Ladies love to lunch
For the first time in far too long, I managed to drag myself away
from my office to attend what used to be one of my favourite social
occasions - the Expat Ladies’ Lunch, held every month at varying venues
around the city. This excellent excuse for a brief ‘great escape’ and a good
gossip was originally the brainchild of Judy Harcourt, who simply decided
that she would invite around eight or so women whom she’d met at the Expats’
Club to join her for a special lunch once a month.
The Expat Ladies’ Lunch group enjoy conversation
and food at their recent April meeting held at the Chiang Mai Grandview
Fortunately for me, I was one of the original eight invited, and, having not
been in Chiang Mai for more than a few months, sidled into the chosen
restaurant on the day feeling somewhat unsure of myself! I needn’t have
worried, as I was welcomed like a long-lost family member by the ladies I
didn’t know, as well as by those I did! After the introductions, we ate a
lot, gossiped a lot, confirmed our friendship and agreed to do it all again
on a monthly basis. Many of us still do!
In Chiang Mai, people come - and, of course, people go, whether as snowbirds
intending to return, as business people posted elsewhere, as family members
now needed in their home countries, and for many other reasons - some, sadly
at present, connected with the world economic crisis.
The Ladies’ Lunch group has changed, along with the city itself, with not so
many of the original members left - even Judy and her husband, Dale, now
spend several months each year in their new apartment in Nafplion, a
beautiful and historical old town halfway down the eastern sea coast of the
Peloponnesian peninsular in Greece. This original member of the lunch group
knows the town and surrounding area very well, and is desperately jealous!
I’m more than happy to report, though, that in spite of the changes to the
group itself, the newer members are as extraordinary and wonderful as those
they have replaced, and the conversation over lunch is as stimulating and
amusing as it always was. Of course, the group is now larger - in the early
days we managed at almost every restaurant to fit around one table -
nowadays it’s at least two, much larger tables, but it’s obvious that the
ethos of the original get-together is still alive and laughing.
April’s meeting was held at the Chiang Mai Grandview Hotel, on the
Superhighway just before the junction with Huey Kaew Road …easy parking and
a very well designed and equipped dining area. This hotel is known for its
lunchtime ‘all you can eat’ buffet. Good, imaginative food at 142 baht, with
a very tempting array of desserts, including Rose’s and my favourite,
caramel custard. Perfect for a ladies’ lunch! The welcome from friends, the
hugs, the talk, the laughter, all made for a very enjoyable break.
The Expat Ladies’ Lunch group always welcomes (and I do mean welcomes!) new
members. Details of its regular monthly meetings will always be announced in
this paper on page 7. Come and join us, you’ll be glad you did!
Where are the
‘good old days’?
In the good old days, we survived being born to mothers who
smoked and/or drank while they carried us and lived in houses made of
asbestos. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, raw egg products, loads of
bacon and processed meat, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for
diabetes or cervical cancer. Then after that trauma, our baby cots were
covered with brightly coloured lead-based paints.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and
when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention the
risks we took hitchhiking.
As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. We
drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle. Takeaway food
was limited to fish and chips, no pizza shops, McDonalds, KFC, Subway or
Even though all the shops closed at 5.30 p.m., and didn’t open on
Sundays, somehow we didn’t starve to death, even without a refrigerator!
We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE
actually died from this.
We could collect old drink bottles, cash them in at the corner shop and
buy toffees, gobstoppers, liquorice sticks, lemon sherbets and some
bangers to blow up frogs with.
We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soft drinks with
sugar in them but we weren’t overweight because... WE WERE ALWAYS
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, anywhere, as long
as we were back when the street lights came on. No-one was able to reach
us all day, ‘cause they didn’t know where we were. And we were O.K.
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of old prams and then
ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree
houses and dens and played in river beds with matchbox cars, marbles and
conkers. We did not have Playstations, Nintendo, X-boxes, no video games
at all, no televisions, no videos, no DVD rentals, no mobile phones, no
personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms. ... WE HAD
FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no
lawsuits from these accidents. Only girls had pierced ears! We ate worms
and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns at Easter time. Boys
(and maybe some girls who were brave enough to ask) were given air guns
and catapults for their 10th birthdays.
We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or
rang the bell, or just yelled for them! Mum didn’t have to go to work to
help dad make ends meet!
Rugby and cricket had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who
didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! Getting
into the team was based on merit! Our teachers used to hit us with canes
and gym shoes IF we deserved it - these days even our parents aren’t
allowed to give us a clip round the ear - and bullies always ruled the
playground at school.
The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of,
as they actually sided WITH the law! And if we were really wicked, WE
ended up in court, not them! Our parents didn’t invent stupid names for
their kids like ‘Kiora’ and ‘Blade’ and ‘Ridge’ and ‘Vanilla.’ We had
freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL
WITH IT ALL!
Until our governments decided to regulate us all for out own good …these
days, ‘elf and safety rules, and it’s definitely NOT OK!
HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol receives U.N. award for work
with women prisoners
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
recently recognised the work on women’s issues of Her Royal
Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol, commending her for
The first involves pregnant women and mothers serving jail
terms, and has resulted in these groups and their babies
receiving more relevant and humane treatment from the
authorities. The second project combats violence against women,
and the third is committed to the improvement of the quality of
life of female prisoners generally.
The Princess, a public prosecutor who has tirelessly campaigned
for the improvement of the lives of female prisoners, gave an
address to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal
Justice at the time of her presentation with UNODC’s award of
recognition. In her speech, she stated that all women prisoners
have special needs, that many are suffering from mental
illnesses, drug or alcohol dependence and HIV/Aids, and that
many have histories of sexual and physical abuse.
Describing her work, she mentioned her ‘Inspire’ project, which
deals with pregnant mothers and their children, as well as
aiding the reintegration into society of inmates and
probationers, saying that, “Women are the forgotten population
in prison settings.” The Princess has previously been recognised
by the United Nations for her work; she is, at present, the
Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Fund for
Women (UNIFEM) in Thailand.
There are established United Nations rules regarding the
treatment of female prisoners. The 11th U.N. Congress on Crime
Prevention and Criminal Justice, held in Bangkok in 2005 and
attended by over 2,000 delegates, recommended that the
Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice give
consideration to reviewing the adequacy of standards and norms
in relation to prison management and prisoners. To promote the
interests of victims and the rehabilitation of offenders, it
recognized the importance of further developing restorative
justice policies, including alternatives to prosecution.
Salvatore Pennacchio, the Pope’s representative, said that one
aspect of concern for the prevention of crime and the overseeing
of criminal justice was the effective implementation of the
United Nations established rules concerning the just treatment
of prisoners and minors. Due consideration should be given to
the proposals for the elaboration of a Charter of the
Fundamental Rights of Prisoners. Particular attention in such a
document should be devoted to a treatment of prisoners that
fully respected their human dignity and to their meaningful
reinsertion into society.
Women represent 17.4% of prisoners in Thai jails; a large
proportion of that number are from minority groups, and up to
two-thirds of prisoners are incarcerated for drug-related
offences. Overcrowding is common, and facilities for women,
medical and otherwise, are somewhat sub-standard.
Last month, however, the Thai government, at a briefing for
members of the diplomatic corps, stated that (in direct
reference to Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha
Mahidol’s projects) Thailand would make every effort to ensure
that improvements in the condition of women in prison is widely
undertaken, and that the kingdom has been developing its current
justice system to improve the status of women prisoners and
The statement continued with the words, “To implement the vision
of Her Royal Highness, Thailand will begin by presenting draft
rules and a draft resolution to the 18th session of the
Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to be held
in Vienna in April this year. It is hoped that this proposal
will help trigger a rethink in the formulation and revision of
prison and correctional management.”