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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


Bridge in Paradise

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Tree hugging for amateurs

I am not a tree hugger. I am sure trees, like us, have their bad days too, but they have to get their hugs somewhere else I am afraid. Not from me. I once knew a tree hugger who stopped the man with a bulldozer tearing down a tree at the rear of her house. 12 months later the tree fell over on top of it, demolishing the kitchen and half the dining area. Trees have obviously no sense of moral gratitude. I am not a tree hugger.
What I am, is a conventionally trained British/Australian style medical practitioner who has spent a lifetime practicing EBM, otherwise known as Evidence Based Medicine. Practices that have been proven to work.
I am proud of my training. Six years at an Australian university that had a good name, and still does, despite undergraduates like me attempting to besmirch it during the aforementioned six years. I am also proud of my final exams taken in the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons in London. I have the honor to have my name listed in the ‘great book’ with luminaries such as Hunter, Jenner and Lister. I am also indebted to my tutors during the 12 months of ‘pre-registration’, where you apply your knowledge under the supervision of accredited specialists. An arduous road, but one that is a safeguard for you, the general public.
Another safeguard is called ‘peer review’ which medical doctors have to undergo. The ‘powers that be’ are also ensuring that we keep up to date with a process called Continuous Medical Education (CME). That medical education continues through to today, with CME lectures being attended by my hospital’s doctors, and myself. Fortunately for me, the slides are in English, even though sometimes the lecture is not.
Those ‘powers that be’ also ensure that we prescribe drugs that are efficacious, that have been tested, and the evidence points to this. It is not anecdotal evidence, but true scientific evidence shown by research in many countries, with hundreds of thousands of patients. It is following that type of evidence that I can recommend with all good faith, that 100 mg of aspirin a day is good medicine. I also know that if I prescribe a ‘statin’ drug it will lower your cholesterol levels. They have been tested. And these days, very rigorously indeed.
I am also the first to admit that we have sometimes managed to get it wrong. The Thalidomide story still has living examples of this. However, the medical world-wide network is cohesive enough to ensure that this drug was withdrawn. It is the checks and balances system that has kept western medicine afloat. This is not to be equated with the checks and balances system that have been incorrectly applied in the banking industry that sees the institutions on the brink of sinking!
I am often asked my opinion on “alternative” medicine, and all its diverse areas of ‘specialization’. As a non-tree hugger I try to avoid direct confrontation over this. If devotees have found that they can diagnose tumors by looking at patient’s auras through their third eye in the middle of their foreheads, then I am genuinely pleased, in fact delighted, provided that they have subjected the method to scientific scrutiny.
If various groups can cure cancer, epilepsy, halitosis or lock-jaw by inserting dandelions into a fundamental orifice, then again I am delighted. This is a medical break-through, but as such, must be subjected to medical scrutiny. If the method stands true scientific examination (not to be confused with anecdotal ‘evidence’) then it will be adopted by everyone, complete with thanks to those clever people who picked the dandelions in the first place. After all, penicillin was tripped over, not designed. But it has had a very rigorous scientific scrutiny since.
As far as the majority of ‘folk’ remedies is concerned, I work on the principle that if you ‘think’ it is doing you good, then it probably is. But don’t ask me to endorse something that has not been scientifically tested.
When the ‘alternative’ group spends more time proving their methods, instead of complaining about non-acceptance, EBM practitioners will give them more credence.


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Your writer who called himself Tim the T-man last week, complaining about Thai girls front development hasn’t got all that much to complain about. It’s what’s in the head that counts, not what’s in the bras, Tim.
Harry the H-man
Dear Harry (the H-man),
I was a little unsure of whether to publish this, my Petal. I didn’t want to see a full scale war here, but I suppose by publishing it you have managed to get something off your chest, at least. I agree that the person is much more important than physical attributes, or lack of them. With today’s cosmetic surgery, any apparent lack of bra filler can be corrected. Perhaps Tim the T-man might like to start a Treasure Chest charity?
Dear Hillary,
I know that you deal more with affairs d’amour, but you seem to know most things for most of your readers. I need to know where I can buy larger size dresses here. I am a lot larger than these Thai girls, but I still want to be stylish. I have tried getting clothes brought over by friends, but the styles aren’t “me” and anyway I need a different sized top to the skirt. Any suggestions? I don’t mind going out of the city.
Fashionable Fiona
Dear Fashionable Fiona,
Don’t worry about asking me questions like yours, us girls have to help each other out in this world. However, Petal, the answer is staring you in the face. It is called “a tailor shop”. You can get any style you want, made to measure, and much cheaper than off the peg at home. Ask around at the expats girls clubs and you will get some names. Otherwise you can drop me a line again and I can advise you privately.

Dear Hillary,
I met a great gal in a bar in January on my first trip over. She impressed me so much I can’t get her out of my head. She tells me she needs some money, so I want to send her some like she suggested, but I’m not sure exactly how. Are the banks safe in Thailand? Or should I mail her a check? Is that safe? Can she cash it over there? I send her emails and she says just to do a money transfer into her account number and it will be OK, but as I say, I’m not too sure. Can I use my credit card so she can draw on it from over there? You got some ideas, Hillary?
Dear Max,
I sure do have some ideas, Max, and the first is that your credit card is going to get max’d out if you are not careful. You are dealing with a girl who is a professional in these money transfer situations. She has done it all before, and may even be running several of you impressionable guys at the same time. Max, Petal, you’ve met this amazing woman once, and here you are trying to send her money. Why? You have had a deep and meaningful relationship, in your mind, but that’s not the way she sees it. She’s more interested in how deep your pockets are. Did she give you some reasons why she needs the money? Her brother fell off his motorcycle? The family buffalo poorly again? Her mother needs an operation? We’ve heard them all before. Max, you had a great time in January, and you can have more great times next January, but don’t spend your money between now and then. Save it! Just tell her that you are not in the position to send anything right now, and watch the frequency of the emails dry up.

Dear Hillary,
Can you help our 25 year old son? He is planning on coming over to Thailand after Songkran to visit his father and me and I am worried that it will not be good for him. He is a quiet boy and keeps to himself a lot. I am worried that a friend of his stayed over with us a couple of months ago, and while he used to be a reserved Baptist boy too, when he came here he changed. Some nights he did not even come home and other days we could smell alcohol in his room the next morning. Our son will have spoken to this other boy. What should I do about all this?
Concerned Mom
Dear Concerned Mom,
The first thing you have to change is not your baby boy’s nappy, but your attitude. How old is this lad? Since he is old enough to travel on his own, he is old enough to go out at night on his own. It is time to untie the apron strings and let him run free, or you will never be a grandmother. On second thoughts, you are making such a performance out of this one that I shudder to think what you would do with a grandson! So third thoughts, keep the boy at home to watch TV with you. You could also teach him knitting while he is here. It is a very good way of keeping idle hands busy, as you know what mischief idle hands can get up to!

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Weddings - and how to avoid the pitfalls

Anybody who owns a reasonable camera will be asked, at some stage, to photograph a friend’s wedding. To avoid the major pitfalls, find a dying maiden aunt that you have to visit that weekend. You have been warned. If that has not been enough of a warning, keep reading.
One very experienced wedding photographer even went so far as to call the craft, “Hours of controlled patience, punctuated by moments of sheer terror and intense bursts of creativity.” However, to make it less of a terror, here are some guides to photographing someone else’s ‘big day’. And it is because it is someone’s big day that it becomes so important to get it right. Wedding photographers talk about the three P’s - preparation, photography and presentation. My idea of wedding photography and the three P’s are pain, persecution and panic.
However, looking at the accepted “preparation”. This is very important and will make your job so much easier. This would include going to the church, temple, registry office or whatever before the great day to see just what you can use as backgrounds, and where you can position the happy couple, and their parents, and their bridesmaids, and their friends, and the neighbourhood dogs and everything else that seems to be in wedding photographs. Just by doing this, you at least will know ‘where’ you can take some photographs.
Preparation also covers talking to the couple and finding out just what they expect to be taken. As pointed out at the beginning, when you take on photographing a wedding, you are taking on a huge responsibility.
Also part of the preparation is to make sure your cameras are functioning properly, so test them before the big day. Note too, that I said ‘cameras’ because there is nothing more soul destroying than having a camera fail during an event such as this. Preferably, the second camera will be the same as the first, so that your lenses will be interchangeable. Yes, lenses! You will need a wide angle (say 28 mm), a standard 50 mm and a short telephoto (say 135 mm). The wide angle is needed for the group shots and the standard for couples and the tele for “head hunting”, looking for those great candid shots.
Now comes the actual “Photography” itself. You have already written down all the shots that the couple want, make a list so you can cross them off your list as you go. One series of shots should be taken at the bride’s residence, and this includes the bridesmaids. Many of these will be indoor shots, so do take your flash and bounce the light off the ceiling to soften the effect of the flash burst. Make sure you have new batteries, and a spare memory card!
Now you have to scoot to the church or wherever the actual ceremony will be, so you can get the bride outside, ready to walk down the aisle with her father, or whomever is giving the bride away.
With that shot out of the way, now you can go and get the ceremony and I do not recommend that you use the flash for these photographs. For some religions, this is a solemn time and flash bursts are very intrusive.
Cross off the rest of the shots as you cover them - the signing of the register, emerging arm in arm, confetti or rice and then the formal shots of the wedding groups.
After all this, everyone is dying for a beer and head for the reception. However, Mr. or Mrs. Photographer, you must wait a little while yet. There is the ceremony of cutting the cake to be done yet, and photographs of the guests enjoying themselves (other than you).
Having crossed every shot off the list, make for the drinks department. You’ve earned it. After all, you have probably taken around 200 shots by now!
The final ‘P’ is presentation. Photograph albums are inexpensive, so put the best shots from each series into a couple of albums and present them to the couple as your gift. And as your final job, make the mental resolve to never photograph another wedding as long as you live!

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Practicing the Golden Rule is not a sacrifice; it is an investment

Part 1

Last year we profited from core holdings of cash combined with active management and pragmatic asset allocation. The question that we keep being asked this year is, “How much higher can gold go?”
While we do not profess to have a crystal ball, we certainly think that it can re-claim USD2,000 per ounce - yes, re-claim - because gold did previously reach more than USD2,000 per ounce - with a little help from inflation.
Everyone remembers the last gold Bull Run - from 1971 when gold was selling for USD35, through 1975 when it hit USD196, until 1980 when we saw UD850.
But wage inflation since then has increased by almost four times. House inflation has gone up by more than five times what it was thirty years ago. The cost of living is also up by around the same as inflation.
The Daily Reckoning calculates that just allowing for inflation, USD850 in 1980 would be worth USD2,176 today. However, take account of other factors and this becomes as high as USD38,349 per ounce!
They point out that for a good part of America’s history every dollar in your pocket was a dollar backed by gold. So it is not so crazy to ask yourself, if America has 8,180 tons - nearly 261.7 million ounces - of gold in reserve then how many dollars does that buy?
The answer will shock you.
When dollars became unhinged from gold, the printing presses at the Fed cranked up. By 1980, for every ounce of gold in America, the financial system carried USD6,966 in cash. That is USD1.8 trillion total. But get this - by the end of 2005, the total real money supply shot to over USD10 trillion.
That is USD38,349 in circulation for every ounce of gold in reserve!
Of course, it is even higher now. The printing presses are gathering ever increasing speed as we head into the second quarter of 2009. Only now, it is much harder for you to know how fat the actual money supply has gotten. Go back a few years to March 23, 2006, the numbers had become so embarrassing that Fed actually “retired” a number, “M3,” which was the most reliable measure of how much cash floats around in the system.
USD2,000 per ounce fits in also the Dow Gold ratio - during an equity correction this tends to fall to 2 - 2.5 X 1. In other words, gold at USD2,000 equates to a DJIA of 4,000 - 5,000. That is probably about right for the bottom of the market. Whichever way you look at it, gold is much better value then stocks and shares right now.
Let us look at this in more detail.
The main reason investors buy gold is because it has a very long track record of preserving the real value of wealth. Gold is usually thought of as an inflation hedge within the global market. It is also very liquid.
For many years there has been a falsely held belief that gold only went up with rising fears of inflation. This is wrong. In reality, when gold has done well it has not always been because of high and rising inflation. A good example of this is World War I which brought in the modern age of fiat money as governments successfully introduced it on a broad scale.
In those days, the monetary systems that were in place were initially fully gold-backed, then fractionally gold-backed and finally, not gold-backed at all. In the 1920s and 1930s the global economy relied on the gold standard where fiat money was fully backed by gold. Within these two decades, price deflation was actually the great fear of the day - not inflation. In fact, it was the Great Depression which brought about the first bull market in gold in the modern fiat money regime.
Looking back, the link between gold and deflation was obvious. The boom of the 1920s brought great wealth to people. Production grew massively but the money supply was still linked to gold output - this could only increase slowly. As one economist said, “As a result, prices had already begun to fall in the 1920s, but the Great Depression that followed sharply accentuated the price decline.”
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 great American songbook

And a fantasy collection of the best of the best…

It’s odd being a scribbler, one never knows what will provoke a response. Not big issues, it seems. More a divergence of opinion on a movie or, recently, a number of comments on a review of a young Thai singer, and my opinions on some of the music from that golden period of popular American music, 1920s through to the very early sixties, based around Broadway shows and the work of the great composers, musicians and, particularly, singers of the period.
An impossible subject to cover, or even to lick the tip of the iceberg. If there is one abiding characteristic of the songs it is the combination of the music with the wit and literacy of the words and the demands this makes on the interpreters. None of the following are anything but fine singers, and all of them respect the sheer poetry of the lyrics, the wit, wisdom and soul-searching that have made them last for 60, 70 or even more years. Most of the following are available on CDs as transfers from the LPs, but if you are lucky enough to have a turntable and can track down the originals (in Chiang Mai and Bangkok as well as further afield), then the sound is infinitely warmer. So, as requested, a few recommendations.
Heading any list has to be Frank Sinatra’s classic, In the Wee Small Hours, on Capitol. Melancholy perfection from the choice of songs, from Ill Wind to I Get Along Without You Very Well, to Sinatra’s incomparable diction and phrasing. A close second and in similar vein is the 1990 collection, also Capitol, from Dick Haymes, It Might as Well be Spring. He may have lacked Sinatra’s vitality and range but equalled his musicianship and had a particularly rich baritone voice.
And briefly: From the wonderful ‘song books’ by Ella Fitzgerald, dedicated to Gershwin, Cole Porter and Rogers and Hart, I’d take the last of the three, although a hard choice. Mel Torme worked superbly with the Marty Paich dektet, but his early collection, Mountain Greenery, is fresh and alive. Two other great singers did their best on discs featuring only piano accompaniment, June Christy with the band leader, Stan Kenton and Tony Bennett with his regular accompanist Ralph Sharon.
And from Judy Garland, the recording she liked best (with reason) was Alone. A very different female singer was Jeri Sothern, but she showed impeccable taste with her choice of songs, especially on You Better Go Now.
A singer who fell into mannerism and commercial recordings which belied his talent was Johnny Mathis. But his masterpiece Open Fire, Two Guitars (also with double bass but who’s quibbling?) redeems those errors. He was the only male singer I know who had the courage to sing the verse (on this record) to My Funny Valentine and make sense of the fact that it is written for a very young man. That was Lorenz Hart’s usual passion and it would be wonderful if a male singer would record Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered and give those already fairly outrageous lyrics the frisson they and Hart’s genius deserve. Finally, the only British singer who could hold a candle to the above talents, Matt Monro. He was taken to the USA by Capitol but never quite made it. Even so, his disc, Matt Monro sings Hoagy Carmichael, is a classic worthy of inclusion in this short list, which could, of course, be trebled or quadrupled with ease.
However, to end this penultimate column (for a while), here is a fantasy collection – the best of the best in what are contenders for the definitive versions of some of the classic songs from the period, including a few from the recordings mentioned above. Use the net to find out more if you don’t know the particular songs.
Violets for Your Furs
(Frank Sinatra), Love for Sale (Peggy Lee), Sleeping Bee (Tony Bennett), It Never Entered My Mind (Lee Wiley), Skylark (Matt Monro), Little Girl Blue (Nina Simone), When I Fall in Love (Nat ‘King’ Cole), Come Rain or Come Shine (Judy Garland), County Fair (Mel Torme), Where or When (Lena Horne), Mountain Greenery (Bing Crosby), The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Roberta Flack), My Funny Valentine (Johnny Mathis), Every Time We Say Goodbye (Ella Fitzgerald), Moonlight Become You (Dick Haymes), Good Morning Heartache (Billie Holiday), Summer is Gone (Carmen McCrae), September Song (Walter Huston), Manhattan (Blossom Dearie), S’Wondeful (Gene Kelly), Autumn in New York (Jo Stafford), I Fall in Love Too Easily(Chet Baker), Cheek to Cheek (Fred Astaire). And the bonus tracks? Sinatra ‘s My Funny Valentine and Ella’s Bewitched , Bothered and Bewildered.

Let's Go To The Movies:  Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
US, Biography/ Drama/ Romance – Some amazing performances in a mesmerizing film about the assassination of Harvey Milk, with Sean Penn, winner of the acting Oscar.  An Oscar also went to Dustin Lance Black for the script, as the best original screenplay.  It was also nominated for Oscar best picture and best director – eight nominations total.  Directed by Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho, Good Will Hunting).  A must-see film!  Rated R in the US for language, some sexual content, and brief violence.  Reviews: Universal acclaim.
The Wrestler:
US Drama/ Sport – Mickey Rourke’s portrayal of an over-the-hill athlete has won him many accolades, including a Golden Globe win and an Oscar nomination as best actor.  I think it’s truly quite a wonderful performance of a loser of a professional wrestler who you wouldn’t ordinarily care about.  But you end up caring about this man considerably.  I even got caught up in the so-called “sport” – which I have always … well, despised.  So, give it a try.  Directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Fountain).  Rated R in the US for violence, sexuality/nudity, language and some drug use.  Seems heavily censored and about 10 minutes shorter than the US release.  Reviews: Universal acclaim.
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. Mixed or average reviews.
Khan Kluay 2: 
Thai, Animation/ Adventure – The legendary elephant is back in action in this sequel to the animated movie Khan Kluay.
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.  In preparation, you might ponder Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, and consider what the weight of a human heart actually is.  Generally negative reviews.
Meat Grinder: 
Thai, Horror – A slasher/horror, torture-porn thriller about a noodle-shop lady who serves up a special meat with her dishes.
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: 
Thai, Comedy/ Drama – The third in director Bhandit Rittakol’s popular teen romance series.  In Thai only, with no English subtitles.
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 Apr. 2
Fast & Furious:
US, Action – Vin Diesel and Paul Walker reteam for the ultimate chapter of this film franchise built on speed and exotic cars, which started in 2001 with The Fast and the Furious, an unexpected hit movie.  Although this is the fourth of the series, time-wise it fits in between the second and the third films, and is thus not a sequel and not a prequel but (and this is a new word for you) an interquel.
The Shinjuku Incident /
Xin Su shi jian: China, Action/ Drama – Featuring Jackie Chan in a dramatic rather than a fighting mode.  This troubled project has been in the planning stages for almost 10 years according to director Derek Yee.  And now it seems the film will not be exhibited in mainland China at all, due to censorship concerns over the portrayal of Chinese living abroad, but it seems it will be shown in Japan, despite an overwhelmingly negative portrayal of the Japanese.  Probably will be shown here in a Thai-dubbed version only.
Sassy Player / Taew Nak Te Teen Rabert: 
Thai, Comedy/ Drama – A gay teen soccer comedy in the vein of “Satree Lek” (Iron Ladies), the internationally popular comedy about a gay and transgender men’s volleyball team.  Directed by Poj Arnon (Bangkok Love Story).


Fires are Nature’s way

In countries whose weather patterns include a hot, rainy season during which plant and tree growth is maximised, followed by a long dry season during which the growth becomes tinder-dry, the inevitable consequence is fire. Such fires have been occurring naturally, usually started by lightning, for millions of years; consequently, life has evolved in a Darwinian sense to survive this natural phenomenon.
For example, the giant redwood trees native to California have thick, spongy bark which is resistant to fire, during which their cones remain tightly shut until the searing heat opens them, allowing the seeds inside to fall onto virgin soil cleared of competitive plants by the flames and fertilised with nourishing ash. Similarly, I the South African veldt, and in Australia and New Zealand, many native plants will only spread their seeds and germinate after stimulation by fire.
Here in the north of Thailand, it is said that people living in the hills deliberately set fire to the forests so that they are able to harvest a type of mushroom that sprouts into fructation at this time of year and can be easily picked once fire has destroyed the impenetrable undergrowth. Sorry, guys, the fact that these mushrooms only fructate after being stimulated by fire and ash has nothing to do with human action, their behaviour evolved millions of years ago before homo sapiens had even arrived to inhabit this world. We cannot, arrogantly, claim credit, we are only taking advantage of natural phenomena.
Some farangs, presumably out of ignorance about this, can be heard saying that Thais are stupid making fires and polluting the air. The Thais themselves may well be heard saying that farangs, sitting in their concrete condos, have no idea what they’re talking about.
The fact is that country people and farmers have lived for centuries with the threat of fire wiping out their wooden homes and their orchards. As soon as the rains cease, there has always been a frantic attempt to clear the drying remnants of the wet season’s phenomenal growth in order to manage the threat of a potentially lethal conflagration by means of a series of controlled burnings.
You may say, ‘Why, then, can’t they just compost the organic material?’ To compost dead leaves successfully, they must be kept constantly moist. Where, in a dry season which often results in drought conditions, is the water supply for such a technique, and what about the transportation of a huge volume of dry, dead organic matter to such a water source, even if it does exist? Major logistic problems exist with that idea (particularly in mountainous areas) which make it highly impractical except on a small scale in individual gardens.
Perhaps we should simply stop criticising and leave the rural Thais to manage in the only way they know how, a method they have used over a very long time. Controlled annual burning in forests rids the ground of accumulated organic debris; accumulated over several years, the increased quantity of bone-dry matter can, in seconds, turn a small forest fire into a conflagration such as that recently witnessed in Australia. Night burning is not done so that people will not find out who was responsible, it is done as the ambient ground temperature is lower, thus reducing the risk of fires getting out of control. At night, the flames do not burn at such a high temperature are more controllable and do not reach high up into the trees. If burning is undertaken during the day, the fire can more easily burn out of control, with flames reaching higher up into the trees, damaging fruiting branches and new leaves, which are covered with a waxy substance which will burn like a candle.

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

I love to get in the way of the opponents’ bidding by overcalling their bids. Indeed, as my partners have learned to their cost, I have been known to do this with very few points. Sometimes this prevents the opponents finding the right contract. Sometimes, on the other hand, this strategy works out badly. There are two possible bad outcomes: they double me and I go down badly or I force them into a game or slam that they otherwise would not bid. Sometimes I meet with opponents with a similarly spirited approach to interfering with my bidding, in this case Ruth Willmon and Bernard Garwood sitting E-W. This hand was played in Chiang Mai in a recent Sunday duplicate session. With South dealing and no one vulnerable, this was the bidding:

South   West      North     East
4S         5C           5S        6C
P           P             6S       All pass

South opened a somewhat gambling 4S, showing a good eight card suit. West made a very spirited overcall of 5C. My partner, Mark Barber-Riley, sitting North, had a difficult decision. He could see three certain tricks in his hand and a possible fourth. But did South really have a completely solid suit which would withstand the probable bad break to take eight spade tricks? Torn between bidding 5S or 6S, he settled for five. East now made a sporting bid of six clubs, which was enough to push Mark into the small slam in spades. The full deal is shown below:

                                S: 8
                                H: AQ962
                                D: AK108
                                C: Q52                  
S: 3                                                       S: 1042
H: J3                                                      H: K1074D: QJ
D: 6532                                                  D: QJ
C: AK10987                                            C: J643
                                S: AKQJ9765
                                H: 85
                                D: 974
                                C: -                        

West led the club king, trumped in hand. There are two possible losers, a heart and a diamond. If you try diamonds first, then the ten on board may set up on the fourth round. Then the second heart in hand can be thrown away and the heart finesse will not be necessary. South therefore pulled trumps and led the nine of diamonds towards board, hoping either that West had both the queen and the jack, or that one of these cards would subsequently drop in three rounds. East won the queen and led back another club. South ruffed in hand and took the top two diamonds. The jack fell and the slam was made, with eight spade tricks, three diamond tricks and the ace of hearts. Indeed, as the cards lie and looking at all of them, it is possible to make all thirteen tricks. Very fortunately for North-South, the defense bidding had pushed us into a slam we could make, rather than pushing us over our heads, but I still like this spirited approach to bidding!
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!)