut cases we had for teachers back then.   Leads me again to Fools and Horses where their old headmaster "Bend over Benson" is sent to Broadmore criminally insane prison.   They are worried he is behind a  mysterious school reunion.

Only found one clip, but if you get chance, watch the whole episode.

And so it was, failed, was allowed to fail and we were all happy.  There were so many of us I think they were happy that we bunked off to go working on farms, working on the Grouse Moors (where I got my love of walking from) and going fishing.  Looking back we were almost angelic compared to what you read now about youngsters bunking off, doing drugs, muggings etc.  We did our fare share of fighting and low level nuisance, but never muggings, stealing etc.

Quite the polite little petty criminals we were...  Oh and we owned small motorbikes from aged 12 onwards, stashed in various places to avoid parental disapproval... but that's for another day.

Happy Sunday to my depleted followers!