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The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Life in the laugh lane

Doc English The Language Doctor

Welcome to Chiangmai

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

And a pox on your chickens!

With Bird Flu from chickens being a present threat, I felt that this week we should review another chicken disease. Chicken pox! This was brought home to me when I picked up my laundry and Madame Laundry paraded this child in front of me, covered in the characteristic spots.
Of course, chicken pox (AKA Varicella) is not really caused by chickens, nor even carried by them. Chicken pox is a common disease caused by the varicella zoster virus which is a member of the herpes virus family. It is very contagious and all communities experience epidemics.
A few years back there was a real outbreak in Thailand, with 22,833 patients with the complaint between January and May. This nasty condition never actually leaves the community, lying quiet for a while and then attacking in epidemic proportions. Make no mistake about this one, it is a most aggressive disease that sweeps through schools and institutions and while generally a disease of children, it can attack adults too with devastating results.
The varicella zoster virus is known for the characteristic chickenpox lesions. These come out very quickly after an initial period of vague symptoms such as fever and aches in muscles and joints. The lesions (vesicles) are very superficial on the skin and grow like a mini-Vesuvius, burst and then crust over. That cycle of events takes around four days, but new crops of vesicles come up in waves in the first three or four days, so you can have some vesicles growing bigger while earlier ones are drying up and crusting over.
The vesicles generally come out on the trunk and face first, but can spread to all over the body and even inside the mouth and on the tongue. Now while scarring is always a worry for the Mums of this world, there are far worse effects from this little virus. There is a distinct possibility of an encephalitis in older children and adults can actually develop a varicella pneumonia. Pregnant women who get chickenpox also run the risk of infecting the unborn child, and this can run as high as 10 percent. Very often, especially if the child scratches the lesions, there can be an added infection by an opportunistic bacterium on top of the viral lesions, so you get a double problem.
So what do you do when chickenpox is doing the rounds? The first thing is to keep away from those who have the disease. It is highly contagious and is spread by inhalation of micro droplets in the air, or by direct contact with weeping vesicles. In a family, this means that little Johnny gets his own towel that no-one else must use and a bed-time kiss is strictly forbidden.
Calomine lotion does help with itchy and weeping vesicles and trim the fingernails in young children to lessen the chances of scratching. With very little ones, I even suggest putting their hands in socks, just as you do with little babies.
If the temperature is raised (more than 37.5 Celsius) then a little paracetamol will help (but not aspirin as this drug should not be used with children), and if there is the “super-infection” by a bacterium it will be necessary for your doctor to prescribe an appropriate antibiotic.
The other important duty that you have as a parent is do not send little Johnny back to school until the very last vesicle has dried up. This is generally around a week to ten days, but is so important in trying to stop the epidemic.
The other nasty part of this virus is that it lies dormant in your system and can strike back many years later as Shingles, or as we medico’s call it, Herpes Zoster. No, chickenpox is not fun, and to those of you who are struggling with it right now, you have my sympathies.
However, we do have a varicella vaccine these days, and vaccination is recommended from about 12 months of age. Like all vaccination programs, this will radically reduce the impact of epidemics.


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Week after week, month after month and year after year you have provided me and my darling Thai wife with so much amusement. Your advice to the lovelorn or the ripped off is so pithy and funny. It is a pity that you haven’t compiled them all into a manual for males visiting Thailand for the first time. The instance I quote below is one of your best efforts yet.
“Just wear your wallet on a rope around your neck with the contents plainly displayed (large denomination notes are recommended) and you’ll have them hanging off you like flies on one of those sticky paper rolls. By the way, Tatt, if a lady has a tattoo on her breast is that a tatt for tit? Ooh, I am naughty today!”
It reminds me of the old Thai story of the fat, old, homely, non Thai speaking visitor who proved he was as attractive as the athletic, young tattooed competition in the bar. He did this simply by sticking a 1000 baht note to the perspiration on his head, the young ladies previously collected around the young spunk quickly relocated.
Keep it up Hillary, you’re a gem. We, my lady and I, wish you a Merry Christmas and a Champagne and Chocolate New Year.
David (Western Australia)
Dear David and his darling Thai wife,
Thank you for the Xmas and New Year’s greetings. Next time stick them to a bottle of Yellow, that nice Aussie ‘methode Champenoise’ which you should be able to get hold of in Western Australia. And thank you for again reminding me it is Xmas, the annual celebration dedicated to the patron saint of commerce. As I go into Tesco-Lotus and hear Xmas carols I shudder. It is as appropriate as Tesco’s in the UK or Myer in Australia playing Buddhist chants at the end of May for Visakha Bucha. Or am I just getting cranky because there’s no groaning table with magnums of champagne with labels attached saying “For Dear Sweet Hillary”?

Dear Hillary,
Regarding that fellow called Rolex who was complaining about Thai people never being on time, does he never stop to think that maybe that’s the reason Thai people are happy? By forgetting about the time, they have more of it (time) to play in. Perhaps if Rolex threw his Rolex away, he might enjoy life a little more too.
Dear Sundial,
What a wonderful device was the sundial. No moving parts and would last for ever. Its only drawback was when you wanted to tell the time at night. However, getting back to Rolex’ problem. He was complaining that he had to hang around waiting for people with whom he had made appointments, and was getting drunk drinking beers waiting. I must say I got the feeling that he measured time using the Heineken scale, rather than minutes or seconds.
All Thais will admit that they are not driven by “time” the way farangs base their life on it, so being punctual does not have the same urgency. Being a little more relaxed in the Land of Smiles will make life easier. If Rolex must keep waiting time to a minimum, then perhaps call for the starting time of the meeting to be 20 minutes before he expects it to begin. That’s one Heineken less. In fact, why not make it an hour? That’s three Heinekens less.

Dear Hillary,
Have you noticed all the “work” that has been done in our cities recently? I move around a lot with my job and the traffic is just hopeless everywhere in Thailand these days, not just in Bangkok, where it has been hopeless for years. In Chiang Mai there appears to be endless work going on tearing up the footpaths and putting them back down again. Then tear them up again, and so on. In Pattaya they are not happy with just the footpaths, they tear up the whole road, lay concrete, produce instant traffic jams and then move on to the next road. In Jomtien they tore up the footpath, laid bricks, then built another pavement and then laid another concrete pathway as well and then erected ornamental lights every five meters. Not satisfied with that, they then decided to widen the road to make it six lanes wide. Is this part of a national plot, or just national madness?
Rot Dit Ron
Dear Rot Dit Ron,
I doubt if it is part of a national traffic scam or an orchestrated plot, we leave that to the Generals, but it is certainly being done as a sure fire way to cut down the road toll. Stationary cars can’t run over pedestrians. It also keeps the concrete industry very healthy, and the road construction business is having a boom time. Not that anyone in the decision making offices has any interests in road construction, bricks, electric light poles or concrete. I did inquire about the six lane superhighway to Jomtien for you - it seems that someone important was held up under the overpass of Pattaya Third Road, and it was decided to make it six lanes, to carry the eight lanes of traffic that comes down from Bangkok every Xmas. You might have to find an alternative transport system. Have you considered investing in a helicopter?

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Want to be an ‘Events’ photographer?

This is the time of year for ‘events’, and if you have a half decent camera, you will be asked to take photographs at events and not just in the festive season. Happy Xmas! Happy Anniversary! Happy Birthday! Congratulations on your engagement, graduation, marriage, baptism! Congratulations on the divorce! Have a great vacation! It just goes on. Every week there will be some sort of celebration. Now have a look in your own family album and you will undoubtedly get all sorts of memories - here’s Gary when he graduated, Bill’s birthday, Wanda’s wedding or even Felix’s funeral.
For all these people, the event is an important milestone in their lives, in some way or another, and so the event deserves to be recorded properly. And guess what, you can’t do it with one shot. It takes a sequence of shots.
So to make sure that you can get the event in its entirety, here are a few hints. The secret is to start long before you get to the event venue and sit down and make yourself a list. A checklist, in fact. What you have to remember at all times, is just what is this event all about? Let us assume that the party you are going to record is a birthday. Here’s what you should be thinking about.
What do you need to show? Firstly you have to show that it is a birthday, not just any old party. Secondly you have to feature the person whose birthday it is. Thirdly you have to show who came to celebrate the birthday and fourthly any significant gifts that were received. Not even Henri Cartier-Bresson would be able to get all that lot into one photograph!
It should go without saying that you have checked your camera, it does work, you have spare film or memory stick/card and you do have spare batteries for the flash. Here is the type of list I would draw up if taking photographs for your child’s birthday:
1. Shot of birthday boy looking at a birthday card (close up - this gives the visual clue that it is a birthday)
2. Birthday boy opening present (close up - more clues)
3. As above with parents and friends standing around (wide angle shot)
4. Mother placing candles on birthday cake (classic clue)
5. Father lighting candles
6. Blowing out the candles (close up - an absolute “must”)
7. General shots of people singing and clapping
8. Happy time shots
Note that all these shots are designed to set the scene, show the participants and nominate the “star”. There are varied shots, some close up, some group shots and together they make a package called “Billy’s Birthday”.
Probably one of the most important items to remember is my adage - “Walk several meters closer!” When people are just small dots, you cannot pick out who they were, several months later. Do not be afraid to walk in close - this one factor alone will result in much better pictures.
For many of the shots, you will also have to be prepared, because when the action happens at an event, it can happen very quickly. For example, blowing out the candles. You can’t say, “Sorry, I wasn’t ready. Can you do it again please?” The name of the game is to know what you need to shoot, and be ready for it.
Now when you come to put them in the family album, you have a nice group of pictures which many years later will continue to say “Billy’s Birthday”, unmistakably. And you made it happen photographically. Well done!
So next time you are going to photograph an important event, plan your shots, take them deliberately according to the plan and be amazed at how much better your results will be!
One final word of warning. When you have become the ‘official’ photographer for any event, you cannot be the life and soul of the party until you have taken all the shots on your list. You are being relied upon to come home with the goods. You can’t do it with a belly full of gin and tonics!

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Fawlty Finances, part 1

Sometimes we like to take these articles into uncharted territory, publishing ground breaking ideas and pushing the envelope beyond the limits of mankind’s intellectual discovery processes to date. At others we’re quite happy just to engage in what Basil Fawlty called “majoring in stating the bleeding obvious”. Today will be one of the latter.
Halifax Financial Services’ latest research indicates that the last decade has been a great time to be rich. They don’t actually point out any bad decades to have been rich but their view is based around the facts that earnings growth for this period has been running at well above twice the rate of price inflation and that income among the 20% wealthiest households has risen 42% (as opposed to typical household income up by 39.5%) since 1997, compared to average price growth of 18.2% over that period.
Our view is that it has undoubtedly been a period of prosperity, characterised, like almost every period of prosperity, by greater concentration of the benefits of that prosperity in the hands of the most prosperous. Halifax research team clearly thinks it sounds neater to say that it’s been a ‘great time to be rich’.
One slight cloud on the horizon of the so-called mass-affluent (we hate those de-humanising labels that make it easier for large institutions to sell all their clients equally short of service by reducing them to the most average common denominator) has been education costs, which have risen 87% over the past ten years with rising school fees and the introduction of a new regime for university fees. In fact, bringing up a child could cost up to £150,000 in the UK according to Invesco Perpetual who suggest that parents should consider a long-term investment plan to help ease the burden of this (if you want private education for your children from two years of age until twenty two then it is at least double this cost).
Actually this makes a lot of sense - raising a child in the UK only costs parents upwards of £46 a week - an average total of £43,056 if the child is dependent until the age of 18. However, add in education costs, that becomes £150,000. Education costs tend to fall into 2 categories - private schooling (mainly from 13-18) and assistance with further or higher education after age 18.
The idea of also getting grandparents to plan their affairs tax-efficiently so that money goes to the grandkids educations rather than to the coffers of HMRC is also worthwhile and, of course, the new de minimis of pension regulations mean that UK-resident minors can have pension plans almost as soon as they are born. For expatriates the costs are of course generally far higher but in many cases employers provide assistance with pre-university fees. Also bearing out what many parents know to be true, Invesco Perpetual’s earth-shattering research reveals that the older a child gets, the more they cost - a child aged one year currently costs £45.50 a week on average, while a child aged 17 to 18 costs £56!
Housing, which has been the second most rapidly rising national cost of the past ten years, has had a disproportionately smaller effect on the rich, however, who (represented by the top 20% of earners) only pay out 8% of their annual income on housing costs, compared to 11% among the general public (although of course the Pound amounts are higher for the top 20%).
“The affluent classes have seen their earnings rise by more than twice the increase in prices over the past decade ... They have also become better-off compared to the typical household... While affluent families are more likely to feel the burden of rapidly rising private school fees and higher university tuition costs than other households, other factors are helping to keep affluent class inflation rates down,” said Halifax chief economist Tim Crawford.
Interesting report, both in terms of the data and what it reveals about Halifax’s views on personal service and client segmentation. Last year we, at MBMG wrote a lengthy article the beginning of which I’ll quote below:
“Some time ago we were somewhat astonished when we read that many offshore private banks are finding it difficult to continue providing specialist investment and banking services to the ‘medium-wealthy’. The initial cause of our discomfort was the term ‘medium wealthy’. It’s long been a pillar of faith with us that while all wealth may be relative, the single most important factor is that to the individual concerned it’s generally extremely important. Whether it’s Bill Gates needing to ensure that the IRR on his assets is adequate to ensure that he retains his primacy as the world’s richest individual while continuing to generously fund his and Melinda’s charitable endeavours or whether it’s someone in rural Thailand eking out a subsistence wage to be able to feed the family, for every individual’s own reasons, wealth is usually extremely important to each and every one of us. It is just too important to be simply boxed and categorised as HNW (High Net Worth), MW (Medium Wealthy) or the most appalling classification that we’ve seen used by any of the major banks, NWP (Not Worth Pursuing).”
That’s not to say that silk purses can be made out of cow’s ears but some solutions can usually be implemented at most levels of income that can help to improve an individual’s financial planning. Our Thai financial planning teams start offering schemes at just THB 2,000 per month, whereas offshore a monthly savings plan can be established for as little as GBP 50 per month. However, in terms of real wealth management (i.e. managing wealth that has already been created) a critical mass is, to some extent, required. Any finance company, whilst it should be recognised that certain minimum criteria have to apply to certain transactions, will always do its utmost to create highly personalised solutions for all investors. The process of quantifying clients needs in terms of liquidity, risk profile, tax-efficiency, required returns and a whole host of other variables that are extremely personal to each individual investor, is extremely time-consuming and intensive. The outcome of this process relies on finding a suitable solution for each individual need.
For as little as AUD 5,000, solutions can be fashioned that are acceptable to many investors. For as little as GBP 25,000 platforms can be utilised that create highly personalised portfolios. For just EUR 400,000 or USD 500,000 we believe that it’s possible to create the very best portfolio that any investor can buy - above that the only differences might be slightly reduced net charges. However, it appears that we are far from being the norm. The business strategies developed by banks at the height of the equity bull market, which relied on healthy revenues from portfolio management services, have proved to be unsustainable. This has caused many well-known banking names to drastically re-work their ways of doing business and, in some cases, to completely withdraw from providing any services at all but to the very wealthy.
To be continued…

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Paul Gambles on [email protected]

Life in Chiang Mai: by Mark Whitman

The concert given by the newly formed Chiang Mai Philharmonic Band and its sister group the Symphony Orchestra on the occasion of the King’s 80th birthday was an important event for the city. Let’s hope that the major funding by Ing Funds and the twelve other sponsors continues and that further support is forthcoming from business and the city of Chiang Mai itself, since it would be an important addition to the cultural life of the city – both for audiences and for the young people who perform.
Support too from visitors and, more importantly, the local population. I’m always surprised and disappointed at just how few farangs turn out for so-called cultural events. But offer them a cheap bash at a local watering hole and stand by for the rush. Do they leave their brain cells behind when they re-locate?
Certainly the huge theatre Kad at central Kad Suan Kaew needs plenty of people to fill it and it is a great pity that there is no medium sized hall in Chiang Mai and we all lament the loss of the excellent Gong Dee gallery for recitals and the superb Thai dancing and other musical offerings that were a regular happening.
The large forces of the Band were ideally suited to the Kad and the enthusiastic players responded well, ending with a good account of Holst’s Jupiter from his ever-popular Planet Suite. Let’s hope they turn to another British composer, Malcolm Arnold who composed some magnificent work for brass – since he was for many years a member of that section before becoming a full time composer. And how about a commission from a Thai? The talented guitarist and composer from Payap, Thanawat Katanyoo, whose fine concert earlier this year contained several compositions for brass instruments, would be the perfect choice. He is brilliant, young and local.
It’s a puzzle too how few people attend the screenings at either the Alliance Francaise (which on the 14th had an early masterpiece by the greatest of all French directors, Robert Bresson, on offer) or the free CMU screenings on Saturdays. And even commercial movies fail to attract the audience they deserve, witness the example of Robert Redford’s Lions for Lambs last month. Smash hits such as Love of Siam seem to pass many farangs by, despite huge coverage in the national English language dailies and even in this local paper. What, I wonder, do people do with their time?
Certainly a few turned out for the fifth Art, Living and Lifestyle event in Soi 1 off Nimmanhaeminda Road. This is a very pleasant and relaxed event and deserves even more attention for its bands, eating places and shops and stalls. Chiang Mai needs all the help it can get if it is to attract more tourists. Recently there has been something of a crackdown on late nightclubs and discos. No one wants this city to emulate Pattaya but nor should it have to suffer puritan strictures. Plenty of visitors enjoy late night activities and certainly will be discouraged (as will those they talk to) by raids on places, which are closed down at a few minutes notice without even time for customers to finish their drinks. Perhaps it is something to do with the imminent election. Let’s hope that the 23rd produces a positive result and frees Thailand from the image of a country dominated by the military.
Writing of which inevitably brings me to the on-going crisis in Burma. A subject that has left the front pages and now finds itself confined to small news items and commentary. And yet the situation grows worse if anything. The junta has stated that Aung San Suu Kyi can have no hand in framing the on-going charter – surely the slowest process ever. More people are fleeing across the border, inevitably into Thailand and the north in particular. The number of ‘disappeared’ is never explained and many people languish in prison since the abortive uprising in September. It is possible that the increased sanctions are hurting but the military hang on and have enough bovine patience to outlast the most dedicated negotiators from the UN and elsewhere. What is needed is for the EU and the USA to support a boycott of next year’s Olympic games and see whether that moves the junta’s main supporter to change its tune.

Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
I Am Legend: US Action/Drama – Will Smith as a brilliant scientist responsible for releasing a terrible virus that was unstoppable and incurable. Somehow immune, he is now the last human survivor in what is left of New York City and maybe the world. He spends his time trying to make contact with other survivors, working on a cure to the virus using his blood, and killing vampires. Fantastically eerie shots of an empty New York City that I find spooky and haunting. Generally favorable reviews.
The Warlords: Hong Kong Action/War – A heroic tale of the breakdown of the friendship between three blood brothers when one kills another to steal his wife, and the third seeks revenge. With Jet Li and Andy Lau. Unfortunately, in a Thai-dubbed version only.
His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass: US/UK Adventure/Fantasy — In a parallel universe, a young girl journeys to the far North to save her best friend and other kidnapped children from terrible experiments by a mysterious and evil organization. The film is a grand, rich fantasy, beautifully done, remarkably detailed. I was enchanted. Mixed or average reviews. At Vista, a Thai-dubbed version only, English at Airport Plaza.
Love of Siam (Rak Haeng Siam): Thai Romance – An excellent Thai movie with a thoroughly engrossing story – and it’s well crafted, and well acted. A long film by Thai standards, but well worth the time. The “Siam” here refers to Siam Square, a popular teenage hangout. It’s there that Tong (Mario Maurer) is reunited with his childhood friend Mew (“Pitch” Witwisit Hiranwongkul) after a traumatic separation of several years. The two boys make an endearing couple. Mew has a talent for singing and piano, is the lead singer and composer for a band, and has been asked to compose a love song for the band. Mew has had little experience of love within himself to draw on, but his growing feelings for Tong change all that, and enable him to write a glorious love song that is being heard all over Thailand these days. A sweet, sad, and sentimental story, that’s quite entertaining. See it by all means. Directed by Chukiat Sakweerakul.
Bee Movie: US Animation – Pure Jerry Seinfeld, and the humor is all his: adult, observational, feasting on the small ironies of human behavior. Most of the humor is verbal, and tends toward the gently ironic rather than the hilarious, but I did find myself laughing out loud at lot. There are a few splendid cartoon set pieces — including a funny, thrilling bee’s-eye tour of New York — that show off the latest computer animation techniques. Mostly a soft and fuzzy entertainment, with a hint of a sting. Mixed or average reviews.
The Life of Buddha: Thai Documentary/Family/Animation – 150 mins – A labor of love by a one-time Disney animator, who poured her life savings into this project. For me, the film gives a rudimentary and straightforward telling of the life of Buddha and some of the legends that have grown up around him, exactly as promised, in a highly condensed form, and in a comic book style. As such, it will certainly find its audience. There is no comment expressed in the film, no point of view except that of a wide-eyed child, and thus I think many will find it of little interest.
The Screen at Kamchanod (Pee Changnang): Thai Horror – Directed by Songsak Mongkolthong, this movie is supposedly based on an actual event that took place at an outdoor screening in Udon Thani in 1987, when an audience of ghosts turned up to watch a movie. Here, in 2007, a group of medical professionals goes to the spot to try to solve the mystery of what really happened.
Pong Lang Amazing Theatre: Thai Low Comedy – A down-on-his-luck theatre owner tries to rescue his old and haunted theater from oblivion with one last show. Crude and crass, involving much breaking of wind and defecation.
Scheduled for Thu. Dec. 20
National Treasure: Book of Secrets: US Action/Adventure –In this follow up to the box-office hit National Treasure, treasure hunter Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) once again sets out on a global quest to unearth hidden history and treasures. When a missing page from the diary of John Wilkes Booth surfaces, Ben’s great-great grandfather is suddenly implicated as a key conspirator in Abraham Lincoln’s death. Determined to prove his ancestor’s innocence, Ben follows a chain of clues that takes him on a chase from Paris to London and ultimately back to America, on the trail of the world’s most treasured secrets.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: US Animation/Comedy/Family – After years of exposure on TV, the tiny trio makes their live action big-screen debut in this family comedy about the pint-sized pop stars. With the help of CGI, Alvin, Simon, and Theodore come to life, causing mischief and mayhem for all around them.

Life in the laugh lane: by Scott Jones


This week would have been my father’s birthday, but he’s ageless now, living in my heart. Dad would have been happy here in the Land of Smiles, since he was a smile with legs. Kenny Jones had a joke for every occasion, and if there wasn’t an occasion, he had two jokes. In this photo taken at fifty-something, he’s demonstrating his favorite expression - TA-DA!!! - which requires bold capital letters and several exclamation points to illustrate the exuberance of his delivery.

My father worked part time as a marionette.

On one of his birthdays, Dad, teenaged stepsister Kim and I are dining at an up-scale café. Kim goes to the bathroom. As Dad pours me another glass of red wine, we both suddenly lose control of our motor skills and literally launch the wine glass into the air. We grab it together, miraculously keeping most of the wine in the glass, but the glass stem breaks off so we cannot set it down on the table. Kim returns at that moment and Dad dumps the remainder of the wine on the table, stands up and exclaims for the benefit of the rest of the diners, “Kim! Look at this mess! I can’t take you anywhere! Waiter, will you please clean this up?” and leaves the room. Kim’s face turns the color of merlot.
As much as he loved to tell jokes, he also loved to be the butt of one. On his 50th birthday, one of his best friends asked me to keep him away from the Elks Club where they were going to have a big party for him, but had decided not to invite him. He and I had a festive dinner alone while they had a grand affair with about thirty people. The next day friends appeared in his office with a framed presentation—photos of last night’s bash with revelers in strange costumes standing on the crushed box containing the fractured lamp that was his birthday present, plus buttons and banners that read “Ken Jones is a good Elk!” with “good” crossed out and the word “bad” written above it. These mementos were mounted around a very polite, formal letter saying, “We took a vote and decided the party would be a lot more fun without you.” Most people think this is truly sick, but he loved it.
His unabashed antics were at times socially dangerous. Though he had his own caboodle of girlfriends, he’d harass me about mine. We were at a restaurant with many friends, I with a new girlfriend who I will always remember because of three things: 1) She had a toy name - Frisbee; 2) She could fold her nose down the middle so it looked like two small buttocks, and would actually do this in public, probably due to psychological damage from having the name Frisbee in grade school where classmates constantly harassed her; 3) When she introduced me to her parents during a party at their home, her mother greeted me warmly with a plate of hors d’oeuvres, and asked, “Would you like a condom?” (Condom is similar to a “condiment” since the flavored variety could possibly be an appetizer.) In my father’s inimitable style, he asked our server’s name and introduced everyone at the table to her, but when coming to Frisbee and me, he said, “This is my son Scott, and, um… Number 148.” (I guarantee you that he did not forget a name like Frisbee.) He had deftly dug a deep hole for me and left me to crawl out meekly.
Before relatives from my mother’s side of the family visited for an Easter feast, I gently requested he refrain from swearing, reminding him that Uncle Ken was a church deacon, and Aunt Carol did not tolerate swearing and avoided the entire letter “f” in the dictionary. She didn’t even like it when I played an F chord on the piano. In fits of rage, she’d blurt out her personal expletive: “Kriminently!” (which means “kriminently”). Just before our peaceful, religion-honoring dinner, sitting next to Aunt Carol, he turned and said: “Scott told me that I can’t say ‘f*@%’ around you.” I buried my head in my arms as Aunt Carol raised her eyebrows, through her hairdo, to the top of her head. Back in the hole.

Doc English The Language Doctor: Skills your child can use to read and decipher new words

Hello and welcome! This week we include a whole bucket load of tips and techniques for teaching your children English at home.
Last week we talked about how to encourage your child to talk and discuss stories during and after they have read. This week we look at skills your child can use to read and ‘decipher’ (read and understand) new words and we’ll concentrate on the story text.
If your child is very young, or has a very basic grasp of English, they may need to learn the ‘letter sounds’ (phonemes). A good way to do this is to visit ‘phonics’ websites such as www. or .uk/schools, which include games and activities for learning individual letter sounds and sound combinations. These sites are very good for developing your child’s letter recognition, reading and listening skills. If you sit with your child and talk about what you see on screen, then these activities can also be good for practicing speaking skills.
As your child reads, get them to break a word down into individual sounds (e.g. c-a-t) and help blend the sounds together to form the word (c+at). Notice the initial, middle and end sounds. Be patient and don’t make your child read every word as they will quickly get bored. Concentrate on the smaller words first of all and later on progress to longer words. Books containing words of no more than 1 or 2 syllables are best to start with. Read the same book over a few times, perhaps once every night for a few nights. Each time find a different aspect of the story to talk about so it does not get boring.
If a word continues to be a problem, write it down on a ‘flashcard’ and stick it on the bedroom wall, or collect a number of ‘tricky’ words and play ‘word bingo’ with them at the end of the week.
Ensure your child understands the meaning of the word they are reading. For older children, encourage them to look up new words in a dictionary, so as to encourage them to discover the meaning of new words independently. Try to find a good quality dictionary, as cheaper ones can contain errors. Younger children can start with a picture dictionary. Talking dictionaries can also be beneficial.
Encourage your child to notice the shape of new words, the number of syllables and how the word begins or ends. Think of words you know that rhyme with the new word, or different words with a similar meaning. Help your child create their own mini dictionary and record new words in alphabetical order. Most importantly, provide a continual stream of praise as your child reads and don’t over-correct. Ask questions to ensure your child understands what they’re reading and take time to discuss the detail in illustrations. Encourage your child to look for ‘picture clues’ within the illustrations that might help them better understand what they have read.
Choose books on a similar theme each month (e.g. animals, families, fairytales, poems, etc.) so that children do not have to learn a whole new set of words every time they read. Ideally, each time they read, the text should be just slightly higher than their current language level. There should be just a few new words each time for them to learn. This way, your child will progress gradually without feeling like they are climbing a brick wall.
Finally, know when to quit. If your child is getting bored or frustrated, throw in the towel and choose to read another day, or switch the book if the story is becoming too boring. Play a game, such as ‘eye spy’ with the book, or ‘hangman’. Draw and label a picture of a character or scene from the story, or dress up and role play the story together.
I hope you found these tips useful. Next week we take a break from reading and discuss ways of encouraging your child to speak in English at home. Remember, you can send your questions or suggestions to me via the Pattaya Mail, or you can email me at [email protected] com. Hope to hear from you soon!

Welcome to Chiang Mai: By Elena Edwards

Everyday customs in Thailand – how not to get it wrong!

Perhaps a brief introduction to some Thai customs may help you avoid some embarrassing mistakes!
Their Majesties the King and Queen, and all members of the Royal Family, must be referred to in terms of the utmost respect. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej has ruled in Thailand for 60 years, and is greatly loved and respected by all as the father of the nation and its people. Anything which shows His Majesty’s picture, (money, for example), should be handled with respect, to the extent that it would be considered unacceptable to stop a rolling coin with your foot! Also, think twice before you lick a postage stamp, a wet sponge is provided in the post office for this purpose!
And remember, to speak against or criticise the Royal Family is against Thai law. In all movie theatres, before the start of the programme, you will be shown a lovely short film tribute to His Majesty, during which you should please stand. If you happen to be in a supermarket at 6 p.m., and everyone suddenly stands still and stops talking, don’t be surprised! If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the Thai National Anthem being played over the tannoy - out of respect to the monarchy and the country everyone is still and quiet.
Wats, (Buddhist temples), and monks are also shown great respect. Monks are prohibited from touching women, even their own mothers. Should they do so by accident, they must go through a cleansing ritual. However, if you do bump into one by accident, don’t feel bad, just “wai”, and say sorry.
Thais consider it bad form to show anger and frustration, or to raise one’s voice. As a result, it is always counter-productive in a major way to do so to them. However difficult this may be, especially when you first arrive, maintaining a calm and smiling exterior is advisable, particularly when dealing with Thai officials. Direct conflict results in bad feelings, which often makes things worse than they need be.
Traditionally in Thailand, one’s head is considered the highest and most honourable part of the body, and one’s feet as the lowest. Try not to point your feet at anyone, even whilst sitting on the floor. To raise your feet by placing them on a stool or table, or to move items with your feet, is considered unacceptable. It is also considered impolite to touch another’s head without excusing oneself first, nor to talk over or reach over someone’s head without a similar apology. It is important to remember not to elevate one’s head above others, particularly those who are older or more respected. Lowering oneself whilst in a crowd, or bowing the head in greetings, are both good ways to avoid giving offence and to show respect. Make an effort not to give the impression that you are “looking down” on others, although if you are a typical 6 foot Caucasian male, this may not be easy.
Thais maintain high standards of dress and cleanliness, and appreciate incomers who do the same, particularly when attending social or business functions. Closed toe shoes, for example, are considered more respectful on formal occasions than sandals, however hot the weather. Revealing clothing is also not a great idea. Most Thais bathe at least once a day, as body odour is offensive to them. A cool shower twice a day will help you feel more comfortable in the hot climate, and will ensure that you don’t embarrass your new friends! Men should remember to wear a shirt or tee shirt when walking around town as bare chests definitely do not have the same appeal here as in the West!
Thais love friendliness – not for nothing is Thailand called the “Land of Smiles”!. Many Thais think of expatriates as guests in their country, and they want you to be happy here. Thanks and smiles go a long way, as does some effort to learn a little of their language! The concept of “sanook” – fun- is very important to Thais, even one’s work should contain an element of this. Understandably, incomers arriving from the West may, just possibly, not quite appreciate this concept - but give it your best shot and it will change your life!
Elena Edwards
[email protected]