The Doctor's Consultation: by Dr. Iain Corness
The cat’s revenge by Claude Gooleys
I hope you like the title this
week. Some days I can’t help myself. However, almost every household has at
least one cat, and often more. Cats are affectionate, warm pets that will
sit on your lap for hours, purring away, while it licks your hands. During
that time, it may even be giving you more than love. It may be giving you a
little present called Bartonella henselae, or simply, Cat Scratch Disease!
Yes, your cat is a walking, purring receptacle of disease.
Tell me more, you say, while wondering if you should strangle the cat now or
later! But first a little history. A little over 50 years ago, the clinical
signs of Cat Scratch Disease were described, called romantically “La Maladie
des griffes du chat.” However, the symptoms of this ailment are far from
Cat Scratch Disease affects between 2-10 people per 100,000 head of
population in America, so whilst it isn’t an every day diagnosis, most
doctors will come across a few cases in their medical lifetime.
The presenting symptom is a regional swelling of the lymph nodes, generally
in a young person or a child, and the usual scenario involves a panicking
parent who is sure the child has lymphatic cancer.
What actually happens is that the cat is carrying the organism known as
Bartonella henselae, which is found all over the world, and which it
inoculates into the human system. This bug in turn is trapped by the lymph
glands, within which one almighty fight takes place, with the end result
being that the glands swell dramatically and can even burst through the skin
as a suppurating discharge. Other signs and symptoms include a fever, sore
throat and headache.
Now there are many causes for swollen glands, fever, headache and sore
throat, so how do we pick on the family pussy cat? Quite simply, there will
be a history of having been bitten or scratched by the family moggy, and the
inoculation site will drain into the affected lymph glands.
So just how does the cat give you a “shot” of bugs? Well, firstly somewhere
between 20-40 percent of cats are carrying the organism, and it lives in the
cat’s saliva as well as in its blood. While licking its claws, pussy cat
leaves a collection of the organism there, which in turn becomes yours when
the cat scratches you. Deliberately or accidentally.
Cat Scratch Disease, although generally localized can even end up infecting
internal organs such as the liver, spleen heart and brain, though this is
very rare. For most people who contract the illness they quietly recover,
though it can sometimes take some months. However, for people with
compromised immune systems, spontaneous recovery is not the norm. Children
get the disease more than adults, because children tend to spend more time
with pets, and pull more than the occasional tail.
There is treatment, with one of the most appropriate antibiotics being
Doxycycline, while the most usually available penicillins are fairly
ineffective. There are tests which can be done in the laboratory to prove or
disprove infection by Bartonella henselae, so what we call a “Definitive”
diagnosis can be made. Again you can see the dangers in self medication. If
you do indeed have Cat Scratch Disease from the cat bite, the penicillin you
bought is useless!
So should we all go out and take our cats down to the vet and consign them
to the great veterinary hospital in the sky? The simple answer is no, but
the moral to this tale is that we should be on our guard. Cat scratches and
bites should not be taken lightly. Immediately after any injuries you should
wash the wounds with soap and water and after a thorough cleansing only then
apply your favourite antiseptic, and at the first sign of problem, pop into
the hospital and get it checked. But please leave the cat at home!
Heart to Heart
How are you today? After reading your column, as I often do, I just
don’t understand why all these negative experiences. Since I’ve been
traveling this big ole rock, I’ve been to over 40 countries. My favorite
by far is Thailand. Since the first time going to Thailand, I have loved
the people, atmosphere, weather, food, and the cold beer. Right now, I
still cannot wait to return and have another wonderful vacation. It
blows my mind that so many people appear to have had a bad experience. I
think they would have a bad time anywhere... why travel?
Can’t wait to get back!
Dear Can’t wait to get back,
I agree with you, Petal. As you say, “I have loved the people,
atmosphere, weather, food, and the cold beer,” so what more could a
young man (or an old man) want? I do believe that most of the people who
have a negative experience have brought it upon themselves, and many of
the long-stayers in Thailand say that for this group of long-stay
complainers it is a case of “som nam na”, as the Thais would say, or as
the English speakers would say, “serves you right”. You are also correct
in identifying that this group of people will complain no matter where
they are. I have read very similar complaints and “problems” with
ex-pats and visitors to Spain and South America, for example. But by the
same token, there are many who really enjoy their times in exotic
places. Look at Ronnie Biggs, for example, and what happened to him when
he returned to the UK from Brazil. No, Can’t wait to get back, you stick
with your positive mental attitude and enjoy yourself as always in the
Land of Smiles. The cold beer sellers are looking forward to your return
What’s your opinion on sexy movies? Are they a good thing or not? Would
you ever star in one, or have you done it already? Real questions,
Glued to the Box
Dear Glued to the Box,
What a strange pen name you have chosen for yourself, my Petal. Did you
use that new Supa Glue that sets in a few seconds? Was it accidental,
and was it painful? Real questions. In answer to your rather forward
queries, are sexy movies a good thing? Depends on who you watch them
with. I would have invited you over, but unfortunately you are stuck to
your TV set, which would have made it rather awkward. Hope the glue
breaks soon for you. You worry me.
Did you know that your famous consultant is possibly descended from one
of a horrid horde known as The Cor Nessie Boys? These wee scallywags
would lure unsuspecting trippers to the lochside for a small fee on the
pretext of spotting a friendly monster. They would then screech “Cor!
Nessie!” in a semen-curdling falsetto and push the punters in! The wee
beasties were eventually rounded up and exported to Botany Bay, along
with sundry haggis benders, sporran tweakers and an opera singer named
If by the “consultant” you mean is the medical consultant on these
pages, I checked with Dr. Iain and he does admit that he has been to the
lochside, like so many people, to look for the Loch Ness monster. It was
also some years ago and he was in a bus, and not surrounded by pimply
Scottish brogue-speaking youths, so he claims all innocence. He also
denies ever living in Botany Bay or any of his relatives having an
affair with “an opera singer named Sydney”. Where do you get these
fanciful notions from? After showing your email to Dr. Iain he too
expressed concern over your mental state and suggested you should
immediately double the dose of whatever it is that you are on, and then
make an appointment to see your doctor straight away.
I know you don’t agree with sending money to some of the girls in
Thailand, but I want to, OK? I don’t want to lose the money when I send
it over, so have you foolproof suggestions on how to do it? I wouldn’t
be sending big lumps, probably about 50,000 or 100,000 baht at a time.
What do you say, Hillary?
Is that Short Tim(e) or Long Tim(e) that we are looking at? Is the
100,000 baht per week or per month? (If it’s weekly, don’t worry about
the transfer, I’m coming over to get it myself, sweetheart!) However,
seriously speaking, by far the safest way is to open an account here for
her, complete with an ATM card facility. You can transfer the lovely
money from overseas quite easily and she can withdraw the lovely money
as needed, with the circumstances depending upon the health of the
buffalo, the condition of her brother’s motorcycle, the repairs to the
front gate on her mother’s house and medical expenses for her sister’s
second pregnancy, since none of the fathers wished to donate to the
family coffers. However, be assured that whatever way and for whatever
reason, you are going to lose the money in the end. Even more certain
than death and taxes!
by Harry Flashman
Polarizers assist digital cameras
There seems to be a concept in photographer’s minds that
polarizing filters are good for film cameras, but not for
digitals. This is actually quite wrong. If anything, it is the
reverse. Whilst there are no polarizer advantages unique to
digital cameras, digital cameras with limited dynamic range can
benefit greatly from the selective suppression of excess
contrast. Due to the limited UV sensitivity found in most
digital cameras, polarizers also work well for haze control,
especially with the haze we have in Thailand.
Quality polarizing filters are different from most others in the
fact that they are made up of two distinct elements. There is an
outer ring that rotates the outer “glass” relative to the inner
element. This increases or reduces the degree of polarization to
allow the photographer an endless range of polarized effects
from one filter.
The principal behind these filters is to remove reflections, and
funnily enough it is reflections that take the color out of
color photography. Look at the surface of a swimming pool, for
example - a shiny white, non-transparent surface. Now look
through a polarizing filter and you can see right down to the
tiles on the bottom of the pool. And the people frolicking in
What you have to understand now is that these filters remove
reflections from any surface, not just water. The reason you
cannot see through some normally transparent windows is because
of reflected images on the surface of the glass. The reason some
tree leaves appear to lose their color is through reflected
light from the sky above.
One of the traps for young photographers is that because you
know the grass is green, you see it as green when you look
through the camera viewfinder - even though it is not truly
green. Look again at the scene in the viewfinder. The green
grass is really a mixture of green and silvery reflections, dark
shadows and pale green shoots. Put the polarizing filter on the
lens and slowly rotate the outer ring. Suddenly the silvery
reflections disappear and become a deep, solid green color. The
grass is now made up of green, dark green and pale green. This
green will really leap out at you and smack you fair between the
Your next beach scene when taken with a polarizer will really
amaze you. Again, slowly rotate the outer ring on the polarizer.
Look critically through the viewfinder and you will see the sky
take on a much deeper color to highlight the white clouds. Keep
turning that outer ring and the sea will change to a deep blue
to green luminescent hue. The end result is at your command. Try
taking the same shot this weekend, but with varying degrees of
polarization and see the differences in the final shots.
So, if the polarizer is such a wonderful bit of gear, why do we
not make it a standard piece of equipment on all cameras? Well,
like everything, there is a downside as well as the upside. In
the case of the polarizer it does its bit of brilliance at the
expense of the amount of light that gets through to the lens.
With most polarizing filters you will lose about one and a half
stops of light. What this means is that the shutter speed will
be at least twice as long to record the same scene, or that the
aperture will have to be twice the size. This means that you are
more likely to get camera shake effects and suffer from lack of
depth of field when using the polarizer. However, with shots in
the bright sun, a polarizer will bring a new dimension to your
By the way, when using any filter on your camera, I suggest you
use a stepping ring to increase the diameter of the filter, so
there are no unwanted vignetting effects, especially with wide
angle settings. My new camera has a 55 mm diameter lens, which I
have stepped up to 62 mm and can therefore take all my old
filters. Including the polarizer.
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
The Ugly, The Bad and The Good
Part 2 - The Bad
Daily Mail city editor, Alex Brummer, recently felt
compelled to leave his normal area of comfort and understanding (the FTSE
100) and write about the bigger global economic picture in an article
entitled, “UK and world facing the biggest financial shock since the Great
Depression, says IMF”.
By now, just about everyone is aware of the IMF’s report last week whose 3
headline conclusions were:
1) The world is facing the biggest financial shock since the Great
2) Great Britain could be the country hit hardest by the global credit
crunch as it has bigger debts than anywhere else
3) The credit meltdown “has inflicted heavy damage on markets and the
financial institutions at the core of the financial system... The financial
markets crisis that erupted in August 2007 has developed into the largest
financial shock since the Great Depression.
According to IMF analysis, British banks will lose more than GBP20bn,
equivalent to three percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and as a result
the UK will fall short of Chancellor Alistair Darling’s growth forecast of
two percent this year. We still believe that the banking losses will be
higher and therefore that economic performance will be even worse.
Better late than never, the IMF has finally admitted that the American
economy is heading for recession (not really much alternative now as it is,
in reality, probably already) and it forecasts negative growth of 0.7% this
year, sufficient to cause global repercussions. However, this is based on
the assumption that American banks’ losses will be less than USD150 billion
(1.4% of US GDP). We believe that the losses will again be significantly
worse and that the economic impact far more serious.
Interestingly, despite healthy growth in the Far East, the IMF now believes
there is a 25 percent chance that the whole world could follow the Americans
into recession, acknowledging for the first time our long held fears that
the fallout can’t simply be constrained within developed economies.
The IMF now acknowledges that the losses from American mortgages will reach
$945 billion (£500 billion) - more than twice their previous estimates - but
still less than half of what we (and the most reliable analysts) ultimately
fear. The IMF also acknowledges that the U.S. housing collapse is far from
over, expecting a further 10% decline in 2008. Similarly in the UK, the rot
has much further to go and that the housing correction will continue to:
1) Impact on consumers
2) Be a drag on the economy
Finally the IMF has come around to our way of thinking that there is no
precedent or blueprint for what might happen from here.
Brummer comments that, “The apocalyptic language used by the fund is highly
unusual and reflects an unprecedented concern about the impact of the credit
crunch which has prevented banks from borrowing in the wholesale money
markets, making it all but impossible to fund new mortgage lending on both
sides of the Atlantic.”
In response, Chancellor Darling stood by his budget forecasts, claiming
“grounds for optimism”. We’ll explore these alongside our more realistic
grounds for pessimism in some future articles, but Britain remains hostage
to the U.S. and Europe (where the German economy is rapidly slowing).
The IMF is somewhere in between - “In the UK there are a number of factors
both domestically and externally holding back the economy. We do see house
prices softening and we see potential for that to continue, with an impact
on consumption. We also see the UK affected by the tightening in financial
constraints related to the turmoil in the financial market. It will also be
affected by the slowdown in the U.S. and the Euro area.”
The IMF did highlight:
1) The UK’s soaring budget deficit which is expected to hit £38 billion this
2) Britain’s national debt which is perilously close to 40 percent of
national output - the self-imposed limit under one of Gordon Brown’s fiscal
Finally, the IMF have also realized that this problem is protracted as well
as deep and will persist into 2009 (under whichever new president in the
White House) admitting that, “Downside risks especially for 2009 remain a
concern,” and that house price falls of the order that we expect, well in
excess of the IMF’s forecasts, could have serious repercussions.
The IMF fears that, other than America & Great Britain, the economies most
affected would be France, Germany and Switzerland, all of which have
significant exposure to the debts originating in the U.S. This may well
affect the Swiss franc and people may also wake up to the fact the euro is
not the old German mark. So, what are we left with if people actually want
to make money? Well with falling interest rates that rules out cash.
With the risk of sounding like a broken record, people should consider the
multi-asset class approach. Man Investments made 4.5% last month - when most
stock exchanges lost heavily and our old favourties Miton Optimal did well
Next week, let’s look at why.
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
Life in Chiang Mai:
by Mark Whitman
What has New York got that Chiang Mai,
Bangkok and the rest
of Thailand hasn’t…?
The answer to that question, in this particular article,
is simple. New Yorkers, earlier this year were privileged - indeed allowed -
to see the complete works of Thailand’s most important and original
director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Not just the masterly and widely
acclaimed Tropical Malady and the rare short films, but also his 2006 work,
Syndromes and a Century (Sang Sattawat). Uncut, of course. In its country of
origin, the censors believe that you should not see this film as the maker
intended. Regardless of your age this is forbidden territory. You have no
mind of your own. Or should I say you are not allowed to have a mind of your
In April, Sang Sattawat emerged in Bangkok. Originally the censors wanted
six scenes removed and then after protests they backed down to a mere four.
The film has premiered at the Venice Film Festival to much acclaim and had
already achieved a small but devoted following. Now I must admit immediately
that I cannot join in the praise not yet having seen it, although, to coin a
phrase, I know a ‘man’ who has.
For the ‘Thai’ version the director left the six scenes out (otherwise the
film could not be see at all) and apparently opted for silent, scratched
black film in their place - even in one censored scene lasting seven
minutes. A length of screen time that must have given the audience plenty of
time to ponder over the censor’s decision. It does not matter whether you
are 18 or 80, male or female, a graduate or a labourer, a film buff or a
casual viewer, Asian or whatever, this movie - at least in Thailand is NOT
ALLOWED. It’s ok if you happen to be in New York, Venice, Paris or
elsewhere, but not in Bangkok, where its director now lives, after studying
at the Art Institute in Chicago, having been raised in rural Thailand. So
now it has been seen in the capital - after a fashion - and who knows maybe
it will surface in Chiang Mai.
The Film Act, which has already helped spoil such imported works as Sweeney
Todd, is quite recent. In the case of that film and others they have
pixilated the screen to cover up the offending shots. Rather like putting a
cover over part of an ‘objectionable’ painting. In Victorian Britain, well
over 100 years ago, the legs of tables and pianos were covered in the houses
of middle class prudes who thought that such parts of the anatomy, (even
wooden versions), should not be seen. It appears that the Thai censors are
as out of date as my Victorian ancestors. There is an organisation called
the Free Thai Cinema Movement designed to fight such silliness. Its aims
should apply to all films shown here, which should be shown complete
provided they conform to Thai law. Just what form of censorship allows the
disgusting spate of American and Thai ‘torture’ movies to be screened here
and yet rejects the work of a major talent?
Sadly, Tropical Malady was not widely released here, but that is another
issue and relates to distribution. I think there is a growing audience for
better quality films in Thailand and there have been an increasing number of
original, albeit commercial, films and directors emerging in recent years.
Thailand has a long history of film making and ranks very high in the world
in terms of production in relation to its population. This should be
encouraged - not stamped on. After all films can make valuable foreign
currency and culturally are a wonderful, (hopefully), reflection of a
A last word on the films mentioned. The New York screenings of ‘The Films of
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’ have been and gone. No doubt they will pop out in
other parts of the world and one day in Thailand too, when the Film Act is
repealed - as it surely will be when common sense takes over and a sensible
certification system as applies in other countries is applied and run by
people who care about cinema - and the bureaucrats no longer have a say.
Meanwhile, over here rather than over there, just a few notes to make film
buffs jealous on what I’ve managed to catch up on over the past week on
screens in the south of England. Excluding, that is, repeat viewings of
films such as There Will be Blood. Any of the following on view in Chiang
Mai are well worth catching: Sidney Lumet’s stylish and poignant Before the
Devil Knows You’re Dead, the scary Spanish horror film The Orphanage, Brian
de Palma’s angry Iraq based Redacted, the engagingly nostalgic Flashbacks of
a Fool, the powerful thriller In Bruges, the mild mannered thriller, The
Oxford Murders and the heist movie, 21. And a brand new print of the
exquisitely shot The Conformist - still Bernardo Bertolucci’s best film.
Not a dud film among them and all of them shown intact. I guess there is at
least one consolation to being ‘back home’ for a while.
Let's Go To The Movies:
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Iron Man: US Action/Adventure - Superb popular entertainment.
They got it right here: all the right ingredients, served deliciously. I
predict a big hit, and more importantly, that you’ll like it very much. The
difficult and driven actor Robert Downey Jr. plays the Marvel superhero Tony
Stark, a wealthy industrialist (originally modeled on Howard Hughes) who is
forced to build an armored suit in order to escape his terrorist kidnappers,
and ultimately decides to use its technology to fight against the evil use
of weapons that he himself created. Downey is brilliant, and I cringe to
think what this film would have been like with their original choice of
star, Tom Cruise. With Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges. Early reviews:
You may as well not even try to fight it: Marvel, along with its varied
universe(s), is here to stay. Marvel is already planning two sequels to this
Iron Man. And Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk is due here on June
12, and in it Iron Man makes an appearance. So just sit back and
relax, and enjoy the action.
The Eye: US Drama/Horror - A fairly poor remake of the hugely
successful Hong Kong terror film, originally written and directed by two of
my favorite filmmakers, the Pang twins (Oxide Pang and Danny Pang). A young,
blind violinist is given a corneal transplant, and is haunted by frightening
visions. Generally negative reviews. At Airport Plaza only.
Nim’s Island: US Adventure/Family/Fantasy - Nim is a smart,
independent 11-year-old who lives with her microbiologist father Jack on an
uncharted South Pacific island. She has a life most kids would envy: no
school, a host of tame animal friends, and a whole island to herself. Then
her dad goes missing in a storm, and she turns for help to her favorite
author of adventure stories. Some nice scenery, an unexpectedly funny
performance by Jodie Foster as a neurotic writer who lives through her
novels, and a spunky Abigail Breslin as the young heroine make for an
exhilarating and enchanting family picture. Mixed or average reviews. At
Airport Plaza only.
The Forbidden Kingdom: US Action/Adventure - I thoroughly enjoyed
this movie. It’s a wrap-up and summary of every Kung Fu/martial arts movie
ever made, encapsulating every known cliché, all of the standard shots of
beautiful scenery, and nearly all the tricks of martial arts. It’s all here!
And done lovingly and with a great sense of humor and style by the tops in
the business, the legendary Jackie Chan and Jet Li. I found it quite witty
indeed. In English at Airport Plaza.
Phobia/See-prang: Thai Horror - If you at all enjoy Thai horror
films, I suggest you check this out. Four quite good horror stories by four
different Thai directors, each given the assignment of bringing in a short
horror film no longer than 25 minutes. Quite well done. Audiences have a lot
of fun screaming themselves silly. The four directors include Banjong
Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom who together as a team directed the
original famous Shutter. Here they each have their own segment to
direct. Another story is by Paween Purikitpanya, director of the bloody
Body #19, and one by Youngyoot Thongkonthun, director of the
international comedy hit, Iron Ladies.
Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon: Hong Kong Action/War -
With Andy Lau, Maggie Q. Not terribly distinguishable from the other Chinese
war epics we’ve seen here recently. Beautiful costumes: check. Stylish
weapons: check. Breathtaking landscapes: check. Armies of thousands: check.
Exciting martial arts and action sequences: usually. (Listings say English
dubbed at Airport Plaza.)
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale: US Adventure/Action -
A cheap rip-off of “Lord of the Rings.” Reviews: Extreme dislike or disgust.
At Vista only.
Vantage Point: US Drama/Thriller - Eight different views of an assassination
attempt. Fairly exciting: starts off intriguingly, and finishes in a
conventional way, with a series of car crashes. Mixed or average reviews. At
Teng’s Angel: Thai Comedy - The usual Thai comedy.
Dream Team: Thai Family/Comedy - Five-year-old boys compete in
Kindergarten tug-of-war championships. At Vista only.
Scheduled for May 8
Speed Racer: US Action/Drama - A somewhat computerized but
basically live action film from the classic anime series created by anime
pioneer Tatsuo Yoshida, with rather revolutionary visual effects. This
adaptation of the classic Japanese cartoon was filmed almost entirely in
front of a green screen, with the backgrounds drawn in later. “Speed” is a
boy who was born to race cars - he’s aggressive, instinctive, and, most of
all, fearless. John Goodman and Susan Sarandon play his parents.
What Happens in Vegas…: US Comedy/Romance - Cameron Diaz and Ashton
Kutcher star as strangers who unwittingly end up as bride and groom after a
wild night in Las Vegas. When they find that one of them won a jackpot the
night before, the two greedily fight for the loot.
Life in the laugh lane:
by Scott Jones
Western Toilet Instruction
In a petrol station toilet near Chiang Mai, this sign is posted prominently
to educate novices about the solitary, raised Western toilet they recently
installed, complete with a seat and flushing capability. There are no signs
for farangs like me, who after five years of living in Thailand, still do
not understand how to handle the hoses and buckets or lack of necessary
toilet paper, so I don’t emerge with soaked shoes and embarrassing dark
spots from the waist down, looking like I just went to the bathroom without
going to the bathroom. Since the instructions were only written in the Thai
language, the letters of which I do not know except the one pronounced “gai”
that looks like and means “chicken”, I could only guess at what the sign may
be attempting to teach. All the pictures looked pretty scary to me, so I
struggled with the squat variety and used a shiny but sharp and completely
non-absorbent magazine ad for the required clean-up. Here are my
translations of the pictures that are definitely worth a thousand meanings
I’m alone here in the stall and if I wear rubber
waders, I can do anything I want!
Cool! I can clean my shoes in here with this
neat lever that moves the water.
When I wear my weird glasses upside down, I
can’t tell where I should do what.
Wow! It’s even a birdbath for cute, little
flying white cuckoos!
Don’t add any more of your own little white
birds unless you can swim!
Maybe this thing will work even if I don’t take
off my pants.
Help! The Toilet Spirit is angry! I’ll never
come in here again!
If I lose these stupid glasses, maybe the Toilet
Spirit will leave me alone.
Welcome to Chiang Mai:
Invasion of the flying termites!
Even if you’ve read everything there is to read on and offline
about this lovely city’s seasons, weather, temperature variations and
amazing tropical rains, there’s one subject you are very unlikely to
have encountered. Ditto if you’ve not yet lived here in April/May -
expat residents don’t talk about it unless it’s happening!
New incomers, (and the rest of us!), spend most of the thankfully brief
hot, dry season bemoaning the high temperatures and dry air, wasting
large quantities of water on our parched gardens whilst watching it run
off rather than soak in, dreading the next aircon-inflated electricity
bill and searching the skies for clouds which might, just, bring that
first welcome storm which signals the beginning of the rainy season.
Finally it happens, usually in the evening - rain, thunder, more rain…
wonderful! Sit on the terrace, enjoy the cool wind, and stare at the
falling sheets of rain as if you’d never seen them before. All is well…
BUT! What’s that? And those? And these? All of a sudden you’re enveloped
in a huge cloud of flying insects, all desperately trying to get to the
lights and into the house! At that point you remember that you’ve left
the insect screens open in several rooms, and the lights on…
Congratulations, you’re now experiencing your first “invasion of the
flying termites”! Next step is to shut all the windows, (remembering
that window-shutting won’t deter the most determined amongst the
horrible hoards), switch off all outside lights in the hope they’ll go
away, (they won’t!), pick up the nearest newspaper, (not the Mail, we
hope), roll it up and do murder. For at least an hour. This is
absolutely necessary - after all, these things are termites determined
to lay eggs, which will develop into grubs with large teeth which eat
houses… or so you’ve been told. If you’re fortunate enough to have a
swimming pool, you’ll need to spend at least another hour the following
morning scooping out the massed remains of at least ten thousand of the
little horrors, at which point you will discover the tens of thousands
more that have sunk to the bottom! Suicidal termites...or don’t they
realise they can’t swim?
By now, “Ain’t Nature wonderful” has a slightly hollow ring… This is
possibly not the time to ring your developer and ask whether all wood
used in the construction of your brand new home has been properly
protected. It’s tempting, but you may not appreciate his answer. Of
course, you haven’t yet realised the really bad news; this invasion and
its consequences continues for most nights for at least two weeks, along
with the rain. Maybe the Thai style outdoor kitchen wasn’t such a good
idea after all, particularly since you’ve now begun to appreciate the
true meaning of the well known phrase and saying ,”In Your Face”.
Talking with expat friends, before their arrival in Chiang Mai the main
“fauna” concerns seemed to focus on snakes, spiders, scorpions,
centipedes, rats, rabies, and mosquitoes carrying all kinds of
disgusting diseases from dengue fever to malaria. Once we’d all survived
our first encounter with flying termites, we were all agreed - they’re
the worst! Possibly because they arrive in their millions and get
everywhere, in your hair, in your food, in the pool, on the dogs, on the
floor, in your bed, everywhere. The other resident horrors seem more
controllable, somehow. Snakes - seen rarely in domestic situation and
mainly of a harmless variety - although once you’ve spotted one in your
garden it will get out of your way too quickly for you to identify it
from your specially purchased book on that fascinating subject. Result -
you’ll never know which of you had a better chance of killing the other.
A friend’s response to finding a snake in his bathroom was, in a moment
of confusion, to attack it with his bath mat. This is not a recommended
solution! Spiders - the larger, nastier ones are, again, rarely seen
around homes. If we ever do see one of that type, the screams will be
heard all over the city. Scorpions - you may occasionally meet a few,
both large and small, but, like your average snake, they are more scared
of us that we are of them. However, a hefty whack or two with a large
flip-flop should solve the scorpion problem fairly fast. Ditto
centipedes, especially the large, revolting-looking ones! Rats, again
rarely seen, except in certain areas of the city which used to be known
as “backpacker land”. Rabies - very rare, but it’s a good idea to avoid
long and affectionate conversations with street dogs, however cute -
that way you’ll avoid their fleas and ticks as well. Mosquitoes - part
of life’s rich pattern. EVERYONE, though, detests those darn termites!
Except, of course, the geckos, who can’t believe their luck.
This article is published courtesy
of the “Welcome to Chiang Mai” folder, available as an email
attachment from:- [email protected]
HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?:
Stuart Rodger - The Englishman’s Garden, Chiang Dao
Glorious Red, Yellow and Purple
Right now, the roadsides of Chiang Mai are ablaze with the vibrant colours
of trees in blossom, all of which are valued worldwide for their spectacular
floral exuberance. The purple blossoms are from Loundon’s “crepe myrtle”, a
native of Thailand, and the even larger bloomed Lagerstroemeria speciosa,
which spreads throughout Asia. Its exceptionally hard wood rivals that of
teak, and is highly valued.
The brilliant red flowers of Delonix regia are world-renowned for
their fantastic flaming display. This tree hails from Madagascar, an island
famous for its amazing and unique flora. Its spread throughout the tropics
didn’t take long after its discovery, as sailors on leave in Madagascar’s
ports collected the seed pods, and took them home with them. This tree was
easy to identify for the purpose, as its seed pods take a year to mature,
and are ripe for picking when the tree is in flower the following year. As a
result, when sailors noticed and admired the beautiful blooms, the seed pods
were right there, ripe and hanging on the tree. A temptation impossible to
resist! Sadly, it is now almost extinct in its native habitat, an
illustration of how important it is to be able to give refuge in one’s
garden to specimens of endangered plant and tree species. To balance its
large, spreading canopy, D. regia has an aggressive root system, so should
be placed at a safe distance from buildings, masonry, paths and ponds.
The amazing Indian Laburnum, Cassia fistula, is also in its full
glory at present. Made famous in Thailand by the highly successful
Rachapruak, (the tree’s name in Thai), floral exhibition held in celebration
of the 60th anniversary of His Majesty the King’s Coronation, an example of
the tree took pride of place on a mound right by the entrance to the
exhibition. Because of its name and its yellow flowers, (yellow being the
Royal colour), it is called the “Royal Tree”, or “King’s Tree”. Its hanging
racemes in brilliant yellow are breathtaking to behold.
Tabebuia chrysantha has lovely bunches of yellow trumpet-shaped
blooms which burst forth after rain. This tree originates from the West
Indies through to Mexico and across to Peru. A different variety, T.
chrysostricha, has leaves which are covered in rusty coloured hairs and have
seed pods that are similarly pubescent. This variety comes from Columbia and
Brazil, and is a smaller size, ideal for street planting or in the smaller
Tip of the Week
Be cautious when buying Lagerstroemeria, as it does not take kindly
to re-planting and should be carefully root-pruned well in advance
before digging up and transplanting to another site. If a large
amount of money is involved, make sure your supplier takes
responsibility for the tree’s survival in the form of a guarantee.