Family Money: Scary Moments
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
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
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
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
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]
incorptraining.com 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
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
(To be continued…)