The Doctor's Consultation: by Dr. Iain Corness
BPPV - A fearsome condition - or am I spinning you a yarn?
Benign Paroxysmal Positional
Vertigo (BPPV) is a very common, but very distressing condition. In it, you
feel that the room spins around you and you cannot stop it. Have you ever
been so drunk that when you lie down on the bed the spinning rotation is so
bad you grip the edges of the bed to stop falling off? That is what BPPV is
like - but without the hangover!
The symptoms of BPPV include dizziness (vertigo), lightheadedness,
imbalance, and nausea. Activities that bring on symptoms will vary, but are
almost always produced by a rapid change of position of the head. Getting
out of bed or turning over in bed are common ‘problem’ motions. Because
people with BPPV often feel dizzy and unsteady when they tip their heads
back to look up, BPPV is sometimes called ‘top shelf vertigo.’ Women with
BPPV may find that being shampooed can bring on the symptoms too. It also
tends to be recurrent. So until you read further, don’t look up or get your
To understand BPPV, you have to understand the workings of your inner ear.
You have three semi-circular canals aligned in different directions, which
act like spirit levels (the builders type, not the three fingers on the
whiskey glass barman type) which have cells with fine hairs bathed with
fluid as your head moves in different directions. The movement of the fine
hairs sends electrical impulses to the brain to tell it (and you) which way
However, with BPPV, the natural movement inside the semi-circular canals is
disrupted, so the fine hairs send the wrong signals to the brain, and being
unable to work out which way is really “up” the sufferer falls over, totally
unable to save themselves from hitting the floor. Debilitating and
The commonest cause of interruption to the normal ebb and flow in the
semi-circular canals is produced by “ear rocks”. These are made up of
crystals of calcium carbonate, and we medicos call these “otoconia”. Imagine
these to be like sugar crystals in the bottom of your coffee cup. These now
swish around every time you move your cup, and likewise your “ear rocks”
swish around every time you move your head.
However, it is not all that simple (it never is, is it?) as the commonest
cause of BPPV in people under 50 is head injury. In older people, the most
common cause is degeneration in the semi-circular canals of the inner ear.
BPPV becomes much more common with advancing age, but in 50 percent of all
cases, BPPV is called ‘idiopathic’, which is a fancy word we use when we
have no real idea as to the cause!
Viruses can be accused too, such as those causing vestibular neuritis, minor
strokes such as those involving anterior inferior cerebellar artery (AICA)
syndrome, and Meniere’s disease are significant but unusual causes.
Occasionally BPPV follows surgery, where the cause is felt to be from a
prolonged period of lying on the back with the chin raised (for the
anesthetic tubes to slip down your throat), or ear trauma when the surgery
is to the inner ear.
Because there are some other conditions which can produce similar symptoms,
it is necessary to correctly identify the cause. Today, specialist clinics
(Hearing, Speech, Balance, Tinnitus) can identify the true nature of your
recurrent dizzy spells (so you may not have to take more water with it) and
look towards the correct further actions.
Is there any treatment? Yes there is, usually a series of maneuvers you are
put through which are designed to move the ‘ear rocks’ around till they no
longer cause problems. These are demonstrated by the balance specialists and
usually result in around a 90 percent cure rate.
If you are a sufferer from what looks like BPPV, do check in and have this
investigated. No need to suffer needlessly!
Don’t Miss 318
March 26 at the
Chiang Mai Museum, on the Superhighway at Chang Peek sub-district,
Muang. If you’ve always been fascinated by things Japanese, this is for
you - a lecture demonstration of the Zen and Chado tea ceremony. Given
by Fumiko Boughley, Cultural Ambassador of Japan, this interesting event
will be held between 10 a.m. and 11.45 a.m. For more info, please phone
the museum on 053-221-308.
March 26-27. Nakhon
Payap International School is holding a musical theatre staging
featuring a number of international students, entitled, ‘Honk Jr - the
Musical’ at its new auditorium on the Second Ring Road. The show will
begin at 6 30 p.m., and tickets cost a mere 70 baht, with a 50 baht
charge for students. To reserve tickets or for further info, please
call the school on 053-110-680, ext. 101, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to
4.30 p.m. If that doesn’t work, try calling Ploy, the school’s PR
manager, on 089-999-0858 or 089-433-7133!
March 29: Suriya
Gallery will host the latest of its cultural talks, beginning at
6.30 p.m, with an illustrated presentation given by Jacqueline Suter,
entitled ‘Hide and Seek’. Jackie will give guests a unique glimpse into
the dilemmas faced by contemporary Burmese artists as they try to
express their interpretations of present-day Burmese society without
falling foul of the Junta and its minions! Rare works of art not
previously shown in public will be featured. For more info, please
visit Suriya Gallery’s blog at pansuriya.wordpress.com
March 30: The next
Chiang Mai Friends’ Group meeting will take place at Track of the
Tiger’s office on 22/8 Moo 4 Mahidol Rd, T. Nong Hai, A. Muang,
beginning as usual with the Friends’ Dinner at 5.30 p.m.; the meeting
itself follows at 7 p.m. The speaker will be Komsan Pausri, the chief
of Chiang Mai’s Labour Department, who will share information and tell
many tales about working in Thailand. To follow, Shane Barry will
present the Eco-Logical teaching volunteer program, and provide
information on village visits which help to promote environment,
education and integration. The evening meal will be provided by the
Just Khao Soi restaurant; guests can order from the menu - dinner and
meeting fee is 350 baht, meeting only is 80 baht. See you there!
April 3: The Textile
Group are planning their next field trip, which will be to Sop Moie
Arts, a fascinating shop located on Chareonraj Road, specialising in the
traditional arts, including beautiful woven items of the Pwo Karen
people. Kent Gregory, one of Sop Moie’s founders, will be on hand to
explain the compelling mission of his group, which seeks to better the
lives of the Pwo Karen people by providing commercial markets for their
textiles, baskets and other handicrafts. The products they make are
very high quality and in demand throughout the globe. The event will
begin at 12 noon. For further info please see the CMTW listing for the
Textile Group on this page.
April 9-30: CMU’s
Faculty of Fine Arts together with the Promotion of Northern Thai
Craftsmen’s Group present an exhibition entitled, ‘The Wisdom of Lanna
Arts, and Craftsmen 2009’. Featured will be demonstrations of tradition
local crafts, a northern Thai food cooking competition, a northern Thai
traditional market with northern Thai music and a traditional drum
competition. The exhibition, at the CMU Arts Centre opposite the
Convention Centre on Nimmanhaeminda Road, is free to visitors, and will
open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. from April 9 to 15 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the
remaining days, closed Mondays. For more info please call 053-944-814
or visit the website on www.finearts.cmu.ac.th
Heart to Heart
Can nothing be done about the public transport here? The song taew
drivers give the place a bad name with their stand-over tactics and
demands for fares much greater than should be the case. No wonder the
foreign tourists look for taxis, but unless they have their wits about
them they will again be quoted exorbitant fares, rather than using the
meters. This seems to be the norm for all of the taxis parked at the
side of the street. For a real fun time, try a tuk-tuk which will
attempt to take you straight to the nearest jewelry shop that pays for
their fuel. Until our city fathers meet the song taew monopoly head on
and produce a real public transport system, this will always be a third
world tourist destination.
“Where you go?”
Dear “Where you go?”
Unfortunately you are quite correct in most of your comments, my Petal.
The songthaews which do not have any fixed or marked destination will
always be a turn-off for tourists, as the majority of the drivers do not
speak another language. Why would you expect them to get on transport
with unmarked destinations? Taxis advertise meters and refuse to use
them, or “meter broken” every time. Perhaps it is time for the TAT to
get involved and issue ‘tourist bus’ licenses for drivers who meet a
minimum standard in communication. Hillary has given up with the
songthaews, taxis and tuk-tuks, and uses motorcycle taxis when possible
(still none in Chiang Mai). They appear to be a friendlier bunch and
will heed the “cha-cha” (slowly) instructions. You do have to barter
first, but that’s part of the fun of living in the ‘third world’.
My wife always forgets when her visa runs out and it always ends up with
me paying for overstays. I even said I would handle it if she wanted, so
that this did not happen all the time, but she asserts her independence
all the time and calls it interfering if I say I’ll take charge of it.
This has happened more than just a couple of times too.
Dear Visa Val,
You have come to the right person as yours is an easy problem to fix
(permanently). Your wife wants independence above all else, so give it
to her. Let her overstay and let her pay for the overstays at whatever
it is a day at the current going rate. With any luck it will cost so
much they won’t let her back in and all your future woes are fixed at
the same time.
Please give that Mister Singha person the old heave-ho. Or if you can’t
do it through age or infirmity, let us know and we’ll happily do it for
you. We are tired of reading the drivel he comes out with.
Carl Saberg and the boys
Dear Carl (Saberg and the boys),
I think you are even more out of date than I am, my Petal. Carlsberg? Or
“Carlsaberg” as it was known, hasn’t been seen on these shores for some
years. But you have to remember the commercial side to all this - he did
send me a bar of Lindt chocolate, which is more than you have! Not that
it is compulsory to send me little gifts (but large ones are even more
Have you seen that funny photo of your venerable consultant clutching
his second edition? He looks as high as a kite and I haven’t laughed so
much since Uncle Jumbo caught his wotsit in the trouserpress! What’s he
on, Hillary? What is the old boy on?
I was about to consign you to the round file in the corner of the room,
but I relented, just to show you there are no hard feelings. The Lindt
chocolate bar did help your cause, but the goodwill from that is rapidly
running out. You have also got me in a quandary, Petal. References to
consultants and “Uncle Jumbo”? What are you on, Mistersingha? What are
Why do the Thai girls all wear those molded plastic and rubber bras that
look like two dumplings attached to the front of their chests? It is
obvious that the lumps don’t belong to them, but come from their bra
manufacturer. I’m like a lot of guys and like a nice pair on a girl, but
real ones, not rubber ones, please.
Tim the T-man
Dear Tim the T-man,
I presume you mean Tim the Toyman, you naughty little Petal! I must
admit that I have never heard the girls in the lingerie shops asking if
madam would like one lump or two, as I have heard in some five star
restaurants over coffee. Perhaps something swinging is going on behind
the kitchen swinging doors that Hillary is unaware of. Dearie me! Since
Thai girls were standing behind the door when the chests were given out
(the Russian ladies made it to the front row), we have to do something
to catch the eye of Toymen like you, Tim. So you have discovered our
secret. Don’t tell everyone, that’s a good boy.
by Harry Flashman
Painting with ‘dark’
first photographic studio was in a large building which had its
own theatre for marketing activities. Unfortunately the business
that had occupied the building went bankrupt, so there were no
tenants, but I knew the caretaker, and I scored the theatre area
that could be used for photography.
The theatre stage had all the lights you could imagine,
footlights, overhead lights, spots, flares, everything. It even
had an enormous sound system, so I could blow my ears off while
setting up photographic sets for the commercial photography I
was doing at that time. With all the theatre’s tungsten
lighting, I used no flash, but compensated for the color shift
by using blue gels over the theatre lights. Actually I had too
much light, but it was all part of the learning curve.
My next studio was in a large waterfront building that had been
a warehouse. I rented an area and then I painted everything
white. Floors, doors, walls, windows. I had decided that I
wanted to be able to use small apertures, so I needed as much
light as I could get. By this stage I had also graduated to
multiple flash units, so I had lighting that would have
brightened up the darkest days. I could shoot at f32 easily with
my Broncolor flash heads. There was only one problem. I could
not get sufficient shadow to produce a good 3D effect. I was
getting flat 2D pictures. I resorted to making huge flats
(walls) which were painted matt black to try and get some
shadow. The results were better, but the lighting was still not
where I wanted it to be.
In the third studio, I used what I had learned from the first
two and I painted the entire studio black - floors, doors, walls
and windows. Now I could get good shadows, show form and even
shoot mysterious images. I called this stage in my photographic
career ‘painting with dark’.
Dark shadows allow the viewer to imagine what is being hidden.
Your photograph “hints” at something and the viewer’s mind does
the rest from there. This is used to great effect in ‘glamour’
photography (as opposed to pornography, by the way).
I found that it was much easier to begin with total darkness and
then add the lighting I wanted (or needed) to produce the
effect. I could gain complete control over the lighting, with no
stray bouncing light to complicate and confuse, as had been the
problem with my white studio.
Look at the two shots this week, of the dark-skinned girl in the
black studio. In the first shot there are two light sources, a
front light with a square ‘softbox’ fitted (look at the
reflections in the eyes) and one hair light to the right rear.
Now look at the second shot, which had three light sources - a
front light and two hair lights from either side, producing a
more stark shot compared to the other moody dark shot. Even
though there is some light spill in both shots, there is no
resulting extraneous lighting to dilute the blackness. Painting
with dark, I called it!
The third shot has three lights. A front light, a hair light and
one very strong light into the black background, causing it to
‘blow out’. This shot is memorable because of the very sharp
contrasts between light and dark.
Try to remember that darkness (shadow) can be even more
important than light at times.
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
Where do we go from here? Part 3
If you have suffered major
losses in a serious economic downturn, the relevant argument is to look at
whether or not it is clearly better to remain invested or not. The answers may
surprise some readers. There have been many periods when, having been hurt by
the onset of a downturn, it is better for investors to cut their losses rather
than remaining invested as per the primary indices.
The chart on this page shows this much better than I can attempt to describe.
An investor would have been much better exiting the markets in 1900, 1929 and
1966 than remaining invested until the cycle lows of 1903, 1932 and 1975. In
particular, let us focus on the most comparable previous major downturns. An
investor who decided to hold and wait for the recovery after the market crash of
1929 (when the market fell around 35% from the peak to the year end) would have
incurred a further loss of 34% in 1930 and then another loss of 53% in 1931. In
fact, by the time the low was reached in 1932, an investor who stayed with the
market would have seen the value of $100,000 reduced to just $10,814. An
investor who had simply exited the Dow after the initial carnage of 1929 would
have been almost SEVEN times better off. Our analysis of the data since then
shows that if the Dow falls in a calendar year, there is a 38% chance that it
will fall as well in the following year and the average fall in such a year is
in excess of 20%.
Generally, the odds of a rising year after a falling year are reasonable; around
three out of every five years following losing years tend to yield gains.
However, the losing years tend to be heavy losses. Specifically, in a situation
of the magnitude of the current crunch, precedent suggests that we should expect
three more years of pain to follow and that the losses of 2008 might be less
than half way down to the bottom.
We would emphasise that every situation is different - we have never exactly
been here before and investment opinion is fiercely split as to what could
happen next. But to say that history would vindicate a passive holding strategy
at this point is completely misleading.
The cost of making the wrong choice at this time can be devastating - this is
not a short term problem. Again, let us look to history for guidance. From 1900
to 1943, the Dow yielded an annual rate of return of just 2.3% per year. In real
terms, there has been a fifty year period when the Dow returned less than 0.5%
per year. In more recent times, from 1962 to 1982 the DJIA increased at a rate
of just 2.4% per year. These are the dangers of buy-and-hold investing.
Now let’s look at the flip side of the coin. Without doubt, there are also good
times. Simple maths dictates that there is a 60% chance of making money
following a bad year. However, it is choosing where to go and what to do so as
to reduce your risk that makes the difference.
I would highlight there is still good money to be had. For instance,
distressed property funds and distressed corporate bonds - these offer
exceptional opportunities at clearly defined risks to the analytical buyer at
the right time. Gold still looks good as does the multi-asset class approach.
For those with a more adventurous outlook then Venture Capital and Private
Equity can offer good returns but the potential downside is big as well.
The biggest shake up in the global economic landscape since the onset of the
Great Depression has caused us to make a number of changes to our portfolios and
we anticipated this scenario … any portfolio that was not positioned for these
momentous events and yet still is not reacting is holding assets that have no
relation to the prevailing economic situation. We fail to see how that can make
any kind of sense from a risk-adjusted perspective. To our way of thinking it
makes no sense to do nothing when the world is changing so quickly. Ostriches
may bury their heads in the sand but good portfolio managers remain vigilant at
all times - never more so than now!
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
That’s all Folks
And don’t forget the incomparable L’Atalante…
A sure sign of encroaching
senility is living in the past, married with the disconcerting habit of
being unable to remember where you put your spectacles. This was brought
home to be a couple of weeks ago, (again!), when I quoted verbatim what a
schoolmaster had said to me when I was about 15. Musing on this final
column, (before a trip back to the U.K.), I recalled something another
teacher said around the same time and which also stuck with me.
What’s surprising is that I can hardly recall another thing about those
seven years of so-called education. Only Economics and English interested me
and the rest has been picked up since—geography through travel, French from
innumerable visits to that delectable, irritating country, a distrust of
religion through non-observance of any and most else from music, countless
books and 20,000 movies and the social and cultural values imparted by
directors such as Rossellini, Satyajit Ray and geniuses such as Dreyer, Ozu
So why remember the following observation? Possibly because it was delivered
with the world-weary cynicism that comes with having to teach youngsters
whose anxiety for the lesson to end is outweighed only by that of the
teacher in question. (I’d recommend a maximum sentence of two years to
anyone as a teacher – a salutary experience – but no more).
This man considered that there were only two types of person in the world;
one ‘group’ will, without malice – unwittingly, even carelessly – leave a
trap (say an open manhole cover) unattended, into which we fall and break a
leg. The second will contrive a trap, say an open man-hole cover, open quite
deliberately, into which we fall and break a leg.
I invite you to ponder on this and find analogies. Put it more simply. There
are those who cross the road to avoid contributing to a charity collection
box and there are those who cross in order to make that contribution. Givers
and takers. Parasites and activists. Just as there are people in authority
who are bone idle and so non-confrontational that they allow bad things to
happen. Smog in cities. Deaths on the road through lax driving instruction
and inadequate tests. More deaths through the non-wearing of helmets. The
widespread use and abuse of animals, such as street-living elephants, ill
run zoos and animal parks. Drunk driving at night. And the actions of
bullies who harangue people so that they are unable to exercise their human
There are others in authority who actively ‘encourage’ all of the above,
since it is in their financial interest to do so. Laxness helps line the
pockets of those who half heartedly ‘enforce’ laws such as the wearing of
helmets. Allowing the smog in cities avoids a confrontation with farming
neighbours and with the rot daeng, whose level of pollution is not
checked. Not stopping masked protestors also saves problems and even
encourages them, thereby keeping favour with a particular group.
So, passively or actively, things that need to be faced up to are ignored.
Nothing gets done, in cities throughout the world.
The game may be played endlessly. As I said, the givers and the takers. The
organisers and those who follow. The pro-active and the lazy. The cruel and
the humane. The veggies and the foie gras officiandos. The hesitant and the
quick. The mean and the generous. And so on and so on. You will, of course,
come to the conclusion that there is a third group, which does not fall into
either ‘extreme’ category.
It is, though, worth recalling the saying that if you are not against
something, then you are for it. Complacency is not an option. Personally,
you may choose not to cross the road to avoid or seek out a collection box,
but if you pass it by without consideration or ignore the social and
cultural life of a city, that is no excuse. If you don’t replace the open
man-hole covers so that passers-by no longer fall into them and break a leg,
you are as culpable as those who left the trap.
Whatever you plan to do on April 3, here is a better alternative. Alliance
française (details on another page) are continuing their current excellent
season of French movies and, on this coming Friday, will be screening one of
the defining masterpieces of cinema – Jean Vigo’s L’Atalante,
starring Michel Simon with Dita Parlo and Jean Daste as the lovers. This was
Vigo’s only full length work (he made shorts, A Propos de Nice and
the great Zero de Conduite – all under an hour). It is a ‘simple’
story of life on a barge, of lovers parted, and contains arguably the most
beautiful sequence in French cinema as the husband Jean dives into the
river, swimming below the surface in order to recapture memories of the
woman who has left him. Vigo died very young. But movies come and movies go,
and L’Atalante lives on for ever. It is quirky, tender, exquisite and
unique and makes the lumpen fare which passes for current cinema seem very,
very feeble and, above all, desperately old fashioned.
Let's Go To The Movies:
Now playing in Chiang Mai
The Reader: US/ Germany, Drama/ Romance – Wonder of wonders,
The Reader has been extended at Major Cineplex, though for how long is a
question – perhaps only a few more showings. I find it astonishing that it
appeared here at all, let along last more than a week. Many thanks to
Major Cineplex for bringing this fine film to Chiang Mai. I recommend it
and urge you to see it while you can, to experience the story and the
Oscar-winning performance of Kate Winslet.
It also stars Ralph Fiennes and the young David Cross. It’s about an
unrepentant Nazi war criminal – a female guard at a concentration camp – and
her long-ago affair with a young boy. There is enough intelligent,
compelling material here to make it a worthwhile meditation about the
post-World War II implications of the Holocaust upon the German psyche and
as the tale of the tragedy suffered by one man because, at a vulnerable time
of his life, he fell in love with the wrong person.
Rated R in the US for some scenes of sexuality and nudity. Mixed or average
Seven Pounds: US, Drama/ Romance – I find this a truly dreadful movie,
and it makes me feel very uncomfortable just to talk about it. I think it’s
grim, morose, undone by an illogical plot, and shamelessly manipulative of
your emotions. But I must admit Will Smith is a charismatic actor, and if
you watch it you will get involved. In this unbelievable and exasperating
story, Smith plays an IRS agent who is depressed and guilt-ridden about
mistakes from his past, and sets out to make amends by helping seven
In preparation, you might ponder Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice,
and consider what the weight of a human heart actually is. Generally
Meat Grinder: Thai, Horror – A slasher/horror, torture-porn thriller
about a noodle-shop lady who serves up a special meat with her dishes.
Shades of Sweeney Todd!
Dragonball Evolution: US, Action/ Adventure/ Fantasy/ Sci-Fi – This
film doesn’t open in the US/UK until April 8; they’re testing it on us here
in Asia! It’s the tale of young warrior Son Goku, who seeks to fulfill his
grandfather’s dying request to find the great Master Roshi (a very
delightful Chow Yun Fat) and gather all seven magic Dragonballs before the
evil Piccolo does. Feels much like being caught inside an arcade computer
game, but with less logic. Based on the hugely popular 1984 Japanese manga
by Akira Toriyama which lasted for 519 issues. This live-action film,
directed by James Wong (Willard, Final Destination), is vastly
confusing to all who have not read all 519.
Miss You Again / A-Nueng Kidthueng Pen Yang Ying: Thai, Comedy/ Drama –
The third in director Bhandit Rittakol’s popular teen romance series. In
Thai only, with no English subtitles.
Watchmen: US/ UK/ Canada – Action/ Drama/ Fantasy/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller –
This film simply blew me away! Once you accept the violence and the
comic-book origins, you will find this a monumental film. If you liked
The Dark Knight or A Clockwork Orange, you should appreciate
this. It’s complex and multi-layered, and set in an alternate 1985
America. Amidst all the blood there’s a lot of philosophy, and a lot to
think about before you see it again. Rated R in the US for strong graphic
violence, sexuality, nudity, and language. Mixed or average reviews.
Bolt: US Animation/ Comedy/ Family – John Travolta does a superb job
voicing Bolt, a canine TV star convinced of his superpowers who sets out on
a cross-country journey to find his owner. I found this whole enterprise a
complete delight, containing many moments of real heart. If you at all
enjoy animation, don’t miss this one. Generally favorable reviews.
Best of Times: Thai Romance/ Drama – A leisurely romantic drama that
centers on two couples, young and old. A young vet struggles to forget his
first love, but when he meets her again years later she doesn’t seem to
remember him at all. And an elderly man and woman, each alone in the world,
meet and fall in love. I found it tedious and unremarkable, though I did
enjoy the performances of the older couple.
Scheduled for Mar 26
Knowing: Australia/US, Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – A teacher opens
a time capsule that has been dug up at his son’s elementary school; in it
are some chilling predictions – some that have already occurred and others
that are about to – that lead him to believe his family plays a role in the
events that are about to unfold. Starring Nicolas Cage.
Khan Kluay 2: Thai, Animation/ Adventure – The legendary elephant is
back in action in this sequel to the animated movie Khan Kluay. It’s
set after the victory at Ayuthaya against the invasion of the powerful
Burmese Empire, when Khan Kluay is appointed King Naresuan’s royal elephant.
HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?: Elena Edwards
The good, the bad and the impractical
‘It’ll be great to have time
to create a garden!’ A phrase frequently heard in harsher climes, spoken
with longing by those who’ve made the decision to up, leave, and deposit
themselves in the vicinity of Chiang Mai, known (rather optimistically right
now) as the ‘Rose of the North.’
Those of us who either
weren’t born with green fingers (or enough time management and
organisational skills to work ‘gardening’ into our hectic Western schedules)
were possibly well-used to gazing out of our double-glazed windows at an
approximation of a horticultural junkyard. Which, of course, regularly
reduced itself to a pile of dead leaves during the winter season. In the UK,
garden centres don’t even begin stocking ‘bedding plants’ (so-called because
after planting around 100 of the darn things, one has to retire to bed to
rest one’s back) until the end of May. The end of May, already…by September,
being annuals, they’re all dead! On a first visit to Chiang Mai,
open-mouthed amazement at the sight of flowers and greenery everywhere
coincides with the realisation that ‘Of course! It never gets cold here!’
Usually followed by the thought that, once safely installed, one can just
plant anything that appeals and let it get on with it. Mmmmmm.
During the first several
weeks after arrival, you lounge on your terrace, gazing at the expanse of
grass you’d ordered to be laid before your arrival, and realise that you’ve
got rather more of an area than you’d allowed for. Why is it so difficult to
visualise square metres? Never mind, plants are so cheap here. Next trick:
head, full of anticipation, for Kam Thieng, in your shiny, newly purchased
car with its immaculate interior…
Once there, the open-mouthed
amazement syndrome sets in again, but this time it’s different. This time,
you realise that not only are there literally thousands of varieties to
choose from, but also that you’ve not the faintest idea what most of them
are, how large they grow, whether they’re ‘shade’ or ‘sun’ varieties, etc,
etc. Panic! Result: you grab several rather large examples of something that
looks vaguely familiar and has pretty flowers on it. Next shock: you live
too far out of town for delivery, a fact which has been made known to you
with the help of a passing vaguely bi-lingual Thai. Hint: learn the basics
of the language before you get here. Gazing sadly at the (hitherto)
immaculate interior of that shiny new car, you realise that you have a
choice: a hell of a cleaning job or a songthaew. Then you remember
that you won’t be able to direct the driver to your moo baan (back to
hint). No choice there, then. Two hours later, having chosen the ‘in for a
penny, in for a pound’ option, you find yourself crammed in your car with a
large number of unfamiliar horticultural delights, most of which are
deliberately preventing you from either seeing out of the windows or finding
the gear stick and at least two of which are extremely prickly. After
forcing yourself to repeat the process at least twice a week for a month,
you decide that your lovely new garden is now stocked. At this point, due to
the state of your car’s interior, you’ve stopped offering lifts to new
acquaintances. By the end of the month, you’re lounging (slightly stiffly,
due to all that digging) on your terrace again with your new garden
beautifully planned, planted and blooming. That, you may think, is that.
Problem no. 1. Soil. By now,
you’ve noticed that, under your grass (which is about to become problem no.
2) is enough builders’ rubble to build another, slightly smaller house.
Around now, you begin to remember reading that chemicals in concrete, cement
dust, etc. are seriously unfriendly to plants. This possibly explains the
depressed appearance of certain of your treasures. Usually the more
expensive varieties, plus the absence of worms for at least 6 months! Snakes
yes, worms no. Don’t worry, though, just empty bags of fertiliser over
everything and wait for a year or so. Nature wins out in the end, as you’ll
notice every time it rains by the huge number of worms wriggling everywhere.
One tip, though. Don’t waste expensive fertiliser on your bougainvilleas.
They’ll grow anywhere, even on Mars!
Problem no. 2. Grass. Or the
lack of it. Worse yet, if you have succumbed to several of Care for Dogs’
cuties. The almost total lack of it. Remember that your developer, from whom
you ordered topsoil and grass, passed on your order to someone else, who dug
up some soil from the nearest patch of uncultivated land, dumped it in your
garden and threw some turves on top. Watering and fertilising? Wrong, again.
You arrived some weeks or months later. What did you expect? Two remedies:
get the entire area bricked over, or wait until you can’t stand the dust/mud
any longer and replace with Malaysian grass. You know, the more expensive,
broad-leaved stuff you thought you’d ordered and paid for originally? Right.
Problem no. 3. Descriptions.
Bush – in the West, a small, fat, green object rarely growing taller than 4
feet. Out here, a small, fat green object which won’t stop growing until
it’s the height of the house. Solution: chop it. It won’t die on you,
promise. Plants are supposed to grow tall to reach up to the sun. If you
don’t chop like crazy, some of them will probably get there! Given the
almost daily sunshine in CM, we can’t see the urgency, but then, we’re not a
Bamboo – a tall, decorative
and extremely useful grass, certain varieties of which will not spread
underground and come up in the middle of your living room. Of course, you
have been assured that the variety you have just bought will stay where it’s
put. Rule no. 1: don’t believe a word you’re told. Within 3 months, you’ll
be living in a bamboo grove. Just don’t go there. Admire the huge clumps
along the roadsides outside town instead, and take heed. They didn’t get
that size by accident.
‘Traveller’ palms, with
their huge, beautiful leaves…oh boy, do they ‘travel.’ Upwards, and upwards,
and ever upwards, finally necessitating the re-siting of your satellite
dishes and any ‘sun’ plants that are in their ever-encroaching shade. Is it
really worth it?
bougainvilleas, see under ‘bush,’ but also, they should be fitted with
warning signs as the spikes on their stems can grow to at least 2 inches
long. Ouch! However, they are undeniably beautiful, which is why we keep an
industrial-sized supply of plasters rather than digging them up and giving
them to our worst enemy.
Problem no. 4. Bugs. And
funguses. And plant diseases. All of which, as this is Thailand, are
unfamiliar. And you don’t want to use chemicals, particularly as you can’t
read the labels on the bottles! A local remedy, spraying with soapy water,
gets you very clean plants. All still bug, disease and fungus-ridden.
Sometimes, your precious plants die, most times they don’t, especially if
you rip off infected leaves. Yet another reason to control the height of
bushes. Falling off a ladder whilst ripping off leaves is not an acceptable
option as it means the bugs have won!
But let’s fast-forward to
the third anniversary of your arrival, exhausted and rather nervous, at CNX.
Lounging, again, on your terrace, you look out at what is now a lovely,
albeit slightly over-stocked garden. The trees you planted have grown tall
enough to let you walk past them without hitting your head on at least 6
branches. The new grass is green and lush, even under said trees, you’ve
tamed the bushes, and even found out the names of some of the varieties. The
hour you spend each morning during the dry season soaking anything that
stands still (including the Care for Dogs’ cuties) is considered well worth
it, and you’ve come to terms with the bugs, the plant diseases and the
funguses. After all, even insects have to eat! Yes, you’ve created a garden,
in spite of everything! Now what are you going to do with your spare time?
Bridge in Paradise :
by Neil Robinson
This rather fun hand was reported by Andrew Robson. With North dealing and
no one vulnerable, this was the bidding:
North East South West
3N P 7C All pass
North opened a gambling 3N,
showing a running seven card minor suit. South knew the suit had to be
clubs, because he held the aces of the other suits. With stoppers in three
suits and a void in clubs, you might expect South to bid a no trump slam.
But this would go down badly, because of South’s void. North would be stuck
in dummy and never able to get into hand, unless the opponents were kind
enough to lead clubs. With clubs as trumps, South could count twelve tricks:
seven club tricks and the five outside kings and aces. Hoping for a
thirteenth trick somewhere, maybe a major suit queen, South therefore bid
grand slam in his void suit. The full deal is shown below:
S: Q84 S: J963
H: Q1074 H: J8
D: KQ104 D: J65
C: 82 C: 9764
West led the diamond king,
taken in hand by the ace. South was disappointed by dummy, because there was
no obvious thirteenth trick. The only chance was to set up a long heart in
hand. This would only work if hearts split no worse than 4-2, so that
South’s fifth heart would be good. Hoping for a good split, South led out
the top two hearts and gave a sigh of relief when all followed. The third
heart was ruffed in dummy with the ten. Now, finally, the lead was in dummy
and declarer could pull trumps (breathing another sigh of relief when these
also split 4-2). A spade led to the king put South back in hand to ruff a
fourth round of hearts. Another spade led to the ace let South lead a fifth,
now good, heart and throw away the losing diamond from board, leaving board
with only a winning trump. Grand slam in clubs made, in spite of declarer
having a void in trumps!
Chiang Mai now has an official bridge club – the Bridge Club of Chiang Mai.
We welcome new players. For information on the Club please contact Chris
Hedges at: [email protected] If you have bridge questions, or to send me
your interesting hands, please contact me at: [email protected] I
look forward to meeting you at the bridge table (provided you don’t double
my shaky contracts!).
Alliance Française de Chiang Mai
April 2009 film
Friday, April 3, 8 p.m.
by Jean Vigo with Michel Simon • Dita Parlo • Jean Dasté • B&W • 88 mn
When Juliette marries Jean, she comes to live on his ship, on board of which
are, besides the two of them, only a cabin boy and the strange old second
mate Père Jules. Soon bored by life on the river, she slips off to see the
nightlife when they come to Paris. Angered by this, Jean sets off, leaving
Juliette behind. Overcome by grief and longing for his wife, Jean falls into
a depression and Père Jules goes and tries to find Juliette…
Friday, April 10, 8 p.m.
L’AMI DE MON AMIE (1987)
by Eric Rohmer with Emmanuelle Chaulet • Sophie Renoir • Anne-Laure Meury •
Eric Viellard • 102 mn • Eng. subtitles
Blanche has recently moved to Cergy-Pontoise, to work at the town hall.
During a lunch break she meets the vivacious and immediately likeable Léa.
Although not fond of sports, Léa agrees to go swimming with Blanche at the
local pool. There they meet Alexandre, one of Lea’s acquaintances, along
with Adrienne, his current girlfriend. Blanche finds herself under the spell
of the young engineer. The holidays arrive. Léa leaves while Blanche stays
on. By chance, Blanche bumps into Alexandre in the street. She clumsily
tries to make a pass at him. Soon she’s also bumping into Fabien, Léa’s
Friday, April 17, 8 p.m.
7 ANS (2007)
by Jean-Pascal Hattu with Valérie Donzelli • Pablo De la Torre • Cyril
Troley • Bruno Todeschini • Nadia Kaci • 82 mn • Eng. subtitles
Maïté faithfully visits her sexy, intense husband Vincent, when she’s
spotted by a pale, pointy-faced man who says he’s there to visit his brother
Jean. Having been advised by her nurse friend Djamila to take a lover, she
consents to mechanical sex with Jean in a car. The relationship continues
and intensifies. It’s not till some time later that Maïté learns Jean is a
guard at the prison…
Friday, April 24, 8 p.m.
LES AMANTS RÉGULIERS (2005)
by Philippe Garrel with Louis Garrel • Clothilde Hesme • Julien Lucas • 178
mn • Eng. subtitles
In 1969, a group of young people get hooked on opium after living through
the events of 1968 together. A crazy love affair begins between two
twenty-year-olds in the group who spotted each other during those heady,
hazy days of the student uprising…