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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Care for Dogs

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Let's Go To The Movies

Bridge in Paradise

MAIL OPINION

How does your garden grow?

Life in Chiang Mai

Day Tripper

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Give yourself another 10 years!

The secret of living a long and healthy life is learning to drive your own diseases. This goes in particular for such conditions as hypertension and diabetes. Both of these are amenable to treatment, and both of them can be monitored by yourself. Whilst it is necessary for a doctor to oversee your treatment, your doctor can do this much more efficiently with a little help from you.

Taking blood pressure monitoring first, there are many automatic, self-inflating cuff instruments that will give you a digital read-out of your systolic (the high reading) and diastolic (the low reading). For these home readings to have even more significance, you need to have a small notebook recording time and date. After many days you will be able to show a strong pattern so that your doctor can really tailor the medication to keep your BP in ‘safe’ limits, and avoid side effects from the medication.

By doing this, you can give yourself upwards of another 10 years of healthy living. That has to be worth it, surely!

The other condition that lends itself to home monitoring is diabetes. We know that uncontrolled diabetes is life threatening. We also know that poorly controlled diabetes will shorten your life and lower the quality of life. However, well controlled diabetes need not be a bar to a good and happy long life.

However, how do you know if your diabetes is well controlled? The blood test you have once a month, both blood sugar and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C), can give your doctor a ‘snapshot’ of what is going on, but at best, it is only a rough indicator. Something more exact is much better, and that something is under your control! This is home blood sugar monitoring.

If you wish to lead an independent and active life, learning to test blood sugar levels by yourself is essential. The results from the home monitoring provide information about how meal intake and timing, medication, exercise and stress affect your blood sugar levels. All important factors both your doctor and you need to know to be able to correctly balance your blood sugar levels with diet and medication.

There are many different monitors for checking blood sugar and your doctor or diabetes team can advise you on makes and models suitable for your condition.

Just like blood pressure monitoring, keeping a log book is a very important part of the monitoring. Random blood sugars are very inaccurate methods trying to get in control.

However, unlike blood pressure monitoring there are certain precautions you have to take to get the required accuracy. Note that you need to ensure that :

The meter is clean;

The meter has the correct code that matches the strip you are using;

Wash your hands with warm water and air-dry before incising,

Squeeze or milk your finger a few times gently. Excessive milking is discouraged as results obtained may be inaccurate, but do make sure you have a good-sized drop of blood.

Now you need to know how often you should test. This is where you must follow the recommendations from your doctor, as your doctor will want levels at different times of the day to get an idea of how well your treatment program is working for you.

Generally, the best times to check are before breakfast, before lunch, before dinner and before bedtime snack. Sometimes it is also useful to check blood sugar two hours after a meal to see the effect of the food on your blood sugar levels. You should also test your levels more frequently during periods of stress, illness, or surgery, when you are pregnant, or when low blood sugar is suspected or when there are changes made in your treatment program, such as a change in medication dose, meal plan or activity

You should also know your own target range. This depends on your age, which type of diabetes you have and the duration of the diabetes. Your doctor will help you with targets, and an ‘action plan’ for when your home monitoring shows levels above or below the targets.

Learn to drive your own diseases and live happily ever after (or until you are 100)!

 

Meet Maem

Maem has been with Care for Dogs for over 2 years and could really do with finding a home of her own. Having said that, she is a mature, loving, well-balanced dog who takes life in her four-legged stride. Come to the shelter and you’re sure to find your doggie match.

If you think Maem would be the perfect complement to your family – contact the shelter English (08 47 52 52 55) or Thai language (08 69 13 87 01) to make an appointment to meet her, e-mail: [email protected] or visit the website for further information.


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,

It’s Delboy again, still alive but not kicking, as I have just completed a 2,770 kilometer ride on my little 125cc Honda Dream motorcycle which left me, to put it crudely a sore backside! What a fantastic machine the bike is, it never missed a beat the whole trip and handled the mountain passes with ease.

While I was riding between cities I got to thinking how times have changed. Nowadays so many Farang get carried away with Thai ladies, or should I say their money gets carried away by Thai Ladies? You know Hilary twenty years ago it was a different story, it was the Farang that got paid to become engaged or married to a beautiful Thai lady! The good old days I guess foreign males would call them. Of course there was no guarantee that they would stay married once the lady got citizenship of the country she went to.

But that didn’t matter, the Farang would just get the next flight back to Thailand and repeat the process! He could even give up work and make it a full time profession. Of course I don’t know anyone who did that, but I did hear that went on in the good old days.

It was a win-win situation for all concerned, sadly a bit different now for I guess the majority of Farang males. Anyway just my thoughts.

Happy Songkran to you Hillary and all the staff at “The Mail”. I’m off for a rear end massage, all the very best.
Delboy

Dear Delboy,
What on earth possessed you? 2,770 km on a step-though! Are you mad, or was it just temporary insanity? Next you’ll tell me you are going to ride up and down the main streets in a T-shirt and shorts during Songkran. I enjoyed my Songkran, locked in my attic above the newspaper office and getting pizzas pushed under the door – I wouldn’t open it for anybody.
Your story of the reverse dowry does have an element of truth in it, but the time scale is wrong, Petal. It wasn’t 20 years ago, it was more like 120 years ago, and even I wasn’t around then. This was also the case in India, where intermarrying was one way of lightening the skin color. In Thailand we just use whitening cream these days.

Dear Hillary,
A poem for you, from Dave Toussaint:

‘Classic man’
I met a girl in old Thailand
She told me of the classic man

Classic man what lady like
Have BM car not motorbike
Have Lolex watch and it not fake
Classic man not make mistake
He may drink and he may smoke
But not laugh much and never joke

He never smile and never sing
He have control on everything

He wear glasses he serious
He aeroplane he never bus
Have designer shoes, designer shirt
He always clean he not have dirt

Wear Levi jeans and have long legs
Classic man he can good sex
He go to gym he exercise
Everyday until he dies

Classic man have master plan
He buy house and he buy land
Classic man have business life
And number 1??
.......he want Thai wife!

Dear Dave,

Thank you, Petal, all very true, but, where do I find my “Classic Man” before someone else grabs him? I think I will recognize him – wears glasses, Levi jeans, Rolex and keys to a BeeEmm – but where should I start looking?

Dear Hillary,

Another success story for your column. Remember the very famous song “I got you babe” (Sunny and Cher) about two people who fall in love and think love will pay the bills. Well it does not work in the UK or America so why should it here?

Two years ago I met a bar girl from Isaan. She was intelligent and very proud of her family - did not like her work - but as many do, did it for survival reasons. She went back to her village two months after I met her and has now her pride back and works in a simple family business and earns less than 150 baht a day. I send her money every month and visit her village three times a year - and when I visit I am treated like a family member by all her family. We intend to get married next year and yes you have got to provide for the one you love no matter where you live in the world, but the rewards in Thailand are well worth it.
Another success Story

Dear Another success Story,

Hillary always prints success stories, but the successful ones are people who are happy in their relationship and do not need advice from an ‘agony aunt’, so this is why you do not read them so often. Your point is well taken and should be understood by everyone who is contemplating entering a relationship anywhere in the world. Love (alone) does not pay the bills. There is an obligation to provide and I am very pleased to see that you have accepted that, and that it is working out for you, but remember too that one couple is not every couple. Interesting that you picked on a Sunny and Cher song – remember what happened to them?


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

A treasure trove in the junk department

All photographers start to get a collection of old photo gear. Some of it has become surplus to requirements, some of it is broken and not worth repairing or too difficult to get repaired in this country, and much has become redundant because you have changed camera systems, or even changed complete formats (6x6 to 35 mm for example).

Nikon FM2N

I found myself in that situation after purchasing my Panasonic Lumix Digital DMC-FZ50 (which is even still delighting me). It took a year of deliberation (some might call it ‘hesitation’ or just plain ‘dithering’) before I made the fateful decision to a) go digital and b) go Lumix, after more than 20 years of using Nikon exclusively.

Of course, some of you will ask why didn’t I stay with Nikon, with its full range of digital SLRs? Good question, but easily answered. The upper level Nikons are now very expensive, and whilst I had some excellent Nikon manual focus prime lenses, they were not going to be all that compatible with the new Nikon digital auto-focus systems.

That also brings in one of the salient reasons in the purchase of the Lumix – the fantastic 35-420 Leica zoom lens that comes with the Panasonic Lumix, coupled with the electronic anti-shake technology so you can hand hold, even at 420 mm. With digitals these days, I believe that you are best served with electronics from an electronic company, with lenses from an optical company. The Lumix definitely fits that.

Having made the irrevocable decision, I looked at my now defunct Nikon 35 mm film system. I had two cameras, a much loved FM2N, and an FA. The FM2N was the typical journalist’s workhorse with more rolls of film through it than you’ve had hot dinners, whilst the FA was the back up. Only thing was the FA was no longer working, having some kind of internal problem, by which the mirror was locked in the “up” mode.

The lenses were a 24 mm wide angle, old and growing its second crop of fungus (the first was cleaned off about five years ago), a 50 mm ‘standard’ lens and a 135 mm ‘portrait’ lens. I also had a spacer for macro work, which was also very old, but was the good one that still allowed the auto exposure function to work.

These items were now surplus and it was going to be very unlikely that I would use any of it again (although I would still take the FM2N out of its bag and lovingly stroke it every so often).

It was at that stage that a good friend of mine suggested I sell the surplus items, and said that he had excellent results selling items on eBay in the UK. He was returning to the UK himself and offered to sell them, and I thought, “Why not? I’m getting nothing for them sitting in the old camera bag.”

He had been back a couple of weeks when I got the following email:

That little lot came to 325 pounds sterling, which at the current exchange rates was over 20,000 baht, which certainly made purchase of the Lumix a breeze (duty-free price).

What made the exercise even more astounding, was the number of ‘watchers’ who had been looking as the bids went in on eBay. 14 looking at a broken FA and someone who paid almost 2,000 baht for it. The lenses all went for very good money, though I would have thought the 135 mm would have been more desirable than the 50 mm, but the 24 mm did attract the highest bid, as I thought it would.

The moral to this tale, is to look at the old camera gear, broken or otherwise and clear out the cupboard and sell it on eBay. You will get more than you ever imagined, but it certainly helped having a friend who was a regular eBay user and stationed in the UK.

          Watchers   Bids    

FA            14             7       28

FM2N     39            13      65

Spacers   16             5       22

24 mm    40            23     108

50 mm    55            13      68

135 mm  17             5       34


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

UK Company Defined Benefit Pensions: Should I stay …or should I go now? Part 2

Advantages and disadvantages of moving your pension to a QROPS

Taking a holistic approach to pension planning is vitally important and there are many factors to consider. Transferring a pension to a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS) means that an individual is able to design a succession plan, ensuring they can secure benefits after death to their spouse and any children. On top of this, an individual can take control over his or her pension and, with a QROPS, there is a wider choice of investments available with no limit to the size of funds which can be accumulated.

Once the individual decides to draw their pension, income it is paid out of the pension investment fund, free of UK tax, and on death, the remainder of the fund value is available to whoever the member nominates, totally free of Inheritance Tax.

Tax is an important consideration. Even though the member might be non-UK resident, any pension coming from a UK registered pension scheme will be subject to UK income tax. It is therefore important to understand if the member’s new country of residence has a double taxation agreement with the UK, like Thailand.

QROPS schemes are probably the best opportunity expatriates have had in a very long time. Not only do they maximise potential benefits but they also increase flexibility. So even if an individual’s pension is held in a Defined Benefits Scheme (DBS), as long as the member receives professional advice and is in a position to be able to weigh up the pros and cons of the proposed transfer, a QROPS may still be worthy of consideration.

It is important that the company you use has extensive experience in QROPS and can show they have successfully moved every type of UK pension offshore, including Final Salary, Group Money Purchase and Money Purchase plans, plus Protected Rights plans and AVC’s. Included in these pension transfers should be transfers out of Civil Service pensions and Teachers Pensions, and also transfers of pensions in drawdown, and transfers of final salary pensions in payment.

Your advisor should also produce a detailed Pension Transfer Report including, if applicable, critical yield analyses. These are the amounts your fund must grow at per annum to match your final salary pension, both pre- and post-retirement. The Pension Transfer Report will provide you with all the information you require to make an informed decision on whether to transfer your pension or not. Below is the ABC of QROPS:

A comparison of UK Pension Plans to QROPS + A more detailed explanation of the benefits of each of the 12 subjects

1. If you leave your funds in a UK Pension fund, the subsequent pension income is UK taxable regardless of where you are living in the world. QROPS is paid offshore tax free. However, if you live elsewhere in the world outside the UK, you are responsible for declaring your QROPS income for tax purposes where you reside. Properly structured this could result in you paying significantly less tax.

Provided your income is kept within Government Actuarial Department (GAD) limits, you may move your pension back to a UK pension scheme at any time without penalty, should you ever decide to repatriate.

2. When you purchase an annuity your pension fund goes to the annuity provider, and when you die nothing is returned to your family or estate. With a QROPS you control the fund and 100% of the remainder passes to your family or estate on death, 100% free of Inheritance Tax. Any pension fund transfer into a QROPS is IHT free from Day One.

3. The Trustees of a QROPS are bound to act within the “Spirit of Co-operation” as agreed with HMRC when the QROPS was approved, and provide an “income for life”. Once you have been abroad 5 years, however, there is no reporting of your income taken from your plan to HMRC, and you are not bound by GAD limits.

4. There are strict guidelines governing UK pensions. A QROPS can invest anywhere, all held in Trust and thus avoiding IHT.

5. A typical final salary scheme will pay your spouse 50% of your pension if you die. With a Personal Pension Plan, if you select this option, it will reduce how much the plan pays you from inception. With a QROPS the residual fund can pass 100% to your spouse on death, allowing them to re-invest maintaining 100% of the income if they wish, or just spend it.

6. If you have the option to take a UK pension early, because actuarially you will live longer from when you have started drawing your pension, the UK pension will pay you less initially, thus reducing your pension by 5% to 6% for every year you have brought forward the drawdown. A QROPS can be taken from age 55 with no actuarial reduction for taking an early income.

7. A UK pension must purchase an annuity by age 75, depriving your estate of any residual value. With a QROPS you are never compelled to purchase an annuity, however, you can if you wish.

8. If the UK employer or ex-employer that holds your company pension scheme goes into liquidation then your pension can go with it. Hundreds of thousands of UK pensioners have lost their entire pension plans, and the levels of compensation that the PPF will pay out could be as low as 30% of the original benefit.

With QROPS the funds are held in a Personal Portfolio Bond in the Isle of Man which has the oldest Parliament in the world in continuous existence. Also, the island has been awarded the highest Sovereign Credit Rating “AAA” from Standard and Poor’s as well as Moody’s.

Furthermore, to ensure the protection of the policyholder’s interests, a statutory offshore policyholder protection scheme is operated on the Isle of Man. The Life Assurance (Compensation of Policyholders) Regulations 1991 protects investors with Isle of Man-based insurance companies to levels at least equal to that available in other financial jurisdictions worldwide. The scheme protects investors in the unlikely event of an Isle of Man-based insurance company being unable to satisfy its claims. The scheme pays up to 90% of the liability of the insurer.

9. Traditional UK pensions hold all assets in GBP. In a QROPS you can hold assets relevant to where you are resident and avoid the risk of currency fluctuation.

10. Both UK pension schemes and QROPS allow a 25% tax free lump sum to be taken at retirement. However, a UK scheme may insist you wait for the scheme retirement age before you receive it. With a QROPS it is your choice, and you may also defer the income after taking the 25% tax free lump sum.

11. QROPS give a much higher level of life assurance cover giving your loved ones greater financial protection in the event of your untimely death before retirement.

12. A final salary pension or a purchased annuity is deemed “secured” and cannot be commuted. A QROPS fund is deemed “unsecured” and if your doctor tells you that you only have 1 year to live you may encash the entire fund, 50% of the fund if married.

The disadvantages of transferring your pension to a QROPS

There are 2 main disadvantages of moving your pension to a QROPS:

1/ Trust Fees – You will have to pay the QROPS Trustees a management fee - this should be no more than GBP 1,250 per annum. However, the larger the pension transfer amount, the smaller this fee becomes percentage wise.

2/ If you transfer a final salary scheme you lose the “guarantee” of the income increasing every year

Just to cover my backside, I must add that not all of the advantages or disadvantages will apply to everybody.

Pensions are, understandably, an emotive subject. It is what you are going to live off for the rest of your life so you must get it right. It will cost you nothing to get advice. It might cost you everything if you do not.

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]


Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai

The Crazies: US, Mystery/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – A remake of George Romero’s 1973 film, by director Breck Eisner, the son of Disney’s Michael Eisner. Definitely not a Disney movie! What is it? It’s part zombie movie, part apocalyptic bioterror, part military conspiracy thriller. Reviews say it’s tense, nicely shot, and uncommonly intelligent. A husband and wife in a small Midwestern town find themselves battling for survival as their friends and family descend into madness when a mysterious toxin in the water supply turns everyone exposed to it into mindless killers and the authorities leave the uninfected to their certain doom. Rated R in the US for bloody violence and language; 18+ in Thailand. Mixed or average reviews.

Agora: Spain, Adventure/ Drama/ History/ Romance – In fourth-century Alexandria, Egypt, a slave turns to the rising tide of Christianity in the hopes of pursuing freedom while also falling in love with his master, the famous female philosophy professor and atheist Hypatia of Alexandria. Only mixed or average reviews – but I highly recommend it; I think it’s a truly well-done epic in the old style, but a lot more thoughtful. At Vista only, with thanks for bringing this beautiful and provocative film to Chiang Mai. I was fascinated.

Legion: US, Action/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Thriller – In the first minute, the angel Michael falls to earth and then cuts off his wings. God, who has given up on mankind, gave him a command that he didn’t want to do, as he thinks there’s still hope for us. The first 40 minutes are terrific – evocative and stylish. Then I suggest you leave. With a quite impressive Paul Bettany. Rated R in the US for strong bloody violence, and language; 18+ in Thailand. Generally unfavorable reviews.

Kick-Ass: US/ UK, Action/ Comedy/ Drama – An unnoticed high school student and comic book fan decides one day to become a super-hero, even though he has no powers, training, or meaningful reason to do so. It’s been hailed as a rollicking, virtuoso comic-book adaptation that fizzes with originality, feisty wit, and an unexpected degree of heart. With Nicolas Cage, to boot. Rated R in the US for strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity, and some drug use - some involving children. 18+ in Thailand. Generally favorable reviews. Vista also has a Thai-dubbed version.

9 Wat / Secret Sunday: Thai, Suspense/ Horror – A young man unwillingly takes a journey to visit nine different temples in order to clean up his bad karma. He is accompanied by his girlfriend and a young monk to do the chanting. But during the journey horrifying acts done in their previous lives reveal themselves, and the more they try to clean up the bad karma by making merit, the closer they get to “THEM.” Rated 18+ in Thailand.

Big Boy: Thai, Comedy/ Drama – A young man from the country moves to Bangkok, under the premise of taking care of his ailing grandfather, to pursue his dream of becoming a B-Boy dancer (breakdancer). It turns out his grandfather at one time pursued dancing himself, but failed to achieve his dreams.

The Princess and the Frog: US, Animation/ Family/ Fantasy/ Musical/ Romance – A fairy tale set in Jazz Age-era New Orleans about a young girl and her fateful kiss with a frog prince who desperately wants to be human again. I think Walt Disney has much to atone for in its presentation of blacks over the years, and this has pretty much done the trick. After a few squeamish moments at the start, the old Disney magic takes over, and you’re treated to classic 2D animation in the tradition of the great Disney fairy-tale films. Generally favorable reviews. Thai-dubbed at Vista, no English subtitles.

Clash of the Titans: UK/ US, Action/ Adventure/ Fantasy – I didn’t find this film any sillier for our time than the 1981 Ray Harryhausen adventure starring Laurence Olivier was for its time. I guess it depends on the mood you’re in. Starring Sam Worthington (the hero of Avatar) as Perseus, Liam Neeson as Zeus, and Ralph Fiennes as Hades, and I found it fun to see what these actors did when let loose on these parts. Generally unfavorable reviews. Shown in 3D at Airport Plaza, 2D at Vista. The 3D is “converted,” i.e., not originally shot in 3D.

Date Night: US, Action/ Comedy/ Romance – In New York City, a case of mistaken identity turns a bored married couple’s attempt at a glamorous and romantic evening into something more thrilling and dangerous. Starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey. Mixed or average reviews.

Saranae Sib Lor: Thai, Adventure/ Comedy – With Mario Maurer of Love of Siam fame, playing a young man whose father suspects he’s gay and is sent off on a road trip in an old 10-wheel truck to learn how to become a man. Immensely popular in Thailand.


Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

Here is board 6 from the Bridge Club of Chiang Mai pairs game on April 11th. East-West were vulnerable and East dealt. Consider how you would bid it with your favourite partner. Almost all tables ended up in a diamond part score, probably with a bidding sequence something like that shown below.

Personally, I think I would open the South hand 1N, but no South did, all opening one diamond instead, presumably because of the poor holding in the black suits. Playing in diamonds, South can make ten tricks, losing only the king of trumps and two spade tricks. However, this is clearly not the best contract because four spades will make, losing only the same three tricks. So how do you get there? To do so, North must show he has a five card spade suit, but how? If North bids 2S after South’s 1N, then this is weak. On the other hand, North’s points and the quality and length of the spade suit are not good enough to bid three spades. What North wants is a bid of two and a half spades, but such a bid is not in the bidding box.

The solution is to play a very useful convention called New Minor Forcing (NMF). There are many variations on this convention, but a straightforward, easy to play version is as follows. Opener bids one of a minor. Responder bids one of a major. Opener bids one no trump. Responder then bids the other minor—this is NMF and is artificial (it does not mean responder actually has that minor). It asks opener to bid two of responder’s major with three cards in that suit, or to further describe his hand if he does not. You can see how it works by looking at the bidding of this hand playing NMF, as below:

East            South       West          North

P                  1D            P                 1S

P                  1N            P                 2C

P                  2S             P                 4S

All pass                                           

North bids 2C over 1N, in spite of having a singleton club. South then shows his three card spade suit and North can go to four spades, knowing there is an eight card fit. This makes easily, even though every finesse fails. All thanks to the NMF “two and a half spade” bid—a convention well worth playing if you do not already do so.

Bridge Club of Chiang Mai welcomes new players. For information on the Club go to the web site at www.bridgeclubchiangmai.com. If you have bridge questions, or to send me your interesting hands, please contact me at: [email protected]


MAIL OPINION : Deadly Songkran

By Shana Kongmun

Authorities campaigned heavily this year for a safer Songkran and, to some small effect that campaign did work. Albeit, the death toll was only 12 lower than last year, with a nationwide total of 361 dead for the “7 deadly days” of Songkran, and a drop in accidents from 3,977 last year to 3,516 this year. There is some controversy over how these numbers are collected with reports circulating that only people who die at the scene are counted, or that only those who die in the Government hospitals are counted.

Most people agreed it was a slower Songkran than expected for Chiang Mai, tourists stayed away for fear of bombs, or the heat, or the haze. Or perhaps all of the above. The numbers were there, but down from last year. There were many Thai tourists this year, presumably escaping the Red Shirt blockade and violence on the streets of the capital. And overall, the general feeling was genial, with many smiling, happy faces. It was nice to see Thais good naturedly spraying each other with water, including one patrolman seen sneakily pouring water over someone’s back and then looking around innocently when done.

Sadly, this good feeling does not extend to the roads, or to driving. The majority of accidents were young men on motorcycles with officials reporting that 75 percent of accidents involved motorcycles and most of those involved drunk driving and speeding. I had to explain to a Thai friend of mine that young men in the western countries are also notorious for their reckless driving. The difference being, of course, increased enforcement by the police in western countries Zero tolerance, patrols, and roadblocks for drunk drivers has decreased the accident and death rate considerably in most western countries.

Thailand needs to get some kind of control over its runaway accident rate. Every New Year, every Songkran we see the announced death toll each day and each year a very high number of accidents and fatalities. And given that most of these would be preventable were there some kind of total crackdown on drunk driving, education in schools and perhaps as in the West, arresting and instituting severe penalties for those driving drunk.

As the old saying goes, where there is a will, there is a way. Surely such a high number of deaths and injuries must inspire the will in someone in charge to find a way to end the carnage on the roads.


How does your garden grow?: By Eric Danell,Dokmai Garden

Lichens on my longan

In Europe, some gardeners carefully brush the limbs of apple trees to remove lichens. They argue that thick layers might be hiding areas for pests. Others simply”clean” their trees from”moss”. Real mosses are green spore plants. Lichen (same word in Thai) is a fungus, which lives in symbiosis with algae. The fungus provides minerals, and the algae can make sugars (photosynthesis), and then they share delicacies. About 20 000 lichen species have been described so far. Here in the Chiang Mai Valley we sometimes see lichens on our fruit trees. However, they are quite small when compared to lichens growing on trees at high elevations. In moist oceanic areas, such as New Zealand and Norway, you have large specimens and many species, but also in dry areas, like the high desert east of the Cascade Mountain Range in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, there can be abundant lichen growth. Deforestation and air pollution can wipe out entire species and dwarf the struggling survivors. In fact, the presence of lichens, and their health, is an excellent indicator of air quality. In the Chiang Mai Valley, we have a very poor lichen community, which coincides with the poor air pollution indexes.

There is no need to”clean” your trees of epiphytes (plants and lichens that grow on trees). They add beauty and biodiversity to your garden, and the tiny miracles are as lovely as the large ones. We all hope that within the coming years we shall see a significant decrease in air pollution, and observe more, larger and healthier lichens on our garden trees. To measure this, I propose that the readers of the Chiang Mai Mail take a picture of a tree limb that is at least 5 years old (to give it a fair time to allow lichen establishment). Then, take another picture of the exact same spot each year over the coming five years. If the air pollution indexes go down, then you would see that on your lichen community also and perhaps you can share your picture series with the journalists? www.dokmaigarden.co.th.


Life in Chiang Mai: By Colin Jarvis

Double Standards

I don’t know about you but I hate people who have double standards. Often they are the type of people who say, “Do as I say, not as I do”. Or they are the kind of people who complain about other people’s dishonesty and then fiddle their own expenses at work.

I was therefore horrified to discover that I, too, suffer from double standards.

When I married my current wife I inherited three wonderful children, two boys and one girl. The boys are seventeen and fifteen and the girl is eleven. The eldest boy is showing a serious interest in girls. I hope he shows them proper respect but at the same time I hope he has a good deal of fun. The main point is that am quite happy for him to choose his own girlfriends and I have very few worries about his first forays into romance. This is not because I feel he is particularly mature, and this is the awful bit, it is simply because he is a boy.

I realised my double standards when I thought about how I will react when my daughter starts dating in a few years time. I feel I want to insist on having a complete background check on any potential boyfriend. Perhaps it is natural to feel so protective and perhaps, when my daughter is older I will not feel quite so protective. As things are at the present I recognize that my feelings are fairly normal but I do not like having these double standards.

When I was first courting my wife and we realised our relationship was serious, I was introduced to the family. The two boys were great. We went and did many activities together that helped us bond. The boys seemed to accept me very readily and I was very relieved. My future daughter, on the other hand, would not acknowledge my presence. She would not even look at me. She was obviously unsettled by my appearance. I decided that the only thing to do would be to wait for her to come towards me. After a week or so I knew I had broken through when she came up and punched me.

Since that time the boys and I have had good times and bad times. They are both wishing to express their independence and I, as their guardian, have to try to ensure they do not get into too much trouble or danger. Ann, on the other hand has given me no problems whatsoever. She was not aware that I have a particular interest in Thai classical music and dance so you can imagine my delight when she expressed a wish to learn these two disciplines. We have a very close relationship and I was thrilled when she asked if she could call me “Daddy”.

I have often heard people talk about the special relationship between a father and a daughter and I believe I am beginning to understand how strong and powerful such a relationship can be. Suddenly acquiring children, not of one’s own making, can be a difficult experience. There is the desire to be loved and respected by the children but there is also the duty of care and the need to ensure the right level of discipline and encouragement. There is nowhere to learn this and to me, as a new parent, it has at times been very difficult.

I doubt that I am a very good parent; I still have a great deal to learn. However I am finding the experience extremely rewarding even though it is sometimes exhausting, frustrating, even terrifying.

I just hope, but as I become wiser and more skilful at being a parent I am able to do a decent job and help my new children lead useful and satisfying lives.

I hope I am also able to rid myself of my double standards now that I am aware of them.


Day Tripper: By Jane Doh

If you are looking for a fun day out, then may I recommend Horizon Village & Resort. I recently visited there and really enjoyed the peaceful setting. Located about 10 kilometres from downtown Chiang Mai, on the Chiang Mai – Doi Saket Highway, Horizon Village offers a lot in its tranquil surroundings. Situated in a beautiful Botanical Garden, complete with giant topiary, the resort offers various activities such as massage, cycling, swimming, canoeing and paddleboats. It even has its own museum and zoo. I was quite surprised to see swans too, swimming happily on the lake. It really has to be seen to be believed. Day visitors are welcome, but the resort has accommodation, as well as facilities for camping. For more information: www.horizonvillage.net. I particularly recommend checking out their botanical garden link: http://www.tweechol botanicgarden.com/ as it should be of interest to gardeners.