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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.