HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Family Money

Personal Directions

The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Recipes from Rattana

Battling the Crab By Leslie Wright

A mother’s worst nightmare

Family Money: Scary Moments

By Leslie Wright,
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.

Which worries you the most? Depleted pension coffers in the UK, accounting standards in the US, war clouds gathering in the Middle East, or the very future of global capitalism itself?

In times like these, it’s one thing to speculate on where to focus your worries, but quite another to decide where to put your money.

In recent weeks, equity markets have bounced around like tennis balls, investor sentiment has continued to deteriorate, and trading volume has been high. A combination of several factors has brought this about.

The prospect of war and hence the uncertain global outlook is putting a greater risk premium on equity investments, with investors preferring bonds, cash and gold.

Corporate profit estimates have been continually revised downwards causing shares to look overvalued.

Oil prices have increased, which if sustained will have a negative impact on the global economy and therefore equities.

The insurance sector has been dogged by crises of capital, and the banks by fears about under-provisioning for bad debts.

So should you still be holding onto equity investments or - if you believe the bottom has been reached - be buying new ones?

In the first 9 months of this year, the S&P 500 dropped around 32%; the FTSE All Share about 29%; the European bourses around 40%, the Nikkei 14%, and the Hang Seng Index 25%.

Figures like this are enough to scare all but the most stalwart investors - or be seen as a great buying opportunity. But with the volatility we’ve seen in recent months no one can accurately predict the next 24 hours, let alone the next three months.

So where do you put your money? Cash on deposit? Well, cash deposits are relatively safe (although you’ve the currency risk to consider) - but what about the lousy return on your investment when interest rates have never been so low?

Of course, there is the ‘traditional’ safe and favoured asset - property. But some experts tell us that this market could have overreached itself and is about to tumble. (Remember UK 1988?) Holding property and TEP funds spreads the risk wider than holding onto actual bricks & mortar - and can be dumped much quicker if the warning signs come on.

Alternative strategies - hedge funds - are also predicted to be over-stretched (see my recent articles about hedge funds) and anyway, the six-figure minimum investment threshold for the better ones puts them out of reach to small investors.

Financial management, particularly when the aim is to achieve capital growth, is harder than ever.

There is no easy way to say to the private investor that when markets are plunging, there’s nowhere to hide. You may not be invested directly in stocks and shares, but somewhere along the line, and you don’t have to look very far, you will discover that your potential wealth has been put in jeopardy by this year’s miserable market performance.

As the news gets worse by the week, many thousands of investors are left in complete darkness as to how much further share prices may fall.

So how can you protect your profit potential for tomorrow? Every reputable investment analyst these days is coming up with the same answer - which is: the only way to survive is for investors to get used to holding on for the longer term - and 2~3 years is NOT long term! Those of you who invested seven years ago in 1995, and have held those investments until now - a medium investment period - will, in all probability, have reaped gains, even after the spectacular falls we have witnessed this year.

For example, take the FTSE 100, an index which at the start of 1995 stood at 3000. Even though this index has plummeted from a peak of just under 7000 it still has not fallen below that 1995 level. Similarly, the FTSE SmallCap index stood at around 1600 at the start of 1995 and is still above 2000 today. The only sectors in which investors would not have gained are technology & telecommunications. But you wouldn’t necessarily have lost money either. The FTSE techMARK 100 index kicked off at the start of 1996 just under 1000 which, at the time of writing, is where it remains.

We all know that global equity markets have fared poorly in recent years. But the historic perspective throws a revealing light on why professional investment advisers always urge investors to consider entering equity markets only if they are prepared to invest for the long term. The annualised real percentage returns on US equities for the period 1900-2001 was 6.5%; for UK 5.6%. This compares with 1.6% real annualised return on US bonds for the same period, and 1.3% for UK gilts.

It is not unusual for equity markets to experience declines, but the magnitude and duration of the current decline has been atypical. Since 1949 the S&P 500 index has dropped by 5% or more in a single month 46 times. But, in 83% of those instances the S&P was in positive territory a year later, and 41% of the time the rebound was better than 20%. Of the eight times in which the market did not bounce back, all except one year was followed by a recession.

While most of the current macroeconomic news points to a slowdown, it seems unlikely this will become a world recession. The volatility that we have seen in markets in recent months would tend to indicate that at some point in the not-too-distant future there might be a strong rebound. But you have to be ready for it.

As investment analysts are always happy to remind those of us with steady nerves and a long gaze, today’s markets represent a strong buying opportunity.

Investing in funds, which are well researched, well selected and well managed, is still the safest route. Private investors must spread their risks - then all you have to do is to perfect the art of selling at the most opportune moment before the next fall.

Personal Directions: In training we give 100 percent effort and nothing less!

By Christina Dodd,
founder and managing director of Incorp Trining Associates

Last week I touched on the subject of learning in my article entitled “living to learn and learning to live”. During the past few days I have had some interesting calls from people who all agreed that learning is most definitely an intimate part of our lives and without the ability or desire and indeed the opportunity to learn, then we are lost! I couldn’t agree more.

I also had some enquiries as to what constitutes good training or should we say - effective training. So in order to make matters clear I would like to let you know my personal views and how I believe we should approach training in the business and corporate world of today.

Firstly, I think it is necessary to understand that I firmly believe and am committed to the fact that people - as individuals and teams of individuals - are the essence and the key to the success of businesses, companies, organizations, institutions and governments - anywhere in the world. And I have a deep faith in the ability of the individual, given the opportunity to better themselves and the opportunity to learn.

As the key to corporate success, it is therefore absolutely essential that companies harness the potential of every individual employee that they have. This not only means those at the top, securely situated in the management mezzanine, but also the rank and file, those workers who make up the process lines, the van drivers, the telephone operators, the administrative staff, the security guards, the tea lady - employees at all levels within a company.

For many years it used to be the case that the major part of training budgets went only to the management and to the more senior positions at that. There is of course “some” logic in this, in view of the leading role management does tend to play. Other departments or levels, however, would have to make do with what was left after the cream had been taken and more often than not, the amount leftover was seriously lacking and, as a result, so was the training.

But times are changing - thank goodness - and it has been realized that training no longer remains the right of those who work in the upper echelons of a company. It is the right of every individual, of every employee.

There are some very progressive companies today dedicated to providing training across the board and without question. It is refreshing and somewhat consoling to know that this is a trend developing at rather a fast pace. The CEOs and powers that be have finally got it right in some places - but there still is a long way to go.

So we come to the point of good and effective training. What is good training? Companies want value for money as well as good training that will not be lost and forgotten once the trainer leaves the scene! One can’t put argument to this. In my mind, good training comes down to the quality of the training and the ability to meet objectives; the quality of the trainer and their interpersonal skills; and the adherence to a solid and equally as important follow-up program.

Before we undertake any program at Incorp Training Associates, it is necessary to fully understand what the objectives of the training are so that we can create and design programs specific to meeting the needs of those participating. What is supposed to be achieved? What results are required? What are the trainees expected to be able to do as a result of the training? There is no possibility of implementing a program until these questions and objectives can be addressed and an approach developed to answer them. Once this is completely understood then the path is clear and the rest of our work can begin.

It is integral to the success of every program we undertake at Incorp that we build on the existing qualities, capabilities and strengths of an individual, improving their personal and interpersonal skills along the way. When we tap into this the basic fundamentals of self-confidence, enthusiasm, commitment and drive come into play. And when this happens, individuals become better equipped to take on the challenges that come with the training itself. They embark on the training with heightened attitudes and the will to improve their skills - to achieve and to perform.

Then there is the delivery and the presentation style of the trainer, another key factor that demonstrates the quality of the trainer at first hand. Presentation and preparation are everything! Training a group of people requires practise, practise and more practise. It’s not appropriate to just bumble your way through it - it requires professionalism and tact at all times. It requires rehearsal and method to it. It needs formality and informality and a keen sense to know where to find a comfortable and effective balance of the two.

At Incorp we use methods that allow for optimum interaction and participation at the same time enabling everyone to feel comfortable and happy to be there! We use techniques that combine theory, practical activities, group and individual exercises, business simulations and case studies, reflection and facilitated discussions. Every ounce of encouragement possible is given to people who attend our courses so that they have ample opportunity to derive some benefit from the training. We give a hundred percent effort and nothing less. There is no use in adopting a half-hearted or less than professional attitude to training because if you do, then they are exactly the results at the end of the day - half-hearted and less than professional. It is a fact and I have seen it happen. It’s quite simple - what you give you get back!

And finally when we ask what constitutes good training, there is the follow-up process and adherence to programs that stimulate the continuous development process that exists back at the workplace. There is no purpose to training unless it is backed up with support programs that address needs that arise as a result of the initial training. There’s no point in getting people to a competent level and then leaving them high and dry - using a sink or swim approach. The only way for training to fully succeed and to provide the desired results is to adopt a follow-up approach and to reinforce what has been learned in the training over a period of time. It is how we have learned most of what we know as adults. It makes a lot of sense - and we are humans after all.

Training is fast becoming one of the major investments a company can make in terms of its people and ultimately in terms of its future. Whether a company is small, medium or large, whether the budget allocated to training is small, medium or large - it makes no difference to the level or the calibre of training that individuals within a company deserve. Training is training and the responsibility of every trainer is to deliver the best, and nothing but the best ... regardless!

If you are interested in our approach to training and you would like to talk further about our programs and how Incorp can assist with your training needs, please contact me by email at [email protected] or directly at Incorp Training Associates in Bangkok. Tel: (0) 2652 1867-8 Fax: (0) 2652 1870. Programs can be found at www.incorp

Enjoy your week!

The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness: Dr. Corness’ Guaranteed 75% Weight Loss Diet!

“You are what you eat” is very true. Pass the wrong stuff over the back molars and you become overweight. A very simple equation, yet there are many of you out there who know that you are eating the “wrong” food, and too much food, but these people continue to say, “I don’t know what is wrong, I just can’t lose weight.”

Unfortunately, in most instances this is just an excuse. It is always easier to do nothing rather than actually doing something about any problem. Why do today what you can put off till tomorrow and why do tomorrow what you can put off indefinitely?

To ignore your food intake is dangerous. The results of this type of thinking include diabetes, hypertension, hardening of the arteries, premature senility, arthritis, liver disease and a whole host of other conditions that you do not want.

So let’s imagine you are not overweight, but thinking about your diet, and let us look at “What should I eat?” Like most things in life, the answer lies in the “middle way”. Extremes of anything can be fun - but extremes should be infrequent. What we are talking about here is the “average” kind of menu that is “healthy” for the average member of the population. The following suggestions are a good guide.

Each week you should have grilled or poached fish on two days. The old “Fish on Fridays” was based on good nutritional evidence, not just religious dogma! How they knew about Omega 3 way back then, I do not know, but that’s the “good oil” behind the fish story.

Go to work on an egg! Have two eggs each week, preferably boiled or poached.

Eat Asian food for two days each week, especially all the vegetarian or vegetable and rice based dishes. Getting Asian food is not really difficult around these parts, is it?

Have cold meat and salad twice each week. Likewise have soup twice a week, especially the “kwiteo nam” (watery noodle) variety.

That has you eating Asian for two days, fish for two days and meat and salads for two days. That leaves one day a week for you to have anything you want. Splurge, go mad, roll in raspberry jam and cream! But it is only one day, remember!

Now for all the people who are already overweight, there is no secret in losing those extra kilos. When you are putting on weight you are absorbing more than you need. End of story. It is that simple.

The first rule is to restrict your eating to three times a day. No in betweens.

The next rule is to eat and drink only 75% of what you would normally have. After a few days of this your body will start to burn up the excess fat to fill the void - and that is just what you want. By only eating 75% you have cut your calorie intake by 25% and never had to count a calorie!

You will be amazed at the good results you can get by having a good menu and eating sensibly. Follow those recommendations and I will guarantee you will reduce your cholesterol and your weight by a significant amount in three weeks. Go on, try it.

Agony Column

Dear Hillary,

Please, please help me out of this desperate situation. I work in a busy shop and up until recently had a very good, attractive assistant that was also a secret lover. She has now left the shop and severed her ties with me to be with her husband. I was a constant shoulder to cry on and now feel I was completely used. I nearly gave my wife and child up for this girl. What can I do to avoid this in the future? I am asking you Hillary as I know you are a mature lady and must have avoided tricky situations like this for many years.


Dear Longfellow,

Offering a shoulder to cry on is asking to be used, one way or another. I must thank you for your nice words, but Hillary has always been very wary in any work environment. The way out of any of these work situations is to never enter any of these work situations. They always end in tears, Petal.

Dear Hillary,

My girlfriend has a very annoying habit of losing things. If it is not her phone, it is her handbag or her keys or her camera. I have managed to not lose mine, yet she loses something at least once a week and I am forever getting locks changed or running spare sets all over town so she can get back to the house and open the door. What can be done about this?

Laurie the Locksmith

Dear Laurie the Locksmith,

Lots can be done, Laurie. The first is to live in a tent, this way you don’t have to worry about locks and keys. The second is to never run all over town. By doing this you are reinforcing her silly behaviour. Whether she is losing her things as an attention seeking device, or just because she is totally disorganised doesn’t matter. While you are running around, mopping up after her, she will never improve. By the way, sit her down beforehand and tell her that you are not going to pander to this kind of behaviour, so that it does not come as a shock. At least when she loses her phone, she can’t ring you up to tell you another tale of disaster. If this is all too much, then try losing the girlfriend.

Dear Hillary,

Do you believe in night people and day people? I love getting up early in the mornings, just before the sun rises. It is such a beautiful time of the day, listening to the world stirring, and just being part of it. I go for long walks and return home totally refreshed and ready for the day. Unfortunately my partner is just the opposite. He likes to have long lie-ins in the mornings, and is quite grumpy until he has his morning cup of coffee, which is usually early afternoons. Come the evening and I am ready for bed when the sun goes down, but he is starting to get ready to go out to bars and clubs and comes home at 2 in the morning. The only time we see each other is in the afternoons. I have asked him to change, get up earlier, so that we can enjoy each other’s company, but he refuses and wants me to change. Have you any advice for him, Hillary?


Dear Tony,

Yes, Petal, I do believe in night and day people. I also do have advice for him, and that is simply to get out of this relationship. I also have the same advice for you. You are both far too self-centred to even have a relationship. Stop it now.

Dear Hillary,

As I am now in my early 50’s it is becoming noticeable that my tummy is getting that little bit larger. My wife even says it is very noticeable. I have tried dieting but that just makes me hungry. Is it worthwhile going to one of the gymnasiums round town, or do I have to give up drinking as my wife suggests? I only have six to eight pints at night which I do not consider excessive as I used to drink even more than that.


Dear Kenny,

Or is that “Kilkenny”? Looking carefully at your letter, since I can’t look carefully at you (and perhaps don’t want to!), I do think I might perceive a very slight chance that you are just the teensiest bit worried that someone might suggest cutting off the pipeline to the brewery. Hillary would never do that to you, Kenny, my old drinking mate! You must remember me. I’m the two people at the other end of the bar every night! Come on, Kenny! 8 pints! OK, Kenny, I’ll believe you really want to do something and here’s the answer. Cut the pints in half, join a gym (the Fitness Centres are better at fat burning than the musclemen types of places), cut out sugar, drink more water (without the sugar, yeast and hops) and walk everywhere in town rather than driving, riding or catching taxis.

Camera Class: Composition - part of the photographic conundrum

by Snapshot

When Harry Flashman was but a little lad in short trousers he used to be given “compositions” for homework. Here we are five decades later, and still concerned with “composition”! However, what we are talking about here is photographic composition.

Frame within a frame

Understanding photographic composition is one key to getting great photographs. With the increasing sophistication of today’s automatic cameras the vast majority of photographs are properly exposed. The new film stock materials are also such that the colour renditions are very satisfactory also. So what then differentiates a “good” photo from a “bad” or “ordinary” one?

The simple answer is “composition”. Now the photographer’s eye is something that you may or may not be blessed with, but there are some easy hints which will improve the composition and final visual effect of any of your photographs. Guaranteed!

The first rule of composition is to “Look for a Different viewpoint”. While the standard, “Put the Subject in the Middle of the Viewfinder” idea will at least ensure that you do get a picture of the subject, it will also ensure that your photographs will be dull and boring! If nothing else, always take two shots, one in the “usual” horizontal format (called “landscape”) and the second one in a vertical (portrait) format. You will be amazed just how this simple trick can give you a better picture.

In attempting to get that different viewpoint also try to take some shots from something which is not the standard eye-level position. Squat down, lie down, stand in the back of a pick-up, climb a ladder - anything! Just don’t get stuck with standard eye-level views.

The next way to add interest to your photographs is to make sure the subject is one third in from either edge of the viewfinder. Just by placing your subject off-centre immediately drags your shot out of the “ordinary” basket. The technocrats call this the “Rule of Thirds”, but you don’t need to know the name for it - just try putting the subjects off-centre. While still on the Rule of Thirds, don’t have the horizon slap bang in the centre of the picture either. Put it one third from the top or one third from the bottom. As a rough rule of thumb, if the sky is interesting put more of it in the picture, but if it is featureless blue or grey include less of it. Simple!

Now what else can you do to improve those shots of yours? One good little trick is to include some details in the foreground of a shot to lead your eye towards the main subject. Look for lines, roads, telephone wires, fences, etc., with strong lines to include in the shot. Arrange the picture so that the lines “point” towards your main subject. A few foreground details also help add interest to any photograph.

One foreground detail to always look for is the possibility of producing a “frame” around the main subject. We call this the “Frame within a Frame” technique. It is a very successful way to convert an ordinary shot into one with a lot of visual appeal. And this is indeed a successful ploy. Any of you who have ever looked at all the entries in a photographic competition will perhaps recall that the winning photographs generally will have used that technique.

Perhaps the last tip in making your shots more interesting is to include people in them where possible. That shot of sweeping rolling hills always looks better if you can put some human interest into it as well. A girl on a horse, a couple on a seat or a jogger all help to elevate a landscape above the hum-drum. Always look to add the human element.

In summary, take any shot in portrait as well as landscape mode, try to avoid just simple eye-level shooting positions, place the subject off center, don’t place the horizon line bang in the middle of the picture, look for frames within a frame and stick people in your pictures to give some interest.

Recipes from Rattana: Moo Pa Lo - Thai Five-Spice Pork Soup

Five Spice is not really Thai, but is Chinese and can be found at most Chinese supermarkets. This is basically a pork and tofu soup, with the addition of the Five Spice in the pork marinade. It appears to have a number of ingredients, but it is simple to make.

Ingredients serves 6

Ground pork 2 cups

Coriander root minced (rak pug chee) 1 tspn

Garlic minced 1 tbspn

Five-spice powder 1 tspn

Ground white pepper 1 tspn

Dark soy sauce 1 tbspn

Yellow tofu 1 tube

Cooking oil 2 tbspns

Water 2 cups

Hard-boiled eggs, shelled 3

Bamboo shoots (sliced) 1 cup

Fish sauce 5 tbspns

Sugar 1/2 cup

Cooking Method

In a bowl, combine pork, coriander root, garlic, pepper, five-spice powder and soy sauce. Mix well and let marinate for 15 minutes.

Cut the tofu tube in half lengthways and then cut into one inch pieces.

Now heat the oil and saut้ the marinated pork until cooked and fragrant.

Bring the water to a boil in a pot. Stir in pork, tofu, bamboo shoots, fish sauce and sugar. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes or until the eggs absorb some of the liquid (the eggs will turn brown). Remove from heat and serve hot with cooked rice.

Battling the Crab By Leslie Wright: Part 2 of a 6-part series about fighting cancer

The diagnosis

In many ways I was fortunate to have been in Thailand when my ‘problem’ first started: the treatment available here is world-class, and if like me you have to pay for the treatment yourself, it’s much cheaper here than in Europe or USA.

I’m often asked how my case was first detected. Well, the first symptoms were that my neck swelled up, and my face became red, and I thought I had an allergy. But antihistamines had no effect. I also was experiencing severe coughing fits - which typically resulted in my waking up on the floor after fainting. Now it was starting to be worrisome, so I took myself along to my trusted doctor at Pattaya International Hospital, who ordered a series of tests - all of which proved negative - and then a chest X-ray, which showed a fist-sized shadow on my lung where at my annual check-up 5 months earlier there was nothing. Initial diagnosis? Possible TB; possible cancer. Oh dear...

Next came a CAT-scan, scheduled for two days later. We’ve all seen them on TV, but I’d never had one before. Fortunately I’m not claustrophobic, but I can see why some people would be scared of being rolled into what looks like an enormous washing machine just wide enough to take an average width human ... and I’m slightly wider than average.

There’s this ring thing just inside the opening, which spins around, not too fast, and makes a whirring noise, but not too loud, and nothing to be frightened about. Then they tell you to breathe in and hold it - and then breathe out. One assumes they’re taking pictures during this time.

The rather narrow ‘bed’ that you’re laying on can move farther in or out of the machine, and the pictures they take are actually like slices through your body. All very clever and hi-tech. You don’t feel a thing, I assure you.

Is it cold, or hot, or stuffy? No. The room is pleasantly air-conditioned, and for those whose blood freezes below 28ฐ Celsius, they offer you a blanket.

Typically, however, they have to inject you with a contrast dye to get clear definition on the pictures. So they do have to put a needle in your hand or arm, but it’s quite a small one. When they are actually injecting the dye you get a warm sensation, but that soon passes, and is gone by the time the procedure is finished. Altogether it took less time than I had imagined it would - only about half an hour.

Sadly, the results of my CAT-scan were not encouraging. A mass was clearly evident, which was displacing both my heart and vena cava (the large vessel that carries blood from the lungs to the heart), and was tentatively diagnosed as either lymphoma (which nowadays can be cured if caught early enough) or carcinoma (which is regarded as almost incurable). Oh dear, again.

Next step was a biopsy to determine what the mass was, and how best to deal with it. This had to be done in Bangkok, and involved inserting an 8-inch long hollow needle through my back, through the lung, and into the tumour, to extract some cells for examination in the forensic laboratory. How did they know exactly where to put the needle? Well, this time they had me lay flat on my tummy on the CAT-scan table, with my arms clasped above my head, while they inserted the needle (under local anaesthetic), then used the CAT-scan to see where it had been placed. If it wasn’t exactly right, they’d pull out the needle, and push it back in again. This they had to do six times before they were satisfied they’d got it in the right place to suck out a few cells from the tumour.

The description sounds worse than the actual experience, but nonetheless, was rather worse, I think, than those Indian fakirs you see putting spikes through their backs and attaching carts to them to pull along the street during Hindu festivals... I had to be in a recovery room on oxygen for two hours to let the hole they’d made in my lung seal up and for me to be able to walk out of there. Not my idea of a Saturday afternoon’s fun.

The results of this biopsy would not be ready until the Tuesday evening, three days later, so I had a rather nervous weekend, trying to think positively and not worry too much.

On Tuesday afternoon I drove back again to Bumrungrad Hospital to hear the news from the consultant, a highly respected professor of thoracic medicine, who gave me the news straight, without frills or sugar coatings. Although I had been warned that there was a 10% chance of its being carcinoma (the worst case scenario), hearing the words was nonetheless stunning.

After taking some time to get over the initial shock, I questioned the doctor further, and he was generous with his responses.

He volunteered the information that I could get a second opinion elsewhere, or return to UK - but that the treatment of this particular cancer had progressed little in the past 20 years; only the unpleasant side-effects of the chemotherapy had been lessened. And that the accepted first-line treatment I would receive at Bumrungrad - a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy - was arguably as good (and probably the same) as I would receive in either the UK or USA.

Had I had international healthcare insurance still operative, I might have considered flying back to UK. Under the circumstances of having let my local healthcare insurance lapse (for what seemed sound and logical economic reasons at the time, but foolish in hindsight), I was left with few realistic options.

Fortunately Bumrungrad Hospital has an excellent international reputation, and is arguably among the best cancer treatment centres in the world. (And much cheaper than a comparable hospital in USA or UK, where, I have since learned, I might have had to wait for months for a bed, and the treatment would have been no better or advanced than I have received at Bumrungrad.)

I was advised that the best course of action would be to act swiftly and vigorously against the cancer. This involved a) being admitted immediately - that same night - to start radiation and chemotherapy treatment the next morning; and b) giving up smoking (at that time I was a 2-pack a day man).

I agreed to be admitted, and that night paced back and forth like a caged tiger, considering the repercussions of this terrible news. Less than two years to live ... and I was only 53. I also went out on the hospital room balcony for frequent illicit puffs on the dreadful weed that was probably the main cause of my dire predicament. I did, however, promise myself to give up the habit the next morning, cold turkey, a promise I have kept faithfully.

(Given the incentive and consequences of not doing so made quitting much easier than I had thought it would be: back in the mid 80s when I was working in the Philippines I decided to quit smoking, and I thought I had been succeeding very well until after 10 days my secretary came to me with a petition signed by all the members of staff asking me please to take up smoking again as I had become impossible to work with. This time round, my staff have been a lot more tolerant and forbearing.)

(To be continued next week)

A mother’s worst nightmare Part 2

Some people might ask, “How can you write about something as personal as this?” The way I achieve peace of mind is to write. It’s the best therapy for me. I’m a mother and I write a woman’s column, only another mother can understand how I feel. (A father will feel as bad but in a different way). I want any mother reading this column to be sure to give their daughters or sons an extra cuddle and tell them how special they really are.

At this point it is important for me to write that Emma has many friends in Thailand and I would like to thank them for their kind wishes and the flowers and cards that she has received...

As I stood beside the bed I understood what it means when someone says that they had an ‘out of body experience’. I felt as if I was watching me watching Emma from somewhere up above - it was a most peculiar and very real feeling. I looked down at her unrecognizable face, made worse by the gravel burns, swelling, and water retention (I later found out caused by the drugs). The left side of her face, including her eye, was covered in bandages. Her hair was literally still caked in dried blood and the left side of the head raw where she had been scalped. Her left shoulder and right hand were oozing blood through the bandages. I dreaded to think what was under them. My chest began to get tight as I tried to get near her through all the paraphernalia separating us. I leaned down to find a part of her ruined body where I could kiss her or touch her, her legs were the only part of her not damaged.

I knew she had been a passenger in an open top Suzuki jeep with two other girls; the other passenger suffered some nasty injuries but not life threatening. I later found out (not from Emma, she still has no recollection of that day at all) that it was a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon, so the girls went to the supermarket shopping for a barbecue, laughing and happy. Emma sat in the middle in the front with her friend by the door. They had tried to get the seat belt around the two of them but it wouldn’t fit. The driver was wearing a seat belt and she walked away from the crash with a bruised knee. But it was later discovered that she had drunk well over the allowed limit - she will be prosecuted.

The car went into a skid, a witness said it went up into the air. Emma was holding onto the roll bar with her right hand, and her hair must have become wrapped around the bar as the car rolled and she fell out, then it rolled over her. The driver rang Emma’s husband and he got there before the ambulance to find his wife crawling around the road in a mass of blood crying “help me, please help me.” The poor man has trouble closing his eyes at night and not seeing this dreadful image. I had come along the same part of the road to reach the hospital, past my daughter’s blood on the road. There were police signs asking for witnesses; it’s strange how all the family said we felt isolated as we looked at the people around us. They were all going about their daily business having no idea of the nightmare screaming inside us. When you have contact with someone in the future and you have cause to say “miserable bitch, she didn’t even smile or say thank you,” spare a thought that maybe there’s a good reason. All this was going through my mind as I stood there just looking helplessly at the bed.

A nurse came over to me and I asked for an explanation of Emma’s injuries. The nurse said, “She has 10 broken ribs, 2 broken collar bones, both shoulder blades broken, right hand with several crushed fingers, broken wrist, punctured lung, bruised heart, left eye damaged, considerable flesh missing from the forehead and temple, severe wound on the left shoulder caused by the shoulder blade and collar bone piercing it and a considerable amount of hair ripped from the skull.” I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that this was my daughter they were talking about.

I turned and walked out of ICU in a numbed state it was suddenly, oh so real, I wasn’t going to wake up, and no one had exaggerated.

(To be continued…)