The Doctor's Consultation: Happy Birthday, Mum!
by Dr. Iain Corness
My mother had her birthday the other day. She is now 87
years old, or in Mum’s eyes, I would say she is 87 years young, a very
vibrant, alive and aware octogenarian! She has been a widow for 28 years,
living on her own and fending for herself in the cold climes of the north of
As opposed to the local Thai ‘model’ where grandparents
care for their grandchildren, while the parents go to work and supply the
financial needs for the family, my Mum has pursued a very independent life.
Not that we aren’t close, but we don’t need to live in each other’s
pockets. Mum delights in the visits of her children and grandchildren, and for
me, it is an annual event that my wife and I look forward to.
However, for the elderly in your family, the late life
period has to be one of transition and adjustment to loss. This includes
retirement, relocation, and bereavement. At a time where one would imagine
everything would nicely settled, it really is quite the reverse.
The first of these changes to be met is generally that of
retirement. One minute you are an important member of a work team and the next
day you are unwanted, sitting on the job scrap-heap, even if you now have a
gold watch to tell the time.
Around one third of all retirees show difficulty in
adapting to this change in their circumstances. That change includes not only
having no regular daily work, but reduced income and differences in the way
the retiree is perceived in his or her society. The once power broker is now
Relocation is another of the stresses of later years. The
family home is sold as the children have left. Smaller quarters are settled
into until it becomes obvious to those around the elderly person that
household chores are too much and so the next relocation occurs to the
Retirement Village, that veritable Disneyland of fun and frivolity for the
aged. This is, however, the precursor for the final move - to the Nursing
All moves are traumatic (remember moving to Thailand for
example?) and for the elderly, it is no exception. However, this can be
reduced by making the elderly persons feel they have some say, some control,
over the move. Retirement Villages should be chosen in consultation with the
elderly themselves. While we “know” what is best, we should not take away
all of the decision making processes. Just because someone has lived a long
time doesn’t mean that they don’t know what they want.
Finally, bereavement. The complex phenomenon of bereavement
becomes an integral part of an elderly person’s life. The death of their
spouse produces a loss of companionship which in turn produces a decline in
social interaction. These may precipitate acute illness and in fact men have a
high mortality rate in the two years after losing their spouses. (See, men do
depend more on women!) But not only do spouses die, but also siblings, friends
and the people next door. Old age can become a never ending trip to the
No, whilst we think we care and look after our elderly
relatives, there are many times when we forget to put ourselves in their
shoes, and expect an immediate agreement on the future placement, instead
discussing options with them. Our Mums will always be people we are indebted
to. Happy birthday, Mum!
I have often considered becoming an ‘Agony Aunt’ as the benefits of
doing so appear to be positively outrageous. Gifts of chocolate and
champagne, red carpet treatment and adoring readers to name but a few.
‘Cheek to Cheek with Cherry’ or ‘Knock Knock with Nok’ would suit
me admirably. Wee Nit, however, is concerned that I might have to lose
some tackle. Please advise me if amputation is an essential requirement to
fulfil the functions of an Aunty.
In your case, since ‘Misters’ are male and ‘Aunties’ are female,
you would indeed have to tackle this tackle problem head on. However, the
benefits you assume that we Aunties receive are not quite so cut and
dried. We have many correspondents who promise us “gifts of chocolate
and champagne” but never deliver, and you are a prime example of this.
The “positively outrageous” benefits are sullied by the positively
outrageous offers from the “adoring readers” as you put it. Offers and
promises that are broken more often than a politician’s pre-electoral
promises. The balls in your court I believe, Mistersingha. While the
waiting is mine, I hope the “agony” will be yours.
Although I really enjoy your column each week (it’s the first one I turn
to) I am left wondering whether the letters you receive are real. Surely
some of your writers are not that silly? Or is it me that is so silly? If
the letters are real, do you pick the pen names for the correspondents, or
do they? I am interested to know.
Dear Enquiring Mind,
Like you, I also wonder if some of the writers are “that silly” (why
does the name Mistersingha come to mind, I wonder?), but you only have to
look back a few issues and you can see that many of the correspondents are
very regular with their tales of woe. I can assure you that all the
letters I receive are real, whether arriving by email or per the
hard-working postie. The Nom de Plumes are often picked by the writers,
but if not, I will choose something suitable. There you are, feel better
now, Poppet? Were you happy with your Nom de Plume?
Thank you for belatedly publishing my corrections to a letter I sent you
some weeks ago. As one of literally dozens of readers who enjoy your
weekly column, I feel I should tell you a story about my former secretary
who was also fond of chocolates. Over time her body began to fill out to
where she could barely squeeze between the armrests on her office chair.
One day she came to work with a huge box of chocolates and sqeezed (sic)
into her chair. At day’s end, after polishing off the entire box, she
stood up and the chair went with her. Despite the efforts of my entire
staff, we could not remove the chair, and she began to panic. We rushed
her to the hospital where she was wheeled directly into the OR. A while
later a surgeon came out and told me I would have to make a decision - my
secretary or a perfectly good office chair. Long story short - my new
secretary fits easily into that chair, and snacks on nothing but granola
bars. So you can see my concern that you might also be eating too much
chocolate with potentially disastrous results. Therefore to help you get
over your addiction I am sending my chauffeur to your office with a box of
granola bars and some Gatorade.
My Dear Tully,
May I say just how touched I am that you would worry about my figure, that
might end up suffering from balloonism, as opposed to bulimia, occasioned
by a surfeit of chocolates. Alas, if that were really only the case! You
only have to look at the unfulfilled promises such as those I receive (or
more correctly, don’t receive) from Mistersingha, and to quote just one
example, “I have assembled an Amphibious Tuk-Tuk Squadron to safely
convey your chocs and bubbly.” Needless to say the squadron must have
sunk. Or this one from In Love and Broke, “By the way Hillary now that
we have the Champagne and Chocolates out of the way 30,000 is available to
you.” Nothing received. Nothing! Even you, Tully my Petal, have joined
the ranks of the “bag wan” (sweet mouth) with your “spending money
that he could be buying chocolate’s and champaign (sic) for you.” And
now, with an amazing display of largesse, you are offering to send round
chauffeur driven Granola bars and a bottle of Gatorade. More than likely,
these won’t turn up either. Finally Tully, my keeper of the dictionary,
both you and your efficient (and slim) secretary are still unable to pick
up your spelling boo-boos. The word “squeezed” has a “u” in it
after the “q”. Rather than sending the slim secretary to Hawaii or
wherever for creative accounting classes, investment in a spell-checker
for your word processor might be a better proposition. And since the
chauffeur is obviously underemployed delivering mythical goodies,
there’s savings there for you too. Tully, the things I do for you!
Camera Class: The lens problem explained. Which lens? For what? And why...
by Harry Flashman
wondered why the pros all walk around with special jackets full of photogear and
different lenses and three cameras slung around their necks? Is this a kind of
photographic masochism, or is there a good reason for this? There is!
The reason is called “quality”. Pro shooters have to
return to their editor or client with a professional image, giving the best
interpretation of the subject and finally be pin sharp in its definition.
Something you can’t get with a point and shoot camera.
To illustrate this situation I thought I should give you some
ideas on the lenses I use, for what and why. Now if you own a 28-105 mm zoom or
whatever, don’t despair, just adapt your thinking to use the zoom at the wide
angle when I mention wide angle lenses and the other end of the scale when I
mention telephoto lenses.
The three principal lenses are Wide, Standard and Long, and
for the purposes of this article I am not including “extreme” examples.
Consider Wide to be around 28 mm, Standard around 50 mm and Long around 100 mm.
So you can see, the average zoom lens will cover these focal lengths.
Let’s begin with Wide lenses. These are the lenses for
99.9% of landscapes. You get a wide angle of coverage, you get great depth of
field and as an added bonus you get blue skies! Even in Bangkok. The reason is
that you have a wide angle of sky “squashed” into a 35 mm negative, so the
colour is denser than it would appear to the naked eye. I have always said that
photography is the art of telling lies with a camera.
The Wide lens is also the one you should use in low light
situations, such as twilight, as most Wide lenses have larger apertures which
let more light in to the camera. This means that you can get readings like 1/30
second at f 2.8, at which you can hand hold. With the average Long lens (or zoom
in the tele position) it would be 1/4 second at f 5.6, a shutter speed you
cannot hand hold.
The Standard lens is actually one of the most neglected
lenses in your camera bag. This is the focal length that most closely
approximates what the human eye sees. Use this lens and you get the most
“life-like” image that people can immediately relate to. No strange
distortions in the foreground or on the edges either. For example, if you want
to photograph food, pull out the trusty Standard lens. Stand on a chair and you
get what the diner sees.
The Standard lens is also very good for getting either full
length portraits or waist up pictures. Again, it is the lack of optical
distortion which is important, and you can also use aperture settings around f 4
to blur the background.
So to the Long lenses. The focal length of around 100 mm
would be more accurately called a “short” telephoto, but this is a common
focal length and one that many of the zooms can cover. This is the lens you use
to do all portrait shots. This lens will give you flattering views, without
enlargement of the nose, and slightly compresses the image. When combined with a
wide aperture of say around f 4 to f 5.6 this blurs the background enough to
produce an uncluttered image.
The ability to compress the final image makes the Long lens
the ideal one to show traffic jams or parades. Use a high viewpoint and look
down the road when a parade is coming and you will get an image that appears to
show that the road is just crammed with floats, one almost on top of another. Or
better still try Sukhumvit Road Bangkok from the overbridges.
Finally, it is important to remember that Long lenses are not a substitute
for walking in close, especially at night, when the flash burst does not carry
all that far.